On this day in 1788 my 5th Great Grandmother Mary Turner (also known as Mary Wilks/Wilkes) was a female convict on the first fleet ship Lady Penrhyn suffering below ship in hot, harsh and extremely squalid conditions after a horrific voyage from England. Mary’s feet would not touch Australian soil until February when the true perils of her situation here would make itself known to her and the other convict women! A young former servant convicted of stealing clothing she was unwanted in her homeland and exported to this country to be used for domestic and other work and as sexual relief and breeding stock. Her experience as a convict and this harsh foreign land should have broken her but she was a resourceful, tenacious survivor! She was sentenced to 50 lashes in 1789 for stealing cabbages (some wanted to execute her as they believed she had committed perjury as well) and in 1790 she was sent to Norfolk Island where she stayed until 1793. Mary died in Sydney in 1808 and was buried in the Old Sydney Burial Ground on the 21st January, leaving behind her partner David Batty with whom she had four recorded children David (1794), Richard (1797), Ann (1800) and Thomas (1802 - my 4th Great Grandfather). So on this Australia Day I will celebrate this incredibly strong resourceful woman and regret the suffering and hardships of her life. Ultimately however I am eternally grateful that circumstances beyond her control brought her to this amazing country as there is nowhere else in this world I would rather live ❤️ Unfortunately I don’t know who my indigenous ancestors on my Stevens side were or what they were doing on this date in 1788. Sadly their history was hidden and discarded in order for the family to survive and thrive in the Australia of the mid 1800’s! A number of their descendants are trying very hard to uncover them with no success so far but we will keep trying! I won’t give up as the convict history of my Battye side had been hidden and discarded as well until recently! I believe on this or any other future date chosen to celebrate Australia Day that an honest reflection of the past is required but that doesn’t mean that we cannot appreciate our present (especially this year with our Covid situation compared to many countries), by doing both we will create a better future for everyone in this nation.
I started this post a while ago and was going to finally finish and post it yesterday however our four grandchildren came over and I got sidetracked. Our grandchildren range in age now from six down to one; they are so full of life (each of them lights up a room when they enter it) and we feel extremely blessed to have them in our lives. After spending the afternoon researching this post, their arrival made this tragedy even more poignant for me and so I appreciated their company even more than usual and hugged them a bit tighter too! This morning I woke up to a cold, wet and windy Wagga day and the thought of three little girls out in August weather like this, in light weight dresses with no shoes or jumpers impacted on me even more. Those poor babies! One of the girls was found still clasping her doll that she had carried with her over the whole tragic journey. When my husband and I were looking around the Wagga Wagga Monumental Cemetery some time ago we came across a very sad he