by Kae Lewis

Mary Connor (1809 - 1889)
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.

'The Constitution or Cork Advertiser'
for Saturday April 1st, 1826, p2.
Click to enlarge the photograph.

A jury had been sworn in that morning and were named as:
Standish Harrison
Sampson Beamish
James Crone
Isaac Biggs
Michael Robert
Edward Stannard
James Sandes
Massy Hutchinson
James Norcott
Robert Warren
Jasper Pyne
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 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.

Castle Street Cork, 2009.
Click to enlarge the photograph.

Castle Street Cork, 2009.
Click to enlarge the photograph.

Castle Street Cork, 2009.
Click to enlarge the photograph.

Castle Street Cork, 2009.
North Main Street is the corner ahead.
at this corner.
Click to enlarge the photograph.


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:
Number: 916
Name: Mary Connor
Age: 16
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:
Mary Connor
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.


Map of Cork by Charles Smith (circa 1750)
Click to enlarge the photograph.
In this 1750s map by the historian Charles Smith, Castle Street can be seen running perpendicular to North and South Main street. Nearby are marked the old Courthouse (11) and the Exchange (12). The first City Courthouse was said to be a very handsome building, large and well ornamented. The new Courthouse in Washington Street was completed in 1835 so it was to the old courthouse near Castle street where Mary Connor was taken to the Spring Assizes in 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:
Cork Assizes:
'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 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.
'This morning at ten o'clock, Mr Justice Torrens entered the Court…
The petty Jury was then sworn.
Dennis Shea, Michael Connor, Judy Shea, Catherine Shea and Mary Shea, Dennis Shea, Michael Connor, Judy Shea, Catherine Shea and Mary Shea were indicted for stealing several articles of wearing apparel, the property of Jeremiah Walsh. Several witnesses were examined, from whose testimony it appeared that in the month of August last, the window of the prosecutor's (Walsh) house, opposite the New Gaol on the Glasheen-road were broken into and the articles in question were stolen there-out, which were afterwards discovered in the pawn offices in Mallow-lane. The goods were identified, but from the number of prisoners, there was some difficulty in establishing the participation of each of the parties in the robbery, and Michael Connor was the only one of the prisoners who formed part of a desperate gang that could be convicted.

His Lordship after a few words to the prisoner said he would not be doing justice to the country if he did not rid it of such characters, and sentenced the prisoner to be transported for seven years.

On hearing the sentence, the prisoner, a hardened fellow about 19 years of age, with the utmost indifference replied, 'Thank you my Lord, seven years wont last for ever'.

The old Cork City Courthouse,
in use until 1835.
Drawn by T.F. McNamara
Click to enlarge the photograph.
The question as to whether Justice Torrens was harsh with his sentencing of our Mary Connor for stealing a cloak can perhaps be answered by the following prisoners who appeared in The Cork County Criminal Court on Monday March 27 1826 before the Judge Mr Baron Pennefather for the same or similar crimes:

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:
'March 29 At his residence, Derrynoid Lodge, Co Londonderry, aged 81, the Hon. Robert Torrens, one of the Justices of the Court of Common Pleas in Ireland.
This gentleman was a native of Londonderry, son of the Rev. Thomas Torrens, a Fellow of the University of Dublin; and brother of the late Major-Gen Sir Henry Torrens, K.G.B. of whom a memoir will be found in our Magazine for Oct 1828, and the Ven John Torrens, D.D., late Archdeacon of Dublin.
Mr Robert Torrens was called to the bar in Michaelmas term 1798, and admitted a bencher of the King's Inns in Trinity term 1818. He was raised to the bench in 1823. He had previously attained only the rank of serjeant; but the influence of his brother, Sir Henry Torrens, who occupied a distinguished position in the army, and, deep in the confidence of George the Fourth when Prince Regent, secured the elevation to the bench. The Freeman's Journal remarks:
'Judge Torrens had far inferior claims to many who had been passed over; but in those days, as indeed in succeeding times, party and interest determine judicial promotions instead of experience, ability and judicial fitness. His Lordship, however, was a judge of average merit. His intellect was clear, though not very comprehensive. He took common-sense views of questions, and rarely ventured beyond his depth. In the administration of criminal justice, he was somewhat severe, particularly during his first years on the bench, when the disturbed state of the country, with overflowing assizes and constant commissions, afforded scope for vigour not always within the law. In his later years, however, the tendency was corrected, and he tried most cases involving life with a tenderness which Mr Justice Perrin might admire.'

