Monday 30 August 2010

Bonnets honour thousands of women transported to Australia

A poignant memorial ceremony was held yesterday at Cobh quayside, scene of so many sad farewells over the last two centuries, for the 194 Irish convict women who were condemned to transportation in the prison ship Elizabeth which set sail here in 1828.

The event formed part of the Roses from the Heart bonnet project which was conceived by Christina Henri, an Australian artist and historian, to commemorate the 25,566 female convict prisoners shipped out from Ireland and Britain between 1788 and 1853. Their crimes were often no more than stealing to feed their children.

The bonnet was chosen as the symbol because many of the women were assigned to work as domestics in their new land.

Each bonnet has been created individually and donated to the project by women from Ireland, Britain, Australia and New Zealand. Although created from a template, the maker had the freedom to select their own white or cream fabric and form of embellishment. If they had no genealogical connection to any of the women, they could 'adopt' a convict and create their own personal tribute. Each bonnet bears the name of the convict, and many also have the name of the ship on which she travelled.

Each bonnet commemorates the value of a female convict's life. Being made individually, rather than mass-produced, each one symbolises the individuality of the woman whose name it carries.

Roses from the Heart is making a short tour of Ireland. Details as follows:

    * Fri 3 Sept: Spirit of the Convict Women Concert, St Michael Theatre Centre for the Arts, New Ross, Wexford. 8pm. Tel: 051 421255. * Sat 4 Sept: Spirit of the Convict Women Concert, Railway Club, Rosslare Harbour, Wexford. 8pm. 053 917 8913. * Sun 5 Sept: Blessing of the Bonnets. Mary Immaculate, Inchicore, Dublin. No details available. * Sun 12 Sept: Blessing of the Bonnets, Kilbroney Parish Church, Rostrevor, co Down. 11am.

edited 6 Sept.