MARY BRAID

Hector 1835

By Helen Menard

 

Introduction

Mary Braid could hardly have imagined the dramatic turns her life would take and the social controversy that would emanate from some of her life choices. First born in a large family, her father died when she was only twenty. She married three years later, had a daughter and then her husband died in a work accident before she was thirty. She returned, with her daughter, to live with her widowed mother in the family home. Thereafter, Mary’s life embarked on a path of self-destruction and tragedy that would result in permanent banishment from her homeland.

Mary

Mary Braid was born on 24 May 1795 and baptised on 31 May the same year.[1] She was the eldest of at least six children[2] being Elizabeth (1797- ), James (1803-14), Helen (1805-56)[3], Thomas (1806-44) and Ann (1809- ) all born to James Braid ( -1816) a gardener and Janet Begbie (1766 – 1851-55).[4]

Mary married Robert Morrison on 2 December 1819 and they had one daughter Mary Ann (born 1821-22). Robert died in 1824 in a work accident in England while employed with the British Linen Company. Mary and Mary Ann then went to live with Mary’s widowed mother, Janet Braid, in the family home in Stenhouse, Liberton, Edinburgh, together with her two younger sisters Helen and Ann. On occasions, Mary sought alternate accommodation with her neighbour John Pringle, with whom she may have had a relationship while she was caring for his dying mother.[5]

Around March 1833, after a dispute with her sisters and wishing to conceal her shame at being with child, Mary and her daughter Mary Ann moved into a small apartment owned by a widow, Mrs Hardie, in Canongate, Edinburgh. Mary only stayed in Mrs Hardie’s apartment for about ten weeks where it appeared she and her brother Thomas lived as man and wife, despite conflicting accounts from them both.[6] After baby Eliza was born, Mary returned to her mother’s house for several weeks. She then moved into another house in Canongate rented through a Mr McGregor.[7] Helen, who stated she was more of a confidant to Mary than any of her other sisters,[8]  described her sister as ‘a violent woman in her temper’.[9]

Thomas

Mary’s younger brother Thomas, a hairdresser in Edinburgh, moved to London around August 1827 and enlisted in the army.  Shortly thereafter, in November 1827, he was convicted of desertion and sentenced to 7 years’ transportation. He spent four years on the Gangmede Hulk at Woolwich[10] prior to receiving a free pardon for good behaviour and being discharged around May 1832.[11] Never having left the country, he returned to Scotland and, for different periods of time, lived in the family home in Stenhouse, in Mary’s home at Canongate and various other abodes.[12]  Living conditions in the family homes were crowded to say the least and several family members often shared the one bed. It was alleged that Thomas ended up in an incestuous relationship with Mary bearing them a daughter, Eliza, on 10 April 1833.

Ann Braid, with whom Mary and Thomas reportedly had a hostile relationship, informed the local Liberton clergyman, Rev William Purdie, of her concerns about the nature of Mary and Thomas’ relationship.[13] Rev Purdie saw fit to investigate the allegations, interviewing Mary and members of the family and requesting that Mary provide medical proof she had not recently borne a child.[14] Shortly thereafter, Ann instigated charges against her siblings with the public prosecutor.[15]

Baby Eliza

Mary attempted to conceal the pregnancy and the birth of her child, presumably for social, religious and legal reasons (incest being a capital offence in Scotland at the time), and repeatedly refused to name the father, saying he was out of the country. She consistently refused to concede that Thomas was the father of the child or ever having shared a bed with Thomas in any of the houses. She frequently denied ever having given birth and didn’t discuss her pregnancy with her family.[16] Allegedly, only her younger sister Helen,[17] Thomas and Mary Ann ever saw the child.

Eliza was born in Mrs Hardie’s house in Canongate and was immediately given into the care of a nurse for three months (Mrs Elizabeth Erskine), after whom the child was named. Thomas alleged the child was ‘given out’ to avoid discovery of its birth and to avoid depriving Mary of the annual allowance paid by the employer of her late husband.[18] [19] Eliza was returned to Mary’s care on 24 July 1833 when Mrs Erskine withdrew her services due to a payment dispute.[20] Mary then continued to wean the child in the Canongate house. Mary told her daughter Mary Ann that the baby, now living in the house with them, was another person’s child given to her to wean.[21] Mary Ann, still a child herself, was called upon by the police to identify the deceased infant, as the one being weaned in the house, but she was unable to do so.[22]

Mary’s sister Helen gave evidence that, in admitting the child was a burden to her, Mary had begged Helen ‘to expose it at a place where it could be picked up and attention paid to it and so that she could hear of it’.[23] Helen, having had a child herself, ‘could not think of doing so and told her she could not do so …’.[24] Helen maintained she did not know a person named Lourie nor who was the child’s father.[25]

At one point, Mary maintained the father of the child was a gentleman’s servant whom she had known for several years and was living with her mother ‘when he had connection with her’. She stated they only met once in a public house in Edinburgh.[26] Later on, Mary claimed Eliza’s father was a John Lourie with whom she had a short relationship but whose whereabouts were unknown.[27] She stated Lourie had been in the employ of a stabler, Mr Wordsworth, in Edinburgh but she had never told anyone, including Thomas, about him.[28] [29] Shortly before Eliza died, Mary confided in her neighbour that she had brought the child home to wean and that Thomas was her father but did not disclose the mother’s name.[30]

