Wednesday, February 20, 2019



Mr. Hunt's house, at Boxley, near maidstoen was attacked by a gang of seven men...[1a]

On Friday night, Mr. Hunt's house at Boxley near Maidstone, was attacked by a gang of seven men, who broke in through the back premises and ransacked the parlour. They were observed by a farmer in the neighbourhood, who was watching his turnips with three of his men... five of them have since been taken and brought before the Justices... [1].

When Mr Edward Hunt's home at Boxley, Kent in the District of Maidstone [2], was broken into on the night of March 4, 1836, [3] he was no stranger to burglary and theft. News items show that during the 1820's and 1830's, items such as 12 bushels of apples [4], 4 fowls [5], two ducks and a drake and some tame rabbits [6], (which were later mysteriously returned to Mr. Hunt) a fat sheep [7], and other items of produce were taken from Mr. Hunt's property. 

Numerous robberies occurred at the premises of Mr. Hunt during the 14 years leading up to the burglary in 1836 [8], for which William Fryer 19, John Carter 20, Thomas Lunnun 20, Daniel Sears 19 and James George Woodley 19  were charged and found guilty [9]. Indeed long after this burglary took place at Mr. Hunt's, he still remained the frequent victim of theft [10]

This is not the story of Mr. Hunt's misfortunes however, nor a narrative about the incidence of crime in Maidstone, Kent in the 1830's. This tale is an incredulous one of how a group of five alleged thieves were caught in circumstances which involved a hat! 

Four Fowls were stolen from Mr. Hunt's premises 1822 [6]

In most of the incidences of burglary or theft at Mr. Hunt's property, the culprits were never apprehended or brought to justice, and from all accounts in Kent newspapers [11], there occurred an extraordinarily high number of thefts in the Maidstone district during the 1830's. It was not just Mr. Hunt who was being targeted by thieves and an excellent article regarding crime in the early 19th century in the South of England explains the social and economic situation at the time, here. [A]

Two ducks and a drake were stolen from Mr. Hunt's property while tame rabbits were stolen and then mysteriously returned,1833 [5].

The burglary which William Fryer allegedly took part in, occurred around midnight on the 4th of March 1836, after Edward Hunt had retired to bed at 8 pm. At some time later, he was alarmed by someone calling him outside . In the morning he found his bureau broken open, and the property stated [sic two 5 pound notes of the Kentish Bank, six sovereigns, three half sovereigns, and about 2 pounds 10 shillings in silver and copper money] ...stolen [12].

The Burglary at Mr. Hunt's [12]

William Fryer, John Carter, Thomas Lunnun, Daniel Sears and James George Woodley were arrested and charged with the crime committed at Mr. Hunt's residence on the night of 4 March 1836 [13]. Their trial was held in the Kent Assizes where Edward Hunt's housekeeper, Alice Eaton gave the following testimony.

...was awoke about 12 o'clock on the night of the robbery by Mr. Barrow [sic a farmer at Boxley] [14]. Went downstairs and heard someone unbolt the back door and go out. The front door was open. On going upstairs found a chisel under the stairs door. The bureau was open, and the papers lying about [15].

The Burglary at Mr. Hunt's continued [16]

Mr. Barrow, on being examined, stated he was in an orchard near Mr. Hunt's house with [sic men named] Knight, Wright and Seager watching his turnips [1]. His testimony claimed that he heard some footsteps near the garden gate of Mr. Hunt, and heard it open and shut. Then he heard a noise at the front door, and heard some glass break at the back room, at the West end of the house. saw a light in the house, and the front door open, and immediately called his men. Heard some persons in the kitchen, and held the door, when the light was put out. The door was twice attempted to be opened [17]. 

Witness then went into the kitchen but no one was there. On going into the back room found the window had been taken out, and an opening made, through which anyone might enter. Saw three men on the road near Mr. Hunt's. The prisoners Sears, Fryer and Carter were the three men. Sears pretended to be drunk. It was a very moonlight night. When he came near them, Fryer dropped something, which on being taken up proved to be a mattock [18].

The Burglary at Mr. Hunt's continued [19].

Mr. Barrow went on to testify that he was certain that it was William Fryer that he saw drop the mattock.  Fryer, Sears and Carter were found to have nothing belonging to Mr. Hunt in their possession. He, Mr. Barrow, went to fetch the superintendant of the police and when they arrived back at Mr. Hunt's, Joseph Wright produced the mattock. The marks on the window were found to correspond exactly with the mattock [20]. The police superintendant had his first piece of evidence - a mattock allegedly dropped by William Fryer.

 One might wonder why William would have had in his posession an agricultural tool when his occupation was a brickmaker but this was seemingly not discussed. The mattock was discovered a short distance from Mr. Hunt's and Mr. Barrow asserted he had seen William Fryer walking leisurely along the road... twenty or thirty yards from the house [21].

A mattock, an agricultural tool, Grierson 1885, Image in the Common Domain.

Witness, Joseph Wright, who had been in the orchard with Mr. Barrow on the evening of the burglary, said that he heard some glass break at Mr. Hunt's, and on going up to the house, saw some men getting out at the window. Wright stated that he had seen Daniel Sears running across the yard at Mr. Hunt's property, dressed in a short frock, with his elbows out [22]. 

