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This exhibition examined the lives of eight convicts, transported to WA from Britain between 1850 and 1868, who all found their way to Greenough.
8 Convict Notes was a fascinating insight into our local history told, in part, through the contemporary notes and letters left behind by those eight men. Those notes, from the museum’s archive, give us a glimpse into what life was like for these men.
Here is just a little of the stories told in this remarkable exhibition.
Sentenced to 20 years for a house burglary in 1855 and eventually transported to Australia, Thomas Cole was a free man and living in Greenough by 1865. He married Isabella in 1882 and the pair lived in a small cottage on the banks of the Greenough River, about three kilometres from the museum. Tragically, both Thomas and Isabella drowned in the infamous flood of February 1888.
A brewer before being convicted of larceny in 1849, John Knapp arrived in the colony in 1851 and soon took up farming in the Greenough area. In 1875 he sponsored his brother, William, and his family to migrate to the colony, too. He died in 1888 after being kicked by a horse, but his farm would stay in the family for almost another century.
A drunken brawl involving two prostitutes in a Liverpool pub that resulted in the stabbing and death of a Scottish sailor saw Giovanni Marchetti convicted of manslaughter. The Venetian was transported in 1856 and eventually started a family and took up farming on the Back Flats of Greenough. He died in 1897 (but not before one more drunken brawl, that saw him imprisoned in Geraldton for 21 days).
Stealing a fustian coat would normally not lead to transportation but John Gear, an unmarried British seaman, already had a criminal record. So, when he was found guilty in 1852 he was sentenced to 15 years. Said to be “an extremely hardworking and industrious man”, we know from the notes in the museum archive that Gear shepherded for John S. Maley at one time.
A farm labourer in Britain, Charles Sims (and five others) were convicted of “firing a barn and shed” in 1853. Considered one of the ringleaders, he was sentenced to 15 years and was transported. By 1866 he’d started a family and found work in Greenough (on local farms, if you can believe anyone trusted him with their sheds).