Clare County Library
Clare Genealogy

Donated Material: Family Histories

The Story of Mary Ann Jane Warrant - an Orphan from Kilrush and a Mother of Australia

Title: The Story of Mary Ann Jane Warrant - an Orphan from Kilrush and a Mother of Australia  
Mary Ann Warrant
Mary Ann Jane Warrant.
Courtesy Tasmanian Archives.
Type of Material: Family History

Creegh South; Kilrush Workhouse; Tasmania.

Family Names: Warrant; Hoare; Hogan; Greene; Daly; Woulfe; Keily; Beard.
Dates: 1833 - 1892
Author/Donator: Ian Beard (Great-grandson of Mary Ann Jane Warrant)

Author’s Note:

The interest in my family’s history was sparked back in 2000 when my Father found out at the age of 77 that his parents had never married. His Sister had obtained her Birth Certificate while preparing a Passport application in which she was described as “illegitimate”. Dad had then obtained his birth certificate where it was discovered that his Mother had falsified her maiden surname and marriage information. When I asked him what he knew about his family, he told me that his father was from Tasmania and his mother was of German parentage, born in South Australia and that was all. His Brother and Sisters likewise knew nothing of the family’s past and had in fact been warned off digging it up. My Mother new nothing of her Father’s lineage as he had abandoned the family when she was born and she had been brought up in a step family.

It wasn’t until I retired in 2008 that I was able to start researching my origins. Dad had by that time also obtained his Mother’s Birth Certificate which revealed that her mother’s maiden name was Bridget Clara Therese Hoare and her father’s name was Herman Stade. The Stades originated from what was then Prussia and came to Australia in 1844 via a failed immigration scheme centred at Nelson, New Zealand.

Bridget Hoare’s family (Patrick, his wife, Anna Hogan and sons Patrick & Michael) migrated to South Australia in 1854 aboard the “Fortune” and were listed as “Irish” on the Passenger Manifest. They settled at Kapunda in S.A.

Mum’s paternal family also turned out to be Irish with the surname Green. Her father, John William Green’s paternal grand-parents, Michael John Green & his wife Maria (nee Daly) came to Australia in 1870 aboard the migrant ship “Corona” and settled in Heidelberg, Victoria. His maternal grand-parents were Florence Woulfe and his wife Bridget Keily. They were both London born but of Irish extraction and arrived in Victoria in 1854 aboard the “Maria Hay”.

Mary Warrant was much harder to track down. Her marriage certificate spelled her surname “Warren” and because she was illiterate she would not have known if that was correct or not. The Birth Records for her first 4 children list her maiden surname as “Warren” but the next 7 list it as “Warrant”. It wasn’t until July 2012 that released the “Beulah” and “Calcutta” records that I finally discovered her origins in Creegh South, Co. Clare.

Mary’s Story:

George Warrant and his family lived in the Townland of Creegh South in the parish of Kilmacduane, County Clare, Ireland. He, his wife, four sons and daughter, Mary Ann farmed a small 7 acre holding that he rented from Timothy Kelly.[1] He had lived there at least since 1825 where he is shown as paying a tithe of seven shillings and eight pence ha’penny.[2]

Along with their contemporaries the family must have suffered terribly with the onset of the Great Famine in 1845. Their plight became intolerable when they were thrown out of their dwelling on the 14th of August 1848. The Record states that it was at that time a family of seven consisting of 5 males and two females, most likely George, his wife, four sons and a daughter. [3] We can only imagine the privations the family suffered. However, an eye-witness report to the Poor Law Commissioners based at Somerset House in London dated July 5 1848 from Captain Arthur Edward Kennedy, a government official charged with representing the Commission in County Clare, is a graphic description of the condition of those dispossessed.

