A SIX YEAR SCENARIO
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.
Letter to Home
Dear Mother thank you for your visit to Newgate and for the bonnet which I am wearing as I write. And to my brother who gave me his clasp knife which I am always in the wont of. We are now in a land called Tenerife and it is so hot and messy. I am writing this letter in all places but the privy. The women on board have warned it not wise to let the governors see that you know your letters. There are six of us now all quite tight. Chrissy who you met on your visit and Maria who came to us latter you did not. The other three I will get to latter. I cried so hard when you left as I knew how far you had to come to see me and it is going to be seven years until I see you all again and me being only one and five. Mr. Tettley came to visit on the day before we were embark onboard the Barque. He told me that all hopes of a petition for my pardon have now passed as the judge has seen me fit as a very proper subject for the colony at Botany Bay. Whatever that can be made of. But what a very pretty lot we all are Mother and healthy. He tells me through his tears that I am off for an adventure and to tell him all I have seen on my return. He gave me a wide calico belt with two straps and buckles and said that it was not the present but what’s inside that matters. Then he gave me another parcel containing a hair brush, a comb, a brush for my teeth and a packet of sewing needless with five spools of sewing cotton. I almost jumped out of my skin at seeing it. And Mother what use we have put it to. I must confess, that it was several days before I got thinking about Mr. Tettleys odd words, and feeling around the belt I felt ten circles sewed into the lining. Picking one out I almost screamed when I saw it was a gold guinea. Immediately I confided in my two friends who had snacked me in their lot of three guineas nine shillings. Now with a sum of thirteen guineas and five shillings left in all, we were soon out of the lower cells and up into the air and light of the upper cells. Now the peculiarity. Some of the little moppets in Newgate are near one and two and some are eight and nine. Three of these younger girls are all as one and being tired of the pushing and shoving as more women are put in to the cells, had no choice but to stand their ground. One of them was given quite a thumping by a huge woman with a face like a plumb pudding and tattoos on both arms. The little one was putting up quite a fight when up jumps Maria and flies into the plumb pudding who must have thought she was surrounded as Maria pounded her senseless until she went head first into the flag stones where she stayed for a whole day. Maria is like Chrissy very pretty but she can turn into a rabbiters ferret in the blink of an eye. No one messes with us now and we have three little urchins stuck to us like tar on a shoe. But they do earn their keep and they don’t eat much. Being small they can move about and hear everything. We learnt from them that we were embarking onto a ship two whole days before we did. Those whose names were called out were put in irons then taken by cart to the river where we boarded the ship. And would you know Mother, just our luck. As we waited for our fetters to be removed. The three little moppets tromped up the planks of the Barque like three little Jilts all in shackle’s and paint.
Let me tell you about the ship. She is a Barque called the Lady Juliana. The master is Mr. Edgar and we have a surgeon Mr. Ally. The crew are not a bad lot and are full at work most times. When all the women were settled in we left the river to sail to Plymouth where we waited for some more women to be put on board. We let sail from Plymouth at afternoon 29th July 1789. Once clear and out to sea the ship moved about like a rag in the wind and my feet were all about the wrong way as was my body and head. The air was so crisp and clear to the chest I thought it fun, like trying to walk up a laneway after drinking too much cheap gin. But most found it unbearable and were chucking up everything they swallowed including water. Chrissy and Maria fared well and the three little moppets were all over the ship like bilge rats as they carried Chrissy’s and Maria’s food to the orlop hold where we are bunked. Those little moppets are as hard as London cobble stones but as I said we are all tight now. The orlop hold is clean and fresh limed. But over 200 women all talking at once makes you want for a place on deck. Once out to sea a few days Mr. Edgar said that each man would take a wife of us. But it had to be agreed upon. In a blink, I though not of having a sailor man all about my person so I stepped out. So did Chrissy and Maria who were still not right from the sea sickness. But Mother you should have seen the women tart up as they were nothing loath in a bit of bubble. Even some of the moppets were all about in paint. But our three moppets stepped back with us. The food on board is very good and as much as you can eat. We have eaten fruit we have never seen before and even unattached women are given grog by the sailors for mending clothing. Everything we had was stored in the ships hold before departure and what we wanted to keep was kept by us. There are a few thieves on board but we have lost nothing. You would pail at the privy Mother, which is called the head on a ship. The women have named the use of it as riding jakes pony. As the ship moves to the wind up and down and side to side. You have to hold on or be thrown all about with your deposits. But I will not be a rum gagger nor windy. The stories Father told of his time at sea swells my chest with pride and I feel him close with every flap of sail and sea spray on my face. As a man, a sailor good I would make and I am in want of conversations with them. I yearn to climb the yard arm as I spy them high above the deck of which we have the freedom of in good weather. Maria Can stretch a penny as long as her arm and if you give her a shilling she will make two shillings and six pence before the shilling has even left her hand. With our needles and cotton we are now mending the sailors clothing and Maria has four women who are seamstresses working for us in the mending. I must tell. Two ships have been following us all the way from England and one came so close on the way we could see the sailors clear and hear their voices. Some of the women put on quite a bit of bubble and Mr. Edgar was furious. Not at the women but at the other ships master to who he screamed out such names across the sea for taking his wind. She is an East Indiaman on her way to China and is now docked near us in Tenerife. One of the sailors has a sister on the Lady Juliana and has promised to deliver all notes and letters on his return to England. So I, and a few others have been put to task as you must know with all this writing on paper, wood and even clothe. I am all a giggle. Maria has borrowed a small gold cross on a thin gold chain from one of the women on board and she has gone to the local women at their church to beg the wonts of the women on the ship. Mother You should see what the women have given her. We will need a cart to take it all back. Now I must finish as I hear the mate’s whistle for us to return to the ship. I have written on both sides of the paper and back across. There is just a bit left to say I love you all.
Your daughter. Mary.
By Phillip Lock
© First Fleet Fellowship Victoria Inc 2011