Catherine Ferris (1805?-1850?)
by Jan Richardson
In June 1829, John Macartney, a soldier in the 27th East India regiment, accompanied Catherine Ferris to ‘a house of ill-fame, in Whitechapel’ after leaving India House to walk home in the middle of the afternoon. Catherine and Macartney had a drink of gin together before lying down on the bed. A few minutes later, Catherine leapt up and raced out of the room, stealing a money bag which contained ‘fifty-six silver Spanish dollars’ that Macartney had recently brought back with him from Calcutta. After a search of the premises, only sixteen of the silver coins were recovered. In her defence, Catherine said, ‘I saw him with many more dollars, but they were never in my hands; I got out at the foot of the bed … I certainly stopped away to save myself from prostitution’. During Catherine’s trial at the Old Bailey, a police officer referred to her as ‘Kit Creole’ and said that she was known by that name as she had previously lived with a Creole. ‘Kit’ was not, however, described as Creole and her physical appearance was not mentioned during the proceedings.
Having been sentenced to transportation for 7 years, Catherine arrived in Sydney on board the Lucy Davidson in 1829. She was described as a 24-year-old dressmaker born in Jamaica who was single with no children. She had brown hair, light hazel eyes and a ruddy complexion. In 1830 Catherine married an ex-convict, Daniel Rogers, who arrived in New South Wales on the Almorah in 1817 and was free by servitude when they married. Six years later, in 1836, Catherine was granted her own certificate of freedom.
In 1846 Daniel Rogers acquired a publican’s licence for the ‘William the Fourth’ hotel in Pitt Street, Sydney. In May 1850, however, his application to renew the licence was refused on the grounds that the hotel was a ‘disorderly house’. Allegations were also raised that Rogers was ‘living in the state of adultery’. An inspector had seen a female at the hotel ‘acting apparently as mistress of the house’ but Rogers’ lawyer stated that the woman was Rogers’ wife and she had died since the application was made. A few months later, Daniel Rogers died at the hotel ‘after a short illness’, but extensive searches have not located any record of the death of Catherine Rogers (or Ferris) in 1850 or earlier, nor does it appear that she ever had children.
Jan Richardson, 'Caribbean stories: born in the West Indies, tried in the British Isles, transported to New South Wales', in From the Edges of Empire, eds L. Frost and C. McAlpine, Convict Women’s Press, Hobart 2015, pp. 114-130.
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