Please note that what follows is the widely held belief about Ann Marsh the convict, which links her to the baptism in Buckland Brewer. We have not personally seen any concrete primary evidence that makes that connection. If you look at the comments that others have put on this page and in brackets in the text below, you will see that there is some evidence to the contrary. We would be very grateful if someone could provide a source for the Buckland Brewer connection. This could be a case of someone jumping to the wrong conclusion and others copying the unsubstantiated supposition.
Ann was baptised on 16 Aug 1767 in Buckland Brewer, the sixth child of John and Mary Marsh née Andrew. At the Assizes, held at Exeter Castle on 16 March 1789, Ann was convicted of stealing a bushel of wheat from William Welland. Although Mary Edwards, who was convicted alongside Ann, received a fine of 6/- and six months hard labour, Ann was transported for seven years. She left from Plymouth on 29 July 1789 on the Lady Juliana, a convict ship that formed part of the Second Fleet and contained 229 female convicts and six of their children. This vessel was nicknamed ‘the floating brothel’ and formed part of a move to address the gender imbalance in the penal colony. As a result of this, a number of women who might otherwise have received lighter sentences, were transported instead.
The Lady Juliana’s surgeon, Richard Alley, attempted to see that the women were provided with basics such as soap, child-bed linen, tea and sugar. Like many of the crew, he formed a relationship with one of the convicts and fathered a short-lived daughter, Charlotte Maria, on Ann Marsh. Richard returned to England and Ann became the common-law wife of a former ship’s surgeon and fellow convict John Irving. Their son John was born posthumously in 1796.
After the death of John Irving, Ann married another transportee, Robert Flannagan, in November 1796, at St. John’s Church in Parramatta. This relationship ended when Robert absconded in 1798. Ann and Robert are believed to have had two children. About this time Ann found a way of supporting herself and her children by setting up the Parramatta River Boat Service, transporting passengers and goods between Parramatta and Sydney. After Robert’s disappearance, Ann lived with another convict, William Chapman, by whom she had six more children.
The Sydney Gazette of 2 June 1810 reported a near accident for Ann “A report having reached me that an accident which occurred to Mrs Chapman on Thursday morning last was occasioned by the mistake of one of the young men who dispenses medicine at the General Hospital; as I am ignorant of the source from whence the report could have arisen, and of the motives why it has been so industriously circulated, I feel myself called upon to give the following explanation to the public:- Mrs. C. being desirous to take salts, told her daughter to weigh one ounce from a paper containing a quantity which had been for some time in the house; but there being a paper of sugar of lead which I had for the purpose of adding paint to in order to expedite the drying of it, the girl unfortunately took the latter. It was dissolved and swallowed, when Mrs. C. discovered by the different taste that it was not salts which she had taken. Immediate application was made to the Gentlemen of the General Hospital, and I take this opportunity of expressing my gratitude for their exertions in the preservation of her life.”
Together Ann and William ran a store before William died in June 1810. After this, Ann petitioned Lachlan Macquaire, Governor of the colony, asking to be assigned convict labour in order to man the ferry service. She also became the licensee of the King’s Head Tavern, High Street (now George Street), Sydney. Ann died on 7 March 1823 and was buried at St. John’s, Parramatta. (N.B. Her age at burial is given as 54. If this is correct – and it may well not be – she would have been born between March 1768 and March 1769, so cannot be the Ann from Buckland Brewer.)
A sampler worked by Ann in 1788, before her conviction, is in the possession of the Hyde Park Barracks collection, Sydney Living Museums and is depicted online. This shows that Ann was literate and one theory is that the sampler was given to who ever taught her to read before she left England. The sampler later being taken to Australia by the descendants of the teacher. (Again we do not have the details of how this sampler came to be linked to Ann the convict. In Australian documents Ann spells her surname MASH, however spelling at this time was not fixed. In addition, samplers were usually worked by girls between the ages or 7 and 14 and Ann would have been about 20. We would be very interested to know more about the provenance if the sampler.)
This biography was compiled with the help of information supplied by descendant Judy Williams.
Sources disagree about the exact number of convicts on the Lady Juliana, some considering there to have been 255.
Newspaper article (1810, June 2). The Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser (NSW: 1803-1842), p. 2 col. c. Retrieved January 20 2015, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-page6641.