James Lane and Mary Leary

It was late winter when the ship Mermaid set sail from Woolwich, England on 17 January 1828. On board was Mary Leary, a 23 year old English girl. Mary was 5ft 1 (155 cm), had a ‘fresh’ complexion, brown to auburn hair, light hazel eyes, high cheekbones, and was ‘much freckled on the arms’.

She was also pregnant, single, and no doubt uncertain about what the future would bring.

Only weeks earlier, Mary had stolen a gown worth five shillings; a seemingly small price, but a crime for which the cost would turn out to be much greater.

Her trial was held on 6 December 1827 at the Old Bailey in London, with Margaret Reardon (who the gown belonged to), John Gorton (the constable) and Major Soames (pawnbroker), all giving evidence:

‘MARGARET REARDON. On the 7th of November I missed my gown from No. 4, Greyhound-court – I had slept there with the prisoner two nights; the gown hung on a nail in the bedroom; the prisoner told me afterwards that she had stolen it, and was sorry for it – she gave up the duplicate to the constable: I did not know her before these two nights – I went out at six o’clock in the morning, leaving her in bed; I returned at eleven, and missed it. I am a servant, but was then out of place.

JOHN GORTON . I took the prisoner up. I found two duplicates on her – one is for this gown; she said she took it, and had pawned it.

MAJOR SOAMES . I am a pawnbroker, and live in Brick-lane, Spitalfields. On the 26th of November this gown was pawned by a woman, in the name of Jane Stevens, whom I do not know, but I gave her the duplicate produced.(Property produced and sworn to.)’

Mary Leary was found guilty. Her punishment was transportation for seven years.

Mary was described as being quiet and orderly on the five-month voyage; possibly no surprise with a baby on the way. After three months at sea, on 26 April 1828, Mary was put on the sick list ‘graviditas et paratus’ (pregnant and ready), and gave birth to a son on 18 May 1828.

Unfortunately, things didn’t go smoothly for mother and child. Mary’s baby had difficulties feeding and grew weaker each day. Combined with a cold and damp ship hospital and rough weather, the passage would not have been easy for either of them.

The Mermaid arrived in Van Diemen’s Land (now Tasmania, Australia) on 27 June 1828, and two days later, Mary and her infant were discharged from the sick list and sent to the Colonial Hospital at Hobart Town for further care:

‘Though every attention was paid to the diet and comfort of the Mother her milk left her, and the Infant became extremely emaciated. His food now consisted of thin arrow root and sago carefully prepared but the nourishment derived from it was imperfect, and on our arrival at Hobart Town he was so much reduced that it was deem’d advisable to send him to the Hospl where he would obtain an appropriate diet the only chance of saving him.’

Sadly, Mary’s baby died a short time later, aged only six weeks.

On arrival, Mary’s details were recorded by the convict authorities. Mary’s own statement of her offence was that she stole a gown from Mrs White while she had it to wash. She also stated that she was last living at White Swan Court, Gray’s Inn Lane (London, England) with Mrs White, who was a washerwoman.

While the trial record tells a slightly different story, both accounts ended with the same result – a ‘new’ life for Mary as a convict, far away from home.

As a servant of all work who could wash, iron, read and write, Mary was assigned to work for Mr Thomas Frederick Marzetti who owned a property on the River Ouse (in the New Norfolk District) called Cawood.

Cawood Sign

Following a tragic start with the death of her infant son, Mary’s luck began to change, as also assigned to Mr Marzetti at the time was James Lane – her future husband.  James Lane was a convict from Suffolk, England who had arrived on 2 August 1827 on the ship Governor Ready. He had been convicted on 10 July 1826 for stealing corn and transported for seven years.

It didn’t take long for James and Mary to meet, and by November 1828 it appears as though they may have been spending time in each other’s’ company and getting into trouble for it. The same date – 17 November 1828 – appears on both of their conduct records; James for being absent and in the company of two women convicts who had absconded, and Mary…for absconding!

For their crimes, Mary was put on bread and water at the Bothwell Gaol for fourteen days, and James was sentenced to one month on the chain gang at Oatlands.

The punishment didn’t seem to make any dent in their affections for each other however, with James and Mary continuing their relationship when they each returned to the River Ouse. On 10 August 1829, the couple applied to the Convict Department authorities for permission to marry; Mary was already pregnant by this time and due to give birth within months.

Unfortunately the marriage could not yet be approved. William was born 5 October 1829 in Hobart, Tasmania, while Mary Leary was at the Female Factory.

They applied again for permission to marry on 9 August 1830, but it was still denied. Finally, on 20 April 1831, their third application was approved, and James Lane and Mary Leary, of the Parish Big River, were married on 15 June 1831 in New Norfolk, Tasmania.

St Matthew's Church
St Matthew’s Church, New Norfolk in the 1830s (from The Mercury newspaper, 13 August 1925).

Their first daughter, Mary Ann, was born on 24 January 1832 and baptised on 14 August 1832 in New Norfolk. James and Mary were likely still in Mr Marzetti’s employ on the Ouse River, as they were both still servants at this time.