At this point in time, one might be wondering why so many men happened to be near Mr'. Hunt's home between 11 o'clock and midnight on the night of 4 March 1836. A news item concerning the stealing of sheep [23] could be the clue to solving this conundrum, because it places the Hunt property near Penenden Heath where it happened there was also an Inn by the name of The Bull [24] in the close vicinity of Mr. Hunt's home.  It seems a likely scenario  that the men involved in the burglarly had been drinking at their local tavern. This might be confirmed by Mr. Barrow's testimony in which he stated that he gave Sears a shilling to buy a drink [25].

Mr. Edward Hunt near Penenden Heath [26]

The Bull Inn, Penenden Heath, Maidstone, Kent [27]

Athough the witness Mr. Barrow claimed to have seen William Fryer drop something, on which being taken up proved to be a mattock [28], the tool was never actually seen in his hands. William Fryer was a brickmaker whose trade would not have required the use of a mattock. Mr. Barrow further confirmed this when he stated that he had not seen any man working with a mattock in the sand pit [sic sand was extracted at Aylesford for the purpose of brickmaking in the Maidstone district ] [B]

It is entirely possible that the mattock found as evidence might not have been enough to convict the 19 year old William Fryer who had no previous convictions, especially in light of the character witnesses who came forward to testify to his honest nature. 

William was seen coming from near the cottages into the road [sic cottages which were  below the house of Mr. Hunt] [29]. No one witnessed William Fryer in the house or in the yard belonging to Mr. Hunt. He claimed his innocence throughout his trial despite being seen in the company of Sears [30] immediately following the burglary. 

This is not to say that William Fryer was innocent, however, since he went on to lead an exemplary life in NSW, becoming the first Mayor of Shellharbour Council, it appears that he was indeed an honest young man, as was indicated by his the witnesses called to testify to his character. It is entirely possible that he was not guilty of the crime he was charged with committing, but was simply in the wrong place at the wrong time. Or, perhaps he simply learned from a mistake!

The Burglary at Mr. Hunt's [31]

Daniel Sears was seen running across Mr. Hunt's yard and John Knight testified that he had recognised Thomas Lunnun getting out of the window of Mr. Hunt's house and Lunnun was known to Knight so this seemed a credible enough testimony to establish that Sears and Lunnun were involved in the burglary[32]. 

James George Wordley leaves indisputable evidence at the scene of the crime [33]

Now comes the part, where the careless action of one of the burglars sealed the fate of the accused five men, Daniel Sears, William Fryer, Thomas Lunnon, John Carter and James George Wordley. Robert Seager, one of the witnesses who attended the scene of the crime from a nearby orchard on the night of the burglary, stated that Wordley came out the back door, and his hat fell off, which was taken into the house.[34]

Wordley's hat was the final straw! [35]


James George Wordley was apprehended on March 6th. The hat which had been dropped at the scene of the burglary had the pecularity of being marked with a "W". Richard Seager, one of the men from the orchard swore at the trial that The hat I hold in my hand is the one which fell from the head of Wordley. Seager further testified that he saw the letter (W.) marked in Wordley's hat when I was at Mr. Hunt's house. This was damning evidence for James George Wordley and firmly placed him a the scene of the crime at Mr. Hunt's [36]. 

Further sealing Wordley's fate was a constable Tuff who had taken Wordley to the shop of Mrs. Clark, at Rochestor, who is a hatter. Henry Briggs who was employed at the shop testified that he had sold a hat to Wordley, about three weeks ago, who marked it in the letter "W" while he was in the shop. Mr. Briggs also asserted that it was very uncommon for persons who buy hats to mark them in the shop. Stood behind Wordley when he marked the hat. It is quite evident that he was the person who bought the hat. [37]. 

The Burglary at Mr' Hunt's 

A sentence of death was handed down to the five men charged with the burglary at Mr. Hunt's. Carter, Lunnun and Wordley had prior convictions but since Daniel Sears and William Fryer both aged 19 had no such previous criminal history they were recommended to mercy by the prosecutor [38].

All five men had their death sentences commuted to transportation to NSW [39]. Sears and Fryer were given a 7 years sentence each and the remaining men were awarded life sentences. All were placed on the hulk Fortitude to await their voyages to Sydney [40]. William Fryer and James George Wordley arrived in NSW on August 4 1836, on the Bengal Merchant. The other three men arrived in September 1837 on board the convict ship John [41]. How James George Wordley must have cursed his hat!

Convict Indent for the ship John [42]

And all your future lies beneath your hat. John Oldham (1653-1683 Poet)


