Two hundred years ago two young sisters (children really) stepped off the “Castle Forbes” which had just docked into the new settlement of Hobart in Tasmania. Ann and Margaret Honeyman were just 11 & 10 years old. They had been newly indentured to the Reid family as maids to the Reids two babes. They had left their mother and two younger brothers aboard the Castle Forbes to travel onto Sydney Town having just received news that their convict father, who they hoped to join up with in Sydney Town, had died. These two girls, new arrivals to the penal settlement of Hobart, a town settled just 18yrs prior, were Scottish emigrants now bound for the colonial outpost along the Clyde River in the highlands near to what was to become the township of Bothwell on the Central Tasmanian High Country.
Hobart was a penal settlement then, the entire island later to become the primary penal outpost for ye ole mother England to send her poor and disenfranchised, those victims of the industrialisation era. Most convicts were male, guilty of menial crimes mostly of theft or larceny and convicted commonly for several years penal service, and packed off to struggling penal settlements on the other side of the world. They knew they would never see their family nor home country again and despite being mostly, barely past their teens, they were destined for lives of labour, service and breeding.
Children as young as 9yrs were transported and 20% of convicts shipped off over the following fifty years of convict transportation were teenagers. The average age of the convict was just 26yrs. Married with family or unwed from the British Isles and its Colonies, it mattered little. They were legally given licence to wed again and breed… as soon as possible, often acquiring their ‘Tickets of Leave’ on this merit. This despite it being a crime for a unwed woman to fall pregnant at all, a crime punishable by a further term being added to her time of servitude. It was a neat little arrangement for a world lacking in womenfolk of any age, but particularly breeding age.
Margaret and Ann, free children, knew little of this as they climbed up onto the bullock cart and drays, to make the three day journey up onto the steppes of the Tasmanian highlands. It was so like Scotland and yet so very different, then in its carpet of spring wildflowers often noted as being remarkably beautiful.
They faced the risks of tribal attacks, the strange growling of the devils which inhabited this land and the raids of the many bands of bushrangers, young and older lags who had served their sentences and had no means of employment in a land becoming saturated with those bound by ‘free’ convict servitude. In their first venture up into the highland forests the wagons were raided by these bushrangers and they were forced to return to the main settlement and refurbish their stolen supplies.
Following is an extract from the ‘Clyde Company Papers’ the account of a raid by Bushrangers which the first hand account can be read. Use the back button to return to this post.
The family group made their way eventually to Dennistoun, settled just two years earlier, an outpost homestead on the highland steppes where they were welcomed. Alexander Reid was advised about taking up land encouraging him to help feed the burgeoning settlement of Hobart and other smaller outposts. The family then settled the nearby grant of Ratho and for the first years lived in a two to three room mud hut, built along the Clyde River near what was to become the township of Bothwell, this along with their servants and several other allocated convicts.
This is what has bought us to Tasmania some two hundred years later. YaYa sisters in blood and heart. It was one of those holidays that will live on in infamy and memory… You have to just love such times, out of time.
It was our ‘YaYa Sisters Getaway’ or in the words of the character Siddale “Of all the secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood, the most divine is humour.” And what a lot of fun we had!
Staying in the homestead was just a delight, touching places and hearing tales of the families adventures back in time. A standout occasion was listening to Alexander and Jane Reids descendants read from the family letters and papers written of those early pioneering ventures, it was just an indescribable privilege for all concerned and we loved it.
The old cottages and homestead buildings are steeped in history and the touch of time. The Clyde River bubbling along nearby and the frosty mornings of winter, along with the occasional snow were a reminder of the hardships our pioneers dealt with.
Ann went on to marry very young as did her sister Margaret. Ann’s hubby, Campbell Roy, was a tall Scottish Highlander who was sent out to Van Diemen’s land at just 17yrs of age in 1825. His crime was the theft of clothes in a housebreaking misadventure with a mate. He was selected as a convict to the nearby homestead of Dennistoun serving as a shepherd for the ‘term of his natural life’. However he went on to gain his freedom in 1841 and moved on to the goldfields of Victoria.
Ann died within a year of their marriage at the age of just 17yrs, giving birth to their only child. She is buried in the private cemetery of Dennistoun, her grave settled beneath tall, windswept pines with a few others, such as the young Mary Daniell’s who was murdered along with her twin babes in a tribal raid in 1831.
We had many other adventures in our time in Tasmania and we will be back for sure. Tassie is just a delightful place to visit and there is just so much to still see and do. I expect it will draw us back time and again and I look forward to this with pleasure.