Mattie: Story of an Australian Convict Child

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Createspace Independent Pub, Feb 20, 2015 - Fiction - 242 pages
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Mattie is the story of a girl typical of the many convicts who came to Australia during its first 75 years. Set in England and Australia. From 1837 to Bathurst in the 1850s and 60s.
Mattie was born in England and spent the first of her childhood in a foundling home. She was taken from the home and put to work on a dairy farm, a cold and uncomfortable life. In 1837 her master charged her with stealing when she took some food to feed some hungry children, and she was convicted to serve seven years in New South Wales, arriving in 1838. In gaol, she meets some unpleasant women but also finds a friend who becomes a mother figure for her. Peg, an aristocrat, had been charged with murdering her husband, and until Mattie came into her life, she had given up the desire to live. She had been sentenced to death, but the sentence changed to life imprisonment. She finds Mattie a pleasant child who is totally untaught, and so she sets about teaching her to read from the only possession she has, her Bible. The Bible is a small one that she can keep secreted in her pocket, and on the occasions that there is enough light in the cell, she teaches the child to spell, read and learn some of the decencies of life. Quite an achievement in those conditions, but an actual scenario as this was often the only book accessible, and those lucky enough to learn to read often did so from a bible. During a storm, a passenger falls and breaks a leg on the voyage out. This passenger has a tiny baby, and the surgeon asks Peg to take over the nursing care of the passenger, Mrs Proudfoot and her little boy. She refuses and suggests that Mattie be given a chance, insisting that she is an intelligent and willing girl. So Mattie's life changes dramatically. Peg dies, and Mattie is left entirely in the care of Sue Proudfoot. Peg gives instructions to the surgeon to see that Mattie gets her precious Bible when she dies.
The Chaplain of the ship, the Rev Mr Goodes, his wife, and the surgeon, whom all help look after Sue Proudfoot, take great notice of Mattie and contribute to her further education. As Prue is still incapacitated on arrival in Sydney, she persuades her husband, who has made a home for her on the Hawkesbury, to take Mattie with them to be nursemaid to the baby. Mattie spends her adolescent years in the Proudfoot home very happily, looking after the first and subsequent children. Mattie then meets Jim Saunders, who, with his father, has a store in the local town. The Story continues in Bathurst and the goldfields up there and follows the growth of that area.

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About the author (2015)

SHEILA HUNTER (née McDonald) 1924 - 2002 Sheila was born in 1924 in Ngakawau in New Zealand & moved back to Australia in 1928. She, with her mother & brothers run a service station, on the docks in Melbourne. She attended Strathearn School and later PLC Melbourne. She worked through the war and depression at the service Station. She became the first woman in the Melbourne Light Car Club! She was navigator for rally cross drivers and her team won their share of races. In 1947 at 23, she started nursing in Vic she moved to NSW in 1951. Sheila met in 1955, Norman (now 51) and Sheila (now 31) Hunter were married at St Andrew's Cathedral in Sydney in Dec that year. Sheila's life has turned around. No more nursing, but motherhood and local village care as resident district nurse, although this was unofficial, she was called out on many occasions until 1966 when Avoca had its own Doctor in the "New Shops" as they were called. After marrying Norman, Sheila took on many Honorary positions in the Community, i.e Secretary of the Liberal Party Branch, Secretary of the inaugural Red Cross Club. Convener of the inaugural 4H Club (like junior farmers) and Local Girl Guide Commissioner for 4 years from 1967 and she was a Pink Lady ( helping in the local Hospital), she was responsible for getting the local Scout/Guide Club built, Inaugural Vice President of the Bowling Club in Avoca. Sheila also followed Norman into functions at their local Anglican Church. She became the President of the Women's Guild for over 20 years, and when this was abolished in the 1980's she then became inaugural president of the Church Fellowship, which she has again been voted into. She in also involved in many of the Church Groups including a Carer's Group, which is helping elderly and shut-in's and their carer's (including herself!, Norman at 94 needed full time care and she took on this role while her strength & health lasted). She was passionate about history and her own family history, and occasionally combining the two and putting pen to paper writing novels loosely based around one or other lines of the family stories. In 1999 she was one of the 20 recipients for the NSW Premiers, Year of the Senior Citizen Award, for Services to the Community. Her beloved Norman died in 2000 aged nearly 96 and Sheila died in 2002 from Cancer, aged 2 days short of 78.

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