Why did Mary Ann say she had ‘no relations’?[1] After all, every child has at least a mother even if the father’s identity is unknown. Did her mother die in childbirth or leave her at an orphanage? Was she abandoned as a young child and left to survive on the streets of Belfast? If she had a family, did they desert her or was she forced to leave home under difficult circumstances?

In any event, by her early twenties Mary Ann had already served six months in prison for theft and had been ‘on the town’ for six years.[2] After another conviction for theft Mary Ann, aged 25, was transported to Van Diemen’s Land (VDL) and in the years that followed her pattern of offending continued. Her behaviour could best be described as feisty and it was almost as though she might have derived some comfort from institutionalisation. During this time she also lost two infant children and some years later ended up back in gaol after a dispute involving her daughters. Mary Ann displayed all the hallmarks of a troubled soul.

 

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In March 1841, Ellinor Magee was convicted of theft in Ireland and sentenced to transportation for seven years.[1] She arrived in Van Diemen’s Land (VDL) in December of that year. She was twenty-one years old. Two years later, she married convict James Allen but the marriage was not a happy one and, while they appear to have stayed in contact with each other, they were soon living apart. In 1847, Ellinor gave birth to a son by another man. That said, her conduct during the years of her servitude was unremarkable. She was charged with only three minor misdemeanours, for two of which she was merely reprimanded and, for the other, sent to the Female House of Corrections for the relatively short period of fourteen days. By 9 March 1848, she had served her time and was issued with a Certificate of Freedom. However, the next year was to see her in very serious trouble. In August 1849, she was found by a Coroner’s jury to have aided and assisted in the wilful murder of a man by the name of James Gosling, with whom she had been living for the previous three or four weeks. On the day of the murder, she, her husband James Allen, James Gosling and some of their acquaintances had been drinking together when an argument had started. A bitter fight ensued and Gosling, who had been stabbed through the neck, dropped to floor and died. The police were called and Ellinor, her husband and one of the acquaintances – a soldier of the 99th Regiment of Foot, then stationed at Hobart – were arrested. All were fully committed for trial at the next session of the Supreme Court. Two weeks later - to the utter astonishment of the citizens of Hobart - the Attorney-General decided not to proceed with the matter and all three were discharged from gaol. Afterwards, Ellinor seems to have disappeared from the pages of history. Frustratingly, nothing more is known of her life. She was still only twenty-nine. 

This is her story:

 

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Ann Morgan arrived in Van Diemen’s Land (VDL) per Sea Queen on 29 August 1846.[1] She was twenty years of age and single. In November 1845, she had been convicted in England of the theft of a large quantity of woollen cloth and sentenced to transportation for fourteen years. Within three years of her arrival, she had married a former convict, Patrick Connor, but the marriage was not a happy one. After only a few months, she charged Connor with preparing to desert her, leaving her destitute. A year later, she charged him again, this time with a brutal assault on her. Two years later again, she absconded from the colony and fled with Connor to Sydney. Once there, however, he went off with another woman and completely abandoned her. Apprehended as an escaped prisoner a short time later, Ann was returned to VDL where it is believed that she served out the rest of her term. What became of her after that remains a mystery! Frustratingly, she seems to have vanished from all records. Although it is unsatisfying in its conclusion, Ann’s story highlights two issues – wife-beating and desertion - that were of very considerable concern in VDL in the convict era.

*****

This is Ann’s story …

 

[1] Conduct record: CON41-1-10, image 98; Description List: CON19/1/5, image 194; Indent: CON15/1/3, images 334 and 335; Police No: 684; FCRC ID: 10980.

 

 

 

 

 

Jane Moorhead arrived in Van Diemen’s Land (VDL) aboard Blackfriar on 29 May 1851.[1] She was thirty years old and single. On 25 February 1850, she had been found guilty of arson in Ireland and sentenced to transportation for fifteen years. Although she committed relatively few offences in the colony, the crime for which she was transported as well as her subsequent conduct suggest that she harboured a deep sense of hostility and resentment. During the early years of her servitude, she was gaoled twice for threatening violence against people with whom she worked. Her most serious offence, however, occurred in late 1864 - nine years after she had been granted a conditional pardon – when she was convicted of manslaughter in the Supreme Court at Hobart and sentenced to another six years in prison. After her release, she moved to a quiet country town in the neighbouring colony of Victoria where she passed away at the age of sixty-four in 1885.

This is her story …

 

[1] Conduct Record: CON41-1-30, image 179; Description List: CON19-1-9, image 150; Indent: CON15-1-7, images 50, 51; Police No:254; FCRC ID:2863

 

 

 

 

 

Convict Eliza McDevitt arrived in Van Diemens Land (VDL) at the age of thirty-two in 1845.[1] She was a married woman, apparently childless, who had left behind in Ireland – without regret - a husband who had treated her badly. Although little is known about her life, either before her conviction and transportation or afterwards, one thing is very obvious: she was a strong-willed woman who seemed to know what she wanted in life and might have achieved it eventually. While still a prisoner in VDL, she married again but that marriage, like her first, was not a success and so, after serving her sentence, she fled from it, too. There are no further sightings of her in VDL. Where did she go? Did she leave the colony? There is some (slight) evidence that her husband tried to find her in the neighbouring colony of Victoria but without success. It is frustrating to find that – as with many females sent to VDL as convicts between 1812 and 1853 - she simply vanished from the pages of history soon after serving her time.

This is her story

 

[1] Conduct record: CON41-1-5, Image 91; Description List: CON19-1-4, Image 197; Indent: CON15/1/3, Images 124, 125. Police Number 229; FCRC ID: 10127.

 

 

 


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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 [date].

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