Father Joseph CREGAN alias Patrick MURPHY b.c. 18147 m. 18428 d. 18829
Mother Mary DONOVAN b.c. 182310 m. 1842 d. 189211
Sister Catherine CRAIGAN b. 184312 m. d. aft. 187313
Sister Margaret CAGIN or CAGAN b. 184514 m. none - d. 184615
Brother Thomas CREIGEN b.c. 184416 m. d. 188017
Brother Joseph CREIGEN b.c. 184618 m. d. 188919
Brother John CREIGEN b.c. 184720 m. d. 187721
Sister Ellen Cecilia22 CREIGEN alias Helena KING23 b.c. 184924 m. 187325 William KINGER d. aft. 1890
Brother John Joseph CREGAN b. 184926 m. Mary d. 189527
Inmate Mary Ann GREGAN b. 185128 m. (see below) d. 190029
Brother James CREGAN b. 185630 m. none - d. 185731
Relationship Name Age Height Hair Eyes Complexion Build Distinguishing features
Father Patrick MURPHY32 20 4' 10½" brown bluish ruddy & freckled scar back of right hand; J C lower left arm; scar front of ?? of right leg
Father Joseph CREGAN33 41 5' dark brown blue sallow strong J C right forearm; scar on knuckle of right thumb
Mother Mary34 33 4' 10"
Sister Catherine35 16 5' 4½" black brown
Sister Ellen36 36 4' 10" dark blue sallow stout
Brother Thomas37 8 auburn grey fair
Brother Joseph38 6 brown grey fair
Brother Joseph39 23 5' 4" light sandy freckled thin
Brother John40 5 brown grey fair

Mary Ann first appeared in the records of the institutions of NSW when she was admitted with her mother to the Sydney Benevolent Asylum as an unnamed infant in 1852.41 On 23 October 1861, Mary CREGAN, senior, was admitted to the asylum. She left on 13 November. On 8 November 1861, her daughter, recorded as Mary Ann CRAGEN, aged eight, almost without doubt entered the asylum a fortnight after her mother, and stayed for a week. Eleven years later, on 14 October 1863, Mary Ann presented herself at the Randwick Asylum and requested admission. Because the committee was meeting at the time they agreed to accept her. Her admission record there indicated that she was a sister of Joseph and Ellen CREIGAN42 who were already in Randwick. While Mary Ann was recorded as ten years old, her baptism year indicated that she was actually twelve. No date for her discharge from Randwick was officially recorded as it was reported that eleven-year-old Mary Ann had absconded on 9 October in company with Elizabeth STRICKLAND,43 dressed in asylum clothing.44 On 9 March 1865, Mary Ann was again admitted to the Benevolent Asylum where she stayed until 11 May. Mary Ann or her mother, Mary, was the Mary CREGAN who was fined for using obscene language in February 1867.45

Finally, after the passing of the Act for the Relief of Destitute Children of 1866, Mary Ann appeared in court at the instigation of her father, charged under the act. Newspaper reports indicated that Mary – reported as Mary Ann in the Empire – was in the habit of wandering about with common prostitutes. The family was located in Dickson Street at this time.46 Joseph stated that Mary Ann had left home and had refused to return. He said that even though she didn’t wander about the streets with prostitutes, she went to a house which he believed to be of ill fame and did errands for the occupants. He wanted the bench to order her to stay at home and he would withdraw the complaint because he didn’t want her to go to the industrial school at Newcastle. Mary Ann said that she had no wish to return to her father’s house as nothing but drinking and fighting went on there.47 The Police Magistrate commented

that children do not suddenly become bad, and in most cases where they are vicious the fault lies mainly with the neglect or the ill-treatment of their parents. As a rule, good parents have good children.48

Mary Ann was admitted to Newcastle on 3 July 1868, and was recorded in the Entrance Book as the fifteen-year-old, Mary Ann KEEGAN.49 Newspapers indicated that she was thirteen and her court appearance on 1 July 1868, recorded her surname as CREGAN. This spelling has been adopted in this biography as no references can be found – other than those in the records of the industrial school and any report originating from the spelling of her name written in the Entrance Book – that used the surname KEEGAN. Mary was Catholic and was able to read the third book and write in a copy book – the highest educational level assessed for any inmate in the Entrance Book. Mary Ann – identified as CROGAN – was one of ten girls,50 who escaped from the school at about 6 o’clock on the evening of 8 July 1868.51 They were all recaptured by the Newcastle police – some at Borehole and some at Waratah – before ten o’clock and were returned to the school.52 Three months later, Mary Ann made a further escape. In her report on 29 October 1868, KING reported that:

Mary Ann CREEGAN made her escape from the school on Saturday evening between the hours of six and seven she was recaptured and brought back before eight o’clock and placed in one of the cells of the Guard House.53

