Tag Archives: family history

Soggy Weekend Coffee Share

Welcome to Another Weekend Coffee Share!

This weekend, I recommend you find yourself a good pair of gumboots and jump in a few puddles. No one knows you around here. So, it doesn’t really matter if you embarrass yourself. Besides, you’ll probably only get a few death stares from the local duck population wanting to evict you from their “pond”. You could say, that they’ve made a “pond conversions” to the  local potholes. Just call them “duckgineers”.

Well, you’re in luck today because you can try my “Christmas Cake”. In typical fashion, I stumbled across an intriguing recipe just before Christmas but the cake needed to rest for two months. So, this Christmas Cake was never going to be ready in time for Christmas and to compound my stupidity, this recipe made enough cake to feed an entire shearing shed. It contained 3kgs of dried fruit alone. It’s called the Aussie Harvest Cake and has grated apple in it and for the dried fruit, I used included figs, dates in addition to the usual sultanas and raisins and made for an interesting, moist and dense cake.

Anyway, I thought you might like to try a slice.

rowena-amelia-with-rabbit-julie

The local radio station broadcast from my daughter’s school last week.

Speaking of cooking, last Monday local radio hosts, Rabbit & Julie broadcast live from my daughter’s school. The Julie of this  combo is Julie Goodwin, Australia’s first Masterchef. Knowing JULIE was coming to the school, I was up the freeway in a flash armed with my camera and copy of her cookbook. I was so excited and gushed profusely, embarrassingly so, but I met JULIE!! You can read about it here.

 

This year, I’ve backed off from my blog for a bit to follow up on the wealth of experiences we had on our three week trip to Tasmania. This has not only involved getting the photos printed and sorted. It’s also involved capturing my husband’s personal and family history. Although you can join Ancestry, that gets expensive and I have found a free, alternative source of much of my research…the online newspapers. For better of worse, unless your ancestors were very rich or well-known, most of what you pick up is things like court cases, criminal matters or acts of sheer stupidity. So, these research escapades can be rather intriguing, entertaining…or horrific.

I have been doing this research at a rather intense and rapid pace. So, my head has become something like a story calculator or processor adding up all these details and cross-referencing individuals and being rather surprised to find some very strong trends throughout. One of the interesting ones was that quite a few branches of Geoff’s family were involved with horse breeding, racing, trotting, pacing and even journalism. That really surprised me. I’ve also come out of all this research feeling that life is very random, yet not. Or, perhaps it is your fate that’s random. There are those people who die young and others who pass in their nineties.It made me feel like God was playing around with a couple of dice up there in heaven. Yet, there were strong threads as well such as a strong scientific mind, which spread across the board. I still don’t know quite what to make of it all.

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All this ploughing through the old newspapers has certainly dug up a lot of stories involving the family and local area. There was the sighting of a flying saucer at George Town. There was the guy who had 5-10 whiskies and “no lunch” who then drove his truck home but skidded and flipped it on a turn losing his life. At the inquest, when the coroner asked if he was inebriated after drinking all that whisky, a couple of witnesses said: “no”. Anyone who can walk after that much whiskey, must have a cast iron constitution. Shame, it didn’t carry across into his driving capacity. Of course, these days you’d be taking away his keys and giving him a lift.

This coming week, is going to be very full-on.

Our son turns 13 on Wednesday…the beginning of the “Teenage Years”. I’m surprised that there hasn’t been an American sitcom by that name. Or, perhaps there has and I’ve just missed it. I don’t know whether you’d class it as humour or horror  and how you’d rate it but there’s never be a dull moment.

Thursday…Thursday 9th March…is the Selective High Schools Test. This is being held all around NSW for our selective, academic schools. Our daughter, who is currently in a selective primary school class, along with most of her class mates, will be sitting for the test. It’s been hanging over us for more than a year and as much as you’d like to pretend it’s not hovering in the shadows, it’s there.

