Return to the Escape conference homepage

[ Program ] [ Escape ] [ Registration ] [ Accommodation Information ]

Current participants and abstracts

Keynote Speakers:
Ian Duffield
- University of Edinburgh
'Cultural Baggage: Tales and Practices of Escape'

Marcus Rediker - University of Pittsburgh
"How to Escape Bondage: The Atlantic Adventures of the 'Fugitive Traytor' Henry Pitman, 1687"

Follow the links to view the relevant abstracts

Name of participant

University affiliation

ADDAMS, Christopher
ALEXANDER, Alison
ANDERSON, Clare
ARTHUR, Chris
AUERBACH, Jeffrey
BALLYN, Susan
BARDENHAGEN, Marita
BLACKLER, Stuart
BROWNRIGG, Jeff
CASELLA, Eleanor
CHRISTOPHER, Emma
COLLINS, Paul
CONNELL, Louise
DELOMBARD, Jeannine
DEVEREAUX, Simon
DILLON, Meg
DUFFIELD, Ian
DUNNING, Tom
EASTLEY, Robyn
EVANS, Caroline
FOLEY, Jane
FROST, Lucy
GIASON, Rob
GOC, Nicola
GRANT, Robert
HILTON, Phil
HOPKIN, David
IHDE, Erin
KARSKENS, Grace
LAMBERT, Anthony
LANE, Peter
LAUGESEN, Amanda
LAWLER, Catherine
LINES, Pete
LISTON, Carol
MACFIE, Peter
MCLENNON, Shane
MCCONNELL, Anne
MCINTYRE, Perry
MANERA, Brad
MARSHALL, Julie
MAXWELL-STEWART , Hamish
MEAD, Jenna
MEAD, Philip
MORISSET, Lisa
MYHILL, Marion
NASH, Mike
NOBLE, Brett
PARKER, James
PETERSEN, John
PETROW, Stefan
PHILLIPS, Diance
PICTON PHILLIPPS, Tina
PIERIS, Anoma
PIPER, Andrew
POWELL, Michael
PYBUS, Cassandra
REDIKER, Marcus
REID, Kirsty
RICHARDSON, Joanna
ROBBINS, W.M.
ROMEY, Peter
ROSS, Lynette
SACKVILLE-O'DONNELL, Judith
SHERWOOD, Toni
SLEE, June
SNOWDEN, Dianne
SOFIELD, Trevor
STAGG, Tony
TUFFIN, Richard
WALSH, Tracie
WILLIAMS, Chris
WILSON, Jacqui
YEATS, Christine

Ulster University
University of Tasmania
University of Leicester
Senior Ranger Western District PWS
California State University, Northridge
University of Barcelona
University of Tasmania
St David's Cathedral
University of Canberra
University of Manchester
University College, London
Independent Scholar
Galleries of Justice, UK

University of Toronto
University of Queensland
University of Tasmania
University of Edinburgh
University of Tasmania
Archives Office of Tasmania
University of Tasmania
Tourism Tasmania
University of Tasmania
Tourism Tasmania
University of Tasmania
University of Kent
University of Tasmania
Glasgow University
University of New England
University of New South Wales

Macquarie University
Independent Scholar
Australian National University
University of South Australia
Independent Scholar
University of Western Sydney
Independent Historian
Independent Genealogist
Heritage Consultant
University of Western Sydney
Australian War Memorial
Gordon River Cruises
University of Tasmania
University of Tasmania
University of Tasmania
Independent artist
University of Tasmania
Tasmanian Heritage Office
Tasmanian Heritage Office
TAFE Tasmania
Hyde Park Barracks Museum
University of Tasmania
University of Tasmania
University of Edinburgh
University of California, Berkeley
University of Tasmania
University of Tasmania
University of Tasmania
University of Pittsburgh
Bristol University
University of Tasmania
Charles Sturt University

Port Arthur Historic Site
Independent Consultant
Independent Scholar
University of Tasmania
University of Western Sydney
University of Tasmania
University of Tasmania
University of Tasmania
Port Arthur Historic Site
Documentary Filmmaker
Open University, UK
Monash University
State Records Authority, NSW

 

Christopher Addams

No Escape - The Convict Experience in Bermuda 1823-1864.

This paper presents the first interpretation of the archival research and artifacts associated with the convict experience in Bermuda. The remote island was built, using convict labour, to be the 'Gibraltar' of the western Atlantic. Bermuda was 900 miles from the nearest land and its one-mile-wide, 21-mile-long landscape offered no refuge to escapees. The punishment was dreadful, possibly fatal. Yet escapes there were.  "No Escape" addresses the few attempts there were to escape the impregnable Ireland Island fortress built by the convicts for the British. From small desperate groups, to organized attacks from rescue groups in New York, the British foiled them all and kept their labour force in an iron grip until the system became a political liability in 1864. The artifacts recovered from the mooring site are now revealing new insights into how the convicts coped with the rigid routine of forced labor by day, and imprisonment in hot, airless, and closely guarded hulks by night. They found 'virtual' escapes in different ways. There was sex, extensive gambling, careful preservation of 'English views' found on plates and other wares, and a remarkable ship-wide system for creating income. Jewellery, religious items, gaming pieces, intricate carvings were produced for sale to the Bermuda community. Evidence from the site now shows that these items were made in a production line, novice carvers roughing out material for more experienced artisans to finish.  Here is a first look at the convict experience in one of the harshest systems of all.

Back to top


Alison Alexander

'Little Delicacy of Choice': escape for female convicts

Female convicts suffered under even more disadvantages than males: they bore not just a social but a moral stigma, they were more open to sexual exploitation, and when they finally obtained their freedom, there were far fewer ways in which they could earn a living. How could they obtain escape from poverty and deprivation? They did have two advantages. One was that there were far fewer women than men in Tasmania, the other that only women could provide the domestic comforts which were seen by a large majority of men as indispensable. This paper discusses how female convicts could exploit this situation.

Back to top

Clare Anderson

‘Weel about and turn about and do jus’ so, Eb’ry time I weel about, I jump Jim Crow’: performance and cultural identity in Indian Ocean penal settlements.

 ‘Gentlemen of the Jury; I believe I am a Christian. I was born and brought up as such. I was born within the tropics, but received the education of an European. The man who was tried and sentenced along with me, was sent to New South Wales, while I was sent to the Coast of Martaban. On board the ship I was treated as a native, though I am a Christian. When the ship arrived at Rangoon, the temptation to escape from her was very strong, and I could not resist it … If I had been treated as a Christian, I should not have attempted to escape.’

So spoke African-born George Morgan at the Supreme Court of Calcutta in April 1839. The circumstances surrounding the offence for which Morgan and his accomplice had been transported a year earlier Ý the theft of a musical snuff box Ý raise all sorts of questions about subaltern life in early colonial Calcutta. The focus of this paper, however, will be on what the multiple narratives of Morgan’s escape from transportation and reshipment (to Van Diemen’s Land) reveal about Indian Ocean penal networks during the first half of the nineteenth century. I will disentangle the speech, song and writing of Morgan; British, ‘Portuguese’ and Eurasian convicts transported to Indian convict settlements in Southeast Asia; and, colonial convicts transported to European settlements in Australia. I will argue that colonial articulations of race, criminality and class were contingent and unstable, and subaltern enactments of them complex and shifting

Back to top

Chris Arthur, Jane Foley, Rob Giason, Julie Marshall, Brett Noble, Peter Romey and Trevor Sofield

Heritage Tourism Round Table

Given the currency of the issues surrounding the importance of the role of interpretation in delivering high quality tourism experiences, the Heritage Tourism Round Table discussion will focus on interpretation.

The Tasmanian Experience Strategy sets the context for the discussion from the tourism perspective and Rob Giason, in the chair, will provide this background in his introductory remarks.

Each panel member will present their views on what they consider to be the five most important things to get right when interpreting cultural heritage.

Questions will then be invited from the floor.

Back to top

Jeffrey Auerbach

‘There’s No Escape’: Thomas Watling, John Glover, & the Australian Picturesque

This paper compares the convict art of Thomas Watling, who was transported to Sydney in 1792 after being convicted of forgery in Dumfries, with the paintings of John Glover, a free and wealthy immigrant who settled with his family in Launceston in 1831. It contrasts Watling's struggle to find an Australian picturesque with Glover's more sumptuous embrace of that aesthetic to argue that their differing attitudes towards and uses of the picturesque reflect in part their unequal positions within Britain's burgeoning empire. Ironically, however, both artists ended up deploying the picturesque aesthetic, creating not "new worlds from old," as a1998-9 exhibition catalogue of Australian and American landscape painting put it, but rather old worlds from new. This suggests the limits to the possibilities of "escape", as these and other artists turned the Australian landscape into something knowable and familiar, rather than emphasizing its difference. "Escape", in the end, was a circumscribed possibility, limited by governing aesthetic sensibilities and the disappointing realities of the settler experience.

Back to top

Susan Ballyn

“Escape was to fight another day in another country: The Maquis in Spain

In May 2001 the Spanish Parliament granted political recognition to the Republican Guerillas, known as the Maquis, who had continued to wage a guerilla war against Franco in the 40s and 50s. Who were the Maquis? Why has more than half a century of contemporary history dubbed them as “bandits” and “highway robbers”? Their political recognition has served to fill an obvious gap and certain injustice in Spanish history. The story of the Maquis is one of immense courage, idealism, and resilience which begins with their participation in the Spanish Civil War, continues in France where they fled after the victory of Fascism, to become active members of the French resistance against the Nazis and finally ends with the clandestine guerilla war waged against Franco. Huge numbers were to lose their lives in battle, in Nazi concentration camps, or in skirmishes with Francoęs Civil Guards in the post-war period. This paper will attempt to give an overview of the story of this extraordinary group of individuals who escaped from Spain into France, only to return again to continue the struggle that their ideals demanded of them

"How many lands have my feet trod and my eye seen! What terrible scenes of desolation, of death I witnessed in those years of continual war. Adverse circumstances had made us, anti-militarists, the most battle hardened soldiers of the Allied armies" (Murillo de la Cruz)

Back to top

Marita Bardenhagen

Martin Edwards and Hugh Fraser - escape from emancipation

While much is known of those transported prisoners who fell foul of the convict administration, transportation's success stories have been less documented. Sites of national and international significance, like Port Arthur, Maria Island, and Sarah Island, need to be understood within a wider context - a context which includes the entrepreneurial achievements of convicts and ex-convicts as well as the confrontational stories of resistance and punishment. This new "culture of convicts" identified by Grace Karskens, provides a contrast to the history of civil conditions that has been the focus of past histories. The micro histories of convicts Martin Edwards, an Irish teacher and Hugh Fraser, a Scottish solicitor (born in Bengal) add to our understanding of those who escaped their convict stain by making successful transition into early VDL's society. Martin and Hugh both escaped emancipation to lead respectable lives as "gentlemen". Their narratives build on the collective history of individuals that provide another side to the escape theme.

