Free Settler or Felon
Convict and Colonial History

Convict Ship Mary Ann - 1791

Embarked: 150 women
Voyage: 143 days
Deaths 9
Surgeon's Journal: no
Previous vessel: Scarborough arrived 28 June 1790
Next vessel: Gorgon arrived 21 September 1791
Captain Mark Munroe
Follow the Female Convict Ship Trail

The Mary Ann was the next convict ship to leave England bound for New South Wales after the departure of ships Surprize, Neptune and Scarborough.

One hundred and fifty female convicts were brought to the Mary Ann from counties and cities throughout England. An article in The Reading Mercury and Oxford Gazette describes a Court Session at the Old Bailey in 1789 when the sentence of Death was first handed down to some of the women who were later transported on the Mary Ann....

Thursday at the Old Bailey, the Recorder passed sentence of death upon 26 capital convicts. He stated that it was a circumstance much to be lamented, and too plainly deplored the increasing depravity of the times, to have so many wretched criminals standing at the bar to be prematurely cut off from society for their several offences.

When the law consigned so many unhappy victims to death, it held forth this wise lesson to prudent persons, that to be honest industrious and virtuous is to be happy. He then bid them a solemn farewell, desiring them not to indulge any hope of mercy, to employ the short space allowed to reconcile themselves with their offended God, and offered up an earnest prayer that the Father of all Mercies would pardon their crimes and offences.

He then pronounced the dreadful sentence of the law upon
Ann Wicks, James Man and Owen Lyons, for burglaries; Ann Taylor, Elizabeth Wylie, Thomas Morgan and James Smith, for privately stealing to the value of 5s and upwards; John Adams for horse stealing; William Moss for stealing two heifers; Lyon Hart, Emanuel Markes, Andrew Hacket, Ann Guest, Ann Yardley, Susannah Brown, John Fletcher, Matthew Crutchfield, John Willams alias William Miller, William Williams alias Crown, John Mayo, John Shirley, Thomas Parsons, Elizabeth Bagnell alias Nash and John Keys for highway robberies; John Happy and Michael Hoy for returning from transportation.
The boys, eight in number, and the seven women presented a most dreadful spectacle; they continued several minutes in the bar, some on their knees, filling the Court with their lamentations and cries for mercy.

It is the determination of Government, that all future pardons shall be on condition of transportation for life. And as a further means of clearing the country of thieves and vagabonds the destination of all felons convicted on transportable offences, is to be New South Wales. [6]

Convicts Embarked

The Times reported in February 1791 that on the morning of the 14th February female felons in Newgate preceded by Mr. Akerman, the gaoler, were put on board lighters to convey them to the transports at Woolwich. [2]

The Mary Ann departed England on 16 February 1791 with one hundred and fifty women. This brought the total of female prisoners embarked in England to 650 women.

Third Fleet Convict Ships

The Mary Ann was one of the vessels of the Third Fleet provided by Messrs. Camden, Calvert and King contractors for the Commissioners of the Navy for the conveyance of convicts to New South Wales [1]

Other vessel of the Third Fleet included:



Admiral Barrington





William and Ann


One of the prisoners on the Mary Ann was a young mother of three by the name of Mary Talbot. She had previously been put on board the Lady Juliana but managed to escape before the vessel sailed. She was re-captured and tried at the Old Bailey. She received a sentence of Death with recommendation for mercy. After finding that she was with child, her sentence was stayed and she remained in Newgate prison. In December 1790 the London Times reported that she was on the list of capitally convicted prisoners who had received His Majesty's pardon on condition of being transported to New South Wales for their natural lives; except for Mary Talbot, who said she had rather die, as she had three infants, and it was that which made her return from transportation. The Recorder pointed out the fatal consequences in vain; she persisted in dying, and was taken from the bar in convulsions. Despite her protestations, she was embarked on the Mary Ann for transportation to New South Wales.

Read Mary Talbot's Letter published in The Times in October 1791 which gives an account of the voyage of the Mary Anne.

Sydney Cove

The Mary Ann arrived at Sydney Cove on 9 July 1791 with 141 female convicts and six children, almost all in good health. She brought stores and nine months provisions for the women.......

On the morning of the 9th, the signal for a sail was made at the south head; and before night it was made known that the Mary Ann transport was arrived from England, with one hundred and forty one female convicts on board, six children, and one free woman, some clothing and the following small quantity of provisions; one hundred and thirty two barrels of flour; sixty one tierces of pork, and thirty two tierces of beef. [5]

The Mary Ann had been only four months and sixteen days from England; and had touched at the island of St. Jago, where she remained ten days. The Master landed a boat in a bay about fifteen miles to the southward of Botany Bay; but made no other observation, than that there was a bay in which a boat might land. [5]

No News!

Watkin Tench's account tells of the disappointment felt by all when it was found that the Mary Ann had brought no news from home -

The convicts were brought out by contract at a specific sum for each person. But to demonstrate the effect of humanity and justice, of one hundred and forty-four female convicts embarked on board, only three had died; and the rest were landed in perfect health, all loud in praise of their conductor. The master's name was Munro; and his ship after fulfilling her engagement with government, was bound on the southern fishery. If however the good people of this ship delighted us with their benevolence, here gratification ended.

I was of a party who had rowed in a boat six miles out to sea, beyond the harbour's mouth, to meet them; and what was our disappointment on getting aboard, to find that they had not brought a letter (a few official ones for the governor excepted) to any person in the colony! Nor had they a single newspaper or magazine in their possession ; nor could they conceive that any person's wished to hear news; being as ignorant of everything which had passed in Europe for the last two years as ourselves, at the distance of half the circle. 'No war' the fleet's dismantled' was the whole that we could learn........'For heaven's sake, why did you not bring out a bundle of newspapers; you might have procured a file at any coffee house; which would have amused you and instructed us?' 'Why, really, I never thought about the matter, until we were off the Cape of Good Hope when we spoke a man of war, who asked us the same question and then I wished I had'. To have prosecuted inquiry farther would have only served to increase disappointment and chagrin. We therefore quitted the ship, wondering and lamenting that so large a portion of plain undisguised honesty should be so totally unconnected with a common share of intelligence and acquaintance with the feelings and habits of other men
. [3]

Convicts Disembarked

The women were landed from the Mary Ann on 11th July 1791 -

Norfolk Island

In August the Mary Anne received the Matilda's cargo with 99 male convicts, and sailed for Norfolk Island having on board 133 male convicts, one female convict and two children.

Notes and Links

1). Mary Talbot's Letter published in The Times in October 1791 which gives an account of this voyage.

2). Governor Philip's correspondence to Lord Grenville regarding the arrival of convicts of the Third Fleet dated November 1791

3). Mary O'Brien arrived on the Mary Ann 1791. She was later granted an absolute pardon and resided in Newcastle in 1825.


[1] Historical Records of Australia, Vol.1, p225

[2] 'News in Brief. 'Times [London, England] 15 Feb. 1791:

[3] The Times Digital Archive. Web. 7 Mar. 2013.

[4] A Complete Account of the settlement at Port Jackson - Watkin Tench

[5] An Account of the English Colony in New South Wales: From Its First ... By David Collins

[6] The Reading Mercury and Oxford Gazette, etc (Reading, England), Monday, December 21, 1789; pg. 3; Issue 1457. British Library Newspapers