Franklin Village service remembers convict mothers

Julie Dineen.
Julie Dineen.

After being convicted of stealing items in times of desperation, the lives of five convict women were filled with misery and hardship.

REMEMBER: Isabel de la Rambelya, Fairlie Ogilvie and Lucille Gee at the ceremony for the convict women. Picture: Hayden Johnson

REMEMBER: Isabel de la Rambelya, Fairlie Ogilvie and Lucille Gee at the ceremony for the convict women. Picture: Hayden Johnson

 But hundreds of years later, at a chapel in Youngtown, the tough lives of those five women were recognised by a significant gathering.

It was held to coincide with National Trust of Tasmania’s Heritage Festival this month, with its theme of Having a Voice.

Isabel de la Rambelya travelled from Victoria to pay tribute to her ancestor, the Irish thief, Belinda ‘Nappy’ King.

Most today would argue Nappy King’s crime – stealing a sheep to eat during the Ireland Famine, would not warrant a seven-year sentence.

But on June 26, 1849, she found herself and her six-month-old blind son on a ship to Australia.

For three years of her sentence, she would work for employers around the region – including at Franklin House.

Her son was put into the Queen’s orphanage and they would not live together again.

Her seven-year sentence was cut short due to her pregnancy.

But she did not live happily ever after.

“She died in the New Norfolk asylum after going mad,” Mrs de la Rambelya recalls. 

At the service on Sunday Nappy King was remembered as someone who did a tough thing during very tough times.

“In the past, they were shunned and looked down on, but she was a decent person who stole because of desperate need in the Irish Famine,” Mrs de la Rambelya said.

“It was emotional for me to be here.”

Despite five generations passing down, Mrs De la Rambelya remained fascinated with the story after discovering it nine years ago.

“I knew there was going to be a good story there once I found out there was convict history,” she said. 

“From that first evening, I’ve been hooked.”

It has been an attempt to understand her ancestor’s life that fascinates Mrs De la Rambelya in 2017.

“Her life was full of twists and turns,” she said. 

“She had traumas through her life and that probably contributed to her going mad.” 

Franklin House Committee chairperson Julie Dineen was overwhelmed with the service.

She said it was vital to remember the convict women in the early 1800s. 

“We feel today, because they had such a bad life, we would like to have a thanksgiving service for them,” Mrs Dineen said. 

“Some of them had minor crimes like stealing pillowcases or a loaf of bread.

“They were assigned to families and had to work as servants for families.”