Clare Warn, Maldon resident and family researcher, Tarrangower Times
This is the first of what is intended to be an ongoing series – a history of old Maldon and surrounding area families. Readers are invited to forward any material they may have on their own family.
Charles Collard: born Somerset England 1811, died Baringhup Victoria 1891.
Married at Launceston Tasmania 1841 to Mary McLean: born Perthshire Scotland 1811, died Baringhup Victoria 1898.
The story of Charles and Mary (pictured) is a classic one of people who travelled to a far land to make their fortune, in the course of which they faced trials and tribulations that are almost unbelievable to the 21st Century citizens in the country they help to create. Here is my [William Bell’s] attempt to describe some of those trials they faced. As with all studies of this kind, it is a collection of facts, wishful thinking and speculation and is an ongoing work in progress.
As with all family history mysteries, we turn to the usual sources such as birth, marriage and death records and published works. Looking at Charles and Mary’s children, we find that they are recorded as being born in Tasmania, Victoria or, surprisingly San Francisco. Charles and Mary’s four children, based on birth, marriage and death records as of 1988: Alexander McLean Collard 1844 Launceston, Margaret Helen 1847 Launceston, Mary Jordan 1850 San Francisco, Daniel Charles 1854 in Collingwood.
Other clues exist about Charles’ past. Victoria and its Metropolis published in 1888, during Australia’s first Centenary Celebrations, has entries supplied by people about themselves and in the volume dealing with country personalities, there is the following entry: ‘Collard Charles, Baringhup was born in Somersetshire England in 1802 there learned bootmaking which he worked at until 1830 when he went to Launceston Tasmania working at his trade as well and renting a farm on the River Tamar. He next went to California and was employed in a bonded store for three years, but when the Victorian goldfields were opened, he came to Victoria and worked at the principal diggings with but little success. In 1860 he proceeded to Baringhup, bought 107½ acres of land, and has farmed it to advantage ever since. He now has 1000 acres of freehold on which he carries on dairy farming and grazes about 200 cattle.’
All very conventional until you begin to look behind the bland facts in the entry. In 1988 Clare Warn published the Collard Family Tree and presented the results of her research at the Collard Family reunion at Baringhup West. Clare managed to track Charles to North Petherton in Somerset, but she came up with a major revelation, Charles was a convict sentenced to exile in Van Diemen’s Land (Tasmania). At the time, this came as quite a shock to his descendants; the black stain of Australia’s convict past was still something to be buried.
In 1829 Charles was tried and convicted to a whipping and two months’ imprisonment in Wilton goal, Taunton for stealing two pairs of shoes. Worse was to come; on the 13th of August 1832 Charles and his mate Thomas Kidner were sentenced to death for the assault and stealing of four pairs of stockings from William Lally. The sentence was commuted to Life in exile.
A search of the Felons Register of Ilchester Goal states that ‘Charles Collard, a shoemaker aged 21, was convicted at the Assizes 13 August (18)32 of assaulting William Lally and stealing four pairs of stockings from him. He and his accomplice Thomas Kidner, a 17-year-old shoemaker, were sentenced to death, but Collard’s sentence was commuted to transportation for life, and he was sent to the hulk Discovery (pictured) at Woolwich on 18 September to await transportation. Kidner was also reprieved and sentenced to two years hard labour. Collard had at least one previous conviction, having been sentenced at the Sessions of 13 July 1829 to a whipping and two months’ imprisonment in Wilton goal, Taunton for stealing two pairs of shoes. His description: five feet three inches tall, stout, brown hair and grey eyes, pockmarked. He was single at the time of his conviction and it is noted he could read but not write.’
The original source of information about Charles’ exile to Tasmania comes from a letter from the State Library of Tasmania to Clare Warn in 1964 following an inquiry about Charles’ record as a convict. To summarise, his gaol report was ‘believed to be bad’ and his hulk report ‘good’. He was transported to Van Diemen’s Land on the Emperor Alexander XVII and arrived on 12 August 1833. He received a Ticket of Leave on 13 July 1841 and was recommended for a Conditional Pardon on 24 December 1844, and this was granted on 16 December 1845. On 2 September 1841 he made an application to be allowed to marry a Mary McLean, who had arrived free, although we have been unable to find the date of her arrival, and this application was approved.
Material on Charles and Mary Collard prepared by William Bell.
This article appeared in the Tarrangower Times, 1 September 2023.