Theresa Charlotte BARRINGTON,

per Emma Eugenia 1851.

By Don Bradmore (13/02/2021)

 

Theresa Charlotte Barrington, nineteen years old and single, arrived in Van Diemen’s Land (VDL) aboard Emma Eugenia in March 1851, one of 13,500 (approx..) females to be transported to the colony as convicts between 1812 and 1853.[1] A great many of these women never recovered from the loss of the parents, husbands, children and friends from whom they been torn and led sad, often tragic, lives. Others saw their transportation as an opportunity to escape from the circumstances which had led them to their crimes. They settled down, worked hard, became good citizens and made a significant contribution to the development of their new country. While some chose to live their lives in relative obscurity, others were prepared to take advantage of the freedoms that they had not previously enjoyed, to hold their heads high, and to embrace all that came their way. Theresa was certainly in the latter group. Within two years of her arrival, she had married. Less than a year later, she had given birth to a daughter, the first of six children she would have with four different men. In the early 1860s, after being granted a conditional pardon, she left VDL and never returned. For the next eight years, she travelled widely in Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland, appearing on stage with her third husband, a well-known comedian, as a much-admired vocalist, actress and dancer. After the death of that husband, she married again but was widowed once more when her new husband died a year later. Sadly, her life seems to have fallen apart somewhat after that. She was gaoled twice in Sydney in the 1890s, once for theft and once for being drunk and disorderly. Afterwards, she struggled on until her death, at the age of eighty-five, in 1915. The death certificate shows the cause as ‘senile decay’.

This is Theresa’s story:

Theresa Charlotte Barrington was born at York, Yorkshire, England, to parents Richard and Eliza (nee Lee) Barrington in 1831.[2] Little is known with certainty about her early life but in a document later in life she stated that her father was an artist.[3] As she was in Scotland when she committed the crime that led to her transportation, the family might have lived there for a time.

Theresa was in Scotland when, on 24 April 1850, she faced the court of Judiciary, Glasgow, charged with theft. After a short trial, she was found ‘guilty in terms of [her] own confession’ and sentenced to transportation for seven years.[4] A newspaper report of the trial published a few days later reveals that, on 30 July of the previous year, she had opened ‘safe-lock places’ in a house in Glasgow and stolen ‘a large quantity of apparel, silver plate, &c’.[5]

Soon after the trial, Theresa was taken to Millbank Prison, London, to await the vessel that was to take her to VDL. There, the only comment made about her was that she had had ‘no previous convictions’. Eventually, she was put aboard Emma Eugenia (5) which, with F.T. Davies as master, John Bowen as surgeon-superintendent, one hundred and seventy female prisoners and twenty of their children, sailed from London on 30 October 1850 and reached Hobart on 7 March 1851.[6]

In the medical journal Bowen kept during the voyage, he described an experiment that he had tried. Before departure, he had arranged for the prisoners’ quarters of the ship to be sub-divided into three separate compartments – a room for those prisoners who, while at Milbank, had expressed remorse for their crimes, a room for those judged still to be ‘of bad character’ and a hospital room. It is assumed that Theresa was accommodated in the first room. However, the experiment had not been a success, Bowen explaining that ‘the hurried nature of the arrangement’ had meant that ‘several very ill-conducted women’ had been admitted into the first room and that the separation, therefore, had been ‘very imperfect’. One prisoner and four infant children had died at sea. Nevertheless, Bowen was sure that, with the exception of five women who had been sent to hospital upon arrival, and a few children who were still labouring under whooping cough, ‘the health of the prisoners was much improved by the voyage’. While at sea, Theresa had suffered from ‘hysteria’ and had been on Bowen’s sick-list for ten days but had recovered fully by the time of disembarkation at Hobart.[7]

Upon arrival, she was described as being nineteen years old and single, five feet and a half an inch (about 164 cms) tall with a fresh complexion, dark brown hair and light blue eyes. She could both read and write. She was a Protestant. The trade of ‘nurse girl’ was entered on her convict documents.[8]