My reasonings for her to attend the selective high school, are quite complex. Naturally, you want the best for your child and ideally every kid gets the opportunity to feel comfortable, be accepted and not be “the outcast”. This can be a real issue for bright students. Yet, I’ve really noticed how well the kids get on in my daughter’s class and a number of them have told me that they struggled to fit in at their old school but feel comfortable now. That’s really important. After all, even if you enjoy time on your own, that should be a choice. All these kids get on really well together  and it would be really great to see them stay together and also meet up with similar, like-minded people. From this perspective, selective schools aren’t just about being elitist but also allow birds of a feather to flock together.

What I have also noticed, is that many of the kids in my daughter’s class aren’t just academic high achievers, but they’re also high achievers in other fields like chess, dancing, music and sport. This means that when you get these kids together in a class, you create a fertile breeding ground for all sorts of ideas and skills and it’s not necessarily just about academics. That said, moving into high school, academics is going to become more important.

So, I would really appreciate your prayers for my daughter, her friends and our local kids to get into our local selective school. There’s a lot of talk about kids in Sydney opting for our local selective school as it has a lower entry mark. They can catch the train up from Sydney quite easily. Moreover, they’re heavily tutored when many local families can’t afford that. Local kids who are really bright, probably still make it in and I’m not too sure whether the hoards from Sydney are a fabrication but there’s definitely a contingent and they must be taking away local places.

Anyway, that’s me on my soap box for this weekend. Speaking of the weekend, it’s almost over here and Monday’s looming overhead like a bad smell. Wish it would go away!

How has your week been? I’d love to hear from you

This has been another Weekend Coffee Share  now hosted by Nerd in the Brain and you can click here for the linky.

Best wishes,

xx Rowena

 

 

Weekend Coffee Share 19th February, 2017.

Welcome to Another Weekend Coffee Share.

Usually, I’m here offering you a few rays of sunshine with your coffee. However, this weekend I’m handing out umbrellas and trying to keep us dry. We’ve had a steady flow of thunder storms, lightening and heavy rain since Friday afternoon. So, this weekend, I highly recommend a virtual coffee instead.

How has your week been?

I hope you’ve had a good one.

As you might be aware, we arrived back from Tasmania about 3 weeks ago and I’m still catching up on the holiday. You see, this was no ordinary holiday and as I’ve mentioned before, my husband is Tasmanian and we took the kids down to see and experience where Daddy came from. So, I  took a gazillion photos and I’ve also been working to put together Geoff’s family history capturing as many stories as I can of his parents and grandparents. I’m really enjoying doing it but I’ve been working flat out and ignoring the small stuff which is starting to rise up like Everest around the house. However, as much it’s important to keep on top of these things, it’s also important to know who you are, where you’re from and have a strong sense of family. So, I’m juggling a mountain of stuff and dropping it all and meandering around town half-lost with my head in the past.

Does this ever happen to you?

It’s strange to say that I don’t think I’ve taken any photos in the last week. That feels really weird after taking hundreds of photos every day on our trip. It’s almost like I’ve left part of myself behind in Tassie. Who am I now I’m back? Surely, I have to be more than the proprietor of Mum’s Taxi?!!

Well, I did manage to write a pretty challenging story in response  to quite a dark post on Friday Fictioneers…The Motivational Speaker.

I also caught up on another of our Tasmanian holiday delights…a cider tasting at Spreyton’s Cider: Tasting Tasmania…Spreyton’s Cider.

On that note, I’m going to keep it short this week and turn it over to you.

How was your week?

This has been another Weekend Coffee Share. The Weekend Coffee Share has now moved over to Nerd In the Brain  and you can click here to join in with the link-up.

Best wishes,

Rowena

 

Weekend Coffee Share…12th February, 2017.

Welcome to the Fiery Furnace Weekend Coffee Share!

How are you? How has your week been?

Let’s just say that I have been hot…stinking hot!

Just make sure you’re in the right part of the world, I live in Greater Sydney and we’ve been experiencing extreme heat waves. Indeed, while checking out the details for this post, I found out that our Bureau of Meteorology now has a  Heatwave Forecast Service. While I know it’s been furnace-hot lately (not that I’m prone to extreme fits of melodrama!!), even I’m shocked to find that the heatwave has made itself at home:

“The Heatwave Forecast is a Bureau of Meteorology product that shows the location of heatwaves, severe heatwaves and extreme heatwaves for the last two three-day periods and the next five three-day periods. It uses some analysis Numerical Weather Prediction model data, not the Official Forecast data.”

