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Catherine Barry
(St Vincent, 1850)
 By Helen Ménard



In the years from 1803 to 1853 almost 13,500 female convicts were transported from Britain and its colonies to Van Diemen’s Land (VDL) and were assigned to work all across the main island of Tasmania. Records suggest only about seven convict women were ever sent to the Furneaux Group of islands (part of Tasmania) that lie in the Bass Strait above the northeast tip of Tasmania - most for very short periods of time.[1] Only one of those women made the islands her permanent home where she married, raised a family and became a respected member of the community until she met her untimely and unfortunate death – she was Catherine Barry. In fact, Catherine was one of the first three European women to live permanently in the Furneaux Group.[2]

Catherine was born in Bristol, England between 1827 and 1829 of mother Ellen and father David Barry. She had at least two siblings – brothers John and Daniel.[3] Catherine grew up in the middle of the industrial revolution in Britain where, despite the expanding wealth of the country domestically and internationally, the urban areas that were home to millions were overcrowded, disease ridden and unsanitary slums.[4] Bristol is a city in southwest England, situated between Somerset and Gloucestershire on the tidal river Avon. It has been among the country's largest and most economically and culturally important cities for eight centuries. The late 18th and early 19th centuries saw the construction of a floating harbour, advances in shipbuilding and further industrialisation with the growth of the glass, paper, soap and chemical industries.[5]

Headed for the antipodes

Most likely, Catherine’s early years were challenging as by the time she was twenty she had spent at least eight years on the town. Her occupation was listed as house servant, laundress[6] but she did not appear in the family home in the 1841 UK census, at which time she would only have been twelve.[7] Was she already living on the streets or in a house where she might have been working?

In any event, with at least one previous conviction under her belt, Catherine appeared before the Somerset Assizes at Bridgewater on 31 July 1849,[8] together with several male co-accused, all charged with theft of £25 (14 sovereigns and other monies) from Robert Light of Bristol.[9] She was sentenced to 7 years’ transportation and, after five months in Millbank Penitentiary,[10] departed Woolwich, London aboard the convict ship St Vincent arriving in VDL on 4 April 1850.[11] The St Vincent only ever sailed two convict voyages, the second being in 1853 when it was the last ship to transport convicts to VDL.[12] Catherine travelled with 206 other women and 26 children and the ship surgeon reported her behaviour on board as ‘very good’.[13]

Catherine, 21 years old, arrived in VDL towards the end of the probation period and, although there is no date, her records suggest that she may not have undergone the customary six month probation period and was sent into service with R. G. Watt on Flinders Island shortly after arrival.[14]

The Furneaux Group

The Furneaux Group[15] (the islands) lie in Bass Strait below the southeast tip of mainland Australia and above the northeast tip of the island of Tasmania. They form part of a group of islands stretching across Bass Strait, the highlands of a mountainous land bridge that joined the Australian continent and Tasmania approximately 10-15 thousand years ago.[16] More than 50 islands make up the group.[17] The three largest are Flinders Island, Cape Barren Island and Clarke Island. Flinders Island is 75 kilometres long by 40 kilometres wide and both Flinders and Cape Barren Islands have large mountainous areas.[18]

It appears that humans inhabited the Furneaux Group for some time after the separation of Tasmania from the continent of Australia and it was after the flooding of Bass Strait that the islands were finally deserted. There is evidence suggesting that people survived on Flinders Island up until about 4000 years ago and, after they disappeared, the islands remained untouched by human contact for thousands of years. Prior to the arrival of Europeans in 1797, they were the only area of reasonable size that had been unaffected by human occupation for such a long period of time. As a result, the islands teemed with exploitable wildlife—seals, fish, seabirds, wallabies and geese.[19]

By the time European women arrived in the islands, white sealers had been living there with their Aboriginal female companions for at least two decades. Consequently, the earliest white women settlers encountered a developing community comprised of white men, Aboriginal women and their children.[20]

The first European women who settled in the Furneaux Group were isolated from colonial civilisation, not only by distance, but also by hazardous and difficult-to-navigate seas. During the nineteenth century a large number of ships were wrecked in the waters off the Furneaux Group. The islands are situated in the path of the 'Roaring Forties' — winds that blow from the west and which are frequently of gale force. These strong winds add to the difficulty of navigating waters containing numerous hidden rocks and sandbars, as well as complex tides and currents - making them possibly the most treacherous and dangerous waters in the world.[21]

Catherine and Charles

Catherine Barry had a clean conduct record while under sentence in VDL and was granted a ticket of leave in November 1852 which was revoked in October 1853, presumably because she hadn’t served the required time under the regulations.[22] She would have been free by servitude in July 1856.

