Article MT176

Glimpses into the 19th Century Broadside Ballad Trade

Number 20: Transports1

For our purposes, the operation during the nineteenth century of the transportation system to Australia (strictly, at the time, known as New Holland) is the most relevant subject even if below reference is made to the Americas and even if the Australian episode actually began before the turn of the eighteenth century; that is, when the First Fleet, as it is usually known, sailed from England in 1787 and arrived on the east coast of a continent unknown save for its fringes on 26th January 1788; not the first manifestation of the system, then, but, as it turned out, probably the most significant since out of the most unpromising conditions a nation emerged.  It hardly seems likely that the then government in England foresaw such a momentous development.  Noises were made in the direction of founding a colony, an almost explicit attempt to thwart any imperial ambitions of other countries, especially France.  In the lack of absolute clarity as far as motivation is concerned it is impossible to escape the over-riding sense that transportation to Australia was seen, initially if not throughout its operation, and despite pious noises referring to the possibility of redemption for designated criminals through hard work, as a solution to the deficiencies of the justice system in England: more brutally, a way of ridding England of an unwanted population.2  In this respect it is worth recalling that the west coast of Africa, the Falkland Islands, Tristan de Cunha and Gibraltar were amongst considered locations for convicts.  Canada did receive convicts.  In fact, the idea of transportation had germinated in the so-called New World during Spanish and Portuguese expansion and had been adopted by the English in Virginia during the early years of settlement.  At that time and after, the fallout from English internal wrangles, some military, left certain English, Scots and Irish opponents to winning sides as indentured servants, practically slaves.

The First Fleet had landed in Botany Bay, named by Sir Joseph Banks who sailed with James Cook in 1770 during his first voyage round the world.  Five days after arrival, though, Botany Bay was abandoned in favour of settlement just up the coast at Port Jackson, itself refined as base by the choice of one of its inlets, that of Sydney Cove, for settlement.3  Be that as it may, in popular terms - in terms that broadside ballad printers adopted - Botany Bay persisted as a key location.  Robert Hughes has linked it with Tyburn and Newgate, the three existing in conjunction as 'arch-symbols of the vengeance of property'.4  We might add, prosaically, that it is a little easier to rhyme 'Botany Bay' than it is 'Port Jackson'.

Other penal settlements were established at Port Phillip, New South Wales, 1803 - but only briefly; at Moreton Bay, New South Wales, 1821; Port MacQuarie New South Wales, 1821; and Newcastle New South Wales, 1822 but none of these, as far as has be ascertained, featured by name in ballads.  New South Wales, be it noted, ceased to be a penal colony in 1840.  Norfolk Island, founded as a penal colony as early as March 1788, and at one time abandoned as a receiving station for convicts, became notorious after 1825 for its treatment of second offenders, the so-called incorrigibles of the penal system, but is never mentioned in existing ballads.  Van Diemen's Land, a penal colony between 1803 and 1852, will be considered in a future article.  The Swan River colony in western Australia will receive attention too.

The historical story is epic - there are many fine accounts and new material has been and is emerging at an astonishing rate as Australians themselves continue to discover a heritage.  Ballads, though, do not offer much with which to enlighten anyone interested.  They certainly existed as a reminder to all of the dangers and mysteries that lay in an unexplored land and, ultimately, of the imagined terrors in the minds of those whose lot it may have been to be banished to the ends of the earth.  And in them the moral implications attendant on crime are clear enough.  So ballads concerned with transportation, more than anything, mirror existing social conditions and mores in England.  Where any new experience was concerned it might not even be expected that balladry could have or should have coped.  It took artists some thirty odd years to stop portraying landscape in Australia in the same terms as landscape in English noble parkland.  Accounts of visits frequently contained mistaken identity of plants and animals, let alone aborigine customs … a reflection, often, of known quantities brought up against bewildering contradictions.  Ballad printers, like artists, soldiers and scientists - and like the convicts themselves - needed time to come to terms with the new continent.5

The lot of transportation fell particularly on the poor in society nothwithstanding the presence in transports of criminals from the various strata of society (one recalls the famed pickpocket, George Barrington and - as one example amongst many whose beliefs and politics were not at all convenient for any government to entertain - the Welshman John Frost); and the poor, against whom the justice system would seem to have been weighted, rarely had the means to educate themselves in matters pertaining to an expanding world.6

So Botany Bay and then Van Diemen's Land, it would appear, became in balladry a sort of synonym for life-threatening absence.

