Article MT181

Glimpses into the 19th Century Broadside Ballad Trade

Number 22: Van Diemen's Land1

The first settlement in Van Diemen's Land was in 1803 at Risdon on the Derwent River but in 1804 there was a move across the estuary of the Derwent to Hobart, named for the then British Home Secretary, in something of the same way that Botany Bay was superseded by Sydney Cove (incidentally, such is the course of written history since that is has apparently been quite forgotten that Hobart Town was known as Hobarton until 1847).2  Amongst the group of forty-nine people arriving at Risdon first off were twenty-four convicts.  They had been nominally assigned to New South Wales under the jurisdiction of which Van Diemen's Land remained until 1825 and from where convicts were regularly transferred, often because of secondary offences.  This latter date renders an apparent dilemma in the dating of broadsides for, if they were to mention Van Diemen's Land specifically, it might be argued that they could not have been issued before 1825.  Conversely, printers, as we know, issued and reissued texts according to their individual perception of commercial success not as a matter of historical timing, as illustrated by those broadside ballads of a generic nature already surveyed which exist alongside other ballads that purport to illuminate, specifically, the phenomenon of Botany Bay as penal settlement.  In the following survey, too, there is no intention to suggest a strict linear succession of issue of text.  Ballad printing has its own convolutions and interstices.

One should add that transfer of convicts for secondary offences from 'mainland' New South Wales continued after 1812 when the first - one-off - convict ship arrived direct to Van Diemen's Land from Britain and, further, even after there were regular direct shipments from 1818 onwards.  There is a possibility - rather a faint one - that the direct connection between Britain and Van Diemen's Land might again just narrow the dates of possible broadside issue pertaining to Van Diemen's Land to a time after 1818 given the probability that broadside printers were, by then, aware that ships then sailed direct (but there is no evidence that any ballads referring to Van Diemen's Land were issued before or around 1812 … Catnach, whose name is the earliest associated with Van Diemen's Land, did not begin operations until 1813).  It is a little more likely that the general history of transportation may have a bearing on the nature of the ballads examined, as will be seen.  For echoes of New South Wales and particularly Botany Bay remained in the popular mind and some ballads named for Van Diemen's Land may have relied on those echoes for their success with little or no relationship to 'Tasmanian' actuality.  So much that is generic appeared un-changed in ballads that refer, specifically, to Van Diemen's Land and there is also the odd tie-up amongst specific ballads - such as the one entitled The Transports that mixes both Botany Bay and Van Diemen's Land as destination, already discussed in the previous piece in this series and re-examined below (and see, for instance, the transfer of one convict from Hobart to Sydney in the ballad Young Henry … below).

As an example of transfer of convicts: three hundred and seven convicts came to Van Diemen's Land from Port Phillip in 1804 (that settlement had closed after only a year in existence).  Additionally, convicts from Norfolk Island began to arrive in 1842 when that island came under control of Van Diemen's Land and when Norfolk Island itself, not for the first time, because of brutal transgressions of even draconian convict regulations, came under strong scrutiny from the home government (which then backed off the idea of full closure for some ten years).  Norfolk Island was closed as a convict settlement in 1852; Van Diemen's Land itself in 1853. 

The period of penal servitude in Van Diemen's Land, then, spread over fifty years although there is plenty of evidence that the name Tasmania had been in popular usage from an early date - a map of 1808 so proclaimed it, for instance.  The official name-change did not occur until 1856.  So Van Diemen's Land would appear to have continued in use as reference in broadsides, perhaps, as suggested in an earlier article, as much a symbol of rather than as a reflection of actuality in historical time. 

It should also be re-emphasised that when the first convicts arrived in Van Diemen's Land, they were, at that stage, assigned to work for government or landowners.  Under the assignment system convicts were not immediately entered into an entirely closed penal barracks (or prison) as such.  Since they were farmed out this, as a rule, allowed a slight degree of freedom from absolute restriction of movement and choice of work, even if well-being depended on the particular settler, often, of course, harsh in his treatment of convicts.  Settlers could not themselves punish servants legally but had to get the permission of a district magistrate who was answerable to the chief magistrate, himself an appointee of the Lieutenant-Governor.  So these same settlers were, in effect, subject to the whims of a lieutenant-governor in a manner not too far removed from that of convicts - without, of course, the ritual floggings, irons and solitary confinement.  Assignment, in any case, with its hope of ticket-of-leave and conditional or even absolute pardon offered but a meagre concession with many complications in its operation.  Ticket-of-leave, issued for good conduct before the term of a sentence had necessarily expired, could always have been and, indeed, was revoked. 

The assignment system might involve prisoners spending their whole sentence as assignees.  Conditional pardon meant that prisoners left the system and fended for themselves but were banned from returning to the mother country; and full pardons were also issued.  There is certainly evidence that convicts then returned to Britain - but the greater proportion, it seems, preferred to stay in the colony and, indeed, frequently made successes of their hitherto blighted lives. 

In Van Diemen's Land, at one of those times when it was felt necessary in Britain to re-emphasise punishment at the expense of reform and, under the administration of Lieutenant-Governor Sorrell between 1817 and 1824, when there was an increase in the numbers of settlers and a corresponding demand for assigned servants3, a special prison was brought into use.  Sorrell, in fact, was instrumental in tightening up many aspects of convict administration and, indeed, administration on the island generally after a period when laxity amongst officials was rife and corruption and violence endemic and when bushranging became a serious threat to the stability of the island entirely.  And his major contribution to punishment - as if separation from families, friends and homeland were not enough - was, almost as counterpoint to the assignment system, to build a prison at Macquarie Harbour, on the west coast of Van Diemen's Land and in operation between 1822 and 1825.  This was used as a destination for those assigned men who re-offended … and it must not be forgotten that initial transfer from New South Wales was already, to a large extent, in respect of secondary offences: so Macquarie Harbour, in the eyes of the administration took in the most depraved and recalcitrant offenders and treated them according to those lights.  This, whatever Sorrell's local input was, reflects an urging from the home government towards increasing severity.