However, in July 1851 she was granted permission to marry Charles Harley (free).[23] They married at George Town on 4 August 1851 – he 31, a bachelor and sealer and she 24, a spinster and pass holder.[24] Together they had five children – Charles Henry (1852-1885); Theodosia Mary (1853/4-1902); Helen Julia (1861-1925); David (1863-1885); and Thomas Kelso (1865-1885).[25]

Charles Henry Harley (Snr) is said to have arrived in VDL around 1851 and was apparently a Colour Sergeant in the Sappers and Miners.[26] In 1854 he was noted as residing at Settlement Point, Flinders Island with his wife and two children.[27] Catherine and Charles eventually settled at Puncheon Head on Cape Barren Island where they built a comfortable homestead. Charles Harley had purchased the 50 acres containing the homestead and leased another 500 acres. The family also leased a substantial holding on Kangaroo Island.[28] The Harley family played an important part in the early history of the Furneaux Islands[29] and Charles Henry (Snr), a sheep farmer, died aged 72 at Kangaroo Island on 18 September 1890 from paralysis of the heart;[30] some eleven years after his wife Catherine.

In his will, dated 5 June 1883, Charles Henry (Snr) devised his estate on Cape Barren Island equally to all his children with the homestead going to Charles Henry (Jnr).[31] After the tragic death of his three sons in 1885, a codicil executed in 1887 distributed property previously devised to his sons to various of his grandchildren – Charles Henry,[32] Vida Thomasina and William Riddle.[33] One can’t help wondering to what extent the inevitable despair he must have suffered after his sons’ deaths contributed to his own demise.

Catherine’s children

Charles Henry Harley was born on Chappell Island and married Marie Antoinette Perrin on 3 February 1875.[34] Marie Antoinette (always known as Jane) was the daughter of Mauritius born Elizabeth Matilda Perrin[35] (first married to Virieux then Davis then Robinson and best known as Elizabeth Robinson) whose life as a pioneering woman in the Bass Straits islands was legendary. After the death of her second husband Captain Davis in 1864, Elizabeth bought land on Green Island and moved there with her daughter Jane. The two women built a house, erected fences and stockyards, and planted gardens. Together they established a productive sheep farm on Green Island and purchased two boats to enable trade with Launceston.[36] They were also credited with eliminating hundreds of snakes and thousands of rabbits from the island.[37]

After Jane married Charles, they went to live at Puncheon Head on Cape Barren Island where they had six children between 1876 and 1884, the last of whom died three days after birth in November 1884.[38] Six months later Jane was to watch as her husband, only 34 years old, and his two younger brothers drowned at sea.

The demise of the Gem was reported as follows:

On a Sunday morning, April 26 last, the cutter Gem … built at the Straits by Mr Chas. Harley [Snr] left Kangaroo Island for Chapel Island, a distance of about four miles. The crew numbered three brothers, Charles, David, and Thomas Harley …

As at this time [it is] the fatting, oiling, and birding season, by which nearly the whole of the inhabitants of the Straits derive their means of subsistence, the traffic carried on by the little Straits fleet is very brisk, and it was in running across to one of the most important fattening stations that the young islanders met their fate. The weather at the time of starting was not at all fine, and a storm was evidently brewing, as the wind and sea were increasing perceptibly. When about half the distance had been traversed, Miss Beadon, who had been watching the little vessel, in company with Mrs Charles Harley, saw the boat suddenly disappear, but no serious fears were then entertained, as it was supposed the sail had been taken down on account of the squalls.

