Catherine’s namesake - a note on the relationship between her mother Mary Ann Clarke/Ray and godmother Catherine Mac/k


The first entry of subsequent convictions on the convict conduct record of Ann Mary Ray (usually known at that time as Mary Ann Ray and otherwise as Mary Ann Clark) refers to an event in which it appears that Catherine Mack was also involved. (I say it appears because the date on the Ray record looks like 23 May 1842 when it must have been in 1843. The date of reception to serve her sentence in the Female Factory (or House of Correction) looks more like 43 - ie 26/5/43, and 23 May 1842 would have been too soon after her arrival in VDL on 9 April 1842; while the date on Mack’s record is more clearly 23 May 1843 and Mack’s record shows that a year earlier she was serving a sentence of three months hard labour in the House of Correction Launceston from 8 April 1842, having arrived on 10 October 1841.)

On 23 May 1843 Mary Ann Ray/Clark was convicted of insolence and being absent without leave and given 14 days solitary confinement. On the "same date" she was also convicted of "insolence and being very riotous and disorderly when in charge" for which she was sentenced to 12 months hard labour in the Female Factory. Catherine Mack was convicted by the same magistrate, "J. F.", on the same date 23 May 1843 of absence without leave and insolence and punished with 14 days solitary confinement; and on that date she was also sentenced to 12 months hard labour in the Factory, Launceston, for “very riotous behaviour and insolence when in charge”. During this sentence Catherine Mack was convicted on the following 12 February of assault on a fellow prisoner. After their release in 1844 both were given minor senences, Mack twice and Ray three times, of being absent without leave, being drunk or simply "misconduct": and notably on one those occasions they were convicted on the same date, 8 October 1844. (Mary Ann’s child Catherine was born a little less than 9 months later, and we assume that Mary Ann’s misconduct amounted to being away from home at night sometimes in company with Catherine, but also to meet with men, at least one man, Henry Peever.) The only subsequent occasion on which they were convicted or in the Female Factory at the same time was in 1845 when Catherine Mack was serving a 6 months sentence at Launceston from 16 May for absconding, and Mary Ann Ray was in the same establishment to give birth to her child on 19 June 1845. (The Female Factory or House of Correction was a refuge for women convicts as well as a place of punishment, and they commonly returned there if they were single when pregnant.) Catherine Mack (recorded in the baptismal register as Mac) was godmother at the baptism of Catherine Clark/Ray/Peever a few weeks later. (Baptism, 6 July 1845, the Church of the Apostles, Launceston; Catherine Pevor b. 19 June 1845 dau of the Henry Pevor and Marianne Ray; Godmother Catherine Mac.) Catherine Mack was still defying authority and shortly after the baptism, on 23 July she was sentenced to 10 days solitary confinement, then there is a date “22/8/45" entered for an unknown reason on her record and signed by the Superintendent, Launceston.

Up to the time of the birth of Catherine and immediately following it there appears to be more evidence of delinquency on part of Catherine Mack than of Mary Ann Ray/Clark. Mary Ann might be thought to have been unlucky to have been involved with her in the riot, and to have served 12 months in the Factory with her and other more experienced convict women, when it appears, from her conviction for assault on a fellow prisoner as well as rioting, that Catherine Mack could have been one of those “flash characters” who dominated other prisoners as described by historians like Kay Daniels in her book on “Convict Women ”. Earlier, Catherine Mack had had her sentence of transportation extended for two years for stealing five pounds as well as a custodial sentence in 1842 , so she had more experience of the convict culture. Daniels gives much evidence of riots in the factories, and of a collective culture of defiance of authorities, of close bonds between female convicts, quite often lesbian, and of the dominance of some older more experienced women over others, usually the younger who were exploited in various ways. Mary Ann was 19 at that time in 1843 and Catherine probably several years or much older going by subsequent possible marriage records. But neither of them was innocent of convict ways. They had both been "on the town" and had served prior gaol sentences in Liverpool for theft before being transported. They could well have known each other there, but they might only have shared a common background. Although they appeared to act together, probably outside as well as within the correctional institution in the period 1843-45, there are no later coincidences of time in custody as far we can tell, so there is no evidence of the common phenomenon of one of a couple offending to gain admission while the other was inside.

From 1846 to 1848 Mary Ann Ray had numerous convictions with short periods of solitary confinement and eight longer sentences of hard labour, ranging from one month to six months, in the Factory at either Launceston or later at Hobart, for being absent, disorderly, misconduct, or several times for using obscene language, and “being absent and found in a brothel”. Catherine Mack had one sentence of one month in this period, 15 January 1846, and another that is unclear on 1 January 1847 which might have been only a fine. Those convictions of Catherine are at time apparently unrelated to the record of Mary Ann Ray. So in this later period Mary Ann was, as it were, following her own career in a much more habitual convict manner.

We think it is likely that it was during the last of those sentences, one for six months in Hobart from 8 February 1848, that young Catherine was taken by her father Henry Peever and brought up by him. The child would have been approaching the age of about three years when she could no longer have been kept in prison with her mother and a choice must have been made to hand her over to her father rather than have her taken to the orphanage, which it appears from other records convict women were keen to avoid. Interestingly Mary Ann had no further convictions, but do not know whether she saw any more of her child. Family tradition suggests that she might not have done, although she and Henry could have been together for a short time after she came out. He married Catherine Elizabeth Johnstone later, in 1854. She had a child Sarah by John Anderson in 1852 after she had competed her sentence of 10 years transportation in 1851. She registered that birth under the name of Clark. She was married to John Anderson the following year 1853 using the name Mary Ann Clark, and there are no more records with name Mary Ann Ray and no convictions under the Clark name. She had another child named Francis (after her brother “Francis in Sheffield” which “Mary Ann Ray” gave as her only relative at the time of arrival in 1842) but that child died soon after birth. It appears possible, but by no means certain, that John Anderson died in 1858, but there are two other Anderson births of which she could have been the mother, whether or not he was the father. She lived on for about another 30 years and died in Launceston of “senility” at the “Invalid Depot” in 1886 and nothing more has been discovered of her life.

Catherine Mack appears to have married a few years after the convict episodes we have noted, but it is difficult to tell which of several women is the same person. There is no tradition concerning her in what has been passed on the family, and it appears likely that the relationship between her and Mary Ann Ray/Clark belonged only to peculiar institutional circumstances of two convict women at a particular stage of their otherwise separate lives, although it could have begun early in the criminal subculture of Liverpool. Her name Catherine, however, lives on in the family of Thomas and Catherine Beswick, my great grandparents. They had a daughter Catherine who married Oscar Bottcher. In the present generation, my first cousin Graeme Beswick has a daughter named Catherine.

David Beswick, October 2002.