The Gay Marriages of a 19th Century Prison Ship…

An incredible human story:

The New Yorker Desk

The Gay Marriages of a Nineteenth-Century Prison Ship

By Jim Downs

A prison hulk
Illustration from Shutterstock

In 1842, a court in Lancaster, England, convicted a young lawyer, George Baxter Grundy, of forging payment, and promptly sent him to serve a fifteen-year sentence in Bermuda, “beyond the seas.” The British Empire was expanding rapidly and was in desperate need of labor; by the time Grundy arrived, thousands of prisoners had been sent to the island to fortify British defenses in North America, hauling and cutting limestone to support military operations. It was a vicious system: the men, many of them colonial subjects from Ireland, had been torn from their homes, shipped thousands of miles away, and consigned to years of forced labor in a foreign land, all in service of empire-building. (In one sense, the men in Bermuda might have considered themselves lucky—if they had been sent to the penal colony in Tasmania, they would have had little hope of ever returning home.) Convicts lived on a handful of boats, called “hulks,” which were permanently moored in the naval harbor. Each ship housed hundreds of men; Grundy, like his fellow-convicts, lived with fifty other inmates in a crowded cell. The work was backbreaking, and the conditions brutal. Shortly after Grundy’s arrival, yellow fever swept across the island, and he watched in terror as more than a hundred other prisoners died. Grundy spent six and a half years in Bermuda; when he returned home, to London, he summarized his experience, in a scathing complaint to the Colonial Office, as “the most soul destroying and hellish ever devised by man.”

In his letter, Grundy charged the prison administration with several counts of mismanagement: gross and inhumane punishments; quartermasters and guards “guilty of drunkenness, debauchery, blasphemy, and theft”; and the absence of religious and moral instruction for the convicts. He asserted that the surgeon did not care for the sick under his charge, and that guards allowed convicts to work illegally in private businesses off the ship. But the full force of his contempt was reserved for his fellow-prisoners. Midway through his account, he apologized for what he was about to reveal, then described how, on the prison ships, sex between men was not only tolerated but conducted in plain sight. “I am prepared to prove that unnatural crimes and beastly actions are committed on board the Hulks daily,” he wrote. “For some years Sir I have wished for the opportunity I now have of bringing to light the foul deeds of a Convict Hulk. They are indeed Sir ‘seminaries of crime.’ ”

Read more of this incredible story:

Rainbow Warrior sunk in Auckland


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Greenpeace flagship Rainbow Warrior sunk in Auckland 10 July 1985 with the death of one person

Sinking of the Rainbow Warrior (New Zealand Herald/

A crew member died when French secret agents mined the Greenpeace vessel Rainbow Warrior in Waitematā Harbour, Auckland. 

The Rainbow Warrior had taken part in protests against French nuclear testing in the Pacific. French Secret Service (DGSE) agents were sent to prevent it leaving for another protest campaign at Mururoa Atoll in the Tuamotu Archipelago. Two limpet mines attached to the hull of the ship created a massive hole that rendered the vessel useless. Photographer Fernando Pereira was killed when the second mine exploded while he was retrieving equipment after the first explosion.

DGSE officers Dominique Prieur and Alain Mafart were arrested while attempting to leave the country and charged with murder. After pleading guilty to manslaughter, they each received a 10-year prison sentence. Within a year, the pair were sent to French Polynesia, and from there they soon returned to France.

The case caused the French government considerable embarrassment. While the attack was on an international organisation and not New Zealand as such, most Kiwis did not make this distinction. The fact that it was carried out on New Zealand territory by a supposedly friendly nation caused outrage and damaged relations between New Zealand and France.

Read more on NZHistory

Sinking the Rainbow Warrior – Nuclear-free New Zealand

Day 4 of VIRTUAL trip to Wales – Playful sketching at Tretower Court.

My Life as an Artist (2)

Playing is the name of the game today.     For this image I  took a throw away sketch and added the little lambs….This is a good way to warm up and at the same to use old sketches. 

For the lambs I used my sepia colour Tomboy Pen,  plus some Winsor & Newton Permanent White gouache – allowing some of the sketch beneath to show through.

Tombow Pen/watercolour/gouache – using old sketch as a ground 20200709_075228After meeting the group at The Dragon, I thought it would be a good idea to take a quick look at the High Street which is always bustling in the mornings.

By the way, after I lived with my cousin and the family for six wonderful months I rented a little flat next to the Dragon (43 High Street) where I was very happy for a year before moving to my cottage…

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DAY 3 – VIRTUAL trip to Wales – sketching along the MONMOUTHSHIRE BRECON CANAL……

My Life as an Artist (2)

We will take this beautiful Welsh Border Collie ‘Jen’ on our walk along the canal today.    20180611_142155-1Having enjoyed another delicious Welsh breakfast, we are now heading for the Monmouthshire/Brecon Canal.

