Hannah Rigby

Hannah Rigby

Last Name

Rigby

Given Name:

Hannah

Arrival in Queensland

1 November 1830

Date of Birth

1794

Place of Birth

Liverpool, Lancashire, England

Date of Death

11 October 1853

Burial

Brisbane, Queensland

Place of residence in Queensland

Moreton Bay Penal Settlement (1830-1837 and 1837-1839), Brisbane (1839-1853)

Spouse

George Page

Date of Marriage

1825

Place Married

Parramatta, New South Wales

Spouse

Robert Crawford

Place Married

Not married (Parramatta, NSW)

Children

Robert Frederick Crawford (b. 6 Jun 1824)

Spouse

Name of second partner unknown

Place Married

Not married (Newcastle, NSW)

Children

Samuel Rigby (b. Aug 1828)

Spouse

James Hexton

Place Married

Not married (Moreton Bay Penal Settlement)

Children

James Rigby (later Hexton) (b. 27 Sep 1832)

Occupation
Semptress
Servant
Convict

Hannah Rigby (c. 1794 -1853) was one of only three convict women to have served two colonial sentences at the Moreton Bay penal settlement. She also has the distinction of being the only female convict known to have stayed in the district after the closure of the penal station in 1839, working as Dr David Ballow’s servant. Transported to New South Wales on the Lord Sidmouth 3 (1823), Hannah was married to the convict George Page but had sons by colonial clerk Robert Crawford and Moreton Bay boat pilot James Hexton. Hannah Rigby died at her home near Queen Street, Brisbane in October 1853 after attending a neighbour’s wedding festivities.

Liverpool-born Hannah Rigby arrived in New South Wales on board the Lord Sidmouth 3 in February 1823, sentenced to seven years’ transportation for larceny. Within six months she was involved in a relationship with Robert Crawford, a clerk in the Colonial Secretary’s office. Rigby and Crawford’s son, Robert Frederick Crawford, was born in June 1824 and christened at St John’s Anglican Church, Parramatta in December that year. One month later, Hannah Rigby married the convict she was assigned to, George Page per Shipley.

In May 1826, Page was found guilty of ‘grand larceny’ and transported to Moreton Bay for seven-years. For this reason, George Page cannot not have been the father of Hannah’s second son, Samuel, born three months before the 1828 New South Wales census. Rigby received her first certificate of freedom in December 1828, but stole ‘with force and arms thirty yards of ribbon valued at £1 belonging to Frederick Boucher’ in late 1829. She was transported to Moreton Bay for seven years, arriving in November 1830. In September 1832 Hannah gave birth to a third son named James Rigby. Hannah’s husband, George Page, was still at the penal settlement and did not leave until 1833. However, the baby’s father was not George Page but James Hexton, the boat pilot at Amity Point on Stradbroke Island. Hannah departed Moreton Bay for Sydney at the expiration of her sentence in February 1837, leaving behind her five-year-old son James Rigby (also known as Jimmy Hexton) with his father at Amity Point. Rigby was granted a second certificate of freedom in March 1837. However, after stealing two hats she was transported back to Moreton Bay in October 1837 to serve a second three-year term.

In May 1839, when most of the convicts departed Moreton Bay, it was decided that five female convicts including Hannah Rigby would remain at Moreton Bay as assigned servants to the officials overseeing the transition to free settlement. Hannah was about 45 years old when she was assigned to the service of the Colonial Assistant Surgeon, Dr David Ballow. In July 1840, Commandant Gorman referred to Hannah as ‘the only Female Prisoner remaining at Moreton Bay’, though Mary Bolger, an ‘Ordinary Prisoner of the Crown’ who arrived after the closure of the penal settlement, was also in the district. The same month, Dr Ballow applied for Hannah to be granted her freedom as she had ‘conducted herself in the most exemplary manner having never given me the slightest cause for distrust or complaint’.

