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In the second half of the nineteenth century, Sydney had two Magdalen Asylums to provide prostitutes with shelter and a chance for them to redirect their lives. Both were formed in 1848, and both were housed in Pitt Street, Sydney, next door to one another in the former Carters’ Barracks. One was the Catholic ‘House of the Good Shepherd’ (HGS) and the other, the effectively Protestant ‘Sydney Female Refuge’ (SFR).
In the formation of each of these Asylums were figures, a woman in the case of the HGS and a man in the case of the SFR, who were critically important but who received little recognition and whose identity is uncertain. This paper is an attempt to redress this obscurity and to suggest the identity of these important but neglected figures of the Sydney Magdalen Asylum history.
Mary Blake and the House of the Good Shepherd
Catholic tradition has it that
… on a Sydney street in 1848 Father Farrelly of St Benedict’s Mission, met a woman who was tired of a life as a prostitute and begged him to find her a place where she could rest and rescue her soul. Farrelly placed her in the care of Mrs Blake, a Catholic laywoman, and, when six more women asked for assistance, Polding instructed him to rent a house in Campbell Street.
The precise identity of Mrs Blake is never revealed except to say that she was a Catholic and that she cared for the women in premises in Campbell Street which either she or Farrelly rented. Mrs Blake was probably Mary Blake (1802-1857), born in the City of Dublin and arriving in NSW around 1842. After the founding of the HGS, she became a collector for it from its first year of operation in 1848 to at least 1853. When Mary died in 1857, her funeral procession moved ‘from her late residence, at the house of the Good Shepherd, Pitt-street.’
Mary was said to be the wife of John Christopher Blake, also known as Christopher Blake (1796-1844), the publican of the Shamrock Inn in Campbell Street. John Blake, the name by which he was most commonly known, had previously been a constable and poundkeeper at Stonequarry (Picton), but in 1840 he was appointed to the Water Police in Sydney. In 1841, he resigned and in July became the Publican of the Shamrock Inn at the corner of Campbell and George Streets, Sydney. Blake had arrived in NSW in 1818 as a convict transported in the Guilford (3), and in 1826 he married Jane Sterne; they had one son Christopher John Blake (1828-1856), but Jane died in 1831. In 1833, Blake made an application with Mary McAnally/McNally, transported on the Forth 2, to marry and permission was given, but it appears the wedding never took place as it seems McAnally/McNally was already married. Who, then, was Mary Blake if not Mary McAnally/McNally? There is no record of John Blake’s marriage to anyone else and so it would appear that his wife, Mary Blake, may have been a common-law wife and her maiden name or name on arrival in the colony is unknown.
At a meeting of the St Patrick’s Society in Sydney in 1841, the Rev Joseph Platt, a Roman Catholic priest, proposed the formation of
a society among Catholic ladies for the establishment of a Magdalen asylum, or an institution which would afford a refuge to such unfortunate females as are in some measure driven to destruction by circumstances, and to those who, having erred, would gladly forsake their evil courses had they a home and a friend to whom they could fly for protection.
Platt clearly thought of his proposed Magdalen Asylum as a Catholic concern.
At a public meeting in April 1842, the Hobart Magdalen Society was formed by the local community for the purpose of developing an Asylum. In July 1843, it reported some encouraging results, but it had not managed to obtain a property to open as an Asylum. In the following month, a Catholic Magdalen Asylum in Hobart was contemplated by the Rev John Joseph Therry. He confidently publicised his expectation, possibly not to be outdone by the already existing Hobart Magdalen Society, that the Sisters of Mercy would soon arrive and a Catholic Magdalen Asylum for the reception of Female Penitents would be opened and placed under their direction. The Sisters did not arrive, however, and the Asylum of which Therry spoke did not eventuate.
