Edges of Empire Biographical Dictionary

of Convict Women from beyond the British Isles


Edited by Lucy Frost and Colette McAlpine


Who would have thought that a slave in British Hondurus would end up as a female convict in Van Diemen’s Land? Or that two cousins, the oldest aged 12, would be transported from their native Mauritius all the way to New South Wales? And why was a French-born woman with the extravagant name Emme Felicite Gabrielle Chardonez Mallohomme sentenced at London’s Old Bailey to transportation for life?


Edges of Empire is a Biographical Dictionary offering accounts of many of these convicts among nearly 200 others who were tried or born outside the British Isles. All were transported to the Australian colonies of New South Wales and Van Diemen’s Land between 1788 and 1853. Their life stories have been tracked from numerous sources around the world, sometimes in detail and sometimes with the merest trace of their existence. The contributors to the Biographical Dictionary are researchers of the Female Convicts Research Centre, based in Hobart, Tasmania. For more information go to: http://www.femaleconvicts.org.au.


In addition to the Biographical Dictionary, which includes all the women for whom information has become available,  the more in-depth and comprehensive study, From the Edges of Empire: Convict Women from beyond the British Isles, is available in paperback from Convict Women’s Press Inc.



Feature Story:

McLoughlin, Biddy

Biddy McLoughlin (1817?–?)

by Leonie Mickleborough


Biddy McLoughlin was born about 1817 in Gibraltar on the southern coast of Spain, where Irish militia had been since 1778, as Spain was a British dependency at the time. On 29 July 1839 in Londonderry, Northern Ireland, 22-year-old Biddy was convicted of ‘Robbery of Money’ and sentenced to 7 years’ transportation. Able to read and write, Biddy was single, a child’s maid, of the Catholic faith, and was 5 feet 3 inches (160 cm) tall with a fresh complexion and brown hair.

The boarding of the Isabella in 1840 at Kingstown Harbour Dublin, with 119 convicts aged between 17 and 60, 25 children and 32 free emigrants, was overseen by Captain Alexander McAusland and Surgeon Superintendent Henry Walsh Mahon R.N. The Isabella left the harbour on 5 March, passed Teneriffe off the coast of Africa on 25 March, and between 31 May and 10 June stopped at the Cape of Good Hope where they collected fresh supplies. They arrived at Port Jackson, New South Wales, on 24 July 1840 after a voyage of 141 days.

Sydney newspapers published notices advising settler families who were ‘in want of female servants’ that these could by ‘supplied from the Prisoners arrived by the ship Isabella, from Ireland’, provided families applied to the Principal Superintendent of Convicts on the ‘established’ form on or before 12 noon on 31 July.Applications were required to be signed by a magistrate and clergyman, and assignees were ‘required to enter into the usual engagement—under a penalty of forty shillings—to keep their servants for one month’ otherwise the servants would be ‘removed in due course of law’.

According to Henry Mahon, all female convicts landed on 3 August were in ‘excellent health’ and ‘much improved in appearance’. Convicts with children, and any convicts who were not assigned before landing were sent to Parramatta Prison to await assignment. It is not known where Biddy was sent on arrival, or where she was assigned.

In 1828, 20-year-old Thomas McBride and his 25-year-old brother Anthony, arrived in Sydney on the Mangles, having both been convicted of sheep stealing on 27 July 1827 at Louth, Lincolnshire, and sentenced to transportation. Thomas, a labourer, was 5 feet 4 inches (162.5 cm) tall with brown hair, and like Anthony, had a ruddy complexion and listed his religion as Catholic. On arrival Thomas was ‘disposed of’ to John Fox at Richmond, and Anthony, who had no education and had a large scar on his left forehead and a small blue mark on the back of his right hand, was assigned to T. Oakes at Parramatta.

Thomas was granted his ticket of leave while at Patrick’s Plains (Singleton), and on 27 October 1834 his certificate of freedom, while Anthony received his certificate of freedom the week before his brother.

On 13 March 1844 Thomas McBride and Briddy [sic] McLoughlin applied to marry. Permission was granted on 20 March, and Bridget Mclaughlin [sic], ‘Bond’, aged 25, and Thomas aged 37, ‘free’ were married at St John’s Church of England, Parramatta on 1 April 1844.

Biddy was granted her ticket of leave on 16 July 1844, and was permitted to remain in the District of Parramatta.  On 14 August 1846 she was granted her certificate of freedom.

No further information has been located on Biddy and Thomas and any children. They may have accidentally concealed their convict past, but as Biddy was able to read and write, any concealment may have been deliberate.

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© 2016 Convict Women's Press Inc.