Saturday, September 12, 2009

Mary Reibey

Mary Reibey.

I'm pretty sure I know who she is.

I think she's one of those convict success stories. She was in a desolate situation, and then things greatly improved for her.

She might be on a money note.

I shall go and learn more.

Lord Wiki says Baby Mary was born on 12 May 1777. That's a year after America became independent. It's seven years after James Cook visited the shores of Australia.

I don't think the birthday website goes back that far in time. Honestly, I'm a bit tired of the astrology and numerology stuff. I'm kind of thinking of stopping.

I think I will.

Maybe I'll do something else instead. How about what was happening in history at the time the person was born. That might be fun.

This website says on 12 May 1777, there was the first ice-cream advertisement in a newspaper. Exciting!

It seems Mary might not have been Mary. Lord Wiki says her baptized name was Molly Haydock. Would that be her Christian name....given name?  Or is it an extra name? Jewish babies are given a name that people call them, but then they're also given an extra Hebrew name.

Mary...or Molly....was born in England.

Her parents died. She went to live with her grandmother.

In August 1791, she was arrested for stealing a horse. I wonder why she wanted a horse. Well, I guess in those days a lot of people probably wanted a horse.

Reibey would have been about fourteen when she got arrested. At time time in her life, she had been pretending to be a man. She used the name James Burrow.

In 1792, Reibey was sent to Sydney. That would be about four years after the First Fleet arrived.

What else was happening around the world when Reibey arrived in October 1792? I'm in such a timeline mood right now.

In America, they had their first Christopher Columbus celebration. If I'm reading this right, America started building the White House. Of course, Reibey wouldn't be aware of any of this. It's not like she could surf the Internet for world news when she got off the ship in Sydney.

Two years after she arrived in Sydney, Reibey got married. This might be part of the key to her success. She didn't marry a convict. She married an officer. Her life might have turned out differently if she fell in love with a different man.

The man she married was Thomas Reiby. He came from a store ship Britannica.

The Reibey couple was granted land near the Hawkesbury River. They did farm stuff.

I'm a little confused here. Lord Wiki says Mr. Reiby started a cargo business and eventually moved to Sydney? Did he take his wife with him?

I don't know.

The important thing is their business did well. In 1804, they had enough money to build a stone home on another grant of land. This one was near Macquarie place.

They also got more farms, and did more trading.

Sadly on 5 April 1811, Thomas died. Reiby would have been about thirty-three. She'd be a young widow. I'm sure young widows were more common in those days.

Reiby had seven children to take care of, and a lot of business stuff as well.

She did well with it. She even managed to extend the business.

But she wasn't just a cutthroat business woman. She did charity work as well.

Mary Reibey is like super woman.

She died in May 1855 in her home in Newton, Sydney.

She and her husband had a lot of homes. From what Lord Wiki says, I think some might still be standing. I shall try to look more into that later.

She's on the 20 dollar bank note.

I'm done with Lord Wiki.

Where should I go next?

Maybe to the kitchen for breakfast......

Never mind. Jack is busy...not hungry yet. He's been eating crackers. I'm actually not too hungry either.

So...I guess I'll look at the biographical dictionary.

The place Reibey was born was Bury, Lancashire. It's about four hours north of London.  That's by car. They had no cars back then. They would have to do the horse and cart thing. Bury, Lancashire is very close to Manchester. Remember that song?

It was during Reibey's trial, that she was exposed as being a woman and not a man. I wonder why she had been pretending to be a man.

She was thirteen....not fourteen...when convicted. The website suggests this was just a wild child without parental control. The website calls her high-spirited. We labeled Jack as high-spirited when he was a baby. We then went out and bought Raising Your Spirited Child.

It was a pretty good book. Jack's not the horse thief type though. He's more the protesting type. I can imagine him leading a rebellion....or at least talking about leading a rebellion.

The ship Reibey sailed on was called the Royal Admiral.

This website has some information about the ship and it's voyage. Forty-nine female convicts were on the ship. Two of them died. Reibey isn't mentioned which is surprising. But I do think this is the right ship. The dates match.

The ship had six deaths in mid-September. I wonder if some kind of disease was being passed around.

When Reibey arrived in Sydney, she was assigned to be a nursemaid. Lord Wiki says this is like what we call a nanny today. She worked for the family of Francis Grose, the second Lieutenant Governor of Sydney. That's a pretty fancy job. I'm guessing she had already been impressing people. Maybe on the ship?

This website says Reibey met her husband on her ship. Then he came back on the Britannica. I'm not sure if I'm understanding that correctly.

By 1803, Mr. Reibey owned three boats. Cool.

In 1806, the Hawkesbury River flooded. Mr. Reibey was a hero and saved many lives.

