The search for my ancestors began several years ago. At that time I knew nothing other than their names, and even those only back as far as my great-great-Grandparents. As with most amateur genealogists it has been a search which has become an obsession and seems almost infinite in it's scope. At the risk of repeating a catechism oft quoted - the more one knows the more one wishes to know.
It is a rarity that actual documents and letters survive from the days when our ancestors first set foot in this country, and there is a frustration about not knowing those persons reasons for coming and their dreams and hopes for their new life. And so, although birth, death and marriage certificates, convict records etc., are relatively easy to obtain, the colour that makes up every day life is generally absent. In order to overcome that in this history, I've attempted to draw upon contemporary sources of those lives and times I am trying to document to at least provide a framework for the bare facts I have managed to uncover.
This is the first of four volumes of the story of my family. In this section I will discuss the lives of eight of my great-great-Grandparents and their descendants on my paternal line. What they have in common is that they were all from Ireland, four of them Irish convicts who arrived in Van Diemans Land in the late 1840's early 1850's, the others who seem to have been free and arrived in South Australia in the mid part of last century.
I am indebted to Allen GREEN and Norma WUNSCH for many of the photographs and for sharing my enthusiasm for the project. Thanks are also due to Jean ROUTLEY and Diane JOYCE for much of the initial information relating to the convict ancestors. Finally, thanks to all who contributed information on their own lines.
"After the Cromwellian holocaust, the population of Ireland had been reduced to less than a million; a century later, it had grown to four and a half million. A century after that (in the mid-1840's) it was touching eight and a half million : Now Ireland had become the most densely populated country in Europe". But that situation was about to change.
It was called the time of the Famine or the Great Hunger, when half the Irish Nation died of disease or starvation, or emigrated to begin life anew in the United States or Australia. But not too many of them were given a choice.
The peasants of Ireland lived almost solely on a diet of potato and when in 1844 a new potato disease reached Ireland from the United States, via the Isle of Wight and Kent, it was only a matter of time before disaster occurred. By 1845 the disease had spread through the entire potato crop of Ireland. From one week to the next whole fields of healthy crops were turned into a rotten, sodden, stinking mess.
During the worst famine years, 1846, 1847 and 1848, Ireland was actually a nett exporter of food. Despite the pleas of Irish Parliamentarians, Britain refused to close the Irish ports to food exports. Oats, cows, sheep, pigs, grain, flour, eggs, lard and bacon, all continued to pour from the country as its people weakened and died. In addition, Ireland had to take all of her imports through England and because tariffs were high, goods were far more expensive than they would have been had free trade with the United States and Europe been allowed.
"One third of the population depended solely on Potatoes and for a larger number it was the main item of diet". In Connacht (the West of Ireland) 78 per cent of the population were dependant on agriculture and 64 per cent of the holdings over one acre were less than five acres in size . Most of these holdings were too small for multiple crops and with the failure of the potatoes the families were left without income and without food for themselves. Fifty thousand families across the nation were evicted in 1846 alone for failing to pay taxes. With no food and no place to live the people died in their thousands.
It was not uncommon for those who still had cabins to live in to merely lock their doors and lay down to await death. Many of those who had been evicted simply died in roadside ditches. The west, being so far from the markets and isolated, was worst hit. If starvation was not enough, disease also took a horrific toll. Typhus, Dysentery, Cholera and Scurvy were all prevalent .
Many of these Irish people such as my great-great- Grandparents were illiterate, but there were some who were eloquent in their passion for the plight of their countrymen. Such a one was John MITCHEL, revolutionary, lawyer and journalist.
At the time of the famine, Dan O'CONNEL, once called "The Liberator" was ageing and ailing. He derisively dismissed MITCHEL, Thomas MEAGHER and others as the "Young Irelanders" a name they proudly adopted. MITCHEL, incensed by a "savage indignation which the Famine had roused in him...set up his own paper, the United Irishman in which he openly advocated violent resistance to the British Government".
