[Royal Admiral, 4, 1842]


Don Bradmore

Between 1812 and 1853, 13,500 (approx.) women were transported as convicts to Van Diemen’s Land (VDL). Most of them were young, poor and uneducated. Torn from their families and friends with little hope of ever being re-united with them, many lived wretchedly unhappy lives. Ill-treated by disdaining masters and mistresses to whom they were assigned as servants, humiliated and abused by cruel gaolers and subservient always to the whims and mandates of a patriarchal society, some made hasty marriages which they soon regretted. Others sought the companionship of unruly acquaintances and reverted to crime or turned to alcohol to ease the pain of their existence. In doing so, they were locked away in prisons for lengthy periods, lost whatever dignity remained to them, and died before their time in misery and poverty. There were still others, however, who were prepared to make the most of their changed circumstances and took the opportunity to make better lives for themselves than ever they could have hoped for previously. While a few went into business for themselves with great success, most became ordinary and peaceful citizens - good wives and mothers - and, in doing so, helped to forge a new nation. Among this latter group was Mary Harford who arrived in Van Diemen’s Land (VDL) aboard Royal Admiral in September 1842.[1] She was twenty-four years old and single. She married twice, first in VDL in 1845 and later in the neighbouring colony of Victoria after her first husband had passed away. She gave birth to seven children, lived a blemish-free, unostentatious but comfortable life and died at the age of sixty-seven, a much-loved and seemingly-contented woman. But who could ever have imagined that her life would have turned out so well? A year before her transportation, she had been convicted of stealing a watch from a man in a brothel - and then attempting to cut his throat! She had been sentenced to ten-years of penal servitude

This is Mary’s story:

Very little is known about Mary before her conviction and transportation. All that is known with certainty is that ‘Mary Harford’ was not her real name. She was born ‘Mary Jane Mockridge’, the daughter of Robert and Mary Mockridge (also seen as ‘MacKridge’) at Staunton, Somerset, England.[2] Was ‘Harford’ (or ‘Hartford’) her mother’s maiden name, perhaps?  It is possible that she had adopted the surname ‘Harford’ when convicted to hide her shame and to avoid bringing dishonour to her family - as many other women who were transported had done – but there is some evidence to suggest that she was using the surname ‘Harford’ or ‘Hartford’ (or some variant) even before she committed the crime that led to her banishment.

A brief report of Mary’s trial at the Bristol Quarter Sessions gives scant – and somewhat confusing details – of her crime. According to the Bristol Times and Mirror on 22 October 1841:

Mary Harper [sic] was indicted for stealing a silver watch from the person of Job Tanner, in a brothel, in Lewin’s Mead, and also for attempting to cut his throat. Guilty, ten years’ transportation.[3]    

The reference here to Mary as ‘Harper’ seems to have been a reporter’s error - but an understandable one, perhaps, because of the similarity of the names ‘Harper’ and ‘Harford’. As the incident took place in a brothel, it is reasonable to assume that Mary was working as a prostitute at the time.

After her trial, Mary was held in an English gaol for some months before being put aboard Royal Admiral which, with 204 female convicts and seventeen of their children, as well as two free women and their seven children, left Woolwich bound for VDL on 5 May 1842.[4]

The voyage was to be a long and very troubled one.[5]

Even before the ship had left port, there were problems. In the medical journal which he kept during the voyage, Dr. John Roberts, the ship’s surgeon, described the dramatic events which occurred on the ship in the days before departure:

The ship, shortly after my joining [on 22 February 1842], was placed under peculiar circumstances, the first mate (Bell) was drunk excessively for five days and the Master (Weakner) not on board, and early on the second morning following his return, he jumped out from his cabin window and was drowned. The mate after this attempted to destroy himself in the steward’s berth, and he was obliged to be confined with a guard over him, until the arrival of the owner, when he was discharged. A [new] Master was put in temporary command [but] when the crew refused duty, another Master (Captain. T. Fell) was permanently appointed and before leaving England he discharged the second mate … A new first mate that had joined us and others were appointed. Some of the crew returned to their duty and others [were] procured.[6]

This was a bad start – but much worse was to come! 

