This is the story of two real people, John Hudson and Edward Davis, separated by a generation, bound by a history of childhood transportation to the Colony of New South Wales.
An orphan chimney sweep living on the streets of London’s East End, Hudson was sentenced to seven years transportation at the age of eight. On the cusp of expiry of his sentence, he disappears from the historical record at 15, after receiving 50 lashes for being found outside his hut on Norfolk Island.
This book chronicles what is known of John Hudson’s life in those seven short years. What of his life after 15? There are three possibilities.
The first is that the punishment, flaying alive in all but name, killed him and the death of a child in those circumstances was never recorded, his grave unmarked, his bones interred, forgotten, unlamented.
The second is that he survived, took passage as a ship’s boy on one of the three ships known to have called into Norfolk soon after his sentence expired, and sailed off to a life unknown, slipping the bonds of history.
The third is that he returned to New South Wales but if so, there is no record of his arrival or of his subsequent life in the Colony.
There is also no record of his certificate of freedom, essential if he were to leave the island a free man. The implications are dire.
I’ve chosen the second possibility, an imaginary life that builds on his known history. Had he lived and changed his first name, as I have him do (from John to Tom), he would have disappeared from the official record. That imaginary life eventually intersects fatefully with the colony’s only recorded Jewish bushranger, Edward Davis.
Also a child of London’s East End but of a privileged early childhood, Davis turned to crime only after family misfortune led to destitution. Unlike Hudson, much of the bare facts of Davis’ life is recorded in official documents, eyewitness accounts and newspaper articles of the time.
Caught during his first attempt at robbery at 15, he too was sentenced to seven years transportation. He did not go quietly, escaping on multiple occasions, occasionally using the alias George Wilkinson to good effect.
Viewed as a sort of antipodean Robin Hood, Davis and his gang, known to contemporaries as the Jewboy gang even though he was the only Jewish member, were protected by the dispossessed throughout their short career in the Hunter Valley.
On 16 March 1841 Davis, who was attended by the Cantor of Sydney Synagogue Jacob Isaacs, was hanged at the rear of the old Sydney goal, together with his companions. Witnesses reported that he had been the only repentant man of them. Davis was buried in the Jewish portion of the Devonshire Street cemetery, now the location of Sydney’s Central Railway Station.
As famous in his time as Ned Kelly would become almost 50 years later, he is all but forgotten, another orphan of Australia’s history.
I’ve kept as close to the documented facts as my characters’ story permits, and demands. Motivations, unrecorded conversations and Hudson’s life after Norfolk are mine but, I hope, are true to what is known of their respective characters.
Buy it here: http://www.amazon.com.au/JEWBOY-Michael-Gliksman-ebook/dp/B00EW92XP0