Daisy Picken in the weeds: Prisoner records in the Tasmanian Names Index

‘Daisy Picken’. It sounded to me like a circus stage name, and conjured up images of an energetic teenage girl with pigtails, like a long-lost cousin of Pippi Longstocking.

We have recently added volumes of prisoner files to the Tasmanian Names Index, and many of them have photographs. Some of them are quite comical – old lags suppressing smirks, stern mouths covered by generous moustaches, looks of surprise…or malice. So, when I looked up Daisy Picken, I was almost surprised to see despair and desperation, and the glistening of tears. 

This photo was taken in 1923 when Daisy, a barmaid, was convicted of larceny.

Daisy’s mugshot, TAHO: Prisoners record books: GD63/1/6 p.55

Daisy Irene Seabourne married Reginald Oscar Picken at Carnarvon on 1 March 1919. The young couple may have rushed into marriage, because it was just under 6 months later that their son, Reginald Lyell, was born.

Daisy and Reginald’s son is born, The Mercury 30 August 1919

 

Reginald was clearly not happy in the relationship, because he deserted his wife some time between 1919 and March 1923. Daisy took up work as a barmaid. With a young son to care for, distressed and poor, Daisy was looking for a way out.

On 13 March, 1923 Daisy and her 16 year old friend Joyce Beryl Reid were at Daisy’s mother’s house in Carnarvon. Alfred Mawle was also there, drinking…in the morning. He was probably quite drunk, because the women were able to take his keys, ‘break’ into his house, and steal a tin box.

We went to his hut and when we left Mawle was still at Mrs Seabourne’s House. At Mr Mawle’s hut we broke open his tin trunk and stole from same about £40 in cash.

Running off into the bush, they took £40 of cash from the box and walked to the next town. In Lufra, they hired a ‘motor-car’ and drove away into the sunset.

Or so they thought. The exhilaration of their adventure wore off quickly once they got to Hobart. They were arrested almost immediately.

The crime was serious. £40 was equivalent to around $3,100 today. Young Joyce was released to her mother.

She stated to the court:

I, Joyce Beryle Reid, wish to state that I am 16 1/2 years of age. I have a father and mother, and their relationship is not of the best. I have been in Magdalen Home, and if given a chance I will do my best to reform.

Daisy Picken pleads guilty, TAHO: Criminal Prosecution Files, SGD13/1/184 no. 397, 1923

Daisy was sentenced by the Supreme Court to 3 months in prison, and ordered to pay back the money that was stolen.

Picken, who was crying throughout the hearing, sobbed bitterly as she left the dock.  Mercury, Thursday 22 March 1923, p. 5

Mysteriously, Daisy was unwell during the trial.

As to Picken, His honour said that in view of the doctor’s certificate as to the state of her health it was in her own interests, and also in the interests, of the community that she should go to gaol for three months. – Mercury, Thursday 22 March 1923, p. 5

She was admitted to hospital on 5 April, and stayed there for 56 days. She had syphilis.

Daisy was supposed to be discharged on 20 June, but on the 21st the Police Gazette reported that she had run away from the hospital! Perhaps she knew that her sentence was up, felt well, and thought that she was entitled to leave! The police may have wanted to keep her in custody until she was cleared of her condition – it was a public health concern, after all.

Daisy Picken escapes from the hospital, TAHO: Tasmanian Police Gazette: POL709/1/51 p.127, 1923

After two weeks of running or hiding from police, Daisy ‘surrendered to the Hobart Police’ on 4 July. She was admitted to hospital again for a checkup, but was discharged the next day. There are no clues to whether she was released, or went back to gaol.

Meanwhile, her rogue of a husband was charged with ‘commandeering’ a bicycle. He got off with a fine.

Reginald Oscar Picken commandeers a bicycle. The Mercury 7 May 1924

In 1928, Daisy was living in Liverpool Street (without any adults of the same last name) and employed in ‘home duties’ (Tasmanian Electoral Rolls, Denison, Hobart West).

Daisy disappears after that. Her death was not listed in the civil registrations that we have indexed (up to 1933), it was not written about in the papers, and her burial was not recorded at Cornelian Bay cemetery.

Reginald moved to New South Wales, where he married Jean Swindells in 1929. Either Daisy was dead, or he married bigamously (there were no divorce papers in our files). She and Reginald only had eight years together before he died in 1938.

Having no living parents, Daisy and Reginald’s son listed his grandmother as his next of kin when he enlisted for WWII. Sarah Picken probably played a very large part in raising her grandson. Lyall Reginald Picken served in Papua New Guinea and died at sea in 1942.

The young mother, the deserted wife, the sneaky thief, the renegade on the run, the pitiful prisoner, the defiant escapee…Daisy Picken’s life was far from a field of flowers.

Reference list

Ancestry.com. Australia, Death Index, 1787-1985 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2010.

Ancestry.com. Australia, Electoral Rolls, 1903-1980 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2010.

“A STREET DEAL” World (Hobart, Tas. : 1918 – 1924) 7 May 1924: 2. Web. 7 Jul 2017 <http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article190372706>.

“Family Notices” The Mercury (Hobart, Tas. : 1860 – 1954) 30 August 1919: 1. Web. 7 Jul 2017 <http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article12373318>.

“POLICE COURT NEWS.” The Mercury (Hobart, Tas. : 1860 – 1954) 7 May 1924: 3. Web. 7 Jul 2017 <http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article23734284>.

Reserve Bank of Australia: Pre-decimal inflation calculator <http://www.rba.gov.au/calculator/annualPreDecimal.html>

Tasmanian Archive and Heritage Office: Prisoners Record Books: Daisy Picken: GD63/1/6 Page 55 <https://stors.tas.gov.au/GD63-1-6p057j2k>

Tasmanian Archive and Heritage Office: Royal Hobart Hospital: Admission Registers: HSD127/1/4 pp. 262, 282

Tasmanian Archive and Heritage Office: Tasmanian Police Gazette; POL709/1/51 p.127, 130 <https://stors.tas.gov.au/POL709-1-51$init=POL709-1-51p144>, 1923.

Tasmanian Electoral Comission, Electoral Roll, Denison, Hobart West, 1928, p. 41

Tasmanian Electoral Comission, Electoral Roll, Esperance, 1922, p. 21

“YOUNG WOMAN IN TROUBLE.” The Mercury (Hobart, Tas. : 1860 – 1954) 22 March 1923: 5. Web. 7 Jul 2017 <http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article23620439>.

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Author: Jess Walters

Jess is an archivist with the State Library and Archive Service.

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