THE ORIGINS OF MARY CONNOR IN CORKby Kae Lewis
Her name was Mary Connor and she was born in Cork, probably Cork City on 25th December 1809. She was my great great great grandmother. Her death
certificate in Australia states that her father was William MacClish and her mother was Nancy Fitzpatrick. Family lore tells us that she was the
illegitimate daughter of a soldier whose name may have been William MacClish or McClesh. |
It is not known if any of the above is true. There were many illegitimate and abandoned children on the streets of Cork City in these days, and it seems likely that Mary was one of them. They had to fight and steal for their very survival, and in their poorly nourished and homeless state, were very susceptible to the deadly fevers sweeping through the filthy streets of Cork throughout the 1800s.
The photo on the left is Mary Connor and was taken in about 1862 at Middle Creek, Pejar, New South Wales, Australia. By then she was aged in her early 50s. Her convict records show that, although she could not write, she could read. I think she is trying to tell us that in this photo. We have Colin Gray to thank for this photo. He was told there existed an old tin-type photo of Mary somewhere, and he found it amongst Mary's many many descendants. The dark patches on the photo are damage that has occurred to the tin-type photo over the years.
THE SPRING ASSIZES, City of Cork, 1826.We can only guess at the circumstances that lead to Mary Connor's arrest late in 1825 or early in 1826. All we really know is what we read in the Court records, as reported in the Cork Newspaper, 'The Constitution or Cork Advertiser' for Saturday April 1st, 1826, p2. On this day, the newspaper reported that on the previous day, Friday March 31st 1826, at about 3.00 PM, Justice Torrens had entered the Criminal Court in the City of Cork for the Sixth Day of the Spring Assizes.
Richard Purcell, Esqrs
The first case heard that afternoon was Miles Carland alias Kearney who stole 'several articles of plate' (silver), the property of Daniel Connor, Esq of South-Mall. There was evidence heard from the prosecution, and the defendant 'had nothing to offer in his defense.' 'His Lorship recapitulated the evidence to the Jury, who without retiring brought in a verdict of Guilty - To be transported for seven years.'
There followed the hearing for the case of John Swiney who stole a quantity of shop goods, was found guilty and sentenced to be transported for seven years.
The third case that afternoon was Mary Connor:
'Mary Connor was indicted for stealing a camlet clock, the property of William Osborne. The prisoner was detected coming out of the hall of Mrs Osborne's house in Castle-street with the cloak in her possession -Guilty- She being an old offender, sentence of transportation was recorded against her, but the Court directed her to be sent to the Richmond Penitentiary.'
If Mary was asked to defend herself, her answer was not recorded. Although the newspaper report says she stole a 'clock' and then later a 'cloak', it seems likely it was a cloak that she stole since 'camlet' is a type of woven fabric a cloak would be made from. The same report appeared in another Cork newspaper, The Southern Reporter. The wording was the same as the report in The Constitution except that the word clock had been corrected to cloak.
Following the case for Mary Connor that day in court, the following cases were presented:
Timothy Donovan for presenting a forged check at the Bank of Ireland. The judge heard the evidence and was unsatisfied on one point. The prisoner was then acquitted.
Catherine Buckley indicted for stealing clothes, the property of Lieut. Col. Turner. Elizabeth Buckley indicted for receiving same. In consequence of their telling where the goods were - Acquitted. The younger prisoner held over as a vagrant.
Sarah Grier for stealing wearing apparel, the property of William Day. Guilty, sentence postponed.
Joanna Shaughnessy indicted for stealing a surtout coat and waistcoat, the property of William Wallace. The evidence was not sufficiently established against her, and the prisoner was acquitted.
The Court adjourned.
From these reports we learn that: Stealing clothing in the City of Cork was a common occurrence. And that Mary Connor was dealt with harshly in comparison to her fellow prisoners. She was the only female prisoner indicted for stealing clothing that day who was transported.
CASTLE STREET AND ANNA OSBORNECastle Street is just off North Main street in the centre of the ancient part of the City of Cork. (See the 1750 map of Cork City below.) Originally a waterway ran down the centre of Castle Street with a bridge across connecting North and South Main street. This bridge joined the two islands of the old city. By 1826, the waterway was culveted, and Castle St looked much as it does today.
Pigot & Co's Directory of Cork City for 1824 (two years prior to the court case):
Osborne, Anna: (Cutler) 6 Castle Street
Post Office General Directory 1842 - 1843 (16 years after the court case):
Osborne, Anna & Son Hardware and fancy warehouse 73 Patrick Street.
