George Boddy

Alfred Boddy   Annie Boddy


Alfred Charles Boddy

Geoffrey Alfred Boddy

Annie Boddy (1864-1909)


1864, Dover UK


Charles Richards, 20 July, 1884, Woolwich, London


1909, Sydney Hospital, Sydney, NSW


George Boddy


Caroline Nicholson




Herbert Charles RICHARDS (1887-1961)

John Oliver BODDY(1903-1903)


A hint that Annie Boddy's life was not going too smoothly came in her father's will.   Although George Boddy made a bequest to his daughter, it was with the proviso that the inheritance was conditional on her "not being convicted of any offence". A tantalising clue...

And yes, Annie's story is a sad one.. but at least in part, an adventurous one, and although Annie is not in our direct line of ancestors (that line goes through her brother Alfred), it's a story worth telling.

Married at 19, a mother at 22, in Holloway Prison at 25, all before being shipwrecked a year later off the west coast of Africa on her way to a new life in Australia.  Well, the new life in the colonies didn't quite happen, or at least, it wasn't the life her father George had hoped for, when he set out in the 1890s on a rescue mission to take Annie from her troubled life in England back to the bosom of her family, newly settled in Newcastle, the second city of New South Wales.

From when she was born in 1864 at Dover on the English coast, Annie appears to have led a conventional life in the bosom of her family with her parents, Inland Revenue officer George Boddy, and his wife Caroline.  George and Caroline already had six children when Annie Charlotte was born to the then 42-year-old Caroline.

By the time of the 1881 census, 16-year-old Annie was the only one of the couple's children still at home in Dundas Terrace in Woolwich, in London, but a close neighbor was young Charles Richards, a 22-year-old fitter and turner, living with his widowed mother.  Charles' father had been a hotel keeper in Kent, but he had died many years previously.

In 1884, Annie and Charles married, and three years later, son Herbert Charles arrived. 

A year on, in 1888, several of Annie's own family including her newly-widowed father George, made the big decision to migrate to Australia, to join others of the family already there.  Annie, her husband Charles and their son stayed on in England, as did two of Annie's older brothers, George a saddler, and William a telegraph linesman.

By 1890, Annie and Charles' marriage had collapsed – the 1891 Census records Charles and four-year-old Herbert Richards living with Charles' brother in London, while it appears Annie had fallen on hard times, running foul of the law on alcohol and vagrancy misdemeanors.  The Census lists an Annie Richards as a prisoner in Holloway prison in April 1891 when the Census was taken.  Was this our Annie?  Possibly (although Annie Richards would not be an uncommon name), as there is no other Annie to be found in the record books of around the right age at that time.

(above and right): Holloway Prison, London
Word of Annie's misfortunes presumably reached father George in Australia. The next record of note has George in England in 1892, as a passenger for a voyage back to Australia.   The passenger list for Port Douglas,  a near-new ship of the Anglo-Australasian line, has George,  along with Annie (under her maiden name), and one of George's grandsons, Samuel, the 13 year old son of George jnr., all headed for Sydney, and then Newcastle.

For the first 7 days of the scheduled six week voyage, all went well.   Then disaster struck. Port Douglas was heading in to re-fuel at Dakar, in French territory on Africa's west coast when she struck a reef.  The disaster was widely reported in Australia, including in the newspaper of George's new home town, Newcastle.


 When off the coast [of Dakar] the Port Douglas foundered in about three fathoms of water, and after rolling about for some time, drifted and struck a dangerous reef, which starts from shore. The passengers, numbering 41 in all, took to the boats in the hope that the vessel would bear up against the heavy weather which was then raging. Those in the boats stood by the vessel, which was fast breaking up.


When the salvage schooner sent from Dakar hove in sight all haste was made, and the small craft got alongside safely and a start was made to salvage the luggage. This was quickly put on board the schooner. The passengers and crew made for shore. Next morning they walked to Dakar, and were hospitably received by the French authorities. When the work of salvaging the cargo was proceeding, one of the men engaged was washed away by the heavy sea which struck the schooner. He was not seen again alive, but portions of his body were picked up, when it was found that he had been torn asunder by sharks.

 Newcastle Morning Herald, 11 July 1892

 It wasn't quite like that, however – most of the luggage was lost when another salvage vessel capsized, and so the passengers, although they had escaped with their lives, had very few belongings left.  (One passenger later told the tale of the wreck of the Port Douglas in more graphic detail. Click here for that report).

