This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Supplementary Volume, (MUP), 2005
Hannah Rigby (c.1794-1853), embroiderer, servant and convict, was born in Lancashire, England. Convicted of larceny at the Quarter Sessions at Liverpool on 2 October 1821, 26-year-old Hannah was sentenced to transportation for seven years. She reached Port Jackson on 27 February 1823 in the Lord Sidmouth. Her occupation was embroiderer, she was fair with a freckled complexion, brownish-red hair and brown eyes and she stood 5 ft 1¾ ins (157 cm) tall.
In Sydney Hannah had a son Robert Frederick, born on 6 June 1824, by Robert Crawford, who had come free in the Royal George in 1821 and who later became principal clerk in the Colonial Secretary's Office. At St John's Church of England, Parramatta, on 3 January 1825 she married George Page, who had been transported in the Shipley. Apprehended for absconding from service in September 1826, she was confined to the Female Factory for three months. Her absence was probably connected with Page's trial, as in May 1826 he had been found guilty of stealing from a ship and on 19 September was sent to Moreton Bay for seven years. Hannah Rigby was described in the 1828 census as a sempstress, free by servitude, living at Newcastle with two sons, Robert aged 5 and Samuel aged three months. That year she obtained her certificate of freedom.
On 16 February 1830 Rigby appeared at the Maitland Quarter Sessions, charged with stealing with force and arms thirty yards of ribbon valued at £1 belonging to Frederick Boucher. Although her accomplice received only a short prison term, Rigby was sentenced to transportation to a penal settlement for seven years. Her two sons accompanied her to Sydney gaol. On 16 October she boarded the Isabella with seven other female convicts, bound for Moreton Bay, where they joined eighteen women prisoners already resident there among more than one thousand males.
In Brisbane, Rigby was in hospital for a few days in February 1831 with a fever. On 27 September 1832 she gave birth to a third son James, whose father was probably her husband—and fellow prisoner—George Page. At the expiration of her colonial sentence on 16 February 1837, she was sent back to Sydney. Her certificate of freedom, issued on 6 March 1837, indicated she had rejoined Page who had returned to Sydney in 1833.
Although the other female convicts were sent back to Sydney in 1839 when the Moreton Bay penal settlement was closed, Rigby remained in Brisbane. By this time she was the servant of the assistant colonial surgeon David Ballow, one of the civilians maintaining the establishment for free settlers who were to arrive from March 1842. In July 1840 Ballow requested the commandant Lieutenant Owen Gorman to petition for a remission of sentence for her, indicating that her conduct had been exemplary and she had never given him any cause for distrust or complaint.
A free woman once more, Rigby decided to remain at the settlement. She resided in a hut near Queen Street. Having danced vigorously at wedding festivities five nights earlier, on 10 October 1853 she succumbed to apoplexy. An inquest held at the Donnybrook Hotel returned a verdict of death by visitation of God. She was buried in St John's church graveyard. Although her age was estimated at 77, she was nearer to 59. Hannah Rigby had served three sentences of transportation and was the only Moreton Bay female convict who stayed in the district after gaining her freedom.
Jennifer Harrison, 'Rigby, Hannah (1794–1853)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/rigby-hannah-13171/text23841, published in hardcopy 2005, accessed online 1 August 2014.
This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Supplementary Volume, (MUP), 2005