Saturday, 23 November 2013

AUSTRALIAN ARISTOCRACY

JOHN CLARK.1880. Source: Personal Collection.


I’ve mentioned my great grandfather, John Clark, in previous blogs. I’m going to write about his life over several blogs; an amazing life that ran for ninety-four years. He was an aristocrat of the Australian variety—which is a bit different to the English and European variety.
I have a confession to make—John Clark was a convict, a jail bird. He didn’t kill anyone or do anything particularly evil. He would have been hung for that or any of the other two hundred offences in the nineteenth century that carried the death penalty. It’s mind boggling that people were transported to Australia for seven years just for stealing a handkerchief. Most poor unfortunates committed crimes because of poverty. John Clark was a humble thief who got caught. Confessing this to you is probably going to set prim and proper Aunt Maud rolling in her grave.
Australians call convicts aristocracy because they founded this nation. Where once you never dared admit you were an ex-convict or descended from one, now we say it with pride. It’s no longer an insult. So there, English rugby and cricket fans!


CONVICT SHIP. Source: les-nuits-masquees.blogspot.

CONVICTS. 1860's. Source: blogs.smithsonian.

Australia can thank America for our convicts. Until independence, the British Isles sent their convicts to America. But from 1788 right up until the 1860's, convicts were transported to Australia. Most were male, but there were also female and even child convicts. While some were rebels and trade unionists, London’s East End poor, the rural poor and Irish made up the majority. Technological change was a bad thing for unskilled workers in those days too.
Being a convict could be tolerable if you decided to just get on with it and do your time. At the end of your seven years you got one hundred acres of land that you could call your own. (If you want to learn more, look up Wikipedia).
Not only was John Clark a convict, but his wife, Esther Geary, my great-grandmother, was descended from convicts. The Gearys were a wild, wild bunch. From attempted murderer to policeman, that was my great-great-great grandfather, Daniel Geary. 

More about him next time. So, you see I’m a true Australian aristocrat. You can stop spinning now Aunty Maud. You’ll only make yourself dizzy!


To be continued.