What happened to Annie and Mary Bowden?

By Tom Bowden

For about 50 years my family tree read “emigrated to Australia in 1881” against the names of Annie and Mary Bowden, but when I came across a photograph of Annie I decided that I must try to find out more about them. Hence this article which shows the results of my investigations.

Cornwall in 1836 to 1881

Porthleven Harbour c. 1908 (with Kitto Boatbuilders on the left and J.Bowden & Son Boatbuilders on the right)

My great-grandfather was John (Jacky) Bowden of Porthleven. He was one of eight children: William born 1836, Eliza born 9th July 1840, Jane born 23rd May 1842, Mary born 5th June 1844, John born 21st January 1847, Thomas born 10th April 1853, Elizabeth born 1st Nov 1855 and Ann born 6th May 1858. Eliza died young but the others prospered. The family were Methodists and in course of time Jacky and his brother Thomas went into partnership and became “J and T Bowden, Boatbuilders of Porthleven” and built many beautiful boats.

Mary Bowden became a dressmaker in Porthleven and in about 1862 she met Robert Marshall, a Scotsman and seaman in the Merchant Service. They courted and were married in Helston Register Office on 28th May 1864. They set up home in Porthleven and Robert continued his career mainly in local shipping. Their first child was a boy who they named Thomas John Marshall, presumably after Mary’s two brothers. Then came Blanch in 1867, and then a girl named Kate who was born in 1869 and lived only three months. In September 1871 another girl was born and was also named Kate.

Robert Marshall was born in Ayr in Scotland in 1842. He joined the Merchant Service in 1860 and he was ambitious and obtained his Mates Certificate (No.25944) in Greenock in Oct 1873. As a Mate he had to serve on ships sailing further afield. Meanwhile, Mary and family continued to live in Porthleven and her son Thomas John Marshall was very popular with his two uncles, Jacky and Thomas Bowden. Then in Dec 1876 when Thomas John was 12 years old he contracted scarlet fever and he died on Christmas Day 1876. The death certificate shows that his uncle, Thomas Bowden, was present at his death, and presumably Robert Marshall was away on his ship at this time. The loss was so profound that my great-grandfather, John (Jacky) Bowden named his eldest son (my grandfather): Thomas John Marshall Bowden when he was born on 13th April 1881.

However, Robert Marshall went on to obtain his Masters Certificate in Plymouth in May1877 and Lloyds Captains Registers show that he was Mate on the vessel Clan Campbell sailing to the South Pacific in 1877, and then he was Mate on the Trevelyan on passage to Australia in 1878 and 1879. No doubt the death of their son and Robert’s experience of life in Australia prompted Mary and Robert’s decision to emigrate to Australia in 1881 and her brother, Thomas and his new wife, Martha, to follow them in 1883.

To a new life in Australia in 1881

Sailing Barque Sterling in Port Adelaide, c. 1900

Mary and Robert decided that Mary and children would take passage to Australia in an emigrant ship as official emigrants to Australia, and Robert would sail with his ship (probably the Trevelyan) to Australia, and they would meet up in Newcastle, NSW which is about 170 km north of Sydney. Newcastle is Australia’s second biggest port and is situated at the mouth of the Hunter River. At some stage Mary’s 23 year old sister, Annie, decided to join Mary and her two daughters: Blanch aged 13 and Kate aged 9 years old.

The girls boarded the vessel Stirlingshire in Plymouth and sailed for Port Adelaide on 8th July 1881. The Stirlingshire was an elegant three masted steel sailing ship of 1262 tons and 230 ft long. She was owned by Thomas Law & Co of Glasgow and was part of their Shire Line. Her builders were Birrill Stenhouse & Co of Dunbarton, and she was completed in 1877 and specially designed for the Australian passenger trade. There were 414 emigrants aboard on this trip comprising: married couples, single men, single women, boys and girls. They arrived in Port Adelaide, South Australia, on 21st September 1881 and Annie stayed in Adelaide while Mary Marshall and her two girls caught a train to Newcastle, NSW to meet Robert joyously at the station! They settled in the Stockton area of the city and became known as Captain and Mrs Marshall.

