Monday, November 30, 2020

Grace McIntosh or Masters - The Habitual Thief With A Husband in Australia

Grace McIntosh or Masters was sentenced to seven years' penal servitude on the 5th April 1875. The original trial papers (JC26/1875/7) are kept at the National Records of Scotland in Edinburgh in a series of records known as the "High Court of Justiciary Processes". Among the details provided about Grace McIntosh are that she was unable to write and that she was the wife of an Aaron McIntosh, described as a "copper-miner in Melbourne Australia". In the absence of a marriage record it has not been possible to pin-down where or when Grace and Aaron got married. However, Grace does appear on the 1861 census as a prisoner at H.M. General Prison, Perth, where she was serving a six year sentence for a crime committed in 1855. She is listed as married on that census while her occupation is given as a "hawker". 

Like many of the other individuals who have featured in this blog, Grace was a habit and repute thief. The report of her conviction in the Aberdeen Press & Journal of 7th April 1875 mentions her previous brushes with the law:

"Grace McIntosh or Masters and Mary Buchan or Murray were charged with theft in so far as on the 16th December last, in a house on Rettie's Court, West North Street, Aberdeen, occupied by Murray, they stole from the person of James Grant, flesher, residing in Union Lane, Aberdeen, three £5 notes, nine £1 notes thirteen half-sovereigns, and a piece of silk cloth. Both prisoners were alleged to be habit and repute thieves, and against Masters, three previous convictions for theft were libelled - obtained before the Aberdeen Circuit Court on 23rd April 1844, 19th April 1855 and 22nd April 1864 respectively. Both panels pleaded guilty, and were sentenced, Masters to seven years' penal servitude and Murray to eight months' imprisonment". 

Grace evidently had a somewhat chaotic lifestyle: could this have been a result of her husband going to Australia to find work, thereby leaving her unsupported and struggling to make ends meet, or perhaps he emigrated during one of her stretches in prison?

Either way, the evidence suggests that overtime they became estranged: when she was discharged from prison on the 6th December 1879, Grace initially stayed at the Victoria Lodging House at 45 Guestrow, Aberdeen (now known as Provost Skene's House). Sadly, she must have been in ill heath as her entry in the "Register of Returned Convicts for Aberdeen" (below) records that during January and early February 1880 she was a patient at Aberdeen Royal Infirmary. The entry for the 6th February states that she was "Reported Dead".

Grace's death certificate reveals that she in fact passed away on the 4th February and had been suffering from "bronchitis emphysema for several years". The death certificate notes that she was the "widow of..." but the space for her husband's name is left blank.

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