by: Babette Smith
published by: Allen & Unwin
In December 1835, as an Irish convict aboard the Hive, you might have been excused for thinking your luck had truly run out when, having sailed for more than 100 days across 13,000 miles of sea, and being just 24 hours from your final destination of Sydney, the ship ran aground.
It was late evening, the 240 male Irish prisoners aboard were locked in their prison deck, their guard of 29 soldiers mostly relaxing below. The Hive, under full sail and with the swell behind her, was driven hard into the sand. At first light, chief officer Edward Canney made heroic efforts to safely transfer by longboat through a treacherous surf all 300 men, women and children aboard the boat.
It was this incident and the lives of this group of people that inspired author Babette Smith to take a closer look at the lives of Irish convicts to New South Wales, their backgrounds, their experiences in the colony and the contributions they made to the emerging Australian culture.
Babette Smith is also the author of A Cargo of Women: Susannah Watson and the convicts of the Princess Royal; Australia’s Birthstain; Mothers and Sons; and Coming up for Air.