In Sydney in January 1843, the Sydney Catholic Australasian Chronicle reported that a ‘proposition is on foot for the establishment of a Magdalene asylum’, and in March a letter appeared in the SMH pointing out the need for an asylum for prostitutes and asking the Mayor to initiate such an institution. Nothing eventuated, but the matter of a Sydney Magdalen Asylum was again raised in a letter to the SMH in January 1846 and, in the following month, in the Catholic Morning Chronicle. These letters discussed the problem of prostitution and made a suggestion of publicly naming and shaming those landlords who allowed their properties to be used as brothels. They also called for the ‘philanthropic and humane’ to assist in the provision of a Magdalen institution. The consciousness of the need, and perhaps a desire to set up a Magdalen Asylum, seems to have been impressed on some in the Catholic community for at his death in January 1846, George Segerson, a Catholic publican, left a legacy of £50 towards the ‘establishing of a Magdalene Asylum in the City of Sydney’. Later, in April 1846, the Sentinel was direct when it said:
… we exhort and implore the virtuous and happy of the female sex, to look with a more favourable eye on the distresses of these unfortunate creatures who are now pining in degradation and misery; and to unite their influence, which is supreme, over their aristocratic lords, for the benevolent purpose of establishing an Asylum for such as choose to abandon the error of their ways, and to embrace a more reputable line of life. Let a committee of ladies, headed by Lady Gipps, Lady O’Connell, Lady Mitchell, Mrs Thompson, Mrs Riddell, Mrs Plunkett, Mrs Therry, Mrs Stephen, and as many more as they choose to select, be formed for the purpose of carrying out this desirable object – and a Magdalene Asylum for the reformation, protection, and salvation of hundreds of unhappy females raise its head, conspicuously in the City of Sydney …
In the 1980s, historians of colonial female refuges, and of the Sydney Female Refuge (SFR) in particular, tended to see these organisations, and by inference those who organised them, as largely punitive in intent. Contrary to the stated aims of the SFR, the driving motives are presented not primarily as compassion, concern and a desire to help the women themselves but rather as the protection of society from such women.
O’Brien says that the function of the home of the Sydney Female Refuge Society (SFR Society) was largely punitive and that of all the homes of this sort ‘it seems colder and more horrible than most’. Godden’s assessment is that the Sydney refuges for the prostitutes run by the Roman Catholics and the Evangelicals were repressive and harsh, but that
perhaps the greatest imperviousness to change was at the Protestant Sydney Female Refuge. It was rebuilt in 1903 on the same prison-like lines adhered to in 1848 and inmates were still addressed by number and not name.
More recently published work, however, has sought to soften such an assessment and on a closer examination of the evidence has pointed out that such claims made about the functioning of the SFR do not seem to be justified and that by their stated aims and practice the SFR ‘does not deserve to be regarded as punitive, repressive, self-serving, cold and horrible’. While there are some signs of a more positive assessment of the refuges emerging some dubious claims about the refuges are still being made.
On the positive side and helpfully O’Brien, in her recently published Philanthropy and Settler Colonialism, reminds us that the refuges can be viewed more generally against the background of the need to provide women in various circumstances with shelter. Such a need was clearly seen by the philanthropists themselves. Ann Goodlet, who was deeply involved in the SFR as its secretary and its leading worker, had this broader approach to the protection of women both physically and morally in colonial society. She was significantly involved in founding and/or promoting of, to quote O’Brien, ‘homes that were arranged along the moral continuum’. These were the Servants and Governesses Home (formerly known as The Sydney Female Home), the YWCA, the Sydney Female Mission Home (SFMH) and the SFR. The first two organisations were morally proactive being protective and preventative by providing accommodation for single women alone in the city. The second two organisations were reactive and designed to assist those women who were in trouble, having been seduced and abandoned or who were prostitutes wishing to change their lives.
In March 1858, a letter appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald (SMH) advising that there was a project afoot to ‘provide a temporary home for young females of the better classes arriving in the colony without friends, and consequently liable to be thrown into distressing or dangerous circumstances’. Such an institution was to be opened on the same principles as the Young Men’s Christian Association and a notice soon appeared advertising a public meeting to mature the proposal. The institution was to be, said the writer, ‘entirely unsectarian, and by the blessing of God it may be hoped that it will be of incalculable advantage.’
A notice duly appeared shortly after calling a meeting, to be chaired by the Governor General, Sir William Denison, to consider some means proposed for the ‘Welfare and Improvement of Young Women.’ The notice also advised, what would have been a significant novelty for a public meeting of this sort, that ‘A Lady’ will, in the course of the proceedings, address the meeting’.
