The East London
by Colleen Arulappu
The stories of the East London will be published below as a series of chapters.
The East London
Introduction Open or Close
The East London stories came about through personal family connections. But they grew with my curiosity about what brought these women to the decks of a convict ship and how they endured the voyage. The mess lists provided a glimpse of the hierarchy on board ship.
I looked at the family situation of each woman, the social and economic times, sectarianism and searched for newspaper reports of the trials. There are chapters on the children and their suffering and the children left in Ireland. I looked at resistance, mental health, violence and family transported. The individual stories are small snapshots of life after transportation for each woman.
A few women from the East London welcomed transportation but most wailed their grief. Newspaper reports of their trials were not usually detailed but some described their cries and tears and also their feisty responses to the judges. The Constant and the East London sailed in the early mornings out of the harbour with not a word written in the press of the farewell. The grief was covered by silence.
The journey was hellish and their numbers depleted. The women who survived the voyage arrived angry and resistant. They served their sentences, married or partnered, children were born. Some suffered mentally and others from childbirth or illness. Some mothers became grandmothers of new generations; quietly living out their lives while others faded away idle and drunk. There were women whose whole story remains untold. Perhaps they are ancestors of many more of us than we know and perhaps one day their story will be told.
Chapter 1: The Prison Ship Lies Waiting in the Harbour Open or Close
The East London
A barque, 409 ton, built at Sunderland 1839.
Master, James Parley
Surgeon Superintendent, Edward Caldwell
Left Dublin 10 May 1843
Sailed via Madeira
Arrived Hobart 21 September 1843
133 days on the voyage
The Prison Ship Lies Waiting in the Harbour
The East London left Deptford on 13 April 1843 having received all the necessary stores on board. It anchored that evening at Gravesend and, over the next week, sailed past the Isle of Sheppey, Dungeness and Beachy Heads, past the Owers Lights, the Isle of Wight, Portland, past The Lizard off the starboard bow, and Mounts Bay, on its short journey between England and Ireland. By 20 April the ship was in the Irish Channel within sight of the Saltees off the Coast of Wexford. The next day it anchored in Kingstown Harbour alongside the Constant which was hired to transport male convicts. The preparations for the accommodation of the female convicts had been completed in Deptford and the East London was ready for its first venture as a convict transport. It was almost new, a barque built at Sunderland ship building yards in 1839 and in good condition for the voyage.
SAUNDERS NEWS-LETTER 22 April 1843
Arrival of two convict ships to embark convicts. The Constant, Emery Master, Surgeon Superintendent, Mr Hampton, and the East London, Parley Master, Mr Edward Caldwell, Surgeon Superintendent. The first has a guard of the 99th Regiment; the latter has not any, as she is to embark females.
Edward Caldwell, a Royal Naval surgeon, about fifty-four years of age, was on board in charge of the prisoners. It was his first voyage as Surgeon Superintendent on a convict ship but he had long experience in the Royal Navy where he was promoted to the position of surgeon in 1811. In his journal he gave the details of the preparation: the formalities of inspecting and receiving the female prisoners as well as a detailed description of the serious illnesses and deaths of those who died during the voyage.
On Saturday 22 April, two days after the ship’s arrival in Ireland, Major Collingham, the Inspector of Prisons, visited and expressed himself pleased with every arrangement made for the reception of prisoners. On Monday, Edward Caldwell went to see Major Collingham at his office in Dublin Castle to organize the reception of the prisoners from Grange Gorman Depot.
The following day, with its dark cloudy skies and heavy rain, Edward Caldwell visited the Depot at Grange Gorman and inspected sixty female convicts with nine children ready for embarkation. He had the assistance of Dr Harty and Surgeon Read, the Inspecting Physician and Surgeon of the Depot.
The boisterous weather with heavy rains continued the next day but the ship was able to receive the stoves to be used daily between decks to avoid damp and secure the health of those about to embark.
A week later fifty-nine of the women to be transported arrived on board with nine children. The remainder to be embarked had not yet all arrived from the prisons of their respective counties. Edward Caldwell arranged those already on board into ‘proper messes’, and appointed ‘proper mess women’, with a sufficient number of cooks, nurses and servants for the hospital.
By 5 May the final seventy-four females assembled at Grange Gorman Depot. Edward Caldwell inspected them with Dr Harty and Surgeon Read and found all fit to embark with forty-one children. One woman, Mary Healy, was described to Edward Caldwell, as a very bad character and a confirmed malingerer. He examined her and felt satisfied with the sounds of the chest and concurred with the other doctors that she might derive great advantage from the sea voyage and advancing into a more temperate climate.
On Monday 8 May everything necessary for the voyage was ready and Major Collingham went on board with the Lord Lieutenant’s warrant to discharge the ship in order to proceed upon her voyage. The Agent for Transports came subsequently. The crew of the ship was mustered and Edward Caldwell wrote to the Comptroller for Victualling HM Navy and to the Inspector General informing them of the immediate sailing date.
Medical Journal of the East London AJCP ADM 101/22 Reel 3139
Bateson Charles; The Convict Ships 1787-1868, Chapter 6, The Transports.Kingstown HarbourLet the reader who has never seen Kingstown harbour only imagine that he witnesses boat races and yachting matches in the inside of that harbour and he will be able to form some idea of its magnitude. The piers enclose an area of more than two hundred and fifty acres. The width of the entrance of the harbour is one thousand feet. A score of vessels of the largest size might safely enter it at once. The depth of the water at full tide is forty feet, and at low tide is thirty-three feet. Hence vessels can enter it with ease and facility every hour of the day, as well as every day of the year. The foundation-stone of Kingstown harbour was laid in the year 1817 by the Earl of Whitford, then Lord Lieutenant of Ireland.
Smiths Weekly Volume: Select Circulating Library for Town and Country Vol: 1 January to July 1845
Chapter 2: The Voyage of the East London Open or Close
The Voyage of the East London
Wednesday May 10th 1843. The ship sailed from
Kingstown Harbour at 6 a.m. The weather was cloudy and hazy.
Pride in their ship, duty to their service, spirit of adventure, expectations of a new life, despair and heartbreak, all must have been there as that handsome little barque weighed anchor and left Kingstown Harbour to sail out into the Irish Sea and through the St George’s Channel. Sight of the Irish and English Coasts during the first few days provided a lingering farewell for those on board. What was in the hearts and minds of the women and children, especially those from the inland counties of Ireland and what fear faced the ones who had never seen the sea before? The noise and shaking of a ship pitching and rolling with huge waves breaking and wind buffeting, combined with the isolation far out at sea, must have made the first few days terrifying.
On board the East London were 133 women prisoners from the Penitentiary at Grange Gorman in Dublin, many of whom were transferred there weeks or months earlier from county jails while some arrived just a few days before embarkation. Also on board were 50 children, 21 of whom were less than of two years of age. All were under the control of the Surgeon Superintendent, Edward Caldwell, and the ship was mastered by James Parley.
At the beginning of the voyage, the weather was stormy and winds buffeted the ship and caused much sea sickness. On the first day Edward Caldwell treated fifteen patients and again, three days later, when the ship was off St David’s Head, he said the women and children were suffering from sea sickness. The distress of this nauseating illness, where food could not be kept down, was debilitating and would have kept the sick women prostrate and insensible to much of what was happening. But if such illness anaesthetized hysteria, it added to the loss of hope, the loss of health, and to despair. The weather with the heavy sea remained unsettled, with high winds and heavy rain, until the ship reached Madeira. Because of sea sickness and loss of appetite Edward Caldwell gave the women a supply of boiled oatmeal instead of tea or cocoa. It was only four days after sailing and as a response to the illness and the refusal of food offered to them. He said that all the women manifested a dislike to the tea and cocoa but perhaps severe sea sickness rather than deliberate revolt was the cause of their distaste.
Many ships transported convicts from Ireland to Van Diemen’s Land and some carried female convicts. They too had prisoners from rural areas and small children, although, perhaps not so many very young children. Yet the voyage of the East London was different and the most significant difference was the number of women and children who died during the journey from Dublin to Hobart Town. Nineteen women died at sea and one woman about ten days after arrival in Hobart. Another woman, sent to the hospital, was listed as dead on the 1846 muster without any record of when she died. Twelve children died on the voyage and ten, probably eleven, young children, died in the weeks after reaching Hobart. Fourteen women were sent to hospital on arrival as well as seventeen of the children, some with their mothers. These are startling figures compared to other ships which carried women from Dublin about the same time. The Waverley, which arrived in December 1842, had no recorded deaths and the Garland Grove, January 1843, recorded eight deaths. In fact, in the decade between 1841 and 1850, the total number of female convicts dying on the way to Australia was 102 so nineteen deaths on the East London set that journey apart as a tragic voyage.
THE COURIER HOBART 22 September 1843
The East London, convict ship, sailed from Dublin on the 10th May, having 116 [actual 133] female prisoners on board, with l8 male and 23 female children, under the care of Edward Caldwell, Esq., Surgeon Superintendent. Although from the report there does not appear to have been any infectious disease on board, there has, nevertheless, been an unusual number of deaths, nineteen adult women and twelve children having died on the passage. There are six cases of scurvy and diarrhoea in the hospital, and eight cases of diarrhoea and debility in their own berths.
It was such a shocking occurrence that the Principal Medical Officer, John M. Clark M.D., who received the sick from the East London after its arrival in September, wrote to the Colonial Secretary to ask His Excellency, the Governor, for authority to set up a Medical Board to inquire into and report on the causes of the unprecedented mortality. John Clark saw the state of health of those on board and arranged for the sick women and the sick and weak children to be taken to the hospital. He was moved to write his letter to the Colonial Secretary the next day.
The board was set up within two weeks and consisted of Andrew Sinclair, Esq, Surgeon R.N., President of the Board, William Sercombe Esq, the Colonial Assistant Surgeon and Brook T. Townsend Esq, Staff Assistant Surgeon. The Board assembled for three days in the first week of October to examine the necessary documents and hear such testimony as was deemed relevant. The Colonial Assistant Surgeon, W. Dermer Esq. M.D. who was in charge of the Nursery Hobart Town, was one of the people whose opinion was sought. He mentioned his six years of experience in that position and what he saw of the sickly state of children under the age of five who accompanied their mothers to the colony. His account was of the children admitted to his care in the nursery and he said that, generally, half of them died. He attributed it to the mothers having salt provisions during the long voyage and the resultant lack of nutrition in their milk as well as the women becoming ‘reckless in their minds’ which caused them to be careless in everything connected with their children.
The Board returned their report to the Deputy Inspector General of Hospitals, John Clark M.D. Its findings put the mortality on board the East London to being 133 days at sea on salt provisions and that, as the first deaths occurred after 66 days, it was scurvy which was the common cause. The want of nourishment was worsened by the women obstinately refusing pea soup, cocoa, tea, pudding and lime juice, particularly during the early part of the voyage. The women were blamed for contributing to the cause of the deaths by depositing faeces and urine on their decks at night in spite of every attempt made to prevent it, and to stop them from spilling water over the decks when they were locked up. The berths and decks were always wet. The report stated that deaths during the last part of the voyage had become less as the prisoners reconciled to the diet. The high number of deaths was also given as a reason for not putting in at the Cape of Good Hope.
‘It has been seen that 19 female adults perished among 133. I find that no less than 12 of them were mothers and four lost their children. Eight left 16 orphans, of them 5 were infants under 2 years, admitted into the nursery at Hobart Town. One has since died and there is every appearance that other deaths will follow’.
When Dr Clark forwarded the report of The Proceedings of the Medical Board to the Colonial Secretary, he remarked that scurvy was an unusual disease on female convict ships which he attributed to greater cleanliness, more liberty of exercise and less anxiety about their future than those on male ships. He stated that a diet of salt pork and ship biscuit were the chief cause of scurvy. He pointed out that other ships sailed from Ireland after equally tedious voyages without suffering from scurvy and without the prisoners refusing tea, cocoa, pea soup and lime. He also believed that, because many of the women came from rural areas, they had no knowledge of the foods and rejected them when offered. He suggested oatmeal with a little salt butter, potatoes and perhaps a bit of boiled rice would better suit prisoners. He thought an English diet did not suit females who had not been exposed to it.
He commented on the filthy habits of the prisoners and, although he said it was difficult to preserve cleanliness on board an Irish convict ship, felt that a strict and stern discipline should have been established on the first instance of such a violation of decency. If it had, such practises as dirtying the decks would not have prevailed throughout the voyage. However, the bad weather and sea sickness which caused so many women to be ill would have made it difficult to keep the prison decks clean. The water closets were very few in number, as low as two on some ships. With many infants to care for, the women had little choice but to use the decks and, if discipline lapsed and no extra means were provided for the care of the sick and the babies, then hygiene would have failed.
Contrary to the report of the Board of Enquiry, Dr Clark found that there were three deaths in July, eight in August and eight in September; the last four in the final week of the voyage. In his comments he wrote, ‘If the women really took more nourishment in the last part of the voyage it was then that the mortality occurred’. He said the ship ought to have put in at the Cape of Good Hope. It was an error which had fatal consequences. The reasons given for not putting into port varied, from the prisoners’ state of health as they came within sight of the Cape and the deaths of three women and three children, to the time taken in turning back into the port. It was felt advisable not to put in for refreshments and what Edward Calwell himself wrote in his General Remarks:- ‘I thought it advisable to proceed on our destination without delay as several days would be lost in bearing into the Cape as the Wind is N.W. Made all sail for Hobart Town’.
It seemed as if expediency was the reason for not putting into the Cape rather than the wellbeing of the people on board the ship. Edward Caldwell and James Parley must have agreed upon that decision.
John Clark’s final recommendation was to do with the terrible mortality amongst the children. He said that scanty and unhealthy food, foul air, cold, wet and maternal neglect was the source of diseases against which infant life could not struggle.
‘Of the 12 deaths among the children all were under 2 years. These are melancholy but most important medical statistics. They all died of Atrophy with its attendant bowel complaints. Scanty and unhealthy food, foul air, cold, wet and maternal neglect are sources of disease which infant life cannot long struggle against. That a mother, could have maintained an infant on the breast and brought it alive to this Colony, whose own nourishment, derived solely from a small portion of salt pork and ship biscuit daily appears indeed extraordinary. I am sure His Excellency will agree with me that infants of this tender age ought not be victims of transportation to this Colony and that it is imperative the Government at Home should learn the fact, I presume not yet known, that if this system be preserved, it will be one of infanticide at the ratio of at least 75 per cent’.
A letter, dated three weeks later, from Dr Dermer, Colonial Assistant Surgeon at the Nursery, Dynnyrne House, said seventeen children were landed from the East London and received into the nursery in a very sickly state and that five had since died. He expected other deaths would follow.
The surgeon, Edward Caldwell, wrote extensive notes about the illness and deaths of the women. The notes gave the symptoms and the treatment each received and showed that some of the prisoners were not in a fit state of health to undertake the voyage. When Edward Caldwell inspected the women at Grange Gorman in Dublin he was told that some were feigning illness and he passed them as able to be embarked. He also conferred with the doctors on the benefits of a sea voyage for the health of some of the women.
Mary Healy was diagnosed as feigning disease of the chest by the physician and surgeon in the Penitentiary at Grange Gorman. ‘She has given a great deal of trouble to the Matron and to the Medical Superintendant at the Penitentiary at Grange Gorman, having so far succeeded in feigning disease of the chest’. She was quickly removed from prison to the ship where she became the first hospital patient on board ship and the first prisoner to die. Mary Healy's character brought forth a long list of descriptive words. She was called dishonest, dissolute, riotous and bad. She rebelled against the authorities in the Penitentiary at Grange Gorman where she refused to eat any food but that which was, ‘pleasing to the palate’. To add to the woes of the prison authorities Mary Healy was in ‘collusion’ with other prisoners.
In the General Remarks at the end of the journal, Mr Caldwell wrote that Mary Healy was a ‘confirmed malingerer’, and, having examined her chest with doctors from the prison, they all ‘concurred in opinion that this female might derive great advantage from the sea voyage and advancing into a more temperate climate’. He noted that she had attempted suicide before boarding ship and that once on board her conduct was ‘silent and dogged’. She did not co-operate with taking any medicine until well into her illness. The prison authorities at Grange Gorman in Dublin must have been relieved to see her accepted for transportation.
‘April 27th. finding that all her efforts were fruitless to be left behind she made an attempt to commit self destruction, but was prevented by the vigilance of the nurses, and other attendants at the Penitentiary.’
On June 30th Edward Caldwell wrote of Mary Healy's failing health, ‘she continues to live in hope of reaching her destination’. Mary died of phthisis on 16 July, the first of the adults to die on the voyage. Mary Healy had protested vigorously while others more timid bowed to the inevitable fate of transportation, but, perhaps with hearts just as badly broken.
One prisoner, Mary Spillane, was seventy years old. She too was inspected and passed as healthy enough for the voyage. In the early weeks she suffered from severe sea sickness and her health declined. Edward Caldwell managed to restore her to a reasonable state of health after the first bout of illness but she eventually died of debility before the end of the voyage.
Three of the women were in such advanced stages of pregnancy that their babies were delivered during the voyage. Less than a week after sailing, Mary Harrowhill, was, ‘safely delivered of a fine full grown female child after 4 hours of labour’. Mother and child both survived the journey. Another mother, Eliza Higgins, delivered a female child in July, but the child died the next day. In the later stages of the voyage, Mary Deane gave birth to a female child and both mother and daughter reached Hobart.
Although there were a few cases of women chosen to be transported who were unsuitable for such a long voyage, the majority of the women were no more or less suitable than those transported from Ireland on other ships. Illness and scurvy were present throughout the convict voyages. Many surgeons kept a vigilant watch for outbreaks of scurvy and were usually able to treat it quite successfully. Charles Cameron, Surgeon Superintendant of the Midas, 1825, wrote in his General Remarks ‘I had so many cases of scurvy...... I am happy to say that all of them rapidly recovered under the use of Lemonjuice and Nitrate of Potass...... and all were sent on shore in good health at the end of the voyage’.
One of the chief causes of the scurvy on the East London was said to be the refusal to eat the food provided for the voyage. The women from the rural areas were blamed for their lack of awareness and co-operation with such a diet, but other factors affected that situation, not least the severe seasickness in the first weeks and early symptoms of scurvy. The initial stages of scurvy cause great lethargy, loss of appetite, diarrhoea and irritability. All those symptoms were frequently described in the cases in the medical journal.
Ellinor Curreen, aged 37 years, on board with her three children, ‘suffered much during the early part of the voyage from sea sickness and not taking the food from the ship. 4 June allowed her children and herself an allowance of oatmeal by checquing their salt provisions’. It is hard to imagine that after days of severe seasickness that eating any food would be palatable but an unfamiliar diet would be even more unappealing. Although the surgeon offered Ellinor oatmeal she did not survive the journey. She suffered extreme poverty in her native county before her imprisonment and was in a weakened physical condition when she boarded the ship. Seasickness, diarrhoea and scurvy sealed her fate. Women who had been in prison for many months or who were from impoverished backgrounds were perhaps already in the early stages of scurvy when they boarded the ship.
While at the Grange Gorham Penitentiary, Mary Healy, the confirmed malingerer, led a revolt against the prison diet. Edward Caldwell wrote in her medical notes about her behaviour in prison before embarkation. ‘She entertained hopes of eluding the sentence of the law, what with voluntary abstaining from all food but what was agreeable and pleasing to the palate and by the collusion of those in confinement’. Was there any sign of similar protest once she was on board ship and did she still influence others? In the Nosological Returns, Edward Caldwell wrote only four days after sailing: ‘I have gratified the convicts this morning with a supply of boiled oatmeal instead of tea or cocoa which they have manifested a dislike to’. From the beginning of the voyage there was dislike of the food, but it was also the time many suffered from seasickness in the stormy weather. Mary was in hospital before the ship sailed and so was separated from her shipmates. However because Mary and others in Grange Gorman Penitentiary refused food Edward Caldwell was led to believe that the women were deliberately being fussy and uncooperative.
Edward Caldwell wrote of buying water and fresh vegetables for the hospital with his own money while the ship was berthed in Madeira.
‘received 15 tons of Water purchased for the use of those confined in the Hospital my own expense, Vegetable sufficient to last for a fortnight’.
Other cases where food was mentioned as an issue included Bridget Carey, 40 years old, who came on board, ‘with a bad character as a malingerer with a view to evading her sentence.’ He later wrote of her as, ‘weakened from the effects of sea sickness and the loathing of food’. Joanna Wilmott, 25years old, also suffered much from sea sickness and refused to eat at all, ‘Never tasting any of the provisions allowed by the government’. Severe sea sickness seemed to be linked in these cases of refusing food. In the case of Joanna Wilmott, the surgeon wrote that she suffered from the severe weather and was unable to take any food and became ‘indolent, lazy and regardless of her life’.
The refusal to eat the food in the early part of the voyage hastened the onset of scurvy which caused problems even before the disease was evident. Among the early signs of the scurvy is loss of appetite, diarrhoea, irritability and as the disease progresses there is fever, exhaustion, ulcerated gums, oedema and swelling in legs and haemorrhages under the skin. Most of the women admitted into the hospital had similar symptoms and many, who were accused of neglecting their children, must have been utterly exhausted from seasickness and the lethargy associated with the early stages of scurvy. Edward Caldwell remarked on several occasions about querulous nervous or disagreeable and slothful patients; symptoms caused by the onset of scurvy.
The women were blamed for the refusal to eat and were labelled ignorant rural women who had no knowledge of the English diet and needed oats and potatoes instead. Perhaps they were not used to shipboard diet, but the same revulsion to the food did not occur on other ships, at least to such an extent. Lack of discipline and poor judgement was part of the criticism of the Board of Inquiry towards Mr Caldwell. Edward Caldwell wrote in his journal about his decision regarding lemon juice despite Government instructions. June 12th. I have given them lemon juice and sugar Ship arrived Madeira to be discontinued except to the most deserving the others having declined their allowances prescribed by the printed instructions.
There is a suspicion of stubbornness on both sides in the row about rations. Mr Caldwell served out lemon juice to those who were, ‘deserving’, but not to those who were unco-operative, despite regulations which were meant to prevent scurvy. The women who manifested a dislike for lemon juice and refused to drink it were simply ignored. The issuing of lemon juice to prevent scurvy was well known and necessary to survive a long voyage at sea. Other surgeons’ journals describe the handing out of lemon juice, where the women were supervised and watched while it was consumed. What happened on the East London was a breakdown in discipline in the issuing of the lemon juice and it caused a terrible loss of life.
The lack of discipline probably extended to the cleanliness on board. The large number of children, many of whom were very sick, and the number of women so ill, must have been a burden on the hygiene. The surgeon and the Medical Board accused the women of filthy habits but the inadequate water closet facilities would have been overwhelmed by the urgent need of so many severely ill women and children. When Edward Caldwell came down in the morning he found a filthy mess on the prison floor and he held the women responsible. He also accused them of washing below decks, a forbidden activity aboard the convict ships, but the needs of infants probably meant that washing could not be limited to the two days a week, weather permitting. Perhaps too they were trying to wash away the faeces and urine which had been deposited on the prison deck.
