The best place to start is with the hero of our story, Allen Airey. Forgetting the drivers for Allen’s unfortunate life for a moment, he is solely responsible for bringing the family to Tasmania (and to me). He may not have been the model citizen, but he was strong enough to survive years in prison, 105 days on a convict ship with almost 300 others (including 22 noteworthy criminals) and years in servitude as a convict.
We know that Allen was born on 27 February 1833 in Lancashire, England. He was baptised at the Wesleyan Methodist Church in Padiham, Lancashire.
We don’t know much more about Allen until the first time (the we know of) that he came to the attention of the Law in 1845. At the age of 12, Allen was caught for breaking into a shop with (I presume) his brother Thomas Airey and a chap by the name of James Noddle. Allen was sentenced to 1 month in prison and a good whipping (as you would expect!) (1).
A year later, on 4 December 1846 in the Lancaster (Preston) Quarter Sessions , Allen was convicted for Larceny, involving the theft of knives, combs and a book, and sentenced to transportation for 7 years to a penal colony in Van Dieman’s Land (almost 11,000 miles away)(2,3). Allen spent 4 years in gaol before being transported.
Allen was transported from Plymoth to Van Dieman’s Land in 1850 on the Blenheim (3) along with 289 other convicts (x). This was a hired ship led by Captain Mollison and, according to the Examiner, was guarded by a number of “pensioners from Tilbury Fort” (4) – sounds serious!
They arrived into Hobart Town on 24 July 1850 (4). On 27 July 1850, the Examiner reported that “…the Blenheim brings 289 male convicts, 22 of whom are most incorrigible characters, and will be sent to Norfolk Island; the remaining 267 will receive their tickets-of-leave, and be sent to the penitentiary to await hiring”(5). Allen was one of the 138 Labourers sent to the penitentiary to await hiring.
On 27 July 1850, the Examiner reported that “on Wednesday last, the Blenheim, with male prisoners, and the Ramillies [another ship], with prisoners’ wives and children, anchored at Hobart Town. The indignation of the Hobartonians is great: utter detestation of the government is the general feeling ; and an anti convict association is to be formed immediately”(6). Now that is a welcome to look forward to for Allen and his 288 companions!
I think this is where we should leave it for the moment…..plenty more to explore with Allan before we leave him, including how he ended up living by himself at 18 West Street, Launceston.