Edges of Empire Biographical Dictionary
of Convict Women from beyond the British Isles
Edited by Lucy Frost and Colette McAlpine
Who would have thought that a slave in British Hondurus would end up as a female convict in Van Diemen’s Land? Or that two cousins, the oldest aged 12, would be transported from their native Mauritius all the way to New South Wales? And why was a French-born woman with the extravagant name Emme Felicite Gabrielle Chardonez Mallohomme sentenced at London’s Old Bailey to transportation for life?
Edges of Empire is a Biographical Dictionary offering accounts of many of these convicts among nearly 200 others who were tried or born outside the British Isles. All were transported to the Australian colonies of New South Wales and Van Diemen’s Land between 1788 and 1853. Their life stories have been tracked from numerous sources around the world, sometimes in detail and sometimes with the merest trace of their existence. The contributors to the Biographical Dictionary are researchers of the Female Convicts Research Centre, based in Hobart, Tasmania. For more information go to: http://www.femaleconvicts.org.au.
In addition to the Biographical Dictionary, which includes all the women for whom information has become available, the more in-depth and comprehensive study, From the Edges of Empire: Convict Women from beyond the British Isles, is available in paperback from Convict Women’s Press Inc.
Diamond, Sarah Ann
Sarah Ann Diamond (1826?-1913)
by Douglas Wilkie
When the Grand Jury was sworn in at Bolton Quarter Sessions on Thursday 1 April 1847 the Court Recorder, Robert Baynes Armstrong, noted that most of the cases involved property ‘not of much value’ and that most of those due to appear had minimal education, and that there were fewer females than usual although the total number, twenty-eight, was higher ‘but this is trifling, particularly when we take into consideration the number of persons out of employment and the dearness of provisions’.
Maybe so, but appearing before the court were two eighteen-year-old girls, Jane Russell and her Irish friend, Sarah Ann Diamond . Six weeks earlier, they had been charged at the Borough Court, Bolton, with stealing,
a dress-piece and three handkerchiefs from the shop of Mr. W. Needham, Cheapside. The prisoners went into the shop, it appeared, under the pretence of wanting to buy a dress, and while Mr. Needham was engaged in lifting different patterns from the shelves, contrived to conceal the articles in question about their person, and were afterwards apprehended with them in their possession.
Jane Russell was sentenced to six months in prison, but unfortunately for Sarah Ann Diamond, she had previously served four months in prison for shoplifting, and this time was sentenced to 7 years’ transportation.
The hired convict ship Cadet left London on 9 September 1847 and arrived at Hobart on 2 January 1848. The ship’s Surgeon, C. R. Kinnear, thought the ‘women were generally young and healthy looking’ and that ‘it was seldom indeed that I had to find fault with the appearance of the Prison or the state of the women’s persons, & I only wish I could say the same as regards their tempers.’
Unusually the vessel ‘did not touch at any port on the passage as we were not in want of any refreshments and we arrived at Hobart town on the 2nd of January in a very healthy state.’ One hundred and sixty four prisoners and 29 children left Woolwich, and 128 women and thirty children arrived at Hobart—one woman had died and one child was born.
Although Sarah Diamond did not suffer any illness during the voyage Surgeon Kinnear summed her up as being ‘idle and useless’. Nevertheless, she told the officials at Hobart that she was a dressmaker by trade and could both read and write. She said that, although she had been born in Calcutta, India, her mother, Sarah, was living in Dublin, and she had four brothers Robert, Matthew, Cormick, and William, and two sisters, Mary and Catherine. No record of her father has been located, either in India or Ireland.
Sarah was unmarried, aged 22, and Roman Catholic. The Hobart officials noted that she was 5 feet 3 ¼ inches (160 cm) in height, had a sallow complexion, a large head, brown hair, light brown eyes, and a large mouth, and freckled oval face. Hopefully enough to recognise her should she go missing.
After spending six months probationary time at the Female Factory at Hobart, Sarah was granted the 3rd class of probation and allowed to work for a private employer. This was the Williamson family, but in September 1849 Williamson thought she was somewhat insolent in her manner and she spent three months doing hard labor, and one month in solitary confinement at the Factory.
To avoid such an occurrence again happening Sarah undoubtedly thought it would be wise to get married and in October 1849 John Gifford Shawcross, a former soldier from Barbados who had been convicted of striking a superior officer and was transported for 14 years in 1842, applied to marry her. He was granted a ticket of leave in 1848. But Shawcross was eighteen years older than Sarah and the application was not approved. Nevertheless, Shawcross eventually married Alice Brown, who was sixteen years older than him.
Sarah Diamond next went to work for the Hennessy family but in December 1849 she failed to return to the Depot as required and was given four months hard labor at the Factory. This time she decided the way to get some freedom was to apply for a ticket of leave, and she did so in October 1850, but was told to apply again in six months. By April 1851 she had moved to Launceston and in May again applied for a ticket of leave it— was granted a few weeks later.
On 25 November 1851 Joseph Dakin, or Deacon applied to marry Sarah. Dakin, like Shawcross, was a former soldier from Barbados, and had been in the 46th Regiment for over nine years. But Dakin not only stole some money and struck Corporal George Sims of the 92nd Regiment, but he also got drunk and lost his kit. To top it off he then struck a private, for which he was given a massive 150 lashes, leaving him with permanent scarring on his back. Perhaps not surprisingly, he then deserted, for which he was branded with a large ‘D’ on his left side, and transported for 14 years to Van Diemen’s Land on the Henrietta in 1843. The next seven years saw Dakin accrue a full record of misdemeanors before he was granted a ticket of leave in January 1850.
Joseph Dakin was only six or seven years older than Sarah and the application to marry was approved and took place at St. John’s Church of England, Launceston on 29 December 1851. But married life did not calm the volatile pair. In January 1852 Sarah was punished for using indecent and abusive language and had two months added to her sentence. Then, in August 1852, she was found drunk and disorderly and had to spend six weeks doing hard labor at the Launceston House of Correction and had her ticket of leave revoked.
Having served that punishment she was then released into the care of her husband in September 1852. This time no more was heard of her until May 1854 when a certificate of freedom was issued.
It would appear that Sarah and Joseph may have lived in Launceston for some time before moving to George’s Bay on the East Coast. Joseph, now known as Deacon, died there on 7 October 1889 aged 73. Sarah Ann Deacon died at St. Helen’s on 19 January 1913 aged 94.
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