STORYLINE - 15: 'CONVICTED - OR SHOULD BE, 'Ang 'em all!' (Fiction, let's hope it is)

Prison hulk in Portsmouth harbour - convicts were held in these battered old former 'ships of the line' before being taken to the transport ships for the long voyage Down Under
Prison hulk in Portsmouth harbour - convicts were held in these battered old former 'ships of the line' before being taken to the transport ships for the long voyage Down Under | Source
Convicts were originally sent to the New South Wales colony before other parts of the coast were opened up for 'development'. When the sentence was completed the freed convicts could either stay or return to the UK. Most stayed
Convicts were originally sent to the New South Wales colony before other parts of the coast were opened up for 'development'. When the sentence was completed the freed convicts could either stay or return to the UK. Most stayed | Source

Auntie 'Tilda railed at the young constable, 'If you ask me, 'im next door should be bundled off to Australia!'

She almost spat out the words. As usual she'd had trouble with her neighbour, Des Munro who, she said, kept digging up her dahlias in the dead of night She was convinced of it, enough to call the Cops, who said they couldn't do anything without proof. She might have to sit up and watch through her back bedroom window, the petite WPC who came with the constable told her.

'Blimey, who do you think I am, Sherlock-bleedin'-'Olmes?' Auntie 'Tilda nearly blew up and stormed off to the pantry..

'Trouble is', the WPC sighed, 'I don't think they want any more of our low-life down under'. She might have saved her breath as no-one was listening.

'Couldn't you film what's going on?' the young constable naively asked when she shuffled back to turn on the television and got both barrels.

'I ain't Cecil B DeMille neither, sonny! Come up with somethin' more creative or I'll see your sergeant about you! 'E will 'ave you directin' traffic before you can say Doctor Watson! Film it, indeed! I suppose you was goin' to stump up the cost of a fillum camera, was you?'

'Don't take on, 'Tilda', one of the other cops tried to calm her down. The sergeant was here as well. He'd been outside to look at the fence.

'Well, I mean!' Auntie wasn't coming down off her high horse. 'Come up wiv a solution I can work wiv, why can't you?'

'All right, we'll leave the WPC with you', the sergeant told her. 'Her name is WPC Holmes -'

'I might 'ave known!' Auntie laughed out, not letting the sergeant finish, and pointed her right thumb at the young constable. 'I suppose this one's Watson?'

The sergeant laughed, the WPC smiled - a wan, college educated smile - and the constable could only manage a feeble twitch in the corners of his mouth. Po-faced with it!

'Now, 'Tilda, what have I told you before? The officers are doing their best', the sergeant offered.

'That one next door's a case for deportment', Auntie mumbled, raising more than a twitch from the young constable and an outright grin from WPC Holmes. Auntie added, 'Thought that'd tickle your fancy'.

'Deportation, I think they call it, Auntie', I told her.

'Clever-dick! Is that what this college education does for you?' she chided. 'My great gran said her dad saw the convicts being led down to the prison 'ulk on Millbank, chained-up in line an' all, clankin' along like a railway train. They was meant to go to Australia but that was all finished with an' they was all sent to Bellmarsh instead - y'know, that prison across the river in Brixton'.

She prodded the air towards the river, thinking she ought to tell them something they'd already known for years.

'That far back?' The sergeant shook his head, trying to sound interested.

'That's as much as you care! This lot we've got now keeps you in overtime, Sergeant Priddick, and don't deny it!' Auntie never let up when she thought she was onto a winner. 'That's why our prisons is full to burstin'!'

'I have to admit -' was as far as he got before Auntie broke in again.

'It's 'im next door 'as to admit!' I want someone watchin' that back garden of mine after I put them dahlias in again1'.

'All right, 'Tilda. WPC Holmes will watch your garden with you. What more do you want?'

'Ave you seen 'im next door? Built like a brick sh**'ouse he is! What's she goin' to do on 'er ownsome?'

'We have to be sure it is him next door', Sergeant Priddick told her. 'It's not as if he's one of the Krays'.

'If the bloody Krays was still around there'd be less problems, I can tell you! Did your job for you, didn't they? Don't say they didn't. Now there's all these Chinese, Mafiosi, West Indian and Asian gangs and where are you?'

'Chasing terrorists', Sergeant Priddick answered straight-faced. WPC Holmes and the young constable nodded sombrely in agreement - I must admit I did as well, and Auntie eyed me with a sidelong glance.

'Whose side are you on, Terry?'. she asked slyly, raising a smirk from the young constable on her other side. He didn't get away with it for long.

'Smirk away, sonny! I pays your wages, that's what! 'Ey, sergeant, maybe your smart young constable should do the watching?'

'If you don't think WPC Holmes is up to it, what makes you think PC Dunn would be any better?' Sergeant Priddick prodded.

'Dunn, is that 'is name? Maybe 'e'd be 'well Dunn' by the time my neighbour's finished wiv 'im? My neighbour's more like Bill Sykes than your average neighbour! I 'ope your constable's up to it! Which is it, then - 'Olmes or Dunn?'

'You tell me', Sergeant Priddick shrugged. 'From what you tell me, this neighbour's more like King Kong than Bill Sykes. Do you want someone here to watch, or not?'

'Aw 'ell. You decide, sarge', Auntie folded her arms over her chest, distancing herself. 'They're your staff, after all'.

Sergeant Priddick's eyebrows went up as if to say 'You don't say', but the words that came out instead were more like,

'Constable Dunn, will you stay behind, for a while at least. When does your shift finish?'

