Descendants of (mostly) convicts – and they’re proud of it


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Tales, exchanged over espresso and fruitcake, emerge of the colony’s first farmer, the commissary who was awarded a big chunk of Woolloomooloo – after which misplaced it, and, we like a little bit of gore, the primary official hangman.

Have they no disgrace? After all not. There was a time, solely a era or so in the past, when such issues would not be mentioned in well mannered society, if in any respect. Convict disgrace, nevertheless, has develop into convict stylish.

The first fleet enters Botany Bay, 18 January 1788 .

The primary fleet enters Botany Bay, 18 January 1788 .Credit score:Mary Evans Image Library

A tutorial paper, Convict Ancestry: a uncared for side of Australian Id, printed in 2003 within the journal of Nations and Nationalism, said: “…the ‘hated stain’ of convict ancestry is senescent, and can diminish with intergenerational substitute.”

Because the 1988 bicentenary, it provides: “It grew to become more and more trendy to uncover a convict ancestor. Early arrivals, particularly on the primary fleet, have been notably welcome finds with convict ancestry ‘some of the sought-after prizes of genealogical inquiry’.”

Brad Argent, spokesman of family tree web site Ancestry, mentioned there was a time when the ‘convict stain’ was very a lot hidden.

“I’ve heard tales of politician’s (traditionally) disposing of data to cover the disgrace of a convict ancestor,” he mentioned.

“I feel the cultural turning level was Season 1 (2007) of WDYTYA (Who do you suppose you’re?) the place Jack Thompson, upon discovering his convict ancestry, proudly proclaimed them as ‘Australian Royalty’.”

The Botany Bay chapter will lengthen from Cooks River to Waterfall and to Cronulla. Jon Fearon, president of the Fellowship, mentioned: “We hope folks in that space will discover the enjoyment of belonging to a chapter collectively as first fleeters.”

There was definitely a pleasure evident in extending a few of these exceptional private tales to a wider viewers.

Rebecca Moody, a instructor of languages from Peakhurst, provided the story of John Palmer who arrived in Australia on the flagship HMS Sirius, which additionally carried Captain Arthur Phillip.

“He was the purser, the availability particular person, he grew to become the Commissar of NSW as a result of the previous commissar could not do his job,” she mentioned. “The place the Artwork Gallery of NSW is, that is the place they have been positioned. He was granted land in Woolloomooloo, so he owned all of Woolloomooloo, he had a windmill to grind grain and he had some ships that did sealing.

Rebecca Moody, descendant of James Palmer with Margaret Lacey, descendant of the first hangman.

Rebecca Moody, descendant of James Palmer with Margaret Lacey, descendant of the primary hangman.Credit score:Louise Kennerley.

“He was concerned with Bligh and Macquarie tried to eliminate Bligh. He was having a dinner with Bligh that night time once they got here in and dragged Bligh out from beneath the mattress. [Palmer] had to return to England and testify in court docket concerning the rum revolt and Bligh. As a result of he left, he left his his property it acquired rundown and misplaced worth.”

She added: “We did not get something. It is gone. It acquired bought to someone else. I’m actually pleased with all of the issues that he did and to be a descendant of his.”

Additionally doing his bit to assist feed the fledgling colony was James Ruse, the primary farmer and 5 occasions nice grandfather of Margaret McLennan.

She mentioned: “There’s James Ruse Drive out Parramatta approach, Ruse the suburb and James Ruse Agricultural Excessive Faculty. He was a farmer again in Cornwall. He was convicted of stealing two watches.

Margaret McLennan, descendant of  James Ruse, at the inaugural meeting of Botany Bay Chapter of the Fellowship of the First Fleet.

Margaret McLennan, descendant of James Ruse, on the inaugural assembly of Botany Bay Chapter of the Fellowship of the First Fleet. Credit score:Louise Kennerley

“He got here out right here and put his hand up when Arthur Phillip mentioned we want someone to attempt to assist us with provides. He began the farm out at Harris Park with solely two crops , maize and corn I feel it was. He tilled the soil and burnt ash within the soils as a fertiliser and he supposedly made a hand plough.

“My grandparents stored it quiet. My mom was proper into it. She took herself off to uni and did an Australian historical past course.”

Margaret Lacey had a narrative considerably darker. James Freeman grew up on the streets of Hertfordshire. He was charged with stealing as a highwayman with different “gents”. He was then sentenced to hold.

“At that age, he was 16, the decide commuted it to transportation so he spent greater than 12 months on the hulks on the Thames after which travelled on the Alexander within the first fleet. Within the early phases of the colony they’d a famine and did not know when provides have been coming. [Governor] Phillip in the reduction of the rations and he [Freeman] and one other chap have been caught stealing flour.

“His companion, in crime, was hung beside him and he had the noose round his neck himself and Phillip realised at this stage that he was a younger man, he was 18, and he wanted younger males to construct the colony.

“Phillip made him the supply, his plea cut price you would possibly say, that he was by no means to go away the colony however he was to develop into his hangman as a result of the earlier particular person completely botched the job.”

She mentioned she had learnt the element of the hangman story about 10 years in the past. “I believed it was fantastic Australian historical past. I used to be completely thrilled. I do not suppose my mother and father would have been.”

Tim Barlass is a Senior Author for The Sydney Morning Herald

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