No Escape - The Convict
Experience in Bermuda
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.
'Little Delicacy of Choice': escape for 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.
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.
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.’
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
Heritage Tourism Round
Arthur, Jane Foley, Rob Giason, Julie Marshall, Brett Noble,
Peter Romey and Trevor Sofield
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.
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.
panel member will present their views on what they consider
to be the five most important things to get right when interpreting
will then be invited from the floor.
No Escape’: Thomas Watling, John Glover, & the Australian
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.
was to fight another day in another country: The Maquis in Spain”
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
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
only to return again to continue the struggle that their ideals
demanded of them
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)
Martin Edwards and
Hugh Fraser - escape from emancipation
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.
Language of Escape
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.
Liberated": Frank the Poet's Dreams of Liberty.
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.
of Escape in Austral-Irish Penal Heritage.
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
Gill and Macmillan, p. ix)
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.
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
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
create the boundaries and bonds of longing and belonging between
these two modern nations?
Thousand Times Worse than the Convicts”: sailors as the focus
of rebellion and escape
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
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
Collins and Philip Mead
Paul Collins in conversation
with Philip Mead
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.
A Just Measure of
Pain? Nottingham's Shire Hall
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.
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
“Handed Out of the Dungeon
He Was Confined In”: Textual Escape in Black Atlantic Criminal
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?
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.
Patrick Madan: One Man’s
Odyssey through England’s
Penal Crisis, 1774-1784
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.
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.
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
John Naldrett - Free,
Proud & Political
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.
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.
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.
Baggage: Tales and Practices of Escape'
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.
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.
Escape from ‘Happy
Lands’ and ‘Holy
Families and Neighbors in Scotland
and Van Diemen’s Land in the 1840
criminals often have more humanity in their hearts than those
cold, irreproachable citizens of virtue…
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
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.
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.
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.
Transported - Escaped
- Transported Again - the Tasmanian convict records explained
through the career of James Atkinson per Surrey 1829
and John Renwick 1843
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)
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.
George Dudfield and
the Oatlands System
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.
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.
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.
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.
Escape as a Female
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?
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.
Infanticide as an
escape narrative: The story of Mary McLauchlan.
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.
and vicious in the extreme’: the escaped convict in New
Zealand during the first half
of the nineteenth-century.
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
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
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.
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
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.
Fantasies of evasion:
how folktales provided soldiers and sailors with strategies of
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
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.
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.
'Bold, manly-minded men'
and 'sly, cunning, base convicts': the double standard of escape.
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.
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.
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.
then, represents two very different perceptions of escape.
Seeing heaven again:
early Sydney and
the transformations of 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
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.
Escape and the Female
Convict in Australian Film and Culture
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.
The Man who made Holey
Dollars and Dumps
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Languages of Control,
Escape, and Subversion.
(verb) 1a To gain one’s liberty by flight; to get free
from detention or control, or from an oppressive or irksome
(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).
is a word resonant with meanings, never more so perhaps than
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
this paper, I propose to explore aspects of language in early
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.
Escape is not an option
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
Deserters of the York
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
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.
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.
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?
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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.
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.
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.
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A Fiddler & A
Piper: Escaping with Folk Traditions To & From Tasmania
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.
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.
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
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escape from the Sarah Island Penal Station - ongoing attachment,
use and management - a conservation management planning perspective
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
- 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
- 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.
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.
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Sent to freedom in
a penal colony
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.
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'Tommy Atkins' versus
have very hard work. They are almost continually in the bush
after runaway prisoners who are a great terror to the peaceable
Thos V Blomfield, 48th Foot,
N S Wales, Nov 1821
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.
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The Fabrication of
Convict History: Vol.1 The Wrong Trousers?
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.
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Getting away from
it all: Caroline Leakey's The Broad Arrow
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,
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
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
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
Morisset and Jo Richardson
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.
A psychologist's view
of escape - the flight of body and mind
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.
paper will examine some basic insights related to escape behaviour,
that derive both from psychological theory and the literature
of famous escapes.
Escape and the Coal
Mines Historic Site
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.
Who was escaping what?
Port Arthur and perceptions of the convict system
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.
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.
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.
"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!
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
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
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.
From Exile to Freedom:
The Escape of the Young Irelanders from Van Diemen's Land
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?
to George Town?
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.
Tina Picton Phillipps
Escape from the historians:
“so many men were of dubious character...”
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.
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.
Rising Insurgence in the Straits Prison System
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
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.
Poor Old Invalids:
The Convicts Who Never Escaped
Thomas Conquit: Conquering
a Motley Past.
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.
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.
From Chattel Slavery
to Penal Servitude: the escape of John Moseley
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
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?
"How to Escape Bondage:
The Atlantic Adventures of the 'Fugitive Traytor' Henry Pitman,
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,
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.
the 'hated stain'? Abolitionism, convicts and 'liberty' in Van
Diemen's Land, 1840-1853
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'.
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Confined to barracks:
The Hyde Park Convict Barracks and the
freedom of male convict workers
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
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and Implementation at Port Arthur (also Heritage
Tourism Round Table)
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.
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The Final Escape:
an analysis of suicide at the penal settlement of Port Arthur
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.
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.
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.
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Ikey Solomon - Escape
to Van Diemen's Land
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.
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.
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.
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.
Escape in the Wilderness:
Representations of the West Coast in Four Tasmanian Fictions
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.
Slee and Richard Tuffin
Point Puer, a Fortress
Girded by the Whip?
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
Arson: a means of
escape from post-Famine Ireland
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
paper examines the stories of the deliberate offenders, including
why they sought to escape, and tracks their lives in Van Diemen's
“I did not mean to tell
the world I had arrived”: Richard Humphreys and the Voyage of
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.
Walsh and Shane McLennon
Mutiny on the Cyprus
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.
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.
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.
Pursuit: The Pursuer
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.
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.
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.
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.
Relics of Desperate Acts
: The Marketing of Escape and Containment in J Ward.
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.
beyond - escaping the traditional framework of convict research
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.
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.
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.