1.British Newspaper Archive, Dover Telegraph and Cinque Ports General Adviser, 12 March 1836, p. 8.2. British Newspaper Archive,, accessed February 2019.
3. British Newspaper Archive, South Eastern Gazette, The Burglary at Mr. Hunt's, 22 March 1836, p. 3.
4. British Newspaper Archive, South Eastern Gazette, 16 October 1832, p. 4.
5. British Newspaper Archive, Kentish Weekly Post or Canterbury Journal, 15 February 1822, p. 2.
6. British Newspaper Archive, South Eastern Gazette, 14 May 1833, p. 4.
7. British Newspaper Archive, South Eastern Gazette, 10 Janaury 1837, p. 4.
8.British Newspaper Archive,, accessed February 2019.
9.British Newspaper Archive, Maidstone Journal and Kentish Advisor, Burglary at Boxley, 22 March 1836, p. 3.
10.British Newspaper Archive,, accessed February 2019.
12.British Newpaper Archives, South Eastern Gazette, The Burglary at Mr. Hunt's, 22 March 1836, p. 3.
23.British Newspaper Archive, West Kent Guardian, 11 February 1837, p. 8.
24.Photograph, The Bull Inn, Penenden Heath Maidstone, Male McDonald, Geograph, Creative Commons Licence,
25.British Newspaper Archive, South Eastern Gazette, The Burglary at Mr. Hunt's, 22 March 1836, p. 3.
26.British Newspaper Archive, West Kent Guardian, 11 February 1837, p. 8.
27.Photograph, The Bull Inn, Penenden Heath Maidstone, Male McDonald, Geograph, Creative Commons Licence,
28.British Newspaper Archive, South Eastern Gazette, The Burglary at Mr. Hunt's, 22 March 1836, p. 3. 
31.British Newpaper Archives, South Eastern Gazette, The Burglary at Mr. Hunt's, 22 March 1836, p. 3.
34.British Newpaper Archives, South Eastern Gazette, The Burglary at Mr. Hunt's, 22 March 1836, p. 3.
36.British Newpaper Archives, South Eastern Gazette, The Burglary at Mr. Hunt's, 22 March 1836, p. 3.
39. British Newspaper Archive, South Eastern Gazette, 10 May 1836, p. 4.
40. Ibid. Australian Convict Transportation Registers – Other Fleets & Ships, 1791-1868 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations Inc, 2007,Original data: Home Office: Convict Transportation Registers; (The National Archives Microfilm Publication HO11); The National Archives of the UK (TNA), Kew, Surrey, England.
42. Ibid.


A. A Web of English History, Rural Unrest in the 1830's  
B. Kent Council, Exploring Kent's Past,

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

KITTY KEEFFE, SALAD OIL THIEF (Dublin 1826) -Finding a Motive for her Crime

Kitty Keeffe, Salad Oil Thief (Dublin 1826) - Finding a Motive for her Crime

Image "The Ale House Door" Wikipedia ©©
I discovered Kitty Keeffe while searching for my convict ancestors in Irish newspapers on the Irish Newspaper Archives website. Although Kitty is not an ancestor of mine, the account of her trial in the Freemans Journal, May 27 1826, caught my attention due to the nature of her crime.  Kitty Keeffe, officially known by the name Catherine, was charged with the theft of 'salad oil' from Mr Glenton's shop in Mary Street, Dublin. The 19th century use of 'salad oil'  intrigued me and I must admit that I couldn't bring to mind what salads might have been eaten in Ireland in the 1820's. Irish food interests me because paternal grandmother was born in Ireland and many of the fond memories I have of her, involve food. Many of the dishes she cooked were made from recipes which came with her  family to Australia from Ireland. 

I live in Australia, a country that has hot summers, and my family meals have traditionally involved salads. Christmas here falls in the midst of summer so salads of a variety of kinds, accompanied by cold roast meats, are a Christmas tradition passed down from my mother. My own family continues to enjoy this Christmas tradition. Meals cooked by my grandmother were always traditionally British hot meals. At Christmas her hearty feast included turkey and vegetables, roasted in her big Aga oven, thick gravy, scrumptious plum pudding and her secret recipe custard. She passed on to me many of her recipes, my favourite being her Irish Bap. Salad, however, was not something that was served at my Irish grandmother's table. 

An old Aga Oven Image Wikipedia ©©
While reading the news report about Kitty Keeffe's theft of salad oil, I realised that I had little knowledge about the origins of salad or salad dressings. I wondered what importance salad played in 19th century Irish cuisine and whether I could find a motive for Kitty's crime by researching the history of salad.

Salad Vegetables Image ©© maxpixel
I discovered that concept of salad dates back to ancient times, the word salad being derived from the Latin sal meaning raw. [1]  In Solomen Katz's book, The Encyclopedia of Food and Culture I discovered an interesting history of salad. 

"Although the ancient Greeks and Romans did not use the word "salad", they enjoyed a variety of dishes with raw vegetables dressed with vinegar, oil and herbs... The medical practitioners Hippocrates and Galen believed that raw vegetables easily slipped through the system and did not create obstructions for what followed, therefore they should be served first...others reported that the vinegar in the dressing destroyed the taste of the wine, therefore they should be served last. This debate has continued ever since... With the fall of Rome, salads were less important in western Europe, although raw vegetables and fruit were eaten on fast days and as medicinal correctives...[2]

The Romans understood the health benefits of raw vegetables Image Wikipedia ©©
The Food Timeline website provided me with some insight into Renaissance understanding of the health benefit of the salad vegetable, lettuce. Bartolomeo Sacchi, better known as Platina, an Italian humanist scribe and gastronomist, prescribed the advantages of eating lettuce in 1475, in his published work "On Right Pleasure and Good Health".

They say the divine Augustus was preserved in a time of ill health by the use of lettuce, and no wonder because it aids digestion and generates better blood than other vegetables. It is eaten cooked or raw. You season raw lettuce this way if it does not need washing... put it in a dish, sprinkle with ground salt, pour in a little oil and more vinegar and eat at once. Some add a little mint and parsley to it for seasoning so it does not seem entirely bland..." [3]

The Roman recipe book known as Apicius, [4] contains a number of ancient recipes for salads including the following:

Fresh mint, rue, coriander, fennel lovage, 
pepper, honey, liquamen, vinegar

Rustic greens dressed with liquamen, oil and onion

I must admit that I was surprised to find that the concept of salad vegetables as a healthy food source was an ancient idea. The Romans introduced lettuce to Britain where it remained for a long time, a food enjoyed by the wealthy. In the 18th century prosperous households popularly served sallad consisting of lettuce and radishes with an oil and vinaigrette dressing tossed through immediately prior to serving. By the beginning of the 19th century, raw vegetables had become less popular and salad had evolved into dishes that were less concerned with raw vegetables and instead consisted of chopped meats or fish garnished with a mayonnaise dressing. [5]  It was not until the end of the 19th century that salad vegetables gained popularity again as an aperitif.  My research into salad history suggested that Kitty Keeffe was unlikely to have ever eaten salad, let alone stolen salad oil to make a tasty salad vinaigrette.