As throughout the period of transportation and, in particular, with regard to Van Diemen's Land at this time, delays occurred in administration because any transaction involving convicts had to be referred, firstly, to Sydney (until 1825) and even then, frequently, back to London.  Convicts who committed murder had to be tried in Sydney … In total, what this meant as far as Van Diemen's Land was concerned, was that under Sorrell's successor, Lieutenant-Governor George Arthur, Macquarie Harbour was closed down as being too expensive and cumbersome to run and a fully fledged penal institution was set up in Port Arthur in 1830 (it did not actually close until 1877, much later than the abolition of transportation to Van Diemen's Land and when its population of convicts had dwindled to 126 paupers and 79 lunatics, who were transferred to prison in Hobart; the prison buildings themselves at Port Arthur literally expiring in a blaze in 1897).  Both places of penal servitude, Macquarie Harbour and Port Arthur, like Moreton Bay (1824-1829; unofficially after and then officially again from 1849-1850) and Norfolk Island (as indicated), became notorious for extreme conditions and ill-treatment of prisoners even by the standards of the first continental ingress at Sydney Cove.4

The assignment system was replaced in 1840, after a period in the eighteen-thirties when expansion of convict numbers took place and as the heights of transportation were being scaled, by one of probation.  This was, too, when there was one of several increased demands for convict labour amongst settlers and a determined weighting of convict administration towards harsh (harsher) penal servitude - restricted movement and insistent punishment - in Van Diemen's Land (and contemporary with a change in policy back in Britain especially at Pentonville).5

The epitome of uncompromising administration in Van Diemen's Land was the hated figure of George Arthur and given that, in the footsteps of Sorrell who campaigned vigorously to stamp out bushranging, Arthur's time did see its virtual elimination (and, whilst he was at it, the native population) and a slow progress towards economic balance and social growth, he was eventually recalled (1836), leaving an irrevocable stain on Australian history.  Arthur had set before a convict a snakes and ladders scheme of seven steps of probation in which the convict rose or fell through his own efforts or offences; but it was to be expected that this was weighted against the convict, partly because of the prevailing attitude towards offenders, partly because of Arthur's rigid personality and dedication that refused to countenance the slightest deviation from his oft-stated policies and, inevitably, partly because of local - individual - viciousness or ineptitude, or resentment amongst settlers of convicts and the system and of Arthur himself and his nepotistic clans.  He was not, apparently, particularly vindictive; but insisted on a machine-like process in which there was no room for human error and human feeling.  He sits comfortably (for him) in the historical development of Australia at a time that seems to have been filled in its upper echelons by blunderers, misfits, martinets and sadists; and like appears to have bred like so his favoured underlings mostly exhibit the same qualities.

Obviously this historical matter is complex, subject to variation in emphasis; and, more to the point, it quite escapes balladry except, perhaps, as hindermost reflection.

Ballad titles concerning Van Diemen's Land are not, in any case, numerous.  Our first example is that of The London Prentice Boy, widely printed over a fair period of time, perhaps firstly by Catnach although Pitts could have claimed that 'prize'.  The piece begins in conventional broadside pattern:

COME all you wild young chaps who live
        both far and near,        [you'll hear;
Pray listen with attention to these few lines
I once in ease did ramble, but sin did me destroy
So now upon Van Dieman's (sic) Land, is the London
                'prentice boy.
The story is told of the 'prentice boy who, after much persuasion from 'a girl', agreed to slay his master with a knife provided by her.
It was the hour of 12 at night I to my master
        went.                             [intent,
And for to rob and murder him it was my full
I took 100 sovereigns, the knife I threw away,
He was a master good and kind to the London
               'prentice boy.
The boy returned to his 'flashy dame'; she took the money; but he was sent to prison 'And barr'd in a lothesome cell … '.
And when my trial it came on my heart was fill'd
        with woe;                      [bitter foe.
The girl that long I did maintain she proved my
She was drest in silks and satins then, and sore
        did me annoy;               [prentice (sic) boy.
She tried to swear away the life of the London
His sister spoke for him since his parents were 'dead and gone' but a life sentence was passed on him and he was 'sent across the sea, likewise 300 more', some singing, some crying.  However, 'Our governor he noticed me and gave me slight employ'.  The piece ends:
Come all you wild young people, and take ad-
        vice by me,               [bad company
If you did know, what I do know or she
I have a situation; which few that her (sic) enjoy,
But ne'er again can free remain the London
               'prentice boy.
More than one Catnach printing exists and the final two lines presented here surmise from the sum of Catnach copies that have one or two missed letters and mis-spellings … In one printing Catnach has 'of' in place of 'by' with respect to advice … 6

Layout throughout Catnach printings, apart from those final two lines, is entirely consistent with no alteration of sense.  It is worth mentioning that, whereas some Catnach printings appear to be issued by himself only, one of them gives the names of Sharman in Cambridge and Bennett in Brighton as selling agents and indicates how the piece may have spread its influence.  The Catnach, Sharman and Bennett nexus is well-enough known and other names can be added to the list of retailers though it has not yet been possible to date the Sharman and Bennett expansion accurately so as to give us some sense of when certain ballads were first issued during Catnach's career.7

A Pitts printing, issued from '6, Great St Andrew Street', after 1819, shows no variation in the narrative line and but one or two slight differences in orthography and spelling: 'loathsome', for instance; and, in the final stanza, a resolution of the Catnach puzzle in the line now given as 'I have a situation which few that's here enjoy' … .  However, each line of text is printed in full separation with none of the juggling in Catnach printings as evidenced above.8  Other London printings from Birt, Paul, Hodges, Disley, Fortey, Such and W.  Taylor are commensurate with Pitts save for the one or two changes listed below and they all insist on the spelling 'Van Dieman's Land', on the 12th of July as the date of the robbery and murder, and on the girl's tactics:

She scorn'd and said begone from me you
        know what you have done,
If gold you do not bring to me your race
        will soon be run,
On boldly go, I'll shelter thee if him you
        will destroy,
So take this knife and end his life you Lond-
        don 'prentice boy …

(the lines above are from Hodges9).  As instances of small changes … Taylor uses the word 'fellows' instead of 'chaps' in the opening line and, at the end of copy, includes the name 'George Brown', possibly indicating an 'author' who, if the history of the printing is taken into account, seems to have appropriated the piece for himself.  Paul printed the ending of the Catnach puzzle line as 'hre enjoy' (sic) whereas Birt, Hodges, Disley and Taylor all followed Pitts.  Fortey left out the final Catnach stanza altogether.  Such is entirely in line with Catnach.  The combined dates of all those London printers indicate first issue by one of the two major printers, Pitts and Catnach: nothing among them, that is, before that first 1812 consignment of convicts to Van Diemen's Land; and the Pitts address helps further as pinpoint.  We can only add that Catnach, printing from 1813 on, could have anticipated Pitts.  Even so, on this evidence, the earliest possible opportunity for Catnach to have issued the text was at least ten years after initial settlement in Van Diemen's Land.  The latest London issue would seem to have been from either Disley, printing between 1845 and 1883, or Such (d.  1882); though whether or not this was at the latter end of their careers is unclear.10

Jackson in Birmingham, printing between1840 and 1855, modified a few details although his spelling of Van Dieman's Land parallels Catnach (say) and the very survival of form is significant in terms of printers following precedent and in underlining the popularity of the piece.  Jackson did give14th of July (my italics) as the relevant date, and, in lesser degree of importance, perhaps, had the girl say that she would shelter 'you' not 'thee' and the governor giving the boy 'light' employ; and then Jackson included the line as discussed above as 'I have a situation which few thiefs here enjoy', an unusual concentration of insight.11

Harkness had the familiar narrative pattern although he converted all numbers into lettering, offers 'the fourteenth of July' as date, retains spellings such as ''prentice', 'barr'd' and 'griev'd' but has 'drest' instead of 'dress'd', and, like Catnach, had the governor give 'slight' employ.  In one printing he changed the four-line stanza to an eight-line one by halving each line.  The existence of more than one Harkness printing gives another indication of popularity or the printer's insistence during his period of operation between around 1840 and 1860.12  The 'fourteenth of July' date may begin to suggest a northern bias (which has to include Jackson in Birmingham) as compared to the solidity of dating in London issues.

