BEYOND THE TREE | Did Pam's great-great-grandma do it on purpose?

Mary set fire to her boss's house then turned herself in. Was it all a scheme to get sent to Australia? If so, the plan paid off says her great-great-grandaughter Pam. The Champion is running a series of family stories tying in with Beyond the Tree exhibition at Liverpool Regional Museum which includes a growing community tree to which you can add your own family story. Bring in photos of your family moments to be scanned, printed and mounted. The exhibition is in conjunction with Liverpool Genealogy Society. Volunteers help with research and family enquiries Tuesdays to Saturdays.

ON MAY 10, 1839, my great-great-grandma Mary Malone, a kitchenmaid, set fire to her employer Eliza Hackett's house in Caragh, near Naas, in Ireland. Then went to the police station. As stated in the police officer's Report of Outrage: "I report that between 4 and 5 of PM on 10th instant a girl name Mary Malone, no fixed residence, was left alone in the house of Eliza Hackett, of Grange, when she took out a coal and put it into the thatch on the roof which quickly ignited and burned down before it could be put out."

Convicted of arson, she got to 15 years' gaol. We'll never know for sure if she deliberately committed the crime to be transported to Australia. Women in famine-stricken Ireland often committed arson to be transported. It was the ideal crime for those who wished to be caught -- visible, immediate and effective.

On the voyage here aboard the Isabella in 1840, Mary suffered a recurrence of hepatitis and was described as of sallow complexion, indolent habits and irascible disposition, indulging freely in whisky under the influence of which she committed the crime.

In defence of Mary, her symptoms of nausea, vomiting, pain in her right side, shoulder and back, numbness, enlarged liver, loss of appetite, constipation, foul tongue, headache and yellow conjunctivitis leads us to understand why she may have been somewhat irascible and indolent.

Despite the treatment of rest, bleeding, aperients, spare diet, blue pills, iodine and vegetable tonics plus a wineglass of tincture, she pulled through.

She married William Eyers at Windsor, in NSW, in 1842, two years after arriving here. William was an Englishman convicted of stealing a fowl.

She spent the rest of her life at Windsor, raising seven little Australians and becoming a land-owner when William died leaving her his property. Mary's daughter Isabella was named after the ship which brought her mum to Australia. The start of a new life? From impoverished convict to prosperous land-owner, if Mary deliberately did the deed and turned herself in the plan paid off.