25k transported ‘convict’ women to be remembered

An example of one of the bonnets, adorned with the name of Ann Rose Dunn, one of 25,566 'Convict' women transported to Australia.
An example of one of the bonnets, adorned with the name of Ann Rose Dunn, one of 25,566 'Convict' women transported to Australia.

A special workshop will be held in Londonderry this weekend as a memorial to ‘convict’ women who were transported from the city to Australia in the 18th and 19th centuries.

The ‘Roses from the Heart’ bonnet making workshop is taking place as part of Derry City Council’s Craft Development Programme, which is part funded by Invest NI and the European Regional Development Fund under the Sustainable Competitiveness Programme for NI.

The workshop is being facilitated during the Legenderry August Craft Month by local milliner, Audrey Doherty - a native of Carndonagh - in the Creative Village Arts Studio in Pump Street on Sunday, August 24, between 10am-4pm.

Participants will be given the name of a ‘convict’ woman to embroider/appliqué onto their bonnet which will then be included in the ‘Roses from the Heart’ exhibition by Christina Henri, a conceptual artist from Australia who has taken up the women’s cause.

Some materials will be provided at the workshop but you will need to bring white fabrics, decorative buttons, bows and trims. Basic hand sewing skills are required and pattern and instructions will be provided.

Explaining that the workshop is in remembrance of Ireland’s ‘convict’ women, Audrey said: “I am running the bonnet making workshop in support of Christina Henri who came up with the concept of honouring the 25,566 ‘convict’ women who were transported to Australia from Ireland and Britain, from 1788 to 1853.

“This is the first tribute of its kind that draws attention to their lesser known stories - all very sad. The bonnet pattern is from an 1860s servant’s bonnet. It’s a memorial to those women who were incarcerated for the ‘crime’ of being homeless or committing menial crimes like stealing bread out of desperation to feed their families.

“The stigma of having a ‘convict’ ancestor remains with families who would rather forget it happened. Christina Henri has already sent me a list of names of women who left from this city’s port, and who were connected to this region. It’s about ‘bringing their spirits home’.

“Over 15,000 bonnets have been made already and Christina sees to it that they are blessed. When I took part in Christina’s bonnet making workshop last year at the Guildhall I was very moved and felt I was taking part in something extremely important.”

To book a place in the workshop you can email audreysmillinery@gmail.com or telephone 07535 350702. There is no charge for taking part, however a small contribution can be made to the project at participants’ discretion. For further information on ‘Roses From The Heart’ see www.christinahenri.com.au