Embracing our dark past
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.