Osborne, Thomas & Co Hardware and fancy warehouse 18 Tuckey Street.
From this we can assume that in 1826, Anna Osborne was a widow with one or two sons, living at 6 Castle Street, and that her husband William was a cutler (maker of knives). By 1826 he must have been dead because otherwise he would have been named in the 1824 Directory. Even after her husband had been dead for at least 2 years, her property was still deemed to belong to her husband. A woman could not own property, even a cloak, in those days. Later, by 1842, Anna and her sons moved a few street away and opened several wholesale warehouses.
There were few numbers on the premises of Castle street today, so we were not able to establish which was no 6. In any case it seems likely that the buildings have changed considerably since 1826. It is still the same narrow, dark canyon of a street that it always was although now there is not an open watercourse/main drain down the center of the street.
OTHER MARY CONNORS PREVOUSLY IN GAOL:We do know that the name Mary Connor was an especially common name in Cork in these days. Another report appeared in the Cork newspaper 'The Constitution' two years earlier to this:
Monday April 5th, 1824 p3, col 1:
Mary Connor and Ellen Barry, the former for stealing a hat, property of Thomas Hardrum, and latter for receiving, known to be stolen. Prosecutor stated that several hats were brought home in an unfinished state, and were laid on the counter in his shop, and in the evening, his wife missed one. It was his wife who received them, and he could not say how it went, but that he got it at the bridewell (reform school). The wife was not present, the indictment could not be sustained, and the prisoners were acquitted.
In 1824, our Mary would have been about 16 years old.
In 1825, The General Register of the Cork County Gaol (reference Pris 1/08/01, microfilm MFGS 51/008, National Archives of Ireland) records the names of the following:
177 Daniel Connor age 23
178 Johana, his wife, aged 20
179 Mary Connor, aged 18
180 Johana Connor, aged 20
181 Margaret Connor, aged 40
This entire family were committed to prison on 19th February 1825, charged by Henry Willis Esq with 'Having beef suspected to be stolen in their possession'. They were not bailed and were remanded to the Spring Assizes (1825). However on searching the newspaper reports of both The Constitution and the Southern Reporter, there was no record of their trial so it seems the charges were dropped. In 1825, if her date of birth of 1809 was correct, our Mary Connor would have been about 16 years old. From other records he has made that day, it is obvious that the Gaol Scribe was barely literate, and it is possible that the age given here is not accurate. Margaret Connor is 40 years old in the record and may have been the mother of this family.
These records may or may not have been the same Mary Connor who stole the cloak and was later sentenced to transportation in 1826. Since it is stated that the 1826 Mary was 'an old offender', it is just possible that one or all of these Mary Connors may have been ours.
To illustrate how common the name of Mary Connor was, on the second day of the County of Cork Criminal Court, on Monday 27 March 1826, before Mr Baron Pennefather, the following case was heard:
Mary Delarant was indicted for stealing a table cloth, the property of Mary Connor. Guilty, to be imprisoned for three months.
In this case the Mary Connor owned the property and was being relieved of it, so we have to assume it was not our Mary Connor.
The General Register of Cork County Gaol (Reference Pris. 1/08/01, film MFGS 51/008) contained the following entry:
Name: Mary Connor
Crime as stated in the Committal: Suspicion of Robbery
When Committed: November 1st 1826
By whom committed: Justin McCarthy
If tried: when and before whom: Ignored
Verdict and sentence or other order: Blank
When discharged: Spring Assizes, 1827
By whom bailed or discharged: Blank
If in Custody, or how disposed of: Discharged
The age is more or less correct for this being our Mary Connor. However there is no record of any Mary Connor being tried at the Spring assizes in 1827. So it would appear this Mary Connor was not charged or otherwise disappeared. And since our Mary Connor was most likely in prison from March 1826 until her transportation on 27 August 1827, it seems unlikely she was out on the streets of Cork stealing again.
Since the courts have not even recorded the age of the prisoner on arrest or at trial, with so many Mary Connors at large, it hardly seems possible that they could have been matching the correct Mary Connor with each charge. Since the prisoners were seldom given a chance to defend themselves, the Courts were not dispensing justice, in the modern sense of the word.
The Day Book and Journal of the House of Correction, County Cork is listed in all records and on the microfiche as being from 1824 to 1837. If only it was but the start year is actually 1834 so has been no help.
