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Edges of Empire Biographical Dictionary

of Convict Women from beyond the British Isles


Edited by Lucy Frost and Colette McAlpine


Who would have thought that a slave in British Hondurus would end up as a female convict in Van Diemen’s Land? Or that two cousins, the oldest aged 12, would be transported from their native Mauritius all the way to New South Wales? And why was a French-born woman with the extravagant name Emme Felicite Gabrielle Chardonez Mallohomme sentenced at London’s Old Bailey to transportation for life?


Edges of Empire is a Biographical Dictionary offering accounts of many of these convicts among nearly 200 others who were tried or born outside the British Isles. All were transported to the Australian colonies of New South Wales and Van Diemen’s Land between 1788 and 1853. Their life stories have been tracked from numerous sources around the world, sometimes in detail and sometimes with the merest trace of their existence. The contributors to the Biographical Dictionary are researchers of the Female Convicts Research Centre, based in Hobart, Tasmania. For more information go to: http://www.femaleconvicts.org.au.


In addition to the Biographical Dictionary, which includes all the women for whom information has become available,  the more in-depth and comprehensive study, From the Edges of Empire: Convict Women from beyond the British Isles, is available in paperback from Convict Women’s Press Inc.



Feature Story:

Smith, Ann

Ann Smith (1815?-?)

by Steve Rhodes


On 22 April 1851, Ann Smith was tried at the High Court of Justiciary in Ayr, Scotland, for the crime of the theft of blankets from a Mr Campbell. She had prior convictions for house-breaking and stealing beef for which she had received prison sentences of 12 months and 60 days respectively, so when she was found guilty of the most recent crime the magistrate had no hesitation in sentencing her to transportation for 7 years.

Ann was described as being 5 feet 1¾ inches (156.85 cm) tall, a Protestant, plain cook of fair complexion, with light brown to grey hair and hazel eyes. There is some conjecture as to the actual year of birth for Ann Smith, as different ages are recorded on various documents. The earliest results in a birth year of about 1815 and the latest about 1825. She was born in the East Indies, probably to Scottish parents who were from a military background. Evidence for this possibility can be found in the convict indent for Ann, which notes that she had a brother, William, in the 72nd Regiment. This regiment, also known as Duke of Albany’s Own Highlanders, had been stationed in the East Indies between 1781 and 1798. Out of the 973 soldiers who originally embarked, 274 died on the voyage out and only 369 were fit for service upon arrival in Madras. At the end of their term, most soldiers returned to England, however, 425 decided to stay on in India. This may have included Anne’s parents.

The convict ship Anna Maria departed England on 8 October 1851 with 200 female convicts and 46 children of convicts, and arrived in Van Diemen’s Land on 26 January 1852. The voyage endured rough weather all the way to the Cape and its fair share of sickness, mostly dysentery, resulting in nine deaths, six of whom were children. Some of the illness, according to the ship’s surgeon, W. McCrea, could be attributed to the change in diet from prison to the ship and the poor quality of food on board. Several of the children were from workhouses and were already malnourished. Ann had two children, one of whom is known to have been on board, but neither she nor the child appears on the ship’s sick-list.

Shortly after arrival, W.R. Wade of Elizabeth Street, Hobart, employed Ann. Her son, George McMullen, aged 8, was admitted to Queen’s Orphan School where he remained until 28 March 1853. His father is noted as George McMullen. On 9 August 1852 Ann, describing herself as a 27-year-old widow, married 29-year-old William Thompson, a bricklayer, in Hobart. The couple had three children in Hobart, an unnamed male born 12 December 1852, Elizabeth born 15 June 1854, and an unnamed female born 13 July 1856.

Ann received her ticket of leave on 8 August 1854, and remained clear of any major trouble during her period of sentence, the only blemish on her record being an instance of drunkenness, for which she was fined, on 26 April 1855 in Hobart.

Having a common name makes it difficult to be able to trace Ann or any of her family with any certainty, the last confirmed sighting of her being the birth of her daughter in 1856.

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© 2016 Convict Women's Press Inc.



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