Thursday, 28 May 2009

Smoking Is Bad For Your Health

The first convicts transported to Australia from England arrived at Port Jackson (later Sydney Harbour) on January 26th 1788. The 548 male and 188 female unfortunates, mostly convicted of poverty related crimes that would earn probation nowadays, were to be followed by 160,000 more over the next 50 years. Held in warship hulks of unimaginable squalor moored in the filthy Thames, life was a hell of exploitation, abuse and starvation even before the 16,000 mile journey which led, if survived, to slavery and early death in an inhospitable and totally foreign world.
Under these circumstances, you think you might be excused a smoke. Far from it. John Woolley, "a quiet and harmless man" would suffer anything for a gasper. 

He had been flogged and put in the Black Hole a dozen times but it was no use:
"I cannot help it, sir," he would say to the Captain of the Ganymede.
"Then I will cut the flesh off your back," replied the Captain and, indeed, the Boatswain used to do his utmost, for stepping back a couple of Paces he would bound forward with his arm uplifted, take a jump and come down  with the whole weight of his Body on the unfortunate victim, at every Blow making a noise similar to a paviour when paving the streets.At length the poor fellow (as I often heard him say) became weary of his life.
He found that his blameless conduct in every other respect could not save him from the consequences of this trifling breech of discipline.... and from being one of the best he became the worst character in the Yard. When I left it, he was in the Black Hole for having bitten off the first joint of the finger of Mr. Gosling the Quartermaster, who had put it in his mouth to see if he could detect any Tobacco.

From "The Fatal Shore" by Robert Hughes (Collins Harvil).

1 comment:

  1. Unbelievable, only a couple of hundred years ago, another world. Pat