A printing found with a text from McIntosh (my italics) has the London formula as described above.  McIntosh was printing between 1849 and 1889 although this does not much help to pinpoint date of his issue of the London Prentice Boy text here since it is not yet possible to ascribe it safely on visible evidence in comparison with its companion piece on copy.  If the piece is, indeed, from McIntosh, then a relatively late date of issue is clear enough.13  If it is not a McIntosh printing, then, on the evidence found so far, it is most likely that the particular issue, whoever printed it, simply followed the genesis of the piece as it took place south of Watford!

There are two further printings, unascribed but one sitting along with a Birt text of The London Merchant and the other with an unascribed The Farmer's Son.  There does not appear to be any match of type-face and there are different alignments in each set of texts so that one might conclude that each set of two was amalgamated by the collector.  Whatever, both broadsides of London 'Prentice Boy, small adjustments aside, follow the narrative pattern of those described immediately above.  Something, then, of an expanded life for the piece is predicated and it is doubtful that either was an early text given the printing history of the piece as adduced already: much more likely derivative and so probably emerging from that period associated with the majority of printers in the hey-day of ballad-printing of the 1830s and 1840s or even, possibly, as with Jackson, Harkness, Disley and Such, after.14

All told, then, printing was reasonably consistent in form over a number of years, conceivably beginning in the 1820s.  Whatever the case, printing seems not to have been necessarily associated with a particular historical date but to have been prompted by commercial consideration at various times during the century; and in all printings the theme, the imagery and the broadside phraseology are those of the generic kind as already discussed in this series and as deriving from earlier narrative where we have often found the adventures, the downfall, of an apprentice.

The spelling of 'Van Dieman's Land' is interesting in that there is much tangible contemporary evidence of the use of an 'e' in the final syllable - on banknotes from around 1823, for instance, and in government reports, including the order that gave Van Diemen's Land independent status in 1825.  Abel Tasman, who named the place after the governor of the then Dutch East Indies, Antony van Diemen, certainly inscribed the spelling just after his discovery of the island in 1642 as far as can be ascertained in written records.  So there is no reason why broadside printers should have adopted the 'a' except by reason of their inimitable quirkiness, most relevant where the ballad Van Dieman's Land is concerned as discussed below. 

The Farmer's 'Prentice Boy, from Keys in Devonport, is a reprinting of the London text, a blatant example of commercial exploitation.15

The Bristol 'Prentice Boy parallels the known London 'Prentrice Boy theme, the fortunes of a young man as already described above and before in this series.  This piece, issued by Sleath (Stony Stratford), begins with a familiar gesture:

Attend each wild and rakish blade,
When I was fourteen years of age
My mind then ran on scenes of joy,
When bound a Bristol 'Prentice boy.
Subsequently, he took company at play-houses with 'her who was my heart's delight' but she 'basely did decoy' him.
'Twas silks and satins long she wore,
Supplied from my ill-gotten store …
Of jewels, costly, gay, and rare,
I robb'd my master without fear.
Eventually she demanded 'Fifty Pounds' and this the 'prentice obtained:
But justice quickly did annoy,
Both she and me the 'prentice boy.
In this case, at the assizes, the Judge condemned the two, boy and girl, 'to cross the main':
For fourteen years young men you sea (sic),
Pray take a warning now by me,
Strong rattling chains doth sore annoy,
The youth a Bristol 'prentice boy.
The boy's tearful father bids farewell and:
Now on Van Dieman's distant shore,
I labour here with many more,
And likewise she who did me decoy,
The Bristol youth and 'prentice boy.
There is little in this piece that is unfamiliar from ballads already surveyed.  The whole is set in conventional mode - narrative and expression and, indeed, mores; and the destination might as well not have been specified although one acknowledges the printer's exploitation of a particular situation - it is worth noting the continued use of one spelling of the destination that, surely, was derived from previous copy of transportation songs - and then there is the first mention (not, by the way, necessarily meant as a 'linear' observation) that we have encountered of transportation for a couple (of sorts).  There is no evidence so far found of any printing other than that from Sleath and his dates are not yet certain although Robson's 1839 Buckinghamshire directory lists him.  Again, as with The London 'Prentice Boy, at least the fact of transportation to Van Diemen's Land was placed before a public during the heyday of broadside printing; probably as a matter of Sleath's own convenience.16  (Since this piece was written Steve Gardham (Hull) has pointed out that there are other printers who issued Bristol Prentice Boy, namely, Catnach, Williams of Portsea and Whiting in Birmingham. However, none of these printings actually make a difference to what was written about Bristol Prentice Boy, being commensurate with copy from Sleath.)

A piece entitled Female Transports, in copy from a number of printers, is, rather like the ballad about Charlotte Mills already described in connection with Botany Bay, and like The Bristol Prentice Boy above, one suggesting that, whatever and whenever its origins, it simply exploited the fact of transportation with scant regard to genuine authenticity of time, place and personnel. 

The following is from Pitts, printed from '6 Great St Andrew Street' - after 1819, then, but how long after is not at all clear:

Come all young girls, both far & near & listen unto me,
While unto you I do unfold, what proved my destiny;
My mother died when I was young, it caused me to
That I did get my reins too soon upon my native shore.
'Sarah Collings is my name', whose father reared her 'tenderly' but who was 'enticed to highway robbery'.  Nothing is said about any particular transgression but at her trial the Judge sentenced her to transportation for fourteen years 'or more' to go 'across the seas, unto Van Dieman's shore'. 

It hurt Sarah Collings' heart to pass by her native town in a coach and to board ship, the implied journey reflective of the way in which convicts were transferred from prison to the hulks or direct to transport ships. 