On 22 August 1833, and only four months old, Eliza’s body was found floating in the Union Canal, Pt Hopetoun with a weighted roped around her neck.[31] It was alleged the baby had been thrown into the canal on 16 August 1833 and the rope was of a type found in Mary’s house. It was established on post mortem that death was from ‘strangulation and drowning’.[32] Several witnesses were asked to identify the child but only the nurse, her husband and one of the neighbours were able to do so.[33] When asked if Mary, who was in gaol at the time and very unwell, could identify the body, the attending doctor said it was improper as ‘such exhibition might be attended with fatal effects.’[34]

In Thomas’ confession after the trial, he is alleged to have poisoned the child with Laudanum before disposing of the body into the canal.[35]

The law

In 1809, the Concealment of Birth (Scotland) Act (49 Geo III c.14)[36] repealed the earlier 1690 statute and affirmed that concealment of birth was an alternative charge to child murder with a maximum sentence of two years’ imprisonment.[37] Child murder itself under the 1809 statute carried a maximum sentence of three years’ imprisonment.[38] Under the 1690 statute both offences attracted capital punishment.[39]

In 1833 incest was still a capital offence in Scotland.[40]

 

The charges

Thomas and Mary (being brother and sister german[41]) were both indicted for incest during the periods May 1832 to August 1833 and the murder of a female child on Friday 16 August 1833.[42] They were both taken into custody on Monday 19 August.[43]

The evidence

It seems the evidence before the court supporting the murder charges was largely circumstantial and there were no witnesses or other evidence placing either Mary or Thomas at the scene of the crime.

Mary

Mary was allegedly seen by a neighbour leaving the house with the baby early one evening and returning later the same evening without her.[44] Mary’s evidence was that she knew nothing of the death of the child and, on the night in question, had given the child to its father to deliver to a nurse to ensure its future safety and to avoid exposure. She had seen the father in the High Street in the afternoon but did not speak to him lest ‘he might go away’ and went home to prepare the child.[45] Leaving her daughter Mary Ann in the company of her neighbour Mrs McDonald,[46] she then later met with the father near the Tron Church and asked him to provide support for the child. When he refused Mary handed the child to him and walked away. He was accompanied by an unknown woman and Mary was sure the child would be cared for. Mary’s evidence was that neither she nor the alleged father knew where each other lived.[47] Having later admitted that Thomas was the father, clearly, one of these statements was untrue.

Mary maintained she never told Thomas or any other person who the father of the child was or what became of the child and that Thomas did not accompany her to meet the father on the evening in question. She did not know where Thomas was on that evening and when she returned home around 10pm he wasn’t there but arrived soon after; whereupon she told him she had given the child to its father but did not identify him.[48] However, in her declaration of 27 August 1833, while denying knowledge of the drowning of the child, Mary stated ‘if the child had been found in the canal she cannot suspect any person except Lourie of having put it there …’[49]

Despite the lack of direct evidence, it is suggested that the social, legal and religious abhorrence of the circumstances of the alleged incestuous relationship influenced the jury in finding Mary guilty of Eliza’s murder.[50] Reports also suggest she was unconvincing as a witness, her accounts of various events including the nature of the relationship with her brother were inconsistent and she had misrepresented the truth to family, friends and the clergy both prior to and after the birth of the baby. And, in the end, she was the last person seen with the child.[51]

The Court’s words were no less harsh in describing the crimes as ‘… most foul, abominable and unnatural…’[52] and ‘one of the most miserable and lamentable that ever was presented to this Court.’[53] The local newspaper described the case as involving ‘circumstances of such a revolting character, as are not fit for the public eye’.[54]

Thomas

No evidence before the court supported Thomas’ involvement in the disappearance of the child or even contact with the child on the evening in question. In fact, he maintained he went to visit his cousin Sarah Braid who worked in the Ship Tavern on that evening and then afterwards to the Gun public house. When he returned to the house around 10pm, Mary was there with Mary Ann but not the baby. He claimed Mary told him she had given the child to some person to bring up ‘as it confined her so much’ but she refused to say to whom.[55] When Thomas was called to identify the body of the child in the Police Office, he was unable to confirm the child was Mary’s and stated he had no part in its death nor knew of anyone who might.[56] If his later confession is to be believed, plainly this statement was untrue.

Thomas never admitted to sharing a bed with Mary or engaging in an incestuous relationship. However, on one occasion, purportedly to protect his sister in the belief the child’s father had left the country, he portrayed himself as Mary’s husband and father of the child to obtain accommodation from the widow Mrs Hardie in Canongate.[57] Thomas also admitted to representing himself as Mary’s husband and father of the child to the nurse Mrs Erskine in order to protect his sister.[58] Furthermore, Thomas alleged that John Pringle could have been the father of the child but that Mary had ‘denied such intimacy’.[59]

The trial in the High Court of Justiciary Edinburgh was held behind closed doors, heard evidence from 36 witnesses, lasted eighteen hours and, on 27 January 1834,  the jury only took a little over an hour to reach its verdicts.[60]

The verdicts

Thomas

Reflecting the ‘comparative mildness of our modern practice’,[61] the Public Prosecutor, representing the Crown, restricted the libel [charge] in respect of incest against Thomas to an arbitrary punishment,[62] meaning sentencing was at the court’s discretion.

