Transportation: Australia bound

convicts sent to australiaI am often drawn to matters in history when writing my books, more recently regarding the transportation of UK convicts to Australia.

Most people are aware that during the late 18th and 19th centuries UK felons were transported to Australia to what was known as Botany Bay and what became modern day Australia.

Some even believe that the term pom comes from the initials ‘POHM’ stamped on clothing and equipment used by English convicts. It meant Prisoner Of His/Her Majesty and marked out felons transported to Australia.

Searching for relatives amongst British convicts sent to Australia in your family tree has become somewhat the ‘norm’, and there is a wealth of resources to help you do this.

The history 

The thirteen colonies as they were originally known were the New England colonies along the Eastern sea board of what became the United States of America.

Emigrants to these colonies from the British Isles were not only free men and women but often indentured servants and individuals transported for criminal offences which had the useful effect not only of increasing the population of the youthful colony but also removing them from England’s shores.

Convicts were transported from as early as the 1610’s until the American Revolution in the 1770’s.  The number of convicts transported to North America is thought to be by some authorities 50,000 individuals although it has also been put as high as over 100,000 individuals.

Those transported included not only convicts but also individuals taken as prisoners in battle from Ireland and Scotland some of whom were even sold as slaves to the Southern States of America.

The American Revolutionary War brought transportation to America to an end and the British Government was forced to look elsewhere which is why from 1787 convicts were transported to Australia which continued until it was officially ended in 1868, although it had become uncommon some years before that.

Convict Transportation Registers 1788-1868 from Ancestry.com.au include some notable figures:

  • 39% of male and 35% of female convicts had no prior convictions
  • 70% were English, 24% Irish, 5% Scottish and 1% from other parts of the Empire
  • The oldest convict transported was over 60 years of age and the youngest just nine years old
  • 85% were male and 15% female
  • The majority of convicts were illiterate and convicted for crimes of poverty (theft)
  • When transportation ended, 40% of Australia’s English speaking population were convicts

When the last shipment of convicts disembarked in Western Australia in 1868, more than 160,000 convicts had been transported to the continent.

‘Prince of pickpockets’

The journey to Australia by boat took eight months and the majority of the convicts were men. Although a small number had been found guilty of serious crimes such as murder and assault, most had committed minor offences.

Among the thousands of convicts detailed in the collection are a number of infamous criminals including Israel Chapman, a highwayman who later became one of New South Wales’s first police detectives.

The journey of George Barrington – the so-called ‘prince of pickpockets’ – is also there. He was a gentleman thief who received an absolute pardon in 1796 after helping to quell a mutiny during the voyage.

Do you have a distant relative descending from these times of transportation?

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Reading- a window on the world

William the detectiveThe first book I remember reading was bought for me by my mother’s parents on my 11th birthday in 1958.

That I could read was not in doubt, but how that came about I now have no recollection.  The book was called ‘William the Detective’, written by Richmal Crompton who wrote a whole series of books about the adventures of William and his gang of friends, Douglas, Henry and Ginger, who together called themselves ‘The Outlaws’.

I still have the book and even now if I chance to read a page or two, I am struck by the beauty of her writing, her wisdom and her wit.  I don’t know what it was about that book, which was an unusual present in our family, but as soon as I opened it and began to read the first page, I was captured by the magic of the written word and my interest thus gained.

I had discovered the key to a world that I would otherwise have never known existed.  For me reading was not only infinitely pleasurable, but a window on the world, which to this day is still full of the most wonderful discoveries waiting for me to come upon them.

After that I scarcely had my nose out of a book.  I remember some years later when we were being visited at home by my mother’s elder brother, Vic, and his family, I was sitting behind the sofa on the floor reading as usual.

My mother felt this was impolite since we had guests and told me to stop.  Her brother, a man of very few words, said quietly, ‘Leave the boy alone.  That’s how you learn things, reading.’

How right my Uncle Vic was, bless him.

THIS SPORTING LIFE – PART 1

skinnny-young-boy.jpg-smallI was never any good at sport at school.  Double games lessons when football or cricket were played were a torment.

One’s innate lack of ability was soon recognised by the better sportsmen who were invariably selected by the teacher to be the team captains and who then alternately picked their teams from the gaggle of youths shivering in their shorts and plimsolls.

Naturally, they selected the best players who were quickly nabbed, followed by the rump of indifferent players and leaving invariably last of all myself and one other youth, a gangly, freckly boy christened the ‘stick insect’ by the sports teacher.

Being the last to be selected was by no means the worst humiliation.  Far worse was having to endure the argument that then ensured between the team captains, neither of whom wanted either of us on their side.

