Sunday, 4 September 2022

Janet Robertson (1780-1862)

Janet Robertson was born 4 October 1780 at Aldergate, Middlesex in England. Her parents were William Robertson (1763-1788) and Jean Urquhart.(b. 1760). In his will, William describes his occupation as mate of the ship, Walpole, of the East India Company.

On 28 October1780  Janet (in some records Jennet) was baptised at St Botolph Without Aldersgate, London.

Janet's father died when she was eight years old.

On 22 July 1802, at the age of 21, Janet married Thomas Hutton (1772-1856) in Calcutta, Bengal, India. So far I have found no information explaining why Janet was in India at this time.

Thomas and Janet lived in Penang from 1802-1808 where Thomas Hutton was employed by the local government as a Malay translator.  When Thomas' brother, William Charles Hutton, wrote his will he mentioned that his brother Thomas was living at Prince of Wales Island. At the time PWI was under the jurisdiction of the East India Company.

Thomas and Janet had ten children - some born in Penang or Calcutta while the others were born in England.

Jean Lidderdale Hutton (1803-1805) was born and died in Penang

Thomas Hutton (1807-1874) was born in Penang and died in India

Eleanora Hutton (1808-1876) was born in England and died in England

Jane Hutton (1810-1893) was born in England and died in England

Elizabeth Hutton (1811-1876) was born in England and died in England

Katherine Hutton (1813-1893) was born in England and died in England

William Forbes Hutton (1816-1893) was born in England and died in Australia but also spent many years in India

James Hutton (1818-1893) was born in Calcutta, India and died in England

Arthur Hutton (1820-1902) was born in Calcutta, India and died in England

Mary Hutton (1822-1900) was born in Calcutta, India and died in England

Thomas probably travelled back to Penang from time to time as in 1812 he is listed as being a Police Magistrate in Penang but the rest of the family probably remained in England for a number of years.

Then on 26 February 1815 Mrs Janet Hutton and Jane Hutton were listed as passengers on a ship to Bengal. One record shows that Thomas was in Penang at the time but was finalising his affairs on Prince of Wales Island to relocate to Calcutta. Looking at the birth records Janet probably remained in India until 9 November 1824 when Janet Hutton and Anna Robertson are reported to be returning to England from Calcutta. 

It was quite usual for families working in India and parts of Asia to return to England taking the children born overseas to live with family in England and to be educated in England.

Once Janet and Thomas eventually retired to England they lived in Bath where Janet died in June 1862 aged 81. Thomas died in Bath in 1856 aged 84. 

Janet was very interested in the plants that she found on her travels and spent time recording as much information as she could about each species and making illustrations of the botanical specimens as she found them.

The Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew in London have a book of her work in their collection - Alphabetical listing and descriptive notes by Janet Hutton of Indian, Burmese and Malayan plants, with reference to some of her paintings held in the Royal Botanic Gardens. (169pp) - view on Trove

Janet also collected illustrations of plants by Chinese artists. One of the paintings is included in the book, Raffles Art Redrawn: natural history drawings from the collection of Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles by Henry Noltie. The paintings is a picture of Ramatan painted by a Chinese artist for Janet Hutton in Penang in 1805. It has been suggested that Janet's collection may have encouraged Sir Thomas Raffles to start his collection of paintings.

The Janet Hutton Collection is currently located in Edinburgh.

Note:Some years ago I found the following reference - 'The ship Janet Hutton was wrecked in 1825, on the edge of the sands, on the western side of the channel (India Directory)' - so maybe there was a ship named after Janet? Obviously more research is required.

Janet Robertson and Thomas Hutton are my 3 x great grandparents.

Friday, 15 April 2022

Prison Hulks

Transportation to America ended with the American War of Independence. This resulted in additional overcrowding of English prisons so a new solution needed to be put in place. In 1776 the Criminal Law Act (the Hulk Act) was passed allowing for prisoners to be housed in old ships, initially on the Thames at Woolwich. The convicts would be put to work to work on projects for the benefit of the navigation of the Thames.