Thomas was convicted of incest and sentenced to transportation for life. In sentencing Thomas to banishment from Scotland for the term of his natural life, Lord Meadowbank described him as ‘hardly a human being’.[63]

Notwithstanding his reputedly calculating, deliberate, indifferent and callous[64] manner in the witness box, the Court, for evidentiary reasons, directed the jury to find Thomas not guilty of murder.[65]

However, the judgment of Lord Moncrieff intimated that he was not entirely convinced of Thomas’ innocence when he stated ‘He himself best knows whether he had or not concern in that dreadful crime’.[66] Lord Meadowbank expressed similar reservations in stating ‘You know best whether you have had any concern or not in that last crime [murder]…’ [67] and ‘repent of this fearful offence [incest], and of all the other offences of which you may have been guilty’.[68] Of Mary’s potentially misplaced affection for Thomas, Lord Meadowbank also stated ‘If he felt not for himself, he should have felt for you … but feeling he had none … if your mind is still lingering in the ties of guilty affection in that quarter that you break the tie at once …’.[69]

Mary

With no previous criminal record, Mary was convicted of incest and, by a narrow majority of the jury, murder.[70]

In sentencing her, Lord Mackenzie stated 'she has been convicted not only of the crime of incest but ... the crime of murder. That crime by the laws of this and every country is capital, and if the crime of murder is always capital, assuredly it cannot be less so when it is added to the crime of incest, and when it is committed by a mother on her own child'.[71]

This statement is somewhat at odds with the legislation at the time wherein the charge Mary faced - child murder - was not a capital offence.

Lord Moncrieff stated ‘We have no discretion, and even if we had, how could we think, in such a case, that any other sentence than a capital one should be pronounced’. [72] Assumedly, because the Public Prosecutor did not restrict the charge of incest against Mary in the same way as he did for Thomas.

Mary was sentenced to execution with her body to be buried in the precinct of the gaol. Kilday argues ‘it is likely that it was one of the very last infanticide trials where this type of sentence was meted out by Scottish courts.’[73]

The confession

After Mary’s sentence of execution was handed down, Thomas confessed before magistrate John McFarlan[74] to the planning and killing of the child and that Mary had no knowledge of nor was involved in any of his actions. The local newspaper stated that ‘the horrible deed was effected by her heartless and unfeeling paramour, altogether without her knowledge … the infant died by poison, which poison was purchased and administered by the father, who afterwards threw the dead body into the canal’.[75]

The contents of documents referring to Thomas’ confession[76] indicate that, on the day prior to the murder, Thomas argued with his sister Ann who ‘threatened to inform the public prosecutor of the reports in the county of the to [sic] great intimacy of the panels [accuseds]’;[77] Ann’s threat was not made in Mary’s presence.[78] Statements also indicate that Thomas purchased the poison Laudanum from a local druggist and corroborate the fact Mary had given the child to the unnamed father in High Street [79] (presumably Thomas).

The petitions

In her petition for pardon Mary stated she had ‘intrusted the child to her brother for the purpose of being exposed under circumstances which she had no doubt would ensure its personal safety and he had led her to believe that it had been exposed accordingly’.[80] At the time, Mary was seriously ill in Calton Jail, Edinburgh with typhoid fever and was not expected to survive.[81] It is also suggested that being ‘in a state little above absolute distraction … she had actually attempted to put an end to her own life’.[82]

A petition for pardon, supported by 152 members of the Liberton community and attesting to Mary’s strong maternal instincts, the good care given to the child and the unlikelihood of her being involved in Eliza’s demise, was also lodged with the court.[83] 

Ultimately, the court, in accepting Thomas’ confession and stating each accused should be treated equally, commuted Mary’s sentence to transportation for life.[84]

Mary also petitioned for her eleven year old daughter, Mary, be allowed to accompany her upon her transportation as ‘she has no one in this country who can support her’.[85] This is, indeed, a sad reflection on the degree of estrangement that must have existed with her family who, undoubtedly, found the events of the trial and the associated press furore, traumatic and humiliating.

 

Legal questions

  • If incest was a capital offence in Scotland, why wasn’t Thomas sentenced to execution?

Kilday maintains that, while incest was a capital offence in Scotland at the time (but not in England), the social controversy around the issue in Scotland may have been responsible for the lesser sentence of transportation for life being applied to Thomas (and ultimately Mary).[86] 

Another answer lies in Lord Mackenzie’s judgment that ‘the comparative mildness of our modern practice has authorised the Public Prosecutor in this [case] … to think it consistent with his duty to restrict the libel [charge] to an arbitrary punishment …’.[87]

  • If child murder was not a capital offence in Scotland when Mary went to trial, why was she sentenced to execution?

This question is much harder to answer.

At the request of the Crown, the Court only applied the sentence of life for the conviction of incest against Thomas, despite its ability to apply capital punishment under the law. The Crown did not make the same request for Mary.

