Irish convicts Down Under – the good and the

Findmypast is working in partnership with IrishCentral to share fascinating insights into your Irish ancestors. 

Exploring the Irish Prison Registers on Findmypast helps you to find out the fate of Irish convicts who were sent Down Under in prison ships, the good and the bad.

John “Red” Kelly

You don’t have to look too far to figure out where the famous Australian bushranger and criminal Ned Kelly got his rebellious streak. Ned’s father John, originally from Moyglass in Co. Tipperary, was arrested on the 4th December 1840. His prison records show his crime was “stealing two pigs from James Cooney” of Ballysheehan, near Cashel. He subsequently sold the pigs at Cahir market for about £6.

After his conviction he was referred to the Cashel Assizes and subsequently sentenced to transportation for seven years. On the 31st July 1841 he was sent to Van Diemen’s Land, now Tasmania, aboard “The Prince Regent” where he would spend the next six years in hard labour. After his release John moved to Victoria, eventually marrying Ellen Quinn. Their son Edward (Ned) was born in Melbourne and would go on to become one of the most recognizable names in Australian history.

Kevin Izod O’Doherty

On the other side of the spectrum we have Dubliner Kevin Izod O’Doherty, who would go on to become a well-respected physician and politician in his adopted country. O’Doherty was a member of the Young Ireland party and founder of the short lived Irish Tribune newspaper. According to his prison record, he was sent to Tasmania in 1849 for ten years for “feloniously publishing sedition in a newspaper called The Irish Tribune”.

In 1854 he received a pardon and went to Paris to continue his medical studies. In 1862 he returned to Australia this time to Brisbane and became well known as one of its leading physicians.

He was eventually elected a member of the legislative assembly in 1867 and in 1872 was responsible for a health act being passed, and was also one of the early opponents of the traffic in kanakas. In 1877 he transferred to the legislative council before resigning in 1885. O’Doherty returned to Dublin but was back in Brisbane within a year, deciding that he could not stick the Irish climate anymore!

Do you have any ancestors in your family tree who were sent to Australia on prison ships?

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