Caroline Leakey

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Caroline Leakey
Born Caroline Woolmer Leakey
(1827-03-08)8 March 1827
Exeter, Devon, England
Died 12 July 1881(1881-07-12) (aged 54)
Exeter, Devon, England
Pen name Oliné Keese
Nationality British
Genre Fiction, poetry
Notable works The Broad Arrow (1859), Lyra Australis (1853)

Caroline Woolmer Leakey (8 March 1827 – 12 July 1881) was an English writer, whose poetry and only novel (The Broad Arrow, published using the pen name Oliné Keese) were influenced and based on her experience living in Van Diemen's Land (now Tasmania) for five years between 1848 and 1853.


Leakey was born in Exeter in the county of Devon, England. She was the sixth child of a large religious family of eleven children: her parents were James Leakey, an artist, and Eliza Hubbard Woolmer. Suffering from ill health most of her life, Leakey was an avid reader, and when her health allowed her, was active in charitable and religious activities.[1][2]

In 1847, she sailed to the British colony of Van Diemen's Land, to join her sister Eliza, who had migrated to Hobart Town several years earlier with her clergyman husband, Reverend James Medland. Shortly after her arrival, her health deteriorated and she was bedridden for much of the remainder of her time in the colony. In 1851, she lived for twelve months at the convict settlement of Port Arthur. When she returned to Hobart, she fell ill again and her family urged her to return to England, which she did in March 1853.[1]

Encouraged by Bishop Francis Nixon, whom she had lived with in Hobart, to publish her poetry, Leakey published an anthology of poems titled Lyra Australis, or Attempts to Sing in a Strange Land, which was published in London in 1853 and Hobart in 1854.[3]

In March 1857, Leakey began writing a novel, which was published in 1859 in London and in 1860 in Hobart. The novel, The Broad Arrow: Being Passages from the History of Maida Gwynnham, a Lifer, was published under the pen name of "Oliné Keese".[4] The Broad Arrow is considered a significant social document, and as one of the earliest novels to feature a convict as the main character, was a forerunner of, and influence on, the more well-known For the Term of His Natural Life by Marcus Clarke, who used Leakey's novel as a reference for his book.[4][5]

In 1861, Leakey established a house in Exeter to care for "fallen women". She wrote numerous religious tracts before she died after an eighteen-month illness in 1881.[1]



  1. ^ a b c Horner, J. C., 'Leakey, Caroline Woolmer (1827–1881)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, accessed 11 May 2012.
  2. ^  Lee, Sidney, ed. (1892). "Leakey, James". Dictionary of National Biography. 32. London: Smith, Elder & Co.
  3. ^ Mead, Jenna (2006): Caroline Leakey, The Companion to Tasmanian History, Centre for Tasmanian Historical Studies.
  4. ^ a b Caroline Woolmer Leaky Archived 25 March 2012 at the Wayback Machine., Index of Significant Tasmanian Women, Department of Premier and Cabinet, Government of Tasmania.
  5. ^ Spender, Dale (1988). Writing a New World: Two Centuries of Australian Women Writers. Melbourne: Spinifex Press. pp. 112–115. ISBN 0863581722.