Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Convicts in Singapore

The Asian Civilizations Museum building in Singapore is strategically located on the waterfront near the mouth of the Singapore River. In its previous life as the Empress Palace Building, it was the home of the Government Offices from the colonial days.

We visited the Museum on a recent trip to Singapore and discovered that it was one of the last buildings in Singapore to be constructed using convict labour in the 1860's.

On researching this, we discovered that the British government transported Indian convicts to Singapore from 1826 to 1867. They were and employed in public works and contributed much towards the early development of Singapore - building roads and bridges and many old colonial buildings some of which are still standing such as the Asian Civilizations Museum building, the Istana and the St Andrew's Cathedral. They were stone cutters for the Horsburgh and Raffles Lighthouses and labourers for construction work in early Singapore's defence works.

So another piece of the jigsaw of the history of British penal system has fallen into place.

If you are interested in researching convicts who were transported to Australia, you can go to the

Monday, February 14, 2011

Initials in History

It is a time honoured thing that you carve your initials on a rock if you visit a new place, leaving your mark to say "I was here".

When we visited Garden Island in Sydney recently, we found some such initials on a sandstone outcrop that are thought to have been carved in 1788 by some First Fleet colonists from HMS Sirius.

Crew members from the Sirius first planted a vegetable garden in January 1788 on the small island in Sydney Harbour which was thus named Garden Island.

The initials read "F M ", "I R" and "W B" and are all dated 1788. Much research has been done to ascertain to whom the initials belonged.

It is thought that "F M" was Frederick Meredith an able seaman on the Sirius. He was one of three persons on the First Fleet to have the initials "F M" and was the only one on the Sirius .

The Initials "W B" account for 26 known persons on the First Fleet. Four of these - First Lieutenant William Bradley; William Beard, able seaman; Walter Brodie, Master blacksmith; and William Bryant , master's mate) were crew of the Sirius.

The "I R" initials are a bit more of a problem. The only person on the First Fleet with these initials was a convict woman , Isabella Rosson, who was transported for seven years for stealing two shillings worth of clothing. It is not likely that she would have been on Garden Island. [History Services NSW records that Rosson had arrived on the Lady Penrhyn and had delivered a baby girl on the ship].

It is likely that the letter "I" should be read as a "J". This would open up more possibilities. There were two crewman on the Sirius - John Rowley, able seaman; and James Russell, armour's mate/able seaman.

We found this a really exciting piece of history as it establishes a first tangible link to real people of the First Fleet.

If you are in interested in early Australian History or are researching a convict ancestor go to our website at: