The most infamous member of the YARROW family was undoubtedly James YARROW (1805), son of Thomas "GARRELL" & Ann (formerly WOOD).

James YARROW (1805-73) married (at Ashwell 1st January 1823) Sarah GOODCHILD (1802-32). They had one child:

James enlisted in the First (or Grenadier) Regiment of Foot Guards at London (November 1824) serving in the First Battalion. His various records gave his following particulars: Born at Guilden Morden, cordwainer on enlistment, 5 ft. 11 in. tall, fresh complexion, dark hair and grey eyes. His service number was 1188.

James deserted (August 1825), and it wasn’t until June 1827 that he was recorded back in the army -- in prison. James deserted for the second time (at London, July 1831), but he rejoined 8 days later (August 1831). He was noted in the army prison again (February 1832). James’ wife Sarah died (age 32) shortly afterwards at Ashwell (April 1832), leaving James a widower, in the army, and with a child (Amelia) to support. James deserted for the third time (at London, June 1832). He now featured in the Police Gazette, Hue & Cry as follows:

Age 27, 5 ft. 11 in., stout, r. long head, long face, grey eyes, common eyebrows, brown hair, prop. neck, square shoulders, prop. arms, prop. hands, prop. legs, large feet, large mouth; suspected of having committed a theft; wearing a red fatigue coat, light yellow waistcoat and reg. grey trousers.

He was on the run for six months, before being recaptured (at Cambridge, December 1832) for which a reward of 20/- was paid to a J. RUDAN Esq.  James was sent to London and rejoined the regiment (January 1833). Whilst under sentence of a general court martial he managed to escape again (at London, March 1833). He appeared in Hue & Cry, with a similar description as before, except he was now age 29 years. He was recaptured but never returned to his regiment. Instead he appeared before the Isle of Ely Spring Assizes (March 1834). The newspaper report read:

James Yarrow, aged 30, was indicted for breaking and entering the shop of William Laws, of Prickwillow, near Ely, and stealing a watch, some shoes, size stick, and divers other articles. The prisoner pleaded guilty, and said the sooner he was sent out of the country the better; he had been a soldier in the first regiment of foot guards, and served in Portugal, and is now a deserter from that regiment. He appeared a very abandoned character, and explained he did not care what became of him. His Lordship explained the alteration of the laws respecting transportation, and sentenced him to 14 years’ transportation. The prisoner exclaimed “Hurra! thank you, my Lord!”

James would no doubt spend quite some time in one or other of the many prison hulks moored at Portsmouth, Deptford or Woolwich, awaiting convict transport to Van Diemen’s Land (now known as Tasmania). He would therefore not be aware of the fate of his child he had left behind at Ashwell and who died in September 1834.

His Transportation Description Document showed he was:

5 ft. 10 1/4 in. high, age 31, shallow complexion, large head, dark brown hair, no whiskers, congoval visage, light forehead, light brown eyebrows, grey eyes, small nose, medium sized mouth, large chin, had a scar under chin at side, by trade a shoemaker.

He departed from England on S.S. Norfolk (4th July 1834), transferred at Cork to S.S. Lady Kennaway (departed September 1834), and arrived in Australia (February 1835). The document showed he was transported for being a drunkard and a deserter. It also described him as a widower with one child. Later entries added to this document showed :

Probably while still on board ship: 4 dozen lashes on his bare back for indecently exposing his person.

March 1835: 6 days solitary confinement on bread and water for being drunk.

July 1836: 3 months confinement and hard labour for being drunk in charge of his master’s horse and gig.

March 1840: his ticket of leave withheld for 4 months for neglect of duty (whilst he was a constable).

Later, James YARROW, constable, convict, (age 37) married 1. (at Launceston 28th October 1840) Mary Ann MORRIS, convict, (age 30). Nothing further was heard of Mary Ann, and meanwhile James was dismissed from the Police (May 1842) for gross misconduct in apprehending and confining someone. Two years later James YARROW, shoemaker, (age 41) married (at Launceston 8th April 1844) Jane CHARLTON, a servant, widow, (age 30).

James described himself as being a bachelor! Jane (alias Matilda Jane) was born at Sligo, Ireland (1816), and had arrived in Van Diemen’s Land as a convict on S.S. Mexborough (January 1841 [another source says this ship arrived 26th December 1841]). James and Jane had three children:

The family moved from Tasmania to Castlemaine, Victoria (c.1856), but almost immediately James deserted his family. The story now continues with the saga of his daughter Mary Ann YARROW.


In 1863 there was a scandal when the remains of a baby were found which on investigation proved to be that of Mary Ann’s child (born August 1862, and whose father, according to Mary Ann, was an Italian.) Apparently James TAYLOR (who had been living with Mary Ann’s mother, in the absence of James YARROW), murdered the newly born baby by throwing it into the river and afterwards burying the body. Afterwards TAYLOR wrote the following letter to young Mary Ann:

Maryanne Yarrow i have tacken the trubell of riting these few lines to you and i want to now wat you intend to dow about that last words that you hanswered nice ‘that day’ your mother was in Sailors’ Gully i think that you are tring to mack a fool of me but next week if you don’t come to sum a greement i shall give it to the plees and then you will fine out your mistak i wont to see you to hav some talk.

