Page:The Irish in Australia.djvu/205

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191
THE MOTHER OF THE AUSTRALIAS.

himself could have bettered this original and historical prologue.

But convictism, as an institution, has long since passed away in the parent colony, and nought remains to tell of its organised existence save an occasional suggestive name, that has survived the process of modern transformation into prettily-sounding titles. In Sydney harbour, for example, there stands a small rocky islet that still bears the expressive name of Pinchgut Island. In that unpleasing and somewhat vulgar appellation is embalmed the story of the prisoners who were caught in the act of pilfering provisions from the government stores in the early days of the colony, and who were dramatically punished, as a warning to the whole community, by being left without food for several days on this solitary rock, round which the sharks were continually circling.

Vaucluse, one of the prettiest spots on Sydney Harbour, has a curious and romantic history. At the beginning of the century it was chosen as his place of residence by Sir Henry Hayes, an Irish baronet, who had the misfortune to be transported for abducting the lady on whom he had set his affections, but who did not see her way to reciprocate his tender passion. Though technically a prisoner. Sir Henry's rank and social position caused him to be treated by the authorities as a privileged person, and he was allowed a full measure of freedom on his giving his word of honour that he would make no attempt to leave the colony and return to Ireland. Sir Henry accepted his fate with philosophical resignation, and commenced to build a new home for himself on the beautiful estate which he had purchased and called Vaucluse. But though the place was, and still is, one of the loveliest spots on earth, it had at that time one serious and