Newspapers reported the name of this escapee as Mary Ann KEEGAN54 or KERNEAN.55 Mary was eventually rearrested in Maitland by Senior-sergeant KERRIGAN and was remanded to Newcastle.56 Her escape had been assisted by Moses MASTERS, an employee of the Newcastle Police Magistrate, Helenus SCOTT, who resided 'in the House formerly used as the Hospital, and within the Barracks enclosure.' KING documented the incident in her report to the Colonial Secretary stating:

At ½ past 5 A.M. on Sunday the 25th October, Masters came to the Fence which separates Mr. Scotts premises from the Institution, and called one of the elder girls to him asking her if the girl before named [Mary Ann KEEGAN] had been captured, being told she was, he gave her an egg not to tell, this being observed led to the disclosure of the fact, that he had assisted the girl to escape by concealing her in a shed, and showing her the way out to the Hill. He had arranged that during the day, she was to leave the school when the Bell rung for Muster and Prayer in the morning. She had dressed herself in a dark Frock putting over it the Institution dress, which she left in the Cell. On further inquiry I found he had offered to assist any of the Girls to escape from the Institution, and had frequently supplied them with paper envelopes and other Articles. Under these circumstances I thought it my duty to prosecute him.57

Jane BAKER and Emma FERN had assisted Mary Ann in her escape by liaising with MASTERS and keeping watch as the escape occurred.58 MASTERS subsequently appeared in court, was convicted and was sentenced to twenty days' imprisonment in Maitland Gaol.59 MASTERS had been born in England in 1811 and had been transported on the Coromandel in 1838. He appeared to have been living in the area occupied by the A. A. Company in 1859.60 The day after Mary Ann's escape, his employer, SCOTT, again took MASTERS to court charged with the theft of an egg. SCOTT stated that

… it was not the value of the egg, there was another and more serious matter involved in the case. It would be proved that the egg was given to one of the Industrial School girls to induce her to allow the prisoner to have connexion with her.61

In a letter to the Colonial Secretary on 10 June 1869, the new superintendent, CLARKE, endeavouring to get permission to discharge Mary Ann and four other girls, repeated her admission date and stated that as far as he

could ascertain [Mary Ann] has attained the age of eighteen years. I cannot however furnish the documentary evidence required as to their age as some of the girls do not know that they were ever baptized. They are all full grown young women.62

The Colonial Secretary approved the discharges as requested by CLARKE.63 No further correspondence has yet been located indicating any communication with the Colonial Secretary from Mary Ann's father, Joseph CREGAN, but Mary Ann was discharged into his care by order of the Colonial Secretary on 26 June 1869, about two weeks after this letter. CLARKE confirmed her discharge in his report on 6 July.64 She therefore did not transfer to Biloela in May 1871. In his letter to the Colonial Secretary the following year on 1 August 1870, CLARKE reported that he had heard nothing about Mary Ann’s character after her release to her father.65

Either Mary Ann or her mother was likely to have been the Mary CRAGEN who was assaulted by George DEVERAUX, a French sailor in 1872.66 She was also probably the woman identified as Mary Ann KEEGAN, who was involved in two assaults in Sydney in May 1877.67 Mary Ann CRAGEN died of cancer of the uterus at the Newington Asylum on 6 July 1900. Her father was confirmed on her death registration as Joseph CRAGEN, a wood turner, but no mother was identified as she was unknown to the informant. Mary Ann was buried in the Catholic Cemetery, Rookwood, on 9 July 1900. No record of her burial location has been identified on the Rookwood Cemetery Inscriptions CD so her grave almost certainly has no headstone.


Mary Ann was recorded in the Entrance Book as the daughter of Mary and Joseph KEEGAN, a wood turner of Dickson Street, Sydney. The spelling of the family name was almost certainly more commonly CREGAN although Mary’s baptism was registered under the name GREGAN, which was almost certainly a transcription error or the result of poor handwriting in the original record. This baptism can't easily be read. Mary’s parents, Joseph CREGAN alias Patrick MURPHY and Mary (X) DONOVAN, both of Philip Street, were married at St. Mary’s Church, Sydney, on 24 October 1842, by Patrick Andrew FAGAN. The witnesses were James DELPRADO of Bent Street and Alicia HAMILTON of Philip Street.68 Very few baptism records for the children of Mary and Joseph appear in the NSW BDM Index under the name CREGAN. Some of Mary Ann's siblings have been located in the records of the Randwick Asylum under the surname CREIGEN. No records as children of either Joseph or Patrick and Mary MURPHY have been identified.

