James Dyson served the last few years of his sentence as a convict in Van Diemen’s Land in the district around Launceston. One location that is named in his record is now a suburb of that city called King’s Meadows. It would not be accurate to say we did not know what Dyson was doing while he was stationed there — We do — He was on a chain-gang, performing hard labour on the roads around that town.
What ever the crime was that got him an [obscured] number of months on the chain gang, we know it involved violence, and that he was sentenced to work on the roads from King’s Meadows by Robert Wales, police magistrate for the Morven district — better known today as Evandale — 18km south of Launceston.
Dyson was assigned to northern Van Diemen’s Land in July 1837. He was assigned to Morven on the 4 December, then was sent (back?) to King’s Meadows barely a week later. This suggests he probably wasn’t involved in digging the irrigation tunnel tunnel that had been started in Evandale but was abandoned around this time, but he might have been put to work constructing what is now the highway between Launceston and Hobart.
I visited King’s Meadows in 2017. Before I visited, I could find no record of where the convict depôt was located, and now I know if I had stood right on top of it, there would have been nothing above ground for me to see back then. So I found some parkland in the region near a light industrial zone that I chose this as being the closest I would get to the James Dyson convict experience for this area:—
However, thanks to some superb detective work by local historian and surveyor John Dent that was presented to the Launceston Historical Society in February 2018, followed up by an archaeological dig later in this year, I now know a lot more about the King’s Meadows Convict station then I did before. More to the point, the Convict Station has been located, even if it will soon disappear again, this time forever under the foundations of a new housing development:—
“Constructed in 1837, the Kings Meadow Convict Station housed more than 150 convicts, as well as officials and military personnel.
It was built to assist with the Evandale to Launceston Water Scheme, which proved to be unsuccessful. The structure, which was about 40 by 40 metres, was abandoned as a convict station the in early 1840s, before being sold to a private landowner in 1854.”
But the icing on the cake to this story is the discovery of the artefacts associated with this site, including a convict hat, of a design hitherto completely unknown.
As we know, there could have been over 150 convicts on the ground at any one time to whom this hat could have belonged, so the probability that this one hat could pinned down to the possession of one named convict who was confirmed to have been there at the time has to be fairly infinitesimal… for this to be so, would be far too great an outrageous coincidence, and as we know, outrageous coincidences never happen in this family….
… so here I present, for your edification and amusement, James Dyson in Tasmania:—