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Highland and Island Emigration Society, HIES

The HIES Ship List information was generously supplied by
William "Bill" Clarke.

This site is dedicated to Peter J. McDonald's memory
as it was a very important project for him to have placed online
for all to search their roots from Scotland to Australia.

In 1852 the Society published, what was to become known as "The Blue Book" (Because of the colour of its cover). It was titled "Emigration from the Highlands and Islands of Scotland, and was sent to the various Colonial Governments, business firms and other interested people, seeking funds and support for the Society.

The book sets out in some detail the formation of the "Skye Emigration Society" in 1851, it gives details of the various meetings held and the terms and conditions under which the Society would operate. When the HIES was formed it accepted these conditions and the Skye Emigration Society became the Skye Committee of the HIES.

In December 1850 a meeting of local men of influence on the Isle of Skye, was held at Portree. The meeting considered "the present distressed state of the island and what remedy should be  adopted for bettering the condition of the inhabitants". A committee under the chairmanship of Thomas Frazer, Sheriff Substitute of the Island, was appointed, and given the task of communicating the views of the meeting to the Home Secretary.

In the summer of 1851 Frazer and the committee circulated a friendly address to the people of Skye, in which they asked them to seriously consider their position, and suggested that they should consider leaving the island for distant shores. Some 400 heads of families , representing more than 2000 persons, intimated their willingness to depart.

Frazer reconstituted his committee into a fund raising body, and so the Skye
 Emigration Society was born. The aim of the society was to raise the necessary funds to assist the people to apply for passages to Australia under the conditions of the Colonial Land and Emigration Commission.

A public meeting was held in the Hopeton Rooms, Edinburgh on the 23rd February "to promote measures for aiding persons in some parts of the Highlands and especially in the Island of Skye, who desire to emigrate to the British Colonies, but who are prevented by the want of sufficient means." This resolution was passed by those present and a committee formed to implement the same. This committee became the Edinburgh committee of the HIES.

Sir John McNeil, encouraged by the response at the meeting prevailed upon Thomas Frazer to journey to London and lay his plans before Sir Charles Trevelynan, Assistant Secretary at the Treasury and other senior government figures.

Impressed by what he heard, Trevelynan arranged for it to be presented to a public meeting, presided over by Lord Shaftesbury and attended by upwards of thirty gentlemen of sound position and influence. They resolved to form a committee under the Chairmanship of Trevelynan to oversee its implementation under the auspices of his vast and influential department

In April with the London committee firmly established, Trevelynan took the opportunity of co-ordinating the work of the three committees as to enable them to operate "in perfect concert", as one body with his office as its headquarters and himself as chairman. He named this body the "Highland and Island Emigration Society"

The above material is taken from "The Blue Book" and also an extensive work by R. Balfour M.A; M.Litt; LL.B: of Inverness and published in the Journal of the Gaelic Society of Inverness Volume.LV11. 1990-92
(A copy of the "Blue Book" was sent to Government of the day in Van Diemens Land, now Tasmania; fortunately the copy is held at the State Archives. Anyone interested in obtaining a copy could contact me at <>)


! The emigration will be conducted as much as possible, by entire families, and in accordance with the Rules of the Colonial Land and Emigration Commissioners.

2 Passages to Australia are provided by the Commissioners, from Colonial funds, for able bodied men and women of good character, and not exceeding a specified age, with a certain proportion of children, on production of a stated quantity and description of clothing, and on payment of a deposit from 1 to 2 for adults and 10s for children. For persons exceeding a specified age, a larger amount of deposit is required.
The emigrants asking for aid will be required to apply all their available means to defraying the expense of their outfit and deposit.

3 The Society will advance the sum necessary to make good whatever may be deficient for these purposes, as far as its funds will admit, in the Districts to which it may be determined to extend its operations.

4 The owners or trustees of the properties from which the emigrants depart, will be expected to pay one-third of the sum disbursed on account of the emigrants by the society. The emigrants will be requited to repay to the Society the whole of the sum advanced to them, which will  again be applied in the same manner as the original Fund.