In describing the effects of the Famine he wrote -
But why do we not see the smoke curling from those lowly chimneys? And surely we ought by this time to scent the well known aroma of the turf-fires. But what (may Heaven be about us this night) - what reeking breath of Hell is this oppressing the air, heavier and more loathsome than the smell of death rising from the fresh carnage of a battlefield. Oh, misery! had we forgotten that this was the Famine Year? And we are here in the midst of those thousand Golgothas that border our island with a ring of death form Cork Harbour all around to Lough Foyle? There is no need for enquiries here -no need of words; the history of this little society is plain before us. Yet we go forward, though with sick hearts and swimming eyes, to examine the Place of Skulls nearer. There is a horrible silence; grass grows before the doors; we fear to look into any door, though they are all open or off the hinges; for we fear to see the yellow chapless skeletons grinning there; but our footfalls rouse two lean dogs, that run from us with doleful howling, and we know by the felon-gleam in the wolfish eyes how they have lived after their masters died. We walk amidst the houses of the dead, and out at the other side of the cluster, and there is not one where we dare to enter. We stop before the threshold of our host of two years ago, put our head, with eyes shut, inside the door-jamb, and say, with shaking voice, "God save all here!' - No answer - ghastly silence and a mouldy stench, as from the mouth of burial vaults. Ah! they are dead! they are dead! the strong man and the fair dark-eyed woman and the little ones, with their liquid Gaelic accents that melted into music for us two years ago; they shrunk and withered together until their voices dwindled to a rueful gibbering, and they hardly knew one another's faces; but their horrid eyes scowled on each other with a cannibal glare. We know the whole story - the father was on 'public work', and earned the sixth part of what would have maintained his family, which was not always paid him; but it still kept them half alive for three months, and so instead of dying in December they died in March. And the agonies of those three months who can tell? - the poor wife wasting and weeping over her stricken children: the heavy-laden weary man, with black night thickening around him - thickening with him - feeling his own arm shrink and his step totter with the cruel hunger that gnaws away his life, and knowing too surely that all this will soon be over. and he has grown a rogue too, on those public works, with roguery and lying above him, he has begun to say in his heart that there is no God; from a poor but honest farmer he has sunk down into a swindling, sturdy beggar; for him there is nothing firm or stable; the pillars of the world are rocking around him; 'the sun to him is dark and silent, as the moon when she deserts the night.' Even ferocity or thirst for vengeance he can never feel again; for the very blood of him is starved into a thin, chill serum, and if you prick him he will not bleed. Now he can totter forth no longer; alas! and alas! there is a dull stupid malice in their looks; they forget that they had five children, all dead weeks ago, and flung coffinless into shallow graves - nay, in the frenzy of their doom; and at last, in misty dreams of drivelling idiocy, they die utter strangers."
Placed on trial for 'Treason Felony' he was found guilty and sentenced to 14 years transportation on May 27, 1847. Taken in chains from Newgate Prison, Dublin he was placed aboard a ship and transferred to Cork where on May 28 he wrote -
About ten o'clock the land-fog rose, and far to the northward I could recognise the coast about Youghal, the opening of the Blackwater, and beyond these, faint and blue, the summits of Knockmeldown. We had kept a wide berth from the land all night, but we were now making straight for Cork harbour. Soon it opened; within half-an-hour more we came to anchor opposite Cove, and within five hundred yards of Spike Island - a rueful looking place, where I could discern, crowning the hill, the long walls of the prison, and a battery commanding the harbour.
Placed in a small cell and asked to don the brown suit which passed for convict garb, he began to show some despair though not remorse. On the 29th he wrote -
In this court nothing is to be seen but the high walls and the blue sky. And beyond these walls I know is the beautiful bay lying in the bosom of its soft green hills. If they keep me here for many years I will forget what the fair, outer world is like. Gazing on grey stones, my eyes will grow stony
By May 31, it was becoming apparent to MITCHEL that he was to be treated differently to the other convict inmates of the Prison -
The important Inspector came to me to-day, accompanied by Mr. Grace. He asked me if I had any complaint to make to him? 'None whatever,' I answered. He hesitated a moment, and then said, 'It has become my duty to inform you that the government have determined on sending you out of the country.' 'Indeed! How soon?' 'To-morrow morning.' 'May I ask to what part of the world?' 'Bermuda.' 'And by what conveyance?' 'A man-of-war, which has arrived to-day in the harbour.' 'Very good,' quoth I, and they left me. Presently Mr. Grace returned, said he was glad to tell me matters did not promise to go so hard with me as he had expected - that he had a letter from the Castle, directing him to treat me quite differently from 'a common convict', to let me wear my own clothes, not to put me in irons, etc. Further, that he had already on board the ship which was to carry me to Bermuda - the Scourge, a large war steamer
And so how much worse must it have been for the average Irish convict of the times. Illiterate farm labourers many of them and most of whom had probably watched at least some of their family die during the Famine. There was no dispensation from the iron shackles or convict garb for them. Nor was there a relatively privileged passage to Van Diemans Land aboard a man-of-war.
Talk to any Irish Nationalist today and they will tell you that all Irish convicts were political prisoners much as John MITCHEL and the Young Irelanders undoubtedly were. And in the sense that they were victims of an unjust system which denied them the rights to educate their children and imposed exorbitant rents and taxes on the peasant farmers (much of which was paid to absentee landlords), they are right.
But Lloyd Robson in a study based on a random sampling of the records of some thousands of convicts showed that at least half and probably as many as two-thirds of them had prior convictions. "Eight in ten were thieves, and only a minuscule fraction could be classed as political offenders. Most were city-dwellers, not villagers or peasants. Nearly all were propertyless labourers rather than smallholders. Three-quarters were single, and their average age was about 26. The idea of the convict that one might extract from the earliest transportation indents - an old woman who stole cheese, a mere child, a harmless wigmaker's 'prentice or a sensitive Scottish painter like Thomas Watling - is very far from the whole truth about the majority of convicts who came later.