Once Thomas had confessed to the murder, Mary remained only to be sentenced for incest. In line with the court’s express wish to treat both prisoners equally, her sentence of execution was commuted to transportation for life.

But this does not answer the question as to why Mary was initially sentenced to execution for murder of a child when it was not a capital offence. Nor does it explain the references by Lord Mackenzie to the crime of murder (albeit child murder) being capital. Kilday asserts that ‘this was a very non typical case with a non typical outcome in terms of pretty much ignoring or defying the legislature.’[88] She further suggests that ‘the most interesting question is why they ignored [or] defied it and the answer to that is supposition.’[89]

Was it because the Crown did not ask the court to impose a lesser sentence than capital punishment for incest for Mary as it did for Thomas? Was this the court of public opinion raising its voice? Kilday maintains the unabated interest in this case by the press was exacerbated by the court’s attempt at public censorship and was ‘heightened by a series of broadsides and newspaper reports … [that] outlined the grisly details that the public evidently craved’.[90] She also contends that Mary received the full wrath of the court and public exposure probably because she was a woman.[91]

By contrast, Lord Meadowbank opined that the ‘verdict of the jury was well founded and entirely independent of any prejudices arising from the proof of the incest of which the prisoner was also convicted’.[92] This was supported by the evidence of Mary’s movements on the night in question and the inconsistent and false statements made by her.[93]

Was this a veiled attempt to defend the court’s decision?

  • Why did the court direct the jury to find Thomas not guilty of murder?

Lord Meadowbank stated 'the total absence of proof of his having been brought into communication with either the mother or the child … that evening … and altho’ from the contradicting and even false statements given in his declarations and various circumstances calculated to create strong suspicion of his being not only art and part [accessory] but even the chief instigator and in probability the actual perpetrator of the murder ... it would not be safe for them [the jury] on such grounds to find the prisoner guilty'.[94]

However, Kilday submits that ‘The child murder charge against Thomas Braid was found not proven by the assize [jury], largely because it was very difficult to bring a man to account for infanticide under the terms of the prevailing legislation’[95] and that the Braid case was unusual because it did not involve a newborn child and the perpetrator was a male.[96]

  • Having subsequently confessed to murder, why wasn’t Thomas retried for murder?

Notwithstanding his confession, Kilday maintains that the law in Scotland at the time prevented the case being reopened against Thomas;[97] the presumption being that having been tried and acquitted once for murder the law prevented a retrial (the current day equivalent of the double jeopardy rule).

  • Having subsequently confessed to murder, why wasn’t Thomas retried for perjury?

The answer might be found in the words of Lord Meadowbank when he stated ‘I am satisfied that there is nothing in the confession of Thomas Braid inconsistent with the evidence which was then laid before the Jury.’ [98]

Does this mean Thomas just didn’t tell ‘whole’ truth before the court or that he wasn’t asked the right questions?

  • So, when was Thomas telling the truth - before the court or in his later confession?

Perhaps we will never know.

If Thomas knew he had received the maximum sentence of transportation for life for incest and could not be retried for murder, what did he have to lose by confessing to Eliza’s murder and thereby saving his sister from the gallows?

Even so, Lord Meadowbank stated ‘I see no reason for suspecting that the confession … is unfounded and made solely with the view of saving his sister from undergoing the sentence of death …’,[99] possibly in line with the expressed doubts about his innocence in the sentencing judgments of Lords Meadowbank and Moncrieff.

Transportation and beyond

Mary, now 40 (although recorded on arrival as 36), was transported to Van Diemen’s Land (VDL) on the Hector arriving on 20 October 1835. On board she was described as ‘remarkably well behaved’.[100] Possibly still refusing to acknowledge Thomas as Eliza’s father or in an attempt to distance herself from her heartbreaking past, her notes on transportation stated ‘I had a child by a man named John Loudie … the child was found drowned’.[101]

Mary was accompanied by her daughter Mary Ann who was said to have been about 13 years old.[102]

Thomas Braid was transported to VDL aboard the William Metcalf arriving on 4 September 1834.[103] In 1838, while under assignment, he was charged with indecently exposing himself to a female infant and sentenced to fifty lashes and hard labour in chains for three years and sent Port Arthur. He was granted a ticket of leave on 17 November 1843. Thomas died at Ellerslie in VDL on 29 May 1844 while in the service of a Mr J.A. Winter with no cause of death recorded.[104]

Early years in VDL

Mary managed to keep a fairly low profile in the years following her arrival in VDL. In 1835 she was recorded as working for a Dr Ross and by 1841 she had moved to Clarence Plains and was working for SR Dawson Esq.[105]

Mary was only charged with two minor offences during her time in the colony. Firstly, for drunkenness on 20 July 1840, when she was working at Government House. She was sentenced to a cell on bread and water for thirty days and then to be returned to her government duty. Secondly, for neglect of duty on 18 December 1841, while working for Mr Sly. After being detained on probation for fourteen days in the House of Corrections in separate working cells, she was returned to the Crown for assignment in the interior.[106]

Mary was granted a ticket of leave on 27 November 1843 and was recommended for a conditional pardon for the Australian colonies on 7 October 1845 which was approved in October 1846.[107]

Twelve years after her life sentence and thousands of miles from home, she was now a free woman albeit unable ever to return to her homeland.