There are, as it were, precursors (and legatees), ballads that do not name a destination.  They could well have applied to Virginia, Bermuda and Antigua7, all at one time or other destinations for convicts during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries and this is important when the fuller commercial and social context of ballad-printing on the subject of transportation is considered (see text below).  Yet the clutch of datings given below bring Australia into focus especially since, most particularly, the previous colony of America refused to accept convicts after it severed itself from the Crown in 1776 mainly because, economically, British convicts were no longer viable options in the face of a burgeoning west African slave trade; and, as will be seen, various hints in text suggest application of dating of text to the new colony.

That much for preliminaries.  We also note that, whilst in their often limping lines ballads sometimes but not consistently suggest how news, sometimes distorted, trickled back, at the same time there are snatches of phrasing that continue to echo the prevailing social conditions in the mother country and the form and expression of transportation ballads remain well within ballad conventions of theme, imagery and archetype.

Such a ballad is that known as Justices and Old Baileys or as The Transport's Farewell.  Immediately in the first title we would suspect a London origin.  'Old Bailey' is the name given to the London Justice Hall or Sessions House and itself takes its name from the street in which it is situated, part of the city limits or bailey: the place being first established as far back as 1134 … but settling into the physical form known today during periodic rebuilding after the 1666 fire of London that destroyed the medieval court house and then in 1737 and 1774.

As for the ballad itself, there are certainly issues from Evans and Pοtts (and Catnach carried the title in his 1832 list even if no examples appear to be extant and even if that late date is rather a red herring).  It might well have been Evans who was responsible for putting the piece into broadside repertoire.  The copy, with but a surname on it, was printed simply from Long Lane (as opposed to and before the Evans firm worked out of an address at 41 and 42 between 1799 and 1820) which points to printing dates between 1791 and 1795 …8

We should also note printings of the piece with the name of Armstrong in Liverpool attached and of Crome in Sheffield that may have been issued close to if not contemporaneously with those of Pitts.9

The Armstrong firm, according to the British Book Trade Index, was operating between 1817 and 1829: the first of the line, William, until 1824 (followed by Ann and by Margaret).  The Bodleian library, on the other hand, lists all its Armstrong titles as having been printed between 1820 and 1824.  William Armstrong's name is on the copy in question.  Armstrong printings of Justices and Old Baileys do not actually carry the Evans and Pitts title thus suggesting, in comparison, a slightly later issue (for more details of Armstrong copy see below).  We cannot, of course, entirely dismiss the thought that Armstrong ballads may just have come from a different source.  Finally, it should be noted that all copy has on it 'Printed for Armstrong' (my italics) - which leaves a neat mystery … incapable of resolution at present.

A John Crome printed in Sheffield between 1792 and 1830 but, again, there are no details in information with which to pinpoint the known printing, echoing Evans and Pitts, but presented as Transports and Old Baileys.  There may be some slight significance in the Crome printing in the employment of the 'f' in place of an 's' at times … normally a sign of early issue even if some examples lingered on in broadside repertoire (yet neither Evans nor Pitts employed this device in their printings of this ballad in contrast to evidence in other ballads noted below).  Overall, apart from one or two minor orthographical alterations, the texts from Evans, Pitts and Crome are entirely commensurate.

We take a Pitts printing as example as issued from both 14 and 6 Great Saint Andrew Street (thus reaching into a good part of Pitts' career: the change of premises, it will be recalled, was in 1819) and offering points for comparison.  It begins:

Here's adieu to you judges and juries,
      Justices and Old Baileys also,
Seven years he's transported my true love,
      Seven years he's transported you know.
Apart from some changes in punctuation there are but one or two phrases in Pitts different from those in Evans copy - 'I mind' in Evans as opposed to Pitts' 'leaving my parents behind' (my italics) in stanza two; 'Cold chains and irons' in Evans where Pitts has 'cold chains and cold irons' in the penultimate stanza; 'wings' in Pitts and 'pinions' in Evans apropos the eagle in the final stanza (as discussed below).

