Catherine Smith (1802?-?)

by Douglas Wilkie


Catherine Smith was born in Bengal around 1802, but no more is known of her until she appeared at the Salop Assizes in Shropshire on 15 November 1832 on a charge of ‘false pretences’. She was found guilty and sentenced to 7 years’ transportation.

Catherine left London on board the Diana on 11 December 1832 and sailed to Falmouth from where it sailed for New South Wales on 3 January 1833. Upon arriving at Sydney on 25 May 1833, her description was recorded: she was aged thirty; Catholic; could read but not write; was a widow; worked as a laundress and housemaid; was 4 feet 10½ inches (148.59 cm) tall; had a ruddy, freckled complexion, with brown hair, and grey eyes. Her distinguishing marks included: ‘Scar betwixt the eyes, lost two front teeth in upper jaw, pug nose, right thumb dislocated, forefinger of right hand contracted’.

On 27 May the availability of assigned servants was advertised in the Sydney press.

NOTICE is hereby given, that Families who are in want of Female Servants, may be supplied from the Prisoners arrived in the Ship Diana, from England, provided they apply according to the established form on or before Friday the 7th day of June next.

The Assignees will be required to enter into the usual engagement, under a penalty of forty shillings, to keep their Servants for one month, unless removed by due course of law.

   Printed forms of application may be obtained at the Office of the Principal Superintendent of Convicts.

The women on board the Diana finally left the ship on Saturday 15 June, and workmen set about knocking out the specially built women’s berths before it sailed for Catherine’s birthplace, India.

Catherine was assigned to ‘Mrs Fullorini’, possibly the wife of Dr Jean Fattorini of Sydney. Although Fattorini had been in Sydney for some time his wife, Clemence, arrived on the Prince Regent on 19 February 1833. But things did not go well for Catherine, and on 1 November 1833 she was brought before the Sydney Police Office on an unspecified charge and sentenced to six weeks at the Parramatta Female Factory. She was back again on 15 January with another 52 days at Parramatta. In April 1834 yet another misdemeanour was reported in the Sydney Gazette.

Catherine Smith, assigned to Mr. D. Hill, was accused of absenting herself from her service to rusticate with her Adonis, contrary to the form of the statute. Catherine acknowledged that she had been a little overseen, and promised to be such a good creature in future if his Worship would only overlook, this one breach. To shew them her good resolution, she was sent to practise them for thirty days at the Parramatta school of reform.

Mr D. Hill may have been David Hill, licensee of the Butcher’s Arms Hotel in Pitt Street, who regularly employed convicts and in 1831 had been fined for ‘entertaining an assigned servant’.

Catherine was next assigned to Mr Paul of George Street, Sydney—possibly John Paul who had auction rooms in that street—but on 8 June 1834 she again absconded. Her description was published in the press and on 12 June she was back before the court and was sent to the factory for another month.

Catherine’s name appears in the gaol lists again in 1837 and she appeared before the Police Office on 25 March 1837 and was sent to ‘Liverpool via Parramatta’ on 28 March. Her name is in the Berrima Gaol Description Book for 1840 and on 3 May she came before the court at Queanbeyan and was transferred to a Mr Bowen on 6 May. But that was not the end of it, and on 27 August 1840 she was brought before the Berrima police on an unspecified felony and was ordered to spend twelve months at the Factory.

Catherine’s certificate of freedom was granted on 6 January 1842 and four months later, on 30 May 1842, now aged 39, she married 29-year-old James Rider, or Ryder, a convict transported for life on the Andromeda. The marriage was performed by Rev Charles F. Brigstock at Yass. But something happened to James Ryder and on 15 November 1845, Catherine, now Catherine Ryder aged 42, was granted permission by Rev Charles Lovat, Catholic Dean of Yass, to marry James Fagan, or Fagin, an Irishman, who had been transported on the Blenheim in 1839 for pig stealing. At the time of the marriage Fagan was said to be aged 48 and had a ticket of leave.

There were two people named James Fagan, or Fagin, on the Blenheim in 1839, both were Irishmen; both were convicted of pig stealing; and both were transported for 7 years. One was a 42-year-old schoolmaster from Meath. The other was a 24-year-old labourer from Cavan. The age on the marriage entry suggests it was the older of the two that Catherine married at Yass. But perhaps not—James Fagan, supposedly aged 47, and transported on the Blenheim, died at the Sydney Hospital on 6 February 1840.

On the other hand, James Fagin, born in 1815, from Meath in Ireland, and also transported on the Blenheim, was granted a ticket of leave at Queanbeyan on 11 October 1846 with permission to live at Yass, where he was granted his certificate of freedom on 13 June 1846. It appears it was this James Fagin, about twelve years younger than herself, that Catherine married at Yass in 1845. Fagin was 5 feet 6 inches (168 cm) tall and had a ‘ruddy and pockpitted’ complexion; his nose was ‘a little crooked’ and he had a large scar on the left side of his head.

There were numerous people named Fagan in New South Wales at the time and the subsequent movements of Catherine and James Fagan have not been traced. 

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