Elizabeth Shackle – Sheckle

Elizabeth Shackle (Sheckle)
(1782- 1842)

Elizabeth Shackle was born in the village of North Perrott, Somerset, England in 1782. She was the eldest of eight known children of Joseph Shackle, an unemployed labourer, and his wife Elizabeth. In February 1800, the younger Elizabeth gave birth to a son Robert, father unknown, and soon after walked to the nearby Dorset town of Bridport where she obtained work as a twine spinner. It is not known what became of Robert but while at Bridport she gave birth to a second son, Daniel, on 9 th February, 1806.

Now unemployed and with a child to support she turned to theft. She was caught stealing a quantity of muslin and calico from the Bridport drapery shop of Edwin Wagstaff and was arrested on 29 th October, 1806. She was held in Dorchester Gaol before being tried at the Dorset Assizes on 12 th March, 1807. She was found guilty of stealing; convicted of Grand Larceny and sentenced to be “transported beyond the seas for a term of seven years”. She was returned to prison to await transportation. Seven months later she was taken, along with Daniel, to Portsmouth where, on 16 th February 1808, they were placed aboard the ship Speke. Elizabeth became one of the 97 female prisoners bound for Port Jackson. In March the Speke sailed to Falmouth to join a fleet which left on 18 th May, 1808 and arrived at Sydney on 16 th November, 1808 after a voyage of 185 days.

They were immediately placed in boats and taken upriver to the Female Factory at Parramatta. Within days of her arrival there, she was selected by William Charker (Coromandel, 1802 and was assigned to him to become his “hut keeper”. Although they never married, Elizabeth assumed the name and role of Mrs Chalker (William’s commonly used alias) from that time. Their first child, Edward, was born on 10th September, 1809 at South Creek where William was employed as Farm Overseer for Gregory Blaxland. Other children were William James (1810), Maria (1811) Joseph Henry (1813), John (1815), James (1817), Mary Ann (1818) and George (1821). Frederick (1825) was born two years after William died but was known as Chalker. Edward and his older half-brother Daniel, incidentally, achieved fame in the colony as bare-knuckle fighters.

When William died prematurely in February, 1823 at the age of forty eight years, Elizabeth was left to raise her young and large family alone. However, since his emancipation in 1808, William had become a substantial landowner and all of this was bequeathed to Elizabeth during her lifetime, then to be divided among her children, thus including Daniel. In addition, Elizabeth received an additional grant of 200 acres of land at Mittagong which had been requested by William before his death. Edward McCabe who had been working for William and replaced him after his retirement, sought and was granted permission to marry Elizabeth in August 1823, but the marriage did not take place. Instead she retained full control of William’s estate to bequeath to her children. However, she did give birth to another child baptised on 27 th October, 1825 as Frederick Chalker but with Edward McCabe acknowledged as the father. Elizabeth died without a Will at South Creek on 1 st October, 1842, aged 60 years. The provisions of William’s Will ensured that all of her nine children received a substantial bequest of land. This did not include Frederick . Elizabeth was buried at Parramatta alongside William, where her headstone records her name as Elizabeth Sheekle.

Compiled and written by Malcolm Scanes Vice President, Chalker/ Charker Society of Australia.