The Transports Human Cargo


Human Cargo comes to Gosforth Civic Theatre in Newcastle on 2nd June. For Parallel Lives we're delighted to partner with Action Foundation. Founded in 2006, this award-winning charity offers support to disadvantaged refugees, asylum seekers and other migrants across Tyne and Wear.

Originally from Londonderry, RALPH HUSH moved as a child with his parents and four siblings to a farm near Crookham, Northumberland. He became a shepherd. In August 1819, the Newcastle Assizes heard a complex case involving Hush. He was accused of stealing 20 ewes and 20 lambs to fill gaps in the flock he tended, for, it was pointed out, ‘he had made free with his master’s sheep’ and needed to cover his tracks. The complexity came from identifying which sheep belonged to whom, and several shepherds took the stand to give evidence. Hush was found guilty and sentenced to death. This was commuted to transportation for life. The next Spring he endured an 114 day voyage to Sydney where he was sent straight to work on a farm at Wingacarribee. Meanwhile his wife Margaret and four children were left in Northumberland. She did an unusual thing. She petitioned to join her husband as a free settler. This seldom happened in the early days of the colony. Word was sent to Australia and, amazingly, word came back from the farm at Wingacarribee, saying Hush was a good man, deserving of being reunited with his family. Margaret and the children sailed out in 1823. Though unchained, their journey would still have been extremely uncomfortable. Ralph was freed very early from his life sentence. He later became a local magistrate. His marriage to Margaret lasted 52 years.

ROBERT MARTINSON was a junior cashier for the Northumberland and Durham Bank in Newcastle. He was also a cricketer, who played regularly for Northumberland against an All England Eleven. He was married with four sons, and another child on the way. He was 32 years old. So what possessed him, in 1855, to steal £4,264 from his employers, desert his family and board a steamer in Southampton for America? We don’t know. But we do know that the law caught up with him on that ship. He was arrested and stood trial in Newcastle in December that year, where he was sentenced to 14 years transportation and sent to Western Australia. Within six years he had a conditional pardon. The last we hear of him, Robert worked as an auditor for the Freemantle Mechanics Institute.

JOHN WEST of Gateshead arrived in Australia in 1963 aged 24, ‘just to look around’. He had a trade as a coachbuilder, but found that in a new country brimming with opportunity he could take almost any kind of work anywhere. Apart from willingness to work, he found another asset - he was a footballer of more than average ability. So, although he was happy to tour around Australia, he found that wherever he went, people wanted him to stay. He settled in the Queensland city of Rockhampton, working as a carpenter. 

Here’s an interesting history of migration to Gateshead.

MUZOON ALMELLEHAN, a Syrian teenager, spent three years trying to get an education while moving with her family between refugee camps in Jordan. While there she would always encourage other refugee girls to keep up with their schooling and not get married too early. Arriving in Newcastle in November 2015, Muzoon was soon enrolled at Kenton School and, within six months, gained some excellent GCSE results. Unsurprisingly she’s become billed the ‘Syrian Malala’ – indeed she’s already met fellow education activist Malala Yousafzai – and hopes one day to become a journalist. Muzoon was one of the first Syrians to be settled in the North East during 2016. In August, Gateshead had settled the second highest number of refugees among local authorities in Britain, and only Scotland had taken a higher share than the North East. Story and photo from the Newcastle Chronicle.

THE COMFREY PROJECT is a charity which works with refugees and asylum seekers on allotment sites across Newcastle and Gateshead, aiming to improve their conditions of life and general wellbeing.

Our partner organisations inNewcastle

Action Foundation