The McDONALD Sisters
Name Variations MACDONALD1
Father Donald aka Daniel McDONALD b.c. 1805 m. 18422 d. 18853
Mother Harriet HARBOUR b.c. 1819 m. 1842 d. 18744
Sister Harriett McDONALD b.c. 1843 m. 18615 John WOODBRIDGE d. 18756
Brother Daniel Thomas MACDONALD b. 18477 m. Mary Ann CARTER8 d. 19319
Sister Helen HARBER b. 184810 m. none d. 184911
Brother Thomas Daniel McDONALD b.c. 1850 m. d. 188812
Sister Elizabeth aka Eliza aka Betsey13 McDONALD b.c. 185014 m. unknown d. alive 186415
Inmate Eliza aka Elizabeth McDONALD b.c. 185116 m. (1) 1874 (2) 1901 (see below) d. 191917
Inmate Hannah aka Ann McDONALD b.c. 185318 m. 1872 (see below) d. 191719
Brother William Edward McDONALD b. 185620 m. 187621 Elizabeth Augusta PETER or PETERS d. 189422
Sister Caroline Martha McDONALD b. 185723 m. 187424 Joseph EDWARDS d. 192725
Brother John McDONALD b.c. 1860 m. d. 188126
Brother George McDONALD b. 186227 m. d.
Relationship Name Age Height Hair Eyes Complexion Build Distinguishing features
Father Daniel28 19 5' 5¾" brown hazel sallow; freckled
Mother Harriett29 15 5' 0" red brown fair; ruddy scar near right elbow

WARNING: Details of the early life of the McDONALD sisters does not make pleasant reading and may distress descendants.

Hannah, as Ann, and Eliza McDONALD were two of the twelve initial admissions whose warrants were ordered shortly after the compilation of the list compiled on 31 July 1867, by the constables of Sydney, a month before the school opened. Only Eliza's name appeared on the list of at risk children and Hannah aka Ann was not mentioned. Of Eliza the constables wrote :

father a painter but seldom works, Parents both drunkards and have another daughter, a prostitute, living with them.30

Recorded as Ann and Eliza, the sisters were arrested under warrant in Cleveland Street, Sydney – probably at the instigation of their father who stated in court that Eliza was 'a bad girl and he had no control over her' – and almost certainly in company with their older sister, Elizabeth. Ann and Eliza appeared in the Central Police Court on 30 August 1867, and later in this report an Elizabeth McDONALD was reported to have been sent to gaol for riotous behaviour. This therefore cannot be a reference to Eliza. A very different report appeared in the Empire where neither Eliza or Ann were named but an Elizabeth McDONALD was sentenced to seven days in gaol for prostitution.31 Papers described the girls' parents as drunkards and stated that the sisters had been associating with thieves and prostitutes.32 The Maitland Mercury added that a brother, who was unnamed in the report, was in custody charged with a larceny.33 There is therefore almost no doubt that three McDONALD sisters appeared in court together on 30 August 1867. The eldest went to gaol and the younger two were sent to Newcastle.

Hannah and Eliza were admitted to Newcastle on 31 August 1867, and their arrest was one of those reported in some papers which commented about the 'certain class' of children who were being admitted to Newcastle.34 They were two of the twelve girls who were among the first names recorded in the Entrance Book on 31 August 1867.35 Both girls were apprenticed from the school to the Newcastle area although Eliza had returned to Sydney from her apprenticeship by August 1870. Neither transferred to Biloela when the school moved to the island in May 1871.


Hannah and Eliza’s parents were identified in the Entrance Book as Daniel and Hariett [sic]. Daniel was recorded as a painter and glazier. Donald aka Daniel McDONALD and his wife, Harriet HARBOUR or HARBER, were married by the Rev. James FULLERTON at St. Lawrence Presbyterian Church, Pitt Street, Sydney, on 24 January 1842,36 after receiving Permission to Marry on 20 January 1842.37 Few births or baptisms for the couple have been registered and extensive research completed by descendants has assisted in providing names of Hannah and Eliza’s siblings.38 It is believed by descendants that the couple had at least ten children so it is still uncertain whether all of them have been identified. Baptisms for Eliza and Hannah have not been located under any variation of their given or surnames. The child Helen HARBER who died on 30 November 1849, in Kent Street, Sydney, at the age of one year and four months, has also been attributed to this family.39 When Hannah married, her mother's maiden name was recorded in the HVPRI as GIBSON. This is thought to be an error was probably made in the register or because of Hannah's faulty memory but the similarity of this surname to that of Harriet HARBOUR's mother, CLIFTON, identified by her descendants, is interesting.40

Donald had been transported to Australia on the Florentia in 1830. In May 1865 he was living in Redfern and was advertising his musical abilities in the Sydney Morning Herald.