I next went in search of what salad oil was used for in early 19th century Ireland, and what type of oil was likely to have been the object of Kitty Keeffe's desire. I had not previously seen theft of salad oil in Australian convict records, and with my new found knowledge that Kitty Keefe, was unlikely to have consumed salad for her meals, the puzzling theft of salad oil from Mr Glenton's shop in Mary Street Dublin, fascinated me even more.

Image Creative Commons ©©

  Below is an image of the news account of Kitty Keeffe's trial, followed by my own transcription.

Freemans Journal ,Saturday, May 27, 1826, p. 2. [6]

The Recorder, assisted by Alderman Fleming and Sir George Whiteford, has been sitting the last four days, trying a number of prisoners for grand and petty larceny, and traversers for assaults.
On Thursday, Catherine Keeffe was indicted for stealing a bottle of salad oil, the property of Mr. Glenton, Mary Street.
Mr. Bethel observed, that for fear of any "crotchety" point, he would anticipate the defence. It seemed the prisoner went into Mr. Glenton's shop, took a liking to a bottle of oil, put it under her cloak, and was in the act of retiring from the shop, when Mr. Glenton leaped over the counter, but before he had time to make a prisoner of Kitty Keeffe, she left the bottle on the counter. It would be for the Jury to judge, with what intention the original taking was; and if they believed it was felonious, then he would have the concurrence of the Recorder, whose courtesy and kindness Mr. Bethel so frequently experienced, that there should be a conviction - if not, then no one should be so glad as himself at the acquittal of such a Diana as appeared at the bar.
Mt. Glenton established by his evidence the foregoing case, and the prisoner, being an old offender, was sentenced to 7 years' transportation.  

I will never know whether the judge referred to Kitty as a 'Diana' with wit or with sarcasm, but whatever the mood in the court that day, she was unsuccessful in convincing a jury that she had intended to pay for the salad oil. Kitty was sentenced to 7 years' transportation and in 1826  her destination would have certainly been Australia. My first point of reference for information about Kitty Keeffe was in Australian convict records.  

Searching and I found a number of female convicts by the name of Catherine Keeffe. Using the date and place of her trial, (details supplied the in Irish news report), I found Catherine Keeffe arriving in Sydney in February 1827 on the convict ship Brothers. Described on her Convict Indent as being 5'2" tall, of middle build and having sandy brown hair and blue eyes, I was now able to picture this felonious 'Diana' named Kitty Keeffe. 

Parramatta Female Factory Image Wikipedia ©©
Searching through images of convict documents using Kitty's official name, Catherine Keeffe, I was discovered that the news article in the Freemans Journal appeared to offer the only detailed description of her crime. All but one of Catherine Keeffe's convict records listed her misdemeanor simply as 'shoplifting'. The only mention of oil was on Kitty's Certificate of Freedom (May 30, 1833) where it recorded her crime rather vaguely as 'felony oil'. [7]  Had I not read the news item detailing Kitty's story, this obscure description of 'felony oil' on a convict document might have left me puzzled.
Louis-Michel van Loo Image Diana Wikipedia ©©
According to the Convict Indent for the ship "Brothers", Kitty Keeffe was a widow aged 50 years, when sentenced to transportation. She had two children listed on the indent, who did not accompany her on the voyage that departed Cork Ireland, October 3rd 1826, and arrived in Sydney, New South Wales, on the 2nd of February 1827. [8] With Kitty being middle aged, it is likely that her children were adults, possibly married, so it is easy to imagine how heartbreaking it must have been for this mother to be uprooted from her family and transported across the ocean alone.

Catherine Keeffe on the Convict Indent for the ship 'Brothers'

Catherine Keeffe did not settle well into the new life to which she was assigned in Sydney. On March 19th of 1827, a little more than a month after her arrival, she was sentenced to one month at the female factory at Parramatta for absconding without leave.[9]  From this time forward, Kitty persistently found herself on the wrong side of the law. Seemingly undeterred by repetitive punishment, she served numerous sentences in the female factory for offences such as  Improper Conduct, Absconding and Drunkenness. The obviously rebellious, Donegal born house servant, appears to have been as 'troublesome' a character as her Convict Indent reported.

June 13, 1831. Kitty was sentenced to the female factory. [10]
Kitty possibly married some years after her arrival in Sydney, or perhaps assumed an alias surname, since a Parramatta Gaol entrance record in 1837 documented her name as Catherine Keeffe, now [Hy....]. I have not yet been able to interpret the name given, however it appears to be Hyams.

Catherine Keeffe, now [...] [11]
By the time she received her Certificate of Freedom, after never staying out of trouble for long, Kitty Keeffe had served her full 7 year sentence and was aged around 57 years. With a picture of Kitty's troubled convict life established, I turned to what had most intrigued me about her story - her alleged theft of salad oil. Why would a middle-aged house servant wish to steal salad oil? I continued my research with a look at the history of salad oils, particularly those popular in the early 19th century, in the hope that I might discover Kitty Keeffe's intentions when she committed her crime.