Continuing, Roberts wrote that all had gone well until the vessel crossed the equator. Then, one morning, the men who had supposedly been on watch during the night were found to be drunk. It was soon discovered that a young, slightly-built apprentice had managed to crawl through a small aperture near his bunk and get into a hold where the ship’s provisions of rum were stored. He had brought out a quantity of it and had handed it to members of the crew.

Of course, the ship’s officers had acted quickly to prevent this from happening again and, when a deputation of the men came forward to beg forgiveness from the captain, all seemed to have returned to normal.

However, when Royal Admiral docked at the Cape of Good Hope to replenish supplies, Captain Fell had suspended from duty several men whom he suspected of being involved in the rum affair and had others confined to their quarters. He also dismissed the first mate, a man by the name of Barker, charging him with ‘mutinous behavior at sea’ a few days earlier.

According to Roberts, the remaining members of the crew took grave exception to Fell’s actions and, as the voyage progressed, became even more insubordinate. On 8 September, a crewman by the name of Kelly refused an order from one of the ship’s officers. Captain Fell had then gone towards Kelly with a loaded pistol and, when Kelly continued to defy him, he had fired directly towards him. Fortunately (for Kelly), the pistol misfired. Kelly was then put in handcuffs. But, again, the crew had thought that Fell’s actions were unreasonable and had refused to work for the remainder of the voyage. The ship had been worked by the officers and a few crewmen who had remained loyal to them until it had reached Hobart.

On 24 September 1842, the ship eventually arrived. The voyage had taken 142 days, one of the longest passages recorded for a convict ship from England in the past two or three decades.[7] Upon arrival, thirteen crewmen were taken to prison in handcuffs by the local police. All were sentenced to spend three months on the tread mill.[8]

Roberts finished his report with words of praise for the behaviour of the prisoners during the voyage. He wrote: ‘… all the women behaved extremely praiseworthy and orderly during it.[9]

Although none of the women were mentioned by name in Roberts’s report, it was to become known later that two of the women, Mary Harford and Elizabeth Dyer, had distinguished themselves particularly by assisting the captain and officers when the mutinous members of the crew had been preparing to take over the ship.[10]

At Hobart, Mary stated her offence simply as ‘stealing a watch from the person’. There is no mention in her convict documents that the offence took place in a brothel, or that the man from whom she had taken the watch was named Job Tanner, or that she had attempted to cut his throat. Is it possible, therefore, that the report of her trial which was published in the Bristol Times and Mirror of 22 October 1841 was inaccurate – or that that report does not refer to Mary Harford at all?[11]  There is certainly room for doubt.

As with all prisoners, a physical description of Mary was written into her convict documents upon arrival in VDL. She was said to be twenty-four years old and single. Her complexion was described as ‘sallow’. She had brown hair and blue eyes. Her height was not recorded. She was able to both read and write. She was a ‘seamstress’ by trade. She was of the Church of England faith. She was allocated Police Number 460.[12]

Soon after arrival, Mary was assigned to the service of settlers in the Swansea area of the colony. There, within a year of her arrival, she had caught the eye of a twenty-two-year-old free-settler by the name of Edward Tilley. On 4 September 1843, Tilley had applied for permission to marry Mary and the marriage was solemnised in the schoolhouse at Swansea on 23 October of that year. The entry in the parish register described Edward as a farmer. Mary, whose surname is shown as ‘Mockridge’ on the marriage entry, was described as a twenty-five-year-old spinster.[13]

After the marriage, Mary and Edward appear to have lived quietly in the Swansea region. There, her behaviour was exemplary. For the entire period of her penal servitude, she was never charged with an offence.[14] On 28 March 1845, she was granted a ticket of leave.[15]

As it happens, however, in that same year Mary received the wonderful news that she had been granted a conditional pardon as a reward for her conduct aboard Royal Admiral.[16] At that time, she had served only three years of her ten-year sentence. Elizabeth Dyer, her fellow prisoner aboard Royal Admiral, was similarly rewarded.[17] On 3 May 1845, the Colonial Times (Hobart) announced the reward to the pair in these terms:

Having given information of the intention of some of the seamen of the vessel in which they arrived to set fire thereto and in the confusion to make their escape in the boats with certain of the female convicts; in consequence of which the project was defeated …[18]

