Anne Smith (1822?-?)

by Kay Buttfield


Anne Smith was born in South Africa around 1822. How she happened to be living in Lancashire in the 1840s we do not know; however, the records tell us that in September 1845 she was tried in Salford, near Manchester, at the Lancaster Salford General Sessions, for stealing shawls and a dress.

Anne had been convicted twice before for similar offences and had spent over four months in gaol. Considering her priors, Anne’s crimes were deemed more serious this time and she was sentenced to 7 years’ transportation to Van Diemen’s Land. In February 1846, Anne left Portsmouth, England with 169 other female prisoners aboard the Emma Eugenia under Captain Wilfred Beech and Surgeon John Wilson. The ship docked in Hobart in June of that year.

A Roman Catholic, Anne is described as a 23-year-old single, housemaid who could read but not write. She stood 5 feet 2½ inches (158.75 cm) tall, with a long angular head and reddish brown hair. Her face was round with a medium length forehead leading to light brown eyebrows framing light blue eyes, a short turned-up nose, a large mouth and a small narrow chin. Anne’s left hand was distinguished by broken fingers.

Although the records give her name as Anne Smith, they also state that her proper name was Roseanne Montagu—which is similar to the name recorded for Anne’s mother. The indent states that her mother was Rosannah, her father Bernard, with brothers and sisters James, Edward, Bernard, Sarah, and Eliza. Transportation was not new to Ann’s family, as the records reveal that a brother was transported to Van Diemen’s Land four years before Anne’s conviction.

After her arrival in Hobart, Anne was placed with various masters. Sadly, over the next few years she was sentenced to hard labour in the Female Factory at Cascades for misconduct, and being absent without leave. In May 1847 an ex-convict, William Potts, made a successful application to marry Anne, and they married in St Andrew’s Church of England in Longford on 28 June of that year. Anne was 25 and William was 41 years old. In November 1849 Anne was granted a ticket of leave, and then, after twice being recommended, she was finally approved to receive a conditional pardon in February 1852.

The records on Anne become murky after this, and we do not know if Anne and William made a success of their lives together. There is a record in the census of 1851 of a William Potts, one married woman, and two other men living in a wooden dwelling in Tamar Street, Launceston— this may be Anne and William, but it is doubtful as none are identified as pardoned convicts. There is also a record of a William Potts dying in 1901 in Launceston, but if it is Anne’s husband then he would be a very old man indeed.

What of Ann’s brother? Records reveal that in 1842 the Triton transported a James Montague to Van Diemen’s Land. This James, also born in the Cape of Good Hope, was a 21-year-old laborer on a 7-year sentence for larceny. He was a 21-year-old factory boy when convicted of breaking into a store and stealing boots. James named his parents as Bernard and Roseanna, which further confirms his link with Anne. James Montague was not a model prisoner; he was often in trouble for his bad behaviour.

There is no evidence to prove that Anne and her brother James were reunited, and James, it seems, left Tasmania for the Victorian goldfields.  He departed Tasmania on the Flying Fish in 1852 headed for Geelong. He gave his age as 35 and his occupation as ‘gold digger’. As there is not a record of the death of Anne Potts, perhaps she followed her brother to the goldfields—we will never know.  

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Further reading:
Kay Buttfield, ‘Convicts of the Cape Colony’, in Fromthe Edges of Empire, eds L Frost and C. McAlpine, Convict Women’s Press, Hobart, 2015, pp. 90-111.



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