By Helen Ménard
Eliza’s relationship with the law started early in life and stayed with her almost until the end. Born in Manchester, England about 1814, little is known about her family life except that she had a married sister in Manchester and at some stage she was in a de facto relationship with John Hallard with whom she had a child. Her first recorded arrest on the streets of Manchester was when she was only 15. By the time she was sentenced to 14 years’ transportation to the antipodean colonies, she was only 21 and had been on the town for four years. During this time she had earned herself a reputation as a ‘notorious’ and ‘celebrated’ ‘girl of the town’.
Following her arrival in Van Diemen’s Land (VDL), history suggests Eliza did not take the opportunity to turn her life around or maybe the confluence of circumstances to which she was exposed prevented her from doing so. In any event, over the next fifteen years crime and conduct offences became her constant companions, as did incarceration. Her original transportation sentence was extended by twelve months for absconding and, all in all, she spent about 43 months in detention. Even marriage and the birth of her son did little to change the course of events. However, after Eliza finally achieved her freedom in 1850, for the few years remaining, she was largely absent from the courts of law. She never returned to her homeland, her husband left the colony and she died at home in Hobart with her son William.
(Sea Queen, 1846)
by Don Bradmore
Very few of the 13,500 (approx.) women who were transported to Van Diemen’s Land (VDL) as convicts between 1813 and 1853 returned home after their sentences had expired. For the vast majority, the fare was simply too expensive. Most were poor when they arrived and had had no opportunity to earn money as unpaid servants in the colony. Many had married, had started families and were making new lives for themselves in a far-off land. However, one who did manage to go back home to resume her former life was Elizabeth Toogood. A married woman of forty-two when she arrived in VDL per Sea Queen in August 1846, she had been convicted of theft in the previous year and sentenced to transportation for seven years. By October 1852, she had served her time and was a free woman again. By 1861, she was back in England. What makes her achievement quite remarkable is that she had been extremely deaf since childhood. How she managed to do it remains a mystery but the available evidence seems to point to a most surprising solution.
This is Elizabeth’s story:
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. At 19, she had been ‘on the town’ for three years. 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.
After another conviction for theft, and still only 19, 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?
Johanna Taylor was one of 13,500 (approx.) women who were transported as convicts to Van Diemen’s Land (VDL) between 1812 and 1853. All of the women are important and every one of them deserves to be remembered. The stories of their lives are all different. A few are joyous, most are heart-wrenching, some downright tragic. Some of the women will be remembered for new crimes committed in the colony, some because of the way in which they resisted the cruel treatment of the colonial authorities, and some because they did their best to escape the often-harsh manner in which they were treated by the free settlers to whom they were assigned as servants. Others are of women who were pleased to be away from the abject poverty in which they had lived before their convictions and transportation, who made the most of their opportunities, who saw their servitude as a means of changing their condition, who became model citizens and made laudable contributions to the development of their new country. Lamentably, Johanna Taylor was not one of the latter group. Just twenty-two years of age when she arrived in VDL on Mexborough in December 1841, she had been found guilty of theft in her native Cork, Ireland, earlier that year. It was not her first offence and she had been sentenced to seven years’ transportation. Although troublesome at times in VDL, she did nothing that was particularly unusual or bad. In 1846, she had married and, later, had left the colony, probably with her husband, to reside in the neighbouring colony of Victoria. Little is known about the way she lived there but it is thought that her life must have been a difficult one. Described as ‘idle and disorderly’ and ‘a vagrant’, and listed as one who had been in-and-out of prison for the previous six years, she passed away at the Melbourne Gaol in 1889. She was sixty-five years old. What adds poignancy to her story - and certainly makes her memorable - is one of several petitions forwarded on her behalf to the authorities in Ireland whilst she was awaiting transportation in 1841. Whereas most petitions for prisoners who had been sentenced to transportation pleaded for clemency, this one, written by the step-mother with whom Johanna had lived at one time in Cork, begged that the powers-that-be show her no mercy whatsoever, that they send her far, far away and that they never allow her to return.
 Conduct record: CON40-1-10, image 127; description list: CON19-1-3, image 82; police no: 184; FCRC ID: 9249.
'My great great grandmother was Ann Tucker. While researching her history, it became increasingly obvious that given her family, time and circumstances, it was almost inevitable that in 1851 she would be on a convict ship bound for Van Dieman’s Land (VDL) with her infant son, never to see her homeland or her three older children again. Ann began life as Ann Dimmock, then through marriage, Ann Tucker, and again through marriage, Ann Sonners. Here is her story.'
Read more: Ann Tucker, (Anna Maria 1852)
(conduct record, indent, description list)