‘The Lady’ who spoke was Maria Therese Forster, a young German-born widow who seems not to have had any significant social connections, but who had great powers of persuasion and passion concerning the fate of young friendless women. Maria spoke at length at the well-attended meeting, and actually read her speech because of her ‘broken language’. The speech was an amazing flow of spiritual concepts which led the Bishop of Sydney to call her the ‘German spiritualiser’. Ambrose Foss declared it ‘pious, zealous, and soul-stirring’, while Charles Kemp said ‘that she had a force of language and a power of eloquence that few even of the daughters of England possessed.’ One observer noted that ‘there was an air of enthusiasm about her countenance, and a womanly affection in her demeanour and her conduct, which quite prepossessed her audience’.
Maria read for nearly an hour and ‘you might have heard a pin fall in any part of the large hall’. Her speech focused on the theme that women are ‘ordained by God’s law to become the very centre of happiness to mankind’ therefore provision for their safety and nurture in the colony was essential. She provided an outline of two proposed organisations, one for the accommodation of ‘the better class’ to be called The Young Women’s Christian Temporary Home and Institution for Mental and Mutual Improvement and one for ‘the servant class’ to be called The Temporary Home for Respectable Female Servants.
A committee of some ladies, married to high profile members of the Sydney community, was appointed to mature the plan discussed and to begin to put it into operation. The committee consisted of Lady Eleanor Stephen, Lady Elizabeth Cooper, Mrs Jane Barker, Mrs Ann Deas Thomson, Mrs Robert Campbell, Mrs Emily Stephen, Mrs Jane Allen, Mrs a’Beckett, Mrs Archdeacon Cowper and Mrs Maria Forster. By July of 1858 there was a Ladies Board of Management of 29 ladies plus an honorary treasurer and secretary, Mrs Susan Roberts, with her husband Dr Alfred (later Sir) giving free medical assistance, together with a gentlemen’s reference committee of seven. Also promulgated was a very detailed preface and fifteen rules. The result was not two separate homes determined by class but one home:
The Sydney Female Home … designed to be a place where respectable females, but of every degree, and without regard to creed or country, may resort when out of employment, and there find all the security, protection , and comfort of a plain, well-ordered home, with every facility for procuring from thence occupation suitable to their respective callings.
The Female Home, which opened on October 1, 1858, was soon renamed the Governesses and Servants Home so that it would not be confused with the Sydney Female Mission Home and the Sydney Female Refuge. After a year or so of operation it was popularly referred to as The Servant’s Home and then simply THE HOME. The provision of accommodation, or a home, with an appointed matron, was central to the work of THE HOME and the organization hoped to erect its own building, but instead continued in rented premises for the whole of its existence. Initially, it was located at 296 Castlereagh Street, then from 1859 at 103 Elizabeth Street North, from 1861 at 195 Castlereagh Street, then from 1864 at 98 Elizabeth Street North, and finally from 1871 at Cowper Terrace, 23 Clarence Street. After September 1890, advertisements placed by THE HOME for positions for servants ceased and the work disappears from view. It most probably ceased to function. (more…)
The Sydney Female Mission Home (SFMH), not to be confused with the Sydney Female Refuge Society (SFRS), was commenced on November 17, 1873, in rented premises overlooking Hyde Park, Sydney. Like the SFRS, this charity falls in a number of places on the philanthropic spectrum being both for relief and improvement. The SFMH was a protestant organisation providing short-term accommodation for pregnant unmarried women and it had a non-sectarian admission policy. It was said that the ‘necessity of such a Home has been strongly felt by several ladies and gentlemen, in consequence of facts which frequently come under their notice.’ The Home was entirely run and governed by women and of the 14 members of the founding Committee, no fewer than eight were involved with the SFRS. It is likely that, from this experience, they understood the need for an organisation with a different intake and policy than that of the SFRS.
While the task of the SFRS was to provide a refuge for prostitutes, the purpose of the SFMH was to provide temporary accommodation ‘for women who either had fallen, or were in danger of falling from virtue’. The initial focus of the work was to be on those young women who found themselves pregnant and abandoned, most of whom were ‘women who have only taken one serious wrong step, and have not been hardened in sin’. In the assessment of the Committee, an institution such as the SFMH met ‘a great social necessity’ and was ‘an unspeakable blessing to weak women who have fallen prey to the cunning devices of unprincipled men’.