About three days afterwards, however, a boat came across from Chapel Island to Kangaroo Island and reported that nothing had been seen of the Gem, or any of her crew … a search party was mustered, and the shores of the neighboring islands closely inspected, with the result that the dingy, a box which was on the deck, and a long oar or sweep were picked up, but no trace of any of the bodies has, up to the present, been seen …

The Harley family are perhaps the oldest and best known white residents on the Straits, Mr Chas. Harley, sen., father of the deceased, who is still living on one of the islands, being one of the oldest lessees. His kindness to ship wrecked crews is widely known to most toilers of the sea who traffic in the neighborhood of the Straits.[39]

After Charles’ death Jane, in partnership with her sister-in-law Helen Harley, worked on the farm together on Kangaroo Island until Jane (Maria Antoinette Harley) died aged 59 in November 1905 at her daughter Kate’s home on Flinders Island.[40] She bequeathed her interest in Green Island equally to her four daughters.[41]

Theodosia Mary Harley was only 14 when, with her father’s consent, she married John Riddle aged 75 – a sheep farmer on Vansittart Island – in December 1867.[42] Four years later, in January 1872, she lodged a maintenance claim asserting that Riddle had left her and her infant son without financial support. She alleged that she had lived with Riddle on Vansittart Island for two years after the marriage and, around the time of the birth of her son William Henry,[43] he withdrew support, having sent her home to live with her mother during her confinement as she was ‘of no convenience to him’.[44] Riddle, who was occasionally living with and supporting several other women on the island, disputed the paternity of the child alleging the father was Samuel Barrett who purportedly visited his wife during Riddle’s absences. The court found there was no proof of adultery and ordered Riddle to pay 15 shillings a week maintenance for his wife and child.[45] Refusing to accept the court’s order, Riddle was sentenced to 12 months’ imprisonment and died in Launceston Gaol on 2 November 1872.[46]

So, who was William’s father?

Regardless, in May 1882, Theodosia (Biddle) married her supposed paramour Samuel Knox Barrett[47] and, over the next fifteen years while sheep farming on Waterhouse Island, had nine children.[48] Theodosia Barrett died on 14 October 1902 aged only 48,[49] leaving a will executed in 1900 devising her entire estate to her husband.[50] Samuel Barrett died on 2 June 1916 in the Launceston Home for Invalids[51] with a will dividing his estate between two of his three daughters and two of five his sons.[52]

Helen Julia Harley never married and spent her whole life living and working around the islands. She worked on the farm on Kangaroo Island with her sister-in-law Jane until Jane’s death in 1905 and soon thereafter moved to Flinders Island where she lived with her niece Vida Hammond. Vida was her brother David Harley’s only daughter and, after his death at sea before Vida was born, Helen had played a large part in Vida’s upbringing.[53] Helen died at Vida’s home at Blue Rocks, Flinders Island on 30 May 1925,[54] leaving Vida the executor and sole beneficiary of her estate.[55] Helen was described as ‘one of the longest established and best known and respected of the residents of the Straits Islands’ and ‘of a most kindly and generous disposition, and exceedingly hospitale [sic], always extending the hand of cordial welcome to any strangers or visitors to the island.’[56]

David Harley married Annie McEvoy in February 1885[57] and three months later died at sea leaving a newlywed and pregnant wife.[58] He was only 22. His only daughter Vida Thomasina was born in November the same year.[59] David’s wife Annie later married James Edwin McGowan in 1887 and they had four children.[60]

Thomas Kelso Harley was only 20 when he died at sea in 1885 with his older brothers.[61]

Life on the islands

Apart from physically arduous household work – washing, cleaning and carting water – Sheryl Brennan posits that

Cooking for the family was the other major inside task faced by women. Women baked their own bread, churned their own butter, often by hand, made all their jams and pickles and grew and preserved vegetables and fruit. They also milked the household cow and cared for the fowl yard. Game, fish and meat were usually hunted, caught or killed by the men and most island families ate considerable amounts of fish, mutton bird and wallaby. Without refrigeration meat was often salted and stored in barrels for later use. Mutton birds would be caught throughout the season and salted and eaten for the remainder of the year.[62]

