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Thread: Convicts and Transportation

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    Convicts and Transportation

    The stories of Irish convicts sent to Australia - Potato stealing and Pig theft


    A SELECTION OF convict records telling the stories of Irish people sentenced to travel to Australia have been made available online for the first time.

    The database from Ancestry.ie delves into some of the very petty crimes that would result in an effective life sentence in Australia.

    These ranged from potato stealing, to shoe theft to stealing pigs from a farm. Included in the records if John ‘Red’ Kelly, the aforementioned pig stealer, who was the father of Australia’s most famous outlaw Ned Kelly.

    At the age of just 21 he was convicted for his crime and sentenced to time in Australia. He set sail on 7 August 1841 and landed in Tasmania on 2 January 1842.

    Joe Buggy, genealogist at Ancestry.ie, told RTÉ’s Morning Ireland: “These records are fascinating in the level of detail they provide about the particular people who were convicted.

    One particular example that stands out for me is Alexander Humphreys, from Co Fermanagh. He was born in the early 1800s. He was convicted of stealing potatoes to feed his family. This was before the Famine. He was given a seven-year sentence then and sent off to Australia away from his wife and children.

    Buggy said that because of the distance between Ireland and Australia these people convicted “generally weren’t coming home”. It is for this reason that people may be able to trace ancestors who moved to Australia roughly 200 years ago, he said.

    Another story featured in the collection is that of two shoplifting sisters, Ellen Howard and Rose Connolly, who were both sentenced within a few months of each other.

    In their documents Ellen is described as ruddy and freckled “had dark brown hair. Mark of burn on lower part of left side of her cheek. Nail of forefinger of left hand disfigured.” Rose is described as “sallow and pockpitted. Has brown hair. Mark of a burn on her left hand. Two scars on the back of her left thumb.”

    Buggy said some older records may not contain as much information about women as they do about men, but “these records don’t discriminate in that way”.

    For small, trivial crimes they were sent far away from their friends and families.

    It just gives an unbelievable insight into what life was like for people in the 1800s before the Famine.

    You can view the Australian convict collection here.


    Journal.ie


    WHY WERE CONVICTS TRANSPORTED TO AUSTRALIA?

    Until 1782, English convicts were transported to America. However, in 1783 the American War of Independence ended. America refused to accept any more convicts so England had to find somewhere else to send their prisoners. Transportation to New South Wales was the solution.

    Why so many convicts?

    Life in Britain was very hard. As new machines were invented, people were no longer needed to do farming jobs so they moved to the cities. The cities became overcrowded. Many people didn’t have a job and were very poor. People stole things to survive. Minor crimes such as stealing items worth more than 1 shilling (about a day’s wages for a working person), cutting down a tree in an orchard or stealing livestock were punishable by transportation. The prisons quickly became full and prisoners were kept in old, rotting prison ships called hulks. These ships were usually an old naval or merchant ship that could not go to sea anymore but could still float safely in the harbour.
    What was life like on the hulks?

    Conditions in these floating gaols were terrible. The hulks were over-crowded and cramped, often there wasn’t even room to stand up! A hulk could be up to 65 metres long. This is the same size as 6 buses placed end to end. On board each hulk there could be up to 300 convicts. There were many diseases on board and convicts died. Between 1776 and 1795 nearly 2000 out of almost 6000 convicts held on hulks, died. The majority died from diseases such as typhoid and cholera.

    The convicts were not fed very well. The people in charge wanted to keep costs low. The daily diet was often made up of ox-cheek, either boiled or made into soup, pease (peas), bread or biscuits. The biscuits were often mouldy. Tobacco could be supplied as part of their ration as a reward for a job well done or for good behaviour.

    Convicts got up at sunrise and worked hard for up to 10 hours a day. All convicts were sentenced to hard labour as part of their punishment and could be forced to work at just about any manual task such as timber cutting, brick making or stone cutting.

    Why were convicts transported to Australia?



    Today people choose to go to Australia. Climate would be a big factor in making this choice.

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  3. #2
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    Van Diemens Land a primary destination for British convicts.


    Tasmania


    Abel Tasman (1609? - 1659), a Dutch navigator, discovered the island in 1642 and named it Van Diemans Land.


    At the time, Van Diemens Land was still a primary destination for British convicts. The map is highly detailed with all convict stations, towns and roads.


    In 1803, a British expedition was sent from Sydney to Tasmania to establish a new penal colony there. Led by Lt. John Bowen, a settlement was created at Risdon Cove, on the Derwent River. Originally sent to Port Philip, another expedition led by Lieutenant-Colonel David Collins arrived soon after. Dissatisfied with the first settlement, in 1804 an alternative settlement on the western side of the river at Sullivan's Cove, was set up, at what would later became known as Hobar.


    When the convict station on Norfolk Island was abandoned in 1807-1808, the remaining convicts and free settlers were transported to Hobart. Starting in 1816, more free settlers began arriving from Great Britain. On December 3, 1825 Tasmania was declared a colony separate from New South Wales.


    The Macquarie Harbor penal colony on the West Coast of Tasmania was established in 1820. In 1830, the Port Arthur penal settlement was established to replace Macquarie Harbor, as it was easier to maintain regular communications by sea. The continuation of transportation of convicts to Van Diemen's Land saw the rise of a well-coordinated anti-transportation movement, especially following a severe economic depression in the early 1840s. Transportation was temporarily suspended in 1846 but soon revived. By the late 1840s, most convicts being sent to Van Diemen's Land (plus those to Victoria) were designated as "exiles" and were free to work for pay while under sentence.


