The Forgotten Women Convicts at Macquarie Harbour 1821-26


    MACQUARIE HARBOUR. 1821-1826


(c)  Irene Schaffer


Macquarie Harbour was the first penal settlement to be established in Van Diemen's Land, it lasted for twelve years before its closure in 1833 and later reopened in 1846 for one year


The main reason for choosing such a remote place was to confine re sentenced convicts (mostly for absconding) to where escaping was considered impossible. The 110 persons who went with the first party were made up of the officers and men of the 48th Regiment, who were dispatched from Port Dalrymple, 4 soldiers' wives and their 11 children; 44 convicts of bad character; 11 convict  tradesmen, (who were promised their ticket of leave on completion of work) the pilot Jams Lucas and 8 convict women.


The party left Hobart aboard the Sophia and the Prince Leopold on 12 December 1821.  It is not known how many of the party  the Sophia carried. Being only a brig of 60 tons (the same size as the Lady Nelson) she was restricted in the amount she could take on board. Its possible that she carried the Commandant and those under him, as well as some soldiers and a small amount of male and female convicts. Totaling about thirty, plus the crew.


After battling bad weather for three weeks the Sophia arrived at the mouth of Macquarie Harbour. The Prince Leopold was swept out to sea and eventually turned up at Port Dalrymple.  The Sophia because of her narrow draft was able to negotiate the narrow passage (later known as Hells Gates) after unloading the ship. Once across the bar she reloaded and made her way to Sarah Island.


The records state that there were 8 convict women in the first party.  At first only six could be located. The 1821-2 NSW Muster shows that there were ten convict women at Macquarie Harbour, four of these did not arrive until after the ships left Hobart on the 12 December 1821. The muster would have been taken late 1822. The missing two were later discovered in other records.


Of the first eight , three were English, and five Irish, aged between 15 & 25 years. All were sentenced for larceny or shoplifting. Seven had been sent direct to NSW, and the others to Hobart. Two were sent from Sydney to Hobart on the Kangaroo in 1816. One on the Duke of Wellington in 1818, and the other four on the Princess Charlotte in 1820.


So why where they sent to Macquarie Harbour? I couldn't find any official document that explains why they were sent with this first party. In Philip Tardiff's book "Notorious Strumpets and Dangerous Girls Convict Women in Van Diemen's Land 1803-1829"  we can follow each of these women, what it did not show, except for three, was that they went to Macquarie Harbour either because this information had not been placed on their conduct records, or the M.H. was mistaken for an initial, not a place.


Their crimes, after they arrived in Hobart,  were no worse than many others under sentence at that time.  A large number of these early convict women had married soon after they arrived,  Only two married before they were transported to Macquarie Harbour.


From studying their conduct records it seems that some of them were connected with the hospital when they first arrived in VDL  The 1820-21 muster refers to them as `in the hospital' although it is not clear if it meant as patients or helpers. Some of them were later charged for not doing their hospital duties at Macquarie Harbour.


After the Sophia unloaded the party at Sarah Island she returned to Hobart , this time  taking only four days, arriving on 7th February 1822. The Prince Leopold in the meantime left Port Dalrymple on 10 February and made her way back to Macquarie Harbour. It is possible that the Sophia took the additional four convict women who had arrived a few weeks earlier on the Providence, with her when she left again for Macquarie Harbour on 23 February.


What sort of a life did these women lead in this remote area. The hard day- to-day existence not only for these convict women, but also for the soldiers wives and their children. It would have been the worst possible existance in a place that had no comparision in the whole of the colony. It could almost be compared with being shipwrecked on a desert island.


Because the Prince Leopold was carrying the party of splitters and the remainder of the other convicts, the huts that were to be errected had to be delayed and even though it was summer it must have been very cold at night sleeping under make-do shelters.    


From glimpses of their conduct records some of the convict women had problems with the overseer John Anderson and assistant Surgeon Crockett, resulted in two of them being placed in the stocks for two hours each day for 6 days. This took place in May, when the winter days would have made it  a very cold and uncomfortable time for them. Nine inches of rain is often recorded during the month of May. The iron collar was also used as a punishment.