Did Mary remarry?

Mary came out to VDL largely under the name Braid but there are no recorded marriages for a Mary Braid in Tasmania.[108]

Engaging in a degree of speculative elimination, there are several possible marriages in Tasmania for Mary Morrison. A Mary Morrison (widow) married a William Petty (butcher) on 14 October 1851 in St George’s Church of England, Hobart.[109] Is this Mary?

In accordance with Mary’s recorded date of birth (1795), she would have been 56. There are no recorded births for this couple in Tasmania which would be consistent with her age on marriage. Furthermore, her status of ‘widow’ on marriage reflects her previous marriage to Robert Morrison.[110] Of the records available, this is the most likely to be Mary.

William Petty[111] arrived in VDL on the Canton in 1840 after being transported for fifteen years for house stealing; he was 34 on arrival (giving an assumed date of birth 1806) and had been a horse dealer; he left behind a wife (Elizabeth) and three children in Somerset; he committed a series of minor offences in VDL between 1840-1844 and received a ticket of leave on 3 March 1846; he was recommended for a conditional pardon on 5 May 1846 that was approved on 18 September 1847.[112]

Up to 1846 William was in business with Edward Cooper running coaches between Green Ponds and Hobart Town but, by October that year, the business partnership had dissolved.[113] However, William didn’t always play on the straight and narrow. In July 1849 in Hobart Town he was fined £5 and costs for ‘having a piece of leather nailed under the scale in which he weighed meat for customers’![114] He was still butchering when they were married in 1851, but by 1858 it appears they had moved to King’s Meadows near Launceston and the business was placed into insolvency.[115] William must have gone back into the transport business as, in August 1873 (about six months before his death), he was fined under the Breaches of the Cab Act for plying his cab for hire ‘without having the numbers of their licenses written or printed inside.’[116]

Mary Ann

It seems Mary’s only surviving child was Mary Ann.

On arrival in VDL, Mary Ann, then 13 years old, was admitted to the Queens Orphan School, Hobart as Mary Braid (Morrison) on 16 November 1835. She was discharged on 28 June 1836 to Dr Ross for whom her mother was working at the time.[117]

The most likely marriage for Mary Ann is that of Mary Ann Morrison (servant) to Robert Jordan Jones (servant) on 9 August 1841.[118] This marriage produced at least three children – Frances Maria in 1846, William James Jordan in 1850 and Robert Henry Jordan in 1851.[119]

What happened to Mary?

There are no hospital admissions recorded for Mary,[120] so we might assume that her life in the colony was devoid of any major illness.

If her marriage to William is correct, they probably met in Hobart and, sometime after their marriage, moved to King’s Meadows near Launceston where they remained for the next twenty years.

The most likely death for Mary is under the name of Mary Petty (widow)[121] at Launceston on 17 October 1874 aged 80, which matches her recorded birth date of 1795. Her cause of death was given as gangrene.[122]

Her ‘widow’ status on the death record is also consistent with the fact that there is a recorded death for William Petty ‘cab driver’ at Launceston on 3 March 1874 aged 69 (consistent with his assumed date of birth of 1806) and six months before Mary’s death. His cause of death was noted as senility.[123]

So, after having her life turned upside down as a young woman in Edinburgh, being pilloried by the press for her alleged crimes and ostracised by her family, she escaped death on three counts – a life threatening illness, by her own hand and at the gallows – only to find herself banished to the other side of the world. Her shame and emotional distress must have been immeasurable.

What were Mary’s real feelings for Thomas? Was she betrayed by her paramour? Was Thomas Eliza’s father? Was Thomas’ confession genuine or an opportunistic way of saving his sister from the death penalty?

We may never know the answers to these questions, and possibly more.

The last word

The inescapable truth is that Mary, along with many woman of her time, must have deeply feared the social stigma and legal ramifications of illegitimacy. Driven to desperate measures to protect herself and her child, she understandably felt she had no choice but to compromise her integrity.

Nonetheless, we can assume that, having escaped the horror of life in her homeland, she did her best to put that life behind her and live out her next forty years in as much a sense of peace as she could muster. The fact that she appeared to do so is a testament to her strength of character.

In the early days, her lifeline surely must have been Mary Ann for whom she petitioned the court in Scotland for permission to accompany her mother into an unknown future. Did Mary later seek solace in her grandchildren? Mary remained married to William for 23 years until his death. Maybe she nursed him in the last months of his life which, as he was suffering from dementia, would have been difficult. Who cared for Mary in her last days? She was, at the very least, a survivor.

Selected Bibliography

Alexander, Alison Tasmania’s Convicts: How Felons Built a Free Society, 2010, Allen & Unwin, NSW

Bennett, Rachel Capital Punishment and the Criminal Corpse in Scotland, 1740-1834, 2017, Palgrave Macmillan, London

Kilday, Anne-Marie Crime in Scotland 1660-1960: The Violent North? 2019, Routledge

PAHSMA, Pack of Thieves? 52 Female Factory Lives, 2013

 

NOTE: Much of the documentation relating to Mary’s family history, witness statements, trial notes and court judgments were researched and retrieved from the National Archives of Scotland (NAS) by Arthur Davidson, without whom this story would not have been possible. Keith Searson provided all the information in relation to the petitions and reports that followed the trial, all of which was equally essential in telling Mary’s story. Thank you to both gentlemen for their hard work on the ground in Scotland.

