1814 McCarroll

[Mary McCarroll  was my great great great grandmother.]


MARY McCARROLL  (nee SWORDS) aka McArdle

“The offences of the Irish convicts are usually thefts to which they are often driven by distress”.

Lord Lieutenant of Ireland 1850.


      Mary McCarroll arrived in Port Jackson in May 1814. Convicted in the City of Dublin in October 1812, she had been sentenced to 14 years. No record has been found to date of the arrest or the trial. The  “Catherine’s” Indent spells her name as McArdle, and give her age, obviously wrong, as 50 – her 1826 Certificate of Freedom has her age at the time as 45, making her 33 on arrival. Thus born 1781. Her calling was stated to be ‘housekeeper’.[1]

      At the time of her arrest in 1813, Mary McArdle (sic) was a widow. She was left there with three daughters. We have no details of her Ireland marriage. It may have taken place in or prior to 1803 when  daughter Margaret was born. Neither her husband’s name, nor her maiden name are known to us, though her son Charles made a notation about 30 years later on his own marriage certificate, which suggests Mary’s maiden name may have been Swords. Her correct married name was ‘McCarroll

      Mary McCarroll’s 1826 Certificate of Freedom gave her Native Place as Meath, but since she left her children in the care of the Dublin family, and since her daughter Margaret was recorded on her 1825 Indent as ‘Native Place Dublin’, presumably  she was living permanently in Dublin at the time of her arrest. Her trial was in Dublin City.

The ‘Catherine’ was a transport of 325 tons, built at new Bedford in the Americas in 1811, William Simmons was the master and the Surgeon was named Palmer:

“On 22 August, 1813 she arrived from England at Cove, near Cork in Ireland to collect female convicts. Seventy female prisoners had embarked at Dublin, en route. Only two years old, the vessel was inspected on the day she arrived and was found to have ‘a good roomy prison and berths made up for a hundred females, and there may be more. Her hospital is a good one, except being placed in the bows; it is tolerably well ventilated. She had a table in the center of the prison which must be removed and forms placed there.’ Thirty women were put on the Catherine on the twenty fifth, and 29 more went on a couple of days later, followed by another ten on the twenty-eighth. Twenty five came to the vessel from the Cork city jail, and after 10 more arrived on 1 October there was a total of 90 women and four children. Most of the women were to serve 7 or 14 years, but Ann Rorke from Dublin and Catherine Geran from County Limerick, had life sentences. The occupations of the women included servant, housekeeper, needle – woman, shoe-binder, cutter, confectioner, shopkeeper, dealer, mantuar, upholsterer and country work.”[2]

Another writer noted that:

“…the Catherine … left the Cove of Cork for Falmouth on 28 October 1813 with 98 women.  Seventy of the women had embarked at the dock of Dublin and had remained on board at the Cove of Cork, and all prisoners were confined on the ships for over two months while the (‘Catherine’ was) at Falmouth.  Much care was care taken to maintain the health of the women: Women are continually, both in Harbour and at Sea, admitted to the Decks – Two were delivered on board the Dublin ship, it was considered dangerous to move them from the very Hot atmosphere of the Hold to an Hospital, they however soon recovered and were embarked perfectly well … at Cork … greater attention cannot be paid to their health nor can more humanity be exemplified than is by those employed in their case. It was because of this care, because of the continual access to the decks, that the Irish women arrived in New South Wales in such excellent health.[3]

       These were the only women transported from Ireland in that year. The ship, having left from Cove on 8 December 1811 with 98 female passengers, of whom one died en route, entered Port Jackson on 3 May, 1814, 147 days later.  The population of New South Wales by now had increased by some 3,000 to over 13,000.

      Governor Macquarie in a dispatch to Earl Bathurst told him that these convicts

“…have, without a single exception, borne grateful testimony to their having been treated with the most unremitting care, attention and kindness, by the master and surgeon, from the day of their embarkation until they were finally landed here. The settlement in Van Dieman’s Land being much in want of women, I have embarked 60 of those arrived to the Derwent.[4]

Both Mary McCardell (sic) was listed in the 1814 Muster, taken in November 1814. While George Marshall was at the time  ‘off stores’ in the employ of Simeon Lord, Mary, also ‘off stores’, was assigned to Stafford Lett, a publican.

     Lett had been convicted in London in 1797 at the age of 16 and sentenced to transportation for 7 years. He arrived in 1799 in the ‘Hillsborough’, with the health record as the worst of the convict ships. One third of the convicts died on the voyage. He had a further brush with the law in 1804 when he was sentenced to the gaol gang till further orders for purloining shingles that belonged to Government.[5]

Punch Bowl Inn, The Rocks, where Mary was first assigned on arrival.