In the case of each of four of my great-great-Grandparents it may be suggested that they stole because they were hungry. Michael JOYCE was convicted of sheep stealing, Mary KING and Ellen SULLIVAN of stealing cows, and Henry CODY of stealing barley. In the absence of trial transcripts which I have yet to search, for we cannot say what their reasons for becoming thieves were. It may well be that it was the only way they could feed now long forgotten relations, it may be that they stole the goods in order to sell them for money; or it may be that it was done in the hope or knowledge that they would be apprehended. Certainly the chance to begin life anew in a country half way round the world must have seemed an attractive option for some of those Irish people in those tragic years.
When the shackles were placed around their ankles and fastened by a short piece of chain did they lament for the loved ones left behind as John MITCHEL did for his wife and children. He had written on May 27, 1848 -
Captain HALL bade me good evening, saying he should just have time to dress for dinner. I wished him a good appetite, and he went off to his ship. No doubt he thought me an amazingly cool character: but God knoweth the heart. There was a huge lump in my throat all the time of this bald chat...At Charlemont Bridge, in Dublin, this, evening, there is a desolate house - my mother and sisters, who came up to town to see me (for the last time in case of the worst) - five little children, very dear to me; none of them old enough to understand the cruel blow that has befallen them on this day, and above all - above all - my wife
It seems unlikely that we will ever know, because unlike John MITCHEL, they were illiterate and thus their dreams, hopes and aspirations died with them.
DESCENDANTS OF MICHAEL JOYCE AND MARY KING
1. Michael JOYCE. Born, circa 1829, in Co Galway, Irl (AOT, CON 33/100, 14/43 & 18/54). Died, 19 Oct 1855, in Hobart, Tas. Occupation: Labourer.
ORIGIN OF THE NAME JOYCE
"Thomas de JORSE, a 13th Century Cambro-Norman settler from Wales who settled in County Galway is reputed to be the progenitor of the JOYCE families, always more numerous in Connacht. At the end of the last century about six of every seven JOYCE families were still resident in Connacht, the majority still in County Galway and the next largest representation in County Mayo. The stronghold of the JOYCE's was in Ross Barony, County Galway, commonly known as JOYCE'S country."
MICHAEL JOYCE AND MARY KING
Michael JOYCE, was born circa 1829 in County Galway, Ireland. The names of his parents and his exact place of birth are not known at this stage. On 23 June, 1847 he was tried and convicted of sheep stealing at Galway. Despite having no previous convictions he was sentenced to 7 years imprisonment and lodged at Spittle (Spike?) Island Prison, the same prison in which John MITCHEL was lodged.
The convict records held at the Archives Office of Tasmania give the following description for Michael JOYCE - 5'5 1/4" tall, sallow complexion, medium head, brown hair, no whiskers, oval visage, broad forehead, brown eyebrows, hazel eyes, small nose, medium mouth and large chin. His occupation was farm labourer.
On 13 September, 1850, he embarked aboard the 815 ton vessel, Hyderabad which was making it's third voyage as a convict ship. As with many of the most notable convicts ships which entered the service after 1841 it had been built in the Sunderland shipyard in Durham. "They were fast and seaworthy, and there more modern design made conditions for the prisoners far more pleasant than previously had been the case or was still the case in the older vessels". The ship sailed direct and after a voyage of 91 days it finished it's journey in the Derwent River, Van Diemans Land disembarking 287 male convicts. It lost none of the original complement that boarded at Queenstown and the ship arrived in Hobart on 13 December, 1850.
MITCHEL had described the Irish convicts who shared his voyage and they were probably not much different to those that sailed with Michael JOYCE.
The famine struck Irish, many who have not a word of English, and most of them so shattered in constitution by mere hunger and hardship, that all deaths amongst the prisoners, ever since we embarked, have been Irish. As I am far removed, however, from their part of the ship, I seldom hear their voices, except when they sing at night on the deck. And such singing is mournful beyond all caoines, coronachs, and naeniae. What a fate! what a dreary doom has been spun and woven for you, my countrymen! They were born, these men, to a heritage of unquenched hunger, amongst the teeming plenty of their motherland - hunted like noxious beasts from all shelter so now traversing the deep under bayonet points, to be shot out like rubbish on a bare foreign strand, and told to seek their fortune their amongst a people whose very language they know not. Many of them, I believe, being without families, are glad of this escape, as they might be glad of any escape from the circle of hunters that chased them for life at home. But then there are many others (boys from twelve to seventeen years of age, and some of them very handsome boys, with fine open countenances, and a laugh so clear and ringing) whom it is a real pain to look upon. They hardly know what troops are hunting their young souls and bodies; but in poor frail huts, on many an Irish hillside, their fathers and mothers dwell with poverty, and labour, and sorrow, and mourn for their lost children, with a mourning that will know no comfort till they are gathered to their people in the chapel-yard. For indeed these convict boys were not born of the rock or the oak tree - human mothers bore them, sang them asleep in lowly cradles, wept and prayed for them. But the sons of those woeful Irish mothers were rocked and suckled for the British hulks, to be ameliorated amongst London burglars, and reformed by the swell-mob, that they might help to carry British civilisation to distant continents and isles.