Whether Theresa was obliged to undergo a six-month period of probation – as was usual for newly-arrived female prisoners at that time - is unclear but it seems unlikely that that was the case.[9] Her conduct record appears to show that she was sent directly to the Brickfields Hiring Depot at North Hobart where, just a few days after her arrival in the colony, she was assigned as a servant – first to a Mr. William Brown of Barrack Street, and then to the Wilson family of Liverpool Street, the Tondeur family of Colville Street, the Lodder family at O’Brien’s Bridge on the outskirts of Hobart, the Murphy family at Richmond, a short distance north of the town, and the Ibbotson family of Melville Street, Hobart. All of these assignments were brief. In the intervals between them, she was returned to Brickfields to await her next employment. This was the pattern that was to continue for the all of her first year in the colony and for a few months into the second. That she was not charged with any offence by her employers at this time suggests that she was a useful and well-behaved servant.[10]  

Somewhere along the way during this time, she had come to the notice of a young convict by the name of Joseph McCrow. He had been in the colony since his arrival per Nile on 3 October 1850. Three years earlier, at the age of 19, he had been convicted at the Clerkenwell Quarter Sessions, London, of stealing a handkerchief. Guilty of a similar offence previously, for which he had been gaoled for four months, he was dealt with harshly by being sentenced to transportation for ten years.[11]

While no application for permission to marry has yet been located, Joseph and Theresa were wed at St. George’s Church, Battery Point, Hobart, on 17 May 1852. The register shows their ages as twenty-two and nineteen, respectively. Joseph, whose conduct record reveals that he had been granted a ticket of leave a week after his arrival in the colony, is described as a ‘shoemaker’, Theresa as a ‘spinster’.[12]

After the marriage, the pair settled down together and, although both had relatively minor offences recorded against them in the next few years, seemed to live happily. On 3 July 1852, just two months after the marriage, Theresa had been charged with absconding but the charge was thrown out when the police told the magistrate that it had been a mistake and that she had not absconded at all. However, just weeks later, on 20 July, she was found guilty of ‘common assault’ – the details of which have not been found – and ordered to the cells at the Cascades Female Factory for seven days. In addition, her husband was required to pay the court costs of the person she had assaulted.[13] Interestingly, Theresa was able to return the favour to Joseph when he was charged, in August 1854, with an unlawful assault. On that occasion, she had paid sureties for him to keep the peace.[14

Well before that, however, Theresa had given birth to a daughter, whom she had named Theresa Eliza. Records indicate the child was born at the Cascades on 17 February 1853 and baptised there on 4 April that year.[15]

More good news was soon to come. On 2 August 1853, Theresa was granted her ticket of leave. On 5 November of the same year, she was recommended for a conditional pardon and, on 29 August 1853, it was approved.[16] She was a free woman once again and able to travel, with few restrictions, in the Australian colonies and New Zealand. She was not permitted to return to England, of course. That was the ‘condition’ of her pardon.[17]

In April 1854, Theresa gave birth to a second child by McCrow, a son whom she named Edwin. He was baptised at Holy Trinity Church, Hobart, on 5 August 1854. That event, however, was to mark the end of the marriage. While no details are known, it appears that, by early 1855, if not before, Theresa and Joseph had decided to go their separate ways.

In April 1857, Theresa was declared ‘free by servitude’. Her seven-year term of transportation had expired.[18] Soon afterwards, she left VDL (or ‘Tasmania’ as it had become known officially by this time) and was in the neighbouring colony of Victoria.[19]

There, in 1859, she gave birth at Collingwood, an inner suburb of Melbourne, to another son, Edmund. The birth registration shows Theresa’s surname as ‘Barrington’.[20] The father’s name is shown as ‘Edmund Petherick’ - but just who he was is not known. The birth certificate of the baby shows that Theresa and Edmund were married at Wellington, NZ, in 1857 but there is no record of a marriage in NZ of an Edmund Petherick. Nor is there any record of a marriage between the pair in Victoria.[21] But, whatever form this relationship had taken, it did not last long.