Edward Caldwell was on his first voyage as Surgeon Superintendent in charge of convicts. It was to be his one and only journey in such a capacity. In his journal he wrote: ‘I can imagine it to be possible to keep the deck of the male convict ship as the lower deck of a ship of the line but the females will wet the deck at night requiring my attention at the earliest hour possible in the morning to dry scrape the deck and to get all bedding on deck as soon as possible. My presence among them was understandably required for that purpose’. Washing below decks was a point of contention. On June 1st the journal entry reads: ‘Weather moist wind west. I have great difficulty in inducing the women to keep the deck dry having detected those persons washing below today’. Edward Caldwell was a naval surgeon and didn't appear to relish dealing with a shipload of females. He was far above the convict women in the social order and of the class that viewed their falling from grace as being brought about by weakness of character and morals.
Mothers and infants’ needs and routines perhaps defy naval discipline. The infants, being without their fathers, became dependent upon the good will of others if their mothers were ill or died. Mr Caldwell accused the mothers of indolence and neglect and not knowing how to nurture their young. The women were from the jails of Ireland and before that, the slums of Dublin and Belfast, or the poverty of the rural counties. Some were ill in their prisons before embarkation and several had not long given birth. Perhaps the sentencing magistrates were attempting to re-settle these young families and give them a chance of a better life, but the weakened constitutions, the tempestuous weather and ill-judged decisions required more strength than many possessed.
The very young age of the children was a contributing factor in the mortality rate. Edward Caldwell at times made attempts to save the infants’ lives by taking them from their ill mothers. He took Margaret Cowan's baby from her. He wrote of Margaret, a convict from County Down:
‘of repulsive appearance, obstinate and indolent had she been permitted would have polluted all those contiguous to her......... ....she has been the cause of her own illness refusing proper regimen..... ...... she still persists that she is getting better daily and that if I have patience with her she will be able to get upon deck in a few days but I see that she is worse every day’
Margaret Cowan's child, who was only one month old when the ship left Ireland, did not survive. ‘This child was received on board May 5th with its mother (now dead), just one month old was very much reduced by the scarcity supply and support from its mother. I was obliged to take it away and place it under my own care in the Hospital’. The date the baby was received into the hospital was the day after the mother had died. The care and solicitude of the surgeon was rather tardy.
There were other cases of mothers and children dying while the ship was at sea and further deaths, particularly among the children, after the ship arrived in Hobart. There were children left orphans following the deaths of their mothers. The care of children of sick or dead mothers was apparently left to those nearby until a baby’s health became critical. When Alice Brady was taken into the hospital she left her four young children, aged six, four, two and under one year, to care for themselves or to the kindness of the messmates. The record of the death of her youngest child, Catharine, showed a little of the care given. The surgeon referred to Alice’s ‘sons’ as neglecting the baby very much, yet the eldest was a six year old girl. Were the children so dishevelled as to be unrecognizable as girls or boys?
Aged one year July 4th
This infant....... was under necessity of being separated from her mother during her long illness in the Hospital was placed under the care of her sons who neglected the child very much. I was obliged to take the child under my own care and place it in the hands of a careful proper nurse supplying it with such food as I thought suitable to it from the Hospital. On the mothers discharge from the Hospital July 2nd the child was very much reduced from diarrhoea with apthous ulceration of the mouth, without my knowledge she attempted to put the child to breast again. On receiving this information I removed it away entirely. Died July 14th 1843
The extremely cramped conditions, the illnesses, and the severe weather would have made conditions for the women and children almost unbearable. At times the weather was hot and at other times, miserable, wet and cold as they sailed through southern waters; there was even a snow storm noted in the journal. Only once, however, did the surgeon note any cases of hysteria and then gave it little importance, ‘suffering occasionally from hysteria and constipated bowels’. The same woman was reported as having daily fainting fits and having had to be brought upon deck. Many from an improvised or vagrant life might not have had much strength or domestic skills but evidence shows they did care for their children. The case of Ann Read and her younger daughter Eliza, aged one year, show that despite accusations of complete neglect and indifference there was a bond between mother and child and that the mother showed some concern and attachment for her child.
Aged 33 years
A native of the city of Dublin who has to all appearances led a very irregular life, was received on board with her two children, from the time of her embarkation she never ceased daily either to consult me for herself or her children....This woman suffered much in the early part of the voyage from seasickness. She became very indolent and filthy in her habits having lost all interest in her children.........The death of her child I had occasion to find fault with her, her conduct so annoying to others.
Earlier, Ann Read had refused to allow her child to be taken away from her until she and the child had become so sick that she, ‘with some reluctance gave up the child to the care of the hospital nurses’.
August 23rd. She shows the greatest reluctance to leave her berth without force as soon as a vacancy may occur in hospital. She expresses herself to me how happy she feels in the loss of her child.
August 30th. I received her into the Hospital ordered a warm bath, removed all the hair from her head, cleaned out and fumigated her berth, clothing and bedding, committed her surviving child now 3 years to the care of a proper person.
Edward Caldwell wrote detailed accounts of his treatment and medication given to the seriously ill or injured and seemed pleased with his successes. One was Eliza Cinnamond who: whilst sitting on the booms the weather and the sea heavy the ship pitched and threw her with great force against the bulwarks of the ship that form the hammock nettings. She was taken up in a state of insensibility vomiting large quantities of clotted and frothy blood. I saw her immediately, the skin cold, the pulse almost imperceptible. She pointed to the seat of pain along the margin of the 6th 7th ribs on the left side of the chest...
After hospitalization for twenty-four days, Eliza was discharged fit enough to return to her berth. She completed the voyage to Hobart. Three year old William Lyons, who fell down the main ladder and broke his arm, was treated successfully. Mr Caldwell directed the blame for the accident to the, ‘carelessness of his mother Mary Lyons’.
Cases of syphilis were also confidently treated using the treatment of the times. A couple of these patients were probably foistered upon the surgeon. Mary Donnelly, who was the second hospital case, was admitted within the first week and Mr Caldwell wrote, ‘She never acquainted the medical attendants of that Penitentiary with her disease’. Another in a more advanced state did not fare so well but had been surely slipped past his guard.
Mary Holland Age 29
........ at the time she was surveyed at Grange Gorman Depot she was considered equal to undergo the voyage..........
May She informed me that she had been a patient in the Belfast Infirmary with secondary symptoms of Syphilis for six months and that she had been under treatment while in the Depot.
Prison Authorities, who passed a troublesome or sick convict as fit to be transported, probably had the compliance of the convicts who hoped for better health or life in Van Diemen's Land. Several who reported their illnesses to Edward Caldwell after sailing may have held such hopes.
Edward Caldwell noted little about punishment and yet in those few instances mentioned in his journal implied that it took place. On some female convict ships punishment included being put into the coal hole or confinement for several hours in a box with only the head protruding.
Catharine Murray. She was repeatedly put into confinement for quarrelling and swearing contrary to all rules.
Many complaints against Bridget Carey for using improper language having suffered from Scrofula and Diarrhoea since her embarkation I have not put her in confinement.
Ellinor Cooney. She was so disorderly in complying with the rules laid down to ensure the health of those between decks that I was obliged to have her removed into three different messes.
Rose Carroll. Punished for having been detected smoking tobacco in bed.
Mary Gilbride. I had occasion to punish her for purloining the fat from the coppers contrary to all orders in destroying health.
The crowded conditions and the ‘broken down’ state of health made it uncomfortable and unpleasant for all on board. The surgeon wrote of the querulous temperaments of some of the women. He moved Ellinor Casey and Ellinor Cooney several times to different messes because they caused annoyance to the women nearby. There were complaints of bad language against Bridget Carey, and Joanna Wilmott had such disgusting and filthy habits that she was a nuisance to those around her. Every one of those women mentioned as being punished for bad behaviour, died. Dying women, despairing women who attempted suicide, and querulous women, added more suffering to the frustrations and petty squabbles of cramped life on the prison deck.
Only on one occasion were the men on board mentioned and that was in the General Remarks on May 18th when Catharine Carroll, ‘having been accused of levity of conduct towards one of the men made an attempt to destroy life by hanging. She was immediately released before she was exhausted. She is doing well’.
Another unsuccessful suicide attempt was made on 19 July by Catharine Murray who tried to hang herself but was rescued. These cases along with the attempt by Mary Healy before embarkation indicated enormous mental anguish by some of the women.
The bad weather and contrary winds had a bearing on the length of the voyage and the fact that the ship did not call in at the Cape of Good Hope for fresh water and supplies. The length of the voyage to Van Diemen's Land could be as short as 94 days, but the journey of the East London was 133 days, a month longer than many of the ships making the trip at that time. This very long time on salt provisions would have been a major factor leading up to the advent of scurvy in the latter part of the voyage.
July 31st.... the health of the convicts has been tolerably good having a good supply of water Wind S.E. being 10 degrees Longitude of the Cape of Good Hope I thought it advisable to proceed on our destination without delay as several days would be lost in bearing into the Cape as the wind is N.W.
The decision to save time by not calling in at the Cape of Good Hope was strongly criticised by the Board of Inquiry. Edward Caldwell must have agreed to that decision as he was in charge of the convicts and had the authority to insist on stopping the voyage for their health. The decision would have been difficult bearing in mind the bad weather and the desire to finish the contract in as short a time as possible.
Edward Caldwell wrote in detail of diagnoses and medication as well as other methods of treatment. He used a lancet, which the women could not bear, a catheter, warm baths, blister treatment and shaving the hair of fever patients. He lamented the lack of leeches. He had a full chest of the medicines of the day which included Ipecac, Opium, Sulphate Quinine, Chalk Mixture, Peppermint Water, Magnesium Sulphate, Antimony Powder which could be applied as an antiseptic, castor oil, Collyrium, Bitter Almond and Mercuric Chloride, a type of antiseptic which contained mercury. According to his journals, he liberally supplied his patients in hospital with lemonade and wine with gruel and, usually, a better diet. In Madeira, he wrote of buying, with his own funds, a sufficient quantity of water and fresh vegetables for the hospital patients. He appeared to have been conscientious in his efforts to treat the women and his notes were detailed. His interest in medicine and the recovery of his patients seemed to be of importance, but, as a man of his time, he felt far superior to his charges on board the East London.
In a response to the Enquiry Sir William Burnett wrote a reply dated 10th August 1844.
I have carefully, perused Mr. Caldwell's Medical Journal for this Ship and have also had several conversations with him on different points which appeared to me to require explanation and though the mortality has undoubtedly been very great the more so as no contagious diseases existed in the Ship. The mortality amongst the women appeared greater in proportion amongst those who were received direct from the different gaols than amongst those received from the penitentiary and the deaths amongst the children were chiefly occasioned by their mothers from their own state of health being unable to nourish or attend to them. I do not find that neglect or improper treatment can be fairly charged against the Surgeon.
Yet, on the voyage there was a love story between a young woman convict and a mariner that resulted in marriage. Rules and regulations must have been swept aside and, perhaps, not just in one instance. Edward Caldwell had shrugged his shoulders and allowed the women to refuse lemon juice and probably other foods and there was loss of control of the cleanliness on the prison deck and at least one liaison between a woman and a mariner. The women were perhaps choosing their own rules and, without a strong hand to enforce discipline, the outcome was a disaster for so many. The prison deck was filthy, often wet, with soiled bedding, and very sick women who were lethargic and irritable. Those who had the opportunity to spend time elsewhere would certainly have taken the chance to have some comforts.
The women on the East London had many stories to tell about their lives and the events which brought them together on board a convict ship bound for Van Diemen’s Land.
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Medical Journal of the Midas AJCP ADM 101 56/6
Medical Journal of the John William Dare (General Remarks) AJCP ADM 101 Piece 254
Bateson, Charles. (11988) The Convict Ships 1787-1868. Library of Australian History, Sydney. Appendix ll
Newspapers: The Trial of William Jarvey
The first page of Edward Caldwell’s Medical Journal from the voyage of the East London 1843
Chapter 3: The Women Who Died At Sea Open or Close
The Women Who Died At Sea
Picture Melbourne Museum
Mary Ann Holland
Died after arrival
The Women Who Died Aboard the East London
The women who died at sea came from the most unfavourable circumstances of those who were aboard the East London. Nineteen women died during the voyage and at least one other soon after arrival. Four of the women who died gave birth in prison; a couple only a few weeks before leaving Ireland and others had infants with them. There were signs of poverty in these women’s stories and the surgeon noted one case of ‘extreme poverty’ and another as suffering ‘great debility from poverty and want’. One woman was described as a vagrant and others as having led ‘irregular lives’ or addicted to the use of ardent spirits and tobacco. Absolute starvation caused one woman, in a prior crime, to deliberately break a street light so she could go to gaol. Most of those who died had been many months in prison. Several showed signs of previous ill health and debility and had spent time in prison hospitals. Some had symptoms of secondary syphilis and one had tuberculosis. Two of the most serious cases were described by the authorities at Grange Gorman Prison as malingers. The surgeon examined them and passed them fit to embark. He concurred with the other doctors that a sea voyage might improve their health. None of those women survived the journey.
Stormy weather in the first weeks of sailing led to widespread seasickness. Nausea and loss of appetite left some women with no desire for food which further weakened constitutions already shattered by their way of life. Frequent mention in the medical journal of patients with of irritable, indolent and careless behaviour probably indicated early symptoms of scurvy. Fatigue, loss of appetite, diarrhoea, feeling irritable and miserable are symptomatic of the early stages of scurvy and as the disease progresses it leads to swollen gums and black blotches on the skin. The surgeon wrote that he served lemon juice only to the ‘deserving’ and as many of the women who died were described as bad characters with disgusting habits and irritable manners, perhaps they did not receive enough of the lemon juice to prevent scurvy.
The onset of diarrhoea also indicated scurvy being present before being identified as the cause of the illness. The women, weakened by nausea and loss of appetite, and with constitutions which were far from strong, developed scurvy. Although the surgeon believed the women deliberately refused the diet of pea soup, cocoa, tea, pudding and lime juice, the actual cause may have been seasickness and the beginning of scurvy.
One of the women, addicted to alcohol, was said to have a repulsive appearance and another had a severe facial skin infection and would looked disfigured. One young woman who died had an infant accompanying her. A Dublin newspaper article referred to her as pretty and well dressed at her trial but her home was a crowded room shared by several people. The surgeon described several women as bad characters, riotous and dissolute, impertinent, and some were accused of quarrelling and swearing. But the most usual comment was the women became indolent, lazy and careless of their health and neglected their children, some having filthy habits which caused complaints among their companions. There were only a few water closets to adequately cater for the needs of those suffering from seasickness and diarrhoea.
Depression and fear of venturing on a voyage to the other side of the world and leaving their homeland caused very low spirits. The women were confined below on the prison deck at night and during wet and stormy weather. Some were prone to fainting and hysteria. One woman said she wished her infant dead but was very reluctant to allow others to care for the baby when she was too ill to do so herself. Her low spirits, depression and ill-health were manifest when she declared that she was happy her infant had died. Diarrhoea, pain, scurvy and debilitating ill-health worsened their indolent and careless behaviour. Their mess mates endured terrible conditions, particularly when dying women remained in their berths until a place became available in hospital. The care of their children was left to those around them.
The Principal Medical Officer, John M Clark M.D. who received the sick after the East London arrived in Hobart wrote immediately to the Governor seeking an enquiry into and report on the causes of the deaths. It found that the ‘mortality on board has arisen in the greater number of cases from Scorbutic diseases and from having been 133 days on the passage and during that time on salt provisions and no deaths during the first 66 days shews that the common cause of scurvy having been in this case more than usually active’.
The high number of deaths was attributed in part for not putting in at the Cape of Good Hope. There were four deaths when the ship was not far from the Cape and it was considered a poor decision not to turn back into the Cape. Edward Caldwell wrote in his General Remarks:-
‘I thought it advisable to proceed on our destination without delay as several days would be lost in bearing into the Cape as the Wind is N.W. Made all sail for Hobart Town’.
It seemed as if expediency was the reason for not stopping at the Cape rather than the wellbeing of the people on board the ship. Fresh provisions could have been acquired and the women would have had a rest from the pitching and rolling of the ship. The surgeon and Master must have agreed upon that decision.
Within three weeks there were another seven deaths and a further nine before reaching Hobart.
A lack of discipline was referred to by Dr John Clarke in his letter to the Colonial Secretary of Van Diemen’s Land.
Another cause of disaster in the opinion of the Board, ‘existed in the filthy habits of the Prisoners”. It is difficult to preserve cleanliness on board an Irish Convict Ship. Still, I cannot but think that if a strict and stern discipline as in the first instance of this shameful violation of decency, they would not have prevailed as it seems they did throughout the voyage.
John Clark M.D.
Dept of Insp. General of Hospitals V.D.L.
What happened on the East London was a breakdown in supervision in the issuing of the lemon juice and it caused a terrible loss of life. The lack of strict discipline probably extended to the lack of cleanliness on board although the bad weather and sea sickness which made many women ill must have made it very difficult to keep the decks clean. Twenty-six children accompanied the mothers who died. Nine of those children died aboard ship; due to bad nursing and neglect according to the surgeon. Five more died in hospital after reaching Hobart (including Francis Gilbride, presumed dead). Twelve children, whose mothers died, survived and were sent to the Orphan School. With many infants to care for on board ship the women had difficulties if there was not strict discipline and no extra means provided for the care of the sick and babies. The hygiene failed and the decks became soiled.
Edward Caldwell’s voyage as Surgeon Superintendent on the East London was his first and only journey on a female convict ship. He was an experienced Royal Naval Surgeon who was used to dealing with men and had to contend with women from the slums of Dublin and Belfast or the poverty of rural counties, some of whom were ill before embarkation. His journal extensively detailed the illnesses and deaths aboard and he used all the known methods to treat his patients. He blamed the deaths of young children on the carelessness and bad nursing by their mothers, most of whom did not survive the voyage. However, it appeared he was at a crossroads in his life and might have found it challenging caring for the convict women on a long and stormy voyage. According to a British newspaper he intended to quit England and had disposed of his family residence, household goods and livestock in the two years before he embarked on the East London. His wife, who had moved to Sydney, died two years before this voyage and perhaps his plans were thwarted by her untimely death. He eventually returned to England.
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British Newspaper Archives; Edward Caldwell, Hampshire Advertiser 14 March 1840; 1 August 1840; 30 January 1841;17 July 1841;14 May 1842.
The Norfolk News, Eastern Counties Journal 9 May 1863
Mary Healy-a riotous bad character
b c1820 County Mayo
tried Castlebar County Mayo 19 July 1842
died 16th July 1843
Nature of Disease Diarrhoea, Phthisis
Mary Healy did not want to be transported and did everything in her power to avoid being put aboard the convict ship, even attempting to destroy her life many times. She was twenty-three years old and according to the surgeon had led the life of a vagrant travelling around the country. The authorities caught up with her, not for any theft of goods or livestock or for bad behaviour but for being a vagrant which meant she was an inconvenience, a nuisance, and a threat to the property of those who lived near her wanderings. Or perhaps she was a prostitute on the streets. The admission page from Grange Gorman Prison stated that she no prior convictions.
The Judge sentenced Mary to transportation for seven years unless she gave security by paying £30 as well as two securities of £20 each. Any one of those amounts was far more than a servant girl could earn in a year and impossible for Mary who had no occupation.
Castlebar Courthouse where Mary Healy was tried
The life Mary led exposed her to damp, wet, cold and desperately poor living conditions. She had tuberculosis which was well-advanced by the time she was taken on board the East London. She was probably suffering from venereal disease as her child had syphilis.
The Prison Authorities at Grange Gorman knew Mary well as she was there for eight months and they labelled her a dishonest, dissolute, riotous, bad character. She was admitted to the prison hospital for a month, but the doctors in charge said she was feigning disease of the chest. They said she led a revolt against the food and abstained from eating anything but that which was agreeable and pleasing to the palate. As she got others to collude with her she was marked as a troublemaker. According to the surgeon’s journal, by the time the women were to be embarked, Mary had reduced herself to a great state of debility and her life before prison left her in a weakened state. The doctor and surgeon from the prison encouraged Edward Caldwell, the Surgeon Superintendant of the East London, to think that a sea voyage would do Mary good, and so he was persuaded to allow her to be on the list of those who were to sail. The prison authorities were relieved of a troublesome prisoner.
Ten days before boarding, Mary realized all her efforts to elude the sentence of the law had failed and she attempted to kill herself. The surgeon, Edward Caldwell, did not say how it happened; merely that she had been saved by the vigilance of the attendants at the penitentiary.
Although the surgeon described her as travelling the country she gave her native place as Swainsford, near Ballina, and she was tried in County Mayo. But Mary was not alone. Her son, Patrick Caudley, was with her. He was eighteen months old and described as a victim of gross neglect with a tumid abdomen, wasted limbs and was unable to walk.
Mary and her son were in pitiful conditions of health, certainly as a result of poverty and months of incarceration in Grange Gorman Penitentiary. The surgeon diagnosed Mary as having tuberculosis and Patrick with all the wasting childhood diseases as well as rickets and syphilis. As soon as Mary was received on board the East London she was admitted into the hospital suffering from diarrhoea. She was dogged and silent and showed a repugnance to take any medicine whatsoever. Co-operating with authorities was not for her and it was the only means she had of resistance.
Mary continued to suffer from diarrhoea and seasickness during the bad weather of the first weeks of sailing. She recovered a little by early June, had a better appetite and even improved conduct. She was allowed a short time on deck for some recreation, but on 11 June when it was 72°, she stayed longer than permitted. In the mid-afternoon she was seized with rigors and from then her health began to decline. She suffered night perspiration, languor and fainting. Edward Caldwell said that the sound in her lungs indicated a great extent of disease in her left lobe. He wrote that she continued to live in hopes of reaching her destination, but in mid-July she became the first woman to die on board. She had rebelled and was able to lead others, but was unable to overcome the ravages of disease.
Mary was a young woman who lived on the very rough and ragged edge of society. She had a child, a terminal illness and, fought desperately to stay or to die in Ireland. With the law, the force pushing her down even further than the poverty of her life, she had the courage to defy those in control of her. That was the only resistance such disadvantage offered.
Her son, Patrick Caudley, was on board the East London by order of the Government. Edward Caldwell said he complied with the order but kept the child away from his mother whom he said was an improper person to take care of him. In reality, Mary was placed immediately into the hospital after boarding so was in no position to take care of Patrick.
Patrick, eighteen months old, had several large ulcers of a syphilitic character on his face, neck and arms, and a large unhealed ulcer from being vaccinated at the Depot before embarkation. During the first part of the journey, the warmer weather and salt-water bathing helped Patrick and he began to walk. But in the colder weather of the Southern latitudes his health gave way and he lost his appetite. He had oedema, an enlarged abdomen, oppressed breathing and could barely take the few spoonfuls of gruel and wine offered to him. Although Edward Caldwell wrote that he had hopes of landing Patrick safely, the child died on September 10, eleven days from Hobart Town.
Medical Journal of the East London AJCP ADM 101/22 Reel 3139
National Archives of Ireland, Prisons 1/9/4 Richmond (Grange Gorman) female penitentiary register of female convicts 11th July 1840-22 December 1853 – Mary Healy 1843
Joanna Wilmott – sea sick
b. 1820 County Limerick
tried Rathkeale, Limerick 20 October 1842
died 21st July 1843
Nature of Disease Debility Fever Diarrhoea
Joanna Wilmot was from Limerick, but she shared her mess with women from Cork and all were Catholics. She was the only woman from that mess group who died. The surgeon said that Joanna suffered severe seasickness in the bad weather they faced from the moment the ship first proceeded out to sea. He said that she became indolent and careless of her life and was utterly unable to take any sustenance whatsoever.
