The McDONALD Sisters
Name Variations MACDONALD1
Father Daniel aka Donald 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. 19086
Brother Thomas Daniel aka Daniel Thomas MACDONALD b. 18477 m. 18688 Mary Ann CARTER d. 18889
Sister Helen HARBER b. 184810 m. none d. 184911
Sister Elizabeth aka Eliza aka Betsey12 McDONALD b.c. 184913 m. 187114 John FRAME d. aft. 187715
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. 185520 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 and Eliza McDONALD were two of the twelve initial admissions for whom warrants had been ordered by the Sydney constables shortly after they compiled the list of names of at risk girls on 31 July 1867, a month before the Newcastle Industrial School opened. Their two brothers 11-year-old William and seven-year-old John also were recorded on the list of at risk boys compiled by the constables of Sydney three months earlier in May 1867 shortly before admissions to the Vernon began. Of the boys' family the constables wrote:

Parents living in Chippendale, Father drunkard, the mother blind, the boys are the frequent companions of thieves.30

The girls' list only identified Eliza and made no mention of her sister Hannah aka Ann. Of Eliza the constables wrote:

father a painter but seldom works, Parents both drunkards and have another daughter, a prostitute, living with them.31

Recorded in the Sydney newspapers as Eliza and Ann, the McDONALD sisters were arrested under warrant in Cleveland Street, Sydney. It is considered likely that the warrant was taken out at the instigation of their father who appeared in court and stated that Eliza was 'a bad girl and he had no control over her'. There is little doubt that at the time of their arrest they were in company with their older sister, Elizabeth. Ann and Eliza appeared in the Central Police Court on 30 August 1867, and in the same newspaper article it was reported that an Elizabeth McDONALD had been sent to gaol for riotous behaviour. Newspapers described the girls' parents as drunkards and stated that the sisters had been associating with thieves and prostitutes.32 The prostitute was almost certainly their sister and the thief was almost certainly their brother William as the Maitland Mercury stated that their brother, who was unnamed in the report, was in custody charged with a larceny.33 William together with the eldest female McDONALD were sent to Darlinghurst Gaol and the younger two, Eliza and Ann, were sent to Newcastle where Ann was recorded in the Entrance Book as Hannah. They were two of the twelve girls who were among the first names recorded in the Entrance Book on 31 August 1867.34 Their arrest was one of those included in commentary in some papers where reference was made of the admission to Newcastle of a 'certain class' of child.35 Both girls were apprenticed from the school to the Newcastle area although by August 1870 Eliza had returned to Sydney from her apprenticeship.36 Neither sister 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 Harriett. Daniel was recorded as a painter and glazier. Donald aka Daniel McDONALD37 and his wife, Harriet HARBOUR or HARBER, had been married by the Rev. James FULLERTON at the St. Lawrence Presbyterian Church, Pitt Street, Sydney, on 24 January 1842,38 after receiving Permission to Marry on 20 January 1842.39 Basing their ages on those recorded in the Entrance Book of the industrial school, Eliza and Hannah had both been born before compulsory registration so a registration would not exist. An age in the Entrance Book is not a guarantee of accuracy40 as some parents deliberately reduced the age of their child in order to have the girl committed to Newcastle. No baptism for either girl has been located under any variation of their given or surname and this has been the situation with many of their siblings.

Donald aka Daniel McDONALD had been transported to NSW for seven years aboard the Florentia in 1830. He was recorded with both names on the Florentia indent and had been tried in Edinburgh in July 1829. By 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

Donald's son Thomas aka Thomas Daniel McDONALD, was married in 1868 from a house in Hart Street, Chippendale.42 In February 1874, at the time of the death of his wife Harriet, the family was living at Shepherd Street, near Wattle Street, Shepherd's Paddock, Sydney.43 Donald died on 1 August 1885. The registration on NSW BDM Index located his death in Newcastle and his family researchers identify that he died in Tighes Hill, a suburb of Newcastle. This was in the home of Hannah his daughter and it is possible that he was being cared for by her or was on a trip to visit her when he died. Considerable expense must have been undertaken to transport his body by sea from Newcastle so he could be buried in the Sydney area. Possibly a family crypt was owned or perhaps with most of the family in Sydney, it was decided that this was the best decision to make. The Sydney Morning Herald reported on his funeral which was held four days after he died. No announcements have yet been found in the Newcastle newspapers.

