The Colony of New South Wales was established in 1788, peopled by convicts, soldiers and a few free settlers. In 1819 Hyde Park barracks was built by gangs of convict labourers to house convicts who, up to this time, has to make their own sleeping arrangements each evening in the town.
Both convict and soldier, free-settler and emancipated-convict worked with their hands, with their brawn, using raw materials, and methods handed down through the ages.
This was before the time of the great enclosures in Britain, before the growth of the industrial towns, and the drift of farm and village workers to new horizons. Youngsters dreamt of being an apprentice, of graduating to a journeyman, and finally becoming a master of their craft. At this festival just a few crafts were hightlighted: masons, blacksmiths, and cordwainers. But Sydney-town would have resounded to the work of weavers, farriers, scriveners, wheelwrights, tanners, chandlers, loriners and mercers, among others.
As I watched these master craftsmen ply their trade, I thought of books dear to me like Flora Thompson's 'Lark Rise to Candleford', 'The Stone Quartet' of Alan Garner (especially 'The Stone Book' and 'The Aimer Gate'), and even Bruce Chatwin's much later 'On the Black Hill'. All giving a flavour of a bygone era and that which is lost. Not that I decry progress; nor am I a luddite, wanting to replace blackberries with smoke signals.
Within the HPB's museum, there is a story noting that a number of fathers, sons and brothers passed through the building. Whether any had deliberately committed offences in order to reunite families is speculation. Four example, four Reilly brothers were transported from Ireland. Luke, a tailor, was sentenced for street robbery. Peter, an illiterate stone-cutter, was sentenced for stealing flannel. Francis, a shoemaker, was transported for pickpocketing. They were later joined by another brother, Thomas. This new land offered them greater opportunities than the old.