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Irish Convict: Outback Shepherds

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Tom O'Connor
November 2023
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Adapting to his new life as an Irish convict in the New South Wales penal colony was more difficult and frightening than Maurice O'Brien could have imagined. From a tiny, well-ordered and relatively peaceful rural community in the south-west of Ireland, he was caged up with some of the roughest men in the British Isles for three months at sea. His new home is a strange, dry and inhospitable land living and working with angry, dangerous men on a remote sheep station. He must become as hard and tough as those around him to survive. The death sentence hung over them for minor offences and escape is almost impossible. Escaping his own despair and the extreme loneliness of the outback is another daily challenge that Maurice must survive. His only companions during the day are sheep, three dogs... and the Blacks. These are the true stories of some of the men who laid the foundations of Australia's tough outback folklore. Some convicts who escaped their sentences found themselves in the wild, unruly land of Maori people. Tom O'Connor is a historian and writer specialising in Maori and New Zealand history.