Margaret McMahon was born circa 1777 in Dublin, Ireland and died 4 January 1815 in Windsor, New South Wales, Australia of childbirth.

Margaret McMahon - convict on the Marquis Cornwallis in 1796

Some details of Margaret's life

The convict Margaret arrived in New South Wales on 11 February 1796 after a 6 month voyage on the Marquis Cornwallis, a ship from Cork, Ireland carrying Irish convicts. Margaret had been sentenced to 7 years transportation in Dublin in January 1795 for stealing a watch. Further details of Margaret's voyage on the Marquis Cornwallis are found at the end of this article.

By 1802 Margaret had began a relationship with Thomas Chaseling (c1772-1847) of Portland Head living as his defacto. Thomas Chaseling (c1772-1847) had arrived in the Colony as a convict aboard the Royal Admiral in 1792. Exactly when Margaret made the move from Sydney where she had been living in 1799 to the area of Portland Head/Windsor on the Hawkesbury River, or when she met Thomas Chaseling (c1772-1847) is unknown. On 29 November 1812 they married, and their 5 children, Ann, Jane, Thomas, Louisa Ann & Charlotte, were baptised on the same day. All her children were raised believing that Thomas Chaseling (c1772-1847) was their father, and for all except her eldest child this was true. Her eldest child, John, however, had a different father. He was given the surname of Chaseling, and he named Thomas Chaseling as his father in approaches to the Government for land grants. His family also named Thomas Chaseling (c1772-1847) as his father on his death record.

Margaret is known to have been in an earlier relationship with John Hammond (c1775-1812), the father of her eldest child John McMahon or Hammond who came to be known as John Chaseling (1799-1876). Her eldest child was born in 1799 in Sydney. His father John Hammond (c1775-1812) was a soldier serving in the NSW Corps with whom Margaret was living at the Brickfields, Sydney. Ironically John Hammond may have been a soldier on the Royal Admiral in 1792, the same ship that transported Thomas Chaseling.

Birth records only exist for 4 of Margaret's children

  • John Chaseling (1799-1876) was baptised on 1 September 1799 at St Phillips in Sydney as John Hammon (sic), son of John Hammon (sic) & Mary McMann (sic). He was born at Sydney on 30 August 1799 and his birth is recorded in the birth records of New South Wales as John Hammon McMann (sic), the son of Margaret McMann (sic), with no father's name recorded.

No Birth records exist for 2 of Margaret's children who were baptised with 3 of their siblings in 1812 as the children of Thomas & Margaret Chaseling

Margaret helped to raise Thomas Chaseling's eldest son Tommy Chaseland (c1797-1869)

In about 1797, Thomas fathered a son to an aboriginal woman. This son was named Thomas but known as Tommy. Tommy was raised by his father Thomas and his step-mother Margaret in the family home in Portland Head.


Offspring of Margaret McMahon and John Hammond (c1775-1812)
Name Birth Death Joined with
John Chaseling (1799-1876) 30 August 1799 Sydney, New South Wales, Australia 2 November 1876 Leets Vale, New South Wales, Australia Ann Everingham (1802-1849)
Sarah Mary Stubbs (1798-1878)

Offspring of Margaret McMahon and Thomas Chaseling (c1772-1847)
Name Birth Death Joined with
Ann Chaseling (1802-1863) 21 December 1802 Portland Head, New South Wales, Australia 27 May 1863 Windsor, New South Wales, Australia Matthew James Everingham (1795-1884)

Jane Chaseling (1804-1847) 7 August 1804 Portland Head, New South Wales, Australia 8 September 1847 Sackville Reach, New South Wales, Australia William Everingham (1797-1859)

Thomas Chaseling (1807-1878) 7 January 1807 Portland Head, New South Wales, Australia 30 October 1878 Pitt Town, New South Wales, Australia Eleanor Brown (1812-1866)
Mary Loder (1816-1875)

Louisa Ann Chaseling (1809-1892) 17 July 1809 Portland Head, New South Wales, Australia 6 July 1892 Paddington, New South Wales, Australia George Turnbull (1806-1885)

Charlotte Chaseling (1811-1873) 1 December 1811 Portland Head, New South Wales, Australia 18 September 1873 Windsor, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia Edgar J Kable (1806-1849)

Unknown Chaseling (1815-1815)

The Voyage of the Marquis Cornwallis

Master (Captain ) Michael Hogan, First Officer Hugh Reid, Midshipman William Roberts, Surgeons Matthew Austin & John Hogan.

The Marquis Cornwallis was a ship of 654 tons which took Irish prisoners from Cork in Ireland to Port Jackson (Sydney) in the Colony of New South Wales. 233 convicts were embarked for a 6 month voyage from 9 August 1795 to 11 February 1796: 163 male & 70 female. 11 convicts died during the voyage, some as a result of punishments inflicted.

The Officer in charge of the detachment of the New South Wales Corps which formed the Guard on the Marquis Cornwallis, was Ensign John Brabyn. He was about 36 years old and had only been appointed to the position of Ensign on the 6th May 1795. He was accompanied on the voyage by his wife, son and daughter and did not join the vessel until a month before it sailed on 6th July at which time he took charge of the guard at the Cove of Cork.

The detachment of the New South Wales Corps had earlier embarked on the Marquis Cornwallis in June 1795 at Portsmouth. The Officer who escorted them from Chatham Barracks informed First Officer Hugh Reid that the soldiers had been excessively mutinous and troublesome to him on the march, and that the Sergeant had been the most so. The Sergeant had set a very bad example to some of the young soldiers. One soldier her even recommended to have confined in double irons. There were 36 troops and some of their families on the Marquis Cornwallis - 2 Ensigns, 1 Sergeant (Sergeant Ellis), 1 Corporal and 26 Privates.

