|A nonchalant looking Meagher standing on the right
at Kilmainham 1849
Transportation to Australia commenced in the year 1787/8, following the loss of the American colony. It was used as a punishment for even the most basic of crimes and many were transported even from our own city and harbour. According to historian Ged Martin, 3 Waterford people were among the first to be transported on a ship called the Queen. Two of them, Sarah Brazile and Michael Murphy were just 18. After the 1798 rebellion, prisoners held at New Geneva were marched along the Crooke road to Passage East and via lighter downriver to an awaiting ship at Duncannon. To prevent escape, cannon were trained on the lighters from Duncannon fort.(1) I’d imagine the ship would transport the prisoners to Cork for the deep sea voyage.
|The First Feet arriving at (Port Jackson) Sydney January 1788
accessed from http://www.valeofeveshamhistory.org/talks/
The British took possession of Van Diemens Land in 1803 when 33 convicts and 16 soldiers and officials established a small settlement on the Derwent River. Convicts were initially transported in ordinary merchant ships where conditions were basic, if not outright inhumane. Men and women were housed below decks, sometimes behind bars, and fresh air and exercise was at the discretion of the Captain. Many died on the trips from scurvy, dysentery and typhoid, although many others must have perished from harsh treatment and neglect. From the 1840’s a more “enlightened routine” was employed and Captains were paid a bonus on the basis of getting convicts safely to the colony.
|Australian chain gang accessed from:
Meagher initially settled down to a gentleman’s existence but would later escape and go on to even greater exploits in the Americas. Transportation would still be a penalty for the most basic of crimes up to 1868. Between the dates of 1788 and 1868 its estimated that 162,000 souls endured transportation. A further estimate says that 1/4 of that number were Irish. In an effort to distance itself from its convict past, Van Diemens land was renamed Tasmania in 1856.
For a full list of the events happening this weekend in Waterford visit the 1848 tricolour webpage
My thanks to James Doherty for information on Meagher.
(1) Jim Hegarty. Time and Tide. A short history of Passage East
My previous blogs on the Meagher family:
The Rebel Students return 1843
The man with four graves but no body