Monday, August 7, 2017

Muslin by the yard - John Mason's trial

Limerick c 1900
John Mason was 18 years old when he was transported to Australia aboard the Parmelia. Until recently all that I knew about his crime came from his convict records, which stated that he had been sentenced in Limerick for 'stealing cotton'. The Limerick prison records (available at Find My Past) showed that he had been tried on 27 June 1833 and sentenced on 11 July, but gave no other details.

This week the British Newspaper Archive posted a new batch of pages from Irish newspapers, including the Limerick Chronicle, and I was finally able to discover a little more about John's trial. On 13 July 1833, under the heading "Limerick City Sessions" this appears:
John Mason, for stealing 29 yards of muslin goods from Thomas Evans.
James Evans sworn - He was behind the counter when he heard a pane of glass broken in the window; jumped over the counter and saw the prisoner outside with the piece of muslin in his hand; his brother coming out, they took the muslin from him.
George Evans sworn - corroborated the evidence of his brother, whom he saw struggling with the prisoner outside the window.
Thomas Evans; fully confirmed the testimony of the two preceding witnesses, young boys, who gave their evidence in a most correct and intelligent manner. Verdict - Guilty.
The sentence, transportation for seven years, given a few days later, appears on page 3 of the same paper.

Since reading this I've been trying to find out more about the shop owned by Thomas Evans. Where was it? What did it sell? On a genealogy site I found a Thomas Evans in Limerick with sons named George and James, born in  1817 and 1818 respectively. That seemed promising

The Evan's family in the 1846 Slater's directory p 264
Then I came across an entry in the 1846 Slater's National Commercial Directory of Ireland for Thomas Evans in William St, Limerick  (pg 264). But according to this he was an ironmonger, and the correct and intelligent George and James were hardwaremen in Rutland Street. Another entry showed Thomas Evans and his sons also held a license to sell gunpowder (p 274). It didn't seem likely that either of these stores would sell muslin by the yard. Had Thomas Evans changed his business in the thirteen years since 1833, or was this a different family?

George St, Limerick c 1880
The mystery was solved when I noticed a Hannah Evans listed as the owner of a haberdashery store in George Street, Limerick. Thomas Evans' wife and James and George's mother was named Hannah, so I'm guessing that it was the Evans' haberdashery shop rather than the hardware or gunpowder store that John Mason robbed. 

John was not the only Limerick resident sentenced on 11 July to being transported. Just below the newspaper account of John's trial is one for Mary Lynch, who stole a coat. She freely admitted that she was guilty, adding that she had deliberately stolen the coat in the hope of being transported, since so many of her family and friends were now in New South Wales. She was found guilty and had her wish granted.