Rose Harvey (1814?-?)

by Cheryl Griffin


Rose Harvey, a Bermudan ‘woman of colour’ and convict, was 22 years old when she was convicted of stealing spirits. Almost certainly a newly emancipated slave, she was tried on 4 November 1835 at Hamilton, Bermuda, the same day as Peter Brangman, a ‘man of colour’. Both were sentenced to death, a sentence that was commuted to transportation for life to New South Wales, and sent to England on board His Majesty’s Ship Vestal.

They were received into the hulk Fortitude on the same day. From the Fortitude, Rose was transferred to the hulk Narcissus. Later she boarded the Elizabeth (5) and set sail for Sydney, arriving on 12 October 1836. Brangman set sail for Sydney on board the John (4) and arrived on 7 February 1837. He received a pardon in August 1849 and married in Parramatta in 1853. There is no evidence that the two every met after their arrival in New South Wales.

The records that remain provide only one glimpse of Rose Harvey’s life as a convict: in February 1839 she was sentenced to 40 days hard labour in the House of Correction, presumably at Parramatta. No record of the reason for this punishment remains.

Four years later, in November 1843, when she was 29 years old, permission was granted for Rose to marry 31-year-old Joseph Moreton, a free man, who had arrived in the colony the previous year on board the Salus. The marriage took place but there is no record of any children being born to the couple.

It is possible that it was Rose Morton, former convict, whose body was found floating off the Market Wharf in Sydney in March 1850. Newspaper reports say there was no evidence of how this woman came to be in the river and no mention is made of her colour. It is simply stated that she was found near the Flour Company’s Wharf on Sunday morning. Was she drunk and fell into the river? A suicide, perhaps? And was she the former Rose Harvey, once a Bermudan slave and New South Wales convict? Frustratingly, we are never likely to know.

Her husband, Joseph Morton, remained in Sydney where he died in 1869 aged 57.


Further reading:

Cheryl Griffin, ‘Whitewashing Australia’s convict experience: from the British Caribbean to New South Wales', in From the Edges of Empire, eds L. Frost and C. McAlpine, Convict Women’s Press, Hobart 2015, pp. 131-147.

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