Convict woman story from Christina Henri:
Susannah Holmes: Born: March 1, 1764 Died: November 8, 1826
The State of Queensland was named after Queen Victoria on June 6, 1859. This date officially marks the newly formed British Crown Colony’s separation from the State of New South Wales.
The land that currently forms Queensland’s State Capital, Brisbane, was originally the Moreton Bay penal colony, intended as a place for convicts who had offended while serving out their sentences in New South Wales.
At the Moreton Bay Female Factory in Queen Street, Brisbane convict women were employed at tasks such as sewing, washing and picking oakum, (unraveling of old rope to produce loose fibres that were used in the caulking of the seems of wooden boats.)
Libby Connors notes that convict women at the Eagle Farm female factory worked as labourers, some in irons, during the day whilst at night they were incarcerated in the stockade. Female convict labour was used to cut the road to Hamilton and convict women prepared and maintained the Eagle Farm holding that by January 1832 had 653 acres under maize and 28 acres under potatoes.
Later free settlers were encouraged to move north and amongst those who chose to make Queensland their home were families with convict backgrounds relocating from Tasmania and New South Wales wanting to escape the ‘convict stain’.
In the last few years I have been invited to hold Roses from the Heart® events in Queensland and I have been intrigued by the number of people who appear to know little or nothing about their State’s convict story.
I have met an extraordinary lady in Brisbane named Dolly Olsson. Dolly traces her convict ancestry back to Richard Morgan whose second wife was Catherine Clark (Lady Juliana). Dolly was keen to share the story of Susannah Holmes with me. Susannah is the ancestor of Dolly’s late husband Fred.
Dolly and Fred were married on February 10, 1943. Fred Olsson was the great, great, great, great, great grandson directly descended from Henry Kable and Susannah Holmes via his mother Freeda Olsson (nee Teale. Lieutenant John Teale being the direct descendant.)
Susannah Holmes was gaoled for stealing some linen and on a similar charge was nineteen-year-old Henry Kable who, along with his father and another person, was alleged to have stolen linen.
Henry met Susannah in Castle Hill Gaol, Norfolk, England. Lack of segregation amongst the prisoners provided the opportunity for the couple to be together. Susannah became pregnant and gave birth to a baby boy whom she named Henry. Five months after baby Henry’s birth the couple faced separation. Henry Kable was to be transported to Botany Bay aboard the Charlotte whilst Susannah faced travelling without her baby because relevant documentation had not been issued.
Prompted by an outcry at this injustice Lord Sydney signed the necessary papers and Henry accompanied his mother on the Friendship.
In Cape Town five hundred head of livestock were acquired and convicts on the Charlotte were re-allocated to the Friendship so Henry Kable and Susannah Holmes and their baby were reunited.
On arriving in Sydney Harbour four convicts were designated to take the longboat ashore and Henry Kable was amongst those chosen. It was Henry who carried Governor Phillips ashore for the flag raising ceremony on behalf of the British Government.
Susannah and Henry were married along with four other couples in the first open air marriage outside Rev. Johnston’s tent near the Tank Stream. Both signed with their mark, X. Their second child, their daughter Diana, was the first white child to reach maturity in the colony.
In the domestic field Susannah struggled with such things as sewing needles and hairpins.
Henry Kable was made an overseer and then a constable and quickly earned a Free Pardon.
He and Susannah were given grants of land and Henry added to this by buying more land from other grantees. He planted wheat and maize on approximately one hundred and seventy acres. He continued to acquire farms in the Hawkesbury area.
Meanwhile Susannah had a number of children, giving birth to eleven in all. One child, their little son, died at the age of two and another child died in his teens.
Henry became an entrepreneur investing in a variety of businesses. He acquired one of the first hotel licences with ‘The Rampant Horse’ and he also ran a stagecoach from Sydney to Parramatta. He owned a store in George Street and a flour mill and bakery.
Henry became involved with sailing ships hunting seals for their skins in Bass Strait and he also carried spirits and other cargo from England. He became involved in the conflict of the Rum Rebellion.
A settler writing home to England stated that ‘Henry Kable is now a great merchant and owner of twenty five ships’.
As was the custom of the day attention was focused on Henry’s commercial abilities and less so on Susannah’s qualities and contribution in raising the family. Conflict between partners in the Shipping Empire caused arguments but Henry and Susannah survived and continued to prosper.
Susannah’s death was recorded as November 8, 1826. Henry outlived his wife by twenty years. He lived in Windsor in his retirement dying on March 16, 1846. He was buried with his wife Susannah in the Kable Vault.
Both Henry and Susannah would have seen their children and grandchildren grow up around them in comfort and respectability.
Susannah has many descendants who include Dolly Olsson’s four children. One is a brilliant scientist who has two children. Both these children are University graduates.
Another child has also excelled in Science. He and his wife have become world travelers. They have two sons who are both IT experts.
Another son has two daughters and Dolly’s youngest daughter is multi disciplinary with considerable musical and artistic talents. She has just completed writing a song about an Irish convict woman, Eliza Davis, who spent time in the County Wicklow Gaol, Ireland prior to transportation to Van Diemen’s Land (now Tasmania).
The lives of Susannah Holmes and Henry Kable have been remembered in an extraordinary balled opera, The Transports, written by Peter Bellamy.
Dolly has written a poem to express her feelings about Australia’s exiled colonial women and her enthusiasm for the Roses from the Heart memorial.
I count it a real honour to have met Dolly and I am very fortunate to have both her and her daughter Vicky Macdonald as friends.
Builders of Our Land Dolly Olsson : Descendant of Susannah Holmes
Convict women arrived here
After months at sea
With meager bundles,
They step ashore at the cove
To start a new life.
Many wild flowers
Mid the sandstone rockeries
Welcome the women
Who enjoy the scent
A pathway of Boronia,
Sparkling flannel flowers
So nourished by the sights and sound
Of Australian bush.
Forgotten the ship
The foul stinking conditions
In that dark dankness.
Yet, no riches await,
Instead they wear the bonnet
Sentenced in service
We acknowledge them;
Our ancestors now honoured
Named on these bonnets.