Page:The Irish in Australia.djvu/171

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157
THE VOYAGE OF THE "ERIN-GO-BRAGH."

ducted under what was known as the "land order" system, by which every adult paying his or her own passage became entitled to a land order of the value of £20. This order was negotiable and transferable, and could be sold for its market value. The Act further provided that those who paid the passages of others, and landed them safely in the colony, would be entitled to the land orders of such immigrants. Father Dunne at once saw that under this system he could take to Queensland any number of eligible Irish immigrants, if he only had the means of paying their passages. The circumstances of the poor people whom he wished to befriend, could brook no delay. He had recourse to some of his well-wishers in Ireland, and succeeded in borrowing sufficient money to induce him to proceed with his philanthropic scheme. In less than a month he had received upwards of 500 applications for free or assisted passages to Queensland. It was only natural that he should meet with some opposition from Irish priests, who could not but view with sorrow and pain the sad spectacle of their people preparing to leave their native country for a far-distant land. Still, with nothing before them but starvation or the poor-house, it is not to be wondered at that the poor people were ready to fly anywhere in order to avoid the ordeal of choosing between two such dismal alternatives. The landlords, with a few honourable exceptions, were inexorable in their demands for the payment of impossible rents after a succession of bad seasons, and, as a result of their inhuman conduct in this respect, hundreds of unfortunate tenants and their families were bereft of house and home. Most of them willingly embraced the opportunity afforded them by Father Dunne to emigrate to a new country, which freely offered them the means of obtain-