Sarah Marshall 200: a floating brothel

What did it mean to be a woman and a convict on board a transport ship sailing to Australia? I’m going to look at how it was for my 3x great grandmother, Sarah Marshall, farm servant, thief, wife and mother, reputed ghost.

In my previous post about Sarah’s arrival in New South Wales in 1818, I mentioned that she had a terrible voyage. In fact, the ship she was transported on, the Friendship II, was notorious because of the behaviour of its convicts, its crew and both senior officials – the Master, Andrew Armett, and Peter Cosgreave, the Surgeon-Superintendent.

Text of Cosgreave's letter describing ocnvicts as cargo

The Surgeon-Superintendant was a naval officer whose job was to oversee the welfare of convicts on board ship. It was a recently-created post and partly existed to try to cut down the loss of a ship’s ‘cargo‘ – in other words, to stop convicts dying during the long sea journey to New South Wales. On the Friendship, the human cargo was female.

Peter Cosgreave, unfortunately, cared more about the women’s morals than their physical health. During the voyage, he compiled a list of ‘Names of Convicts with their Characters during the voyage from London’ for the Governor of New South Wales, Lachlan Macquarie. Every woman was decribed in a terse line or two. Here’s his entry about Sarah.

Sarah Marshall's entry on the Friendship II list of convicts with their characters

Sarah Marshall’s entry on the Friendship II list of convicts with their characters

I’ll just enlarge Cosgreave’s description of her so you can see it properly.

Sarah Marshall's description: prostitute

It reads: Sarah Marshall  Prostitute (not Insolent or bad disposed) Industrious

Well, I’m very glad that great-great-great-granny wasn’t insolent or bad disposed, but a prostitute? She was a thief, certainly, and that’s why she was sentenced to seven years’ transportation. But prostitution wasn’t a transportable offence. So what’s going on?

The story I uncovered is one of cruelty, exploitation and hypocrisy.

The Friendship carried a few passengers who were heading to Australia – or beyond – but by far the largest group on board was the 101 convict women. The officers and crew, of course, were men, and with the six months or so they’d spend cooped up with the women it was inevitable that they’d try their luck, whether they looked for a sweetheart or a quickie in a dark corner.

Henry, 3rd Earl Bathurst, Colonial Secretary

Henry, Earl Bathurst, Colonial Secretary

Some of the crew would have seen this as a perk of the job. And it’s possible that some of the women would have spent time as sex workers before they were imprisoned, since their bodies were the only commodities they’d have had to trade with.

The office of the Colonial Secretary (the government minister responsible for administering Britain’s colonies) knew that this was likely to happen on ships transporting women convicts. The captain and surgeon-superintendent were expecteded to discourage it.

But the Friendship became infamous because Cosgreave and Armett’s efforts at discouragement were half-hearted. Official records suggest that they were the only ship’s employees who didn’t enjoy ‘a Very Indecent and licentious Intercourse’ with convict women, and when, early in the voyage, they tried to stop the other officers and crew from meeting the women, the reaction made them fear a mutiny.

Armett's evidence about not wanting to see prostitution

Armett’s evidence at the Friendship enquiry

In Cosgreave’s words, ‘Ocular demonstration being Considered indespensably necessary for Conviction’ (of ‘prostitution’), he and Captain Armett decided to just… not notice it. Armett even told the officers: ‘Do not let me see it.’

Ostriches burying their hrads in the sandUnfortunately for Cosgreave and Armett, a passenger complained about the – apparently authorised – sexual activity, and an enquiry was called. The Friendship and its senior officers, with their despairing attitude of ‘if I don’t see it it’s not happening’, became notorious.

It could have been worse for Sarah. Cosgreave gave other women even less flattering reports, like ‘A Thief, Prostitute & blasphemous wretch’, ‘Prostitute, Filthy & Lazy’ and one, Jane Brown, ‘A Most Insolent & mutinous Prostitute’.

I’ll come back to Jane later, when I look at how Armett and Cosgreave – unable to stop their officers and crew from disobeying orders – took revenge on the convict women.

Book extracts: Historical Records of Australia: Governors’ Despatches (Public domain)
Cosgreave’s list: from Colonial Secretary’s papers, via Ancestry
Earl Bathurst: via Wikimedia
Ostriches: by Fwaaldijk via Wikimedia

Previous 200th anniversary posts:
Sarah Marshall arrives on the Friendship II
John Simpson arrives on the Ocean II

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A map of Nicholas’s road

It’s the anniversary of the foundation of the Botanic Gardens in Sydney today, June 13. That was the day when, in 1816, Nicholas Delaney finished the road to Mrs Macquarie’s chair along with the gang he was overseer of.

So I was thrilled to see a couple of tweets this morning which marked the occasion. Here they are. The first was from the State Archives of New South Wales:

Tweet from NSW State Archives about the anniversary of the Botanic Gardens with a 19th century photo of Farm Cove

And here’s a reply from the State Library of New South Wales:

Tweet with old map of the Botanic Garden roads from the State Library of NSW

Which is wonderful – I hadn’t seen the map before. If you’d like a closer look at it, you can go to their online collection.

If you’d like to get in touch with me on Twitter, I’m @ARebelHand. I’d love to know what your interests are – genealogy, history, whatever brought you here!

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Ulva, Lachlan Macquarie’s birthplace

The Hebridean island of Ulva is to be bought by a community group including its remaining inhabitants and those of nearby north-west Mull.

Ormaig, Isle of Ulva, where Lachlan Macquarie was born

Ormaig, Isle of Ulva, where Lachlan Macquarie was born

When I heard the news yesterday, 11 May 2018, my ears perked up. Not just because it’s an interesting event, but becausethe Isle of Ulva is where Lachlan Macquarie, the ‘Father of Australia’ and the patron of my ancestor, Nicholas Delaney, was born in 1762.

Australia’s National Trust has, press reports say, offered to help promote tourism to Ulva to see the former Governor’s birthplace. I’m guessing this would be the New South Wales NT, though I haven’t seen anything to prove or disprove this yet. It would be logical, since this Trust has cared for the Macquarie Mausoleum on Mull for over 50 years.

Macquarie Mausoleum, Isle of Mull

Macquarie Mausoleum, Isle of Mull

Read more about Nicholas Delaney’s work for Governor Lachlan Macquarie:
Making roads for Macquarie
At the heart of Sydney
Did Nicholas build the oldest bridge in Australia?
Family myths, cover-ups – what did Nicholas Delaney really do?
Wealth for Toil
Australia’s oldest bridge revisited
Nicholas Delaney and the Royal Botanic Garden, Sydney

1807 map of Scotland showing Ulva

1807 map of Scotland showing Ulva

Image credits:
Ormaig, Isle of Mull: photo by Chris McLean via Wikimedia
Macquarie Mausoluem: photo by Douglas Law via Wikimedia
Arrowsmith map of 1807: National Library of Scotland

Posted in Macquarie | Tagged , , | 4 Comments

Sarah Marshall 200: convict ship Friendship II

It’s exactly 200 years since Sarah Marshall, a convict from the Manchester area, climbed out of the boat that brought her from the transport ship Friendship II to the penal colony of New South Wales.