Duncan Campbell was given permission to initially use two of his ships, the Justitia and the Censor to house the first prisoners. The Justitia, former convict ship, was the first ship used and when it was full the Censor also became a prison hulk. George Guest was transferred from Gloucester Gaol to the Censor to await transportation to Australia.

Initially there was little government supervision of the hulks.Campbell employed deputies and overseers to patrol the decks of the hulks and guard the prisoners. Food was scarce and of poor quality. This was a deliberate ploy as it was considered inappropriate that the prisoners appeared to be better treated than free people living in poverty. Conditions on the hulks were crowded and dirty. There was poor sanitation and diseases such as cholera, dysentery and typhus spread quickly. There was a high death rate on the hulks.

Image from Royal Museums Greenwich

The convicts on the hulks at Woolwich worked in chain gangs on projects relating to the Thames either in the dock yards or on the river banks. One of the tasks was to remove gravel and excess soil from the banks of the river.

The number of hulks increased and eventually were located at Deptford, Chatham, Gosport, Plymouth, Portsmouth, Sheerness and Cork as well as Woolwich. Duncan Campbell's contract to maintain his hulks was not renewed in 1802, but the hulk system continued until 1857. 

Fortunately George Guest remained on the hulk, Censor, only until February 1787 when he was transferred to the convict ship, Alexander, part of the First Fleet that arrived in New South Wales in January 1788.

Useful websites:

Duncan Campbell: the private contractor and the prison hulk - British Library Untold Lives blog

Convict hulks - Sydney Living Museum  

Convict hulks - The Digital Panopticon

Prison hulks - Royal Arsenal History

Prison hulks ( research guide) - National Library of Australia

Prisons & hulks (resources) - State Library of New South Wales

Thursday, 14 April 2022

The Old Gloucester Gaol

[Gloucester Castle keep: the old county gaol. Based on an 1819 work, from W. Andrew, ‘Old English Towns’, published 1909. Via Wikimedia Commons - Gloucester Crime History blog]

Brief history of the old gaol

The first gaol in Gloucester was in part of Gloucester Castle. The castle had been constructed early in the 12th century and part of it was in use as a gaol by 1185.

During the 17th century most of the castle was demolished but in 1672 the Sheriff of Gloucestershire insisted that the keep should be kept as the County Gaol.

By the late 18th century when George was a prisoner in the gaol, the building had become overcrowded and was in desperate need of repair. Some repairs were made between 1780 and 1782. The building was even fumigated in 1874.

In 1783 The Sheriff of Gloucestershire visited the gaol at the former castle keep and  recommended the building of a new gaol.

In 1784 an act was passed in parliament to make changes to the prison system including providing county magistrates the power to build their own prisons. William Blackburn drew up the plans for the new prison at Gloucester.

When plans for the new gaol were approved in 1785 the new building was to hold 207 prisoners.

In 1791 the first prisoners were transferred to the new building.

When George Guest (Gess) was an inmate of the prison between 1783 and 1786 the prison buildings were dilapidated and conditions for the prisoners were overcrowded, cramped, filthy, unhygienic and cold.  The prisoners had straw for beds which was rarely replaced. Food usually consisted of stale bread and pottage - a form of vegetable soup or stew which, on occasion, may contain small pieces of meat. 

There was one open sewer for the entire prison. Fleas, mites, lice and rats frequented the gaol. Disease was common in the gaol including typhus, also known as gaol fever. 

During the day the prisoners were usually put to work breaking rocks, picking oakum, beating flax or spinning yarn, making nails, mouse and rat traps, stools or garden tools. Groups of seven prisoners at a time could work the treadmill to grind corn and other cereals.

When considered necessary by gaolers, prisoners could be made to wear fetters and chains.

When the new prison opened in 1791 it was designed to hold 207 prisoners with separate sections for men and women. It also had exercise yards and a chapel. The prison was now under the jurisdiction of the Quarter Sessions.  Prisoners were now issued with prison clothes and even soap. The quality and quantity of food improved. Prisoners were also grouped according to their sentence rather than everyone being together. However by this time George Guest was in Australia.

