In October 1827, nine convicts who had endured unimaginable cruelty at the hands of the system opted for ‘state assisted’ escape. They had forced five terrified witnesses – their hands and feet bound – to watch as they seized Constable George Rex and drowned him in the tannin-stained waters of the harbour. When the sentence of death was pronounced upon them, the condemned prisoners uttered just one word in reply: Amen.
On the rugged shores of the wild west coast of Tasmania, Sarah Island in Macquarie harbour was one of the most feared places in Australia. It was here, between 1822 and 1834, that convicts were sent as a form of punishment. The weather and physical landscape were fearsome, food was scarce and escape seemingly impossible. Under these harsh conditions, many men went mad, others risked escape in spite of the knowledge that there was nowhere to go, whilst others clung to the hope of some sort of reprieve.
Closing Hell’s Gates is a real-life account of the history of this terrible place – from its commissioning as a penal station until its closure twelve years later. Of interest to anyone with a passion for lesser known chapters in Australia’s history, this a well-researched, detailed account of the history of the penal station, with stories of some of the inmates and insights into human nature.
A fascinating account.
Closing Hell’s Gates, by Hamish Maxwell-Stewart
Allen & Unwin, 2008
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