Category Archives: Convicts

Reader comment Prison Hulk to Redemption

Comment: Barry Fitzgerald (Denham Court NSW)
I bought your book because I like the title Prison Hulk to Redemption, but did not read the review in the Annals. It is one of the few history books that I have read and do not recall being taught Australian history at school.

I have written about my ancestors since they arrived in Australia in the early nineteenth century, but in far less detail than in your book.

Before we left Sydney in 1936 to live on a property on the Darling Downs in Queensland, I can recall very few instances instances when fun was made of me because of my Catholic school uniform. However I can recall my aunts and uncles referring to problems they were having because they were Catholics. But after reading your book I am inclined to believe it was more to do with the economy and the belief that the English were a superior class to the Irish.

[The chapter] ‘Bit and Pieces’ is superb and reminded me of my childhood at Jimbour. Our exploits and adventures were not as daring.

Thank you for the opportunity to learn more about early Australia.

Photos added to Albums

At last I have got around to posting photos of some of my ancestors of the 1800s. I wish I had more but I realise I have to be happy with the number preserved in the family – particularly the studio portrait of James Joseph Wilson taken in the last years of his life. One can hardly believe that the distinguished gentleman of the portrait was a convict thrice convicted of larceny and dispatched to the NSW Colony for life.

The photos of John McGroder and his sister Kate, children of the illiterate convict couple Bryan and Elizabeth McGroder, are just as astonishing for the picture of culture and distinction they project. How does one explain the development? Whatever the social influences of the society John and Kate lived in, and the chances Bryan and Elizabeth had to start anew, the home influence must have played a crucial role. It is a credit to Bryan and Elizabeth McGroder that they turned out so well. The story of Bryan McGroder’s life in the Colony showed he possessed an innate decency.

Weaving together history, culture and religion

The following review is from good friend Garrett Ward Sheldon, The John Morton Beaty Professor of Political and Social Sciences, The University of Virginia’s College at Wise, USA.

Finished your family history and enjoyed it very  much. Can’t wait to read the sequel!  The way you weave together history, culture and religion is excellent.  I really got a sense of the roughness of early Australia; and yet the quick civilizing of the British and Irish influences.  Also the development of democracy is very good. Your description of Irish Catholicism on page 54 is most enlightening.  What does the expression “reaching for a bucket ” (p. 59) mean?  Your description of the convict women [on the First Fleet] (p. 245) is priceless.  The Case of the Stolen Opposum (p. 252) is hilarious.  The story of the Catholic educational system (p. 310) is very like the USA in the twentieth century.
Garrett Ward Sheldon

Australia’s institutional inheritance from Britain

I sent a copy of Prison Hulk to Redemption: Part One of a Family History 1788-1900 to the Hon. Robert Clark Liberal Member for Box Hill and Shadow Minister for Industrial Relations in the Victorian State Parliament because of his interest in Edmund Burke. My book is a Burkean examination of cultural continuity and identity. The shadow minister had written a favourable review of Jesse Norman’s excellent book on Edmund Burke – Edmund Burke: Philosopher, Politician and Prophet. He replied with this comment:

‘I’ve enjoyed reading the concluding chapter of the book and your Burkean assessment of Australia’s institutional inheritance from Britain.  I particularly enjoyed your assessment and critique of those Australian historians and commentators who seem to have a desire to belittle the British aspects of our heritage, whether that be from a teenager lack of confidence or (which may be a more complex version of the same phenomenon) from a socialist desire to tear down existing institutions.’