Number Four

Friends and relatives were allowed to visit the women on production of an order to that effect from the Superintendent of Convicts. The interview was to be conducted in the presence of one of the superintendents, and was limited to half an hour. No gift or present of any kind was allowed to pass between them. These visits were generally discouraged, and difficulties were thrown around the obtaining of an order for the purpose. On one occasion a man of a pronounced Jewish type of countenance, medium height, spare almost to attenuation, and dressed in a new tweed suit, made his appearance with an order to see his sister, Mrs S. This lady was the wife of Ikey S., a well known 'fence'—or receiver of stolen property—in London. This nefarious trade he had carried on for many years, until at length—a warrant being obtained—a well-organised swoop was made on the premises by the police, who seized an immense quantity of ill gotten booty contributed by the light-fingered gentry who infested the city. Ikey escaped capture and fled to America, but his wife was seized and transported. A reward of £100 was offered by the English authorities for Ikey's apprehension. When the time allotted for the interview had terminated, the man and sister (so styled) parted; but I was keen enough to notice the prolonged embrace, and, as their lips met, the passage of a gold coin from mouth to mouth. One of the superintendents had a suspicion that the man was the notorious Ikey, and immediately after his departure he rode into town and divulged it to the then Chief District Constable, Mr Capon; but he found that Mr Capon was well-informed, and had his eye upon him. The next vessel to England bore both the prisoner and his captor. Mr Capon delivered Ikey to the London police, and claimed and obtained the reward.

At intentionally uncertain seasons the Governor visited the establishment. He was dressed in semi-military costume; just a suspicion of scarlet piping down the out-side seams of his trousers, his frock coat closely buttoned up to the neck, a wide stock propping up the square chin, a white feather or elongated bob (I do not know its technical term) fastened on the side, and rising some six inches above the crown of the ordinary black beaver hat, a black belt round the waist from which depended his sword encased in its glittering steel scabbard. He was invariably accompanied by his nephew (who was also his aide-de-camp) the late Mr Chas. Arthur, of Norley, then a very young officer, clad in scarlet uniform. An orderly followed close in the rear. Dashing up to the gate at a smart canter, their approach was only announced by the thud of the horses' hoofs and the rattling of their accoutrements. Throwing the reins to the orderly, the Governor and his aide passed hurriedly through the gate, only recognising the superintendents (if they chanced to be in attendance) by a stern look and a condescending nod of the head. Leading the way himself he examined and pryed into everything. The yards, the calls, the wards, the drains, the spinning lofts, the washing and cooking departments, the hospital, and nursery, all received the closest inspection. Then, returning to the office, he unbent so far as to make a few remarks to the superintendents, suggested by the inspection, to give expression to his wishes, to write a short minute in the visitors' book, and then depart as cavalierly as he came. Col.Arthur did not believe in wasting words or compliments.

During my short sojourn of two years and a half at the Female House of Correction—from November, 1828, to April, 1831—no less than five shiploads of female convicts arrived from England; the 'Borneo', 'Lady of the Lake', 'Mellish', 'Harmony', and 'Eliza.' (I have a strong impression that there was another arrival, the 'Sarah' : I must leave this uncertain), and 'more and more to follow!' Was the anti-transportation movement, inaugurated some twenty years after this, initiated too soon or not soon enough? For some days after the arrival of a female prison ship, a stranger, looking on from the outside, would have concluded that the 'Factory' was en fete. Vehicles of every description then used might be seen driving up to the gates and setting down the—well, I will make one word do for the wives of the wealthy, the middle class and the humble artisan, and style them all ladies. The ladies, then, alighted from their vehicles, and producing their orders for servants on assignment, the women were called in one by one and put through their catechism. "Can you wash?" "Can you sew?" "Can you get up fine linen?" "Can you cook?" "Are you fond of children?" etc. After thus examining some half-dozen a choice was made, and mistress and servant drove off together. Before the close of a week by far the larger portion of the human consignment was distributed amongst and in the homes of their masters in both town and country.