Useful websites:

History of 1792 Old Gloucester Gaol - City and Country website

Gloucester Crime History - Prisons - blog (Jill Evans)

Conditions in Gloucester prisons - Gloucester Archives (article- pdf)

Tuesday, 29 March 2022

The Olympic Choir - Melbourne Olympic Games (part 1)

Recently I received an enquiry as to whether I had any additional information on the Olympic Choir that performed at the Olympic Games in Melbourne in 1956. Some years ago I gave a series of talks about my father's involvement as a sports journalist at the Olympic Games and at each talk people attending often provided additional information about involvement of their family members. At one of the talks I was given information about the Choir that sang at the Opening and Closing ceremonies.

The Official Report of the Organising Committee for the Games of the XVI Olympiad Melbourne 1956 provides come information about the Choir:

The Choir comprised members of the Royal Melbourne Philharmonic Society, City of Brighton Philharmonic Society, City of Camberwell Philharmonic Society, Royal Victorian Liedertafel, Myer Choral Society, Choral Association of Victoria and Melbourne University Choir, totalling 1,200 - sopranos, 600; altos, 200; tenors, 200, bases, 200. (page 226)

Opening Ceremony

The choir was placed in the main outer stand opposite the Royal Box and the rostrum. Immediately in front of the stand was a platform which accommodated the band of the Royal Australian Airforce under its Commanding Officer, Squadron Leader L H Hicks. The choir and band were conducted by Sir Bernard Heinze, Ormond Professor of Music, Melbourne University. The trumpeters of the Royal Australian Air Force band played also the Olympic fanfare for the raising of the Olympic flag. The fanfare was composed for the occasion by Squadron Leader Hicks. (page 226)

After the athletes from all the competing countries had entered the MCG during the Opening Ceremony, the Olympic Hymn was sung by the choir, accompanied by the band. The Dedication Address followed before the choir sang the Hallelujah Chorus. The flag bearers from competing countries formed a semi-circle around the rostrum where the oath was taken by John Landy. The National Anthem was played by the RAAF band and sung by the choir before the teams left the ground. (summary from pages 235-236) 

Closing Ceremony (pages 716 - 727)

An Australian Rules Football match was held on the MCG before the commencement of the Closing Ceremony. Before the football began the choir and the RAAF band were placed in the position they had occupied for the Opening Ceremony.

 During the Closing Ceremony the Olympic Hymn was sung by the choir while the Olympic flag was lowered. As the athletes left the ground the choir sang the Song of Farewell. Athletes from all nations inter-mingled, some of them walking rather than marching out of the vast Stadium to the lingering lilt of the old bush air and its cry of Good-bye Olympians followed by Will ye no' come back again?, taken up, still with emotional tremor in their voices, by the scores of thousands of spectators. 

Sir Bernard Heinze had suggested that the words of Waltzing Matilda should be adapted for the Song of Farewell (page 716).

Homeward, homeward, soon you will be going now;
Momok wonargo ora go-yai,
Joy of our meeting, pain of our parting,
Shine in our eyes as we bid you good-bye.

Good-bye, Olympians; good-bye Olympians,
(On comes the evening, west goes the day.)
Roll up your swags and pack them full of memories,
Fair be the wind as you speed on your way.

Blessings attend you, Fortune befriend you,
All good go with you over the sea.
May the song of our fathers - 'Will ye no' come back again?'
Sing in your hearts thro' the years yet to be.

Come to Australia, back to Australia,
(Mist on the hills and the sun breaking through)
With the sliprails down and the billy boiling merrily,
Wide open arms will be waiting for you.

A digital copy of The Official Report of the Organising Committee for the Games of the XVI Olympiad Melbourne 1956  is available online

 The Olympic Choir - Melbourne Olympic Games (part 2)

Olympic Games, Melbourne, 1956

The Olympic Choir - Melbourne Olympic Games (part 2)

In June 2013 Lloyd Jenkins wrote an account of his memories of his experiences of being in the Melbourne Olympic Choir in 1956. Lloyd gave me a copy of his notes in 2019. Below is a summary of Lloyd's experiences with the choir.