All of these convict women (except Margaret Keefe,) were returned to Hobart by 1824. Most of them, once their sentences were completed, disappeared from the records. Two died while still under sentence. Sarah Griffin died in 1832. The remainder except Margaret Lucas (Keefe) were still in trouble well up to 1850.












Judith Chambers







Mary Ann Corbett





Jn Simons


Sarah Griffin #





Wm Sillitoe


Mary O'Hara* #







Marg. Morgan* #







Margaret Keefe* #



L. Wellington


Jas. Lucas


Mary Ann Furze* #







Marg. Graham #





Jn Homer


Mary Revett #







Elizabeth Slater #







Sarah Hammon #







Elizabeth Gould





J. Boothsryde


Isabella Hammill #



Mary Ann




Eliz. Banister



Lord Melville




Maria Allen








# Ten women on 1821-22 muster at Macquarie Harbour

* Arrived in Hobart from N.S.W. on Princess Charlotte.


[  ] Number in Philip Tardiff's book    (  ) Police number.




1/ [220] SARAH GRIFFIN  (25) aged 19 years was sentenced to 7 years at Nottingham in 1817 for larceny.  The Surgeon on the Friendship in 1818 described her as a prostitute who was filthy and lazy.  She was sent with fifty four other women from the Friendship to Hobart on the Duke of Wellington in 1818. She and was in trouble within a month. She married William Wordey Silister (Sillitoe) in 1818 and continued her bad habits until 1824, when she received her Ticket of Leave.  There is a gap on her records from July 1821 until May 1822 when she is charged with raising scandalous false reports prejudical to the character of  John Anderson Overseer along with Margaret Morgan, they were both sentenced to wear an iron collar and sit in the stocks at Macquarie Harbour. She was also sentenced for disobeying the Assistant Surgeon in leaving the Hospital at Macquarie Harbour on 23 December 1822.


2/ [443] MARGARET MORGAN (27), aged 16, was sentenced to 7 years at Antrim in August 1817 for picking pockets.  She arrived in New South Wales on thee Elizabeth in 1818,  and  in Hobart on the Princess Charlotte in 1820.


From her conduct record she was to sit in the stocks for 6 hours for neglect of duty at the hospital in February 1821.  In May 1822 she was sentenced to wear an iron collar for 7 days on 7 May 1822, for raising a scandalous false report prejudicial to the character of John Anderson, Overseer, at M.H. (Macquarie Harbour).  By May 1823 she was back in Hobart and continued to commit all sorts of crimes, even breaching the Dog Licensing Act by having a dog without a licence.  Poor Margaret died at the Female House of Correction in 1832, aged  31 years.


3/ [444] MARY O'HARA (or Hare)  (37) aged 15 years  was sentenced to 7 years at Antrim in March 1817 for picking pockets.  She was also on the Elizabeth and  the Princess Charlotte  Her conduct record begins in April 1823 making a gap of two years from when she arrived.  Again it seems that she was sent to  Macquarie Harbour but it was not on conduct her record. On the 1823 Muster she is the servant of Mrs. Nairn at Coal River. In 1826 a felony case against her was dismissed.  There was a child born to a Mary O'Hara in Launceston in 1844, no further  information.


4/ [458] MARGARET KEEFE  (25) aged 25 years was sentenced at Wexford in 1818 for shoplifting.  Arrived in Sydney on the Lord Wellington in January 1820.  Sent to Hobart on the Princess Charlotte in 1820.  She was at the hospital in Hobart in 1820.  Margaret led a lively life of crime soon after her arrival in Hobart, breaking and entering, assault, receiving.  For the latter she was sentenced to be sent to Newcastle in February 1821.  It appears that she was not sent as she was again in the courts for absconding in May 1821.


Margaret is the only one whom I was able to fully trace.  Although it is not recorded on her conduct record she was sent to Macquarie Harbour and  was on the 1822 Muster at Macquarie Harbour.