Friendship was built in 1793. According to Lloyd’s Register of Ships, she was a triple-decker second-class ship made with good materials. At the time she arrived in Sydney Cove, like a growing number of merchant ships sailing into warm waters, her hull was sheathed with copper (over boards). She’d had a thorough refit in 1813 and damage repaired in 1817.

Sarah Marshall's entry on the Friendship II list of convicts with their characters

Sarah Marshall’s entry on the Friendship II ‘list of convicts with their characters’

But Friendship was 25 years old and, only seven months after Sarah disembarked, the ship was condemned as unseaworthy.

Add to this an unusually long, ‘tedious’ voyage during which the women were deprived of water… and all the nice materials and copper bottoms in the world wouldn’t have made it as (relatively) easy an experience as her future ‘husband’ John was having.

Sarah Marshall’s voyage across the world began at Deptford, in East London, where another branch of my Aussie ancestors, the Richards and Wickings, were working as watermen and in the dockyards.

An old painting showing ships on the Thames near the dockyards at Deptford

Deptford dockyards, around 1800

She and 96 other convict women, along with a few wives of serving convicts and some free passengers, along with the crew, were crammed into a ship 180 feet long and just over 28 feet in the beam. They shared this space with food and drink for the voyage and with supplies for the colony.

The ship sailed on 3 July, 1817, and took a gruelling 195 days – over six months – to reach Port Jackson. John Simpson‘s voyage, on the Ocean II, was 46 days shorter.

But although Friendship II dropped anchor in Sydney Cove on January 14, 1818, the convicts didn’t disembark for many days. First the legal niceties had to be observed. The cargo had to be accounted for and inspected before it was handed over.

And that cargo included 3,175 blankets; 1,996 cotton shirts; 8,000 shoes*; 4,000 pairs of trousers; one sugar mill; and 97 convict women.

For cargo is what they were.

Text of Cosgreave's letter describing ocnvicts as cargo

As Friendship’s surgeon-superintendant Peter Cosgreave wrote in a letter to Lachlan Macquarie, the Governor of New South Wales: ‘The Master of the Ship also apprized his Crew of the Consequence that was likely to result from their meddling with the Convicts, being Considered as the Cargo…’

But meddle they did. And there were consequences. I’ll come back to this in a separate post.

Six days after the ship arrived, on 21 January, the convicts were mustered and inspected by Macquarie’s hard-working secretary, John Campbell. Their names were recorded to check that all were accounted for. Then they were checked for their state of health and questioned about their trades before imprisonment, to see what work they could be used for.

Sydney Gazette account of the women being landed

Sydney Gazette account of the women being landed

They were landed at last on 30 January, as the Sydney Gazette reported the following day.

I don’t know whether Sarah was one of the women sent to be a servant, or whether she had scurvy and went straight to hospital.

What I do know is that she was healthy enough and in the Sydney area by the middle of February, where John Simpson was living, because on 18 November, 1818, she gave birth to their first child, Lucy, my direct ancestor.

But I don’t want to jump too far ahead, because (you might have guessed this from my hints) there’s a lot to say about what it was like to be a transported convict aboard the Friendship. And not much of it is positive.

So if you’ve come here fresh from the disappointment that Sarah wasn’t murdered horribly and that she doesn’t haunt Castlereagh cemetery, I’ve got some good news for you. Her voyage in Friendship II was a nightmare. Cruel punishments, suicide, deliberate dehydration, ‘prostitution’, pirates… they all feature in her story and I’ll be writing more about it soon.

In the meantime, there are some murders on this blog: my ancestor Nicholas Delaney died in very mysterious circumstances, and I also tell the tale of the infamous Islington Murderer, Celestina Sommer.

*As my genealogist friend Anne Powers has reminded me, shoes weren’t made in left- and right-foot versions until relatively recently.

Sources (where not linked to):
(ed) Frederick Watson: Historical records of Australia. Series I. Governors’ despatches to and from England. Volume IX

Deptford Dockyard and ships c 1800 by Joseph Farington via Wikimedia Commons


Previous posts: John Simpson arrives on Ocean II

Posted in Australia, Convicts, Macquarie, Transportation | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

John Simpson 200: convict ship Ocean II

On 16 January 1818, the Yorkshire convict John Simpson left the transport ship Ocean II and set foot on Australian soil.

Ocean was a relatively new ship, built in 1808 at Whitby (coincidentally, that’s just under 30 miles away from John’s birthplace, Yarm). This could have been one of the reasons why only two of the 182 male convicts on board died during the voyage.

Medical and surgical journal by George Fairfowl, official document

Fairfowl’s medical journal p1

John Simpson and his fellows were also lucky to have a good surgeon superintendent on board: George Fairfowl, who New South Wales governor Lachlan Macquarie described as ‘at once an Intelligent and kind humane Man’.

Handwritten note by Governor Macquarie approving the conduct of the Surgeon Superintendant of the convict ship Ocean

Note by Macquarie at the end of Fairfowl’s journal

In his dispatches to Henry, Earl Bathurst, the Secretary of State for War and the Colonies, Macquarie also wrote that the convicts were ‘All in Good Health, and highly Satisfied with that Gentleman’s Care and Attention during the passage’.

It’s good to see from Macquarie’s note at the end of Fairfowl’s medical journal that John and his fellow convicts were ‘landed… in a Clean Healthy State’, which was no small success after 149 days – nearly five months – at sea.

They’d only had a short stop at St Helena to take on fresh water and food.

Since Napoleon was imprisoned on the island at the time, I wonder whether the convicts hoped to catch a glimpse of the world’s most famous captive from their own prison ship?

Black and white engraving of the Justitia hulk with convicts working in the foreground, using spades and a wheelbarrow

The Justitia hulk with convicts working, 1777

And even before Ocean left Spithead, near Portsmouth, for Port Jackson on 25 June, 1817, John had been imprisoned on the Justitia hulk, which was moored at Woolwich, for 39 days.

The Justitia was itself a former convict ship, and the first to be used as a floating prison. I can write more about prison hulks if you’re interested – let me know in the comments below.

Macquarie went on to say of the Ocean‘s master, Samuel Remmington, that his ‘Conduct also appears to have been perfectly Correct’.

It looks as if John Simpson’s experience of transportation was (relatively) bearable, like Nicholas Delaney‘s 16 years before.

John’s future ‘wife’, Sarah Marshall (also known as Sarah Simpson), had a very different time during her journey on the Friendship II, which I’ll come back to soon.

This is the first in a series of posts marking the 200th anniversary of my great-great-great grandparents, John and Sarah, arriving in New South Wales in January 1818.

A plate from the front cover of George Fairfowl's surgeon's journal, showing the name of the ship, Ocean, and the date it sailed, 24 June 1817

Front cover of Fairfowl’s medical journal

Sources (where not linked to):

Frederick Watson (ed): Historical records of Australia. Series I. Governors’ despatches to and from England. Volume IX, January, 1816-December, 1818
The National Archives: HO 9. Convict hulks moored at Woolwich. Index to register of prisoners on the Justitia
TNA: Surgeons at sea – Royal Navy Medical officers’ journals ADM 101/57/8


Fairfowl’s medical journal: TNA: Surgeons at sea – Royal Navy Medical officers’ journals ADM 101/57/8
The Justitia: National Maritime Museum, Greenwich

Posted in Convicts, Macquarie, Transportation | Tagged , , , , , , | 9 Comments

Criminal Lives, 1780-1925

Earlier in December I went to the launch of Criminal Lives, 1780-1925: Punishing Old Bailey Convicts, a new exhibition at the London Metropolitan Archives (LMA).

