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Tags: An Gorta Mor, Australia, Coffin, Convict, Crime, Famine, Immigration, Punishment, Seafaring, The Great Hunger, More…Victorian

Comment by Gerry Regan on January 20, 2015 at 8:46am

Where can I learn more about your book, "The Foundling," Lonnie?

Comment by Patricia Magiollo on January 20, 2015 at 7:55pm
Very interesting indeed. I know my great- grandfather sailed to Argentina( South América) in one of those so called "coffins" when the Irish famine.Very sad to remember.....
Comment by Ron Redmond on January 21, 2015 at 12:15pm

I remember researching Van Diemen’s Land after hearing (or so I thought) "Bandyman's Land" in a Tommy Makem and the Clancy Brothers rendition of "Black Velvet Band". This article is fantastic, full of history that's connected to you - I love it! I really got to start researching my family tree, I know so little of my Irish roots. Thanks for the share Lonnie!

Comment by Larry Galligan on January 21, 2015 at 10:18pm

Thank you Lonnie: You may perhaps be familiar with the text "Famine Diary" Journey to a New World by Gerald Keegan published in Dublin by Wolfhound Press, 1991 as a contribution to the AFrl Great Famine project. I read this vivid narraitive of conditions in Ireland in 1847 which was based on the diary kept by Sligo schoolteacher Gerald Keegan. Keegen with his young spouse Eileen immigrated to Canada under grave and deadly conditions of a coffin ship. I have read Famine Diary only once through over twenty years past, and afterwards did seldom lend it but once or twice to friends because the reading of it and the contemplation of the privation people endured on and after the ocean crossing was such a sorrow to bring back to life. There are two other Canadian books based on the Keegen diary: one under the title Summer of Sorrow 1895, and a fictionalized version Voyage of the Naparima,1982 both published in Quebec. I sometimes believe more than what I read. Our bodies then inherit and conceal in consciousness such hardships having lived through before still retains the deeper sorrow of what might have been to this very day. Only art and music, poetry and dance can address this desire to be connected to God and his creation. I plan to read the diary once more thinking all the while that Mr.Keegen wrote it intending that I would read it some hundred and sixty eight years later. Still it will be difficult to look back on it again.Blessings to all who remember a soul who went missing.

Comment by Lonnie on January 22, 2015 at 6:42am

Thanks for the comments folks. And whoever did the layout of the article, Thank You, it looks great here. Hi Gerry, Thanks for your interest in my books. You may locate my book The Foundling by clicking on the link to my blog at the top. Larry I do own a copy of Famine Diary. I am using it to do research for a follow-up book to The Foundling, called Stained Glass. It is because of Coffin and Convict ships that Ireland, Australia, Canada and America are connected, and I wanted to delve into that more. Thanks again for reading and commenting. Lonnie

Comment by Neil F. Cosgrove on January 23, 2015 at 12:15pm

Some points that should be made about the increase in crime in the 1700s-1800s giving rise to transportation are

1. There had been a reduction in the number of crimes which were considered capital ( one can argue if hanging or exile where you likely would die on the ship or as part of a work gang is more merciful)

2. This was a time of great want as you allude to. Not only was there the great hunger, but the beginning of the Industrial revolution displaced many families with no support coming from the British Government. It was also a period of political unrest.

It was not so much an uptick in lawlessness but how the law was applied and the economic backdrop. Perhaps the most famous transportee was Jack Donahue who was the inspiration (though his name is often corrupted) for the song "The Wild Colonial Boy". He was transported for the crime of "INTENT to commit a felony".
Comment by Lonnie on January 23, 2015 at 5:31pm

Thanks very much for the extra information Neil. Imagine that? Being sent to a penal colony because you intended to commit a crime!

Comment by Kieron Punch on January 26, 2015 at 8:13am

My GGGG-Grandfather, a respectable and wealthy Dublin brewer named John Murphy, was convicted of passing a forged bank draft and was transported to Van Diemen’s Land (Tasmania) on was the Waverley, which was a 436 ton barque built in Whitby in 1838. The Master of the ship was James Morgan, the Surgeon was Thomas R. Dunn, and it sailed from Kingstown on 25 April1841, arriving in Hobart 140 days later. 175 other convicts embarked in Dublin with John Murphy and 2 died on the journey.

Detailed ships' surgeon reports relating to the voyages of the convict ships are available from either the British Library, or the National Archives (sorry, I can't remember which). If you look on the Tasmanian governments website you can also find scanned images of the Conduct Record, Indent Record, a Description List and an Appropriation list that were compiled for each convict who was transported to Tasmania (I don't believe these are available online for any of the other Australian states). These provide wonderful information about the convicts, including a physical description, details about the crime they were convicted of, details of their family, work they may be suited for etc. Here is some of the information these reports gave about my GGGG-Grandfather:

John Murphy


Trade: Merchant and Brewer
Native place: Wexford
Height: 5ft 5 ¼
Age: 68
Complexion: Fresh
Hair: Grey
Head: Oval
Whiskers: Grey
Visage: Oval
Eyes: Blue
Nose: Large
Mouth: Large
Chin: Large and dimpled
Forehead: Medium height
Eyebrows: Brown & Grey
Remarks: Nearly bald
Can Read & Write


Surgeon’s General Report:

    Murphy served as Schoolmaster on board ship during journey

    No. of offences – 0

    Should be employed – Schoolmaster

    General Conduct – Most exemplary


Married to Louisa

7 children: James – America; Robert – Bombay; Michael – Stipendiary Magistrate at Sydney;   ?   - Dublin; Joseph – London

Comment by David Healy on January 26, 2015 at 9:59pm

The "Waverley" appeared on the first Australian $5 banknote (now out of circulation).The bank note celebrated Caroline Chisholm, the "Emigrants Friend". (You could just make out the ship's name on the pennant atop the mast; it used to be a test of one's eyesight to see if you could read it. I very much doubt if I could read it these days!

Comment by Lonnie on January 27, 2015 at 9:47am

Thanks for all the comments folks. All very interesting and I love to learn more about the details recorded for each person.


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