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Sophia's Story

Sophia MacIntosh was 19 years old when she married Peter Degraves in 1809. He was imprisoned shortly after, the same year she lost her first child. That she continued to bear him a total of 13

children, well into middle age, is an indicator that there existed some affection between them which transcended his duplicity and rash business ventures. Only 8 children survived into adulthood but two of those perished in Australia’s worst maritime disaster, an horrific story recorded by Charles Dickens.

Peter was a recidivist bankrupt and litigator, the son of a bigamist and medical quack.  A new life in the colonies was the best opportunity to reinvent himself. Peter was a brewer,  saw-miller, ship builder, theatrical entrepreneur and an unqualified engineer of no mean ability. Peter spent 7 years in prison and many more engaged in business and travel. How did Sophia deal with the vagaries of life with (and without) this man? She was educated in London, in science and the classics, along side prominent thinkers of the day. She was friends with Mary Shelley, author of Frankenstein. 

Sophia survived shipwreck, poverty, grief, separation, and the ignominy of her husband’s caprices, failures and lies.

​Apochrypally, she taught when times were difficult. She was certainly resilient up until the time of her, curiously well-documented, death.

Peter lives on in the edifices he created; Cascade Brewery, the Theatre Royal, Pipe work from Mt Wellington. Sophia is much more elusive. She is space between the stone work and the lies and the catalogue of dates. 

The Shape of Water


Anne Blythe-Cooper

"The Shape of Water" is Sophia's Story.

Peter, her husband,  is the rock (petra) on which her life is founded. His legacy is physical and enduring.

Sophia is more elusive. There are so few facts about her. She inhabits the empty space left by Peter.  She is the water they traverse, the water that is the source of their industry and the water that erodes Peter's facade of sandstone. 

A river cuts through rock, not because of its power, but because of its persistence.
        Jim Watkins


The water in a vessel is sparkling; the water in the sea is dark. The small truth has words which are clear; the great truth has great silence.

Rabindranath Tagore



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