Thoughts like these often come upon me when I hear at night, rising from the ship's forecastle, some Irish air that carries me back to old days when I heard the same to the humming accompaniment of the spinning-wheel; and then I curse, oh! how fervently, the British Empire. Empire of Hell!
By 1850, the ability of the masters of the convict ships to land most of the prisoners in Australia that they had begun their voyage with, had improved greatly. This was due partly to the change in policy which saw the ships Masters paid for the number of prisoners who disembarked alive, rather than the number who were placed on board at the beginning of the voyage. Generally this meant that supplies were sufficient to keep most of the convicts healthy during the voyage. But their health and welfare relied heavily on the skill of the Surgeon-superintendents aboard the ships.
"The log of Surgeon-Superintendent John Smith on the Clyde, carrying 215 men from Ireland to Sydney in 1838, is typical. It is a record of cleaning and scraping, sprinkling chloride of lime by the water-closets, supervising the laundry, lancing abscesses; blankets become lousy and are soaked all night in the urine tubs in the hope of killing the accursed insects; the coarse trousers give some convicts 'excoriations of the scrotum and thigh'; prisoners squabble and are put in the cramping-box, a lad whispers about mutiny and spends the night handcuffed on deck; the soldiers and their women fight like Kilkenny cats - 'a more undisciplined, quarrelsome, noisy set have seldom come together, yet the behaviour of the Prisoners is quiet and orderly with little exception.' Surgeon Smith dispenses advice, purges, blisters and bleedings; he buries the dead (but very few men die); and there is a note of quiet gratification at the end, when Clyde warps into Sydney Cove and an official from the colonial secretary's office asks the customary question of the mustered prisoners: Is there any complaint about the Surgeon? "No, no, God bless him, was the universal cry."
Aboard the Hyderabad the surgeon wrote -
The convict ship Hyderabad of 657[?] tons...was taken out in the early part of March to convey 300 male convicts form Dublin to Hobart Town Van Deimans Land. I received my appointment on the 19th March 1849 & joined with the guard on the 17th of April. The ship left Deptford on the 18th in the morning and passed through the Down in the afternoon of the 19th and that night we encountered a very heavy sails of...accompanied with hail sleet & snow in the midst of which the...a large ship hove to near...by which we sustained considerable damage and very much alarmed the people on board but I am happy to say most of this...were after much difficulty we reached Dublin Bay on the 27th and anchored in Kingstown Harbour the same evening. The first batch of convicts embarked on the 9th day of May and then on the 18th and the remainder on the 20th Day - The 23rd of May we were all ready for sea when the anchor was hove & we went out of harbour - with a moderate breeze and fine weather - The Prisoners 300 in number were what...leave men...who first time convicted from 18 months up to 3 years and who must under...a probationary...in the different Convict...in Ireland. they were for the most part from examination...but justifiably...at the prospect of...therein...Everything I could think of was done during the voyage to keep their spirits up but many of them became...and despairing. I had one of two musical instruments in the Depot & I had them up to dance & sing whenever the weather permitted after...I was very practical[?] and in keeping therein...clear day of well...the lads were brought on deck the first thing in the morning after which the decks and sleeping berths were thoroughly cleansed by scraping no water being permitted below. In fact I never saw any...stoves were kept...on different...of the Prison...8 in the morning...4 in the afternoon whenever there was the least...in the air.
Breakfast was served at 8 O'Clock Dinner at 12 and after...were cleaned up they had a fill of...and a fill of...coming in at our passageway door...it of...out after having 15 days at sea. i am happy to say that they landed without a single case of scurvy amongst them. At first they complained much of the insufficiency of their breakfast and I would beg to support that they got in a fourth instead of 1/3 of a part of Oatmeal for their daily allowance at breakfast...allowance of the is also...it also might be slightly increased with advantage the 10 tons of Potatoes allowed to Irish convict ships in our case was reduced to 4 tons they being scarce & dear. The poor prisoners seemed to relish them more than any other portion of their food. The ...of them told me that they had not seen potatoes for many many months. potatoes being to dear & scarce to serve...the different Prisoners. Their conduct generally speaking was good and I am...in saying that I had to punish...only two, one for fighting and ill using one of the other prisoners and the other for stealing. Minor punishments for being dirty and insolent and said like offences there were many...them into the black box for from 2 to 24 hours stopping therein...them only bread and water. The stopped[?] meat was given to the best behaved ships as a reward. The Irish government sent on board a...of...for...&...to sign a receipt for the...laid out in purchasing therein.