[1] FCRC database: https://familysearch.org/search/records/index#count=20&query=+batch_number:C11693-6.

[2] Helen Braid stated she had five sisters and one brother alive; presumably there were another two daughters unaccounted for; FCRC database: A. Davidson: Witness statement, Helen Braid, NAS, AD14/34/361; JC26/1834/354

[3] Helen was a washerwoman, never married, had one child and died in the family home at Stenhouse aged 50; FCRC database: A. Davidson: NAS, AD14/34/361; JC26/1834/354

[4] FCRC database: A. Davidson: NAS, AD14/34/361; JC26/1834/354

[5] Pringle stated in 1832 he had offered to marry Mary but denied having ‘had any connection with her’; John Pringle: Notes in Evidence, NAS, AD14/34/361; JC26/1834/354

[6] Witness statement, Charity Anderson or Hardy, NAS, AD14/34/361; JC26/1834/354

[7] Declaration of Mary Braid, Edinburgh, 19 August 1833 in the presence of George Tait, Sheriff, NAS, AD14/34/361; JC26/1834/354

[8] Further declaration of Helen Braid, 27 August 1833, NAS, AD14/34/361; JC26/1834/354

[9] Witness statement, Helen Braid, NAS, AD14/34/361; JC26/1834/354

[10] PAHSMA, Pack of Thieves? 52 Female Factory Lives, 2013 p16

[11] Further declaration of Thomas Braid, 26 October 1833, NAS, AD14/34/361; JC26/1834/354

[12] Declaration of Thomas Braid, 19 August 1833, in the presence of George Tait, Sheriff, NAS, AD14/34/361; JC26/1834/354

[13] Further declaration of Thomas Braid, 26 October 1833, NAS, AD14/34/361; JC26/1834/354

[14] Witness statement, Rev William Purdie, Clergyman, NAS, AD14/34/361; JC26/1834/354

[15] Further declaration of Thomas Braid, 26 October 1833, NAS, AD14/34/361; JC26/1834/354

[16] Witness statement, Helen Braid, NAS, AD14/34/361; JC26/1834/354

[17] Helen stated she never discussed Mary’s apparent pregnancy with her, never saw any improper conduct between Mary and Thomas and was unable to identify the body of Eliza; Helen Braid: Notes in Evidence, NAS, AD14/34/361; JC26/1834/354

[18] Ibid

[19] Mary received £12 per annum from Mr David Baillie of the British Linen Company as a result of her husband’s work accident; Declaration of Mary Braid, Edinburgh, 19 August 1833 in the presence of George Tait, Sheriff, NAS, AD14/34/361; JC26/1834/354

[20] Witness Statement, Elizabeth Campbell or Erskine, NAS, AD14/34/361; JC26/1834/354

[21] Declaration Mary Ann Morrison, undated, NAS, AD14/34/361; JC26/1834/354

[22] Ibid

[23] Witness statement, Helen Braid, NAS, AD14/34/361; JC26/1834/354

[24] Ibid

[25] Further declaration of Helen Braid, 27 August 1833, NAS, AD14/34/361; JC26/1834/354

[26] Declaration of Mary Braid, Edinburgh, 19 August 1833 in the presence of George Tait, Sheriff, NAS, AD14/34/361; JC26/1834/354

[27] Ibid

[28] Further declaration of Mary Braid, 27 August 1833, NAS, AD14/34/361; JC26/1834/354

[29] Thomas Martin, who had been in the Wordsworth Stables for 12 years, gave evidence he did not know any person named Laurie; Thomas Martin: Notes in Evidence, NAS, AD14/34/361; JC26/1834/354

[30] Witness statement Marion Tennant or Baxter, NAS, AD14/34/361; JC26/1834/354

[31] Witness statement James Liddell, Witness statement George Leslie, NAS, AD14/34/361; JC26/1834/354

[32] Report from Dr John Thatcher and Alex Black, Police Surgeon, 24 August 1833, NAS, AD14/34/361; JC26/1834/354

[33] Witness statement, Elizabeth Campbell or Erskine; Witness statement, David Erskine; Witness statement, Marion Tennant or Baxter; NAS, AD14/34/361; JC26/1834/354

[34] Note on precognition file, 22 August 1833, NAS, AD14/34/361; JC26/1834/354

[35] Certificate by Gilbert Peacock, 5 February 1834, HO17/21/BF6: findmypast.co.uk

[36]  Concealing pregnancy, &c. how to be punished.

And if, from and after the passing of this Act, any woman in Scotland shall conceal her being with child during the whole period of her pregnancy, and shall not call for and make use of help or assistance in the birth, and if the child be found dead or be amissing, the mother, being lawfully convicted thereof, shall be imprisoned for a period not exceeding two years in such common gaol or prison as the court before which she is tried shall direct and appoint.

