In February this year, I was lucky enough to be transported to Tasmania. My experience was a pleasurable one….. on Voyager of the Seas,a Royal Caribbean cruise ship, thanks to Unlock The Past. However, those who were transported there in the past were not considered ‘lucky’.
Van Diemen’s Land was the original name used by most Europeans for the island of Tasmania, now part of Australia. In 1803, the island was colonised by the British as a penal colony with the name Van Diemen’s Land, and became part of the British colony of New South Wales. From the 1800s to the 1853 abolition of penal transportation (known sometimes simply as ‘transportation’), Van Diemen’s Land was the primary penal colony in Australia and following the suspension of transportation to New South Wales, all transported convicts were sent there. In total, some 75,000 convicts were transported to Van Diemen’s Land, which represents about 40% of all convicts sent to Australia.
In 1994, the Port Arthur Convict Research project began its life in an attempt to count the number of prisoners who were at Port Arthur between 1830 and 1877, as well as transcribe virtually every detail on their conduct records. A book entitled Caught in the Act: Unusual Offences of Port Arthur Convicts was originally compiled by Phillip Hilton and Susan Hood in 1996 and subsequently reprinted in 2002. The publication details some of the more memorable offences found during the first eighteen months of the transcription process and today, as well as publicising the fantastic work of the research project, a few snippets are shared for your entertainment…..
William Hyde – transported to VDL in 1842 for 7 years after stealing a pair of trousers (previous offences included stealing hay and vagrancy). His conduct was generally reported to be good and he obtained his Free Certificate at the end of 1848. However, on 20 October 1845 whilst at Campbell Town, he committed an offence which is recorded on his record: ‘Having on 20th October attempted against the order of nature to commit with a ewe the detestable and abominable crime called buggery’. He was found guilty and ordered to be sent to Port Arthur for two years and there kept in separate treatment.
John Hughes – transported for seven years at only 13 years of age, in 1835, for stealing a silk handkerchief from a constable. Point Puer Boys’ Prison was his initial residence and he committed many offences there from insolence, indecency in school, idleness and on 1 April 1837, for ‘spelling obscene words in school’. He was sentenced to solitary confinement on bread and water for 48 hours.
I am surprised his mouth was not washed out with soap and water!
There are many superb publications available via the Port Arthur Historic Sites website. Highly recommended….