Criminal Lives poster

If you’ve visited this blog before (hello! Thanks for coming back!) you’ll know that I write a lot about crime and convicts. A lot.

That’s partly because I’m descended from four convicts transported to Australia: Nicholas Delaney, Sarah Marshall, John Simpson and James Thomas Richards.

I’m also fascinated by the story of Celestina Sommer, nee Christmas, the notorious ‘Islington Murderer‘.

So when I got the chance to meet some of the people behind the Criminal Lives exhibition as well as seeing it, how could I resist?

It’s a smallish exhibition, but full of objects and information that you could spend a long time over. I’m definitely going to go back again to spend more time with my favourites.

I was delighted to see the focus on individual convicts’ lives and on material culture, though there was plenty of explanatory text as well. You’ll get a feel from these photos (please excuse the less-than brilliant quality – the lights sometimes caused unavoidable shadows and flares).

Letter applying for the job of executioner

Letter applying for the job of executioner

It’s cleverly laid out, telling the stories of policing and arrest, Old Bailey trials, punishment, the prison crisis, transportation to Australia and more by using themed walls and cases.

I found it sometimes poignant, sometimes horrifying and sometimes amusing (see the executioner’s job application letter. Yes, I’ve got a darkish sense of humour, but what a CV!)

Transcription of the executioner job application

Transcription of the executioner job application

If you’re interested in the history of crime, policing, London, prisons, convicts’ lives or transportation, go if you can. It would probably suit you if you’re missing Ripper Street, Taboo or (sob!) Garrow’s Law, too.

It was great to have a chat with some of the exhibition’s organisers, as well as to talk to Louise Falcini and Jasmine Losasso and to meet Sharon Howard, whose work I’ve been a fan of for quite a while.

Thanks to Laurence Ward, Robert Shoemaker, Tim Hitchcock, Larissa Allwork and to the people from the Digital Panopticon, LMA and the other organisations and people who put this exhibition together.

I’ll let the photos tell the rest of the story. All images are by kind permission of LMA.

UPDATE: The Digital Panoptican team has put together a free public engagement programme to complement the Criminal Lives exhibition.

Held at LMA, the season of talks and workshops range from convict art to convict genealogy, and from standing trial at the Old Bailey to the alternatives to hanging.

MORE: To mark the 200th anniversary of the arrival in New South Wales of my ancestors John Simpson and Sarah Marshall in January 1818, I’m writing a series of posts about their trials, transportation and later lives, starting with John Simpson. He sailed to Port Jackson from Spithead on the convict ship Ocean II.

Policeman's truncheon, with handcuffs behind

Policeman’s truncheon, with handcuffs behind

Criminal Lives truncheon info

Prisoner's waist belt and cuffs

Prisoner’s waist belt and cuffs

Convict Lives Newgate interior yard

Millbank Prison, view down main corridor

Millbank Prison, view down main corridor

Millbank Prison - main passageway

Millbank Prison – main passageway

Oakum made from hemp

Prisoners had to ‘pick oakum’ from hemp ropes to make padding or stuffing

Criminal Lives: Charlotte Walker's story

Charlotte Walker’s story

Convict uniform in blue and yellow

Convict uniform (replica)

Convict love token, 1818

Convict love token, 1818

Drawing of Convicts writing letters at Cockatoo Island

Convicts writing letters at Cockatoo Island

Australians wearing convict bonnets

Wear a Bonnet, living art installation by Christina Henri

Posted in Convicts, Transportation | Tagged , , , , , | 3 Comments

Seven years of genealogy blogging

birthday cake with seven candlesA Rebel Hand is seven years old!

This blog is, anyway. The book A Rebel Hand has been around much longer.

Seven’s a powerful number. Seven days of the week, seven stars in the sky, seven seas, not to mention Seven Sisters, Sevenoaks and Seven Dials. It’s lucky.

And it’s lucky that my seventh blogiversary has brought me back to writing after a long (too long, sorry) break while I’ve been researching a novel set in the early 18th century. More about that on my new blog, Writing the Past.

So here’s what my plan is: it’s coming up to the 300th anniversary of Sarah Marshall and John Simpson arriving in New South Wales. I’ve already written about them, my 3x great grandmother and great grandfather (you can search for them in the bar on the right).

But now it’s time to look at how they came to be transported to Australia in 1817. There are gaps in my research, of course, but I’ll write about what I’ve found out so far. There’s more interesting stuff about Sarah, including her voyage on a notorious convict ship, the Friendship II. That means I may be concentrating more on her. Who knows? Let me know what you’d like to read.

And, for what it’s worth, I don’t think Sarah is a famous ghost, and I know for sure that she wasn’t murdered. But each to their own, eh?

(I will come back to Celestina Christmas and the Islington Murder, I promise!)

Picture credit:
Birthday cake by cbaquiran, Creative Commons CC0

Posted in Nicholas Delaney | 2 Comments

The Royal Botanic Garden, Sydney, is 200 years old!

It’s today! Sydney’s Royal Botanic Garden is 200 years old on June 13, 2016. Happy birthday!

We’ve seen why this day is the bicentenary – it’s because this is when Nicholas Delaney and his convict road gang finished building Mrs Macquarie’s Road and delighted her husband, New South Wales Governor Lachlan Macquarie.

A small part of Nicholas’s original road can still be seen, two centuries later, at the Macquarie Culvert in the Botanic Garden.

Macquarie Culvert in Sydney's Royal Botanic Garden, showing both bridges. © Jeff Farrar, 2013

Macquarie Culvert, part of Mrs Macquarie’s Road. Photo © Jeff Farrar, 2013

Nicholas Delaney was the overseer of a gang of labourers working on building roads for Lachlan Macquarie. The Governor’s mission in his early years was to impose order and morals on a colony which had only just experienced its first and only successful military coup, the Rum Rebellion. Part of this involved tidying up Sydney.

He set out to claim back the Domain, the Government House land which included the present Domain and all the area up to Bennelong Point and Mrs Macquarie’s Point.

Photo of the Domain, Sydney, from the air

The Domain, Sydney, from the air

Macquarie, a religious man, had orders from London to reform public morals. Over the years the remoter areas of the Domain had become useful territory for thieves and prostitutes. The seclusion suited hiding stolen goods and meetings of, well, various kinds. The Domain needed a good clean-up.

He enclosed the area with a stone wall and wooden fences. In 1815 he posted constables to lurk inside and arrest anyone who broke in. Three men who were caught there that April – one of them was suspected of dealing in stolen goods and keeping a ‘disorderly house’ – were flogged.

And he decided to reclaim it as a place of beauty and a delight for his beloved wife, Elizabeth.

Photo of Mrs Macquarie's chair, early 20th century, from State Library of New South Wales

Mrs Macquarie’s chair, early 20th century

She was the one who planned a new route around the eastern part of the Domain, which was to be named after her – Mrs Macquarie’s Road. At the northern tip of the new road a large rock was carved into a seat for her – called, of course, Mrs Macquarie’s Chair – and it’s said she loved to go there by foot or carriage and watch the ships sailing in from the other side of the world.

