Australian PrehistoryHistory - AustralianAustralian CultureAustralian IdentityCultural Comparisons Between Australia and other Countries


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Relations between Aborigines
and colonists

Aboriginal War
Friends or foes?

History Wars
Denying contestability

Black Woman and White Man
Rape or love?

Myall Creek Masscare
Causes and consequences of colonial violence

The Stolen Generations
It's not so black and white

Jimmy Govenor
Not a good fence builder

Mary Anne Bugg
Female Bushranger

Justice or resistance?

1967 referendum
The myths

Contemporary racism against Indigenous People

Convicts and their legacy

Convict legacy
How the past shapes the present

Convict life
Regrets and floggings

Convict crimes
Power and morality

Convict punishments
What purpose?

Larrikin Convicts
Breaking rules

Thinking different

Convict women
Moral diversity



Molly Morgan

As the story of Molly Morgan showed, sometimes it is important to look beyond the label and petty vices when judging whether people were good or bad. Some would dismiss her as a petty thief, a drunk, or a woman of poor sexual morality; however, she was also an entrepreneur, possessed great generosity, had compassion for those less fortunate and could forge genuine bonds of friendship with people from all walks of life. Those who couldn't see beyond the vices not only couldn't see beyond the desperate situation she found herself in, but also couldn't appreciate a very remarkable person.

Molly hailed from Shropshire, England, where she married a carpenter named Will Morgan and shared two children with him. In August 1789 she was caught stealing hemp from a linen factory and was subsequently transported to Australia.

Her passage to Botany Bay was aboard the Neptune, a floating hell on which more than 100 convicts died. Quite suspiciously, when Molly stepped ashore in old Sydney town, she was in very good condition. It seems she had made some good friends among the soldiers who perhaps showed their appreciation by supplying her with extra rations.

After some months in Australia, Molly was joined by her husband who had been transported for some funny business of his own; however Molly missed her children and was bored of her husband so she decided to return to England. It seems she had become friends with a Captain Locke Resolution and in 1794 managed to get a free passage. So well did she endear herself to the captain, he supplemented a luxurious return journey with a wedding proposal.

Molly rejected the proposal and returned to work as a dressmaker. She then bigamously married Thomas Mares, a brassfounder from Plymouth. For a while it seems that had a happy marriage but in 1803, their home was burnt down and Mears accused Molly of the crime. Found guilty, Molly was once again was sentenced to transportation.

In Australia, Molly became friendly with an army captain who acquired for her some land and a few head of cattle. Molly proved herself to be a more than capable farmer as her herd multiplied in size at rate never seen before. It was then discovered that Molly's ingenious farming practice was to brand Government cattle as her own.

This time Molly's charms were of no use and she was sent to sent to the Newcastle Penal Colony, a place reserved for the most wicked of Convicts. She was soon on warm and affectionate terms with her overseers from amongst whom she selected a 'protector'. With his endorsement, she negotiated her ticket of leave (parole) and gained a 150 acre Crown Land grant. She rapidly evolved the asset into chain of taverns along the river ports and bullock tracks of the Hunter Valley.

The Convict labourers assigned to her proved themselves to be particularly productive workers. It seems Molly's management technique was to supply them with liquor as a bonus for hard work. Although the supply of booze to Convicts was highly illegal, as the mistress of a local official, Molly was able to continue her operations relatively unfetted.

Aged 61, Molly acquired a fourth husband - and one that was much younger then herself. She renamed one her shanties the Angel Inn, which proved to be extremely popular and so marked the beginnings of the city of Maitland.

Whereas many wealthy individuals had shown a tendency to be captivated by own their prestige, Molly was different. Molly helped those less fortunate, donated freely to set up schools and churches and turned her own home into a hospital for the sick. When she heard of any wrongdoing, she organised summary justice. In addition, she is reputed to have ridden to Sydney more than once to intercede with the governor on behalf of convicts sentenced to execution.

Molly died at the ripe old age of 71, and was widely mourned as a "grand old lady." Today, Molly's memory has been immortalised by a winery and a motor inn that both bear her name. Considering Molly's fondness for a drink and a comfortable bed, there is no doubt that she would be pleased.




John Caesare
The first

Our Ned Kelly
A story heard and considered

Eureka Massacre
Dying for liberty

Post Convicts

Why is it not celebrated?

White Australia Policy
From Convicts to Chinese

Baptism of Fire or Well of Tears

Simpson and his Donkey
A larrikin and a hero

Nancy Wake
A larrikin and a hero

The Depression
Australia's Greek Moment

World War 2
The eastern chapters

Cold War
The expression of transnational identities

Prime Ministers
Values and policies of Australian leaders




"Let no-one say the past is dead, the past is all about us and within"(Oodgeroo)