Mutton birding was a serious enterprise for the Harleys. The family mutton-birding season could not be managed without both men and women and each was equally necessary to its success. The annual trek to the outer islands and the long hours spent in the processing sheds, as well as trying to continue their domestic work, was exhausting for women. For many families, the driving force behind participating in the bird harvest was the possibility of earning a reasonable amount of money that could help carry them through the rest of the year. Although the season only lasted five to six weeks in March and April it was a gruelling time for adult women. Domestic work, performed under far more difficult situations than at home, continued on top of the eight or more hours a day women spent in the bird processing sheds.[63] However, the mutton-bird season was also seen as a high point of island community life.[64]

The mutton bird, often called the sooty petrel, spends June to August in the coastal region of north-east Siberia before flying south in September and October to the southern coastline of Australia. Over 80 per cent of the world's population of 23 million birds breed in Tasmania, with the largest colonies in Bass Strait, particularly in the Furneaux Group. It is estimated that the bird population in the nineteenth century may have reached several hundred million.[65] This abundant, and easily caught, food supply was part of the traditional diet of Tasmania's Indigenous people. Egging and mutton-birding— the collecting of eggs in November and the catching of fledglings in April— were important seasonal activities. With the decline in the Bass Strait sealing industry, sealers were introduced to mutton-birding by Aboriginal women. During the nineteenth century the existence of the mixed race Aboriginal-European community was dependent upon a subsistence economy based upon mutton-birding as the core industry. Mutton bird by-products were also exploited by the Strait's population and, for a time, oil and feathers were exported to Launceston along with salted birds.[66]

At a broader community level, services on the islands at this time were non-existent. There were no made roads, public transport services, public schools or medical services forcing residents to travel to Launceston for medical treatment – if they could afford to do so.[67] Supplies that couldn’t be made, grown or farmed on the islands arrived by sea transport which was unreliable due to frequent storms and wild seas.[68] Their isolation was epitomised by the way in which those on the outer, smaller islands communicated with those on the larger islands.

Each night at 5 o'clock we would light a fire and we would answer each other. Everything was alright [when one fire was lit]. But if they needed help, or were in trouble there would be two fires and then if there was a case of death they would light three fires. And you'd answer by your fire. If you saw two fires the men got in a boat and went to investigate —that is how we communicated.[69]

At the start of the twentieth century administration of and funding for the islands was described in part as follows:

After having previously been joined to the Ringarooma district, the Straits Islands have now been made into a separate assessment district. It was absolutely impossible for the authorities to attend to the assessment meetings on the mainland. Among many other drawbacks the want of proper roads and better mail communication is very severely felt. The Straits are, indeed, shamefully treated by the Tasmanian Government. A revenue of £1200, or thereabouts, flows yearly into the Treasury, but nothing is spent for the benefit of the inhabitants of the Straits, with the exception of a paltry sum for the conveyance of the mail …

The Road Trust has carefully and economically used its small means for the improvement of tracks. Flinders Island was not fortunate enough to secure a place on the list of grants for roads and bridges.[70]

This was all part and parcel of the life that Catherine lived. Catherine Harley died on Cape Barren Island on 3 December 1879, aged 52, from tetanus.[71] Her obituary read as follows:

During the last week in November Mrs C. Harley, Snr died at her residence, Cape Barren Island, from tetanus supervening on snake bite. While working in the garden with her husband transplanting onions she was bitten by a snake on one of the fingers of the right hand. Her husband tied a string round the finger, and then cut the finger off. The wound appeared to be getting all right again but fifteen days after the amputation, Mrs Harley died through lockjaw [tetanus].

The deceased leaves a husband and a large family of children and grandchildren to mourn her loss. In Launceston she was well known and was quite an identity.[72]

The last word

After a somewhat difficult and impoverished existence as teenager on the streets of industrialised Britain, it seems that Catherine settled into colonial life in the Bass Strait islands, quietly raising her family while, at the same time, sharing work on the farm and being actively involved in the mutton birding activities. Having died six years earlier, she was spared her husband’s undoubted devastation at the premature and heart-breaking death of their three sons. She was a foundation member of female European settlement on the islands and, with her family that followed, an integral part of the islands’ history and development.

As a troubled young woman in Bristol did Catherine in any way plan for the chance to start a new life? Did she imagine that life in the antipodes might be easier? Given her isolation in the islands it is unlikely that she ever had any contact with her family in England. Nonetheless, she appeared to make the most of her circumstances and lived a contented, crime free life with a devoted husband and family. Surely, her story must be one of the more unique of the thousands of young girls taken from the streets of Britain and transported half a world away.