Back to top

Stuart Blackler

Language of Escape

The Reverend Robert Knopwood (1763-1838) arrived in Hobart with David Collins in 1804 as the first Chaplain to the colony, a position he held until 1823. Together with this Crown appointment, Knopwood served as a Magistrate in the Colony. As magistrate. Knopwood was responsible for the administration of the law; as chaplain he was charged with a ministry to prisoners, including those to be executed. The tension between these two roles was real and deeply felt. The paper concentrates upon the words Knopwood used in prayer and exhortation and the time he spent with and acting on behalf of convicts. Escape for convicts from the situation they found themselves in was not only effected by the gallows but in what Knopwood called enabling convicts to find 'a right understanding of themselves'. Knopwood also intervened on behalf of the condemned, occasionally successfully. The young who were reprieved received practical assistance from Knopwood to escape from the circumstances which had diminished their lives. This same liberation was extended to the orphaned young and to Hobart aboriginal people whom he took into his household. We need to explore the question that acts of compassion and generosity were in no small measure a contribution to Knopwood's escape from the constraints of officialdom.

Back to top

Jeff Brownrigg

"From Bondage… Liberated": Frank the Poet's Dreams of Liberty.

Frances McNamara, "Frank the Poet", remains a shadowy early colonial figure, regardless of his appearances in convict ship indents, the numerous records of his escapes, recapture and court appearances, and the consequent additional punishments. He is best remembered today as the putative author of "Morton Bay" - a poem/song that is a reverie upon escape. But the song's provenance is, at best, vague. Some other things attributed to Frank are even less secure, though they imply that he was well known and had developed a reputation as poet soon after he arrived in Australia in 1832; he was well enough known to suffer parody. The body of his work, gathered and annotated by John Meredith and Rex Whalan in 1979 suggest that his wild spirit never lost its distinctive tinge of Irish green and that his rebellious, unsettled spirit was of a piece with his compositions; works that carried encrypted political messages deeply steeped in Irish nationalism and a desire to escape from the overlording British. This paper examines the poems and songs that are the supposed remnants Frank's literary output, taking issue with the usual conclusion that they sometimes hide coded messages for transported Whiteboys or ribbon men, the tattered Australian remnants of Irish rebellions. Internal evidence suggests something else and the certainties of accounts of his life and output, built in the 1970s, slip away.

Back to top

Eleanor Casella

Be/Longing: Ambiguities of Escape in Austral-Irish Penal Heritage.

In a volume commemorating the bicentenary of the establishment of New South Wales as a British penal colony, Irish historian Colm Kiernan argued:

The Irish contribution to the development of an Australian awareness was so important that the two terms are almost the same, each standing for something different from an English or British awareness, each content to bask in the sunshine of the other. (Kiernan, C. 1986 Australia and Ireland 1788-1988. Dublin: Gill and Macmillan, p. ix)

While both Protestant and free colonists did make the difficult journey to the Australian colonies, the vast majority of Irish arrivals were poor, Catholic, and convicts.  By the cessation of criminal transportation to Van Diemen’s Land (Tasmania) in 1854, approximately 40,000 Irish men and women had been transported to the Australian penal colonies.  Historic gaols and penal settlements on both sides of the globe unite this transnational legacy of involuntary human migration.

This paper explores a foundational element of this intertwined cultural be/longing: the concept of "escape" as both a boundary and a bond forged between these two post-colonial nations.  How does the heritage of convict transportation compare between Ireland and Australia?  Who "escaped" from where?  Who "escaped" to where?  What is the role of British penal incarceration in their post-colonial constructions of national identity?  And how do the government and privately funded heritage museums established within the historic gaols of Ireland and Australia create the boundaries and bonds of longing and belonging between these two modern nations?

 Back to top

Emma Christopher

“Ten Thousand Times Worse than the Convicts”: sailors as the focus of rebellion and escape

The purpose of this paper is to examine the role that seamen played not in controlling convicts, but in assisting their resistance to authority and their escape.  For example, Ralph Clark believed that the sailors of the Alexander helped the convicts rebel at Cape Town, while the abused seamen of the Neptune secreted convicts onboard their ship when it was to leave Port Jackson.  

The paper will examine whether ties between men employed to sail the transports and men sent as convicts in some cases superseded their supposed roles as ruler and ruled.  It will look at the ties between seamen and female convicts as a way for the latter to blur the edges of incarceration, and ask the question of whether the proletarian nature of the vast majority of seamen and convicts allowed them to form common understandings. Those convicts who were seamen had far more opportunities to leave the colony than others, and held a unique position, as they were accustomed to lands far from home and familiar with ways to resist strict discipline.  Those who arrived as seafaring workers formed a renegade power source, resistant to being controlled as the convicts were, but with personal ties among the prisoners.   This paper will argue that in a colony where distance from ‘home’ was central to the punishment intended, seamen were in a uniquely destabilising position, even before taking into account their infamous rebelliousness.

Back to top

Paul Collins and Philip Mead

Paul Collins in conversation with Philip Mead

The author of 'Hell's Gates. The terrible journey of Alexander Pearce', Paul Collins, will discuss one of the most famous and tragic escapes in convict history. They will discuss a range of issues focussing on the accuracy of the Pearce story, why the men resorted to violence and cannibalism so quickly, the nature of the country through which they passed and the route they took, and the penal assumptions underlying the establishment of Sarah Island in the first place.

Back to top

Louise Connell

A Just Measure of Pain? Nottingham's Shire Hall

High on the cliffs above Nottingham, on one of the city's oldest thoroughfares, sits the Shire Hall, formerly the County Court and Gaol for Nottinghamshire. The site is one of the few in the British Isles where tangible evidence remains of its convict past, with cells, day rooms and an exercise yard dating back to the early 18th Century, and graffiti inscribed on the prison walls by people awaiting transportation. Over the centuries, thousands of people entered this building with a sense of dread, uncertain of their fate. Today, the site has been reborn as the Galleries of Justice, a heritage attraction and learning resource for the study of penal history and citizenship.

This paper will give an insight into the historical use of the prison as a courthouse and holding prison for people under sentence of transportation. It will also look at the personal histories of some of the people who passed through here, such as Valentine Marshall, sentenced for his part in the Reform Bill Riots of 1831, or Susannah Watson, transported for stealing food and clothing from three shops in Nottingham in 1828. Their experience of confinement and the passage to 'Botany Bay' was traumatic and undesired. Nevertheless, the pattern of their new lives in Australia indicate that in some ways they were the survivors, the 'escapees' from the abject social conditions of 19th century Nottingham.

Back to top

Jeannine DeLombard

“Handed Out of the Dungeon He Was Confined In”: Textual Escape in Black Atlantic Criminal Confessions

The Address of Abraham Johnstone (1797), “a Black man” who was hanged “for the murder of Thomas Read, a Guinea Negro,” was purported by its Philadelphia publisher to have been “handed out of the dungeon [Johnstone] was confined in.” Contrasting the Address’s free transit with its putative author’s imprisonment, the image begs the question: can we read eighteenth-century confessions attributed to condemned African-American criminals as a means of textual escape?

Part of a larger early American gallows literature and one source of the African-American literary tradition, such confessions reveal the conditions governing the self-fashioning of blacks in the Atlantic world prior to the emergence of an organized anti-slavery movement. From Puritan minister Cotton Mather’s published 1721 jailhouse interview with “a miserable African,” to Johnstone’s post-Revolutionary “Address … to the People of Colour,” this gallows literature depicts black convicts as in transit from civil to divine authority, from an encounter with the law of man (in the courtroom) to that of the law of God (the divine tribunal).  Through their publication, however, these often formulaic accounts of personal guilt make an interstitial appeal to the far more unruly court of public opinion constituted by early American print culture.  The question at the heart of this inquiry, then, is whether representation in print merely affirms the subjugation of the (often enslaved) black convict to civil and ecclesiastical authorities, or potentially offers a means of textual escape, through an alternative construction of a black subjectivity not entirely determined by Anglo-American law and religion.

Back to top

Simon Devereaux

Patrick Madan: One Man’s Odyssey through England’s Penal Crisis, 1774-1784

Patrick Madan, an Irish-born criminal of the 1770s and 1780s, has not warranted even a footnote in the histories of the era, yet at the time he was one of the most notorious men in London, renowned for both his repeated criminal activities and for his repeated success in escaping the penalties which the law sought to impose on him.

This paper argues that Madan’s misadventures with the English criminal justice system reflected the deep difficulties which that system posed for officials during an era of unprecedented crisis.  Initially convicted as a rioter, Madan was eventually sentenced to death for robbery and was saved from hanging at Tyburn (when the noose was already about his neck!) only by the gallows confession of his accomplice.  This was only the first of many escapes for Madan: from the Thames prison hulks to which he was subsequently dispatched; from Newgate in June 1780 after it had been destroyed by the fires of the Gordon Rioters; from the prison in which he was subsequently confined upon being recaptured; from the convict vessel in which he was meant to be transported to Africa in July 1781; and finally from the plague-ridden African coast itself to which he had at last been dispatched in 1782.

