Per Hector 1835

By Helen Ménard



Grace’s partnership with crime started early. By 18 she had prior convictions for drunkenness and theft of a watch and had spent at least four months in prison.[1] At 19, she had been ‘on the town’ for three years.[2]  However, despite the pervasive stereotype that all female convicts were prostitutes, it was far from true. The annotation ‘on the town’ on a woman’s conduct record, usually indicated the amount of time spent working as a prostitute. But, sometimes ‘on the town’ simply meant that the woman was living on the parish.[3]

After another conviction for theft, and still only 19,[4] Grace found herself on a ship with 133 other female convicts bound for a developing, and often brutal, colony half a world away. Did she have any idea what this new life would hold for her? Was she looking for a better life? When she faced the court in Scotland for the last time, was she aware of the government’s legislated policy to populate foreign colonies with mostly poor, young women of child bearing age?[5]

The early years

Little is known about Grace’s childhood or family in Scotland.

By the time she presented before the court in Scotland in 1835, she was reputedly married to William McCluskie,[6] although there appear to be no confirming birth or marriage records available.[7] Transportation records, on the other hand, indicate she was single.[8]

On 10 April 1835 Grace appeared before the Dumfries Court of Justiciary,[9] in Dumfries, Scotland charged with theft from the person.[10] She pleaded guilty to robbing cattle dealer, William Stuart, of bank notes, bills etc. to the amount of nearly £400 and was sentenced to 14 years’ transportation.[11]


Grace Templeton (or McCluskie) was transported from Scotland via England to Van Diemen’s Land (VDL) aboard the Hector arriving on 20 October 1835.[12] The ship surgeon’s report described her as ‘lazy’.[13] Her documented age on transportation was 22,[14] but the court files in Scotland recorded her age as 19 at trial.[15]

In some ways, as far as convict voyages go, Grace’s was one of the better ones. There were no serious illnesses or any deaths on her ship’s journey. Morgan Price, the Surgeon Superintendent on the Hector, described the expedition as follows:

The ship was of a less Tonnage than usual taken up for the conveyance of Female Prisoners to the Colony – being only 338 Tons having on board including the Ship’s Company upward of two hundred individuals and the unusual length of the voyage and the very indifferent manner the Prison and between Decks was ventilated is rather extraordinary that no illness of any consequence appeared on board during a voyage of one hundred and twenty-nine days – and more particularly when nearly the whole of the convicts free women and children had been embarked a considerable time previous to our leaving Woolwich and the majority of them had suffered severely from a very tedious voyage from Scotland in a small sloop and were consequently very crowded and their health had suffered greatly. A few cases of accouchements occurred and does [sic] not require any particular observation as all did well – and on the arrival of the Ship in the Colony all the Prisoners, free women and children were landed in a clean and healthy state.[16]

Life in the colony

From early 1836 to the middle of 1837 Grace was assigned to three different ‘masters’,[17] after which she was living with her new husband.[18]

Of the eight offences recorded against her from May 1836 to January 1842, the first four involved being absent without leave, neglect of duty and insolence. Her sentences ranged from six days in a cell on bread and water to two months’ imprisonment at the Cascades Female Factory.[19] After she married George Shillinghall in 1837, and while living with him, she was also charged with disorderly conduct in breaking windows; being drunk and disorderly and using obscene language; and being absent from her husband’s premises without leave. These offences resulted in hard labour for one month, three months on the ‘wash tub’ and four months’ hard labour respectively – all at the Cascades.[20]  Grace’s last offence in January 1842 involved embezzlement of 12 shillings for which she was returned to the Cascades for another two months’ hard labour.[21] What was happening in her marriage to result in such charges?

Grace was granted a ticket of leave in June 1841 and again in January 1845.[22] Female convicts transported to VDL from 1813-1842 were treated under the assignment system whereby each convict was assigned as unpaid domestic labour to a ‘master’. The aim of the system was to encourage reform through a system of rewards and indulgences, such as the ticket of leave, which permitted the holder to work for any employer for wages and to choose their own residence. Generally, pending good behaviour, women such as Grace, who were transported for fourteen years, were entitled to a ticket of leave after seven years and nine months.[23]

In April 1859 Grace was issued her certificate of freedom.[24] Convicts were eligible to receive a certificate of freedom (or free certificate) when they had completed their sentence of transportation (but not if they were sentenced to life). Not all convicts collected their certificate of freedom, and some only did so several years after their sentence expired. The certificate fee was generally 3s 6p.[25] The certificate allowed them freedom to travel anywhere including back to the United Kingdom – should they have been able to afford it.[26]

Grace and George

Permission for Grace Templeton (Hector) to marry George Shillinghall (Manlius) was approved on 29 June 1837 - subject to the clergyman being satisfied George was single.[27] Interestingly, no such limitation was placed on Grace despite her alleged existing marriage to William McCluskie.

