Em­brac­ing our dark past

Sunday Tasmanian - Tassie Living - - BOOKS - Philip Hey­ward


CON­VICT LIVES AT THE LAUNCE­S­TON FE­MALE FAC­TORY Edited by Lucy Frost and Alice Mered­ith Hodg­son ( Con­vict Women’s Press, $ 25)

THE Launce­s­ton Fe­male Fac­tory is long gone, but sto­ries of the con­vict women who lived there are be­ing told again, thanks to the hard work of many ded­i­cated vol­un­teers.

Re­searchers and writ­ers have contributed to a new book of 33 sto­ries, the third in a se­ries about fe­male con­victs in Tas­ma­nia.

So far the Fe­male Con­victs Re­search Cen­tre has pro­duced books on in­mates of the fe­male prisons at Cas­cades, Ross and now Launce­s­ton. The next project is the Ge­orge Town Fe­male Fac­tory.

Lucy Frost, one of the edi­tors of Con­vict Lives

at the Launce­s­ton Fe­male Fac­tory, said 13,679 women had been trans­ported to Van Diemen’s Land ( Tas­ma­nia) and all were in the data­base of the Fe­male Con­victs Re­search Cen­tre.

Re­searchers were helped by the metic­u­lous record- keep­ing of the colo­nial au­thor­i­ties.

“We are turn­ing the records of state sur­veil­lance into records of bi­og­ra­phy,” Ms Frost said.

Pre­mier Lara Gid­dings launched the new book last week at the Cas­cades Fe­male Fac­tory in South Ho­bart ( pic­tured right be­fore much of it was de­mol­ished), a Na­tional and World Her­itage site.

Ms Gid­dings said lit­tle re­mained of the Launce­s­ton Fe­male Fac­tory, near the site of Launce­s­ton Col­lege.

Like so many con­vict prisons, it was torn down out of shame af­ter the end of trans­porta­tion.

A large crowd at­tended last week’s book launch, in­clud­ing Catholic priest Fa­ther Bren­dan Quirk from Syd­ney and Shauna Con­nolly from Can­berra, who came to Tas­ma­nia spe­cially for the event.

They said the Fe­male Con­victs Re­search Cen­tre had un­earthed more in­for­ma­tion about their great- great- grand­mother Mar­garet Ryan than they had ever dreamed of find­ing.

“It is so im­por­tant to us but also for the whole com­mu­nity,” said Fr Bren­dan.

“Women are ig­nored in a lot of our his­tory.”

At the launch, sev­eral vol­un­teer writ­ers read ex­cerpts of their sto­ries.

Vic­tor Mal­ham talked about his great­great grand­mother Mar­garet Drury, who was trans­ported on the con­vict ship Neva, which left Cork in Ire­land full of women and chil­dren.

When it hit a reef off the coast of King Is­land in 1835, the ship broke up and 224 lives were lost.

Mr Mal­ham’s great- great grand­mother was one of just 15 sur­vivors.

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