Botany Bay Courtship (The Currency Lasses)
DESCRIPTION: "The Currency Lads may fill their glasses And drink to the health of the Currency Lasses, But the lass I adore... Is a lass in the Female Factory." Having met Molly (who was "tried by the name of Polly"), the two plan marriage
EARLIEST DATE: 1832
KEYWORDS: courting Australia punishment robbery drink transportation
FOUND IN: Australia
REFERENCES (2 citations):
Fahey-Eureka, pp. 68-69, "The Currency Lasses" (1 text, 1 tune)
ADDITIONAL: Bill Wannan, _The Australians: Yarns, ballads and legends of the Australian tradition_, 1954 (page references are to the 1988 Penguin edition), pp. 160-161, "Botany Bay Courtship" (1 text)
cf. "The Irish Washerwoman" (tune & meter)
NOTES: The "Female Factory" was the compound at Parramatta where female immigrants were kept. Settlers were allowed to come in and seek wives. (There was one in Van Dieman's Land as well, but it doesn't seem to have been the one described here.)
The Factory wasn't much of a solution to Australia's problems; fewer than one transportee in six was female, and not all of them were of "marriagable age" (though the authorities eventually started trying to send young women). The women at the Factory, in addition, were those who were not wanted by contractors. Often being sent to a Factory was a punishment for misbehavior in the colonies rather than in Britain (Alison Alexander, The Ambitions of Jane Franklin, Victorian Lady Adventurer, Allen & Unwin, 2013, pp. 94-95).
To top it off, the Parramatta Factory was quite a dreadful place, a hall above a prison, not nearly large enough for all the women sent there. Many had to be lodged on the town, and the whole place presented a picture of squalor and, hence, of other vices as the women strove to survive.
A "currency lad" or "currency lass" was a child born in Australia in the colony's early years, and usually illegitimate. The title arose because Australia had very little money, and so turned to odd, makeshift native products. These were collectively called "currency," by contrast to legal British money. Since the children, too, were native products, they were called "currency." This was by contrast to the handful of British-born non-convict landowners, the "Sterling." (for this, see the quote from Baker's The Australian Language quoted in Bill Wannan, The Australians: Yarns, ballads and legends of the Australian tradition, 1954 (page references are to the 1988 Penguin edition), p. 122) - RBW
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