Convict - 'Hector' 1835
Ellen Donovan : Alias Margaret Holland, Anne Murphy. Real name reported to be Ellen
Background: Most of what we know about Ellen comes from her convict records. She is
known to have used aliases. Ellen was born about 1817/1818, possibly between April and
October, calculated from her age given in her convict records. They also give her real name
was Ellen Murphy although all of her convict records are under the surname of Donovan. A
possible birth and baptism therefore is Ellen Murphy born 29th January 1818, baptised
25th May 1825 at St Dunstan Stepney. Father John Murphy, a master mariner and mother
Ellen were from Mile End Old Town. Later, after her second marriage, Ellen gives her
maiden name as Raycroft [and variations] With this in mind, it is possible that her mother
remarried as per the following registration: Ellen Murphy, widow married Benjamin
Raycroft [sic] widower, on 27th November 1831 at St Pancras, Old St Pancras, Camden.
Witnesses Mary Murphy and John Yates. Both parties signed with x. Benjamin Raycroft was
a farrier and records show that Ellen senior went on to have more children.
Ellen would later use her step fathers surname Raycroft as her maiden name when
registering her children from her second marriage to John Speight. This scenario would also
fit with the tattoo ER and JM on Ellen's arm. ER were her mother's initials at the time and
JM were her father's. Such tattoos were not uncommon amongst convicts.
Previous Convictions: Ellen had been in trouble with the Law twice before. Her first
conviction appears to be in 1831 when she would have been about 14. On April 18th, Ellen
Donovan and Ellen Haggerty, charged with passing counterfeit money: statements from
Arabella Needham, daughter of the keeper of the Ship and Shears, Shadwell; Edward Scarf,
barman at the Duke of York, Shadwell; and Joseph Barden, police constable. She was
acquitted of this charge.
Ellen's second conviction was in June 1834 under the name Margaret Holland, otherwise
Ellen Donovan, when she was accused by James Mott, foreman to David Cameron,
pawnbroker, of 318 Strand, of attempting to pass counterfeit money. She was sentenced to
three months imprisonment.
Conviction: On 6th April 1835, Ellen appeared before the Central Criminal Court of London
charged with uttering Base Coin. She had been tried twice before for a similar offence; once
acquitted, the second time spending three months in prison.
Old Bailey Online website transcript of trial:
ELLEN DONOVAN, Royal Offence - coining offences, 6th April 1835.
1073. ELLEN DONOVAN was indicted for feloniously uttering a counterfeit half-crown, she
having been previously convicted at a common utterer of counterfeit coin ( read).
HON. MR. SCARLETTandMR. ELLIS conducted the Prosecution.
CALEB EDWARD POWELL . I am assistant to the Solicitor to the Mint. I produce a copy of
the record of the conviction of Ellen Donovan—I have examined it—it is a true copy. (read)
JOHN FISHWICK SUMMERSELL . I am turnkey of the House of Correction—I was at the
prisoner's trial, in June, 1834—she was sentenced to three months' imprisonment, and was
confined that time—she was sentenced woman I saw tried and convicted.
HENRY ANDREWS . I am a butcher, and live in Oxford-street. On the 14th of February,
between one and two o'clock in the afternoon, the prisoner came to my shop, and asked
what my beef-steak was a pound—I said, seven-pence—she told me to cut her a pound,
which I did—she gave me a crown, and I gave her 4s. 5d. change—I put the crown into my
bowl—there was no other crown there—I went to it again in two minutes, and saw it was
bad—I put it into the till of my desk—my wife had access to it, and no other person—I saw
the prisoner again that day fortnight—she came and asked for half a pound of beef-steaks, at
seven-pence, for which she gave me a half-crown—I knew her as the person who had given
me the crown—I observed the half-crown—I saw it was bad, and as she opened her hand, I
saw she had another half-crown in it and some halfpence—I said, "This is a bad half-crown,
and you know it"—she said she did not—I said, "You were here with a bad crown a fortnight
ago—she said I was a liar, she had never been in the shop—I gave her into custody, and gave
the crown and the half-crown to the officer.