The Marquis Cornwallis sailed from Portsmouth on 7 August 1795. One hundred and sixty three male and seventy female convicts were embarked at Cork. The Marquis Cornwallis then departed Cork on 9 August 1795.

A month into the voyage, on 9th September, around the vicinity of Cape de Verde, a plot was formed amongst the convicts and some of the soldiers to mutineer, seize the ship, and sail to the newly independent America. For the next few days Captain Hogan gathered information using a trusted convict Patt Hines. Other prisoners William Mouton and Francis Royal also gave information; one of these informants later being strangled by the convicts.

The Captain, Michael Hogan, had 42 men flogged and 6 women were punished over the next 6 days. For example Sergeant Ellis had been severely punished by flogging with cat o' nine tails, put in irons and sent below. Private Lawrence Gaffney was also accused of being involved and was put in irons and his head shaved, although he seems to have had no further punishment and protested his innocence. Sergeant Ellis, under the duress of his punishment, also absolved Gaffney of the crime. Ellis and Gaffney were ironed together and remained so until Ellis died nine days later. Gaffney in his later evidence gave the details of what it was like to be ironed. Altogether 42 men were flogged and 6 women were punished for the mutiny.

2 days later, a second attempt to seize the ship was made and the Captain and officers shot and wounded many. 7 died later on. Some of the arrivals at Port Jackson 5 months later had not fully recovered and sent to hospital.

An eye witness later gave this account: -

On the 11th September we discovered a most desperate plot formed by the men convicts, who, to the number of one hundred and sixty three, are the most horrid ruffians that ever left the kingdom of Ireland. They were on the point of putting the captain officers, and ship's company to death, when one of them, either through fear of punishment or from a hope of reward, discovered the whole affair. It was a common practice for Capt. Hogan and the officers of the deck to go down and see that their berths were clean twice a week, at which time they were to watch an opportunity to seize the captain, surgeon, and such other officers as went down with them, whom they were to put to death with their own swords, and force their way upon deck, where they were to be assisted by the sergeant, corporal, and some of the private soldiers, who were to dispatch the officers upon deck, and also to supply the convicts with arms.

We got upon deck the ringleaders, to the number of forty, who, after a severe punishment, confessed the whole. We thought this might put a stop to any further proceedings; but in this we were much mistaken. About two nights after they made an attempt to break out. They began by strangling the man who discovered the plot, whilst the rest were to force down the bulkhead, force their way upon deck, put those not in the plot to death, and take possession of the ship, or die in the attempt. The captain and officers did all in their power to appease them by fair words, and also by threats; but all would not do. They were desperate. Capt. Hogan rushed down the fore hatchway, followed by Mr. Richardson and three more of the officers and myself, armed with a pair of pistols and cutlass each, where began a scene which was not by any means pleasant. We stuck together in the hatchway and discharged our pistols amongst them that were most desperate, who, seeing their comrades drop in several places, soon felt a damp upon their spirits. Their courage failed them, and they called out for quarter. I broke my cutlass in the affray, but met with no accident myself. There were none killed upon the spot, but seven have since died of their wounds. The sergeant was severely punished, and is since dead.

David Collins, who had been appointed Deputy Judge Advocate of the Colony and had sailed out with the First Fleet, wrote: It appeared that the men were from the most part of the description of people termed Defenders, desperate, and ripe of any scheme from which danger and destruction were likely to ensue. The women were the same complexion; and their ingenuity and cruelty were displayed in the part they were to take in the purposed insurrection, which was the preparing of pulverised glass to mix with the flour of which the seamen were to make their puddings. What an importation! (David Collins, The English Colony in New South Wales (1798))

Captain John Hunter, the Governor of the Colony of New South Wales, was to call those who had been involved in the mutiny “a desperate sat of villains”. Despite the violence of the mutiny, those being transported - 70 of whom were female - were by no means all hardened criminals. They included political prisoners from Ireland, then ruled by London, a 12-year-old boy convicted of highway robbery, Margaret McMahon who had stolen a watch, and other women sentenced to transportation merely for stealing gloves or sugar.

The Marquis Cornwallis called at Table Bay, Cape of Good Hope and remained there from 24th November until 20 December, during this time, the prisoners were victualled with one pound and a quarter of mutton each day with soup and vegetables. They also had 42 pounds of soft bread for every six persons per week and had fresh provisions served on several days during the passage. The ship was kept clean by sprinkling the prison beams and carlines, the prisoners' berths with vinegar.

When they sailed into Port Jackson on 11 February 1796, the day was squally with rain, lightning and thunder all around. They brought with them the news that the Dutch settlement at the Cape of Good Hope had been occupied by British troops. They also brought with them one years' supply of ready made clothing.

In August 2004 the Sydney Morning Herald reported that the log book of the Marquis Cornwallis was being sold by British auction house Christie's the following month and was expected to fetch up to $US150,000 ($210,334). The log had remained in the family of the ship's captain for almost 200 years before being bought by a private collector in the 1980s, but had never previously been up for public sale. "It is a very rare document, and very evocative. Very few logs of this type have ended up in private hands," a spokesperson said. Much of the early part of the log, covering sections of the outward voyage, has been lost, and is assumed to have been used in evidence at a Court of Enquiry held in Sydney when the Marquis Cornwallis arrived. The surviving pages cover events such as the landing of the convicts at Sydney Cove along with cargo such as dried fruit, two large cheeses and spare handcuffs, leg irons and thumb screws, as well as later voyages. Captain Hogan, after being cleared of wrongdoing by the enquiry, took his ship to India, taking more convicts en route to the even more remote Norfolk Island in the Pacific. He later made a fortune as a merchant and slave trader, settling in a mansion in the United States and serving as Washington's first consul to the newly independent Chile.

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