James Owen of Penrhos

and his descendants

Arrival in Australia

SS Ballarat 2 The Ballarat docked at Fremantle on 20 January 1923 and on 5 February William and May found that the result of the ballot for property meant they would be living in Group 46 at location 344. (Click here to see a record of their arrival and group allocation.) Group 46 (map), about 25 miles south of Fremantle, had been started on 2 January that year. The group settlements of the state of Western Australia were only in the south-east corner of the state and this was one of the most northerly of them. Their property may have been scrubland or forest, in which case they would have been paid 10 shillings (50 pence) a day while they cleared it in order to farm. In addition a £10 loan was available to help them set up home.

(Picture from Victoria Museum: Passengers aboard the Ballarat arriving at Melbourne, 1925.)

Many settlers, like May, had known only city life and to them the isolation and wildness of the outback must have come as a great shock; the deprivations and the physical demands often proved too much. Settlers also found they had to comply with strict regulations in order to retain their land. National advisory pamphlets were produced but local advice, such as which crops, fruits or vegetables were suited to a particular area, was sadly lacking. With little remuneration, the prospect of surviving, never mind paying off their thirty-year loans to the Agricultural Bank, must have seemed a distant dream. Those who did pay them off became freeholders but by April 1924 over a third had given up and many more were later forced into submission by the Great Depression of the 1930s, when prices for farm produce plummeted. For the majority, the reality had proved very different from the rosy picture that had been painted for them but they had no redress and usually there was no going back.

William and May left their first placement on 24 June 1926. They may have tried to find other work but they would later reappear in the records and in the news farming a plot in a group settlement near the south coast.