Elizabeth Thackery was a married woman of about 22 years when she was convicted on 4 May 1786 for stealing "two black silk handkerchiefs and three others, total one shilling." She was tried at Manchester Quarter Sessions, found guilty and sentenced to seven years transportation. She was received onto hulk Dunkirk at Plymouth on 1 November. When she sailed on Friendship for Botany Bay, she left behind her husband Thomas Thackery who was recorded as a soldier. 


She was one of the most troublesome convicts on the First Fleet and is mentioned several times by Ralph Clark in his diary. She was punished for fighting with other women convicts and put in irons for being found with some of the seamen. Clark was glad to see the last of her when she was transferred to Charlotte at the Cape of Good Hope, along with the other badly-behaved women. He comments in his diary "30 sheep came on board this day and wair put in the Place where the women convicts Were — I think we will find much more Agreable Ship mates than they were". 


Elizabeth spent some time on Norfolk Island after she was sent there in Sirius in 1790. She was with James Dodding, but knew Samuel King, a marine from whom she was able to purchase 10 acres in 1800. When Dodding went to Van Diemen's Land in 1807, Elizabeth Thackery went with him as his wife, but it is likely they were never married as she parted company with him on 28 January 1810.


She married Samuel King and they settled on King's grant at Back River, only about half a mile distant from the Methodist Chapel at Magra. Magra is a tiny settlement just off the Lyell Highway, about 35 kilometres from Hobart. Here the early pioneers had built for themselves a meeting place — a square-fronted solid building of roughly-hewn stones plastered together with lime and mortar. This building was dedicated as a church in 1837. Samuel and Elizabeth called their property King's Rocks, and the area retains the name today. They became successful farmers. By 1815, King owned 28 acres and Elizabeth had 20 acres in her own name at New Norfolk. Both lived to be old and respected pioneers of the district. Samuel King died in 1849 aged 86, and Elizabeth died on 7 August 1856 aged nearly 90.


Both were buried in the cemetery of the Methodist chapel in which they had been married by the Reverend Knopwood 46 years before. Her headstone is prominent, in the form of a moulded cross, on the eastern boundary of the graveyard. It is inscribed to “BETTY KING, the First White Woman to set foot in Australia.” There is no historical evidence to prove this assertion. More reliable is the statement that she was the last known female survivor of the First Fleet.

In 1988 the Fellowship dedicated a memorial plaque to Elizabeth, fixed to the base of the cross.



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