In 1861, Theresa gave birth to another child, a daughter Emma, at Sandridge (now Port Melbourne). This time, the birth certificate names the father as ‘John Matthews’ but, again, who he was, and what sort of relationship Theresa had with him, is not known. Once more, no marriage certificate has been located.[22]

On 6 March 1862, however, Theresa did re-marry – officially and formally! Her new husband was Charles Rice, an actor-comedian. The ceremony took place at Christ Church, Castlemaine, a gold-mining town in central Victoria. Inexplicably, the parish register shows Theresa as a ‘widow’ with the surname ‘Constantine’. Where did that surname come from? As her first husband, Joseph McCrow, was still alive in Tasmania – he did not die until 1871 - she was certainly not a widow, and the marriage appears to have been bigamous.[23] Was her adoption of the surname ‘Constantine’ an attempt to cover up that fact?[24]

At the time of the marriage, Charles Rice was already a well-established entertainer – in regional Victoria, at least. Advertisements for concerts which appeared in The Kyneton Observer (Kyneton, Victoria) in December 1862 list his name high on the programme as ‘Charles Rice: The Inimitable Comic and Characteristic Singer’, followed by the words ‘The Inimitable Perfect Cure’, the soubriquet by which he was well-known for his comedy performances.[25]

In the following year, Theresa made her first public appearance, as a vocalist and actress, with her husband’s troupe of performers. In late August, The Star (Ballarat, Victoria) carried announcements of a ‘Grand Ball for the benefit of Mrs. Charles Rice’, to be held at the Great Britain Hotel on 1 September. It is unclear what role Theresa played at the Ball but it seems likely that the occasion was intended to launch her career.[26]

By late 1864, Theresa, always billed as ‘Mrs. Charles Rice’, was very much part of the performances, most of which her husband appears to have written, as well as performed in and stage-managed. And she, as one of the leading lights of the company, was receiving enthusiastic reviews! On 23 December 1864, for instance, The McIvor Times and Rodney Advertiser (Heathcote, Vic.) noted that, at the local Concert Hall, Mr. and Mrs. Charles Rice ‘continue not only to draw large houses but by additional little novelties they amuse their audience as much as on their first appearance here’.[27]

Theresa’s most successful year seems to have been 1865. Performing mainly in regional towns in Victoria, Theresa and Charles won much acclaim as ‘the well-known characteristic vocalists and duetists’. A newspaper review of their concert at the Heathcote Concert Hall on 29 April that year asserted that:

Mr. and Mrs. Charles Rice [and members of their troupe] kept a large audience well amused … The company played a very laughable little farce called ‘The Irish Ghost’ with great spirit. The audience marked their appreciation of the acting by very marked demonstrations of applause.[28

On 5 May 1865, the same newspaper commented on another event held at the Concert Hall a few days earlier:

The company gave a select entertainment [consisting of] a well-selected programme of various kinds of vocal music, principally characteristic and comic. The repeated re-calls and applause sufficiently testified to the fact that the audience were well pleased with the efforts of Mr. and Mrs. Charles Rice [and others] to amuse them.[29] 

In June 1865, the paper ran an advertisement for a ‘dramatic entertainment’ to be held in the following month to raise funds for the local hospital. An editorial comment that accompanied the advertisement revealed that a ‘strong cast’ including ‘Mrs. C. Rice’ would present two farces, ‘Hunting the Turtle’ and ‘£5 Reward’, adding that ‘if this company and the cause which brings them fail to secure a good house it will be a wonder’.[30

By the end of 1865, however, Mr. and Mrs. Rice, might have thought that the good people of regional Victoria had seen and heard enough of them. They packed their bags and headed for Queensland.