Eight months later TAYLOR dug up the box, and then gave himself up to the police. The ensuing trial was reported in “The Mount Alexander Mail” (April 1863), including the following extracts:

Constable Kelly, stationed at Fryerstown, sworn: The prisoner brought a box to the Camp on April 1st, saying. “Here’s a present for you.” On looking into it I saw the box contained the dead body of a child. I said “Do you know if it was born alive?” he replied “I do, for I heard it scream”. I then took him into custody, as being an accessory to the child’s death; he asked why I took him in custody; after the usual caution he said, “It contains the body of the child.” He also remarked “I knew I wouldn’t be let return to-night”. Next morning he said “The box contains the dead body of the child of Maryanne Taylor”. I had always understood that the girl was Taylor’s daughter. 

Maryanne Yarrow, quite a girl in appearance, was put into the witness-box, and swore:

I lived with my mother at Middleton’s Creek; I am not 16 yet; I was examined at the Coroner’s inquest on April 3rd; I know the prisoner Taylor, he lived between 7 and 8 years with my mother; I remember being delivered of a child about eight months ago, at the junction of the Loddon with Middleton Creek; it was just on the banks of the river, outside the house, about 3 o’clock on a Sunday afternoon; prisoner was at home (at my mother’s house) all day, and he was in and out all the time. I was bad; soon after the child was born, Taylor came down and asked me what I had in my petticoat, I said “It’s a baby” He said “Show it to me” I said “No”. He then pulled down my petticoat, saying he would see it; he then took it, and said, “Your mother shall never see this”. He then went and chucked it in the Loddon; I told him not to do it, but he said he would. After Taylor threw the child into the Loddon he went into the house to get a shovel. ...

 Matilda Jane Yarrow, an elderly and sickly-looking female, deposed:

The last witness is my daughter; I do not know where my husband is, I haven’t heard of him or seen him for 7 years;   I have lived with the prisoner Taylor for about 7 years; . . .

 During the trial it was also noted that :

a number of decently dressed females remained in Court -- both in the gallery and down stairs -- during the recital of this case. We should have supposed that female “delicacy” would have suggested to them the propriety of retiring, but their morbid curiosity prevailed.

James TAYLOR was found guilty of child murder and sentenced to two years imprisonment. Mary Ann was also sent to prison. A newspaper reporter who afterwards visited Castlemaine Gaol, wrote :

James Taylor stands charged with child murder at Fryerstown; he is thirty years of age, athletic, and his expression of countenance remarkably debased; he is a native of Sydney and wears his hair long, in the style so much approved by the “old hands” of the neighboring colony; he was sitting on his haunches in the yard when we passed through, the very picture of colonial ignorance, criminality, and degradation; surrounded by companions in crime, he appeared to be quite “at home”. Passing through the female prisoners’ yard, Maryanne Yarrow, the confederate of the last named prisoner (Taylor) was pointed out to us. Although only sixteen years of age, she presents all the characteristics of an old offender, vice and ignorance are written in every line of her countenance; she is charged with concealing the death of the child which the man Taylor threw into the River Loddon. It is remarkable that both she and her accomplice should be colonial born, she being a native of Launceston. She can neither read nor write, and is as thorough a heathen as any of the dwellers in Fiji. It does not augur well for this or the neighbouring colonies when we find those born and bred within our borders so terribly degraded and disgustingly criminal; the crime with which these parties are charged is of the most revolting description, and was attended by such an absence of all sense of shame as to render it remarkable in our criminal annals; ordinary criminals conceal their acts, enshroud them in mystery, and make at least a show of shame when their dark deeds are brought to light; but these wretched beings had no moral sense, no sense of shame, and admitted their criminality before the Coroner in a most disgusting manner -- they treated it as a matter of course.

Mary Ann afterwards lived with Thomas JONES, who was born at Hobart (about 1846), and they had twelve children: John Thomas (1867, died shortly after birth), Levinia (1868, married Joseph George HOPKINS at Castlemaine, May 1891), Thomas James (1871), Amelia (1873), Janet Elizabeth (1875), Mary (1878), William Henry (1882), Matilda (1884, died age 5), Ethel (1887), George (1889), David (1892) and Clarke (1896).

Mary Ann died (age 70) in December 1917.

And what became of James YARROW? After his disappearance (around 1856), the only clue is the following entry in the Schedule of Deaths in the District of Maryborough in the Colony of Victoria:

Died on September 13th 1873 at the Borough of Maryborough Hospital, County of Talbot,

James Yarrow, Shoemaker, Male, 71 Years,

Cause of Death, Old Age and General Decay, duration: 3 Weeks,

Name of Parents, Not Known,

Born in Cambridgeshire, England, 16 years in Victoria,

Not Married,

Buried September 15th 1873, Maryborough Cemetery.