Hannah Rigby’s sentence was remitted in September 1840 and she elected to commence her post-convict life at Moreton Bay, remaining in Brisbane with her youngest son Jimmy Hexton and close to his father James Hexton, who was still working as the boat pilot on Stradbroke Island. The remainder of Hannah’s life was quiet and she is absent from Queensland records for over ten years. Her employer, Dr Ballow, died in 1850 from typhus contracted from passengers on board the Emigrant, one of the first ships to bring free settlers directly to Moreton Bay. James Hexton drowned (and/or was taken by a shark) when his boat capsized in rough seas on his way back from Cape Horn in April 1851. In October 1853, Hannah, who lived alone in a ‘hut’ near Queen Street, died after attending her neighbour’s wedding celebrations. She was buried at the first St John’s Anglican Church near the corner of Queen and George Streets (demolished in 1902 and now the site of the Treasury Hotel and Casino).

Hannah’s youngest son Jimmy Hexton remained in Queensland for the rest of his life, marrying Ellen Casey and having ten children before dying in Brisbane aged 81 in February 1914. He is buried at the Toowong Cemetery. The fate of Rigby’s two eldest sons is less certain. ‘Robert Crawford or Rigby’, as his name was recorded at the time of his birth, married a ticket-of-leave convict, Mary Kay per John Renwick, in Sydney in August 1845. The following year, Hannah placed an advertisement in the Sydney Morning Herald seeking news of second son, Samuel Rigby, who had not been heard from and was ‘supposed to be in the interior’. He may have died in Brisbane in 1853. It seems that neither Robert or Samuel Rigby had children, leaving the Hexton line, descended from Hannah’s youngest son Jimmy Hexton, as Hannah Rigby’s only Australian descendants.

Compiled by Jan Richardson and Lee Butterworth

Archival Resources

NSWSA, Bound Manuscript Indents, NRS 12188, Item 4/4008, Microfiche 649

Hannah Rigby per Lord Sidmouth 3 (1823)

NSWSA, 1828 Census: Alphabetical Return, NSWSA, NRS 1272, SZ981-982, Reel 2555

Hannah Rigby, resident at Newcastle

NSWSA, 1828 Census: Householders’ Returns, 1 November 1828 to 31 Dec 1829, NRS 1273

George Page, resident at Moreton Bay

NSWSA, Butts of Certificates of Freedom, No. 28/1001, 3 Dec 1828, NRS 12210, Item 4/4295, Reel 983

Hannah Rigby per Lord Sidmouth 3 (1823)

NSWSA, Butts of Certificates of Freedom, No. 37/214, 6 Mar 1837, NRS 12210, Item 4/4337, Reel 998

Hannah Rigby per Lord Sidmouth 3 (1823)

NSWSA, CS Ref. No. 40/8432, Copies of letters to Moreton Bay, NRS 983, Reel 750, p. 368

Colonial Secretary to Commandant, Moreton Bay, 2 Sep 1840

NSWSA, Copies of letters sent within the Colony [Colonial Secretary], NRS 937, Item 4/3513, Reel 6014

George Page and Hannah Rigby, Permission to marry, 7 Dec 1824

NSWSA, Register of Convicts’ Applications to Marry, 22 Aug 1845, NRS 12212, Item 4/4514, p. 101

Robert Crawford or Rigby [sic] and Mary Kay

QSA, Chronological Register of Convicts at Moreton Bay, Series ID 5653, p. 5

George Page per Shipley 3, Prisoner No. 816

QSA, Chronological Register of Convicts at Moreton Bay, Series ID 5653, p. 68

Hannah Rigby per Lord Sidmouth 3

QSA, Book of Half-Yearly Returns of Baptisms [Moreton Bay], Series ID 5649, Item ID 869685, p. 210

Birth of James Rigby, 27 Sep 1832

SLQ, Colonial Secretarys Correspondence with Moreton Bay, CS Ref. No. 39/05853, A2 Series, A2.10, pp. 534-536

‘Nominal List of Male Convicts employed on the Establishment of Moreton Bay – 9 May 1839’