Indeed, over the last couple of days, I’ve not only sought refuge in anything air-conditioned, I’ve also been listening to my husband’s dire updates. ( I think that’s why he has an iPhone). Anyway, he’s shown me maps of Australia with huge patches shaded in red and then there’s even a darker red. Even though I love the colour and it’s almost Valentine’s Day, that amount of red on any map could only mean disaster!!

Naturally, thoughts of evacuation came to mind. After all, we’re only a long stone’s throw from the beach. However, from my air-conditioned inner sanctum, going anywhere near the beach seemed madness and anything but a refreshing dip. The ocean was boiling and my poor thongs (flip flops) would melt straight into the hot sand. No exaggeration!

Indeed, the heatwave forecast was so bad, that my son’s sailing race was cancelled yesterday.

That’s intense!

Needless to say, I haven’t exactly been functioning on all cylinders in this heat and have been leaning more towards multiple daytime siestas…as well as following up from our trip to Tasmania.

I added two new posts about our trip to Tasmania this week. I’m falling very behind. However, I’ve found myself absorbed in research and had a lot of other things to sort out this week.

Chocolate Tasting

Cheese Temptation at Ashgrove Farm.

I also produce a rather dramatic piece for Friday Fictioneers: When the Mask Cracks…

This week, you could say all my Christmases came at once when my package for the National Disability Insurance Scheme was approved. While I might have the occasional vent about my struggles to access any kind of assistance with my chronic health and disability issues, I don’t say much about it. However, despite raising two young kids with these conditions, I could only qualify for 1.5 hours domestic assistance per week. There are months at a time where I’m barely able to move or leave the house mostly due to bronchitis/pneumonia, but that’s been it. Naturally, that’s put a huge burden on my husband who works and commutes ie a heavy concrete slab. Well, the burden is easing considerably. I have been allocated a generous package and if I use it wisely, it will radically transform my life for the best. This includes free access to occupational therapy, psychology, a mentor and sufficient cleaning. It hasn’t really hit home yet and I’m also conscious that this forward movement is going to involve some uncomfortable “growth” as well. There’s some definite pruning ahead, but I do want these changes. I do. I really do!

Yet, it sitting in my chair basking in the air-conditioning is so easy…

Meanwhile, as I said, I’ve been following up from our trip to Tasmania. As you may be aware, my husband is Tasmanian and we were going down there to show the kids where Daddy came from. Not only that. We were also introducing them to family and friends and also trying to give them some idea of Geoff’s parents. Geoff’s Dad passed away when he was 16 and obviously I never met him and Geoff’s Mum passed away when we’d almost been going out a year. She didn’t live locally and I only met her twice but I did go to her funeral. Unfortunately, I never really got to know her either and have a very limited view to share with the kids. Yet, she has her place in our family. We call her “Gram-Ma”because she was a real stickler for grammar and loved playing Scrabble. Indeed, she used to play using a massive Webster’s dictionary, which was as thick as a brick and this was their authoritative text. In her younger years, she’d been a school teacher.

Anyway, I’ve been spending a fair bit of time since we arrived home, researching Geoff’s Dad. Many of our old newspapers are now available free online. This means that you can easily put someone’s name and location into Trove and get all sorts of results.

One of the things which interested me, was that Geoff’s Dad went to work over in King Island doing some labouring work and I only had a very sketchy idea of his time there. In a sense this doesn’t matter. Yet, once I realised how little I knew about someone who means so much, I had to have a go. If you know me, that means extracting the marrow out of the bone but it never starts out that way. I simply start sniffing.

Anyway, the interesting thing about this King Island, which lies between the Australian Mainland and Tasmania in Bass Strait, is that it makes superlatively fantastic cheese, especially its King Island Brie. It’s also known for it’s superlative beef and seafood. So, going to “cheese island”, even if it is vicariously through my research has appeal.