He did a lot of international travel. At some point during this, he picked up an illness. Some say it was caused by sunstroke. It led to his death.

Because Mr. Reibey was away a lot, Mary Reibey had ample experience running the business. This was why she wasn't completely lost when her husband died. She already knew how to run things by herself.

The website points out that Reibey sometimes went about her business in a high-spirited way. She was convicted at one point of assaulting one of her debtors. Well, that's one way of getting the money that's owed to you.

Reibey became popular in town. Governor Macquarie became a fan.

In 1816, Reibey tried to sell all her property. She wanted to return to England. She'd be about thirty-nine then. I wonder why she wanted to go back. It seems her life in Australia was quite nice. Did she miss someone back home? Did she have cousins or something? I'd imagine her grandmother would be dead by now.

By 1820, she did return to England. She showed her children her childhood memories. They didn't stay there forever. After about a year, they returned to Sydney. Would she have had to sell everything to simply visit England? I'm wondering if she HAD planned to stay in England, but then changed her mind.

This columnist says a book was published with Reibey's letters. That would be interesting to read. One of the letters is written to her aunt. She wrote it soon before arriving in Sydney.

The column is actually pretty interesting. She talks about how Australia's convict history was once hidden...shunned. I've heard that before. I always think it's a bit shocking. I would think people would be PROUD of that history. I think it's awesome. It's exciting and inspiring.

The columnist says when she was in high school, they were assigned to write essays about their country. These essays would be exchanged with students in Missouri. The columnist wrote about Aborigines and Convicts. The teacher was not pleased, and forbid the essay going overseas. Wow.

It seems the Reibey book is out of print. That's a real shame. I might find it at a used bookstore one day....Maybe Powells.

I'm going to end this post soon. Before that, I'll watch this student made biography video of Reibey. It looks cute....but pretty silly.

Wait. One more thing. I found one of the Reibey houses. It's not in Sydney, but near Launceston. It's called Entally House. Wait. Actually it was built by the son of the Reibey's. I learned, from the column earlier, that their descendants moved off to Tasmania. I wonder if there are still Reibey people living in Tasmania. That would be cool.

All right. Jack wants breakfast. I gotta go!

If you want to read more of my biography posts, click here.


  1. Oh Wow now you're talking ... Mem Fox, Mary Reiby ;)
    When I grow up I want to be like Margaret Olley ... she's still pinching flowers over people's front fences ;)
    Well done Darling, thanks for a great post:)

  2. Redness,

    I had to google Margaret Olley, so you helped me learn something new today ; )

  3. Not heard of her at all. Margaret Olley should be on your list. Here are a couple more names but you may not want to write about them. Katie Leigh and Tilly Devine. If you don't write about them, I may well. There are no criminals like Sydney criminals.

  4. Andrew,

    I'm going to assume you mean you've never heard of Margaret Olley...NOT Mary Reibey.

    I'll add your people to the list. You should write about them too. It's going to be MONTHS before I write about them.

  5. Other way around Dina. I know of Margaret Olley very well. I should have made that clear.

  6. Andrew,

    Wow. I thought Mary Reibey was one of those people that all Australians know about. She IS on the money. But I can't blame you. I sometimes think that Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Edison were presidents. And it took me a long time to realize that Sarah Palin was Governor of Alaska.

  7. Mary had an older sister, Elizabeth. She was about to get married when Mary took off on that horse. Maybe Molly-Mary was p...d off that her sister was leaving her. M-m stole the horse and was sent to Australia. Elizabeth got married, stayed at home in Lancashire and had 5 children. In 1818 she arrived in Australia with them after 5 months at sea. Her husband had gone on ahead of her and was in Van Diemans Land (Tasmania) with Mary-no-longer-Molly, taking up land he had been granted, no doubt thanks to Mary's influence. Mary left him there and sailed back to Sydney in her own ship to be there to meet the sister she hadn't seen for twenty six years.

    How do I know this? Elizabeth was my children's 5x great grandmother and Mary wrote a letter to their cousin, Agnes, back in England, telling her all about it. We have a copy of the letter. Do you think people will save their texts and tweets, and what sense will we make of them?

    Great stuff you write ... Keep it up.

  8. Leyle,

    What a fabulous piece of family history! I think it's great when people find names and dates of their ancestors. And this is so much more than that.

    As for the future. We have so much more documentation these days.

    We have so many photographs, diaries, letters, etc.

    Then we have the internet which has massive amounts of personal information.

    Sometimes I worry something will happen to the internet. Without that, how much documentation will we have of the 21st century?

    There'd be much less; but I guess it will still be more than what we have from the 1800's and earlier.