Susan ATKINS
Name Variations HATKINS, HEDKINS1 alias Julia CUNNINGHAM
Father Francis ATKINS b.c. 18112 m. 18483 d. 18844
Mother Susan CRAIG b.c. 1821 m. 1848 d. 18975
Brother John ATKINS6 b. 18467 m. d.
Sister Charlotte ATKINS8 b. 18489 m. Andrew DRISCOLL d. 1920
Inmate Susan ATKINS b. 185510 m. 1872 (see below) d. 188111
Sister Ann ATKINS12 b. 186213 m. (1) none (2) 192614 (1) Frederick E. SAYERS (2) John C. COOPER d. 1927
Sister Sarah Ann ATKINS b. 1862 m. 187615 (1) Thomas VAUGHAN (2) John LOWE d. 1949
Sister Elizabeth ATKINS16 b. 186317 m. (1) 186718 (1) John W. SAYERS (2) James RHODES d. 1925
Brother Francis Norman ATKINS b.c. 1865 m. d.
Husband (1) Carlo GALBIATI b.c. 1829 m. none d. 196919
Husband (2) George EDGERTON b. 184920 m. none d. 188621
Husband (3) Alfred Quarme ROSS b. 185022 m. 187223 d. 190524
Daughter Mary CUNNINGHAM b. 187125 m. none - d. 187226
Daughter Emily R. ROSS b. 187327 m. none - d. 187328
Daughter Elizabeth Ann aka Lily ROSS b. 187429 m. (1) 189930 (2) 191831 (1) Lionel Lawrence GREEN (2) Sir Frederick Danby James AFFLECK32 d. 195833
Daughter Theresa ROSS b. 187634 m. 191235 Charles LEE d. 191236
Son Alfred Walter ROSS b. 187737 m. d.
Son Percy F. ROSS b. 187938 m. none - d. 188139
Description
Relationship Name Age Height Hair Eyes Complexion Build Distinguishing features
Father Francis40 35 5' 2½" dark brown grey dark ruddy mermaid on upper part and anchor on under part FA cross heart ? ? on left arm; <•> ? dart on back of left hand; small scar on right forehead
Mother Susan41 16 4' 11½" brown brown ruddy and freckled small round scar top of centre of forehead

Susan was fifteen when she and Elizabeth SAYERS were arrested as vagrants by constable GASKON42 of Orange Police.43 The girls were the first committals to Newcastle from the Orange area. It is possible that a more detailed account of the girls’ arrest may eventually be found in the Western Examiner on 28 September 1867, once it is made available online. At the time of her admission,44 Susan’s level of education was recorded as 'first book' and she was recorded as a Catholic. Her medical assessment by Dr HARRIS showed that she was not a virgin.45 Shortly after ten o’clock on the night of 1 January 1868, Susan and Sarah Jane WILDGUST escaped from the school. Newspaper reports locate their arrest at nearby Honeysuckle Point.46 A report of the incident was sent by the superintendent, KING, to the Colonial Secretary on 2 January. She reported that

I saw them in the Hospital at 10 p.m. In the course of the night they broke a pane of glass drew the nail that fastened the sashes on the outside got down from the verandah on the Rain Pipe and escaped over the large gate in front. They were discovered secreted in a tank on the wharf at 7.0 a.m. and were afterwards captured at Cottage Bridge in the suburbs by constable McCullam & brought back at 9.0 a.m. and placed in the cell.47

Six months later, at about 6 o’clock on the evening of 8 July 1868,48 the night before the first riot at the school, Susan escaped again in company with nine other girls.49 They were all recaptured by the Newcastle police – some at Borehole and some at Waratah – before ten o’clock and returned to the school.50

Susan didn’t remain in the school for the full year that was required under the act as she was returned to her father after he arrived in Newcastle seeking her release. KING stated in a letter to the Colonial Secretary:

Francis ATKINS has this morning arrived from the Lachlan to see his daughter, in the hope that he might be able to procure her release, and take her home with him … He has walked all the way to Sydney … (He) is 57 years of age, appears to be a respectable man, is known in his neighbourhood as honest, sober, industrious and hard-working … He proposes, if allowed to take his Girl home again, to do so at his own expense, to remain under his own care and enter into any engagement for her future good behaviour.

Three referees were named in the letter – John Thomas LANE, Esq., JP; DALE Esq., JP; TOWNSON Esq., Solicitor. On 11 September 1868, after meeting KING, Francis went to the Newcastle Police magistrate, Helenus SCOTT, who wrote a petition for Susan’s release. Francis signed this petition with a cross. In his petition Francis swore that Susan was born on 10 September 1850, at Boree, NSW, and is 'consequently above the age of eighteen years.' As a result of this petition the Colonial Secretary ordered Susan's discharge to the care of Francis on 17 September 1868.51 It may be that Francis was confused about Susan’s age, and birth dates provided for the baptisms of some of his other children record some inconsistencies,52 but it must be considered that this statement could also have been a deliberate lie to effect Susan's release as she would not have been discharged for any reason other than her being too old for a legal admission under the Industrial Schools Act. Susan's actual year of birth was recorded as 185553 on her baptism record but there is no evidence that this statement was correct although it is hard to imagine that at the time of this baptism, the minister wouldn't have questioned her date of birth as Susan would have five and it would be expected that her date of birth would have been noted in the age column as 1850. Following the format used on the NSW BDM Index the registration number would therefore have read V18503317 162B/1850. This record is unavailable to be read and has not been purchased.