SLQ, Colonial Secretarys Correspondence with Moreton Bay, CS Ref. No. 40/08432, A2 Series, A2.11, p. 234

Gorman to Colonial Secretary, Letter, 4 Jul 1840

SLQ, Colonial Secretarys Correspondence with Moreton Bay, CS Ref. No. 40/08432, A2 Series, A2.11, pp. 236-237

Ballow to Gorman, Letter, 4 Jul 1840

NSW Reg BDM, Vol. 1B, No. 6808

Baptism of Robert Frederick Crawford, born 6 Jun 1824

NSW Reg BDM, 3471/1825 V18253471 3B

Marriage of George Page and Hannah Rigby, 1825, Parramatta

NSW Reg BDM, 1036/1845 V18451036 73B

Marriage Robert Crawford and Mary Kay, 1845, Sydney

Qld Reg BDM, 1854/BBU/259

Burial of Samuel Rigby, died 7 Feb 1853

Qld Reg BDM, 1914/B/18964

Death of James Hexton, son of James Hexton and Hannah Rigby

NSWSA, Register of Coroners’ Inquests and Magisterial Inquiries, 1 January 1834 to 30 June 1942, NRS 343, Item 4/6613, Reel 2921

Inquest of Hannah Rigby, Brisbane, 12 October 1853

Books

Shackled: Female Convicts at Moreton Bay 1826-1839

Jennifer Harrison, 2016.
Anchor Books, Melbourne

Defiant Voices: How Australias Female Convicts Challenged Authority

Babette Smith, 2021.
NLA Publishing, Canberra

Convicts at Moreton Bay, 1824-1859

Mamie O Keeffe, 2001.
Royal Historical Society of Queensland, Brisbane

The Liverpool Embroiderer: The Incredible Story of the Moreton Bay Convict Hannah Rigby (1784-1853)

Patrick Tynan, 2001.
Patrick J. Tynan, Moorooka, Qld

Journals

Invisible stories: The presence of female convicts in Queensland following the closure of the Moreton Bay penal settlement in 1842

Jan Richardson
History in the Making, Vol 2, No. 2 2013 pp. 86-108

Newspapers

The Police

Sydney Gazette
31 May 1826

Supreme Criminal Court

Sydney Gazette
21 Jun 1826

Public notice

Sydney Gazette
8 Dec 1828

Colonial Secretary’s Office

Sydney Gazette
22 Apr 1837

‘Samuel Rigby’ [advertisement]

Sydney Morning Herald
15 Jan 1846

Melancholy accident

Sydney Morning Herald
22 Apr l851

In the intestate estate of James Hexton, deceased

Moreton Bay Courier
31 May 1851

Intestate estates

Sydney Morning Herald
31 Jan 1852

Sudden death

Moreton Bay Courier
15 Oct 1853

Personal

Townsville Daily Bulletin
2 Feb 1909

The oldest white native

Brisbane Courier
18 Feb 1914

Online Resources

Jennifer Harrison, ‘Rigby, Hannah (1794-1853)’, Australian Dictionary of Biography, Australian National University, Canberra, published first in hardcopy 2005.
‘Hannah Rigby, convict Queenslander’, State Library of Queensland.
Amy Mitchell-Whittington, ‘The woman who “danced herself to death”: Tales of Moreton Bay’s convict women’, Brisbane Times, 16 July 2016.
Jan Richardson, ‘Invisible stories: The presence of female convicts in Queensland following the closure of the Moreton Bay penal settlement in 1842’, History in the Making, Vol. 2, No. 2, Winter-Spring 2013, pp. 86-108.
Prosecution Project, Hannah Rigby, Trial ID 568291
Wikipedia, Hannah Rigby.
QSA, Chronological Register of Convicts at Moreton Bay.
SLQ, Colonial Secretarys letters received relating to Moreton Bay and Queensland 1822-1860.
NSWSA, James Hexton, Intestate Estates Index.