July 26, 2007

9 January 1807, Friday, by Elizabeth Macarthur

The Hawkesbury

Mr. Marsden's paper on the women convicts was our point of discussion yesterday, when John returned home. Mr. Marsden believes that without the sanctity of marriage there is no sufficient reason to keep men here, and they desert their families at the first offer of a place in a Home-bound transport after their sentence is served. Mr. Marsden intends to petition to Government to not send any men with seven year terms here, but only the lifers, and he wants the Governor to insist on marriage rather than allowing cohabitation. That and the payment of wages in rum do seem to be the cause of so much degradation. Yet we know, or at least regularly see the people of whom he speaks, unlike back Home where the poor are anonymous. Here we often know at least their names and something of their background. Even poor Mcgee and her daughter, drowned in the Harbour near our farm were known to us. I recalled to John the creatures we saw on Sunday morning and John referred to them by name! The Sunday miscreants are a family, Kennely by name, whose Hawkesbury farm and possessions were all lost in last year's floods. They've moved to Parramatta but don't have a dwelling, choosing instead to live like the natives, beneath the trees. They receive their store allowance, John tells me, and the man works around the Town as a scavenger. John had seen their farm and it was a poor one, but they were off the Stores, apparently, before the flood. One of their children - John believes it was the daughter - was swept from the mother's arms, to her death, the body never found. And that event evidently threw the woman into despair. Mr. Thompson paid them, in rum, for their grant - and so here they are, living 'neath the trees at Parramatta. I understand their boy has been offered a place in the Orphan School but Mrs. Kennely refused that - I'm sorry to have thought so harshly of them, on my way to church. Nothing, it appears, can be done except hope that the despair that has engulfed them may one day be relieved.
I know how welcoming that despair is, when you lose your child.

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