Alias Blind Larry : The Most True Memoir of James Laurence The Singing Convict
Alias Blind Larry is a convict story, an adventure story, a colonial story, a Jewish story, a theatrical story. A story of cruelty, resilience, cheek and humour, and it is (mostly) true.
Born in London in 1793, the son of a poor diamond cutter, young James Laurence travelled to Jamaica, the USA and Canada, clerking, acting, impersonating, singing, forging and defrauding before he was transported to NSW in 1814 for jewel theft. He served time in every penal settlement in NSW, singing and thieving when he was free. He wrote his memoir on Norfolk Island in 1842, just before his release. Then even more adventures followed.
A fascinating piece of history, untold until now. Through the narrative of Laurence’s life, Alias Blind Larry re-creates a whole period of history.
"During the regime of Commandant Maconochie on Norfolk Island in the early 1840s a spate of memoir-writing by convicts was encouraged. This is one of those narratives, which was produced by the London-born son of a Jewish diamond cutter. Young James travelled to the United States, Canada and Jamaica as an itinerant entertainer before being transported to New South Wales at the age of 21 for jewel theft. He served time in every penal settlement in New South Wales, supplementing his singing career with theft, which led to repeated reconvictions. While based on Laurence’s memoir, this is not simply a transcript, but a biography that has hunted out fascinating snippets on his life and times. Rob Wills has also identified Laurence as an otherwise anonymous witness to the 1847 House of Lords Select Committee on the Execution of the Criminal Laws. Wills has degrees in literature and languages from the Universities of Sydney and London. He has produced a great work of Australian theatre history and a very readable book."
Book Notes, Journal of the Royal Australian Historical Society, Vol. 102 Part 1, June 2016