Among other things he states:
“that destitution has been increased and its character fearfully aggravated by the system of wholesale evictions which has been adopted; that a fearful amount of disease and mortality has also resulted from the same causes … I have painful experience of it daily...”
“The wretchedness, ignorance, and helplessness of the poor on the western coast of this Union prevent them seeking a shelter elsewhere; and to use their own phrase, they "don’t know where to face;" they linger about the localities for weeks or months, burrowing behind the ditches, under a few broken rafters of their former dwelling, refusing to enter the workhouse till the parents are broken down and the children half starved, when they come into the workhouse to swell the mortality, one by one.”
“Those who obtain a temporary shelter in adjoining cabins are not more fortunate. Fever and dysentery shortly make their appearance when those affected are put out by the road-side, as carelessly and ruthlessly as if they were animals; when frequently, after days and nights of exposure, they are sent in by relieving officers when in a hopeless state. These inhuman acts are induced by the popular terror of fever”.
“The misery attendant upon these wholesale and simultaneous evictions is frequently aggravated by hunting these ignorant, helpless creatures off the property, from which they may perhaps have never wandered five miles.”
“I have known some ruthless acts committed by drivers and sub-agents, but no doubt according to law, however repulsive to humanity; wretched hovels pulled down, where the inmates were in a helpless state of fever and nakedness, and left by the road side for days.”
“…creatures of the most helpless class, have been left houseless in one day, and the suffering and misery resulting therefrom attributed to insufficient relief or mal-administration of the law…”
“The evicted crowd into the back lanes and wretched hovels of the towns and villages, scattering disease and dismay in all directions. …I, not long since, found a widow whose three children were in fever, occupying the piggery of their former cabin, which lay beside them in ruins; however incredible it may appear, this place where they had lived for weeks, measured 5 feet by 4 feet, and of corresponding height…her piggery was knocked down as soon as her children were able to crawl out on recovery: and she has now gone forth a wanderer. “
“There are considerable numbers in this Union at present houseless, or still worse, living in places unfit for human habitation where disease will be constantly generated.
The workhouse has been frequently swamped by this class, and the hospital and infirmary must be so while such a state of things exists.”
“A great number of temporary huts which have been erected are altogether insufficient for shelter in the winter months”
. [4]

So incensed was Kennedy by the mistreatment of the poor in Kilrush he was later quoted as saying that during his time in County Clare that there were times when after returning home and reflecting on the events he had witnessed, that should he have met a Landlord, he would have reached for his gun and shot him!

How and when George Warrant and his wife met their end is unknown, likewise the fate of the other four males in the household, but we do know that George’s daughter Mary Ann Jane, now an orphan, ended up an inmate of the Kilrush Workhouse. Her time there must have also been a nightmare. From the 25th of March 1850 to the 25th March 1851 a total of 1,640 people died from the ravages of starvation, disease and exposure at that workhouse alone! Ages of the dead raged from one day to 86 years of age.[5] How Mary Ann, aged 18 in 1851, survived the hellish conditions there nobody knows. But survive she did.

In a far flung corner of the British Empire, “beyond the seas”, from an Island prison known as Van Diemen’s Land (now Tasmania) a call had gone out for more women. The British government saw this as an opportunity to relieve the overcrowding of the Irish Workhouses and to provide the penal colony with some fresh female blood to work as domestic servants and provide wives for those in the colony who required them.

Mary Ann was among forty five female orphans aged between eighteen and twenty three years of age from Kilrush who were considered healthy and fit enough to make the gruelling journey across Ireland to Dublin where they would be shipped to the English port of Plymouth before being transhipped to their new home in the far flung Antipodes.

Early in May of 1851, Mary Ann Jane and her fellow migrants were loaded into horse-drawn carts and transported some fifty miles from the Union workhouse at Kilrush to the railway station at Limerick. At the same time another 107 girls from the Ennistymon, Ennis, and Ballyvaughan Workhouses joined the exodus. All 152 girls then travelled by train to the North Wall at Dublin where they were transferred to the English port of Plymouth. On arrival at Plymouth the girls were joined by ten more from the Portsea Island Workhouse in Hampshire. They were accommodated in the Government Emigration Depot on the Baltic Wharf until they were finally loaded aboard the three-masted, 507-ton sailing ship Beulah. On 15 July 1851 all 162 workhouse girls together with seven married couples and eight children embarked on their epic journey, which would last for a day short of sixteen weeks and finish at the Old Wharf at Hobart in Van Diemen’s Land.[6]

Their voyage by all accounts was relatively uneventful; a newspaper report in the Hobart Courier on Saturday 30 August 1851 gave the following account:


THIS fine vessel, with female immigrants, arrived in our harbour on the evening of Thursday, after a good passage from Plymouth, having on board 204 persons, one of whom has come out to join her husband in this colony.

The Surgeon-Superintendent, John Arthur, Esq , and Capt. Linton, the commander of the Beulah, speak highly as to the conduct and character of the immigrants, who are all of a very healthy appearance, and in good spirits. Of the single females, whose ages vary from 18 to 23, 44 are from Kilrush, 50 from Ennistymon, 55 from Ennis, 2 from Ballyvaghn, in Ireland, and 10 from Portsea, in England. The others, about 40, consist of the schoolmaster and wife, a matron, four submatrons, and married immigrants with their families.

The general arrangements of the ship appear to have been carried out with great credit to all parties.
These immigrants have been sent out by the Colonial Land and Emigration Commissioners, and the expenses are to be paid out of the sum of the £10,000), which has been specially voted by the House of Commons for Emigration to Van Diemen's Land.

