Footsteps to Freedom: Heart and soul poured into the sculptures unveiled in HobartPrint
On Saturday, October 14, 2017 Margaret Guy rsc attended one of the most inspiring events she had ever experienced in her life. She takes up the story…
It was an historic event – the unveiling of the sculptures representing the 12,500 women convicts and 2,500 children who came to Van Diemen’s Land in the early to mid-1800s – which commemorated another series of events… the transportation in misery of women and children to the penal colony in Van Diemen’s Land.
As the sculptures were unveiled at MACq01 wharf just above Hunter Island where these women would have first stepped ashore, I related viscerally and emotionally to our early Sisters ministering with these women and children who had endured unspeakable hardships.
Michael D. Higgins, President of Ireland, spoke passionately of these “women who were transported for petty crimes, the acts of destitute individuals.” Kate Warner, the Governor of Tasmania, reflected upon these women: “While their lives were often wretched, they were also in many respects the founding mothers of today’s Tasmania.”
Irish sculptor, Rowan Gillespie, modelled these sculptures on descendants of these women and children. He said: “I live with them and I have this thing that I really believe that I know them as the process happens, so you get very emotional.” I was touched by how he had poured his heart and soul into the making of these sculptures.
He spent time in Hobart listening to the stories of descendants of convicts, visiting the archives and then returning to Ireland to his workshop with 3D scans of the models and going through the arduous task of moulding these “women and child,’ in bronze.
This entire story was told in the film we saw Shaping History which told the story of the Footsteps to Freedom Project
On Sunday, we held our own RSC liturgy around the sculptures, then went up to celebrate Eucharist at St Joseph’s Church just as the first three sisters, John Cahill, Catherine O’Brien and Xavier Williams did upon their arrival in Hobart Town in June, 1847. After a celebratory lunch, we continued our liturgy around the deceased sisters’ graves at Cornelian Bay, placing the roses from the previous liturgies on them as we prayed with and recalled their names.
Sharing these historic events, liturgies, and prayers with 21 other sisters added greatly to the spirit especially with the welcome and enthusiasm of our Congregational Leader, Clare Nolan, and the committee of sisters including Anne Turner (our one sister resident in Tasmania who organised the liturgies and transportation).
Truly, we were standing on holy ground, “standing on the shoulders of the ones who went before.”
Image 1: The sculptor Rowan Gillsepie with Sr Clare Nolan and Toby
Image 2: The Congregational Leader, Sr Clare, meets the Irish President, Michael D. Higgins
Image 3: The sculptures at night
A documentary has been made about the Footsteps to Freedom project, called Shaping History. You can find a trailer to the documentary here:
Irish president helps unveil convict sculptures in Hobart appeared on line from The Mercury. Here is the link to The Mercury story.