The needs that were presented to the Committee shortly after the Home opened caused them to change the Admission Policy. It was changed to include not only pregnant unmarried women, but some unmarried mothers with their infants, many of whom were in a state of destitution. In the first year of its operation the Home had 115 admissions which included 11 infants, and by the end of 1874 it was thought that a larger house, which could accommodate more than 12 residents, was required to meet the needs, as many young women with babies had to be turned away. For those admitted, attempts were made to locate the fathers of the children so that they could ‘feel their responsibility to make some provision for the maintenance of their offspring’. These attempts rarely met with success and as a result the Committee lamented that ‘the seduced, and less guilty, has to bear the whole burden’. They also made efforts to ensure that either the young women returned to their families or, if this was not possible, they sought to gain employment situations for the women where they could keep and nurture their children. A fundamental principle of the SFMH was to ‘avoid, if possible, separating mother and child’ and the Committee
being decidedly of [the] opinion that the mother is the natural and fittest guardian of the infant … used their utmost endeavours in all cases to induce the mothers to faithfully fulfil their maternal duties, and not, under any circumstances, to give up their babes to the care of strangers.
John Hay Goodlet was born in Leith, Scotland in 1835 the second son and one of eight children of George and Mary Goodlet (nee Hay). He was educated at the Edinburgh Institution for Languages and Mathematics. After he completed school he went to work for a time at the Edinburgh Roperie and Sailmaking Company in Leith.
In 1852, not yet seventeen years of age, he left Scotland for Melbourne Australia arriving in June of that year. He found employment as a clerk in the firm of some fellow Scots, Charles and John Smith who were timber merchants. Within a year he was a partner in the business. In June of 1855, possibly due to a depression in the commercial scene in Melbourne, he went to Sydney and commenced a timber yard and saw mill in Erskine Street in partnership with the Smiths which was known as JH Goodlet and Company. The business did well and by early 1859 the partnership had been dissolved and another entered into with James Smith, a brother of his former partners, and in late 1860 the name of the firm was changed to that of Goodlet and Smith.
In 1867 Goodlet and Smith expanded their interests and began producing bricks, pottery and earthenware in Riley Street, Sydney. In 1870 the site was expanded with state of the art labour saving machinery. By 1872 a Hoffman Annular Kiln had been installed and the works continued to produce earthenware until it was closed in 1915. In 1873 the Waterloo Brickworks were opened and operated until the mid 1890s. In 1884 Goodlet and Smith purchased the Junction Brick Works at Granville and later Goodlet showed his entrepreneurial attitudes by introducing the first successful colonial production of Marseille roof tiles. He also produced the first commercially viable high quality Portland cement at this site. All of Goodlet’s manufacturing activities were charactised by the use of up to date technology and labour saving devices. This enabled Goodlet to produce excellent products which sold well and produced good profits for the company.
Although Ann Alison Goodlet at her death attracted much praise for her charitable works, her kindness and loving concern, little appears to have been known about her background by either friends, acquaintances or admirers. Even the stained glass window that was erected in her honour at the Ashfield Presbyterian Church spelt her name incorrectly. It seems to have been a characteristic of Ann and John Goodlet that neither said much about themselves. Ann is the forgotten Mrs Goodlet for while Elizabeth Mary Goodlet (nee Forbes), the second wife of John, has received some notice, Ann has been overlooked.
According to her death certificate, the simple facts about Ann Alison Goodlet are that she was born in 1827, arrived in New South Wales (NSW) in 1855 and died on 3rd January 1903. The background of Ann is, however, somewhat more complicated for Ann Alison Goodlet, the daughter of William Panton and his wife Ann Jane (nee Kent), was actually born in 1822 shortly before William and Ann left Scotland for the colony of NSW. Their ship was the Andromeda and the Reverend John Dunmore Lang, who was on his first voyage to NSW, was also a passenger. Lang noted in his diary that (more…)
Thomas Parker Reeve was born on May 6, 1824 at Deptford in Kent, England, to Isaac Reeve, a mathematics and classical scholar and teacher and his wife Elizabeth Parker. While living in Norwich, Thomas attended the St Mary’s Baptist Chapel where, aged 17, he was received into membership on December 1, 1841. He later recalled that:
in my youth while attending the ministry of the Rev W Brock of Norwich, my mind gradually opened to a sense of danger as a sinner, and of my need of a personal interest in the Great Atonement of Christ, but it was not till sometime after that I could realise a sense of God’s pardoning love.