Further, Crome printings do not alter as compared with Pitts text except where we find 'your' in the first line and 'you've' in the third.  In all these printings we get an idea of how the justice system operated.  Seven years would have been the normal sentence for 'normal' crimes, principally that of larceny.  Straightaway, too, a characteristic ballad shifting of viewpoint is exposed.

Pitts goes on: 'To go a strange country don't grieve me' - another switch of viewpoint; and indicates that the transport's journey is 'all for the sake of my Polly' and that parents are left behind.  Crome has the same lines.  Then the captain, 'our commander', is introduced and 'The boatswain and all the ship's crew'.  Whether the last line in this stanza is in the nature of appeal or comment is not clear: there is a full-stop after the third line in one Pitts printing but no question mark at the end of the fourth - 'Who knows what we transports go thro''.  In this Pitts mirrors Evans.  Crome, on the other hand, puts a comma at the end of his third line (there is still no question mark).  Yet Pitts has no punctuation at the end of a third line in another printing … Orthography - or its absence - would appear to rule rather than dramatic 'sense' or a reflection of true knowledge.

The rest of the piece, in four stanzas, is a direct address by the transport to his Polly (perhaps 'transportee' would be the more accurate description but ballads appear to use the term 'transport' in the same sense) and hardly steps outside convention … 'Dear Polly I'm going to leave you' … a girl whom 'I adore' … A 'store of riches' will be brought back.  Nonetheless:

How hard is the place of confinement,
That keeps me from my heart's delight,
Cold chains and cold irons surround me,
And a plank for my pillow at night.
- even if this sounds like an imagined fate based on what was known about existing prison conditions in England.  Crome again prints the same lines.

Finally, the desire for the wings of an eagle in order to 'fly to the arms of my Polly' is an image that can be found in other ballads such as The Bonny Light Horseman.10  Crome yet again has the same lines as Pitts.  These lines, like the rest of this ballad, would appear to be confected from conventional ballad vocabulary and sensibility.  Such adoption and adaptation of convention does not suggest that transportation - to Australia or elsewhere - had, in printing terms, engendered any particularly fresh experience or fresh expression and imagery.

So that, finally, we can see a parallel set of stanzas in each of Evans, Pitts and Crome copy.

But to return, for a moment, to Armstrong: his printings, like those of Crome (and Bloomer below), have a change of title and, in his case, the Captain and Commander stanza has been re-sited as a fifth stanza as opposed to a fourth in Pitts printings.  There are two examples of Armstrong printing, the first under the title The Transport and the second as The Transports (another Armstrong ballad entitled The Transport is concerned with transportation to Botany Bay and will be considered in the next article in the series).  Armstrong's The Transports copy looks to be a refined and possibly later version than The Transport where type-face is concerned but there is no surety in this.  There are expected word changes as compared to Pitts copy …  The most obvious comes at the end of the second stanza where, instead of 'leaving my parents behind' in all other copy, Armstrong has in the two extant copies, respectively, 'And sweet Liverpool leaving behind' and 'leaving sweet Liverpool behind'.  Perhaps, especially in view of a potential genesis of the piece in the hands of Evans, this change confirms derivation rather than initiation of text.  Also, in Armstrong's stanza four, we find 'Great riches I'll bring to my dear' where in Pitts and Crome the phrase is 'Stores of riches' (Birt - discussed below - has the same phrase; but there is another change in copy from Swindells, Bloomer and Innes - 'Stores' in the latter two).  Generally, however, Armstrong printings do not differ much from those of Evans, Pitts or Crome in terms of vocabulary and phraseology.

Following on: the narrative line in Evans, Pitts Crome and Armstrong is also found in printings from Birt in London and Bloomer in Birmingham and so is the general run of orthography.11  If we accept that the ballad was focussed on Australia then the presence of copy from Birt - the firm operated between 1824 and 1851 - represents a continuing interest through to the mid-century mark but we should note that one printing was issued from '10 Great St.  Andrew-Street' as opposed to number 39 where the bulk of his stock first saw the light of day (there is copy under the Birt imprint from number 39 as well).  This gives us a date around 1828-1829 according to the Bodleian library.  In view of Birt's datings, it would be reasonable to suggest that Birt's Justices and Old Bailey (sic) was a re-issue of a Pitts text even if it does have altered phrases - 'Seven years their transported my true love …', for instance.