'I'm off at six in the morning, sarge', Dunn answered.

Priddick nodded sagely and took his farewell from Auntie, not before asking,

'Well, 'Tilda, are you going to plant your flowers now?'

'My dahlias, luv. All in good time. i'll make a pot of tea first. I suppose you'll join me, Constable Dunn, before you get 'done in'?' Auntie joked, then apologised with Sergeant Priddick staring icily down at her in her old armchair.

'Sorry, luv. Bad taste on my part! Tea, Terry?' she asked me last. I nodded.

Priddick turned then, remembered me and asked,

'Can't your nephew tackle this neighbour? With respect, he looks athletic enough. I mean I haven't seen your neighbour -'

'Your lot gets paid to do that job, Sergeant Priddick. Terry's a student. Anyway you've seen my neighbour, you know. Don't you remember Des Munro? Been inside more often than the prison gov'nor. Looks nasty but sounds more like Arthur Mullard'.

'God, that's the Des Munro who lives next door to you?' Priddick stared open-mouthed. He smiles next and adds, 'Of course we know. He's on probation, so he won't try anything'.

'You 'ope! Should be down under, more like!' Auntie swore under her breath.

Priddick raised his eyes heavenward and left the house with WPC Holmes in tow,

'I'll see you in the morning, Mrs Snow', Priddick called out from the doorway before pulling the door to. The door-knocker clattered behind him and his boots could be heard for some way down the road.

'Tea...' Auntie 'Tilda repeated absently, rose from the armchair and left for the kitchen. She turned at the door and asked me, as if Dunn wasn't there, 'Fill the kettle, Terry. Ask the young constable if he wants biscuits - we've only got digestives and rich tea'.

The night was long after Auntie 'Tilda re-planted her dahlias. The dark, moonless night didn't help with watching. Dunn was bored out of his skull, but about half an hour before he was due to fo off duty there was a noise in the back garden. An old metal dustbin lid fell onto the patio. Auntie kept recycling bags in there, with old kitchen refuse in them ready to go on the heap at the bottom of the fixty-foot long by twenty-five foot wide corner garden.

'What was that?' Dunn shot up, off the dining table chair and made the door in four strides. He wrenched the door open and shone his torch onto...

'A big ginger-haired fox has dug up your auntie's flowers!' he tod me. I don't know any more than you why I stayed up with him, but I suppose he was happy with my company.

Auntie didn't take long to get down, her dressing gown - bought by Uncle Ernie six months before he died of a heart attack in the back garden - pulled loosely across her ankle-length winceyette nightie.

'What - you've caught 'im? Lemme get at 'im! Bloody neighbour', Auntie swore like a trooper, brandishing her old poker.

'Flamin' fox got your precious dahlias, Mrs Snow-white!' Munro gloated. He'd been woken up from his slumbers with all the commotion and stood there in his silk pyjamas on the other side of the fence, beaming broadly. 'Arrest the fox, constable! Deport it to Australia!, so it can get all their rabbits!'

'B***** off, bloody Munro!' was all Auntie could think of to answer back. The neighbours across the road would all be awake now with the pandemonium, all aware of Auntie's plight.

'A flamin' red fox dug up 'er bleedin' dahlias!' Munro crowed to the world at large, fists clenched as in victory. 'An' all the time she thought it was me! Serve 'er flamin' well right!'


The culprit - caught red-handed (pardon the pun)!
The culprit - caught red-handed (pardon the pun)!

Transportation

Transportation to Australia only came about as a punishment for felons because after 1776 we could no longer send them to the American colonies.

Some of the most famous to be transported were the Tolpuddle Martyrs, farm labourers thwho had organised themselves into a union to improve working conditions and safeguard their jobs. The farmers and subsequently the judges took a dim view of this organisation of the workforce, feeling threatened.

The 'union' these six men founded at Tolpuddle in Dorset was the Friendly Society of Agricultural Labourers. This was against the Combination Laws that although they were repealed in 1824/25 and superseded in 1832 by the Reform Act the political organisation of labour was still considered a threat to landowners. They met to discuss their work environment and conditions at the home of Thomas Standfield. The society led by George Loveless refused to work for less than 10/- (ten shillings, now 50p) per week. With him were James Brine, James Hammett, George's brother James, brother-in-law Thomas Standfield and his son Jonn . They were arrested in 1834 and transported to Australia.

800,000 signatures were gathered by sympathisers and a successful political march took the signatures to Downing Street and with the support of the recently appointed Home Secretary Lord John Russell five were released in 1836. Hammett had a criminal record for theft and was held another year. All returned to England, only Hammett stayed in Dorset when the others moved to Essex and on to London, Ontario, Canada. Hammett died in 1892 in the Dorchester Workhouse, James Brine died 1902 and is buried at St Mary's, Ontario, his friend George Loveless was buried at Siloam Cemetery, London, Ontario.

Wrongful transportation

Actors taking the roles of the Tolpuddle Martyrs, wrongly transported to Australia
Actors taking the roles of the Tolpuddle Martyrs, wrongly transported to Australia | Source

We needed to populate the new colony. The fastest way of doing this was by transporting an 'under-class' to build the foundations before other migrants found their way down there. Troopers and soldiers went with them to guard them, make sure they served their time. The whole 'flotsam' of administration followed on and with them arose the colony of Australia.

Some were transported for founding trade unions like the Tolpuddle Martyrs from Dorset - some of them made their way back after doing time. Others were petty thieves, vandals (including Luddites who broke farm machinery that took their jobs), conmen, forgers, embezzlers and other white collar criminals.

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