[1] FCRC database; three women were sent to Flinders Island between 1833 and 1837 (Ann Bostock, Eleanor Brown & Priscilla Marshall) and another three between 1852 and 1854 (Sarah Pemberton, Mary Ann Harris & Sarah Todd) none of whom stayed longer than a few months.

[2] Sheryl Brennan, Island Women: An oral history 1910 -1960, School of History and Classics, University of Tasmania, 2002 p 49

[3] LIB TAS: Names Index: CON15/1/6 pp 52-3 DI 56; one of the death notices for Catherine (Harley) stated she was ‘the fourth daughter of Mr David Barry of Bristol, England’. TROVE: The Cornwall Chronicle (Launceston, Tas.: 1835 - 1880) Fri 16 Jan 1880 p 2 Family Notices. Her brother Daniel was said to have enquired of Catherine when he was a staff sergeant at Fort William, Calcutta, India. See CON41/1/25 DI 20; no further definitive records could be found of Catherine’s family in England. Familysearch.org; https://www.irishgenealogy.ie/en/; ancestry.com

[4] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/19th-century_London#cite_note-5

[5] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_Bristol

[6] LIB TAS: Names Index: CON15/1/6 pp 52-3 DI 56; LIB TAS: Names Index: CON19/1/8 DI 58

[7] 1841 England, Scotland & Wales Census Class: HO107; Piece: 371; Book: 2; Civil Parish: St Augustine The Less; County: Gloucestershire; Enumeration District: 6; Folio: 7; Page: 10; Line: 11; GSU roll: 288782; listed as living at Mast street, Bristol were David Barry, 48 or 43, Tailor, born Ireland; Ellen Barry, 42, born Ireland and Daniel Barry, 14, born in County.

[8] https://www.nla.gov.au/research-guides/convicts/transportation-arrival

[9] LIB TAS: Names Index: CON41/1/25 DI 20; LIB TAS: Names Index: CON15/1/6 pp 52-3 DI 56; see also Taunton Courier and Western Advertiser 01 August 1849

[10] Surgeon’s Journal of Her Majesty’s Female Convict Ship St Vincent Mr Samuel Donnelly, Surgeon Between the 7th December 1849 and the 17th April 1850 Adm. 101/66/2

[11] LIB TAS: Names Index: CON41/1/25 DI 20

[12] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/St_Vincent_(1829

[13] LIB TAS: Names Index: CON41/1/25 DI 20

[14] LIB TAS: Names Index: CON41/1/25 DI 20

[15] Named after Tobias Furneaux who first discovered Flinders Island in 1773. https://www.flinders.tas.gov.au/furneaux-history

[16] Sheryl Brennan, Island Women: An oral history 1910 -1960, School of History and Classics, University of Tasmania, 2002 p 38; https://eprints.utas.edu.au/19131/1/whole_BrennanSherylNilma2002_thesis.pdf

[17] Including Outer Sister, Inner Sister, Babel, Prime Seal, Isabella, Big Chalky, Little Chalky, Mile, Big Green, Little Green, Tin Kettle, Woody, East Kangaroo (Kangaroo), Anderson, Mt Chappel, Badger, Little Badger, Goose, Little Goose, Great Dog, Little Dog, Long, Puncheon, Waterhouse and Vansittart Islands – most of which were uninhabited but were often leased to run sheep. See map Sheryl Brennan, Island Women: An oral history 1910 -1960, School of History and Classics, University of Tasmania, 2002 p 39; see also TROVE: Launceston Examiner Wed 23 May 1883, p3 VISIT TO THE ISLANDS IN BASS STRAITS; Launceston Examiner Mon 28 May 1883, p3 VISIT TO THE ISLANDS IN BASS STRAITS; Tasmanian (Launceston, Tas., 1881-1895) Sat 9 Jun 1883, p 621 VISIT TO THE ISLANDS IN BASS STRAITS

[18] Sheryl Brennan, Island Women: An oral history 1910 -1960, School of History and Classics, University of Tasmania, 2002 p 38

[19] Ibid pp 41-42

[20] Ibid p 41

[21] Ibid p 38

[22] A 7 year sentence required a convict to have served four years which could be reduced by several months for every continuous year of service with the same employer.

