St Helena

Southerly, 2014
This story is based on the life of Alec Forrester, one of the men who instigated the 1891 Shearer’s Strike, and who was imprisoned on the notorious St Helena prison island. In this picture, Alec appears in the back row, third from the left.

T Watercolour



hey set Alec to bricklaying. At dawn, a warder walks the prisoners to the edge of the island where they scoop the shell and coral from the shoreline and mash them to fragments. Alec burns lime in a kiln made from bricks just like the ones he’s making, but already cemented. After hours of grinding and mixing, he pours the stodge out and finds a perfect shell caught in the surface. Its white ribs cup the muddle of grit and shell fragments pressed around it. He picks the shell out, leaving a hollow echo of its form.

Read ST HELENA at Southerly’s Australian Dreams 2. 

Image: Unionist prisoners sentenced for causes arising out of the 1891 shearers’ strike. State Library of Queensland.

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