Saturday, January 06, 2007

day 1: convicting scenery

Three days on the Tasman Peninsular has chased away the lurking gloom from my heart. In fact, after visiting Port Arthur I've decided my life is positively charmed.

If I had lived in Tasmania between 1833 and 1877 things would have have been much much worse. Especially if I was a felon who had been sent to Australia for breaking the law, and was caught repeat offending. I would have ended up at Port Arthur - the end of the earth reserved for the very worst of offenders.

Over 2000 convicts and soliders lived at Port Arthur at any one time, and if you were a convict, this was your home. The Penitentiary.

If you were a solider, your quarters could be just as crowded but you had the privilege of being a free person responsible for controlling the uncouth criminals.

The whole system of life was designed to grind the convict down until they were cleansed of evil and ready to return to normal life.

The powers that were employed two main mechanisms for their grand reforming process.


...and religion. (Shades of my own childhood!)

Soldiers maintained order in the penal colony with regular roll calls, recapture of escapees (the lie of the land made it almost impossible to escape the peninsular), and general oversite of convicts performing their duties. Convicts were required to attend church every Sunday, enduring sermons calling for obedience to the laws of God and King.

Port Arthur was also inhabited by a number of civilians and their families, including Anglican clergy, Catholic priests, and resident surgeons. The ladies strutted around in beautifully manicured gardens, modelling the perfect life that every convict should aspire to.

Some convicts did their time and earned their freedom, leaving Port Arthur for good. Others couldn't manage to reassimilate into civilian life and returned to the safety and security of the colony. When they died they were buried on the Isle of the Dead.

In fact 1100 people were buried on the Isle of the Dead, a 2 acre island - 200 free people who were honoured with grave stones, and 900 convicts with no markers of any kind. Free people on the high side, convicts on the low side.

Not such a great life really.

The location was beautiful, but I had to keep reminding myself that life would have been less than wonderful for those living there in the 1800s.

We explored the site for 8 hours enjoying the setting before heading off to drink in the local scenery.


At 6:18 am, January 07, 2007, Blogger Robyn said...

Wow. That is very beautiful, but the history is pretty grim. I've been curious to see Port Arthur for a while but was turned off it - you're reignited my interest!

At 8:13 am, January 07, 2007, Anonymous Sandy said...

Great job Cecily on capturing beautiful scenes and giving background. Keep it up! This reminds me a little, stress on little, of Alcatraz Island http://www.nps.gov/alcatraz/ off of San Fransisco California, USA. It was also a prison where people could not escape. They tried but the bay current is so strong that they usually drowned. It's located at a beautiful sight, too bad it was a prison. A spa would have been better!

Hope we get to see more.

At 10:11 am, January 07, 2007, Blogger robynbore said...

Hi Cecily. I heard about Luke's blog and had a look and there was the link to your blog so I thought I would have a look and see what you were up to. I was only going to look once but it makes great reading and I find myself coming back. I was very excited to see that you and Frank had married! Tasmania looks wonderful.

Take care,
Robyn Bore (so as not to confuse me with your friend Robyn)

At 5:03 pm, January 07, 2007, Blogger Cecily said...

Hi Robyn B - thanks for the comment! I have a few anonymous visitors, so glad to know who one of them is now. :) I'm relieved you're enjoying reading - I put way too much time into this for it to go to waste!

Sandy, I reckon Alcatraz must have been awful - such a small space! Go the spa! In Melbourne they've turned an old prison into luxury apartments... is that a possibility for alcatraz?!! :)

Roby, I was impressed with Port Arthur - it wasn't grizzly at all. There was an interpretive centre at the beginning, where we were given a card representing one of the convicts. Then we could follow the story. I was Charles someone, a 27 year old hairdresser who stole something (I think - can't quite remember what he did now!). Definitely worthy the visit.

At 8:33 am, January 08, 2007, Anonymous Sandy said...

This trip must have renewed your soul. The pictures I'm sure only captured some of the beauty. Alcatraz, will probably never turn into that spa, it's government property now so it's for historical and sight seeing purposes. People that ended up there were some of the mobsters and big name murderers.

Is it okay for me to ask, do you live on the Island of Tasmania, or did you go to the peninsula from the main land? Is the whole Island of Tasmania as beautiful as these pictures?


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