[23] LIB TAS: Names Index: CON52/1/3 p 221

[24] LIB TAS: Names Index: RGD37/1/10 N 653

[25] LIB TAS: Names Index; TROVE: Examiner, Launceston 11 May 1885; TROVE: Daily Telegraph, Launceston, 28 May 1885; there are no official birth records for any of these children who were all most probably born in the islands. Ancestry.com.au Barrett Family Tree suggests Charles Henry was born 28 Oct 1852, Chappell Island. Theodosia’s age on death is given as 48. See TROVE: Daily Telegraph (Launceston, Tas.: 1883-1928) Wed 15 Oct 1902 p1 Family Notices

[26] Sheryl Brennan, Island Women: An oral history 1910 -1960, School of History and Classics, University of Tasmania, 2002 p 49, fn 45 Murray-Smith, Mission to the Islands, Principal Personalities p. xxix;

A sapper, in the sense first used by the French military, was one who dug trenches to allow besieging forces to advance towards the enemy defensive works and forts, over ground that is under the defenders' musket or artillery fire. An additional term applied to sappers of the British Indian Army was "miner.” The native engineer corps were called "sappers and miners". The term arose from a task done by sappers to further the battle after saps were dug. The saps permitted cannon to be brought into firing range of the besieged fort and its cannon … The engineers would dig a tunnel from the forward-most sap up to and under the fort wall, then place a charge of gunpowder and ignite it, causing a tremendous explosion that would destroy the wall and permit attacking infantry to close with the enemy. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sapper#:~:text=An%20additional%20term%20applied%20to,battle%20after%20saps%20were%20dug.

[27] Sheryl Brennan, Island Women: An oral history 1910 -1960, School of History and Classics, University of Tasmania, 2002 p 49; fn 46 Nixon, The Cruise of the Beacon, pp. 368-438.

[28] Ibid; fn 47 Furneaux Museum, Album 49, The Harley Family. Throughout this period Kangaroo Island is the only name used. It is now referred to as East Kangaroo Island and it is to be assumed the renaming took place once Kangaroo Island in the Petrel group off the northwest coast of Tasmania was so named. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/East_Kangaroo_Island; https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kangaroo_Island_(disambiguation)

[29] Sheryl Brennan, Island Women: An oral history 1910 -1960, School of History and Classics, University of Tasmania, 2002 p 49

[30] LIB TAS: Names Index: RGD35/1/59 no 755; TROVE: Launceston Examiner, 20 Nov 1890, page 1

[31] LIB TAS: Names Index: AD960/1/18 Will No 4029

[32] This is most likely an error in the will as the gift was to the son of Charles Henry (deceased) and Charles Henry Jnr’s only surviving son was Charles David; LIB TAS: Names Index: RGD33/1/62 N 882 DI 108

[33] LIB TAS: Names Index: RGD33/1/62 N 882 DI 108

[34] LIB TAS: Names Index: RGD37/1/34 N 396 DI 222; see also Barrett family tree on ancestry.com.au

[35] Mrs Robinson had two children, Jules (born in Mauritius) and her adopted daughter Marie Antoinette (always known as Jane). Over time she used the names Marie Antoinette, Jane and Davis, Brown and Perrin interchangeably! Jane's origin is uncertain. The most widely accepted story is that Mrs Robinson adopted her during her travels as the wife of Captain Davis. It is also commonly thought that she may have been the child of Mrs Robinson's sister. As well, the suggestion that she might have been Mrs Robinson's natural daughter has been made and, while less readily accepted by her descendants, it has not been refuted. See Sheryl Brennan, Island Women: An oral history 1910 -1960, School of History and Classics, University of Tasmania, 2002 p 53, fn 57

[36] Sheryl Brennan, Island Women: An oral history 1910 -1960, School of History and Classics, University of Tasmania, 2002 p 54

[37] Ibid p 55; Snakes are far more common in the islands than on the Tasmanian mainland. Three snakes exist in the Furneaux Islands, tiger snakes, copperheads and white-lipped snakes. The tiger snake is particularly common and preys on mutton bird chicks in season. Ibid p 98 fn 29.

