Quoting from Australia’s Birthstain: The Startling Legacy of the Convict Era, by Babette Smith (Amazon Kindle link):
In 1847, John Hobbs set fire to a haystack as a means to change his life.
In a statement to the police, Hobbs said that he and his mates, Tom Webster and Robert Lewer, had to beg the money for the toll to cross Kew Bridge on London’s outskirts that morning. They spent the day wandering around the farmland on the other side. Hobbs did not say whether they were looking for work. Nor did mention whether they had spent the balance of their begging on a pint at the put, although he was to claim later that he was drunk that evening. Whatever their real purpose, as dusk fell they converged on a farm they had passed earlier in the afternoon. There, to the puzzlement of the farmer, Frederick Piggot, and others who testified to what happened, they laid some faggots under a large haystack, then used Hobbs’ pipe to light three lucifers so each could participate in in setting it ablaze.There was no personal grudge involved. They were unknown to Farmer Piggot, and neither he nor any of the witness had ever seen them in the parish of Richmond before.
The local police sergeant who had been called to the fire found the trio waiting at the police station for his return. “We’ve come to give ourselves up for setting fire to the hayrick’, they told him. “I’m willing to hear anything you might have to say’, he replied, but cautioned that it could be used in evidence. Nevertheless, they insisted. So, as the sergeant put it, ‘They were all three together – as one made a statement, I asked the others if they agreed with it, and they said “Yes”.’
‘We were the whole day in Richmond without anything to eat’, said the three young men, after first describing how they begged for a bridge toll to cross the river. ‘Our lives for some time past have been spent in such misey and poverty we were determined, when we left London this morning, to do something to alter it.’
They were shipped to Van Dieman’s Land (Tasmania) – twenty years for Webster, fifteen for Hobbs, and ten for Lewer. There, John Hobbs would meet and marry an Irish girl shipped for the same crime. in fact, many of the convicts shipped to Australia were transported for the same grounds. Check out, for instance, the passenger list from the Dalhousie, a convict ship from 1863, where an unexpectedly high number of convicts were shipped for Arson, or “Firing a stack”. (Some, in fact, had to investigate themselves since the local police were too lazy).
Btw, this has nothing to do with Healthcare Interoperability – I posted this to provide more information relating to the picture that David Hay just posted, and his terse comment in his first blog post. Meanwhile, I spent yesterday afternoon having fun setting Serrated Tussock (not quite hay, but close) on fire on a farm in King Valley:
p.s: Most of the convicts were real criminals (as you can see from the crimes listed for the Dalhousie), but often many were trapped by poverty and unemployment. Initially, being shipped to Australia was a truly terrible punishment, but by the time Gold was found near Ballarat, the only downside was dislocation from family. You got hard labour either way, but in Australia, after your sentence, then you could be free in a land of full employment…
p.p.s: For my English friends – after visiting England, my question became “Your predecessors shipped the criminals out here”?