When our Mary Connor was transported to Australia, the following appeared on her Transportation record:
Crime: House Robbery
Tried: Spring Assizes, City of Cork Criminal Court 25 March 1826
Sentence: Transported, Seven years
Arrived: Port Jackson, Australia on 'Elizabeth II' on January 12, 1828
The most likely candidate for being our Mary Connor, at this stage is the Mary Connor who stole the cloak from Anna Osborne. Although this case actually was heard on 31 March 1826, it was the only case for a Mary Connor heard throughout the 1826 Spring Assizes which in fact started on 25 March 1826.
The assizes were held twice a year and generally lasted two weeks. The Justices came from Dublin especially for the court session.
Reported in the newspaper The Constitution of Cork Advertiser Sat March 25 1826:
'Yesterday evening about five o'clock Mr Baron Pennefather and Mr Justice Torrens arrived in this city. They were escorted by George Courtenay, esq, High Sheriff of the County, Mr Sheriff Spearing (Mr Sheriff Newsom being absent through indisposition) and a party of dragoons. This morning at nine o'clock their Lordships will proceed and open their respective commissions. The former Judge will preside in the county, and the latter in the City Court; and after addressing the Grand Juries they will immediately proceed to dispatch the Crown business.
Though the calendar is rather heavy in point of number, it is light in respect to crime, very few of what may be called serious cases being for trial. The number of Records in the city or county is not so great as usual; those for trial in the latter, are principally ejectment cases. We therefore may anticipate that our Assizes will be of short duration to effect which it will be necessary for gentlemen to be regular in their attendance.'
THE JUDGEThe following incident occurred in the City Criminal Court of Saturday April 1st, 1826. This was on the day after Mary Connor's trial for stealing the cloak from Anna Osborne, in fact the very next prisoner case after Mary's trial.
The Constitution or Cork Advertiser Tuesday April 4th, 1826 p2:
City Criminal Court, Saturday April 1st.
The Constitution or Cork Advertiser Thursday March 30th 1826: 'Elizabeth Smith was next indicted for stealing a cloak, the property of Julia Reardon - Guilty. To be imprisoned for six months in The House of Correction.
John Sullivan was indicted for stealing a Shoe from John Foley on the 2nd of February. No prosecution.
Mary Carey was next charged with stealing a coat the property of Francis Evans, Esq and John Francis was indicted for receiving the same, knowing it to be stolen. It appeared in evidence that Mr Francis Evans had left a coat in the Club-house of Mallow, from whence it was stolen by the prisoner Mary Carey, who had given it to John Francis to Pledge, which he did in a pawn-office in Cork; the woman on being questioned, confessed that she had stolen the coat, and had given it to John Francis; both the prisoners were found guilty. John Francis was ordered to be imprisoned for twelve months, the Jury recommended the other prisoner to mercy, who was ordered to be imprisoned for six weeks.'
Certainly the outcome for Mary Connor would most likely have been different had she not been 'an old offender.'
The Honorable Justice Robert Torrens was a Bencher of the Honorable Society of King's Inns, Dublin, admitted in 1818. (Thoms Directory, Ireland 1857.)
He entered Trinity College Dublin at the age of 15 on 3 Jan 1791. He was born in Co Derry in about 1775/76, the son of Thomas Torrens, (clergyman, deceased). He obtained his B.A. in 1795, admitted to the Irish Bar in 1798 and became a Judge of the Common Pleas. (Alumni Dublinensis)
Obituary in The Gentleman's Magazine May 1856:
In 1826 when Mary Connor came before The Honorable Justice Robert Torrens in Cork City, he had been on the bench for only about three years. Mary's trial was therefore conducted during his 'early years', when he was 'somewhat severe' and giving out sentences with a 'vigour not always within the law.' According to the newspaper transcriptions, he did not conduct a 'trial' in any sense of the word, seldom enquiring into the veracity of the case or hearing the prisoner's point of view. While Justice Torrens took his time to learn to be tolerant and just, countless prisoners like Mary Connor lost the freedom to determine their own destinies and were thrown into prisons and convict ships for having done nothing more than steal a clock.
THE JURYEach court had a Jury of local Gentlemen chosen from the Protestant landowners and merchants of the City.
The Constitution or Cork Advertiser Monday April 10th, 1826:
Recorder's Court: This morning at 11 o'clock the Recorder entered the Court, and shortly after the Gentlemen summoned on the Sessions Grand Jury for the ensuing quarter were called over, and sworn:
Julius Bernard (Foreman)
Daniel F. Leahy
Joseph Stevelly (my 3x great grandfather, aged 29 in 1826)
James B. Foott
John W. Topp
His Worship said he had nothing in particular to address them as Grand Jurors. They would perceive by the Dock that there were a number of prisoners in custody for the trial, and they would proceed at once to dispatch the public business. He then directed the absent gentlemen should be fined 5l each.'