This sorry tale of seemingly inadequate efforts to punish a single, inveterate offender betrayed deep problems in a penal order beset by immense and unprecedented difficulties.  England’s infamously “bloody code” was on the brink of collapsing beneath the weight of an excessive number of convicts sentenced to death.  The next most severe punishment available, transportation to the colonies, had been closed off by the outbreak of the American Revolutionary War in 1775 and would not be effectively resumed until more than a decade later.  By the early 1780s, the stop-gap measure Ý confinement on board prison hulks Ý had been thoroughly disgraced, and that disgrace contributed powerfully to scepticism amongst officials regarding the value of any system of imprisonment at hard labour as a mode of punishing serious offenders, especially repeat offenders like Madan.  So infamous was his case that the two most famous penal treatises of the mid-1780s Ý that of Martin Madan (no relation!) on the side of execution without exception, and Samuel Romilly on the side of enhanced mercy for capital offenders and reform of the criminal law Ý both recounted Madan’s case as proof of how England’s system of punishment needed to be adjusted for new realities.  In the case of Patrick Madan, “escape” was deeply symptomatic of a penal system in crisis.

Back to top

Meg Dillon

John Naldrett - Free, Proud & Political

John Naldrett was a successful absconder who claimed his freedom and constructed a new biography for himself after being punished by being whipped when contracted by the Convict Department in Van Diemen's Land to work for Richard Willis as an assigned farm servant.

Unlike many absconders who were quickly caught and punished, Naldrett used his skills to gain employment and clearing leases in another part of the island. He married another transported prisoner and they had a child. He was powerful enough both to claim his freedom and to demonstrate his superior skills by the tactic of exemplary reform.

This paper deconstructs his political statement to Magistrate Whitefoord, when he was apprehended and returned to the Campbell Town Police District two years after he absconded.  If the system was in any way designed to reform instead of merely to punish, then Naldrett had demonstrated a successful graduation from prisoner to model citizen. But how could the social experiment of Transportation allow Naldrett to set his own path to freedom? It is these internal contradictions of this peculiar social experiment that Naldrett confronted when he challenged Magistrate Whitefoord to decide if he was free or bonded; reformed and so done with the system - or still a prisoner.

Back to top

Ian Duffield

'Cultural Baggage: Tales and Practices of Escape'

Deborah Oxley has argued that transported convict women arrived in Australia with valuable 'economic baggage', in the form of their pre-conviction work skills and experience. This concept can be reapplied to the cultures of escape and their related practices, that (it will be argued), many transported convicts brought with them to Australia. From the 18th century, or even earlier, escape narratives were prominent in the print and oral cultures of Britain. Best known to many at this conference will be accounts of daring escapes by convicted prisoners, for example, the repeated gaol-breaker, Jack Shephard. In a different sense, the sensational Irish pickpocket, George Barrington was an accomplished escapist. Before his final trial in 1791 and subsequent transportation, he had evaded conviction for many years. Stories of the exploits of such men were massively circulated, in both oral and printed forms and on the stage. Mention of the theatre recalls the immense popularity of The Beggar's Opera, in which MacHeath is reprieved from the very gallows in the finale, with public opinion shrewdly represented as demanding the exercise of royal mercy. Recently, Linda Colley has explored some other aspects of Britain's print culture of escape, in the form of narratives of white British suffering and escape overseas: from slavery in North Africa; from captivity by states in conflict with the British in India and Afghanistan; and from captivity among the 'savages' of the colonial North American frontier. Slave narratives published in Britain, especially the proliferating editions between 1789 and 1795 of Equiano's extremely effectively marketed work, the Interesting Narrative of Olaudah Equiano, added a further strand to the variety of escape stories available to the public. Significantly, this occurred in an increasingly literate country, where circulating libraries increased the accessibility of books and readings by the more literate to the less so, multiplied the audience for printed products.

The paper will draw on all these sources and others. Britain's wars with Revolutionary and Napoleonic France and its allies (including the United States, 1812-14) necessitated an unprecedented mobilisation of military and naval manpower, with press gangs as a crucial but hated instrument of mobilisation. Desertion rates could be correspondingly high and much resented measures were taken to restrict that. Here, the narratives of the naval seamen Samuel Leech and Jack Nastyface, rarities in a literature dominated by officer accounts, provide valuable insight into both the motivations for wartime desertion from the Royal Navy and the circumstances in which they occurred, while Iain McCalman has demonstrated how radicalising was the experience of wartime army and navy tyranny-a word much used by Leech and Nastyface and by many convict 'out-and-outers' in Australia-of wartime naval and military service. It cannot be doubted that many of the increasing flow of male convicts transported to Australia after 1815, had undergone such experiences or had listened to oral accounts by relatives and friends, of desertion prompted by tyranny and brutality. Particular cases of wartime seaman, who later practised escape as convicts in Australia, will be mentioned. However, desertion from the armed forces was not merely a wartime matter. Such sources as the NSW Indents of Convict Ships or the VDL Conduct Registers and Indents of Convict Ships, attest that firstly desertion, and secondly striking or threatening a superior officer, dominate the offences for which post-1815 British regular soldiers were transported. Nevertheless, those military transportees remain among the least studied of Australia's transported convicts while, at the same time, military desertion remains highly relevant to this conference. The paper will therefore present and analyse archive evidence on soldiers transported from the Canadian Colonies to VDL, and assess to what extent and under what circumstances they continued to practice escape as convicts. This is designed to function as a pilot demonstration of how far a particular and occupationally-defined culture of escape, and its practices, were transmitted to Australia.

Back to top

Tom Dunning

Escape from ‘Happy Lands’ and ‘Holy Lands’: ‘Criminal’ Families and Neighbors in Scotland and Van Diemen’s Land in the 1840

Outlawed criminals often have more humanity in their hearts than those cold, irreproachable citizens of virtue…

                                                                        Heinrich Heine

I want to explore the complexities of neighbourhood and family relationships in the crowded ‘wynds and dens’ and tenement ‘lands’ of Edinburgh and Glasgow as it was from the lived experiences in these places (rather than from a criminal class)  that many Scottish convicts who were transported to Van Diemen’s Land came.

I want to build on the work of Hamish Maxwell-Stewart and James Bradley in ‘Alexander and the mother of invention’ to establish the dynamics of family relationships amongst these people and to embed these relationships in the surrounding environment of the neighbourhood.

I also want to extend the work of others in the use of precognitions, the singular affidavits of the Scottish legal system, in which the behaviours and viewpoints of families and neighbours are recorded and in which these poor, often illiterate people are given voices, albeit mediated.

The result, I, hope, will provide stories of the complex adventures of these individuals as they travelled half way around the world to ‘escape’ from the crowded cities of Scotland and to start a ‘new’ life in Van Diemen’s Land.

Back to top

Robyn Eastley

Transported - Escaped - Transported Again - the Tasmanian convict records explained through the career of James Atkinson per Surrey 1829 and John Renwick 1843

It was in 1951 that the records of the Convict Department were transferred to the Archives Office of Tasmania from the Supreme Court. Following their transfer "these valuable records of our early history" were "sorted into their various categories and arranged within these in chronological order" (State Archivist to the Registrar of the Supreme Court Dec 1951)

This paper will look briefly at the arrangement of the records and the finding aids available. The content and the potential uses of this large and valuable resource will be illustrated by a study of the more significant records of one who managed to escape from Tasmania only to be reconvicted and returned.

Back to top

Caroline Evans

George Dudfield and the Oatlands System

The commercial vigour and brash opportunism of colonial Sydney is well-recognised, in part because it is reflected in the modern city. Such characteristics are less often applied to Van Diemen's Land; they fit uneasily with Tasmania's modern image - picturesque, but economically challenged. Yet it too had a commercially aggressive aspect, not only in Hobart and Launceston, but in the tiny midlands town of Oatlands.

As Grace Karskens points out, despite the persistence of pre-industrial attitudes of deference and reciprocal obligation in eighteenth century England, many convicts had the entrepreneurial values of the commercial revolution. Ambitious and energetic, they looked for opportunities in setbacks, even transportation. For them escape from the convict system was not through resistance or repentance but by engaging with the commercial opportunities of the colony. In Van Diemen's Land this countered the attempts of authorities to recreate a 'lost idyll' of English rural life.

One convict with entrepreneurial ambition was George Dudfield, a London publican transported in 1825 for fencing notes valued at £1006. He progressed in Oatlands through a mixture of business cunning, intimidation, and collaboration with the magistrate, John Whitefoord. The two men, although differing in social status, had similar hopes of material progress. Others joined them in what became known as the 'Oatlands System', polarising the community and attracting the attention of the Hobart press.

In Oatlands, convicts' progress depended not on adherence or resistance to Arthur's ladder of rewards and punishment but on their relationship to the 'System'. The plans of colonial authorities to reproduce a romanticised rural past were subverted by two individuals who shared the modern values of the English commercial revolution.

Back to top

Lucy Frost

Escape as a Female Performance

After the early chaotic years, being a convict in Australia was an incessantly gendered experience, and it is not surprising that when female convicts absconded (whether or not they escaped), these performances too should play to gendered scripts. But what were the 'scripts'? What range of possibilities opened for the female performers? And when the penal colony where they lived was an island, what implications attached to place as the space of their actions? Is it possible to argue that even when running away, the women - unlike their male counterparts - could never escape vestiges of the domestic?

These questions will be explored with reference to the convict women of Van Diemen's Land. Using a single ship, the Harmony (arrived 1829) as a sample, the paper will offer tentative suggestions about the most usual performances of absconding during the 'assignment' period. The paper will also track some of the intriguing runaways, such as Eliza Robertson who in 1847 found herself in a box under a load of hay as the Shamrock steamed slowly across Bass Strait towards Melbourne.

Back to top

Nicola Goc

Infanticide as an escape narrative: The story of Mary McLauchlan.

