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Barbara Weldon, who was to become one of the more colourful characters on the West Coast, was born in County Limerick, Ireland, probably between and By she was in Melbourne, Australia, where she made a number of court appearances for drink-related offences, and was described as 'a notorious character'. She arrived in Dunedin early in A single woman of limited means, she made a living as a prostitute.
Barbara Weldon quickly came to the attention of the Dunedin police, appearing on numerous occasions in the Dunedin Resident Magistrate's Court on charges of drunkenness and disorderly conduct.
The magistrate described her as 'the most drunken and disorderly woman' in Dunedin. In November the authorities acted to rid their respectable streets of her influence by the simple expedient of packing her on to the Hokitika coach, with a one-way ticket. She made her first appearance in the Hokitika Resident Magistrate's Court on 29 November , charged with using obscene language in a public place. Thereafter she appeared regularly in court in Hokitika and Kumara.
She was seldom able to pay fines and consequently served many terms in gaol. Greymouth also played host to Barbara Weldon; however, although arrested and convicted there, she would be sent back to Hokitika for imprisonment.
Her convictions were for drunkenness, disorderly behaviour, vagrancy, obscene language, attempted suicide and, on at least one occasion, soliciting. The first three charges, laid under the Vagrant Act , were often used by the police to regulate the ways in which prostitutes could work. However, prostitution was not in itself a criminal offence; indeed, it seems to have been publicly acknowledged and tolerated to a degree.