Geoff’s Dad used to fly in and out of King Island in a DC3 on trips that sounded rather hair-raising. King Island is located in the famed Roaring Forties where you need more than Superglue to keep your hair in place.

Anyway, when I set out on this journey this morning, all I knew was that he was in King Island around 1951-1952 and that’s because he played football there and that was mentioned in the newspaper. I started giving Geoff a bit of a nudge and he was pretty sure he was filling in swampland and that a local earthmover had got the contract. I went back to Trove and lo and behold, I found out that McLennan’s had a contract to build a drain on Egg Lagoon. I was thrilled to find that because I have a strong sense of place and that can make such a difference to the story. I guess I was particularly interested to know whether the ground he worked on was now part of King Island Dairy. Another aspect was that the land he was improving had been given to returned servicemen after WWI and in typical fashion, they’d given them dodgy land which would barely sustain a flea let alone a family. The land around Egg Lagoon was notorious for flooding and equally for government neglect. year after year, the lagoon flooded and year after year the government did nothing. Familiar story…

Anyway, it felt good to be able to know exactly where Geoff’s Dad was working and what he was doing. It gives us something to work on to trigger those family memories as well and I already have a title: “Building King Island”.

The other news at our place, is that the selective schools test is coming up on the 9th March. Our daughter will be sitting for the test and it’s been a bit of a cloud hanging round for the last year. Not necessarily a dark cloud, but definitely something which has been hanging around demanding some kind of “take”. This “take” ranges from having intensive tutoring and hot housing your child because “they must get in”, to “we’ll give it a go. It doesn’t matter either way” and “it’s not something you can study for.” I have been striving to travel somewhere in between these positions. She has had tutoring for a few months and I’ve bought the test books and we have used them a little but we also went away for 3 weeks in the holidays and her dance commitments are fairly intensive. I haven’t wanted to turn her into some kind of test robot with very narrow, tunnel vision. Rather, I’ve been wanting both our kids to be more rounded. See the bigger picture. This seems very logical to me and I know she’ll be better off in the long run. Yet, at the same time I know she’ll be competing with the robots and it’s very tempting to get sucked into that, especially when she’s currently in a selective class and will need to “get in” to stay with her friends.

So, as  you can see, even though I haven’t been all that physically active in the last week, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking.

I hope that you and yours have had a good week and I thank you for joining me for another weekend coffee share. You can click here for the link up. I would like to thank Diana over at https://parttimemonsterblog.com/ for launching the Weekend Coffee Share and putting so much in to build it up to what it is today. From next week, it will be hosted by Emily over at Nerd in the Brain.

Best wishes,

Rowena

 

 

 

 

Weekend Coffee Share… 5th February, 2017

Welcome to Another Weekend Coffee Share!

How are you? I hope you’ve had a great week.

Tonight, I’m encouraging  you to join me for a taste of Tasmania. I’m currently savouring Ashgrove Farm’s Lavender Cheese on crackers and sipping on a bottle of Spreyton’s Hard Ginger Beer. Neither of these delicacies are available locally but given the number of locals visiting Tasmania, I can see them being trafficked back. However, if things get desperate, I can get the Lavender cheese posted up. Meanwhile, I’ll just have to feast on their Wasabi cheese. It’s a tough job, but somebody’s gotta do it.

It’s great to finally catch up with you again.

Last weekend, we returned from 3 weeks’ holiday in Tasmania. While I had no intention of writing away our holiday, I was hoping to upload more to the blog. However, we had woeful Internet access. Indeed, my mobile phone was even out of action most of the time. So, I’m frantically trying to post about our holiday so I can finally make it home on the blog. We’re currently driving back from Port Arthur to Devonport in blog time although we’ve now  been back for a week.

Last Monday, was what I call the start of the real New Year. That’s when the kids go back to school after the long Summer break and when all those resolutions really come home to roost. Of course, we’re supposed to be 200% organized for the new school year with their uniforms all clean and pressed, shoes together all brand spanking new,  and pens, papers, bags, lunches all ready to roll.

You know the drill.

However, it looks like we’ll be winging the return to school. The Spirit of Tasmania pulled into Melbourne at 6.00AM Saturday. This was followed by the long drive back home and we arrived home at about 7.00PM with one day to hope and pray we’d be ready for school.