As for Bloomer, like Armstrong and Crome, he may also pose a question of genesis and heritage since his dates are given by the British Book Trade Index as 1817-1827; and the Bodleian lists 1816 as his earliest productive date (as it happens for a piece on the loss of the transports Comus and Harpooner … issued from 'back of 10 High Street, Birmingham' and involving shipwrecks off the coast of Newfoundland in 1816.12) The title of Justices and Old Baileys, all the same, was changed in Bloomer copy to The Transport's Farewell.  Since all other known details of Bloomer's printing include different addresses to that of High Street it may be reasonable (again) to conclude that The Transport's Farewell was printed around 1816 (an 1817 address is that of 38 Snow Hill) and this, in turn, suggests that Pitts copy had been issued at this early date or before and that Evans might still favourite for genesis as broadside printing.

There is, though, a further change in printings from Swindells and Innes in Manchester as compared to that from Pitts and the others mentioned above: where the narrative line is the same but where there is no separation of text into stanzas.  There are also the usual differences in phraseology.  The opening lines in Swindells, for instance, are:

Here's adieu to all judges and juries,
      And adieu to all bailiffs also …
The second stanza opens with 'To go to strange countries …'.  The third line in that stanza refers to 'my Polly dear”.  The fourth has 'And leaving my parents …'.  The 'riches' line appears as 'I'll be honest and true to my dear'.  And so on … Polly's bosom, in the very last line, is 'soft'.  In the end, though, it seems, the particular form was an individual manifestation and it was not shared (in Manchester, that is) by Innes who followed the Pitts and Crome form - except in that absence of the Pitts and Crome stanzaic patterning.13

There is still an interesting printing sub-history involved.  The Swindells family firm, for example, operated between 1780 and 1853.  Bodleian listings include pieces with particular initials on them - 'A' stands for Alice, the widow of George who founded the firm and who was in charge between c.1790 and c.1828, and thus well within the possible time-span of issue of the piece under discussion.  Yet the bulk of Swindells printings have no initials on them.  They might have been issued at any time within the parameters already noted (that is, between the 1790s and the 1840s - and beyond) and could have just as well have been the result of following precedent - Evans, Pitts, Crome, Armstrong - as of innovation.  On the piece in question the legend is simply 'Swindells, Printer, Manchester'.  As a rule, other copy under this imprint does not reveal any specifics of location or historical time in the various texts being composed of pieces from minor scribbledom with one or two ballads recognisable from earlier epochs (such as Bonny Light Horseman, seemingly eighteenth century in origin - one uses the term 'ballads' in the context of broadside printing not of the classic Child canon, itself a description of convenience rather than absolute accuracy).  Nor does there appear either to be any great repetition of copy as it can also be found under other Swindells imprints - Jones' Ramble from Grenfelt to Owdham, a dialect tale of a weaver enlisting to fight in the French wars, is something of an exception.  The particular form of imprint, then - 'Swindells, Printer, Manchester' - offers a somewhat distinctive set of texts.  But there is one piece that does give us something of a clue to printing dates, thus breaking the usual rule operating under the imprint discussed here.  This is Maurice and his Father, concerning Daniel O'Connell (1775-1847) and his confrontations with Peel, most likely during Peel's second ministry between 1841 and 1846, after Catholic Emancipation (1829), then, and embracing the period of campaigns for repeal of the Union; and, for our purposes, suggesting a relatively late printing date.  This is by no means a decisive factor but a John Swindells printed from an address at Hanging Bridge, Manchester between 1838 and 1841 - and some printings carry his name; a Henry Swindells from 33 Deans gate, Manchester, in 1841.  So that the combined references do appear to point to a period after 1841 during which Swindells' The Transport's Farewell was issued.

Details as given in the British Book Trade Index for Innes are, so far, sparse but the two names associated with the firm, father and son, both named George, reveal an involvement in printing between c.  1816 and c.  1841.  This could just about suggest that printing of the piece in question was derivative - but, nevertheless, despite the close form of the two extant Manchester printings, separate from any Swindells venture …  Did the Swindells copy, then, follow that from Innes?  It would not seem as likely that both these Manchester printers saw or heard the piece, in the very close form that their printings suggest, through separate sources.  A possible dating of the piece to before or in 1841 emerges for Innes copy.