'The Committee of the Tasmanian Female Immigrtion Association hope to be enabled to land them early next week, as the Building on the Old Wharf will be ready for their reception. We are further enabled to state that the Committee do not purpose hiring any from the ship, but Immediately upon their landing, and the arrangements are completed, due notice of hiring will be given. ln the meantime applications may be forwarded to the Honorary Secretary, at Capt. King's Office, where many have been already (been) received.

We may mention that the Lieutenant-Governor has received a despatch from Earl Grey,
[7] under date 15th April last, suggesting the formation of a Committee, as the colonists have already done.[8]

After disembarkation the girls were accommodated in a converted warehouse originally built for the Leith Australian Company on the Old Wharf at Hobart. The girls were accommodated at the Emigration Depot until they were placed in employment. (Today the Depot is an up-market seafood restaurant called The Drunken Admiral). Despite their lack of training and education, all the girls found jobs easily. Mary Ann Jane was selected by Mr James Erskine Calder, the Assistant Surveyor General at the time to work as a household servant.[9] Calder was well acquainted with Dr. James Willson Agnew, the Assistant Colonial Surgeon. Agnew and Calder were both members of the Royal Academy and shared a keen interest in the welfare of the aboriginal population of the island. Quite likely he was also a patient of Dr. Agnew as he suffered badly from rheumatism, the long years of arduous work and exposure having ruined his constitution. His wife was also very ill to the extent that in 1852 he had to take leave for eighteen months on half-pay to help look after her.[10]

1853 was an eventful year for Mary Warrant.

Mary was still employed by Mr James Erskine Calder. She had formed a relationship with William Edward Beard, a Convict serving a life sentence. William had been a Liveried Coachman in London before his demise and was also a skilled carpenter and wheelwright. He was employed by Dr. James Willson Agnew and most likely met Mary Ann on a number of occasions when Dr. Agnew visited Mr. Calder. About the middle of 1853, Mary Ann fell pregnant with William’s child. This presented a problem to the couple. Convicts were not able to marry without the permission of the Colonial Authorities and they also took a dim view of convicts cohabiting with free women.

To get married William needed to obtain a Ticket-of-Leave and permission to marry; this obviously took time. With Dr Agnew’s help, William was granted his Ticket-of-Leave on the 25th of October[11] and permission to marry on the 29th of November 1853.[12] The marriage banns then had to be read out in Church on three consecutive Sundays. William and Mary Ann Jane were finally wed on January 9, 1854 at St. George's Church, Battery Point, Hobart, by the Reverend Doctor, Henry Phibbs Fry.[13] Thirty days later on the 8th of February 1854, William and Mary’s first child, a son, was born. He was christened James Wilson in honour of the good doctor.[14]

The year 1864 marked a major change in the life of the Beard Family. William had been granted an unconditional pardon on the 14th of August 1855[15] and continued to be employed by Dr Agnew. The family continued to expand, a second son followed, born on the 2nd of August 1855 and named William Edward.[16] Other children quickly followed; Esther Jane was born on the 27 March 1857[17] but died at the age of 6 months on the 28th of November the same year after suffering a convulsion.[18] 1858 saw the birth of Charles Arthur on the 28th of September,[19] he also only saw a short life, a victim of whooping cough, passing away eight months later on the 7th of June 1859.[20] A stillborn girl was also born to William and Mary on the 7th of October 1860.[21] Robert Harrod Beard was born in Hobart on the 1st of February 1863.[22]

The year 1858 had seen the establishment of a Municipal Police Force in Hobart and the District of Clarence. It soon became clear that there were not enough “free” people in the Colony to make up the numbers required. Ex-convicts with good character references were soon accepted as constables.

By the time Emily Martha was born on the 30th of March 1865,[23] William Edward was serving as a police constable at Sorell, about 26 kilometres north-east of Hobart.

William and Mary Ann’s next child, a daughter, named Florence was born on the 17th February 1867. [24]

In 1869 William was appointed as Constable at the Kangaroo Point Police Station, Bellerive.[25]

On the 6th of January 1870 another son, Thomas Hornsby Leffi (the author’s grandfather) was born at the Kangaroo Point Police Station.[26]

Internal friction among members of the Police had been rife and in April of 1870 it was decided at a meeting of the Clarence Council on the 30th of that month to completely reorganise the Force. The plan was to dismiss all officers and invite them to reapply for their positions, thus weeding out the troublemakers in the selection process. William Edward was either unsuccessful or had had enough of policing. Whatever the case his last day at Kangaroo Point was the 31st of May 1870 and the family moved back to Hobart Town.

