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Eliza Dowling

** community contributed record **

Name, Aliases & Gender

Name: Eliza Dowling
Aliases: none
Gender: f

Birth, Occupation & Death

Date of Birth: -
Occupation: -
Date of Death: -
Age: -

Life Span

Life span

Female median life span was 58 years*

* Median life span based on contributions

Conviction & Transportation

Sentence Severity

Sentence Severity

Sentenced to Life

Crime: Murder
Convicted at: Ireland, Kilkdare
Sentence term: Life
Ship: Atlas
Departure date: 29th November, 1801
Arrival date: 7th July, 1802
Place of arrival New South Wales
Passenger manifest Travelled with 199 other convicts


Primary source: Finns Leinster Journal, Wed 19 August 1801 page 3: State Records of NSW, Convict Indents ship "Atlas" are 1802 Musters 1822, 1825, 1828 Census, NSWBDM, Sydney Gazettes.
Source description:

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Community Contributions

Robin Sharkey on 26th March, 2016 wrote:

Eliza Dowling was transported for life on “Atlas” arriving NSW 1802, after being tried at Naas in Kildare in the summer of 1801. She arrived with her sister, Winifred Dowling, same sentence.

(primary source: ‘Finns Leinster Journal’, Wed 19 August 1801 page 3)

Both Eliza Dowling and Winifred Dowling, together with their mother Mary Dowling, and a woman named Elizabeth Byrne and Mrs Byrne’s son, had been found guilty of the May 1798 murder of a Mrs Deane. The Irish Rebellion started in that month, at Kildare, and the attacks and fighting from both sides were ferocious.

The womens’ mother however was hanged on Friday 14th August 1801, before their departure in November 1801, having attempted to gain some more time on earth by claiming, when she was found guilty, that she was pregnant.  The Byrne woman however was hanged the very next day after sentence.  The Dowling sisters would have received the same sentence of death, but there was probably a recommendation to mercy and it was commuted to transportation for life. The mother’s hanging would have occurred either outside the jail, or at the place where Mrs Deane had been murdered.

From ‘Finns Leinster Journal’, Wed 19 August 1801 page 3:
“On Friday last, Mary Dowling was executed at Naas, pursuant to her sentence at Spring Assizes. She and her two daughters, with Elizabeth Byrne and her son, were convicted of the murder of Mrs Deane, in May 1798.

“Elizabeth Byrne, above-mentioned, was executed the day after her conviction, but M. Dowling pleaded pregnancy, her execution was suspended from time to time, until she was finally examined by a surgeon, sent from the Assizes at Athy by Mr Baron Daly, who reported that she was not with child.”

Robin Sharkey on 27th March, 2016 wrote:


Eliza was recorded in documents in NSW as “Elizabeth” Dowling. She married Lawrence May, taking on the mothering of his two surviving young children, and over 18 years would have three children of her own, the first sadly drowning at the age of 8.

1802 arrival in NSW. Gov King granted her indulgence of Ticket of Leave.
1804, birth of son Christopher to Lawrence May, at Windsor. Since Lawrence’s first wife Ann died only in January 1804, Christopher was probably born in the last quarter of 1804.
Marriage to Lawrence May (record not found) either 1804 or 1805. She stated in her 1810 petition she was married to Lawrence “shortly after her arrival in the colony”.

LAWRENCE MAY had arrived per Queen in 1791. Tried at Dublin, aged 18. Married first wife Ann Baker about 1796 and had three children,
* 1800 he was a miller at Windsor held land with18 acres cultivated, 10 pigs
* 1801 had 30 acre grant from Gov Hunter (May 1800) at Green Hills, all cleared.
* 1804 wife Ann died from excessive drinking, leaving two children (per Sydney Gazette 15 January 18064 page 2). These children were Laurence Jnr born 1799 and Sarah born 1803 who would be raised by Elizabeth Dowling as their mother. Another, Martha, had been born in 1796 but must have died by 1804.
  Sarah was a baby at her mother’s death and Lawrence advertised for a wet nurse.

1805, November, Lawrence was assisting Elizabeth’s sister Winifred, Ms Durinault, now a single mother after the departure of her French husband, to sell a 30 acre Prospect farm she’d purchased from Fenton. (1805 - Syd Gaz 17/11/1805 p 1. To be Let or Sold, etc … For terms & further particulars apply to Mr. Lawrence May, Settler at Hawkesbury.”)

* 1806 - Lawrence May in the Muster had one woman off stores (i.e. Elizabeth) and 3 children (2 eldest by Ann Baker, and Christopher by Eliza, aged 2). He had 150 acres! If not already doing so, he would lease land on the Hawkesbury river flats from James Williamson Esq, at least from 1810 to 1822 (Sydney gazette 24/2/1810).  There were several convict servants assigned to Lawrenec May in 1806 and over the next decades.