To the list of printers as given above we can add that of Sefton of Worcester (operating during the 1830s and after) who printed in the Pitts form save for two minor changes - 'And leaving my parents …' rather than 'And the leaving …' and, then, 'Dear Polly, I'm going to leave you' as opposed to I am …' (all my italics).  Hodges (1844-1855) printed the piece more than once in Pitts form rather than that from Evans but with a title that reads Justices And Old Bailys (sic).14  Harkness (Farewell To Your Judges And Juries), printing from 1840, and along with Sefton and Hodges (and probably Innes and Swindells), finally confirms a sustained interest in transportation and an indication of the continuing popularity of the particular piece.  His copy follows that of Birt, apart from one change of phrase - 'Who knows what we transports do' in stanza three as opposed to 'Who knows what we transports go thro'' - and minor changes in punctuation (as we have seen, not a particularly distinguishing aspect); but not the form as found in Innes and Swindells.

Who actually took from whom, then, is still not obvious.  What seems likely is that the particular text emerged in various guises from various printers at around the same time and that its presence in broadside repertoire continued between the earliest printing - perhaps from Evans in the 1790s - through into at least the 1850s.  And there is a consistent narrative line despite the one or two local changes in appearance.  None of the detail, though, is particularly enlightening.  It is hard to see the piece, as a printing, being the product of actual experience … rather more as rumour and with the likelihood that one printer followed the practice of another.

Around mid-century, in a manifestation that, on the surface, appears to be more clear where printing history is involved, we find The Transport's Return Or, Mother don't you cry for me; like Justices and Old Baileys, inclusive of an anonymous protagonist but even more obviously reliant, it seems, on known broadside expression and on gratuitous rather than enlightening detail.  The piece is not to be confused with a ballad with the same title that includes Botany Bay as destination - to be considered in the next piece in this series.

Copy exists as produced by Birt, Ryle and Disley in London, Henson in Northampton, Ross in Newcastle, Wilson in Whitehaven and Scott in Pittenweem (issued also by Wood in Edinburgh) … a wide spread, indeed, and, in the case of Ryle, Birt and Wilson, all indicating that the ballad was 'A Parody on Susannah'.15  This being so the piece could not have appeared before 1847 when Stephen Foster's 'poem' was first performed as blackface minstrelsy.  In support of this is the information that, although the Wilson firm in Whitehaven printed from 1777 on - Thomas Wilson between 1809 and 1829 at 45 King-street (the hyphen embodying an early form of street designation) - the initial on Copy was 'W' and the address is given as 56 King Street which indicates issue between 1842 and 1856.  Henson's copy was printed at 'Lower End of Bridge Street' in Northampton, perhaps, then, before numbering of streets began and even early in his printing career.  Most Henson copy seems to have been issued from 81 Bridge Street and his dates of operation were between 1845 and 1857: it has not proved possible yet to find the date of transfer of business.  Thomas Birt, it is true, operated from 1824 until 1841 when Ann Birt took over but the address on copy is 39 Great St.  Andrew Street, which, as has already been pointed out in connection with Justices and Old Baileys, represents a relatively late date in the firm's activities and printing would seem, therefore, to have come under the direction of either Ann or Mary Birt who continued to operate until 1851.  Moreover, none of the other printers would appear to have issued any broadside ballads before the late eighteen-thirties.  The 1847 reference above might well, as a consequence, provide a strong claim of provenance for the initial appearance of the ballad.

And since all text includes a consistent narrative line we may take Ryle copy as illustration.  The storyline involves an un-named transport who was sentenced for an unspecified crime.  Although there are gestures towards life as a convict the ostensible focus of the piece is on the relationships between the convict and his girl and the convict and his mother (which the title and chorus reinforce):

Oh; well can I remember now, when but a little boy,
The fond caresses I received, I was my mother's joy.
As I grew up in after years, it caused me many a sigh,
I broke the laws and soon I caused my mother dear to

Oh, my mother, don't you cry for me,
For soon I may return again, my mother dear to see.
There follows a reference to happy days in 'this ancient city' (London?) and a tale of love before the protagonist is transported:
And never shall I once forget the sorrows of that day,
When from the prison on the coach they hastened me
It 'grieved' the convict to leave his friends and even more to see his mother cry.
Oh, tell all my companions now I'm in a foreign land,
Our governor is cruel, and we're chained hand in hand …
The second line above is a rare excursion into convict conditions.  Chains there certainly were though.  At any rate, the convict gets no sleep for thinking of his girl.  However:
One night as I had laid me down, I thought my heart
                  would break, My sufferings were dreadful, I was afraid to speak;
Then in the morn when I arose, what joyful news to
The welcome sound of liberty, my aged mother dear.
He finds that 'the Queen has pardoned me' (the Queen, presumably Victoria, being another clue for dating - her reign began in 1837) and declares to his mother that 'your child is coming home'.
Oh, my mother, cheer up and don't you cry,
Your child, though once undutiful, may bless you ere
                  You die.
(Disley, Ross and Scott leave out the final chorus).

