Orr Down Under - Australasia

Scottish emigration to Australasia should be seen as part of a movement which has its roots in the early modern period. The tradition of emigration from Scotland is long established - in the seventeenth century the Scots were settling throughout northwest Europe. especially in the Netherlands, Poland and Ulster, while emigration to contemporary colonial America was small scale and only became significant after the middle of the eighteenth century. The reasons for such emigration were complex but included religious and political persecution, economic and social opportunities, plus military service abroad when there was little else available at home. Both the trans-Atlantic emigration and that to the Antipodes had one general feature that, with some exception, movement from the Highlands of Scotland tended to be in family groups, whereas that from the Lowlands was of individuals.

Between 1788 and 1868 about 150,000 convicts were shipped to Australia, however, because of the different legal systems in Scotland and the rest of the British Isles, relatively few Scots arrived as felons - probably the most prominent Scots shipped in chains were the Scottish Martyrs of 1794-1795. There were no Orrs in the First, Second and Third Fleets, but four Orrs were sentenced to deportation from Ireland. They were:

Edward Orr, a tailor, b ca 1794, sentenced in Co Tyrone 1814 to 7 years. Arrived aboard the "Canada"

John Orr, sentenced to Life. Arrived on board the "Friendship" (1800)

Margaret Orr, b ca 1748, tried at Carlow 1792, deported for 7 years. Arrived aboard the "Boddington".

William Orr, was sentenced to life in Antrim. He arrived aboard the "Friendship" (1800) and  was the only one noted as having been a "rebel " . After an adventurous time in the East Indies he actually returned to Ulster. His story is told in " Remember All the Orrs " by R H Foy.

Some of the earliest colonial administrators of Australia were Scots such as Captain Richard Hunter, Lachlan MacQuarie and Sir Thomas Brisbane. By the 1830s Australia was receiving a steady flow of migrants from Scotland which was increasingly being encouraged by groups such as the Highlands and Islands Emigration Society. The discovery of gold generated an increase of settlement in Australia in the 1850`s by late century Australia and New Zealand rivalled the United States and Canada as destinations for Scottish emigrants.

Orr population in New Zealand

The settlement of New Zealand by the British post dates that of Australia by a generation or two and really commences in the 1850s. The majority of early settlers went under the auspices of the New Zealand Company but by the 1840 a a significant proportion of organized settlement was church based, such as that at Otago by members of the Free Church of Scotland (or the followers of Reverend Norman McLeod who arrived via Nova Scotia.) By the close of the nineteenth century about a quarter of the population of New Zealand were Scots or of Scottish origin.

Analysis of New Zealand White Pages (1998) shows there are 521 listings for Orr which after making allowance for `couples` results in an estimated 411 family groups representing an estimated population including children, of 1932.

Orr Population in Australia 1998

The calculated figures that follow are made from count and analysis of the Australia White Pages Directory (1998 version). Because spouses/partners are frequently listed together and separately eg A B Orr & C D Orr, the `couple is treated as a single family unit. The family count is therefore a count of listed entries as amended.

The population per state has been calculated as family groups x 4.7 ( 2 adults + 2.7 children) being the factor previously used and validated as reasonable with the USA and the known large families which the Orrs tended to have until very recent times.










Total calculated Orr population @ 1998         6407.



Orr Name Study Ulster Scots Reference material