DONALD McDONALD, Painter, Glazier, and Paper-hanger, from Edinburgh, PLAYS the FIDDLE to Wedding and Quadrille Parties. Violins repaired, and bows haired. Botany-street, Redfern.41

At the time of the death of his wife, Harriet, in February 1874, the family was living at Shepherd Street, near Wattle Street, Shepherd's Paddock, Sydney.42 Donald died on 1 August 1885. The registration on NSW BDM Index located his death in Newcastle and his family researchers indicate that he died in Tighes Hill. His last residence was reported in Funeral Notices placed by Eliza EGAN nee McDONALD, as Queen Street, Chippendale,43 and this date and location differ from what was reported by descendants his death registration.

Harriet had been transported to Australia on the Surry (9) in 1840. At the time of her death only Donald, her son, Daniel, and her son-in-law, John WOODBRIDGE, were identified in her funeral notice.44 Her death was recorded in Sydney in February 1874, as Harris McDONALD and her parents were identified on the index as Thomas and Hannah.45

Darlinghurst gaol records indicate that two McDONALD girls with variations of the name 'Eliza' were admitted consecutively in 1867. Both girls were Protestants, had been born in Newtown and their names were Eliza, who was born in about 1849, and Elizabeth, who was born in about 1851. The younger girl was unable to read or write but the older girl could do both. Descendants46 confirm these gaol admissions and name two of Donald and Harriet's daughters as Elizabeth and Eliza, confirming that both were named on the birth registration of their younger sister, Caroline, in 1857.47 It is considered likely that other appearances in the Sydney courts prior to Hannah and Eliza’s arrests refer to this older sister, Elizabeth aka Eliza aka Betsey, who was never sent to Newcastle but did send time in gaol. Descriptions are not recorded in any gaol admissions and matching those admissions to newspaper reports has not been thoroughly undertaken for Elizabeth but there is no doubt that in October 1864, at the age of fourteen, Betsey McDONALD, a Protestant born in Newtown, was admitted to Darlinghurst for theft.48 Few appearances can be confirmed due to the sketchy Darlinghurst records available at this time and it must also be considered that some of the information appearing in the gaol records was a fabrication given to the gaolers at the time of the admission. It does however seems very unlikely that the youngest of the two girls named Eliza or Elizabeth would have had more gaol admissions than an older sister. Elizabeth aka Betsey aka Eliza may be often found in the records until about the end of the 1860s but it is considered unlikely that she was the Elizabeth McDONALD, who was admitted to Goulburn gaol in 1885. This woman's age was not quite as old as that of the Newcastle girl or her older sister of this name. She was a 28 year-old Presbyterian, who was 5' 5" tall and had brown hair and eyes but the records indicate that she had been tried in Goulburn. Further investigation of these women has not been undertaken.

Other gaol appearances probably exist for other members of the family. William, at the age of twelve, was admitted to Darlinghurst gaol in 1867.49


Name Variations Elizabeth
Husband (1) Richard Joseph EGAN b. 185250 m. 187451 d.
Husband (2) James Routley52 DAVEY b.c. 185253 m. 190154 d. 193455
Son Richard James EGAN b. 187456 m. none - d. 187657
Daughter Mary A. EGAN b.c. 1875 m. none - d. 187558
Son John James EGAN b. 187759 m. d.
Son Henry Francis EGAN b. 187960 m. d.
Son Donald James DAVEY61 b.c. 1902 m. (1) 1922 (1) Rita W. PLUMMER (2) Stella Irene Maude (unknown)62 d. aft.196363

Of the two sisters arrested, only Eliza was recorded on the list of at risk children in July 1867. The constables described her as a fifteen-year-old Protestant of robust health. It was recorded that she was working as a prostitute who had been arrested on one earlier occasion for vagrancy.64 Evidence was also given that Eliza had already spent time in gaol for being ‘idle and disorderly’ although no court appearances for this specific charge have yet been identified. As fourteen-year-old Elizabeth McDONALD, she had been arrested for theft and appeared in court as Elizabeth MacDONALD on 15 February 1865,65 when she was sentenced to a month in gaol.66

