There were around 167,000 convicts transported to Australia from the UK and now Republic of Ireland
My Great Grandfather and his brother were two of them.
Driven by the horrors and starvation of the Irish Famine, they resorted to stealing cattle and were sentenced to transportation to Australia for 10 years.
They arrived by ship in Fremantle in 1853 after a long and torturous voyage.
The gates of Fremantle Gaol greeted them. Built by convict slave labour to incarcerate convicts. Its a World Heritage Site along other buildings built by convict labour.
So I thought I should visit the spirit of my forebears
A wing of the old Fremantle Gaol has been turned into hostel accomodation. I booked a cell.
A double cell in fact as the wall between every second cell was knocked out to allow enough room to fit a modern single bed in.
So did my spirit mingle with my Great grand father’s? Well I don’t know but thoughts of him and his story of marrying and moving east as a frontier pioneer have certainly permeated my mind. Since I was in Fremantle.
The Round House a prison fort was the first public building in the new Swan River Settlement later to become Perth.
The Fremantle Gaol soon followed as a major public building.
Fremantle is now a major port city of many beautiful historic building
But in 1853 the sight would have been very different for the 309 convicts who arrived with my Great grandfather.
After 110 days sailing from England on a putrid sailing vessel, where 10 convicts had died on voyage, the land that greeted them was dry brown and barren compared to Ireland.
But their home had been gripped with famine since 1845. During ‘The Famine’ its estimated 1 million Irish people died from hunger or disease related to malnutrition and another 1 million migrated to America, Australia and other destinations to escape starvation and British brutality.
For some of the convicts, the sight of the Australian landscape must have been frightening for others a lucky escape from a desperate life.
Their ship arrived in September, the start of Spring in Australia but where they came from the start of Autumn and the cold wet months of Winter. Did they even know that the next months would be hot and dry. Hotter than they had ever experienced.
My Great grandfather was convicted at the age of 20. Since 15 he had only known hunger. After being imprisoned for two years he was transported and at 22 he landed in the Great Southern Land.
So dear friends and followers now that I’m back in Melbourne and can publish from a laptop rather than a smartphone. I will take you, in the next few posts, from Fremantle on the trek of an Irish/ Australian convict pioneer as he and his family moved east with the expanding frontier of the Western Australian Colony in the second half of the 1800s.