Like a Wicked Noah’s Ark

Like a Wicked Noahs Ark CoverTo be published by Australian Scholarly Publishing, early October 2020

Step back in time to 1860s Sydney – when ragged children populated the harbour city’s slums, picking pockets and scraping a living selling matches and watercress. Such neglected youths formed the city’s gangs, thieving and assaulting those unwise enough to travel about without company. These ‘larrikins’ often ended up in gaol, and received a thorough criminal education while they were there from Fagin-esque professors of the art.

In 1867 a solution to this problem was formed. Fitted up for the reception of New South Wales’ delinquent and abandoned boys, a Nautical School Ship was moored permanently within sight of Circular Quay on Sydney Harbour. The state’s prisons were drained of their young inmates, and they were herded together in their dozens – and later, hundreds – on board.

Like a Wicked Noah’s Ark is the full and close-up history of this ground-breaking experiment in juvenile reformation, which operated continuously until 1911 on the Vernon and Sobraon.

Reviews for Like a Wicked Noah’s Ark

Review by John Ramsland, OAM, Emeritus Professor of History, The University of Newcastle

… a brilliantly researched study of a neglected but important field of Australian social history …

While the colonial history of disadvantaged girls and women has been strongly exploited by a range of historians in the last thirty years, the social history of abandoned boys remains somewhat neglected. [Luke’s] book will fill a large gap. And it is very timely for both the history of social work and the history of education and current concerns about the bad conduct of orphanages and other child-rescue institutions.