The Stirlingshire was later sold to new owners in Norway and in the illustration is shown in Port Adelaide with her name altered to Stirling and her rigging changed to make her a sailing barque.

Annie Bowden in Adelaide

Annie Henderson, Port Adelaide, c.1900

Young Annie Bowden settled in Port Adelaide and met Oswald Henderson, who was from a Scottish emigrant family, and they married in Port Adelaide on 10th February 1883. They lived in the Birkenhead Suburb of Adelaide down by the docks, and a son was born on 28th March 1885 and named Warrick Henderson. Sadly, Oswald Henderson died on 24th December 1899 aged only 42.

Warrick Henderson, c. 1912, son of Annie and Oswald Henderson

Warrick Henderson married Amy Wondersitz on 5th May 1908 at the Telegraph Station, Port Adelaide and they had twin girls: Audrey Caroline and Dulcie Annie in 1909. The family was blighted again when Warrick died on 3rd May 1915 at 30 years of age. So Annie was a widow, and granny to her grandchildren until she died on 13th September 1937 aged 79. She was buried with her husband, Oswald, in the same grave in Cheltenham Cemetery.

Audrey Caroline Henderson married Peter Kitchen on 30th March 1929 in the Methodist Church at West Croydon, a suburb of Adelaide. They had two children: Joan Kitchen and Kevin Kitchen, and when Kevin died on 7th April 1996 he left a wife, Noreen, and three children: Peter, David and Pauline Kitchen who probably still live in the Adelaide area.

Mary Marshall in Newcastle, NSW

Mary Marshall with son Robert in Newcastle, NSW, c.1900

Meanwhile, Mary and Robert Marshall lived in Stockton and Robert continued his career sailing from Newcastle or Sydney. They were blessed with a son in 1886 who they named Robert. Then their daughter Blanch married William Llewelyn Bevan on 2nd June 1888 and thus joined a large Welsh emigrant family.

But Captain Robert Marshall was showing signs of serious illness, and Mary nursed him for a year until he died of a brain tumour on 11th December 1889. It was a sad end to a brave and loving relationship.

Blanch and William Bevan and children William and Elsie May, with Kate Gilbert and her daughter Ivy Doris, c. 1896

Blanch and William Bevan had four children: Thomas in 1889, Elsie May in 1891, Robert Hopkin in 1893 and William in 1895. Also Mary’s daughter Kate Marshall married George Henry Gilbert in Hamilton, NSW in 1892 and they had four children: Ruby May in 1893, Ivy Doris born 1895, Florence born 1900 and George Albert Victor born in 1901. Note the charming old photograph showing William and Blanch Bevan, with Blanch’s sister Kate, and some of their children. But William Bevan senior died young, and on 19th November 1903 Blanch Bevan married Joseph Sternberg.

After her husband died, Mary Marshall ran a local grocers shop, raised her son, Robert, to manhood, and was granny to all her daughters eight children. Mary Marshall was also very active in the local community until she died on 20th June 1923 at 79 years of age. She is buried with her husband, Robert, in the same grave, in Sandgate Cemetery, Newcastle NSW.

Robert Marshall (junior) c. 1916, son of Mary and Robert Marshall

The Marshall name lived on through Robert Marshall junior. In 1912 he married Ivy Banche Brown and they had two sons: Robert Clifford and Errol Maurice. In 1956 Errol Maurice Marshall married Kathleen Veronica Williams and they had three sons: Errol John Marshall, Gene Maurice Marshall and Dana Joan Marshall. These three great-grandsons of Mary and Robert Marshall still live in New South Wales.


I have discovered what happened to Annie and Mary in Australia with the help of many people in Australia and Cornwall. It must have been an exciting prospect for them: leaving a depressed Cornwall to go thousands of miles to a better life in Australia. In reality it became a sad story of both husbands dying young and leaving their wives to soldier on into old age. However, they did have their families around them and their descendants still live in the Adelaide and Newcastle districts today.

These details were published in the Cornish Family History Society Journal, Issue No 124 June 2007 as a record of my findings. I felt that this story of a Cornish family immigrating to Australia in the nineteenth century is very thought provoking and would be of interest to a wider audience. Therefore it is now reproduced in the Cornwall24 magazine.

The author Tom Bowden in Porthleven, May 2010