Francis and Sarah Lacey were Grandad Dale’s great-grandparents. That means they were my grandchildren’s great-great-great-grandparents (five generations before you)!!!
Francis and Sarah were born in the 1840s and lived in Nettleton in Lincolnshire in England (quite near where Robin Hood and his Merry Men had their adventures). They were very poor, Francis working in labouring jobs on farms and in mines while Sarah brought up their many children.
There were major workplace changes going on at that time. Farmers and mine owners were trying to increase their profits by cutting costs, and that meant extremely low wages and no sickness or retirement benefits. Families were struggling and there was widespread poverty. But times were a-changing…
For a start, labourers were trying to form a trade union (to improve their bargaining power), but the bosses were resisting, as you can see from this newspaper report of a speech to disaffected workers:
The other major change was that many of the disenchanted poor were leaving Britain and emigrating to colonies like New Zealand. One day, Francis and Sarah saw this advertisement:
Then, not long afterwards, Francis went to a meeting in nearby Claxby (an hours’ walk from their home in Nettleton). A man representing the New Zealand government was extolling the virtues of life in the South Seas and Francis was convinced!!!
It was all arranged and, within a year (in 1875), they were on the “Halcione” sailing from Gravesend near London to New Plymouth in New Zealand.
Francis and Sarah were 35 and 30 years old when they left for New Zealand, and they took their six youngest children with them: Georgina (10), Catherine (8), Elizabeth (7), Francis (4), Emma (2), and Henry (1).
We’re not sure what happened to John, the eldest, who would have been 14 at the time. Maybe he had died earlier, of some childhood disease, or maybe he stayed behind because he already had a good job he didn’t want to leave (children left school much earlier in those days).
The trip in the three-masted barque took over three months. If you think the ship looks a bit small for 300 passengers, you’re right. There were over 200 adults and children crammed into the dark and dank steerage deck (the lowest deck).
There was a measles outbreak on the voyage and eight children under the age of two died, including Francis and Sarah’s one year old, Henry.
Everyone in steerage was from Lincolnshire, so there were friends there, and the bonds of common purpose, but it must have been a terrible trip.
On arriving in New Zealand, Francis and Sarah settled in Taranaki, where they had another seven children, making 14 in total. Families were so much larger in those days!!!
Francis began work by just getting whatever labouring jobs he could, but he eventually managed to buy a small farm and (at age 60), bought and ran a bakery business in Stratford. The photo shows him, as a successful businessman, in his mid‑sixties.
They were very religious people. Francis was even a preacher at the local Primitive Methodist church (Primitive Methodists are an offshoot of the Methodist Church, which you can read about here: http://tinyurl.com/PrimitiveMethodism). Oddly enough, neither my parents nor my Lacey grandparents were the least bit religious.
Francis died at age 71. Sarah outlived him by fifteen years and eventually died at age 81 (despite the risks and hardships involved in fourteen pregnancies). They are buried in the same grave at the Te Henui cemetery in New Plymouth, next to their eldest daughter, Georgina.
If you ever go looking for their graves, go to the Lemon St entrance and look for the Primitive Methodist section, which is quite close to the entrance.