He had shortly before his death concluded the discharge of his judicial duties on the North-west circuit, during which, together with Chief Justice Lefroy and Mr Baron Pennefather, he had received complimentary addresses from several grand-juries, in consequence of a motion recently made in the Houses of Commons by Sir John Shelly, reflecting upon their faculties as impaired from age and infirmity. To the Mayor and Corporation of Londonderry Mr Justice Torrens replied in the following animated terms:-

'Connected as I am, with the city of Derry by every tie of ancestry, kindred and property, I never can, nor will I ever, forget that in the city of Derry was spent the sunshine of my infant years, the playfulness of my boyhood, the waywardness of my schoolboy aberrations; and from the respected and distinguished seminary of your city I passed into the University, and from time to time returned thence with favoured success, to gladden the heart of my beloved preceptor, the Rev. Mr. Marshall, and, with no unhonoured name, enjoyed that which is most flattering to the youthful heart - the congratulations of my former fellow students and the approving smiles of the families of Derry. Thus linked to the city of Derry by all those ties, shall I not feel a just pride at the respect shown to myself and office(?) and, above all, shall I not join in your patriotic demonstration, worthy of your race, at 'the unwarrantable and unconstitutional' attempt made on my revered brothers and myself, in the late motion brought forward in the House of Commons, disparaging without inquiry, our fair fame and character. Gentlemen, you have come forward to vindicate both, and, in conjunction with the independent counties through which we have passed on our circuit, you have expressed, as free-born subjects of the realm, your denunciation of proceedings tending to the asperation of judicial character and the subversion of constitutional law.

Gentlemen, I have laid before you the grounds of my attachment to your ancient and loyal city; the link is indissoluble, the tie on my part shall ever be unbroken, the affection everlasting.

Let me in conclusion, assure you, and through you the City of Derry, in the words of our sweet native poet, with little variation, in apostrophizing his native village - the spot of his birthplace-

Where'er I roam, whatever regions see,
My heart, untravelled, fondly turns to thee.

Throughout the circuit Judge Torrens exhibited even more than his ordinary vigour and perfect clearness of intellect; but it is suggested that the forced exertion may have overpowered his remaining strength. On Easter Sunday he attended divine worship at the Cathedral of Derry, and there partook of the sacrement. He afterwards was overcome with faintness, and was carried out by the Mayor and others. He, however, rallied soon after, and was able to attend his judicial functions on Monday morning, and finished the business of the assizes. His Lordship then proceeded to his residence, near Tobermore. On Wednesday he wrote his reply to the address of the grand jury above given, and was so well on Friday that he shaved himself and dressed. On Saturday he became again unwell, and expired calmly that evening.'

When Justice Robert Torrens died just after Easter in 1846, he was 81 years old.

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.


Each 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:

Grand Jury:
Julius Bernard (Foreman)
James Clarke
Joshua Hargrave
Daniel F. Leahy
James Davis
Roger Adams
Joseph Stevelly (my 3x great grandfather, aged 29 in 1826)
John Gonnell
John Pratt
John Prendergast
John Corker
George Whately
William Smith
John Ballard
James B. Foott
Robert Honan
James Denny
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.


Mary 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.


Since Mary was tried in the Cork City Assizes, it seems likely that she spent at least some of her time in the City Gaol. The Constitution or Cork Advertiser 6 April 1826 p2:
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.'

The Cork City Gaol at Sunday's Well was completed in 1824. Thus in 1826, it would have been relatively new. Many of its facilities had not yet been completed.

J Windele in his 1843 Book “Historical and Descriptive Notices of Cork' confirms this impression:
'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 reformation.'

