Ann Hay and William Hudson

Ann Hay married William Henry Hudson on 16 December 1856 in St. Paul's Church, Stanley. Initially it was thought that William Hudson was the William Henry Hudson who was born in George Town on 1 April 1820 to William and Eleanor Hudson.1 No other children to that couple have been found to date. There is no marriage of a William Hudson to Eleanor recorded either, nor is there any evidence of the couples arrival in the colony. William’s birth year from the age stated at marriage (31 in 1856) is about 1825, but this was not considered a significant divergence given the time. The fact that William Junior would also name his son William Henry Hudson added considerable weight to this family association as well.

In tracing the known details of William Hudson however it has been found that he actually arrived in the colony as a convict, and was not a native at all as the earlier theory proposed. William Hudson is recorded in the VDL Company records as an assigned servant on their Woolnorth property from February 1839. He was a shepherd by trade, and he was recorded in this fashion for every month up until and including September 1841.2 An assigned servant was another title for an assigned convict.

Having determined how William arrived in the colony, the next process was to determine which of the various convicts that arrived with that name was eventually assigned to the Van Diemen’s Land Company, and as an additional clue, in the September return of 1841 William was elevated to the Hired Servant class, an indication that he had served out the period of his convict sentence.

After consulting records in the Archives Office of Tasmania, and the book Woolnorth: Select Documents, 1826-1845 by J. M. Bruce, William Hudson was confirmed as the convict who had arrived in Van Diemen’s Land aboard the Blenheim. William was tried in Liverpool, Lancaster on 4 July 1836 and found guilty of Felony.3

There are no real potential matches for William Hudson’s family in Liverpool. A William Hudson was christened on 3 October 1825 at Saint Peter, Liverpool, Lancashire to William and Ann Hudson but we would have to presume the baptism date occurred well after this individuals birth date, otherwise William would have been only 11 when convicted, a point that would have been noted in his convict records.4

The Blenheim sailed from Woolwich on 15 March 1837 so William must have spent nearly 8 and a half months aboard a Hulk somewhere. The journey to the colonies was the so-called direct route and 123 days later they arrived in Hobart Town on 16 July 1837. The Blenheim was a Barque of 375 tons and was built at Jarrow in 1834. She would ultimately make 4 voyages to the colonies and for this sailing was under the command of T. (or J.) L. Spence. The surgeon was George Birnie.5

Upon arrival William would have had his convict conduct record initiated, a transcription of which follows:

HUDSON, William
Blenheim 16 July 1837
Lancaster Liverpool
4 July 1836
Transported for Felony. Gaol report, orderly, in Gaol once committed for Vagrancy. Connexions not known. Hulk report, Good, Single,
Stated this offence, House Breaking, once for stealing. 3 mo’s, Single, Surgeons report Good
T. L. 12.8.41
Conditional Pardon No. 774 8th Sept. 1842
8.8.37 L. 18.8.37 N.P.?5.10.38 C[ircular] Head Office 5.8.42 C[onditional] P[ardon] 6

It is probably useful to note here as well that another William Hudson was a convict assigned to Woolnorth. He had arrived in the colony aboard the Egyptian but disappears from the Woolnorth records fairly early.

William Hudson's Convict Conduct Record
Reproduced Courtesy of the Archives Office of Tasmania

There are no further comments on William’s convict conduct record so he was obviously well behaved once he arrived in the colony. While he arrived in Hobart Town William was ultimately assigned to the Van Diemen’s Land Company who placed him at their Woolnorth property so he must have made the journey from the south of the island to the north at some stage, whether this occurred on foot or via a ship is not known at this point.7

On 7 September 1837 Edward Curr, the Van Diemen's Land Company (VDL Co.) Manager, wrote to Adolphus Schayer of the new assignments:

On the 14 Ultimo I had the pleasure to receive, and now reply to your letters of 31 July and 14 August…
To take the places of Desmond and Jeffry, I send the men noted at the foot of this letter…

2211 William Hudson, per Blenheim. Says he can drive a cart; has done so for his father at water-side work. Has never been in service – can do very little, but willing to learn…

The clothing and bedding of the above mentioned men date from this day, and they have all been supplied. They are the only men assigned to the Company from the last ship. Those assigned from the Public Works being doubtful characters, I keep here.8