In this piece, though, a little extra detail emerges (nothing extraordinary):

The sea was rough, ran mountains high, with us poor
               girls was hard,
No friend but God ere us come nigh no one did us regard …
And 'Van Dieman's Land' appeared, as we might guess, to be a 'wretched place':
They chain'd us up two by two, and whipt and lash'd
        along,                                           [wrong,
They cut off our provisions if we did the least thing
They march us in the burning sun until our feet are sore,
So hard's our lot now we are got upon Van Diemen's
The girls labour 'hard from morn to night' until their bones 'ache', lie upon mouldy beds and wish that they might 'rise no more' to meet 'our savage governors'.  On lying at night on beds of straw that are wet with tears the girls hear the wind as it whistles in their ears and think on 'Those dreadful beasts'.  'Most dismal is our doom'.  So,
Come all young men and maidens do bad company
        forsake,                                    [heart to ache
If tongue could tell our overthrow, it would make your
You girls I pray be ruled by be, your wicked ways give
        o'er,                                                  [shore.
For fear like us you spend your days upon Van Diemen's 17
There is also copy from Catnach, Hodges, Hillat and Martin and Such in London.  Text amongst these printers differs little apart from the usual individual punctuation and a few alterations in wording and spelling.  Catnach had 'reigns' in the first stanza instead of the Pitts 'reins' and this would appear to have altered the inference - whether this was deliberate or not is impossible to tell.  He also had the name 'Sarah Collins' (chicken and egg along of Pitts).  Hodges followeds Pitts - literally, it may have been supposed, as the legend 'from Pitts' on the ballad indicates, but not, actually, in every detail, employing 'entic'd' rather than the Pitts 'enticed', for example; 'wip'd' (sic) instead of 'whip'd'; and winds that 'do whistle in ears'.  Hillat and Martin had numbers of changes such as 'reigns' in the first stanza and 'Collins' as name - both like Catnach; 'in highway robbery' as opposed to 'to' (so this does not automatically follow Catnach); and so on … the principal alteration being in the spelling of 'Van Diemen's Land' - with that final 'e': this, seemingly, a 'first'.  Further, Hillat and Martin were certainly printing between 1835 and 1838, a relatively late time in comparison with the initial careers of Catnach and Pitts.18

Printing longevity in London was extended through Such.  In this case, apart from one or two alterations in punctuation, Such had 'enticed by bad company', no mention of highway robbery and a singular 'governor' - which once more could be said to have changed the inference; but, otherwise, the text is generally commensurate with others, including the spelling 'Van Dieman's Land' (so Hillat and Martin remain unique in this respect).19

Copy from Walker in Durham differs in the usual way where he follows Pitts in employing the word 'reins' in his first stanza; 'And go hence' rather than 'go from hence' to 'Van Dieman's shore' in his third stanza; oddly, though:

It hurt my heart when on a coach I pass'd by my native town'
To see so many I did know, it made me heave a sigh …
where Pitts, Catnach, Hodges and Hillat and Martin had the phrase at the end of the first line so set that the rhyme followed easily - 'my native town pass'd by', and the spelling 'whip'd'.  It would seem that the Walker copy is from the elder George, printing up until 1834, since the younger George usually entered his name along with the title 'Jnr' on copy and it is absent from extant copy of The Female Transport.20

Joseph Russell in Birmingham (operating from an address at '21 Moor-street' between 1814 and 1838) avowed that the female transport 'did get my way too soon' in the first stanza.  The name of the protagonist is 'Sara Collins', as in Catnach, who was 'enticed by bad company' … .  'At length, alas!' the convict ship reached the shore and 'They chain'd us two by two'; and cut off provisions 'if we did the least thing wrong'.  There are no other changes.  A date of issue is suggested by theses details, evidently following on from or even, perhaps, contemporary with some London printings.  Likewise, although not necessarily in harness with Russell, Wright in Birmingham, operating from 1820 to 1855 (and, as it happens, also, as copy indicates, from an address in Moor Street, Birmingham: note the spelling, probably a later one than that associated with Russell) some time before 1843, thus narrowing the period when he might have issued the text - not, then, at the end of his printing career - has the same changes except for 'At length alas'.21  A general time for issue in Birmingham looks most likely to have been during the 1830s, whatever the current vagueness of attribution and whatever the necessary refinements, so emulating Walker.

An issue without imprint has the same narrative line as other printings - this does not vary throughout extant texts - but the one or two alterations in spelling and punctuation.22

There is no doubting the extra detail in this piece as compared with other ballads surveyed so far, although both narrative and expression are familiar.  It is still in most ways a matter of convention.  One takes the 'governors' to be the immediate overseers (which, if so, underlines the distinct change in Such copy even if this was unwitting) and the 'beasts' simply to have been imagined; and straw and chains imagery parallels what has already been found in other transportation balladry.  The warning to others is, again through what had already been observed in balladry, predictable enough.  The acceptance of connection between event (robbery) and retribution is set firmly and without protest in a social context where an individual's fall from respectability is seen as 'wicked'.  Yet the chaining two by two, the whipping and lashing are 'new' to us.  Is this how the system actually worked?

And the one other notable change as the range of printings unfold is worth a second glance: that spelling of 'Van Diemen's Land' in the text from Hillat and Martin when all others maintain the use of an 'a' in that final syllable.

Taking into consideration printing by Catnach - as reminder: he was operating from 1813 until 1838 - and Pitts (between 1819 and 1841, when he died) the life of the piece appears not to have been so very prolonged; running into the 1840s, certainly; probably, through Such, to an even later date - and if Such acts as a kind of marker in terms of pedigree and legacy then broadside printers' habits of following printed precedent and of ignoring actuality are demonstrated in the spelling of 'Van Dieman's Land'.  But, all told, given the operating dates of printers adduced above, it might be that the piece was first printed during the eighteen-twenties (Catnach and Pitts, maybe) and that the solid evidence dates from the hey-day of printing, during the 1830s and 1840s, and also the hey-day (sic) of the transportation system.

