In the comments posted in the article about the Lane Family and its sons who fought in the First World War, Hazel Meiklejohn, a great-granddaughter of Frank Lane, noted that he had returned to Bottesford after farming in Western Australia and made presentations to groups interested in emigrating Down Under. This article takes a more detailed look at his work to sell the benefits of life on the other side of the planet.
Francis Lane was born in Q3.1854 to Marshall Lane and Sarah (nee Billings) and baptised on the 9 January 1855 in Denton. On the 11 December 1879 he married Betsy Robinson in Bottesford. As reported in the main article, Francis took his wife and son to Australia in late 1885, firstly to farm in Queensland. After a couple of years they moved to Northam, 60 miles east of Perth in West Australia.
The Lanes farmed at an area of open grassland called Seabrook, just to the south-east of Northam. During their time there they interacted with neighbours in the community and Frank dealt with nearby businessmen. A notable contact who would reappear later in Frank’s story was George Lionel Throssell, a local merchant who played a large part in local politics and for a short period in 1901 had served as the second Premier of Western Australia. Throssell established several businesses around Northam including the town’s general store, a company dealing in farm machinery and a real estate firm. Hence when the Lanes decided to return to England in early 1903 it was via Throssell, Son & Stewart that they sold their property. (Northam Advertiser 4March1903)
Once back in England they headed straight to Bottesford and Frank rented Devon Farm from the Belvoir Estate. Frank valued his time in Australia and wanted to let others know about the good lifestyle to be enjoyed there.
As early as 1905 he had started to give lectures about his experiences in West Australia. By 1906 he had a lime-light projector and slides to illustrate the talks, giving an impressive presentation style which increasingly suggested he was supported by the Governing Agent of West Australia, though that was not properly the case until later.
A sample of his many presentation dates can be gleaned from newspaper extracts of the time.
(GJ = Grantham Journal; MJ = Melton Journal edition of GJ; NEP = Nottingham Evening Post)
- 24 May 1905 at Orston Primitive Methodist Chapel. Public meeting addressed by F B Lane (sic). At intervals Miss Sherwin, Master Lane and Miss Lane gave pleasing vocal selections. (GJ 3June1905.)
- 17 April 1906 at Bottesford in the National School under the auspices of the Primitive Methodist Society. Lecture by F Lane of Devon Farm, Bottesford, illustrated by lime-light views. (GJ 21Apr1906)
The frequency and scale of lectures increased through the year in 1906 as a drive to recruit new emigrants built momentum. Frank Lane’s region of responsibility seems to be the triangle bounded by Grantham, Leicester and Sheffield, which includes the city of Nottingham. This region was determined by the practicality of the Midland train network that served it.
- 20 December 1906 at the Liberal Club, Grantham. Lecture by F Lane of Bottesford, with lime-light illustrations. (GJ 22Dec1906)
- 16 January 1907 at the Colles Hall, Melton Mowbray. Lecture by F Lane, again illustrated by slides and stated to be “under the auspices of the Government of Western Australia.” So Frank was claiming a level of authority lay behind his presentation. (MJ 19Jan1907)
- 23 January 1907 at Great Gonerby. A lantern lecture on “Life in Western Australia”, Mr F Lane “possessing a ready flow of language, was able to hold his audience’s attention throughout”. (GJ 26Jan1907)
- 19 February 1907 at the school room, Ropsley. A lecture by Mr Lane illustrated by a series of excellent limelight views. (GJ 23Feb1907)
- 22 February 1907 at the Primitive Methodist Chapel, Long Bennington. Interesting lecture by Mr Lane illustrated by limelight views. (GJ 23Feb1907)
- 25 April 1907 at the school, Bottesford. A lecture illustrated by limelight views by Mr F Lane. (GJ 27Apr1907)
Several of the meetings were accommodated by the Primitive Methodist movement – perhaps it was thought that emigration might appeal more to those from a dissenter background.
