Today, the 12th of June 2021, marks 220 years to the day since three of my English ancestors disembarked from the ship the Earl Cornwallis (1801) at Warrane (Sydney Cove). Two were convicts, while a third was a member of the NSW Corps.
Unbeknown to me when I was writing it in 2014, an essay I wrote about one of those convicts, my five-times great-grandmother Lydia, served as inspiration for the project that became St John’s Online shortly thereafter.
Click the link to read Lydia’s story, which discusses her links to the English poet and novelist Thomas Hardy, in my piece “Lydia Barber: A Real Tess of the d’Urbervilles.”
Both Lydia and Thomas Barber (two of the three who arrived per Earl Cornwallis) lie in a marked grave at St. John’s Cemetery, Parramatta to this very day, along with many of their descendants.
Though it was beyond their own lifetimes, Lydia and Thomas’s son-in-law, James Byrnes, would go on to become Parramatta’s second mayor, although he really felt he ought to have been the first. (You can read David Morgan’s Create NSW-funded essay, about Parramatta’s first mayor, “John Williams: The Mayor of Reinvention,” for all the juicy goss on that!!
And if you’d like to engage with Hardy’s Tess of the d’Urbervilles itself, you can watch a BBC TV adaptation starring Gemma Arterton and Eddie Redmayne (available via iTunes), or find Hardy’s original text for free online in both text and audiobook formats via Google.