THE Friends of the late Mr. DONALD McDONALD, late of Queen-street, Chippendale, are respectfully invited to attend his Funeral ; to move from the residence of his son, Mr. Thomas McDonald, Burt-street, Bullock-road, Balmain, near Flood's Hotel, TO-MORROW (Tuesday), at 8 o'clock, for the Balmain Cemetery.44

Harriet HARBOR aka HARBER had been transported to Australia aboard the Surry (9) in 1840. By 1867 the constables of Sydney on their May 1867 list of at risk children, had identified that she was blind.45 At the time of her death in February 1874 only Donald, her son, Daniel, and her son-in-law, John WOODBRIDGE, were identified in her funeral notice.46 Her death was registered in Sydney on the NSW BDM Index as Harris McDONALD and her parents were identified on the index as Thomas and Hannah.47

Extensive research completed by descendants of the McDONALD family has greatly assisted in identifying Hannah and Eliza’s siblings and this generous research is appreciated.48 It is believed by descendants that Donald and Harriett had at least ten children however it is still uncertain whether all of them have been identified. Birth details have not been found for Harriet, Elizabeth, Eliza, Hannah aka Ann, William, John or the unidentified daughter who was recorded as deceased on the birth registration for Caroline. Registrations or baptisms for the three children Thomas, George and Caroline have been confirmed.49

Because of the difficulties in their identification what is known of the unregistered or unbaptised children is recorded below.

Harriett married John WOODBRIDGE in 1861 and when she died in 1908 at the age of 65,50 her Funeral Notice only identified her immediate family51 but her death registration clearly identified that her father was Donald. John WOODBRIDGE was identified in the Funeral Notice in 1874 when Harriett McDONALD senior died.52

There is no doubt that three McDONALD sisters appeared in court together on 30 August 1867. Eliza and Ann aka Hannah were sent to Newcastle. Another newspaper report concerning the same court appearance appeared in the Empire. This report did not name either Newcastle admission but identified that an Elizabeth McDONALD had been sentenced to seven days in gaol for prostitution.53 Darlinghurst Gaol records record an 18-year-old Protestant named Elizabeth McDONALD, who had been born in the colony.54 In Darlinghurst Gaol admissions made in 1867 some months before Newcastle arrests began, there are consecutive admissions for Eliza McDONALD and Elizabeth McDONALD. Both girls were Protestants, had been born in Newtown and their names were Eliza, who had been born in about 1849,55 and Elizabeth, who had been born in about 1851.56 The younger girl was unable to read or write but the older girl could do both. Descendants57 confirm that Donald and Harriet had daughters named Elizabeth and Eliza, as both were identified on the 1857 birth registration of their younger sister Caroline.58

Differentiating between events involving Eliza and Elizabeth McDONALD are not confident due to the clear attempts made by the girls to be less than honest about their personal details at the times that they were arrested. Ages and names provided by the girls vary and most are thought to be fabrications. Few appearances can be matched to one or the other due to the sketchy nature of the Darlinghurst Gaol records available for this time period. It does seems very unlikely that the youngest of the two girls named Eliza or Elizabeth would have had more gaol admissions than an older sister so it is considered almost certain that appearances in the Sydney courts of Elizabeth aka Eliza aka Betsey McDONALD prior to Hannah and Eliza’s arrests refer mainly to the older sister who was over 16. This girl, likely to be called Elizabeth, was never sent to Newcastle but did spend time in gaol. Descriptions for her are not recorded in any gaol admissions and matching those admissions to newspaper reports is still being undertaken 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.59

No baptism for Elizabeth aka Eliza aka Betsey has been identified between 1849 and 1850. She appeared in newspaper records until the early 1870s and in March 1871 she married John FRAME in Sydney. While the given name of her father in the newspaper announcement does not immediately suggest that this was the daughter of Daniel and Harriet, the name that was provided and the location of the McDONALD family, confirm the marriage.

On the 8th March, at his residence, 41, Burton-street, South Head-road, by the Right Rev. Dr. Bailey, Bishop of the Free Church of England, Mr. John Frame, a native of Kilmarnock, Ayrshire, Scotland, of Raglan-street, Waterloo, to Elizabeth, daughter of Mr. Thomas Daniel McDonald, of Ivy-street, Shepherd's Paddock.60

The relationship had begun by about 1869 when their first child was born and by 1873 John and Elizabeth had three children named Edward, William and Harriet. A further child was perhaps the Thomas D. FRAME who died in 1875.61 Elizabeth was admitted to Darlinghurst Gaol in February 1877 for drunkenness and after this date is yet to be confirmed.

It is not believed that she was the Elizabeth McDONALD, who was admitted to Goulburn Gaol in 1885 as this woman was not quite as old as either the Newcastle admission 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.

Extensive searching by William's descendants have failed to find a baptism for him. No registration would exist because he had been born before compulsory registration and because baptisms for many other family members either never occurred or did not survive, it is likely that this same situation applies to William. There is a suggestion that he may have been only a half-brother to the other McDONALD children.62 Only DNA comparisons are likely to solve the family's dilemma. On 30 August 1867, by the time he was twelve and some months after admissions to the Vernon began, William was admitted to Darlinghurst Gaol.63 He had been tried on the same day and in the same court as his three sisters but his connection was only reported in the Maitland newspapers.64 William was sent from Darlinghurst Gaol to the Central Police Office on 2 September together with a boy named George LOW or LOWE and no further trace of him in the gaol records for 1867 has been found. Even though his name appeared on the Vernon list compiled by the constables in May, there was no admission for William to the Vernon. This is unexpected and it is believed that there was some intervention on his behalf but none has yet been found. George LOWE was certainly known to the McDONALD family as he had been arrested in company with Eliza as far back as February 1865.65

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.66 This burial record was in the correct area to be a child of the couple and the use of the name Helen rather than Ellen suggests a Scottish parentage. This may be the deceased daughter identified on Caroline's birth registration.

