David Murray’s “Words for the Heat of Deeds” – A Story of Newcastle’s Convict Years

Convicts leaving the United Kingdom. An illustration from an unidentified original source held in the Dr John Turner Slide Collection, University of Newcastle (Australia) Update: “Black -eyed Sue and Sweet Poll of Plymouth taking leave of their lovers who were going to Botany Bay a cartoon published in 1794” Ref: The Canberra Times, 21 Nov 1964 p.10 [Thankyou TROVE]
Newcastle has a rich literary history, being the site that created the first full length autobiography ever written in Australia, and  the first dictionary ever compiled in Australia.

These were the works of the infamous convict James Hardy Vaux and the 5th of July 2012 celebrated the bicentenary of this important milestone in Australia’s literary history. Thanks to Mark Gwynn who reminded us all that on the 5th July 1812 Vaux’s Dictionary of the Flash Language was presented to the then Commandant of Newcastle Thomas Skottowe. See Mark Gwynn’s article “James Hardy Vaux – Pioneer Australian Lexicographer” here.

Newcastle and the Hunter have formed the backdrop of a number of literary works including Sarah Ricardo Porter’s Alfred Dudley; or the Australian Settlers (London: Harvey and Darton, 1830) and James Tucker’s  The Adventures of Ralph Rashleigh A Penal Exile in Australia, 1825-1844 (circa 1844-45).

Words for the Heat of Deeds is a creative non-fiction writing project by Mr David Murray PhD Candidate in the University of Newcastle’s School of Humanities and Social Science.

It traces the early, convict years of the Newcastle Penal settlement as a series of interconnected story lines. The narrative is a meditation on reclaimed stories, crime, criminality, language, history and class of Australia’s second oldest city.

The following extract is from Book II: ‘Can we give the Universe Meaning’, taken from Words for the Heat of Deeds, a creative non-fiction narrative written as part of a Creative Arts thesis, to be submitted for the Degree of Doctorate of Philosophy.

“Can we give the Universe Meaning” – Extract from David Murry’s Words for the Heat of Deeds (Updated Version)

The extract contains a smattering of slang, which in the completed manuscript has its own glossary, taken primarily from The Routledge Dictionary of Historical Slang and James Hardy Vaux’s Vocabulary of the Flash Language.


2 thoughts on “David Murray’s “Words for the Heat of Deeds” – A Story of Newcastle’s Convict Years

  1. The individual stories bring a sense of reality, especially the horror of it all, often lacking from more general histories. Vaux’s dictionary may have been inspired by Francis Grose’s ‘Classical Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue’, first pub. 1786(?). I have the second ed. 1788. Grose was the father of Lt. Col. Francis Grose, soon to become the commanding officer of ‘Rum Corps’ and Lt. Governor of NSW

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