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Mary Davidson

My 4th great grandmother

Mary Davidson (also shown as Davison and Dawson in some records) was sentenced to seven years transportation at the Northumberland Summer Assizes of 1788 for stealing ten muslin handkerchiefs and 16 yards of taffety silk from Alice Redhead, a milliner of Alnwick. Davidson was carrying two bundles when she was stopped in Clayport Street as a suspicious character. Clothing in the bundles was identified as stolen from Redhead’s shop.

At the time she was convicted there were 151 female convicts living in three female cells in Newgate which had been built to house a maximum of 70. The population of Newgate was malnourished (the provisions were only supplied enough for the theoretical maximum number of prisoners), debilitated, cold, inadequately clothed and infested with disease-bearing lice. Davidson was held in the county gaol until shortly before 26 April 1789 when she embarked on the 'Lady Juliana' transport, age given as 20. The Lady Juliana became known as the "the floating brothel". This came about because the female convicts, many of whom had been prostitutes, gave favours to the crew in order to obtain some comforts. The 'Lady Juliana' was the first ship to arrive in Sydney Harbour after the first fleet. She had set out on 29th July 1789 at the same time as the Guardian, but the Guardian hit an iceberg south of Africa and most of the much needed supplies for the hungry colony were lost. Despite the appalling condition of the women on leaving England they arrived in good condition with few deaths, unlike like the rest of the second fleet.

By 1793 Davidson was living with the First Fleet convict John Cross. Their daughter, Elizabeth, was baptised at Sydney in June 1794 followed by James Thomas (1796), William (1797), David (1799) my 3rd great grandfather, John (1801), Alexander (1803), Mary Ann (1806), Ann (1808) and Sarah (1812). Several of the children appear to have died in infancy and in 1806 Mary "Dawson" was recorded with one female and three male children. The BDM records of NSW show that Mary never married John Cross.

In 1798 Cross was recorded renting a farm at Field of Mars. By 1800 the family had moved to the Hawkesbury district where Cross rented a farm with 3 acres sown in wheat and 6 in maize. The couple owned 6 pigs and they and their two surviving children were supported from public stores. Cross was among the farmers of the South Creek area who petitioned the Governor for help in January 1801 after suffering losses from flooding. In 1804 Cross was granted 100 acres at Sussex Reach of which in 1806 just over 20 acres were cultivated in wheat, maize, barley, orchard, vegetables and garden. Cross was fully supporting his wife and four children (5 were born after 1800, two of them after 1806) and employing a free man. From 1812 the family suffered financial difficulties and much of their land had been mortgaged or sold by 1820. Their farm at Half Moon Reach was offered for sale by execution in April of that year. Mary Davidson died in December 1827 three years after her husband; her burial on the 15th December is recorded in the register of St. Matthews, Windsor, her age is shown as 59 years.

Submitted by : Jean Macleay, Member WFHG, 17 February 2012

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