On A Dark Murky Dawn In This Year Of 1834
Brave honourable men
Streets littered with rubbish… foul smell, stale ale and sputum…
Dark, dank passages lead down to the dock lined with pick pockets and beggars begging off beggars…
The freshening smell of salt air and the rising mist finally points my way forward.
Signing up for a ticket to earn a crumb or two, cruising on a hulk for a week or maybe two…
Cleaning portholes, swabbing decks, who cares its work and a roof over my head…
Prisoners captive, locked with ball and chains and in rags of clothes, were loaded onto the boat, sent in supposed shame by the like of Frampton, Williams and Melbourne in the main, not killers, just plain Joe soaps like you and me. Being caught not for unpaid taxes or the like, but simply, for the swearing of a secret oath of moral support, whilst within one step of the workhouse having to steal mere handfuls of corn to evade starvation, or just for complaining about pay cuts, 6 shillings to hand, well below the norm I heard one say,
Stamped on each ones arms was a little tattoo with the word pome, (strange), I wonder what that’s all about.
A tale was being told to all who would listen,
Something about a place called Tolpuddle, in Somerset I believe, trumped up mariners’ law, charges of mutiny, wrongfully applied to these landlubbers.
The ship set sail from Portsmouth, creaking, groaning, through the choppy seas,
Where we going bosun, I asked, just up the river to Botany Bay he replied.
That’s okay be home next week I suppose, ha ha me hearty and he laughed at me.
Next week arrived and we still hadn’t spotted dry land,
plus six and a bit more perhaps.
The ship stank with the smell of the sick, scurvy in the main, rotting bodies no need for the dentist, teeth just falling out, the rats teased the cats as their ranks grew day upon day.
The plank was walked following the occasional mutiny that kept all but the brave and fool hardy in line.
All of a sudden I forgot the smell as I heard the lookout yell, land ahoy.
We had travelled around the belly of the earth to a strange new land called Australia.
Well it was certainly not worth the horrid existence of 8 weeks in the lurch, whilst somewhat being humbled by fact, I had witnessed ridicule of intelligent beings. These happenings in time to come I am sure would not warrant such draconian measures and with much incendiarism now to the fore; Why would I return to old England for what I cry.
Plain, bland old place not a lot to do, but the future looks bright. New country new life.
I found out later the stamp was to define them fellow’s on my ship plundered of all dignity were quite horridly tagged as Prisoners of Mother England.
And whinging pome’s we are still called to this day (by those of our ancestors who also chose to stay).
Whinge, no wonder with all we had to ponder in those dark, depressing days, but for the determination of the few we now at least, live in a fairer society…
Hard times come again no more.
“God is our guide! from field, from wave, From plough, from anvil, and from loom; We come, our country’s rights to save, And speak a tyrant faction’s doom: We raise the watch-word liberty; We will, we will, we will be free!” As quoted by George Loveless.
My hat is well and truly raised: posthumously in your honour.