Mary and Elizabeth were by no means the first convicts in VDL to be granted rewards for good conduct.[19]

During the previous twenty-five years of so, the concern of the government and free settlers with a growing lawlessness in the colony had become increasingly apparent. Ravaging bands of armed bushrangers, many of whom were absconders from the gaols at Macquarie Harbour and Maria Island, had spread terror throughout the island in desperate bids for freedom and survival. Of equal concern had been the ‘native blacks’ who were seen by most as ‘a savage and vindictive race’ with murder and theft their only intent.[20] In the face of such threats, some individuals had distinguished themselves by their courage in defending themselves, their families and their property from attacks. The deeds of these individuals were often heroic. When the attacks had occurred in regions where the assistance of police was not available, the heroes had earned the heartfelt thanks of their neighbours and the appreciation of the population of the colony in general. 

In 1829, conditional pardons had been granted to ticket-of-leave men John Ashton (Guildford, 1820) and Robert Caldwell (Malabar, 1821) who, while serving with the Field Police, had been instrumental in the capture of convicts who had absconded from a property near Perth in the north of the colony.[21] In October 1830, a conditional pardon had been granted to convict John Benfield (Lady Ridley, 1821) ‘to mark in a special manner his high admiration for the intrepidity, firmness and coolness that he had displayed in the capture of three Aboriginal natives.’[22]

On occasions, the bravery of individuals had won them tangible rewards as well. When a settler named George Taylor had managed to fight off an attack on his isolated home by a gang of bushrangers led by the notorious Matthew Brady in 1824, for instance, he had been presented with ‘a Piece of Plate’, a gift purchased by neighbours who handed it to him with this note: ‘[We] beg you to consider it as a token of our due sense of a conduct that is approved, and we trust will be imitated by the Colonists at large.[23] In September 1825, a ticket-of-leave man by the name of Wilkinson was rewarded with ‘emancipation and the pecuniary reward of £10’ when he assisted a party of soldiers in the capture of William Priest who, at that time, was ‘the most dangerous and worst of the bushrangers’.[24]

It is not surprising that most of the recipients of rewards such as these were men; at that time the male population of the colony far exceeded the female population. But women had not been overlooked.

In 1836, for instance, a free pardon had been granted to convict Isabella Renshaw (Hydery, 1832) for her heroic conduct in the capture of Henry Hunt, another violent bushranger. She had saved her husband from certain death at Hunt’s hands.[25] In May 1839, Esther Rebecca Solomon, a seventeen-year-old free-woman, had been granted ‘the means of purchasing one hundred acres of land’ of her own choosing as a reward for her meritorious conduct when, in the previous year, the home of her father, David Solomon, an innkeeper at Antill’s Ponds, had been attacked and his life threatened by a gang of bushrangers led by James Ely.[26]  In 1842, convict Jane Phillips (Gilbert Henderson, 1840) had been granted a ticket of leave as a reward for her good conduct in having given information which prevented a robbery being committed on her master’s house.’[27] In 1843, convict Susannah Prince [Mary Ann II (2)] was rewarded with a ticket of leave ‘for her exertions in extinguishing a fire which lately took place on her mistress’s premises at Bothwell’.[28] In 1843, convict Jean Baird (Garland Grove, 1841) was granted a conditional pardon for the assistance she rendered when the house of her master (Captain Clark, J.OP.) was attacked by runaway bushrangers, Cash, Kavenagh and Jones.[29] And, in February 1846, when a damaging fire broke out at the Brickfields Hiring Depot at North Hobart, convicts Mary Jones (Emma Eugenia, 1850), Rosanna McEwan (St Vincent, 1850), Bridget Walsh (John William Dare, 1851), Anne McCarthy (Martin Luther, 1852) and a number of their fellow prisoners were each rewarded with a gift of £2 for their meritorious conduct in helping to bring the blaze under control.[30]

These are just a few examples. By the beginning of the 1850s, more than four hundred rewards for such acts of courage had been announced in the colony’s newspapers.[31]

