Gruesome theme for Probus Club talk
Local historian Philip Badcock made a virtual presentation via zoom to members of Bishopseignton Probus Club called “The Fatal Shore”, the shocking and gruesome story about transportation of South Devon convicts to Tasmania. He started with an account of 22 year-old carpenter, William Tuckeman, born 1809, in Brixham. He was guilty of theft and sentenced to be “transported beyond the seas for seven years”. Another local convict was 16 year-old George Harvey who stole meat. By 1820, 500 Devon men and women had been transported, including one whose wife died before he was transported and their two children were left to fend for themselves. At that time, you could be hung for poaching, forgery or appearing on the high road with a sooty face, although it was often commuted to life imprisonment abroad. The journey by ship from Torbay took four months and life onboard was very hard and unpleasant. Punishments included being deprived of meat and receiving 25 lashes for relatively minor offences.
Escape was difficult and when on the run, prisoners faced dense jungle where snakes, giant ants, and leaches lived. Above the forest was snow for much of the year. If captured, escapees received 100 lashes and were put in leg irons for six months. A more successful escape involved prisoners leaving the shore by boat, but they had no food and later resorted to cannibalism.
PHOTO: The men who organise the Probus Club zoom presentations during Coronavirus epidemic, from left: Henry Merrit arranges the speakers, Baz Carpenter is club chairman, and David Carpenter-Clawson, the Club Secretary, organises the computer side of zoom presentations.