The mark of a convict

mary-ann-hughes-convict-transportedGovernment Gazette     WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 10, 1836

Colonial Secretary’s Office,  Sydney, 9th February, 1836

NOTICE is hereby given, that Families who are in want of Female Servants, may be supplied from the Prisoners arrived by the ship Henry Wellesley from England, provided they apply according to the established forms, on or before Twelve o’Clock of Tuesday the 16th instant.   The Assignees will be required to enter into the usual engagement, under a penalty of forty shillings to keep their servants for one month, unless removed by due course of law.   Printed forms of application may be obtained at the Office of the Principal Superintendent of Contracts

By His Excellency’s Command     ALEXANDER McLEAY.

A sixteen year old called Mary Ann Hughes was one of 118 female convicts on this ship. Her sentence was 14 years transportation for the crime of pledging.  In other words, she probably helped a few stolen items fall into the hands of a pawnbroker.  This house maid from Liverpool was apparently quite good at pledging as this was not her first offence. 

From her date of sentencing (13 April 1835) to the date of the ship’s departure from Portsmouth, England on 23 September in the same year, she is likely to have spent some months in a hulk. 

We know from convict records that she was 5 feet 2¾ inches tall, had sandy flaxen hair, hazel grey eyes and a fair, ruddy and freckled complexion.  When she arrived in Sydney, she was sporting two scars over her left eyebrow and a scar on her upper lip.  The bell of her right ear was split. 

Mary Ann was always going to be easy to identify from her tattoos.  She arrived in the colony with a string of indelible marks on both arms.  It’s likely these skin punctures were made on the voyage and stained with lamp soot or ink.  She was recorded as being able to read.  We might also surmise from the nature of the tattoos that she could also write.  Her left arm and hand markings were recorded as follows:

HRTTHJHSPJHWMHBODS nine dots HOAG, fish mermaid, TW on left arm; five dots, star and two rings – left hand

On her right arm:


Convict tattoos often recorded the names of family and loved ones as a way of remembrance.   Some initials on Mary Ann’s arm coincide with the names of other women on the ship. The letter H (for Hughes) is well represented.

Our grandmother’s great grandmother lived in the colony for another 50 years.  There’s more of her story on the record and in future posts on this blog.

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