I wonder if she saw the convict transports arriving which carried two more of my ancestors, Sarah Marshall on the Friendship and John Simpson on Ocean II, in January 1818?

It’s likely that Mrs Macquarie’s Chair was carved by Nicholas’s road gang, but I haven’t found any proof of that. On one side a stone carver has inscribed the date when Nicholas and his gang finished the road, and that, together with Lachlan Macquarie’s journal, is where the date of 13 June, 2016, the Botanic Garden’s 200th birthday, comes from.

Photo of inscription on Mrs Macquarie's Chair in Sydney's Royal Botanic Garden

Inscription on Mrs Macquarie’s Chair, CC via Wikimedia

It’s still a popular place for sightseeing, and it’s where Delaneys are gathering today to celebrate Nicholas’s achievement. A cannon will be fired to mark the historic moment at one o’clock when the men downed tools and Nicholas gave the Governor the good news.

Botanic Gardens redevelopment ‘on hold’

There’s some more happy news just in time for the 200th birthday party – a controversial $130 million plan to redevelop the Royal Botanic Garden and Domain has been put on hold, the Sydney Morning Herald reports.

I mentioned how canny Nicholas had been to finish Mrs Macquarie’s Road on Mrs Macquarie’s birthday (getting five gallons of spirits as a reward). It seems his announcement of the road’s completion was pretty canny, too.

I found this story in the Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser of Saturday, 15 June, 1816:

Governor Lachlan Macquarie launches a ship named after his wife on her birthday - old newspaper cutting

Lachlan Macquarie launches the Elizabeth Henrietta

Governor Macquarie had launched a ‘fine brig’ named after his wife, Elizabeth Henrietta, at noon that day – another birthday present for her. Exactly an hour later, overseer Delaney added his good news about the road gang’s birthday gift. Isn’t that good timing? I have to admire my 3x great grandfather for his forward planning.

Get Nicholas Delaney’s biography, A Rebel Hand, here.

So here’s wishing the Botanic Garden another 200 years, and here’s to Nicholas and his descendants celebrating his achievement today!

Picture credits:
Macquarie Culvert photo © Jeff Farrar, 2013
Photograph of the Domain via Wikimedia
Old photo of Mrs Macquarie’s Chair NLNSW via Wikimedia
Inscription photo by Graeme Churchard, CC via Flickr
Newspaper article via Trove

Posted in A Rebel Hand, Australia | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Delaneys return to the Royal Botanic Garden

Today’s post about Nicholas Delaney and the 200th anniversary of Sydney’s Royal Botanic Garden is more of a news item.

The Delaneys are coming back!

There’s going to be a gathering of Nicholas’s descendants on 13 June, 2016, at the Royal Botanic Gardens, exactly 200 years to the hour after our ancestor told a delighted Governor Lachlan Macquarie that he and his road gang had finished building Mrs Macquarie’s Road.

Old handwritten document - Lachlan Macquarie's journal for 13 June, 1816 part 2

Lachlan Macquarie’s journal for 13 June, 1816

One of my Delaney cousins tells me that the family will reunite at Mrs Macquarie’s Chair at 1pm ‘to re-enact the dedication of Mrs Macquarie’s Road by Governor Macquarie’. Isn’t that a brilliant idea?

Here’s a link to what else is going on to celebrate the garden’s 200th birthday.

I’ll pass on the details as soon as I know more. I’ll probably tweet them, so if you’re on Twitter, please check my moniker, @ARebelHand.

Photo of inscription on Mrs Macquarie's Chair in Sydney's Royal Botanic Garden

Inscription on Mrs Macquarie’s Chair, CC via Wikimedia

I can’t be there, so the least I can do is join in the spirit of the occasion and celebrate by announcing this:

Special offer on A Rebel Hand

From today until the end of June, I’m offering 25% off the price of a copy of A Rebel Hand, the biography of Nicholas Delaney, Irish rebel, transported convict, roadbuilder and farmer – a man who left his mark on the early colony and whose work can be seen in Sydney to this day.

I hope you’ll come back soon for the next Botanic Garden bicentenary celebration post.

Get your special offer of A Rebel Hand for £5.99 here.

Update: Delaney descendant Denis O’Brien, who’s organising the reunion, will be interviewed on 702 ABC Sydney, a local radio station. You can listen live at around 0620 Sydney time. It’s a little early in the morning, but I’m sure it’ll be worth it.

Posted in Australia, Nicholas Delaney | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Nicholas Delaney and the Royal Botanic Garden, Sydney

The Royal Botanic Garden in Sydney is 200 years old on June 13, 2016. Happy Birthday!

And the bicentenary’s on that day because of another birthday and the crafty planning of an Irish ex-convict – Nicholas Delaney, my great-great-great grandfather.

Lachlan Macquarie, Governor of New South Wales

Lachlan Macquarie

In 1810, Lachlan Macquarie became Governor of New South Wales. An experienced soldier, he’d been sent to Australia to clean up after the Rum Rebellion of 1808-9, when the colony’s army regiment, the New South Wales or Rum Corps, overthrew Governor William Bligh. Yes, the same Bligh as in the Mutiny on the Bounty, 19 years earlier. Leadership skills didn’t seem to be his strong point.

Governor Macquarie didn’t just want to restore order to the population of News South Wales. He also imposed order on its streets. Under Macquarie, Sydney’s rambling streets were tamed and a grid plan imposed on the city. He needed trusted, experienced road gang overseers. Like Nicholas Delaney.

One of Lachlan Macquarie’s projects was to claim back the Domain, the land surrounding and to the east of his official residence, Government House. It swept from Circular Quay around Farm Cove to Woolloomooloo and included places we now know as the Sydney Opera House, Mrs Macquarie’s Chair, the Royal Botanic Gardens and the (much smaller) Domain.

Aerial view of the old Domain area of Sydney showing Mrs Macquarie's Road, via Google Earth

View of the (old) Domain area with Nicholas’s road on the right

Lachlan Macquarie and his wife Elizabeth seem to have been deeply fond of each other. She was certainly a great support in his efforts to move New South Wales on from a penal settlement to a self-sufficient colony.

As she was keen on gardening – a very civilised pursuit, and a way of taming the wild – no doubt he encouraged her to take on planning a new garden for the Domain and a road around the eastern part up to the place on the tip of the peninsula now known as Mrs Macquarie’s Point.

And it was Nicholas Delaney who Lachlan Macquarie appointed to work, with his convict gang, on building what was first called Mrs Macquarie’s New Road, later just Mrs Macquarie’s Road.

I haven’t found any record of when Nicholas and his men started work on the road, but it would’ve been back-breaking work. We do know when they finally laid down their tools and Nicholas hurried to tell the Governor the good news.

Old map of Sydney Cove and Farm Cove as it was in 1802, when Nicholas Delaney lived there

Sydney Cove and Farm Cove as they were in 1802

You’d need to be canny or lucky, or both, to survive as a convict in the early days of European settlement in Australia. Two decades of researching Nicholas Delaney’s life have convinced me that he was both. And tough as old work boots, too.

