Convict 643, Mary HARVEY was born Mary EDWARDS, [1] daughter of Jane COTTON [2] and William Edwards, younger sister of Walter Edwards. [3] She was baptised on 4 September 1814 in Clawton, Devon England. On 27 July, 1836 she married William Harvey, [4] a sailor, [5] in Stoke Damerel, Devon, England.

On the 27 February [6] and again on 16 October, 1838 [7], Mary appears to have been charged and acquitted of larceny.

On 6 June, 1841 Mary HARVEY and her mother Jane EDWARDS were listed in the England Census [8] in a house on Mill Street in Stoke Damerel, Devon.

At this point in time we can only assume that Mary’s husband was at sea and her mother was widowed. It is not known when her father William Edwards died [9] and no other information has been found with regard to her husband William Harvey [10].

Only four months later, on 19 October, 1841, [11] Mary was convicted on two counts of larceny by servant and sentenced to imprisonment for four months and two months. It does not state whether they were to be served concurrently or consecutively. In either case she would have been in gaol until either February or April of 1842. Her employment would have been terminated and, if her employment had been as a housemaid and laundress, as she stated in her conduct record, [12] she would have been unable to furnish references to secure any future employment. Although this is conjecture, her next conviction was recounted by her, in that same conduct record, as “pledging furniture from my lodgings”, pledging is the Victorian vernacular for pawning. It is reasonable therefore, to suppose that she was discharged from gaol, unemployed and unemployable, impoverished and responsible not only for herself, but also her mother with whom she lived. It appears that she was not supported by her Sailor husband.

It seems inevitable that these circumstances would culminate in her, yet again, coming into conflict with the law. As previously alluded to, on 1 July, 1845 she was again convicted of larceny and this time was sentenced to ten years’ transportation. [13] Inevitable or not, she was transported to the furthest outpost of the British Empire, as far from family and friend as it was possible to be. She would never see her mother or her husband again. Her mother died in the second quarter of 1847. [14]

So it was, that on 8 May, 1846 Mary Harvey set sail along with 169 other female convicts aboard the Sea Queen. Built in 1841 in Calcutta it was a wooden barque of 415 tons, [15] which is to say that it was a fairly new ship with three or more masts, a common design of its day. [16]. It arrived in Van Diemen’s Land on 29 August, 1846, but Mary would serve her six months’ parole, until 16 March 1847, on the Hulk Anson in Prince of Wales Bay at New Town, on the River Derwent before she would finally be returned to dry land. [17] By that time, Mary journeyed some fourteen thousand miles and spent one year and ten months and eight days on water. She would disembark the Hulk Anson around the same time as her mother died.

Her next seven years of her life is told in minuscule, highly abbreviated writing in the lines and columns of her Convict Record [18], written in such format in anticipation of a long and chequered criminal career. Mary’s record takes a mere six lines, yet the meaning of these few sentences is quite profound:

Sometime soon after leaving the Anson, Mary was assigned as a servant to someone by the name of Langley. It can be deduced from her Convict Record that she was pregnant within three months of disembarking the hulk, the father of the child is not recorded, and even free women had so little agency over their bodies that any question of who it was, or whether or not it was consensual, would be moot. Never the less, it is worthy of note that for a convict woman, whilst her body would have been the only asset she had to trade, it was also that which made her most vulnerable.

By August 7, she was about three months pregnant and in trouble with her employer. She was charged with “neglect of duty and absence” and sentenced to eight days in solitary confinement, a sentence that would be carried out at the Cascades Female Factory. On December 31, now seven months pregnant and likely to be seen to be pregnant, she was charged with “disobedience of orders” and discharged.

On January 8, only eight days later, she is now assigned to someone called Stewart and charged with “absence”. On 14 January, barely six weeks before giving birth, she is sentenced by Magistrate Augustus Eardley Wilmot to four months’ hard labour.

Her child was born on 21 February, 1848 and baptised Mary Ann Harvey on March 2nd. [19] Mary is recorded in the hospital returns to March 31 [20] after which time it is not known how long she stayed with her child. It is reasonable to assume that sometime after the birth, the child was taken away and Mary commenced or continued her sentence of four months’ hard labour.

The next note on her Conduct Record is that she absconded on 11 September, 1849, there is no other remark, explanation, or report of her being punished for this. It is not recorded here that her child, Mary Ann Harvey, died in the Brickfields Depot, on November 7. [21]

Seven months later, on 10 July, 1850, Mary married George Pearson of the Isabella. Granted a Ticket of Leave on 29 June, 1852, she wrote her own Certificate of Freedom on 9 July 1853

Reference and Credits

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