(Mary III, 1823)
by Don Bradmore
Ann Layshaw alias Sarah Wardle, a forty-three-year-old mother of three, arrived in Van Diemen’s Land (VDL) as a convict aboard Mary III (I) in October 1823. In the previous year, she had been convicted at Chelmsford, England, of ‘disposing of a forged banknote of five pounds’ and sentenced to transportation for life. Referred to in English newspapers at the time as ‘the notorious Mrs. Wardle’, she had been convicted of a similar offence almost five years earlier. On that occasion, she had been sentenced to imprisonment in England for fourteen years but had managed to escape, in seemingly impossible circumstances, six months later. Continuing to pass forged notes, she had remained at large until re-arrested in 1822. However, for one who had arrived in VDL with such notoriety, she was of surprisingly little trouble to the authorities. She was charged with only two new offences in the colony, both relatively minor. In 1825, she married former convict Charles Sefton and lived quietly until her death by natural cause six years later.
This is her story:
(Emma Eugenia, 3, 1844)
by Don Bradmore
Mary Latham was twenty-two years old when she arrived in Van Diemen’s Land (VDL) per Emma Eugenia in early April 1844. In July of the previous year, she had been convicted at the Nether Knutsford Quarter Sessions, Chestershire, England, of stealing some items of clothing and sentenced to transportation for seven years. That offence had not been her first. In fact, she had been imprisoned in England seven times previously for transgressions including drunkenness and larceny. While in gaol awaiting transportation, she had been described as ‘bad’. Not surprisingly, she proved to be a recalcitrant prisoner in the colony. She was, in fact, incorrigible. Before the expiration of her sentence in 1850, she had been charged with new offences on no fewer than twenty-five occasions and had spent most of her seven-year term in prison. While some of her offences were relatively minor, together they exhibit an extreme form of rebelliousness and insubordination. Her case is illustrative of the utmost difficulty the authorities in VDL had in dealing with female prisoners who displayed an obstinately uncooperative attitude. Quite remarkably, however, by the time of her death at sixty in 1886, she had transformed herself into a good wife and mother and a useful citizen. What had brought about this change?
This is Mary’s story:
“Mary Laird or Mackay was convicted of stealing a brown silk umbrella, the property of Captain Grove, R.N., aggravated by being habit and repute a thief, and sentenced to seven years' transportation”. Caledonian Mercury - 23 June 1842.
This is her story:
Agnes Lander arrived in Van Diemen’s Land (VDL) as a convict on the vessel Lloyds in November 1845. She was nineteen years old. Six months earlier, she had been found guilty of the theft of clothing in her native Glasgow, Scotland, and sentenced to transportation for seven years. Blighted by continuing epileptic fits during her early years in the colony, she was admitted to the New Norfolk Asylum on a number of occasions. There, she was described as ‘violent and noisy’, ‘a very-ill-disposed woman’ and ‘a moral maniac of the worst kind’. On one occasion, she attempted to take her own life by slashing her throat with a pair of scissors. Eventually, however, she overcame her illness and, when finally discharged ‘in good bodily health’ in 1853, she was never re-admitted. In 1849, during a period away from the Asylum, she gave birth to an illegitimate daughter, Jane, but, soon afterwards, was in trouble with the law again and confined at the Female Factory at Ross. While there, she gave birth to a second illegitimate child but when that child perished in a fire at the prison, she and six other women imprisoned at Ross were charged with infanticide. As it happens, however, neither Agnes nor any of the other women ever faced trial, perhaps because the child’s body, totally consumed by the flames, could not be examined. Not long after her release from Ross, she married former convict Charles Thomas Lewis (Lady East, 1825) and, over the next several years, had three more children - Mary Ann (born 1854), Ellen (born 1856, died 1859) and Charles Thomas (born 1859). But the tumult in Agnes’s life continued. She often broke the law and was punished for her offences by way of goal or fines. Her two older girls – Jane and Mary Ann – were unruly from a young age. As they grew up, Agnes sometimes aided and abetted them in their crimes. Destitute, neglected and sometimes physically abused by family members, Agnes passed away at Hobart, at the age of eighty-six, in January 1912.
This is her story.
On 9 July 1850, Ellen stood trial in County Wexford, charged with arson. Found guilty, she was sentenced to transportation for fifteen years.
The circumstances under which Ellen had decided to burn someone’s property are unknown as official transcripts of her trial have not been located. However, family sources have always believed that she and other members of her Catholic family had become involved in some way in the political troubles in Ireland at that time. Encyclopedia Britannica explains this situation by claiming that the Orange Order (popularly called the Orangemen), which had been founded in 1795 to defend the Protestant Ascendancy, were increasingly excluding Catholics from holding favourable properties, forcing them to subsist on poorer lands which had to be subdivided continually to cope with population increase. This situation became even more intolerable when a potato blight hit their crops and a long and devastating famine ensued.
Read more: Eleanor Lyons (Blackfriar 1851).