A Sketch of the Cork City Gaol
By T.F. McNamara.
Click to enlarge the photograph.

Cork City Gaol (later known as The Women's Gaol.)
Note the 'abortive efforts at castellation'.
Click to enlarge the photograph.


The Cork County Gaol.
The House of Corrections erected 1814 - 1818
is the semi-circular building in the center of the photo.
Click to enlarge the photograph.
The building of the outer wall and guard house for the gaol was begun on 6 December 1791. The archetect and builder was Mr Michael Shanahan. In 1814 - 1818 the House of Correction was built, possibly by the Pain brothers or their associates. The radiating buildings had 78 cells with washrooms attached to house the prisoners. There were workrooms on the ground floor, also airing yards. A treadmill worked by those sentenced to hard labour, supplied the prison with water.

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.


Richmond Penitentiary

'She being an old offender, sentence of transportation was recorded against her, but the Court directed her to be sent to the Richmond Penitentiary.'

Richmond Penitentiary was on the outskirts of Dublin at Grandgorman. For most of its existence it was 'lunatic asylum'. It began its life as a General Penitentiary in 1820 but was converted to other uses by 1831. It was considered an experiment, an attempt to find an alternative to Transportation. It sought to reform prisoners by subjecting them to solitary confinement, hard labour and religious instruction.

Since Mary Connor was sentenced to both transportation and being sent to the Penitentiary in 1826, the Judge cannot have had much confidence in the experiment actually working in Mary's case. Only a few other prisoners were sent to Richmond during the Cork Assizes in 1826 so Mary was definitely singled out for reform, because of her past record in crime.

It is a long trip between Cork and Dublin, about 250 km and would have taken about a week by horse and cart. The only other option would have been to walk. It seems an extra expense to go to the trouble of transporting prisoners to Richmond Penitentiary.

From the Parliamentary Papers of Great Britian:
'Ireland. Richmond penitentiary, Dublin. Report of the commissioners directed by the lord lieutenant of Ireland to inquire into the state of the Richmond penitentiary in Dublin; together with the evidence and documents connected therewith. Ordered by the House of commons to be printed, 14 May 1827. Principally concerning charges of religious proselytism among the prisoners and cruelties towards them.'

We will not know if Mary Connor ever went to Richmond Penitentiary as directed by the Judge because the Richmond records, like all prison records of that time, appear to be lost. The National Archives, Dublin hold 'The Register of Richmond Bridewell and Penitentiary 1830 - 1888' but this was found to be the Register for the Asylum and did not cover the the years before 1827 when Mary Connor would have been there.


From Freeman's Journal. & Daily Commercial Advertiser. Cork. Saturday, August 4th. 1827.
On Sunday morning about eight o'clock the Female Prisoners to the amount of two hundred confined in the depot of this City, under the rule of transportation, had a difference with the Dublin Convicts, whose number were not at all equal, and made a desperate attempt to get at them for the purpose of putting them to death; but through the timely interference of the Governor and his Officers, they were most fortunately separated and obliged for the preservation of their lives to be removed to the City Prison. The Munster Convicts, disappointed in their plans made every exertion to destroy the Prison, broke every pane of glass in this extensive building and bid defiance to the Guards, having prepared themselves with every-other weapon that could be had, they would not allow their removal to the lock wards for the night; and on the Governor and his attendants entering made a most violent attack on them, and wounded several of the Guards, and, unfortunately from the darkness of the night, these wretched creatures, before they were submitted, received some severe wounds.'

This fight was between the Dublin convicts and the Cork (Munster) ones took place at the Female Convict Depot, which was presumably in the port area, as they were being readied for loading onto the Elizabeth II. It is still about three weeks until the Elizabeth II will depart.

It is most likely that Mary Connor was amongst the contingent of Dublin convicts. Since the Richmond Penitentiary was to be closed in 1831, they would have been already in the process of transferring the prisoners out.

The convict ship sailed from Cork Ireland on August 27th 1827, and we do know that our Mary Connor was on board.