Thomas married Lydia Pepperday (1825-1898), a Methodist, in 1848 at St Ives in Huntingdonshire, England. Having travelled in steerage aboard the Calphurnia, they arrived in the colony of NSW on September 17, 1853, with their two sons John (1849-1911) and George (1851-1951). Further children were born to them in the colony: Emma (1853-1863), Annie (1855-1943), Thomas (1857-1938), Lydia (1860-1946), Frederick (1861-1940), and Ada (1864-1867). The marriage was a happy one and on their 24th anniversary Thomas wrote ‘I think I can say we love each other more as we grow older and we are an [sic] happy yea, happier in all senses and I trust far nearer to God than we were years ago. I thank God for a good and affectionate wife’.
Thomas was a teacher like his father, but in November 1853 he set himself up in George Street, Sydney, as an importer and ironmonger. He sold goods ranging from shoes, galvanic pocket generators (which purported to remove pain) to a wide range of ironmongery which included saucepans, boilers, knives and forks. It was said he remained there until ‘aided by his good wife, he amassed a modest competency, and then retired to Stanmore to enjoy the fruit of his honest toil.’ It would seem that he moved to Cavendish Street, Petersham (later Stanmore), around June 1873, but continued working for some time probably retiring from active involvement in the business around 1880. By 1888, his son Thomas Henry had assumed control of the business as an ironmonger and organ importer.
On arrival in the colony, the Reeves immediately associated themselves with the Wesleyan (Methodist) Church and its activities. Thomas began his long association with the colonial
Christian education of children by becoming first Secretary and then Superintendent of the Hay Street Sunday school. By 1855, he had become General Secretary of the Wesleyan Sunday Schools of the South Sydney Circuit which embraced Chippendale, Hay Street, Glebe and Mt Lachlan. This was a position he held until 1873 and in this capacity he visited local Sunday schools and sought to improve the communication skills of the teachers. With his move to Petersham (Stanmore), he opened a Sunday School class in a cottage at Stanmore saying ‘I hope and pray that this may be the nucleus of a large and prosperous Sabbath School’ and he became Superintendent of the Stanmore Wesleyan Church Sunday School from 1875 until 1879. Something of his interest and zeal for the work is seen in a meeting he organised for the Rev William Taylor to address a group of Sunday School teachers. He did this because he was concerned that ‘the spiritual success in the way of conversions was not commensurate with the labour and zeal thrown into Sunday School teaching’. His interest in Sunday (more…)
The Sydney Female Refuge Society (SRFS) was formed in Sydney on August 21, 1848, with the Motto ‘GO, AND SIN NO MORE’. Its formation, which was probably patterned on similar overseas institutions such as the Magdalene Society of Edinburgh, arose out of the concern
that some hundreds of unhappy females were crowding the streets and lanes of the populous city, the disgrace of their sex, the common pest of Society, and a reproach to the religion we profess, but which had not led us to attempt anything for their improvement.
The SFRS objectives were
the reclaiming of unfortunate and abandoned Females, by providing them with a place of Refuge in the first instance, and, after a period of probation, restoring them to their friends, or obtaining suitable employment for them.
The Society was governed by a Gentleman’s Committee which looked after the finances and buildings, and a separate Ladies Committee which took care of the day-to-day administration of the Refuge. On the advice of the Ladies Committee, the Society appointed a Matron who, in cooperation with the Ladies Committee, was to oversee the care and organisation of the women who were admitted to the Refuge. One such matron was Martha Trelawney Grace Malbon née Day. Martha Day was born in Bristol, England, on August 19, 1820, to Edward Elmsall Day, a Surgeon, and his wife Martha Martin. In 1851, Martha was 31 years old and the governess to three children of the widowed Mary Jane Clifton (née Malbon) in Bristol. Sometime after March 1851, Martha left England and came to the colony of NSW and on August 28, 1852, at St James’ Church King Street, Sydney, she married William Malbon, the uncle of her former students in England.
