Ben Peek (benpeek) wrote,
Ben Peek

  • Music:
the fatal shore continued.

i was wrong. this book is six hundred dense pages. it's actually quite a good book, and if anyone has an urge to read upon australian convict history, this is the place to start. but this is the last of these books for me. when you start crossing your info at the rate of ten pages or so, unless we're talking bushrangers in tasmania, it's either time to hit those primary sources or move to the next lot. me: next lot. though my history teachers always said i could study history...

to continue.

chapter seven: bolters and bushrangers.

to most, i am sure, the history of the australian bushranger, would begin and end with ned kelly, his suit of armour, that he was irish, and that there was a shoot out in the end and they blew out his legs. a good shoot out at the end is pretty important to the scheme of things, and bushrangers fill much the same niche as a cowboy in american colonial history. but, like the kelly shoot out in the end, ned and his brothers were at the end of time of bushrangers, as trains were coming around and this burst of technology coupled with the further colonisation of the country, thus limited the empty areas to hide, pretty much brought in the end of the time for the bushranger.

but hughes, however, brings the story of bushrangers without ned, beginning with bolters. bolters being those convicts who... well, bolted. most of them thought they'd hit china over the mountains, or inland, which says a lot about their intelligence to me, and the bleached bones of their bodies would be found inland later. soon, however, bolters turned into bushrangers, who, due to the starvation of the colony, would trap and kill in the wild, and come back and trade with settlers on the fringe. most of them smelt, wore dirty skins, had their own skinned blackened, and in very few cases, robbed from the rich to give to the poor.

still, the bushranger myth is a good one, and at least one of the tasmanian gangs was close to being the robin hood, and that was matthew brady, who was eventually caught and hung, while women wept and people wrote to pardon him. there is a great story about him making sure no gang member would rape a woman, and when they raiding a house, one of his fellow gang members went to harm a woman and brady put a bullet in his hand. excellent story. i'm surprised no one has ever made more of this guy, but then maybe they have and i haven't heard it.

another fellow was michael howe, who ended in a small shoot out. what made his story interesting was his unintentional wounding of his pregnant aboriginal wife, black mary. mary survived this, but was left behind by howe (who was being pursued at the time), and after mary gave birth, she lead a posse after her ex lover, tracking him through the wilderness. she didn't catch him, but still.

it's a shame my thesis isn't about writing a bushranger novel. i'd do brady's, because his death in the end resonates so well, and because he became, for such a short time, the mythic bushranger figure that robin hood became. and which ned kelly failed to become, mostly due to the fact that he wasn't as charismatic as most would like. and yes, there is more in this chapter about how they came about, but i've gotten carried away. though i seriously doubt the chapter is of any use, since the most interesting parts of bushrangers originate in tasmania. kelly himself was in victoria.

chapter eight: bunters, mollies and sable brethren.

bunters: term for women.

in parramatta, there was a female factory, where pregnant and ugly women were sent to do their time. in what sounds like a horrible place, women were worked and treated poorly, their only hope to be picked for marriage (and in a colony where the men far out numbered the women, this meant far less than you'd hope) and were treated, in the colony and out, as prostitutes and worse. only women married were considered real women, and this number was something like thirty percent of the female population. the rest of them were whores, though none were convicted of prostitution and sent over, as it was not a transportable offence.

women had it harsh. in other chapters hughes notes that 'proper' women would not get a tan, or loose their pale completion, as that was what convict women did. in fact, i would say, that perhaps the worse lot of the early colonial life was that of the woman.

mollies: term for homosexuals.

in colonial australia, homosexuality was, despite its many occurrences, the crime of crimes, most because it originated in the hulks of transport ships and in the chain gangs and prisons, where it was not an act of love, or tenderness, but rather an act of power. in the prison system, hughes argues, this was how one prisoner gained power over another, by forcibly taking him. i suppose it's no real surprise that homosexuality outside prisons had such a hard time, especially in a convict society, where by rumour alone (for few in prison testified about it) consigned the act to the already tried and found guilty for their lack of morals, the convicts.

it was apparently also strong out in sheepherders, who would have to rely upon their fellow sheepherder to keep them alive at night and for simply having someone to talk too. i mention this here, mainly to present a different view of homosexuality, one that did not rely upon violence.

sable brethren: term for aborigines.

as already discussed, the convicts view of aborigines, and their hatred for a group of naked men and women who had more social standing than them. sad, really, but hardly surprising, especially if you spend your days in chains.

chapter nine: the government stroke.

in the early years on colonial life, it was macquarie who gave a sense of dignity to the convicts, and made sure that they were more than slaves, which was close to what they were under the rum brigade. a convict had rights, and he and she had the right to be treated with a certain respect, and as macquarie rightly saw, the future of the country would be formed by these people. and convicts, for their part, would much prefer to be sent to work for an emancipist, who was a convict who had done his time.

convict assignments were given out under land and need, which meant a large portion of them stayed with the government, especially if they had a trade. the built buildings and roads, and the road through parramatta and up the blue mountains was done in six months by a group of convicts who were promised a pardon at the end of it, if they did it in time. this meant clearing trees, building bridges. assentive works miracles.

after macquarie, this rather pleasant view of convicts changed. and it was macquarie's changes in stance with convicts, making australia seem less like a threat to the criminal class in britain, that eventually saw him dethroned, so to say.

chapter ten: gentlemen of new south wales.

the first white australians born went by the nickname of the currency, for they were, after all, the future of the country. born from emancipists and convicts, they came into conflict with the upper crust of sydney, with the nickname of sterlings, who tried so very hard to model their life upon the rich of england, though of course no true aristocrat of england would be caught dead in australia at that time.

class conflict like this has always been part of the australian culture bit, and often results in the cutting down of tall poppies, usually in a most cruel and unnecessary manner. but still, it has always been there. due to the early positioning of the colony and its complete lack of planning, the rich were located upon the northern side, while the poor, convict and emancipists alike, and their children, were often located in the west. a trend which has continued through the years, with the current exception now being that of the blue mountains, where prices are going up and quite a few of the rich from the inner city and north shore are heading. lead by musician paul mac after he burnt down his apartment, no doubt.

anyhow. that's that for this moment. about two hundred odd pages left, work to be done today--essays to mark, wallpaper to watch peel--so this will likely be done around Monday. maybe earlier. i hope.

  • Leviathan’s Blood Film

    Originally published at Ben Peek. You can comment here or there. The paperback release of Leviathan’s Blood is very soon and to…

  • A Bit of Bolano, Schafer, and Cooke.

    Originally published at Ben Peek. You can comment here or there. Here are a few more reviews of books I’ve read recently: 2666,…

  • Interview, A Few Books Read

    Originally published at Ben Peek. You can comment here or there. Just a small update today. If you’re interested, you can get a whole…

  • Post a new comment


    Comments allowed for friends only

    Anonymous comments are disabled in this journal

    default userpic

    Your reply will be screened

    Your IP address will be recorded