This paper will present a case study of the first women executed in Van Diemen's Land. Mary McLauchlan was executed for the "wilful murder of her male bastard child" on 19 April 1830. Underneath the apparently straightforward terrain of court reportage, and beneath the well-ordered bureaucratic terrain of Minutes from the Executive Council meeting -where the decision was made to allow the death sentence to stand - lies an antithetic narrative. For desperate Mary McLauchlan the act of murder was an act of escape; but so too were the actions of others that led to her swift execution at the Hobart Town gallows. There was no press reportage of Mary's trial but several newspapers ran commentaries after her conviction, and there were lurid accounts of her execution. Embedded within the execution narratives of the press lies a story of mystery, duplicity, finger pointing and cover-ups - a story of citizens scrambling to escape public scrutiny by expediting the demise of a convict woman.

Back to top

Robert Grant

‘Idle, unprincipled, and vicious in the extreme’: the escaped convict in New Zealand during the first half of the nineteenth-century.

This paper argues that British metropolitan anxieties regarding the polluting presence of escaped convicts were an important factor in the push for British colonisation of New Zealand.  Their growing numbers, along with deserting sailors, opportunists and adventurers meant there was no real prospect of the country being left, as the Select Committee on Aborigines that year had hoped, free from ‘further interference’.  Various writers expressed their distaste for escaped convicts, ‘idle, unprincipled, and vicious in the extreme’.  Lynch law prevailed, Maori were subject to unprincipled predation, Europeans were flogged, tarred and feathered, and the British Ensign was utterly dishonoured by the surrounding lawlessness.

Escape to New Zealand from the clutches of an Australian colony, however, sometimes amounted simply to the exchange of one form of servitude for another.  Records show Maori often took convicts as slaves.  Others struggled to survive in a hostile landscape, gladly surrendering themselves to be taken back to Port Jackson when the opportunity arose.   

The escaped convict featured as part of what a number of commentators characterised as a diseased, disorderly New Zealand, a sign of the utter degeneration of Europeans amongst savages, an ‘other’ to the ideal European settler.  In fact, this seemed one of the few things on which writers could actually agree, and once the country had been annexed by Great Britain in 1840, anti-transportation rhetoric was then fused with a promise of the high tone of New Zealand settler society, a point carried by the anti-Australian stance of many of the writers.

Back to top

Phil Hilton

Escape to Captivity - British Military Deserters and other Incorrigibles

From Rocks and Sandy Beaches from Prisons keep me free. From bad women's tongues and warring guns too

James Baxter's tattooed avowal is tantamount to a poetic rejection of the army, prisons and Jamaica, from whence he was court-martialled and transported in 1834. He was one of 2,000 court-martialled men to be sent to VDL by the British Armed Services whose troops were arguably, the most over-disciplined in Europe. Unique among convicts, soldiers had already experienced a coercive disciplinary regime before being transported. 1064 were transported for desertion alone, although many others tried for mutinous conduct and drunkenness had also previously deserted. Some readily admitted, they had committed offences in order to be transported. Made resolute by the sheer breadth of their geographic experiences, many were highly mobile and resourceful gamesters and would proceed to make fools of their colonial hosts. Others alas, would maintain their downward spirals by metaphorically digging deeper holes for themselves. Though most transported soldiers were not felons in the strictest sense of the word; as deserters, mutineers, drunks and brawlers with more than a thousand being branded D by the British state, they emerge as singularly unattractive body of men. Their subsequent colonial police records are blotted with a contradictory mix of collaboration and resistance. Some of their criminalized state records indicate that a substantial portion of transported soldiers comprised part of the residuum of the penal system, seeming to confirm the mythological criminal class designation placed upon convicts by Australian Historians, has a real home when applied to them. This paper will focus on a sample group of deserters.

Back to top

David Hopkin

Fantasies of evasion: how folktales provided soldiers and sailors with strategies of escape (1792-1815).

Individual initiative among common soldiers and sailors was not much valued in the armies and navies of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Officers believed that success in battle depended on bringing men, through habit and terror, to unquestioning obedience in all circumstances. Military life -- uniformed, regimented, scrutinised, and conducted in single-sex barracks -- was not far removed from prison. There was a continuum of experience for those soldiers and sailors incarcerated either in their own guardhouses or as prisoners-of-war. The alternatives available were similar too: prisoners might escape, and soldiers might desert. Despite ferocious punishments, the armies and navies of the revolutionary and Napoleonic wars haemorrhaged men. In the military memoirs of the period desertion emerges as a normal, practical and attractive escape route.

Given the efforts made to dragoon these men and the risks run in even voicing subversive thoughts, how did they learn about desertion and consider it as an option in their own lives? Storytelling may have provided a mechanism. Nineteenth-century folklorists found that coercive environments were ideal locations for collecting oral narratives. Storytelling was an evasion in itself: one could escape material misery and subjugation through fictions of a better life and revenge on one’s tormentors. But tale-telling was not just an entertainment, it provided tools for thinking: story plots contained escape plans, story audiences hid potential conspirators. Behind the mask of fiction lay strategies available to the individual. Thus the destructive effects of drill and discipline on individual capacity for initiative were circumvented.

This paper examines the function of storytelling in disciplined environments through a comparison of tale repertoires collected from soldiers, sailors and prisoners, with the memoirs written by deserters and evaders of the revolutionary and Napoleonic era. It will be shown that the latter were influenced by the former, not just at the level of style but in the way memoirists thought and took action.

Back to top

Erin Ihde

'Bold, manly-minded men' and 'sly, cunning, base convicts': the double standard of escape.

The double standard regarding perceptions of male and female convicts by contemporaries in colonial New South Wales is well known. To one person at least, though, this double standard even extended to the motivation behind escape attempts. Edward Smith Hall, editor of the Sydney Monitor from 1826 to 1840, was an ardent advocate of transportation and supporter of the convict system. Yet he was also an extremely strong advocate of convict rights. His support was noticeably stronger, however, for male convicts rather than female, although notions of moral economy prevented him condoning any blatant injustices against women.

Where male convicts were concerned, Hall understood that mistreatment, oppression or injustice could drive them to retaliate, whether by reacting against their oppressor or by attempting to escape. Such attempts were, he said, motivated by perceptions of the rights and liberties of Englishmen. To retaliate physically against a bad master, or to attempt to escape either to sea or into the bush, was the act of a noble, bold, freedom-loving Englishman. It was, he declared, a gentleman's crime.

Yet he did not extend the same understanding to female convicts. Like many other contemporaries, he believed that their favourite method of escaping the drudgery of the domestic service most female assigned servants experienced was to get themselves sent to the Female Factory. There they escaped as much work as they could, in effect enjoying a pleasant holiday.

Hall, then, represents two very different perceptions of escape.

Back to top

Grace Karskens

Seeing heaven again: early Sydney and the transformations of escape

'Escape' had several meanings for convict men and women sent to New South Wales in the early colonial period. These meanings were often different from those understood by their betters, and they also changed over time. Escape was on the minds of those who found the 'road' to Botany Bay, or stole a boat and rowed northwards, or thought China was not so very far away. The problem was not so much the getaway, as the destination implicit in the action - escape to where? Yet it was not long before other convict arrivals understood their disembarkation at Sydney Cove as a blessed escape, a deliverance.  And if Sydney town was at first a place from some to escape from, it soon became a place to escape to.  How could the same place be 'hell' and then 'heaven' (haven), as it was, for example, to the convicts on Norfolk Island?  What was it that made places into one or the other? This paper explores why and how this transformation took place, what it tells us about the convicts and the Sydney they made, and how such understandings help us escape from what Kay Daniels called the 'unconscious scaffolding' of so much early colonial and convict historiography.

Back to top

Anthony Lambert

Escape and the Female Convict in Australian Film and Culture

Australian culture, and Australian cinema in particular, have taken the myriad of meanings attached to the idea of escape and used them to problematise notions of Australian identity. In this process, little attention has been given to the influence of female convict experience on this theme in Australian cinematic and cultural narratives. Yet, as this paper argues, the female convict experience in two Australian films, The Romantic Story of Margaret Catchpole (1911) and Journey Among Women (1977) has framed, and continues to shape, the exploration of 'Australianness' in the cinema. The first part of this paper examines the emphasis on escape and captivity in Australian culture as a continuing attempt to complete the surviving portions of Longford's Margaret Catchpole. It explores the links between Margaret and Jedda, the Aboriginal cultural 'captive' of Chauvel's (1955) film Jedda. The second section focuses on collective female convict escape in Journey Among Women as a break away from patriarchal and colonial cultures, but also an escape into Aboriginal, land-based belonging. This non-Aboriginal female tradition has subsequently been challenged by Aboriginal female escape in films such as Rabbit-Proof Fence (2002), which deploy an anti-colonial (as opposed to postcolonial) rhetoric when dealing with female captivity, escape and belonging. The multiple meanings of escape in Australian culture therefore vacillate between issues of personal confinement, escaping the law, escaping patriarchy, escaping colonialism and racism, and simply escaping to return home. Margaret Catchpole's famous escape on horseback pre-empted a journey towards the uncertain nature of Australian belonging. The acetate dissolving after twenty-three minutes suggests a kind of invitation founded in cultural and filmic meta-narrative. 'Complete my journey to Australia', it says. From there, the trajectory of the filmic female captive is very much the story of an Australian socio-political subjectivity.

Back to top

Peter Lane

The Man who made Holey Dollars and Dumps

My paper deals with aspects of the life of William Henshall, a convicted coin forger of England who ironically became Australia's first official coiner. The paper relates the circumstances of his arrest, his subsequent willingness to help the authorities understand the ins and outs of the forger's craft and criminal world, his attempt to bring his family with him to New South Wales, his betrayal of his criminal colleagues and later his employment as official coiner to NSW.

This paper is based on documents held in the Bank of England Archives that have not before been published and the official records of the Colony of NSW.

Henshall was convicted of forging Bank of England silver dollars and was sentenced to transportation in 1805. He and his accomplices petitioned to have their families accompany them to NSW in exchange for informing on other forgers and traffickers. Added to this, Henshall divulged to the authorities the intricacies of the craft of the forger.