Fortunately, we passed muster.

Since getting back from Tasmania, I’ve slowly been blogging about the trip. This has involved a lot of background research, especially about the World Heritage Listed Port Arthur Convict Site. Unfortunately, we only had half a day at Port Arthur. Although I’ve been there before, it was nowhere near long enough. The research was very enlightening and it better not be another 20 years before I get back.

Port Arthur…A Family Relic.

Harbour Cruise, Port Arthur.

The Chapel, Port Arthur

The Chaplain’s Voice 1870-1876

Up The Garden Path

Government Cottage

William Smith O’Brien…An Irish Rebel At Port Arthur.

I hope you get a chance to join me on our travels around Tasmania. It really is paradise.

This has been another contribution for the Weekend Coffee Share hosted by Diana over at  Part-Time Monster.

xx Rowena

Harbour Cruise, Port Arthur, Tasmania.

In hindsight, I don’t know how we could’ve allowed so little time to explore Port Arthur. Once we’d arrived and seen that our entry passes were valid for two days, it became immediately obvious that we’d seriously under-estimated the time to do it properly. Now that we’re home and goodness knows when we’ll get back, I have my regrets. Yet, at the same time, you can only absorb so much history in three weeks. Indeed, you can’t absorb all of Tasmania in 3 weeks either, especially when you’re scratching beneath the surface. Moreover, with Geoff being Tasmanian, we also had a lot of friends and family to catch up with …and there was so much catching up to do!

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So, when it came to doing the harbour cruise at Port Arthur, we had to stay on board without getting off to explore the Isle of the Dead of Point Puer. I don’t like missing out. However, we missed out on so much in the end that we’ll be back sooner rather than later.

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So, this is but a very brief photographic tour accompanied by a very simple footnote.

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This photo was taken about 15 years after James Newton arrived, giving a fairly good idea of what it looked like when he arrived.

As we pulled out of Port Arthur on the ferry and the expanse of water between use and the prison ruins expanded, I thought about how Geoff’s 3rd Great Grandfather, James Newton, would’ve felt as his ship sailed into Port Arthur. Coming from notorious Norfolk Island, he’d been initiated into the cruel hardship of the convict system. Yet, was there still that sense of dread? Or, was the relief or even hope that it might be better there? I don’t know. He obviously didn’t send us a postcard: “Having a wonderful time. Wish you were here!”

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Like so much of Port Arthur, the harbour cruise was very scenic, relaxing and you really had to remind yourself that this place was hell on earth. Not only for the convicts, but also for the victims of the Port Arthur Massacre, their families, service personnel and locals. It has such stunning natural beauty, that it’s too easy to forget.

So, we hope you’ll be able to get down to Port Arthur sometime and experience the cruise yourself (along with everything else!!)

xx Rowena

The Chapel at Port Arthur.

Hauntingly photogenic, the Chapel at Port Arthur stops you in your tracks…especially once you delve into its past. After all, this Chapel witnessed such horrific, systemic brutality,  that it’s hard to conceive how Christianity had any place here. Indeed, I can almost hear those convicts crying out: My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?”

As I explained in my previous post, we visited the Chapel on our recent visit to Port Arthur. If you didn’t know its history,  you could easily describe it as a work of art with its striking silhouette representing resilience over adversity and withstanding the ageing effects of time. Moreover, whether you believe in them or not, these ruins definitely speak of ghosts!

Last night, I went trawling through old newspaper accounts about the chapel and thought I’d provide a few excerpts to give you a feel for its former horrors and glories.

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In 1842, the late Mr. David Burn, of Rotherwood, Ouse, made an excursion to Port Arthur and his account of attending the Chapel is very interesting:

“Next day (January 9,1842) being Sunday, we proceeded, after breakfast, to see the convicts mustered prior to their being marched to church. They were drawn up in three lines, each gang forming a separate division, the overseers (convicts) taking their stations in the rear. It was hideous to remark the countenances of the men, to which their yellow raiment, a half black, half yellow, P.A., and their respective numbers stamped in various parts, imparts a sinister, a most revolting expression. Scarcely one open set of features was to be found. To read’ their eyes, it seemed as though they were speculating the chance of gain or advantage to be hoped from us. Crime and its consequences were fearfully depicted in their ill-omened visages, and we turned from the disagreeable caricature of humanity with as much disgust as pity and regret.