By the end of February, Frank’s ideas were sufficiently developed for him to write to his contacts back in Northam to outline his ideas for the settlers he was recruiting. His letter of the 28 February was sent to Messrs Stewart and Ackland, (Stewart being the business partner of George Throssell) saying he hoped to persuade the WA Government to set aside 40,000 acres to form a village settlement, to be populated by a first batch of immigrants plus others to follow later. A few weeks later his group gathered in Nottingham:
- 10 May 1907 at the Mikado Cafe, Nottingham, a meeting at which the representatives of 30 to 40 intending emigrants met with F S Brookman, chief surveyor of West Australia and E T Scammell of the Western Australia Government Agency. The emigrants will leave at the end of May and will be accompanied by Mr F Lane of Bottesford. Mr Brookman laid out the benefits of settling as a group, to be able to share labour and skills and to have a critical mass population that would attract services such as the railway companies. (NEP 10May1907).
Limelight illumination had originally been developed around 1825 to provide an intense light-point for sight-line plotting by the Ordnance Survey. By the early 1900s it was widely used in scientific and theatrical applications and was available in a portable form for slide shows. However, it was still a dangerous technology and susceptible to failures. Electricity would not be readily available as a practical alternative for several years more, especially out in rural villages.
- 22 May 1907 at the old school-room, Stathern, a lecture by Mr F Lane. Unfortunately, owing to the lantern not being in working order, the splendid limelight views illustrating the lecture could not be thrown on the sheet, much to the regret of the fairly attended meeting. (GJ 25May1907)
To present his shows, Frank had to hang a white sheet on a wall of the venue and would lug around a projection device with a limelight source, probably a Drummond Light such as shown here. It involved a mix of oxygen with a fuel of hydrogen, alcohol or ether being burnt in the right ratio, the flame being directed onto a quicklime block (calcium oxide) which would glow brightly.
- 29 May 1907, an article in the Sheffield Daily Telegraph, confirming that Frank’s remit extended to that city. It describes a party of 40 to 50 young men sailing for Fremantle with Frank on the RMA Omrah to depart from London on the 31 May. Another party had already departed a week previously, so that the group will be around 100 new immigrants.
A small colony had been started in Fremantle around 1829 and, although settlements such as Northam had been founded soon after, the population had not grown much and Frank Lane’s first move there in 1887 had still been akin to pioneering. Voluntary emigration to West Australia (as opposed to the involuntary transportation of convicts) had only gained true momentum when gold was discovered in the region in the 1890s. Then a large influx of prospectors from the eastern side of Australia and from Europe caused significant population growth in an under-developed region, the colonial authorities realising that they needed to address the balance of skills. There needed to be a support network for the miners and prospectors, so the Governors wanted to attract farmers, builders, carpenters, bakers and so forth to create a sustainable community.
Travel to Australia in the mid-1800s had been arduous and risky, taking months to sail around the Cape of Good Hope, so only the very adventurous would elect to go. But the advent of faster steam propulsion, the opening of the Suez Canal route, and financial support and settlement incentives from the six colonies, meant the journey of just 5 or 6 weeks became far more palatable by the 1890s.
A further spur to increase the growth in settlers from the UK and Europe at the start of the twentieth century was a formal racially motivated immigration policy designed to prevent an influx of Asian – primarily Chinese – people. The “White Australia” policy was enacted by the new Federal Government soon after the six colonies agreed to federate and form the Commonwealth of Australia in 1901. For the previous fifty years the separate colony governments had taken steps to stop Chinese workers from moving in to work as miners, furniture makers and market gardeners. Labour unions also pressed for Pacific islanders to be excluded from Australia to protect white employment in Queensland’s sugar plantations. It would take until the 1970s for the policy to finally be dismantled. By 1907 the race controls were playing right into plans of migration agents such as Frank Lane. Indeed, on the very voyage of the RMS Omrah that carried Frank’s group to Fremantle/Perth, a further 150-plus third class passengers were young British men recruited by another agent, Mrs MacDonald of the Colonial Sugar Company, bound for Brisbane to work in the cane fields of Queensland.
Frank Lane’s party left Tilbury on the 31 May 1907 and arrived in Fremantle on the 4 July. Along the way Frank was able to write and send ahead a letter to his old friend George Throssell to give more details of the mix of talents and skills in the group, reported in the local Northam newspaper (see image on right). In addition to those wanting to buy land, there were a housemaid, a nurse maid and four farm hands seeking employment. By the time they landed Throssell had already found positions for the housemaid and nurse maid.
