Hannah Mack, ex Panama
Hannah Mack, age 19, was from Westport. Her parents, James and Mary, were both dead.
On her arrival in Sydney on the Panama, Hannah was hired by E. D. Thomson, at £8 for one year (see Irish Famine Memorial Database).
Edward Deas Thomson was a powerful parliamentarian; he was the Colonial Secretary for New South Wales, and adviser to Governor Sir Charles FitzRoy. Thomson lived with his family at Barham Villa, in Darlinghurst in Sydney, until his death in 1879.
In hiring Hannah Mack, Thomson may have been attracted the fact that she professed to be of the Church of England, and that she could read and write.
However, on 6 July 1851, writing from his residence of Barham , Thomson was seeking the cancellation of Hannah Mack's indentures:
“...in consequence of her repeated misconduct. She not only systematically neglects her duty, and disobeys the orders which are given to her, but absents herself in the evening for hours together; although I have myself personally warned her against such serious impropriety of conduct. It is because I feel the sacred obligation which is imposed upon me by the conditions of her apprenticeship, and the impossibility, from her intractable temper and habits of disobedience and irregularity, of satisfactorily fulfilling them, that I am so desirous of ridding myself of the responsibility of longer retaining her in my service.”
(McClaughlin, 2001, p. 109)
It is quite extraordinary to think of one of the most powerful politicians in New South Wales having to deal with a recalcitrant Mayo orphan girl.
Thomson's claims bring up many questions. For example, the reasons behind what is described as Hannah’s “repeated misconduct”, in what would at first impressions be an ideal working environment; was the workplace or the employer the problem, or was there an issue with Hannah herself?
It is known that Thomson hired at least one other Irish orphan girl, Maria Fury from Galway, ex Thomas Arbuthnot, who was employed as a cook (see Irish Famine Memorial Database).
The fate of Hannah Mack after she was returned to Hyde Park Barracks is unknown.
© Barbara Barclay (2015)