He had to induce her to leave her bed and she manifested the ‘utmost repugnance’ to any exertion or to any cleanliness unless under strong compulsion. Although Joanne’s seasickness ceased on arrival in Madeira, she lost all her desire for food and her habits were disgustingly filthy and irregular. She was a nuisance to the other women in her berth and to those in nearby berths; the surgeon indicated that ‘strong compulsion’ was used to improve her habits.
Joanne was twenty-three years old, married, and had a one year-old baby, Mary Wolfe, with her. Grange Gorman Prison entry book, noted that she had no occupation but she could read. She was a native of County Limerick and its main city, Limerick, was the fourth largest town in Ireland at that time, an important port and trade centre. However, there were many people whose part in the manufacturing of small handicrafts disappeared with the import of cheaper mass-produced goods from England. The census of 1841 showed that, out of a population of people aged fifteen or more, half were listed as having no occupation.
William Roche M.P. for Limerick, in his submission to the Poor Law Inquiry of 1835, wrote that he had to, ‘represent an almost unmitigated mass of poverty and destitution arising from the want of steady employment, of adequate remunerations when employed, and the almost total absence of trade or manufacture even to the poorest community’.
The Rev O’Grady, in his submission said, ‘I have seen whole families with no other covering than an old broken blanket and a torn rush mat to lie on, and the children perfectly naked... the rain coming in through the roof, not a spark of fire, nor any article of food in the room. The windows were without glass, and the wind kept out by an old mat – every indication of the most abject poverty.... The smell and filth is so shocking that I think not only a human being but... a pig could not endure it’
Was that the poverty of Joanne’s life before conviction? She was severely ill from seasickness and complete loss of appetite and energy, but the problems seem compounded by her habits which perhaps were caused by living in conditions described by the Rev. O’Grady. Scurvy too added to the feelings of lethargy. Her daughter, Mary Wolfe, was in poor condition even before starting the journey. The many months in jail, depression on leaving her husband and her native land must have added to her despondency and complete loss of motivation to help herself.
Joanna was tried in Rathkeale, a town about thirty kilometres from the city of Limerick. On the same day, 20 October 1842, and in the same court, three other women were sentenced to transportation. Mary McMahon, Mary Garvin and Mary Hannon had various charges, but there is no information about Joanne’s crime of larceny. Mary Garvin was an older woman, married with six children while Joanna, Mary McMahon and Mary Hannon were all twenty years old, the latter two women were prostitutes. It was a tough day in Rathkeale with four sentences of transportation being handed down. The four women arrived together at Grange Gorman Depot on the 20 April at midday. Despite the six months of shared imprisonment and journey to the depot together, the women did not share a mess with Joanna. Two of the women stayed together, but Joanna joined the Cork group. Problems between her and her fellow inmates may have already caused a rift.
By 15 June Joanna’s health became worse with harsh dry tongue, pains in her back and limbs, and constipation. She complained to the surgeon about the loss of her milk. Being unable to feed her child, the little girl began wasting away due to lack of nourishment. The surgeon made arrangements to have the baby weaned, but when he discovered that Joanna was still trying to suckle the baby, had it removed and put under the care of a nurse.
At the beginning of July, Joanna complained of abdominal tenderness and could not take any sustenance at all; she was nauseous and vomited. When a vacancy occurred in the hospital, she was admitted and given a warm bath, had her head shaved and was allowed sago and barley water. The chloride and opium, used as a treatment, was not of any advantage and she vomited the sulphate of magnesia. The surgeon applied blistering to her abdomen which gave her a more tranquil night and a relief from pain. However her diarrhoea continued and she became weak and although again given an enema, she sank lower and died on the 21 July 1843.
Her child, Mary Wolfe, just one year old, was admitted into the hospital at the end of June suffering from diarrhoea, wasted limbs and tumid abdomen although she had a voracious appetite. She was very fretful and had an ulcerated mouth. The diarrhoea continued and the little girl was given small quantities of thin sago and a little wine. She became weaker and began to sleep much of the time. By 13 August she suffered convulsions and coldness of the extremities and died on 15 August. She survived her mother by a little more than three weeks and for some of her time in hospital she would have been near her mother.
Joanna’s life was probably lived in squalor and without comforts and her health compromised even before conviction. The nausea and vomiting of the seasickness she suffered worsened whatever problems she had and must have added to the despair of her situation and her neglect of herself and her baby. Yet, in spite of her helplessness, she did try to suckle her child, a human behaviour she understood. Her little girl, Mary Wolfe, was ill and wasting away, but survived for three months of the journey, perhaps due to the care given by other women on board who nursed her.
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limerickcity.ie/media/media,4082,en.pdf; -The Old Limerick Journal 1. First report of inquiry into conditions of the poorer classes in Ireland supplement to appendix B, 1835, part11, p. 740 2. Poor laws pg. 124
National Archives of Ireland, Prisons 1/9/4 Richmond (Grange Gorman) female penitentiary register of female convicts 11th July 1840-22 December 1853 - Joanna Willmot, 1843.
Bridget Carey - a trifling offence
a nuisance in the neighbourhood
tried Tullamore, King’s County 18 October 1841
died 31 July1843
Nature of Disease Scrofula Diarrhoea Anasacra Debility
Bridget Carey and her two children boarded the East London on 5 May 1843. The surgeon’s notes described Bridget as a bad character and a malingerer who was trying to evade her sentence. Edward Caldwell was advised of these facts by the doctors from the prison and, when he examined Bridget and viewed the enlarged ulcerated glands in her neck, was persuaded that a sea voyage would benefit her health. Perhaps such a journey would do no worse than being locked in a cold and crowded prison in Ireland. Did the men understand it was the only chance Bridget had of improvement in her health, or did they just want to be rid of a problem?
Bridget was a thirty-four year old Catholic woman from the area around Portarlington on the border of Queen’s and King’s Counties. She was convicted in 1839 and sentenced to transportation but the sentence was commuted. At that time, she stole potatoes from the property of Lieutenant Colonel Robert Moore of Lawnstown, Portarlington. He prosecuted her as he said the stealing of potatoes had ‘much increased’ in the neighbourhood, but he had not expected her to be sentenced to transportation for such ‘a trifling offence’. She was in confinement for seven months when he sent a letter asking for consideration in her case or, if it was necessary to have the sentence carried into effect, that her children would be able to accompany her. In a reply from Dublin Castle, it was noted that Bridget Carey was an old offender who had been repeatedly convicted of similar offences and was considered a nuisance in the neighbourhood. However, if there was safety for the residents in the neighbourhood from further offences by the prisoner, she could be spared without carrying out the sentence of transportation; perhaps ‘Lieutenant Colonel Moore, who had so humanely interfered might be able to protect himself and his neighbours in case the prisoner should be set among them’.
Tullamore Court House Built 1833
In her own petition in 1839, Bridget Carey said she pleaded guilty to stealing the potatoes, but she was a poor, wretched and distressed woman with three helpless infants, the eldest a female not more than nine years old, the second a boy about four years old and the youngest a boy of about one year four months. She said if she was sent abroad her unfortunate and wretched orphans would starve having no person to take care of them. No mention was made of her husband. Grange Gorman prison entry book listed her as married, and when her children were put into the orphan school in Hobart, the father’s name was given as John Delaney rather than the usual note of ‘father dead’. None of the letters of petition described her as a widow, an unusual omission when asking for clemency. There was a John Delany from Queen’s County, sentenced to transportation in 1837 and sent to New South Wales. Was Bridget on her own with her children because her husband had been transported, or was he dead?
Bridget’s first sentence of transportation was commuted but she was arrested again in 1841 when she took turf from the property of John Dunn. She appealed, but her reputation and the fact that she had a similar sentence commuted meant no mercy was granted and her papers were marked as ‘the law must take its course’. When Bridget boarded the East London she only had the two eldest children with her, the youngest was probably among the nine children who died in Grange Gorman in 1843.
Bridget was not well and was put on the sick list the day after sailing, given sulphate of quinine and a small quantity of wine daily. She suffered from seasickness and loathing of the food and her constitution was weakened. The surgeon wrote that there were many complaints against Bridget for using improper language, but he did not put her into confinement. Perhaps her frequent use of bad language as well as her ill health discouraged too much intervention.
In mid-July Bridget was seized with diarrhoea and was admitted into the hospital where she required constant attention. Her legs were swollen and she lost control of her bowel; she was givenenemas and doses of opium. The surgeon was pleased that the ulcers on her neck, present before embarkation, were nearly healed and had lost their odour. He said the Chloride of lime had been a very useful application in their healing.
The diarrhoea continued to be very troublesome as well as oedematous swelling of her legs and feet and coldness. The surgeon wanted to give her digitalis, but said the great prostration of her strength prevented him from administering it; instead he gave her small doses of sulphate of quinine in a little wine. She became delirious, but could be roused up when spoken to and had no pain. She died on the 29 August 1843. Bridget was the second woman from her mess group to die.
Her two children, Ann Carey, aged twelve and, Henry Carey, aged eight, survived the voyage. Ann was sent to the Orphan School with the first group of children and Henry was moved to the Orphan School three weeks later. Ann stayed in the Orphan School until old enough to be discharged to a master and once she married had her brother discharged to her care. Although Bridget Carey did not live to see Van Diemen’s Land her descendants settled and made Australia their home.
Petition – see appendix
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National Archives of Ireland, Prisons 1/9/4 Richmond (Grange Gorman) female penitentiary register of female convicts 11th July 1840-22 December 1853 – Bridget Carey, 1843.
Orphan School Records, Ann & Henry Carey, SWD 7, 28.
Irish Transportation Records, Bridget Carey, CRF 1841 C88
Catherine Murray (2 #471) - led a dissolute irregular life
tried 24 July 1842 Trim, County Meath
died August 2nd 1843
Nature of Disease Dyspepsia
Catherine Murray and her husband, John Murray, were sentenced to transportation in County Meath, July 1842, for burglary. They broke into a house and took a purse from around the neck of the owner, Katherine Markey, who was in bed and, stole household goods and little children’s clothes. The police found the children’s clothing on Catherine Murray. Three weeks later John Murray faced another trial with Thomas Fields, on the same day as Mary Rowe, another of the women aboard the East London. When Mary Rowe gave her family information for the indent record she said she was ‘tried with John’. John Murray gave his occupation as an imperfect tailor and Mary Rowe was a cap maker and needlewoman. Perhaps they acquainted through their employment. Thomas Fields was a quarryman and lime burner. All were Protestants.
Trim Court House Built 1810
In a petition seeking a commutation of sentence, Thomas Fields claimed that John Murray was a deserter from the 14th Regiment of Foot. Thomas said that the brands of desertion could be seen on John Murray’s back. Thomas Fields also accused the Stipendiary Magistrate, Captain Despard, of visiting him in gaol and offering him hope if he made disclosures which would be accepted as Queen’s evidence. He said that it all went against him as Captain Despard accepted the testimony of John Murray instead and the evidence given went against him.
Perhaps John Murray became a crown witness to ensure that his children would accompany them on the voyage. Catherine Murray had four children and the two youngest were the children of John Murray. Three children, Ann Smith, ten years old, Catherine Smith, six years old and Mary Murray three months old, accompanied Catherine and four year-old James sailed with John Murray aboard the Navarino 1842/1843.
Catherine Murray applied to the surgeon before the East London sailed with symptoms of dyspepsia and constipation. The surgeon said that she appeared fit to undertake the voyage at the time of embarkation even though she had led a dissolute irregular life before her conviction, and noted that she was addicted to the use of ardent spirits and tobacco and suffered delirium tremens. Catherine’s Irish prison records gave her age as thirty-two but the surgeon said she was forty years old; possibly the age she looked. She was tried at Trim in County Meath and had no prior convictions. Her gaol report said she was very bad.
On board ship Catherine shared a mess with seven women from six different counties. It was the last group listed by the surgeon. Some of the women were described as riotous bad characters, so the reputation of the group was perhaps a troublesome one, certainly with the surgeon. Catherine suffered from sea sickness in the first week but recovered. During the voyage she was put repeatedly into confinement for quarrelling and swearing. It may have been a cupboard-like enclosure or even the coal hole as was sometimes the practice. She attempted to hang herself on 19 July, but was cut down and her life saved.
A week later Catherine complained to the surgeon about her diarrhoea and the loss of her former energy. She was not able to keep her berth clean. The surgeon found the berth offensive when he inspected it and had the bedding and clothes removed and the boards taken up and sprinkled with chloride of lime. Catherine complained of great abdominal tenderness and her tongue was a deep red colour. She was admitted into the hospital. Her head was shaved, she was given opium and an unguent made from mercury and camphor rubbed across her abdomen and a flannel roller applied as a poultice. But the diarrhoea worsened and all bowel control was lost. She gradually became weaker, although she was sensible and able to have a few drops of sulphur quinine in a little wine. She remained conscious until the beginning of August and died in the evening of the 2 August 1843.
Two other women from the mess group died and two children. After arrival in Hobart Catherine’s eldest daughters, Ann and Catherine Smith, were sent to the Orphan School where they stayed until old enough to be apprenticed. The youngest, Mary Murray, died in the Dynnyrne Nursery four weeks after arrival. Catherine’s husband, John Murray, was transported aboard the Navarino, with their son, four year old James. James Murray was admitted into the Orphan School but died there two months later of dysentery. Catherine’s husband, John Murray, was sent to the Lunatic Asylum on two occasions during his years of sentence. His conduct record stated he died at Port Arthur in August 1858. The registered death record gave the name as James Murray but the information matched John Murray.
Medical Journal of the East London AJCP ADM 101/22 Reel 3139
National Archives of Ireland, Prisons 1/9/4 Richmond (Grange Gorman) female penitentiary register of female convicts 11th July 1840-22 December 1853, Catherine Murray (1843)
Irish Transportation Database, Catherine Murray
Orphan School records Ann and Catherine Smith and James Murray SWD 7 28
John Murray, CON 33/1/34, CON 14/1/16
John Murray, Departure, Royal Shepherd, Launceston to Melbourne, 5/9/1854, POL 220/1/3 p674
Thomas Fields, CON 33/1/34, CON 14/1/16
Thomas Fields, Petition, CRF 1842 F17
Mary Spillane - an old thief
b c 1774
tried Clonmel, County Tipperary 1 April 1843
died 4th August 1843
Nature of Disease Old age & Debility Anasarca
Mary Spillane was not a young woman; she was seventy years old according to the surgeon although gaol records said sixty-eight. When Edward Caldwell inspected Mary Spillane in the prison before embarkation he said she was in good health and he saw no objections to accepting her. However he did say he was agreeable to Article 8 of the Surgeon Superintendants Instructions when he made his decision which perhaps he offered as a defence for taking such an elderly woman.
Her story is in The Gang From Clonmel
Anne Read - to all appearances led a very irregular life
b c 1811
tried Dublin 17 April 1843
died 18th August 1843
Nature of Disease Opthalmia Diarrhoea Gastric Enteritic Scurvy
In his notes Edward Caldwell described Anne Read as a native of the City of Dublin who, to all appearances, led a very irregular life; she was in prison at least three times before her sentence for transportation. An excerpt from The Freeman’s Journal 29 July 1842 gave some glimpse of Anne Read’s life.
Dublin Police Head Office - yesterday
Case of Destitution – A poor woman, named Anne Read, was yesterday before the magistrate of this office, by Police Constable William Rafter A146, with having broken a gas lamp in Thomas St. The poor creature admitted that she had done so for the purpose of being imprisoned as she was in a state of absolute starvation, and had not tasted food for some days. The Magistrates felt themselves compelled to send the unfortunate woman to Newgate for a week.
Anne was tried on 17 April 1843 for the theft of a carpet bag and sentenced to seven years transportation. She was thirty-two years old and embarked on the 2 May with two children, Mary, three years old, and Eliza, one year. Once on board the surgeon said she consulted him every day for herself or for her children.
Anne was seasick in the early part of the voyage and became indolent and filthy in her habits and lost all interest in her children. The surgeon said that those who were in the same berth complained constantly about her want of cleanliness. He ordered her into confinement because of the complaints and for her impertinence, but did not describe the type of confinement used. Perhaps Anne was confined somewhere dark, because on the 20 June, she was put on the sick list with eye problems. She was treated with mercury chloride and antimony and a small quantity of opium. Blistering powders were applied and the discharge kept up.
Anne weaned her child, Eliza, and it was some relief not to have to breastfeed the baby. The surgeon said that baby Eliza became very weak due to illness and negligence by her mother. He ordered the child removed, but Anne would not consent until an attack of diarrhoea and tonsillitis wearied her. She gave up her daughter reluctantly to the care of a ‘proper person’ to see to her food. The little girl was eventually admitted to hospital and, although she improved slightly with the care given, died on 18 August. Edward Caldwell said that, as Anne suffered from diarrhoea and became very indolent, she wished daily for the death of her child. He had great difficulty in managing her and her conduct was annoying to the others around her, especially after the death of her child. He wrote that every day she expressed herself happy that her child had died. By August 20 the symptoms of scurvy became obvious. Anne had acute pains in her legs, large livid black spots several inches in diameter, swollen gums which were discharging blood and her diarrhoea continued.
Although ill, Anne’s appetite was good and she constantly complained of the quantity and quality of the provisions. She remained in her berth and was very reluctant to leave it unless forced. The surgeon intended to move her to the hospital as soon as there was a vacancy. After the deaths of two other women a place became available and Anne moved into hospital on 23 August. She had a warm bath and her head was shaved. The berth place she vacated was cleaned out and fumigated and all her bedding and clothing thrown away. Her older child, three year old Mary, was given to another person to be cared for.
Severe weather caused Anne much suffering and she became weaker and lost control of her bowels. Her skin was bathed with tepid water and vinegar. It made her a little more comfortable, but the poor weather continued to worsen her suffering. The surgeon ordered clean swinging stoves used in the hospital daily to help alleviate the effects of such bad weather, but Anne continued to become weaker and died on the 14 September 1843.
Anne’s daughter, Mary, was sent to hospital on arrival in Hobart and, at the beginning of February 1844, was admitted into the Orphan School. She died of a fever at the school in June 1853 and was buried at St John’s Cemetery, New Town.
In his brief description of Anne Read’s death, Edward Caldwell said that she suffered great debility from poverty and want in Dublin and that her health and habits improved in the penitentiary, but seasickness and loss of appetite worsened her health. Another of her messmates, Susan Whittle, died on the voyage. Three others in her mess were among the worst rioters at the New Town Farm Station four months after reaching Hobart. The dead women and the rioters were city women from Dublin. They were messmates who endured filthy conditions and suffering on the voyage and those who survived were most reactive when they reached Hobart.
Medical Journal of the East London AJCP ADM 101/22 Reel 3139
National Archives of Ireland, Prisons 1/9/4 Richmond(Grange Gorman) female penitentiary register of female convicts 11th July 1840-22 December 1853, Ann Read (1843)
Irish Transportation Database, Ann Reed
Orphan School Records, Mary Read, SWD7, 28
British Newspaper Archives; Freeman’s Journal 29 July 1842
b c 1813
tried Belfast 6 January 1842
an unfortunate though respectable girl
died 25th August 1843
Nature of Disease Erysipelas Ophthalmia Debility
Anne Rea was from Belfast, aged somewhere between twenty-eight as the Irish Transportation Database stated and thirty-three as she told the surgeon. Anne gave her occupation as a servant but she was probably a pick-pocket or even a prostitute. She was caught putting her hand into the pocket of Edward Leary and grabbing three shillings and a sovereign which accidently fell to the ground. Edward, who realized that he had been robbed, instantly accused her of the theft which she denied and ran away. He went after her, caught her and took her to the Police Office where it was discovered she had more of his money. In a letter on her behalf, it was said that, rather than Anne putting her hand into her accuser’s pocket, it was he who put her hand into the pocket and the money fell out.
Inside Crumlin Road Courthouse, Belfast
Anne was charged with theft and, at her trial in Belfast, was sentenced by Assistant Barrister Gibson to seven years transportation. She had prior convictions for receiving stolen goods and was imprisoned for six month so little mercy shown at her trial on the 6 January 1842. Newspaper reports of trials in Belfast revealed Anne’s two prior charges and terms in prison were the result of theft of articles of clothing and receiving a stolen watch and money. In one case Anne had two accomplices but she was the only one found guilty.
A petition was written begging the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland to release her or, at least, overrule the sentence to one which could be served in her own country. She was said to be an unfortunate, though respectable girl and her weeping parents would forever pray for those who helped influence the decision. However, once the Assistant Barrister wrote to Edward Lucas, the Under Secretary of State, with information about what happened and the prior charges, it was ruled that the law must take its course. She was sent to Dublin and arrived at Grange Gorman Prison on the 25 April in the early afternoon.
She was convicted of robbing a man whom she was with and her version of what happened was doubted. As she had prior convictions, her appeal as being a respectable girl was not believed. She had syphilis which strengthened the notion that perhaps she had been ‘on the town’.
Anne had a further health problem. She was treated for erysipelas and opthalmia in the Infirmary of Belfast prison for a month. The erysipelas is a bacterial infection of the skin and underlying tissues and possibly the infection spread to her right eye. The surgeon said she had lost the sight of that eye. It would have made her face red, swollen, hardened, and very unsightly. Perhaps the disfigurement and the paralysis in her right hand prompted the sympathy of the ten men who signed her petition. Anne applied to the surgeon on 9 May, the day before the ship sailed, and he treated her in her own berth for the skin problems and for the severe seasickness she suffered during the first few weeks sailing.
On June 15 Anne was received into the hospital and the surgeon directed his attention to restoring her shattered constitution. She was allowed preserved meats in the form of broth, barley water, boiled rice and sago. She was discharged to her own berth on July 20 but saw the surgeon again on August 5 because she could not pass urine which she had kept quiet about for four days. She was admitted into the hospital and the surgeon used a catheter to draw off three pints of urine. He suspected the kidneys were at fault.
Anne remained in the hospital and was treated with silver nitrate for her eye and enemas to keep the bowels open. She was given wine, sago and broth, but she grew weaker daily and suffered much from the severity of the weather and being tossed about in the night. By morning of the 25 August during a gale of wind and rain and sleet, she slipped into a state of insensibility and died.
Anne did not arrive at Grange Gorman with the others from Belfast and there was only one other from that county in her mess. Her disfigured face and paralysis in her right arm may have caused her to be shunned by the other women from County Antrim who had gathered together in another mess.
Medical Journal of the East London AJCP ADM 101/22 Reel 3139
National Archives of Ireland, Prisons 1/9/4 Richmond(Grange Gorman) female penitentiary register of female convicts 11th July 1840-22 December 1853, Ann Rea, 1843
Irish Transportation Records Ann Rea CRF 1842 R1
British Newspaper Archives;
Belfast Newsletter 10 July 1838;
Northern Whig 25 October 1838;
Belfast Commercial Chronicle 15 January 1843
b c1812 Rathfriland County Down
tried Newry, County Down 21 October 1842
– addicted to the vice of drinking ardent spirits
died 22nd August 1843
Nature of Disease Debility Diarrhoea Scurvy Anasarca
Margaret Cowan, alias Kearney, age thirty-one, was a native of Rathfriland in County Down and tried at Newry, on the 21 October 1842. The Newry Telegraph 25 October 1842 reported the trial.