In terms of the ballad's subject-matter, it would seem likely that cases of this kind had come before the printers' eyes in actuality but it should be stressed that females were most often transported for petty theft not highway robbery.  They seem also to have been indelibly and unfairly cast as prostitutes but this was not a transportable offence: more often an associated 'failing', a convenient patronising condemnation on the part of authorities; and whilst it is true that prostitution was rife in late eighteenth century and early nineteenth century British history, especially in crowded cities, it could be argued that as a profession or habitude it was sometimes the consequence of cold-blooded ruination - in 'respectable' terms - and of poverty and lack of regard in society.  This whole subject, as noted during the course of the previous piece in this series, is one where a revised perception of actuality is becoming accepted (too late for the women concerned).23

One of the strongest representation of texts issued in connection with Van Diemen's Land is entitled - well, why not? - Van Dieman's Land and this was followed by Young Henry the Poacher.  These two ballads draw us back to the phenomenon of poaching as discussed on this site previously; with some import in that the incidence of the transportation of poachers is, relatively speaking, small (let us remind ourselves) - some three hundred persons, according to A G L Shaw out of a total of 162,000 transportees - male, that is, since females do not figure in poaching offences.24  It is possible, in some measure, to break this down a little … A study of poaching in Norfolk reveals seven sentences to transportation subsequent to conviction in two hundred and ninety-nine cases.25  L L Robson, though, in his survey of convicts based mainly on events in Van Diemen's Land, merely notes that 'Only a handful of men were transported for poaching' - still, in effect, supporting overall findings.26

As far as ballads are concerned, we begin with Van Dieman's Land and Catnach:

COME all you gallant poachers, that ramble
        void of care               [gun and snare,
That walk out on moonlight night with your dog
The lofty hare and pheasants you have at your
        command;                      [man's Land.
Not thinking of your last career upon Van Die-
The names of Tom Brown (from Nottingham), Jack Williams and Poor Joe are canvassed who, out poaching, were 'trepann'd by the keepers hid in sand' and transported for fourteen years.

Unlike the text of Female Transports, the latter, in any case, in an admittedly tiny gesture, this ballad gives no details of the voyage but, in comparison to what we have already encountered, there is a clutch of new imagery associated with the destination itself:

The first day that we landed upon that fatal shore
The planters they came round us full twenty score
        or more,                                           [hand
They ranked us up like horses, and sold us out of
Then yok'd us unto ploughs, my boys, to plow (sic)
        Van Dieman's Land.
The cottages that the transports lived in - a first mention of any building in balladry, again not 'linear', as so far surveyed even if the implication is strong in The Female Transport - were built of 'clod & clay'; bedding was of 'rotten straw' (again as in The Female Transport), with no chance of protest; and there were fences of fire 'To drive away wolves and tigers' … surely an imaginary streak if more specific than the mere 'beasts' of The Female Transport.

Now the narrative takes a turn … :

Its (sic) often when in slumber I have a pleasant dream
With my sweet girl a setting down by a purli (sic)
        stream,                                           (mand
Thro' England I've been roaming with her at com-
Now I waken broken hearted upon Van Dieman's Land.
In two Catnach copies, 'purli' becomes 'purlin' … it is not yet possible to gauge the order. 

The transport blesses "our' wives and families - but not the girl of his dream- and the late 'happy shore', an 'isle of great contentment' (one notes the apparent travesty) which he and others shall see 'no more'.  In his present state there are 'wretched females' at a ratio of twenty men to each woman … a figure reflective of the actual imbalance.  More so, though:

There was a girl from Birmingham, Susan Sum
        mers was her name,       ;        [the same
For fourteen tears transported we all well knew
Our planter bought her freedom, and married he (sic)
        out of hand                                    [Land
She gave to us good usage upon Van Dieman's
And the piece concludes with 'good advice' to 'all young gallant poachers' to 'Throw by your dogs and snares' for, knowing the hardships that transports endure, they would never poach again.27

The Pitts narrative (in more than one issue) is the same as that of Catnach and there are but a few orthographic changes.  In stanza one, Pitts has 'hares and lofty pheasant'.  In stanza five (strictly speaking, the gaps between stanzas in both Catnach and Pitts are not always particularly well demarcated although one Pitts copy does make the separation absolutely clear) Catnach's 'purli' and 'purlin' become 'pearly'.  Otherwise, it is a matter of slightly altered layout and punctuation.28

After Catnach and Pitts in London, there were printings by Batchelar, Taylor, Fortey, Disley and Such immediately positing something of an extended life that indicates popularity up to the mid-century mark and beyond through Disley and Such.

Birt's copy has the Catnach 'lofty hare & pheasants' in its first stanza.  'Daring' poachers in stanza three become 'darling poachers'.  'Pearly' is retained.  Batchelor has 'lofty hare and pheasants', 'daring' and, unlike Catnach, Pitts and Birt, the spelling 'plough' (Van Dieman's Land); and, further, 'purling'.  Taylor has the same.  Fortey has only dog and gun but no snare and 'hares' and 'the happy shore' - Catnach merely had 'th' (sic) and all other printings so far mentioned, 'that'.  Disley had 'hares', 'pearly' and 'that'.  Such had 'your dog and gun' but no snare, the keepers 'in the sand' and 'the' happy shore but no other changes.  Clearly, within the narrative parameters, there is little change to the essentials of text amongst London printers but each printer, to an extent, still went his own way, perhaps deliberately, perhaps carelessly.29

In fact, where the history of printing of this piece is concerned, Roy Palmer has posited a perfectly reasonable genesis: to whit that it piece was produced 'in response' to an act of 1828 which declared that if any three men were found out poaching, any one of whom was carrying a gun or bludgeon, then all three were liable to transportation for a period of fourteen years; and that two cases of poaching in Warwickshire gave immediate impetus to the ballad.  It subsequently appeared in Catnach's 1832 list, the conclusion being that it had been composed at some time in 1829 or 1830

Further, the unanimity of reference to Nottingham and to Birmingham to be found in copy of Van Dieman's Land might suggest a Midlands origin.  The presence of three named poachers and the particular sentence seems to reinforce the full hypothesis.30

A sequel, Young Henry the Poacher, followed (see below).

Printers outside London offer certain parallels and variants, none of which subtract from Roy Palmer's hypothesis.  For instance, James Williams in Portsea, seemingly a comparative rarity amongst southern 'country' printers of the piece, has the London form - 'lofty hare and pheasant' in stanza one; 'transported us to Van Dieman's Land' in stanza three; 'Our cots we surround with fire in stanza four: 'pearly' stream in stanza five; and 'Susan Summers' in stanza seven.  Dates for Williams printings look to be centred between 1823 and 1847 at 47 Queen Street, Portsea, Hampshire, certainly covering the period of issue that we can ascribe to Catnach and Pitts and others above, solidly within the parameters of the hey-day of broadside ballad printing.31  Houghton in Worcester, printing between 1829 and 1834, has 'unto Van Dieman's Land' in stanza three but absolutely the same form found in London copy.32  His is an apparently immediate connection: one would think through imitation.  Ford in Chesterfield (printing during the 1830s) followed the same pattern of form and small individual changes- 'lofty hare and pheasant'; cottages 'surrounded by fire'; 'I waken broken hearted'; but Susan Summers from Birmingham … 33

It is a slightly different story elsewhere.  Fordyce in Newcastle, printing from an address in Newcastle dated to 1834 - has dog, gun and 'a snare', but, more importantly, 'Thomas' Brown and 'determined' poachers; of the planters, 'there might be twenty score'; a 'circling fire' round the cots instead of the London 'fenc'd with fire'; the girl in the dream 'sitting near me' rather than 'a sitting down'; Susan Summers becoming Ann; and then an additional stanza:

Now if I had ten thousand pounds laid down all in my
I'd give it all for Liberty - of that I could command;
Again to England I'd return, and be a happy man,
And bid adieu to poaching, and to Van Dieman's Land.34
Ross in Newcastle (printing between 1842 and 1851) had the same text - this taking some altered punctuation into account.  Gilbert, also in Newcastle (printing between 1850 and 1855), had 'dog, gun and snare' but Fordyce's text otherwise, including 'Thomas' Brown.  Both Ross and Gilbert have the additional stanza found in Fordyce.35  This form, altered from London printings and following Fordyce, can be seen to have been a relatively early manifestation after the date of genesis as proposed by Roy Palmer.