Twenty-four year old Lloyd Jenkins was one of the ten members of the Ballarat Choral Society selected to take part in the 1,200 member Melbourne Olympic Choir. Lloyd was one of the younger choir members. Choir members were expected to attend the four rehearsals held in Melbourne over several weeks before the Games began. Lloyd  travelled from Ballarat to Melbourne on a 1952 BSA 250 motor cycle.

The first rehearsal was at Wilson Hall, Melbourne University. The choristers sat in blocks - 600 sopranos, 200 contraltos, 200 tenors and 200 bass. On arrival they were told the pieces that would sing at the Opening and Closing ceremonies and eventually the appropriate sheet music was distributed. The choristers were also told that attendance at rehearsals was compulsory and a cardboard choir pass was issued with holes to be punched in it at each rehearsal. Squadron Leader Laurie Hicks was the rehearsal leader.  Eventually the choir would sing with the RAAF band but for this rehearsal they were accompanied by a pipe organ. At the first rehearsal the choir learned the Olympic Hymn.

Rehearsal number two was held at the Royal Exhibition Building where the choir members were seated on raked seating and were accompanied by an electronic organ. At this rehearsal the choir rehearsed the five items to be sung at the Olympic Games - God Save the Queen, the Halleluja Chorus, the Olympic Hymn, Waltzing Matilda (with new words) and Will Ye No Come Back Again?.

Back to the Exhibition Building on 9th November for rehearsal number three and this time the choir was able to practise with the RAAF band.To quote Lloyd, 'A choir of that size with a full sized Concert Band performing indoors makes an amazing sound.' For Lloyd, this rehearsal 'was the high point of the whole Olympic Choir experience... The sound within that building was unforgettable.'

On Sunday 18th November the fourth and final rehearsal was held at the MCG. This time 'Sir Bernard Heinze took the podium, a small platform there on the grass, facing the Band and the Choir.'  As Lloyd noted, 'the singers needed the experience of performing in that particular setting, mainly to build up confidence at pressing on against their own amplified sound from around the whole complex'. This rehearsal was not just for the band and the choir - 'the sound engineers and radio broadcast teams needed the experience as well'.

Thursday 22nd November 1956 was a warm sunny day in Melbourne - perfect for the Opening Ceremony. For Lloyd, 'perhaps the biggest moment was to see Australian Junior Mile Champion, Ron Clarke, enter the arena carrying the Olympic torch.' In summing up the day he concluded that the '110,000 spectators, and athletes, and the various officials and performers all had a day to remember forever.'

However it was the Closing Ceremony that created the greatest impression on Lloyd. 'If the Opening Ceremony was memorable, what about the amazing Closing Ceremony. The word amazing is not used lightly. Something happened at the Closing Ceremony that was not predicted. How could it have been predicted!. Neither could it have been orchestrated. It was spontaneous, a product of mass emotion.'

Traditionally at opening and closing ceremonies, teams entered and left the arena as separate nations however in Melbourne at the Closing Ceremony the athletes entered the stadium mixed together. They left in the same manner, walking, not marching. 'As the athletes left, the choir was singing its way through Waltzing Matilda and Will Ye No come Back Again?, two songs of farewell. 

We went straight from one into another, no break at all. Not all the athletes had left the Arena when the two songs were completed.' The conductor signalled for the songs to be repeated. As the words to the songs were printed in the  programme, 110,000 spectators gave full voice to their emotions as they sang with the Choir and the Band. 'A huge wave of emotion swept across the Stadium as the people sang and waved, and as the athletes marched and sang and waved.' 

'Magic moments like that take on a life of their own and any person who was there that day will understand what I am trying to describe' concluded Lloyd.

This account by Lloyd Jenkins of his experience of being a member of the Melbourne Olympic Choir at the Olympic Games in Melbourne in 1956 demonstates the ability of the power of music to add to the atmosphere of an event.

The Olympic Choir - Melbourne Olympic Games (part 2)

Olympic Games, Melbourne, 1956