In the 1790s, searching for a means of supporting herself and her children, convict Ann Marsh (or Mash) established the first commercial boat service between Sydney and Parramatta, making the most of the opportunities available to industrious convicts in this era.
As a young woman in Devon, England, Ann’s life changed dramatically in early 1789, when she was convicted for stealing a bushel of wheat, and was transported to New South Wales for seven years. On board the Lady Juliana, Ann became pregnant to ship’s surgeon Richard Alley, who abandoned her after arrival in Sydney. Ann then met convict apothecary John Irvine, and was pregnant with his child when he died. With her later husband William Chapman, Ann had eight children and ran a bakery, a butchery and general store, as a sideline to the ferry businesses which she established in about 1798. Ann also seems to have got involved in the illegal sale of grog, but by 1811 she had become a legal operator, holding a wine and spirit licence for the King’s Head Tavern (now 39 Argyle Street, The Rocks). Ann Marsh died in 1823, aged 54. In September 1788, before transportation, Ann embroidered the Lord’s Prayer to create this sampler, now in the collection of the Hyde Park Barracks Museum.