Sanderson in Edinburgh (printing between 1832 and 1836 - although these dates do not quite encompass his full career) has the Fordyce form.  So has Bebbington in Manchester, whose copy indicates operation from an address in Oldham Road, Manchester, between 1855 and 1858 (he stopped printing in 1861).36  Something of a north-south divide emerges, turning on that extra stanza and continuing for some time.  Judging on the assemblage of northern printers' dates given here, it looks, too, as if the particular form was initiated by Fordyce.

To complicate matters a little: William Wright, in Birmingham (operating between 1820 and 1855 with an address in Moor Street on copy in amongst various other addresses, none of which were used by other printing Wrights in Birmingham … almost if not quite narrowing dates of issue to a mid-period in William Wright's career), has the London form, given the smallest of alterations in punctuation, but also the additional stanza as found in the north and it placed before the warning stanza: which suggests that his copy was either the first to so introduce the extra stanza or that he could not have printed the ballad before the 1834 Fordyce date.  Either way, there is a certain circling in on date of genesis of the northern form.37

Taylor, also in Birmingham, puts the cat among the pigeons entirely.  His text has the same first six stanzas that are found in all other text, ending with a 'God bless our wives and families … ' stanza but, then, has the following line: 'There was a girl from Birmingham, Lee Tathers her name' (was this an utter garbling?) before the planter buys her freedom and marries her after which she gives the convicts good usage - the usual outcome.  Further, though, this is where the text ends.  There is no admonition.  The printer was probably an Edward Taylor, connected with the printing trade between 1815 and 1875 since the address on copy at 'Upper Priory, Birmingham', one of several at which Edward Taylor worked, coincides with an address for Sefton in Worcester, operating between 1834 and 1839 from 41 Broad Street, Worcester, who, as the Taylor copy has it, sold the ballad: a probable date of issue by Taylor thereby surfaces that follows the suggested genesis of the piece, c.1829-1830.  No other Birmingham Taylor appears to have worked from the Upper Priory address.38

There are copies without imprint.  In one we have cottages 'fenc'd with fire' and a 'pearly stream' and a final stanza of 'So come all you gallant poachers' which includes the warning already described above, beginning 'So you gallant poachers … '.  In a second, the opening phrase is 'Come all my gallant poachers … ' (my italics), the destination is consistently given as 'Vandieman's Land', there is a 'pearling' stream and there is a final warning stanza beginning 'so (sic) all young gallant poachers … .  These texts, then, play on the vistas of adoption and adaptation of text as evidenced by the north-south divide - in this respect neither quite the one nor the other.  Despite the small changes, the essential narrative line including the warning stanza is the same as it is in other printings from outside London.39

There is a much more clear exception in Harkness copy.  In more than one printing he altered text although the outline of narrative remains perceptibly that found in other copy.  In one issue, he presented the Fordyce kind of text with, for example, 'Thomas' Brown and 'Ann' Summers - but also a chorus line: 'All young men beware lest you are drawn into a snare … '.  In this Harkness thus upholds the north-south differences with what appears to be his own idea vested in the chorus.  But, more startlingly, in another issue, there are considerable changes, beginning:

Come all you lads of learning,
And rambling boys beware,
And when you go a hunting,
Bring your dog, gun, and snare.
The lofty hills and pheasants,
Will be at your command,
Think on the tedious journey,
Going to Van Dieman's Land.
And then,
There was one Brown from Galway town,
Pat Martin and poor Jones,
They were three loyal comrades,
The country well did know,
Till one night they were trepanned,
By the keepers of the strand,
And for seven years transported,
Unto Van Dieman's Land.
There was a sweetheart, Jane Summers, from Dublin, transported for 'playing of a game', and whom a 'Captain' married.  Only then does the landing stanza appear, where 'The Negroes gathered round us', there being 'About fifty thousand or more'.  The plough becomes a 'trace'.  In the cottages,
The neighbours gathered round us,
Saying, slumber if you can,
Think on the Turks and Tigers,
That's in Van Dieman's Land.
The dream is of a girl in Ireland.  And there the ballad ends, obviously a development of text as encountered in other printings, and possibly influenced by oral transmission, perhaps even coming from an Irish source (although there are no known Irish printings).40

It is always worth pursuing the historical aspect in order to gauge not just when but how broadside printers perceived the phenomenon of transportation and there is little in the balladry of transportation that we have surveyed so far that is as specific as that in Van Dieman's Land save, perhaps, for detail in the one or two ballads that have a named protagonist, real or imagined.  At the same time the persistence of the one text-type up through the mid-century mark (allowing for the northern interpretation of Fordyce, Ross and Gilbert in Newcastle and the rest) indicates that there was a deliberate choice amongst printers, despite the changes adduced above, to offer what had become an established story-line.  In copy, it is not possible to gauge any deliberate concentration on any one aspect of transportation - during, say, the period of assignment or then the later development under Arthur of the probation system.  The point, too, as far as convicts were concerned, is probably arcane. 

And, overall - amongst so many ifs and buts and possibilities and apparent contradictions - whilst incidental detail there is in part, the threat that is, as it were, posed is not much different from the threat of banishment and absence from home that can be found in other transportation balladry, whether supposedly specific to Van Diemen's Land, to Botany Bay or as general illumination of the transportation system.

In connection with the name, it is noticeable that, in most recorded versions, the first syllable in 'Diemen's' is pronounced as is the word 'die' and it would have been perfectly possible to sing 'Dieman's' in the same fashion - which spelling, indeed, can be found in manuscript versions.41  It may have been that sung texts derived from an initial interpretation of printed text and out of comparative ignorance of circumstance.  This, in turn, would underline the characteristic found in much balladry - as discussed throughout this series - of the attraction of narrative as opposed to strict relevance to events that were passing.  The transfer - one way or the other - of song text is always a matter of some (disputatious) speculation except in those cases where, for instance, a singer might declare that he got such and such a song 'off a ballet'.