We would not expect psychological depth of character in such a ballad - it is not the ballad way - and the piece could easily have been written with no knowledge at all of what befell convicts in Australia.  It was not important, it seems, to draw fresh attention to a potentially frightening situation through extensive detail but simply to exploit a given phenomenon in the wake of a popular song and in the general guise of conventional broadside expression.  The last chorus invokes a certain degree of mid-century sentimentality.  None of the extant copies change the narrative line.  The virtual absence of detail concerning either the crime or life as a transport - only the governor and chains line and 'my sufferings were dreadful' - suggests that this was a concoction emerging, as it were, from the printing office.  At the particular stage of the transportation system it does not reveal any genuine taking on board of either the facts of the phenomenon or the ramifications.  Out of sight - out of mind?

Yet between the early issue of Justices and Old Baileys and the later appearance of The Transport's Return transportation did elicit a varied response in a clutch of ballads that, so far, seem only to have emerged as products of a single printer or of the one or two, but which, fragment by fragment, may be said to begin to offer a sense of convict fate.  It has to be said, all the same, that any impression of a collective approach to transportation ballads in this article has to be set against the evidence of how each printer appeared to react at times independently according to individual judgement of convenient opportunity.  Thus, The Transport's Lamentation, for example, was issued by Harkness (in successive printings, indicating at least some kind of prolonged interest) although we know that Harkness was not printing until the 1840s.16  In the piece, the protagonist, 'seven months out of employ', appeals to 'All you distressed tradesmen' to listen:

Though crime is bad, yet poverty makes many a man to be
A transport from his native land, across the raging sea …
'In Lancashire', he says - and then there is a gap where the name of any town may be inserted: so underlining a certain generic nature to the piece - 'I lov'd my wife and family', adding, in familiar broadside phraseology, 'and that you know full well'.  This family was 'oppress'd with hunger' and unable to obtain relief so that he 'resolv'd upon the highway to venture' in order to 'rob some gentleman of gold'.  He was taken - although no details of his crime were given in the ballad - and at 'the last assizes at the bar I did appear', being sentenced to fifteen years' transportation.  The circumstance of the crime itself is fairly typical of how apprentices or those duped by some temptress or other fetched up - the classic is probably George Barnwell but there is also The Sheffield Apprentice, and then The Leinster Apprentice and even The Black Velvet Band for comparison.17  Hogarth's series of prints of the life of The Idle Apprentice, ending on the gallows, offer an eighteenth century precedent.  The particular piece, then, looks back in its imagery although it is possible that the occasion of issue carries its own reasoning (below).

There is some concentration on the apprentice's plight:

Think of a sentence for one's life - for fifteen years or less!
What tears it costs a family, what anguish and distress!
What heart but mourns a transports fate, what eye but sheds
      a tear!
For though we hate the crime, liberty we hold dear.
The rest of the ballad is an appeal for justice as seen through the transport's eyes: laws that allowed a man to 'earn his bread' and provide sufficient wages 'to keep his family fed'.  Daringly, perhaps, there is a comment on judges who:
… would have less to do, and half their pay might be
Devoted to the public good, and bless society.

