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Irish Tasmania

With almost 10,000 Irish convicts arriving in Van Diemen's Land (now Tasmania) between 1840 and 1853 combined with numerous other Irish convicts sent via England prior to that time, assisted Irish immigrants and some more wealthy Irish settlers, it is no surprise that many Tasmanians feel a strong bond with Ireland and it's culture.

In my blog posts I would like to introduce you to some of the amazing history of the Irish in Tasmania and also share ways that those who are interested can find out more. In recent years there has been a reawakening of interest in Irish culture in Tasmania which is demonstrated by the growing number of individuals and bands playing both traditional and contemporary 'Irish music'. I hope to also share snippets of that current Tasmanian Irish culture through my blog.

Tasmanian Convicts

There are those large figures from history such as Young Irelanders, William Smith O'Brien and Thomas Meagher who were banished to Tasmania for their political views and actions. But there were also members of the working class who had equally interesting lives that have, until recently, been largely forgotten. Take for example, the 'Cappoquin Seven'. These seven individuals along with others from Waterford rallied to the call to attack the police barracks at Cappoquin. They, unlike their more famous political allies, were sentenced to the harsh treatment of an average convict's life for their part in the unsuccessful assault on the barracks. They and others like them such as Cornelius Kelleher formed the heart of Tasmanian Irish communities in townships such as Westbury, Cygnet and Franklin. More will be told of them in a future blog entries.

Kelleher's Cottage, Hamilton, Tasmania - Home to Irish convict Cornelius Kelleher and his descendants from the 1860s until the 1920s

No doubt there will be many of Irish descent around the world who may be aware of an ancestor or sibling of an ancestor who came to Tasmania as a convict or settler. In this blog entry I hope to provide you with clues as to how you can discover more about those people and their lives in Tasmania.

If you have the name of someone who came to Tasmania you want to research then the best place to start is the Archives Office of Tasmania name indexes

If you know they were sent out as a convict then search for them in the convict index. The results for each individual are linked to free digitised copies of the original bound volumes which kept details of the convict, their crime and their time under sentence. For example, a search for my ancestor, Mary Ann Dalton reveals two individuals of that name. One arrived from Dublin on the James William Dare in 1852 and the other from Plymouth on the Stately in 1849. My Mary Ann was the former of the two. Clicking on the hyperlinked database entry beside her name will reveal links to three records about Mary Ann Dalton.

The first convict record for Mary Ann is her Conduct Record. This record details her trial, conviction, gaol report and details of her time while still under sentence. Nurse Maid, Mary Ann Dalton, a native of Dublin was sentenced in Dublin City on January 8th 1851 to transportation for seven years. Her crime was stealing a shawl but she also had two previous convictions for shoplifting. She was aged 22 at the time of her sentencing. According to the report of the surgeon on the ship she 'misconducted' herself on the voyage. The conduct record also contains a detailed description of Mary Ann's appearance. which is repeated in one of the other two digitised documents, the Description List.

Shortly after her arrival in Tasmania Mary Ann was assigned to work for a timber dealer, Henry John Chapman in Goulburn Street Hobart. This was a shortlived position and she was soon sent to the rural district of Oatlands in the midlands area of Tasmania where she worked on the farming property of George Wilson. Oatlands was also home to Young Irelander, Kevin Izod O'Doherty. While in Oatlands Mary Ann married James Knibbs on May 4th 1854 and later that year she received her Ticket of leave. The only other entry on her Conduct Record was a fine for drunkeness in January 1855.

Mary Ann Dalton's daughter, Susan Jackson and grandson Robert Nelson Jackson

The other useful convict record is the Indent. While this repeats much of the information from the Conduct Record it also contains addtional details from one of her earlier arrests for shoplifting and we discover that on this occassion she stole dolls. The Indent also records that members of Mary Ann's family still living in Dublin included her parents Richard and Alley, as well as sisters Eliza and Ann. If anyone reading this blog is descended from this family I would love to hear from you.

In my next blog entry I will outline additional details of mary Ann's life and how to access similar reords for other Irish individuals in Tasmania. We will also hear of Mary Ann's narrow escape at the hands of bushrangers, possibly saved simply because she was Irish.

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Tags: Dalton, Dublin, Kelleher, Kevin Izod O'Doherty, Meagher, Smith O'Brien, cappoquin, convict, history, tasmania, More…van diemen's land, young irelanders

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Comment by David Boon on March 3, 2010 at 23:04
Cherie,
What a small world it is. I will try to find time for the next blog entry in the next week or so. Did the last one while on holidays so have less time at the moment. Fancy the two of us being on Live Ireland.
Comment by cherie nicolson on March 3, 2010 at 22:47
hello cousin, I'm descended from Mary Ann Dalton and James Knibbs. I've just gone back to researching our history and was interested to find your blog. Anxiously waiting your next part.
Comment by David Boon on February 14, 2010 at 0:29
Loraine, I see you have found my blog so please ignore the information I gave in a message I sent to you directly. A bushranger is the Australian word for what they would call a highwayman in England. They were escaped convicts who hid in bushland (We have a lot of wilderness areas where it is easy to hide without detection) They ranged through the bush and held up homesteads and travellers. The most famous Australian bushranger with Irish heritage was named Ned Kelly. He built a suit of heavy armour but was captured after being shot in an unprotected area on his legs.
Comment by Loraine Meagher Huemmer on February 13, 2010 at 15:54
I'd love to read more. What a character she must have been. What is a bushranger?

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