After six years working for Lachlan Macquarie it’s likely that Nicholas would’ve known when Mrs Macquarie’s birthday was. The 13th of June. And if speeding up or slowing down a bit meant that the gang finished work on her road on her birthday, well, what a wonderful extra birthday present that would be. One that her loving husband might appreciate, too.

And guess what? Nicholas and his men did just that. Was Lachlan Macquarie pleased? I’ll let the Governor tell you in his own words.

Old handwritten document - Lachlan Macquarie's journal for 13 June, 1816 part 1

Lachlan Macquarie’s journal for 13 June, 1816, pt 1

(He continues over the page)

Old handwritten document - Lachlan Macquarie's journal for 13 June, 1816 part 2

Lachlan Macquarie’s journal for 13 June, 1816, pt 2

Here’s the transcription:

This day at 1. P.M. Nicholas Delaney the Overseer of the Working Gang employed for some time past in the Government Domain reported to me that Mrs. Macquarie’s New Road – (measuring 3 miles and 377 yards –) round the inside of the Government – together with all the necessary Bridges on the same – were completely [page break] finished agreeably to the Plan laid down originally for constructing it by Mrs. Macquarie.

As a reward for their exertions in having completed “Mrs. Macquarie’s Road,” on this particular and auspicious Day, I have given Delaney and his Gang of Ten Men, Five Gallons of Spirits amongst them – as Donation from Government from the King’s Store. —

I’ve written more about Nicholas Delaney building Mrs Macquarie’s Road and what could be the oldest bridge in Australia already on this blog. But I’m so excited about the 200th anniversary of my ancestor leaving his mark on New South Wales that I’ll be posting more, up to and during the ‘auspicious Day’.

So do come back and find out more about the story behind #Garden200.

Picture credits:
Portrait of Governor Lachlan Macquarie via Wikimedia Commons
Aerial view of the Domain via Google Earth
1802 map of Sydney via Mapco
Extracts from Lachlan Macquarie’s journal courtesy of the State Library of New South Wales

Buy Nicholas Delaney’s biography, A Rebel Hand, here


Posted in A Rebel Hand, Australia | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Celestina’s life in Millbank Prison: a Christmas tale pt 22

In the previous post in this series, Celestina Sommer arrived at Millbank Prison on 6 September, 1856, to begin her sentence for murdering her daughter, Celestina Christmas. Her hair was cut off, she was given prison clothes and put in the probation ward. What was life like for her there?

Handwritten record of Celestina Sommer being sent to Millbank

Record of Celestina Sommer being sent to Millbank *

A good picture of Millbank from that era comes from Henry Mayhew and John Binny’s (M&B) 1862 book, The Criminal Prisons of London and Scenes of London Life, which I’m going to quote from several times in this post. There’s a list of further reading about women’s life in prison at the bottom.

Here they describe entering the women’s pentagon, the third of the six that made up Millbank Prison’s panopticon design:

Plan of the women's pentagon at Millbank Prison

The women’s pentagon at Millbank *

‘The matron now opened a heavy door that moaned on its hinges. “This is A ward, and has thirty cells in it, exactly the same as those in the male pentagon.”

‘The cells had register numbers outside, but the grated gate was considerably lighter, though equally as strong as those in the other pentagons.

‘As we peeped into one of the little cells, we saw a good-looking girl with a skein of thread round her neck, seated and busy making a shirt. The mattress and blankets were rolled up into a square bundle, as in the male cells. There was a small wooden stool and little square table with a gas jet just over it; the bright tins, wooden platter, and salt-box, a few books, and a slate, and signal-stick shaped like a harlequin’s wand, were all neatly arranged upon the table and shelf in the corner.’ M&B

They go into greater detail describing a typical cell on the men’s wards:

‘The colour of the walls we found of a light neutral tint. Beneath the solitary window, which, like all the cell windows, looked towards the “warder’s tower,” in the centre of the pentagon, was a little square table of plain wood, on which stood a small pyramid of books, consisting of a Bible, a Prayer-book, a hymn-book, an arithmetic-book, a work entitled “Home and Common Things,” and other similar publications of the Society for the Promotion of Christian Knowledge, together with a slate and pencil, a wooden platter, two tin pints for cocoa and gruel, a salt-cellar, a wooden spoon, and the signal-stick before alluded to.

‘Underneath the table was a broom for sweeping out the cell, resembling a sweep’s brush, two combs, a hair-brush, a piece of soap, and a utensil like a pudding-basin.

A notice to female convicts, pinned to the wall at Millbank Prison

A notice to female convicts, Millbank *

‘Affixed to the wall was a card with texts, known in the prison as the “Scripture Card,” and a “Notice to Convicts” also; whilst on one side of the table stood a washing-tub and wooden stool, and on the other the hammock and bedding, neatly folded up. The mattress, blankets, and sheets, we were told, have to be arranged in five folds, the coloured night-cap being placed on the centre of the middle fold; and considerable attention is required to be paid to the precise folding of the bed-clothes, so as to form five layers of equal dimensions. The day-cap is placed on the top of the neat square parcel of bedding, which looks scarcely larger than a soldier’s knapsack.’ M&B

A day in the life of a woman prisoner at Millbank

What was a typical day like for Celestina at Millbank? I’ve turned to another fascinating contemporary book, Female life in prison, by a prison matron (FL), which was actually written by a man, Frederick William Robinson, and published in 1863.

The day begins at quarter to six, he wrote, when the night guard rings a bell. ‘At six o’clock every prisoner is expected to be dressed and standing in her cell, ready to show herself to the matrons on duty’, who ‘unbolt each inner door, and fling it back to make sure the prisoner is safe and in health.’ The outer door is ‘formed of an iron grating’, which can be left locked to keep the prisoner secure but visible.

Engraving of a guard at the inner gate, Millbank Prison

Guard at the inner gate, Millbank Prison *

‘The rattle, rattle of the bolts down the ward has a peculiar effect, and is the first sign of daily life.’ Some women were ‘let out to clean the flagstones in the wards, with a matron as guard over them; a few of the best-behaved dust the matrons’ rooms, and make their beds. The cells by this time are all cleaned and tidied, the bed is carefully folded up, the blankets, rug, shawl, and woman’s bonnet placed thereon, the deal table polished, and the stones of the cell scrubbed.’

At half past seven the prisoner gets a pint of cocoa ladled into her tin mug, and a four-pound loaf. After breakfast, she scrubs her ‘tin pint’, which she keeps in her cell. Work begins – ‘each woman in her separate cell, working silently, passively, and allowed no converse with her fellow-prisoners’.

At 9.15 chapel bell rings, and morning service is held half an hour later. ‘Each matron in charge of a ward is responsible for the number of women attending chapel, and the safe return to their cells.’ Presumably they go back to work, then at 12.30 ‘water is served to’ them and at 12.45 ‘the dinner-bell is rung, and each prisoner provided with four ounces of boiled meat, half a pound of potatoes, and a six-ounce loaf’ in a can, which is taken back after dinner. Then back to silent work, ‘coir-picking, shirt-making, &c’ with ‘only the voices of the matrons breaking the stillness.’