The River Lee and the upper harbour of Cork
Showing some old warehouses.
Click to enlarge the photograph.

Admiralty buildings at Haulbowline,
Cork harbour.
Click to enlarge the photograph.

Looking towards the Harbour entrance, from the middle of Cork harbour.
Click to enlarge the photograph.

The harbour entrance and the coastline of County Cork.
This is the last view of land seen as you leave Ireland.
Click to enlarge the photograph.


From N.S.W. STATE ARCHIVES. Reel Number: 398. Bound Number: 4/4013.
The Convict Ship 'Elizabeth II' sailed from Cork. Ireland, on August 27th. 1827.
With 194 Female Irish Convicts and 16 Children.
Civilian Passengers: Reverend John Vincent and his wife Eliza, their four daughters, together with their servant Catherine Flynn.
Commander of Ship: Walter Cock
Ship Surgeon Superintendent: Joseph H. Hughes.
The Convict Ship, 'Elizabeth II' arrived at Port Jackson. Sydney Cove. N.S.W. on January 12th.
1828. after 138 days at sea, with 192 Female Irish Convict's, two who died at sea, drowned one, died one.

The following is a report from the Convict Ship 'Elizabeth II', 27th August 1827 --
12th January 1828. Trip to Sydney. N.S.W. From the “The Ship's Medical Journal”.
Recorded by the Ship Surgeon Superintendent: Joseph H. HUGHES.

On embarkation in Cork, Ireland. it was noted in the Ship's Medical Journal that some of the women had bayonet wounds and other injuries related to unrest that occurred in the gaol during the previous week.

When the ship arrived in Sydney Cove on the 12th January 1828 only 192 Women Convict's were landed and the Surgeon Superintendent noted in the Muster records that two Convict's died and there was a lot of unrest amongst the Prisoners during the voyage.
'In noticing the conduct of the Prisoners, while on board against their respective names in a general . . . . . . . towards myself as Surgeon Superintendent and the ship. Their acts of depredation upon one another, their private Quarrels, their waste of provisions, clothes, as served out to them, their beds, blankets . . was at all times so systematically contrived amongst themselves, and swearing other to Secrecy, that I never could get at the bottom of their plots or mischief, to punish in an exemplary manner any offender. My expression of general 'Conduct', I requested to be taken in a very limited sense, for collectively, I can say but very little in their favour.'
Signed: Jas. H. Hughes.
Also the Rev. Vincent lodged a lengthy and scathing attack against the Ship's Senior Officers.

As a result of this, a Naval Inquiry was held into the conduct of the Prisoners and Crew during the voyage.

The Articles of the Inquiry were:
1. That regulations were not followed for the purpose of preventing improper intercourse between the Women Convict's and the Crew of the Ship.
2. The death of the Convict Eliza Robinson.
3. The disrespectful treatment that the Rev. VINCENT and his Family were subjected to.

The findings of the inquiry were extensive. On the first article, it was found that some irregularities occurred which allowed certain Women Convict's to associate with the Crew in a manner not FITTING. It found that this happened because someone had tampered with the prison locks. This was not the fault of the Surgeon Superintendent or the Ship's Master. On the second article, there was no satisfactory reason why Eliza ROBINSON deliberately jumped overboard. The third article concerning the VINCENT Family found that proper respect was not afforded to Rev. VINCENT and his wife and that the Ship's Master was lax in enforcing discipline among the Convict Women. However the Board stated that because the Surgeon Superintendent was very deaf, it was possible that he was not aware of the rudeness being directed at the VINCENT's.

During the inquiry, evidence was given that the Women were not very pleasant and it was stated:
In the course of this inquiry it has come to the knowledge of the Board that the Women on board the Elizabeth II generally were the worst and most troublesome Female Convict's ever embarked at Cork. It appearing in evidence that previously to their embarkation it was found necessary to call in a Military Force to quell a disturbance in the Penitentiary where they were confined.

