Marietta GOULD

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The Curious Case of George Gould

Fourteen-year-old George Gould appeared before the Goulburn court on 10 February 1879, charged with stealing money and jewellery from the property of Mr. Farquhar. George was arrested, searched and the missing money and one of two missing rings were found in his pocket. He didn’t deny the charges stating, ‘It is Farquhar's, I suppose’, when questioned. After confessing that he was an orphan, the court decided to imprison him briefly and then charge him under the Industrial School’s Act. Because he was under 16 and had no legal means of obtaining a living he was sent to the boys’ industrial school, Vernon, moored at Cockatoo Island, Sydney Harbour. Newspapers of the period variously reported the offender’s name but all were united in what occurred once he reached Sydney on 22 February.

A curious and interesting discovery was made on board the Nautical Schoolship Vernon on Saturday morning. It was that of the assumption of male disguise by a girl who had worn it for eight years. … The girl had been arrested at Lambing Flat as a vagrant, and on conviction was consigned to the Vernon for a term of years. The name she bore was James Gould, and under this she was, while on her way to serve her sentence, lodged on Friday night in the Water Police lockup. Next morning she was sent aboard the Vernon, and handed over to the boatswain for the usual routine of bathing, hair-cutting, and general purification. Here a scene occurred. “James Gould,” aged 15, refused to strip, blushing and crying, to the amusement of the boys around … The puzzled boatswain appealed to the captain, and “James Gould” conducted to the cabin was reasoned with upon his silly conduct. The disguised girl remained adamant upon the undressing question, and it was only when Captain Neitonstein ordered her to be stripped for punishment that with a storm of sobs and tears the secret of her sex was faltered out. Her mother had died at Lambing Flat when she herself was only 7 years old, and at the deathbed of that mother she had sworn always to wear boy's clothes, and pass herself off for one of the sterner sex. This she had done, picking up a precarious livelihood about the diggings until she was arrested for vagrancy. The girl, who knows no name but "Jem" Gould, is of interesting, pleasant appearance, and her out-of-door life, though it has tanned her, has made her strong of limb. She seems through all her strange career to have preserved a purity of mind wonderful to think of; and the captain of the Vernon, and indeed all who have met her, describe her as an innocent, interesting girl. On the discovery of her sex she was sent to Biloela, the industrial school for girls on Cockatoo Island …