While the rewarding of individuals for meritorious conduct was a popular initiative, there were certainly those who held the view that the scheme had no merit at all – especially when applied to the convict population. The Cornwall Chronicle (Launceston), for instance, was scathing in its condemnation. Arguing that the very best inducement to good behaviour by convicts was the reward of emancipation after a consistent record of good conduct and not after a single act of so-called ‘meritorious conduct’, it pointed out some of the ways in which the system was open to abuse and contended that the Government ‘had been imposed upon’ frequently in the past:

Many [convicts] have got their tickets [of leave] under pretence of having assisted to extinguish fires at which they were never present; one man agreed with his master who wanted to befriend him, that if the master would fall into the river, the man would have no objection to jumping into the water to save his life. [32]

In the case of Mary Harford, however, it is reasonable to think that the award presented by a grateful government achieved the purpose for which such awards were intended. The decision she had made to help the captain and his officers aboard Royal Admiral - and the acknowledgement which followed – seem to have been instrumental in changing her life. She was never in trouble with the authorities again.

In February 1844, just five months after her marriage to Edward Tilley, Mary gave birth to a son, Edward Henry Tilley, the first of the six children the marriage would produce. The registration of the birth shows Mary’s maiden name as ‘Moccarage’, an obvious misspelling of ‘Mockridge’. Her second child, registered as Elizabeth Mockridge Tilley, was born in 1845.[33]

In June 1847, Mary and Edward decided to leave VDL to settle in the neighbouring colony of Victoria. The reason for their leaving is not fully understood but it is thought that a factor in the decision might have been that Edward’s father, for whom he worked, had fallen on hard times and that Edward wished to find new, and better, opportunities elsewhere.[34] Shipping records show that Edward, Mary and the children sailed from Launceston aboard Shamrock bound for Melbourne around 18 June 1847.[35]

In Victoria, the family settled at Winchelsea, about thirty miles (40 kms) west of Geelong. Their third child, John Tilley, was born shortly after their arrival. Three more children were soon to follow: Joseph Tilley in 1850, Frederick Tilley in 1852 and Emily Eliza Tilley in 1852.[36]

Sadly, however, in September 1856, after little more than ten years in Victoria, Edward passed away. He was still only thirty-four years old.[37] His death does not appear to have been registered. A death certificate has not been located and the cause of his death is unknown. 

Three years later, Mary, now forty years of age, remarried. Her second husband was a twenty-one-year-old local man, Samuel Gladman, the third of at least fifteen children of former convict, William Charles Gladman (Commodore Hayes to VDL, 1823) who, with his wife Rhoda (nee Hurst), had left VDL and had taken up land in the Winchelsea district of Victoria around 1840.[38] The marriage produced one child, a daughter Lavinia Gladman.[39]  

For the next three decades, Samuel and Mary lived quietly, worked industriously and prospered. Mary’s convict past had been long forgotten.

On 25 September 1888, Mary (Mockridge/Harford/Tilley) Gladman passed away at Winchelsea. She was sixty-seven.[40] She was buried in the Winchelsea cemetery two days later:

Gladman—On the 25th September, at Winchelsea, Mary, the beloved wife of Samuel Gladman, aged 67 years. The funeral will leave her late residence, Winchelsea, on Thursday, the 27th instant, at two o'clock p.m., for the Winchelsea Cemetery. Friends, please accept this intimation. W. B, King and Sons, Undertakers, 97, Moorabool-street.[41]

Could the friends who had attended the burial and who had known Mary as a respected wife and mother for many years ever have imagined that this good and useful member of the community had once been convicted of theft in a brothel, and worse, had attempted to cut her victim’s throat with a knife?

And how different Mary’s life might have been had she not made the brave decision to help the captain and officers aboard Royal Admiral on its troubled voyage in 1842. Was it the reward of a grateful government that changed her life forever?  


[1] Mary Harford: Conduct Record: CON40-1-6, image 70; Description List: CON19-1-03, image 196; Indent: CON15-1-2, images 20 and 21; Police No: 460; FCRC IDF: 10758.


[3] Bristol Times and Mirror, 30 October 1841, per



6 Weakney, death: Launceston Examiner, 6 August 1842, p.6;; crew refused to work, Courier (Hobart), 30 September 1842, p.3.