Martha’s husband William was the son of the distinguished Captain Micajah Malbon of the Royal Navy, and the Governor of the Stapleton Depot for French prisoners of war. William had arrived in the colony of NSW in 1850 and may have formerly been a soldier, and he seems to have had good social connections within the colony for he was the cousin of John Thompson, the Deputy Surveyor General.
William was involved in some capacity with the construction of the dry dock at Cockatoo Island, but was then employed in 1853 to oversee an unsuccessful attempt to sink a bore at Darlinghurst Gaol in order to supply Sydney with water. He became unwell and the project came to a standstill. Around 1856, William and Martha settled at Dapto, NSW, where William farmed on a property called Sunny Bank which was owned by the Rev Richard Allwood who was the minister of St James, King Street, Sydney. They remained at Sunny Bank until September 1861, after which time their whereabouts and activities are difficult to establish with any certainty. In July 1862, a William Malbon was appointed as acting Sub-Inspector of Police, later being appointed as a Sub-Inspector. As Malbon was not a common name in the colony this is probably Martha’s husband. He served at Eden and Moruya, Berrima and later in the Clarence region, and his time spent with the police ended in 1866 when his appointment was terminated. It appears that William’s efforts, which were said to be high-handed and alienating, were not well received by the communities he was called to serve. William resurfaced in 1870 having been appointed, upon the death of Thomas Smith, as Secretary of the Pyrmont Bridge Company. This appointment ceased when the Pyrmont Bridge was sold to the NSW Government in 1884.
William was an experimenter and inventor, but not one who succeeded commercially. In 1857, he was exhibiting examples of products made from Sorghum Saccharatum or Chinese sugar plant at the Agricultural and Horticultural Society (treacle, sugar and bran), and at the 1857 Dapto Agricultural Show he exhibited examples of colonial cochineal which he had produced. At the Illawarra Agricultural Show the following year, he produced a broom for sweeping which he had manufactured from the sorghum plant. In addition to this, he also exhibited lucerne, rye-grass and clover seeds, and some wine which was considered worthy of a special prize. Malbon showed himself to be innovative, spirited and skilful in such experiments and production, but does not seem to ever have produced anything of continuing commercial value. Later, he was to announce a breakthrough in producing fire-proof wood as well as a Non-Deviating Compass for Naval use. The value of both these ‘inventions’ was disputed at the time by others and again never seem to have produced any commercial return. While William’s position as Secretary of the Pyrmont Bridge Company would have produced some income it would seem that he was an experimenter and inventor at heart, but not a great financial provider and at his death in 1890, his estate was only valued at £226. Martha’s position as Matron of the Female Refuge would have been welcome as it would have provided her with extra income. She was initially paid around £65 per annum which increased to £100 per annum in 1875, and she was also given housing.
Martha was appointed Matron of the Sydney Female Refuge in March 1870. The previous matron, a Mrs Wait, had resigned and in early 1870 the committee was advertising for a replacement. The appointment was clearly in the hands of the Ladies Committee of the Refuge as applications were to be addressed to the (more…)
Charles Nightingale (1795-1860), Edward Ramsay (1818-1894) and James Druce (1829-1891) Charity Collectors
Obtaining funding for the work of the various nineteenth century philanthropic organisations was always a challenge. There was little government financial assistance available, and the various organisations were dependent upon the generosity of the public for financial support. In order to gain that support the many charities who wished to collect money from the public engaged in a number of activities and strategies. Prominent among their activities was the public annual meeting, often chaired by a socially important person, where the activities of the organisation were reported and supportive resolutions passed. At the meeting someone, usually the secretary of the committee, would read a report detailing what had been achieved in the year past, often giving encouraging examples of success as well as underlining the difficulty of the task which the charity had undertaken. Such reporting made the committee that ran the charity accountable to the public and to its subscribers. It also showed what had been achieved through public financial support, educated the community on the continuing need for the charity, and gave hope for success in the future so that there might be continued interest and increased financial support given by individuals.