* 1807 Her sister Winifred was now with Edward Redmond, living in the Rocks, who was a trader and got a spirit licence and from there would become very wealthy and respectable; Winifred had two daughters with him in 1807 and 1809.

1808 Set-backs:

(1) Loss of house
Syd Gaz Sunday 6 Nov 1808 p 1
” On Friday evening a dreadful hurricane set in at Hawkesbury, which raged for about 20 minutes with uncommon fury, and was productive of consequences which it is feared will have a serious tendency. … …. An unfinished house, the property of Mr. Lawrence May at Bardo Narrang, was blown down and some of the materials scattered to a considerable distance;  … … The storm was …. accompanied with a bad shower, and a deluge of rain which continued several hours after the thunder storm has passed away.  … The storm extended very little above the Green Hills.”

(2) Death of Son Christopher, aged about 4 years, by drowning:  “Last week a son of Mr. Lawrence May, at Hawkesbury, unfortunately fell into a saw-pit,  which had been filled by the rains, and perished un-perceived.”
(Syd Gazette, 20 Nov 1808 )
Now Elizabeth has only her two step-children.  In five years she would have another of her own.

1809 - Elizabeth (and also her sister Winifred) petitioned Col Paterson ( in charge in NSW for the whole of 1809)  for a remission of sentence, who gave her an Absolute Pardon. (per her memorandum to Macquarie in February 1810).  Her sister Winifred’s Feb 1810 petition to Macquarie to reinstate her Absolute Pardon was in almost the same terms.

1809 - Elizabeth’s and Winifred’s husbands work collabotirvely: Syd Gaz 26 Feb 1809 p 1 “ ... selling a capital 30 acre farms at Hawkesbury well known by name of McDonald’s farm, apply Lawrence May or Edward Redmond.”

* 1810 - Elizabeth petitioned Gov Macquarie to have her Absolute Pardon reinstated after Macquarie declared void all pardons issued during the Rum

1813 - Birth of second child, named Christopher Watkins MAY

Robin Sharkey on 27th March, 2016 wrote:

1815 -Elizabeth Dowling received a Free pardon. Tried Summer 1801, Kildare.

1816 Birth John May -  from 1825 muster,son of Lawrence May.
Sydney Gazette Tue 18 Sep 1838 p. 3
Text: DEATH, At Windsor, on Thursday, the 13th Instant, after a short illness, John May, aged 21 years.

Baptism, 1820, 20th December James May son of Lawrence May & Elizabeth Dowling. Reg’d St Mary’s RC Sponsor, Robert Muldoon.

1822 - Marriage of step-daughter Sarah May to Robert Cooper, Widower at Sydney.
Robert Cooper was a distiller who was a wealthy man in the Colony. Sarah was aged about 19 yrs.

15 March 1822, Elizabeth’s other step-chip,  Laurence May jnr, aged about 23, shot at his neighbour, John Smith.  Elizabeth’s other step-child, he got into an altercation on his 60 acre grant at Hawkesbury over the allocation of some land between them and shot the neighbour as he reaped his wheat on the disputed land.  This must have been a stocking incident to his family and the community. see Syd Gaz 15/3/1822.  He was sentenced to life transportation to Port Macquarie as a convict leaving in May 1822 for shooting with intent to kill. In Feb 1824 he had permission to return to Sydney and be assigned as a convict.  Perhaps some influence was brought to bear by his well-connected father since he had permission in July 1827 to marry convict Catherine Flynn at Parramatta - although it was wrongly recorded that Lawrence May aged 57 per “Queen” had the permission - since in the 1828 Census, Lawrence May age 30 and Catherine age 23 per Brothers, were farmers living at Lower Portland Head, He received a Pardon in 1836, recorded as “Abs”, and died in 1840.

1822 -Recorded as wife of Laurence May at Pitt Town, Absolute Pardon

1825 - recorded as wife of Laurence may, 7 yr sentence (!) Conditional Pardon, Windsor, wife of May.

Elizabeth Dowling-May was dead by 1828 because Laurence was recorded in the 1828 Census as farmer living at Pitt Town with Rosetta May (or Kite) aged 40 per Indefatigable in 1809, together with his sons James aged 8 and John aged 11.

Convict Changes History

Robin Sharkey on 26th March, 2016 made the following changes:

convicted at, term: 99 years, voyage, source: Finns Leinster Journal, Wed 19 August 1801 page 3: State Records of NSW, Convict Indents ship "Atlas" are 1802 (prev. ), firstname: Eliza, surname: Dowling, alias1: , alias2: , alias3: , alias4: , date of birt

Robin Sharkey on 27th March, 2016 made the following changes:

source: Finns Leinster Journal, Wed 19 August 1801 page 3: State Records of NSW, Convict Indents ship "Atlas" are 1802 Musters 1822, 1825, 1828 Census, NSWBDM, Sydney Gazettes. (prev. Finns Leinster Journal, Wed 19 August 1801 page 3: State Records of NSW

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