Hannah Maria McGILL
Name Variations Annie Maria, Anne Alias GILL, Alias Maria SHORT
Father Joseph SHORT alias Joseph or George McGILL b.c. 18281 m. (1) 1854 (2) none d. 18712
Mother Bridget CARROLL alias McGILL b.c. 18383 m. (1) 1854 d. 18684
Step-mother Jane DILLON nee CARMICHAEL b.c. 1843 m. (1) 18505 (2) none d. 18696
Half-sibling unknown b. bef. 1851 m. d.
Twin Sister Bridget SHORT b. 18557 m. none - d. 18558
Inmate Maria SHORT alias Hannah McGILL b. 18559 m. 1871 (see below) d. 187810
Brother Henry SHORT alias McGILL b. 185711 m. unknown d. unknown
Sibling unknown SHORT b.c. 185912 m. unknown d.c. unknown
Husband William ROWLEDGE b.c. 1850 m. 187113 d. 192514

Note: While McGILL was not the original surname of this family, because it was the name of the most recent death and marriage records, the decision was made to retain this alias as it is likely that the only surviving family member – Henry – probably believed that McGILL was his actual surname.

Relationship Name Age Height Hair Eyes Complexion Build Distinguishing features
Father Joseph McGILL15 37 5' 3" dark brown brown stout
Father Joseph SHORT16 21 5' 2¼" dark brown brown sallow brown eyebrows, oval visage, high forehead, medium head, noise, mouth and chin
Mother Bridget CARROLL17 25 4' 11¾" black hazel fresh medium head, oval visage, black eyebrows, high forehead, long nose, medium mouth and chin

WARNING: The story of the McGILL family is a distressing one.

The McGILL family were well known to the constables of Sydney. Prior to the first admissions to the Vernon, nine-year-old Henry was named on the list of at risk boys compiled on 14 May 1867. It was noted that he had never been convicted. He was described as of delicate health and 'unfit for seafaring.' A further notation beside his name read:

Parents keeping a disreputable house in Clarence Street and obtain a living through immoral means.18

On 30 May 1867, about a fortnight after this list was compiled, Henry was arrested for theft but was eventually released on promises made by his father.19 On 31 July 1867, a month before the school opened, Hannah McGILL was listed on the list of at risk girls compiled by the constables of Sydney. This record confirmed that before her father's imprisonment he had kept a disreputable house in Clarence Street.20 On Monday, 2 September, Hannah was apprehended with a warrant by constable THOMPSON from a disorderly house in Clarence Street run by her mother, who was unnamed in the newspaper report. THOMPSON stated that he had found Hannah lying under a table and two prostitutes were in the house at the time. Hannah was charged with being under the age of sixteen and living with common prostitutes. Margaret PRICE was also arrested from this house at the same time.21 In court Senior sergeant WATERS stated that he had known Hannah’s mother as a brothel-keeper for the past four years.22 Henry McGill also appeared in court with his sister and was sent to the industrial school ship, Vernon, where his description included the comment that he was a 'clever intelligent boy, industrious, good disposition and fair conduct.'23

Hannah and Margaret PRICE were admitted to Newcastle on 5 September 1867.24 Hannah's age was recorded as thirteen. She was a Catholic and her educational level was described as 'sequel number 2 and writing small hand.' Hannah’s medical assessment by Dr HARRIS showed that she was a virgin.25 Hannah and Annie BURT-2 were appointed as classroom monitors by the teacher, Margaret KELLY on 1 September 1868,26 but on 12 October, KELLY reported that she had replaced Hannah with Caroline COLES. No reason for the change was given apart from perhaps the better suitability of Caroline.27 On 20 November 1868, Hannah absconded from the school with six other girls and a further two girls made a separate escape the same night. KING listed the absconders in a report to the Colonial Secretary on 21 November 1868,28 stating that all except one29 were returned to the school by two constables at eleven o’clock that night – half an hour after they had escaped – and were placed in the cells. The girls had

forced open the windows of No. 4 dormitory, they then climbed over the fence near Mr SCOTT’s30 residence.31