Margaret Cowan, for stealing a blanket at Rathfriland, on 16th July, the property of Ann Anderson
Mary Morrison, examined by MR.RUTHVEN, - lives with her aunt, Mrs Anderson, in Rathfriland; recollects taking a blanket out into the garden to dry; took it out about 12 o’clock, and missed it about 3; was watching it, as the garden had been robbed before; did not see anyone take it, but saw the prisoner at the foot of the garden; went down to the hedge, and missed the blanket; went up to the prisoner, and saw the blanket under her cloak; took it from her; that produced is the same; it is the same witness laid out on the hedge.
Cross-examined by prisoner, - Does not know whether she (prisoner) was tipsy or not. - Guilty; to be transported for 7 years.
The prisoner had been tried four times before for larcenies, and convicted each time. Her cries, on sentence being pronounced, were appalling.
Another woman, Ann Kinney, was tried in Newry on the same day and, together, the two women were admitted into the Grange Gorman Depot on 25 April 1843.
Margaret gave birth to a child one month before embarkation and arrived on board ship with two children, seven year-old Margaret Alexander and the new born, Eliza Alexander. The surgeon, Edward Caldwell, described Margaret as having a repulsive appearance. She was in a weakened state he said and had the appearance of a person addicted to the vice of drinking ardent spirits and smoking tobacco. He said she was obstinate and indolent and, if permitted, would have polluted all those near her. She needed constant attention to see she attended to personal cleanliness and to the cleanliness of her bedding and that of her children. He did not describe the methods used to enforce the cleaning and personal washing.
The surgeon again referred to Margaret’s disagreeable and slothful manner. He felt that she was the cause of her own illness because she refused the proper regimen prescribed for her. She required double the attention of any other convict on the ship.
Margaret was on the sick list from the end of June. The diarrhoea she suffered was not relieved by the chalk mixture and her feet were swollen; she had palpitations and oedema in the chest area. On August 10 she insisted that she was getting better daily, and that, if the surgeon had patience with her, she would be able to get back on deck in a few days, but he could see she was getting worse every day. Signs of scurvy appeared; her gums were swollen and spongy and large black patches appeared on her upper and lower extremities.
The surgeon removed her to the hospital in order to give her more attention but it was against her will. She was able to leave her bed every day but, on 2 August 1843, she became comatose and died later that night.
Her baby daughter, Eliza, died a week after her mother. The little girl was in a weakened state when brought on board; due to a scarce supply of milk from her mother. The surgeon said he had the baby taken away, given to the care of a nurse and kept in the hospital, but the date of admission to hospital was after the mother’s death. The baby was not well, with diarrhoea and apthous ulcers in her mouth and her whole body had the appearance of malnourishment. The surgeon ordered thin sago and a little port wine and water, but the baby was in pain and crying. The diarrhoea continued and the babe required constant attention to keep the mouth moist with barley water and a little port wine. She gradually sank and died on 29 August 1843.
Margaret Cowan’s older daughter, Margaret Alexander, was seven years old. She stayed in the care of the messmates, and one of whom was Ann Kinney, sentenced on the same day as Margaret Cowan. Another woman from County Down, Elizabeth Fitzpatrick, was also in the mess group and made the third of the group who arrived from their county gaol to Grange Gorman together. These women, although also said to be polluted by Margaret Cowan’s behaviour, must have looked after the seven year-old girl and kept her well enough to be able to be sent straight away to the Orphan School in Hobart. Margaret Alexander stayed at the School until 1852 when she was discharged to a master in Launceston. There is no official record of a marriage for her, but there are birth records for children believed to be hers. Margaret Cowan descendants survived and grew in the new land.
Medical Journal of the East London AJCP ADM 101/22 Reel 3139
National Archives of Ireland, Prisons 1/9/4 Richmond(Grange Gorman) female penitentiary register of female convicts 11th July 1840-22 December 1853, Margaret Cowan, 1843.
Orphan School Records, Margaret Alexander SWD7,28
British Newspaper Archive; Newry Telegraph 25 October 1842
Alice Fitzsimons (Brady)
b c 1808
died 23rd August 1843
her story told in the chapter on the women from Cavan
Nature of Disease Continual fever
b c1821 County Meath
tried 24 February 1842 Trim, County Meath
- shows the greatest reluctance to leave her berth
died 28th August 1843
Nature of Disease Debility Diarrhoea
(swollen gums & black patches on legs – scurvy)
Ann Gannon, a native of County Meath, embarked on the East London on the 5 May with her small daughter, Mary Gardiner. Ann was sentenced to seven years transportation for larceny on the same day, in the same court, as Anne Webb was sentenced to seven years transportation for receiving stolen goods. Both were servants and each was accompanied by a child. Ann Gannon was twenty-two and Anne Webb twenty-nine. Anne Webb said her prosecutor was Mr Gardiner. Was this the same Mr Gardiner who was father to Ann Gannon’s child, Mary Gardiner? Ann Gannon did not have an indent record to state the reason for her transportation so there is no answer, but prison records listed her as single. Ann Gannon and Anne Webb did not share a mess. Ann Gannon’s conduct in gaol was ‘bad’ and that reputation went with her as she boarded the East London and may have even caused problems amongst her fellow prisoners.
She was ill in the county prison but recovered in the Grange Gorman Prison. When embarked she was healthy, but suffered severely from seasickness and the surgeon said she gave way to indolence and carelessness of her person. She had no appetite, was under the care of the surgeon for a week in June but recovered quickly with attention to her diet. He said that she did not consult him for herself but repeatedly for her infant who had chest problems.
Towards the end of July Ann developed diarrhoea and, although she had no pain, she was languid and her tongue was dry and furred. The surgeon treated her with rhubarb, ginger and laxatives and admitted her into the hospital on 26 July where she had warm poultices applied and was given a starchy diet, perhaps rice. The diarrhoea continued to cause great prostration of Ann’s strength and the surgeon advised her to wean her child. The little girl was given to the care of another person and Ann appeared to gain some strength. Symptoms of scurvy in the swelling gums and black painful patches on her legs appeared and she was ordered lemonade with a little wine and a small quantity of quinine with wine. By 5 August she was sufficiently well enough to be discharged to make room for another patient.
Within two weeks the diarrhoea returned and Ann became very weak and did not want to leave her berth. There was abdominal tenderness and involuntary diarrhoea. The nursing staff applied flannel poultices around her body, camphor rubs and mercury ointments as well as blistering powders. There was little relief and Ann became weaker and had no inclination for food. But she was quite sensible and was allowed wine and expressed confidence in making a recovery. But she continued to become weaker and there was a great alteration in her appearance. She lost all strength with the continual purging and became insensible. Ann Gannon died on the 28 August 1843.
Ann’s daughter, Mary Gardiner, born in the county gaol, was ten months old when they left Ireland and breast fed by her mother, but as Ann suffered from sea sickness, the little girl suffered. Her mother became careless and lacked energy and the milk supply dwindled. Although the surgeon found another woman to care for Mary, the child had chest problems and found it hard to breathe. A small blister was applied which appeared to give relief. However, in the first week of August, Mary was seized with diarrhoea and her lower legs became oedematous. She was given a little sago and wine but she grew weaker daily. Mary Gardiner died on the 15 August 1843
Ann Gannon was reasonably healthy at the beginning of the voyage and the surgeon noted that she was clean and orderly in her berth. But within a short time, after the severe seasickness, he accused her of being careless and indolent. Her health had not stood up to the nausea and loss of appetite due to the seasickness and, once diarrhoea struck her, she became very weak. Scurvy quickly took hold and she had no resistance. Her daughter, Mary, was admitted into the hospital while Ann was dying and she must have been able to see the little girl during her last days.
Medical Journal of the East London AJCP ADM 101/22 Reel 3139
National Archives of Ireland, Prisons 1/9/4 Richmond(Grange Gorman) female penitentiary register of female convicts 11th July 1840-22 December 1853, Ann Gannon, 1843,Ann Webb, 1843
TAHO, Ann Gannon, CON 40/1/4 image 216 position 3
TAHO, Ann Webb, CON 40/1/10 image 239 position 1
TAHO, Ann Webb, CON 15/1/2 image 208-209 position 4
- an imposter and malingerer
b c1811 County Tyrone
tried Omagh, County Tyrone 6 July 1842
died 29th August 1843
Nature of Disease Liver Complaint Diarrhoea Ascetis
(swollen gums -symptoms of scurvy)
Catherine Manley, alias Garretty, was tried at Omagh in County Tyrone for larceny and sentenced to seven years transportation; a tough sentence, but she had a prior conviction. She gave her native place as Omagh and was married. In the Irish prison records her age was given as thirty-two but the surgeon wrote thirty-nine, which she may have told him herself. Did she have children? Possibly, but none was on board with her.
Court House Omagh
During the voyage she told the surgeon that she was ‘much addicted’ to the use of ardent spirits before conviction and was in the hospital at Grange Gorman for a month with a chronic affection of the liver. However, when the East London arrived in Dublin and the women were inspected by the medical attendants of the prison prior to embarkation, Catherine was considered an imposter and malingerer. The doctors from the prison and the surgeon agreed that she was, to all appearances, able to undertake the voyage and she was received on board the ship the week before sailing.
As with many of the women in the severe weather of the early weeks, she suffered from sea sickness and constipation. She went to the surgeon at the end of the first week with pain and tenderness in the upper abdominal area and extending to the right shoulder and nape of the neck. Among the treatment she received was mercury which caused soreness and drooling in the mouth, a sign for the surgeon that the medicine was doing its job. By June 1 Catherine considered herself well enough to be discharged and continued tolerably well until 12 July.
Again the symptoms put her back into the care of the surgeon. He used the same treatment and felt she derived great advantage judging from the soreness of mouth caused by the mercury. But she developed diarrhoea with pain in her abdomen and sides and was given blistering treatment and digitalis because of her shortness of breath. Slight symptoms of scurvy appeared in the swelling of the gums, the oedematous swelling of the feet, distended abdomen and loss of appetite. The surgeon took her off salt provisions and allowed her thick gruel made with rice and a little of the preserved meat as well as syrup.
Catherine continued getting weaker as the diarrhoea continued; she refused food but was able to have a little opium twice a day which gave her great relief. In his notes Edward Calwell said she had a habit of opium. Towards the end of her life she lay in a state of insensibility and died on the 29 August 1843. Catherine was the only woman to die from her mess group.
Medical Journal of the East London AJCP ADM 101/22 Reel 3139
National Archives of Ireland, Prisons 1/9/4 Richmond(Grange Gorman) female penitentiary register of female convicts 11th July 1840-22 December 1853, Catherine Manley, 1843.
Ellen Curreen - appeared to have suffered extreme poverty
Tried County Galway 2 January 1843
died 30th August 1843
Nature of Disease Diarrhoea
(swelling of the Gums, black patches upon the legs – scurvy)
Ellen Curreen was thirty-seven and her husband Hugh Curreen was forty when they were charged in County Galway with the possession of three sheep belonging to Mr Blake. They were both sentenced to transportation for fifteen years. Ellen sailed first aboard the East London with her three children and Hugh sailed three months later on the Orator, a ship which made the journey in 101 days, a month shorter than the journey of the East London.
Edward Caldwell said that Ellen Curreen appeared to have suffered extreme poverty in her native county. He accused her of filthy habits and a querulous nervous temperament. Ellen and her husband Hugh were of the peasantry written about by visitors to Ireland in the 1830s, describing ragged women and idle and worn men who living under shockingly poor conditions without adequate clothing or warmth. Ellen would have had no knowledge of life beyond the hovel she probably lived in and was in the prison in Dublin for less than two weeks before boarding the East London. Ellen and Hugh Currren were Irish speakers which added to the lack of understanding of some of the events around them. Ten years later in the Oatlands Court when Hugh Curren was giving evidence about money stolen from him, he asked for an interpreter.
The report of the board of enquiry into the deaths wrote of the women soiling the decks at night by depositing their urine and faeces over them in spite of every attempt made to prevent it, and from the women spilling water after being locked up at night. The report called it a shameful violation of decency and said it was difficult to preserve cleanliness on an Irish ship. Ellen Curreen’s life before conviction with its poverty, lack of education and material comforts of any kind did not prepare her for life aboard ship and the effects of very bad weather and severe seasickness. The water closets on the ship would not have been adequate with so many sick women and the number of very small children requiring changing and cleaning.
Edward Caldwell said that he allowed Ellen and her children oatmeal and limited their salt provisions. Ellen and her youngest child, Michael, aged eighteen months, suffered from diarrhoea and the surgeon advised Ellen to wean the infant. She continued in her own berth, but was much reduced in strength. On the 18 August the surgeon said she had the utmost reluctance to being moved, but she was moved and her bedding and clothes were cleaned. The sick woman and her child, suffering from diarrhoea and lying in the filth, must have caused shocking conditions for those berthed around her and for her older children, eight year old John and three year old William. The surgeon noted her nervous temperament and fits of hysteria. With her illness and debility, she was not able to care for her children who must have been left to the care of the messmates and those in nearby berths.
Ellen was received into the hospital on the 23 August, when a vacancy occurred because of the deaths of Alice Fitzsimons and Margaret Cowan. Once she was moved to the hospital, her berth was cleaned and swing stoves placed near it and all bedding washed and aired. Within three days the surgeon wrote of symptoms of scurvy which appeared and said that Ellen had swollen gums and black patches on her legs and great debility. She was given a wine in sago but the diarrhoea continued and she lost all her appetite. As her health deteriorated there was delirium and incoherent talking although when roused she was coherent. She died on the 30 August.
Her youngest child, eighteen month-old Michael Curreen, was a victim of poor living and neglect. The surgeon said Michael’s health improved after he was taken away from his mother. In August, the child suffered from a prolapsed anus which had to be returned to its proper position by the surgeon, but the problem reoccurred, and the little boy, suffering from diarrhoea, became weaker and weaker. Although he was given a little port wine to help support him, he lay in a state of great exhaustion and died on the evening of the 4 September 1843, five days after his mother.
Ellen Curreen’s two older children survived the voyage, and were admitted into the Orphan School in Hobart on 20 October. Both boys were cared for in the orphanage and once they turned fourteen were discharged to work for masters. The spelling of the surname varied from Curreen to Curren or even Curran and their fate difficult to trace, but Ellen Curreen did have descendants who lived to grow in Van Diemen’s Land.
Her husband Hugh Curren finished his sentence and lived in Hobart where he died in 1870 when his shirt caught fire and he burned to death. The inquest into his death described him as a labourer who kept an unlicensed lodging house frequented by the lowest characters. Hugh had suffered from some paralysis and was not able to help himself in the fire.
Medical Journal of the East London AJCP ADM 101/22 Reel 3139
National Archives of Ireland, Prisons 1/9/4 Richmond(Grange Gorman) female penitentiary register of female convicts 11th July 1840-22 December 1853, Ellen Curreen.
TAHO, Ellen Curren, CON 40/1/2 image 255
TAHO, Hugh Curren, CON 33/1/47 image 23
TAHO, Hugh Curren, CON 14/1/27 image 132-133 position 4
Orphan School Records, John Curreen, William Curreen, SWD7, 28
TROVE, Hugh Curren, The Colonial Times, 7th April 1853
Mary Farrell a delicate girl
tried 8 April 1843 , Maryborough, Queen’s County
died 7th September 1843
Nature of Disease Sea Sickness Debility Fever Diarrhoea
(swollen gums – scurvy)
Mary Farrell was a native of Queen’s County and was described as a delicate girl of nineteen yet Irish prison records put her age at twenty-nine. She had an infant about a month old on board with her. She was convicted at Maryborough on the same day as Catherine Farrell who admitted that she was ‘tried with Mary’ on her indent record. They were sisters. Their crime was committed one month before embarkation when Mary’s child was only a few weeks old. On board ship Mary and Catherine shared their mess with two other women from Queen’s county, three from Limerick and one from Clare.
Like so many other women, Mary was very seasick in the first two weeks and, because of the nausea and vomiting, lost all the means of supporting her baby, John Fitzgerald. Her appetite was affected and she refused all kinds of food offered to her. By the end of May, she was on the sick list, treated for constipation with mild laxative drinks and, given small doses of quinine to recover the tone of her stomach, as well as a little wine to help her recover. The surgeon constantly insisted on her leaving her berth, but she had the greatest disinclination to do so. She and her child became very weak. Eventually, on 20 July, the surgeon separated the baby boy from Mary and gave him to a ‘proper person’ to care for him, but he suffered from diarrhoea and died on the 2 August 1843, aged four months.
Mary had diarrhoea again and lost her appetite, but she had no pain. She was given rhubarb, ginger, magnesia and chalk mixture to treat the diarrhoea and her diet was boiled rice and sago in a little wine. She partially recovered from the attack and continued to improve, but on the 22 August she suddenly developed headache, pain in the back and loins and chest, abdominal tenderness and thirst. She was received into the hospital, given a warm bath and had her skin sponged with tepid vinegar and water. She had blistering treatment to the upper chest area which the surgeon felt had given considerable advantage. But she could eat very little and her gums became a little swollen. Her strength rapidly declined and she was much weaker but still sensible and perfectly satisfied to take the surgeon’s advice. She became drowsy with cold swollen feet and loss of bodily control until she became delirious and died on the 9 September, 1843.
Medical Journal of the East London AJCP ADM 101/22 Reel 3139
National Archives of Ireland, Prisons 1/9/4 Richmond (Grange Gorman) female penitentiary register of female convicts 11th July 1840-22 December 1853, Mary Farrell.
Eleanor Cooney & Mary Gilbride
b. c1812 b. c1807
tried 19 October 1842, Enniskillen, County Fermanagh
Eleanor died 9th September 1843
Mary died 17th September 1843
Nature of Disease
Eleanor Cooney-: Scurvy Diarrhoea Fever
Mary Gilbride -Coma Dyspepsia Constipation Diarrhoea Scurvy Gastro Enteric
Eleanor Cooney and Mary Gilbride were tried at Enniskillen on the same day and both were sentenced to seven years transportation. The Irish Transportation database listed them as having stolen sheets and clothes, although prison records have Eleanor Cooney stealing shirts and other such items and Mary Gilbride stealing sheets and similar items. They must have worked together in the theft and stolen quite a few articles.
The Enniskillen Chronicle & Erne Packet 27 October 1842 gave an account of their crime.
Eleanor Cooney and Mary Gilbride for feloniously receiving table linen, sheets, etc on the 30th September at Enniskillen, the property of Mr Jones. Transportation 7 years.
The same parties were convicted in three other cases of similar charges.
Eleanor was thirty-one years old and had two children with her. Mary was thirty-six years old and also had two young children with her on board ship. They shared the same mess and both women died during the voyage. Their mess group had eight children, the largest number of any of the mess groups. It was made up of women from various counties. In his notes on the women who died, Edward Caldwell said Eleanor and Mary had similar temperaments and were nervous, irritable and liable to fainting and fits of hysteria.
Eleanor Cooney was the first of the two to become ill at the beginning of August. The surgeon said she had a weak constitution and indolent habits. He had great difficulty in inducing her to keep her berth, her clothes, her person and her children clean and had to inspect her bedding daily. He said she was so disagreeable a person that he had to charge her often, but he made no reference to what discipline or punishments he ordered. Eleanor suffered from fever and diarrhoea and they yielded to the usual remedies. By 20 August signs of scurvy were obvious and Eleanor became debilitated and unwilling to leave her berth, unless by force. Her gums were swollen and large black spots appeared on her legs, thighs and arms. She was so weak she was unable to give support to her sixteen-month old child, Ann, who was very weak. The surgeon separated the infant from Eleanor and placed her under the care of a “proper person”. He said it was a great relief to Eleanor.
Within days Eleanor had rigors, headache, diarrhoea and a feeble pulse and the surgeon ordered boiled rice and sago with a little wine. He also gave her chalk mixture and opium drops. On the 31 August she was received into the hospital, complained of abdominal tenderness, had poultices applied to the area and her body sponged with warm vinegar and water. A little mercury and opium helped somewhat, but Eleanor continued to become weaker and lost control of her bowels. An enema did not help; she became delirious and died on the 9 September, 1843.
Mary Gilbride was apparently in good health when she boarded the ship but began fainting every day, even when there was a free circulation of air below decks. The surgeon compelled her to be carried up on deck whenever the weather permitted and returned in the evening when all went below. He said Mary Gilbride had ‘supposed epilepsy’ in prison but it was believed to be feigned. Once the ship sailed she suffered from seasickness until they reached Madeira but felt herself better as the ship advanced into a more temperate climate, only occasionally suffering from hysteria. Constipation was a problem as it was for many who were so seasick.
Mary was punished for purloining the fat from the copper tub, contrary to all order, as it was described as ‘destroying health’. The surgeon mentioned punishments at times and confinement, but not where or how confined or if punishment meant handcuffs or simply a change of mess. Mary continued tolerably well until later in July when she became the first woman in which scurvy manifested itself aboard ship. She had pains in her limbs and back, swollen gums which were spongy and discharging blood, but the surgeon said her appetite was very good.
By the beginning of August, Mary had diarrhoea, lost all her former energy and became careless and indifferent. The surgeon worried about the state of her bowels. He directed an alteration to her diet by allowing her an additional pint of thick gruel daily, good fresh soup, boiled rice with sweetened wine added to it. He ordered her throat to be well washed with vinegar and water and all debris and crusts removed from around her mouth and teeth. He supplied a toothbrush himself. On the 30 August, Mary was admitted into the hospital. The surgeon noted in his brief remarks that she had an old ulcer on her leg for which she was admitted into the hospital; probably related to some of the black patches. Mary continued to get weaker, crusts formed about her mouth and she had difficulty in swallowing. She slipped into a state of torpor and died on the 17 September 1843, in sight of Van Diemen’s Land.
Michael Gilbride was eighteen months old when he boarded the East London and Francis Gilbride was four months old. Although the surgeon said that their mother, Mary Gilbride, was careless and indolent, she managed some care for her children as there was no record of death for either of them aboard ship. The younger child, Francis, was weaned at the beginning of August and must have survived the voyage, but probably died in the hospital as he was not admitted into the Orphan School. Michael Gilbride was admitted into the Orphan School at the beginning of February, 1844, after four months in hospital. He was discharged from the Orphan School in 1856 to work for Hugh Cassidy, a well-known landholder in the Richmond area.
James Cooney was eight years old and his sister, Ann, was seven months old. Both children survived the voyage. Much of their care must have fallen to the women on board who were healthy enough to be able to attend the needs of such young children amid the limited diet available on a long journey at sea. Ann was sent to hospital on arrival and died there three weeks later. James Cooney was sent to the Orphan School in late October. He was ten years old when he went to the Orphan School and stayed there until 1849 when he was discharged to work for a master in Launceston.
Medical Journal of the East London AJCP ADM 101/22 Reel 3139
National Archives of Ireland, Prisons 1/9/4 Richmond(Grange Gorman) female penitentiary register of female convicts 11th July 1840-22 December 1853, Mary Cooney, Mary Gilbride.
Female Convicts Research Group –Infant Deaths;- Ann Cooney, 12/10/1843
Orphan School Records, James Cooney, SWD7, 28
Orphan School Records, Michael Gilbride, SWD7, 28
addicted to the immoderate use of tobacco
tried 18 October 1842, Tullamore, Kings County
died September 10th 1843
Nature of Disease Ulcerated leg Scurvy Diarrhoea
Rose Carroll and her husband, John Carroll, were tried at Tullamore in Kings County in October 1842, for stealing a hand saw from a house. They were sentenced to seven years transportation. Rose left on the East London in early May with their only child, a baby girl, Bridget, aged about eight months old, and John sailed three months later in August aboard the Orator.
