Wednesday, January 13, 2021

Adventure: two approaches, plus a third - by Sackerson

In 1909 E. L. Grant Watson sailed to Australia* to work with social anthropologists studying aboriginals in Western Australia, and noted two kinds of migrant that he met on board, and again later.

One had very little money but started off with a stint of sheep-shearing:

'After a short time at the coffee-palace [in Perth] he had applied at the exchange for a bush job. Could he shear a sheep? Yes, he answered boldy and mendaciously. He was sent with a lot of other men to the head of the line beyond Cue, then by wagon to a remote station. There he had to shear sheep. He was thoroughly cursed for his ignorance, but he couldn't be sent back. He was taught how to shear sheep, and for many months he did nothing else. Now he had more than doubled his original fifty pounds. He was applying for a fencing job. In this way he was learning how to do the jobs of a farm, at someone else's expense, he said laughingly. By the time he had learnt all the jobs he might have enough money to buy a little place of his own. He looked as though he would succeed, and he had kept himself all the time he had been in Western Australia.'

The other turned up at Sydney docks, 'dejected and hungry':

'He had been, he told me, in the damned country far longer than he wished, and had lost every penny that was to start him as a farmer. Now he had just been trying to arrange with a ship's steward to work his way home as a scullery man. He had had no success, and mentioned that he was hungry. I asked him to a meal, and heard his story, how he'd been cheated here, and bamboozled there. He was quite a pleasant fellow, and I felt truly sorry for him. After our meal we parted, and I wished him luck, though I did not feel he was going to have very much.'

The author also met two Scots navvies, hopelessly drunk and broke:

'I was assured by a hard-boiled young Australian, with whom I had struck up a passing acquaintanceship, that they would get on all right. Drunks could always find employment. Drunks were self-made slaves, and were safe to employ as such, little chance of their ever rising and thnking themselves as good as their masters.'

The last reminds me that our grandfather, a gentleman farmer in East Prussia, employed a man who was drunk most of the time on methylated spirits. The reason was, that hand did more work in three days sober than others could in a week.

Or there's living on your wits:

*Recounted in his autobiography, 'But To What Purpose' (Cresset Press, 1946)

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