Project Two – Convict Named in the Margin
This project concerns a young Manx woman named Ann Thompson, who was convicted and sentenced to 7 years Transportation to Australia in 1833, for stealing 37 yards of lace edging, worth 25 shillings (£130.00 today). Tragically, the ship Amphitrite that Ann was transported on was shipwrecked off the coast of Boulogne-sur-mer, France, and all the female convicts on board, including Ann, were drowned. It was a needless tragedy caused by the captain’s refusal to allow the prisoners to be taken to shore, locking them below decks instead. The incident caused international outrage (nearly bringing the Transportation system to an end), made worse by the fact that the bodies of the prisoners were robbed and desecrated after they washed ashore. Although lengthy stories of the tragedy appeared in Manx newspapers at the time, the Isle of Man government did not let it be known that a Manx woman was among the dead. They did, however, write a number of letters to the London headquarters of the Transportation system, quibbling about the amount they had paid for her transportation. In these and other court documents, Ann is referred to as the “convict named in the margin”.
Aims and Objectives
I have the following aims for Project Two:
- To produce a series of artworks that tell Ann’s story.
- To present the works that tell Ann’s story in an exhibition, initially on the Isle of Man, then hopefully further afield.
I have 8 objectives I intend to work towards in order to achieve my aims.
I have already done an extensive amount of research on Ann’s life and death, and the lives of those connected to her, such as her husband. There are still outstanding documents I am yet to locate, such as her prisoner record. As such, one of my objectives is to continue searching for information about her.
The central artwork of the exhibition will be a painting about Ann’s story, specifically related to the lace she stole. I have nearly finished the painting, and once I have I will focus on producing the other artworks and then on the exhibition itself.
I intend to make a film that will serve as a companion piece for the painting. My current idea is to write a spoken-word piece that tells Ann’s story in first-person narrative form. I will then have a young Manx woman perform the piece, which I will film. Water will be a central feature of the film.
When Manx prisoners were being Transported, the Manx authorities were sent a list of clothing that they required to be made and sent with each prisoner. I intend to produce some of the items on the list and display/install them in such a way that enables the viewer to connect with Ann’s humanity. I would like water to be a feature of the display/installation.
I would like to produce a soundscape for the exhibition, possibly with the sea in the foreground and the sound of the shipwreck in the distance.
I would like to apply for funding to produce the film, textile installation, and soundscape, so they can be of the highest quality possible.
Once the painting is complete and work of the other artworks is underway, I would like to make a short film that details the project as a whole, so I can approach various institutions, beginning with the Manx Museum, to see if they would be interested in the exhibition. The film may also be used in funding applications, if necessary.
I am currently in talks with a film maker on the Isle of Man about producing a documentary film about Ann’s story, which I would write and co-direct. This would possibly be a separate project from the exhibition, and may be folded into a documentary series about the Transportation system as a whole.
The artworks described above are inspired by items in traditional museum displays. Wherein the aim is to tell the story of a historic event through material artefacts.
An artist whose work inspires me in this regard is Doris Salcedo, particularly her 2017 exhibition: The Materiality of Mourning.
As the project centres on actual historic events, I have used, and will continue to use the following resources to research the relevant events surrounding Ann’s story:
- Newspaper articles
- Inquest records
- Family history records – such as census etc.
I will keep both digital and/or hard copies of all documents and images I gather from my research.
- Continue researching the events surrounding Ann’s story.
- Finish the painting.
- Write the spoken word piece for the film.
- Apply for funding
- Produce the film.
- Make the textile piece/s.
- Make soundscape.
- Approach museums.
- Hold the exhibition.
- Produce the documentary film.
Currently my priority with this project is to finish the painting, which I estimate will take 3 months. Once it is finished I will focus on producing the short introductory film so I can apply for funding for the remaining artworks. During this time, I will also continue my research and design/preparation for the other artworks. Once funding is secured, I will make the other artworks, as well as approach museums regarding holding an exhibition.
The hoped-for outcome is to produce a series of emotionally powerful artworks that tell Ann’s story, and to display those artworks.
Creer, H. (2000) Never to Return: The story of Manx prisoners Transported to the penal colonies. Isle of Man: Manx Heritage Foundation.
Jampoller, A. (2010) Horrible Shipwreck: A full, true adn particular account of the melancholy loss of the Bristish convict ship Amphitrite. Annapolis: Naval Institute Press.
Hughes, R. (1987) The Fatal Shore: A history of the Transportation of convicts to Australia 1787-1968. London: Pan Books.
Twemlow, J. (2021) Amphitrite. Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ETWMkZQUMKQ (Accessed: 22 February 2021).
Harvard Art Museums. (2017) Topography of Loss: A symposium on Doris Salcedo. Available here: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLjiqsPexHHIJPknE0qkDy_Z05-f_p9PKk (Accessed: 20 June 2020).
Archive Primary Sources
Manx iMuesum. Available at: https://www.imuseum.im/ (Accessed: frequently).
Ancestry. Available at: https://www.ancestry.co.uk/ (Accessed: freuently).