Catherine CASBURN
Husband b. m. d.
Wife Catherine CASBURN nee unknown b. 18321 m. d. 18832
Son b. m. d.
Daughter b. m. d.

Catherine CASBURN was born in about 1832. No arrival into any state has been located. She commenced working at Newcastle as laundress at the age of about 35 approximately a month before the first riot occurred but it is unknown who she replaced in the position. Catherine had not been appointed by the government but by the superintendent, Agnes KING.3 The budget for the school provided for 'quarters; and a ration of provisions, fuel and light'4 for the laundress,5 so she lived within the buildings on the site of the Newcastle school but the exact location of her room or rooms is uncertain. Her wage was £25 per annum6 and this increased to £30 per annum in 1869.7

Catherine was interviewed after the riot by Frederic CANE. Her statement is transcribed in full and she signed with a cross. Catherine stated

I am laundress to the Institution I have been here one month. I was present on July 3 Friday night when the noise took place in the Dormitory - I was present when Mrs Heal went for Mrs King because the Girls would not be quiet for me or Mrs Heal. The first thing they did was to pull the beds off their bedsteads and said they would set fire to them - Charlotte Perry did light some straw I then put it out. The Girls were quiet for a short time when Mrs King made her appearance. Wildgust then began to sing to make a noise and spit on the floor she was impudent to Mrs King who told her it only shewed how she was brought up – I never heard such words as "I am in for blood tonight" I could have heard them if they been spoken. As Mrs King left the door I heard Wildgust say to her "you are a Grey headed old cow" Mrs King then walked away – I have heard Mrs King tell the Girls in the No 3 Dormitory "They were the scrapings of Sydney streets" they provoked her very much on this occasion. The second time she was brought back I heard the words "dirty little street walkers" said to them I cannot say the exact time I have heard Mrs King say "You would like to walk the streets all night and sleep all day" I have heard her say to the big girls when they gave her great annoyance. It shews what their Father and Mother have reared them to this caused saucy answers and bad language at the time from the Girls I took a blind off one of the windows down on Friday night (3 July) in order that the constable might look in to watch the proceedings. The Girls then refused to go to bed because the policeman was on the Verandah I was present when the fire was lit on Saturday night. They were told the lamp would be taken away for their conduct on Friday night They then said they would have a fire or light of some kind. They persisted in lighting the Fire in spite of all I could do They had previously bought the Fire up unknown to me I then sent for Mrs King to say the Girls had lit a fire in the Dormitory. The Girls got round the Fire and refused to have it put out – Eliza Macdonald was one who was in front of the Fire Mrs King caught her by the hair of the head and pulled her away Macdonald said Oh My God Mrs King don't do that any more. At this time I was sent away for assistance and Wildgust Perry and O'Brien were taken to the Cell Mrs King asked the Girls the casue of their behaviour what was their grievance and if it was any thing in reason they should get it. Some called out then Miss "Ravenhill was the cause" and King asked what she had done they said "Plenty" - when she asked them what it was they said they would tell it elsewhere. They also told Sergeant Conway they would tell their grievance elsewhere. Before Mrs King came in the Room I heard some of the Girls say that if Mrs King ??? her hand to any one of them they would mark her. After the girls broke out of the Hospital Room I saw Elizabeth Morgan with a knife in her hand I heard her say to the Constable if you don't let me go I will stab you I was not present when the girls came down to the Matron's Quarters. I did not see any other Girl with a knife or with a cleaver.

The reason is unknown, but Catherine resigned from her position in about April 1869. On 13 April after CLARKE, the superintendent, knew she was to leave or possibly after she had gone, he wrote to the Colonial Secretary requesting permission to replace her with two of the inmates, Sarah Jane WILDGUST and Charlotte PERRY.8 CLARKE noted that the two girls were to equally share the laundress’s wage, of thirty pounds a year each with an additional ten pounds per annum which 'will be saved in the ration of that servant.'9

Catherine was buried in the Catholic portion of Gulgong Cemetery and shared a grave with seventeen-year-old Charlotte CASBURN who had died there in 1877. Catherine's headstone recorded that she was fifty.10 Charlotte's parents were Robert and Sarah but Catherine's father was Phillip and her mother was unknown. No other CASBURN family members had a father named Phillip so it is thought that Catherine was married. The relationship between the two women is unknown but Charlotte may have been Catherine's niece. Other members of the CASBURN family were also living in Gulgong.

Updated February 2015

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