[37] Bennett, Rachel, Capital Punishment and the Criminal Corpse in Scotland, 1740-1834, 2017, Palgrave Macmillan, London, Part I, Ch 4

[38] Kilday, Anne-Marie, Crime in Scotland 1660-1960: The Violent North? 2019, Routledge, Part I Fatal Violence, (b) Infanticide and Case Studies and Attitudes to Fatal Violence (b) Mary Braid (Nineteenth Century).

[39] The Act Anent Murthering of Children 1690 (Scotland) ‘directed juries to capitally convict women who had concealed their pregnancy and the birth of an illegitimate infant that had subsequently died, with or without direct evidence of murder.’ The onus of proof was on the mother to prove her innocence and that the child had been born dead. Bennett, Rachel, Capital Punishment and the Criminal Corpse in Scotland, 1740-1834, 2017, Palgrave Macmillan, London, Part I, Ch 4.

[40] Kilday, Anne-Marie, Crime in Scotland 1660-1960: The Violent North? 2019, Routledge, Part I Fatal Violence, Case Studies and Attitudes to Fatal Violence (b) Mary Braid (Nineteenth Century).

[41] An archaic term meaning ‘born of the same parent’

[42] Indictment: 1834 High Court Edinburgh against Thos Braid & Mary Braid or Morrison At instance of Francis Jeffrey, Advocate, NAS, AD14/34/361; JC26/1834/354

[43] Witness statement Marion Tennant or Baxter, NAS, AD14/34/361; JC26/1834/354

[44] Ibid

[45] Declaration of Mary Braid, Edinburgh, 19 August 1833 in the presence of George Tait, Sheriff, NAS, AD14/34/361; JC26/1834/354

[46] Margaret McDonald, Notes in evidence, NAS, AD14/34/361; JC26/1834/354

[47] Ibid

[48] Further declaration of Mary Braid, 27 August 1833, NAS, AD14/34/361; JC26/1834/354

[49] Ibid

[50] Kilday, Anne-Marie, Crime in Scotland 1660-1960: The Violent North? 2019, Routledge, Part I Fatal Violence, Case Studies and Attitudes to Fatal Violence (b) Mary Braid (Nineteenth Century).

[51] Report from Lord Meadowbank to Lord Justice Clerk, 9 February 1834, HO17/21/BF6: findmypast.co.uk

[52] Judgment Lord Meadowbank, NAS, AD14/34/361; JC26/1834/354

[53] Judgment Lord Moncrieff, NAS, AD14/34/361; JC26/1834/354

[54] Caledonian Mercury, 24 August 1833, NAS, AD14/34/361; JC26/1834/354

[55] Further declaration of Thomas Braid, 27 August 1833, NAS, AD14/34/361; JC26/1834/354

[56] Ibid

[57] Declaration of Thomas Braid, 19 August 1833, in the presence of George Tait, Sheriff, NAS, AD14/34/361; JC26/1834/354

[58] Further declaration of Thomas Braid, 27 August 1833, NAS, AD14/34/361; JC26/1834/354

[59] Ibid

[60] Caledonian Mercury, 30 January 1834, NAS, AD14/34/361; JC26/1834/354

[61] Judgment Lord Mackenzie, NAS, AD14/34/361; JC26/1834/354

[62] Ibid

[63] Judgment Lord Meadowbank, NAS, AD14/34/361; JC26/1834/354

[64] Ibid

[65] Report from Lord Meadowbank to Lord Justice Clerk, 9th February 1834, HO17/21/BF6: findmypast.co.uk

[66] Judgment Lord Moncrieff, NAS, AD14/34/361; JC26/1834/354

[67] Judgment Lord Meadowbank, NAS, AD14/34/361; JC26/1834/354

[68] Ibid

[69] Ibid

[70] Letter from Robert Hinster to Thomas Young Esq., 5 February 1834, HO17/21/BF6: findmypast.co.uk; there was only one dissenting juror

[71] Judgment Lord Mackenzie, NAS, AD14/34/361; JC26/1834/354

[72] Judgment Lord Moncrieff, NAS, AD14/34/361; JC26/1834/354

[73] Kilday, Anne-Marie, Crime in Scotland 1660-1960: The Violent North? 2019, Routledge, Part I Fatal Violence, Case Studies and Attitudes to Fatal Violence (b) Mary Braid (Nineteenth Century).

[74] Letter from Gilbert Peacock Esq., 4 July 1834, Edinburgh, HO17/21/BF6: findmypast.co.uk

[75] Caledonian Mercury, 13 February 1834, NAS, AD14/34/361; JC26/1834/354

[76] The full transcript of Thomas’ post trial confession is not available.

[77] Certificate by Gilbert Peacock, 5 February 1834, HO17/21/BF6: findmypast.co.uk

[78] Ibid

[79] Ibid

[80] Mary Morison, Petition for Royal Prerogative of Mercy, 1 February 1834, HO17/21/BF6: findmypast.co.uk

[81] Letter from H Rose, Governor to Lord Provost, 8 February 1834, National Jail of Scotland, HO17/21/BF6: findmypast.co.uk

[82] Certificate by Gilbert Peacock, 5 February 1834, HO17/21/BF6: findmypast.co.uk

[83] Petition for Royal Clemency for Mary Braid or Morison, HO17/21/BF6: findmypast.co.uk

[84] Report from Lord Meadowbank to Lord Justice Clerk, 9 February 1834, HO17/21/BF6: findmypast.co.uk

[85] Petition (Mary Morison), 10 April 1834, Edinburgh Jail, HO17/21/BF6: findmypast.co.uk

[86] Kilday, Anne-Marie, Crime in Scotland 1660-1960: The Violent North? 2019, Routledge, Part I Fatal Violence, Case Studies and Attitudes to Fatal Violence (b) Mary Braid (Nineteenth Century).

