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Rachel Early (1769–1842)

Rachel Earley (1769-1842) was found guilty on 24 July 1786 at Reading, Berkshire, of stealing three yards of silk ribband, a linen cap, and an ounce each of tea, tobacco and sugar. Sentenced to 7 years transportation, she was sent to the Dunkirk hulk, where she remained until she embarked for New South Wales on the Friendship in March 1787. Earley was placed in irons on 6 October for 'theft and dirtyness' and was still in irons when transferred to the Prince of Wales on 28 October at the Cape of Good Hope. She arrived in Sydney in January 1788 as part of the First Fleet.

As Rachel Arlly she married John Price on 1 June 1788 at St Philip's Church, Sydney. They were sent to Norfolk Island on the Golden Grove in October 1788. On 5 April 1791, Ralph Clark commented, when sentencing her to 10 lashes for refusing to obey orders that she 'is the Most abandoned woman that I ever knew or herd of'. Her husband may have been the 'Price' who died on the island or the John Price who left the island in March 1793.

Rachel had a daughter Elizabeth with Private Samuel Marsden in 1794. The couple left Norfolk Island for Port Jackson on the Francis in March 1794 but seem to have separated soon after. Rachel returned to Norfolk Island on the Reliance in February 1796 with Elizabeth. She was mustered at Hobart in Van Diemen's Land (Tasmania) in 1811. She died (as Rachel Hirly and was buried as Rachel Herley) on 27 April 1842 at Kangaroo Point; her age was given as 75 and cause of death as 'natural decay'. She may also have had two other daughters, Ann and Catherine, fathered by Samuel Marsden.

information from

  • Mollie Gillen, The Founders of Australia: A Biographical Dictionary of the First Fleet (1989), p 114
  • Cheryl Timbury, 'Rachel Early', First Fleet Fellowship Victoria, — accessed 27 August 2020

Citation details

'Early, Rachel (1769–1842)', People Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 21 April 2024.

© Copyright People Australia, 2012

Life Summary [details]

Alternative Names
  • Earley, Rachel
  • Harley, Rachel
  • Hurley, Rachel
  • Arily, Rachel
  • Early, Rachael
  • Arlly, Rachael
  • Hirly, Rachel
  • Herley, Rachel
  • Price, Rachel
  • Marsden, Rachel

23 April, 1769
Lambourne, West Berkshire, England


25 April, 1842 (aged 73)
Kangaroo Point, Tasmania, Australia

Cause of Death

general debility

Cultural Heritage

Includes subject's nationality; their parents' nationality; the countries in which they spent a significant part of their childhood, and their self-identity.

Passenger Ship
Key Events
Key Places
Social Issues
Convict Record

Crime: theft
Sentence: 7 years