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Mary Parker

My 3rd great grandmother

Mary Parker was tried at Old Bailey on 26 April 1786. She was charged with "burglariously and feloniously breaking and entering the dwelling-house of John Hickman, about the hour of eleven in the night, on the 19th day of April last, and burglariously stealing therein, two muslin gowns and coats, value 40s, a cotton gown, value 20s., three cotton frocks, value 4s, a calico bed-gown, value 2s, four pair of cotton pockets, value 4s, eleven shirts, value 31s, one shift value 2s, and one diaper clout, value 6d. his property." She was found guilty of stealing, but not of the burglary and sentenced to be transported to parts beyond the seas for 7 years. She was at the time 28 years of age and could neither read nor write. Her occupation is shown as servant.

Mary was transported on the 'Lady Penrhyn' as part of the First Fleet. It wasn’t until 6th February, 10 days after arrival in Sydney Harbour that on a day of frequent thunder squalls the female convicts were brought ashore. This process commenced at 5am and was not completed until 6pm. They were barely inside the tents set up for them when a violent thunderstorm hit. Nevertheless the male convicts got to them and a scene of debauchery and riot ensued throughout the night.

Stories of Mary helping other convicts whilst on the ship are recorded and the fact came to the notice of the authorities. Consequently she was employed at the hospital as an assistant to the nurses. There are also family stories that she was a servant at Government House. This could be possible as her name is not on the Victualling list because of this.

Mary was married by Richard Johnson, Chaplain, to John Small on 12th October 1788. This would have been in the open and later recorded in the Register of St Philip’s Sydney. Mary and John had seven children all of whom attained maturity, quite a feat in those times. Although like everyone else at this time Mary and John were both small people under 5’ 6” in height, all the boys grew to be a robust 6 foot tall.

After living in Sydney and then Parramatta the family moved to Kissing Point, Ryde in 1794 (Recorded as Eastern Farms). On this farm the family grew and prospered. They would have had some status in the community as John was the District Constable.

Mary died suddenly and tragically on 4th April 1824. An inquest commencing on the next day, the 5th, shows the circumstances as follows: Mary was walking near a large hole of seven feet depth of water, close to which is a footpath. Mary missed her footing and fell into the water of the foresaid large hole, and then drowning, she instantly died. Her son John attested that about 6 o’clock in the evening he was at his brother William’s house, when his wife asked him to fetch a pail of water. John and William walked to the well, which was a large hole 7 feet deep. As they approached the well they could see two shoes and a woman’s cap floating on the surface. William stooped and got out one of the shoes and said that he feared it was his mother’s. John stayed at the well whilst William ran to the house and found that his mother had been from home for some time. Whilst his brother was gone John got a pole and raised a female to the surface, and found it to be his mother. Efforts to revive her were without effect. She was dead at the age of 66 years. Mary had last been seen at about 2 o’clock by her son Samuel who lived with her. When the coroner asked what state Mary had been in lately her son said that at times she appeared childish, but had supposed it to be infirmity of old age.

There being no churchyard for Mary to be buried and no resident chaplain in the district Mary was very likely buried on the family property. It is believed that it was her grave discovered 112 years later by Main Roads Department workers who discovered an old grave while engaged on road improvement work in Devlin Street, Ryde. Devlin Street now runs through what was the old Small property.

Two of John and Mary’s sons, Thomas and John, built a ship "Susan" in which they explored the Clarence Valley, being the first to sail over the bar. They very soon settled their families there being the pioneers of the district. They carried out trade in red cedar and were engaged in farming and grazing.

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

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