The Constitution or Cork Advertiser Tuesday April 11th, 1826
'Some of the Jurors when about to be sworn, complained of the inconvenience, but the Court would not entertain the objections - it could only attend to legal issues or disability.'
'His Worship remarked that he had little to say to the Jury - they knew their duty and they would exercise it. There was one circumstance that came within his own senses namely, a most abdominal stench, which issued forth from the Fish Market - they would enquire into the cause, and have it removed as soon as possible.'
Note that the attendance of 'Gentlemen' for Jury duty was compulsory, on pain of £5 fine. In these 1826 Spring Assizes, my 2x great grandfather sat on the Jury while my 3x great grandmother from another branch of my family was convicted and transported. (Mercifully he was not actually on the Jury that heard Mary Connor's trial). In 1884, the grandson of the Juror Joseph Stevelly immigrated to New Zealand where old prejudices between the Protestants and Roman Catholic of Ireland were forgotten and all were equal in the New World.
GAOL AWAITING TRIAL AND TRANSPORTATIONMary was probably kept in a Cork Gaol awaiting her trial, and afterwards while waiting for transport to Richmond Penitentiary. There were also The Cork County Gaol, various hulks, island forts, 'convict depots' and dungeons around the City and wharves where prisoners could be herded. There are no records of where prisoners were kept at any one time so we do not know where Mary was during the next 18 months until she was transported to Australia in August 1827. We can be certain however, that it was not pleasant.
City of Cork Gaol
The following highly flattering report was furnished to the City Grand Jury, by the Inspector General of Prisons:--
'This New Gaol is at length fully occupied, and I had great satisfaction in seeing the regularity with which all the details had been arranged; the best classification I had met with in any Gaol is established. The prisoners were almost all clothed, and from their demeanor and cleanliness, evinced the care of the Board of Superintendence, and the zeal and efficiency of the working Officers - the whole system reflects great credit on the City of Cork; and it is a tribute due to the Local Inspector, the Rev. Dr Quarry, to say that his clear views of Prison discipline, and his indefatigable exertions have mainly contributed to establish the order which prevails. The Gaol is erected on a good plan, though not the most modern; providing 110 cells and 13 classes, completely separated, and as soon as employment shall be provided for all those not sentenced to the Tread-mill, which the Board are about to arrange, and the schooling more extensively applied to all prisoners, I should not hesitate to say of, for I know of no Gaol system in Ireland on the whole, more worthy of example for internal management. Work for every inmate of a Prison is the great desideratum in moral government that it cannot long exist without it, and I take this opportunity of urging it strongly upon the consideration of the Board of Superintendence.
The female department will require much attention as the Matron does not possess all the high qualifications of this important office; however she is anxious to do her duty, and the classes were clean orderly and at work. She should visit the County Gaol and get instruction from the Matron there, who is qualified in every particular. I met the Board of Superintendence, and communicated with them upon all these subjects. The Infirmary and Debtors class should be immediately furnished and occupied. Machinery for pounding Hemp or other useful labour, should be applied to the Tread mill. The Governor's house, and some of the walls are very wet from a defect in the roof and should be attended to, and a pavement channel should be made to convey the running water from the hill. The accommodation this Gaol affords consists of 14 Yards, 18 Day Rooms, 110 Cells, an Infirmary, Chapel and Marshalsea.'
'About midway in Sunday's-Well stands the City Gaol, a recent construction with some abortive efforts at castellation. The entrance is a barbican flanked
by towers, and over the doorway is the fatal drop - happily but rarely employed. The centre of the Prison contains the Governor's lodgings, at either
side of which are chapels, within large circular towers. The prisons branch off from these, and terminate in similar towers. The cost of erection was
£60000. The Inspectors General, on the state of the Irish prisons have reported favourably of the Cork Gaol as respects its good order, cleanliness and
interior arrangement. It possesses a tread wheel, to execute the sentence to hard labour, and a school in which considerable attention is paid to moral
It was located on the South Side of the River Lee, between Western Road and College Road (formerly known as Gaol Road). It is now part of the University College Cork. It has been largely demolished although part of the entrance still stands.
SOME VIEWS OF CORK HARBOUR
MARRIAGE TO GEORGE GRAY
My Great Grandparents:
My Grandparents:Married 21 December 1926, Tauranga, New Zealand.