To prevent herself from being detected in her disguise, the girl left Grenfell and walked to Lambing Flat, where she obtained employment as a shepherd. In this capacity she remained some time, becoming expert in her duty of looking after sheep and in riding after cattle, but she seems to have received no wages – nothing more than her food and lodging, and her clothes. Two or three years, perhaps, passed in this manner, and the girl then becoming tired of the lonely life of a shepherd gave it up, and engaged herself to a publican at Grenfell, to do such work as cleaning knives and boots, and making herself generally useful. In that employment she was happy enough, and she remained with the publican and his wife, who, she says, were always very kind to her until they gave up their business and lived privately. Then she had to leave, and again seek for a living. Work was harder to be found than before. Application after application failed, and the girl became, in spite of herself, a little vagrant, wandering about in search of employment, or something to keep her from hunger and nakedness. Finding that she could get nothing to do, she seems to have determined to leave the district, and, like many a waif and stray that has wandered before her in search of work or bread, centered all her hopes in the object of reaching some large city. With that purpose in view she set out on her travel from Grenfell and walked to Murrumburrah, a railway station on the Great Southern Railway, and there managed either to secrete herself in a luggage train, or to obtain the permission of the guard to travel free as far as Goulburn. At Goulburn she left the train, and went round the city looking for something to do, but could find nothing, and she had been but a day or two there when her vagrant appearance attracted the notice of a policeman, and she was taken into custody and brought before a magistrate. … Such is the girl's history as told by herself, with apparent truthfulness and with eyes that filled with tears whenever she spoke of the death of her mother. The circumstances of her stay in Goulburn, however, have been narrated in a manner very different
from the story she tells, by a surgeon in that city. … [S]ome eight weeks ago a child who gave the name of George Gould, and mentioned that he had travelled from Lambing Flat to Murrumburrah, where he secreted himself in a train and was brought to Goulburn, called upon [Dr Carroll], and presented the appearance of one who was in great want, both as regards raiment and food. After a few inquiries the child was given some tea and a bed, and on the following day it was arranged that he should be kept at the house which had given him shelter, and that he should receive a few shillings a week in return for his services in making himself generally useful. For a few weeks nothing could be more satisfactory than the boy's behaviour; but after that lapse of time the surgeon transferred him to the care of a maiden lady in Goulburn, by whom he was well clothed and fed. He had not been with his new mistress very long, however, when falsehood and cunning became his special qualities, and on the evening of the 9th instant [February], while his mistress and the others living in the house were at evening service, the boy ransacked the place, and stole a purse, about £4 in money, and two gold rings. The theft was discovered the same evening, and when a search was made for the delinquent he was found with most of the property on him, in bed, at an hotel, a mile and a half away from his place of employment. … During the few days that followed … his late mistress made many discoveries of losses from her stock of cutlery, and the boy was communicated with about the matter. He said he knew where the missing articles were, but would not tell. Since time some valuable knives have been found at the bottom of a water butt. … In the Industrial School the girl could not recollect that she ever had a feminine name, but as she said she had been called ‘Charley’ more frequently than ‘George’ or any other name, she is now called Charlotte, and from her general appearance promises to get on in the school very well. She is very boyish in the face, especially as her hair is cut short, and her arms have the bony and sunburned appearance of those of a boy whose sleeves are never below his elbows. She has a well-arched nose, sharp grey eyes, and a not unpleasantly shaped mouth, and her manner is respectful, but she is not very communicative to a questioner, and seems to show the suspicion of a child who has been under examination before.

Numerous sensational and erroneous reports continued to be written for weeks, drawing parallels with other famous and infamous women who had disguised themselves as a man. No state was spared until finally, a correspondent writing from Brundah Creek near Grenfell, reported:
“[Newspaper accounts brought to] mind a circumstance that occurred in Grenfell about eight years ago, when a family by the name of Gould were living there. George Gould was an Austrian by birth, and had a family of five children, three boys and two girls – John, Nicholas, George, Pheobe, and Meriette. The mother died in January, 1871, and the oldest son ran away to Parkes, where he got a good show in a reefing claim which he sold for a good price. He must have led a fearful life after this, as he was found in the bush by the police, and brought up for being out of his mind. The father kept the other four children for a year afterwards, when he too died. The children were then to have been sent to the Parramatta Orphan School.” Our correspondent is certain that the little girl was not dressed up and sent out into the world as a boy by her mother before she died.

This was finally close to the truth! George Gold and Phoebe Clarke, had married in Braidwood in 1857 and births for Peter, Henrietta and Annie were recorded but many registrations never reached Sydney. Phoebe died in Grenfell in 1871 and George died there the following year. A successful application made by Grenfell police on 18 January 1872, admitted eleven-year-old Nicholas, eight-year-old Phoebe, six-year-old George and five-year-old Marietta to the Catholic Orphan School at Parramatta. Fifteen-year-old John was sent to the Vernon from Grenfell on 25 January 1875, but on his admission he was assessed and sent to Tarban Creek where he stayed for three years. Nicholas died in Ryde in 1914. Phoebe and Marietta were not sent to the Orphan School but were taken into care by families in Moppity near Young. Phoebe went to Mrs Jasprizza and Marietta to Mrs John Canny, an employee of Mr Marina.