Certificate of Freedom for Catherine Keeffe [12] 
Irish newspaper advertisements from the early 19th century and notably the 1820's, highlighted that the major market for 'salad oil' was the nobility and the wealthier class in Irish society. Advertisements placed in newspapers at the time, also show that olive oil was favoured as a salad oil. Two advertisements below, from 1829 and 1818 editions of the Freemans Journal show that olive oil was marketed to a clientele expectant of the highest quality products and one who was accustomed to the high cost of purchasing fine goods. 
( *Gallipoli Oil mentioned in the advertisement below, was a Mediterranean olive oil).

Advertisement directed to 'the Nobility, his friends and the Public'  Dublin Evening Packet and Correspondent, 19 March 1829 [13]
Begs leave most respectably to acquaint the Nobility, his Friends and the Public, that he has received the following Article's, of the best quality.... Malaga and Portugal Grapes, large Muscatel Raisins in Bunches,... New Jordan Almonds, large Turkey Figs, New Walnuts, Fine Spanish Chestnuts ....Fine Salad Oil....

The article in the Freemans Journal below shows the price of olive oil along with other foods imported to Ireland in 1818.

Advertisement Freemans Journal 7 September 1818 [14]
Advertisements in Irish newspapers revealed that olive oil was imported from a number of countries in Europe to Ireland in the early 19th century. Advertising imported food products by the geographical location from which they came, clearly validated their superior quality and enhanced their appeal to wealthy purchasers. Olive oil was almost certainly the salad oil in the bottle that Kitty took a liking to in Mr Glenton's shop. Being an imported commodity, olive oil would have been too costly a product for a house servant to purchase. Since no employer came forth at the trial to act in Kitty's defence, it must be assumed that Kitty Keeffe required the oil for her own use. The question remaining unanswered was why did she need to steal salad oil? 

Freemans Journal, 14 December 1825 [15]
Freemans Journal, 11 December 1824 [16]
Belfast Newsletter, 30 December 1828 [17]
When I was a child, my mother used olive oil to make salad dressings, but far more importantly, she also applied it slightly warmed, as a remedy for my childhood ear-aches. I have used this same soothing pain relief when my own children had ear-ache so I could not help but wonder if the healing properties of this product were known to Kitty Keeffe in 1826 when she stole a bottle of salad oil. Perhaps this remedy for ear-ache had been passed down through a family tradition as it had in mine. I resolved to find out exactly what Kitty Keeffe might have known about olive oil in Ireland in the early 19th century.

Old Olive Oil Bottles Image Wikipedia ©©
Advertisements in Irish newspapers offered me a significant understanding of 19th century knowledge of the medicinal qualities of olive oil or salad oil, and thus some plausible motives for Kitty Keeffe's crime. 

Image Wikipedia ©©
Although the following author wrote several decades after Kitty Keeffe committed her crime, Mrs Beeton's Book of Household Management" [18] published in 1861 provides some useful insight into 19th century uses of olive oil, both culinary and medicinal.
"The oil extracted from olives, called olive oil, or salad oil, is, with the continentals, in continual request, more dishes being prepared with than without it, we should imagine. With us, it is principally used in mixing a salad, and when thus employed, it tends to prevent fermentation, and is an antidote against flatulency." [19]
Newspaper advertisements widely promoted the healing traits of olive oil to an early 19th century Irish and British public. Since I know that Kitty was literate, from copies of her convict records, it is plausible to imagine that she might have read publications which promoted olive or salad oil as a cure numerous medical complaints.  

Image Wikipedia ©©
Olive oil was widely proclaimed to cure or relieve a range of medical complaints including ear-ache, leg cramps, flatulence and gout - all conditions that we may imagine  50 year old  Kitty Keeffe experiencing the discomfort of.  I do hope however, that poor Kitty did not serve a 7 year sentence in New South Wales for the misfortune of suffering flatulence! 

Remedy for Ear-Ache , Advertisement in the Belfast Newsletter, 27 May 1823 [20]
A violent pain in the ear has for some time been prevalent, and particularly amongst children, extending like an epidemic through entire families. The most effectual remedy yet discovered has been a small clove of garlic steeped for a few minutes in warm salad oil and put into the ear rolled up in muslin or fine linen. In sometime the garlic is reduced to a pulp; and having accomplished its object should be replaced with Cotton to prevent the patient taking cold. 

Remedy for Gout, Freemans Journal 9 November 1821 [21]

Remedy for Cramps, Salisbury and Winchester Journal, 25 December 1826 [22]
A Correspondent suggests a remedy, more simple and quite efficacious as the one mentioned in our last Journal, for the cure of the cramp:- Pour some salad oil in the palm of the hand, and rub well into the calves of the legs: the operation to be repeated about once a week, or before violent exercise.

The advantages olive oil were not limited to medical practices in early 19th century Ireland. Newspaper advertisements of that period exposed a variety of practical reasons why Kitty Keeffe might have required a bottle of olive oil. These included the preservation of eggs, soap making and a new method of creating a night light. The advertisement below shows that by 1824, soap was being made from the purest Olive Oil. 
"Purified Windsor Soap", Freemans Journal, 7 February 1824, p. 1. [23]
G. SIMS, Windsor, 
RESPECTFULLY solicits the attention of the Nobility, Gentry, and the Public of Ireland, to his refined Olive and White Windsor Soap, which is manufactured principally from the purest Olive Oil, without any admixture of Corrosive Alkaki, so common in most Soap now manufactured under the name of Windsor, all of which have for their base the common Curd or Tallow Soap. The claims of his Olive Oil and White Windsor Soap to the Public favour, rests on the acknowledged superiority of the materials of which it is composed, and the careful attention which has been employed to adapt it to the purpose intended...