Two years later, and after serving their respective seven-year sentences, James and Mary were both ‘Free’ and no longer considered convicts. James received his freedom in July 1833, and Mary in November 1834. The couple could move, obtain work, and live as they pleased.

James and Mary (now sometimes appearing on records as Ann, and likely using her middle name) appear to not have moved far. They remained in the Ouse / Hamilton area to raise their growing family, and by the time their second daughter, Jessie, was baptised on 30 November 1836 they were residing at Native Hut Rivulet (now Kenmere Creek), River Ouse.

Two more daughters soon came along, with Sarah born on 6 December 1836, followed by Hannah on 5 April 1839. The family was still living at River Ouse when the girls were both baptised on 5 December 1839.

Along with early occupations including shoemaker and carrier, James moved into farming himself and leased a piece of land at Arthur’s Seat. Arthur’s Seat was part of the Rotherwood Estate on the River Ouse, and described at the time as including a ‘neat stone cottage, with men’s cottage, bars, stables, poultry-house, piggery, capital gardens, and above forty acres sub-divided into five well-fenced and well cleared paddocks’.

The Lane family continued to grow, with the addition of sons Thomas in 1841, and James in 1844. The boys were baptised on 24 March 1844 in Hamilton – Thomas aged two years and nine months, and James an infant.

They were still at Arthur’s Seat when daughter, Sarah, was involved in an accident at Ouse. Sarah, Mary Ann and Jessie Lane were all attending Mr Taylor’s Sunday School at ‘the Ouse Bridge’ when Sarah’s dress caught fire and she was badly burned.  She died shortly after, on 6 November 1844, at home. Her sisters Mary Ann and Jessie were with her at the time, but luckily unharmed.

James and Mary’s youngest son, George John Lane, was born in 1846 while James was still working on his leased land. By 1848 James was even using the convict system to employ his own labour. Charles Perkins (a fellow Shoemaker) was assigned to James for three months, having arrived earlier on the ship Pestonjee Bomanjee – transported for stealing a pair of boots.

In 1853 the family was living at Rotherwood when a shepherd employed by James Lane was found dead in his hut on the Native Tier.   The following year, James Lane’s place at Rotherwood, River Ouse, appears in a newspaper notice as the ‘go-between’ point of communication for George Young to hear from Ann Young.  Perhaps James’ place was quite well known, or perhaps he (or even Ann) were simply helping out some friends by providing a place to get in touch?

The Lane residence was given as either Ouse or River Ouse over the next several years as James and Mary’s children married and raised their own families. In 1866, James Lane (Shoemaker), Thomas Lane (Farmer) and James Lane Jun were all at Rotherwood – the two boys had joined their father in the life of farming (also something that George John Lane would go on to do).

James LaneJames Lane Senior died on 1 December 1885 of Debility. He was 83, and died at his residence, River Ouse.

James was buried in Ouse St John the Baptist Cemetery, along with his Widow, Anne Lane, who died only weeks later on 23 December 1885, aged 82 Years.

The epitaph on their headstone reads:

My soul has gone too far astray/ My feet too often slip/

Yet since I had not forgot thy way/ Restore thy wandering sheep.

Lane’s Tier

Along with the Cawood property, Mr Marzetti (James and Mary’s early employer) also owned a stock hut at Native Tier. While we don’t know for sure, it would be nice to think that this was James and Mary’s first home when they became free. It would be nicer still to imagine that the land on which the hut was located held special meaning for the couple. It certainly holds special meaning for many Lane descendants today.

The land is now known as Lane’s Tier, and sits just above the junction of Kenmere Creek and Simpson’s Creek. Back then it was rocky and unforgiving, but over the years it was cleared, farmed, and eventually became the land on which many of James and Mary’s children and grandchildren built their homes and continued to farm years and even decades later.

Established by at least 1867 when a road was planned for the area, Lane’s Tier began to grow, and in 1869 residents even applied for a new school to be established there.

Brothers James Jnr, Thomas and George John Lane all lived and / or worked at Lane’s Tier as farmers at some point; each marrying at River Ouse and starting their own families. George later moved to Victoria Valley, and Thomas to ‘Stockwell’ (near The Dee), and then Woodlands (Lower Jerusalem).  James Lane Jnr remained at Lane’s Tier, as did many of his descendants – some of which are still in Ouse today.

Lane's Tier Ouse

Lane's Tier Road

's Tier 2

More on their children

William Lane married Janet Andison 9 March 1860, at Sandford, Victoria, Australia. Janet (born c. 1839) was the daughter of James Andison and Jean Jackson. William and Janet’s first two children were born in Victoria, and their third – Anne Eliza – was born in 1863 in Tasmania (and registered by William Wood Cleland, ‘Brother in Law’). They returned to Sandford some time later. Janet worked as a Storekeeper, and died in 1890.

