Name Variations Rosea Bell, Rosabella, Rosa Bell, Isabella Alias McGUMMERY
Father Thomas GUNNERY b.c. 18301 m. (1) 1851 (2) none (3) 1871 d. 18762
Step-father John MACKENZIE b. unknown m. 18783 d. unknown
Mother Sarah ASHTON b.c. 18324 m. (1) 18515 d. unknown
Step-mother (1) Letitia unknown b. unknown m. none d. unknown
Step-mother (2) Sarah PEARSON b. 18436 m. 18717 d. 18828
Sister Harriet E. GUNNERY b. 18529 m. none - d. 185410
Inmate Rosabel GUNNERY b. 185411 m. (1) 1873 (2) 1886 see below d. 192812
Sister Bella Bingham GUNNERY b. 1864 m. none - d. 186413
Step-sister Sarah Jane PEARSON b. 186414 m. 188615 William Henry DAVIDSON16 d. 188717
Half-brother (1) Thomas GUNNERY b. 186618 m. none - d. 186619
Step-sister Mary Ellen PEARSON20 b. 186821 m. 188622 John Douglas ALLAN d. 193623
Half-brother (1) Alfred GUNNERY b. 186924 m. none - d. 186925
Half-sister (2) Lillian GUNNERY b. 187126 m. none - d. 187127
Half-sister (2) Alice Adelaide GUNNERY b. 187528 m. none - d. 191529
Step-sister Edith MACKENZIE b. 187930 m. 1904 Jesse SHEATHER d. 194031
Step-sister Jessie MACKENZIE b. 188232 m. none - d. 188233
Husband (1) Henry Irvine ONGE aka AUNG b. 184634 m. 187335 d. 191636
Husband (2) John SEYMOUR37 b. 1845 m. 188638 d. 1937
Relationship Name Age Height Hair Eyes Complexion Build Distinguishing features
Inmate Rosabel39 22 4' 7" dark brown blue fair

Rosabel was brought before the bench on 14 December 1869, by constable COSTELLOE who stated that he had a warrant for her arrest and had taken her into custody at the station-house.40 Rosabel was charged with being under sixteen and wandering about the streets in no ostensible lawful occupation. Thomas GUNNERY, a painter of South Head Road, stated that Rosabel was fifteen years and six months old, that her mother was in England and that Rosabel had run away from him three times. He had provided her a home for her at Mrs. WILD's at Redfern but she had left and on the Saturday night she had slept on the racecourse. Rosabel was sent to Newcastle but because the records covering the time of her admission are missing, her religion, parents and educational attainments have been lost and can't be confirmed from this source. Rosabel was identified as a Protestant on the return of inmates compiled by George LUCAS.41

On 3 March 1871, a letter requesting permission from the Chief Secretary’s Office to apprentice Rosabel to James VERNON, Esq., the Government Surveyor at Scone,42 was sent by CLARKE. VERNON had requested an apprentice and wrote confirming that he would

… be glad to have the girl you speak of … her chief work will be the care of the children but occasionally she may be required to assist in other work. I shall be glad to have her as soon as may be convenient. Her travelling fare I will transmit if you will inform me what it is.

Rosabel was to be apprenticed for eighteen months at the rate of five shillings a week for the first six months and six shillings a week for the remainder of the apprenticeship. On 17 March 1871, CLARKE wrote to the Colonial Secretary after approval for this apprenticeship was given. He stated:

I have the honor to state … that altho Gunnery did not break any windows during the recent riot, yet the girl became greatly excited and made use of some strong language for which she was placed in solitary confinement by the police - having in view the girl's general good character I would respectfully recommend her case for the favourable consideration of the Honbl the Colonial Secretary.
Mr Vernon will wait for your reply.

On 22 March a telegram confirming Rosabel's good conduct was also transmitted to Sydney.43 Ultimately VERNON rejected the opportunity of taking any apprentices from Newcastle but this letter is not with the correspondence for Rosabel. In a letter to LUCAS on 8 April 1871, VERNON stated

In reply to your last I am sorry to have to inform you that after the late riotous behaviour of the inmates of the Indus: School I must decline having one as a domestic servant on any terms.44

On 8 May 1871, Thomas GUNNERY wrote from 2 View Terrace, Macquarie Lane, Strawberry Hills, requesting permission to remove 17-year-old Roseabella [sic] from the school. The police report on Thomas indicated that he was a respectable man, who was employed as a painter. He had a comfortable home and had married a second time to a respectable woman. On 23 May 1871, permission was given by the Colonial Secretary to return Rosabel to her father45 before the transfer of the school to Biloela. In his list in April 1872, LUCAS confirmed that Rosabel had been discharged on 13 June 1871, and although she did not make the transfer with the school, the exact date of her discharge is uncertain.46 Her name was ruled through on the list of girls still in Newcastle in May 1871 and she was not named on the list of older girls to make the transfer to Cockatoo Island.47 Because the school left Newcastle on 25 May, Rosabel must have been released before this date.

