Item 30 - Correspondence : Alexander Cairnduff, Maria Island

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Correspondence : Alexander Cairnduff, Maria Island


  • 1846 (Creation)

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George Washington Walker (1800-1859), Quaker, shopkeeper and humanitarian, was born on 19 March 1800 in London, the twenty-first child of John Walker (1726-1821) by his second wife, Elizabeth, née Ridley. Because of the death of his mother and the absence of his aged father engaged in the saddle trade in Paris, he was brought up by his grandmother in Newcastle. He was educated by a Wesleyan schoolmaster near Barnard Castle, and apprenticed in 1814 to a linen draper. Impressed by the probity and wisdom of his Quaker employers and James Backhouse of York, a leading Quaker minister, he left the Unitarian persuasion of his family in 1827 and became a member of the Society of Friends. The next year he formed the first Temperance Society in Newcastle.
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Appointed religious instructor of a proposed labour depot in Hobart Town for Pentonville convicts. With his wife Margaret he sailed in the Sir George Seymour, arriving at Hobart in February 1845. The depot was not ready, so Lieutenant-Governor Sir John Eardley-Wilmot appointed him religious instructor at Port Arthur. In 1846 he was moved to the coal-mines probation station in February and to the station at Long Point, Maria Island, in August. Humble and humane of purpose, he scorned the futility of instructing convicts by 'dull mechanical routine' and governing them by 'blind, naked strength'. His enlightened methods won repute. In the Sir George Seymour 151 male adult convicts presented him with a thankful address for his care, and his methods attracted the attention of James Backhouse and George Washington Walker, who used his information to stoke the fires of reform in England. For more information see :

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Deposited by F Charles Wolfhagen (Simmons, Wolfhagen & Walsh, formally Wolfhagen & Walker)

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Correspondence from Alexander Cairnduff, from Maria Island dated 5 December 1846 regarding the operation of the probation system

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This material is made available for personal research and study purposes under the University of Tasmania Standard Copyright Licence. For any further use permission should be obtained from the copyright owners. For assistance please contact

When reusing this material, please cite the reference number and provide the following acknowledgement:
“Courtesy of the UTAS Library Special & Rare Collections”

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