      Letts’ wife, Sophia Blundell had been transported on the ‘Experiment’ in 1804. Their public house was the ‘Punch Bowl’ in Cambridge Street in The Rocks. Letts and his wife were described as one of the many ‘publican’ couples whose marriages were of the working partnership sort.[6] By the time Mary was assigned to the Letts after her arrival in 1814, Sophia had Martha, Elizabeth and new born  William so an extra pair of hands was extremely welcome.

     The Punch Bowl had been built by Lett and Blundell before 1813. It was a long low, plain faced, whitewashed, rubblestone house with a gabled roof of shingles. Simple square chimneys at the south end to the rear of the house suggest the taproom and kitchen respectively. The sign outside had the name of the house depicted in pictures – a bowl with two ladles – and hung from a pole at the front.[7]

     Nothing is known of her time in the Letts’ employ, or how long she stayed there. She may have left at the time of her  January 1815 marriage, or perhaps not until George received his Ticket of Leave in 1816..  Stafford Lett died in 1817 and his widow continued as publican until 1818 when she married former convict, now publican and landholder (in the Rocks and in Minto), George Cribb[8], and moved to his house at 95 Gloucester Street. Sophia Lett was at the time described as a capable, well respected and propertied publican with five children, including recently born twins. It is evident  that Mary McCarroll was thus assigned on arrival to a better household than were many of  her contemporaries. Sophia died in February 1827 at the age of 43, meaning, incidentally, that she was two or three years younger than Mary.

We don’t know of the circumstances whereby George Marshall met Mary McCarroll, though many assigned convicts at the time lived in the Rocks area, working in other parts of Sydney In George’s case, Simeon Lord’s warehouse was just across the Tank Stream at what is now Macquarie Place. It would not have been difficult to meet at or near the Punch Bowl where Mary was assigned from the time of her arrival in 1814.


      While still convicts, Mary and George  were married in St Philip’s Church, Sydney on 23 January, 1815. This was only eight months after her arrival. Marriage was the most important choice open to women prisoners. Marriage could immediately transform the conditions of the women’s servitude through their assignment to their husbands where, although technically still prisoners, they could leave lives of free married women.[9] Their daughter’s birth only two months later suggests a close relationship within weeks of Mary’s disembarkation.


    The Marriage Certificate reads as follows:


 “George Marshall, Clothier, a Batchelor, and Mary McCarroll, a Widow, both of this place were married in this Church by Banns this twenty-third day of January in the year One Thousand Eight Hundred and Fifteen. By  me      William Cowper.

This marriage was solemnised between us

George Marshall, Mary McCarroll her X mark; In the presence of  Samuel Howell, Sarah Griffiths her X mark. [10]



   We are unaware of the connection with these witnesses:

  • Sarah Whitehead aka Griffiths, age 28,  was convicted in the Old Bailey in 1810, along with John Whitehead, of stealing two pair of breeches, value 30s. Sarah Griffiths (‘Nile’ 14 December 1810) , now in 1815 aged 44, was granted a Certificate of Freedom four years earlier in January 1810. It is likely she was the Sarah Griffiths who died in Sydney on 6 January 1816.[11]


  • Samuel Howell arrived in the ill-fated Second Fleet , on the ‘Scarborough’ on 28 June 1790, after some 73 of the ship’s prisoners had died en route. He had been sentenced in Winchester, Hampshire to Life. He was pardoned by Governor Hunter. The 1814 Muster has him married to Ann Germaine (‘”Mary Ann”, 1791,and  now Free) with two children. Ann was sentenced at  Norwich in July 1790. The 1822 Muster has him employed with Simeon Lord and it is possible that it was there where he met George Marshall prior to becoming a witness to his marriage.


While there is much evidence that a great number of the convicts did not bother with church or civil marriage,[12] George and Mary did so, at St Philip’s Church at the Rocks. It was built on what is, today, Lang Park. Old St Philip’s served Sydney from this date until 27th March 1856 when the present church was consecrated. William Cowper, who performed the marriage rites for George and Mary, was the Assistant Chaplain. He was to become the first (and only Rector) of ‘old’ St Philip’s. The 28 year old Cowper arrived in Sydney on 18th August 1809. He preached his first sermon in St Philip’s on 20th August, within 48 hours of his arrival. He was Rector of St Philip’s for 49 years. Among his distinguished children were Charles Cowper (later Sir Charles), five times Premier of New South Wales and the Very Reverend William Macquarie Cowper for 44 years the Dean of Sydney and the second Rector of St Philip’s.


