Ancestral Convict Tourism to Tasmania

THEY were shipped in their thousands from their cold northern homes to the hostile environment of a distant island lying south of Australia.

The 10,000-mile trip to Tasmania was a hefty price to pay for 19th-century Scots accused of petty crimes such as burglary and trespass. Bound to Tourists head for Port Arthur historic sitethe island by British justice, they were exploited for cheap labour to build and develop the Empire’s newest acquisition.

Now, descendants of those Scottish “offenders” are being encouraged to visit Tasmania to trace their lineage as part of plans by the island to promote ‘convict tourism’.

Visitors will be able to take a four-day journey along a ‘convict trail’ to discover more about their ancestors. Beginning at the historic village of Richmond, and continuing through the Coal River Valley, genealogical tourists will also be able to explore Port Arthur, where an estimated one in five convicts served their time.

The bid to promote the ‘convict tourism’ initiative in Tasmania comes after five of its penal sites were added to the UNESCO World Heritage list last month.

The five sites are: the Cascades Female Factory, in Hobart, Tasmania’s capital – a self-contained, purpose-built institution intended to reform female convicts; Port Arthur, a former penal station which housed secondary offenders until 1877; the Coal Mines site, which played an important role in the development of the colony, and was regarded as a particularly severe place of punishment; Darlington Probation Station on Maria Island, where well-behaved convicts were allowed to settle before release; and Brickendon and Woolmers Estates, where convicts worked as farm labourers.

Read the full article at the August 15, 2010 edition of the scotsman.com.