This large gap of 7 years at Macquarie Harbour was not recorded on her record, nor is there any indication that she was in trouble while she was serving her sentence there. She received her free certificate in 1828.  It was at this most unlikely place that her life changed dramatically.  After her arrival, or maybe on the voyage around to Macquarie Harbour, she met and later lived with the Pilot James Hunt Lucas.  Their first son was born at Macquarie Harbour in 1824.  The couple was married at Sarah Island on 3 March 1829.  James Hunt Lucas was the son of Lt James Hunt Lucas and Sarah Griggs, a convict.  He was born on Norfolk Island in 1794.  The couple remained at Macquarie Harbour until late 1829 when, with their four sons, they transferred to the Derwent River, where another six children were added to the family.  James died at St. Mary's Hospital Hobart after an accident at sea in 1853.  Margaret survived for another twenty years.  She died at her home at Kingston Tasmania in 1872, aged 75.


5/ [493] MARY ANN FURZE (12) aged 24-28, was sentenced to 7 years at Middlesex for Larceny from a person.  She arrived in Sydney on the Janus in 1820 and Hobart on the Princess Charlotte in 1820.   In 1821 she absconded into the woods without a pass for several months. Sentenced to be sent to the territory for the the remainder of her sentence. Because she was on the 1821-22 muster it appears she was sent to Macquarie Harbour, where she remained until 1824.  In May 1824 she was sent to solitary confinement for disobeying orders and spent three days on bread and water. In August 1824 she was in the Hospital at Macquarie Harbour and was charged with destroying the fresh water kept for hospital use. (There was no permanent water on any of the islands)


By 1828 she was back in Hobart.  Her last entry was in May 1831, two years after she received her Ticket of Leave.  A Mary Ann Furse married Benjamin Horton in 1830.  No further information.

6/ [558] MARGARET GRAHAM (22) aged 24, was sentenced to 7 years at Cumberland in 1820 for Larceny.  The surgeons report on her on the Morley, which arrived at Hobart in 1820, was very good.  In August 1821 she was sentenced to be sent to the territory for stealing from her master. There is a gap in her records from 1821 until 1824. This appears to have been the time she spent at Macquarie Harbour, as she was on the 1821-22 muster.  Back in Hobart in 1824 she continued to abscond from her masters and the Female Factory until 1828 when she married John Homer in Launceston.  She was still in trouble till 1845.  No further information.



7/ [220] JUDITH CHAMBERS (6) age 21 years, sentenced to 7 years at Wexford in 1815 for stealing apparel.  Arrived Sydney on the Alexander in 1816 and left for Hobart on the Kangaroo in 1816.


From May 1817 till July 1821 she was in trouble, mainly for drinking. On 1821-22 muster she was at New Norfolk, then a gap until April 1823.  From 1825 till 1829 she continued to get into trouble in Hobart.

In a sworn statments taken at Macquarie Harbour on 20 June 1822 Judith Chambers and Thomas Allmet, claiming that the day before, three soldiers names Maurice Walsh, Terence Cahill and Henry Leech arrived at the Island (Small Island later named Grunnet Island) where the convict women worked and shared   a hut  with Thomas Allmet,  the convict hut keeeper, who was also a hospital attendant, and the overseer. This island contained a wooden penitentiary, with the hospital nearby.  Allmet questioned the soldiers as to how they had came onto the island, and if they have a pass. They admitted that they didn't have one.  Allmet than went to make a signal to Sarah Island (half a mile away) but they stopped him, as they did not want to be reported because they had been given the boat by the mate off the brig, to go fishing. The soldiers left but not before threatening that as the women had beds, they may stay on or come back later. The soldiers were later sent up to Hobart on charges of  repeated misconduct. The charge was dismissed for lack of evidence. There were three Elizabeth Chambers who married - (1) Thomas Miller at Pittwater in 1826; (2) George Spooner in 1834. (3) John Kelly in 1836.


8/ [218] MARY ANN CORBETT/CAHILL/DALANY (36) aged 21 years, sentenced to 7 years in Dublin in May 1815 for forging bank notes. She arrived in NSW on the Alexander in 1816. and sent to Hobart on the Kangaroo in  April 1816.


In June  1816 she married John Simmons.  From 1816  until November 1821 she was in trouble for receiving, assult, drinking and abusing. Resulting in the lost of her T/L and sent to H.M. Gaol. Nothing further on her conduct record.  She was however mentioned as being at Macquarie Harbour by F. Fitzsymonds in his notes  on Judith Chambers. It does seem possible that she was one of the first eight convict women that was sent to M.H.

