Book Review: The Tin Ticket – The Heroic Journey of Australia’s Convict Women, by Deborah J. Swiss

Chapter 4: Sweet Sixteen

Having introduced Elizabeth Fry to the narrative in the previous chapter, chapter 4 sees the paths of Agnes McMillan and Janet Houston cross with that of Elizabeth Fry. It is a crossing of paths that lifts the quality of life that would otherwise have been for the two young convicts as they arrive at Newgate Prison and then prepare for their departure to Van Dieman’s Land aboard the Westmoreland at anchor in the Thames at Woolwich. The conditions in which the the two young girls find themselves in both places having been ameliorated through the constant and industrious efforts of Elizabeth Fry and the Quakers.

It is in this chapter that the reasoning behind the title of the book becomes apparent, as Agnes McMillan is issued with a Tin Ticket with #253 stamped onto it. Her friend Janet was issued a tin ticket with #284 stamped onto it. These two numbers identified the two girls aboard the ship and they accompanied them in everything that they did and in everything that was recorded regarding them on the way to the Cascades Female Factory in Van Dieman’s Land.

With the full compliment of convicts, the Westmoreland weighed anchor in the early hours of the morning of August 12, 1836. Sailing down the Thames and through the Channel, the Westmoreland, her crew and convict cargo were on their way to Van Dieman’s Land. The remainder of the chapter provides a description of the journey to Hobart Town in Van Dieman’s Land, complete with a colourful description of life aboard a prison hulk in its journey to the other side of the world. The chapter ends as the Westmoreland arrives at Hobart Town on December 3, 1836 and the beginning of a new life beckoning in the penal colony of Van Dieman’s Land.

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