The prisons would be empty soon, and transport ships would
Bring o'er the seas a load of corn, and not a load of men.
Act after act our rulers make, but one they will not do -
To do to others as they themselves would be done unto.
The ballad concluded by emphasising the appeal to rulers:
Let Providence direct their hearts to make such laws, and then
Instead of outward slaves, we might have free ands honest men.
… not quite a straightforward piece with the 'twist' in the apprentice's tale, then, and without possibility of mistaking its tenor.  And it does not illuminate the conditions in which transports may or may not have survived.  In this it is, as it were, a domestic piece and may reflect the times.  For, as noted previously, Harkness printed from 1840 on.  This was just after one of those periodic occasions during which there was distress amongst the Lancashire and cotton spinners.  It might be that Harkness was also looking back to the worst effects of distress amongst handloom weavers during the 1820s.  Further still, agitation for the repeal of the corn laws gathered momentum until 1846.  Harkness may even have been edging onto the coat-tails of the Chartists whose final flourish was in 1848.  Transportation itself, in this social and historical context, could almost be seen as being of secondary importance in the ballad and Harkness's indulgence sparked by opportunism; the descent of the protagonist into crime as being almost against his will.

Nonetheless, the kind of fall from grace experienced by the apprentice above can be found in parallel guise in a ballad from McIntosh entitled The Convict, this time set in Lanarkshire and involving an apprentice linen-draper who went on to the highway in order to satisfy the demands of a 'jade'.  He issues a warning to 'all you wild young fellows', insisting that he had been 'brought up in tenderness' by his parents who warned him about 'bad company'.  The apprentice declares that he had 'loved this girl' but that she insisted that he:

… go rob your master, he has money lying in store,
If money you don't bring to me, my face you'll ne'er see more.18
So a familiar apprentice story emerges - and transportation as punishment replaces death by hanging as it did in actuality, the prerogative of mercy being characteristic of the eighteenth century and early nineteenth century justice system, hypocritical or not.  Here, the apprentice robbed his master of his gold and his 'store' but then there is a rapid shift or perspective and we encounter the judicial outcome:
It's the assizes did come on, before the Judge did stand;
My prosecutors they did swear, I was the every man,
To see my aged parents how bitterly did cry,
With breaking hearts, we now must part with our own darling
                  boy …
The apprentice's master and friends 'around me they stood all' and pleaded for mercy; but 'No mercy show'd Lord Justice clerk' and the apprentice was transported for life.  It is worth reminding ourselves of the mere seven years in Justices and Old Baileys.  This may indicate a possible arbitrary code of sentencing or it may simply reflect an imaginative streak in a printer's mind.

There follows a scene in the transport's cell 'the day before we did set sail', when he asked for his parents' blessing, when his mother 'fainted in my arms' and when his father 'rung his aged hands and tore his milk white hair'.  The transport takes a 'last farewell' and bids adieu to his parents:

Come all you wild young fellows, a warning take by me,
Never believe a false young maid, my love was so to me;
They'll kiss you and they'll court you, and will give you their hand
But while you keep their company, think on a foreign land.
This 'foreign land' is the only reference to the experience of transportation - in contrast to the dwelling on the events leading to it and the prolonged farewell which would seem to have been more important it was perhaps enough to simply suggest an awful fate.

The piece in its entirety is well within broadside convention - beginning with the standard 'Come all ye …' invitation

The Bodleian gives dates of between 1849 and 1889 for McIntosh's activities and McIntosh was certainly not averse to resurrecting old history - about Charlie Stuart or the battle of Waterloo, for instance - thus underlining the relative insignificance of The Convict as any kind of news.

But the continued employment of the figure of the apprentice, wronged or not, does indicate how ballad-printers, even during McIntosh's quite late times, used existing motifs in order to illustrate a relatively new phenomenon and below it is suggested that there is a whole raft of precedence on which newer ballads were floated.

Before that, it is worth a glance at one ballad, printed by Wright in Birmingham, which has a self-explanatory title, A Transport's Farewell to Old Ireland.19  It offers but a brief excursion, a summary of what has already been described above:

To some foreign country I am bound for to sail,
From the country of Limerick in the parish of
To some foreign island I am bound for a slave,
Since in my own country I could not behave.
The lack of definition - simply 'foreign' - and the 'fictional' location indicate composition without true knowledge and the protagonist in the ballad admits that it is not the long journey 'that troubles my mind' but 'going to some island' where he will be confined: the threat of banishment from a known environment taking prominence.  In addition:
… if I was on shipboard and my Polly with me,
Bound down in strong irons I'd think myself free …
(still).  The image is, in fact repeated in the next stanza … which also introduces a captain, a boatswain and 'hardship', all familiar images in the balladry so far discussed.

