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Frank Leward: Memorials

Frank to Bampton

Frank to Bampton.

Hobart Town July 1839.

Dear Old Bam What a beastly old brute you are never written a word since we went. I heard from my mother you had written to her which was very good of you and that you were soon going to Oxford. Are you there by this time? Ive been half round the world and seen a lot of funny places Demerara St. Helena and now this place. It's all rot about the niggers they arent half so badly off as the poor brutes of prisoners here. We page 53went the other day in a schooner to a place called Port Arthur where most of the prisoners are kept two or three thousand of them—they say they are better off now than they used to be but they are in an awful state. There's one part of it called point puer because boys are sent there some of them are fearful scoundrels and others who havent done anything very bad and the big ones bully the small ones most fearfully and if they make a row there shoved over into the water where there are a lot of sharks. Between this place and the mainland there are a lot of dogs kept awfully savage beasts they are chained up and sit outside their kennels on piles of wood in the water with just enough chain for one to reach near enough to another to prevent any one getting between them and if any poor beggars get away the dogs have them or else the sharks.

There was a man going to be hung the other day and the man who had got to see him hung properly wanted to go to a pic nic or something that day so he went to the fellow who had got to be hung and asked him if he had any objection to be hung the day before the proper time so the man said as the other had been a good sort to him and if he would let him have a little extra baccy and some grog he wouldnt mind accomodating him so he was hung a day too soon and the other fellow went to the pic nic

We didnt stay long at Port Arthur its a melancholy sort of hole but awfully pretty with lots of fishing and wild duck shooting. Im quite a swell now Ive been staying at Government House with the governor Sir page 54John Franklin and he gave me and Jones two horses and we went right up to the north of the Island. There is a splendid road made by the prisoners and we enjoyed going up and passed through a lot of villages just like English ones only you see such a lot of poor beggars working in chains. Some of them are in yellow dresses they call them canary birds and theyve got sentenced for life, and police and soldiers with guns loaded ready to have a shot at them if they try to get off. We met a funny old parson a jolly old chap riding along one of the first parsons to come out here he told us a lot about the place in old days, fancy hes been out here nearly forty years and was at sea once. He made us stay with him over Sunday. The priest of the part where we stayed an awful jolly old Irishman came on Saturday to see the parson and sat up late drinking whiskey and asked me to go to his church on Sunday so I went You wouldnt think it was the same man he was such a swell and preached an awfully good sermon and all the people seemed awfully good. He came to dinner with the parson afterwards and they both got tight and so there was no church in the afternoon.

Then we stayed with a fine old fellow right up in the north part. They let the prisoners out as servants, assign them they call it, and if they do anything their masters dont like they get sent straight off to the next majistrate to be flogged. By Jove some of them do get flogged. I heard of one brute who had two servants assigned to him one a young fellow and the other a woman and the brute wanted the woman himself but he page 55found the man had got engaged to marry the woman so he had the poor beggar flogged so unmercifully he jumped into the river and was drowned. If some of the people who make such a fuss about niggers were to come here they would be astonished.

We had awful fun shooting oppossums and kangaroos I wish you were here old fellow. All the native animals are night animals its splendid sport on a fine moon light night, the natives themselves are an ugly lot of beggars so lazy they wont work. My friend up there got one to work once and thought he was going to be a good sort of fellow to work but one morning he found him sitting on a gate as cool as a cucumber so he asked him why he was not at work and he said oh me too dam lazy to work any more and off he went and never came back. The bush rangers chiefly escaped prisoners are a wild murdering lot they think nothing of coming into your house and putting you with your face to the wall and one stands sentry over you with a gun and if you look round he shoots you as dead as mutton. They dont care much for shooting or hanging. A murderous brute went into an old mans hut at night down near where we were staying before we came back here and killed the old man and took all his money then as it was beginning to get light and he was afraid of being seen going away he hid in the garden and another tramp came along the road and seeing the door of the hut open went in and as he found the old man was dead and wouldnt want his clothes any more he thought he might as well take them so he did them up in his bundle and went away only he was page 56seen going out from the hut and some people went in and found the old man had been killed so they caught the tramp and searched his bundle and found the old man's things there. Of course no one believed the yarn the tramp told so he was found guilty and hung and some time after the man who did it got ill and was going to die so he confessed it all in the Hospital.

Ive written you an awful long letter you must write soon Remember me to all the fellows at Upton if you are there still. We expect to start back next month.

Yours old fellow

F. Leward.