The Life & Times of Joseph Forrester

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Joseph Forrester was born at Perth, Scotland, in 1805. He was orphaned at the age of eight and was brought up by an aunt and uncle, with whom he began a silversmithing apprenticeship in 1820. In 1825 Joseph and his older brother, William, moved to London where William opened a silversmith’s business of his own. Joseph occasionally worked for William and other silversmiths, jewellers, and watchmakers in the Clerkenwell district. In 1829, encouraged by a “wanton woman” he stole some diamonds from a Ludgate Hill jewellery store. He was caught, tried, and sentenced to death. The sentence was commuted to transportation for life.

After arriving at Hobart, Van Diemen’s Land in late 1829, Joseph worked for jeweller, David Barclay, until he was granted limited freedom in 1841 when he married and opened his own business. In 1846 Joseph and his wife moved to Melbourne, in Victoria, or Port Phillip as it was then called. In Melbourne he worked for various jewellers including retail jeweller, Charles Brentani. In early 1849, Forrester, Brentani, and Frenchman Alexandre Duchene, were key figures in a gold rush to the Pyrenees Ranges, north-west of Melbourne. The gold rush was quickly shut down and no more said about gold until after Port Phillip separated from New South Wales in July 1851.In 1855 Joseph, like Abel Magwitch in Great Expectations, decided to illegally return to Scotland. The reception he received when he arrived in London was totally unexpected and he returned to Australia.

This book not only tells the story of Joseph Forrester’s life, but also introduces us to the galaxy of characters that came in and out of his life during his time at Hobart, Melbourne, Ballarat, and finally, Beechworth.

Among those characters be found: Alexander Morrison; James Courtney; Richard Naylor; John Barker; Thomas Tilley; Edward Johnson; Thomas Hamilton; Archibald Simpson; Charles Jones; William Wright] William Cole; Alexander Dick; Robert Broad; Henry Daniel Ley; William Patterson; Thomas & David Hill; Alexander Julien Duchene; Jules Felix Charet; Jame Robe; John Porter; Charles Albert Salmon; Joseph Doiron; Henry Hancock; William Bennett; Dougald McGregor; William Halbert; Charles Brentanil Jules Felix Charet; Patrick Sheedy; George Wise; John Holly; George Knight; Daniel Fitzpatrick; Edward Vernon; Frederick Hornblowerl; William McLelland; Robert Kerr; Charles Duncan; Thomas Fleming Cook; James Charles Willis; and Charles Duchatel.

Many were watchmakers and jewellers. Others were grocers, tailors, hotel-keepers, pawnbrokers. Many were former convicts. Others were free-settlers. But they all came in and out of Joseph Forrester’s life.

Is this book different to the story of Joseph Forrester’s life as told in the earlier “Deconstruction of a Convict Past” and the numerous peer-reviewed journal articles this author has published on Joseph Forrester? The short answer is “Yes.”

For those who may have read the previous short account of Joseph Forrester and Charles Brentani in “The Deconstruction of a Convict Past“, this book tells the stories of many more people who came into and out of Joseph Forrester’s life – it therefore sets his life much more in the context of the people he met and the places he lived.

The new book explains the relationships Joseph had with the other convict workers at David Barclay’s in Hobart, and explains the likely background of his first wife, Mary Ann Sadler and how she came to meet him.

This book also tells the stories of the people Joseph knew in Melbourne and the contradictory evidence that was given at the time of Mary Ann Sadler’s death in 1848.

It explains who he stayed with when he went back to London. And then gives details about his time at Ballarat.

Finally, it explains some of the people he met in Beechworth – including the coincidental and unexplained death of his stepson, James Willis, at Beechworth just a few days before Joseph’s body was discovered in December 1863.

Purchase the book (ISBN: 9798211234932) here.

Download a brochure here.

A readers review: “Douglas Wilkie’s engaging writing and meticulous research give extensive insight and perspective into the life, hardships, and talents of Joseph Forrester and the many interesting characters he encountered over his lifetime – a fascinating contribution to Australian colonial history.” Sallie Mulligan, Hands of Time.

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