Susan didn’t remain with her family after her release from Newcastle and by July 1869, less than a year later, she was working as a prostitute in Cargo near Bathurst. Julia CUNNINGHAM was released eleven days after Susan but both girls would have been aware of the endeavours of each of their fathers to secure their discharges from Newcastle. Francis’s declaration guaranteeing Susan’s good behaviour may have been the reason that she assumed Julia's name or she may have adopted the name to hide from her family or to save them from the embarrassment of being linked to her choice of occupation. Using the alias Julia CUNNINGHAM, Susan gained national notoriety in a sensational series of newspaper articles when she became involved with a miner named Carlo GALBIATI aka Charles CARLO. Accounts of the Attempted Murder and Shocking Suicide by GALBIATI towards Susan, a prostitute to whom he had become attached, was reported in newspapers across the country. GALBIATI followed Susan when she moved from Cargo to Bathurst and accused her of beginning a relationship with a new man. He acquired a gun, entered the building where she lived, aimed at her head and fired. In raising her arm to protect herself, Susan took the shot in her arm which was therefore broken. GALBIATI then shot and killed himself.54

It is very possible that Susan never became aware that her chosen alias had been exposed. The Empire, reporting from the Western Examiner, is the only newspaper yet found identifying the correct name of the Cargo prostitute, writing that

Julia CUNNINGHAME, who was conspicuous in the late tragedy at Bathurst, is well known in Orange, having been sent some months ago to Newcastle by the Orange Bench as a strolling vagrant of bad repute. Her proper name is Susan ATKINS. She accounted for the fact of her being at large, by stating to one of the police force in this town that she had been liberated from the asylum on the order of the hon. Colonial Secretary, at the urgent solicitation of her father. The leniency accorded appears only to have had the effect of urging her from bad to worse.55

No trace of Susan ATKINS can be confirmed after this event however, her continued use of the alias, Julia CUNNINGHAM, must be considered as having occurred, especially as it is likely that Susan was unaware that some newspapers had reported her correct name. The possibility that she retained this alias has been discussed below and it is considered very likely that this is why Susan disappeared. It is extremely doubtful that it will ever be possible to prove and birth, marriage and death registrations cannot be used to identify the woman who married in Tambaroora in 1872.

Family

Susan’s parents were named in the Entrance Book and their abode was described in the record as Blayney near Carcoar. Francis (X) ATKINS had been granted permission to marry Susan (X) CRAIG on 16 November 1848, by Colin STEWART, Vale of Clwyd. The couple resided at Sod Walls and were married at Solitary Creek by STEWART on 22 December 1846.56 Although the marriage was recorded in a Presbyterian register, only Francis was a member of the Presbyterian Church and Susan was recorded as Catholic. The witnesses were William McCLINTOCK and Martha ROBINSON. The couple had been together since at least mid-1845 and had two children prior to their marriage. Susan was their third daughter and was baptised in 1855 as Susannah.57

Francis ATKINS was thirty-five years old when he married. He had been transported for life at the age of eighteen aboard the Sarah, arriving in 1829. Francis was a weaver who had been born and tried in Norwich.58 By 1830 he had runaway and committed a felony so was admitted to Sydney Gaol and these records identify different punishments. He may have been sent to a hulk, perhaps the Phoenix although his name has not yet been found in these records, or he was to be sent to a road gang for three years.59 At the time of the baptism of his son and daughter, John and Charlotte, on 9 April 1848, by the Catholic minister, Thomas SLATTERY, Francis and Susan were described as servants and were living at Hartley.60 At the time of the baptisms of Elizabeth and Ann, Francis was recorded as a shepherd living at Kings Plains. The family had moved to Carcoar by about 1863.61 Francis's death was registered in Young in 1884. He died of natural causes. There was an inquest which correctly identified him as a 74-years-old with a year of birth as about 1810 so the age of fifty recorded on the NSW BDM Index isn't correct. He possessed £300 at the time he died.62

Susan was twenty-five in 1846. She had been transported for seven years at the age of sixteen and had arrived aboard the Margaret (1) in 1837. She had an uncle named Richard CRAIG who had been in the colony for about eleven years at the time of her arrival.63 Susan's death was registered in Forbes in 1897 and her parents were recorded as James and Bridget.64

Where has She Gone?

Susan isn’t the woman who appeared in Sydney courts from 1870 for obscene language and other breaches of social behaviour as this woman was a Protestant who had been born between about 1838 and 184465 and who had probably arrived on the Lurline in 1849.66 She isn’t the woman who had an apparently illegitimate child in Warialda in 1884. The accident to a Susan ATKINS in Bathurst in April 187767 resulting in her being seriously injured and possibly becoming a quadriplegic has not been able to be linked to an appropriate death in the NSW BDM Index. It is possible that this incident may refer to the Susan ATKINS who was sent to Newcastle but it is equally possible that it was the woman appearing in the Sydney courts or some other person.