Frank’s letter to Throssell about the group was quickly picked up by other papers, so their arrival was hot news in the West Australian press and local journalists rushed out to speak to the newcomers even before they had left their ship.
The article about the letter had appeared in the 3 July issue of the Northam Advertiser and the next day a long article in the Perth Daily News explained that a journalist had gone aboard the RMS Omrah at early light to interview Frank. The incoming group comprised mainly young men, representing around 25-30 potential settler families, though seven men had already brought their wives along to stay. In four cases the couples also had their children along: four each in the Holroyd and Boyd families, three in the Knowles family and two in the Winfields. The rain was falling as they looked out across the ship’s rail to the harbour buildings. One young man with a Cockney accent expressed an interest in heading to Kalgoorlie, no doubt with the gold mines in mind, but one of his colleagues who was a member of the Society of Friends advised against searching for such a quick win.
When interviewed, Frank Lane expressed his great pleasure at being back in Australia and noted that the group were nearly all aiming to take up farming. He would be meeting with a Government minister to negotiate concessions but would not go into details until after the meeting had been held. He hoped for several hundred thousand acres to be made available and vouched for the bona fides of the families. They would expect to work hard to clear the land and wanted to settle close together, as a village, to share efforts. Frank also described the growing roster of further families in the UK who he expected to travel out later in the year. It was suggested that the group represented an aggregate investment value coming into West Australia of some £30,000. It was also noted that Frank had himself paid for his costs in bringing the group of immigrants together.
The paper chose to record that the Government Bureau Agent at the port, Mr I Crawcour, computed the total monies brought in by the group and the aggregate ready cash was actually £950. This first group was viewed as an advance guard and that more would follow based on their settlement success. The Government Agent arranged for the group to be lodged at various Perth Coffee Palaces until a final understanding had been reached. Whilst there is no doubt that Frank Lane had been in communication with the Government Immigration Agency before the RMS Omrah set out, there does still sound to be an element of “arriving in hope” about this first expedition.
Several other papers also covered the arrival, including the West Australian.
A second article in the Daily News noted the UK press had also taken an interest and one man, James Gordon Holroyd, who had taken his family on the journey, said he would be sending reports back to the Nottingham Daily Guardian so that people back in England could see how the emigrants fared. Holroyd clearly felt committed to the enterprise, with his wife Annie and children Arthur(17), Ethel(12), Norah(11) and Gladys (2) adopting Australia as their new home. Eldest child Arthur already had some experience of long-distance relocation, having tried his hand as a farm worker in Battleford, Saskatchewan, Canada a year previously. The family chose to settle at Dowerin, just east of Perth, where James became postmaster and Arthur took up farming. James died in 1913. His son Arthur lost his life fighting with the Australian Machine Gun Corps in the trenches of France in February 1917, but descendants of the Holroyd daughters still live in Western Australia today.
Whilst Frank had his meetings with the authorities in the days soon after their arrival, to discuss possible Government land grants, he sent some men in the group out to various locations to see what other options they might have. Parties went to check on various settlements including Northam, Kalgoorlie, Kojonup, Brooks Inlet, Ravensthorpe and Albany. As is often the case with Government agencies, the release of land was not as fast or coherent as some of the settlers might have wished, but Frank Lane still felt it advantageous for them to take up land offered by the Crown so as to gain the benefit of loans arranged via the Agricultural Bank. Several families opted to make their own deals together during August, no doubt aided by Frank in their purchases. By the end of September 1907 when he returned to Bottesford aboard the RMS Ormuz, Frank was able to tell a reporter from the Morning Herald paper that fourteen families had procured areas around Kojonup and others had distributed across Western Australia. All apparently expressed their satisfaction with the quality of the land chosen. Frank headed for home and at least one further settler group of about fifty souls recruited by him sailed to Fremantle later that year to join those who he had already placed.