Eliza was recorded in the Entrance Book as sixteen years of age when she was admitted to Newcastle, however this age was recorded in pencil.67 Her educational assessment showed that she was able to 'read writing' and that she was a Protestant.68 This religion was confirmed on SELWYN's list in June 1868.69 Eliza’s medical assessment by Dr HARRIS showed that not only was she not a virgin but she was suffering from syphilis.70 It is possible that this was the reason for her admission to the hospital, reported by KING in her report on 13 October 1868.71

Eliza was recorded as Elizabeth in the teacher's report written on 27 July 1868, when KELLY reported that she had been insubordinate on two occasions.72 One of these incidents occurred during the riot at the school earlier on 9 July. KING named Eliza as one of the instigators of this first riot, when during the recreation hour six days before the riot she was one of those who began screaming and shouting and attempting to encourage others to join her. She was reported to have screamed 'we won't pray we will only mock God' so was placed in confinement.73 Eliza's account of the incident was recorded by Frederic CANE after the riot. Eliza's statement has been transcribed in its entirety and it read:

Age 1674 (sixteen) I was one of those who took part in the disturbance. I was locked up in the Cell on Friday 3rd Inst. because I was singing and making a noise on the verandah. I had previously made a noise in the Muster Room, and I knew I was misbehaving myself. I never made use of such words as "I won't prat I will only moch God" nor did I ever hear any other Girls say it. A long time before this I told Miss Ravenhill "I would not pray because I did not feel fit to pray." I never heard Sarah Wildgust threaten Mrs King's life, nor did I know she was carrying a knife about her for that purpose, had I known it I would have prevented her from doing anything of the kind. I would not have assisted any of the others in striking Mrs King, and would have done all I could in preventing others from doing so. I was present in the Dormitory when Mrs King asked what our grievance was we told her we tell it to head quarters, my grievance was because Mrs King slapped me in the face, and said she would put the __Handcuffs on me. This was only because I was singing a Hymn in the Balcony after Prayers. I cannot give the date, I am quite sure I was not misconducting myself in any other way than singing. On Saturday afternoon when I was released from the Cell, I said I would have a bit of fun in the Dormitory. I did not mean by this that I would do any mischief. I merely meant I would enjoy myself. I did not say this to anyone in particular. I was one of those who assisted in making the Fire in the Dormitory on the Saturday Evening (4 Inst.) I lit it. We lighted the fire to warm ourselves, we knew it was against the rules and knew we were doing wrong. It was I who proposed to light the Fire with no other intention than to warm ourselves. Mrs King took me by the hair of the head, and dragged me on the Floor. I then said to her My God Mrs King that's a shame to drag us big Girls by the hair of the head like that.I shall tell Mr Parkes when he comes up. I think Miss Ravenhill was present. The Cook tried to stop us lighting the Fire. I gave her impudence. She then left the room because she could do nothing with us. I was not allowed to write to my parents when I wished to do so. MrsKing told me that she could not write for me while I had behave so bad. I heard Mrs King say on one occasion some time ago that we were like the Cow and Bull in the Field, we were too hot, we wanted ducking down the well. On another occasion in the Dormitory Mrs King said that some of you big girls were the sweepings of Sydney streets. I told Sergeant Conoray75 on Saturday (4 Inst.) there had been no peace in the Institution since Miss Ravenhill came. we thought she used to bounce us too much and was always telling Mrs King every little thing we did. I was one of those who threw stones at the windows there was no arrangement to do so I did so under great excitement I was too wild to know what I was about I was one of those who assisted in breaking out of the Cell we did so because we wanted light.

Eliza made her mark on this statement.76

About two weeks after the riot Eliza was again when KING reported that Eliza, Eliza O'BRIEN, Charlotte PERRY, Elizabeth SAMPSON and Eliza O'NEILL were noisy and refractory.77 By 19 December 1868, Eliza had been at the school for fifteen months and CLARKE wrote to the Colonial Secretary stating that she was eligible for service. He requested permission to find situations for Eliza and six others and had already negotiated positions for five of them.78 Eliza was one of these as, on 22 February 1869, she was discharged to service with the permission of the Colonial Secretary to Charles RIEDETT, Esq., Solicitor, of Newcastle. CLARKE in a letter to RIEDETT on 22 February, described Eliza’s conduct as good, confirmed her religion and stated that he believed she would make a good domestic servant. A follow-up letter to the Colonial Secretary confirmed that Eliza was to be paid six shillings a week and that she was well behaved and happy with her position.79 He confirmed her apprenticeship in his report on 2 March 1869.80 In his letter on 1 August 1870, CLARKE stated that Eliza

left her situation to go to her father – a house painter in Sydney where she has been heard of, and I believe is leading a respectable life.81