Reverting to text itself: in essence, Young Henry the Poacher has the same pattern amongst printers as did Van Dieman's Land with no change in the narrative sequence but predictable changes in some detail and punctuation and layout.  Pitts offers our first example; beginning with a Come-all-ye opening stanza:

COME all you wild and wicked youths, wherever
        you may be,
I pray you give attention and listen unto me,
The fate of us poor transports as you shall understand,
The hardships that we undergo upon Van Dieman's Land.
Then there is a chorus, remarkably similar to the chorus in Harkness's text of Van Dieman's Land:
Young men, all now beware,
Lest you are drawn into a snare.
This also reminds us of the chorus to be found in Blackburn Poachers - 'Now all be aware lest you are drawn into a snare' - as referred to in the article on Rutterford the Poacher in this series; and, therefore, again, to a generic character in balladry.42  In the case of Blackburn Poachers, based on an incident that took place in 1839, there is no doubt as to the direction of copying.  In Young Henry … the narrative continues with references to parents who reared the protagonist 'tenderly' and how he was enticed into 'bad company'.  Then there are very specific details to a childhood in Warwickshire near to Southam; to Young Henry as being 'in Harbourn known full well' and how 'me and five more' went poaching in Squire Dunhill's park and were 'trepanned' and sent to Warwick gaol and an appearance at the March assizes.  There they stood 'like Job', patiently (an outstanding lyrical image in the armoury of broadside expression), but because some were 'old offenders' they were sentenced to 'fourteen years'.  In this respect there is no hint as to the actual nature of the crime - whether any of the assembled poachers carried clubs or whether any violence was offered.  Only the sentence itself suggests such an occurrence.  As is often the case there are lacunae in ballad narratives.

Nor, as always with ballads, is it appropriate to look for High Art poetic expression; but, as there is reference to Job described above, so there follows a quite lyrical stanza, especially in the final line:

The ship that bore us from the land the Speedwell was
        by name;                                    [raging main;
For full five months and upwards boys we ploughed the
Neither land nor harbour could we see believe it is no lie,
All around as one black water boys above us one blue
        sky …
Slightly more prosaically and mirroring the line in Van Dieman's Land, the transport laments his native shore, 'That cottage of contentment' (we may question the sentiment as historical fact but readily understand the sense of loss), his 'own dear father' and 'tender' mother - one more, lyrically, 'the womb that did me bear'.
The fifteenth of September 'twas then we made the
        land,                                           [hand;
At four o'clock we went on shore all chained hand in
To see our fellow-sufferers we felt I can't tell how,
Some chain'd unto a harrow, and others to a plough.
No shoes or stockings they had on, nor hat had they to
        wear,                             [heads were bare;
But a leathern frock and linsey drawers their feet and
They chain's them up by two and two like horses in a
        team,                                           [cane.
Their driver he stood over them; with his Melackey (sic)
Fortunately, this particular transport was sent to Sydney (actually 'marched', albeit across the water, by the way, and singularly unhistorical, thus suggesting pure invention) where, not surprisingly in view of the foregoing detail, when a gentleman employed him as a book-keeper, his 'joy was out of measure'.  Further, there was a female servant, Rosanna, 'For fourteen years a convict … from Wolverhampton' and they were able to tell each other their tales of love before once more 'rattling of our chains' in a foreign land: yet another vibrant image.43

The amount of detail especially in naming here might well appear to support Roy Palmer's hypothesis of a distinctly Midland origin for the piece.  And the images of convicts as referred to here, if susceptible to historical correction or refinement, are out of the usual run of reference in transportation balladry.  One way or another the picture of convict life comes alive in this ballad to us (did it make any difference to a contemporary audience?) as in few others.  At the same time, as Roy Palmer pointed out, a good deal of the detail of a supposed life in Van Diemen's Land found particularly in Young Henry the Poacher is likely to have been fanciful - like the transfer to Sydney.  It has been made clear already that, sometimes, the apparently cavalier approach of ballad-printers included a mixture of actuality and imagination. 

A brief survey of available texts other than that from Pitts (Roy Palmer gives a figure of ten in Madden including Catnach and some of these can also be found in the Bodleian Allegro archive) reveals little change either in the narrative line or in layout.  In London, Catnach copy is the same as in Pitts save for the smallest changes in layout and spelling.  Fortey, too, follows this form.  The only change in Such copy is the substitution of 'Malacca' for 'Malackey'.  W Taylor does effect change: the scene is now Harford, surely an individual interpretation (see also the northern change below).44

A copy without imprint - set with a Walker text entitled Henry's Downfall and, in type-face and layout, looking very like the Pitts and Fortey texts already noticed - is again commensurate (and includes 'Malackey').45

So is one copy from Clift in Cirencester (operating between 1824 and 1842 - in something of a rare appearance amongst 'country' printers as far as can be gleaned from extant copy) save that 'Squire Dunhill' now becomes 'squire Dugnell'; the phrase is now 'the speedwell (sic) was her name'; we have a 'Malacca' cane; and written figures become numbers.  Another Clift printing contains one or two examples of different wording, such as 'foreign lands' in the final line as opposed to 'distant lands' in the first example of Clift copy but is otherwise no different in its essential narrative line.46

It is the same case with Jackson and Pratt in Birmingham except that (all my italics) Jackson has 'And' to our great misfortune; 'The ship it bore us … '; 'Malacky'; 'Sidney'; and 'rattling off our chains (sic)' - and Pratt also has 'The ship it bore us'; 'my native land' instead of 'shore', thus compromising strict rhyme, 'fellow creatures' rather than the usual 'fellow-sufferers'; 'Malacky'; and 'Sidney' … nothing untoward.47

Further north, though, Bebbington in Manchester gives the title of the particular piece as Henry's Downfall and there are distinct changes in naming and location:

I was brought up in Lancashire, near Bolton town did dwell,
My name it is young Henry, in Chorley known full well …
The poachers go out 'unto a noble squire's park' and, after being 'trepanned' were sent to Lancaster for the assizes.  The rest of the text is the same as those already surveyed except that Rosanna is noted as having come from Liverpool.48

There is also Harkness and Walker copy, the latter under the same title as the text from Bebbington but Harkness changing the title to Young Henry's Downfall.  One would surmise that northern texts derived from pre-existing ones.  A north-south divide, similar to that with regard to Van Diemen's Land, is clear enough.  Why this was so, unless it was simply to glean extra, commercial attention by specifying a local setting (in London, Taylor's version stands out in similar fashion), is, as ever, unclear.49