Muster over, the men were marched with the utmost silence to church, whither we shortly followed — a military detachment, with loaded arms, being so stationed as to command the entire building. This necessary arrangement in a great degree destroyed the solemnity of the worship. The crew of the Favorite were present, their frank, manly, jovial countenances offering a striking contrast to the lowering aspects of the miserable yellow jackets. Service was performed by our fellow- traveller, the Rev. Mr. Simpson ; and the occasion being in aid of the Sunday schools, the worthy pastor took the opportunity of remarking, that as cash was a scarce commodity on the settlement, the I O U of any individual disposed to contribute would be gladly received, an observation which excited a general grin, since, however beneficial it might prove to the cause, the expression seemed more fit for the gaming table than the pulpit ; the language, nevertheless, was soon forgotten in the motive.

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The Church of Port Arthur is a beautiful, spacious, hewn stone edifice, cruciform in shape, with, pinnacled tower and gables. Internally, it is simple, but neatly fitted, affording accommodation for upwards of 2,000 sitters. There is no organ ; but a choir has been selected from among the convicts, who chant the psalms with considerable effect. As yet no clergyman of the Established Church has been resident, the religious duties having hitherto been undertaken by those zealous and indefatigable Christians the Wesleyans. Mr. Manton is the present respected pastor, a gentleman who has devoted himself not only to call the sinners of Port Arthur to repentance, but who has erstwhile laboured earnestly in the same good cause at the now abandoned settlement of Macquarie Harbour.1″

On Saturday 12 January, 1952…. this account of the Chapel’s history appeared in the Newcastle Morning Herald and Miners’ Advocate:

“The church is noted for its high arches and soaring spires. It is of artistically worked freestone, and has a paved floor. Fire and time have ravaged the timber and the fine stained-glass windows. A convict named Mason was credited with having designed the church, but investigations have shown that it was designed by James Blackburn, who was later Town Surveyor of Melbourne. The church was interdenominational, and therefore never consecrated. It could accommodate 2000. Legend has it that residents of the area almost lynched a farmer who started a fire, a spark of which caught the roof and gutted it and the interior timber of the church.”2.

You wouldn’t know it looking at the Chapel now, but it was once covered in ivy.

As The Clipper reported on Saturday 22 April, 1893:

“Anyone who has been to Port Arthur, or has seen a photograph of the church, must acknowledge that the building owed much of its beauty to the enormous quantity of ivy which covered its outside walls. The preservation of this ivy was of much interest to the residents, but towards the latter days of the settlement, when discipline grew lax, the officials allowed their goats to graze within the church enclosure, which ate the leaves and tender shoots away as high as they could reach while standing erect on their hind legs. Although so thick on most parts of the wall there was one spot where it never grew at all — which was often a subject of remark by visitors and others. The reason given is not generally known. While the church was in process of erection by prison labor and when almost finished two prisoners were fixing the leads upon the roof, when they had a quarrel. The one knocked the other down, who fell heavily to the ground and was killed. In falling he struck the building, his blood staining the ground below. It is a curious fact, but the ivy never grew on that spot.”3.

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However, my newspaper journey exploring all these fascinating historical details, has in swamped what was OUR visit to the chapel. As I’ve mentioned before, Geoff’s third Great Grandfather served as a convict at Port Arthur. Therefore, as we explored and experienced every single nook and cranny, we were thinking of him. Indeed, we were family coming back to a very strange sense of home.

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Therefore, as I photograph the chapel perfectly silhouetted against an azure sky, I think of him hoping that against the odds, he might have found some solace here.

What are your thoughts about the ruins of Port Arthur?

xx Rowena

Sources

  1. Launceston Advertiser (Tas. : 1829 – 1846) Thursday 26 January 1843 p 4 (From Frazer’s Magazine, for September. J Concluded).

