Mary Quinn (1810?-1889)

by Colleen Arulappu


Martinique was invaded by the British in 1809 in response to disruption of their trade routes. One of the regiments was the 74th Battle Axe Company of the Royal Artillery, which had been formed in Ireland. Mary’s father could have been a soldier in the battle. Mary was 5 feet 3 inches tall (160.02 cm) with a fair complexion, brown hair and freckles. She was from a large family of five girls and three boys; she was married and her husband, John, was a glassmaker in Armagh, Ireland. They had four children.

Mary was convicted on 13 April 1843, in Belfast, on the same day as Rose Quinn and for the same crime of receiving stolen goods which Mary said had belonged to the poorhouse. Neither woman had any previous convictions. Mary admitted that she had stolen a chemise and two petticoats. Rose Quinn, who was single, died aboard the convict ship and so there is no confirmation of relationships. Perhaps they were sisters-in-law. They had been convicted together and were in the same mess group on the ship. On her admission to Grange Gorman Prison in Dublin, Mary gave her occupation as linen weaver. Many women worked at home as weavers but the opening of factories in Belfast diminished the work as a cottage industry and reduced family income. On arrival in Hobart, Mary said she was a house servant and country servant. With her on the voyage was her fourth child, Rosannah, aged two years.

Mary and Rosannah’s journey aboard the East London was a terrible one with nineteen of the women convicts dying and many of their young children dying on board or soon after arrival. An enquiry was held into the number of deaths and although the Surgeon Superintendent was cleared it was found that failure to call in at the Cape of Good Hope for fresh food and a lack of discipline had led to the disaster on board. In Hobart, Rosannah Quinn was sent to the Dynnyrne Nursery with the other sick children from the ship and was there for over three months before she was well enough to be sent to the Orphan School. The Orphan School recorded Rosannah’s mother’s name as Mary Read, which could have been her maiden name. On 27 June 1848, the day Mary got her ticket of leave, she had her daughter discharged from the Orphan School.

Mary served her sentence with few problems and married Richard Stanley on 7 August 1848. Although Mary was a Catholic, they married in the Bethesda Church of England in Hobart. Richard, 40, was a wool sorter and gave his status as free. There were no children from the marriage and Richard died in 1857, in Hobart. Mary’s daughter, Rosannah Quinn, married William Rourke on 14 January 1861 and the family group stayed together in their home in Bathurst St, Hobart. From 1864 until 1877, Mary faced several fines for obscene language, bad language within hearing of a public street and pawning goods which had been given to her, but were proved to be stolen; that charge was withdrawn. On two occasions she was assaulted by another woman and received head wounds from stones being thrown at her.

The most serious charge Mary faced was manslaughter in September 1878 when she had given a young girl, Minnie Leedham, a dose of panegoric which was too strong and the child died. The chemist and druggist who sold the narcotic had not put any warning of poison on the bottle and Mary, who was helping settle a teething child, gave her a dose which was too strong. Mary told the police that the mother had “lain on the child”. Mary went to court and the jury found that under the circumstances she should face trial but after reviewing the evidence the Solicitor- General declined to proceed any further.

There were other brief brushes with the law as Mary aged. Once, in 1879, she was charged with indecent conduct in a public street, but the constable was unable to prove the charge. Another time, she was arrested in connection with a stabbing at Cloudy Bay Lane, off Bathurst St, her residence, but was released because there was no evidence. In 1881 and 1884 she was fined for disturbing the peace. The death at the New Town Pauper Establishment of Mary Stanley, born Ireland, on 30 September, was probably her, although the age was not accurate.

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