On 11 September 1873, as Rosa Bell GUNNERY, she married Henry Irvine ONGE in St James Church of England, Sydney. The registration was recorded on the NSW BDM Index under the surnames AUNG and ONGE. The marriage announcement48 confirmed her identity as the only daughter of Thomas GUNNERY. No trace of the couple can be found until 1876 when, as Rosabel ONGE, she was arrested by senior-constable USSHER of Marsden Police for forging a cheque. In company with Daniel STEWART, Rosabel appeared in the Forbes Quarter Sessions49 on 25 August 1876,50 charged with forging and uttering. She admitted guilt but Daniel only pleaded guilty to uttering and not the forgery. Each received two years at Bathurst Gaol with hard labour.51 Rosabel was released from Bathurst in 1878.52

One week after Rosabel's appearance, her husband, Henry ONGE, appeared before the Forbes Court charged with horse stealing and receiving. He was sentenced to twelve months with hard labour in Bathurst.53 His sentence would have expired and he would have been released a year before Rosabel and this may have been when the pair separated as it was almost entirely certain that by 1885 at the latest, Henry was living in Queensland. On 12 December 1885,54 Henry St. ONGE married the widow, Julia GAU.55 Henry, as Harry, was further sentenced to two years in prison in 1902 for wounding. Henry Irvine St. ONGE appeared on the electoral roll in Kennedy, Queensland,56 in 1905. The research of one of his descendants indicated that Henry had been born in Sydney and that his parents on his Queensland marriage certificate were recorded as David ONGE and Rebecca IRVINE. These researchers have been unable to locate and identify him before the marriage. The 1873 marriage announcement to Rosabel indicated that Henry was from Dublin, Ireland, and as this name is so unusual, it is clear that Henry had lied on at least one of his marriage registrations. Because he had almost certainly knowingly married bigamously, it is considered more likely that the lie was on his second registration but Henry has not been traced.

It is uncertain why Rosabel changed her surname. It may have been due to her criminal conviction in 1876 but, as this occurred under her married name, it is considered more likely that an alias was used to evade a possible charge of bigamy. It is almost entirely certain that as Rosa Bell McGUMMERY she married John SEYMOUR in 1886. This marriage registration has not been cited. Rosabel and John married on 2 January 1886, at St. Mark’s, Picton,57 and no children have been identified for this couple on the NSW BDM Index. When Rosabell SEYMOUR died in Picton on 4 January 1927, her parents were identified on the NSW BDM Index as Thomas and Sarah. Researchers of the SEYMOUR family58 indicated that Rosabel had initially been buried at Lagoon Flats, Burragorang, NSW, but her body was later transferred to St. Matthews, The Oaks, NSW. John SEYMOUR was the beneficiary of Rosea Bell's will.59


Rosabel had been born in Sydney on 25 May 1854, and was baptized on 9 September. This was an independent baptism in the parish of Sydney. Her father was identified on the baptism as a painter. Rosabel was the daughter of Thomas GUNNERY and Sarah ASHTON who had married in Manchester, England, on 13 January 1851.60 The couple had appeared on the 1851 census living with Sarah's parents, Daniel and Harriet ASHTON. In late 1852 Thomas and Sarah arrived in Australia aboard the Chaseley from Liverpool61 where Thomas was confirmed as a painter. The couple's eldest daughter, Harriet, had been born shortly after their arrival but this child died in 1854 at the age of about two.

For whatever reason, this marriage was unhappy. Eventually Thomas and Sarah separated and by 1864 Sarah was living in Elizabeth Street, Adelaide, South Australia,62 leaving Rosabel with Thomas in Sydney. Although an announcement was made of the death of a ten-month-old daughter, Bella Bingham, in South Australia on 11 October 1864, no death with the surname GUNNERY has been identified in South Australian records.63 It must be considered that if Bella was Thomas's child, the couple must have reconciled for a time in around 1863. By the time of Rosabel’s arrest in 1869, Sarah was reported by Thomas to be in England. No further tracking of Sarah ASHTON has been undertaken.

Thomas had been born in Tarporley, Cheshire. His mother was identified as Sarah on the 1841 census.64 After his arrival in NSW he became a member of the Odd Fellows. By May 1857, Thomas was advertising65 that he would not be responsible for any debts contracted by his wife and after Sarah's returned to England, Thomas seemed to have begun a relationship with a woman named Letitia. The identity of this woman remains unknown as birth registrations for two sons, Thomas and Alfred, which were made in Sydney in 1866 and 1869 respectively, have not been viewed. Only these registrations would likely identify Letitia's identity but they were almost certainly half-siblings of Rosabel. No further trace of Letitia has been found.

In 1871 Thomas married the widow, Sarah PEARSON nee DICKENS, the daughter of Eli DICKENS. Sarah had married David PEARSON in 1862 in Sydney and David died in 1867. The couple almost without doubt knew each other as both their families had emigrated aboard the Chaseley in 1852.66 Eli was the former licensee of the Belmore Hotel. He transferred the license to Thomas GUNNERY in July 187167 and some time around this date Thomas married Sarah PEARSON. On 18 December 1871, Eli DICKENS, writing from the Belmore Hotel, requested permission to bury his grandchild, Lillian GUNNERY, in his plot at the Camperdown Cemetery. The permission was approved.68 A further child, Alice, was registered to Thomas and Sarah in 1875. Thomas’s residence was still the Belmore Hotel, Redfern, on the corner of George and Redfern streets when he died in April 1876 at the age of forty-six.69 Thomas may have had a brother named Joseph70 but this may have been a reporting error in the newspaper.

In 1878, Sarah transferred the publican’s license that she held to Isaac HYAM and also about this time she remarried John MACKENZIE in Sydney. Sarah died in 1882 at the age of 39 and this year was confirmed in numerous online trees for Eli DICKENS. When Rosabel’s half-sister, Alice, died in 1915,71 her funeral notice recorded that she was the sister of Mrs. J. D. ALLAN (Mary Ellen) of Bondi and Mrs. J. SHEATHER (Edith) but no references connecting Rosabel to her half-sisters have been located and it is unknown whether they were aware of her existence.

Updated August 2016

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