From the book, “Their Chastity Was Not Rigid” By: J.W.C. Cumes.
Publishers: Longman Cheshire. ( First Published 1979.)
From Page 92.
'Sometimes there pathetic attempts at entertainment on the Ship's that had brought Female Convict's to the Colony; although it is doubtful that even this entertainment was intended for the Women rather than those in charge of them. When the ship 'Elizabeth II' arrived in January 1828, the Colonial Secretary accompanied by the Principal Superintendent of Convict's, mustered the Women to the tuneful music of the ships small band. Each evening afterwards - the Women still being on board - the band enlivened the Harbour with it's music. A week later on the morning of the 24th January, the Women were landed at the dockyard for “distribution”, either to private employers in Sydney or Parramatta - they went by water from the dockyard to Parramatta - or to the Female Factory. More than 70 were assigned in Sydney and about 120 went to Parramatta either to the Factory or private assignment. Apparently they were rather scanty in covering and it was recom- mended that in future, Female Convict's should be given a suit of clothes on their arrival in the Colony, just as Male Convict's were given slops to land in.'

SYDNEY GAZETTE 14th January 1828.
( Government Notice.)
'Elizabeth II' arrived from Cork with 194 Female Prisoners and 15 children, - and passengers.
The Elizabeth II one of 43 vessels in Sydney Harbour on the 12th January. Commander cautions the inhabitant against giving credit to the crew, - visited by the Officials to inspect the Female Prisoners. The Elizabeth will sail for Isle of France in February 1828.


What happened to Mary Connor once she landed in Australia is another story. It is well covered by the work of Colin Gray. However some of the Australian records help us to identify our Mary Connor as being the one who embarked on the Elizabeth II at Cork.

Briefly: Mary Connor was assigned to the 'Female Factory' at Paramatta where there was a report that she was quarrelling:

No 185: Mary Connor 18 years old. Unmarried. Cork. Can read. Cant write. General conduct good but has been punished.

Later Mary was assigned to work for a farmer where she met an ex-convict from London, George Gray, who by then was already free.


George Gray was born in 1797 at Tower Hill, London, England. He was 19 years old when he was arrested for theft. There is a possibility that he was in the Royal Navy or was a seaman, prior to this. The Battle of Waterloo was fought in June 1815, the year before he was arrested.

OLD BAILEY TRIAL RECORDS, Fifth Session, 29 May 1816:
553: GEORGE GRAY was indicted for feloniously stealing, on the 18th of May, a watch, value 2l, the property of Reuben Gooch, from his person. REUBEN GOOCH. I was a sailor, I lost my watch on the 18th of May, between eight and nine o'clock at night. I fell in with the prisoner at the Crown and Thistle, by Tower-Hill; we had four or five pots of ale to drink. I was not half drunk; I was a little drunkish. I told him, I wanted a ship; he told me he could get one, and asked me to take a walk to see the mate. The watch was safe in my pocket then; and we went out, and I felt him draw the watch out, and he ran off quick as he could, and I ran after him; but he turned out of my sight, and I lost him. I am sure he is the man, I can swear positively.
GUILTY, aged 19.
Transported for Seven Years.
London Jury, before Mr Recorder.

George Gray was then held in Newgate Prison, convicted on the testimony of a drunkard, who did not even have the sense to wait until he was sober before going for a job interview with the mate of a ship. If George was asked to defend himself, it is not recorded. Nor is it recorded if the watch was found on George afterwards. But it probably was not because, if it had been found on him, it would have been entered as evidence.

George Gray left England on the convict ship Morley on 19 December 1816.

Trial Records for George Gray
Click to enlarge the photograph.

The Convict Ship 'Morley' arrived at Sydney Cove
10 April 1817.
Photo from The National Maritime Museum, Greenwich.
Click to enlarge the photograph.
George Gray and Mary Connor were married on 8 June 1829 by The Reverend Samuel Marsden, the famous missionary. The one thing we can be certain of is that the Mary Connor from the Elizabeth II and who married George Gray was our Mary Connor from Cork.

From N.S.W. STATE ARCHIVES: ( Reel Number 713.)
Register of N.S.W. Convict's Applications to Marry.