On 1 December 1868, writing as George McGILL, Joseph made his first attempt to release his children. He had only just been released from gaol and wrote to the Colonial Secretary requesting that Henry and Hannah be apprenticed to 'Mr TIMMINS', a baker, of Druitt Street and 'his brother's wife.' At no stage was this brother or his wife identified by name. Joseph wrote:

Being desirous to place my daughter with my brother's wife, who is opening a female store in the Wellington District, where he has resided for nearly four years, and bears an unimpeachable character, I am informed I must obtain your sanction for her removal from the Industrial School, where she was placed, not as a vagrant but for protection, as the Books of the National School in Fort Street will testify that both she and her Brother have been regular attendants there for some time after the destruction of St Mary's by fire, until my misfortune. … I am about to leave Sydney with my brother to assist in his store, I am desirous to see both my children placed in a condition by which they can hereafter obtain a respectable and honest living and therefore humbly beg will will consent.

At the request of the Colonial Secretary CLARKE responded with the statement that

Hannah McGill was found living with common prostitutes in a certain house in Clarence Street in the city of Sydney and was sent … being then 13 years of age
Nov 17 placed in cells for bad language to Mrs Sadler [sic], assistant matron released Nov 20th same evening absconded with other girls from school, brought back by police & placed in cells till 26th
conduct since my arrival very good.32

A further attempt was made in 1869 as in a letter dated 22 May,33 CLARKE responded to the Colonial Secretary concerning a petition by a man named Michael DUNN who requested the release of Annie Maria McGILL. CLARKE clarified her name and that of her father and stated that by this date her mother had died. CLARKE’s letter explained that Hannah had just finished a period of solitary confinement for escaping with another girl and added that he had

… no means of ascertaining anything about the petitioner, the girl states that she is not acquainted with him while he states in the fourth paragraph of his petition that he has known her so long. Since I have had charge of this institution, Hannah McGILL has been a quiet, well conducted girl and I should hope that she would do well as housemaid or to mind children.34

The police report written by G. REAY, the Inspector General of Police, in response to DUNN's application, stated that McGILL

… is a most inveterate drunkard and is now keeping one of the worst Brothels in Sydney. Mr. Dunn is a respectable man but he resides near McGill and does not appear to take any great interest in the child. … From what I know of McGill's character, I feel certain that if the child were placed in any way under his influence or control (which could not very well be prevented if she were living near him) her moral ruin would be inevitable.35

Hannah's release to DUNN was denied and she was subsequently named in CLARKE’s list of girls eligible for apprenticeship on 15 December 1869, where he recorded that she had been in the school for two years and was currently aged sixteen. On 2 May 1870, arrangements for Hannah and Fanny LEE to be apprenticed to Dr W. H. GORDON of Murrurundi for eighteen months at six shillings a week for the first six months and seven shillings a week for the rest of the period. Hannah’s apprenticeship did not occur because GORDON decided that he was unable to take two apprentices at the same time. Hannah's reaction was frustration and her subsequent actions were outlined by CLARKE in a report written on 20 May. On the evening of Sunday, 15 May 1870, Hannah, in company with Mary Ann DENNETT escaped from the school. CLARKE reported their escape to the Colonial Secretary by telegram and then in detail in a report of the incident. The girls were recaptured about ten o'clock on the Monday morning and were returned to the school and placed in solitary confinement. CLARKE's also wrote:

