With the ‘Bond of Friendship’ project I set out to account for the 101 female convicts who embarked on the ship Friendship in July 1817 bound for the New South Wales penal colony. It was soon evident that achieving this objective was not only highly ambitious, but quite unrealistic. I have found particular difficulty in tracing these women prior to the first time that they had come into public focus – when they came before the Courts, were tried, found guilty and sentenced to be ‘transported beyond the seas for the Terms in their several sentences mentioned’. Having arrived in the colony to serve out their severally mentioned sentences, some of the women did leave a documentary legacy, however scant, upon which I have been able to draw to try and reconstruct their stories. Others, however, for whatever reason, seem to have made little or no impression on the colonial scene – they have simply vanished into a disinterested historical void – unrecorded and unnoticed, but hopefully of some significance to their immediate families, either in the colony or ‘back home’.
My interest in the Friendship was sparked by a chance reading of an item on page three of the Bristol Mirror of 7 June 1817, which advised its readers that
On Friday se’nnight, the ten undermentioned female convicts were removed from Newgate in this city, to the transport ship Friendship, lying at Deptford, viz. Elizabeth Perkins, Sarah North, Eliza Patrick, Harriot Neat, Hester Wright, Sarah Ann Cox, Ann Kennicott, Lucy Meares, Sophia Richards, and Sarah Hopkins.
Who were they? What crimes had they committed? What sentences had been meted out to them? What happened to them on arrival at the other end of the world? Over the past year or so I have researched and written up the stories of the mixed fortunes of these “Bristol Girls”. My proof-reader-in-chief (husband) suggested that I should undertake research on the rest of the Friendship girls – a challenge I initially resisted – but not for too long!
This project is divided into two parts.
Part 1 covers the chartering and the preparation of the convict vessel, the voyage and the arrival at Port Jackson. It then looks at the ‘disposal’ of the women who on their arrival at Port Jackson were split into two groups – one being retained in New South Wales and the other transhipped to Van Diemen’s Land. Part 1 concludes with a statistical overview of the women – where and when had they been tried; their crimes and the sentences meted out to them; how long they had spent in gaol prior to being transferred to the vessel destined for New South Wales; their ages on arrival and their declared trade or occupation. . Part 2 presents the individual profiles of the Friendship women – the New South Wales (NSW) Contingent and the Van Diemen’s Land (VDL) Contingent – and those who did not survive the voyage – the Non Arrivals.
Inherently, this project is a work in progress – and what follows represents in essence a first draft. Geographical and mobility factors have meant that I have relied principally on online and secondary sources. As noted above, for some of ‘Our Girls’ quite a bit has been unearthed. For others, for whom the records no longer exist or who did little to attract attention to themselves, there is much less to go on. In some cases something can be gleaned about them vicariously, through the men with whom they chose to associate. Sometimes, finding out something about them leads to more questions, at this stage unanswered, about their lives. I should say that I am not related to any of them but I now feel a very strong bond with them.
The generous input from those who unlike me – an interloper – can claim descent, has been invaluable, and this is duly acknowledged. I would be delighted to hear from anyone who shares my interest in the ‘Friendship Girls’, who may be able to add to the account of their lives, confirm or otherwise where I have made assumptions, and most importantly, draw attention to any errors, and thereby contribute to a possible second edition!
Leonie Fretwell, DipFHS
Burra, South Australia
Time in Gaol