Well it’s official. I have a convict in the family. A first cousin of mine four times removed, was transported out here (Australia) at 11 years old. The poor child had actually also been born in a London gaol, where his mother had died shortly after giving birth to him. She had been imprisoned at 8 months pregnant for stealing candles and some coal.

She had actually been living with her husband, who was a policeman and one of his colleagues. She was convicted of stealing from the other policeman. Personally I suspect a “put-up job” by the husband. I mean he did not exactly manage to keep his son on the straight and narrow either.

My convict cousin was found guilty several times of petty theft, before finally being sentenced to seven years transportation in September, 1852 for pickpocketing.

London has always seemed to have had issues with pickpocketing. My grandfather mentioned somebody he knew, had once explained to him how a pickpocketing gang operated in the East End of London. The wallets would be passed rapidly from person to person – by the time anybody noticed their wallet was missing, it was usually long gone.

My mother had always told me to keep my bag zipped up and hidden under my coat, when I first used to visit London. I love London but you do need to keep your wits about you, particularly in crowds. Even my friend who had lived in London for years, once had her purse and keys removed from her handbag. She had been extremely concerned, as her wallet had also contained our address. It had felt like Home Alone. When I had heard a key in the door, I was ready to drop something on an intruder’s head, Fortunately it had turned out to be a flatmate. He never did discover how close he had come, to being knocked out by an object relinquished from above.

Anyway back to my convict cousin. As it happened a sentence of seven years transportation had not straightened him out. He had progressed instead to a life of crime in Australia. (By the way having convicts in the family, is considered a badge of honour, here in Australia.) There is a blessing in this, (his life of crime) as it means I have his prison photo. I wish I could say he only did one stint in gaol. He actually spent most his life being housed by her majesty’s government. Additionally, somewhere in the midst of it all, he had managed to father a child to the wife of his friend and partner in crime.

Happily he had eventually appeared to reform. He ended his days settled down and mining for gold.

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