[87] Judgment Lord MacKenzie, NAS, AD14/34/361; JC26/1834/354

[88] Private email from Anne Marie Kilday to Helen Ménard 15 August 2021

[89] Ibid

[90] Kilday, Anne-Marie, Crime in Scotland 1660-1960: The Violent North? 2019, Routledge, Part I Fatal Violence, Case Studies and Attitudes to Fatal Violence (b) Mary Braid (Nineteenth Century).

[91] Private email from Anne Marie Kilday to Helen Ménard 20 July 2021

[92] Report from Lord Meadowbank to Lord Justice Clerk, 9th February 1834, HO17/21/BF6: findmypast.co.uk

[93] Ibid

[94] Report from Lord Meadowbank to Lord Justice Clerk, 9th February 1834, HO17/21/BF6: findmypast.co.uk

[95] Kilday, Anne-Marie, Crime in Scotland 1660-1960: The Violent North? 2019, Routledge, Part I Fatal Violence, Case Studies and Attitudes to Fatal Violence (b) Mary Braid (Nineteenth Century).

[96] Ibid

[97] Kilday, Anne-Marie, Crime in Scotland 1660-1960: The Violent North? 2019, Routledge, Part I Fatal Violence, Case Studies and Attitudes to Fatal Violence (b) Mary Braid (Nineteenth Century).

[98] Report from Lord Meadowbank to Lord Justice Clerk, 9th February 1834, HO17/21/BF6: findmypast.co.uk

[99] Ibid

[100] TAS LIB: Names Index: CON40 /1/1 p161 DI 225

[101] Ibid

[102] Ibid

[103] National Library of Australia: Convict Records of Australia

[104] TAS LIB: Names Index: CON31/1/5 p346 DI 160; RGD34/1/2/ No 1340 DI 74

[105] FCRC database: Mary Braid

[106] TAS LIB: Names Index: CON40/1/1 p161 DI 225.

[107] Ibid; this meant she would never be able to return to Scotland.

[108] Morrison was a fairly common name at this time. There were at least four other Mary or Mary Ann Morrisons who came to VDL as convicts; John Bull in 1821; Woodman in 1823 (alias Davis); Frances Charlotte in 1832; and St Vincent  in 1850; [NAT LIB of AUS: Convict Records of Australia]

[109] TAS LIB: Names Index: RGD37/1/10 No 319 DI 127.

[110] However, if ‘full age’ meant 21, she would have been born in 1830 and this would not be Mary. The fact that she was a widow would be unusual, though not impossible at 21, which would suggest that ‘full age’ simply meant an adult.

[111] There were two men named William Petty who came to VDL as convicts - one on the Fairlie in 1852 but this is after the relevant marriage date in 1851. The more likely is the William Petty who came out in 1840.

[112] TAS LIB: Names Index: CON31/1/36 p81 DI 82; CON34/1/9 p545 DI 550; CON18/1/5 p379 DI 207

[113] TROVE: Newspapers & Gazettes: Colonial Times (Hobart, Tas.: 1828 -1857) Tue 27 Oct 1846  p1 Advertising 

[114] TROVE: Newspapers & Gazettes: The Launceston Examiner (Tas.: 1842 -1899) Wed 4 Jul 1849 p6 Supreme Court Civil Sittings

[115] TROVE: Newspapers & Gazettes: The Launceston Examiner (Tas.: 1842 -1899) Sat 13 Mar 1858 p3 Advertising; TROVE: Newspapers & Gazettes: The Launceston Examiner (Tas.: 1842 -1899) Thu 25 Mar 1858 p2 Insolvent Court

[116] TROVE: Newspapers & Gazettes: The Cornwall Advertiser (Launceston, Tas.: 1870 -1877) Fri 5 Aug 1873  p5 Police Court

[117] Website: orphanschool.org.au; orphan number 438; TAS LIB: Archives: SWD28/1/1 Girls p8; for further notes on Mary Ann’s life see FCRC database / research notes under Mary Braid.

[118] TAS LIB: Names Index: RGD37/1/2 No 1330 DI 257

[119] TAS LIB: Names Index; for further notes on Mary Ann see FCRC database / research notes under Mary Braid.

[120] Under the names Braid, Morrison or Petty

[121] There are no relevant recorded deaths in Tasmania for a Mary Braid or Morrison. 

[122] TAS LIB: Names Index: RGD35/1/43 No 2514 DI 28

[123] TAS LIB: Names Index: RGD35/1/43 No 2337 DI 10

 

 

 


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For academic referencing (suggestion only) Database: [http address], FCRC Female Convicts in Van Diemen’s Land database, entry for xxxx ID no xxx, accessed [date].

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