Although John Carroll was convicted in Kings County, he gave his native place as County Louth and said that he worked for Lord Louth as a ‘perfect cook’ for eighteen months. What had caused the pair to leave, or be dismissed, from the position at the estate of Lord Louth is unknown, but Rose Carroll had bad health and suffered from syphilis before her imprisonment and John Carroll’s Conduct Record noted that he had for a long time ‘schemed’ sick in prison. Rose and her husband, John, may have not led settled or healthy lives and perhaps their work practices were not good enough to remain in Lord Louth’s employment.
Rose went to the surgeon three weeks into the voyage with a livid looking ulcer on her left leg. The surgeon applied poultices and said there were also several spots on different parts of her leg. The deep, copper colour marked them as the vestiges of a former attack of syphilis. She was confined and treated with mercury which affected her mouth but the surgeon wanted to keep up the resultant mouth drooling as it was regarded as indicating successful treatment.
The surgeon accused Rose of having a very indolent, lazy habit and said she neglected her personal cleanliness. She was addicted to the immoderate use of tobacco and was punished for smoking in bed. The surgeon wrote that her general health was giving way and he recommended that she keep up on deck as long as her strength would permit. She complied with that order and appeared daily on deck, but, by the 14 August, was unable to go up and applied to the surgeon. He found her lying in bed and immediately ordered her on deck with her bedding, but she was unable to do that. He had the bedding put up and the berth and boards underneath well aired and sprinkled with chlorides of lime. Rose had large livid black spots of scurvy on her arms and legs, pain in her joints and swollen spongy gums, diarrhoea and tenderness in the abdomen. She was allowed fresh soup made with preserved meat and rice with a moderate supply of wine, lemon juice and sugar instead of the usual salt provisions, but an irritable bowel caused problems with that diet. She was given chalk mixture and opium drops.
Rose continued to suckle her baby, but, as there was no milk, the child was constantly at her breast and the surgeon strongly recommended her weaning it. Rose was given a pint of wine with sulphate of quinine in it and a gram of opium every night. Poultices were applied to her legs and she improved a little, especially after she weaned her child. Once more the surgeon accused her of being indolent and lazy and said he had great difficulty in directing her to leave her berth. Her bedding was so filthy he had it removed and the boards sprinkled again with Chloride of lime. She was unable to assist herself so the surgeon selected two women to keep her clean in her berth, but the purging continued and she lost control of her bowels. There was no room in the hospital until the end of the first week in September when Rose was admitted at last and given a warm bath and clean linen. She continued to become weaker but was able to respond and say how she felt. She was despondent and gradually slipped into a delirious state and died on the 10 September 1843. She was the second woman from her mess group to die.
Rose’s daughter, Bridget (name given in the Irish Prison records) died in the Dynnyrne nursery less than three weeks after arrival in Hobart (name on death record was Margaret Carroll). John Carroll, Rose’s husband, served his time and gained his freedom. His name was a common one and difficult to trace, but he could have been the John Carroll who died of a heart attack in Hobart in 1853 as the age matched his birth information.
Medical Journal of the East London AJCP ADM 101/22 Reel 3139
National Archives of Ireland, Prisons 1/9/4 Richmond (Grange Gorman) female penitentiary register of female convicts 11th July 1840-22 December 1853, Rose Carroll (1843)
Irish Transportation Database, Rose Carroll & John Carroll
TAHO John Carroll CON 33/1/47 image 41, CON 14/1/27 images 138/9 position 4
TAHO, Inquest SC 195/1/33 Inquest 3068, possible death, John Carroll
TAHO RGD 35//1/1 1843/1906 Hobart, death Margaret Carroll
Mary A. Holland in tolerable health
tried 12 April 1842 Belfast
died 13th September 1843
Nature of Disease Dyspepsia Syphilis Rheumatism Diarrhoea Scurvy
Mary Holland, twenty-nine years old, from Belfast, was tried for larceny of a scarf, the property of Nancy Marshall, and sentenced to seven years transportation. She had a prior charge for the theft of a five pound and a twenty pound note and was three months in prison. She treated for six months for symptoms of secondary syphilis at the Belfast Infirmary and again at the Grange Gorman Depot for a month. The treatment was helpful as the surgeon said she appeared in tolerable health when surveyed in prison and was considered to be well enough to undergo the voyage. Once under sail with the bad weather she suffered from dyspepsia, constipation of her bowels, seasickness and loss of appetite.
Mary was in prison at Grange Gorman for a year before she boarded the East London where she shared her mess with a mixture of Protestant and Catholic women. In June she went to the surgeon and complained of pain in her ankles and knees and in the joints of her arms and said that her nights were restless. The surgeon ordered laxatives and bled her up to twelve ounces. But the laxatives made her bowels very loose so they were stopped and a gum mixture was given to her without any advantage. Mary became gradually weaker and the surgeon ordered mercury which affected her mouth but alleviated the pains a little.
She was allowed a small quantity of wine and sulphate of quinine twice a day. On July 30 when the surgeon examined her knees to ascertain the extent of the pain and swelling in the joints, he discovered large livid spots several inches in diameter on both legs and her knees were swollen and painful. There were old syphilitic chancres which looked red and painful, ready to ulcerate again and the gums were spongy and swollen. The surgeon said that she was perfectly indifferent and that all she wanted was not to be disturbed. He immediately removed her to the hospital and directed poultices to be applied. Her throat and tonsils were much inflamed and she found swallowing difficult and was given mercury, opium and the ulcers were treated with nitrate ointment.
Mary was very restless and weak and there was little improvement to her throat. The surgeon prescribed a more liberal diet of wine with a small quantity of sulphate of quinine lemonade. She had pain and difficulty swallowing because of the highly inflamed tonsils and the ulcers which had a slough on them. The surgeon fumigated them with the vapour of baking vinegar and treated Mary with a blistering powder. Her health improved a little, but bad weather and a gale of wind as well as severe coldness caused chest problems and her feet became cold and oedematous. The surgeon continued her treatment and issued her with a new toothbrush and a gargle to help clear the mouth and relieve the painful tonsils. The symptoms of scurvy cleared a little, but the diarrhoea continued and she was given chalk mixture and opium and warm flannels poultice to help with the pain around the tonsil area. The surgeon administered more blistering powders and enemas but Mary became insensible and died on the 13 September 1843, just a week before the end of the voyage.
Mary was from Belfast and, although she put her occupation down as servant, she already had secondary syphilis and her health was poor. Her life before imprisonment was possibly that of a prostitute and, perhaps, of long standing to have such serious health problems. She would have lived in poor and wretched conditions in the least salubrious part of town. Theft had helped her survive. The ocean voyage did not.
Medical Journal of the East London AJCP ADM 101/22 Reel 3139
National Archives of Ireland, Prisons 1/9/4 Richmond(Grange Gorman) female penitentiary register of female convicts 11th July 1840-22 December 1853, Mary Holland (1843)
Irish Transportation Database, Mary Holland
British Newspaper Archive :
Belfast News-Letter 10 July 1838
Belfast News-Letter 25 February 1842
Rose Quinn - worn out constitution
b. c 1815 County Antrim
tried with Mary Quinn 13 April 1843, Belfast
died 16th September 1843
Nature of Disease Syphilis Dyspepsia Diarrhoea Suppression of urine Debility
(black spots on legs and arms – scurvy)
Rose Quinn was tried in Belfast on the same day as Mary Quinn and both were sentenced to seven years transportation for receiving stolen goods. They were either sisters or sisters-in-law and shared a mess aboard the East London. Rose died on board so her indent papers had no information and Mary only gave names of living members of her family.
The Belfast News Letter 31 January 1843 gave an account of the trial of Rose and Anne Quinn.
Stealing clothes from the Union Workhouse
On Thursday last, Mary and Rose Quinn were committed to Carrickfergus Jail, to take their trial at the Assizes, for stealing clothes and bedding from the Belfast Union Workhouse. Part of the property, and a great number of pawn tickets, were found to be in possession of the prisoners. Some of the inmates are suspected of being in collusion with the prisoners.
Two weeks after their trial Rose and Mary Quinn were sent to Grange Gorman in Dublin to prepare to embark on the East London ten days later. The day the ship sailed, Rose consulted Edward Caldwell because she was suffering the effects of secondary syphilis and told him that she had been a patient in the Belfast Infirmary and at the Depot at Grange Gorman. The surgeon said she had no syphilitic symptoms but had a worn out constitution. She was treated for syphilis, had obvious signs of ill health and debility even though she was only twenty-eight years old. She was single and her prison record in Dublin gave her occupation as a servant. She had no prior convictions and her health showed signs of a difficult life. Perhaps she had been an inmate of the workhouse herself at one time. She certainly had dealings with the residents there
The bad weather, in the first week of sailing, caused sea sickness and loss of appetite. The surgeon gave Rose half a glass of wine daily with a small dose of sulphate of quinine in it to support her health. He had great difficulty in forcing her to go up on deck because he said her habits were so indolent and intolerably lazy and dirty. She paid no attention to comfort and cleanliness of her berth or in the smallest degree made any achievement to improve her health. By June she had ulcers on her tonsils and syphilitic tumours around her anus. The surgeon treated Rose with mercury chloride and gentian which healed the ulcers but left her with a sore mouth from the medicine. She became weaker and was unable to leave her berth. The surgeon ordered a glass of port wine every day. Signs of scurvy appeared and she had pains in her limbs and large black spots on her legs and arms. She had diarrhoea, no appetite and, was unable to have any meat diet so allowed sago and oatmeal instead with a little wine to make a thick gruel.
Rose’s diarrhoea rapidly increased and the surgeon had great difficulty in inducing her to leave her bed. He treated her with chalk mixture and opium drops and had poultices applied to her legs and abdomen to relieve the pains. She improved slightly and was allowed preserved meat with rice and sago, but the diarrhoea returned and she was admitted into the hospital on the 28 August. She continued to suffer from abdominal tenderness and could not pass her urine. However two days later, the surgeon said she passed a considerable quantity of urine without mention of using a catheter. He said she was given lime and potassium nitrate as a drink.
Her health declined and she lost control of her bowels, became delirious and insensible. She died on the night of the 16 September 1843 within sight of the coast of Van Diemen’s Land.
Medical Journal of the East London AJCP ADM 101/22 Reel 3139
National Archives of Ireland, Prisons 1/9/4 Richmond(Grange Gorman) female penitentiary register of female convicts 11th July 1840-22 December 1853, Rose Quinn (1843), Mary Quinn (1843)
Irish Transportation Database, Rose Quinn, Mary Quinn.
a bad character
b c 1822
tried 3 January 1843 Dublin
died September 17th 1843
Nature of Disease Dyspepsia Constipation Diarrhoea Gastro Enteritic Scurvy
Susan Whittle was twenty-one years old, a native of Dublin City and, had the reputation of being a bad character. She was on board with her infant son, Patrick Whittle, who was in a poor state of health from neglect, at least according to the surgeon’s notes. Newspaper reports at the time of her trial described Susan as young, pretty and well dressed and gave detailed accounts of her crimes. She had an accomplice, Eliza Hanlon, and they were reported to be notorious characters and the most expert pick-pockets in Dublin. The Inspector who arrested them said he received private information about them. The witness in their trial was Biddy Magrath, who was employed as a lookout at shop doors for Susan and Eliza when they were about their business of theft. Biddy turned against them and gave evidence at their trial.
Susan and Eliza went into Mr Hendrick’s shop in Clare St. Susan roughly passed by a customer, Mrs Mathews, brushing her pocket and reached across her shoulder to the assistant behind the counter. Mrs Mathews soon realized a five pound note had been picked from her pocket. Inspector O’Connor went to Susan’s dwelling where he found six people in the room and Susan and Eliza in bed. One newspaper identified them as mother and daughter and described Eliza Hanlon as old and poorly attired. The inspector found parcels of money sown into Eliza’s petticoat, a pass book with one hundred pounds in it and some jewellery. Susan said the money and rings were hers and that she was going to lodge the money. She said she had it for a year. She even asked the inspector if there were owners for the money. Susan claimed the money and rings as her property perhaps to deflect blame from her mother.
Susan and Eliza were tried for the theft of the money but were acquitted as proof of the ownership of the notes was not conclusive. However they were charged immediately with the theft of the rings and money, picked from the pocket of Ayre Powell, Esqre, while he was in a shop in Grafton St. Inspector O’Connor testified that he found the rings in Susan’s possession and Mr Powell was able to identify his jewellery. Susan, ‘an old offender’ was sentenced to transportation for seven years and Eliza was given twelve months imprisonment. Susan and her mother were part of a gang and had money in their passbook. Mother and adult daughter worked as a team with a history of such offences. Crime was a way of life for them and pick pocketing was well practised.
In the medical journal Edward Caldwell wrote that Susan led a very irregular life travelling around the country, a statement he made about several of the women who died. He said Susan’s health suffered because of it but improved when she was in the Grange Gorman Prison. However Susan was pregnant at the time of her trial in January 1843 and gave birth not long after to her son, Patrick. The child was only three months old when they embarked on the East London. Edward Caldwell said Susan had very careless filthy habits and required constant looking after. Her health may have been very poor after giving birth in prison and undertaking a long sea voyage on salt rations soon after.
In the early part of the voyage, Susan suffered severely from seasickness but recovered as the weather became finer. Her son, Patrick, was described as a sickly diminutive child but he, too, improved in the warmer climate. The surgeon said that attention to his food regimen and keeping a check upon his appetite as well as bathing in salt water helped him to better health. But he accused Susan of not following his directions and orders regarding the food regimen and said she became indolent and inattentive to her child. On August 20, he ordered Patrick removed to the care of another person because Susan, suffering from diarrhoea and scurvy, had kept her son too long with no milk supply. The surgeon said it was difficult to find a person to care for the infant because of the dislike of Susan, her lack of cleanliness and attention to the food regimen. The child, Patrick, although sickly, had a voracious appetite. His health improved with taking small doses of rhubarb and mercury. But he developed diarrhoea and his abdomen became hard. He was given a warm bath and chalk mixture to help stop the diarrhoea, but he continued to weaken and died on the 7 September 1843.
Susan was admitted into the hospital the week before her son died. She had her skin bathed in warm vinegar and water and was given warm baths. She suffered pains in her lower legs, her abdomen was tender and she slowly weakened. The surgeon said that Susan expressed herself perfectly happy amid the delirium which she had at intervals. Perhaps for the first time in her life, she was being cared for by others and given wine and probably opium drops to help with her pain. She died in the afternoon of the 17 September 1843.
Susan’s prison record said that she had one prior conviction, was married and, had no occupation. She could read which perhaps as a native of Dublin she had been able to learn from those around her as she grew up. Her child, born in prison, was undernourished and sickly and weaned far too early, but Susan’s poor health would have meant no milk supply to sustain the child properly.
Susan and her child, and Anne Read and her child, died from their mess group which was made up of women from Dublin, of whom two admitted to being prostitutes. Some of the women were later to riot in Hobart including Catherine Shaw, who may have spent time away from the group with the mariner who later became her husband.
Newspaper accounts of the trials are in the appendix.
Medical Journal of the East London AJCP ADM 101/22 Reel 3139
National Archives of Ireland, Prisons 1/9/4 Richmond (Grange Gorman) female penitentiary register of female convicts 11th July 1840-22 December 1853, Susan Whittle (1843)
British Newspaper Archives:-
Dublin Morning Register Wednesday 4 January 1843
Dublin Morning Register Thursday 5 January 1843
Freeman’s Journal 13 December 1842
Died after arrival in Hobart
tried 22 April 1843 County Limerick
died 3rd October 1843
Ann Connors, a native of County Limerick, was tried in the City of Limerick on the 22 April 1842, the same day as Ellen Sheerman, also transported. Ellen was tried for the theft of potatoes. Were the two women partners in the crime or was it just a coincidence that they were tried and sentenced to transportation in the same court and on the same day? In the Irish prison record at Grange Gorman Gaol, they gave their occupations as servants. They travelled together from Limerick to Dublin and were next to each other on the mess list, but may have been in neighbouring messes; the surgeon’s notes are not clear. The women were convicted on the 22 April 1843 and were admitted into the Grange Gorman Depot on the 2 May to board the East London on the 5 May. The time between trial, conviction and embarkation was just two weeks.
Ann was only twenty-two years old and was treated for syphilis in her county prison, but, as the time in prison was very brief, the treatment was far from complete. On board ship she applied to the surgeon within the first week and he wrote that she did not make her condition known to him before sailing. She had ulcers on her tonsils and on her private parts and was given mercury, nitrate, magnesium sulphate and cinchona bark to help the healing. After five weeks she left hospital at her own request, but Edward Caldwell considered her fit and free of the disease and discharged her cured.
On arrival in Hobart, Ann was sent straight to hospital where she died two weeks later. There were fourteen women who were sent to hospital from the ship. Ann was the only one whose death was recorded at that time. Her health was compromised by syphilis and she was described as indolent and filthy and careless of her person. Was her health not only compromised by syphilis, but also by scurvy? She lacked any energy to care for herself. Two other women in her mess, Ellen Curreen and Ann Gannon, died during the voyage. These women had damaged health through great poverty or existing health problems. The women of the mess group who survived were for the most part, older, married or widowed with grown-up children in Ireland. Were they older and wiser or did they have better health to withstand the voyage? The only younger woman was Margaret Smith who later rioted in Hobart.
Ann Connors died in Hobart on the 3rd October 1843
National Archives of Ireland, Prisons 1/9/4 Richmond (Grange Gorman) female penitentiary register of female convicts 11th July 1840-22 December 1853, Ann Connors (1843)
Medical Journal of the East London AJCP ADM 101/22 Reel 3139
Scurvy on Convict & Emigrant Ships
Chapter 3 Appendix
The Women Who Died At Sea
The Petitions and Letters – Bridget Carey
Dec 27th 1839
I beg to state for the information of His Excellency the Lord Lieutenant that the petition of Bridget Carey which I have the honor to enclose is in my respect perfectly correct.
The potatoes were stolen from me and as the crime of potato stealing had much increased in this neighbourhood lately I thought it my duty to prosecute but I had no idea when doing so that she would have been sentenced to transportation for so trifling an offence as I concurred the [ends] of justice would have been satisfied by a short imprisonment after her conviction and before the sentence as passed I made a representation to that effect to assistant Barrister and other Magistrates on the bench of whom I was [on?] my recommendation – alas not attended to as she had been confined previously for a similar offence. Bridget Carey has now been confined for seven? Months and if His Excellency the Lord Lieutenant would be pleased to take her case into consideration I will feel most grateful
Should His Excellency deem it necessary to have her sentence carried into effect will her children be allowed to accompany her?
I have the honor to be
Your obedient Servant
Robert Moore Lieut. Col.
Abbeyliex Quarter Sessions
January 2nd 1840
I have had the honor of receiving your letter of the 31st December, enclosing the accompanying Memorial of Bridget Cary, and requesting me to report the particulars of her case, for the information of His Excellency the Lord Lieutenant.
The prisoner pleaded guilty to a larceny in stealing Potatoes. The information on which in such cases, the court acts, is not here, but can be had from the office at Maryborough if required.
I think, however, that I can, from recollection, give His Excellency the information he desires. The court on inquiry, found that the prisoner was an old offender – repeatedly convicted of similar offences, and one who was considered as a nuisance in the neighbourhood. – It appears too, that the offence of stealing potatoes as becoming very frequent, and was thought that the example, made at the beginning of winter, might operate as a protection to the poor industrious farmers, who are obliged to leave property of this description, much exposed during the long dark nights.
At the same time I should say for myself, and I do believe my brother magistrates would agree with me, that if the safety of the neighbourhood of Portarlington from further offences by the prisoner, could be spared, without carrying the sentence of Transportation into effect, it would be very desirable to remit it. And perhaps, Lieut. Col. Moore, who has so humanely interfered, might be able to protect himself and his neighbours, in some way, in case the prisoner should be set at large among them – If he can ensure her future good conduct, on removal from that place, I should be rejoiced to hear of her libration; otherwise I fear the ends of justice would not be attained by it.
I have the honor to be
Your very obedient Servant
Thomas Drummond Esq.
To His Excellency the Lord Lieutenant General and General Governor of Ireland etc. etc. etc.
The Humble Petition of Bridget Cary a Prisoner confined in the Gaol of Maryborough.
The your Excellencys most humble Petitioner was tried before his Worship the Barrister of Queen’s County at Maryborough on the 28th October last for having been guilty of stealing Potatoes when his worship was pleased to sentence her to seven years Transportation.
Your Excellency’s most humble Petitioner is a poor wretched and distressed woman with three helpless Infants the Eldest a Female not more than 9 years old the second a Boy about 4 years old and the youngest a Boy in or about 1 year and 4 months now if your Excellency’s Petitioner be sent abroad her unfortunate wretched and distressed Orphans will be forced to starve having no person to give them food She therefore most humbly hopes your Excellency will be graciously pleased to take her into your humane consideration and grant her a mitigation of her sentence.
And in Duty
She will ever pray
27th Dec 1839
Harcourt Nov 11th 1841
In reference to the Memorial of Bridget Carey I had the honor to inform you that the Prisoner having been indicted for stealing Turf the property of John [Dunn] pleaded guilty she so thereupon sentenced to 7 years Transportation. The severity of the sentence as caused by the circumstance of her being an old offender she having been already on a former occasion sentenced to Transportation which sentence was commuted.
I have the honor to be
Sir your obt. Servt.
Wm N? Barron
- Lucas Esq
Sec. of Ste.
Stealing Turf 7 yrs tr
The law must take its course
Medical Journal of the East London AJCP ADM 101/22 Reel 3139
National Archives of Ireland, Prisons 1/9/4 Richmond (Grange Gorman) female penitentiary register of female convicts 11th July 1840-22 December 1853 – Bridget Carey, 1843.
Orphan School Records, Ann & Henry Carey, SWD 7, 28.
Irish Transportation Records, Bridget Carey, CRF 1841 C88
Petition for Ann Rae CRF 1842 R1
11 Upper Fitzgibbon Street
Jan 31/ 42
In reply to your letter of 29th Inst respecting the accompanying memorial on behalf of Anne Ray, I have the honor to acquaint you for the information of the Lord Lieutenant that by the insistence on the wish of Prisoner it appears that on the night of the 24th Dec she was in company with one Edward Leary/Long? who having put Prisoner’s hand in his pocket and a sovereign having dropped on the ground he instantly charged her with having robbed him. This she denied and ran away, she was hence pursued and been over taken, and on being brought to the Police officer some more of the Prosecutor’s money dropped from her
In Antrim 1838 The Prisoner was convicted of receiving stolen goods and sentenced to six months imprisonment.
I have the honour to be
Your Obdt Servant
Belfast Jany 13th 1842
This memorial forwarded by a number of your warmest constituents and friends in the Town of Belfast on behalf of an unfortunate though respectable girl, named Ann Ray, who having in her possession a sovereign the property of the prosecutor , was at the last session tried before John Gibson, Asst Barrister, and sentenced to 7 years transportation, this poor convict has had for many years past an infirmity which renders her incapable of doing anything for herself, her right hand being useless from infection of (rase/rash?), we pity her distracted mother and friends, and hope that as you have ever acted for our interests, that your influence with the Lord Lieutenant will be the means of releasing the unfortunate prisoner, or of overruling the sentence of Transportation to time in her own Country, where from her delicacy her friends may have the happiness of seeing her remains interred.