The advertisement below, place by the Windsor Soap manufacturer, advised the Irish public in 1827 that olive oil forms a paste too difficult to melt, and having an odour too powerful for mixing with perfumes, and that  it was no longer considered it a suitable oil for making soap. Considering that commercially made soap was available in 19th century Dublin, I think it unlikely that Kitty Keeffe stole salad oil for this purpose. Had she needed soap, I suspect she would have simply stolen this item itself, rather than taking salad oil for the laborious task of making her own soap.  

"Transparent Soap", Freemans Journal, 12 July 1827 [24]
A few years prior to Kitty's attempted theft of salad oil, newspapers had enthusiastically announced the invention of a new kind of night light, the principal ingredient of which was olive oil. This was promoted as being a much safer and cleaner source of lighting than one using gas and was therefore recommended for  nursery protection, as illustrated in the advertisement below.

Freemans Journal 9 November 1821 [25]
The New Light,- The safety night light without smell, smoke or danger, appears to be at once the most single and efficacious extant; it consists of a small button or wick, which floating on Olive Oil, gives a pure constant flame equal to Gas, and just sufficient for a nursery protection...

The following advertisement from 1827 details the method required to make a luminous night light.

Freemans Journal 25 August 1827 [26]
The following is a method of preparing a luminous bottle, which will give sufficient light during the night to admit the hour being easily told on the dial of a watch. A phial of clear white glass, of a long form, must be chosen, and some fine olive oil heated to ebullition in another vessel: a piece of phosphorous of the size of a pea must be put into the phial, and the boiling oil carefully poured over it, till the phial is one-third filled. The phial must then be carefully corked, and when it is to be used, it must be unstopped to admit the external air, and closed again. The empty space of the phial will then appear luminous, and will give as much light as a dull ordinary lamp....

Considering the equipment and the preparation involved to produce the new luminous night light, and its intended use for safe nursery lighting or the reading of a watch face, the market to which it was promoted becomes obvious as being wealthy households. Nurseries were the domain of prosperous families, as were watches and clocks. Although I am certain that her employment as a house servant required early starts to Kitty Keeffe's days, it does not seem credible that she tried to steal salad oil to make a luminous night light for her humble servant's abode.

There were, in addition to medical and household practices, culinary uses for olive oil which were publicised at the time of Kitty's crime. The advertisement below suggests that an excellent method to preserve eggs, is to dip them in salad oil and pack them in salt.

Taunton Courier andWestern Adviser, 30 July 1823 [27]
Ireland was in the grip of poverty at the time Kitty committed her crime in 1826 and in Ireland at that time there existed a distinct divide between the wealthy and the poor. By the 19th century, the potato was the predominant food in around a third of the Irish population's diet. The poorer people of Ireland did not often consume eggs unless they lived in farming communities. Goose and hens' eggs were considered a delicacy to be served on the dinner table of more fortunate members of Irish society (many of whom were British). The preservation of eggs does not seem a probable reason for Kitty to have stolen salad oil from Mr Glenton's shop. [28]

Freemans Journal 22 December 1824 [29]
DANDELION, - This plant makes a pleasant slad in the spring, while the leaves are unfolded. 

Salad vegetables would not have been a staple part of an Irish house servant's diet in the 1820's, although Kitty would almost certainly have been aware of the medicinal qualities of plants and herbs - this knowledge had been entrenched in Irish legend from ancient times. Kitty may well have understood healing nature of plants such as the dandelion, a native plant which grows wild and abundantly throughout Ireland. In Irish folklore, dandelions have long been regarded as possessing magical as well as healing qualities and the tea brewed from this plant was, and still is today, consumed to aid digestion. [30] 

The Dandelion Plant Image Wikipedia ©©
Kitty's crime occurred in May, which in Ireland is Spring. According to the above advertisement Spring is the best season in which to make a pleasant salad, from dandelions. Even if Kitty Keeffe   understood the medicinal uses of dandelions or other wildflowers and read the publicity promoting their leaves as being suitable for use in salads, it is difficult to conceive that this middle aged servant so desired a meal of dandelion leaves, that she felt compelled to steal a bottle of salad oil to garnish them with.
© Copyright Philip Halling and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.
While reading images of 19th century Irish newspapers, I noticed that a large variety of thefts were reported. These included highway robbery, street robbery, the stealing of clothing, money, linen, corduroy and muslin, sheep, pigs and even a dark grey horse [31], but Kitty Keeffe's crime appeared to be an unusual felony. From Catherine Keeffe's Convict Indent for the ship Brothers, I compiled a list of the crimes allegedly committed by the the 160 other female convicts who accompanied her in 1827 on this ship. In total, 9 of the women were charged with shoplifting - the crime Kitty Keeffe was transported for. All  9 shoplifters, except for Catherine Keeffe were aged in their twenties and three had stolen a handkerchief, calico and clothes. Among thefts reported generally in 19th century newspapers and among the crimes committed by this shipload of female convicts, theft of salad oil was unique.

 As shown below, the majority of the crimes committed by women transported to Sydney with Catherine Keefe on the convict ship Brothers, were thefts of money and clothing items.

This file was provided to Wikimedia Commons by the Walters Art Museum as part of a cooperation project. All artworks in the photographs are in public domain due to age. The photographs of two-dimensional objects are also in the public domain. Photographs of three-dimensional objects and all descriptions have been released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License and the GNU Free Documentation License.

