The St Andrew’s Society of Adelaide was established in 1847. Though short-lived, the organization had a very immediate and wide impact in the community and beyond, revealing the degree to which Scottish ethnic associations could interact with local, national and international politics. The organization was set up at a meeting of ‘natives of Scotland’ at Stewart’s Hotel on 31 August 1847; the general role of the proposed society was discussed, as was the idea to advertise another meeting in the local press to invite all Scots resident in the area to attend. A report on the meeting outlines that the ‘objects of the Institution are chiefly to aid and encourage Scotch emigration, to collect authentic information, and to correspond with influential bodies in the mother-country, in order to induce the poorer classes to emigrate to South Australia’. The Society’s first AGM was held on St Andrew’s Day in 1847, and was concerned with the election of officers; the Hon. Advocate General, H.D. Murray, Esq. was one of the directors. Following on from the agreement made at the first meeting—that authentic information about South Australia should be sent to Scotland—a statement was read at the AGM relating to ‘the state and prospects of the colony’, providing a detailed overview of the voyage out, the population in South Australia, work opportunities, which crops grew in the colony, and many more aspects of colonial life. The statement was clearly framed by one question: ‘In what British colony are the prospects of bettering my condition most certain to be realized?’
For the members of the Adelaide St Andrew’s Society the answer was clear: they were best realized, of course, in South Australia. The South Australian newspaper was very supportive, noting in an editorial that
[h]eartily, most heartily, do we hope it [the St Andrew’s Society’s statement] may have its effect. That the well skilled farmers of the Lothians may send us a few of their hopeful [scions?], that the Highlanders may draft off a superabundant population, and that Scottish energy, Scottish enterprise, may have the opportunity still further to [disclose?] the capabilities of our land.
First references to the Society’s activities appeared in Scottish newspapers in the spring of 1848, while, later in the year, the Fife Herald reprinted sections of the information that the St Andrew’s Society had put together for dissemination in Scotland. Such information dissemination schemes were necessary too, the Society believed, because some publications in Scotland had taken to casting a negative light on South Australia, particularly Chambers’ Edinburgh Journal.
One key motivation for the Society was the apparent intention of the British government to stop emigration to South Australia. Society directors were called to a meeting ‘to take into consideration the reported intention of Government … and the steps to be adopted in reference thereto’. The resolution adopted at the meeting was:
- That this Society having lately informed the people of Scotland that there is throughout this province a great and increasing demand for labour, and that those who intend emigrating, could have, on certain conditions, free passages to the colony, this Society views with alarm and regret the reported announcement that her Majesty’s Colonisation Commissioners have determined to suspend or stop emigration.
- This Society considers any interruption to free emigration, under the circumstances of this colony, highly injurious.
- That this Society beg leave most respectfully to represent through his Excellency the Lieutenant Governor, to her Majesty’s Colonisation Commissioner, the great injury that must arise from such interruption to emigration; and that a copy of these resolutions, and of the
statement made by the Society, to the people of Scotland, be also forwarded for their information.
Both the Society’s president and directors subsequently met with his Excellency the Lieutenant Governor Frederick H. Robe in early 1848. Robe did not fail to leave a positive impression, stating immediately that he was of the same view as the Society and had already noted as much in his despatches to the Secretary of State, Ear Grey. Robe outlined the following:
The views of this Society [St Andrew’s Society], upon the importance of continuing emigration to this colony to the full extent of the means we possess or can raise, so entirely accord with those to which I have often given expression, that I have no hesitation in giving to their memorial my cordial support, and I do so in the firm belief that this province can give support and employment to as many people of industrious habits as the Commissioners can find to emigrate to it.