The Inchinnan departed Plymouth on 4 November 1848 and arrived in Sydney on 13 February 1849, with 164 orphans from ten counties: Donegal, Dublin, Fermanagh, Galway, Kildare, King’s (Offaly), Leitrim, Mayo, Roscommon, and Sligo. Records show that 22 Mayo orphan girls were on the Inchinnan to Sydney, however at this stage the confirmed list (to right) only contains 21 names.
The Mayo girls on the Inchinnan were all from the Ballina workhouse (Ballina was the only Mayo workhouse to participate in the first year of the Emigration Scheme).
On arrival in Sydney, the Immigration Agent recorded the 'Native Place' for each of the girls. The Mayo orphan girls gave either the name of the workhouse (Ballina), or their town, townland, or parish of origin. A map showing the location of these places can be found on The Mayo Girls page.
Any information on individual girls, if available, can be accessed by clicking on the underlined names to the right.
Eighteen of the Inchinnan girls, aged between 14 to 17 years, including three known to be from Mayo, were dispatched in two groups to be hired as apprentices to Maitland, north-west of Sydney, with the Maitland Mercury reporting their arrival at the East Maitland Immigration Depot (7 and 31 March 1849). The Mercury notes the particular requirements of hiring an Irish orphan girl. The apprentice indenture forms, though resembling ordinary indentures:
“provide more particularly for the religious and moral welfare of the apprentice, for whom every requisite except clothing is to be found by her employer”
The terms of the apprenticeship specified by the Orphan Immigration Committee were also reported: those aged 15 for four years at £8 per annum (pa), those aged 16 for three years at £9 pa, and aged 17 for two years at £10 pa, and that these apprenticeships cease should the apprentice marry.
The length of these apprenticeships was later seen to be a hindrance. On 23 January 1850, the Maitland Mercury reported, following the cancelling of indentures of Mayo orphan girl Bridget Kearney, ex Inchinnan, that:
“The folly of binding these girls for such long periods as has hitherto been the rule appears to have become obvious at last even to the authorities in Sydney, as the instructions received relative to the ten girls, ex Panama, which arrived in Maitland on Thursday last, are to bind four as apprentices for one year, and to engage the six others in the ordinary way as servants, each at £8 per year wages.”
Shortly after the arrival of the Inchinnan the Australian newspapers were reporting the scandal arising from the treatment of the orphan girls on the journey, and in particular, to the assault on Mary Stephens from Castlebar, Co Mayo, by Alexander Taylor, the Chief Mate of the ship (Sydney Morning Herald, 8 March 1849). On 7 March, at the Central Criminal Court, Mary Stephens alleged that following a verbal altercation on the Inchinnan, Alexander Taylor had thrown her down on the deck and hit her with his hand and a broom, as well as kicked her. Mary Stephens was cross-examined in court, along with other witnesses, including orphan Mary Barrett from Addergoole in Co Mayo, who corroborated Mary Stephens’ evidence. Taylor was found by the jury to be guilty of assault, and Mr Justice Manning commented on “the unmanliness of the action… particularly on those who were helpless and unprotected”. However it was acknowledged that there was provocation from Mary Stephens, and taking into account Taylor’s general good character, he was fined £5 (Sydney Morning Herald, 12 March 1849).
The newspaper coverage of the case continued, following the revelation of the lack of action by the Surgeon-Superintendent of the ship, Dr William Ramsay, to the assault when told about it by Taylor, and his own admitted forms of punishment on the ship (Sydney Morning Herald 9, 12, 14, 16 and 17 March 1849 and Maitland Mercury 14 March 1849). The Maitland Mercury described the punishment:
“…to take the offender and put her in men’s trousers, and then to expose her in the most conspicuous part of the vessel, to the derision of the crew and others, and to the obscene jests to which on board ship such a spectacle must give rise”
In addition, Dr Ramsay suggested a suitable chastisement would be to have belts made to go round the girls’ waists and then “to sling them up to the yard-arm”. Unrepentant, Dr Ramsay defended his actions a series of letters written to the Sydney Morning Herald. That newspaper responded by describing the punishment as being “indecent and indelicate… to be subjected to derision, scorn, and filthy language, was unpardonable and offensive”, and called for an enquiry. Dr Ramsay again defended his actions as “punishments inflicted… for repeated acts of insubordination”.
No further responses to the incidents were uncovered, however the actions of both Dr Ramsay, and of the Mayo orphan girl, Mary Stephens, are significant. Dr Ramsay’s emphasis on discipline (whatever of his methods of enforcement), reflect the importance placed by the Colonial Land and Emigration Commissioners on the Surgeon-Superintendent’s responsibility for the health and welfare of the girls.
It is impossible to know whether Mary Stephens instigated or was pressured to make formal accusations against Alexander Taylor. Nonetheless, the fact remains that within a few weeks of arrival in Sydney, Mary Stephens from Castlebar, Co Mayo, was giving evidence to the Central Criminal Court in Sydney, in a case that drew public attention to herself, as well as the Irish orphan girls of the Inchinnan.
Name Native Place
Mary Barrett Addergoole
Biddy Bourke Ballina
Ellen Cafferty Ballina
Margaret Cafferty Ballina
Ann Clark Ballina
Biddy Cunningham Kilfian Parish
Sally Cunningham Kilfian Parish
Biddy Geraghty Not recorded
Mary Goff Crossmolina
Mary Haggerty Ballina
Catherine Horan Lacken Parish
Nancy Horan Lacken Parish
Bridget Kearney Ballina
Judith Kearney Crossmolina
Mary Kelly Ballina
Jane Maughan Cooneal
Ann McDermott Ballina
Catherine Mulligan Belmullet
Mary O'Brien Ballina
Mary Stephens Castlebar
Ellen Walsh Ballina
© Barbara Barclay (2015)