One hour a day is ‘allowed for exercise in the airing yards’, still under the rule of silence. ‘A ward of women is exercised at a time, walking ‘in Indian file’, with a prison matron in attendance, keeping a watch on her flock of black sheep.’ It’s ‘tedious and monotonous’ for the matron, ‘shivering in her in bearskin cloak’ in winter and ‘struggling against the heat’ in summer. I don’t imagine it was a barrel of laughs for the inmates, either, but at least they were able to get some exercise and fresh air.

Women convicts at exercise in Millbank Prison, wearing winter cloaks and tall hatstime

Millbank convicts at exercise time *

‘For one hour these convicted women tramp unceasingly round the gravelled yard, muttering to each other when at the farthest distance from the matron… plodding on in this mill-horse round for sixty minutes, with the matron at times nodding at her post.’

Work goes on till 5.30pm, ‘when gruel is served in the “pints” of prisoners’. Then ‘a few prayers are said by a matron standing in the centre of each ward, so that her voice can be heard by the prisoners standing at their doors of open iron-work. After prayers each woman answers to a name from the list called out’ and then it’s back to work ’till a quarter to eight, when the scissors are collected; reading, &c, is then allowed, till about half-past eight.’ As well as reading, the prisoners have to make their beds in this short spell of free time.

The matron turns out the gas in the cells at quarter to nine, and after that ‘it is supposed… that the prisoners are in their beds.’

At 9pm matron on night duty starts her rounds, ‘passing once an hour each cell’, looking for ‘sickness or breach of discipline… checking at times artful signals on the wall between one prisoner and another’ until the bell rings again at 5.45 am and the whole routine begins again. FL

No wonder women prisoners thought was an ‘every-day, toilsome, wearisome life’, though better than the workhouse (!)

Millbank Prison: what female prisoners ate

Millbank ‘dietary’. Monotonous and unhealthy

Mayhew and Binny were allowed into the kitchens at breakfast time to see the women’s breakfasts served. There were three kitchens, each one serving two of Millbank Prison’s six pentagons, and all staffed by men:

‘”This is the female compartment. Here, you see,” said the officer, pointing to the farther side of a wooden partition that stood at the end of the kitchen, “is the place where the women enter from pentagon 3, whilst this side is for the men coming from pentagon 4.” Presently the door was opened and files of male prisoners were seen, with warders, without.

‘”Now, they’re coming down to have breakfast served,” said the cook. “F ward!” cries an officer, and immediately two prisoners enter and run away with a tin can each, while another holds a conical basket and counts bread into it – saying, 6, 12, 18, and so on.

Engraving of Holloway Prison kitchen

Prison kitchen (Holloway)

‘When the males had been all served, and the kitchen was quiet again, the cook said to us, “Now you’ll see the females, sir. Are all the cooks out ?” he cried in a loud voice; and when he was assured that the prisoners serving in the kitchen had retired, the principal matron came in at the door on the other side of the partition. Presently she cried out, “Now, Miss Gardiner, if you please!” Whereupon the matron so named entered, costumed in a grey straw-bonnet and fawn-coloured merino dress, with a jacket of the same material over it, and attended by some two or three female prisoners habited in their loose, dark-brown gowns, check aprons, and close white cap.

‘The matron then proceeded to serve and count the bread into a basket, and afterwards handed the basket to one of the females near her. “I wish you people would move quick out of the way there,” says the principal female officer to some of the women who betray a disposition to stare. While this is going on, another convict enters and goes off with the tin can full of cocoa.

‘Then comes another matron with other prisoners, and so on, till all are served, when the cook says, “Good morning, Miss Crosswell,” and away the principal matron trips, leaving the kitchen all quiet again – so quiet, indeed, that we hear the sand crunching under the feet [on the kitchen floor].’ M&B

This account does give a first impression that the women prisoners came to the kitchen for their breakfast, which isn’t what the ‘prison matron’ said. Perhaps what happened was that the matrons were helped by a few trusted prisoners, the sort that had the dubious privilege of cleaning the matrons’ rooms.

Millbank Prison laundry

Washing was, of course, women’s work, and very hard work it was. So in addition to coir-picking and sewing, Celestina’s fellow prisoners worked in the prison laundry, too. Mayhew and Binny paid another of their visits there:

‘We now entered the laundry, which reminded us somewhat of a fish-market, with its wet-looking, black, shiny asphalte floor. The place was empty – work being finished on the Friday. On Saturday mornings, the convicts who are usually employed to do the washing, go to school, and in the afternoon they clean the laundry, so as to have it ready for work on Monday morning. Long dressers stretch round the building; there is a heavy mangle at one side, and cloths’-horses, done up in quires, rest against the wall.

Old photo of Millbank Prison in the 1880s showing an exercise yard and a tower

Millbank Prison in the 1880s

‘We are next led through the drying and getting-up room, and so into the wash-house. Here we find rows of troughs, with brass taps, for hot and cold water, jutting over them. There is a large bricken boiler at one end of the apartment, pails and tubs stand about, and a few limp-wet clothes are still on the lines. “There are only ten women washing every week now,” observed the matron; “we have had thirty-six or forty-quite as many as that. We used to do for the whole service, but at present we wash only for the female prisoners and their officers.”‘

The matron then led them back into the wards. “Generally speaking… those who have been very bad outside are found the best in prison both for work and behaviour; and the longest-sentenced females are usually the best behaved.”

“The long sentences are, mostly, for murder – child-murder,” she added; “and this is usually the first and only offence; but the others are continually in and out, and become at last regular jail people.” M&B

And, of course, it was ‘child-murder’ that Celestina Sommer was in prison for. There’s a strong implication in these accounts that women convicts were seen as either being incorrigibly criminal – poor, bad, ignorant but cunning – or one-off murderers. Though if you were locked up for a long time your chances of killing your child or abusive husband were lowered significantly…

Celestina was self-contained while she was at Millbank, not misbehaving in a way that would cause her to be punished. But for a moment, I’m going to take a quick look at what was called ‘breaking out’, which wasn’t escaping but acting in an irrational way.

Punishment cells

The ‘prison matron’ explained that at Millbank there were 42 matrons of various ranks, and an average of 471 prisoners; that’s about 11 convicts to each warder. She went on:

‘The most trying ordeal for all prisoners is that of probation at Millbank – the silent system, as it may almost be termed… it is simply impossible to make the female prisoners conform to strictly silent rules, or to any rules, for a length of time… there is a restlessness and excitability in the character of these women, that makes the charge of them infinitely more of a labour and a study than the management of treble the number of men.

‘The male prisoners are influenced by some amount of reason and forethought, but the female prisoner… acts more often like a mad woman than a rational, reflecting human being.’ FL

The offending women were put into ‘dark cells’. Mayhew and Binny were shown them as part of their tour of Millbank. ‘”There’s one of our punishment cells,” says the dark-eyed young matron, as we quit B ward, passage No 2. The cell was not quite dark; there was a bed in the corner of it.

‘”What can the women do there?” asked we. “Do!” cried the matron; “why, they can sing and dance, and whistle, and make use, as they do, of the most profane language conceivable.”‘ Dancing and whistling? Disgraceful.