‘Go on,’ one would shout at the other, ‘I’ll have the stick insect and you can have Weed.’  This last comment was a reference to my nickname at school.

‘Oh no!’ the other would yell back.  ‘I ‘ad ‘I’m last week.’

Eventually, the dispute would be resolved by the sports teacher and I would be placed in one team or another and then stuck in goal, that being the place where I could be reckoned to do the least damage to the team’s chances.

This, however, rested on the assumption that the opposing team would never get through the defence.  Sadly, this proved to be an arrogant error on the part of my team captain because sure enough the time came when, despite the superior skills of my team, the other team won the ball and came charging down the field towards goal and towards me standing uncertainly on the goal line.

When my team recovered themselves sufficiently to recognise that the unthinkable had happened, they all, with one voice, turned and yelled at me, ‘Stop them!’

Quite how that was to be achieved was not mentioned, but as luck would have it when a gloating opponent came charging towards me, savouring the prospect of an easy goal, he kicked the ground instead of the ball and fell flat on his face, the ball trickling at a snail’s pace into my hands.

Exultant, I held the ball aloft.  It was my moment of triumph which went straight  to my head and instead of clearing the ball, drunk the power I foolishly held on to it not wanting the triumphant moment to pass.

That was my undoing.  My enraged opponent had risen to his feet and charged at me like a wild bull.  I remonstrated by wagging my finger at him and calling him ‘a naughty boy’, but as I did so I inadvertently stepped back over the goal line.

‘Goal!’ shrieked our opponents as one man fell to the ground laughing hysterically, whilst my team’s joy at my success in saving the goal turned to fury.

It cannot often be the case that a goalkeeper is carried from the pitch on the shoulders of the opposing team.  That is what happened to me.

Given my ineptitude at both team games and ball games, it is surprising that I took up polo at the age of 50, but more of that later.

The Kindle-ing- To keep the author fire burning

The Kindle-ing- To keep the author fire burning

The Kindle-ing- To keep the author fire burning

There was a time–and not all that long ago–when self-publishing was considered nothing short of blasphemy and with the ‘one stop shop’ offering from publishers being hard to refuse what else would you do?

Well, that was then. Today, self-publishing has become a billion-dollar juggernaut. So with that last year I embarked on a journey, and what I have found was more complex than Quantum Reality.

Igniting the fire

Having the fortunate driver of ‘just because’ behind me I was in an advantageous position. My aim was to share my stories, being a bestselling author was not (although I wouldn’t say no!)

So my first book ‘The Retainer’ was published in April 2013, followed by ‘A Hero of Our Times’. I had no real idea of how my stories would be perceived but some early glowing reviews gave me the gentle nudge to ‘keep calm and carry on’.

And I’ve enjoyed it….

Exploring new fireplaces

It gave me an excuse to delve into the world of social media as a means of communicating my work and join the online Indie Author community, it’s also quite a pleasurable way of depositing ones daily thoughts.

I have learnt all manner of technical skills such as ‘what on earth is a pdf’ and also what that wheel on the top of the mouse was for – yes I was using the keyboard arrows prior to this revelation (not even the scroll bar)

I have found blogging delightful!

Blogging provides substance for social media and an aperture for the ‘surplus to requirements’ short stories or tales of years gone by. The lure of fellow bloggers postings is also quite formidable and often diverts my attention.

Utilising the many relevant on-line habitations of readers and writers is a highland I am finding an ongoing and changing expedition. Helpfully for every suitable outlet there are hundreds of blogs, articles and social media accounts to promote them, so they are not hard to find.

One of the single most successful things I have done to date has been to utilise the facility via Amazon of offering my books for free on chosen days via Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP).

My first free promotion saw over 400 downloads in 24 hours!

Yes I know I made no money from it, yes I know the appeal of the book being free is often enough for someone to download it regardless whether they are interested in the genre or book description, but just imagine if even 5% of those 400 wrote a review on Amazon!

With rankings being heavily review led that opportunity is not to be sniffed at!

Maintaining the burn

So now I am in full swing with my author journey, I can hashtag with the best of them and use a mouse properly, what’s next?

The procurement of some all-important ISBN codes will I hope open up some more boulevards for distributing my books.

I also hope to locate some time for literacy consumption now that I have freed up some space in the grey matter!

How is your Indie Author journey going?

The closing executions

highwayman.jpg-smallA man called Robert Snooks who is reputed to be the last highwayman to be hanged for robbery died in the best highwayman tradition.  The Judge at his trial directed that he be hanged at the scene of his last crime on Boxmoor, a wild area as it once was near modern day Hemel Hempstead in Hertfordshire.

