A Drift of ‘Derwent Ducks’: Lives of the 200 female convicts transported on the Australasia from Dublin to Hobart in 1849
Author: Trudy Mae Cowley
Published: 2005 by Research Tasmania, Hobart (ebook published 2014)
Format: epub or mobi
A Drift of ‘Derwent Ducks’ is a study of the 200 female Irish convicts who were transported to Van Diemen’s Land from Ireland in 1849 on the Australasia. These women had suffered through the Irish famine yet many of them made a new life for themselves in Van Diemen’s Land, most marrying and settling down to raise families.
The study focuses on their lives and the connections between the women from their time in Ireland through to their deaths. The book, published in November 2005, is a valuable reference and resource for historians, genealogists and family historians.
Winner of the Kay Daniels Award 2006. This is awarded by the Australian Historical Association biennially for outstanding original research with a bearing on convict, heritage and/or early colonial history to self-government/independence. Citation:
This is an impressive piece of scholarship, based on a wealth of original research, determination to dredge up and present every available piece of information about the 200 Irish women at the centre of the study, and a desire to recreate their humanity, their life experiences and their world.
It provides a valuable reference point and resource for any future research in all relevant areas. The quoted material with which the book abounds comes from all sorts of sources—police and court records, depositions, diaries, wills, institutional records, newspapers, gravestones, and so on—and provides insights not only into the language, attitudes and personal experiences of many of the women and their associates, but into the institutions, systems of authority and natural environment of their native Ireland and Van Diemen’s Land. The book also includes a CD containing files of all known biographical details of the Australasia women.
(Ken McNab, Julia Clark, Hamish Maxwell-Stewart)
- Chapter 1: The Crimes provides stories and statistics about the crimes of the Australasia convicts, including information on their previous, transportation and colonial offences.
- Chapter 2: The Voyage provides a description of the voyage of the Australasia from Dublin to Hobart, based on the journal of the Surgeon Superintendent, Alexander Kilroy.
- Chapter 3: The Employers provides information on the masters and mistresses to whom the women were in service upon arrival in Van Diemen’s Land, with a focus on interconnections and stories of the women in service.
- Chapter 4: The Institutions provides information on the institutions which housed the female convicts in Ireland and Van Diemen’s Land and stories of the women’s lives in these institutions, including Grangegorman Depot; the Anson Probation Station, Brickfields Hiring Depot; Cascades, Launceston and Ross Female Factories; gaols; nurseries; the Queen’s Orphan Schools; New Norfolk Insane Asylum; and pauper establishments.
- Chapter 5: The Families provides information and stories on the families the women left behind in Ireland and the families they established in Van Diemen’s Land, with a focus on interconnections and marriage under sentence.
- Chapter 6: The Convicts provides stories and statistics about the women, including information on age, height, religion, literacy, native place, trade, friendships, freedom and death.
- Chapter 7: The Facts provides a chronology of each of the women’s lives, detailing information from their convict records and events from the time of their trial to their death. This chapter was originally provided on CD, but the biographies can now be downloaded from this website.
The book is fully indexed and contains 16 pages of illustrations. The paperback version came with a CD containing biographies of the 200 Australasia convicts (Chapter 7). These biographies are now available to download from this website.
Christopher Bantick, Sunday Tasmanian
It is a rare book indeed that is capable of bridging both scholarly interest and general reader appeal. A Drift of Derwent Ducks is such a book … A Drift of Derwent Ducks is likely to become a standard work of reference but also be well read for itself. This substantial book is simply a fascinating read …
Bruce Elder, Sydney Morning Herald
It is probably true that history makes sense only when it is anchored to the lives of individuals. This premise underpins this very detailed account … The result … is a wonderful image of convict life. It goes a long way to challenge the accepted orthodoxy of female convicts as wild, promiscuous, criminal women.
Emeritus Professor Lucy Frost
Like the most assiduous of detectives, Trudy Cowley has tracked the women of the Australasia through a multiplicity of sources. She brings their lives together in a panorama of suffering and success, of families often split asunder and sometimes re-configured under the difficult conditions of colonial Van Diemen’s Land.
Dr Alison Alexander
Fascinating stories of the trials and triumphs of convict women.