George arrived in VDL aboard the convict ship Manlius on 12 August 1830 aged 28.[28] A gardener, from Totteridge, he was married with no children and his wife Jane stayed in England with her mother. George was tried in the Middlesex Gaol Delivery on 29 October 1829 for stealing 35 fowl and was transported for 7 years. He was held in Newgate Prison, London and then transferred to a prison hulk[29] before boarding the Manlius. While in VDL only two minor offences appear on his record – firstly, in May 1832, under assignment to Mr Kennedy, for drunkenness for which he was reprimanded and secondly, in May 1836, while holding a ticket of leave, for being absent from muster for which he was admonished.[30] George was granted his certificate of freedom on 29 October 1836.[31]

On 7 August 1837, Grace (spinster, convict per Hector) and George (bachelor) married in Hobart.[32] Clearly, George had been able to provide some explanation as to the status of his wife Jane in England!

It seems George ventured to Victoria in 1852 to try his luck in the goldfields and returned with about 32 ounces of the precious metal.[33] He died aged 58 on 1 December 1855 in St Mary’s Hospital, Hobart from an abscess.[34]

Grace and George’s children

Grace and George had four children – Amelia, Charles, Emily and Caroline - only the first two of whom survived infancy.

Amelia (Shillinglaw), assumed date of birth 1841, when aged 17,[35] married Joseph Churchill (farmer, 38) on 27 April 1858 at Sorell.[36] They had at least five children[37] - Harriette Jane (28 January 1859 – 13 October 1923); Amelia Rebecca (born 1861) who died aged 15 on Christmas Day in 1876 from head injuries caused by a falling tree branch; George Henry (born 6 February 1863); John Edward (26 May 1865 – 3 June 1947); and Joseph Charles (27 July 1867 – 5 August 1935).[38] Joseph died from pneumonia on 21 May 1868 (aged 66) on the farm at Sorell.[39] Following Joseph’s death, Amelia (now 29) married William Riley (farmer, widower, 39) on 26 December 1869 at Sorell.[40] From 1870 to 1885, they had seven children.[41] Amelia died aged 50[42] on 30 July 1895 in Hobart General Hospital from meningitis[43] and William died three years later on 27 January 1898 on the farm at Sorell from heart disease.[44]

Charles (Shillinglaw) was born on 1 September 1848 at Sorell and baptised on 7 October 1849.[45] There is no record of a marriage in Tasmania or New South Wales for Charles and he died on 22 October 1901 in Parramatta, New South Wales.[46]

Emily (Shillinglaw) was born on 22 March 1851[47] and died aged 15 months on 22 August 1852 from scarlet fever.[48]

Caroline (Templeton) was born in the Brickfields Nursery[49] on 23 June 1853.[50] She died (Catherine Shillington) 3 months later on 29 September 1853 from diarrhoea.[51]

Rebecca Kippen defines the situation of infant mortality in convict nurseries as follows:

In the late 1840s and early 1850s the infant mortality rate of those born in convict nurseries was around 35 to 40 per cent, two to three times the level of infant mortality in the general community … For these infants born in the convict nurseries who died in their first year of life, 41 per cent of their deaths were attributed to diarrhoeal disease, as opposed to 12 per cent of deaths of infants not born in the convict nurseries…[52]

Kippen further describes the conditions in the nurseries in graphic terms:

The reasons for the high mortality were not hard to ascertain. The location was cold, damp and sunless. The women and children were crowded together, dozens to a room, and they received inadequate food and clothing for good health … the [regulation] diet, even if fully supplied, was totally inadequate for pregnant and breastfeeding mothers …

Another recurring problem was cleanliness, or lack thereof. In 1832 the Lieutenant Governor paid a surprise visit to the Female Factory. He found it in a ‘very dirty state’. Rubbish had accumulated in every building, the walls and floors were crawling with bugs and the blankets were ‘quite black with fleas’. The children’s rooms were ‘particularly bad’, which the Governor thought partly accounted for the sickly state of the children …

Malnourished babies were more prone to infection, particularly diarrhoeal disease, which spread rapidly in confined conditions where it was impossible to keep the babies clean and there might be one flannel wipe and one feeding spoon between a dozen of them …[53]

Surely, at this point, Grace must have been devastated having lost two infant children in such rapid succession.