Cross-examined byMR. PAYNE. Q. Did not your wife, in your presence, say she was not the
person? A. No; she said she could not tell whether she was or not, but my servant would
have sworn to her if necessary—I knew her by her face—she had on the same cloak—I did
not say at the office that I swore to her by her cloak—my servant said she had the same
cloak on, but not the same bonnet, or if she had, she had changed her ribbons—I am certain
she is the person—I could have picked her out in any crowd.
SARAH ANDREWS . I am the prosecutor's wife. On the 14th of February, the prisoner came
for a pound of beef-steaks—I was not there when she gave the crown-piece—I saw it—my
husband put it into the desk—I had access to the desk, but I did not take the crown out.
Cross-examined. Q. Does any one go to it but you and your husband? A. No—my husband
called me to know if the prisoner was the person who gave the crown—I said, I believed she
was, but I could not swear to her—I saw her but for a minute.
MICHAEL FOX (police-constable C 117.) I was on duty on the 28th, and was called to take
the prisoner—I have the two pieces of counterfeit coin—the prisoner was asked her place of
residence—she said, "Any where"—the other half-crown which she had in her hand was
missing when we got to the station-house.
Cross-examined. Q. How do you know these are the two pieces you received from the
prosecutor? A. I have had them ever since locked up in a box.
JOHN FIELD . I am inspector of counterfeit coin to the Mint. These are both counterfeit.
Prisoner's Defence. When I took the half-crown, he sounded it several times, and said he was
no judge of money, for he had taken a bad crown that day fortnight—I said it was a bad job—
he then said, "I really believe you are the girl—you gave me the bad crown;" and he called
his wife, who said, I was not the person—he then called his servant, who said I was the
person, for she knew me by my cloak.
GUILTY . Aged 17.— Transported for Seven Years.
Ellen was found guilty on 6th April 1835 and sentenced to seven years transportation. Ellen
was 17 years old at the time, single and had been living in Southwark for 2 1/2 years.
Physical Description: [from Description List]
Name: Ellen Donovan of Southwark
Trade: Nursery maid and plain needle woman
Height without shoes: 4 foot 11 1/4 inches
Hair: Dark Brown
Eyebrows: Dark Brown
Mouth: M.W. [medium width?]
Remarks: ER, JM left arm [probably tattoos] Slightly freckled.
Ellen could not read or write. She would later sign her marriage certificate with an X
Transportation: Ellen was transported to Tasmania aboard the Hector, which departed
London [Woolwich] on 13th June, 1835 and arrived in Hobart on 19/20th October, 1835. On
board were 134 female convicts who were all landed after the 129 day voyage. G.M Smith
was the master. Morgan Price was the surgeon. Ellen's name does not appear in the
Surgeon's journal. On arrival in Tasmania Ellen was assigned to [Mr] Tyson.
1835 Muster - assigned to Mr Fletcher
1841 Muster - records Ellen as being deceased however this is an error. It appears that
this was copied from the earlier 1835 muster which records a woman named Elizabeth Day
per Hector as having died in 1840. Her names is directly above Ellen's and the notation is
written under her name.
25th January 1836: Absent without official leave, six days solitary confinement on bread and
20th March 1837: Absent with leave. Reprimanded /JC/
12th July 1837: Disobedience of orders and insolence, seven days solitary confinement on
bread and water /WF/
27th December 1837: Disorderly conduct in jumping over the fence and remaining away all
night. 3 months Crime Class /WF/
23rd April 1838: Out after hours. Reprimanded /WF/
30th April 1838 Absenting herself without leave and remaining absent all night. 14 days
solitary confinement on bread and water /WF/
26th September 1838 Absent without official leave and disobedience of orders in refusing to
return to service. 20 days solitary confinement on bread and water /FLC/ At this time Ellen
was assigned to Mr Parker who was also her future husband William Smith's employer.
Certificate of Freedom granted 17th March 1854. This is much later than her initial
sentence of seven years. As convicts had to apply for the certificates of freedom, it is possible
that Ellen simply didn't do this until 1854.
|New information on Ellen's birth, death and second marriage in Tasmania