Mary Ann Wade (5 October 1777 – 17 December 1859) was only 11 years old when transported to Australia as the youngest convict aboard the Lady Juliana as part of the Second Fleet. Her family grew to include five generations and over 300 descendants in her own lifetime and today number in the tens of thousands.
Early years in London
Mary was born on 5 October 1777 at Southwark, London to Mary English and George Wade of Westminster, Middlesex and then christened on 21 December 1777 at Saint Olave, Southwark, Surrey, England. She spent her days sweeping the streets of London as a means of begging. On 5 October 1788, Mary with another child, Jane Whiting, 14 years old, stole the clothes (one cotton frock, one linen tippet, one linen cap) from Mary Phillips, an 8 year old, who at the time was collecting water in a bottle at a privy. They then sold the frock to a pawnbroker. Mary was reported by another child to an Officer of the Law who later found the tippet in Mary’s room whereupon she was arrested and placed in Bridewell Prison. Her trial was held on 14 January 1789 at the Old Bailey, where she was found guilty and was sentenced to death by hanging.
On 11 March 1789, King George III was proclaimed cured of an unnamed madness; it is assumed that he suffered from porphyria, a degenerative mental disease. Five days later, in the spirit of celebration, all the women on death row, including Mary Wade, had their sentences commuted to penal transportation to Australia. She spent 93 days in the Newgate Prison before being transported on the Lady Juliana to Australia, which was the first convict ship to hold a cargo made up entirely of women and children. After an 11-month voyage across the ocean, the ship arrived at Sydney on 3 June 1790 and Wade was sent on to Norfolk Island aboard the Surprise, arriving on 7 August 1790.
Life in Australia
She had two children on Norfolk Island, Sarah to Teague (Edward) Harrigan, an emancipated Irish transportee in 1793 and William in 1795, who is believed to be Jonathan Brooker’s son. When they arrived back in Sydney, Mary lived with Teague Harrigan, with whom she had another son, Edward, in their tent on the banks of the Tank Stream in Sydney in 1803. Teague left to go on a whaling expedition in 1806 and never returned.
Marriage and family
Mary lived with Jonathan Brooker near the Hawkesbury River from 1809. It was here that Mary raised her family which numbered 21 children, seven of whom lived to have their own children. Jonathan was given his Certificate of Freedom in February 1811 and then given a grant of 60 acres (240,000 m2) at Tarrawanna, New South Wales by Governor Macquarie. Mary finally received her Certificate of Freedom on the first of September 1812. In 1816 they settled on the property of Airds (made up of the modern suburbs of Airds, Bradbury, St Helens Park, Rosemeadow, among others) in Campbelltown, New South Wales with their family. Mary married Jonathan Brooker on 10 February 1817 at St Lukes, Liverpool, New South Wales and her husband owned 30 acres (1822) until bushfires destroyed their property (1823) whilst Jon’s livelihood as a Chair-maker by trade ended as his tools were all destroyed. The family became destitute and pleaded to the Governor of the time, Governor Thomas Brisbane, for aid. They recovered with Mary and Jon going on to own 62 acres (250,000 m2) in Illawarra (1828). Here Mary lived until Jon’s death on 14 March 1833, when he was buried in the graveyard of St. Peter’s Church, Campbelltown, NSW. Mary died on 17 December 1859 at the age of 82, in Wollongong, New South Wales and her funeral service was the very first to be held in St Paul’s Church of England, Fairy Meadow, New South Wales with her son donating the land on which the church was built.
At the time of her death, Mary had over 300 living descendants and is considered as one of the founding mothers of the early settlers to Australia. Today her descendants number in the tens of thousands, including Kevin Rudd, former Prime Minister of Australia. Mary’s story is told in the book “Mary Wade to Us” published as a family tree, noted in the further reading below. This, and the stories of Mr Rudd’s other convict ancestors has now been collated into two leather-bound volumes by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which is kept in the National Library of Australia in Canberra.