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Abstract

The sons of famous men sometimes fail to succeed in life, particularly if they suffer parental neglect in their childhood and youth. Ira Daniel Aldridge is a case in point—a promising lad who in his formative years lacked sustained contact with his father, a celebrated touring black actor whose peripatetic career in the British Isles and later on the European continent kept him away from home for long periods. When the boy rebelled as a teenager, his father sent him abroad, forcing him to make his own way in the world. Ira Daniel settled in Australia, married, and had children, but he found it difficult to support a family. Eventually he turned to crime and wound up spending many years in prison. The son of an absent father, he too became an absent father to his own sons, who also suffered as a consequence.

Ira Daniel’s story is not just a case study of a failed father-son relationship. It also presents us with an example of the hardships faced by migrants who move from one society to another in which they must struggle to fit in and survive. This is especially difficult for migrants who look different from most of those in the community they are entering, so this is a tale about strained race relations too. And it takes place in a penal colony where punishments were severe, even for those who committed petty offences. Ira Daniel tried at first to make an honest living, but finally, in desperation, he broke the law and ended up incarcerated in brutal conditions. He was a victim of his environment but also of his own inability to cope with the pressures of settling in a foreign land. Displacement drove him to fail.

Disciplines

Arts and Humanities | Social and Behavioral Sciences

References

Bagot, Albert. Coppin the Great: Father of the Australian Theatre. Melbourne: Melbourne UP, 1865. Print

Berrima Gaol: A Brief History of the State’s Historic Prison. N.p.: n.p., 1937. Print

Castieau, John Buckley. The Difficulties of My Position: The Diaries of Prison Governor John Buckley Castieau, 1855–1884. Ed. Mark Finnane. Canberra: National Library of Australia, 2004. Print

Finnane, Mark. Punishment in Australian Society. Melbourne: Oxford UP, 1997. Print

Jervis, James. A History of the Berrima District 1793–1973. Sydney: Library of Australian History, 1978. Print

Kerr, James Semple. Out of Sight, Out of Mind: Australia’s Places of Confinement, 1788–1988. Sydney: S.H. Ervin Gallery, National Trust of Australia, New South Wales, 2000. Print

Lynn, Peter, and George Armstrong. From Pentonville to Pentridge: A History of Prisons in Victoria. Melbourne: State Library of Victoria, 1996. Print

McColgan, John. “The Most Hated and Feared Gaol in the Colony,” unpublished typescript held at the Berrima District Historical and Family History Society, Mittagong

Sturma, Michael. Vice in a Vicious Society: Crime and Convicts in Mid- Nineteenth Century New South Wales. St. Lucia: U of Queensland P, 1983. Print

First Page

235

Last Page

251

Language

eng

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