Your kind interference on this occasion will merit the prayers of the weeping parents, perhaps restore to well doing the convict, and doubly bind the interest of your warm and numerous friends.
for which we the undersigned remain
Your very humble servants
You will please when you write Direct to F Pinkerton 82 Cransac St Belfast
Dublin Morning Register Wednesday 4 January 1843
City Sessions yesterday
Susan Whittle was indicted for stealing a £5 note, property of Mrs Maria Mathews, and Eliza Hanlon was charged with receiving the same, knowing it to be stolen.
Mrs Mathews – went into shop of Mr Hendrick, Clare St, had note and 2/6 in purse – saw prisoner Hanlon there. Whittle came in as if for a sheet of paper, passed roughly by witness
Sand passed her hand over shoulder of witness to person behind the counter – missed note then. Mr O’Connor, inspector of police – produced large bundle of notes found on prisoner. Mrs Mathews picked her note out
O’Connor got prisoner in Hanlon’s room in Thomas Court, 5 or 6 people there at time – prisoners were in bed, told Whittle he came to look for stolen money – both prisoners said they had none except a savings bank book for 100L and one pound note, found 3 pound notes sown up in Hanlon’s petticoat – counted notes and got 44 in it. Whittle said money and rings were hers and that she was going to lodge the rest, and that she had it for a year; she asked if there were owners for the money – acquitted. They are to be tried on other charges.
Dublin Morning Register Thursday 5 January 1843 (notes from article)
Susan Whittle and Elizabeth Hanlon (mother and daughter) stole two rings property of Ayre Powell Esqre. The rings were picked from his pocket with some notes when he was in a shop in Grafton St.
Inspector O’Connor deposed that he found the rings in possession of prisoners.
Whittle, an old offender, seven years transportation
Hanlon, twelve months imprisonment
Freeman’s Journal 13 December 1842
College St office –
Apprehension of a Notorious Pickpockets – Two women, the one, named Susan Whittle, young, pretty, and well dressed, the other named Biddy Hanlon, old poorly attired, and what the ladies call, “ordinary” in feature, were brought before the magistrates of this office, yesterday, in custody of Inspector O’Connor, who charged them with having in their possession the sum of 44/- sterling with two valuable gold rings, and other property, all of which he suspected to have been feloniously obtained.
From the statement of the inspector it appeared that, having obtained private information to the effect that there was a probability that the sum of £11, which had been stolen in Sackville -street a week since from Mrs Billing, of 41 Upper Mount-street, might be found in the possession of the prisoners, he procured a warrant, and proceeded on Sunday morning to search their lodgings in Thomas-court, off Thomas–street. He informed the prisoner Whittle of the purport of his visit, and having apprised her that he had received information to the effect that she had a quantity of stolen money in her possession, advised her to surrender at once all the property which was concealed. Mrs Whittle denied having any property in the house, with the exception of a £1 note, a few shillings in silver, and a bank book on the Meath-street Savings Bank, in which she was given credit to the amount of £109, but declared her willingness to surrender those treasures notwithstanding that they were her own property. The inspector having searched the premises ineffectually for some time, bethought him of instituting an investigation on the persons of the prisoners, and accordingly began with Biddy Hanlon, the mother of Mrs Whittle, in the band of whose petticoat he found a sum of £44 in notes. The money was sowed up in distinct parcels. He also discovered in the same retreat two very valuable gold rings, which have been since identified as the property of Mr Powell, of Fitzwilliam-square, who states that they were stolen from him last Monday in a shop in Grafton-street. Mrs Mathews, of Merrion-square, had also identified a five pound note as being her property, and recognises Hanlon as the person who pressed up against her in Hendrick’s shop, in Clare-street, where she was robbed of the money. No one has yet appeared who is able to identify the remainder of the property, though mainly claimants hourly present themselves.
The prisoners were fully committed to stand their trial at the city sessions. They are known amongst the police as the most expert pickpockets in Dublin, and it is said they have accumulated a large property by their depredations.
Their servant, a girl named Biddy Magarth, who used to watch at the shop door, in order to prevent detection while her employers were engaged in pillaging the customers within, is admitted as Queen’s evidence.
Catherine Murray #2
Petition of Thomas Fields CRF 1842 F17 (included information re Catherine & John Murray)
Jany 13 1842
Sir, I had the honor of receiving your letter dated the 6th Inst enclosing a memorial of Thomas Field a Prisoner in the Gaol of the County of Meath and requesting my opinion whether the Prisr is a proper object of Mercy. In reply [here] by have to say that I do not think him a proper object of mercy – I enclose a report of the trial of the Prisr & have stated at the end my reasons for not thinking him an object of Mercy to which I [send? ....] to refer you.
I have the honor to be
Your Obedient Servant
- Lucas, Castle
John Murray & Katherine Murray pleaded guilty (written along the side)
Indicted (at the Quarter Sessions held at Navan for the Co. of Meath on the 24th June 1842) for Larceny of the monies & property of Catherine Markey – on the 10th May 1842 at Lisnagreen.
1st Witness. Katherine Markey – states that on Tuesday night the 10th May 1842 after she had gone to bed her house was entered by some people – she felt her purse being taken off her neck – she told her little girl to take her purse from the man he had lighted a candle to search the house this man (does not identify) came back & threat’ned her loudly – amongst other things some Oatmeal, Tin can, Reticule, a basket, a knife 2 Spoons, little children’s clothes (which they had worn the night before) some Rosin – woollen yarn [...] – Identifies Knife woollen yarn & Rosin saw them at Police Barracks.
Anne Markey – Identifies clothes
Terence Conolly – Police Constable – on the Morning of the 11th May before 4 o’clock saw the Prisoner Thomas Fields & Jn & Katherine Murray go into the house of one [Beilly/], witness took them into Custody, got on the Fields person The Knife – the Spoons & the Yarn Identified by Mrs Mackey, got the children’s Clothes on Katherine Murray’s person.
The Jury found Fields Guilty –
He was Indicted at the same Sessions with Thos Fitzsimons & others for stealing Potatoes – but was not tried – he was also under Commitmt for trial at the ensuing Assizes for a Burglary & it appears from his Memorial that he was tried & convicted at the Assizes of this offence & Sentenced to Ten years Transportation – at the Quarter Sessions we sentenced him to 7 years Transportation.
Stamped Chief Secretary’s Office
To His Excellency, Earl De Grey, Lord Lieutenant General, and General Governor of Ireland, etc etc etc
The memorial of Thomas Field, at present a Prisoner in the Gaol of Trim, in the County of Meath, Laborer.
That poor, unhappy Memst lies at present in said Gaol, under sentence of Transportation, under the following very singular and distressing circumstances, Viz. He, with others, was arrested on the 11th of last May, on a charge of a petty Burglary, upon which occasion he was visited(sic), in prison, by Capt. Despard, Stipendiary Magistrate, to whom poor Memst actuated by his fears, made disclosures, under a hope entertained by him, from the attentions paid him, of being accepted as a Queen’s Evidence, but, Alas! that hope proved to be delusive, for his said disclosures were afterwards exhibited against himself, and the disclosures of another Approver preferred, the Said other Approver, John Murray, now, also, in said Gaol, under sentence of Transportation, being a Deserter from the 14th foot, as confessed by himself, and can be further proved by the testimony of an Individual in Sd Trim Gaol, who had served in Said Regiment with Murray, as, also, by the brands of Desertion with which Murray’s body is marked: which facts can be ascertained by examination at Said Gaol if so ordered by Your Excellency. For this offence poor Memst was sentenced to Seven Years Transportation by the Barrister at Qur Sessions. That secondly, Memst has been sentenced to Transportation for Ten Years, at the present Assizes, for another petty Burglary: in both of which instances he has not been Sworn against by the person who had been robbed, nor by any person, in direct evidence, as nothing but Documents read by Capt. Despard appeard against him at trial, Documents dictated by sudden fear and delusive hope, for the truth of which Memst respectfully refers even to Capt. Despard himself. Memst pleaded not guilty at both trials.
Under which unique and anomalous mode of effecting convictions in Ireland poor Memst, now languishing he most humbly implores Your Excellency’s mercy, to cause an Investigation as to Your Excellency’s clemency may seem meet; for which himself & his poor, helpless family will ever pray.
July 25th 1842 Thomas Fields
P.S. Memst implores the favour of Your Excellency’s gracious reply.
Larceny 7 yrs Tn
Let the law take its course
Chapter 4: The Women from Country Cavan Gaols Open or Close
County Cavan Gaols
Cavan County Gaol
The Women from the County Cavan Gaols
There were ten women on the East London who were transferred from gaols in County Cavan to the Grange Gorman Penitentiary to await embarkation. None of them could read or write and most were Catholic. According to the Irish prison records 80 women out of the 133 women on board the East London had no occupation but every one of the County Cavan women gave her occupation as servant.
Would they have been servants before their convictions? There was some possibility; it was one of the few choices for women of their class. It could also have been a hope of being engaged as a domestic servant in the colonies as it would have enabled them to work outside the confines of the prison.
In the years from 1800 until the 1840s the population of Ireland increased rapidly and put pressure on the county’s economy. Landholders rented their farmland to small farmers who in turn rented small plots to the agricultural labourers for eleven months of the year in a system called conacre farming. The labourers worked for daily wages, if they could find it, and took potatoes from their land to keep their families fed. The increase in population made the system less reliable with every available piece of land rented out for conacre and competition among the labourers bidding against each other for the plots.
By 1841, landless labourers were the majority of the rural society in Cavan. A letter of petition written in 1843 by Ellen McKeon on behalf of her husband, Bartholomew McKeon, said that he was a labourer and was paid four pence per day if he could get the work. At the time of his arrest he had no other means to support a wife and two children. At the conclusion of his trial Bartholomew’s parting words to the Judge were, ‘thank God you can do no more’. He was duly found in contempt and sentenced to an additional five years. The judge’s decision was punitive but the ruling from Dublin Castle was that law must take its course. Poverty was thought by some members of the elite class to be a result of lack of character or idleness and that the poor had to take responsibility for their own plight.
The linen industry was a cottage industry of home spinners and weavers and no longer in demand as industrial factories opened up in the north of Ireland and in England. The wives of the labourers who worked at home spinning, lost, or had reduced, that small income. The use of land was changing and beef cattle farming, which was less labour intensive, became more important as roads improved access to markets. Thus, agricultural labourers were plentiful but employment for them had lessened.
Many of the labourers were trapped by desperate poverty. They had no education, a distrust of the English landowners and little hope of improving their lives. In some cases, in order to earn the money for conacre rent, the men went to work in England. Most were married and needed to support their families. The majority of the labouring class were disadvantaged members of society and many were Catholics, whereas the ruling class was predominantly Protestant and they tended to be more prosperous members of society. Evictions of small farmers in favour of less troublesome Anglo-Irish tenants caused further poverty and resentment.
Lack of employment or underemployment for the wage labourer meant families faced hardship without income to buy food or to clothe themselves. The homes of the poor were miserable, one-roomed mud dwellings, with a rough table and chair, perhaps a chest of drawers and beds made from straw laid on the dirt floor. Bedclothes were the daytime apparel and sometimes with only a single blanket for the whole family. In an account of his tour through the midland counties in 1836, Baptist Wriothesley Noel described the poor, ‘the women are moving about with bare heads and feet and the men are idle at their doors – many of them have all the lines and furrows of starvation and premature decay’.
The Reverend Bernard Brady of Knockbride (Cavan) noted in evidence to the Poor Law Commission in the early 1830s that the smallest farmers and labourers ‘had everyday declined by poverty and wretchedness’. The Rev Hugh Fitsimmons testified that the destruction of the linen trade ‘put weavers and others into the field of labour (with) no (trade) no means to pay rent, to find food or clothing...all being thrown upon the land for support’.
In 1845, two years after the women from Cavan left on the East London, Thomas Campbell Foster published his letters in The Times, London, and several of these letters were from County Cavan.
Cavan 21 August
In this town from which I write (Cavan) I am informed on the best authority, and from several sources, that the labouring men of the neighbourhood – those without land – are unemployed nine months in the year; and that there is general employment for them only during the spring, and at harvest time. I am told that, except during these periods, from thirty to fifty men may be seen at the market cross every morning, unemployed, waiting for a job and that there is no demand for their work.
Thomas Campbell Foster
For women, the lack of employment was extreme. Many of the jobs they performed in the weaving trade had gone and the traditional work on farms was performed by the vast numbers of unemployed men. Reports of high wages in America induced families to send their children out of the country. By 1841 ten percent of labouring families in Killashandra, County Cavan, had children who had emigrated.
From the indent records of the women on the East London nearly a third had family members in England, America and Australia or enlisted in the army. There was a few with husbands or children in America. Most of the women from Cavan were of the landless labouring class living in devastating poverty.
In order to survive these women committed crimes. Theft of animals, articles of clothing which could be pawned and, food to feed hungry children were typical of their offences.
What brought these women to the gaols of Cavan?
TAHO Convict Indents from the East London 1843
O’Neill, Kevin. “Family and Farm in Pre-Famine Ireland, The Parish of Killashandra.” The University of Wisconsin Press Ltd. 1984
Irish Transportation Records, Bartholomew McKeon, CRF 1845 C55
Noel, Baptist Wriothesley. “Notes of a Short Tour through the midland counties of Ireland, 1836 with observations on the condition of the peasantry”, London, James Nisbet & Co. 1837.
Foster, Thomas Campbell; Letters on the Condition of The people of Ireland, Letter II
Alice Fitzsimons and Catherine Cahill
- c 1803 b. c 1813
tried Baileborough 27 June 1842
Alice Fitzsimons and Catherine Cahill were sisters-in-law, sentenced on the same day, in the same court for involvement in the same crime. An account of what happened was revealed in the letter of petition sent to the Lord Lieutenant Governor of Ireland, on behalf of John Cahill, appealing for his wife not to be transported.
Alice Fitzsimons and her husband, Owen Brady, broke into the house of Samuel Jones, local auctioneer, at Lisball, Baileborough, County Cavan, in June 1842 and stole, a coat, a shawl and other items. Perhaps there were others involved in the break-in, but Owen and Alice took their share of stolen goods and fled with the bundle and their four young children across the county border into Meath, to the village of Athboy. Alice was pregnant with her fifth child and the journey of about forty kilometres would have been made on foot. They arrived ‘in a very low condition’ at Catherine Cahill’s house where she lived with her husband, John, and their four children.
Catherine was Owens Brady’s twin and it was the first time in seven years he had visited her house in Meath. Catherine took the family in but she made a terrible decision in trying to help her brother and sister-in-law, Alice. She sold the shawl which Owen stole and then went with him to the nearby town of Navan. While her brother, possibly too poorly dressed, waited outside Mr Finnegan’s pawnbroker shop, Catherine went in and pawned the stolen coat. Their ploy did not succeed and the four, Owen, Alice, John and Catherine Cahill, were arrested and taken to Baileborough in County Cavan where they were tried by Mr Murphy, the Assistant Barrister of the county. John Cahill was acquitted because he was at work for the village minister on the day the goods were pawned. Owen pleaded guilty, perhaps to lessen his sister’s charge and to ensure his children would be allowed to accompany their parents. He and Alice received sentences of ten years transportation and Catherine seven years transportation. It was a sad outcome for Owen and Alice but a shocking punishment for Catherine who was a wife and mother of four young children. Her decision to aid her brother in his crime resulted in separation from her family forever. John Cahill was described by Mr Murphy, the Assistant Barrister, as a decent man but, his wife was an ‘abandoned creature’. Catherine must have been in a state of torment and anguish when she appeared in court and was probably even more desperate and uncontrolled in her grief inside the gaol. She did not receive any sympathy from the Judge who thought her husband would be better off without her.
The sentencing of Alice Fitzsimons, Owen Brady and Catherine Cahill was swift. They were described as, ‘he and she and all her family most infamous characters’. The judge’s words implied they were well known to the authorities but should his remarks be more deservedly directed to Owen and Alice who had faced court several times previously. Owen had a prior charge for riot for which he received a three-month sentence. Prison records in Ireland showed Owen and Alice Brady and their three children held, from December 1838 until March 1839, in Kilmainham Prison, Dublin, as crown witnesses for County Monaghan. On the day of admission into Kilmainham Prison, five men were admitted for assault and riot but immediately bailed. One name amongst the five was Bartholomew McKeon; perhaps the man whose petition in 1843 described the lowly daily wage and lack of work.
Owen and Alice were witnesses for the crown so a deal was done. Had they traded serious riot and assault charges for information about a robbery? A trial took place in August 1839 and Alice and Owen gave evidence in a case of theft which occurred in November 1838. Before dawn one morning Alice and two men went into the field and herded two cows out while Owen remained on watch on the road. The cows were sold to butchers in Shercock and Owen received four pounds which he divided between the four members of the gang; he and Alice having one share each. They kept the head, heart and tongue and breakfasted on some, cooked by Owen’s sister, Mary Ann, and laughed at the prospect of Mr Kenny, owner of the cows, buying the flesh at the fair that day. Almost a year later Owen and Alice became informers and gave evidence against the other men involved in the theft of the cows. One of the gang, James Halfpenny, was found guilty and sentenced to transportation. His conduct papers noted that he was prosecuted by Owen and Alice Brady. The butchers, receivers of the stolen cows, were also arrested and the indictment stated they were prosecuted by Alice and Owen Brady. The Brady evidence against the butchers was contradictory and uncorroborated and they were labelled characters of the worst description. The butchers were discharged. In March 1840, Owen and Alice were informers again when three men were indicted for the theft of sheep in County Monaghan. Counsel for the defence at the trial stated of Owen Brady that he, “does good by stealth, and blushes to find fame”. Owen had made enemies in his own class and life in his community must have become very difficult for him.
The authorities knew Owen and Alice, across three neighbouring counties, so the judgement was quick when they appeared in court at their own trial. Owen Brady and Bartholomew McKeon’s stories are detailed in petitions and show desperate action by men with wives and children and not enough work to support their families. They were about the same age and were both tried in the Baileborough Court only months apart. Their stories reflect the economic and social conditions in the county. Owen and Alice’s solution had led them to be part of a ‘knot of robbers’ who authorities said had ‘infested the country for years’.
What brought Owen to the situation he was in? His father was dead and his two brothers had left Ireland, one to the Army and the other to England. On his army papers, Owen’s brother, Patrick, gave his profession as weaver and the collapse of that cottage industry would have been the reason for the family’s lack of employment. Owen did not have the education to improve his chance in life nor the means to leave, particularly with four young children and another on the way. No work and no income made for distressful living conditions and led to unlawful measures.
The Drogheda Conservative Journal reported the trial of Alice and Owen and Catherine Cahill and included Alice’s plea for her children.
After passing of the sentence, the female prisoner, Alice Fitzsimons, entreated that his worship would permit her to take her two youngest children with her, saying, “I’ll allow him”, meaning the male prisoner, Ode Brady, “to take the other two”.
The worthy and really humane Barrister, stated his regret that it was not in his power to accede to her request, but added, that if the application was made in another quarter, he had no doubt but that it would be complied with.
Mr Gillogby (the gaoler) then stated that he could give her liberty to take any child with her, provided it was under seven years of age.
Baileborough Court House where Alice Fitzsimons and Catherine Cahill were tried.
Alice Fitzsimons, Catherine Cahill, and two other County Cavan women, Eleanor Duffy and Ellen Keoghan were transferred from Cavan Gaol to Grange Gorman Prison in August 1842. Whilst in prison Alice gave birth to her fifth child on 27 September 1842. She named her child Catherine, perhaps after her sister-in-law, Catherine Cahill. Three of the Alice’s older children were admitted with her into the penitentiary at Grange Gorman and held there for more than eight months before their ship sailed. They were listed on the same page as many women who sailed on the Waverley but were moved to another section perhaps waiting for an outcome of Catherine Cahill’s petition.
Matters had to be settled as about who would travel with Owen and Alice to Van Diemen’s Land. The eldest child, Terence Brady, aged eight, was sent with Owen aboard the Navarino in September 1842 and, after arrival in Hobart in January 1843, was placed in the Queen’s Orphanage. Alice, the remaining four children and Catherine with her youngest child, Thomas, aged three, were put on board the East London on 5 May, 1843.
Grange Gorman Penitentiary Dublin where Alice Fitzsimons gave birth September 1842
b c 1806 (Irish Prison Records)
tried Bailieborough, County Cavan, 27 June 1842
Alice and her children embarked on the East London in the second group on 5 May. They shared a mess with five young women, one of whom was pregnant. There was one other child. Catherine Cahill and her son were in a nearby mess group.
Alice was admitted into the ship’s hospital on the 28 May, a little more than two weeks after sailing. The surgeon said she was a person of delicate constitution, constipated habit of body and liable to a great depression of spirits on leaving her native land. She was employed in washing for herself and her children in the two days before admission to hospital. She became ill with rigors, pains of the head, back and lower extremities and nausea and the surgeon diagnosed continual fever. He treated her with Magnesium Sulphate and allowed her lemonade. She was given medicines which induced vomiting and purging and over the next few weeks suffered much from abdominal tenderness and debility. She drifted into stupor and occasional delirium and lost control of her bladder and bowels. Her head was shaved and the surgeon treated her with enemas of starch, opium and blistering. She was given broth, gruel and barley water and gradually recovered enough to spend some time on deck. Although weak she was treated with small doses of sulphate of quinine in wine or water. By the beginning of July she was sufficiently recovered to return to her own berth to take care of her young family.
While Alice was in hospital, her children, Ann aged six, James three, Judith, two years and baby Catherine, were left to take care of themselves or by others on board. Catherine, not quite one year old, was, in the surgeon’s words, ‘placed under the care of her sons who neglected it very much’. The surgeon accused the sons of neglecting the baby but the first child, Ann, was a girl who had just turned six years old. Perhaps she was so raggedly clothed to be not recognizable as a girl. The surgeon eventually placed the infant Catherine in the hands of a, ‘proper nurse’ and supplied her with food he thought suitable from the hospital. He prescribed for the baby on 2 June but the little girl was already much reduced with frequent loose white evacuations, her abdomen was hard and her limbs tumid. When Alice returned to her berth she tried to put the baby to the breast again but the child had aphthus ulcers in her mouth and failed to suckle. Baby Catherine died on the 14 July 1843.
The day Alice was admitted to the hospital was the day that Edward Caldwell supplied the eldest five boys and twelve girls with suitable clothing. Her eldest daughter, Ann, should have received some clothing.
On August 20 Alice was readmitted into the hospital and the surgeon accused her of disregarding his advice when leaving the hospital in July. She had diarrhoea, great weakness and a tongue of a deep red colour. She had no control of her bowels and became insensible and lay in that state for three days until August 23 when she died. She was buried at sea and a prayer said for her as she was lowered into the ocean not far from the Island of St Paul.