 A New Zealand-bound steamer, the SS Kaikouri was commissioned to pick up the stranded passengers from Dakar, and bring them to Tasmania, where they landed in early July 1892. 

Annie may have been welcomed by her brothers and sisters, when she and father George and her  nephew Samuel belatedly arrived in Newcastle, but any  good resolutions she may have had didn't last long.  Her first appearance (under her married name) which made it into the pages of the local paper came two years later (left).

That same year, she headed south to the capital, and before long, Annie Richards was coming unfavourably to the attention of the constabulary in Sydney, at first for such minor transgressions as drunkenness, offensive language and vagrancy. (There was at least one other Annie Richards on the wrong side of the law in Sydney at this time, but fortunately, court and jail records often noted the accused's  ship of arrival in the colony.  In Annie's case, this was sometimes recorded as Port Douglas,and in others, S.S Kaikouri).

Her offences were ones that in the 21st century would hardly raise any interest, let alone police charges, but times and sensibilities were different in the 1890s.

Her most serious offence came in 1897 when she joined up with another woman and a man, and the three were convicted of assaulting and robbing a second man. Judging by the sentences imposed, Anne's role was a minor one - quite possibly, a case of being in the wrong place at the wrong time, with the wrong people.

Nevertheless, that brought her a sentence of a year's hard labour in Darlinghurst jail.  By this stage, the prison system had adopted the modern technology of photography, and so we have a photographic record of Annie and some of her transgressions.


Darlinghurst Gail, from the Archives of NSW

Fortunately for those of us seeking to check family history, this record (below) listed the ship she arrived on in Australia (Kaikouri), and some distinctive scars (on upper lip and nose). It also notes an alias Annie used from time to time, Annie Brown.  A later record  (from East Maitland Gaol) shows both 'Richards' and 'Brown' as aliases for Annie Boddy, as well as the distinctive scars.


After her release, Annie, maybe thinking she'd be better off with her family in Newcastle, went back to her maiden name and returned to the Hunter – but if that were her intention, the good resolutions didn't last, and before too long, she was back in front of the local magistrates, once again for drinking and bad language.  This brought her a certain notoriety, and she was described in the local paper as an old offender – and the newspaper was referring to the length of her rap sheet, not her age.

On one of her regular admissions to East Maitland gaol, the (difficult-to-read!) record in July 1900 lists her name as Annie Boddy, alias Annie Richards, alias Annie Brown, and as a confirmation of her identity as the woman involved in the assault and robbery offences three years earlier in Sydney, it also details the scars on her lip and nose and her ship of arrival as Port Douglas.

Perhaps father George still had hopes that his youngest daughter would reform. He left her a bequest in his Will, but carefully stipulated that she was to receive it only if she was not convicted of any offence. After George died in 1901, it was obvious that Annie wouldn't qualify for her inheritance.

By early 1904, she was living in a benevolent asylum in the Newcastle suburb of Waratah, where she gave birth to a son, John Oliver Boddy.  Young John's father is not known, and the baby's life came to a premature end when he was only three months old.  He died in Newcastle Hospital of 'heart failure'  and was buried at Newcastle's main cemetery at Sandgate.

Given that she was out of favour with her Newcastle relatives, it's not surprising that Annie turned for help to the one brother, Samuel, who had settled in Sydney in the 1880s and who rarely came north.  After the death of her son, the next we know of Annie is that she went to live with Samuel, at his home at Five Dock, in Sydney.  That's where she was when her health deteriorated – and in 1909, Annie died, of tuberculosis, at Sydney Hospital, at the age of 44.

 Annie's family in Newcastle obviously tried to keep details of the miscreant's offences – and even her arrival in Australia – behind closed doors.   Two of her brother's granddaughters knew of her existence – but were always simply told that she stayed behind in England when the family migrated.  They were also told that she was an alcoholic who'd married the son of a publican.  Apart from those meager details, the granddaughters had no knowledge of Annie, and certainly no knowledge that she had come to Australia. 

 Her story was forbidden territory.

The Benevolent Asylum in the Newcastle suburb of Waratah, where Annie was living at the time of the birth and death of her baby boy.   (This building still exists in 2020, and has gone through a couple of re-incarnations in its more than 100 year history).
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