Celia Williams (1810?-1837)

by Cheryl Griffin


Twenty-five-year-old apprenticed labourer Celia Williams (also referred to as Celia Marshal in her trial papers), a ‘woman of colour’, was tried in her native Jamaica on 6 January 1835 and sentenced to transportation for life for theft. Using ‘force and arms’, she had stolen cash and personal property belonging to Isaac Henry Bravo, who was staying at Miss Pole’s lodging house, quite probably at Montego Bay, the capital of St. James Parish. The goods were later found in her room at ‘Catherine Mount’, a plantation in St. James Parish.

Celia sailed to England with two other black women, Ann Powell and Priscilla, and the three of them were received onto the Prison Hulk Hardy on 4 May 1836, more than a year after she was convicted.

Celia and Priscilla were sent to Woolwich on 16 May 1836 in preparation for their journey to New South Wales. However, Celia was ill and was taken to the hospital ship HMS Unite where she remained for several months. Priscilla set sail for New South Wales alone, on board the Elizabeth, and arrived in Sydney on 12 October 1836.

It was another two months before Celia was considered well enough to sail and she boarded the Sarah and Elizabeth on 28 December 1836 for her journey to Australia. On the voyage she became ill with diarrhoea, a condition aggravated by seasickness, the surgeon John Nankervis noting that she was ‘of a nervous habit of body’. He observed that she ‘had been in apparent delicate health previous to her embarkation, and was subject to strong hysterical paroxysms’. She remained in the sick bay from 30 March 1837 until her death on 19 April, just three days before the ship arrived in Sydney.

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Further reading:
Cheryl Griffin, ‘Whitewashing Australia’s convict experience: from the British Caribbean to New South Wales’, in  Fromthe Edges of Empire, eds L. Frost and C. McAlpine, Convict Women’s Press, Hobart, 2015, pp. 131-147.


© 2016 Convict Women's Press Inc.