In August 1841 William was granted his Ticket of Leave:

Colonial Secretary's Office, 12th August, 1841.
Tickets-of-Leave have been granted to the following convicts, viz.-

…Blenheim; William Hudson…

By His Excellency's command,

While he was in the service of the Van Diemen's Land Company William assisted with the capture of some bushrangers as the following record from early 1842 shows:

No Name and Ship Date and
Place of Trial
Sentence Period in Colony Period Holding Ticket of Leave Remarks
772 Howie, David, Elphinstone Nov 1836,
7 Years 5 Years 18 Months For Special Service in the Police Department of the Colony
773 Hewitt, James, England Jan 1832,
Life 10 Years 2 Years For Special and meritorious Services having been the means of apprehending some bushrangers10
774 Hudson, William, Blenheim Jul 1836,
7 Years 5 Years 1 Year

William and James Hewitt had obviously assisted with the capture of some bushrangers, and being fellow Liverpudlians may have their home land as something to talk about.

Colonial Secretary's Office, 8th September, 1842.

The Lieutenant-Governor has directed the issue of Memorauda of Conditional Pardon to the following persons, for special Police service, until Her Majesty's pleasure be known :-

James Hewitt, England; William Hudson, Blenheim,

By His Excellency's command,
G. T. W. BOYES.11

Colonial Secretary's Office, 25th Oct., 1843.

The Lieutenant-Governor directs that the following list of persons who have received absolute or conditional remissions of their sentences, and of which Her Majesty's gracious allowance has been notified, shall be published for general information.

The individuals in whose favour the pardons have been granted will therefore apply at the office of the Muster Master, Hobart Town, or if in the interior, at that of the Police Magistrate of the District, that they may receive the proper documents.

...David Howie, Elphinstone; James Hewitt, England; William Hudson, Blenheim;12

In what is actually a sad indictment of the times the following story was told to a later correspondent by the son of William Henry Hudson about his father:


[William Henry Hudson]... was at one time shepherd for the V.D.L. Company, in the vicinity of Mt. Cameron. At that time there was a family of blacks, who travelled periodically between Woolnorth and Hampshire. This family consisted of a man, his wife, two sons and a daughter. Hudson used to put articles of food, such as sugar, tea and sometimes tobacco, on the doorstep of his hut, and the girl would slink up, and grab it, and [run] away through the scrub at a surprising speed. Hudson had tried all kinds of ruses to capture her but to no avail. At last, however, he had the idea of snaring her; he began by placing the food a little further inside the hut each day. The girl would come and glide in when least expected. On the day of the capture Hudson had a friend with him, who had come over from Woolnorth on a friendly visit. The snare was set on a table, just inside the hut door. It was passed through reels and formed into a circle and the articles of food placed in the middle. The girl came and made a grab at the food, Hudson snatched at the snare and caught her around both wrists. She struggled so violently that they had to tie her up. They kept a close look out through the portholes of the hut for the old black fellow, whom they expected to make an attempt to release the girl.. The blacks came at last, but Hudson fired over their heads and so frightened them that they were never seen again. It is said that these blacks had a fearful dread of firearms.. The next day Hudson and his friend took the girl who was tied to Hudson to Woolnorth, and thence, with the aid of a blackfellow named Morgan, to Stony Point, where they placed her aboard a boat bound for Stanley, where she duly arrived. Strange to say, the girl would not eat anything. Nevertheless, she was sent on to Hobart with the idea of civilising her; but she died three days after reaching there, presumably of starvation.13

In hindsight it seems naive not to see the huge emotional trauma the poor girl had suffered, being treated like a wild animal caught in a trap, but we must also view these activities within the context of the time, and accept that generally no-one knew any better.

The day to day life for William is reflected in the V.D.L. Company payroll records which list him as an assigned servant. William's debit ledger brings forward a balance of 12 pounds 18 shillings and 5 pence from 1842 but it is presumed that he wouldn’t have been paid in this manner in his first few years in the colony as he was assigned convict. The ledger entries recovered to date begin 31 Jan 1843 and include provisions and pay orders. He payed for some clothing in June 1843 and on 30 April 1844 he payed for a passage to and from Launceston he had taken in February 1844. He payed for freight on the Eagle on two occasions as well, in Ferbruary and in April 1844.