The fact that Marshall and McCarroll were married in the Colony’s Anglican Church tells us little about their religion. One might make an assumption that the English and Irish origins suggest Anglican and Catholic respectively. There had been no Catholic priest or chapel since 1810 and this gap was to remain until the arrival of Fr J J Therry in 1820. Although Catholics probably made up more than half of the Rocks’ inhabitants, there was no Catholic church in the vicinity until St Patrick’s was built in the 1840s. Like their Protestant neighbours, many Catholics did use St Philips for baptisms and marriages.[13] But regular contributions Fr Therry’s planned new St Mary’s Catholic Church, well as the frequency of their names as witnesses to marriages in the newly opened St Mary’s Chapel from September 1823, and the attendance in the same year of their two children at the new ‘Higgins and Muldoon Roman Catholic School’, sponsored by Fr Therry, emphasise a Catholic leaning. Furthermore, Mary’s earlier connection in Dublin with the Jesuit Father Ryan, as well as her Irish daughter Margaret’s religion noted on her Indent as Catholic, confirms her religion.


In 1816 the Female Muster noted that Mary was the “wife of George Marshall”. It is most likely that she was no longer employed/assigned to Stafford Lett. It was common practice to assign convicts to their spouses, and this may have occurred  immediately after Mary’s marriage in 1815. Despite the fact that George had only a Ticket of Leave at this time and was not legally ‘free’, one can reasonably be certain this took place. The necessary ‘Application to Marry’ might have provided some background, but this contemporary archive is unavailable.


Nor is there any indication where they were living at this time. They were later to move to the Brickfields area, on land to be known as Campbell Street. While there is a slight possibility that they did so in or around 1814, all we can be certain of was that they lived there “for many years before 1823” as certified by Commissioners for (Land) Claims in the 1830s.  

       The 1822 Muster noted that Mary McCarmel (sic) was George Marshall’s wife and ‘Free by Servitude”. This term described the practice whereby she gained her immediate practical freedom by marrying, her husband taking full responsibility for her.

      Mary received her Certificate of Freedom on 30 November 1826, precisely 14 years after her conviction in Dublin City. The Certificate of Freedom (CF) was introduced in 1810 and issued to convicts on completion of their sentence.  Her Certificate[14] reads as follows:


Name Mary McArdle (sic)
Ship; Year Catherine; 1814
Sentence 14 Years
Where and when convicted. City of Dublin, October 1812.
Native Place Co. Meath.
Calling Housekeeper.
Age, Height, 45;   5 feet  1 ½ inches
Complexion Fair-ruddy.
Hair; eyes Brown to Grey; Hazel

As noted above Mary had left behind three daughters, Margaret, Ann and Elizabeth, in Dublin. Margaret, of whom more below, had already reached these shores in 1825.

      Two months after receiving her own Certificate of Freedom, Mary petitioned the Governor on 24 January 1827 for funds to bring to the Colony the other two daughters, by now at the very least, teenagers, left behind in Dublin. Giving her address as the “Brickfield Hill, Sydney” and signing her name as ‘Mary McCarroll, now Marshall’. See Box.

         On 24 January 1827, she bid the Government to bring Ann and Elizabeth from Ireland at official expense.  They were known to the Revd. Mr  Ryan of Arran  Quay Chapel.   Father Ryan, a Jesuit, was a curate at St Paul’s, Arran Quay, from 1813 for some 30 years. Mary’s bid had the support of Rev Daniel  Power as well as two  eminent figures in the Colony, Mourtrie JP and Wollstonecraft JP, who declared that they had

“…every reason to believe that Marshall and his wife, the present applicant, are an industrious and deserving couple.”

Mary appealed to Governor Darling in the following terms[15]:

“That your Petitioner in this Colony is married to George Marshall of Sydney who is possessed of valuable property consisting in houses etc.

That your Petitioner has the misfortune to inform your Excellency that she has left behind her in Dublin two daughters, named Ann, and Elizabeth McCarroll residing at Mr Phepoe’s, Chandler, Poolbeg Street, Townend Street, Dublin and known to the Reverend Mr Ryan of Arran’s Quay Chapel, who are particularly desirous to join your Petitioner in this Colony and Petitioner is no less anxious that that happy event should take place, moreover as she possesses sufficient means to make them comfortable after their arrival here, should your Excellency in your goodness be pleased to recommend them for a passage to this Colony at the public expense.

