What was life like for an early Australian convict? 3

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A Strumpet of London and a Pig PincherTwo teenagers transported for life to the colony that became Australia

As a transplanted Australian, I have always been interested in the history of our beautiful country, so was keen to read A Strumpet of London & A Pig Pincher by Rob Brow.

Mr. Brow has crafted a story of epic proportions.  He has done an enormous amount of research for this book and weaves into this research what could reasonably have been.  Through letters and reports, he gives a fair accounting of what happened to the convict fleets from the time they were arrested to the time they landed on this far away island.

This book alternates between sadness and absolute hilarity.  The main story centers around a young girl reduced to prostitution to save herself and her two young siblings from starvation and life in an orphanage in London, after losing their mother to madness.  It also tells the tale of a young lad who is arrested for stealing back his own family’s livestock.

Things in London in the 1700s were as dismal as could be.  Stealing a loaf of bread or a piece of fruit was all it took to end up in Newgate, there to die in jail, or by hanging, or to be transported to the ends of the earth.  The young prostitute Mary crosses paths with many others who will end up being transported to colonize Australia.  All have, and will endure, more than we can imagine today.

The transport fleets were inhumane and you are in no doubt of the atrocities that the author tells.  On the ship that Mary is transported on conditions, while not great, were much better than the others endured.  For a teenaged girl, Mary has strength of will that is more than most grown men.

While you know that much of the story is embellished by the author to enhance this book, the base tale is documented and believable.

Mr. Brow’s descriptions of what the convict saw as they traveled are so verdant as to imagine you were there, seeing them for the first time as these tortured souls were.  Rio, Cape Town, how exciting and yet at the same time, frightening they would have been.  The reporting of the sounds and sights that were discovered in Australia today might be taken for granted, to this group of individuals, it would have been terrifying.  Think of hearing a Kookaburra for the first time!

This is a large book but once you get into the story, the pages fly by and before you know it, you are finished but craving more.

Highly recommended!!!  This is available online as an eBook, so grab your copy today! Also, as this might be a great Public Library addition, keep checking with your local to see if they have it in stock or might get it in for you.

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Marlene Sanders

I am a 62 year old naturalised Australian (born in US). I have been in Australia since the week after Sept 11th. My favourite author would be Bertrice Small (historical romance with a fair amount of heat) but I will read almost anything so long as it is interesting. I am currently enrolled in GAA attempting to get a certification in gemology. When I worked it was as an office manager, but I am now retired. I have created a travel blog but if I am honest, have not updated it recently. I read online news (news.com.au and The Age) and one of my pet peeves is that no one proofreads the articles before they are posted. I have sent several emails to them offering my services but no reply.

  1. My family had 2 convicts, one was just a lad of 15 years old, he stole half a pound of butter, they were starving in England at the time and he was given 7 years hard labour in chains for this terrible crime against humanity, he never saw his family at home again. Another was the son of a wealthy merchant a rival accused him of stealing a silk handkerchief, his father tried to buy him out of being charged but failed. My convict ancestor blamed his father for not getting him released and never spoke to him again, he too got 7 years in chains. Neither of them saw England again The convicts started the colony of Australia off, they are responsible for the beginnings of this country, they built the roads and many of the things they constructed are still there today

  2. Will read this I can recommend Fatal Shore by Robert Hughes written in 1987 giving a real historical story that every Australian should read

    1 REPLY
    • Thanks for the suggestion Robyn! I will search that book out.

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