Eliza was most often recorded and almost always used the name Eliza rather than Elizabeth. As Eliza she married Richard Joseph EGAN on 12 February 1874, and the couple had four children although by November 1899 only one of these children was still alive.82 The marriage was 'kept quiet' by mutual agreement and the couple did not live together for over two years until Richard had completed his boiler making apprenticeship.83 Whatever the arrangements they had agreed upon, in September 1874, Richard was ordered to pay Eliza six shillings a week for twelve months for maintenance.84 Richard was imprisoned in Goulburn in 1891 for assault85 and a photograph of him may be located in the gaol records.86 It may be that Eliza was the woman imprisoned in Darlinghurst gaol as Eliza EGAN in 1882 and 1884 but she was not the Elizabeth EGAN imprisoned in 1883 and 1887 as newspapers identify this woman as 5587 years old.88 Eliza left Richard in January 1894. Divorce proceedings were begun in November 189989 and their divorce was granted in March 1901. Eliza kept the custody of the unnamed child90 although some accounts are unclear.91 Eliza placed an In Memoriam notice in 1890 remembering the death of her mother sixteen years earlier92 and in 1896 to remember her brother, William.93

In 1901, as Eliza McDONALD, she married James R. DAVEY. There were no children recorded to the couple between 1901 and 1910 although family researchers have attributed to them a son named Donald. No appropriate birth for Donald has been identified and it is unknown whether this name came from Eliza's death registration, from some other source or whether it refers to one of her children with Richard EGAN. Eliza DAVEY died on 5 July 1919, and the registration of her death at Katoomba on the NSW BDM Index correctly recorded her parents as Donald and Harriet but the original registration has not been viewed. She was buried on 7 July 1919, in the Katoomba Cemetery.94 James was buried with her after his death on 1 August 1934.95


Name Variations Ann
Husband James HOUSE b. 184896 m. 187297 d. 192598
Son Percy William HOUSE b. 187699 m. 1902100 Grace101 Eileen LYNCH d. 1908102

Note:The records for the industrial school record Hannah as Ann, as this was her name on her admission but in her later life she used the name Hannah and this is the name to which she has been referred in this biography.

At the time of her arrest, she told the arresting constable that she was fifteen but when she was admitted to Newcastle on 31 August 1867, she was recorded as a fourteen-year-old who was able to recite the alphabet when she was admitted.103 She was identified as a Protestant and appeared on SELWYN's list of Protestant girls.104 Her medical assessment by Dr HARRIS showed that she was a virgin.105 Hannah was listed in the first letter written by CLARKE when he arrived in December 1868 indicating that she was eligible for apprenticeship.106 On 28 June 1869, Hannah was apprenticed for two years by order of the Colonial Secretary as a general servant to the Police Magistrate and J. P., James SMITH, Esq., of Maitland.107 Her pay was to be four shillings a week and CLARKE described her as 'between sixteen and seventeen years of age, of good character and willing to earn her own bread.' As Annie, her discharge was confirmed in CLARKE's report on 6 July.108 He had to take her to Maitland to ensure that SMITH signed the indenture papers and had to get further permission from the Colonial Secretary to do this.109 Further information on Hannah's apprenticeship may eventually be located in CLARKE’s letters or the CSIL. In his letter to the Colonial Secretary on 1 August 1870, CLARKE reported that Hannah was giving every satisfaction in her position.110

As Hannah married James HOUSE at St Peter’s, Maitland, on 1 October 1872. James was twenty-five. Hannah was nineteen. She stated that she had been born at Newtown and her father was confirmed as Donald McDONALD, a painter and glazier and her mother was named as Harriet GIBSON.111 The witnesses were Magar DOCHERTY and Thomas SCANLON. The birth of only one child, William, was recorded for the couple and he died in 1908.112 Hannah died in Sydney on 20 June 1917,113 and her husband, James, placed an In Memoriam the following year.114

Updated June 2015

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