Mary Ann Davies (1807?-?)

by Susan Ballyn


Mary Ann Davies, whose birth place was Spain according to the description list, was tried in Leeds on 13 October 1832, found guilty of stealing money from the person, and sentenced to 14 years’ transportation. The gaol report copied onto her convict conduct record said that she had already served a sentence of 6 months’ imprisonment after being convicted at the Leeds Boro Sessions in 1830. She ‘has been connected’, said the gaol report, ‘with a number of Bad characters at Leeds’.

Davies sailed from Portsmouth on the Jane, arriving in Hobart on 30 June 1833. According to the description list, she was a farm servant aged 26, had black hair and black eyebrows, a dark complexion, and brown eyes. Between the finger and thumb on her left hand was a dot, most likely a tattoo with a special meaning now lost in time.

For more than seven years Davies served her sentence with an unblemished record, assigned to the household of George Thomson. And then something happened. On 13 April 1840 she was issued a ticket of leave, but in September that same year, Mary Ann Davies, wife of ‘Morrell’, was fined 5 shillings for being drunk, and in December she was charged with drunkenness and disorderly conduct, although the charge was dropped because the complainant refused to prosecute. On 6 April 1842, the wife of ‘Murrell’ was again charged with being drunk and this time Mary Ann was sentenced to two days’ solitary confinement. She had been in the colony for almost nine years and this was her first—and only—incarceration.

She had married while under sentence, though without applying for permission. On 25 August 1834 ‘Mary Ann Davis’ married ‘Ambrose Murrell’ at New Norfolk. Ambrose Murrells was convicted of theft in Suffolk on 3 December 1827, transported to Van Diemen’s Land on the Woodford in 1828, and became free by servitude in the year he married. No children seem to have been born from this marriage.

On 4 July 1844 Mary Ann Davies was recommended to the Queen for a Conditional Pardon which was approved in July 1845. In October 1846 the 14 years of her sentence were up, and she was free by servitude. For some reason, she requested, paid for, and was issued an actual certificate of freedom on 25 May 1852. Her husband had been issued a similar certificate the previous December, though he had been free by servitude for 17 years. Perhaps the couple wanted the actual pieces of paper to demonstrate conclusively that they were free.

Their lives after servitude appear stalwart if frugal. At the time of the census of 1848 Ambrose Murrells was a farmer renting a house in the district of Great Swan Port, where he lived with his wife and a single man, also a farmer. Ten years later Murrells lived in a house he owned in High Street, Campbell Town, a house valued at £12. The couple led respectable lives, stayed out of the courts and thus out of the newspapers, and vanished from sight.

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Sue Ballyn acknowledges the help received from the “Ministerio de Economia y Competitividad” for the Project Postcolonial Crime Fiction : A global window into social realities for all her publications on the FCRC web site and in print since 2014.

© 2016 Convict Women's Press Inc.