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AN IRISH CONVICT’S LOVE TOKEN – transportation from Britain to Australia

by Howard Simmons

Tokens recording of the transportation of convicts from Britain to Australia are highly collectable and are rarely offered for sale.

We had one in our token auction, MB62-409 20 February 2013, relating to William White, dated 1827. This is a typical piece, crudely made from a worn and smoothed copper halfpenny. But who was William, why was he transported and what happened to him afterwards?

The first clue was found at http://members.pcug.org.au/~ppmay/cgi-bin/irish/irish.cgi where it can be seen that William White was tried in Belfast, Antrim in 19 July 1826 and convicted to 7 years Transportation for stealing a watch. Writing in 1998, in Convict Love Tokens, Tim Millett states that he hasn’t come across any convict tokens from Irish people transported from Ireland (p15).

White disembarked from the convict ship Countess of Harcourt at Sydney in June 1827. I found that he was given his “Ticket of Leave” on 25 August 1831, to leave the penal colony.  There is a description of him, 5ft 4 ins, dark brown to grey hair with dark red whiskers, sallow complexion and dark grey eyes.  Nose broken, a scar over his left eyebrow he has tattoos, WW on his right arm, BT and a heart on the left, with the same on his leg. If W W is William White – who is BT?  Possibly the recipient of the love token, the ‘leaden heart’.   Most convicts in White’s position, allowed to stay in the area, would have remained in Australia rather than return to Britain. Dickens’ Magwitch in Great Expectations would have been an exceptional character.  I have not been able to trace William White further.

Convict love token 1827 William White engraved on George III halfpenny

Convict love token 1827 William White engraved on George III halfpenny

MB62-409  Convict, George III 1/2d engraved on smoothed rev.  WHEN THIS YOU SEE THINK ON ME W. WHITE WM. 1827  coin G, engraving F – William White was convicted in Belfast in 1826  (aged 30) for stealing a watch, he was transported on the Countess of Harcourt  disembarking at Sydney in June 1827  £100-200


Reference and further reading:

Convict Love Tokens: the leaden hearts the convicts left behind, edited by Michele Field and Timothy Millett, 1998 Wakefield Press, South Australia ISBN 1 86254 434 4

2 Responses so far.

  1. James Blair says:

    I acquired an example in 1989 engraved by a man whilst on remand in Newgate prison awaiting trial: this is the only example I have heard of that was made prior to conviction.

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