ARRIVAL OF THE BERAR
New Zealand Herald September 6th 1873
Our thanks to Judith Lattaway for this item from the New Zealand Herald
SORDID WELCOME TO NEWCOMERS
The immigrant ship Berar arrived in our waters on Wednesday last with 311 passengers from London. On Thursday all were landed on the wharf. There was no official to receive them, none to render them any information, and all they could learn was that there were barracks in the vicinity of the city where they could be quartered.
The single men found their way to the bars of the public hotels, and, we fear, also several of the single females. Towards afternoon the married
couples with their families found their way to the barracks and were shown a long room with a row of rough pine bunks, resembling in their construction enlarged candle boxes.
Here, in this room, without any partitions, without as much as a pretence for dividing off the families, without the slightest regard being paid to
the most ordinary requirements for observing the decencies of life, over 40 married couples with 108 children were huddled together to pass the night.
One dormitory for nearly 200 souls is treatment worse than was ever dealt out to a cargo of Polynesian barbarians - the modesty of decent married women outraged, no nourishment beyond dry bread, and tea without milk for the children, and no provision made for quiet, rest or refreshment for exhausted mothers, many of them with suckling infants, coming off a long and weary voyage.
Yesterday raw meat and uncooked potatoes were served out. Only one small stove was allowed for the cooking necessary for over 300 people.
It was not until later in the afternoon that a supply of fuel came to hand, no previous order having been given for it.
Many and bitter were the complaints of the married women at being unable to obtain proper food for their children, or decent sleeping accommodation for themselves, or fuel to cook with.
The surgeon of the Berar was indefatigable in his efforts to see the reasonable wants of his late passengers supplied, but all that he could do
at the utmost was very little indeed, and every protest he made passed unheeded. Quarters were found for the single men, but there was no one
placed in authority over them. They were permitted unchecked to smoke and expectorate through the room, to scatter their bedding broadcast over the floor, to return from the perambulations in a state of semi-intoxication and to conduct themselves in wild disorder.
It is reported by the matron that several of the single girls have absented themselves from the barracks and had not last night returned. The fate of these we fear for, but the Government are only to blame for the loose manner in which control has been exercised over the immigrants.
Several more shiploads of immigrants are now afloat, bound for Auckland, and in the cause of humanity, decency and the proprieties of life, we trust never again to have to place on record what yesterday were compelled to witness with our own eyes.