Nineteenth century newspaper editors, at least up until the 1890s, gave very sympathetic treatment to such organisations and often printed extensive reports of the meetings which gave further publicity. Printing the annual reports of these organisations and circulating them to their subscribers was also a vital part of the strategy. Such documents contained the secretary’s report, a financial statement, the lists of subscribers and the amount of their subscription, and newspapers often printed subscriber and donation lists as well. It has been suggested that the existence of these subscriber lists is evidence that nineteenth century philanthropy was a morally approved way of self-aggrandisement. Motives are difficult to determine and it may well be that, for some, giving was motived by being seen to have done the ‘right societal thing’ or by a desire to gain praise for the size of a donation. For others, however, such support was undoubtedly a response to need and a desire to help without any ulterior motive. From the organisations’ point of view, it was an effective means of giving a receipt and perhaps a means of encouraging (more…)
William Crane, (1826-1914) Magistrate and Governance Philanthropist
William Crane was born on October 5, 1826, at Castlereagh Street, Sydney. He was the son of William Christopher Crane (1799-1876) a publican who was the landlord of the Leather Bottle Inn in Castlereagh Street and Sarah McAvoy (1802-1857). He was educated at the Sydney College under the headmastership of William Timothy Cape and his fellow students included Sir James Martin, William Bede Daley, Sir Henry Stephen and Thomas Alexander Browne (aka Rolf Boldrewood). In his youth William was a keen sportsman. He was a cricketer and active member of the Newtown Cricket Club from its formation in 1858, a boxer, and a strong swimmer, frequently swimming the considerable distance from The Fig Tree, Woolloomooloo, to Garden Island and back.
In the 1850s, Crane and a number of companions went to the Ophir and Turon goldfields where he appears to have been unsuccessful in his gold prospecting unlike his younger brother, Christopher, who struck it rich at Gulgong. He returned to Sydney and became a law clerk in the law practice of solicitor Joseph Frey Josephson  after which, in 1853, he entered the New South Wales civil service as a clerk in the Department of Police. He was appointed clerk of Petty Sessions, Water Police in 1861, a magistrate of the colony in 1869, and then in 1875 Clerk of Petty Sessions in the Central Police court. In 1882, Crane was appointed one of Sydney’s first stipendiary magistrates and officiated at the Central Court until his retirement in 1885. He was highly regarded and an able magistrate as illustrated by, for the time, an unusual occurrence in his court when a young man stepped into the witness box, and when the Bible was tendered, shut the book. Said Mr Crane to him: “Why did you shut the book?” He said: “I am a Liberal or Freethinker.” He further stated he had no belief in the Bible, and there was nothing binding on his conscience, and he objected to take an oath. This at first seemed rather puzzling and brought the proceedings to a sudden standstill.
James Start Harrison (1837-1902) Accountant and Governance Philanthropist
At his death it was said of James Start Harrison that
many benevolent and philanthropic institutions that today are in a flourishing state owe their existence to his energies and valued labours.
The nineteenth century saw the development of many important community services which were commenced and conducted by interested individuals and financially supported by the community. Harrison is an example of one of the many citizens of New South Wales (NSW) whose names have largely been forgotten but who gave voluntarily of their time and effort in the governance of various charitable organisations in order help those in need. As with so many such citizens his commitment arose out of his Christian faith which found its expression in using his gifts and abilities to help others.
James Start Harrison was born in London in 1837 the youngest son of Layman Harrison (1799-1882) and Honor Pitt Curtis (1796-1860). In January 1849, Layman and Honor and their family of six children arrived in Sydney after a voyage of 157 days on board the Penyard Park. After living for a short time in Glebe, the family took up residence in Abercrombie Street, Chippendale. In 1866 James, aged twenty-nine, married Angelina (nee Macdonald), aged thirty-nine and the wealthy widow of Thomas Cooper whom she married in 1852, and prior to that the widow of Edward Henry Gregory whom she had married in 1847. In 1868, Angelina gave birth to her only child, a stillborn daughter, and Angelina herself died in 1873. Her striking death notice testifies to the relationship of Angelina and James and of their shared Christian faith (more…)
Elizabeth Mary Goodlet nee Forbes (1854 – 1926) Missions activist and Presbyterian.
Elizabeth Mary Forbes was born in Singleton, New South Wales, on the 15th of October 1854 to Alexander Leith Forbes and Jean (nee Clark). The Forbes family were of Free Presbyterian background and while Alexander was ordained at Methlick Free Church, he resigned in 1852 just prior to coming to Australia. When he and his wife Jane arrived in Sydney on ‘The Boomer’ in July 1853, he commenced a new life as a school master.