Women prisoners in the yard at Millbank

Women prisoners in the yard at Millbank *

‘We now proceeded up stairs to the punishment cell on the landing. This one was intensely dark, with a kind of grating in the walls for ventilation, but no light-hole; and there was a small raised wooden bed in the corner. The cell was shut in first by a grated gate, then a wooden door, lined with iron, with another door outside that; and then a kind of mattress, or large straw-pad, arranged on a slide before the outer door, to deaden the sound from within. “Those are the best dark cells in all England,” said our guide, as he closed the many doors. ” They’re clean, warm, and well ventilated.” There were five such cells in a line…

‘”That’s one of the women under punishment who’s singing now,” said the matron, as we stood still to listen. “They generally sing. Oh! that’s nothing – that’s very quiet for them. Their language to the minister is sometimes so horrible, that I am obliged to run away with disgust.

‘”Some that we’ve had,” went on the matron, “have torn up their beds. They make up songs themselves all about the officers of the prison. Oh! they’ll have every one in their verses – the directors, the governor, and all of us.” She then repeated the following doggerel from one of the prison songs :- “If you go to Millbank, and you want to see Miss Cosgrove, you must inquire at the round house; – and they’ll add something I can’t tell you of.”

Engraving of Millbank Prision, 19th century‘We went down stairs and listened to the woman in the dark cell, who was singing “Buffalo Gals,” but we could not make out a word – we could only catch the tune.

‘In F ward is the padded cell. “We’ve not had a woman in here for many months,” said the matron, as we entered the place. The apartment was about six feet high; a wainscot of mattresses was ranged all round the walls, and large beds were placed on the ground in one corner, and were big enough to cover the whole cell. “This is for persons subject to fits,” says the matron; “but very few suffer from them.”

‘The matron now led us into a double cell, containing an iron bed and tressel [trestle table]. Here the windows were all broken, and many of the sashes shattered as well. This had been done by one of the women with a tin pot, we were informed.

‘”What is this, Miss Cosgrove ?” asked the warder, pointing to a bundle of sticks like firewood in the corner.

‘”Oh, that’s the remains of her table! And if we hadn’t come in time, she would have broken up her bedstead as well, I dare say…”‘


Next they went to ‘D ward, passage No 2; this is the penal ward. Here the windows were wired inside, and had rude kinds of Venetian blinds fixed on the outside; the cells were comparatively dark, and the prisoners younger and much prettier than any we had yet seen. Many of them smiled impudently as we passed. Here the bedding was ranged in square bundles all along the passage, because the prisoners had been found to wear them for bustles.

Millbank Prison convict in a canvas dress

Millbank convict in a canvas dress *

‘”Those bells,” points out the matron, “are to call male officers in case of alarm.”
Presently we saw, inside one of the cells we passed, a girl in a coarse canvas dress, strapped over her claret-brown convict clothes. This dress was fastened by a belt and straps of the same stuff, and, instead of an ordinary buckle, it was held tight by means of a key acting on a screw attached to the back. The girl had been tearing her clothes, and the coarse canvas dress was put on to prevent her repeating the act…

‘The canvas dress we found to be like a coarse sack, with sleeves, and straps at the waist – the latter made to fasten, as we have said before, with small screws. With it we were shown the prison strait-waistcoat, which consisted of a canvas jacket, with black leathern sleeves, like boots closed at the end, and with straps up the arm.

‘The canvas dress has sometimes been cut up by the women with bits of broken glass. Formerly the women used to break the glass window in the penal ward, by taking the bones out of their stays and pushing them through the wires in front.’ M&B

When they knew that the punishment cells were full, ‘women will break their windows, or strike… their officers… knowing that they will have a companion for a day or two; and a companion, even with bread and water by way of diet, is better than silent existence under separate confinement,’ the ‘prison matron’ wrote. Some prisoners ‘feigned’ madness in order to get out of their solitary cells. But Celestina wasn’t one of these.

There’s much more about break-outs and ‘the dark’ in Female Life in Prison, if you’re interested.

Rules for the penal class of female convicts at Millbank Prison

Rules pinned up at Millbank *

Millbank Prison was ‘founded on humane and rational principles; in which the prisoners should be separated into classes, be compelled to work, and their religious and moral habits properly attended to,’ according to London and its Environs; or, the General Ambulator, a guidebook printed in 1820.

Admirable in theory, perhaps; but in real life being locked up alone and in silence was worse for many of these women than having human contact, even in a punishment cell.

So it’s probably no surprise that being ‘allowed’ to act as servants to matrons was seen as a favour to the better-behaved prisoners. The ‘matron’ listed some of the ways they could get ‘breaks in the monotony of their existence’, such as ‘letter-writing days’ – their letters were opened and read before leaving the prison; ‘schooling’; ‘extra duties out of their cell, in attendance on a matron’; ‘association’, for instance in the prison yard at exercise time; ‘seeing directors, to make remonstrances, or solicit extra favours’; and ‘seeing the surgeon about their little ailments’. FL

But, as I mentioned, Celestina didn’t break out. The ‘matron’ described her as being ‘quiet and well-ordered… partial to her own cell and her work therein’. This earned her the reward of a transfer to Brixton Prison, which is where I’ll take up her story in the next post.

Millbank CS crop

Further reading:
Memorials of Millbank, Arthur Griffiths, 1884
The Criminal Prisons of London and Scenes of London Life, Henry Mayhew and John Binny, 1862
Female life in prison, by a prison matron, Vol 1, Frederick William Robinson, 1863
London and its Environs; or, the General Ambulator, 1820

* Picture credits:
Prison record: FindMyPast
Plan of Millbank Penitentiary: Wikipedia
Both images of Millbank women convicts in the exercise yard: Memorials of Millbank
Other images inside Millbank Prison, and the two prison notices: The Criminal Prisons of London and Scenes of London Life

Catch up with A Christmas tale:
Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6 | Part 7 | Part 8 | Part 9 | Part 10 | Part 11 | Part 12 | Part 13 | Part 14 | Part 15 | Part 16 | Part 17 | Part 18 | Part 19 | Part 20 | Part 21 | Part 22


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Finding my past in Ireland free: Julia Harrington

I’m spending today using the free access to Irish records offered by FindMyPast Ireland this weekend (until 1200 on Monday 25 January, in case you haven’t seen the special offer – UK records are free, too, but I’ve already got a sub).

It’s an attempt to break down one of my many brick walls. This one is Julia Harrington, who played a part in the Celestina Christmas story.

Julia’s tricky because although I know her married surname, Harrington, and the surname of her first husband, Russell, her maiden name is hard to pin down.

It could be Cammell, or Cannell, or Gammell, or Gamin, according to the records I’ve found so far.

And the 1851 and 1871 censuses just have her as coming from Ireland. Helpful.

Julia Harrington in the 1851 census

Julia Harrington in the 1851 census, at Gwynn’s Place, Hackney

But there’s one clue that I’ve grabbed like a swimmer grabs a lifebelt. Of course, it could be sweeping me further out to sea, but there’s no point in not looking deep into it.

The Wesleyan Methodist baptism of her daughter Hannah (or Annah) on 9 August, 1835, states that she was the daughter of James and Mary Cammell. Or possibly Gammell. What do you think?

Hannah Harrington's baptism, 1835

Hannah Harrington’s baptism, 1835

The trouble with this baptism entry is that the minister who made it, WL Thornton, only made one entry in the record book. And there’s only one C in the record to compare Julia’s name with, and no G. So I’m going for both Cammell and Gammell.

