By Babette Smith
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Additional info for Australia's Birthstain: The Startling Legacy of the Convict Era
For instance, in planning the street parade in Sydney for the Sesquicentenary celebrations in 1938, much discussion ensued about whether a ﬂoat featuring the convicts should be included. The debate was passionate, with people arguing ﬁercely for and against. 3 In the end, those who were against the idea of featuring the prisoners in the parade won the argument. At the same time a decision was taken to exclude the Aborigines as well. They mounted a ‘Day of Mourning’ in protest, but the descendants of convicts accepted their omission silently.
Many of the jurors were so upset they wept openly as the foreman, choked with emotion, delivered their verdict: guilty against all the prisoners. John Penny was found guilty of the actual murder; the others were guilty of aiding and assisting him. Knowing death was the penalty for both counts, the jury recommended mercy for all except John Penny and John Allen. 31 The Gloucester Journal echoed the feelings of the shocked community when it described the accused as ‘eleven young men, nine of whom were farmers’ sons and respectably connected .
New Zealander and former war correspondent Charles Bateson was also allowed access for his 1959 book, The Convict Ships, which is an example of a layman’s scholarship that became a standard text. But whoever the applicant, a letter had to be written, credentials explained, testimonials produced. A family historian who approached the Mitchell Library or the State Archives had no direct access to convict information and probably received little encouragement from archivists because the topic was cumbersome to manage, given the policy restrictions, and sometimes controversial if a First Fleeter turned out to have arrived in irons.