Mary Thomas (1798–?)

by Leonie Mickleborough


Mary Thomas (or Crosby) was born in Gibraltar, Spain about 1798, at a time when the British government had military personnel stationed there to stop enemy ships accessing the Mediterranean Sea.

In 1830 Mary, aged 32, a widow with two children, was a cook who was able to brew and bake. On 26 April, found guilty at York (Leeds Borough) Quarter Sessions of picking pockets by ‘robbing Joseph Whitehead of a crown piece, a half-crown, and two shillings’ the crown and half-crown having been ‘found in her mouth’,  Mary, ‘an old offender’ was sentenced to 7 years’ transportation. At 5 feet 3½ inches (161.29 cm) tall with a ‘Ruddy & freckled’ face, brown hair, dark grey eyes and a small diagonal scar over her right eyebrow, Mary had one prior conviction for which she had been imprisoned for three months.

Mary travelled on the Kains, a 353 ton bark transporting female convicts to New South Wales, on which the captain was William Lushington Goodwin. Able Seaman Charles Picknell and the Surgeon Superintendent, Thrasycles Clarke, described how, on 3 July 1830, when taking prisoners on board at Woolwich, a Sunderland brig pushed the Kains diagonally and caught the maintop-sail yard, tearing it into two pieces. The next day they continued embarking prisoners, some ‘collected’ from Horsemonger Lane Gaol and others from Newgate Prison. In all, 120 convicts, aged between 14 and 30, with thirteen children, and three women (with four children) to join their husbands, boarded. Quakers visited the prisoners and the Kains sailed on 8 July, but was ‘windbound in the Downs’ before proceeding to Spithead, from where she sailed on 17 July 1830. After ten days the Kains was off Plymouth, and the following day, when in company with the convict ship Burrell, the shores of England disappeared below the horizon.

Clarke described the ‘general character and conduct’ of the convicts on board the Kains as what ‘might be expected from the lowest Class of Society’. They were ‘from the sweepings of most of the Prisons in England, and from persons whom all the wise and salutary laws of England had failed to reclaim’. They were ‘most immoral and abandoned,—if there ever was a Hell afloat it must have been in the shape of a Female Convict Ship’, and in a ‘mere spirit of devilishness’ the women had resorted to ‘quarrelling, fighting, thieving’ and destroying each other’s property.

On 27 August 1830, the surgeon Thrasycles Clarke recorded how Mary was suffering from ‘Icterus’ (jaundice), severe pain in the region of her shoulders, and had been constipated for seven days. He immediately treated her with ‘Ten grains of Calomel with fifteen of Jalup’, and she was moved to the ship’s hospital the next day. Given varying doses of calomel (mercurous chloride), jalup (a purgative drug) and opium while in the hospital, Mary was ‘discharged cured’ on 23 September.

On route the Kains called into the Teneriffe off the coast of Africa, and also into the Cape of Good Hope, where it was ‘detained for some time’. On 11 March 1831, 246 days after leaving London, the Kains eventually arrived at Port Jackson, and the surviving 119 convicts remained on board until 25 March when they landed in ‘as healthy a state as any ship which has hitherto arrived’.

Settler families ‘in want of’ female servants were invited to apply for prisoners provided they applied on the ‘established’ form by 22 March. However, Goodwin cautioned the public against giving ‘trust or credit to the Crew’ as he would not be ‘responsible for the same’.

Mary Thomas was ‘disposed of’ to William Bradridge and his wife Ann, possibly on William’s grant in the Hunter Valley, but just two months later, Bradridge charged Mary with ‘oft-repeated drunkenness’, for which she was sentenced to one month’s confinement in the 3rd class of the factory’. She was sent to Sydney Gaol, and then returned to the government.

Prior to Mary’s transportation, at the Kent Assizes on 13 August 1813, Charles Friend was sentenced to 14 years’ transportation, and was one of 200 convicts who arrived in New South Wales aboard the Surrey on 31 August 1814. Charles, born in Canterbury, England in 1882, was 5 feet 7½ inches (171.4 cm) with a ‘Sallow’ complexion, brown hair and hazel eyes. On 10 June 1817 in Sydney, found guilty of stealing a watch, a chain and seals, Charles was sentenced to three years at Newcastle, and was transported aboard the Lady Nelson.

Charles was back in the District of Sydney and a servant of Samuel Leverton on 1 July 1824, when Samuel attested to his character for a ticket of leave. This was granted on 14 October 1824, and on 7 May 1833, Charles applied to marry Mary Thomas. The application was granted, and Charles French [sic] aged 48 and ‘Mary Thomas or Crosby’, aged 35 were married by the clergyman John Dunmore Lang in Sydney on 24 May 1833.

Mary was granted her certificate of freedom on 10 November 1838, and Charles received his five days later. After this, either deliberately or accidentally, both Mary and Charles disappear from the records. Any knowledge about their fate is in contrast to the Kains, whose last voyage of transportation was the one on which Mary arrived.

On 5 June 1831 the Kains left Sydney for Launceston with passengers and miscellaneous cargo, but ran into a storm, and as well as losing sails, two seamen were lost overboard. She limped back to Sydney arriving on 21 July. On 11 September she again sailed for Launceston, but once more encountered adverse weather, and on 20 October she entered Whirlpool Reach in the Tamar River, but when the wind suddenly dropped she lay becalmed. Her keel struck the sunken rock and her sternport and rudder were washed away. The Kains then ran ashore in North Harbour (Devil’s Elbow) and was hard and fast in fifteen feet of water at high tide and on dry land at low tide. The wreck was sold at auction for £330, and her hull was repaired and converted into a floating store. Captain Goodwin settled in Launceston and became a newspaper editor and proprietor of the Independent and the Cornwall Chronicle.

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