2. Saturday 12 January, 1952 the Newcastle Morning Herald and Miners’ Advocate.

3. The Clipper (Hobart, Tas. : 1893 – 1909) Saturday 22 April 1893 p 4 Article

 

Port Arthur, Tasmania…A Family Relic.

When James Newton went on a thieving rampage on the night of 11th October, 1843 I wonder if he considered the possibility of being caught and sentenced to 14 years transportation?

I doubt it.

Indeed, it doesn’t look like he was “thinking” very much at all.

Although James Newton seemed to be doing alright (he could apparently read and his occupation was Quarryman), he stole a lot more than the proverbial “loaf of bread”. When he was tried at the Hereford Assizes On the 21st March, 1844, it turned out that he and his mate had burgled three separate dwellings in one night and had quite a haul.

James Newton was sentenced to 14 years transportation and sent to London’s Millbank Prison. On 8th July, 1844 he left Woolich on board The Agincourt. With authorities taking a tough stance against theft, he was initially given the harsher penalty of being sent to Norfolk Island with a view of being transferred to Port Arthur down the track.

Naturally, getting caught had consequences and James Newton moved from being a free man, into a system of discipline and punishment and debate about moral and prison reform. Indeed, questions were being asked about whether the “criminal class” could actually be reformed.

So, when James Newton arrived at Port Arthur, he was at the mercy of “the system”.

As yet, I don’t know how long James Newton spent at Port Arthur before being consigned to John Connell at Oatlands. However, from 1848, harsh physical punishment within Port Arthur was rejected in favour of punishment of the mind. Flogging gave way to solitary confinement and the Separate Prison was built at Port Arthur in 1850. Cruciform-shaped, each of the four wings comprised a central corridor flanked by rows of solitary confinement cells. Separated by thick sandstone walls, it was hoped that the convicts would benefit from contemplative silence and separation. This design was based on  Jeremy Bentham’s model prison, Panopticon. Indeed, Bentham himself described the Panopticon as “a new mode of obtaining power of mind over mind, in a quantity hitherto without example.”[1] Elsewhere, in a letter, he described the Panopticon prison as “a mill for grinding rogues honest”.[2]

On January 8th, 1887,the Illustrated Australian News reported that:

“Port Arthur  was considered to be the most secure prison in the island. Surrounded almost on every side with water which teemed with sharks, its only connection with the mainland; by Eagle Hawk Neck being guarded by chains of sentinels and ferocious blood hounds, it well deserved the trust reposed in it by the convict authorities, for few were the escapes, that took place from it. Even old hands that had broken prison time after time recognised the fact and took for their motto: “All hope abandon ye who enter here.”1.

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Knowing that a member of your family endured this physical and psychological brutality for any length of time at all, is disturbing. Yet, you really have to look pretty hard to see any signs of that on a gorgeous sunny day where the prison ruins take on a rugged, artistic beauty, the gardens are magnificent and there’s even the luxury of a cricket pitch.

Anyway, returning to our visit to Port Arthur.
Unfortunately, by the time we’d admired the Tasman Peninsula, that we only had half a day left for Port Arthur. This meant we seriously had to rationalise our visit. We went on the walking tour and harbour cruise (which are both included with your entry fee) and then we decided to focus on the Chapel. From there I made a quick dash into the Chaplain’s cottage, which also housed some interesting convict artifacts.
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Geoff and Miss on board the ferry cruise.

To do the place justice, I’ll be visiting each of these locations in a separate post.
The Chapel
Meanwhile, I should let you know that things turned out pretty well for James Newton in the end. On the 22nd September, 1853 James married a free settler, Bridget Vaughan,  and they went on to have 6 children and own their own farm in Campbell Town. James had his conditional pardon approved 4th October, 1853.
Stay tuned.
xx Rowena

Sources

Illustrated Australian News (Melbourne, Vic. : 1876 – 1889) Saturday 8 January 1887 p 10 Article

http://www.jenwilletts.com/convict_ship_agincourt_1844.htmhttp:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Panopticon

http://portarthur.org.au/history/the-convict-era/