Advertisements for the concerts they gave in that colony throughout 1866, 1867 and 1869 appeared regularly in newspapers, especially in the regional towns of Rockhampton and Bowen. The typical price of admission to the concerts was two shillings and sixpence - probably not enough to make Charles and Theresa wealthy but enough to cover expenses and to get by on.[31]

While there seem to have been some gaps between Theresa’s stage appearances, these can probably be accounted for by the fact that, within a year of her marriage to Charles, she had given birth to another son. Named Charles Rice after his father, he was born at Collingwood, Melbourne, in 1863 but did not survive infancy. He died later that year.[32]

The death of baby Charles might have been ameliorated, to some extent, by the fact that Theresa was soon pregnant again – and, in 1864, she gave birth to a daughter whom she named Lillian Annie.[33]

It is interesting to speculate about how Theresa, then in her thirties, managed to cope with her five children while travelling with Charles and his troupe. The eldest child, Theresa Eliza McCrow, was about eleven years old when her baby sister, Lillian Annie, was born. Edwin McCrow was about nine. Edmund Petherick about four, and Emma, about two or three. Did Theresa and Charles have the children with them? That seems likely. A notice in the Northern Argus, Rockhampton, on 5 December 1866, alerted readers to a ‘Temple of Music’ which was to open that very night at the Cornstalk Hotel, with ‘the largest and most talented company ever to have appeared before the Rockhampton public’. Listed on the programme, at the top of the bill, was ‘Mrs. Charles Rice, the charming soprano and danseuse’ and, in second place, ‘Mr. Charles Rice, the inimitable comique’. Interestingly, at the very bottom of the cast list was ‘Master Barrington, the infant comedian’. Is it likely that this ‘Master Barrington’ could be anyone other than Theresa’s son?  Was it Edwin? Then about nine years old, he was hardly an ‘infant’. Was it Edmund? He was about four? That seems more probable.

By late 1868, however, the success which Charles, Theresa and their band of singers, actors and dancers had achieved in the past six or seven years, may have stalled. Two events in Rockhampton in early 1869 seem to have been the last appearances together of Theresa and Charles. The first of these was ‘grand concert’ in late January. A review of it in the Rockhampton Bulletin and Central Queensland Advertiser had concluded with the note that ‘Mrs. Rice appeared with great success’.[34]  The second, in early February 1869, was a performance at the Theatre Royal of the play, ‘The Peep Showman’, the cast of which included Charles playing the character of ‘Cognovit Crowfoot’ and Theresa as ‘Mary Mayland, a village milliner's apprentice’. A notice in the Northern Argus prior to the performance had informed the public that this ‘great drama’ was being produced ‘for the benefit of Mr. Charles Rice’ and that it was currently ‘playing with great success in London’.[35] 

The mention of ‘London’ in that Northern Argus notice is ironic because it is likely that that is exactly where Charles wanted to be. It seems that he had reached a stage in his career by this time at which he thought that, at best, he would be successful in England or, at worst, he would profit from overseas experience.

Regrettably, the marriage of Theresa and Charles had also come to an end. Whether it was the matter of Charles’s desire to get away to England or something else entirely is unknown but, at some time during 1870, he sailed for England. When Theresa gave birth to her sixth child, a daughter, Corah Ester, on 30 November 1870, the birth notice published in the Mackay Mercury and South Kennedy Advertiser on 3 December of that year read simply, ‘At Mackay, on the 30th November, Mrs. Charles Rice of a daughter’.[36] There was no mention of Mr. Charles Rice

Would Theresa have wished to have gone with Charles at this time? That seems unlikely. Travelling with five children, the eldest fifteen and the youngest still an infant, would have been difficult and dangerous. In any event, returning was out of the question – the authorities would not have allowed her to go! And, besides, she may not have had any desire to return to the land from which she had been expelled twenty years earlier.

After Charles had gone, Theresa remained at Mackay for a short time. What kind of life she lived there is uncertain but a classified advertisement in the Mackay Mercury and South Kennedy Advertiser on 10 June provides a clue – and gives an intriguing insight into another aspect of Theresa’s talents! It read:

MRS. CHARLES RICE begs to inform the inhabitants of Mackay, that she is prepared to execute all kinds of Ornamental Painting on Glass, Wood, &c., on the shortest notice and most reasonable terms.
MRS. C. RICE. Mackay, June 10th 1870.[37]

Whether or not the advertisement attracted any commissions is unknown but, because the advertisement appeared only once, it is probable that whatever income Theresa was able to generate in this way was insufficient to support her and the children. Later events suggest that she left Queensland soon afterwards and returned to Victoria.

