Thursday, 1 April 2010

The art of the quick getaway


As the ships of the First Fleet swung at anchor in Sydney Cover in January 1788, the nature of the new colony was rapidly being formed. The peninsula to the west of the cove, ran steeply down to the water’s edge and was heavily cragged with rock formations. This area was allocated to the convicts and their immediate military overseers. The eastern shore and the area around the head of the cove - cloven by the muddy entrance of a small stream - were commandeered by the senior military and the administrators of the fledgling colony.

The rocks rapidly took on the character of its new inhabitants. Stowed on the eleven ships of the fleet were close to 1500 persons, including 550 male convicts and 190 female convicts. They had been sentenced to transportation for either 7 years or life, but the difference, once here, was marginal. And their crimes?


Mary Allen, 28, Stealing clothing to the value of 12/-
John Arscott, 20, stealing tobacco to the value of 70/-
James Bird, 38, stealing bags of saltpetre to the value of 65/-
William Brewer, 34, stealing a sheep worth 20/-
The differences between the convicts, the free settlers and the marines was more apparent than real. They were mostly poor, they were mostly working class. Many were drunkards and lechers.

The topography of The Rocks leant itself to being rend by narrow winding laneways, perfect for the quick getaway, up over a fence, down through a drain, and bob’s yer uncle.


I am down the South Coast, swimming and walking at Merry Beach, then to the Four Winds Music Festival at Bermagui. I return late Monday.

9 comments:

Clytie said...

Wonderful and evocative photos and narrative history. Wow. I've heard of these convicts ... even read a book about the first colonies once. But your pictures open up a whole new appreciation of what it really would have been like. Again, Wow.

jennyfreckles said...

These old streets must have stories to tell. How fascinating. They remind me of alleyways in Whitby, which is a port on the UK Yorkshire coast.

Davine said...

I just love wandering around the Rocks when I get to Sydney - these are also great shots - I do love laneways. My Ancestor also came out to Tasmania as a prisoner - he was sent to OZ for stealing some sewing thread and currants to eat.

Bruce Caspersonn said...

Thank you Julie for another great post. If you can do so well from the South Coast, stay there.

Marka said...

Looks like it would be difficult to walk two abreast through some of those alleys.

J Bar said...

Terrific post.
Sydney - City and Suburbs

Coffeeveggie addict. said...

great post accompanied with a very intelligent thoughts....have a wonderful thursday to you...




blue

brattcat said...

You really transport us there...thank heavens we're there under different circumstances than that 1788 group.

Joan Elizabeth said...

Nicely told story and you've done a wonderful job of those alleyways ... capturing them in all their intimate wonkiness.