Elizabeth Verloppe (1821?-1874)
by Cassandra Pybus
Elizabeth Verloppe arrived in Sydney on Wednesday 10 July 1834, on the brig Dart from Port Louis, Mauritius, one of two female convicts on board. She was 12 years old and was transported with her younger cousin Constance. They were two of the youngest convicts to be transported to New South Wales. The Sydney Herald reported that these two females were slaves who had been ‘convicted of an attempt to poison their mistress’ (see entry for Constance Coronne). Their supposed victim, Madame Morel, was not Elizabeth’s mistress, as she belonged to the widow Geffroy, and had been rented out to Morel to learn needlework. Many Verloppes were listed as the possessions of the Geffroy family, including a woman and three children with ages ranging from five to eleven, who were probably Elizabeth’s mother and her other siblings. Elizabeth was described on the indent as ‘black’ and her trade was described as ‘Laundress and needlewoman’.
By the time of their transportation, Elizabeth and Constance had been in prison for over a year. On arrival in Sydney they were sent to the Female Factory at Parramatta where they were conspicuous for their youth, colour and the fact that they spoke neither English nor Gaelic. It was very lucky that in September 1834 both were assigned to First Police Magistrate Henry Wilson, a widower with three daughters who arrived in Sydney from London eighteen months earlier. Elizabeth became the lady’s maid for the eldest daughter, Elizabeth Wilson, aged 21.
The available evidence suggests that Wilson was a good master who cared about the fate of his charges. In August 1840, he made every effort to secure a pardon for the girls and sang their praises in the faint hope to the governor might ‘permit their restitution to their parents’. Wilson had no luck on that score, but he was successful in persuading the governor to award the girls a bounty for good conduct in assigned service. A few months later, Wilson interceded on their behalf with the Mauritian authorities, noting their ‘excellent character’ and desiring to know if there were any circumstances upon which he ‘could found an application to the Secretary of State’ for a pardon. In 1841 a petition on behalf of Elizabeth’s father sought mitigation for the crime of his daughter and niece, protesting the ‘impossibility of children of so tender an age seriously meditating a crime of so heinous a nature’ and noting the heavy sentence ‘was passed at a time when, on account of the social change which took place in the condition of the slave population, the maximum of the Law was exacted’. Neither intervention swayed the Mauritian officials.
On 16 September 1840, Elizabeth was married to Jean Larimie, ‘a young man who bears a good character’, who had arrived as a freeman in 1839 aboard the Bright Planet. He worked as a servant, possibly in Wilson’s household, and Wilson described him as ‘a native of the Isle de France’ and ‘a muleteer’, which suggest he was most likely a creole of mixed race. The marriage ceremony was at the Anglican church of St James, Sydney, with Wilson present to act as a witness. By the time Wilson wrote he had fallen on hard times having lost his stipendiary position, and being forced to auction more and more of his effects and sell all his various land holdings. In May 1842, Wilson wrote to the colonial secretary about Elizabeth and Constance to establish that they were now assigned to their husbands rather to him. After that he disappeared from view.
Despite Elizabeth’s marriage to a free settler, the loss of Wilson as patron appears to have triggered a downward slide into poverty. She was not recommended for a pardon until 1851, four years after Constance. She and her husband were recorded as living in Harrington Street in The Rocks and after that, they dwelt in the Surry Hills and Paddington suburbs for the remainder of their lives. Between 1841 and 1856, Elizabeth bore six children, of whom at least three died in infancy: Julia M.L. Larimie born 1841; Francis J. Larami born 1843: Joseph Laramy born 1845 and died 1846; Josephine Lareny born 1847 and died 1850; Prosper Laremy born 1849 and died 1850; George J. Larame born 1856. On their first child’s entry in the parish register, Larimie lists his profession as ‘Servant’, but after that nothing is known. At his death in 1861, Elizabeth was a widow of 36 with a 5-year-old son. She died at Woolloomooloo in 1874, not yet 50.
Cassandra Pybus, ‘Children in Bondage: Elizabeth Verloppe and Constance Couronne’, in From the Edges of Empire, eds L. Frost and C. McAlpine, Convict Women’s Press, Hobart, 2015, pp. 61-76.
Allen, Richard Slave, Freedmen and Indentured Laborers in Colonial Mauritius, Cambridge University Press, 1999
Anderson, Clare, Subaltern Lives: Biographies of Colonialism in the Indian Ocean World, 1790–1920, Cambridge University Press 2012
Duyker, Edward Of the Star and the Key: Mauritius, Mauritians and Australia, Australian Maritime Research Group, 1988
© 2016 Convict Women's Press Inc.