He made recommendations to the Bank of England on ways to combat forging in the hope of gaining favours for his family but in the end was able to gain no real advantage for them. As well as giving technical insights into forging, he (together with two of his accomplices} informed on over fifty criminals who resided throughout England, and sometimes where their tools of trade were hidden. The authorities did offer some compensation but because this would have meant splitting the family, this compensation proved unacceptable.

William was shipped to Australia. Shortly after the end of his sentence Lachlan Macquarie employed him to manufacture Holey Dollars and Dumps. A month after that contract had been fulfilled he married Sarah Gilbert-Warrell and in 1817 Henshall left the colony bound for England.

From William Henshall we learn much of the early eighteenth century forger's trade and how widespread forging was in England at that time. His work in Australia is remembered by historians and numismatist alike, because he was the creator of Australia's first distinctive coinage.

Back to top

Amanda Laugesen

Languages of Control, Escape, and Subversion.

Escape (verb) 1a  To gain one’s liberty by flight; to get free from detention or control, or from an oppressive or irksome condition.

Escape (verb) 4   To get clear away from (pursuit or a pursuer); to elude (a person’s grasp); to succeed in avoiding (anything painful or unwelcome).

‘Escape’ is a word resonant with meanings, never more so perhaps than in Australia’s earliest decades of settlement. For the convicts brought to Australia dreams of escape, literally from places of incarceration such as Port Arthur, and metaphorically from their status and stigma as a convict (or even as an emancipist) were powerful. Language, words and their meanings, reveal how these dreams of escape, contrasted to bureaucratic visions of control and discipline, were reflected in the evolving language of colonial Australia.

In this paper, I propose to explore aspects of language in early colonial Australia, as it reflected notions of control, escape and subversion. By looking at the workings of language and the meanings that attached to words, it is possible to gain insight into the nature of the convict system, and the society and culture that was based on this system. Fears and anxieties about the disorder presented by convict rebellion were reflected in the meanings that were attached to words given new life in the colonies, such as ‘banditti’, ‘bolter’, ‘absconder’, and ‘bushranger’. Convicts in turn imbued these words, as well as words of their own ‘flash’ language, with a resonance of their own, that spoke of independence and defiance Ý a sensibility that carried on into the culture of bushranging. I hope to reveal in this paper a sense of the power of language, speech and words within the imagination and reality of convict Australia.

Back to top

Catherine Lawler

Escape is not an option

Some of the most enduring and powerful myths of Australian masculinities, the Bushman and his more troublesome brothers the Wild Colonial Boy and the Bushranger, appear in the Australian cultural landscape without a history - they are eternal and 'natural'. In "Gender Trouble Down Under: Australian Masculinities" (2002) David Coad problematizes these myths within the context of their convict origins and suggests some of the ways convict masculinities, which have been otherwise rendered invisible, survive in the landscapes of these discourses, albeit as faint echoes and indistinct tracks. Engaging Coad's critique as a starting point, I will consider the 'echoes' of the phrase "I'll fight but not surrender". Proclaimed by the protagonist in the lyrics of the folk song, "The Wild Colonial Boy", this phrase has, itself, assumed the status of a cultural icon. By using a number of contemporary filmic representations, I will explore the ways in which this phrase continues to resonate within discourses of Australian masculinities as the notion that 'escape' is not an option.

Back to top

Pete Lines

Deserters of the York Chasseurs.

With military service in the West Indies proving even more hazardous than Bonaparte's massed cannons 'expendable' civilian and military prison-hulk convicts were transported into the Royal African Corps (1800), Royal West India Rangers (1806), Royal York Rangers (1808) and York Chasseurs (1813). All 'Condemned' regiments destined for continuous service in King George III's fever-ridden colonies.

Concentrating on the York Chasseurs, recruited specifically from the 'Better Class of Culprit and Deserter', a scenario presents itself where, with pestilential West Indies fevers continually decimating their numbers and the cat of nine tails frequently scourging their backs, this 'Corps of Serial Deserters' continued to proved their metal by deserting in droves.

With desertion rife even amongst the initial detachment waiting embarkation for Barbados (167 attempts out of a complement 510) a brief examination of the Land Tax Records held at Kew Public Records Office suggests that, while the lucrative reward bounty may have attracted enthusiastic amateurs, a small core of professional bounty hunters were probably managing to make a lucrative living. A field of research that demands further ploughing.

From the 719 desertion attempts made from the corps when in the West Indies, at least 18 have been identified as having managed to make their return to the British Isle only to be recognised and re-incarcerated. Two obvious questions remain to be answered. How many returned but managed to evade capture? What degree of collusion occurred between mariner and deserting landlubber?

Back to top

Carol Liston

Convicted Childhoods

What happened to the children of convicts transported to New South Wales? The decisions of government officials, the actions - or inactivity - of family and friends document the passage of these children through the penal systems of England, Ireland and colonial New South Wales.

Their escape from the convict system was often engineered by seemingly random acts of compassion by government officials, or the dogged determination of parents who overcame illiteracy, poverty and their convict status to be re- united with their children.

These case studies are drawn from the experiences of girls in the Female Orphan School at Parramatta between 1818 and 1840. Their stories provide a family perspective on the convict system and its impact on family life in colonial New South Wales.

Back to top

Peter MacFie

A Fiddler & A Piper: Escaping with Folk Traditions To & From Tasmania

Tasmania's ambivalent place in Australian culture is exemplified in the lives of 19th century folk musicians and entertainers. Lack of a visible folk music tradition derives partly from the deliberate suppression of popular music by authorities such as Lt Gov Arthur. Using the penal settlement of Port Arthur as a cultural site, suppressed musical traditions can be uncovered. These activities existed among as much as contraband, and was just as saleable, but being more transient, are screened from posterity.

Three individuals at Port Arthur illustrate the dilemmas of re-discovering folk traditions. In 1848, Scottish convict seamen and fiddler, Neil Gow Foggo, (from a famous fiddling dynasty), entertained Commandant Champ's children. Three world's collided, as Foggo and Champ fended off a new regime bent on denying this mutual collusion. Foggo died at Port Arthur in 1870 and was barely remembered in Hobart in the early 20th century - although curiously he wasn't the only Gow relative to come to Van Diemen's Land.

By contrast, free emigrant and bagpiper, Hugh Fraser, escaped from family wrath in New South Wales, and his son Simon, born at Port Arthur, became a mainstay of Australian and Scottish piping traditions. Unlike Foggo, Fraser made the Australian Dictionary of Biography.

Back to top

Anne McConnell

No escape from the Sarah Island Penal Station - ongoing attachment, use and management - a conservation management planning perspective

Sarah Island is a highly significant convict site - historically as the first penal station in Van Diemen's Land, and an early place of incarceration and work for convict re-offenders. It is seen as archetypal of the 'hell on earth' that many convict penal stations represented. However it is also a highly significant site for its tourism history which spans the last 120 years; its industrial history, primarily Huon pining and ship building, some of which extended beyond the convict period of use; and not least in relation to its colonial Aboriginal history as a symbol of the duplicity of colonial policy toward Aborigines and as a potent monument to the adversity against which Tasmanian Aboriginal people have struggled up to the present day. Today the significance of Sarah Island is recognised in its status as part of the Macquarie Harbour Historic Site, its listing on the Tasmanian Heritage Register, and on the Australian Government Register of the National Estate. Sarah Island and its outstations are also part of the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area, first inscribed on the World Heritage List in 1982.

Sarah Island is therefore a complex and multi-dimensional place with multiple meanings and a multi-layered management context. This has presented challenges for the recent conservation management planning for Sarah Island. Overcoming the obstacles however, has been offset by the understandings and directions that have emerged or have been reinforced as important. Key among these are -

  • the need to view and present convict places in their broader (including global) context, and the need for more research to support this;
  • the importance of assessing the broad values, in particular the strong intangible and social values that attach to places such as Sarah Island and the paradoxes often presented by historic convict sites (a 'hell on earth' becomes or is within an 'Arcadia'), and the need to ensure these are considered in management;
  • the importance of a holistic approach - of considering all aspects of the history, the heritage of the land and the sea and their zone of transition; and the suite of related and interdependent places (not just individual isolated places);
  • the extent to which the landscape setting, particularly the remoteness and isolation of penal stations in an 'apparently natural' setting, can contribute to cultural significance, and need to be taken into account in the management of a place, and in turn which can strongly influence management;
  • the importance of understanding and using the cultural and natural heritage values to determine appropriate management;
  • the desirability of an integrated management approach in conservation management planning - where rather than treating the natural values as the passive backdrop of the place, the active consideration of both cultural and natural values occurs throughout the conservation management planning process, and where all the values of a place are well understood and provided for.

The ability to recognise and include the above in conservation management planning for convict sites should provide for ongoing appropriate use and sound long term management, as well as the maintenance of the particularly strong meanings and attachments that are a hallmark of historic convict places.

Back to top

Perry McIntyre

Sent to freedom in a penal colony

One of the punishments of transportation, particularly for those with close family connections was the separation from wife, children and home. For others transportation was a chance to escape these responsibilities. Today we can communicate by phone, email, text or MSN to our loved ones in an instant and we sometimes forget the heart wrenching feeling of not knowing what happened to them. In many instances surviving correspondence shows a great willingness on behalf of free family to join transported spouses and share exile. Perhaps the surprise is that the British and Colonial governments permitted and encouraged this practice. A view into a way some free women and children escaped to a convict colony is given in this paper.

Back to top

Brad Manera

'Tommy Atkins' versus the bolter

Our men have very hard work. They are almost continually in the bush after runaway prisoners who are a great terror to the peaceable settlers…

Lieutenant Thos V Blomfield, 48th Foot,
N S Wales, Nov 1821

The British garrison in the Australian colonies at the time of the wars against Napoleon and for the decades immediately following was composed largely of infantry units. They were soldiers who were trained to fight and march in battalion or larger formations of line, column and square against enemies with similar training and size. In Australia however they were deployed in small detachments and tasked with searching for absconding convicts in the vast Australian bush. In what is still the most widely read general history of convict Australia Robert Hughes attacked the performance of British soldiers on such duties with: 'No squad of stumbling "lobsters" could take these bandits.' In this paper I will examine how the British soldier (widely nicknamed 'Tommy Atkins' from 1815 onwards) was equipped to apprehend the convict bolter turned bushranger and observe how he adapted, over time, to the environment he was forced to operate in.

