25 Perkins St
West Denistone NSW 2114 Australia
ISBN 0646 28697 8
Birgitte Sharpe has edited a fascinating collection of articles by the leaders in research into Swedish emigration to Australia. The book represents the work of the James Sanderson Archive Project after the initial collection of data. Sanderson was born in Port Pirie, South Australia in 1919. The second of four sons born to a Swedish father, Andes Ludwig Alexanderson. Alexanderson was a merchant seaman who obtained his discharge papers in Melbourne in 1910, anglicised his name to Andrew Sanderson, and stayed in Australia until his death in Melbourne in 1951. Sanderson's interest in genealogy lead him to the sort of the research outlined in his book, which in his family's case took him back to the 17th century when a wealthy ancestor was accused of trolldom, tortured and imprisoned. Awarded the Order of the Polar Star for his service to migration history, Sanderson died in 1992, but by then had 35,000 file cards, and had broadened his researches to include other Scandinavians.
The work contains many fascinating glimpses of the importance of Scandinavia to Australian colonial life.
In 1906 Count Birger Mörner (1867-1930) was appointed Consul General for Sweden in Sydney, Sweden's first career diplomat in Australia and a man of many talents and interests. The noble Count was idolised by the high society of Sydney. Mörner expected all to treat him with great deference. A wit said that his behaviour was like that of a count who marches into the farm-hands' quarters. He regarded Australia as a primitive, frontier society, whose government was permeated with "half-baked socialistic ideals," which invaded the field of industry and commerce as well as that of social welfare. Above all, the fact that any Swede had dared emigrate was a matter that upset Count Mörner. When the authorities, first in New South Wales and then Victoria, began to recruit Swedes as emigrants for newly-developed agricultural areas, the Consul General's national pride was deeply wounded and he felt it his duty to protest vigorously.
On a visit home in 1908-1909 he declared that he was prepared to do everything in his power to prevent Swedes from emigrating to Australia. Mörner's negative reports on Swedish immigrants in Australia were published in Sweden. Then, unexpectedly, Mörner's polemic became public in Australia when on 9th February 1910 the morning papers in Sydney and Melbourne published some of the statements he had made in Sweden. An embattled Mörner stressed that his principal aim was to warn his countrymen of the unemployment in Australia, and that he had not intended to denigrate the Australian people.
The Premier of New South Wales entered the fray, declaring that in his state every assisted immigrant had found work. He challenged Mörner to come to his office and check his records. In reply, Mörner claimed that he was too overworked helping unemployed and destitute migrants, to be able to comply with the Premier's wishes.
The debate continued and had in no way subsided, when Count Birger Mörner was recalled by the Swedish Foreign Office, leaving Sydney on 25 August 1910.
The Swedes found Australian life easy to fit into. As Stig Hokanson explained. Profound isolation from their fellow countrymen characterised the life of Swedish emigrés to Australia. Unlike the mass emigration to the United States of America, where entire Swedish communities were established, emigration to Australia is best characterized as emigration in isolation. The vast majority of Swedes featured in the James Sanderson Collection saw little or nothing of their fellow countrymen after arrival in New South Wales. By marrying local Australian women in general and Roman Catholic Australian women in particular, they surrendered, albeit willingly, their socio-cultural traditions and their difficult-to-define Swedishness. Their assimilation into the host culture was thus relatively smooth. Not surprisingly, the New South Wales government viewed them as a great immigrant asset to the colony. The arriving Swedes, scattered across the length and breadth of New South Wales, were also regarded favourably, in accordance with the Darwinian genetical and social philosophy which inspired the ruling elite in the latter part of the 19th century and which was later labelled Social Darwinism. The North Germanic Swedes were viewed as a hard-working, amenable group of people, comparable with the Anglo-Saxon race. Few, if any, barriers were raised against Swedish arrivals in Australia.
The book contains fascinating material on idividual Swedes. Sven Erik Granlund personifies the Scandinavian attitude to the link between sport and national identity. In a paragraph entitled 'A sport of importance' one contribution explains how despite their busy work schedules, people still found time for sport. The segmentation of sports in colonial Queensland followed social class lines, with the upper classes engaged in the more expensive types of sport such as polo, yachting and tennis. The working classes took up less costly ones, for instance rugby, swimming and athletics. In these latter sports there was further division along ethnic lines: while British migrants tended to favour Rugby Football, other ethnic groups were drawn to athletics. The Tug-of-War featured prominently among the many strands of athletics in Brisbane. Indeed, so popular was the sport that each Scandinavian community had one or two teams competing throughout the year, with breaks only at Christmas and the New Year.
The sport had been introduced at the Olympic Games in 1896 and remained a popular event until the Fifth Olympiad in Stockholm, 1912, after which the sport was removed from the Olympic programme. However, towards the end of the 1880s and in the early I890s the sport drew large spectator crowds and men would vie for positions in which to demonstrate their physical strength. A friendly rivalry existed between the three Scandinavian groups, whose members together used to visit the oldest ethnic club in Queensland, The Scandinavian Association Heimdal, formed in 1872.
Sven Erik Granlund joined the Swedish Tug-of-War team in the late 1880s and can be seen with his team in the illustration on page 95. Work commitments had caused Granlund to be an 'Emergency' player or 'Reserve' as the term is known today. The sport's popularity peaked on public holidays such as May Day and the Queen's Birthday, attracting large spectator crowds to the Brisbane Exhibition Grounds. In the photograph we see Granlund seated, centre. Interestingly, we also find Granlund's close friend Gustaf Emanuel Löfgren, later immortalised by Evert Taube in the ballad Himlajord, about the adventures of a Swedish citrus farmer in Queensland. Löfgren and Granlund remained friends throughout their lives.