There, she may have heard that her first husband, and the father of her first two children, Joseph McCrow, had passed away in Tasmania in 1871.[38] She might also have heard that the success Charles Rice had been hoping for in England had not eventuated. In early April 1874, under the heading ‘London Gossip’, the Rockhampton Bulletin (Queensland) had published this critical report:

The pantomimes are in full swing … Covent Garden is said to be a failure in regard to acting, scenery and the ‘mise en scene’. The provincial manager, Mr. Charles Rice, has not been quite up to our London expectation.[39]

In 1875, no doubt dejected, Charles returned to Australia. An advertisement in the Bendigo Advertiser, Victoria, in early February of that year announced that he had been engaged to appear in ‘The Waterman’ at the Theatre Royal, Sandhurst, adding that it was ‘his first appearance at Sandhurst for ten years’ and that he was being ‘received with thunderous applause nightly’.[40]

With his spirit apparently boosted by this success, Charles returned to London later that year – but, alas, again failed to attract favourable attention. In March 1876, the Leader, Melbourne, published a damning criticism of his latest work:

At Covent Garden. Mr. Charles Rice has thought it judicious to favour the public with his own version of Cinderella, and the public have had the bad taste not to appreciate the attention. As a matter of fact, the songs and dialogue are woefully weak, and the manner in which the plot is worked out has but little to recommend it.[41]

Meanwhile, Theresa was getting on with her own life – and in her now well-accustomed way. In 1882, at the age of fifty-two, as ‘Theresa Charlotte Rice’, she married a man by the name of William Marsden in Melbourne.[42] As Charles Rice was still alive, it appears to have been another bigamous marriage for her.[43] Unfortunately, her new marriage did not last long. Marsden passed away at West Melbourne in the following year.[44]  Coincidentally, in that same year, Charles Rice, passed away at Sydney.[45] Afterwards, Theresa went to New South Wales to live, possibly with one of her daughters.[46]

There, however, Theresa’s life appears to have plummeted out of control.

On 18 August 1888, now fifty-seven, she was charged with several others in the Police Courts, Sydney, with being drunk. The report in the Evening News gave her name as ‘Theresa Barrington’, but did not state how the ‘inebriates’ were dealt with.[47] In April 1893, she and a female acquaintance by the name of Maud Brennan (aka Carr), described as ‘two wrong-uns’, were found guilty of attempting to steal from the person of James Barry a silver watch and chain valued at two pounds. Both were sentenced to six months’ imprisonment with hard labour.[48] In 1894, then sixty-three years old, she was fined a pound and gaoled for four days for being ‘drunk and disorderly.[49

Those were to be Theresa’s last brushes with the law. Pleasingly, she was able to stay free of trouble for the rest of life.

Theresa passed away at the home of one of her daughters in Melbourne on 19 September 1915 and was buried the following day at the Melbourne General Cemetery. Her death certificate shows the cause of death as ‘senile decay’.  She was eighty-five when she died. [50]

Her life had been long and colourful. She had had her share of sorrow and happiness and had lived through good times and bad. Gladly, by the time of her passing her convict past was long-forgotten. Sadly, however, the memories she had of her life on the stage – as the ‘admired’ and ‘charming’ vocalist, actress and danseuse, and ‘the warmly-appreciated favourite of the concert hall’ might well have slipped away also.

 

 

[1] Conduct record CON41-1-29, image 22; description list CON19-1-9, image 62; indent CON15-1-6, images 292-293; police no. 1084; FCRC ID: 5074: 

[2] CON41-1-29, image 22.

[3] Marriage certificate, 1882 – see Note 40, below.

[4] Ancestry.co.uk; findmypast.co.uk; trial papers JC26/1850/348 via ‘Research Notes’ in FCRC d/base at www.femaleconvicts.org.au; http://catalogue.nrscotland.gov.uk/nrsonlinecatalogue/search.aspx

[5] Glasgow Gazette, 27 April 1850.

[6] http://members.iinet.net.au/~perthdps/convicts/shipsTAS.html

[7] https://www.femaleconvicts.org.au/docs2/ships/SurgeonsJournal_EmmaEugenia1851.pdf

[8] CON41-1-29, image 22; CON19-1-9, image 62; CON15-1-6, images 292-293;

[9] See ‘Convict System/Probation System’ at www.femaleconvicts.org.au

[10] CON41-1-29, image 22.

