Enduring Spirit : Convicts or Colonists : The True Story of Henry Kable and Susannah Holmes – Len P. Hedges

In 1783, Henry Cabell and Susannah Holmes found themselves in the fortress that was Norwich Castle. They had been imprisoned for stealing goods worth more than forty shillings, a crime that automatically drew sentence of death by hanging.

This story follows the two young country folk struggling to survive the perils and squalor of a Georgian prison where they fell in love.

Susannah and her baby were sent to the hulks for transportation on the First Fleet to Australia. Henry was desperate but powerless to join her. When the captain refused to take the baby as it had been born in prison and had no papers, John Simpson, the humane turnkey, stepped in and the couple were reunited on the journey to the New World.

Henry was the first convict in history to sue the authorities, run a mail service, own a ship, become the Colony's first Chief Constable and make a fortune from sealing and whaling.

Genre: Non-fiction, Australian, Biography, Historical
Publisher: Olde Forge Publishing
Year: 2009
Rating: 3/5

This book, although based on fact, is written like a fictional account of the journey of Henry Kable and Susannah Holmes, from England to Australia on the First Fleet. Henry and Susannah are my great-great-I-don't-know-how-many-greats-grandparents. So this book was something I was excited to read.

I say this book was written like a fictional account because it is written like a story. Sure we have known facts and extracts from the journals of important people like Captain Arthur Phillip, but it is written as a narrative. I found this a little strange at first.... reading what Henry and Susannah where thinking, feeling and things they said, cause really, it's all speculation and guess work.

I also found it a little strange reading the sex scene. All I could think was "ooohhh great nanna!, naughty" LOL it's funny thinking of your ancestors as real, live people with hopes, dreams and desires. It was very different from reading old documents and historical accounts like I have trawled through in the past. It took some getting used to.

Hedges did a good job of bringing Norwich prison and the hulks of the ships to life. The conditions were terrible and honestly, I am surprised anyone survived that journey.

I was a little disappointed that this book only focused on their time in prison and their journey. I know that is an important past of their history, but I want to know more about what happened when they got to Australia.

As it states in the back-of-the-book-blurb, Henry was the first convict in history to sue the authorities, run a mail service, own a ship, become the Colony's first Chief Constable and make a fortune from sealing and whaling.

On top of that, when Henry and Susannah arrived in Australia, they were married in the first marriage ceremony to take place in the country, along with four other couples. They were the first wed out of the four, and the only couple from that ceremony to have children (eleven in all) and produce descendants. Some say that makes them the first family! They are often hailed as one of the founding families of the new colony.

During his lifetime Henry also owned a hotel called Ramping Horse, ran a brewery, owned a fair amount of property, and ran a retail store. Pretty good resume for a petty thief who was lucky to avoid the gallows!

It has also been said that when the First Fleet landed, Captain Arthur Phillip did not want to get his shoes wet, so a convict carried him to shore, ultimately being the first person to set foot in the new colony. Some say that person was Henry Kable. Although, the historical evidence on this seems a bit fuzzy.

Henry Kable's Grave. St. Matthew's Church of England, Windsor
All in all, I think my ancestors are pretty awesome. From crime and poverty to making something of themselves in the new colony. I will definitely have to get my hands on some more books written about the Kables.
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