One night in 1860, in the dark, gloomy and dank Wharf Street police station in Tiger Bay, Cardiff were the usual array of destitute men, vagrants, and men seeking work. They were all packed around the brazier. Packed in among them was a person who told them she was a woman. One of the men told the duty Sergeant at the station who pulled the person to one side. It was then an astonishing story was told.

Ann Stuart was a Scot and only 18 years of age. She had, since the age of 16, been periodically at sea, dressed as a man, and was looking at the American and French ships in the port to try and gain more employment. She was looking for other clothes as hers were rags. She also told the sergeant if she could not go to sea again she would kill herself. She had no friends and no one cared for her. She had been found out once and then the Captain of the vessel was charged with still paying her, which he did.

For the past few months she had been wandering England, and then Wales, as a tramp, which accounted for her rags.

She was arrested on a charge of threatening suicide and appeared before the magistrates. She was committed to the workhouse, where she had to work for her keep.

Annie Stuart was committed to the workhouse. Photo credit: Hansjörg Keller

What happened next, we do not know. Perhaps Ann settled down in Cardiff? Perhaps someone out there is related to her? Was she your great, great, great grandmother? Who knows? A lost member of the Stuart Clan.

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