The other women mentioned in his notes were Mary Ann Furze, Mary Graham, and Elizabeth Bannister.


9/ [604] SARAH HAMMOND (46) aged 39 years, sentenced to 7 years at Surrey in 1820 for stealing wearing apparel.  Arrived in Hobart 8 December 1821 on the Providence II. (first  voyage)


In August 1822 she absconded from her master's premises.  Then there is a gap until 1825 and because she was on the 1822 Muster it seems that she was at Sarah Island for some of that time.  In 1825 she was sent to the female factory in Hobart. Received her Free Certificate in 1827.  No further information.


10/ [623] MARY REVLETT (24) aged 37 years.  Sentenced to life at Middlesex in 1820 for larceny from the person.  (widow, native place Jamaica).  She also arrived on the Providence II  in 1821.  Nothing is recorded for her until 1824.  She was listed on the 1822 Muster and so it seems she was at Sarah Island until her return to Hobart in 1824.  She remained in trouble, absconding, assault etc. until 1844 when she received her Ticket of Leave.  She died in April 1847 and was buried in the grounds of the Prisoners' Barracks, Hobart.



 [630] ELIZABETH SLATER (45) aged 18 years, sentenced to 14 years at Middlesex in 1820 for uttering forged notes.  Also on the  Providence II in 1820.


Her first crime in Hobart was for stealing from Mrs. Sarah Birch, she was sentenced to 6 months in the Hobart Gaol.  In October 1822 she was ordered to sit in the stocks for six days for unbecoming and indecent conduct.  During her time there she was a nurse in the hospital at Macquarie Harbour. Again in June 1823 for quitting the hospital at M.H. and later in June for disobedience to assistant Surgeon Crocket at Macquarie Harbour. By 1827 she was back in Hobart.  In 1834 she was Free by Servitude, but continued to be in trouble. she was on the 1821-22 muster at MH.

No further information.


[665] ISABELLA HAMMILL (49) aged 34, sentenced to 14 years at Lancaster for forging notes.  Surgeons Report was a swearer and disorderly.  (Native Place Tyrone, Ireland). She arrived in Hobart on board the Mary Ann I in May 1822 and continued with her criminal activities.  She received 300 shirts and 5 pairs of trowsers stolen from H.M. Magazine in Hobart.  Sent to Macquarie Harbour for 5 years in September 1822.  On 17 November 1823 she was placed on bread and water for 7 days for abusive language to the Assistant Surgeon Henry Crockett at Macquarie Harbour In November 1823 she was again in trouble for false scandalous and malicious expressions on a later trial at Macquarie Harbour.


She was assigned in Hobart in 1832.  By 1835 she was Free by Servitude. No further information. She was on the 1821-22 muster at MH.


[602] ELIZABETH GOULD (30) age 21 years was sentenced to 14  years in London for forging bank notes. She arrived in Hobart on the Providence II (first voyage) in on 18 December 1821. 


In 1823 she married John Boothsryde in Launceston.  [gap of 2 yrs from arrival]  On the 29 Aug 1823 she was sentenced for receiving, and sent to  Macquarie Harbour for three  years.

She was In trouble until 1827 when her husband died. She married again to this time to George Wellington in Hobart in1829. Continued to be in trouble until 1833.

+ + + + + + + + +



Extra Information 


Extracts from memoranda written by Convict Davis Servant to Mr Foster, Supt. of Convicts, Norfolk Island 1843. - Relating principally to Macquarie Harbour, [Dixon Library DLMS Q168]



`Macquarie Harbour is 37 miles long and from 5-9 broad the settlement is upon an island about two miles in circumference (and 25 miles from the heads or entrance) one mile from it is a small island which is perpendicular rock, fifty foot above the level of the sea about 40 yards long and 8 yards wide. - a rude stairs cut in cliffs is the only road to a truly wretched Barracks built by boards and shingles (the timber quite green) into which 79 men were often confined into crowded a state as to scarcely able to lay down on their sides - to lay on their backs was out of the question. '

