Ann Davis (1808?-?)

by Colleen Arruluppu


Ann Davis also known as Mary Ann Davis was born in Spain. In the Old Bailey, London in 1831, Ann Davis faced a charge of stealing a purse containing five sovereigns, six half crowns, eight shillings and two sixpences, the property of Robert Dixon Esq, a lawyer who lived in Chancery Lane. He said that as he walked home late at night Ann Davis ran across the road and grabbed him violently by the arm, held on for twenty or thirty yards until he reached his house where he discovered his purse was gone. Ann Davis ran into the nearby courts, but as she ran back she was confronted by Mr Dixon. He took his purse from her but the sovereigns were not there and Ann was taken to the Police Office. She told the police that she did not even have the price of a glass of gin, but silver coins were found in her possession. Ann Davis swore that ‘the man put the five shillings in my hand and said he wanted to speak with me – I would not comply with him; he called the police man and gave charge of me.’

 In her defence, her employer, John Byran, said he had known her twelve months and that she bound boots and shoes for him. Rachael Bryan, his wife, said Ann had left between eight and nine and gave Ann’s address as No 28 St Clement’s Lane, a lodging house for tradespeople. She told the court that she had given Ann 7/- to pay money owing for a bill to her landlady’s son, Richard Roach. He said he did not receive the money as he was not at home at the time. Another witness, Samuel Stevens, said he saw Ann Davis about ten in the evening and confirmed that Ann had been to pay Mr Roach but no one was at home. No explanation was offered for the time between ten and eleven forty-five when the theft occurred. The jury found Ann guilty and she was sentenced to transportation for 14 years.

 Ann sailed in the Burrell arriving in Sydney Cove on 20 May 1832. On her convict indent she as described as a washer woman and house maid, just 4 feet 9 ½ inches (146.05 cm) tall with brown hair, grey full eyes, a pointed nose, a fair ruddy complexion and able to read and write. She was assigned to John Atkinson of ‘Mereworth Farm’, Sutton Forrest. John Dunn alias Dunning, transported on the Albion 1827, applied to marry Ann in November 1833. John and Ann both stated that they were single and the application was allowed, but no marriage took place. In 1835, William Henry Lunnon, a former convict transported on the Eliza 1822, applied to marry Ann. The clergyman at Sutton Forrest gave permission for the marriage. Again there was no record of marriage.

 Ann received her ticket of leave in 1839 and when she received her certificate of freedom on 21 January 1846 she said she was the wife of John Shirley. Ann married John Shirley at St Saviour’s Church, Goulburn on 27 June 1840. John Shirley had been tried at the Old Bailey on the same day as Ann Davis. He was only 11 years old and was not sent out to Sydney until 1835 aboard the Henry Porcher. By the time of their marriage in 1840, Ann would have been about 30 years old and John Shirley about 20. There are no records of children born to the couple. By 1844 John Shirley was in trouble with the law and appeared in Parramatta Court on a charge of stealing from the person but was acquitted. Two weeks later he was charged with taking money from a till and jailed for three months. One report in The Australian on 22 April 1844 described him a notorious character. He received a short sentence for vagrancy in Bathurst Court in January 1849 and in February, in the same court, was charged with highway robbery for which he received a five-year jail sentence, the first two years to be served in irons.

 The marriage may have failed in its early years. Ann Davis or Mary Ann Davis, as she used on her wedding certificate, or Mary Ann Shirley, as she became after marriage, disappeared from public records.

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