Mrs Jemima Frances Irvine was born in Scotland, the daughter of playright David Burn (1799-1875) and his wife Frances Maria Eldred, whom he later divorced. Jemima accompanied her father to Van Diemen's Land on the Greenock in 1826. She spent her early years in the Hamilton district, living mostly with her grandmother Jacobina Burns, who had settled there in 1821. Jemima could relate many an interesting tale of those trying days. She returned to England for a few years to become a boarder at Oxford Hall School, Warrington. On 22 Jun 1843 Jemima married Charles Irvine at Hamilton, Tasmania. They initially settled on the family property of 'Rotherwood', but Charles secured a position as an officer in the civil service at Port Arthur and later a gaoler at the Launceston House of Correction. Charles established a wholesale wine, spirits and grocery business in Brisbane St but died suddenly on 15 Nov 1863, leaving Jemima to run the business with nine surviving children.
Jemima was an artist and conchologist and had a remarkable collection of shells. A cowrie shell, the cypraea irvineanae, was named after her in 1889. Jemima had one of the largest and most striking exhibits by women at the Tasmanian Exhibition in 1891-92. It consisted of a collection of shells and pebbles and beautifully arranged groups of wildflowers and ferns in three groups: from Tasmania, Victoria and New Zealand. She held a ladies honorary ticket for 1860 to the Launceston Mechanics' Institute and School of Arts. She died at her daughter Ellen (Nellie) Hawley's residence at 'Ingleside' Evandale 17 Jul 1919 aged 97, and was buried at the Cypress Street cemetery with her husband. See The Examiner 14 Jul 2007, page 31.