Mary Daley (1826?-1872)

by Kristin Leeds


Mary Daley née Wood was a ‘much freckled, blue eyed, brown haired, fresh faced’ young Irish women who, whilst raised with her siblings John, Henry and Ellen in County Kerry Ireland, was noted on her convict records as having been being born in America. Whilst nothing as yet can be determined of her early American life, Mary appears from her British records as a spirited, young woman who offered strident defence of her crimes rather than contrition.

Mary’s first recorded offence, in October 1844 at the age of 22, reflects her life of migration. She had by this time left her native Kerry and was convicted of the theft of a pewter jug from a public house in Portman Market, London, where she had been drinking with a friend.

In court, she defended her possession of the pewter jug which had been hidden under her shawl. ‘I had had three quarterns of rum, and then called for a pint of beer; I thought it was the beer I had in my hand; when I had got a little way I saw what it was, and was going to take it back when he stopped me.’ To which the witness replied, ‘She was going from the prosecutor's house towards her own home.’ The then unmarried Mary Wood was recommended for the mercy of the court and served a sentence of one month.

Mary then appeared before the Old Bailey as Mary Daley in February 1846, two years after her previous conviction. She was indicted for stealing one cloak belonging to Mr. William Paul. Mary stridently defended herself. She claimed the cloak was ‘lent’ to her by a Mrs Mary Paul from whom she had sought assistance for her sister who had given birth and needed linen. The court heard that Mary had approached Mrs Paul under the guise of being ‘Mrs. Potter, chapel sweeper’, and convinced Mrs Paul of her integrity through naming Mrs Paul’s former employers.

 Accused of the ruination of the cloak by Mrs Paul, Mary claimed that it was muddied and torn due to the rough handling of the arresting constable. The constable claimed that such was Mary’s resistance that he required further help in order to retrieve the cloak from her at the ‘The Jolly Baker’. In her defence Mary asserted ‘I had plenty of time to make away with the cloak, instead of going to the next street, within thirty doors of the place, and stopping till twelve o'clock at night.’

Mary’s final conviction was just one year later in March 1847. This was again for the theft of clothing; a cloak and gloves. Mary asserted that she was in the doorway of Mr. Gutterbridge’ s premises at Alpha Place Regent’s Park as she was ill. She further stated she had just come from the Foundling Hospital and she was in need of a particular letter from the house. Whilst in the doorway, the said coat had caught on her sleeve. Mary claims she was attempting to secure the cloak back on its nail when Mr Gutteridge appeared and threatened to kick her, so she quickly ran off the premises. Mr Gutteridge then followed after her and located a policeman with the offending coat in his hands. Mary claimed in her defence, ‘he may as well bring everything out of his place, and give it to the policeman, and say I took it, as this coat’. Mary was transported for seven years, leaving a husband and a child behind. It could be speculated that perhaps she had indeed come from the Foundling Hospital seeking to place her child therein.

Mary arrived in Van Dieman’s Land in January 1848 per Cadet having been noted on the ship’s surgeon’s report as ‘very refractory’. Mary’s probation period on the Anson hulk was extended due to two offences, one of trafficking and the other of assault. Her record in service is then peppered with offences such as being absent without leave, neglect of duty and general misconduct.

During a punishment period of four months’ hard labour at the Cascades Female Factory, Mary gave birth to a boy, Charles Newton Daley on 4 November 1849. The baby died in the same month. The father’s name is not listed.

Mary spent much of her time in the following years returning to the Cascades Female Factory from her various places of servitude. In July 1851 she is returned to the Factory for being absent without leave and drunk. Whilst in the Factory, her crimes ranged from singing, talking at the mess table and having a pint of milk in her possession.

Mary was finally free by servitude in April 1854. On the 10 January 1855, aged 28, Mary married James Ross, a dark-headed, Irish-farm-labourer and ticket-of-leave holder six years her senior in the Baptist Chapel, York Street, Launceston. Mary and James remained in Launceston after their marriage. A daughter, Ann, was born on 27 September 1855. No further records have been found of Ann’s life and it is presumed she died in infancy.

Mary and James continued to live in Launceston where there are indications that life may not have been without its challenges. James was convicted of assault and the stealing of coal from the waterfront in 1860, as well as stealing from the person in 1867 for which he served eighteen months. By this stage, without children as comfort around her and perhaps with little other support, Mary may have been suffering the effects of the cancer which was to take her life.

Mary died on the 4 November 1872 at the age of 46 from a ‘tumour in the womb’. From a life which began in America, raised as a country laundress in Co. Kerry, Ireland, to the rough and uncertain world of poverty and crime in London, Mary had come half way around the world to her final resting place in a Launceston cemetery.

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