Cammell bcuAnd taking into consideration variations of spelling and pronunciation, I’m also looking for Cannel/l, Connel/l, Cannon, Gannon, Gammon, Gaiman, and even Carroll, Connor and Campbell.

I’m focusing on James, her (probable) father, since I haven’t found any Julias with the right sort of surname, daughter of James and/or Mary, born about 1808, somewhere in Ireland (do I hear hollow laughter?), who was married to the elusive Mr Russel/l by 1828. Who knows? I might find a clue.

Wish me luck!

I may be some time.

(PS: There are also offers at Ancestry Australia/NZ until the end of Australia Day (of course!), the 26th – see Judy Webster’s excellent page; Lost Cousins is free, also until midnight on the 26th; and Chris Paton flags up a great Ancestry UK offer at his British GENES blog, which closes tonight at 2359 – so hurry!)

Some names from the Carnew registers at the National Library of Ireland, just to illustrate the problem:

Carroll, probably

Carroll, probably

Four examples of Carroll

Four examples of Carroll

Connors, probably

Connors, probably

Posted in Genealogy, Ireland | Tagged , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

A sad Christmas story

Merry Christmas, and I hope it’s a happy season for you and those you love.

Picture of Old Father Christmas with a holly crown, yule log and wassail bowlThat’s a much older (and slightly sinister) version of Father Christmas from 1855, before he turned into jolly red-faced, red-hooded Santa.

Old Father Christmas

His yule log is strapped to his back, he’s crowned with holly, and he carries a wassail bowl. I’d guess he’s dressed in green. Very pagan.

I’m not sure I’d trust him popping down the chimney into a child’s bedroom. But then, he comes from a time when Christmas was more for the grown-ups than for children, which it became later in the 19th century.

My Christmas post this year is a short one. I’m moving away from my other Christmas tale, about the murder of Celestina Christmas by her mother.

But it’s still on a sad note.

Baby Christmas

Now that it’s the holidays, I’ve got some time for genealogical research (yayyy!). I was looking for my great-great grandfather, George Richard or Richards. He was the father of Elizabeth, who married Griffith Owen from Anglesey. As far as I know George was not a relative of my other Richards family.

George Richard was born in St Dogmael’s, also known as St Dogmell’s, on the border of Cardiganshire and Pembrokeshire and sometimes in one county, sometimes in the other. It’s on the other side of the river Teifi from Cardigan/Aberteifi.

Old map of St Dogmael's, Ordnance Survey, 1885-1900

OS map, 1″, 1885-1900 *

And I came across a record in the Pembrokeshire Burials at FindMyPast. Very simple, very short, it told a sad story.

St Dogmells death record for five month old Christmas

St Dogmells burials for 1848 *

A five-month old baby called Christmas, buried on 5 May 1848. No surname. And looking at where she or he (we don’t even know that) spent their short life… it was the workhouse.

Close-up of old map showing Cardigan Union workhouse, St Dogmael's

Cardigan Union workhouse, St Dogmael’s/St Dogmell’s *

The old workhouse still stands. It’s now called Albro Castle and is a private property with holiday lets.

I checked the baptism records and couldn’t find any babies who matched.

So… no surname, no recorded parents, died at the workhouse. Would I be right in picturing a desperate woman abandoning her newly-born illegitimate child at the workhouse in late December 1847, where the staff named the little scrap after the Christmas season? Or perhaps Christmas’s mother was already in the workhouse and died in or after childbirth.

I hope this hasn’t saddened you – it just seemed such a poignant story I wanted to share it.

May you be surrounded with the love of family, friends or whoever is dear to you this festive season.

Picture credits:
Old Father Christmas: Forrester’s Pictorial Miscellany for the Family Circle, 1855, via Sherurcij for Wikimedia
Map of St Dogmell’s: OS Great Britain, 1″, 1885-1900, via National Library of Scotland
St Dogmael’s burial records: FindMyPast, Pembroke burials

Posted in History | Tagged , , , , , | 5 Comments

New South Wales 1891 census online

The Shoestring Genealogist here, just popping in to make sure you know that the New South Wales census for 1891 is now online at Family Search – with images! And free to everyone!

I had to have a look.

Extract from the NSW 1891 census showing householders at Hartley and Cox's River

Extract from the NSW 1891 census showing householders at Hartley and Cox’s River

There’s my great-grandfather Tom Delaney at the family home, Moyne Farm, with the (sadly un-named) other members of the household. There were five males and six females in all.

My great-grandmother, Mary Maude Wilson, Tom’s wife, was one of them. The Delaney children, Ethel, Laurence Thomas, Winnie, Flo and Ella would also have been included unless they weren’t at home on 5 April, 1891, when the census was taken.

The index to this census was already available on the New South Wales State Records website, and the index could be searched at Ancestry. But, as Peter from Lost Cousins, who wrote about this development in his newsletter, says: “free access to indexed records and images at FamilySearch will make it more readily accessible.”

Thanks for the tip, Peter! And thanks to FamilySearch for making the 1891 census so accessible.

Posted in A Rebel Hand, Australia, Genealogy | Tagged , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

How to get the FMP half-price offer (ends 30 November 2015)

This offer’s now ended – but do read what Judy Webster says about using the ChangeDetection button on her web pages – see comments at the bottom.

Hi, it’s the Shoestring Genealogist popping in to let you know a trick which should still get you a half-price subscription to FindMyPast until Monday, 30 November. So be quick!

The offer applies to FMP records for the UK, Australia/New Zealand and Ireland. Genealogists in the States get a huge 75% off. But 50% seems pretty good to me, so I was excited, as my last FMP sub had run out a few months ago.

Oh no! I can’t get my FindMyPast offer!

I learned about the offer from the wonderful Geneabloggers and Judy Webster and tried clicking on the UK FMP link on both their posts to subscribe, using the code BLACKFRIDAY15. But every time I got the same message:

FMP snipOh, no! Was it because I’m in the UK and Thomas MacEntee’s link was from the US, Judy’s from Australia? But why would that make a difference? Both the links took me to the UK site, after all.

Update: Judy has since told me: ‘ Lots of people have told me that it worked for them – but as a precaution, I’ve made some minor changes to that page.’

I sent out a worried tweet. Could FMP help? Perhaps it was just me. But no, other geneamates had problems, too.

Twitter comes to the genealogist’s rescue

Then I saw a tweet from Claire Santry of Irish Genealogy News. I remembered that she posts special offers and hurried to her website.

Yes! There was a post with a link. Here’s what to look for:

FMP offerThird time lucky, I thought, and clicked through. Sweet as a nut! The discount code applied automatically and I paid my half price. So I’ve got my year’s sub after all. Thanks, Claire!

And thank you to Thomas and Judy for alerting me to the offer, and to FMP for the lovely low price. I just wish it had been a little easier to take it up.

Oh, and thanks to Twitter, my genealogy newsfeed.

PS: Lynn Corrigan tells me that she had to log out of US FMP and then use the Thanksgiving code THNKSGNG15 in order to get her 75% off sub.

Have you had trouble with this offer? Did Claire’s link work for you?

Posted in Genealogy | Tagged , , , , , , | 4 Comments