The Skye Emigration Society, having advanced to money, and clothing, to the value of ....... in order to enable me and my family to emigrate to Australia, upon the condition that the whole amount so advanced being in all ..... should be repaid by me and my family, in order to be again used by the said Society in assisting other poor persons to emigrate, I hereby bind and oblige myself on the expiration of twelve months from the date of my landing in Australia, to pay to Thomas Frazer, Esquire, Sheriff-Substitute of Skye, Chairman of the said Society, or to the Chairman of the said Society, for the time being, or to any person in Australia duly authorised by such Chairman to receive the same, the said sum of .... and on the part of my wife and children I engage that in the event of my not paying the said sum at the time above mentioned, the sum shall be repaid by my wife and children.

In witness whereof I have subscribed this obligation (which is written by my mark, I being unable to write), at Portree, this fifth day of May, eighteen hundred and fifty two years, before these witnesses.

(Note adult members of families to join the obligation)

No 15
December 1851
Government Emigration Office Park St. Westminster


Qualifications of Emigrants

The Emigrants must be of those callings which from time to time are most in demand in the Colony. They must be sober, industrious, and of general good moral character of all which decisive certificates will be required. They must also be in good health, free from all bodily or mental defects; and the adults must, in all respects be capable of labour, and going out to work for wages. The Candidates most acceptable are young married couples without children.

The separation of husbands and wives, and of parents from children under 18, will in no case be allowed.

Single women cannot be taken without their parents, unless they go under the immediate care of some near relative. Single women with illegitimate children can in no case be taken.

Widowers and widows with young children, persons who intend to buy land, or to invest capital in trade, or who are in the habitual receipt of parish relief, or who have not been vaccinated, or had the small-pox, or whose families comprise more than four children under twelve years of age cannot be accepted.

Payment Towards Passage
The contributions  above mentioned, out of which the Commissioners will provide bedding and mess utensils, etc, for the voyage, will be as follows:-

CLASSES    age
Under  45   45 &  50 &   under 50  UNDER 60

Married Agricultural Labourers, Shepherds,  £1  £5  £11 Herdsmen,and their wives; also Female Domestic  and Farm Servants, per head

Single men. of any of the above callings. and whether part of a family or not, each £2

Country mechanics. each as Blacksmiths,  Bricklayers,Carpenters, Masons, Sawyers,
Wheelwrights. And Gardeners, and their wives:  £5  £8  £15 . also females of the Working Class; not being  Domestic or Farm Servants. (when theycan be taken) per head

Children under 14  per head 10s.

Passages to the port of Embarkation from Dublin, Cork, Granton Pier, and Hull, are provided by the Commissioners for Emigrants proceeding through these ports. All other travelling expenses must be borne by the Emigrants themselves.

Outfit   Etc
The Commissioners supply provisions, medical attendants, and cooking utensils at their Depot and on board the ship. Also, new mattresses, bolsters, blankets, and counterpanes, canvas bags to contain linen etc, knives and forks, spoons, metal plates and drinking mugs, which articles will be given after arrival in the Colony to the Emigrants who have behaved well on the voyage.

The Emigrants must bring their own clothing, which will be inspected at the port by an officer of the Commissioners; and they will not be allowed to embark unless they have sufficient stock for the voyage, not less, for each person, than:-

FOR MALES ; Six pair stockings; two pair shoes; two complete suits of exterior clothing
FOR FEMALES ; Six Shifts; Two Flannel Petticoats; Six Pair Stockings: Two Pair Shoes: Two Gowns. with sheets, towels and soap. But the larger the stock of clothing, the better for health and comfort during the voyage, which usually last about four months, and as the Emigrants have always to pass through very hot and very cold weather, they should be prepared for both; two or three serge shirts for men, and flannel for women and children, are strongly recommended.

The Emigrants should take out with them the necessary tools of their trades, that are not bulky. But the whole quantity of baggage for each Adult, must not measure more than 20 cubic or solid feet, nor exceed half a ton in weight. It must be closely packed in one or more boxes; but no box must exceed in size 10 cubic feet. Large packages, and extra baggage, if it can be taken at all, must be paid for. Mattrasses (sic) and feather beds will in no case be taken.

On arrival in the Colony, the Emigrants will be at perfect liberty to engage themselves to any one willing to employ them, and to make their own bargain for wages;; but if they quit the Colony within 4 years after landing, they must repay to the Colonial Government a proportionate part of their passage  money, at the rate of 3
per adult, for each year wanting to complete four years residence.

(This is the more relevant parts of the agreement, which was altered over the years. The HIES was able to have the conditions changed for the emigrants that they assisted.)