The materials were carefully worked up and first to...at Hobart Town...they did not being the original cost of the materials were to give any surplus money to the cook...allowing the original sum expended to be refunded...not on any return to England to the Convict Department in Ireland. The poor prisoners had all therein laboured for nothing
The principal disease occurring on the...was...Catarrh and K...appeared soon after...coming on board &...every case of it...left the ships...the actual...of the cases were very severe threatening the top[?] of vision but I am happy in saying that they all did well. Many of the Guard...labour also took the ...Treatment consisted in...isolation & this was of the...from fife[?] & its 20...to the ...the...The usual exactions[?] of climate...such time as we got into the parallel of the Cape of Good Hope in coming down from...to the place of this ships destination we...much bad weather with strong gales from the NW to South accompanied by hard squalls with hail and rain. The people suffered much from the cold although every precaution was taken to keep them warm and dry as circumstances would...of During all this time the...stoves were kept going - from 8 O'Clock in the morning till late in the afternoon. During this time they suffered much from influenza in as many as 75 cases having been called to the list they all got well. On our arrival at Hobart Town I found that the whole of the Australian colonies were suffering form...then...The reference to the Nosological synopsis...well be perceived that as many as 218 cases have been under treatment but of which...took place. 8 prisoners and one...an...of the cases of death amongst the Prisoners the first was from Phthisis in a man 40 years of age who had been long sick and might not to have been sent on board but he deceived me when examined at the Depot. The second death was from Dropsy[?] arising from Disease of the...system occurring in a young man who...from...disease and desponding[?] in having to leave the... The fourth in a young seaman who fell from aloft fracturing his...& otherways such...very severe...so the head...on too...of the brain under the effects of which...I have recorded the history of these cases in the body of the journal. I am happy in stating that not a single case of...occured during the voyage. i had a supply of vaccine lymph and carefully examined every individual on the ship to find out those who had not been vaccinated. I found that all the prisoners had undergone that...from office...belonging to the guard were vaccinated and I landed a supply of lymph in the colony. On our arrival at Hobart Town on the 26th of August having been 94 days on the passage. I sent 7 cases to the Colonial Hospital. These cases are detached[?] in the body of the journal. I found the voyage to day and clear & then continued to be so throughout the voyage it was...to make...of the...of the Chloride of Zinc. I however have the highest opinion of the efficacy and great utility in subduing the very disagreeable and deleterious odour of...water...convicts of the voyage.
John MITCHEL had arrived in Hobart on April 6, 1850, some eight months prior to Michael JOYCE, and had written -
The mountainous southern coast of Van Dieman's Land! It is a soft blue day; soft airs, laden with all the fragrances of those antarctic woods, weave an atmosphere of ambrosia around me. As we coast along over the placid waters, passing promontory after promontory, wooded to the waters edge, and 'passing their ancient glories in the flood', both sea and land seem to bask and rejoice in the sunshine
It is doubtful that the majority of convicts had the chance to enjoy the scenery as MITCHEL obviously did. Most of them had probably been lucky to see the light of day on rare occasions when they had been allowed on deck during the long voyage. But they must certainly have looked forward to setting foot upon land after enduring the winds and seas of the roaring forties. The relative calmness of the Derwent estuary and the sight of Hobart must have given many of them some hope.
MITCHEL wrote -
This evening we entered the inlet known as D'Entrecasteaux' Channel, which runs up about twenty-five miles on the west side of Bruni Island, and divides it from the mainland of Tasmania. On the east side of Bruni spreads out Storm Bay, the ordinary approach to Hobart Town harbour; but this channel adjoins Storm Bay at the northern extremity of Bruni; from whence a wide estuary runs many miles farther inland. We are becalmed in the channel; but can see the huge mass of Mount Wellington, ending to the eastward in steep cliffs. In the valley at the foot of those cliffs as they tell me, bosomed in soft green hills, bowered in shady gardens, with its feet kissed by the blue ripples of the Derwent - lies that metropolis of murderers and university of burglary and all subter-human abomination, Hobart Town.
But as we lie here becalmed, between lonely wooded hills, the land seems virgin yet, as when La Perouse sailed up the same channel of old, startling the natives from their kangaroo flesh pots on the shore. These woods are all of evergreen trees; and even from the deck I can see the long streamers of bark peeling off their trunks and festooned from brach to branch; for all this tribe, the Eucalypti, shed not their leaves but their bark. The trees seem almost all of great height; but on the whole the forest looks poor and ragged, because the boughs and branches are so conspicuous in their nakedness; and the foliage is thin compared with the bulk of the trunks. This is certainly the first impression made on an eye accustomed to the umbrageous masses of beech and sycamore that build up the cathedral arches and aisles of our European woodlands. But I can scarcely believe that I am verily to set foot upon dry land again
7th - We made our way this morning to the head of D'Entrecasteaux Channel, where it communicates by a narrow passage with the great Storm Bay - took a pilot on board at this passage, a little dark man, at whom I gazed as narrowly and curiously as ever did Abel Jans Tasman at the first Australasian savages he saw, or they at Abel. But indeed our little pilot was a mere Englishman in tweed pantaloons and round jacket; and he came down to his boat from a neat white cottage on a hill, with a greensward lawn sloping from its door to the boat-pier, and some sweet-briar hedges protecting and adorning its garden.