When Hannah married, her mother's maiden name was recorded in the HVPRI as GIBSON. This is thought to be an error and was probably made in the register or perhaps because of Hannah's faulty memory. The similarity of this surname to that of Harriet HARBOUR's mother, CLIFTON, identified by her descendants, is interesting.67


Name Variations Elizabeth
Husband (1) Richard Joseph EGAN b. 185268 m. 187469 d.
Husband (2) James Routley70 DAVEY b.c. 185271 m. 190172 d. 193473
Son Richard James EGAN b. 187474 m. none - d. 187675
Daughter Mary A. EGAN b.c. 1875 m. none - d. 187576
Son John James EGAN b. 187777 m. d.
Son Henry Francis EGAN b. 187978 m. d.
Son Donald James DAVEY79 b.c. 1902 m. (1) 1922 (1) Rita W. PLUMMER (2) Stella Irene Maude (UNKNOWN)80 d. aft.196381

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 also recorded that she had been working as a prostitute and had been arrested on one earlier occasion for vagrancy.82 Evidence was also given that Eliza had already spent time in gaol for being ‘idle and disorderly’ although no court appearance for this specific charge has 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 1865,83 when she was sentenced to a month in gaol.84 Some weeks before her admission to Newcastle and again as Elizabeth, she was imprisoned with her older sister, recorded in this incident as Eliza.85

Eliza appeared in the Entrance Book as a sixteen-year-old when she was admitted to Newcastle, however this age was recorded in pencil and it is believed that school administrators were unconvinced that this age was accurate.86 Her educational assessment showed that she was able to 'read writing' and that she was a Protestant.87 Her religion was confirmed when she appeared on SELWYN's list in June 1868.88 Eliza’s medical assessment by Dr HARRIS showed that not only was she not a virgin but she was suffering from syphilis.89 It is possible that this was the reason for her admission to the hospital, reported by KING in her report on 13 October 1868.90

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.91 One of these incidents occurred during the riot at the school two weeks 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.92 Eliza's account of the incident was recorded by Frederic CANE after the riot. Her statement has been transcribed in its entirety. It read:

Age 1693 (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. Mrs King 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 Conoray94 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.95

About two weeks after the riot Eliza was again in trouble when KING reported that Eliza, Eliza O'BRIEN, Charlotte PERRY, Elizabeth SAMPSON and Eliza O'NEILL were noisy and refractory.96 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.97 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.98 He confirmed her apprenticeship in his report on 2 March 1869.99 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.100

Eliza was most often recorded as, 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.101 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.102 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.103 Richard was imprisoned in Goulburn in 1891 for assault104 and a photograph of him may be located in the gaol records.105 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 identified that this woman was 55106 years old.107 Eliza left Richard in January 1894. Divorce proceedings were begun in November 1899108 and their divorce was granted in March 1901. Eliza kept the custody of the unnamed child109 although some accounts are unclear.110 Eliza placed an In Memoriam notice in 1890 remembering the death of her mother sixteen years earlier111 and in 1896 to remember her brother, William.112

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. The original registration has not been viewed. Eliza was buried on 7 July 1919, in the Katoomba Cemetery.113 After his death on 1 August 1934, James was buried with her.114


Name Variations Ann
Husband James HOUSE b. 1848115 m. 1872116 d. 1925117
Son Percy William HOUSE b. 1876118 m. 1902119 Grace120 Eileen LYNCH d. 1908121

Note:The records for the industrial school record Hannah as Ann, as this was her name at the time she was admitted. 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, Hannah 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.122 She was identified as a Protestant and appeared on SELWYN's list of Protestant girls.123 Her medical assessment by Dr HARRIS showed that she was a virgin.124 Hannah was listed in the first letter written by CLARKE when he arrived in December 1868 indicating that she was eligible for an apprenticeship.125 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.126 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.127 CLARKE needed 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.128 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.129

As Hannah, she married James HOUSE at St Peter’s, Maitland, on 1 October 1872. James was twenty-five and Hannah was nineteen. She stated that she had been born at Newtown. Her father was confirmed as Donald McDONALD, a painter and glazier and her mother was recorded as Harriet GIBSON.130 The witnesses were Magar DOCHERTY and Thomas SCANLON. The birth of only one child, William, was recorded for the couple and this man died in 1908.131 Hannah died in Sydney on 20 June 1917132 and her husband, James, placed an In Memoriam the following year.133

Updated April 2019

Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License