Unravelling the mystery surrounding the life of my Great Great Grandmother Mary Whiteman has been nothing short of a mammoth task! She appears to have been a fiercely protective and devoted mother but I have not been able to find a marriage for Mary prior to 1872 when she married Daniel Blunden.
I have created a fictional story around the known facts of Mary’s life. The facts are in bold text. This is one of my first attempts at creative writing so I would ask for tolerance of any obvious writing errors.
Mary Whiteman was baptised on 14 April, 1834 in Udimore in Sussex, England, although there is a possibility that she was a couple of years old at the time. Her son, John Vinal Whiteman, maintained that she died at the age of 97 years of age, which would have put her birth year at around 1827. Mary, her father and mother John and Harriet Whiteman, her sister Maria and brother Spencer sailed from England aboard the “Augusta Jessie” on or about 6 June 1837, arriving in Sydney on 11 October the same year. The Augusta Jessie was 3 masted Barque of 380 tons and made numerous trips to Australia sometimes brining convicts.
In 1852, just three years after her mother’s death, when Mary was around 20 years old she delivered her first child, a little girl named Harriette after her beloved mother. But the name of Harriet’s father was not listed on her birth certificate and so began the story of Mary’s six “fatherless” children.
Mary worked hard to provide a life for Hariette but she was treated as a social outcast by many in the local community. Some of the womenfolk would cross the street so as not to be seen anywhere near a “fallen woman”.
Mary had fallen deeply in love with Edward Browne, son of the prominent John Browne MP, at some point in time between mid-1852 and late 1854. Although Mary’s family were undoubtedly hard workers, and had done reasonably well for themselves since emigrating, Mary was considered a most unsuitable match for him by Edward parents. It would appear that this fact troubled Edward much less than Mary. Edward continued to visit Mary’s home whenever he had a mind to, promising her that they would marry just as soon as his parents saw what a lovely person she really was.
But then the unthinkable happened and Mary fell pregnant again. “Please Edward, this is your baby, their grandchild, please make them see that we have to marry,” implored Mary.
Mary delivered a son to Edward on the 6th September, 1855 and named the child Spencer William Edward Whiteman. It is a telling fact that Mary named her son Spencer – after her Uncle, William – after her Grandfather, and – Edward. Mary’s heart broke with love for Edward as she held her tiny boy, however the couple were still not allowed to marry, and it never crossed Edward’s mind to run away with Mary and the children.“I will Mary, I will make them see, just come back to bed and we’ll see them tomorrow.” We will never know if Edward talked to his parents about Mary.
Just two years later on the 8th August 1857 Mary delivered a baby girl, Maria Ann, a tiny babe that was very ill. Little Maria died shortly after birth, and as Mary placed her tiny daughter in the ground hot tears streamed down her cheeks. Later that evening when Hariette and Spencer were in bed Mary begged Edward to stay with her. “I can’t Mary, I’m expected at home, you know that,” replied Edward in a tight voice. “Please Edward, stay, we’ve just buried our daughter, I need you to be with me tonight,” begged Mary. But Edward left her crying in the dim lantern light to mourn their babe alone.
- Photo of August Jessie from The Convict Ships by Charles Bateson. 2nd Edition 1974