• Bob Reece


The bi-centenary on 26 September 1991 of the arrival of the first Irish convict ship at Sydney Cove provides a timely opportunity to look again at the Irish convicts. Between 1791 and 1867, more than 40,000 men and women were transported from Ireland to the convict colonies of New South Wales, Van Diemen’s Land and Western Australia and a further 8000 or more of Irish birth from Britain itself. Historians in the past have been reluctant to consider the Irish as a separate subject for study,1 unless it has been to represent them as religious martyrs or political heroes (or both).2 And the rejection of this notion by other historians has further denied them any claim to distinctive status.3


Conventional Morality Colonial Career Collective Biography Irish Court Female Convict 
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  1. 1.
    In the most comprehensive statistical study of the convicts completed thus far, L. L. Robson’s The Convict Settlers of Australia &x2026; (Melbourne University Press, 1965) p. 156, it was argued (in spite of a statistical profile which suggested the contrary) that there were no significant differences between Irish and other convicts.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    See, e.g., T. J. Kiernan, The Irish Exiles in Australia (Dublin: Clonmore & Reynolds, 1954).Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    In Catholic Society in New South Wales (Sydney University Press, 1974) p. 70, J. Waldersee was at some pains to represent the Irish convicts as being little different from their British counterparts. However, his analysis of the crimes of (predominantly Irish) Catholic convicts on 55 ships between 1826 and 1839 suggests the contrary. Waldersee’s views were repeated by P. O’arrell, The Irish in Australia (Sydney: University of New South Wales Press, 1987) pp. 22–53.Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    In The Foundation of Australia (1786–1800) (London: Sheed & Ward, 1937) Dr O’Brien pointed out that while the logistical arrangements for transportation from Ireland were made in London, the Irish system had its own legal structure and administration.Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    M. Barrett, King of Galong Castle: The Story of Ned Ryan, 1786–1871 (Sydney: Brown, Prior & Anderson, 1978).Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    B. Smith, A Cargo of Women: Susannah Watson and the Convicts of the Princess Royal (Sydney: University of New South Wales Press, 1988).Google Scholar
  7. 7.
    D. Beddoe, Welsh Convict Women: A study of women transported from Wales to Australia, 1787–1852 (Barry (Wales): Stewart Williams, 1979).Google Scholar
  8. 8.
    J. Williams, ‘Irish Female Convicts and Tasmania’, Labour History, no. 44(May 1983).Google Scholar
  9. 9.
    A. Needham, The women transported on the 1790 ‘Neptune (Sydney: the author, 1988).Google Scholar
  10. 10.
    P. Robinson, The Women of Botany Bay: a reinterpretation of the role of women in the origins of Australian society (Sydney: Macquarie Library, 1988).Google Scholar
  11. 11.
    Smith, A Cargo of Women.Google Scholar
  12. 12.
    J. Cobley, The Crimes of the Lady Juliana Convicts —1790 (Sydney: Library of Australian History, 1989).Google Scholar
  13. 13.
    P. Tardif, Notorious Strumpets and Dangerous Girls: Convict Women in Van Diemens Land1803–1829 (Sydney: Angus & Robertson, 1990).Google Scholar
  14. 14.
    No. 291, Madden Papers NLI, cited by H. Perkins, The Convict Priests (Melbourne, 1984) p. 22.Google Scholar

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© Bob Reece 1991

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  • Bob Reece

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