Limerick Evening Post

21 November 1828

  Docility of Irish Convicts.— Mr. CUNNINGHAM1, a Scotish Surgeon, in his work on New South Wales, makes a comparison between the manners of the English amd Irish convicts, very much to the advantage of the latter.  He says tha Irish convicts possess an anxiety to oblige, and have a light hearted civility about them, of which the English are totally destitute.  I have been at times most bitterly provoked by the conduct of some of those saturine-faced English knaves; the very man I was stedfastly looking at, while desiring him to do some petty thing for me, would stare with a sort of wondering look, as if to make it appear he did not concieve I was addressing him.  This arose from a general maxim among English theieves to consider every thing in the shape of work as a degradation; but with Irish convicts, if you merely looked round as if you wanted something, half a dozen would start up as if anxious to anticipate youe wishes.— Out of one hundred and eighty Irish convicts only five were Protestants, which I was not a little pleased to observe as a convincing proof of the superior morality of the Protestant population.  An Irish Protestant, Sergeant of the guard threw a new light on the subject by expressing his surprise and sorrow that there should be any Protestants.  "What a change," said he, "has taken place in Ireland since I left it; for it then went hard against a Jury's conscience to find a Protestant guilty of any thing". The only real signs or religion I ever saw among convicts was amongst the Irish Catholics, whom I frequently observed counting their beads, crossing themselves, and repeating passages from the book.  They were in general, poor simple peasantry, transported for trumpery offences.

© Nick Reddan 2007

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1. I am informed by Patricia Downes that this extract was included in Two years in New South Wales, by Surgeon Peter Cunningham. This is his entry in the online Australian Dictionary of Biography. Trish summarises the information about him — he made five trips on convict ships, and also settled on a grant of land in the Hunter Valley for a time. In addition, she says his book is a great read.

The National Library Catalogue has an number of entries including: Cunningham, P. (Peter), 1789-1864. Two years in New South Wales / ed. by David S. Macmillan.; Angus & Robertson in association with the Royal Australian Historical Society; Sydney 1966. [a reproduction]