Elizabeth Robinson died in 1909 aged 85 on Green Island. See TROVE: Examiner (Launceston, Tas.: 1900-1954) Thu 22 Apr 1909, p5, About People.

[38] LIB TAS: Names Index: RGD35/1/54 N 716 DI 88. Further details of this family can be found in the research notes under Catherine Barry in the FCRC database.

[39] TROVE: Daily Telegraph (Launceston, Tas.: 1883-1928) Thu 28 May 1885 p3, THE LOSS OF THE CUTTER GEM AND ALL HANDS.

[40] TROVE: Examiner (Launceston, Tas.: 1900-1954) Fri 1 Dec 1905 p 5 STRAITS ISLANDS. Further details of this family can be found in the research notes under Catherine Barry in the FCRC database.

TROVE: Examiner (Launceston, Tas.: 1900 - 1954) Sat 6 June 1925 - Page 13:

[41] Sheryl Brennan, Island Women: An oral history 1910 -1960, School of History and Classics, University of Tasmania, 2002 p 135, fn 62

[42] LIB TAS: Names Index: RGD37/1/26 N 423 DI 241; marriage records state she was 18 but this is inconsistent with other records.

[43] There is no official record of William Henry’s birth, but media reports of the maintenance dispute suggest it was March 1870, despite him stating he was 24 on marriage in 1891. (RGD37/1/50 N3 DI 1). William Henry Riddle married Amy Simpson in 1891 and had 5 children. Further details of this family can be found in the research notes under Catherine Barry in the FCRC database.

[44] TROVE: Launceston Examiner (Tas.: 1842 - 1899) Saturday 13 January 1872, Page 5; TROVE: Cornwall Advertiser (Launceston, Tas.: 1870 - 1877) Tuesday 16 January 1872, Page 2

[45] Ibid

[46] LIB TAS: Names Index: RGD35/1/42 N1940 DI 1; SC195/1/55 Inquest 7116; POL709/1/9 p 182 (1872)

[47] LIB TAS: Names Index: RGD37/1/41 no 656 DI 323

[48] LIB TAS: Names Index; Further details of this family can be found in the research notes under Catherine Barry in the FCRC database.

[49] LIB TAS: Names Index: 1980095; TROVE: Daily Telegraph (Launceston, Tas.: 1883-1928) Wed 15 Oct 1902 p 1 Family Notices

[50] LIB TAS: Names Index: AD960/1/24, page 344, Will 6074

[51] LIB TAS: Names Index: 2008185; A Home for Invalids was built in South Launceston in 1913, which ran until 1954, when it was replaced by Cosgrove Park Home for the Aged. It replaced the Launceston Invalid Asylum established in 1868 and closed in 1912. https://www.utas.edu.au/library/companion_to_tasmanian_history/L/Launceston%20Invalid%20Depot.htm

[52] LIB TAS: Names Index: AD960/1/39 Will N 10398 DI 1-2; Winifred, Rena, Theodore and Charles.

[53] TROVE: Examiner (Launceston, Tas.: 1900 - 1954) Sat 6 June 1925, Page 13

[54] LIB TAS: Names Index: 2027028

[55] LIB TAS: Names Index: AS960/1/49 Will No 15318 DI 1

[56] TROVE: Examiner (Launceston, Tas.: 1900 - 1954) Sat 6 June 1925, Page 13

[57] LIB TAS: Names Index: RGD37/1/44 no 726

[58] TROVE: Daily Telegraph (Launceston, Tas.: 1883-1928) Thu 28 May 1885 p 3, THE LOSS OF THE CUTTER GEM AND ALL HANDS.

[59] LIB TAS: Names Index: RGD33/1/64 N 1706 DI 187; Further details of this family can be found in the research notes under Catherine Barry in the FCRC database.

[60] LIB TAS: Names Index: RGD37/1/46 N 447; Further details of this family can be found in the research notes under Catherine Barry in the FCRC database.

[61] TROVE: Daily Telegraph (Launceston, Tas.: 1883-1928) Thu 28 May 1885 p 3, THE LOSS OF THE CUTTER GEM AND ALL HANDS.