[8] Colonial Times, 18 October 1842, p.2; 25 October 1842, p.3; tread mill as punishment: see



[11] See Footnote 3, above.

[12] CON19-1-3, image 190.

[13] Permission to marry, CON52/1/2, p.198; The Cornwall Chronicle (Launceston), 21 October 1843, p.4; marriage, RGSD37/1/3, No. 701.

[14] CON40-1-6, image 70.

[15] Ticket of leave: 28 March 1845; Hobart Town Gazette, 25 March 1845.

[16] Colonial Times (Hobart), 3 May 1845, p.2; Hobart Town Gazette, 27 January 1846.

[17] Elizabeth Dyer (CON40/1/4, Image 54) was nineteen years old when she arrived at Hobart aboard Royal Admiral in 1842. She had been convicted at the Bristol Quarter Sessions in October 1841 of stealing from the person; see ‘Convict Elizabeth Dyer’ in ‘Convict Lives/Convict Stories’ at

[18] Colonial Times, 3 May 1845, p.2; see also the report of J.R. Roberts, surgeon-superintendent, ‘Royal Admiral’, 1842, transcribed by Port Arthur Historic Site for Female Factory Research Group, at;

[19] See Bradmore, D.J. (2014). ‘Public and Private Gratitude for Meritorious Conduct: Proffering the Hand of Encouragement and Reward to the Exemplary’ in Tasmanian Ancestry, Vol.36, No.3, pp.171-174.

[20] Hobart Town Gazette, 18 November 1826, p.2.

[21] Colonial Times, 9 October 1829, p.2.

[22] The Hobart Town Courier, 9 October 1830, p.2 and 16 October, p.1.

[23] See Matthew Brady in Australian Dictionary of Biography: Town Gazette, 6 August 1824, p. 2

[24] Hobart Town Gazette, 24 September 1825, p.2.

[25] Launceston Advertiser, 30 June 1836, p. 4; Isabella Renshaw: CON40-1-7, Image 289; see also Don Bradmore, ‘Convict Isabella Renshaw’ in ‘Convict Lives/Convict Stories’ at

[26]  The Hobart Town Courier and Van Diemen’s Land Gazette, 6 September 1839, p.2; Colonial Times, 24 April, 1838, p.7; The Hobart Town Courier, 27 April 1838, p.3; Launceston Advertiser, 25 June 1838, p.2.

[27]  Hobart Town Gazette, 4 March 1842.

[28] Courier (Hobart), 4 March 1842, p.2; Hobart Town Gazette, 19 April 1844.

[29] Hobart Town Gazette, 14 April 1843.

[30] See Conduct Records of Mary Jones (Pol. No: 399), Rosanna McEwan (Pol. No: 1082), Bridget Welsh (Pol. No: 951), Anne McCarthy (Pol. No: 1416).

[31] Launceston Advertiser, 21 January 1836, p. 4; see also Bradmore, D.J. (2014). ‘Public and Private Gratitude for Meritorious Conduct: Proffering the Hand of Encouragement and Reward to the Exemplary’ in Tasmanian Ancestry, Vol.36, No.3, pp.171-174.

[32]  The Cornwall Chronicle, 1 September 1847, p.2.

[33] Births: Edward Henry Tilley, RGD33/59/1844, Great Swanport; Elizabeth Mockridge Tilley, RGD33/74/1845, Great Swanport.

[34] See report of a Tilley insolvency, Colonial Times (Hobart) 19 December 1843, p.3. Was this Edward’s father?

[35] The Cornwall Chronicle (Launceston), 19 June 1847, p.2; The Port Phillip Patriot and Morning Advertiser (Victoria) 25 June 1847, p.2.

[36] Birth: John Tilley: Vic. Reg: 1847/21947; registration of the births of Frederick Tilley in 1852 and Emily Eliza Tilley in 1855 have not been located.

[37] via

[38] Marriage, Mary to Samuel Gladman: Vic. Reg: 2672/1859

[39] Birth: Lavinia Gladman: Vic. Reg:3210/1859.

[40] Mary, death: Vic. Reg: 11801/1888.

[41] Geelong Advertiser (Victoria), 26 September 1888, p.2.


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