Two o'clock afternoon - We are at anchor in the Derwent, a quarter of a mile from the quays and custom-house of Hobart Town. Why should I write down, here again, what I see, what everybody sees, at every sea port? The town slopes from the river to the hills precisely like any other town. Several church steeples, of course; a small battery on a point; a windmill on a height; merchants' stores along the quays; waggons carrying merchandise hither and thither; and the waggons have wheels; and the horses are quadrupedal and solid-ungular. A good many ships lie in the harbour; and one Carthaginian frigate Maeander.
Our bold captain and surgeon-superintendent have dressed themselves (and the latter in sword and epaulettes looks grand enough), to await the official persons; the official persons ashore, with that deliberate dignity which becomes their high position, move slowly, and in their several convict bureaus prepare their stationary and tape, that they may board us in due form. So I have time to dwell upon, to appropriate and assimilate, one of the loveliest scenes in all the world. The harbour is the broad estuary of the river Derwent. The town lies on the western side, backed by gardens and villas, rising on the slope of wooded hills and ravines, which all lose themselves in the vast gloomy mass of Mount Wellington. On the eastern side, which seems nearly uninhabited, there are low hills covered with wood; and directing the eye up the river valley, I see nothing but a succession of hill and forest, till blue mountains shut up the view. I long to walk the woods, and leave behind me the sight and sound of the weariful sea.
8th - Official persons on board, with their stationary and tape, also police constables. I know not what forms and ceremonies are going forward, because I stay close in my cabin; but I hear a calling of the roll; and the prisoners, with washed faces, are walking aft one by one. The doctor tells me nothing will be known about me and my destination till to-morrow. The special despatch, regarding me, has gone of course to the governor, one Sir william Denison; but that potentate is on a hunting party, and may not be in town even to-morrow. Meanwhile the real convicts on board are said to be in high glee: they are to land free: and a proposal has come out to the ship, inviting twelve of the most powerful men to take service as constables on the island. Dr. Gibson, our superintendent, who has been here before, and knows the ways of the place, informs me that almost all the petty constables on the island, and even some of the chief-constables, are convicts; and further, that the most desperate villains are actually selected for the office. 'A dozen of our worst Neptune ruffians' said the doctor, 'you will see in a few days dressed in blue, armed with carbines, and placed in a position to predominate over you, and your friends who have arrived here before you.'
Many of the forms which John MITCHEL spoke about have survived to give me the details of my convict ancestors. They formed the basis of the indents which the government used to keep track of the convicts and emancipists who made up the bulk of the islands population in those days. It was a system which had evolved throughout the colony's history.
By that year, the convict system set up in Van Diemans Land had been in existence for about a quarter of a century. In 1824, Sir George ARTHUR, a military man who had seen service with the 35th Regiment around the Mediterranean during the Napoleonic Wars, became Governor of Van Diemans Land. When it became a separate colony in 1825, he set about making it the most feared of penal settlements.
ARTHUR set up a system of punishment which had seven levels in growing order of severity
- "(1) holding a ticket of leave; (2) assignment to a settler; (3) labour on public works; (4) labour on the roads, near civilisation, in settled districts; (5) work in a chain gang: (6) banishment to an isolated penal settlement; and; (7) penal settlement in chains".
If a prisoner misbehaved he sank down the ranks but after proven good behaviour he was able to rise to a higher level. "A man with a seven year sentence could apply for his ticket after four years of proven good behaviour; a fourteen year man, after six years; a lifer after eight".
This was the system in 1850 when Michael JOYCE arrived. Many convicts were sent firstly to the penal settlement at Port Arthur, but shortage of labour saw those of good behaviour assigned to free settlers quite soon after their arrival.
"The convicts were not slaves under the law, but British citizens whose enforced task, in Australia, was to work their way back to freedom through expiation...the rights to a convict's work were vested in the government, which owned his labour until his sentence was served or remitted". And so although a master had certain rights to order the convicts work, he was also bound to look after his welfare. If seen as too harsh or too soft, the government could step in. It was the bureaucracy that assigned the convicts and it was common for those who were richest or favoured by the government of the day to be given the choice of labourers. Thus the unskilled and uneducated often found themselves in the poorer conditions. Sometimes the arbitrary nature of assignment caused problems for both convict and settler. Only one fifth of those transported had farm skills, most were city born and bred .
By 1832 "...the cavalier habits of some settlers with their assigned convicts had already been causing some concern in England. A farmer saddled with an incompetent convict would swap him off with another settler or abandon him in town. The inconvenience and waste of time in haling a convict before a magistrate's court, which might be three days journey from the farm, discouraged complaint through legal channels; so the incompetent assigned man would simply be dumped on the road or left in town, to beg or survive as best he could. The authorities had no choice but to put these outcasts in gaol, on a skimpy allowance of bread and water, until they were either reassigned or put in a government work gang".