[11] CON33-1-97, image 166.

[12] Marriage: RGD37/1/11, no. 294; Joseph, ToL: CON33-1-97, image 166.

[13] CON41-1-29, image 22.

[14] CON41-1-29, image 22; CON33-1-97, image 166.

[15] Baptismal record: Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery (Launceston), via FCRC website @ www.femaleconvicts.org.au

[16] CON41-1-29, image 22.

[17] See https://www.femaleconvicts.org.au/administration/freedoms

[18] CON41-1-29, image 22.

[19] No record of her departure has been located.

[20] Edmund Petherick, birth: Vic. Reg: 17694/1859.

[21] See ‘Research Notes’ for Theresa Barrington in FCRC d/base at www.femaleconvicts.org.au.

[22] Emma Mathews, birth: Vic. Reg: 12658/1861.

[23] See Note 38, below.

[24] Marriage to Charles Rice: Vic. Reg: 97/1862; death, McCrow: RGD35/1/8, no. 521, HSD146/1/1, image 3; cause, disease of spinal cord.

[25] The Kyneton Observer (Kyneton, Vic.), 6, 1, 16 and 20 December 1862 (all page 3).

[26] The Star (Ballarat, Vic.), 29 August and 1 September 1863, p.3.

[27] The McIvor Times and Rodney Advertiser (Heathcote, Vic.), 23 December 1864, p.2.

[28] The McIvor Times and Rodney Advertiser (Heathcote, Vic.), 28 April 1865, p.2.

[29] The McIvor Times and Rodney Advertiser (Heathcote, Vic.), 5 May 1865, p.2.

[30] The McIvor Times and Rodney Advertiser (Heathcote, Vic.), 19 May 1865, p.2; The McIvor Times and Rodney Advertiser (Heathcote, Vic.), 9 June 1865, p.2.

[31] Trove: Search for ‘Mrs. Charles Rice’, Vic, NSW And Qld, 1860s

[32] Son Charles Rice, birth: Vic. Reg: 7115/1863; death: Vic. Reg: 3843/1863.

[33] Daughter Lillian Annie Rice, birth, Vic. Reg: 14335/1864.

[34] Rockhampton Bulletin and Central Queensland Advertiser, 28 January 1869, p.2.

[35] Northern Argus (Rockhampton, Qld.), 1 February 1869, p.3.

[36] Mackay Mercury and South Kennedy Advertiser, 3 December 1870, p.2.

[37] Mackay Mercury and South Kennedy Advertiser, 3 December 1870, p.2; ‘Design and Art Australia Online’ lists ‘Mrs. Charles Rice as a ‘painter and actor’ but adds that ‘she mainly worked as a theatrical entertainer’. See https://www.daao.org.au/.

[38] Death, McCrow: RGD35/1/8, no. 521, HSD146/1/1, image 3; cause, disease of spinal cord.

[39] Rockhampton Bulletin (Qld.), 4 April 1974, p.2.

[40] Bendigo Advertiser (Vic.), 5 February 1875, p.3.

[41] Leader (Melbourne), 11 March 1876, p.18.

[42] Marriage to Marsden: Vic. Reg. 6048/1882.

[43] See Note 45, below.

[44] Marsden, death: Vic. Reg: 9048/1883.

[45] Rice, death: NSW Reg: 4610/1883.

[46] See Notes 47-49, below.

[47] Evening News (Sydney),18 August 1888, p.5.

[48] Australian Star (NSW), 17 April 1893, p.6.

[49] NSW Australia, Gaol Description and Entrance Books, 1818-1930, Darlinghurst, NSW, via Ancestry at  https://www.ancestry.com.au/imageviewer/collections/1783/images/41491_330353-00062?usePUB=true&_phsrc=Khe513&_phstart=successSource&usePUBJs=true&pId=981776

[50] Death and burial: Vic. Reg: 10461/1915.

 

 

 

 


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