Mary Cavanaugh


For the last six years I have been researching and scrutinizing everything I can acquire on Mary Cavenaugh a young convict who arrived in Port Jackson on the Lady Juliana in 1790 ahead of the second fleet. Mary Cavanaugh or Cavenor married Edward Kimberley (A First Fleet Convict) on the 20 October 1791 at Port Jackson, (Sydney) Australia. On the wedding certificate both Mary and Edward sign their names with an X?

My grandmother was Emily Eveline Bramich. Her grandmother was Amelia Maria Kimberley. When I was fourteen years old a young woman called to visit my grandmother. I was totally smitten by her looks. When the young woman had left I mentioned to my grandmother on how beautiful she was. My grandmother laughed and said yes, all the Kimberley girls are very pretty; the old girl was a renowned beauty. When I asked who the old girl was, my grandmother told me that she was a child who had stolen a ribbon in England and was sent to Australia a long time ago. This was my first knowledge of Mary Cavanaugh. 

No physical description is known of Mary. But an account is given in (The Fatal Shore) by Robert Hughes, pgs 259,261 supposedly written by Robert Jones, (Major Foveaux’s chief gaoler) in 1823. Who was Robert Jones? Research by Reg Wright (Who was “Buckey” Jones? Descent, vol.28 part 3, Sept. 1998) has shown that although Robert Jones (also known as Rob Buckley or Rob Jones) was a gaoler 1800/1802 on Norfolk Island. He died in Sydney, aged 47, in 1818. So he could not have written his memoirs in 1823. Conjecture on who was the author if these memoirs is irrelevant. They were written and whoever did pen them in 1823 had some obvious issues with Edward Kimberley and his wife Mary, nee Cavanaugh.

Kimberly was not the sort of man you would like to be on the wrong side of, hence the cryptic words. In this document, the author describes Kimberley as a tall intelligent Irish man. This is wrong Edward was an Englishman and the author would have known this. The author also describes Major Joseph Foveaux the Commandant of Norfolk Island as being a sadist. And that on every Thursday there was held an evening dance in the soldier’s barracks. The author writes. The Dance was performed by women and was called the dance of the Mermaids or ‘Ballum ranums’, in convict flash talk. I will not go into the sexual explicitness of this dance. But it is necessary to mention them as the author deliberately uses these dances in their cryptic description of Mary. Mary Ginders reputedly said to be one of the most beautiful women on the Island and a great favourite of the soldiers is described by the author as the (leader of all the dances in the barracks.) And deliberately described as the Chief Constables woman. 

 Now rumor has it that this Mary was so beautiful that she could demand a gold Guinea for a performance. (Mary Ginders does not exist!) No records of a Ginders can be found to have been on Norfolk Island. The author writes of a bright intelligent Edward Kimberley pursuing this non existent Mary Ginders with an axe shouting to her to come and live with him or he would report her to the Major and have her put into the cells. Why would Edward say this when he was already married?  

Threatening Mary with the Major shows that she was more afraid of Foveaux than she was of Edward. Was the cryptic name of Ginders used by the author in reference to a gold Guinea? Was Ginders the nickname the soldiers had for Mary – Edwards’s wife?  

The author writes that Kimberley when ordered by Foveaux to flog a naked woman throws the cat on the ground declaring loudly that he does not flog women. Was this woman Mary? Kimberley’s wife? As the author suggests cryptically in the memoirs. The author states that the punishment was left to a young soldier who almost caressed the naked woman with each soft stroke to the amusement of the men before Foveaux stormed off in a fury. It is written (The Fatal Shore) by Robert Hughes, pg 259 that Foveaux himself got the woman of his choice, Ann Sherwin away from one of his subordinate officers by throwing him in jail on a trumped up charge. (The pore fellow seeing the danger he was in, thought it better to save his life and lose his wife than to lose both.)  Was Edward in the same precarious position? Why were the memoirs written at all? Was Mary’s beauty the cause of some jealousy?  

Whatever Mary Cavanaugh had to suffer, it was no different from the other poor women who were sent to Norfolk Island under Major Foveaux, as stated in (The Fatal Shore) by Robert Hughes, pg 258. Mary’s reputed great beauty may have worked against her, or saved both her husband Edward, and herself? We will never know. 

The only sad thing is that Mary has no known resting place or headstone in the St Mathews Church cemetery in Tasmania. 

Phillip LOCK. 19 June 2010




© First Fleet Fellowship Victoria Inc 2011