Alexander Forbes was conservative in theology, a strong-minded and honest man, fearless and straightforward and outspoken to friends and foes alike, but he was not a ‘people person’ which may explain why he did not persist in the ordained ministry. John Walker, who knew Alexander well, described him as
a man of competent knowledge and strict integrity, with a warm heart. As a friend, he was as true as steel, and hospitable to a degree. Those who did not know Mr Forbes were often misled by his manner; but those who knew him best, loved and trusted him most.
By contrast, his wife Jean Forbes (born April 1, 1827 and dying April 3, 1889), was modest, shrinking and unobtrusive in disposition with a faith that delighted in the ‘old paths’, in the Sabbath and the Bible. She had been the one who was the homemaker of the Forbes household, finding satisfaction in the domestic sphere and in hospitality. Elizabeth Mary was effectively an only child as a brother had died in infancy. In character and opportunity she was much more like her father than her mother, and her mother’s commitment to the domestic sphere permitted Elizabeth to pursue her own Christian interests. In 1877, the Forbes family moved to King Street, Ashfield, and joined the newly formed Ashfield Presbyterian Church December 4, 1877.
In a church such as Ashfield where John Hay and Ann Alison Goodlet were prominent, the Forbes and the Goodlet families had many interactions. The connections between the families were ones of faith, church, Scottish origins, common ministry and ideals. In particular, by 1883, ‘Bessie’ Forbes was teaching Sunday School where John Goodlet had been the superintendent since 1877 and she was the Sustentation Collector in the district which included the Goodlet family. The Goodlets and the Forbes were both involved in the YWCA, local political activity, temperance organisations, the Ministering Children’s League, the Women’s Missionary Association, the Band of Mercy as well as the Trusteeship of the Ashfield Church property. (more…)
Mary Roberts nee Muckle (1804-1885), Property holder, Philanthropist and Publican.
Jane Muckle (1784-1834), who was the mother of Mary Roberts (nee Muckle), arrived in New South Wales on the Nile in December 1801 as an unmarried 17 year old convict. Some sources record that she had been convicted at Cork in August, 1796, and sentenced to 7 years servitude in the colony of NSW, but other accounts date her conviction as July, 1799, at Durham. On 25 June, 1804, Mary was born to Jane and the father was registered as a Thomas Rowley. There is no evidence that Jane and Thomas were married and nothing further is heard about him. Jane took the designation of Mrs Muckle and retained it until she married some twenty-two years later.
In July, 1806, Jane became a free person as she had completed her sentence and was recorded as living with Archibald McKillup. By 1810, Jane had obtained a ‘Beer License’ for an establishment in Phillip Street and while no longer holding a licence by 1825, she was still involved in the running of a public house with Archibald, probably the “Lord Nelson” in Phillip Street. Jane was experiencing financial success for in June 1823 she gained five 21 year leases on land in Phillip, Hunter and Elizabeth streets and in 1824 was able to make an interest free loan of £300 to Rev John Dunmore Lang for Scots Church. On 6 March, 1826, she married Archibald  and she died eight years later on April 12, 1834. Archibald’s death followed the next year on October 26, 1835, by which time Jane’s daughter Mary Muckle was running the public house. On Archibald’s death the Tavern’s fixtures were disposed of but Mary continued to own the tavern, which was leased to others, right up until her death some 50 years later.
Little is known of Mary’s early life. She became the heiress of extensive property holdings and was the object of some unwanted attention by suitors, one such proclaiming to her that ‘she had remained long enough unmarried, and could not do better than have him’. Mary’s stepfather was ill at this time and she informed the would-be-suitor ‘that her father was seriously unwell, and was disturbed by his loud talk, and begged him to drink his liquor and depart from the house, but which only served to induce him to continue his familiarity’. She, in response to this unwanted attention, gave ‘a becoming and spirited resistance’ resulting in the ardent would-be-suitor only becoming more aggressive and ‘calling her a _________ and using opprobrious and obscene expressions’. Mary then threw a jug of boiling water at him, the suitor was injured, and brought a charge of assault and battery against her. The jury found the case proven, but it would seem they thought the suitor deserved his fate for Mary only had to pay damages of a farthing. (more…)