Colleen McCullough's account of the First Fleet transportation of convicts from Britain to New South Wales (Australia) is lengthy. The main character, Richard Morgan is actually an ancestor of her husband. Because of the injustice riddling the court system and conviction of felons in 18th century Britain, this hard working, loving family man, son of a tavern owner in Bristol, is put on one of the 11 ships of the First Fleet and endures the gruelling one year long trip of horror to New South Wales. Morgan survives by his own ingenuity and determination. His deep sense of concern for others gains him allies in both the convict population and the officers that guard them. His integrity and honour earn him a life long friendship with one of the officers.
His intelligence and work ethic further lead to his survival in the harsh conditions that the Fleet encounters upon reaching New South Wales. The interplay between the convicts and the freemen on the journey seemed realistic. The method of cutting down the timber and sawing it into lumber was fascinating to learn. The accounts of the suffering both on the journey and upon arrival were difficult to read.
This report prepared by Leonore Waluk
Simon & Schuster, 2000, 600 pp.
This is a novel about the first group of convicts to be sent from England to Botany Bay in Australia to found the first penal colony. The main character in the novel is Richard Morgan, a real person and ancestor of McCullough's husband. The facts and events involving Morgan are claimed to be true, with the novelist's literary license being used to fill in gaps and round out the story. Morgan was a lower middle class British citizen in Bristol who sailed with the first group of convicts in 1787.
McCullough's description of eighteenth century British justice in England is harsh and unjust. But, despite the injustice and other hardships, this is a story of humanity at its best as it overcomes difficulty. Morgan takes steps to maintain his health and sanity, cutting his hair short to reduce lice infestation, filtering his water through a dripstone, exercising and getting food from outside whenever possible help to maintain his physical health and obtaining and reading books to keep his mind active. He also organizes those around him and becomes their leader in helping to keep them to survive with him. This habit of reaching out later extends to the guards and officers on the ship and in the colony as all face challenges on the long voyage and in the new land.
In addition to the horrors of eighteenth century British justice, the reader is also given a glimpse of daily life on the long ocean voyage and the hardships crew and convicts endured in creating the first European settlement in Australia. The British established two colonies with that first group. The first colony was established at Botany Bay in what is now New South Wales and the second on Norfolk Island. Morgan is one of the Botany Bay convicts who is sent to Norfolk Island to start the colony there. Morgan elects to remain on Norfolk Island after his sentence is up. He also meets and marries a female convict while still serving their sentences and his descendants are still on Norfolk Island today. This an excellent tale of one man's courage and determination to survive as well as the tale of the start of the European settlement of Australia.
This report prepared by Chuck Nugent
Richard Morgan, son of a Bristol tavern-keeper, is a devoted husband and loving father, sober and hardworking craftsman. By the machinations of fate and the vagaries of the 18th-century English judicial system, he is consigned as a convict to the famous First Fleet, which set sail, bearing, as an experiment in penology, 582 male, and 193 female felons, sentenced to transportation, in May of 1787 for the continent that Captain Cook had discovered a few years earlier.
Of those convicts, Richard Morgan stood out, not only for his strength and determination to let no man bully him, but also for his intelligence, his common sense and fair-mindedness, and common sense, but the willingness to help others.
This report prepared by Boppy