    In 1850 the Australasian Anti-Transportation League was formed to lobby for the permanent cessation of transportation, its aims being furthered by the commencement of the Australian gold rushes the following year. The last convict ship to be sent from England, the St. Vincent, arrived in 1853.



    Van Diemens Land - Barry Lawrence Ruderman Antique... 06 XI 2019.

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    SONGS: Van Diemen's Land, To Tasmania


    Van Diemen's Land




    Come all you gallant poachers who ramble void of care,
    Who wander out on a moonlit night with your dog, your gun and snare,
    The hare and lofty pheasant you have at your command,
    Not thinking of your long career spend on Van Dieman's land.


    Poor Thomas Brown from Nenagh town, John Murphy and Poor Joe,
    Where three determined poachers, the country well does know,
    By the keepers of the land, one night, at last they were trepanned,
    And for fourteen years transported unto Van Dieman's Land.


    The first day that we landed upon that fatal shore,
    The planters gathered around us, they might be twenty score,
    They ranked us off like horses and sold us out of hand,
    They yoked us to a plough, brave boys, to plough Van Dieman's Land.


    Often when I slumber, I have a pleasant dream,
    I 'm lying on the cold green grass down by your purling stream,
    Oh, wondering through the maid of fair with my sweetheart by the hand,
    Then I awaken broken-hearted upon Van Dieman's Land.


    Fourteen years is a long long time, that is our fatal doom,
    For nothing more the poaching got no all that so we done,
    You give up dog, gun and snare and the poaching, every man
    If you only knew the hardship upon Van Dieman's Land.



    Cara Dillon - Van Diemen's Land





    To Tasmania


    The minute that they landed us
    Upon that dreadful shore,
    The planters they inspected us,
    Full twenty score and more.
    They led us round like horses
    And sold us out of hand
    And yoked us to the plough my boys
    To plough Van Diemen's Land.


    … when idle, unprincipled outcasts were assignable, once set ashore, to private service: ploughmen, shepherds, shearers, reapers, butchers, gardeners, masons, shoe-makers, house-servants, being persons of like class, required to separate from their former partners in crime as the first great step toward reformation, huts to live in, doubtless more commodious than the ones they left back home, with as much fuel as they chose to cut themselves, abundant rations of food, allowances of clothing, bedding, boots, and the chance to show their latent goodness, slough off notorious idleness, become industrious, trustworthy servants, earn tickets-of-leave so they might hire themselves elsewhere for wages. So manifest are this system's advantages that settlers prefer ticket-of-leave men, who, sentence served, gain conditional pardon, free range of all the Australian colonies. Some achieve free pardons in the end!


    How could anyone utter such words as ‘white slavery’ or other opprobrious epithets?


    You see how progressive, how proven the system was! So when in that perfidious year of ’42, they changed assignment to probation, made hard-labour gangs do public works, the good was all undone: man naturally willing and diligent lapsed into apathetic drones.


    Mrs Meredith speaks of the Good Old Days ...

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    Convict Life In Australia


    Convict Life In Australia


    After the convicts had been formally handed over into the charge of the governor, the prisoners were often segregated, with the most hardened criminals being sent to special prisons or areas. The rest acted as servants to the settlers or carried out hard labour in gangs.


    By day, the prisoners were supervised by a military guard and convict overseers and, at night, they were locked up in small wooden huts behind stockades.


    Convict discipline was harsh. For those convicts who committed further offences in the colony, punishments were brutal. There was the cat o'nine tails: fifty lashes was a common punishment. Equally feared was time on the chain gangs where, shackled in ankle irons or chains (weighing ten pounds or more), convicts were employed in the back-breaking work of making new roads.


    If convicts continued to cause trouble in Australia, they were sent to more isolated penal colonies or prisons. At remote places such as Norfolk Island, Port Macquarie and Moreton Bay, discipline could be very severe. There they were forced to work from dawn to dusk at backbreaking tasks. If they disobeyed or tried to escape, they were whipped, chained in irons or sometimes executed. At Norfolk Island the 'harshest possible discipline short of death' was imposed. So unpleasant were the conditions, that rebellions and uprisings were a regular occurrence.


    Most convicts were assigned to settlers and 'emancipated' (freed) convicts, after an application for a convict servant or worker was lodged with the Governor. Well behaved convicts could apply or petition the governor to have their families brought out from England and, in some cases, they could be assigned to work for their free settler families.


    Female convicts were usually assigned to domestic service. Troublesome female prisoners were sent to the Female Factory, where they made rope and span and carded wool. The accommodation was very basic and barrack like. In time, the work done in the female factories became less difficult with needlework and laundry becoming the main duties.


    Many women would marry as quickly as possible. Martin Cash described how this would happen in 1828 in Sydney. .."any man wanting to marry one of the girls would apply. The girls were lined up at the Factory and the man would drop a scarf or handkerchief at the feet of the woman of his choice. If she picked it up, the marriage was virtually immediate."


    Large numbers of boy convicts aged between 9 and 18 were sent to Tasmania in the early 1830s. They were often too small for the rough work of land clearance and road building. As their number grew, a separate Boys' Establishment was built at Point Puer.


    Conduct registers were kept and convicts that worked hard could obtain their 'ticket of leave' (a document given to convicts when granting them freedom to work and live within a given district of the colony, before their sentence expired or they were pardoned). Under a TOL, church attendance and appearance before a magistrate was compulsory, but they could own property.


    Conditional Pardons freed convicts and were granted on the condition that convicts did not return to England or Ireland. Absolute Pardons allowed convicts to return to England as their sentences were totally cleared. Certificates of Freedom were introduced in 1810 and issued to convicts at the completion of their sentence.



    Convict Life In Australia - Victorian Crime and Punishment ...

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