Catherine Doomean (1822?-?)

by Don Bradmore and Judith Carter


Catherine Doomean was 19 when, on 28 June 1842, she was convicted at Westmeath, Ireland, of stealing a shirt and sentenced to transportation for 7 years. It was not her first offence; she had been imprisoned twice previously: on one occasion for two months for the theft of eggs, and on another for 48 hours for drunkenness.

With 148 other female convicts, she was put aboard Waverley which sailed from Dublin on 4 September and reached Hobart on 15 December 1842. Upon arrival, she was described as 5 feet 3¼ inches (160.66 cm) tall with a fresh complexion, small head, dark brown hair, hazel eyes and pock-pitted skin. She was Catholic, single and a kitchen-maid. ‘Malta’ was entered into her convict documents as her ‘native place’. No evidence to support this has been found, and it is possible that her native place, 'Meath', was incorrectly transcribed as 'Malta'.

In Van Diemen’s Land, Catherine was assigned as a servant to various settlers but was frequently in trouble with the authorities. On 8 April 1844, she was gaoled for six months with hard labour for disorderly conduct and being absent without leave; she was then returned to the Female Factory at Launceston. On 14 October 1844, she was imprisoned with hard labour for a month for disobedience of orders. On 30 December 1844, she received another ten days with hard labour for being drunk. On 7 January 1845, she was sent to prison again, this time to be kept in solitary confinement for fourteen days for disobedience and being absent without leave. On 24 April 1845, she was ordered to be kept in solitary confinement for 24 hours for being drunk again. On 30 January 1847, she was charged with misconduct in that she was absent from her station and living in a disorderly house; she was sentenced to another month’s gaol with hard labour.

Notwithstanding these offences, she was granted a ticket of leave on 18 February 1845 and, on 25 September 1846, she was recommended to Her Majesty the Queen for a conditional pardon. Interestingly, the citation which accompanied the recommendation mentioned that her general conduct had been ‘good’ and that, in February 1845, she had ‘rendered effective assistance in the capture of some Bushrangers.’ On 4 October 1847, her conditional pardon was approved.

An application for permission to marry was approved in 1846 and William Williamson, 38 and ‘free’, married Catherine at Westbury, Tasmania, on 28 August. No record of children of the pair has been found.

Two months after the marriage, William Williamson died after being struck on the head with a piece of wood while drinking at his home with Catherine and some acquaintances. At a subsequent manslaughter trial, the man alleged to have killed him was acquitted, the defence counsel referring to Catherine’s testimony as ‘wholly unworthy of credit’ and ‘sufficient to throw suspicion upon her character and credibility’.

On 9 April 1847, just a few months after the trial, permission was sought for her marriage to marry Robert Anderson (Gilmore, 1839), a ticket-of-leave man. Although the application was approved, there is no record of the marriage taking place. On 4 August 1849, she was granted a certificate of freedom, but nothing more is known with certainty about her. No record of another marriage, or of her death, has yet been found. 

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