Pickpocket - 1
Bad Notes - 2
Stealing Shifts - 1*
Stealing Money - 39
Stealing Shifts - 1*
Shoplifting - 9
Stealing Handkerchiefs - 4*
Stealing Cloak - 5*
Highway Robbery - 10
Stealing Corduroy - 2
Stealing Linen - 4
Stealing Clothes - 13*
Street Robbery - 5
Forged Notes - 3
Stealing Sheep - 1
Stealing Capes - 2*
Stealing Watch - 5
Stealing Yarn - 1
Stealing Sheets - 1
Stealing Cloth - 1
Fire Arms - 1
Stealing Mutton - 1
Stolen Goods - 2
Stealing Notes - 1
Stealing Geese - 1
Robbing Children - 2
Stealing a Dress - 1*
Stealing Ribbons - 1*
Stealing Glasses - 1
Pledging - 1
Stealing Coats - 1*
Stealing Papers - 1
Stealing Calico - 4
Breach of Trust - 2
Stealing a Gown - 2*
Stealing Fowls - 1
Child Stealing - 1
Stealing a Hat -2*
Stealing Shawls - 1
Stealing Snuff - 1
Stealing a Bonnet - 1*
Stealing Trousers - 1*
Stealing a Gown - 1*
Stealing a Counterpane - 2 sisters who had a brother in the colony

  39 Charges of stealing Money.
*36 Crimes were stealing clothing items. 

Image Wikipedia ©©
My research to determined a motive for Kitty Keeffe's attempted theft of salad oil from Mr Glenton's shop in Mary Street, Dublin in May 1826 has been interesting. Irish newspapers from the time of this crime have provided significant information about 19th century uses of salad oil, and thus clues as to why Kitty might have needed such an item. Catherine Keeffe's convict records have offered me details about her character and behavior after arrival in Sydney. By assembling information about the time and place in which Kitty Keeffe lived, I have better been able to understand her crime within the historical context of its occurence. I have reached the following conclusions about possible motives for Kitty's alleged crime.

The facts suggest that Kitty Keefe was guilty as charged.

The Freemans Journal reported Kitty Keeffe as being an old offender, and that was reason enough for the jury to determine her guilty. This suggests that her past criminal activity was known to the court ( I suspect it was not her age to which old offender referred). It is entirely possible that Mr Glenton had been the victim of the felonious intentions of Kitty Keeffe prior to May of 1826.

It was unlikely that Kitty Keeffe committed this crime in order to be transported.

Since there is no record of her children having been convicted prior to her transportation either in the Irish to Australian Convict Transportation Database or in Kitty's own Australian Convict Records, (which frequently detail family members previously transported) I do not believe that she stole the salad oil in order to be sent to Australia.

It is unlikely that Kitty Keeffe was desirous of a dressing for a salad or that she needed salad oil for any other culinary purpose.

I think it improbably that the motive for Kitty Keeffe's crime was a culinary need. My research indicates that the theft was more likely prompted by medicinal needs, most practicably for relief of leg cramping or ear-ache. From her troublesome behavior in New South Wales, I also think it doubtful that flatulence would have concerned Kitty. Since salad was not a food typically in the diet of a servant in Ireland in 1826 and as a convict, being charged more than once with drunkenness, it seems unlikely that Mrs Keeffe was concerned about a healthy diet.

Painful ear-ache was certainly a condition which could have affected Kitty Keeffe and working as a house servant in her middle years she might realistically have suffered leg cramps. Medicines for relief of these afflictions were priced far beyond Kitty's reach and a curing bottle of oil on a shelf in Mr Glenton's shop could certainly have been a temptation. Relief from painful medical symptoms would be a reasonable and comprehensive explanation for the theft of olive oil in 1826, particularly as its remedial effectiveness was much advertised in Irish newspapers throughout the 1820's.

Artist: Jean-Baptiste Greuze Image Wikipedia ©©
 Monetary gain as a motive for theft cannot be ruled out.

Olive oil was an expensive, imported item, which in 19th century Ireland was a product that only wealthy citizens could afford. One practical theory that might explain Kitty's theft is a possible market for the on sale of expensive olive. If one pictures the layers of a wealthy 1820's Dublin household as being much like the English Downton Abbey in the popular television series, (since many of the wealthy in Ireland were English), it is not impossible to imagine the sale of ill-gotten produce for the household kitchen being used as a way to earn illicit money within the servant quarters. I have found no evidence to suggest this motive in newspapers, although the smuggling of costly imported foods to Ireland was widely reported.

 Author: Jorge Royan ©©
My journey with Kitty Keeffe, salad oil thief had been a fascinating one. From a cursory glance at a news item where the 19th century use of the words salad dressing intrigued me, through an exploration of salad through the ages, to a plausible reason for the unusual theft of olive oil, I have been enthralled by Kitty Keeffe's story. If any of her descendants find this blog and have more information to tender I will be only too happy to enrich her tale further.

As a small afterthought, I cannot help but wonder if Kitty's story might have been even more colourful had she waited two years for the discovery of a very fine and inviting new oil distilled from maize....

Freemans Journal 28 July 1829 [29]


1. "The Food Timeline", accessed 16 August 2017.

2.  Solomen H. Katz, Encyclopedia of Food and Culture, Charles Schribner's Sons, New York, 2003.      224-5.

3. Platina, On Right Pleasure and Good Health, [Italain:1475, original text in Latin, translated by
    Mary Ellen Milham, Medieval & renaissance Texts & Studies, Tempe, 1998, p. 213, Food
    Timeline, accessed 17 August 2017.

