Ann Muir (1813?-1887)

by Dianne Snowden


Ann Muir, thief, and convict cook and housemaid, was born in Cadiz, Spain. How she ended up in Edinburgh, where she received her 7-year sentence of transportation in 1840, remains a mystery. The first record of her in Edinburgh was in September 1834, when she was charged with theft. Little details of this offence or her sentence are known.

On 22 July 1840, Ann was tried at the Court of Justiciary in Edinburgh, indicted for theft, habit and repute. She had stolen a pewter pot and tumbler. Added to her previous convictions (stealing handkerchiefs, and stealing money, two months imprisonment for each), transportation was perhaps inevitable.

At the time she was transported, Ann was 28 and single. She could read but not write. She was 5 foot 5 inches (165.10 cm) tall with a fair complexion, brown hair, hazel eyes and a straight nose. She had a long scar on her right leg and a scar over her right eye.

After a voyage of four months, Ann arrived in Hobart from England aboard on the Rajah on 19 July 1841. Ann brought with her a useful set of skills as a cook and housemaid, and she had been a mess woman, well-behaved, during the voyage. She was assigned to Mr. Watchorn in Liverpool Street, Hobart. Despite seemingly settled in Mr. Watchorn’s employ, Ann was charged in March 1842 with being absent without leave all night from his service and was sentenced to ten days in solitary confinement at the Cascades Female Factory. Once she had completed her sentence, however, she was given a second chance and returned to Mr. Watchorn’s service.

Ann’s promising start, however, was short-lived and she had moved to another employer by December 1842, when she was once again charged with being absent without leave all night, and drunk as well.  She was sentenced to three months’ imprisonment with hard labour at the Factory. This institution was to be a significant part of Ann’s colonial life: she was sentenced to the Factory thirteen times between 1842 and 1877 for a variety of offences. Alcohol was often a contributory factor.

In July 1843, her mistress, Mrs Solomon in Liverpool Street, charged Ann with disobedience of orders: ‘The prisoner is my servant & I have directed her not to speak to the men at the back, she has disobeyed my orders in doing so repeatedly’. Ann was sentenced to 14 days’ hard labour at the wash tub at the Factory.

Ann’s next offence, in February 1844, was a strange one: she was charged by her master with disobedience of orders ‘in visiting the horse in the trap’. This resulted in one month’s hard labour at the wash tub at the Factory. Later that month, while in the service of Mr Anderson, Ann was charged with being absent without leave and being found in the company of a man. Ann pleaded guilty and was sentenced to six days in solitary confinement at the Factory. At the end of that time, she was returned to Mr. Anderson.

In December 1844, Ann was charged with being drunk in her service and was sent to the Factory for seven days in solitary confinement. Despite this, on 30 December 1844, Ann was granted a ticket-of-leave.

In March 1845, Anne was found to be out after hours and she was once again sent to the Factory for one month. In July 1845, she was charged with misconduct in being in a disorderly house and representing herself to be free – a serious offence, which resulted in three months’ imprisonment with hard labour at the Factory. Her next two offences were drink-related: in December 1845, she was charged with being drunk and disturbing the peace (one month with hard labour at the Factory) and in January 1846, she was found guilty of misconduct in being drunk (two months’ hard labour at the Factory). While she was at the Factory, Ann was charged with larceny under the value of £5. Her existing sentence of imprisonment and hard labour were extended by six months and she was deprived of her ticket of leave.

Ann’s recalcitrance continued. On Christmas Day 1846, she was found guilty of being absent from her service and remaining absent until 6 January 1847. This resulted in a three month sentence with hard labour at the Factory. In June 1847, she was absent from her mistress’ residence for ‘the whole of Sunday night’. For this, Ann received a two month sentence of imprisonment with hard labour at the Factory, the first and last week of the term to be spent in solitary confinement. While she was serving this sentence, Ann became free by servitude and her Certificate of Freedom was issued once she was released from the Factory.

Ann married twice. On 20 February 1854, she married Joseph Halstead, a fellmonger, in St Andrew’s Church of Scotland, Hobart. Joseph Halstead died of pulmonary and cardiac disease in Richmond district in April 1858. On 4 October 1858, Ann married Henry ‘Rainer’ (or Raynor), labourer, in St Luke’s Church of England, Richmond.

Ann’s last known offence was in March 1877 when she was charged at the Police Court, Richmond, with being drunk and disorderly. For the last time she was sent to the Cascades Female Factory, to serve 14 days imprisonment. She was 65. Having served this sentence, she returned to Richmond, but was then admitted to the New Town Charitable Institution. She was in and out of the institution until March 1878 and then appears to have returned to her husband, Henry, at Richmond.

Ann Muir, aged 80, died of ‘decay of nature’ at Richmond on 5 January 1887. She was buried in St Luke’s Church of England cemetery without a headstone. Her husband died three years later and was buried in the same cemetery.

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