The emigrant recruitment programme resumed on his return and Frank extended his catchment area to Lancashire, northern Lincolnshire and East Yorkshire. He even ventured to give lectures in Scotland, totalling around 25 events between his 1907 and 1908 trips. At times Frank found himself in competition with agents working to recruit workers to emigrate to Canada, which Dominion had offered strong financial incentives including paying for ship’s fares and onward travel to the prairie states. Canada had long invested in advertising and at first Frank struggled to match the numbers of signatures won by the North Americans. However, by the time of his later rounds of recruitment from 1908 onward, he claimed that the tables were turned because people in England started to understand the benefit of the warm Australian climate compared to the harsh, hard-to-survive, Canadian winters.
In February 1908 he again set sail on the RMS Omrah for Fremantle with a party of over 100 intending settlers. After the five week voyage he would stay with the new immigrants for two months to help them get established and then return to England. (GJ 29Feb1908)
The Lane family figured prominently in that 1908 issue of the Grantham Journal that reported his imminent departure, with his relatives appearing in the two articles directly below his own report. At a gathering to listen to songs, readings and recitals at the Primitive Methodist Church, Miss F Lane sang “Ora Pro Nobia” and Mr Marshall Lane sang three songs, “Soldier of the Cross”, “The Last Parade”, and “Glory to Thee, my God, this night”. And on the previous Wednesday a farewell supper had been held for the elder Marshall Lane at the Granby Inn by his friends to bid him God Speed on his return to India for his work. The evening involved food, conversations, singing and some toasts, including to Mr Lane and to the Duke of Rutland.
Whereas the arrival of the first group in July 1907 had been somewhat haphazard, with lodgings having to be found at short notice, the authorities in Perth were much more prepared when the March 1908 group arrived. Two comfortable buildings had been set aside for the immigrants in Frank’s scheme, one in Irwin Street reserved for families, couples and women, and one in Hay Street solely for single men. A leader article in the Western Mail in April applauded the formation of the Citizens League of Welcome, an initiative by townspeople to ensure new immigrants received the personal support and enthusiastic acceptance by the community that is a step beyond what officialdom might cover.
Reports later suggested that a handful of the Lane settlers gave up and returned to England, but the vast majority stayed in Western Australia and thrived. One apocryphal story considered two brothers, Bill and Bob. Bill returned to the UK complaining that a living could not be made in Westralia, but after reports reached England that Bob had stayed and made a good living, Bill supposedly u-turned again and went back to try again Down Under.
Frank stuck to his plan and, having helped the second group to start to find their new homesteads, sailed home in May 1908. Always thoughtful about how he might capture the attention of potential clients at his lectures he contrived to take a new friend back to Leicestershire on the ship. The villagers of Bottesford were certainly amazed when he took his pet wallaby home to show his friends and neighbours.
Frank’s agency work continued after his second antipodean trip as shown by this advertisement placed in the Hull Daily Mail, 27 October 1908.
As we know from the previous Lane Family article, in 1910 Frank took his wife and children back to West Australia to re-settle there for good, farming around Albany. Once again, Frank took a large party of his recruited immigrants with him, but chose to stay this time and practice the message that he had been preaching. Many of those new Australians recognised that it was thanks to his experience, planning and guidance that their own relocation stories proved successful.
It is delightful that Frank’s descendants are still in contact with the Bottesford community, from where he set out over a century ago.
Update – some images added here relevant to the comments lower down the page:
Frank’s uncle Francis reached agreement with his creditors in 1886. He died the next year. (GJ 20 November 1886)
In selling Devon Farm Frank revealed he considered moving back to Australia in 1907. (GJ 23 March 1907)
The following references were useful for this article:
Press articles as noted above – thanks to the following sources:
- Find My Past / British Newspaper Archive
- Trove https://trove.nla.gov.au/?adv=y
“Drummond Light, Limelight: a Device of its Time”, Pierre Lauginie, 2015 article in Bulletin of the Scientific Instrument Society issue 127.
State records of Western Australia http://www.sro.wa.gov.au/archive-collection/collection/passenger-lists-and-immigration-records (Header photo thanks to this source)
South Australian Maritime Museum http://passengersinhistory.sa.gov.au/vessel-voyages-all/933083
RMS Ormuz – a great deal of fine research at http://ssmaritime.com/Ormuz-1886-1912.htm