4. Apicius, Book 1 Recipe 35,
    accessed 20 August 2017.

5. Restauranting Through History, Basic Fare, https://restaurant- accessed 22 August 2017.

6. "Recorder's Court", Freemans Journal, 27 May 1826, p .2., Irish Newspaper  Archives,      accessed 20 August 2017

New South Wales, Australia, Certificates of Freedom, 1810-1814, 1827-1867 [database on-line]., Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2009.Original data: New South Wales Government. Butts of Certificates of Freedom. NRS 1165, 1166, 1167, 12208, 12210, reels 601, 602, 604, 982-1027. State Records Authority of New South Wales, Kingswood, New South Wales.

8State Archives NSW; Series: NRS 12188; Item: [4/4012]; Microfiche: 663 New South Wales, Australia, Convict Indents, 1788-1842 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2011. 

9.  State Archives NSW; Roll: 851, New South Wales, Australia, Gaol Description and Entrance Books, 1818-1930 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2012.

10. State Archives NSW; Roll: 851, New South Wales, Australia, Gaol Description and Entrance Books, 1818-1930 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2012.

11.  State Archives NSW; Roll: 175, New South Wales, Australia, Gaol Description and Entrance Books, 1818-1930 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2012.

12New South Wales, Australia, Certificates of Freedom, 1810-1814, 1827-1867 [database on-line]., Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2009.Original data: New South Wales Government. Butts of Certificates of Freedom. NRS 1165, 1166, 1167, 12208, 12210, reels 601, 602, 604, 982-1027. State Records Authority of New South Wales, Kingswood, New South Wales.

13. "John Reagan", Dublin's Evening Packet and Correspondent, 19 March 1829, p. 1.,
     Irish Newspaper Archives, accessed 8 August 2017.

14.  "Monthly Commercial Report", Freemans Journal, 7 September 1818, p. 6., Irish Newspaper
    Archives, accessed 6 August 2017.

15. "New Zante Currants and Olive Oil", Freemans Journal, 14 November 1825, p. 1., Irish
    Newspaper Archives, accessed 8 August 2017.

16. "French Goods", Freemans Journal, 11 December 1824, p. 1., Irish Newspaper Archives, accessed 3 August 2017.

17. "New Sicily Barilla", Belfast Newsletter, 30 Cecember 1828, p. 2., Irish Newspaper
    Archives, accessed 3 August 2017.

18. Mrs Beeton's Book of Household Management, (originally published as twenty-four newspaper columns from 1859 to 1861), Isabella Beeton, Sarah A. Chrisman (Forward by)Abrudged Version, United States, 2015.

19. Belfast Newsletter, 27 May 1823, p. 2., Irish Newspaper Archives, accessed 7 August 2017.  

20.  "The Gout", Freemans Journal, 9 November 1821, Irish Newspaper Archives, accessed 14 August 2017.  

21.  Salisbury and Winchester Journal, 25 December 1826, p. 4., British Newspaper 
    Archives, accessed 14 August 2017.

22.  "Purified Windsor Soap", Freemans Journal, 7 February 1824, p. 1. Irish Newspaper
    Archives, accessed 8 August 2017.

23. "Transparent Soap", Freemans Journal, 12 July 1827, p. 1., Irish Newspaper Archives, accessed 12 August 2017.
24. "The New Light", Freemans Journal, 7 February 1827, p. 4., Irish Newspaper Archives, accessed 12 August 2017.

25. "A Luminous Bottle", Freemans Journal, 25 August 1827, p. 1., Irish Newspaper
    Archives, accessed 8 August 2017.

26. Taunton Courier and Western  Adviser, 30 July 1823, p. 8.,  The British Newspaper
    Archive, accessed 10 August 2017.
27. Mairtin Mac Con Iamaire, The History of Eggs in Irish Cuisine and Culture, Dublin Institute
    of Technology, Dublin, 2007.
28. "Dandelion", Freemans Journal, 22 December 1824, p. 4., Irish Newspaper Archives, accessed 8 August 2017.
 29. "Dandelion", Freemans Journal, 22 December 1824, p. 4., Irish Newspaper Archives, accessed 14 August 2017.

30. "Dandelion Folklore and Magic",
    2562021/ accessed 19 August 2017.

31."A Dark grey Horse", Belfast Newsletter, 9 October 1807, p. 3., Irish Newspaper Archives, accessed 21 August 2017.

 32. "A New Oil", Freemans Journal, 28 July 1829, p. 4., Irish Newspaper Archives, accessed 8 August 2017.


Apicius, Book 1 Recipe 35,
    accessed 20 August 2017.
"Dandelion Folklore and Magic",
    2562021/ accessed 19 August 2017.
Irish Newspaper Archives
 Katz, Solomen. H., Encyclopedia of Food and Culture, Charles Schribner's Sons, New York, 2003.      224-5
Mac Con Iamaire, Mairtin, The History of Eggs in Irish Cuisine and Culture, Dublin Institute
    of Technology, Dublin, 2007.
Platina, On Right Pleasure and Good Health, [Italain:1475, original text in Latin, translated by
    Mary Ellen Milham, Medieval & renaissance Texts & Studies, Tempe, 1998, p. 213, Food
    Timeline, accessed 17 August 2017.
Restauranting Through History, Basic Fare, https://restaurant- accessed 22 August 2017.
The British Newspaper Archive
The Food Timeline", accessed 16 August 2017