"Without assignment there could have been no colony in Van Diemans Land. Its economy would have died because, as in New South Wales, there was no shortage of convict labour. Hence, in Arthur's view, the mere fact of living as a free settler in a penal colony meant that a man must accept the paramount values of penal discipline. Free settlers were as integral a part of Arthurs machinery of punishment as policemen or government clerks. Assignment was a bargain a man struck with the government and if he did not play by the government's rules he lost his convict servants. And the rules were far stricter than they had been under Lachlan Macquarie's more liberal...system in New South Wales. They went with a larger and ever-growing police force and a complete denial of any political say to Emancipists and free settlers alike. Throughout his term of office, which was as long as Macquaries New South Wales - twelve years from 1824 to 1836 - George Arthur never lost sight of the fact that to control a state's labour supply is to control its political life. So Arthur's 'red list' of settlers could not get assigned convicts was, in plan and in detail, a formidable social weapon".
And so it was on 7 January, 1851, Michael found himself assigned to G.J. HARRISON of Redlands.
|Bakery and Kitchen at Redlands|
|Convict Quarters at Redlands|
In 1822, Redlands was granted to George Frederick READ. 'The property was advertised in the Hobart Town Gazette of 18 March 1825:
River Plenty - To be let, from the 25th April next, the unexpired term of 4 years of the Leases of this very eligibly situated Farm, known by the name of Redlands on the River Plenty, 26 miles from Hobart Town, about 5 miles from New Norfolk, and 2 1/2 miles from water-carriage. The farm consists of 1550 acres of superior pasture and eligible Land with 60 Acres cleared and substantially fenced in; the whole Estate is bounded on three sides by water. There is an excellent two-storey Brick Dwellinghouse, capable of accommodating a respectable Family, erected on the Farm: also a good servants' Hut, Barn, Stable, Fowl-house and sheep and Cattle Yards, Likewise a good garden
George Thomas HARRISON took over Redlands in 1845 and held it as lessee until 1858 when Robert Cartwright READ, one of George Frederick READ's two sons, took over the property. I do not have a description of what the property was like when Michael JOYCE and Mary KING were assigned there, however some of the buildings which were present then, still exist and are described in a document held at the New Norfolk Historical and Information Centre -
In 1860 George Frederick Read died at Leybourne, New Town. The late George Read's interest in introducing salmon and trout fish to Tasmanian waters culminated in 3 1/2 acres of Redlands on the Plenty River, being made over for the Salmon Ponds Hatchery. It was here in 1864 that salmon and trout eggs (ova) were finally brought successfully from England to make the Salmon Ponds (aptly named) the first of its kind in the southern hemisphere.
When Robert Cartwright Read took over Redlands, hops were in great demand. His initials and the year 1867 are on the end of the long kiln complex that remains to bear witness to the demand for hops at that time.
Four kilns were in operation, the fourth, a weatherboard structure fired by coal in the early stages, the others by wood, are indicative of the production of hops on the property in those years. With the exception of the weatherboard kiln the remainder of the kilns and their drying and cooling rooms are of handmade red bricks.
So great was the whole establishment that a line of terraced cottages (double-storeyed with little dormer windows) were built to house the families who worked there. The terraced cottage ran diagonally from the kiln complex to form the huge quadrangle with the house and give shelter to the tennis court.
In the early days the property of Redlands had its own bakehouse (still standing). Its low line structure provides a feature beside the towering kilns. Although two of the kilns have been taken down it does not take away from the huge structure that remains to tell of the activities on this rural area in years past, for beside the bakehouse the property had a shop. Framed by a century old gigantic wisteria it stood in a cobblestoned courtyard enclosed on three sides that gave access to the servants quarters (attached to the back of the Redlands homestead). The shop serviced the employees on Redlands. The farm hands could buy anything from food to clothes and boots.
In line with the shop was the meathouse. Next was the bell tower. Beneath the bell tower the employees gathered to receive their orders each morning. the bell tolled for starting time, mealtimes and knock-off time. Next to the bell tower was the office where the employees gathered to receive their wages each week. Then came the cool room fro the storage of the household food requirements for there was no refrigeration in those days.
Another two buildings of note on the property are those of the coach-house with its shield bearing the date A.D.1857, and the large brick building a short distance away that accomodated a dairy. These two buildings are away from the main complex.
Michael probably worked hard and well because there are no notations of wrongdoing on his record. On 20 April, 1852, Michael was given his ticket of leave and only a week later on 27 April he was recommended for a Conditional Pardon. "The most vivid disagreements over the matter of rights were caused by the ticket-of-leave system. There were only three ways in which the law might release a man from bondage. The first, though the rarest, was an absolute pardon from the governor, which restored to him all rights including that of returning to England. The second was a conditional pardon, which gave the transported person citizenship within the colony but no right of return to England. The third was ticket-of-leave. The convict who had been given a ticket-of-leave no longer had to work as an assigned man for a master. He was also free from the claims of forced government labour. he could spend the rest of his sentence working for himself, wherever he pleased, as long as he stayed within the colony. He was, as the phrase went, 'on his own hands', in contrast to the assigned man who was merely said to be 'off the store'. The ticket lasted only a year and had to be renewed, and it could be revoked at any time".
There is no notation on the records I have as to whether or not Michael had his conditional pardon. Two months later, on 30 June, 1852, Michael again came under notice of the law when he was tried and convicted of being drunk. He was fined 5/-.