The next stanza puzzles over the nature of love between men and women and insists that a woman has been 'my ruin and my sad downfall' - shades of the fate of certain apprentices.  If this transport has been ill-behaved we must guess that the particular woman encouraged the transport to offend, most probably, through robbery.  The final stanza blesses both father and mother and ends by insisting that there will be a time when the transport will be free and that 'I'll return to Old Ireland my friends for to see'.

It is, then, in retrospect, a slight piece, and makes only gestures towards Ireland and towards the experience of being a convict.  Wheeler in Manchester printed it simply as The Transport's Farewell20 - and this interchange of titles, as we are finding, characterises pieces which lack specificity in terms of offence, experience and location (we will also see this in pieces supposedly offering insight into conditions in Botany Bay).  Similarly, although Wheeler copy has one or two changes in setting-out - the first two lines, for example, reversed - the range of expression is still redolent of broadside convention.

In fact, these pieces are near-related to ballads that have only passing relevance to transportation - such as The Convict Lady's Maid, printed by Catnach, in which there is much fun at the expense of a lord - ultimately - whose wife employed a 'female' servant who, in turn, is revealed as a man and through whom, it is rumoured, the lady is due to mother a child.21  At least the fact of transportation, in this case, for 'seven years', is reported and the particular convict is, in new social terms, a returned one (ones recalls the figure of Magwich in Great Exectations - and other examples will be considered in this series) so revealing some slight knowledge of how transportation worked: but there is no other clue to convict experience.  It has been glossed over and was obviously not meant to be the ballad's focus.

A more sentimentally inclined piece is The Convict's Child, where 'The convict ship lay near the beach' and where the 'felon', whose eye was 'dark and wild', bids tearful farewell, the infant being dragged from his arms.  The final stanza suddenly involves 'The widow mother' - the import is of a woman who faces the terrifying prospect of prolonged, perhaps terminal, absence of the father - a concession that certainly underlines the possible psychological effect of convict fate.22

And whilst other ballads feature the fact of transportation or make implicit reference they nonetheless take up, alter and enhance the imagery and expressions already touched on in the discussion here and may be related, perhaps, to a more general historical experience.  Thus we need to take into account ballads that, as noted above, concentrate on farewell.  The Convict's Farewell to Glasgow offers an example, exhibiting a prolonged lament for the exigencies of 'hard fortune'.  In this particular piece, as the convict bids farewell to his 'dear laffie' no crime is mentioned but, nevertheless:

I was forced to go over the world fo wide,
And muft ftand the ftorms of the wind and tide,
To that country where married, fingle, and a',
Muft leave wives and fweethearts and gang far awa'.
This is a piece from Marshall in Newcastle who, we know, operated at the end of the eighteenth century.  The second line echoes one in our very first ballad above, Justices and Old Baileys.  Marshall also printed The Emigrant's Farewell …, again set in Scotland, which is a lament that gives no clue as to what to expect other than that 'now America is hailing', indicative of a the importance of America during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries for those in Scotland - even more so in Ireland - seeking a new life.23  We do not, at this stage, know what period had elapsed between the printing of these two Marshall pieces - or whether the printer or the collector put them together in our extant collections (this is a puzzle that we encounter again and again).  The ballads may or may not reflect a particular moment.  It would appear that the fact of emigration was viewed overall with as much anxiety as that of transportation, as indication of a sustained interest in the human phenomenon of leaving of the home country.

In this respect, Pitts printed a piece entitled Farewell to Old England, leaving father and mother behind, although in this case in order to join the army and with a hope that 'to old England we may return back again'.  Pitts also printed Farewell to Ireland, a flamboyant panegyric to 'Dumbo' (surely, Drumbo?), to 'bonny Irish Braes', to 'young bonny Stand Alade' and to 'Attribriau'.  Although the supposed protagonist ships abroad, the final stanza declares that he is 'dead and in my grave'.  This must have been a confection born in ignorance and the printer's mercenary mind.24

The point is that some transportation ballads that can be linked with Australia can also be seen as continuing a printing legacy found in ballads of emigration - ballads of lament, farewell and anxiety over absence from a native shore.  This would seem to encapsulate the principal 'message' of such pieces rather than a delineation of convict experience across the seas and even the slightly more focussed pieces that form the subject-matter of the next pieces in this series yet may be said to take their place in this line.

Roly Brown - 23.5.06
Oradour sur Vayres, France


Article MT176

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