|Rushden Echo, 23rd January 1925, transcribed by Kay Collins
Rushden People in Australia
Mr and Mrs Arthur Bowers Return to Old Home
Bootmaking in the Antipodes
After three and a half years’ absence from Rushden, Mr and Mrs Arthur Bowers and their little daughter have returned from Australia. Mr Bowers first worked at farming at Glenthompson, in Victoria, but shortly afterwards, he and his family moved to the city of Melbourne, where Mr Bowers worked in the finishing department of a huge boot factory. He says that the class of product turned out of Australian boot factories is decidedly inferior in quality to the Rushden made boot, but the retail prices, even after allowing for the great addition to the British as a result of shipping, are not correspondingly different. Boots from England, although very much better in quality, style, finish, etc., cost very little more in Australia than Australian-made boots. The factory hours in Melbourne are 44 a week, and the minimum wage is £4 10s. But the minimum does not remain the maximuma skilled and fast workman gets £5 a week or more.
The cost of living, however, is very high, and rents of houses are exorbitant. A five-roomed house, with a small front garden and the usual garden at the back is rented at 35s. a week! A man’s suit made in good quality serge costs from eight to nine guineas.
The Commonwealth Government’s scheme of assisting in the payment of passages to Australia and finding farm jobs is not the “bread of life” idea that some people imagine. An immigrant arrives in Australia under the assisted passage scheme and is sent up country to a farmer, who engages him at, say, £1 a week plus board and lodging. The work is long and arduous as compared with farmwork in England. After a few months the man, having made good, naturally asks for more money. The farmer replies by discharging him and applying to the Australian Government for another man! The
Out-of-Work Farm Labourer
then drifts to the cities and swells the ranks of the out-of-work, for whom, by the way, there is no “dole.”
Colonials, both Australians and South Africans, Mr Bowers says, are by no means friendly to the Englishman who goes out to get a job. They look on him as having taken what was legitimately their own means of livelihood. Generally speaking, Mr Bowers did not find the residents of Melbourne a church going people, although there are some magnificent churches there, Presbyterian, Methodist, and Anglican. Mr Bowers, who is an able vocalist, was appointed bass soloist at one big church in Melbourne, and his services at public festivities were much in demand/ On one occasion he sang in the presence of the Governor-General of the State, an ex-Prime Minister, and other notabilities.
The climate of Melbourne, Mr Bowers said, is even more changeable than the English. People have no idea at the beginning of the day what variations will take place in a few hours. His general opinion of Australia is that it is a country of wonderful possibilities in the way of development, but “if an Englishman has got a good job, he should stay where he is and not emigrate to Australia.” Mr Bowers and his family went to Australia over three years ago on account of the very bad state of the boot trade here. Comparing the two countrieswith the home industries much improvedhe says there is not a country to beat England.
During his stay in Australia Mr Bowers met Mr F Green, formerly of Rushden, and a contributor to the columns of the Rushden Echo (who is now in business on his own account), the Wilsons, and a number of other old Rushdenites.