The story of the Irish Convict tells the tale of many true stories pulled together into one character; Maurice O’Brien. It follows his adventures from Ireland to New Zealand via Australia and then his many years spent in New Zealand where he befriends ‘Cannibal Jack’, marries a local Maori woman, becomes a whaler and fights Te Rauparaha among many other adventures.
Irish Convict is the story of Maurice O’Brien, the son of a tenant farmer in County Clare, Ireland in the 1830s. By the age of 17 Maurice is in trouble with the authorities and is eventually charged with “being under arms” after an enforced confrontation with a young naval officer. He is convicted and sentenced to ‘transportation’.
During the sea journey he accepts the opportunity to volunteer for crew duty and learns the rudiments of a deck hand’s life on a sailing ship. In Australia he is assigned to a grazier in the out-backs of New South Wales where he encounters Aborigines, learns to ride a horse and almost loses his sanity in the vast lonely countryside.
He takes an opportunity to berth a small trading schooner to New Zealand with Captain William Blogg who has been banned from sailing under British colours.
There is a mutiny at sea and Blogg is thrown overboard in the middle of the Tasman Sea. When they reach Hokianga, near the tip of the North Island of New Zealand the ship’s cook loses his nerve and tells the story of the mutiny and murder to the British Resident. The crew are arrested but Maurice escapes and is taken in by the infamous Cannibal Jack.
The story of the Irish Convict tells the tales of many true stories pulled together into one character; Maurice O’Brien. It follows his adventures from Ireland to New Zealand via Australia and then his many years spent in New Zealand finishing with his decision to return home to Ireland or stay in New Zealand.
During his time in New Zealand he marries a local Maori woman in Hokianga, joins a whaling crew on the Kapiti Coast, builds a rammed earth cottage in Nelson and became involved in the first armed conflict over land between Te Rauparaha’s tribe and European colonists in Marlborough.
Each chapter is a true and historically accurate account but they happened to several different people. Most other characters in the Irish Convict are genuine people. They include; Captain William Blogg who died at sea after being thrown overboard by William Secker and the crew of the Industry. Secker and the others were hanged in Sydney a year later. Cannibal Jack was John Marmon an escaped convict who joined in with the Nga Puhi people of Hokianga including their wars and subsequent cannibalism. Nene the Ngapuhi chief who took the baptismal name Thomas Walker and became Tamati waka Nene
Te Rauparaha and Te Rangihaeata are well known Maori leaders in New Zealand history. The relatively unknown details of the gun battle at Tuamarina in 1843 come from old newspaper reports and tribal legends.
In the late 1950s the remnant walls of a little rammed earth farm shed on the outskirts of Nelson were finally demolished. The door and two small windows appeared to have come from a sailing ship. It is said to have been the home of an Irish settler and his Maori wife but their names are no longer remembered. Investigations for this amazing and true story started here.