Back to top

Hamish Maxwell-Stewart

The Fabrication of Convict History: Vol.1 The Wrong Trousers?

As social historians know, one of the problems of writing history from below is that below decks archival sources are often hard to find. Those that have survived have a nasty habit of turning out to be something other than they appeared at first sight. Thus, recent work on convict narratives has indicated that many were shaped by editors who inserted moral messages which reflected middle class, rather than convict, ideology. This paper will attempt to tackle this problem from the ankles up. It sets out to explore chain gang life through an examination of convict material culture-it is thus textile rather than text based. This fabric centred approach may have thrown up a number of serious challenges to the existing orthodoxy. I say may, since there is a possibility that my principal body of research material might literally turn out to be the wrong trousers. The paper will explore these possibilities and seek feedback from other budding textile analysts.

Back to top

Jenna Mead

Getting away from it all: Caroline Leakey's The Broad Arrow

Caroline Leakey's novel, The Broad Arrow, published under the name of Oliné Keese, features a thematic of escape across narrative structure, geographical representation, moral scheme and, arguably, authorial biography.

The heroine evades a cad named Norwell, who seduces, deceives and deserts her while other convict characters leave behind poverty, destitution and despair in England. 'Home' is a distorting class structure from which flight to colonial Hobart is a liberation. The injustice of convictism, its repressed underside, is made visible in the workings of the system as it asserts its moral superiority. Caroline Leakey's journey to Hobart is simultaneous with her development as a poet and novelist. The novel thematises escape by making it problematic: the heroine dies; Hobart is limited and provincial; convictism is insidious; Leakey returns to England.

My argument is that Leakey's novel, rather than romanticising the impossibility of escape as does Marcus Clarke's For the Term of His Natural Life, uses 'escape' to imagine other kinds of freedom.

Back to top

Lisa Morisset and Jo Richardson

Stay'd

Focusing on 19th century spaces and their occupation by female bodies Stay'd is a consideration of the notions of overt and covert containment. Stay'd examines the binary relationship between staying and escaping, asking if and how it is possible to remain present and still escape? The female physical body has been contained in multiple ways: by clothing, by propriety, by beliefs and moral rules. The image of untied, loose hair is juxtaposed with the pristine fashions of Victorian women; a shaved head represents the extreme punishment inflicted on disobedient women. Locks of hair become the fasteners of gender and class. Similarly the small neat needle stitches made on the Victorian samples code the narrow world open to middle class women. The convict body, with tattooed stories and narratives displays its own intricate pinprick story - not a gold wedding band on her finger but the tattooed image of one . . . Stay'd asks where are the liminal zones between confined places and roles and how is it possible for women to move beyond them? Using material remains, Stay'd examines the contained female presence moving towards the vastness of liberty.

Back to top

Marion Myhill

A psychologist's view of escape - the flight of body and mind

Escape is a basic human response to unpleasant situations that psychologists have studied with interest over many years. It is a fundamental component of various general theories of human behaviour and its management. These theories have been very influential in many ways on the views that have determined prisoner treatment and the conduct of prisons up to the present day.

This paper will examine some basic insights related to escape behaviour, that derive both from psychological theory and the literature of famous escapes.

Back to top

Mike Nash

Escape and the Coal Mines Historic Site

The Coal Mines historic site, situated on the Tasman Peninsula, was Tasmania's first operational mine. It also served as a place of secondary punishment for the 'worst class' of convicts. During 2001-2002 a major project to conserve and interpret the site was undertaken by the Tasmanian Heritage Office in conjunction with the Parks and Wildlife Service. The project has been a means of 'escape' from decades of poor management and neglect of one of the State's most significant convict sites. The work involved the re-routing of roads from the centre of the site, stabilisation of the ruins, installation of low key visitor facilities including pathways and interpretation devices based on the reconstructed lives of five characters. The interpretation at this isolated and unmanned site is in contrast to nearby Port Arthur , and today the Coal Mines offers visitors the chance to discover among the uncrowded ruins and scenic vistas, a different perspective on Tasmania's convict history.

Back to top

James Parker

Who was escaping what? Port Arthur and perceptions of the convict system

In the nineteenth century a person of the underclass was measurably better off as a convict in Australia than as a labourer in the "dark satanic mills" of England, a soldier in the British Army or an Irish peasant. Yet the "gothic horror story" of Van Diemen's Land persists in the face of evidence that transportation to Australia could be an escape from misery.

My contention is that Port Arthur is and has been, since convict days, the great symbol of the convict system, and, as it was, by definition, not the normal experience of a transportee, Port Arthur's place at the heart of the convict story has skewed perceptions of that system.

Since 1878 when the first tourists arrived, there has been a commercial imperative at Port Arthur to emphasise the horrific and, perhaps, deep in the national psyche there is a need for this aspect of the convict system to predominate.

The "gothic horror story" supports the tourist industry to this day, and it allows Anglo-Celtic Australians to escape any unpleasantness in our history by donning the comfortable robes of victim-hood. Once these are fastened securely in place, we can confidently blame it all on the perfidious Poms!

Back to top

John Petersen

The Lost World - Assembling a Convict Past

Between 1819 and 1848, more than 15,000 male convicts passed through the Hyde Park Barracks.

The majority of convicts were English and Irish men found guilty of theft. They were transported to New South Wales for a seven, fourteen year or life sentence. Their punishment was exile to the opposite side of the world. As a further punishment, the government controlled their labour.

The Hyde Park Barracks provided lodgings for male convicts working in government employment around Sydney and is a museum about its own history. Together with the Great North Road and Site of the first Government House, the Hyde Park Barracks is one of three New South Wales places represented in the Australian Government's proposed serial World Heritage nomination of convict sites.

CONVICTS Life at the Barracks is a new exhibition that attempts to explore everyday life at Hyde Park Barracks through artefacts, objects, contemporary paintings and drawings, personal observations and recollections as well as the complex's rooms and spaces.

Contemporary artists and observers usually recorded the extremes of convict life in Sydney. Objects relating to secondary punishment like leg irons are the main survivors and not personal objects or those associated with domestic or working life. John Petersen reflects on his research for CONVICTS Life at the Barracks and dispelling myths about Sydney's main convict barracks.

Back to top

Stefan Petrow

From Exile to Freedom: The Escape of the Young Irelanders from Van Diemen's Land

In 1848 the Young Ireland movement attempted a rebellion against English rule, but failed. The leaders William Smith O'Brien, Thomas Francis Meagher, Patrick O'Donohue, Kevin Izod O'Doherty, Terence Bellew MacManus, and John Martin were transported to Van Diemen's Land. O'Brien, Meagher, O'Donohue, and McManus were transported for life and O'Doherty and Martin for ten years. Another Young Irelander, John Mitchel, had already been transported to Bermuda, but for health reasons joined his colleagues in Van Diemen's Land in 1850. These were the most important and high profile political prisoners sent to Van Diemen's Land. The Colonial Office directed Governor William Denison to watch these men closely and keep them from meeting. All finally accepted tickets of leave on the condition that they would not try to escape. This paper examines how these men of 'superior rank' dealt with this level of scrutiny and considers the issue of an honourable escape. That is, not just escape secretly, but to abide by their promise and withdraw their parole in due form by handing in their tickets of leave to a magistrate before leaving the island. The paper deals with questions such as what motivated these men to attempt escape? Was it the mental torture of being controlled by the Convict Department? Was it the ennui of living a lonely existence in remote parts of a distant island? Was it at the prompting of outside help? Was it the desire to return to the public stage? Why did O'Brien's attempt to escape fail? Why did Meagher, O'Donohue, McManus, and Mitchel succeed? How did they evade the powerful convict police system? What help did they receive from colonists? What did they do with their new-found freedom? What did they lose by escaping?

Back to top

Diane Phillips

Escape to George Town?

Lachlan Macquarie was Australia's Governor between 1810 to 1821. During this time he instigated a building program of roads, public buildings and new towns. To some, Australia was considered a place of exile but Macquarie had a vision of new settlements with industrious families opening up the new land. So could Australia also be considered a place of escape from the overcrowded cities and 'the dark satanic mills' of Great Britain. George Town, at the mouth of the Tamar River in Van Diemen's Land, was one of Macquarie's new towns. Work began in 1816 but was hampered by lack of workers and tools, and progress was slow. By July 1817 only some huts, a temporary store and a lime hut had been constructed. Even so, some convict wives and families travelled half way round the world to reunite with their convict husbands. This paper deals with some of these convicts families and their experience of this new town.

Back to top

Tina Picton Phillipps

Escape from the historians: “so many men were of dubious character...”

This paper challenges a tacit assumption regarding male convicts which has almost become an orthodoxy among some of the feminist approaches to colonial New South Wales with regard to the unfree society of male and female convicts.  Violence, inside and outside the home, has resulted in a bleak depiction of convict male physical abuse, sexual aggression and a total lack of concern for and commitment to domestic life.  Convictism has been conflated with the physically abusive and sexually exploitative male figure.  Recent work carried out on male and female convicts in Van Diemen’s Land by Reid and Hindmarsh suggest that such depictions are not borne out by the evidence.  Consensual relationships between assigned servants were maintained despite the threat physical punishment by masters and mistresses.

Empirical research into three sets of records held in the State Records of New South Wales for the period 1811-1825 demonstrate a startling need to revise some of the clichés regarding convict men and their domestic responsibilities.  Whereas historians have in the past selected their evidence from the historiography with regard to female convicts resulting in establishing historical truth by an over-reliance on a historically dominant discourse scant attention has been paid to the convict male as a “family man”.  Evidence from petitioners applying for reunion with their wife and family reinforce the importance convict men placed on their domestic and affectionate relationships which were disrupted with a transportation sentence.

