February of 1841 the Lord Lyndoch arrives in Hobart Town with its cargo of convicts, about 317 of them, there were three lost to scurvy and consumption on the voyage. It is February and its Summer. The convicts are sent on deck and stripped naked to record any markings; tattoos, moles, scars, making it clear they are known in every intimate detail on this prison island, Van Deiman’s Land – Tasmania, Tassy.

Ellis Caspar, Convict No. 5185

The convict is 5 foot 2 ½ inches tall, he has a large head with fair complexion, black to grey hair and whiskers. He has hazel eyes, a high forehead, large nose, and a mole under his right eye, pushing back the beard a small dimpled chin is revealed (hah, that little chin is still around today).

A humiliating act to stand here in front of the whole town, bloody outpost at the end of the world. Stripped, recorded and classed. From the deck, (its been my world for months), you can see the few houses around the port, a wide street ahead, with a scattering of new homes, a church, looks like government buildings too and rolling green pastures beyond the town and then an impenetrable bush climbing the hills and into the heart of this prison island. And they’ve killed all the ‘Blacks’ * too.

A 14 year sentence, Ellis is 56 years old and sent to the prisoners Hulk on the Derwent river, his son, Lewin, into a work gang building a road for twelve months. Scarlet fever takes Lewin 18 months into his sentence.

In June of 1842 Ellis is made a Javelin Man, a position held for the educated and the formerly privileged, to run errands, to guard prisoners during court hearings, and to stand by the condemned as he prepares for the noose.

Elizabeth, Ellis’s wife is in London preparing to pack and leave, to sell the house they have been living in for 33 years on Finsbury Pavement, to take all eight children to the other side of the world. Forever. They arrive in 1843. It is also the year the local Jewish community have begun construction on a new Synagogue, it is to be the first in Australia, Ellis becomes a major benefactor of the building, his seat is no. 37.

In 1849 Ellis receives his ticket of Pardon, he has served 8 years and is now 64 years old. He remained a clock maker and one of his clocks keeps good time to this day ironically, in the supreme court of Tasmania. Ten years after becoming free Ellis moves to Melbourne and buys a row of six cottages in the new suburb of Emerald Hill (now South Melbourne). He dies a few years later at the age of 77 and Elizabeth moves into a home overlooking the Exhibition Gardens.

*The Black War was the period of violent conflict between British colonists and Aboriginal Australians in from the mid-1820s to 1832. The conflict, fought largely as a guerrilla war by both sides, claimed the lives of more than 200 European colonists and between 600 and 900 Aboriginal people, nearly annihilating the island’s indigenous population

The clock in the Tasmanian Supreme Court made by Ellis.

Hobart Synagogue

There is more to come I am inspired to do more research, so if you would like updates – hit the ‘FOLLOW’ button at the bottom of the page.

Thanks for reading

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