All marriages for Julia CUNNINGHAM in NSW before 1900 have been traced. The first, to John Vincent MANN, was by a woman born in Dublin, Ireland,68 and the second, to Robert TYCEHURST, was the marriage of the girl who was also at Newcastle and whose name Susan assumed.

There is extremely strong, compelling, circumstantial evidence that Susan ATKINS permanently became Julia CUNNINGHAM and that once that lie began, it was impossible to return to the truth. It has not been possible to prove that the following events refer to Susan. ATKINS family descendants are uncertain about the suggestion outlined below and it would be appreciated if any ROSS family researchers could communicate using the Contact button above with their thoughts concerning the proposition below.

Both Susan ATKINS and Julia CUNNINGHAM were born in about 1855 and it was physically possible for both to have been in the Bathurst/Tambaroora area in 1869. The girl actually named Julia CUNNINGHAM returned to her father in Sydney after her release from Newcastle and while it was possible that she did also go to Bathurst, it was known that Susan used her name and that the Bathurst/Orange area was Susan's abode and an area with which she was familiar. It is also known that Susan survived the events of July 1869. Because the alias, Julia, was known to have been adopted, the notoriety she attained at the time of the shooting probably meant that she was unable to revert to her proper name even had she wanted to do so. It must be considered that because of her alias, Susan, rather than the real Julia CUNNINGHAM, was the mother of the illegitimate daughter, Mary M. CUNNINGHAM, whose birth was registered in Bathurst in 1871. This birth has been attributed to Susan but the birth registration has not been viewed. No trace of Mary M. CUNNINGHAM has been located and she wasn't recorded or mentioned in any of the registrations or family trees for the real Julia CUNNINGHAM. It is possible that the 1872 death in Bathurst of Mary M. EDGERTON whose parents were George and Julia was the death of this child. This registration69 has not been viewed and the Bathurst Headstone Transcription CD by the BFHG identified that there was no headstone for this person and there was no further information provided about the death other than it was in a Wesleyan section of the Bathurst Cemetery. No other records for George EDGERTON appear on the NSW BDM Index until 1874, three years after Mary's birth, when he married Anne McFEE in Bathurst.70 George was a miner who was killed in 1886. There are compelling reasons to suggest that George EDGERTON was Susan's second partner and therefore Mary's father. He was a miner. He was an appropriate age to have frequented a brothel. He was unattached at the time of Mary's birth and there are no birth or marriage registrations involving George EDGERTON before 1874. This relationship, as well as the birth of Mary, has been attributed to Susan.

The actual NSW BDM marriage registration in 1872, does not identify the Julia (X) CUNNINGHAM who married the miner, Alfred ROSS, in Tambaroora, just north of Bathurst, but it is considered very likely that this woman was the mother of Mary CUNNINGHAM and it is believed that this woman was Susan ATKINS. The marriage registration indicated that the couple had married at the Registry Office in Tambaroora on 30 July 1872. The witnesses to the marriage were Elizabeth J. WILLARD and Ann JACKSON. No ages, places of birth or parents' names were recorded on the marriage registration and it is still unknown whether it is possible to access the records of a registrar as opposed to those of a church record to see whether any parents were identified there. Only two births to Alfred and Julia appear on the NSW BDM Index and both were registered in Sydney. Julia ROSS died of bronchitis at her residence, 122 Harris Street, Sydney, on 3 January 1881. Her death registration confirmed the location of her marriage and the informant was her husband, Alfred Quarme ROSS, therefore confirming that this was the woman who had married in Tamboroora nine years earlier. Four of their children were living and one daughter was dead. Julia's living children were Elizabeth Ann, who was to adopt the name Lily, Theresa, Alfred Walter and Percy. Their dead child was almost certainly Emily who had been born in and had died in 1873. The NSW BDM Index identified that the new-born child, Percy, died in Sydney shortly after his mother. Julia was 28 and this age was comparable to the age of Susan ATKINS, especially the age stated by her father to effect her release from Newcastle.

After Julia's death, Alfred and their three surviving children moved to Queensland where, in 1884, Alfred married Hannah BOWEN.71 Alfred Quarme ROSS died in Brisbane Hospital on 6 October 1905.72 Some online trees for the ROSS family have erroneously attributed the real Julia CUNNINGHAM's parents to the woman who married Alfred ROSS. This does demonstrate that family researchers have also had difficulty identifying the ancestry of the woman who married in Tambaroora. It was impossible for the same woman to have been involved with both men in two locations. Alfred and Julia ROSS had five children between 1873 and 1879. The real Julia CUNNINGHAM was also having children in Sydney from 1874 and by her own admission had been in a relationship for the three years prior to 1876 – or since 1873. In addition, Julia TYCEHURST nee CUNNINGHAM's death has been clearly identified in Sydney in 1896 so she cannot have died fifteen years earlier.73

Updated October 2016

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