No: 675. NAME: George GREY. Age: 32 DATE of PERMISSION:1829. BOND:May 7th. Sentence: 7 years. Free.
NAME: Mary CONNOR. Age: 19. Sentence: 7 years. Bond.

Morley (1) (GREY)
Elizabeth (2) (CONNOR)
CLERGYMAN: Rev. T. HASSALL. Narellan. N.S.W.

From N.S.W. STATE ARCHIVES. AO Reel No: 5003.
Narellan. N.S.W. Marriage Register. 1827 - 1831.
No: 0019, Page 3. Parish Narellan. County of Cumberland. N.S.W.

Marriage Number 866. Vol: 13.v CHURCH of ENGLAND.
Marriages Solemnized in the Parish of Narellan in the County of Cumberland in the year 1829.

No: 13.
George GREY -------------- of the Parish of Cabramatta. and
Mary CONNOR -------------- of the Parish of Cabramatta. were
married in this Chapel. By Banns with consent of His Excellency The Governor,
this Eighth day of June in the year 1829
By me Sgd. Samuel MARSDEN. Chaplain.
Senior Chaplain..
This Marriage was solemnized between us :
George X GRAY. his mark.

In the Presence of
George HORNE.. of Denbigh..
Jane X CRAWFORD, her mark of Stoke, Newington Farm.

George & Mary Gray's 1829 Marriage Certificate
Click to enlarge the photograph.


George Gray
born 2 Aug 1795 Clerkenwell, Middlesex, London
died 14 July 1876 Middle Creek, Co Argyle, N.S.W.
buried St Andrews, Laggon, N.S.W.

Mary Connor
born 25 Dec 1809 Cork, Ireland.
died 6 April 1889 Middle Creek, Cotta Walla, N.S.W.
buried Blackman's Camp, Cotton Valley, Pejar.

Married 8 June 1829 Narellan, Co. Cumberland, N.S.W., Australia.

1. Elizabeth Gray born 29 March 1830 Bringelly, NSW
2. William Gray born 10 Sept 1832 Bringelly, NSW
3. Charles Gray born 18 Jan 1834 Cotton Valley, NSW
4. Peter Gray born 18 Sept 1836 Cotton Valley, NSW (my great great grandfather)
5. Mary Gray born 19 Nov 1839 Cotton Valley, NSW
6. Susanna Gray born 3 Oct 1842 Cotton Valley, NSW
7. Ann Gray born 19 Nov 1844 Pejar
8. James Gray born 25 Nov 1846 Pejar
9. George Gray born 11 Aug 1848 Pejar

After all is said and done, there is no doubt that Mary Connor was better off by being transported to Australia than she would ever have been had she stayed in Cork.

Photos from our 2010 Gray Family Reunion at Crookwell, NSW, Australia


My Great Great Great Grandparents

Married 8 June 1829 Narellan, Co. Cumberland, N.S.W., Australia.

Mary Connor (1809 - 1889)
Click to enlarge the photograph.
& George Gray (1795 - 1876)

My Great Great Grandparents:

Married 19th April 1872, Goulburn, N.S.W Australia

Peter Gray (1836 - 1907)
Pejar, N.S.W., Australia.
Click to enlarge the photograph.

Margaret Druitt (1851 - 1923)
Taken about 1910, aged 59.
Click to enlarge the photograph.

Peter Gray (aged 69) and Margaret Druitt (aged 51)
Margaret Druitt was Peter's second wife.
Taken about 1905 in Pejar, NSW, Australia.
Click to enlarge the photograph.

My Great Grandparents:

Peter Gray (1870 - 1952)
Photo taken in 1901, aged 31 years.
Westport, New Zealand.

Click to enlarge the photograph.

Margaret Derrett (1868 - 1952)
Photo taken in 1926, aged 58 years.
Tauranga, New Zealand.
Click to enlarge the photograph.

My Grandparents:

Married 21 December 1926, Tauranga, New Zealand.

Mary (Molly) Gray (1904 - 1935)
Click to enlarge the photograph.

William Perston Hooper (1903 - 1987).
Click to enlarge the photograph.