Back to top

Anoma Pieris

Divisive Strategies: Rising Insurgence in the Straits Prison System

On the 13th of February 1875, an escape was reported from the Singapore Criminal Prison. At 5pm, as the prisoners sat down to their evening meal of rice, vegetables and pork or fish, 60 of the lower and middle grade Chinese prisoners, had struck down their warders and escaped from the central enclosure. They headed towards the penal work yard where they armed themselves with hatchets, chisels, iron bars and sledge-hammers. Taking ladders from the lumberyard the prisoners used these, to scale the prison walls and escape through the grounds of the adjacent church. In this way, the industrial tools that were advocated for labor reform enabled penal insurgence.

My narrative opens at a particular moment in penal history in the colonies, when attention was shifting from the incarcerated body of the penal subject to a different kind of subjectivity based on property ownership and measured by wage labor. Physical space, land-ownership, material possessions and industrial tools became central to a divisive experiment within an industrial prison system. In Singapore, where the Public Works and Convict Departments were one and the same, prisoners were denied access to the material economy they both managed and produced under penal supervision. Escapes, when they occurred, erupted in the tension between these two contradictory positions of political impotence and waged labor. The details of the escape, moreover, described the changing internal landscape of a criminal prison on the threshold of the Separate System.

Back to top

Andrew Piper

Poor Old Invalids: The Convicts Who Never Escaped

Institutional buildings were part of the social fabric and built landscape of the nineteenth century. They allowed Victorians to order their world while they simultaneously served as a vehicle to legitimatise the monopoly held by elites on social power and their capacity to dominate the lower orders. In this, the Australian colonies, as an extension of the greater nineteenth century Atlantic world, followed a pattern which saw perceived deviant elements consigned tot e realm of institutional space. In Tasmania, the convict system supplied the infrastructure necessary to operate and perpetuate the use of built space as a major management tool in the colonial charitable system.

Transportation spawned invalids directly and indirectly, and the rigours of convict labour, coupled with questionable health care, nutrition and hygiene, and compounded by intemperance and poor living, ensured that many emancipists slipped back into the ranks of the institutionalised, and remained imprisoned within the institutional system. This paper is concerned with those persons who were unable to maintain themselves in colonial society, especially when the rigours of old age and infirmity reduced them to poverty and destitution. They were a specifically identifiable group made up of individuals of both sexes who had originally been transported as convicts. If we are to gain an understanding of the circumstances of those who found themselves in their old age and infirmity unable to escape institutional space, it is important to obtain an inmate profile. This paper explores the typical attributes of the invalid inmates of colonial Tasmania’s charitable institutions.

Back to top

Michael Powell

Thomas Conquit: Conquering a Motley Past.

Thomas Conquit's crime was to vocalise his 'delusion' of a conspiracy to exterminate all black people in Australia. In 1912 he was shot by police evading arrest for 'lunacy', which in a sense confirmed his delusion.

In escaping a 'conspiracy' to etiolate the Australian past, Thomas Conquit reveals a hidden black and convict origin, a multiculturalism well before the term was licensed. The Coronial Inquest into Conquit's death becomes a performance of attitudes and values, bold silences and assumptions, that sheds light on the construction of Australian identity at Federation.

Back to top

Cassandra Pybus 

From Chattel Slavery to Penal Servitude: the escape of John Moseley

In 1775 a tobacco planter and slave owner from Virginia named Edward Moseley repeatedly placed a notice for three runaway slaves that he  named Jack, aged about fifteen, Daniel aged about eighteen, and  Peter aged about sixteen. He believed the boys were 'lurking about Norfolk or gone to Hampton', both near Portsmouth. Over eight years  later, in New York, John Moseley, who gave his age as twenty-five  and his native place as Portsmouth, Virginia, was a member of the  British Army's Wagon Master General Department and recorded as being on  board a ship bound for Nova Scotia.

Is this the same man who was transported to NSW on the First Fleet at the age of 28 and later described on a conditional pardon as  having been a tobacco planter in North America? If it is, how did he manage it?

Back to top

Marcus Rediker

"How to Escape Bondage: The Atlantic Adventures of the 'Fugitive Traytor' Henry Pitman, 1687"

This presentation tells the story of an Englishman named Henry Pitman, a surgeon who served the insurgent army of the Duke of Monmouth against King James II in 1685, was captured and sent on a ten-year term of servitude to Barbados, and made a bold and dramatic escape. Returning to England after the overthrow of James by the "Glorious Revolution" of 1688, Pitman became a martyr of Protestant resistance to the "Arbitrary Power" of the dreaded "Papists." His memoir, *A Relation of the Great Sufferings and Strange Adventures of Henry Pitman, Chyrurgion to the Late Duke of Monmouth* (London, 1689), is an Atlantic story of war, hanging, enslavement, forced migration, exploitation, and adventure by sea, among fellow prisoners, African slaves, "savage cannibals," maroons, sailors, and pirates.

Considered alongside the hundreds of thousands of servants, slaves, convicts, sailors, and other coerced workers whose experiences will be central to the Escape conference, Henry Pitman looks most atypical. He was a learned and literate man of privilege, but one who, because of the vicissitudes of war, found himself an astonished member of the Atlantic proletariat. As such he faced many of the "great sufferings" and "strange adventures" of other coerced workers, in his own time and after. Pitman's account of slavery and self-emancipation shows how escape worked as a practical process, allowing us to see what kinds of knowledge and social relationships made it possible. It also suggests that escape is a rather different, and historically more important, kind of resistance than we have usually thought.

Back to top

Kirsty Reid

Escaping the 'hated stain'? Abolitionism, convicts and 'liberty' in Van Diemen's Land, 1840-1853

In the 1840s and 1850s, a mass-based, populist movement for the abolition of transportation emerged. Centred in Van Diemen's Land, it expanded from there to lay the basis for the first-ever trans-colonial movement in the form of the Australasian League. Abolitionists linked transportation to the demand for political liberties and colonial independence. Campaigners redefined the boundaries of 'liberty' and citizenship and sought to link 'freedom' with morally inflected and deeply gendered notions of self-rule. Colonists, abolitionists argued, were 'enslaved' and had to escape both the 'tyranny' of the imperial state and convict 'pollution' and 'degradation'. This paper examines the ways in which abolitionists deployed and reworked a range of metropolitan liberal and radical notions of 'freedom'. It considers the centrality of convict sexual demoralisation, and especially the symbolic power of sodomy, within their discourses. It looks at the sustained cultural and political capital which abolitionists made of the 1846 Norfolk Island mutiny, in particular, and examines the ways in which this was reworked into a powerful, trans-global image of convict brutality and sexual 'savagery'. In Tasmania, the post-transportation landscape was partially forged upon these discourses. The result was that, if convicts on Norfolk Island had sought an 'escape', the ways in which their rising became saturated with a range of alternative, proto-nationalist meanings, assured that 'freedom' and 'liberty' in the post-abolition period were once again deeply circumscribed matters. Indeed, such was the power of the 'hated stain', that for many convicts, and their immediate ancestors, there was no easy 'escape'.

Back to top

W M Robbins

Confined to barracks: The Hyde Park Convict Barracks and the freedom of male convict workers

The Hyde Park Convict Barrack in Sydney, built in 1819, was not intended to be a prison. According to officialdom the public provision of permanent and stable accommodation in the Barrack was intended to improve living standards for government convicts. However, despite this ideal it was widely regarded as a place of confinement by convict workers and most were reluctant to surrender the freedoms provided by private living arrangements in areas like the Rocks. It is argued here that convict suspicions were well founded. Although the Barrack was not “panoptican” it was, nevertheless, a physical embodiment of convict society. Using spatial and labour process theories it is clear that the control structures of convict NSW were subtly “transmitted through [this] building”. Despite its benign appearance and superficial function the Barrack was, in reality, an elaborate strategy to raise the productivity of convict labour. It did this by confronting the division of convict labour into government and private work times. Custom and necessity had determined that convicts be allowed private time during which they could hire themselves out in the free labour market and earn sufficient money to pay for accommodation etc. In doing this however, private labour time prevented the maximisation of government labour time. By providing free board the Barrack was a deliberate but disguised strategy to remove the need for private labour time. In this way and despite its attractive appearance the Barrack strengthened the state’s control of the convict labour process and increased the intensity of convict labour.

Back to top

Peter Romey

Conservation Planning and Implementation at Port Arthur (also Heritage Tourism Round Table)

Port Arthur operated as a prison for secondary offenders (and other from 1830 until 1877, a period of 47 years. The cultural significance of the place is primarily (but certainly not exclusive to) this period of its history.

Port Arthur has been a historic site in public ownership (to varying degrees) from 1916 until now, a period of 87 years. Even before 1916 visitors were coming to Port Arthur. So it has been a place of cultural pilgrimage, a tourism "must see" for far longer than it was a prison. The decaying walls and manicured lawns are not only a memorial to those unfortunate souls who Port Arthur. They are also a testimony to the attitudes of those whose task it has been to manage (exploit?) the site since 1916 and before.

Decisions about what to conserve, how to conserve it, and what stories should be told were often determined by a populist response to what the punters wanted to see and hear. However, in recent years there has been a shift to a more sustainable and significance-based approach to conservation at Port Arthur, an escape from the "Convict World" theme park approach. There has also been a gradual recognition that the cultural value (and ultimately the economic value) of the asset is paramount, and must not be compromised for short term economic gain.

The objective of this paper is to outline this more sustainable approach to the management of Port Arthur, and to outline a number of current and future initiatives for the site.

Back to top

Lynette Ross

The Final Escape: an analysis of suicide at the penal settlement of Port Arthur

Port Arthur is notorious for the severity of its punishment and attempts by convicts to escape its grim regime are well documented. Less well known are the circumstances surrounding a small minority of prisoners who sought escape in a much more final way; who looked not to freedom in this world but beyond into death where they could no longer be affected by the conditions of life.