Grace and John

After George’s death in 1855, and only two years after the death of her daughters Emily and Caroline, Grace (then 40) married John Barnes (bachelor, sawyer, 36) on 17 November 1856 in Campbell Town.[54]

There is no record of Grace and John having any children and, sadly it seems, life for Grace in this relationship was not always easy. Two years after their marriage, in November 1858, John was charged with assaulting his wife. The case was reported as follows:

John Barnes, of Risdon, was charged with assaulting and beating his wife, Grace Barnes, on the 2nd November. The poor woman, who had a black eye and exhibited other marks of violence, appeared very unwilling to say anything against her husband, who, she alleged, was a good husband to her, except when he had a drop of drink. He had taken the pledge and would, no doubt, never do so again.

Two witnesses were called, who deposed to prisoner's beating and kicking his wife whilst partially drunk, without any provocation on her part. Had not these witnesses interfered the unfortunate woman would no doubt have been murdered.

The Bench sentenced the accused to six months’ hard labor.[55]

There were a number of cases reported in the local newspapers from 1861 to 1868 of a John Barnes being charged with being idle and disorderly, stealing potatoes and cabbages, vagrancy and larceny,[56] however, there is insufficient evidence to say definitively that he was Grace’s husband. If it was Grace’s husband, was she still living with him at the time? Did she leave Tasmania to escape a difficult relationship?[57] Did she go to live with any of her children or grandchildren? Did she ever return to Scotland?[58]

The end of the road

Did Grace, as a troubled teenager, ever contemplate finding a way to leave Scotland for a better life? Was she ever married to William? Even though she was married to George for eighteen years, their relationship presented as somewhat tempestuous at least in the early days – from smashing windows to drunken behaviour to leaving home without his permission. Did George’s treatment of Grace incite her behaviour? Was Grace’s fiery character a challenge for George? Nonetheless, the later years of the marriage must, undoubtedly, have been defined by the tragic deaths of her two infant daughters.

All in all, Grace had at least fourteen grandchildren and no less than 26 great grandchildren.[59] How many did she live to see? Were any of them part of her life? Did she go to live with her son Charles in New South Wales?

There is no recorded death for Grace in Tasmania, Victoria or New South Wales under either her single or married names.[60] Nor is there any record of her having been buried in the Tasmanian paupers’ graves.[61] With such an extended family would she have chosen to leave Tasmania even if her marriage to John was a failure?

In the end, it seems Grace’s final days were not recorded - a sad, but far too common, outcome for many of the young women who found themselves thrust into colonial life in the nineteenth century.


[1] FCRC database, pre transportation

[2] LIB TAS: Names Index: CON40/1/9 DI 209


[4] National Records of Scotland AD14/35/220; JC26/1835/198; her age as recorded by the court is more likely to be accurate than that of 22 as recorded on transportation, due to the fact that many women frequently altered their ages (and marital status) to suit their circumstances.

[5] Transportation Act 1717 Great Britain (4 Geo. 1 c. 11); Transportation Act 1768 (8 Geo. 3 c. 15) 

[6] National Records of Scotland AD14/35/220; JC26/1835/198;


[8] LIB TAS: Names Index: CON40/1/9 DI 209

[9] Ibid

[10] National Records of Scotland AD14/35/220; JC26/1835/198;

[11] Caledonian Mercury, Saturday 25 April 1835

[12] LIB TAS: Names Index: CON40/1/9 DI 209

[13] Ibid

[14] Ibid

[15] National Records of Scotland AD14/35/220; JC26/1835/198; her age as recorded by the court is more likely to be accurate than that of 22 as recorded on transportation, due to the fact that many women frequently altered their ages (and marital status) to suit their circumstances.

[16] Surgeon’s Journal, Hector, 1835

[17] See footnote 23 below

[18] FCRC database / colonial offences

[19] LIB TAS: Names Index: CON40/1/9 DI 209

[20] Ibid; At the Cascades Female Factory, washing was carried out for the colonial hospital, military hospital, military barracks, ordinance store, orphan schools, penitentiary and mental asylum, in addition to the Factory itself. The washing included all manner of clothes, bedding and towels.