Three of her children survived the voyage but the youngest, two year-old Judy, sent to hospital on arrival at Hobart Town, died in the first few days. Six year-old Ann was admitted into the Queen’s Orphan School, as was three year-old James, three weeks later. They were reunited with Alice’s eldest child, Terence, who arrived with their father on the Navarino in January 1843. The children eventually saw their father again and, after he was given his ticket-of-leave, he took Terence and Ann out of the Orphan School. James stayed a little longer until he was thirteen and, was apprenticed to Mr Anstey of Oatlands. Ann married and had many descendants. Terence disappeared in Victoria; probably changed his name after some trouble with his employer. James drowned when he was twenty-six, while crossing a creek on his horse. Owen Brady, Alice’s husband, went to Victoria, changed his name, faced two charges for stealing horses and spent many more years in jail. He died as a poor and elderly former convict.
b c 1813 (Irish Prison Record)
tried Bailieborough, County Cavan, 27 June 1842
Catherine Cahill and her son, Thomas Cahill, were sent to hospital after the ship arrived in Hobart. Three year-old Thomas died six weeks after his admission to hospital. Catherine recovered and was assigned to work and began serving her sentence in the Hobart area. Mr Solomon charged her with neglect of duty in November 1844 and she was put into solitary confinement for seven days. It was the anniversary of her son’s death.
She may not have met up with her brother, Owen, who was in Fingal, but perhaps she saw her nephews and niece at the Orphan School. There was more trouble two years later when Catherine was charged with having a man under her bed and various articles belonging to her master found in her room. She was convicted and sentenced to six months in the Female House of Corrections at Cascades. The man must have been in the bed at some time because Catherine was pregnant and stayed at the Factory after her sentence to deliver her child.
Catherine was admitted into the prison hospital on Friday 20 March and her waters broke in the early hours of Saturday. The delivery did not go well. The nurse, Anne Stevens, stayed with her that night and Dr Casey visited but Catherine became very weak. She was in pain which she found hard to bear and the doctor ordered brandy and water. On Sunday Dr Casey sent for his colleague, Dr Edward Bedford, and the two doctors used instruments to deliver the baby, but it was stillborn. Catherine passed away the next morning, Monday 23 March 1846. The autopsy confirmed that there were ruptures in the uterus caused by the large size of the baby. Catherine left her family in Ireland and death ended any chance of another.
See Appendix Cavan Women
Letter of Petition for clemency for Catherine Cahill – to the Lieutenant General & Governor General
Newspaper Accounts of Trials
Inquest for Catherine Cahill
National Archives of Ireland, Prisons 1/9/4 Richmond (Grange Gorman) female penitentiary register of female convicts 11th July 1840-22 December 1853 –Alice Fitzsimons, 1843 & Catherine Cahill, 1843.
Irish Transportation Records Catherine Cahill CRF 1843 C69
Medical Journal of the East London AJCP ADM 101/22 Reel 3139
Orphan School Records, Terence, Ann & James Brady, SWD7, 28
TAHO Catherine Cahill CON 40/1/2 image 251
TAHO Thomas Cahill RGD 35/1/1 No. 1907 image 208
Inquest, Catherine Cahill, SC195/1/17 Inquest No. 1413
Foster, Thomas Campbell; Letters on the condition of The People of Ireland, Letter II
Margaret Beale, Catherine Sheridan, Mary Reilly, Mary Dean
stealing livestock-a family business
2nd January 1842 – Stole pigs
Matthew Dean – age 55 (father of the Dean family) Prince Regent 1842
Thomas Dean – age 16 (brother of Mary Dean) Waverley 1841
Matthew Hyland – age 22, (husband of Mary Dean) Waverley 1841
31st January 1843 – Stole fowls
Bernard Dean – age 19 (brother of Mary Dean) Constant 1843
Michael Dean - age 15 (brother of Mary Dean) Constant 1843
Catherine Sheridan – age 28 (sister of Margaret Beale) East London 1843
& her son, John McNamee Constant 1843
Margaret Beale - 23 (sister of Catherine Sheridan) East London 1843
Bernard Reilly- age 18 Constant 1843
Mary Reilly – age 20 East London 1843
31st March 1843 - Stole fowls & ducks
Matthew Dean - age 13 (brother of Mary Dean) Constant 1843
Mary Dean – age – age 22 East London 1843
27th March 1844 – Stole 3lbs bacon
Patrick Dean- age 13 (died Point Puer Hospital 1845) Emily 1844
28th February 1847 - Stole hens
Ann Sheridan – age 38 (sister of Margaret & Catherine) Kinnear 1848
Ann Lee – age 40 (?sister-in-law) Kinnear 1848
The Deans and Matthew Hyland were related by marriage. Margaret Beale, Catherine and Ann Sheridan were sisters. The Dean boys said their mother’s name was Bridget but Matthew, the father, said Sheddan – was her maiden name Bridget Sheridan? It would explain the connection between the Deans and the Sheridans. Were the Reilly’s also related- perhaps cousins? The name Bernard appeared in both families. Ann Sheridan was convicted with Ann Lee in 1848. Ann Sheridan’s child had the surname Lee so perhaps the two women were sisters-in-law.
Margaret Beale, Catherine Sheridan, Mary Reilly, Mary Dean
- c1817 b. c1814 b. c1823 b. c 1822
These four women were connected by family and place and their story cannot be separated from the men who were with them in their crimes. Margaret Beale and Catherine Sheridan were sisters, a relationship both acknowledged on their convict records. They were part of a group of seven involved in the same crime and tried on the same day. The group stole 24 fowls belonging to Mr Brownlee, although Margaret Beale said she took a petticoat, but her prosecutor was also Mr Brownlee and the others charged in the theft of the fowls named her as one of the party. Perhaps she grabbed a petticoat as well as the fowls. Mary Reilly was part of the group of seven charged with the theft of the fowls. All were sentenced to transportation.
Catherine Sheridan’s son, fourteen year old, John McNamee, was among the group and Bernard and Michael Dean, probably nephews of Margaret Beale and Catherine Sheridan. On the indent records of the Deans, the boys gave their mother’s name as Biddy, but their father, Matthew, said it was Sheddan, probably a spelling of Sheridan. Was the mother of the young Deans called Bridget Sheridan and sister to Catherine Sheridan and Margaret Beale? Probably brother and sister, Bernard and Mary Reilly, were related to the group as they were with them and the name Bernard appeared in both the Reilly and Dean Families. The 1821 census of Killashandra put Matthew and Bridget Dean and their infant son in the townland of Corglass. The Sheridan and Reilly names were common in the area.
The four men, Bernard and Michael Dean, John McNamee and Bernard Reilly, were transported on the Constant while the women, Catherine Sheridan, Margaret Beale, and Mary Reilly, were on the East London. Also on board was Mary Dean, sentenced with her brother, Matthew, to seven years transportation for larceny of fowls and ducks. Their trial was eight weeks after all the others were sentenced and so sister and brother were able to join their relatives on board the East London and the Constant. The two ships were in Kingstown Harbour together and sailed a day apart.
In 1844, the youngest Dean boy, Patrick, was charged with the theft of bacon and transported in the Emily. He was sent to Point Puer where he died the following year. Three years later Anne, the last Sheridan sister left in Ireland, was charged with the theft of two hens and sentenced to seven years transportation. She brought her child, Ellen Lee, with her aboard the Kinnear in 1848. Anne Sheridan was sentenced with Anne Lee. Anne Sheridan’s child was fathered by James Lee so the women were probably sisters-in-law. Years later the two women went personally to collect their certificates of freedom on the same day. The people from the family and community retained their links. Was theft a means of living for these families? Or was it a means of getting a passage out of the country?
The women from Cavan Gaol stayed together on the East London, and the family group of the Beale, Sheridan, Dean and Reilly women were messmates. Only one woman of the mess group was not from Cavan; Mary Donnelly, from Mayo, was a cook, so the women chose their mess mate well. They were all in their twenties with Catherine Sheridan the eldest at twenty-eight, or so she said; very young to have a fourteen year-old son. Irish prison records said she was thirty. All the women survived the voyage without appearances on the sick list except for the birth of a child to Mary Deane two weeks before reaching Hobart. None of the group was sent to hospital on arrival. There were no comments as to their behaviour on board, but Catherine Sheridan had a reputation for being quarrelsome in gaol. The three children who made the journey with the mess group survived the voyage.
Above: Cavan Court House built 1824
tried Cavan 3 January 1843
Catherine Sheridan, who was married, said her husband, Frank, was a butcher in New York. Catherine and her son, John McNamee, aged fourteen, were sentenced to seven years transportation for the theft of the fowls. In Hobart, she only had one charge during her sentence and it was at the Brickfields Probation Station not long after arrival. She was accused of using bad language and served six days solitary confinement. Her sister, Margaret Beale, was involved in the same incident and received the same punishment. Catherine’s son, John McNamee, transported on the Constant in 1843, was sent to Point Puer on arrival. He served his sentence without any trouble and at one time was sought after to be assigned to John Bales (Margaret Beales husband). The request was refused but John McNamee received his ticket of leave in July 1849, in time for his mother’s marriage to Henry Marsden (Anson 1844) at St George’s Church of England, Hobart, on 28 August 1849. Henry was a farm labourer who served his time with few charges. One of the witnesses at the wedding was her sister Margaret Beale (spelt Bales on record).
John McNamee died of dysentery in 1852 and his death was registered by his mother, Catherine. Two years later on the 17 January 1854, Catherine Marsden (Sheridan), aged fifty, labourer’s wife, of Macquarie St, Hobart, died of a lung disease. Her death was registered by her sister, Margaret Russell (Margaret Beale).
tried Cavan 3 January 1843
Margaret Beale was in prison previously in Cavan for stealing gooseberries. In 1843, she stole a petticoat and fowls, or received such stolen goods, and was given a sentence of seven years transportation. The gaol report from Ireland labelled her ‘quarrelsome’. Once she reached Hobart she served her sentence with few incidents. However, in the early weeks after arrival in Hobart, she was charged with insolence, on the same day as her sister. It happened during their time at the Brickfields Probation Station and they both received a punishment of six days’ solitary confinement. The only other charges against Margaret involved being absent without leave and, on those occasions, she served two months and four months hard labour in the Female House of Correction.
Margaret was married and her husband, John, was a soldier in the 96th Manchester Regiment of Foot. Margaret’s convict indent, filled in on arrival, said he was ‘out here’. In 1848, Margaret’s older sister, Ann, was transported and also mentioned the brother-in-law in the 96th Regiment. The 96th Regiment was in Ireland in 1838, stationed in Dublin and Enniskillen and, the road between those cities went through County Cavan. Was husband, John, a local lad who signed up in Ireland, or an English soldier who fell in love? He could read and write so perhaps was not a local village lad. In 1839, back in England, his regiment was broken into separate detachments which sailed on convict ships as guards to New South Wales and Van Diemen’s Land. There was no man with the surname Beale in the pay books and muster lists of the regiment, but there was a John Bales, a private, with many good conduct comments noted on the muster list. Margaret was illiterate, and in court perhaps not able to confirm the correct spelling of her surname and her husband had been gone for nearly four years. In Hobart Margaret used the surname Bales.
John Bales sailed on the Barossa to Sydney in 1839, served at Norfolk Island and in New Zealand during the Maori Wars in 1844. The company returned to Van Diemen’s Land in August 1846 to rejoin the rest of the regiment which was due to move to India in 1849. John Bales was discharged at the end of December 1847 with a gratuity of six months’ pay and became a messenger with the Commissariat in Hobart. In August 1848 he applied to have John McNamee, Catherine Sheridan’s son, in his service. But John McNamee was still under sentenced and the authorities said he was ‘not yet capable of gaining his living’. In March 1851 John Bales, aged 38, died, and John McNamee was the informant who registered the death.
Witness names on certificates gave further clues that the surname was Bales and that Margaret and John were together in Hobart after eight years apart. They met after taking such different paths to Van Diemen’s Land. Margaret Bales was a witness at the wedding of Catherine Sheridan in 1849. John Bales was a witness to the wedding of Margaret Beale’s sister, Anne Sheridan, also in 1849. John Bales signed with a clear signature; the women all signed with a cross. On Anne Sheridan’s indent record she said her sisters were at Norfolk. Was she referring to Norfolk Island where John Bales had served? Most of the records put the sisters in Hobart at that time.
By the time of Catherine’s death Margaret had the surname Russell when she registered her sister’s death. The trail to that name had several steps. Margaret Bayles, widow, married Henry Hughes, a shoemaker, on 19 July 1852, at St George’s Church, Hobart. Henry died less than a year later in May 1853. Margaret Hughes, widow, married William Russell, labourer, on 14 November 1853 at St George’s Church, Hobart. Witnesses at that marriage were her brother-in-law, Thomas Morgan, and niece, Ellen Lee, husband and daughter of Anne Sheridan. The Catholic Sheridan women had changed their allegiance to the Church of England. There were no records of births for Margaret in any of her marriages.
On 3 March 1872, a Margaret Russell died suddenly as she picked hops in New Norfolk. An inquest into the death gave the cause as apoplexy. Although the name was common, her age, 54, fitted the information about her birth year given in prison records.
tried Cavan 3 January 1843
Mary Reilly said that she stole the fowls from James Fitch and Margaret McGuire, and the others said they stole the fowls from Robert Brownlee. They were all charged and they stole together so perhaps they raided several houses and took as many fowls as they could. Mary and her brother, Bernard, were part of the large group which stole the fowls and probably closely related to the Deans and Sheridans. The Dean and the Reilly Families both had young men named Bernard. Twenty year-old Mary Reilly had prior convictions for stealing fowls and Bernard for stealing potatoes. All were illiterate.
In Hobart Mary served her sentence with two charges of absconding and several of being absent without leave as well as one for insolence. She was at the Female Factory at Cascades when she gave birth to a stillborn child in 1849 not long before she received her ticket of leave. Two weeks before the birth, Mary was charged with having a ‘torn up shift’ and spent seven days in the cells. Was clothing and size a problem for her at that stage or was she preparing for the arrival of a baby? She did not marry under sentence. Her certificate of freedom was issued at the beginning of 1850. The name Mary Reilly was common and spelling varied so proof of marriage was difficult to confirm.
Mary’s brother, Bernard, who was described as quiet and orderly by the Surgeon Superintendant on the Constant, served his sentence with little trouble and received his ticket of leave in 1847. There was a charge of burglary against him in Bothwell in 1880, but he was acquitted.
tried Cavan 31March 1843
Twenty year-old Mary Dean was not involved with the others in the theft of the fowls, but eight weeks later she and her thirteen year-old brother, Matthew, were charged with the theft of two ducks. Mary embarked on the East London with the other members of her family. Stealing poultry was the downfall of most of the family members. They were rural people and probably among the underemployed agricultural poor. Mary Dean’s husband, Matthew Hyland was convicted three years earlier with her father, Matthew Dean, and her brother, Thomas Dean, for the theft of pigs at Cross Keys. Matthew Dean said it was his son-in-law, Matthew Hyland’s fault and he did not know the pig was stolen when it was salted in his house. All were sentenced to transportation. Matthew Hyland and Thomas Dean sailed on the Waverley in 1841 and Matthew Dean on the Prince Regent in 1842. The departure of the senior Matthew Dean and Mary Dean’s husband, Matthew Hyland, must have been a great loss to the ability of the family to support itself. The absence of Margaret Beale’s husband away in the army and Catherine Sheridan’s husband in America added to the disruption and put a burden of survival onto the women and young men left at home. Matthew Hyland’s conduct record stated his only prior charge was for riot. The dispersal of the men, a riot and the theft of livestock indicate difficult economic and social conditions, unemployment and poverty for the family. All the women had prior charges for theft of potatoes, hay or small livestock.
The four women, Margaret Beale, Catherine Sheridan, Mary Dean and Mary Reilly, gave their occupations as servants on their prison records, the men in their families said they were labourers or shoemakers and the senior Matthew Dean was a ploughman. The surgeons’ reports said the men were quiet and well-behaved. They were of the agricultural labouring class, with little education and like many men at that time, probably under-employed.
Mary Dean’s husband, Matthew Hyland had no offences under sentence in Van Diemen’s Land. He was commended for ‘metorious conduct’ in preventing a robbery and gained his ticket of leave early. He died in 1845 in hospital at Westbury.
After her husband’s departure from Ireland, Mary Dean lived with a man named Thomas Royals (sic) who was the father of her child born aboard ship. She was pregnant when she embarked and two weeks before arrival in Hobart was safely delivered of a baby girl after a six hour labour despite the gale that was blowing. The surgeon described Mary as a healthy woman and she recovered well. A Susan Dean, fifteen months old, died in Dynnyrne Nursery in January 1845. The convict record also noted that Mary Dean had a daughter, Mary, aged four. Matthew Hyland said he had a child. The Grange Gorman Prison records do not list Mary Dean’s four year-old child as being with her. Edward Caldwell gave a total of 50 children boarding the East London but Dr John Clark, the man who called for the enquiry, said there were 49 children. The whereabouts of Mary Hyland remain a mystery. She did not enter the Orphan School but she did have relatives in Van Diemen’s Land who could have looked after her.
Mary admitted five prior convictions before the sentence of seven years transportation; stealing potatoes and stealing hay were among the charges. Her trouble with the law begun at an early age as had motherhood. In Hobart she completed her sentence without any offences. She gained her ticket of leave in February 1847 and her certificate of freedom in December 1850. On 1 August 1848, she married James Smith at St George’s Church of England in Hobart. James, who was sentenced in Dublin, faced the lash twice during his years as a prisoner. Trace of the couple as Mary and James Smith has been lost.
The men in the family completed their sentences. The senior Matthew Dean, transported on the Prince Regent, eventually married Isabella Todd, who was most likely the convict woman of that name from the East London. The younger boys were sent to Point Puer where Thomas Dean was labelled a bad character, bore many punishments and was sent to Port Arthur. He did receive a certificate of freedom. The youngest, Patrick Dean, who arrived three years after his father, was the only one who did not survive his sentence. The family would have made contact as they completed their sentences. Michael Dean said on his indent papers on arrival that he wanted to get out to see his father. The young Dean men eventually went to Victoria.
The 1821 census of Killashandra, County Cavan, is among the few Irish census documents which remain for that year. Matthew and Bridget Dean and their young son Bernard lived in house No 7 in the townland of Corglass, Parish of Crosserlough. Matthew was a labourer and Bridget a flax spinner. There were Sheridans in the same location and Hylands and Sheridans in nearby parishes. All the women listed their occupations as spinners and the men as farmers or linen weavers. By the 1840s their work as spinners and weavers was no longer needed.
The beautiful Corglass Lough was in a rural area close to the town of Killashandra.
National Archives of Ireland, Prisons 1/9/4 Richmond (Grange Gorman) female penitentiary register of female convicts 11th July 1840-22 December 1853 –Margaret Beale, Mary Dean, Mary Reilly, Catherine Sheridan.
Margaret Beale, East London, 1843. CON 40/1/2 image135 CON 15/1/2 image180 & 181 pos 6
Catherine Sheridan, East London, 1843 CON 40/1/10 image 99 CON 15/1/2 image206 & 207 pos 4
Mary Reilly, East London, 1843 CON 40/1/8 image 235 CON15/1/2 image 204 & 205 pos5
Mary Dean, East London, 1843 CON 40/1/8 image 72 CON 15/1/2 image 186 & 187 pos 9
Bernard Dean, Constant, 1843. CON 33/1/41 image 52 CON 14/1/21 image 87 & 88
Matthew Dean, 55, Prince Regent 1842. CON 33/1/15 image 3 CON 14/1/11 image 14 & 15 pos 4
Matthew Dean, Constant, 1843. CON 33/1/41 image 54 CON 14/1/21 image 89 & 90 pos1
Michael Dean, Constant, 1843 CON 33/1/41 image 53 CON 14/1/21 image 87 & 88
Thomas Dean on the Waverley 1841 CON 33/1/12 image 58 CON 14/1/9 image 18 & 19 pos 4
Matthew Hyland, Waverley, 1841. CON 33/1/12 image 91 CON14/1/9 images 26 & 27 pos 5
John McNamee, Constant, 1843 CON 33/1/41 image 142, CON 14/1/21 images 121 &122 pos
Ann Sheridan, Kinnear, 1848 CON 41/1/19 image 126 CON 15/1/5 images 53 & 54
Patrick Dean, Emily, 1844 CON 33/1/60 image 50, CON 14/1/29 Images 22 & 23 pos 4
Bernard Reilly, Constant, 1843 CON 33/1/41 image 180, CON 14/1/21 images 135 & 6 pos 2
Mary Dean & James Smith, RGD 37/1/7 1848/1732 Hobart
Catherine Sheridan & Henry Marsden, RGD 37/8 1849/231 Hobart
Ann Sheridan & Thomas Morgan RGD 37/1/8 1849/802 G&K 7270
Death Margaret Beale/Russell G&K 541435
Catherine Sheridan/Marsden G&K 512105
John Bales G&K 503673
AJCP, 96th Regiment, Pay Books & Muster Lists, Reels 3089-3094.
tried Cavan 4 March 1843
Martha Reilly joined the messmates of the Sheridan, Dean and Reilly family group. She was a Church of England follower, unlike the others, who were Catholic. However, she was of a similar age to the Catherine Sheridan, Mary Dean, Mary Reilly and Lucy Magaughran. She was tried on the same day as Lucy and arrived at Grange Gorman with Mary Deane so there were links between the women. Martha was a laundress and was probably employed at the time of her crime as she lived in lodgings rather than her family home. She had a mother, four brothers and three sisters in Cavan. She was transported for perjury. Through the letters of petition and the response from the judge, we have the events which led to her conviction.
A stack of hay and oats belonging to the Reverend Thomas Carson was set on fire in a deliberate and malicious act, possibly by the Ribbonmen. A little time afterwards Martha came forward as a witness to testify that as she walked home from Naleelis to Cavan in the night she saw three men; she left the road and climbed over the style close to Mr Carson’s hay yard to hide. It was then she saw John and Thomas McGinnell and William [Doholme?] set fire to the hay. She said John McGinnell was carrying the can of fire with him. Martha was sent to the Castle in Dublin as a crown witness to await the Assize Court in Cavan which would try the men.
Martha was the only witness to the act for which the three men were tried. However there were several witnesses who gave evidence for the defence which cast doubt on Martha’s testimony. The defence called a woman, lodged in the same house as Martha, who swore that Martha, far from being out on the night of the fire, was ill at home. The witness said that the next morning, on learning of the fire, Martha said, ‘I suppose it is some of the Cullis boys did it and that there will be a handsome reward’. Another witness, Samuel Moore Esquire, believed by the judge to be the Treasurer of the County, came forward and said that he had employed John McGinnell for ten or twelve years and that John was with him in Dublin on the night in question and he was not mistaken. On that evidence the three men were acquitted.
The day following the acquittal the Counsel for the Crown sent up bills of Indictment for Perjury against Martha Reilly. She was advised that she could postpone her trial to the next Assizes if she wished but she preferred to stand trial. The judge, Justice Doherty, said that he considered the number of witnesses who contradicted Martha’s oath and particularly the respectability of the gentleman, Mr Moore, who established the alibi for John McGinnell. The judge found Martha guilty of perjury and said her conviction was ‘unclouded by doubt’. She was found guilty of swearing against three innocent men and deposing to facts of which she could have no knowledge. She was sentenced to transportation for seven years.
Petitions were written asking for mercy and a commutation of the sentence of transportation. One petition was from Marcus Gervais Beresford, Archdeacon of Ardagh and the Reverend Mr Carson whose hayrick had been burned. The two men were clergy from the Irish Anglican Church. Marcus Gervais Beresford later became the Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of all Ireland and the Reverend Thomas Carson became a bishop. They were senior clergymen and asked for Martha’s sentence to be mitigated to a period of confinement. They said she was the daughter of honest and industrious parents who lived in the neighbourhood of Cavan and she had certificates to show that nothing occurred previously to hurt her character.