Suicide of convicts at Port Arthur has a long history, however the subject is not clear-cut. While some exited this world by their own hand, others chose to chase the gallows and allow the hangman to undertake the task for them. Thus a small number of murders at Port Arthur can be directly attributed to the perpetrator's desire to end his own life.

Attitudes to suicide were also not straightforward and were complicated by the penal situation. Traditionally those who took their own lives were considered to have sinned against God, nature, and the King, who was deprived of a subject. Bodies were punished after death by burying in unconsecrated ground outside of graveyards and by physical hurt. Beliefs about the religious and social evil of suicide accompanied soldiers, settlers, and prisoners across the seas and were incorporated into burial practice in the Australian colonies. How Port Arthur dealt with those who suicided is illustrative of the tension between social expectation and administrative necessity.

Back to top

Judith Sackville O'Donnell

Ikey Solomon - Escape to Van Diemen's Land

In light of my recent book, I would like to present a paper on the convict Ikey Solomon with an emphasis on discussing why, after having successfully escaped from Newgate Gaol, he voluntarily returned to custody.

Though he has largely been ignored by Australian historians of the convict era, possibly because he was Jewish, Ikey Solomon was in his day one of the best known and certainly one of the most extraordinary characters ever to have been transported. Not only an extremely successful London receiver (he was reputed to be worth thirty thousand pounds) Ikey was also a serial escapee.

His weapon of choice in all his many escapades was bribery though in his most famous escape, that from Newgate Gaol in 1827, bribery was reinforced with a very cunning plan. On this occasion Ikey actually made it safely to New York. But much to the amazement of his 'pals' back in London no sooner had he arrived there than he risked it all by sailing to Hobart and, thus, straight back into the arms of the British authorities.

So why did he do it? Ikey was to give his reason as 'solely to gain the Society of an affectionate Wife', for in his absence his wife, Ann, had been transported to Van Diemen's Land. And to his credit, despite all the numerous hardships he was to endure - trials, imprisonment, and separation from his family - he never gave any other reason. However, while not wishing to doubt Ikey's sincerity, I believe there were probably other, more subconscious, forces also at work. What these forces were I would like to make the subject of my paper.

Back to top

Toni Sherwood

Escape in the Wilderness: Representations of the West Coast in Four Tasmanian Fictions

In much nineteenth-century fiction the Tasmanian wilderness was typically represented as a gothic place of incarceration. Escape for convicts into this wilderness was most often accompanied by death or depravity, and the West Coast of Tasmania was depicted as a particularly dismal and harsh environment. But for Tasmanian’s pre-eminent popular fiction writer of the early twentieth century, Marie Bjelke Petersen escaping to the West Coast is figured quite differently Ý for Bjelke Petersen it is a place of refuge where romantic love (which for various reasons, is not tolerated by a wider community) can be freely expressed. My paper will discuss the Tasmanian novels of Marie Bjelke Petersen, particularly those set on the West Coast of Tasmania Ý Dusk (1921), Jewelled Nights (1923) and The Moon Minstrel (1927).  In each of these novels the West Coast wilderness is represented positively as a place of wild and sublime beauty where the individual may find healing and love and where a harmonious existence with the natural world is possible and desirable. Importantly this love is also accompanied by the sanction of the Divine. I will discuss this aspect of Bjelke Petersen’s fiction and suggest that a connection exists between this representation and Bjelke Petersen’s own experience of the wilderness. This paper thus uses biographical and archival material to read Bjelke Petersen’s construction of the West Coast wilderness as a site where individuals could experience freedom rather than incarceration or constraint.

Back to top

June Slee and Richard Tuffin

Point Puer, a Fortress Girded by the Whip?

This paper seeks to establish the geographic, architectural and punitive constraints that were used at Point Puer during its operations from 1833-1849 to prevent absconding. Using available documentation, the nature and intent of the crimes committed will be analysed and discussed, as well as the hierarchy of consequences applied to escapees at an institution where punishment matched the offence and not the criminal. Also under consideration will be the penal official's problem with escape - was it feared interaction with adult convicts or a control issue? In addition, it will be posited in this paper that absconding was unable to be controlled by the geographic and architectural features at Point Puer, and was therefore deterred only through the application of corporal punishment, solitary confinement, food deprivation and other punitive measures.

Back to top

Dianne Snowden

Arson: a means of escape from post-Famine Ireland

Nearly two hundred and forty women convicts from Ireland were transported to Van Diemen's Land for arson; only fifty men were transported from Ireland for the same crime. Evidence suggests that approximately one third of the women transported for arson deliberately offended in order to be transported: arson was the means by which they engineered their escape from the poverty and dislocation of post-famine Ireland.

My paper examines the stories of the deliberate offenders, including why they sought to escape, and tracks their lives in Van Diemen's Land.

Back to top

Tony Stagg

“I did not mean to tell the world I had arrived”: Richard Humphreys and the Voyage of the Seabird

Early in February 1942, a young man was arrested wandering near Swansea, on the East Coast of Tasmania. His name was Richard Humphreys and he had just landed after a 19-day voyage in a 9-metre launch, after escaping custody in New Zealand. Humphreys’ story is full of irony; here is a convict who escapes to Tasmania. His is also a tale of bad timing. Newspaper accounts of his voyage are sketchy as his arrival occurred shortly before the bombing of Darwin. This paper examines the story of Humphreys, and highlights the relationship of his ‘voyage to freedom’ with earlier accounts of Australian convicts who escaped by sea. It also explores the ‘redemptive’ nature of his journey and how his perceived heroism, as evidenced in contemporary newspaper reports, contributed to widespread public opposition to his extradition.

Back to top

Tracie Walsh and Shane McLennon

Mutiny on the Cyprus

It was in August 1829 when convicts seized the Colonial Brig "Cyprus" transporting them on their way to Macquarie Harbour. This was the first successful convict mutiny in colonial Australian history.

This event, though not the only reason, and the subsequent mutiny of the Frederick (inspired by the success of the Cyprus) ultimately added convincing argument to the debate on the closure of the Macquarie Harbour along with Maria Island Penal Settlements.

History places William Swallow as the chief protagonist and he himself was an escapee of some proportion. Like his namesake the Swallow, he moved from the Northern Hemisphere to the Southern Hemisphere and back again. He was convicted and transported on three occasions and through good fortune and his great ability at telling a good story managed to escape the hangman's noose.

The first part of this paper looks at the overview of the mutiny, and gives a background to the events.
The second part of this paper looks at William Swallow himself - his character, his role, and the grand story of escape. Ironically William Swallow did finally end up at Macquarie Harbour and on its closure soon after being sent there was placed at Port Arthur where he died.

The mystique and popularity of both the case and the characters at the time were talked about, sung about and reported by the press extensively in both the Colonies and in London, and caught the imagination of both the public at large as well as convicts still in V.D.L.

Back to top

Chris Williams

Pursuit: The Pursuer as Escapee

Behind every escapee worth following, there is a pursuer: although the pursuer does not necessarily trace the exact footsteps of the escapee. In the nineteenth century the most effective forms of 'pursuit' of returned transportees and other fugitives were institutional rather than individual, conducted through official memoranda and through the pages of the Police Gazette. Chance identification also played a role in many successful recaptures: although it is impossible to enumerate the cases in which chance identification did not lead to recapture.

For police officers in early nineteenth century Britain, many pursuits were also escapes from the intentionally stifling reality of their everyday working lives. The pursuer was able to break out of the impersonal world of a cumulative bureaucratic routine and physically follow the track of the escapee.

Pursuit features in several of the surviving British police autobiographies as a chance for the individual officer to show his talent, loyalty, and mettle, and as a holiday from the boredom of the increasingly monotonous everyday routine of police work.

In the contemporary press, tales of pursuit were among those crime stories which received more attention than the average: they could feature the daring of the prisoner, counterpoised to the reassuring steadiness of the pursuer, with a role to play for the hand of fate or Divine providence.

Back to top

Jacqui Wilson

Relics of Desperate Acts : The Marketing of Escape and Containment in J Ward.

The paper interrogates implied and explicit narrative aspects of the standard guided tour taken by tourists visiting the former Centre for the Criminally Insane, "J Ward" (closed in 1991), in the north-western Victorian town of Ararat. Of particular note are tour guides' accounts of certain routine procedures of inmate management and containment, including the punitive administration of "shock" treatment, and anecdotal depictions of escape attempts by notorious prisoners, especially Gary David Webb. In each case, the reality of inmate experience is found to be grossly euphemised and historically distorted in the retelling, rendering intrinsically shocking and disturbing episodes entertaining and acceptable, even in some cases amusing. It is argued that this process, along with the sale, as souvenirs, of artefacts purportedly associated with an escape attempt, both commodifies the suffering of inmates and in some ways perpetuates the "containment" imperative of those charged with their incarceration. 

Back to top

Christine Yeats

Transportation and beyond - escaping the traditional framework of convict research

The accessibility of documentary sources for research into convict arrivals and the convict system as it operated in the Australian colonies, and New South Wales in particular, largely reflects the work undertaken by archivists in arranging and describing the records. Being archivists, they have used traditional paradigms such as inventories and administrative histories, to provide a contextual basis for the records and render them accessible to the user.

There is little doubt that these tools have been invaluable in the past and historians are continuing to draw on them to access the surviving convict records. The traditional application of archival theory and descriptive conventions has frequently 'channelled' research down well-travelled and familiar pathways. While well-documented, and largely pre-determined, strategies are invaluable for the genealogist tracing a 'ne'er do-well' ancestor, those seeking to evaluate, re-evaluate or deconstruct the past may be constrained by the narrow confines of such tools and important alternative sources may escape their attention.

Opportunities now exist for these researchers to move outside the comfort zone of traditional research parameters and find new directions. New technologies and approaches to archival description and an enhanced understanding of the range of often overlooked records are opening up new avenues for research into convicts at State Records - the home of the New South Wales State archives.

Back to top

 

 

Return to the Escape conference homepage

Page design : Jac Charlesworth
Images : Simon Barnard

Hosted by the International Centre for Convict Studies and the University of Tasmania


All images and text on this site are under copyright law, © all rights reserved.