Robert Bown writing to the editor of The Burrangong Chronicle disclosed that Marietta was four-and-a-half when Canny took her but numerous instances of misbehavior – including theft and arson – meant that Mr Marina requested that Canny send her to someone else. Arrangements were frequently made but each time Marietta absconded she returned to Canny. Over the next few years Marietta lived with Edward Ryan of Irish Jack’s Creek, Constable Murphy of Young, Miss Fitzgerald of the Grenfell Road, Patrick Davoren, of the Prince of Wales Hotel, Grenfell and Mrs Nelson of Thuddungra Swamp. Mrs Nelson returned her to the court in Young and back to the care of Constable Murphy where she was threatened with being sent to Biloela. Finally Marietta stole both a suit of clothes from Murphy’s son and a neighbour’s horse and took off, finally being arrested in Goulburn. Bown stated that I can safely say I have seen many criminals in the dock – I have lived on stations in this country where we have has as many as twenty men who “left their country for their country’s good” – but I never saw one who could look you straight in the eye and stick to a lie like this girl – not a quiver of the eye or lip, but a bold defiant look.

On 22 February 1879, Mary Gould was admitted to Biloela from the Vernon. She was recorded as a Catholic who could ‘read a little’ and the Biloela records most often refer to her as Marietta. Marietta proved to be quite a handful for Selina Walker, the Biloela Superintendent. After she had been on the island for the required twelve months, Marietta was apprenticed for three years in April 1880, to Mr J. W. BAXTER, of Gullen Public School. These indentures were cancelled on 30 May because she had absconded twice! A new apprenticeship for two years to Edward R. HALLORAN was arranged on 5 March 1881, but Marietta absconded again and a warrant was issued for her arrest. She was finally found in Young where she again appeared in court and was described there as eccentric. Marietta was returned to Sydney. The indentures were cancelled and she was readmitted to Biloela where she remained until she turned eighteen, finally being discharged on 22 February 1883.

It is very likely that Marietta appeared in the records of Goulburn Gaol in 1884 and 1885 but by 1888, in Sydney, as Marrietta Gould, she married Augustus J. H. BEAUMONT. Nothing further is known of their life but Australia-wide, between 1897 and 1898, the ‘fascinating, young,’ Sydney resident, Marietta Beaumont began endorsing an aid to dyspepsia and indigestion. She confidently reported:

I have had a most charming experience, and am rejoiced to state that I now feel better than ever I did. It is now 12 months since my medical attendant advised me a change of air, for the condition of my health had been such as to cause my friends considerable anxiety, for I was in a very low state. I had suffered for a long time from dyspepsia, and I began to fear that my heart was affected, for it would beat violently upon the slightest exertion; so I determined to follow my doctor's advice, and seek fresh fields and pastures new. I left Sydney by the Changsha, one of the China Navigation Company's boats, and, after ‘doing’ China, proceeded to Japan, which is a most wonderful country. … Before leaving Australia I was advised to take with me a good supply of Dr. Williams' Pink Pills for Pale People. I was told that the conditions of life in the East are such that a reliable tonic is imperative. … I feel convinced that it is to Dr. Williams' Pink Pills alone I am indebted for my restoration to health and animation. I took some two dozen boxes with me, and the possession of them enabled me to perform many a kindly action, and the gratitude of a young Japanese gentleman to whom I had presented a box of this marvellous preparation will ever remain firmly impressed upon my memory. I cannot conceive how it was I first became ill, for I have always taken plenty of outdoor exercise, particularly horse riding, of which I am passionately fond. However, I, determining to give Dr. Williams’ Pink Pills a fair trial, commenced, taking them the day after I left Sydney, according to the printed directions. After the first two boxes I felt a great change for the better, and gradually increased the dose to three pills after each meal. I think I have taken in all ten or twelve boxes. I now feel as though I needed no further tonic. Speaking for myself, I can certainly say they are a wonderful invention, and I consider that the thanks of the community are due to the genius who discovered this happy remedy.

Sadly thirty-three-year-old Marietta Beaumont died in Sydney in 1904.

Updated 6 May 2018

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