Carmen Callil Oh Happy Day

In this remarkable book, writer and founder of Virago Press Carmen Callil unearths the story of her British ancestors, beginning with her great-great-grandmother Sary Lacey.

Born illegitimate in 1808, Sary was an impoverished stocking frame worker in Leicestershire. Through detailed research, we follow Sary from slum to tenement and from pregnancy to pregnancy. We also meet George Conquest, a canal worker, sentenced to seven years’ transportation to Australia for stealing a piece of hemp - and then faced with the extraordinary brutality of convict life. In Lincolnshire we meet Mary Ann and John Brooks, skivvies and silversmiths. Their lives travers workhouses, gaols, pregnancies and villainies – and escape across the seas. But for George, as for so many destitute and disenfranchised British people like him, Australia turns out to be his Happy Day. He survives, prospers and eventually returns to England, where he meets Sary again, after nearly thirty years. He brings her out to Australia, and they are never parted again.

Carmen Callil not only reclaims her ancestors from obscurity but draws telling parallels for our own times in this moving story of poverty, entitlement, injustice, empire and migration. 

Listing Details

Friday 16th October 2.30pm


Dorford Centre, Bridport Road

Ticket Prices

Adults: £10.00


Tickets will be on sale from 26th August.

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