Margaret Greenwood: a life of crime

The photographing of prisoners was introduced into New South Wales gaols in 1871. This 1875 record contains a rare and revealing photograph of a former Imperial convict, a prisoner again in her old age.

Margaret Greenwood was originally transported as Margaret Shannahan on the Caroline from Cork in 1833, under a sentence of seven years for house robbery. Her occupation was listed as housemaid, and she was aged 17 at the time of her trial. She was assigned as a domestic servant, gave birth to a daughter in 1837, and three years later married the child’s father (William Greenwood ), a ‘greatly respected’ citizen of the Araluen district.

However, by the 1870s her life was falling apart. Her husband had died tragically in a carting accident, and she seems to have been abandoned by her eight surviving adult children. Margaret became derelict and embarked on a life of petty crime (being tried and convicted on 12 different occasions for a variety of offences).

As the gaol record notes, she was killed in a tram accident on 18 May 1887.

Darlinghurst Gaol Photograph description book, entry for Margaret Greenwood, (formerly an imperial convict), 1875. NRS 2138 [3/6040, no. 1219]

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The Gaol Photographic Description Books contain a photograph of each prisoner and the following information: number, prisoners' name, aliases, date when portrait was taken, native place, year of birth, details of arrival in the colony - ship and year of arrival, trade or occupation, religion, standard of education, height, weight (on committal, on discharge), colour of hair, colour of eyes, marks or special features, number of previous portrait, where and when tried, offence, sentence, remarks, and details of previous convictions (where and when, offence and sentence).

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No. 659 Matilda ‘Tilly’ Devine. Photographed 27 May 1925, State Reformatory for Women, Long Bay. Gaol photograph, Prisoner photographic index

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