A life of crime

The photographing of prisoners was introduced into New South Wales gaols in 1871. This 1875 record contains a rare and revealing photograph of a former Imperial convict, a prisoner again in her old age.

Margaret Greenwood was originally transported as Margaret Shannahan on the Caroline from Cork in 1833, under a sentence of seven years for house robbery. Her occupation was listed as housemaid, and she was aged 17 at the time of her trial. She was assigned as a domestic servant, gave birth to a daughter in 1837, and three years later married the child’s father (William Greenwood ), a ‘greatly respected’ citizen of the Araluen district.
However, by the 1870s her life was falling apart. Her husband had died tragically in a carting accident, and she seems to have been abandoned by her eight surviving adult children. She became a derelict, and embarked on a life of petty crime (being tried and convicted on 12 different occasions for a variety of offences). As the gaol record notes, she was killed in a tram accident on 18 May 1887.

Source: NRS 2138, Corrective Services, Darlinghurst Gaol: Photograph description books 1871-1930, entry for Margaret Greenwood, (formerly an imperial convict), 1875 [3/6040, no. 1219]


Prisoner’s Name Margaret Greenwood
Number on Gaol Register 1178/75 Previous Number
Where Born Ireland
Year of Birth 1815
Arrived in the Colony  Ship Not known
Trade or Occupation previous to conviction Nil
Religion RC
Colour of           Hair Brown & Grey
Eyes Blue
Portrait taken 19th March 1875
Prison History
Braidwood Quarter Sessions 1 May 1872 Arson 2 years Labor
Summary Braidwood 6 mos L
Police Office Sydney 30 Dec 1874 Drunk 4 days Conf
Ditto          Ditto 12 Jan 1875 Stealing 1 month L
Police Office Araluen 2 Dec 1867 Attempt at arson 2 mos C. Braidwood Gaol
” “ 22 Dec 1868 Larceny 3 mos L “
” “ 6 June 1869 Illegally on Premises 6 mos L “
” “ 11 Feb 1870 Obscene language 1 mos C “
” “ 16 Nov “ Having stolen property 2 mos L {
Braidwood Quarter Sessions 5 Dec 1870 Prison Escape 12 mos Impt “
Sydney Quarter Sessions 6 Apl 1875 Larceny 2 counts 2 years HL
4 Apl 1877 Sentence expired
Qr Sessions Syd 25 Sep 1880 Stealing 2 years L
26 May 1882 Sentence remitted
Killed by tram accident
on the 18 May 87
particulars of her history fowd
to Coroner 20 May 87

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