William's credit ledger records a regular monthly payment of 2 pounds 10 shillings and 5 pence, received at the end of every month. This was balanced against his debit ledger so that it would appear no actual monies were ever exchanged. This income was maintained throughout 1843 and 1844. A separate ledger records one entry for 1845 implying that William was also employed by the VDL Co. for that year as well.14 The returns for Woolnorth confirm this assumption as William is recorded as a Hired Servant in the Shepherd class from September 1841 up until May 1845 when suddenly the names of the various servants were no longer recorded on the returns.15

The trips to Launceston and back aboard the Eagle are mentioned in the Log of the Eagle.16 Why William was sailing between the two settlements has not to date been ascertained. For the next 11 years the records make no further mention of William Hudson, at least in the documents that have been discovered to date.

The next recorded event occurs on 16 December 1856 when William, his age recorded as 31, married Ann Hay, age 27, in St. Paul's Church, Stanley. This would make William's birth year about 1825. Both William and Ann signed with their mark, indicating that they couldn't write. The sermon was performed by the reverend Samuel Benjamin Fookes. The witnesses were Richard and Mary Moles, and Louisa Fookes, the chaplain's wife.17 The entry in the Tasmanian Pioneer Index has William’s name recorded as Hewson but this was obviously a transcription error.

The independent witnesses Richard Moles and Mary Crookes had married 5 years earlier on 11 February 1851, also in the district of Horton.18 They would have 2 children - Elizabeth, born 23 June 1855, and Hannah, born 10 January 1858, both in the district of Horton.19

William and Ann's first child, William Henry Hudson Jnr. was born on 27 February 1857, and their second child Ann Barclay [Barker] Hudson arrived the following year on 21 September 1858. Once again both births occurred in the Horton district.20

At this juncture the picture of the family changes completely. Ann Hay married again on 12 November 1860 to David Howard, another Woolnorth settler who had arrived in the colony in 1824 aboard the Phoenix as a convict. No death record has yet been located for William Hudson leading to a significant mystery as to why the relationship was dissolved. While it has not been conclusively determined at this stage what happened to William Henry Hudson it is a strong possibility that he was the individual with the surname of Hudson who, with "David Howie made his last voyage in May 1859. With a crew of three - Hudson, Jackson and Molles - ... (Howie) left Circular Head for Robbins Is. but was not seen or heard of again. Wreckage of his cutter was found at the western end of Robbins Passage."21

The full newspaper report was as follows:

Fatal Accident at Circular Head - Death of David Howie and Three of his Crew - We regret to perceive that an enterprising and skillful mariner, and an old and well known colonist, whose services in cases of shipwreck have been of the most extraordinary character, has at last, with three of his crew, met with a watery grave. The accident occurred at Circular Head. Mr Howie has been long resident on one or other of the islands of the Straits, and in 1845 proceeded from the Western Coast of King's Island to Melbourne in an open boat with intelligence of the wreck of the Cataraqui and the loss of 414 lives. In connexion with the above we may mention that David Howie accompanied the Lord Bishop of Tasmania and party to King's Island in search of the remains of the wrecks of the Brahmin and Waterwich, and in his Lordship's interesting narrative of the 'Cruise of the Beacon' occur the following observations with reference to the now deceased:

'We found him a singularly intelligent man. Years ago he came out to this colony from Edinburgh, being then very young. For some time past he has resided at Robbin's Island; visiting alternately the other islands in the vicinity, with his little cutter of no more than twelve or fourteen tons burden; at one time sealing, at another trading; now bringing to Circular Head a cargo of livestock, again proceeding to Launceston with a consignment of potatoes. He has, however, another and a stronger claim to respect, beyond that which his enterprising energy commands. No man in the Straits has rendered so much assistance, in times of peril and of shipwreck, as David Howie. He told us some appalling tales of the fearful wreck of the female emigrant ship Cataraqui on the western coast of King's Island, on the morning of the 4th August, 1815; out of 423 souls on board, only 9 were saved.' We regret to add that Mr Howie's unfortunate companions in death are reputed to have each left widows and large families - the children numbering no less than 20 souls.22

The sudden remarriage of William Hudson's wife lends support to this theory, as well as the fact that a Hudson was reported as lost, as well as a Moles, the surname of William's marriage witness. These investigations were ultimately confirmed by the later discovery of a newspaper article quoting William Henry Hudson's son, William Hudson Jnr., published in the Circular Head Chronicle nearly 70 years after the events occurred:


To the Editor.