On 20 August, 1852, a woman by the name of Mary KING was also assigned to G.J.HARRISON of Redlands and this proved to be the next significant recorded happening in Michael's life.
Mary KING was also a native of County Galway, where she had been born circa 1829. Again I do not yet know her parents names or her place and date of birth. On 7 April, 1851, she was tried at Galway and convicted of cow stealing. Her description in the records is as follows -
Servant, 5'4" height, ruddy complexion, small head, black hair, narrow visage, medium forehead, black eyebrows, dark eyes, medium nose, mouth and chin. She was also freckled and her upper front teeth are described as 'projecting'.
Mary also seems to have been a fairly typical example of a convict woman. Despite the commonly held belief that the transported women were whores, whoring was never a transportable offence. "The vast majority of female convicts, more than 80 percent, were sent out for theft, usually of a fairly petty sort. Crimes of violence figured low among them, as one might expect - about 1 percent. Sentences of more than seven years were exceedingly rare. None of this, given the severity of the English laws, suggests at the outset a very high degree of moral profligacy.
On 28 December, 1851, after being held I know not where for the previous 8 1/2 months, Mary found herself aboard the 291 ton barque John William Dare , an Indian ship built at Griga in 1832. "In many respects, the Indian ships made ideal convict transports. The County traders were larger and roomier than the contemporary British vessels and they were staunchly built. After years of arduous service, the Indian vessels, particularly those built of the finest teak, were still thoroughly seaworthy and capable of making good passages and in these respects they compared more than favourably with British built vessels. They simply refused to be worn out, and many of them ultimately were scrapped merely because they had become outmoded. The older Indian vessels employed in this period were inferior in design to later British and Indian ships, but although gloomy and ill-ventilated below decks, the health of their prisoners did not appreciably suffer in consequence.
The John William Dare sailed from Dublin, came via the Cape and took a relatively slow 146 days to reach Hobart. Of the 172 female convicts who embarked only three died on the voyage. Mary's conduct on the voyage is described as good. They arrived in Hobart Town on 22 May, 1852.
Mary found herself assigned to many different people during her first few months in Hobart. They were as follows -
29 May 1852 to 2 June 1852 J. LORD, King Street
10 June 1852 to 10 June 1852 William LANGLEAF (?), Campbeel Street
15 June 1852 Jarvis BROOCK (?), place indecipherable
16 July 1852 to 16 August 1852 Thomas HOPETOUN, Elizabeth Street
16 August 1852 to 28 August 1852 Anne COTTER, Campbell Street.
As previously stated her final assignment listed on the records was on 20 August, 1852 to G.J.HARRISON of Redlands, New Norfolk. The records show that this time the assignment was to last until 20 September, 1852. Why Mary spent so little time at each of her assignments we can only speculate. Was it because she was unsuited to the work, or perhaps, given the shortage of females in the colony and the fact that her first four assignments were to men, was she found to be unsuitable as a partner? The simple explanation is that they were supposed to be short term assignments.
She must certainly have met Michael JOYCE whilst working at Redlands but we cannot say whether she knew him beforehand. The fact that they both came from County Galway may well have drawn them together. The records show that Mary was only at Redlands for a month but do not show where she went after that.
On 22 November, 1855 she was sentenced to 14 days hard labour for being absent from assignment, at least that is what I think it says although the writing is difficult to read.
In the Hobart Town Gazette of 5 April, 1853, page 285, the following notice appears -
Comptroller-General's Office, 21st March, 1853. In accordance with the Act of Council 6th Victoria, No. 18, I hereby give notice, for the third time, that his excellency the Lieutenant-Governor has been pleased to approve of the solemnisation of Matrimony between the under mentioned parties :-...Michael JOYCE, T.L., and Mary KING, J.W.Dare, both residing at New Norfolk..."
|Photograph of Norfolk Lodge taken by Allen Green, January 1991 - the old Catholic Chapel where Michael Joyce and Mary King were married is part of this building.|
The following day on 6 April, 1853, at the Catholic Church at New Norfolk, Michael and Mary were married by W.P.BOND, with Michael's age given as 27 and Mary's as 23.
BOND had been the officiating chaplain at the first recorded marriage at the Church between Thomas KEMP (Shoemaker) and Ellen CANTY (servant), both 27 years of age, on October 27th, 1851. The first resident Parish Priest lived in a property known as "Rockhampton" (Norfolk Lodge) which was situated in the main street and shortly after his arrival it was purchased by the Church and used as a Chapel and residence.
On 20 August, 1853, Michael and Mary had their first child, my great-Grandfather John Henry JOYCE. He was born at New Norfolk nine months after Mary was sentences for being absent from assignment.
There are two other notations on Mary's convict record. The penultimate one dated 21 February, 1854 states - "Must serve 5 years for a T.L." The final entry is dated 21 July, 1856 and states that Mary "married Michael BRENNAN, free". Sadly Michael JOYCE had died of consumption, aged only 29 on 19 October, 1855. Mary died 12 April, 1899 at Newtown, Tasmania. Mary had two other children to Richard BRENNAN but little detail is known.