seamus dubhghaill

Promoting Irish Culture and History from Little Rock, Arkansas, USA


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First Irish Convict Ship Arrives in Botany Bay

The Queen, the first ship delivering Irish convicts, arrives at the penal settlement of Botany Bay in New South Wales, Australia on September 26, 1791. About 30% of all Australians are of Irish birth or descent. Many emigrated freely but many are descended from convicts transported there in the early years of the colony.

Britain has a policy of transportation. Up until the American Revolution most are sent to the American colonies or the West Indies. By the 1780s, Britain badly needs prison space. Petty criminals are housed on overcrowded prison ships anchored on the River Thames. In 1786, the government decides to start a prison settlement in the new colony at Botany Bay.

The transportation is arranged by a private company and those convicts who arrive there are actually the lucky ones, as conditions on the journey are horrendous and many die en route. The organisers of the transportation ships operate on a contract basis. They are paid a certain amount per head and the less provisions they give the prisoners the more profit they make.

The first two fleets of convict ships sail from England. The first ship to sail directly from Ireland is the Queen, which leaves Cork in April 1791 and joins the third fleet sailing from England. On board are 133 male convicts, 22 females and three children. The youngest on the ship is two-week-old Margaret, daughter of convict Sarah Brennan. The youngest convicts are 11-year-old David Fay and 12-year-old James Blake, convicted for stealing a pair of buckles. The oldest convict is 64-year-old Patrick Fitzgerald from Dublin, who is sentenced to seven years for stealing clothes. Seven men and one woman die on the voyage and within a year, half the men who had sailed on the Queen are dead. Young James Blake dies within a few months of landing.

The last convict ship sails from Ireland to Australia in 1853 and over the course of 60 years, 30,000 men and 9,000 women are transported for a minimum of seven years. While a good number of them are patriots and rebels – United Irishmen and Young Irelanders – the majority are transported for petty crimes.

Transportation continues for more than 60 years and is followed by assisted emigration. More than 100,000 travel on assisted passage during the 1850s alone. Some are assisted on their journey by charitable organisations in an effort to relieve distress. The last transportation ship, the Phoebe Dunbar, sails from Dun Laoghaire in 1853, bound for Perth.

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Birth of Henry Vivien Pierpont Conyngham

henry-vivien-pierpont-conynghamHenry Vivien Pierpont Conyngham, 8th Marquess Conyngham, Anglo-Irish nobleman who holds titles in the Peerages of Ireland and the United Kingdom, is born on May 25, 1951.

The eldest son of Frederick Conyngham, 7th Marquess Conyngham by his wife, Eileen Wren Newsom, he attends Harrow School before studying at Harvard University.

Styled Viscount Slane until 1974 and Earl of Mount Charles from 1974 until 2009, he succeeds his father in the marquessate and other titles in 2009. However, in the Republic of Ireland frequently, and erroneously, he remains referred to as Lord Mountcharles, his former courtesy title. He also inherits the U.K. peerage title Baron Minster, of Minster Abbey in the County of Kent, created in 1821 for his ancestor, the 1st marquess thereby giving the Marquesses Conyngham the automatic right to sit in the British House of Lords until 1999.

As Earl of Mount Charles, he unsuccessfully contests the Louth seat in 1992 for Fine Gael. In 1997 he stands for election to Seanad Éireann for Trinity College Dublin, and runs again without success as a Fine Gael candidate for the European Parliament in 2004.

Lord and Lady Conyngham divide their time between Beauparc House and Slane Castle in County Meath. The latter is the family’s principal ancestral seat until it is badly damaged by fire in 1992. The castle has now been restored.

The Marquess Conyngham enjoys a high profile in Ireland as the author of a weekly column in the Daily Mirror. He has been dubbed the rock and roll aristocrat or the rock and roll peer owing to the very successful series of rock concerts he has hosted since 1981, held in the natural amphitheatre on the grounds of Slane Castle. These concerts have included performances by The Rolling Stones, Thin Lizzy, Queen, U2, Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen, David Bowie, Guns N’ Roses, Oasis, and Madonna. Lord Conyngham receives the Industry Award at the 2010 Meteor Awards. In his autobiography Public Space–Private Life: A Decade at Slane Castle, he describes his business career and the challenges of being an Anglo-Irish peer in modern Ireland, and how being Anglo-Irish has gradually become more accepted there.