[page 1]



`Seven female convicts when their conduct was good 3 lived as housekeepers to the Commandant, Pilot and Supt. of Convicts. One as nurse in the hospital and three to wash shirts for all hands; but if seen in liquer [sic] or out at improper hours or in suspicious places they were sent to the Small Island to reside and to the mainland to work at cutting grass and carrying it to the beach ready to be taken  home at night.  From the great draught of water of  the launches the women truly to be pityied (when the boat grounded every one had to out and  wade ashore, the water up to their hips, and in winter round the water's edge all ice) they would beg the men to carry them on shore, or at least into the shole water, but their supplications genarly were in vain.'   [page 8]


`On New Years day 1822 [sic] (it was June 1822) a report was made to the Commandant by Supt.  of Convicts that the Military had been seen near the quarters of the women in the hospital, without any further enquiry he ordered a whale boat to be manned, into which he put 7 days flour and beef for  5 women, 5 blankets, 1 iron pot, 1 axe for cut fire wood, 2 shovels, 2 rakes, some canvas bags, 1 musket and 20 rounds of ball cartridge to protect themselves should the natives attact them. the Coxswain was then ordered to take the 5 women into the boat and proceed to the Long Beach which was 10 miles outside the  heads, and there leave them for (1 week) at the end  of which he told them he should send  the large launch, a 15 ton boat, and if they did not have a load of oyster shells ready they was to be left for a week longer, but the unfortunate beings completed the task and contrary to ever-ones expectations returned safe.' [page 6]


Other interesting persons who were sent to Macquarie Harbour durining this time.


William Peck first son of Joshua Peck  (first fleet) and Mary Frost (second fleet) was born on Norfolk Island in 1792 and arrived with his mother and father and other members of his family on the Porpoise in 1808. Willam became involved with bad company in his early twenties, his name was associated with the bushranger Michael Howe in 1817. After many arrests and escapes he was eventually sent for trial in New South Wales in August 1817. On returning to Port Dalrymple hea was again sentenced and sent to Newcastle in 1821, from where he again escaped and when recaptured sent to Macquarie Harbour. He died there from an accident on 25 February 1823.


William was not the only member of his family to be sent to Macquarie Harbour, his two brothers John and Joseph were there in 1824. John was tried with William and Jane Davies for stealing sheep in 1824.  Joseph was sent from Newcastle to Macquarie Harbour, where he and his father and two other brothers (William and Thomas) were sent for stealing for sheep near Port Dalrymple in 1821. His father Joshua died in Newcastle in February 1825. In September 1824 Joseph was in trouble at Macquarie Harbour over the language he used when an argument arose over how much timber he claimed to have cut.


John Peck was later sent from Macquarie Harbour to Maria Island with William and Jane Davis in 1829. Thomas later returned to his family at White Hills. William Peck was killed in an accident at Macquarie Harbour on 25 February 1823.  Their mother must have felt the loss of her husband as well as knowing that her four sons were in prison, she died at White Hills in 1847 aged 96.


William and Jane Davis were transported to Macquarie Harbour for stealing sheep at Broadmash in 1824. William Davis had arrived as a member of Lt. Gov. Collins military party in 1804, on board the Lady Nelson/Ocean from Port Phillip to the River Derwent. Jane was the daughter of John Cropper (first fleeter) and Frances Williams (first fleeter) she was born on Norfolk Island in 1793. Her father and mother arrived at Hobart Town on the Porpoise in 1808.


William and Jane had two children Eliza and Thomas, Eliza was placed in the Children's Orphanage, It is not known where Thomas was during this time. Their third child Amelia was born at Macquarie Harbour on 25 May 1825. Jane received a sentence while she was at Macquarie Harbour, she was sentenced to wash 40 prisoner's shirts weekly, for sending an improper letter to the assistant Surgeon Mr Barns. They were sent to Maria Island from Macquarie Harbour in 1829 and received their ticket of leave in 1830.


Bartholomew Reardon was the son of Bartholomew Readon (first fleeter) and Hannah Ronay (second fleeter) He was born on Norfolk Island in 1791 and arrived in Hobart Town with his mother and sister (his father having died on Norfolk Island in 1807) on the Lady Nelson in November 1807.


