The True Story of Forest of Dean Convicts
By Averil Kear
If you thought that transportation inevitably meant a voyage to Australia or Van Diemen’s Land, then this book will come as a surprise. Charting the story of a group of young men from the Forest of Dean who were sent to Bermuda for a serious crime against an Irish woman called Mary McCarthy, Averil has researched and written the story of her husband’s ancestor, Richard Kear, and his friends. From a will which left money to a son ‘now residing in Bermuda’, Averil begins the story with a brief history of the Kear family in the Forest of Dean from the 13th century, and then develops it with a view of life in the forest around 1850, the background of the men involved in the crime, their imprisonment and trial, life in British gaols before transportation, the sea voyage, imprisonment in Bermuda and the eventual return to Britain of some of the men.
The book is well illustrated with many photographs and drawings of places as diverse as the original Whitecroft Chapel to the Nag’s Head Inn in Yorkley, from Littledean Prison to the convict hulks and the fortifications and dockyard at Ireland Island in Bermuda; it also has plenty of maps, plans and copies of original documents to illustrate the text.
Averil’s knowledge of the Forest of Dean, the way of life of its inhabitants and their religious persuasion is evident throughout this very readable book which is highly recommended to anyone who has an interest in the people of the Forest in general, even if they are not related to the offenders, Kear, Charles, Archer, Shapcott, James, Stephens.
But to anyone tracing a criminal ancestor, the real beauty of this book lies in the multitude of sources that have been used to understand what happened once the words ‘to be transported across the sea’ had been uttered. Averil has carefully recorded every document she accessed in her research which will enable others to follow in her footsteps, whether studying Gloucestershire prisoners or those from elsewhere. I was amazed at just how much detail could be found! Family history is all about putting flesh on the bare bones of a family tree. If you have a criminal ancestor on your tree, this book will act as an excellent standard for you to follow – this book is for you!
Bermuda Dick by Averil Kear, published by Lightmoor Press, ISBN 1 899889 08 6, price £12.95, (sterling cheques payable to BDL, please) can be obtained from:
BDL, 120 Farmers Close, Witney, Oxfordshire or by phoning +44 (0)1993 773 927 +44 (0)1993 773 927 with credit card details or via a secure ordering service online. Email: Lightmoor@mac.com for details. Please add postage and packing of £2.00 (UK), £5.00 (Airmail US), £2.50 (Surface US), £5.50 (Airmail Australia), £2.50 (Surface Australia).