The highwayman made his last journey to Boxmoor, apparently in good spirits and stopped at a public house which is still there known as The Swan Inn on Box Lane to have a last glass of ale.  As some spectators on the way to the execution passed by he is said to have called out:

“Don’t hurry – there’ll be no fun till I get there!”.

The final address

Before being hanged Snooks gave a final address to the assembled crowd which was recorded as follows:

“Good people, I beg your particular attention to my fate.  I hope this lesson will be of more service to you than the gratification of the curiosity which brought you here.
I beg to caution you against evil doings, and most earnestly entreat you to avoid too evils, namely Disobedience to Parents – to you youths I particularly give this caution – and, The Breaking Of The Sabbath.
These misdeeds lead to the worst of crimes: robbery, plunder, bad women and every evil cause.

It may by some be thought a happy state to be in possession of fine clothes and plenty of money but I assure you no one can be happy with ill-gotten treasure.
I have often been riding on my horse and passed a cottager’s door whom I have seen dressing his greens and perhaps had hardly a morsel to eat with them.  He has very likely envied me in my station, who although at the time in possession of abundance was miserable and unhappy.  I envied him and with most reason for his happiness and contentment.

I can assure you there is no happiness but in doing good.  I justly suffer for my offences and hope it will be a warning to others.  I die in peace with god and all the world.”

All is gone but the pudding stone

The eloquent Snooks was then hanged and buried in a grave nearby.  Two pieces of pudding stone, which is a particular type of Hertfordshire stone, mark the spot.

Most people will be familiar with the oft quoted line from Shakespeare’s King Henry Vl, namely the remark by the ploter of treachery Dick the Butcher who says:

“The first thing we do, let’s kill all the lawyers”.

Many people have enjoyed repeating this. Few people will be aware that the last Solicitor in the British Isles to be hanged was one Herbert Rowse Armstrong who was hanged in 1923 for murder.

It seems that lawyers are universally unpopular.  It is said that the last mafia boss to be electrocuted when asked if he had a final request said:

“Would you please put my lawyer in my lap”.

How unkind.

The mark of our time

The famous artist Andy Warhol said:- “In the future everybody will be world famous for 15 minutes”.

warhol-future1-small

In this world of short lived media publicity or celebrity of an individual or phenomenon, the prediction rings true but the reality is otherwise.

The overwhelming majority of humanity will be born, live and die in anonymity at least as far as the wider world is concerned beyond their own family and friends. 

The same is true of those who went before us.  Perhaps a faded photograph or two of somebody you might remember as a grandparent but in the photograph looking impossibly young and optimistic.  How did they leave their mark on the world?

The answer in my opinion is very much the same as you or I, by quietly getting on with it, working throughout their lives, supporting their families and when they eventually died leaving behind them only their flesh and blood as an inheritance for their descendants.
No matter how important we might consider that we are, even in this world of instant and mass communication, our lives are essentially no different to theirs in that respect.

In the wider sense of leaving a mark, we are surrounded every day by the marks of our forebears.  In the countryside it is largely manmade and man shaped and in the towns and cities all of which reflect the work of generations which went before us.

As you grow older and have more perspective on life, you cannot help but admire and in so doing honour the memory of all those unsung and largely anonymous individuals who quietly got on with it and did what had to be done before passing on the baton to the next generation that took their place.

They live, locked in our memories, as long as we do and when we pass, perhaps successive generations may at least for a while remember us.  We can hope for no more.

I hope you enjoyed my interpretation of what it means to leave your mark, and honour those before you.

Writing is deliberately taking over

tree-roots.jpg-smallWhat was once an occasional pursuit has slowly and deliberately crept its way into every aspect of my life like the roots of a determined perennial.

I now keep a table at my office especially for my creative endeavours, where from time to time when in need of a change of scene I go and sit down and write a little more of whatever story I am currently engaged with.

I normally write 1,000 – 2,000 words before stopping and then returning to do some of the “day job”. I am often amazed at my ability to jump in and out of a story with ease. However unexpected, I enjoy the balance between the two, the one providing a distraction and even relaxation from the other.

I do of course write at home as well when the opportunity presents itself but again would not normally write more than about 1,000 words at a time.

I often do not know what I am going to write next and in fact that is usually the case.  What I do is make sure I remember the last line that I have written and then think about something else and by the time I sit down to write again my subconscious imagination has had sufficient time to sort things out and the next part of the story comes out. It’s a bit like waiting for the birth of a baby.  It comes out at its own rate and won’t be hurried but if you are patient then it arrives naturally.

I don’t need to go and isolate myself in some silent room or library to be able to write.  I simply think about a story and write about it surrounded by people doing other things, just as you might read a book or listen to the radio under similar circumstances.

I wonder what will be next in my journey.