 Petitioner therefore most earnestly but respectfully supplicates your Excellency to be humanely pleased to take her case into your benevolent consideration and to recommend her prayer to the favourable notice of His majesty’s Ministers for a free passage for her two daughters and for such mark of your Excellency’s goodness, Petitioner as in duty bound will ever pray.*

Alas, the bid was unsuccessful, a marginal note of 14 February 1827 stating that

 “..the  families of free persons are not to be brought from Europe at the expense of Government.”

       There has been no evidence found that George paid their fares , or even whether either of the two remaining daughters came to New South Wales . It is not known why Mary did not apply, as so many convicts did, successfully, before she became free.

      Her first daughter, Margaret, born 1803, did arrive in the colony, though, as a convict on the ‘Mariner’ on 10 July 1825, having left Cork in the previous March. The Indent has her name as Margaret McArdle,  and  that she was tried in Dublin City on 1 September 1824. She was given seven years. Her Native Place was listed as Dublin  and  her Trade or Calling was Housemaid. Margaret was described as fair with freckles, 5’3″; with bright red hair and grey eyes. She was single, and Catholic.  Her Certificate of Freedom issued in 1831 stated her ‘crime’ to have been ‘picking pockets.’  On arrival Margaret was assigned to George Marshall, understandable given the common practice of assigning convicts to such relations, in this case to her mother’s household, and consequently off (Government) stores. So George Marshall in official correspondence on 17 October 1825, newly and correctly referred to his ‘three’ children, in lieu of his previously noted two.

       Margaret married very soon after her arrival to one William Rooburn (aka Rodbourne), recorded as ‘Came Free’. Her mother was a Witness, along with prominent Catholic layman William Davis, in St Mary’s Chapel on 6 November 1825.  Rooburn died in 1835 aged 36.

      Margaret married again, in St Mary’s, on  June 28, 1835 to John Norris of Parramatta, Ship ‘Fame’ in the presence of Patrick Garrigan, Catherine Doherty and Bridget Dwyer.[16] In both cases, Father J J Therry conducted the service. NSW BDM records incorrectly state the place of the marriage was C of E, Cabramatta.

We have learnt nothing of Margaret’s later life or whether there were children, though an infant named John Norris died in 1837, or perhaps late 1836. No parents’ names are listed in NSW BDM Records.

            There were subsequently two children after her marriage to George Marshall in New South Wales. Their daughter Mary Ann was born in Sydney on 24 March 1815. She was christened as Mary, in the same church  where her parents were married, St Philip’s Church, on 23 April 1815.   Her full name was ‘Mary Ann’. Their son, Charles was born in Sydney on 23 June 1817. He was christened, also in St Philip’s Church, on 27 July 1817. On the same day that Charles was christened, his mother received from the Reverend Cowper the Anglican rite of ‘churching’, the thanksgiving of women after childbirth.

      The children’s schooling was provided by the Higgins and Muldoon School from 1822. Mary Ann married Edward Conyngham  in 1830 and her life with him  is covered there. Charles did not marry until late in life and his life is covered separately.

      Mary’s married life with George Marshall is covered in the Marshall pages. She outlived him, widowed in 1828, continuing to build the properties in Campbell Street.  An 1829 Government Surveyor wrote “The original (owner?) Geo Marshall. Mary, the widow lives on the premises, has built to the amount of about £1100.”        She died in Sydney on 21 July 1838, described in ‘The Australian’ as ‘an old colonist’ and is buried at Rookwood Cemetery.

The first few generations of her Outline Descendant Tree are here.


Footnotes    (↵ returns to text)

  1. SRNSW Reel 2491 p.20  COD140  “Catherine” Indent.
  2.  Botany Bay, by Con Costello. Pub Cork 1987
  3.  ROBINSON, Portia.  The women of Botany Bay, Ringwood VIC : 1993 quoting Archer..
  4.  HRA 1 V111 (253).
  5.  Sydney Gazette 1 July, 1804
  6.  ‘The Rocks. Life in Early Sydney’. Grace Karskens.
  7.  ‘The Rocks. Life in Early Sydney’. Grace Karskens.
  8.  Much on the life of George Cribb can be found in “Inside the Rocks” by Grace Karskens.
  9.  ‘A Cargo of Women’ Babette Smith
  10.  St Philip’s Register item 143 in NSW State Records, COD390.
  11.  Bigge Appendix Mitchell Library CY721.
  12.  Grace Karskens. ‘The Rocks. Life in Early Sydney.’
  13.  James Waldersee. ‘Catholic Society in NSW.’
  14.  SRNSW Reel 602 4/4424
  15. SRNSW Reel 696. Petitions 24 January 1827. In letter 27/1381 8 February 1827.
  16.  Therry Papers, Mitchell library Reel CY… Vol…