[62] Sheryl Brennan, Island Women: An oral history 1910 -1960, School of History and Classics, University of Tasmania, 2002 pp 170-72

[63] Ibid pp 175-78

[64] Ibid p 135

[65] Sheryl Brennan, Island Women: An oral history 1910 -1960, School of History and Classics, University of Tasmania, 2002 pp 133-134

[66] Ibid; see also pp 136-141

[67] Ibid pp 108-127; children were educated by a combination of home schooling, correspondence, private tutors and small private schools on the larger islands.

[68] Ibid p 143

[69] Ibid p 211 fn 66

[70] TROVE: Daily Telegraph (Launceston, Tas.: 1883-1928) Mon 18 Dec 1905 p3 Country News

[71] LIB TAS: Names Index: RGD35/1/49 N 238

[72] TROVE: Launceston Examiner 23 December 1879, Obituary; The Cornwall Chronicle (Launceston, Tas.: 1835-1880) Fri 16 Jan 1880 p 2 Family Notices

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FCRC Seminar: Sunday 5 May 2024:  Call for papers

Topic: Freedom: Time served, moving on

This seminar will focus on the pathways to freedom for convict women and will explore the lives they led once emancipated.

Possible topics may include:

  • Pathways to freedom.
  • Emancipation – prosperity or poverty? How the emancipated women lived out the rest of their lives. Individual stories.
  • Exploring subsets – return to their home country, moving to another colony or country; marriage; non-marriage; business women; relying on the State to survive.

If you would like to present a 20-minute paper at the seminar, please forward an abstract for consideration to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. by 20 October 2023. The abstract should outline your intended topic, the points you will highlight and the sources you will be using to inform your paper.


Call for submissions for the next Convict Women's Press book: Convict Motherhood

Cut-off date for submissions extended to 14 October.

You are invited to submit a chapter for the next CWP book, provisionally titled Convict Motherhood. It will cover all aspects of this fascinating topic:

  • women with children in Britain prior to conviction
  • those who brought children with them
  • childbirth on board ship
  • the loss of children and mothers
  • children born under sentence at convict institutions
  • children born elsewhere
  • children born once women free again

How did women cope with the stresses of the convict system? How did they experience childbirth and child rearing? How many did/could not have children? How did these experiences affect children?

We are looking for papers under 2000 words, about individual convict women, groups of women or more abstract discussions of the topic.

If you are interested, please submit a 100-word abstract by 14 October to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. 



The 13th BIENNIAL CONFERENCE of the George Town & District Historical Society Inc.


This conference will be held in the Performing Arts Centre at the Port Dalrymple School with registrations from 8.45 am ready for a 9.15 am start and finishing around 4 pm. Registration required.

Website: www.gtdhs.com


The Marita Bardenhagen Memorial Award

The Marita Bardenhagen Memorial Award for Local History is a biennial prize acknowledging outstanding original research in the field of local history with significant Tasmanian content.  Applications are now open for the 2023 Award and will close on 30 September.

To obtain an entry form, please contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or phone 0409 140 657.

Recent Updates

Whats new?

Latest Convict Stories

View all Convict Stories


Latest Blogs

View all Blog Posts


Other Updates:

Voyages: The Voyage of the Tasmania 1844, including a map of the voyage, by Dee Hoole (14/09/2023)

Convict Ships  Martin Luther 1852, Surgeon's Journal, transcription courtesy of Colleen Arulappu (10/07/2023)

Books, Theses & Reports - Convict Orphans by Lucy Frost. (14/06/2023)

Books, Theses & Reports - Convict Lives:  Young girls transported to Van Diemen's Land edited by Alison Alexander (4/05/2023)

Freedoms - The Path to Freedom. Page updated and edited by Helen Menard 1/05/2023, to include  'Freedom v emancipation'.

Featured in Publications - A list of VDL convict women featured in publications (compiled and updated by Ros Escott April 2023).

Pre-Transportation: The British Justice System in the 18th & 19th Centuries -  A new page for the website, contributed by Helen Menard 18/03/2023.

Terms of Access - Additional Policy for accessing and using our website (6/02/2023)


GTDHS 13th Conference   

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