Female Transportation to Australia - remembering Bridget Murray
25,500 females were transported to Australia from the so-called British Isles (Ireland, England, Scotland and Wales) in the 18th and 19th centuries for crimes as petty as 'stealing 12 potatoes".
Some, of course, had committed graver crimes, and one such transported was Bridget Murray of East Clare, a poor, illiterate servant-girl who, beguiled by her lord and master, bore him a daughter in December 1841. He, however, ignored his responsibilities and Bridget found herself alone, unwanted, unemployed, with a starving baby to support. Unable to cope, Bridget killed the baby and buried it. Her crime was discovered and she was tried, found guilty and sentenced to death - commuted to transportation for life.
In 1842 Bridget sailed on the Waverley to Australia, arriving in Hobart, Tasmania, December 15, 1842.
Bridget's descendants are alive today but, over the years her children, and children's children, tried to deny her existence, one of the "multiple stains" on their lineage that so many Australians were ashamed of.
But today Bridget's great-great-granddaughter Margaret Waugh remembers her with gratitude. Kilmainham Tales met Margaret when she and her husband attended a talk on Grangegorman Female Prison recently, and she agreed to submit Bridget's story to us. Margaret made a
bonnet to commemorate Bridget but, she said, she was glad it was not among those in Kilmainham (see below) "thrown carelessly on the floor". Her ancestor, she believes, who was not given any respect in her life in Ireland, deserves more respect for her memory now.
Margaret tells us that Bridget died in 1864 at about the age of 46 from TB after two years' illness, "beloved wife of John Butt" at Camperdown Farm, Nile, Tasmania.
It is thought Bridget came from Ogonnelloe Parish in East Clare, that she had a father Patrick, a sister Mary, and brothers Michael, and Dennis.
Rather than tell Bridget's story as a simple tale Margaret chose to lay it out as a prose poem, feeling the layout adds to the rhythm, clarity and drama.
The details are sourced from:
The Tasmanian Archives.
Irish Newspapers, at the National Library in Australia,
[Ireland, Politics and Society through the Press 1760--‐1922.]
Irish Transportation Registers.
Irish Ejectment and Tithe records, Clare Library.
The Eppi-Dippam database. Southampton University.
I have searched through all known sources,
I could quote them at the end.
And I've trawled through all the papers of the day.
This story needed telling and no one so far has bothered.
So I've put it down, to clear the air, and set the record straight.
Yes she did it, she said she did it.
A Heinous, and Unnatural crime said the judge.
And from their "new world" comfort,
Her future descendants would avert their eyes.
"You can come in, but just for the confinement",
Her relative had conceded, at Christmas.
"Go, when you are strong, in a day or two,
And get it baptised.
We don't want you in the house".
The priest was shown the body,
Buried where she had no right to be.
And now, to be left, for days outside the Barracks,
Waiting for Dr Sampson to come.
Three days old at death, the body wrapped and a cap upon the head.
"A fine baby girl, born alive" said the midwife,
Lest she be complicit, and a stream of people supported her evidence.
Bridget wished "God Almighty had taken it,
For she could not support it."
Catholic, a servant for the Landed gentry in Clare,
And just nineteen, Bridget would state on arrival in Tasmania,
"Edmund Brady was the father of my child,
I lived with him three years."
No support in Ireland for her through the courts,
Unless the father openly be named.
No County support for "Barstardy" in Clare, and no baptism either.
The Doctor related by marriage to the Bradys,
And the Judge as well.
"It died in my arms "she said,
"It died in John Murray's house"
"I buried it in the Kyle."
"Paddy Mac helped me bury it."
"I gave it to the father of it."
Each contradiction revealing her panic.
I accused her of murder, said her relative.
Told her not to leave it in a ditch where the dogs and pigs can eat it!
Then I left her, and hurried home.
It’s winter in Clare.
The jury did not retire, and no one spoke on her behalf.
Death by hanging, said Torrens, the body to be buried within
The grounds of the jail.
They were left in ditches, submerged in bogs, overlaid or malnourished,
Those children who lived followed their mothers from town to town,
Stigmatised and ignored, their primitive sod huts torn down, and
The vagrants moved on.
One hundred and twenty seven Commitments, in Ireland, in that year alone
There were "mitigatory circumstances in the case",
said Judge Robert Torrens, In his plea for clemency.
Transportation for Life, his recommendation to Lord de Grey.
Seven months in prison, and over three months on the ship to Tasmania.
She was "Middling" said surgeon Sam McKay.
Stripped to the waist upon her arrival so they could note her particulars,
She said, "Edmund Brady was the father of my child."
A kitchen maid, can't read or write, a Catholic.
"For the murder of my own child."
Her skills, few as they were, were useful, and her convict record brief,
Typical of those who survived the harsh convict system.
She married the young man from the Wiltshire countryside.
Tall and smart enough to become a constable, and rewarded for his efforts
In the arrests of the notorious Nile Gang.
Their marriage was blessed with seven children,
And yet more tragedy, claimed three.
One child died in a scrub fire, another from TB, and one more from the fall from a horse.
Four children to thrive were all that were needed, to make her a Founder of Tasmania.
She lived in the Northern Midlands,
where the mist lies in the fertile plains.
Clearing in the warmth of the day, to reveal the mountains,
Guarding the green valley, where her children were to flourish.
Her descendants are numerous, her children
Multiplied with the robust new free immigrants.
Thriving in the lush fertile valley to the east,
Spreading throughout the state and beyond.
Some said she came from England, some that she didn't exist,
And all seemed to wish it so.
They killed her off in fictitious fires,
And merged the generations to hide the convict stain.
Yet, she lived, and loved, and was loved.
O'Grady, to Brady, from bishops of Meath, the gentry did not get off lightly.
The lands lost their value with the loss of the people.
Emigration for Edmund was all that was left.
Old maps reveal the traces of the families of note,
And the subdivided lands the poor have toiled.
Tithes due Gods agents here on earth, and Ejectment books dictate,
The movements, and displacement of the desperate landless poor.
By Margaret Waugh, November 2013, GG granddaughter of Bridget Murray.