Tenant Farmers.

From the stony barreness
of northern Scottish soil
its young landless sons
signed on for mercenaries’
wages in neighbouring
Europe’s frequent summers
of hand fought battles.

Until the fateful 1850’s when
Europe stayed home each
summer except on distant
Russian borders. The landless
sons now brought no wages
into Scotland but looted
tenants’ subsistence farms,
such as remained after
landowners’ clearances.

Family men went down into
mines until depleted seams
closed down. Starving
highlanders crammed into
rundown tenements seeking
desperately sparse employment.

One by one Agnes and her
five sisters with husbands
and children crammed into
sailing ships for three
months, started life again
toiling on far distant soil.

Tenant Farmers.

Gumdiggers

On sunny Adriatic shores
on picturesque villages, vineyards,
stony farms, vegetable gardens,
the ancient Ottoman yoke
sat heavily on its poverty
stricken people as the conflict
loomed that would shatter it.

At first families and villages
joined to pay fares for their
menfolk to seek fortunes
abroad until later uncles
sent home fares for nephews
to join them, then later again
young girls for their brides.

In the southern reaches
of the vast Pacific
they laboured for riches
digging up fossilised sap
for varnish and polish
working long hours in
cold muddy swamps.

Scorned by other settlers
they toiled on resolutely.
In time their hard work
freed them to buy land,
plant vineyards, orchards
market gardens, set up
shops for their produce
in a prosperity unknown
in their beloved homeland.

* “gum” was the fossilised sap of ancient fallen
kauri trees later covered by vast swamps.

Gumdiggers

Charwoman

Young Cornish widow Bessie
after two months in a faraway
land grieved for her husband
struggled with her five children.

New settlers around her pitied
her plight, bought her a mangle
to take in laundry, found her
charwoman’s work scrubbing
rich people’s floors and stairs.

Baptists took  her to heart,
became her family, held her
close in her grief. Each day
her tiny frame lifted wet
laundry from copper through
mangle to rinse tub through
mangle then hung it to
dry in her tiny back yard.

For the rest of each day she
scrubbed floors and doorsteps
while her children attended
school as demanded by law.
to family back home.

Young Tom ran wild, was sent to
reformatory, later taught to farm.
Bessie swallowed her grief, put
her daughters into tailoress
apprenticeships when they
left school at twelve.

They were as small as their
mother but were spared her
burden of laundry and charing.

Charwoman

Cornishman

Cornish lad Tom found work
in Redruth town at the inn as
an ostler like his horse loving
forefathers. They were drivers,
stable boys, ostlers working
with horses, teaching their
sons their horse loving skills.

Young laundry maid Bessie at his
inn caught his eye, his fancy,
his love. Soon she was pregnant,
they wed. Later little Tom was
joined by a sister, and a brother.

Hard times came to Cornwall.
Unemployed Tom joined the
desperate ranks at the mine
head daily, grasping odd
days of work as two more
babies arrived. In despair
at the mines’ darkness, in
grief for his stable days,
Tom wallowed in alcohol
blotting out his pain.

His sisters in New Zealand
married to farmers, set up
his family’s passage there.
But alcohol now gripped him
hard despite his new job in
the livery stables, caring
for horses. His drinking
continued, cost him his life.

His widow and children now
faced life in a new land without
him after two months in their
distant new homeland.

Cornishman

Hugenot

In 1689 French state and
monarchy aligned with the
Catholic church yet to
their fury urban artisan
classes sought God and true
faith in their own beliefs
and own church worship.

These skilled tradesmen and
workers with no wealth or
power owed no allegiance to
landowners, living simply
off daily earnings from
their own tools and labour.

So soldiers and populace
were stirred up to slaughter
these simple folk living and
worshipping their own way
………… in a bloody massacre
on Sain Bartholomew’s day.

Some escaped over borders,
jumped aboad foreign ships.

Young Thomas the lamp maker
sole survivor of his family
sailed into Falmouth to
start life again, in Cornwall.

Hugenot

Out Of The Workhouse

As Victorian Britain’s empire
prospered in trade from its
scattered colonies those distant
governments sought European
settlers to clear and farm
rich soil for crops and herds
offered assisted passages for
labourers and families to
cross the vast oceans.

Scandinavian councils cleared
parishes of surplus young
men and couples prolifically
breeding dependent children
forcing them to acccept passages
with deposits paid to a distant
land or accept harsh living
at home. Fare deposits cost
less than a lifetime’s upkeep.

For three months they sailed
to a distant land with a foreign
language to hack out farm
clearings from thick forest
on allocated land living
in rough shacks, tents,
toiling awn to dusk daily.

No fares were paid to
return to families, homes
or a familiar tongue
in their own home land.

Out Of The Workhouse