The visiting magistrates were Mr James Gordon, who was succeeded by Mr Josiah Spode, and who also in his turn gave place to Mr N. Wood. These gentlemen, during their term of office, made weekly visits to the institution for the purpose of disposing of any case or cases reserved for trial for crimes committed within the walls, the adjudication of which exceeded the discretionary power to which the superintendent was limited. A surgeon was appointed by the Governor, who exercised an almost despotic control in the management of the hospital, and who also paid his weekly visits to the establishment. For nearly two years—viz., to the latter end of 1830—Dr. Seccombe held the post, and was then succeeded by Dr. Bryant. The Colonial Surgeon, Dr. J. Scott, R.N., made periodical visits for the purpose of reporting on the sanitary condition of the whole place and its inmates. The hospital was never overcrowded; many of the cases only helping to swell the expenses of the nursery and Orphan School. To these cases Colonel Arthur showed no mercy. The unfortunate creature nursed her child for nine or twelve months, after which it was taken from her arms, and consigned to the tender mercies of strangers in the nursery. The mother was then sentenced to an imprisonment of eighteen months before she became eligible for assigned service. Many of the poor mites seemed discontented with the new world into which they had been ushered, and left it altogether; while those of stronger constitutions, but less fortunate, pined within the stone-wall enclosure, with only occasional peeps for a short time at nature's verdure outside, fighting for life against the neglect and peculation of their convict nurses for two or three years, when they were removed to the less confined and more healthy atmosphere of the Orphan School at New Town. The scenes witnessed at the separation of mother and child were sometimes very harrowing. One woman, for half an hour after her babe was literally torn from her arms exhibited all the forms of raving madness, till a copious flood of tears relieved her overwrought brain. Another—Mary Sullivan deliberately murdered her infant and was hanged for the crime in Hobart Town (1830), the first woman who suffered the extreme penalty of the law in the colony.

Before the church was built at New Town in connection with the Orphan School, the children were brought into town to the Sunday morning services at St. David's—a distance of three miles! There was an interval of rest during the service, and then they were marched home again—six miles in all. Many now living will remember the long procession wending up Elizabeth street and out on to the New Town Road—the wee toddlers of four or five years trotting wearily along, trying to keep up with the older boys and girls, who were very considerately (?) placed in advance of them! Here and there a mother might be seen skirting the procession, carrying her worn-out child for some distance, and, on leaving, loading it with cakes and sweet meats. 'What a cruel want of consideration' some one will exclaim. Yes, but then, consideration as to the limit of man's strength or woman's weakness or children's wants and weariness was, under the convict regime, too often—well, I will use the hackneyed expression, if only for the purpose of ridiculing it—'conspicuous by its absence.'

I had almost omitted to mention that, forming a part of the institution was a commodious chapel, in which religious services were held periodically—I think monthly—by the Rev. James Norman. The chapel was capacious enough to seat from 120 to 150 women. Pews for the superintendents and their families were placed on each side of the pulpit facing the audience. The responses were given by the women in a decorous and apparently reverent manner—'That we may hereafter live a godly, righteous, and sober life.' 'That the rest of our lives may be pure and holy. Amen.' Did they mean what they said? Ah well, let us not be too censorious; there are thousands at the present day who say the same words, or words having the same import, and mean as little : a remark that applies with equal force to all religious denominations. On the lst April, 1831, Mr Pullen resigned his position as Assistant-Superintendent and removed into Hobart Town. As I had been for more than nine years a justly acknowledged member of his family, I left with him, and thus ended my connection with the Female House of Correction, and about 40 years elapsed ere I re-entered the place as a visitor. Mr Pullen was succeeded by Mr William Cato, the grandfather and great uncle of the present generation. Before the close of the year 1831 Mr Lovell also resigned and opened a school in Upper Murray street, Hobart Town. His successor was Rev. John Hutchinson, formerly a Wesleyan missionary to Tonga, and an ex-minister of that denomination in Hobart Town.
ERRATUM—In No. 1, column 2, line 12 for " listless" read " restless." (Concluded.) 1