Bonnets On Women’s Day At Down County Museum

Down County Museum has held a unique event for International Women’s Day with a living art installation that local people were part of.

The Museum invited local groups, schools and individuals to wear a ‘convict bonnet’ and be part of a crowd photograph to commemorate and reflect on the story of County Down’s convict women. The event took place today (Wednesday 8 March).

Pupils from the Friend’s Primary School in Lisburn pictured wearing their bonnets with some of the ladies from the Roses of the Heart project in Down County Museum on Women’s Day.

The event is part of the Roses from the Heart project which the Museum has been involved with for the past few years. The project was begun by Christina Henri, a conceptual artist from Hobart, Tasmania, whose work commemorates the thousands of British and Irish women transported to Australia from the 1780’s until the mid-nineteenth century.

Newry Mourne and Down District Council Chairperson Gillian Fitzpatrick pictured wearing her bonnet to mark Women’s Day at Down County Museum.

Christina said: “We have been creating art installations which examine both the experiences and suffering of these women and their contribution to Australian history and society. I have been inviting people from all over the world to make a bonnet tribute to commemorate the value of a convict woman’s life.

“Between 1796 and 1830 the old gaol of Down, where Down County Museum is now located, was home to dozens of County Down women awaiting transportation to Australia. Among those transported were 13-year old Jane Armstrong transported for seven years for stealing two teaspoons, 17-year old Ann McConnell transported for seven years for stealing a cloak, 61 year-old Mary Atcheson transported for 7 years for stealing fowls and Mary Quinn and Mary McCanoff transported for life for highway robbery. On 8 March these and the other dozens of women transported from the old Gaol will be remembered in the living art piece.”

The Chairperson of Newry, Mourne and Down District Council, Councillor Gillian Fitzpatrick, who supported the project said: “This event presents us with a unique opportunity to remember the 70 women transported from this gaol and the many thousands of others transported from these islands to Australia.

“The stories of these women continue to fascinate us today and teach us about how attitudes to prison reform and the rights of women have changed over time.

“I am delighted to be taking part in this living art installation and would encourage as many people as possible to come along and help create an impression of the numbers of people who were transported from County Down.”