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Catherine Yardley (c. 1763–1818)

Catherine Edwards (c.1763-1818) was sentenced to seven years transportation at Dublin in 1790. She arrived in Sydney in September 1791 aboard the Queen with her two-year-old son John who died in October 1791.

Edwards had a son Thomas Driscoll Edwards on 24th January 1792 with Dennis Driscoll. It is believed that whilst pregnant she joined 20 male Irish convicts, including Dennis Driscoll, in an escape attempt to walk to China in October 1791. David Collins wrote in his journal:

On the first day of this month, information was received from Parramatta, that a body of twenty male convicts and one female, of those lately arrived in the Queen transport from Ireland, each taking a week's provisions, and armed with tomahawks and knives, had absconded from that settlement, with the chimerical idea of walking to China, or of finding in this country a settlement wherein they would be received and entertained without labour. It was generally supposed, however, that this improbable tale was only a cover to the real design, which might be to procure boats, and get on board the transports after they had left the cove. An officer with a party was immediately sent out from Parramatta in pursuit of them, who traced them as far down the harbour as Lane Cove, whence he reached the settlement at Sydney, without seeing or hearing any thing more of them. A few days afterward the people in a boat belonging to the Albemarle transport, which had been down the harbour to procure wood on the north shore, met with the wretched female who had accompanied the men. She had been separated from them for three days, and wandered by herself, entirely ignorant of her situation, until she came to the water side, where, fortunately, she soon after met the boat. Boats were sent down the next day, and the woman's husband was found and brought up to the settlement. They both gave the same absurd account of their design as before related, and appeared to have suffered very considerably by fatigue, hunger, and the heat of the weather. The man had lost his companions forty eight hours before he was himself discovered; and no tidings of them were received for several days, although boats were constantly sent in to the north west arm, and the lower part of the harbour.

Three of these miserable people were some time after met by some officers who were on an excursion to the lagoon between this harbour and Broken Bay; but, notwithstanding their situation, they did not readily give themselves up, and, when questioned, said they wanted nothing more than to live free from labour. These people were sent up to Parramatta, whence, regardless of what they had experienced, and might again suffer, they a second time absconded in a few days after they had been returned. Parties were immediately dispatched from that settlement, and thirteen of those who first absconded were brought in, in a state of deplorable wretchedness, naked, and nearly worn out with hunger.[1]

The re-captured convicts were returned to Rose Hill. Dennis Driscoll died in March 1792. The couple's son died on 7 May 1792.

Edwards then lived with William Yardley. They were married on 7 November 1796 at Parramatta; both signed the register with an 'X'. In April 1806 Catherine and a male convict servant were charged with murdering her husband but were released for lack of evidence. It was said that she was visibly distressed by her husband's death. In December 1818 Catherine's estranged son-in-law Richard Hayman was acquitted after being charged with her murder.

Citation details

'Yardley, Catherine (c. 1763–1818)', People Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 14 July 2024.

© Copyright People Australia, 2012

Life Summary [details]

Alternative Names
  • Edwards, Catherine
  • Yarley, Catherine
  • Yarly, Catherine

c. 1763
Dublin, Ireland


14 October, 1818 (aged ~ 55)
Hawkesbury, New South Wales, Australia

Cause of Death


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
Social Issues
Convict Record

Crime: unknown
Sentence: 7 years
Court: Dublin (Ireland)
Trial Date: 1790


Children: Yes (1)


Children: Yes (5)