Mary Ann Wallace (1829–?)

by Leonie Mickleborough


Mary Ann Wallace, the daughter of a British serviceman, was born in Gibraltar, Spain in 1829. According to the GRO Regimental Birth Indices, Mary’s father was Robert who was serving in the Royal Engineers in Gibraltar at the time. However, according to Mary Ann’s convict conduct record, when she was asked for her father’s name in 1847, she said his name was George.

On 30 November 1846 at the Manchester Quarter Sessions, Mary Ann, a house maid, was found guilty by prosecutor Lydia O’Neale of stealing a dress and a pair of boots, the property of Bridget Kelly, and was sentenced to 7 years’ transportation.

Mary Ann had previous convictions, and had been imprisoned for three months when she was found guilty on 18 May 1846 at the Lancaster County General Sessions held at Salford. The eighteen-year-old ‘young Irishwoman, who called herself Mary Ann Wallace’, was charged by policeman Wood with stealing a bundle of clothing ‘containing handkerchiefs, stockings, and other articles of apparel, from the dwelling of James Grant, a chair bottomer’ [maker of cane chair seats] who was a ‘resident in a cellar near Trap Inn, Roydon-street’. According to James Grant’s wife, because of Mary Ann’s ‘distressed condition’ she had been ‘induced to shelter’ her for a few days, but no sooner had Mrs Grant left the house on Saturday to go to the market, than Mary Ann stole the articles and pledged them at the pawn-brokers, Messrs Wild and Jacksons in Curzon Street.

Mary Ann was one of 169 female convicts who departed from Woolwich aboard the 1814 Calcutta-built barque Asia on 23 March 1847 on which the master was John Roskell. As she was suffering from amaurosis (temporary loss of vision in one eye caused by decreased blood flow the retina), on 28 May the surgeon, Jason Lardner, added MaryAnn to the sick list. She was discharged on 15 June. The Asia travelled directly to Hobart Town, where it arrived on 21 July 1847 after a voyage of 120 days. All convicts survived the voyage, during which the surgeon described Mary Ann’s behaviour as ‘Very bad’.  Mary Ann, who was eighteen years old, 5 feet 2 inches (157.4 cm) tall, with a fresh complexion, dark hair and eyebrows, hazel eyes, a small nose, a long mouth and a low chin, was able to read but not write, and was of the Roman Catholic faith. When asked for her family members, she replied that her father George, her brothers William, George and Adam, and her sisters Mary and Jane all lived at Chatham.

Within nine months of arrival, because of misconduct, Mary Ann was sentenced to five days’ solitary confinement at the Cascades Female House of Correction.This was the first of many times she was sentenced to a Female Factory. On 19 July 1849, for being absent without leave from her master Mr Welling, she was sentenced to one month’s hard labour at Cascades, and again on 26 September 1849 for being absent from her then master Mr Martin, she was sentenced to six months’ hard labour. After this Mary Ann was sent to the ‘interior’, where her masters included Mr Trenwick, Mr Summers, E.V. Tregarna, J. Lyons and D. Boon all in Launceston and J. Cubitt at Deloraine and John Bowden at Westbury whose original grant, like that of his brother Matthew, was at York Plains.

As well as sentences at the Cascades Female House of Correction and on the Anson, Mary Ann was sentenced to either the Launceston or George Town Female House of Correction at least twelve times where she spent at least fifteen months of hard labour and four months in the cells—mainly for absconding from her place of residence, being idle and disorderly, being drunk or using obscene language.

Mary Ann’s application on 18 March 1851 for a ticket of leave was refused.At the time she was serving a one month sentence of hard labour at the Female Factory in Launceston after being absent from Mr Summers’ residence. Her ticket was granted on 20 January 1852, but revoked on 18 January 1853. On 29 December 1853, at the expiration of her sentence her certificate of freedom was issued.

Despite being free of the convict system, on 26 April 1866 Mary Ann was found guilty of being idle and disorderly and sentenced to one month’s hard labour at the Launceston Female House of Correction. Her movements after this are uncertain, but she might have been the Mary Ann Wallace who, between 1866 and 1871 was charged at the Police Court at Launceston and who was fined and imprisoned about five times for being drunk and incapable or for using indecent language.

On 23 November 1870 a Mary Ann Wallace was charged with being idle and disorderly on Sunday by sitting in the porch at the Roman Catholic Church and begging from those entering and leaving. When cautioned she was told she must either go into the church or leave, and not be in the church porch for begging purposes. When the ‘very dirty’ Mary Ann did not leave she was apprehended, charged, and sentenced to imprisonment and hard labour for one month. On 22 August 1871 at the Police Court Launceston, with Ann King and Joseph Farley, 48- year-old Mary Ann Wallace was charged with being drunk and incapable. They were each fined 10/- or in default, 48 hours in solitary confinement. No more relevant records of a Mary Ann Wallace have been located. 

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