During the years that I lived in Crickhowell, each day I would walk across the Crickhowell bridge  to LLangatock – through the fields, up past the Dardy to the Monmouthshire/Breconcanal tow path.         It is a place to slow down and commune with the natural world.

mon-and-brec-1I always carried a tiny sketch book, watercolour palette and pen.    As I walked the tow path I would observe everything around me and make notes like this one.

Looking through the trees down into the Valley – I could see Crickhowell bathed in light.

I encourage people to make little notes and sketches.      This one has been in one of my many sketchbooks for…

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More inclusivity in sport advocated…

4 July 2017

Yachtsman Cory McLennan was profiled in the media advocating for more inclusivity in sport. McLennan had made history in 2014 when he became the youngest person to complete the Solo Trans-Tasman yacht race.  However, he had kept his sexuality hidden, fearing that it would negatively affect sporting opportunities, “I was scared that someone would find out, scared of what would happen to me…  It’s not easy to come out – it means putting myself out there and conquering my own fear.” McLennan is still sailing and inspiring people.  His website opens with a quote from Alain Gerbault, “Adventure means risking something, and it is only when we are doing that, that we know what a splendid thing life is and how well it can be lived.

Tish Farrell: Through my Great Grandmother’s Eyes – Ancestral perspectives



Well I like to think my great grandmother, Mary Ann Fox, might have looked through the hole in this old Derbyshire gatepost on her way from Callow Farm to Hathersage village. The post stands beside a path she would have known well until 1886 when, at the age of 23, and apparently already betrothed to the local squire,  she ran off with a city type, a Bolton spindle manufacturer, Tom Shorrocks.

The High Peak of her homeland was by no means a rural idyll, although it looks so today. Alongside stock rearing and subsistence agriculture, small landowner-tenant farmers like the Foxes had for centuries engaged in other trades. Lead and fluorspar mining were mainstays of the area. So was the making of millstones up on Stanage Edge, though not so much for wheat grinding since the local gritstone discoloured the flour, but for pulping wood and crushing the lead ore for the smelting houses. The grind-stones also served the cutlery industry in nearby Sheffield and stones for wood pulping were exported to North America and Russia.

Hathersage, then (seen distantly here through the gate post), has a busy industrial past. From Tudor times it was the centre of wire-drawing, at first for making sieves for miners, and later for pins and needles. By Mary Ann’s day there were 5 such mills there, all powered by steam, their chimneys gushing out fumes that would have hung over the Derwent Valley. By then, too, the railway had arrived, the line from Manchester to Sheffield passing through land once owned by her grandfather. So, as I say, this was no rural idyll, but a community of industry and enterprise of the sort that had characterized High Peak farming families for generations. Growing and stock rearing might put food on the table, but farming did not bring the kind of prosperity that a rich seam of lead could be expected to yield.

But I do wonder if Mary Ann was not shocked to find herself in the little terraced villa on Kildare Street in Farnworth, (part of Greater Manchester), there in a maze of town streets, far from the far-reaching uplands she would have seen every day from Callow Farm. Did she miss these views? She certainly told my grandmother about crossing the River Derwent stepping stones on her way into Hathersage. And she told how she never forgave her father for taking away her pony, this because she would not desist from jumping the 5-bar gate at the end of the lane. He feared for her life. She mourned only her pony’s loss, back-broken by the overweight farmer who had bought it from her father.

Perhaps she had good reason to leave. Perhaps the squire of Abney was not to her taste. Perhaps city life was more exciting. From my perspective it is too easy to be overly sentimental about the loss of this landscape; one that I find so beguiling. It wasn’t really like this in great grandmother’s day. As L.P. Hartley says in the opening of his novel The Go-Between:  “The past is a foreign country. They do things differently there.”


Square Perspectives #7


Great Scott – Dixon wins two IndyCar races in a row

Kiwi driver Scott Dixon, of Chip Ganassi Racing, has won two successive races after claiming the IndyCar GMR Grand Prix on Saturday in Indiana

Kiwi driver Scott Dixon, of Chip Ganassi Racing, has won two successive races after claiming the IndyCar GMR Grand Prix on Saturday in Indiana (AFP Photo/Chris Graythen)–spt.html#:~:text=Dixon%2C%20who%20had%20finished%20runner,the%20chequered%20flag%20on%20Saturday.–spt.html#:~:text=Dixon%2C%20who%20had%20finished%20runner,the%20chequered%20flag%20on%20Saturday

Introduction for my VIRTUAL trip to beautiful WALES

My Life as an Artist (2)

In the Spring of 1993, I first set eyes on Crickhowell Wales,  a small market town that sits in the beautiful Usk Valley where the Brecon Beacons and Black Mountains meet.    I knew immediately that this was where I wanted to settle.

Crug Hywel (Also known as Table Mountain) an Iron Age hill fort overlooking the town of Crickhowell. 


First, some history about how I came to find, live and work in this magical place for twelve years.

Prior to 1993, I had been living and working in the United States for twenty-eight years.  From 1972 I had been happily married, raising my two children and establishing myself as a working artist.       However,  as we all know life can throw curve balls, and so when my marriage came to an end in 1987,  I made the decision to stay in the States until my two children…

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