Dear Sir, - I am indebted to Mr. W. Hudson, an old and most estimable resident, for the following narrative, regarding the early days of Circular Head.

[Here followed the section above called SNARING A NATIVE GIRL)


Mr. Hudson's father met his death some few years later under most tragic circumstances. A man named David Howie was repairing a ship at the Duck River, and had come around to Stanley to get iron for that purpose. He had left his dinghy at the Neck. While in Stanley he met Hudson and two other men named Moles and Jackson. The three of them were preparing to walk to Montagu to select land. Howie said that he would take them with him to the Duck River, and on to Montagu the next day, if they cared to go with him. As this was far better than walking they decided to go with him. They hired a team from Neilly McDonald to take them and their belongings out to the Neck. They called at Mr. Whitworth's, who was then living at the Neck, and had refreshments. About midnight in company with Mr. and Mrs. Whitworth, they went down to the beach, where Whitworth and his wife left them. They had, however, only just reached the house when they heard a piercing scream. Thinking that something was wrong with the men, they immediately returned to the beach but there was no sign of them or the dinghy. The four men evidently perished that night, for Mrs. Moles, when walking along the beach a few days later, found a tiller of a boat, which was recognised by Mr. Charles Wilson as the tiller he had made for Howie. This happended about 67 years ago. Howie left a wife and four children on Robbins Island. The men's bodies were never recovered.23

There is more about the accident on the page devoted to David Howie, Mary Bogue and Jane Wilson. Given William’s lack of promise when he arrived in the colony, with Edward Curr noting that “he can do very little” it seems a shame that he should lose his life so early after he had obviously applied himself to his lot. He left a wife with two very small children, William aged 2 and Ann age 1, but for this reason as well William’s was not a wasted life, and his children went on to have many children of their own. William Hudson’s story is tragic, but the Hudson line is alive and well.

  • 1. AOT Baptism Registration RGD 1820/950. William Henry Hudson was baptized in Launceston by the Reverend John Youl on 12 July 1820
  • 2. AOT Van Diemen’s Land Company Records VDL 62
  • 3. AOT Convict Conduct Record CON31/21
  • 4. FamilySearch International Genealogical Index [Batch No. P020272]. Details which make this a good match: William’s birth calculated from age stated at marriage is 1825, and he would name his two children William and Ann. He was from Liverpool and worked on the waterside.
  • 5. Bateson, Charles: The Convict Ships, 1787-1868; Brown, Son & Ferguson Ltd, Glasgow [pp. 362-363] The Archives Office of Tasmania Convict Database records the departure date as 15/04/1837.
  • 6. AOT Convict Conduct Record CON31/21
  • 7. AOT Convict Appropriation Records CON27/1/7
  • 8. Bruce. J. M: Woolnorth: Select Documents, 1826-1845, Privately Published, 1994
  • 9. The Courier Friday 20 August 1841
  • 10. AOT Reference to be followed up.
  • 11. The Courier Friday 16 September 1842
  • 12. The Courier Friday 10 November 1843
  • 13. Circular Head Chronicle 8 Jul 1925 as related by William Henry Hudson Jnr.
  • 14. AOT Van Diemen’s Land Company Records VDL 67
  • 15. AOT Van Diemen’s Land Company Records VDL 62. From October 1844 the entries changed so that the distinction between hired and assigned servants was no longer noted
  • 16. AOT Van Diemen’s Land Company Records VDL 84
  • 17. AOT Marriage Registration RGD 1856/121
  • 18. AOT Marriage Registration RGD 1851/619
  • 19. AOT Baptism Registration RGD 1855/427 and RGD 1858/735
  • 20. AOT Birth Registration RGD 1857/734 and RGD 1858/777
  • 21. Pink, Kerry & Ebdon, Annette, Beyond the Ramparts, Circular Head Bicentennial History Group, Printed by Mercury-Walch, Hobart, Tasmania, June, 1998
  • 22. Hobart Town Courier Monday 23 May 1859
  • 23. Circular Head Chronicle 8 Jul 1925 as related by William Henry Hudson Jnr.