Joseph Mason, an English agricultural labourer, was convicted and transported for taking part in mass protests against the introduction of threshing machines, which were threatening to destroy the livelihood of English rural workers. Joseph was unusual among labourers in being a fluent writer and a voracious reader. His manuscript, only recently discovered, is published here for the first time. In it, he vividly describes life on the frontier, his encounters with Aboriginal people, and the flora and fauna of the bush. He tells of the living and working conditions of assigned convicts, and early horticultural and farming practices. The description of his explorations along the Nepean River captures the dramatic landscape of the gorge so accurately that it could serve as a guide for the modern bushwalker. This is a fresh and unique first-person account of the convict experience a new and invaluable addition to the primary sources of Australian colonial history.
David Kent and Norma Townsend are senior lecturers in the Department of History, University of New England. Kent is the author of many articles and a forthcoming monograph on Rural Radicalism and the Swing Riots in Hampshire. Townsend is the author of Valley of the Crooked River- European Settlement on the Nambucca and of a number of journal articles.