‘What if’ moments

We’ve all had them, I’m sure – those moments of wondering ‘what if’.

They’re the moments that shaped our lives, set us on a path, and even influenced our futures.

What if they happened differently?

What if our parents, grandparents, or even great-grandparents had never met?

What if our convict ancestors didn’t steal that watch, didn’t steal food to survive, didn’t…get caught?

It’s amazing stuff when you think about it; which is pretty much what I’ve been doing recently.

Thinking about it.

All because of a ship that arrived in Van Diemen’s Land (now Tasmania) in 1828.

The Mermaid was transporting female convicts, all bound for their ‘new’ home in Port Jackson (New South Wales).  Once disembarked, the ship was then scheduled to make its way to Van Diemen’s Land with supplies.  But due to bad weather and rough seas, the Mermaid – convict women and all – headed for Hobart Town first instead.

One of those convicts was my gr-gr-gr grandmother, Mary Leary.

She wasn’t meant to arrive here, she wasn’t meant to meet and marry James Lane, and she wasn’t meant to raise a family with him.

But she did.

So perhaps she was meant to…?

I’m pretty sure the weather-gods were thinking of me that day:

What If

But Team Weather could only do so much.

While the Mermaid was diverted for a bit, the plan remained unchanged – the crew would simply unload the ship supplies, and then transport the convicts to their originally intended destination.

So Team Crops-and-Farming stepped in to save the future day.

Yep. Thanks to crop failures in New South Wales, a decision was made to send a load of wheat there in place of the convicts.

The crop failure was corn.

James Lane was a convict transported for stealing corn!

See? It was a bit of a stretch obviously fate…with some gentle nudging from Mother Nature.

Nudging that ensured Mary stayed put.

What if there had been no rough seas?  Well, Mary would most likely never have come to Tasmania at all.

But there were…and she did.

And the rest, as they say, is history.



My apologies to any descendants of the other convict women on-board the Mermaid in 1828…it was apparently all about me back then…just so we’re clear. 😉


The Mermaid‘s intended departure port, arrival in VDL and the decision to retain the prisoners there are described fully in The Mermaid (1) 1828 An Unintended Arrival by Anne McMahon, published in the September 2015 issue of Tasmanian Ancestry (Tasmanian Family History Society Inc.) pp. 82-84.  Anne’s fantastic account of the Mermaid’s voyage in 1828 is well worth a look!

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