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Oh Happy Day.pdf
Carmen Callil explores her roots in a book that is a miracle of research and whose writing is fuelled by righteous angerIn this remarkable book, Carmen Callil recounts the story of one side of her family, beginning with her great-great-grandmother Sary Lacey, born illegitimate in 1808, an impoverished stocking frame worker in Leicestershire. Through detailed research, we follow Sary from slum to tenement and from pregnancy to pregnancy. One of the fathers of Sary's children was George Conquest, who with his brothers worked on the canals. In 1829 George was sentenced to seven years' transportation to Australia. After seven months on a hulk, he was shipped to New South Wales, where he faced the extraordinary brutality of the convict life. But George survived, and when he was assigned to a kindly settler, who valued his skills as a stone and brick mason, he prospered. In 1837 he gained his freedom. In 1854 he returned to Leicester on a visit. There he met Sary again, after nearly thirty years, and in 1858 he paid for her and her young son Alfred to sail to Australia. The colonial records list her as George's 'housekeeper'. They were never parted again.George and Sary set up house in Prahran, part of the expanding city of Melbourne, and near them moved Mary Ann Brooks, daughter of a failed watchmaker from Boston, Lincolnshire, who had arrived in Australia under the auspices of an Emigrants' Assistance Society. Alfred and Mary Ann married in 1866. Their son, Ernest Alfred, was Callil's grandfather.In Oh Happy Day Carmen Callil not only reclaims her ancestors from obscurity, but in telling their story draws telling parallels between the way the poor were treated then and the way we treat them now.