On Friday 14 June 1907 the Wimmera arrived in Hobart from Melbourne. Aboard were two returning Tasmanians and former emigrants to South Africa. Both Hobart-born John Mitchell, a plasterer, and T. J. Canning, a painter, were among 676 repatriated  Australians who had reached Melbourne aboard the Howard Smith Company’s cargo steamer Cycle (formerly Boveric). Due to the congested labour market in South Africa it was stated that ‘hundreds and thousands of tradesmen [were] failing to get more than odd jobs’ prompting them to leave…



The second contingent of Australians stranded in South Africa who are being brought back to their native or adopted land, by a paternal Government reached Hobson’a Bay by the steamer Cycle on Saturday night, after a voyage extending over four weeks from Capetown. The number booked for New South Wales was 375, for Victoria 195, for South Australia 9, for Western Australia 54, for Queensland 46, and for Tasmania 7. The actual number who made Melbourne their destination was found to be 197, consisting of 107 men, 29 women and 61 children.

Both men and women were, as in the first contingent, a varied assortment. The men included smart looking and well dressed clerks and commercial travellers, honest looking artisans, and big limbed, free moving bushmen. A considerable portion of those who returned had gone to South Africa during the war with one or other of the contingents which were sent over, and when the war was ended they remained in the country. Work was then plentiful, the war boom still maintaining a fictitious prosperity. Some went prospecting or started trading with the natives, a few found Government billets, and others took up anything to which they could turn their hand. The unskilled man has fared badly, since the introduction of Chinese labor in the mines. “My job was taken by a Chow,” said a young man, who had been engaged on a mine. “I was working , at 2/9 a day in the sewers with niggers,” said another. “It’s not a white man’s country now,” said a third. “I was getting £40 a month as a clerk in Capetown during the war,” said a smart looking young man, “but the salaries for such work are now down to £8 and £12 per month.” The men, as a rule, attribute their distress either to the depression or the Chinese invasion of the labor market. Some of them, the minority, it is true, would not succeed anywhere. The term “wasters” is one which most fittingly describes them, and they will not make a desirable acquisition to the population of any country. One or two of them among the single portion of the contingent tried to foment discontent, as usual; and it was evident that Captain F. G. Dix, the master of the vessel, was not sorry that his responsibility was nearly at an end as far as the transport of the “repatriots” was concerned.

Australia appears now to be as attractive as South Africa was in the past, and thousands of men who had never set eyes on Australia endeavored to get passes to come by the Cycle. Victoria also appears to present superior attractions to many of the immigrants, who although natives of other portions of the Commonwealth, select Victoria for preference, on the ground of having lived a while within its boundaries. After the Victorian contingent had been dealt with, it was found that there were about twenty immigrants who did not choose any State as their destination, and who were shipped by Mr. Valder on the understanding that they might select any one they pleased. They elected to stay at Melbourne, and after being put through an examination by Mr. Jenkins, secretary of the Closer Settlement Board, they were allowed to land. They were all men who had relatives in the State, or had sufficient means and prospects to render them independent of further State aid. Some transfers were also effected between immigrants for other States who wished to break their journey at Melbourne, and Victorians who wished to go to another State.

The Cycle was boarded about 10 a.m. by the Commonwealth and State officers appointed to take charge of the immigrants on their arrival. Mr. H. H. Lewis, Acting Secretary for External Affairs, represented  the Commonwealth, and Mr. Jenkins dealt as before with the Victorian contingent. After putting the men through an examination as to their occupations, means and prospects, it was ascertained that there were I blacksmith, 9 bricklayers, 3 compositors, 17 carpenters, 1 engine driver, 9 clerks, 1 fireman, 2 gardeners, 4 plumbers, 5 painters, 11 plasterers, 9 laborers, 2 stone- masons, 30 miscellaneous. Even the liquor trade appears to be in a bad way in South Africa, for among  the miscellaneous were included 5 barmen. Some of the men had not a “bean,” others had various small sums, ranging from, 2/ to £5. One man had £80. He was a grocer, who intended setting up in business, and as he  had a wife and six children his passage money would have exhausted half his capital. He was allowed three months in which to repay the fares. Another man, describing himself as a commercial, had a bank draft for £400. He was booked for Sydney, but wished to stay at Melbourne before going on to the sister capital. When examined as to his means the discovery of his possession was made. His wife and six children are going on to Sydney. The New South Wales Government will no doubt look after the collection of his passage money.

It was found necessary to provide accommodation for 60 souls at the Government expense for a day or two. They comprised 39 men and 21 women and children. Many of the men are building tradesmen, who only require a day or so to look around for a job.

New South Wales passengers sailed with the Cycle for Sydney on Monday, the quota for Queensland were sent by the Yongala on Tuesday, those for Western Australia went by the Anglian on Wednesday, and the Tasmanians will cross the strait on the same day per the Wimmera.

Leader (Melbourne, Vic. : 1862 – 1918), Saturday 15 June 1907, page 36


On 7 July 1912 she arrived in Melbourne from Wellington via Bluff and Hobart. After this voyage she was then to resume her usual running in the NZ trade between Sydney and Auckland and northern NZ ports and was scheduled to depart Sydney on that service on 17 July. On board were 150 new immigrants, having just arrived in Hobart on board the White Star liner Ionic. A number were transhipped to Sydney by the SS Burrumbeet and the remainder to Melbourne aboard the Wimmera.

‘”S.S. Ionic” leaving Wellington, N.Z. for London’
Postcard. Author’s Collection.

© Ralph L. Sanderson 2004-2021