Mary Ann Lane married John Holmes Lawton (born c1819) on 13 September 1851 at the Chapel of St John the Baptist, River Ouse, Tasmania. Mary Ann died 20 August 1902 in Hobart, Tasmania, at her son’s residence, Avonlawn, Warwick-street.

Jessie Lane married William Wood Cleland on 15 October 1859 at St. David’s Church, Hobart, Tasmania.  William (born 1837) was the son of William Cleland and Amelia Shone (or Westlake). Jessie died 11 March 1919 at Cornelian Hill, Bagdad, Tasmania and is buried at St. Matthew’s Church of England, Pontville.

Sarah Lane was buried at St Peter’s Anglican, Hamilton, Tasmania. The inscription on her Headstone reads, “Here lieth the mortal remains of Sarah Lane. Died 3 November 1844 aged 8 years. This little inoffensive child, to Sunday School she trod, but sad to tell was burnt to death, within the house of God.”

Hannah Lane married George Kitchin on 10 July 1856 at the Chapel of St John the Baptist, River Ouse. George (born c. 1829) was the son of Sarah Kitchin (who later married George Eyles in 1855). Hannah died on 19 October, 1909 in Ouse, Tasmania. 

Thomas Lane married Ellen Mary Richards 23 April 1862 at the Chapel of St John the Baptist, River Ouse, Tasmania.  Ellen Richards (born 1844) was the daughter of George Richards and Mary Ann Ellinor (Ellen) Cummings. Thomas died 20 June 1897 at Hobart, Tasmania. His death notice describes him as ‘Late of Woodlands, Lower Jerusalem, in the 56th year of his age.’ Thomas is buried in Richmond St Lukes Anglican Cemetery, Richmond.

James Lane married Christina Macquarie 8 April 1863 in the Chapel of St John the Baptist, River Ouse. Christina (born 1841) died in 1879, and James remarried to Anne Louisa Evans on 8 April 1880 in Hamilton, Tasmania. Anne Louisa Evans (born 1860) was the daughter of David Evans and Louisa (Lucy) Lynch. James died 18 March 1905 at his late residence, Forest Green, Lane’s Tier, Ouse, Tasmania, and was buried in Ouse St John the Baptist Anglican Cemetery.

George John Lane married Letitia Victoria Cox on 31 October 1871 at the Church of St John the Baptist, River Ouse, Tasmania.  Letitia Cox (born c1854) was the daughter of Edward Cox and Frances Ann Richards. George died 10 September 1905 at Victoria Valley, Tasmania (at Rockwood, his late residence). He was buried at Ouse St John the Baptist Anglican Cemetery.


For a full list of sources, explanations and other information, click here

Photos of Lane’s Tier and Cawood by Carol Clota

Headstone Photo credit: Gravesites of Tasmania

Special thanks to Carol Clota, whose research, help and information has been invaluable in piecing together the story of James Lane and Mary (Ann) Leary.  Carol also visited Lane’s Tier and Cawood, and kindly provided the photos.

More detailed information on the geography where the Lane’s lived, including details of Native Tier (now Lane’s Tier), Arthur’s Creek and Rotherwood (and ownership / leasing of these) is available in Carol’s story, “The Lane Family of Lane’s Tier”.  This is also available in the May 2015 issue of The Highland Digest.

9 thoughts on “James Lane and Mary Leary

  1. It’s certainly been a labor of love! The bulk of it was pieced together from trial / convict records, along with births, deaths and marriages of the children (and grandchildren). Many of these records are available for free online, so I’ve been lucky there. A few old newspaper articles also helped to fill in some gaps. It’s amazing what you can track down!

    I did wonder about including an actual list of sources, and may need to update the story and pop these in if it would be useful. 🙂

    **Edited to add: Link to a Timeline of Events now added, that includes sources used and additional comments / explanations.**


  2. Updated April 2015 with new information on the burial of James and Ann Lane, and detail on where the family lived (including the Native Tier / Lane’s Tier link, and that Arthur’s Seat was actually a part of the Rotherwood Estate). Thanks, Carol. 🙂


  3. Great to read! Much was corroborated by details in a book given to me by my Grandfather, George Arthur Lane, grandson of George John Lane (the youngest child of James Lane).

    Liked by 1 person

    • Justin thanks so much for dropping by and letting me know! As you can imagine, knowing that there is other information ‘out there’ that helps corroborate details is very exciting. How lucky you are to have a book!

      I am descended from James Lane Jnr. His son, William John Lane (b.1889), was my great grandfather. Thanks again for getting in touch, and please drop by any time. 🙂


  4. Well done on the research Leanne. I have been researching the Lane tree as James and Mary’s son William was my gr x2. Your work has corroborated what I have found and fills in spaces. Thank you


  5. I am a gr gr gr grandson of James and Mary and gr gr grandson of their son William who married Janet Andison and settled in Sanford Victoria. I have much of the history of Williams descendants. However, until I discovered this website, I were unaware William had siblings other than Mary-Anne and Jesse. Great to discover we have many more Lane relations.


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