William once again found employment as a wheelwright and by the 19th of August 1872 when their tenth child, a daughter named Ann Alice Elizabeth[27] was born, the family was living at Campbell Street in Hobart. 1874 saw the birth of the last child to William Edward and Mary Ann Jane, their eleventh, a son Frederick Jesse born at Hobart on the 16th of June. [28]

Tragedy struck the Beard family in Hobart with the death of young Florence who succumbed to the effects of a bout of Scarlet Fever on the 28th of February 1877; [29] she was just 10 years old. Mary was by now 44 years of age and William 63. The only known photographs of Mary and William were taken about this time. Mary is shown dressed in mourning clothes; sadness and sorrow are etched into her face. William is seated in a suit complete with waistcoat. Hanging from his neck is a pair of pince-nez spectacles and pinned through the cravat at his throat is a brooch in the shape of an upturned horseshoe, held in his left hand is a sprig of Rosemary. The inverted horseshoe and Rosemary were common Victorian mourning symbols.

The winter of 1887 saw the end of William Edward Beard’s life. On the 27th of June he passed away from the effects of Chronic Bronchitis at the home of his son, Robert Harrod. [30] He was interred with his daughter, Florence, at the Cornelian Bay Cemetery, New Town, Tasmania. In his 73 years he had lived virtually two lives, one in London, England and one on the other side of the world in Tasmania. While nothing could wipe away the stain of his convict past, and the possible hardship that his London wife, Sophia, four daughters and two sons must have suffered, his seven surviving Australian children all grew up and became responsible citizens, raising families of their own.

Mary Ann Jane (Warrant) lived on for another five years before succumbing to the effects of a bout of pneumonia on the 24th of July 1892.[31] She was aged 59. Mary was also laid to rest at the Cornelian Bay Cemetery along with William Edward and Florence.


1.Reports and Returns Relating to Evictions in the Kilrush Union Page 22.

2. Tithe Applotment Books for Ireland, 1825.

3. Reports and Returns Relating to Evictions in the Kilrush Union Page 22.

4. Reports and Returns Relating to Evictions in the Kilrush Union Page 7.

5. Return of Deaths in Kilrush and Ennistymon Workhouses and Hospitals, March 1850-51, with Observation of Medical Officer, Dietary in Workhouses, and Correspondence. [link to]

6.Certificates of Final Departure of Vessels Leaving England, Nominally Listing Immigrants for Hobart; Film: SLTX/AO/MB/267; Series: CB7/11.

7. Henry George Grey, 3rd Earl Grey (28 December 1802 – 9 October 1894), known as Viscount Howick from 1807 until 1845, was Secretary of State for War and the Colonies from 6 July 1846 – 21 February 1852.

8. The Courier (Hobart, Tasmania), Saturday 30 August 1851, Page 2.

9. Archives Office of Tasmania; Tasmania, Australia; Reports of ships arrivals with lists of passengers; Film Number: SLTX/AO/MB/5; Series Number: MB2/39/1/13.

10. The Australian Dictionary of Biography.

11. Tasmanian Archives - CON33/1/87 Page 13

12. Tasmanian Archives - CON52/6 RGD37/13 : 1854/287

13. Australia Marriage Index, 1788-1950 – Registration Year: 1854 Registration number: 287.

14. Australia Birth Index, 1788-1922 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2010.

15. Settlers and Convicts, New South Wales and Tasmania; (The National Archives Microfilm Publication HO10, Pieces 31, 52-64); The National Archives of the UK (TNA), Kew, Surrey, England.

16. Australia Birth Index, 1788-1922 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2010.

17. Australia Birth Index, 1788-1922 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2010.

18. Australia Death Index, 1787-1985 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2010.

19. Australia Birth Index, 1788-1922 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2010.

20. Australia Death Index, 1787-1985 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2010.

21. Australia Birth Index, 1788-1922 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2010.

22. Australia Birth Index, 1788-1922 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2010.

23. Australia Birth Index, 1788-1922 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2010.

24. Australia Birth Index, 1788-1922 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2010.

25. The Mercury (Hobart, Tasmania), Monday 31 May 1869, Page 2.

26. Australia Birth Index, 1788-1922 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2010.

27. Australia Birth Index, 1788-1922 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2010.

28. Australia Birth Index, 1788-1922 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2010.

29. Australia Death Index, 1787-1985 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2010.

30. The Mercury (Hobart, Tasmania) Saturday 9 July 1887 Page 15.

31. The Mercury (Hobart, Tasmania), Saturday 30 July 1892, Page 4.

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