Mary Vizard (1808?-1839)

by Kay Buttfield


Mary Vizard, an impoverished mother of three, described as a house servant and plain cook, was apprehended for housebreaking/larceny on 1 January 1838. At her sentencing in the Central Criminal Court, Old Bailey, Middlesex, London she was sentenced to transportation for 14 years.

On 29 April 1838, with her two youngest children she departed Woolwich, England with 132 convicts aboard the Nautilus, under Shipmaster J. Newcombe and Surgeon John G. Stewart. The voyage ended on 29 August 1838 in Hobart. This was not her first conviction, as she had priors for stealing money, and a coat.

Mary was born at the Cape of Good Hope and was approximately 30 years old, 5 feet 2 inches (157.48 cm) tall, with brown hair, grey eyes, and a freckled complexion. Her husband, Thomas, was a blacksmith, and, in her defence Mary said, ‘for my husband is lying home ill’. Mary was caught standing in the kitchen of a home in Upper Cleveland Street with wet linen in her hands, which she was holding behind her back. In her defence Mary said she left her baby with a stranger while she was looking for someone who had promised her employment in George Street, off Hampstead Road. En route to George Street she became ill and went inside an open house to get help. The linen had been removed from the clothesline, but Mary denied she had stolen anything. Mary’s prior conviction added to her guilty verdict.

The voyage was difficult for Mary, and no doubt also for her children. She had reported ill when in gaol awaiting transportation and she remained ill throughout most of the voyage. The records show her on the sick list in May, with diarrhoea and in June, and suffering from the Phthisis incipiens, which is the final stages of Pulmonary Tuberculosis. The surgeon also noted Mary’s age as variously 40, and 48, not 30 as in her convict records and his final report stated Mary was, ‘disposition quarrelsome, slovenly and dirty, an invalid the great part of the voyage’. Richard, her young son, was also unwell on the voyage and was put on the sick list in May suffering from ophthalmia.

On 14 September 1838, a couple of weeks after the Nautilus arrived in Hobart, Josiah Spode, the Principal Superintendent of Convict’s in his report on the distribution of the 133 females on board, noted that three were sick and unfit for assignment. Mary, one of the three, was confined at the Cascades Female Factory where three months later on 23 November she passed away.

On 12 September 1838, her two children Richard and Margaret Mary (or Mary Margaret) were taken to the Queen’s Orphan School; Richard was 9 years and 7 months old and Margaret Mary was just 2 years and 7 months. Margaret Mary died of ‘water on the brain’ on 18 April 1839. Richard’s life was also tragic, as the records tell that he spent twelve years at the orphan home and then, on 15 July 1850, he was released to the Invalid Depot at Impression Bay, finally dying at the New Norfolk Asylum at 64 years of age on 14 December 1894. The sad life of Mary’s children was an echo of their mother’s miserable life, all transported across the seas to die.

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