Joseph was almost without any doubt the man who appeared in court on 12 June 1855,69 charged with assaulting his wife, Mary. A fortnight later, on 26 June 1855, he was found guilty of having deserted his wife and children and was sentenced to pay the sum of fifteen shillings weekly for two years – one-half to be paid to his wife, and the other half to the Destitute Asylum, where his children had been living for a period of time.70 No earlier court reports for the family have yet been located. It is unknown whether the couple stayed together for any length of time after this date. Gaol records indicated that Joseph had been tried in various localities around NSW and had frequently been admitted to the gaols of NSW. His admission to Newcastle gaol in 1854 had resulted from a trial in Maitland.71 It must be considered that, like Moses MASTERS, he had been employed by the A. A. Company at some time after his arrival and before his marriage. An advertisement in March 1863 from George JOHNSON of Portland Head, warned others against employing Joseph as he had absconded from his employment.72

Gaol records confirmed that Joseph was a turner or a cabinet maker and that he had arrived aboard the Royal Admiral in 1835. He had been born in Dublin in about 1815 and was a Catholic who could read and write. The Royal Admiral was a convict transport and Joseph was recorded on the indent as Patrick MURPHY, the alias recorded at the time of his marriage. The indent identified that MURPHY was a Catholic who had been born in Dublin in about 1814 and was a turner.73 From February 1874 Joseph was admitted and discharged from the Liverpool Asylum where his ship of arrival was confirmed. He died there on 29 May 1882.74

Gaol records from 1862 indicated that Mary DONOVAN had arrived as an Assisted Immigrant aboard the Lascar in 1842.75 She had been born in Ireland but was unable to either read or write. The Lascar indent indicated that she was an eighteen-year-old child's maid, born in County Cork, Ireland, and she was travelling under the protection of her cousin, John McHENRY. It was noted on the indent that she was not under proper protection. No entry for John McHENRY has been located on the Lascar indent and this may be why Mary's protection was questioned. No parents were identified on the indent. After her arrival she was engaged by William EDWARDS of Miller's Point at a rate of four shillings a week.76 Mary's death has not been confirmed but because she was named in the Entrance Book, she was very probably still alive in 1868 when Mary Ann was admitted to Newcastle. It is considered possible but it is unconfirmed, that Mary died in 1892 in Sydney where her parents were recorded as unknown.

The children of Mary and Joseph scattered across NSW and appear to have rarely lived with their parents. Thomas, Joseph, and five-year-old John, were admitted to Randwick on 25 August 1852, and Ellen and another five-year-old named John, were admitted on 26 March 1855. Mary Ann was admitted in 1863. It is unknown whether the two boys named John were readmissions or separate boys admitted to the asylum as the records indicated no discharge for the first child. Thomas was removed by Archdeacon McENCROE and sent to the Roman Catholic Orphan School on 11 April 1856. Joseph was also sent to the Roman Catholic Orphan school where he absconded in March 1858.77 In 1859 he was apprenticed from Randwick to Mr G. JOHNSON at Bradley Head. He must then have gone to service with Edward S. HILL, J.P., of Woollahra, as he deserted from this position in November 1870. Joseph was described as a jockey or horse trainer.78 In 1877, as Joseph CRAIGON, he appeared in court charged with shooting with intent to murder79 but no descriptions have been found in the gaol records or Police Gazette.80 The previous year Joseph had been the victim of an accidental shooting.81 One of the children named John, recorded as John CAIEGAN and identified as 13 years old, was recorded in the NSW Police Gazette as absconding from the Destitute Children's Asylum around September 1864. He was recorded as blind in one eye.82 John entered the school in 1852 at the age of five. He was apprenticed in 1860 to Penrith, returned to the Asylum in January 1864. John entered the school in 1855 at the age of five. He was reported to have absconded in September 1864 but returned and was subsequently apprenticed to Captain TOWNS or LOWNS of Lowns Wharf, Sydney. It is unclear whether the admission details for John are duplicates or separate boys. They have been considered duplicate entries for the same child.83 Ellen was apprenticed from Randwick on 20 July 1863, to Mrs. HOUSE of Dapto, but by December she had been returned to Randwick where she was to be given another apprenticeship but no indication of this apprenticeship was recorded in the record.

An In Memoriam notice for Magdalene Elizabeth O'BRIEN who died at Ironbong in January 1897,84 from her aunt, Mary CREGAN, appeared in the Freeman's Journal in April 1897.85 It may be that this death was registered as Magdalene I. KEEGAN, the daughter of Peter KEEGAN and Annie MILLER married in Cootamundra in 189286 and her birth was registered as Magdalene I. HOWARTH, the daughter of Anna M. and William HOWARTH.87 The connections with these families are still being made but Ancestry trees indicate that Peter had been born in Victoria and no connection with the NSW family has yet been made.

Updated January 2017

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