Whatever the case, it can be seen that Young Henry the Poacher was a popular piece amongst printers although after mid-century there is not much evidence of its survival (at the same time, there are several sung versions in note or manuscript form and as recorded artefact available from the twentieth century as there are of Van Dieman's Land, perhaps better surveyed in a separate piece along with other transportation songs).  As to this printing history, Roy Palmer's suggestion that it forms a sequel to Van Dieman's Land is absolutely feasible although incapable of clear proof.  Mr.  Palmer cites two cases of poaching in the Midlands, one in 1829 when eleven poachers appeared at the Warwick Lent assizes and sentenced to death for shooting at keepers on the estate of a Mr Dugdale (the ballad versions of the name are close enough for authenticity) and had their sentences commuted to transportation for life for five poachers and fourteen years for the other six, amongst them - an intriguing coincidence - a Henry White (Roy Palmer's italics).  The second case involved seventeen poachers convicted at the same assizes for shooting at keepers on the Earl of Denbigh's estate at Newnham Paddocks, near to Coventry.  There was evidently much popular feeling in the area at the time against keepers and when prisoners concerned in both cases were being conveyed to Woolwich, 'the normal route through Coventry was avoided, and an alternative taken, through Southam' (my italics).50

One interposes the comment here that there is no evidence in history of any convict ship named Speedwell.  This appears to have been a name conjured, even as symbol.

And so one notes that the singular narrative line in all of the ballads and the consistency of naming are supportive of Roy Palmer's hypothesis but that our experience of ballad literature shows that printers were always alert to commercial possibilities - especially as a matter of convenient juggling of time and historical actuality.  In the next piece in this series a similar juxtapositioning of event and imaginative interpretation (or reportage) will be discussed.

For the moment, one continues … to find a rather sparse showing of Black Velvet Band which, apart from the one line indicating a 'free passage to Van Diemen's Land' has little to do with that destination and much to do with how a young man was, apparently, gulled.  We may take it, too, as essentially a late manifestation, from Birt, Ryle, Fortey, Disley, Edwards and Such in London and Swindells in Manchester.  If we note the spelling of the destination we may see an edging towards a definite change at a comparatively late date.  The piece is sprinkled with cant expressions - 'I twigged her a fakin his cly', 'the sneezer', a 'lag' - in a way parodic of the history of a victim, an apprentice, as in the old story.  The fact that Van Diemen's Land is mentioned indicates that notice was still being taken of the phenomenon of transportation; and cause and effect, larceny rewarded, is characteristic of the larger part of transportation history.  Black Velvet Band, all the same, is hardly the most important of pieces that refer to Van Diemen's Land.51

In something of a similar way, a variation on The Bonny Sailor Boy story has the rich merchant threatening to banish the boy who is in love with the merchant's daughter to 'Vandieman's Land' and shows how a broadside printer might adapt a story to fit circumstances and in so doing incidentally reveal emphasis on transportation.  The sailor boy, of course, never got to 'Vandieman's Land'.52

One further ballad, printed in Newcastle alongside a Pitts ballad (The Girls We Love So Dearly), concerns a Glasgow Youth, who bids 'FAREWELL to auld Scotland' because:

For fome foreign country, I'm bound for a
Since in my own country I could not behave …
There are echoes of other ballads, especially in terms of lament, since it is not the 'long journey' that troubles the youth nor being 'confin'd', but his absence from Molly who, if 'with me' and even if he was bound down by irons, he would 'think myself free'.  A captain and a boatswain (shades of Adieu to Justices and Old Baileys) appear and we learn that the youth is set for 'Van Dieman's Land'.  He bids farewell to his father and mother, his friends and his relations; and asserts that:
… the day is now coming when I will get
And I'll return to auld Scotland …
It is, like so many, a generic piece, throwing no light on Van Diemen's Land.  With the employment of the long 's' it could be early copy.53

Finally, there is the matter of cross-reference and of recapitulation.  In the first case, as discussed previously in this series, Birt's copy of The London Convict Maid with a transposed destination - Van Dieman's Land instead of Botany Bay, to which the ballad, ostensibly first referred - must be taken into account: a general scepticism about ballad-printers' veracity surfaces.54  In the second case, copy without imprint entitled The Transport, also referred to in the previous piece in this series which attempted to survey ballads with Botany Bay as destination, has more changes.  Its second stanza - there is some repetition of discussion here - reads as follows:

I was brought up in Manchester, where I'm known full well
Brought up by honest parents the truth I now do tell,
Brought up by honest parents and rear'd most tenderly
Till I became a roving blade, which prov'd my destiny.
This particular convict is found guilty at the 'New Bailey Sessions' where 'the Chairman' sentenced him.  And, after a stanza referring to a 'Father dear' and to 'my tender Mother' who tore off 'her grey locks', there is another with a change of scene:
As we came up Market-street it was a dismal sight
Every person p by look'd at us with a sigh,
There goes a ? of transports, to leave their native land,
And shotly (sic) they must proceed, unto Van Diemen's Land.
The girl in Manchester is then referred to … the whole piece, then, including the same narrative line as all those referring to Botany Bay discussed previously.55

In sum, texts with special connection to Van Diemen's Land would appear to have been issued throughout the first half of the nineteenth century though not much beyond - actually mirroring the cessation of transportation to Van Diemen's Land in 1853.  The first may well not have appeared until the second decade, at least ten years after settlement was first established and when there was a first regular shipment of convicts (1818) or even when Van Diemen's Land became separated from New South Wales in 1825 as far as status is concerned.  We only have the names of Catnach and Pitts that encompass any possibility of early printing, Catnach beginning operations in 1813 and all Pitts contributions being issued from '6 Great St Andrew Street', that is after 1819.  There is much to be discovered about precisely how news got back to Britain and with what degree of time-lag but we do know that it did do so through the evidence of government and newspaper reports and various debates (the scandal of the poor treatment of convicts conveyed in the Second Fleet, 1790, with a quarter of the total cargo dead before arrival, was of particular public concern and a degree of censure and the prolonged proceedings of the Molesworth committee in 1838, seeking to change conditions - hoping for a more aggressively repressive system - excited comment) and in anecdotal evidence from returned visitors and in the undoubted presence of returned convicts - even, on occasion, their own written records.56  If it is objected that those most affected by transportation would hardly likely to have been participants in debate a counter-proposal of word on the street might be offered but the main tangible evidence must surely lie in the very broadside ballads that have been discussed.  Yet, as we have seen, all told, there is not much in the ballads, except perhaps in Young Henry the Poacher, that would have illuminated convict life in Van Diemen's Land and we have to accept that the principal engagement is to be found in material derived from pre-existing ballad convention in narrative and imagery.

Roly Brown - 12.7.06
Oradour sur Vayres, France


Article MT181

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