The judge, John Doherty, replied to Edward Lucas, Under Secretary, Dublin Castle, who had asked for the particulars of the case. It is from his letter that the events of the trial and the statements of the witnesses are known. He said he was astonished that two clergymen of high character and station certified that they had no hesitation in recommending Martha Reilly as a fit and proper object of mercy. He was even more surprised that one of the clergymen was the Reverend Mr Carson whose hayrick had been burned. He said that if they were ‘persons who sought an ignominious popularity by recommending convicts to mercy without any knowledge of the facts or circumstances he would have passed it over without notice. But, as the Rev Mr Carsons and the Archdeacon of Ardagh were not persons who recommended a mitigation of punishment under the circumstances as he detailed without good grounds, he suggested that his letter should be forwarded to them and that they should be called on to state the grounds on which they felt justified in recommending Martha Reilly as a fit and proper object for His Excellency’s merciful consideration’.
To clarify his request, Marcus Gervais Beresford, Archdeacon of Ardagh, wrote to Dublin because he did not believe Martha Reilly to be innocent, but said he had information which led him to doubt her guilt. There was a man called Pat Brady, wanting to be hired by Archdeacon Beresford, who lived and worked as a ploughman at Cullis previously. While talking with the Archdeacon’s steward, Pat Brady told him that the McGinnells had tried to induce him to leave the country lest he should give evidence against them. He gave the steward to understand that the McGinnells were guilty as Martha had sworn.
On the other hand, Thomas Carson, whose hay was burned, was entreated by Martha’s mother to sign the petition. He changed his mind on mature consideration and wrote to Edward Lucas in Dublin that her crime ought to be severely punished. He feared that it prevailed to a fearful extent in the county and, if not checked by fear of the present punishment, it may spread more widely.
Martha did not have her sentence commuted and her file bore the statement, ‘the law must take its course’. She sailed for Van Diemen’s Land and carried two certificates in her favour. She shared her mess with the other women from Cavan who appeared to be among the first to select a mess. There were no deaths from the mess group and all remained healthy throughout the voyage.
Martha reached Hobart, served her sentence with few charges; an absence without leave, a misconduct charge and one for being drunk and disturbing the peace. The last one saw her given two month’s imprisonment with hard labour in the Female House of Correction. However her wedding was only five days away so it was allowed to take place. Martha married John Brown, a former convict, in St George’s Church, Hobart, on 16 June 1845. John Brown was forty-five, had lost most of his teeth and was deeply pockmarked. He had been tried in County Meath for stealing a pair of trousers, transported to Norfolk Island in 1840 and arrived in Hobart aboard the Maitland in 1844. He was sent to the Colonial Hospital as an attendant and when he married was working as a constable. Before his conviction he was in the 22nd Regiment but bought his discharge. Martha and John Brown faded from records; their names were too common to accurately confirm identity. Two children were born to a John and Martha Brown at Evandale in 1851 and 1854 but the mother’s maiden name was not recorded.
See Appendix for the Letters of Petition
National Archives of Ireland, Prisons 1/9/4 Richmond (Grange Gorman) female penitentiary register of female convicts 11th July 1840-22 December 1853
TAHO CON 40/1/8 image 235 pos 3
TAHO CON 15/1/2 image 204/5 pos 6
Tasmanian Marriage Record, RGD 37/1/4 Hobart, 1845/1616
- c 1822
tried 4 March 1843
Lucy Magaughran, twenty-one and a Catholic, was tried in County Cavan on the 6 March, 1843. Lucy, who had not been convicted before, was charged with housebreaking and the theft of bread, and sentenced to seven years transportation. As she received such a harsh sentence, perhaps she had been a suspect in other thefts. Her parents were alive and she had two sisters, one of whom was in Manhattan. She lived with Thomas Breslin for three years and had two children, James and Mary Ann Breslin, with her on board the East London. Was her theft of bread a desperate act of a mother with two small children?
Lucy and her children shared the mess with the young women from County Cavan. She was tried on the same day as Martha Reilly and so the mess mates had something in common. There were no deaths among the women from her mess group nor were any sent to hospital after they reached Hobart. Lucy and her children were not on any of the listings for the sick during the voyage but the younger child, Mary Ann Breslin, aged eighteen months, died in the Dynnyrne Nursery on the 15 November 1843, a few weeks after arrival. The older child, James Breslin, was admitted into the Orphan School on the 2 October 1843 with the other children who had survived the journey without any serious illness or danger to their health. He stayed there for nearly four years until his mother received her ticket of leave in June 1847 when he was discharged into her care.
By the time Lucy was reunited with her son she had married Thomas Ball (Egyptian 1839) at the St George’s Church of England, Hobart, 18 May 1846. At the time of their marriage Thomas was a servant and the couple may have met when they were both working for John Dunn’s family in Hobart. They left that service around the time of their marriage.
Lucy’s life in the colony can be followed through newspaper articles. Thomas, fifteen years older than Lucy, became a groom and coachman. Lucy was a laundress and she gave birth to six more children. Lucy and Thomas were living at the Upper end of Macquarie St when two thieves stole the shirts that Lucy had hung out to dry. The thieves were spotted and Thomas gave chase and captured them. The men were charged, tried and sentenced to seven years transportation.
There were times when Lucy did her laundry work but did not receive payment. A report in the Colonial Times in 1851 told of her bringing charges against the coxswain of a ship for non-payment of the laundry done for the crew. Lucy refused to hand over the linen and the crew refused to sail. The matter was settled when the coxswain said he would pay. Lucy gave up the linen and the coxswain just laughed about her expecting him to hand over the money. Eventually the case was settled in her favour and the captain of the ship had his name cleared. Lucy also appeared in court charged by her servant girl with violent and abusive treatment and beating her with much cruelty. Lucy was said to have been drunk. There were other instances of quarrels with neighbours, threats and drunkenness throughout these years.
By 1856 Thomas Ball was in the insolvency court. He owed over sixty-six pounds and had assets of only seven pounds. He blamed his troubles on having to support a wife and a family of six children. Despite being described as being a very industrious woman by Mr Symons, the Chief Constable, in a case where Lucy was a witness, problems began to grow.
In 1857 Thomas Ball brought civil charges against James Alfred Dunn for payment owing to Lucy. James Dunn was a son of the family that Thomas and Mary worked for before they were married. James had returned from study in England and was a Member of Parliament. Mary did his washing and the argument was about payment. Lucy said James owed a large amount which had built up over two years, but he denied owing it. There was no doubt that the washing had been done and that some payment had been made. The Dunn family was an important family with influential connections and Lucy was a laundress and former convict. Lucy had only one serious offence while under sentence which was for making a false statement. Her husband was declared insolvent the year before and, the reason he was transported was for forgery of a ten-pound note. Their history was not a good one. Lucy gave a detailed account of what she was owed and when and how she was paid as well as the numerous times she pleaded for the money. The defence questioned why she waited so long and let such an unpaid bill mount up and accused her of altering her account book. Lucy told of part payment given by James Dunn before the argument about the washing fee.
As the trial moved along Lucy accused James Dunn of owing payment for a child, a little girl called Mary he gave over to her care in May 1854 and who was suckled with her own child. James Dunn denied knowledge of the child. The lawyers looked at birth records and found that Lucy gave birth to a little girl called Mary Ann, not in 1854, but 1853, and so her account was not believed. The jury delivered with their verdict in thirteen minutes. Lucy was found guilty of perjury. (A very detailed account of the trial was written in The Courier (Hobart, Tas 1840-1859), Saturday 20 June, pages 2 &3). The case was a fascinating story of a handsome young man of wealth and influence, with a powerful father, amid the desperate ploy of two former convicts who were very poor. The defence lawyers accused Lucy of making up a concoction to extort money, supported by wilful and corrupt perjury. The judge called it a most impudent attempt at extortion. Lucy certainly went after some money, but perhaps she did have knowledge that she thought could be a bargaining point. The story of the child was a strange addition to the case of non-payment of laundry bills and there was no evidence given in court that the child existed. The judge even questioned why no-one asked Thomas Ball how many children he had. Lucy and Thomas failed badly in their action against James Dunn.
Lucy was sentenced to four years imprisonment. She burst into tears on hearing the sentence and implored the mercy of the court, as she had six little children dependant on her. She asked if she could take the youngest with her but was refused. After Lucy went to prison the five youngest children were put into the Orphan School. Thomas Ball was not a well man and his health was declining despite Lucy stating during the trial that he was healthy. Thomas petitioned the Governor on behalf of Lucy in 1858 but the Governor declined to interfere. Thomas Ball died in early 1859 while Lucy was still in prison. Lucy was released in October 1860 and had her children discharged to her in 1862.
She was a widow with a large family. Life would not have been easy with only her ability to bring in any income. Her reputation as a woman who had been in gaol again would not have given her a chance of being employed by reputable people. She had many appearances in court, once as a witness, when an employer charged her daughter for a breach of the Servants and Masters Act. The girl was only twelve and Lucy demanded her return as she expected the employment to have been only for one week. Lucy argued that the family employing her daughter really wanted to adopt her as they had no daughter of their own and hadn’t let her come home to visit on Sunday. The charge against the child was dismissed. Another time Lucy was assaulted for being late with her rent, but gradually the charges grew worse, drunkenness, disturbing the peace, theft and stealing from the person. One judge accused her of preying on drunken men outside public houses. She served another sentence of one year in 1864 for stealing a shawl, another for three years in 1869 for theft of money from the person, and once again, a month’s imprisonment in 1875 for larceny.
After that date Lucy disappeared from public records. Perhaps she left the state as she had mentioned in court of needing money for that purpose. She spent much of her life in poverty, endued a terrible journey and had many years in confinement. She worked hard and had, at times, been taken advantage of and, learned her own tricks about taking advantage of others. She had many children and possibly her final years were with some of them.
See Appendix for the Letters of Petition
TAHO -Lucy Magaughran CON40/1/8 image 84 position 3
TAHO -Lucy Magaughran CON42/1/1 image 16
TAHO -Lucy Magaughran CON15/1/2 image 200/201 position 6
TAHO -Thomas Ball CON31/1/3 image 295
Death of Mary Breslin - 15/11/1843, Female Convicts Research Centre, Infant Deaths Hobart Nurseries.
The Tasmanian Colonialist 4 November 1852
The Hobarton Mercury 22 December 1856
The Courier (Hobart Tas: 1840-1859), Friday 19 June 1857
The Courier (Hobart Tas: 1840-1859), Saturday 20 June 1857, page 2,3
The Mercury (Hobart Tas: 1860-1954) 11th February 1869
a. c 1804
tried Cootehill County Cavan 28 March 1842
unfortunately married a Catholic
Eleanor (Ellen) Duffy was thirty-nine years old when tried on larceny charges at Cootehill, County Cavan and was sentenced to seven years transportation. It was Barrister Murphy who sentenced her and her daughter claimed that Mr Murphy was very sorry he had to pass such a sentence. He could not avoid it as so much was sworn again Ellen.
Above: Cootehill Court House
Cootehill Court House
COOTEHILL EASTER SESSIONS
(from our reporter)
Cootehill, Thursday, March 31, 1842
Eleanor Duffy, of Cootehill, pleaded guilty to an indictment charging her with stealing a quantity of linen in the month of February last, the property of Surgeon McGahan, of Baileborough, which was drying on a hedge in the garden in the rear of his house; and, in consequence of her being an old offender, she having been repeatedly convicted of larceny before his worship in this county, he sentenced her to be transported for seven years. She made a very feeling and affecting appeal to him for mercy on account of her children, that would, she said, be left desolate; but his reply was, that, as much as he commiserated her situation, he felt he had a paramount duty to perform to the public, and it was the opinion of his brother magistrates that she should be sent out of the country, as, notwithstanding the leniency they had heretofore displayed towards her, they found her incorrigible. She then commenced the most vociferous lamentations, and was removed to the bridewell. This unfortunate woman was once very respectable, her brother being at present a Stipendiary Magistrate, in the South of Ireland.
The Northern Standard 9 April 1842
It was a tough judgment upon a woman with six children and it meant she had almost no hope of returning to Ireland to see her family again. However, she had three prior convictions and had served long terms in jail. Ellen was transferred to Grange Gorman Prison in Dublin with Alice Fitzsimons, Catherine Cahill and Ellen Keogan in August 1842 to await the arrival of the ship to take her to Van Diemen’s Land.
It was during that time that her daughter, Mary Ann Duffy, and Ellen Duffy herself, sent petitions to Earl De Grey. Mary Ann Duffy left her service and used what little money she had to travel the fifty-two miles to lay the petition, on behalf of her mother, before the Lord Lieutenant. It was from the letter of petition, begging to have the sentence repealed, that the story of Ellen’s crime was revealed. Mary Ann Duffy said her mother committed the crime through poverty and intoxication. She took clothes off a neighbour’s fence in the middle of the day and the neighbour prosecuted her. Ellen was held until the Cootehill Quarter Sessions when her trial took place. Mary Ann Duffy petitioned Barrister Murphy for clemency for her mother, but he told her that a reprieve had to come from the Lord Lieutenant and so she had made the journey to Dublin.
From Ellen’s own petition more of her story is revealed. She was a Protestant who ‘unfortunately’ married a Catholic man and that decision cut her off from her family. She said that she was from a respectable family. The signatures on her petition testified that her late father possessed considerable property in County Fermanagh and was a well-connected man. Ellen said she had six children and four were boys, the youngest being only three years old. She felt completely deranged by the thought of leaving her small helpless family.
Ellen was not among those written about in the surgeon’s journal. Towards the end of the voyage she must have been ill as she was admitted to the hospital when the ship arrived in Hobart. The conduct and indent records have little or no information of her. The gaol report said she was very good but also noted on her conduct record were prior convictions. Ellen recovered and served her sentence without any charges and obtained her ticket of leave in June 1847 when she was forty-six years old.
Ellen was a tall woman, a dress maker and could read and write. Did her separation from her relatives because of marriage to a Catholic bring about her poverty? Was she considered an outsider by the Catholic community? Not included in the same mess as many of the others from Cavan, Ellen shared her mess with seven women all Protestants. The trouble caused by her marriage to the Catholic Frank Duffy probably came from both her family and the Catholic community she married into and may have led her to favour the company of the Protestant women. There were no deaths from her mess group but Ellen and one other woman were sick and sent to hospital on arrival in Hobart. Ellen’s decision to marry outside her religion seemed to have had consequences she could not have imagined. By the time of her transportation she had a habit of theft and intoxication. She was a troubled woman.
What became of her in Van Diemen’s Land? No charges were laid against her during her sentence. She gained her ticket of leave in 1847 but no certificate of freedom was recorded. Possibly she was the Ellen Duffy who married James Stewart, a carpenter, on 10 July 1849 at St John’s Manse, Church of Scotland. Ellen Stewart died 1 April 1851. The death record is the correct age for Ellen Duffy.
See Appendix for the Letters of Petition
Convict conduct record, Eleanor Duffy, CON 40/1/4 image 69
Journal of the surgeon superintendant, East London, Adm101/22 Reel 3139
National Archives of Ireland, Prisons 1/9/4 Richmond(Grange Gorman) female penitentiary register of female convicts 11th July 1840-22 December 1853
Register of marriages, Ellen Duffy & James Stewart, Tasmanian Marriage Records Hobart 1849/453
Register of deaths, Ellen Stewart, Tasmanian Death Records Hobart 1851 Reg No. 635
Irish Transportation Records CRF 1842 D21
tried 7 April 1842 County Cavan
thief & prostitute
Ellen Keogan was nineteen when she stole a shawl from a shop in Cavan. She had a prior charge for stealing potatoes but was acquitted. Although she was tried in Cavan, she gave her native place as County Meath. She came from a large family, six brothers and two sisters. Her father was alive at the time of her transportation but no mention of her mother. She said she was a house servant or maid and a country servant. The other note on her papers said that she was ‘on the town’ for twelve months. What would have led a girl from a family with so many brothers and sisters to a life where prostitution and stealing became a means of livelihood? Her given occupation as a country servant indicated a rural background and possibly her family were agricultural labourers.
A glimpse into the lives of the labouring class in Meath and Cavan throughout the 1830s and 40s showed unemployment to have been the burden under which they lived. The testimony of Rev. James Rickard P.P in the Union of Athboy and Rathmore, County Meath, in the 1830s gave a clear view of the status of the labouring class. Of the 900 labourers in the district only 250 had constant work. Just how many of Ellen’s brothers and father had employment and did they earn any more than eight pence a day in winter or up to ten pence to a shilling in summer? How did they survive the days and weeks when there was no work or not enough work? Ellen worked as a prostitute and maybe even that was not enough to survive or it was such a degrading life that she turned to theft, first potatoes and then the shawl from the shop in Cavan.
Ellen belonged to the Church of England and that separated her from most of her Cavan fellow prisoners. She was tried in Cavan on the 7 April 1842 and was transferred with Alice Fitzsimons, Catherine Cahill and Eleanor Duffy to Grange Gorman Prison the following August. Not one of the three joined the main mess group from Cavan. Ellen Keogan joined a mess where three other women were Protestants. She remained in sufficient health throughout the voyage not to be admitted into the ship’s hospital, nor to be sent to hospital after arrival. She was able to finish her sentence and claim her certificate of freedom. The only troubles she brought upon herself were because of drunkenness for which she was usually fined but on one occasion received three months hard labour at the Female Factory in Hobart.
While under sentence she married Isaac Watkins, a convict from the Strathfieldsay 1831. They married in the United Church of Ireland and England, Hamilton, in 1845, when Ellen was twenty-one and Isaac thirty-two years old. He was working as a constable at the time of their marriage. Newspaper records from the Argus in 1848 show that Isaac made the journey across Bass Strait as early as 1848 before Ellen had her certificate of freedom. However, in 1849 they were free to go together as Ellen had received her certificate of freedom. They sailed aboard the Flying Fish at the end of March 1850, travelling steerage, but must have gone back to Tasmania for they left again aboard the Flying Fish in March 1852 and the Olinda in September 1852 when they travelled as cabin passengers. A newspaper advertisement in The Argus, Melbourne 23 September 1852, from the passengers aboard the Olinda during that voyage, thanked the Captain for his kindness.
23rd Sept, 1852. Dear Sir,
We, The Undersigned, Cabin and Steerage passengers of the Barque Olinda, from Hobart Town to this port, cannot leave you without expressing our heartfelt thanks for the manner in which you have treated us during the voyage, your extreme kindness and your earnest desire to promote the comfort and happiness of all on board call forth our warmest approbation, and our earnest desire is that you may long live to enjoy the approbation of all who sail with you
We beg to remain,
Yours, very truly, To Capt. George Sinclair,
Among the signatures -Isaac Watkins & Ellen Watkins
There are no records of birth for any children to Ellen and Isaac. The only reference to Isaac comes from the Amherst Hospital Admission Book in 1873. He was a miner and farmer in the Amherst area which, because of a discovery of gold during the Gold Rush of 1853, had become known as an extremely rich goldfield, and tens of thousands of miners had flocked there. Perhaps Isaac was one of those miners who sought gold at Amherst.
The hospital record was dated July 1873 and gave Isaac’s wife’s name as Ellen. He was said fifty-eight years old rather than sixty-eight, his actual age. In 1875 there was a death record for Isaac Watkins, aged seventy-four, which gave his wife’s name as Ellen. She probably remained with Thomas during the years in Victoria but what happened to her after widowhood?
Did Ellen return to Tasmania after Isaac died? There was one reference to a police case in Hobart in 1876 where Ellen Watkins was charged with being idle and disorderly and having no means of subsistence. Was that her? Ellen Watkins was in jail in Hobart in July 1882, serving a seven-day sentence, when she died suddenly from heart disease. There was an inquest into the death. A newspaper report of the inquest described what happened.
INQUEST.-An inquest was held yesterday at 11:30 o'clock in the Bird-in-Hand Hotel, before Mr. Coroner Tarleton and a jury of seven, to enquire into the cause of the death of Ellen Watkins, who expired on the 7th Inst:, in the gaol, whilst undergoing a sentence of seven days imprisonment. Mr. Thos. Whiteside was the foreman of the jury
Annie Williams, a prisoner in the gaol, who had occupied the same ward as the deceased, deposed that she remembered Saturday last, the 7th inst,, when she had tea with the deceased, and at the same table. During that day Watkins had complained of pain near her collar bone. She ate sparingly at tea, and afterwards went into the sleeping ward, and lay down upon her bed. She was then suffering from pain, and shortly afterwards removed her clothing and went to bed. About five minutes after this she vomited some frothy matter. Mrs. Paull was then called, and she brought some liniment with her, and witness and Mrs. Paull rubbed Watkins chest and back. Mrs. Paull then left to get the attendance of a doctor, and during her absence the deceased died in witness' presence. The woman died before the doctor arrived, and being so informed, he did not see her. Cecilia Eliza Paull deposed that she had on the evening in question been called to the assistance of the deceased. She applied various medical restoratives. From the time when the deceased first took violently ill till her death could not have been more than 90 minutes. She believed the deceased had died in her presence. George Washington Turnley, a legally-qualified medical practitioner, and visiting surgeon to the gaol, deposed that he had made a post mortem examination of the body of the deceased. The body was well nourished, and bore no signs of violence. The cause of death was fatty degeneration of the heart, from which death would result suddenly, and the pain complained of by her would be consistent with this cause of death. The Coroner explained that the law required an inquest should be held into the death of all persons dying within the walls of the gaol-a law which no doubt had its origin at a time when prisoners were not so well treated as at present. In this case, however, there was an additional reason in the fact that the deceased had died suddenly. A verdict was returned in accordance with the medical testimony that deceased died from disease of the heart.
The death record noted that Ellen Watkins was born in Ireland and that is the only clue to the death being the correct one for the woman of that name transported on the East London. She had survived nearly forty years away from her homeland and her family. She had not fallen seriously ill with scurvy or diarrhoea on board ship, but had been able to finish her sentence and look to a new life. She went with her husband to the gold fields, making one trip as a cabin passenger, which was quite a step up from the prison decks of her journey to Van Diemen’s Land. She endured the hardships and the hard work of being a woman on the goldfields. It is not certain how long she stayed in Victoria, but, perhaps by the end of her life, she was in Hobart, the place at which she had landed in her early days and sadly to end her days once again in prison
Notes of a Short Tour Through the Midlands of Ireland in the Summer of 1836 With Observations of the Condition of the Peasantry,(Testimony of Rev James Rickard P.P. Union of Athboy and Rathmore P128.)
TAHO Ellen Keogan CON 40/1/6 image 200 position 1
TAHO Ellen Keogan CON 15/1/2 image 196&197 position 4
TAHO Isaac Watkins CON 31/1/46 image 143 position 1
TAHO Isaac Watkins CON 18/1/5
Isaac Watkins “Red Rover” 11/4/1850 POL 220/1/1 p214
Isaac & Ellen Watkins “Flying Fish” 30/3/1852 CUS 36/1/217
Isaac & Ellen “Olinda” 1/9/1852 CUS 36/1/404
Isaac Watkins “Yarra Yarra” 31/3/1853 POL 220/1/3
The Argus 22 September 1852
The Mercury (Hobart, Tas: 1860-1956) 14th July 1876 p.2
The Mercury (Hobart, Tas: 1860-1956) Wednesday 11 January 1882 p.2
Amherst Flat - Wikipedia