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According to a survey carried out by the National Federation of Fish Fryers in the 1960s, the first fish and chip shop was opened by Joseph Malins in 1860 on Old Ford Road in the East End of London (p. 234). The combination of the fried fish that had been sold and eaten in the Jewish East End since the early nineteenth century with chips created what became a quintessentially British meal.
People down on their luck fleeing to the colonies on the first available ship is a mainstay of 19th century fiction. It was a convenient way for an author to either get rid of an unnecessary character, or to bring a surprise new person into the narrative mix with dramatic effect.