Bartholomew was transported to Port Arthur for stealing a steer in 1829. He was later sent to Macquarie Harbour where he was listed on the 1830 muster.


William Coventry was transported from Ireland to NSW on the Atlas in 1802. and later went to Norfolk Island. He arrived on the Lady Nelson's second voyage to VDL in February 1808.  He married Mary Martin (no record) they had four children. William was granted land at Back River New Norfolk but got into trouble early in 1816 when he was convicted for harbouring a runaway convict from the chain gang, he was fined 40/-.


On the 29 May 1823 William was tried in the Supreme Court with several others for stealing three bulls, the property of the late Danuel Stanfield (also from Norfolk Island) Sent to Macquarie Harbour he escaped four months later into the bush with five other convicts, two were later captured and hung in Hobart Town. These two men Edward Broughton and Mathew Macavoy confessed to murder and cannibalism of their three companions, including William Coventry after they escaped from Macquarie Harbour.


A reward of £2 was offered for the capture of William Coventry in the HTG 1 January 1831, discribing him as being 5'3'', brown to gray hair, brown eyes, aged 51 years, a farmer's labourer by trade, born in Donnegal Ireland. He had absconded from Macquarie Harbour on 3 September 1830.


Alas poor William had already been eaten by his mates. He was the first to be killed as he was the oldest.


Macquarie Harbour was the first penal settlement to be established in Van Diemen's Land.  It existed for twenty years before closure in 1833, and reopened in 1846 for one year.

The 110 persons who went with the first party were made up of the officers and men of the 48th Regiment who were dispatched from Port Dalrymple, along with four soldiers' wives and their eleven children, forty-four convicts of bad character, eleven convict tradesmen, the pilot James Lucas and eight convict women.

The party left Hobart aboard the Sophia and the Prince Leopold on 12th December 1821.  It is not known how many of the party the Sophia carried.  Being a brig of only 60 tons, (the same size as the Lady Nelson) she was restricted in the amount she could carry on board.

After battling bad weather for three weeks the Sophia arrived at the mouth of Macquarie Harbour. The Prince Leopold was swept out to sea and eventually turned up at Port Dalrymple. The Sophia because of her narrow draft was able to negotiate the narrow passage, (later known as Hell's Gate), after unloading the ship. Once across the bar she reloaded and her made her way to Sarah Island.

Previous written work about the Macquarie Harbour states that there were eight convict women but gave no names. After some time spent in searching the eight were discovered plus another two.

SurnameFirstAge TrialShips to NSW & VDLMarriedRemarks
GRIFFIN Sarah 19 Friendship & D/Wellington Wm Sillitoe 1818 Sentenced to wear iron collar in stocks on Macquarie Harbour 1822
MORGAN Marg. 27 Elizabeth & Princess Charlotte   Died Female House of Correction 1832
O'HARA Mary 15 Elizabeth & Princess Charlotte    
KEEFE Marg. 25 Lord Wellington & Princess Charlotte James Hunt Lucas (Pilot) Sarah Island 1829 Ten children.  Died Kingston 1872 aged 75
FURZE Mary Ann 24-28 Janus & Princess Charlotte Benj. Horton 1830  
GRAHAM Marg. 24 Morley John Homer 1828  
CHAMBERS Judith 21 Alexander & Kangaroo    
CORBETT Mary Ann 21 Alexander & Kangaroo John Simmons 1816  
HAMMOND Sarah 39 Providence (2)   Free Cert. 1827
REVLETT Mary 37 Providence (2)   Died 1847 buried in the grounds of the Prisoners' Barracks Hobart
SLATER Elizabeth 18 Providence (2)   F/S 1834
HAMMOND Isabella 34 Mary Ann   F/S 1835
GOULD Elizabeth 21 Providence (2) (1) John Boothsryde 1823  

(For a more detailed insight into the story of these women, see Tasmania Ancestry September 1997 pp94-8)

For further reading -
Notorious Strumpets and Dangerous Girls - Phillip Tardif.
Macquarie Harbour Penal Settlements 1822-1833 & 1846-1847 - Ian Brand.