Eleanor McCabe was 22 when she was convicted in 1785. She
had been tried at the Old Bailey for, with Ann George,
assaulting John Harris in the home of William
on 1 May 1785, and putting him in corporal fear and danger
of his life and feloniously taking from him, against his will, coins to
the value of 3/3. Nor was the trial peaceful as McCabe was one of four
women who physically attacked the prosecutor and almost tore him to
pieces. She was sentenced to seven years transportation.
During the trial evidence was heard that McCabe was a
"hawker". From the evidence this is clearly a euphemism for prostitution.
She may also have been before the court on several previous occasions. On
one occasion sentenced to death (but later pardoned) and on another sent
to a House of Correction for six months.
McCabe voyaged to the Colony aboard
and during this voyage gave birth to a still-born boy. The
father is unknown. Together with Catherine Hart and two others she was
apparently transferred from the Lady
to Prince of Wales.
In the year of her arrival
married fellow-convict Charles Williams (alias Charles
on 21August 1788. He had arrived on Scarborough
convicted at the Old Bailey in 1787 for theft of a bag from a wagon
outside the Three Cups, Broad Street, Fleet Market. He had some
knowledge of farming and indeed had earlier been a convict in America. In
March 1791 Magee was granted 30 acres of land on the south side of the
Parramatta River. Initially he worked hard on his grant and within six
months had eight acres cleared and under crop.
Tench wrote highly of his endeavours. This high opinion was
not, however, maintained — especially after a burglary case in 1792 when
records that he left the court "much degraded in the
opinion of every man who heard him."
James, their first child, only lived for two months. A year
later their second child, Mary, was born. Shortly after her birth the
couple moved to Rose Hill to settle on
Their life style did not improve and the events of 18
January 1793 and their sequel are best related by Judge-Advocate David
Collins: "On Friday the 18th, Eleanor McCabe, the wife of Charles
Williams, the settler, was drowned, together with an infant child, and a
woman of the name of Green. These unfortunate people had been drinking and
revelling with Williams the husband and others at Sydney, and were
in a small boat, in which was a bag of rice belonging to
Green. The boat heeling considerably, and some water getting at the bag,
by a movement of Green's to save her rice the boat overset near Breakfast
Point, and the two women and the child were drowned. If assistance could
have been obtained upon the spot, the child might have been saved; for it
was forced from the wretched mother's grasp just before she finally sunk,
and brought on shore by the father; but for want of medical aid it
The parents of this child were noted in the Colony for the
general immorality of their conduct; they had been rioting and fighting
with each other the moment before they got into the boat; and it was said,
that the woman had imprecated every evil to befall her, and the infant she
carried about her (for she was six months gone with child) if she
accompanied her husband to Parramatta. The bodies of these two unfortunate
women were found a few days afterwards, when the wretched and rascally
Williams buried his wife and child within a very few feet of his own door.
The profligacy of this man indeed manifested itself in a strange manner: a
short time after he had thus buried his wife, he was seen sitting at his
door, with a bottle of rum in his hand, and actually drinking one glass
and pouring another on her grave until it
was emptied, prefacing every libation by declaring how well
she had loved it during her life. He appeared to be in a state not far
from insanity, as this anecdote certainly testifies; but the melancholy
event had not had any other effect upon his mind."
The woman Green, who drowned with
McCabe in 1793
has not yet been identified. She was not the Ann Green who
travelled to the Colony aboard Lady
with McCabe, for that Ann Green lies buried at St
Matthew's, Windsor, but beyond this nothing in known. In October of that
year Williams proceeded to sell his farm for less than 100 pounds.
Although he expressed the intention of returning to England he in fact
remained on the farm which he had just sold, as a labourer. In 1794 he
moved to live at
Place, and died 10 years later on 13 March 1815, having
done manual jobs in the meantime.
In 1982 the Fellowship dedicated a memorial plaque to
Eleanor, fixed to the foot of the masonry border of her grave plot.
Curiously, the grave is located in unconsecrated land within the mainline
railway easement at Camellia, Sydney.
Prince of Wales