[21] LIB TAS: Names Index: CON40/1/9 DI 209

[22] Ibid

[23] Alexander, Alison, ed., The Companion to Tasmanian History, Snowden, Dianne, “Female Convicts” (2005), Centre for Tasmanian Historical Studies, University of Tasmania

[24] LIB TAS: Names Index: CON40/1/9 DI 209



[27] LIB TAS: Names Index: CON52/1/1 p183

[28] LIB TAS: Names Index: CON31/1/39 p40 DI 45; CON18/1/15 DI 163

[29] There appears to be no record as to which prison hulk he was transferred.

[30] Ibid

[31] The Hobart Town Courier (Tas.: 1827 -1839) Fri 7 Oct 1836 p1 Classified Advertising

[32] LIB TAS: Names Index: RGD36/1/3 N3657 DI 75

[33] Geelong Advertiser and Intelligencer (Vic.: 1851 -1856) Thu 9 Dec 1852 p2 Whence came the gold?

[34] LIB TAS: Names Index: RGD37/1/15 N43 DI 23

[35] There appear to be no birth records for Amelia but her assumed birthdate here is 1841 which is also consistent with her stated age of 29 on her second marriage in 1869. It is possible that Grace was in the Cascades at the time of Amelia’s birth but there are no Cascade records of Amelia’s birth.

[36] LIB TAS: Names Index: RGD37/1/17 N719 DI 354

[37] Charles William Churchill (1862 – 11/6/1947) is probably also their child but there are no records to confirm his parentage;;; LIB TAS: Names Index;

[38] LIB TAS: Names Index

[39] LIB TAS: Names Index: RGD35/1/37 N513 DI 117; this is probably Amelia’s husband given the year of his death (after the birth of their last child in 1867 and before her marriage to William Riley in 1869) but his stated age on death (66 and giving him a birth date of 1802) is not consistent with his stated aged on marriage in 1858 (38 and giving him a birth date of 1820). Given he was marrying a 17 year old, maybe he needed to lose a few years – at least 18 it seems!

[40] LIB TAS: Names Index: RGD37/1/28 N625 DI 340

[41] LIB TAS: Names Index; more information on Amelia’s children and grandchildren can be found on the FCRC database / research notes.

[42] Again this raised questions about Amelia’s real date of birth which, based on her recorded age at death (50), would suggest a birthdate of 1845 which is inconsistent with her stated ages on both marriages suggesting a birthdate of 1841.

[43] LIB TAS: Names Index: RGD35/1/15 N227 DI 131

[44] LIB TAS: Names Index: RGD35/1/67 N953 DI 254

[45] FCRCdatabase / relations;


[47] LIB TAS: Names Index: RGD33/1/29 N525 DI 168

[48] LIB TAS: Names Index: RGD35/1/21 N67 DI 54

[49] In 1850 Yard 4 [at the Cascades Female Factory] was opened and the nursery transferred back to Cascades. In 1852 the nursery was transferred to New Town and the Brickfields hiring depot, in 1854 it returned again to Yard 4 and in 1855 it was transferred to Brickfields.

[50] LIB TAS: Names Index: RGD33/1/4 N2437 DI 250; AF591/1/21

[51] LIB TAS: Names Index: RGD35/1/4 N515 DI 53; AF591/1/15

[52] Kippen, Rebecca, ‘And the Mortality Frightful’: Infant and Child Mortality in the Convict Nurseries of Van Diemen’s Land, 2006, Australian National University

[53] Ibid

[54] LIB TAS: Names Index: RGD37/1/15 N43 DI 23

[55] The Hobart Town Daily Mercury (Tas.: 1858 -1860) Wed 10 Nov 1858  p3 Police Court Monday

[56] The Mercury (Hobart, Tas.: 1860 -1954) Tue 12 Nov 1861 p2 Police Office; The Mercury (Hobart, Tas.: 1860 -1954) Tue 12 Nov 1861 p2 Police Office; The Mercury (Hobart, Tas.: 1860 -1954) Sat 27 Sep 1862 p8 Law; The Mercury (Hobart, Tas.: 1860 -1894) Tue 9 Dec 1862 p4 Law Police Court; The Mercury (Hobart, Tas.: 1860 -1894) Sat 21 Nov 1868 p2 Criminal Calendar

[57] There are no matching marriage or death records for Grace Templeton or Shillinglaw or Barnes in NSW or Victoria.

[58] There are no matching death records to suggest she returned to Scotland;;

[59] LIB TAS: Names Index; for more information on Grace’s extended family see FCRC database / research notes

[60] Ibid



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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 online [date].

For academic referencing (suggestion only) Website:  Female Convicts Research Centre Inc., accessed online [date] from [http address].