By Maggie Fletcher
The stories of the mutineers who pirated the brig Venus from Port Dalrymple in 1806 are many and varied. The two women on board were Charlotte Badger and Catherine (Kitty) Haggerty. Kitty, born in Dublin Ireland, was shipped to Australia in 1792, convicted of an unknown crime on the convict transporter also named Kitty. Although the 14 Irish prisoners were not listed on the ship’s manifest, Catherine Haggerty is listed as one of 25 women landed at Sydney Cove from the Kitty on 18 Nov. 1792 after a passage of 33 weeks.
Ex convict Charlotte Badger, has been written up as a pirate, but as it was Kitty Haggerty who was sharing quarters with the pock-marked American sailor, Benjamin Burnet Kelly, the instigator of the mutiny on the brig Venus, surely she is the one who should be considered the female pirate.
There had been trouble on board the Venus, and the captain, Samuel Rodman Chace, was worried about the threat of mutiny, and Kitty Haggerty had thrown a small box of personal papers overboard. While at Port Dalrymple, Captain Chace left the vessel and went up-river for the night. When he returned the next morning, the Venus had been pirated and was under sail with the two women onboard, heading for Rangihoua, New Zealand.
As Kelly had been first mate on the whaler Albion which had sailed to the north east coast of New Zealand, he would have known the safe anchorages. By 1805 ships called at Rangihoua regularly to take on water and fresh food, and the paramount Ngapuhi chief, Te Pahi, had recently returned after some months at Port Jackson as a guest of Gov. Philip King. When the Venus made anchor at Rangihoua, Te Pahi’s daughter Atahoe was living with a European, George Bruce who had visited Van Diemen’s Land with Te Pahi on the Lady Nelson.
Catherine Haggerty, gave birth to a son Henry at Parramatta on 28 November 1793, and named the father as Henry Richardson. A sailor of that name came as a convict on the First Fleet, and left in June 1793 to return to England as one of the crew on the Kitty.
In February 1793, Ann Bockerah, a young widowed woman who already had a daughter Sarah, was living with Judge Richard Atkins, known as ‘The Women’s Judge’. She died giving birth to a baby girl Penelope, and Kitty moved in to live with Atkins as his ‘housekeeper’. Both Catherine Haggerty and Richard Atkins were on the Fourth Fleet to NSW. Atkins, having resigned his commission as Adjutant to the Isle of Man Corps was on the convict ship the Pitt the same year as Catherine arrived on the Kitty. He and Kitty had a child Theresa born on 4 July 1795 and later a daughter Sophia.
On 6 February 1800 Catherine Haggerty received an absolute pardon by Governor Hunter:
‘having strong reason to believe her time is duly expired but of which there is no certainty as the list of the ship Kitty in which she came to this country is incomplete ….’. Then, when she returned to England on 3 March, Atkins wrote in his journal, ‘Kitty left me, went on board the Relliance (sic) with her son for England’.
In 1803, Henry Atkins (now 10) returned to NSW a free immigrant – ‘a youth returning to his father’. As his passage was paid for by the government, it seems that Kitty had passed her child off as Judge Atkins’ son, then accompanied him back to NSW as she appears once again in the Sydney records. Kitty Haggerty and Charlotte Badger may have met in the Parramatta Women’s Female Factory, as it was where women were taken to be assessed while suitable situations were found for them and they are both listed in the Factory records.
In 1805 Ann Kelly, Catherine Haggerty and her son Henry were living at Hawkesbury with James Kiss, who after being granted his Ticket of Leave had rented 10 acres of land. Kitty then left for Sydney and formed a relationship with Benjamin Kelly. Her children, Henry, Theresa, and Sophia were left behind whilst Kitty sailed on the brig Venus with Kelly. Richard Atkins’ wife Elizabeth who joined him in Australia after a separation of 11 years, raised his illegitimate children.
Kitty sailed to New Zealand on the pirated brig Venus, where she, Benjamin Kelly, Charlotte Badger and her infant child, the convict artist John William Lancashire and the two ship’s boys were put ashore at Rangihoua. The Venus left without them with Mulatto, Joseph Redmonds at the helm.
What happened to Kitty, one of the first two pakeha (white) women to live in New Zealand is pure speculation. It is known that she and Charlotte lived under the protection of Te Pahi and they were declared tapu. Charlotte returned to NSW, but it is thought that the ‘middle size, light hair, fresh complexion, much inclined to smile’ Kitty died at Rangihoua within a few months. Her descendants still live in Australia and it has been possible to piece together some of the missing parts of her story through their family websites.