It was reported to me by the police that McGill was under the influence of drink when arrested, that her conduct and language was of the most violent character, and that they were obliged to use force to get her back to the Institution. At 10 o'c on Monday morning I visited those girls in company with the matron when Dennett had no excuse what-ever for her conduct, but McGill said she was too long in the Institution, that she was disappointed at not getting the situation at Doctor Gordon's, (her discharge having been granted in your letter of the 29h Ultimo._ This disappointment was caused by Doctor Gordon writing to say he could only take one girl at present but that in a short time he would send for the other. This was fully explained to the girl, who at the time appeared to be satisfied, but afterwards made it her excuse for absconding.
On Tuesday evening after those girls had been about forty hours in solitary confinement, [they were released because] having in view the length of time that those girls had been conducting themselves well and as they both expressed their regret for their conduct I allowed them to return to their dormitories, but upon arriving there McGill worked herself into a frighful state of excitement and induced a number other girls to join her in her mutinous conduct. The servant on duty came for me and altho I remained for a considerable time giving them advice when I would leave the riot would commence again, and altho the House Matron and Teacher also spoke to them it was all to no purpose, McGill declared that she would not remain in the school and that if she was not allowed to leave she would do something that would oblige us to send her someplace else. this state of things continued until midday on Wednesday when it was reported to me that the girls spoke of smashing the gate, I saw that it would be imprudent for me to attempt putting any of them into solitary confinement without assistance so that after consulting with the Police Magistrate I asked for and obtained the assistance of the police and placed the ringleaders nine (9) in number in solitary confinement, but after the other girls went to their dormitory there were several panes of glass broken, the girls are still very unsettled, but I think the mutiny is put down.

CLARKE wrote again to the Colonial Secretary on 1 June 1870, and said:

… McGill has undergone punishment in solitary confinement for her offences, and is again brought to reason, not however without considerable difficulty even after her second removal from solitary confinement. McGills character is that of a truthfull, honest girl, possessed of a proud rebellious spirit that is as capable of being led to good, as driven to destruction.
Having in view her particular disposition, the length of time she has conducted herself well, and the disappointment and chagrin the girl met with in not getting the situation at Doctor Gordon's, I made her punishment as light as was consistent with proper discipline, believing, as I do that kind advice will do more to reduce such a constitution to disobedience, than any amount of punishment that can be given.
This girl has been in the Institution since September 1867, her family circumstances are very disrupting, no home, mother dead, father a drunkard, most of his time in gaol, her best chance of doing well in the world is to get settled with a lady, now, while she is young, who would take sufficient interest in the girls welfare to act towards her as a friend, as such an opportunity presents itself I have the honor, in the face of all that has passed, to request that the Honbl the Colonial Secretary will authorize the discharge of McGill to the service of Mrs E. P. MUNN, of Craignathen, North Shore, Sydney. I make this request believing it to be the best, if not the only means of saving this girl from destruction, I may add that Mrs Munn (who is here at present) is fully aware of the particulars of this girls case, and is willing to giver her a fair trial, Mrs Munn however will not take the girl as an apprentice but as a domestic servant, and I believe that this girl would do better without the trammels of an Indenture.

Permission was given by the Colonial Secretary on 8 June.36 The Entrance Book recorded that it began on 21 June 1870, and it was confirmed by LUCAS in his list compiled in April 1872.37

Hannah, using the name Maria McGILL or GILL, but described as the daughter of Joseph McGILL, married William ROWLEDGE, tobacconist, in Sydney on 7 February 1871.38 Maria and William were both residents of Kent Street, Sydney, and William was a tobacco manufacturer. There were no ages, parents or places of birth recorded on the marriage registration but they were married in the Free Church of England, 41 Burton Street, Sydney. Joseph (X) McGILL and Mary Ann (X) ROWLEDGE were witnesses.39 The actual record from the Free Church of England adds considerably more information to what is recorded on the marriage registration. William was recorded as the twenty-one year old son of George ROWLEDGE and Rosanna CLANCY and Maria was recorded as the fifteen year old daughter of Joseph McGILL and Bridget McGILL nee CARROLL. Maria's place of birth was recorded as Melbourne, Victoria. William had been born in Sydney.40 Although her father was a witness, there is no written indication on the registration or the church record that permission for Hannah to marry had been given because she was under the age of twenty-one.

Subsequent newspaper reports indicate that after her marriage, Maria returned to the use of the name Hannah, or its variations, Annie or Ann. As Ann ROWLEDGE she was tried for breaking eighteen squares of window glass the property of John LACEY and was sentenced to a month in prison.41 As Annie ROWLEDGE, she subsequently appeared in the Darlinghurst gaol records in 1872.42 This gaol admission again documented that she was born in Victoria and this location is probably what Hannah believed to be true and it would have been to Joseph's advantage to avoid any mention of Tasmania – Hannah's actual place of birth. Annie's age varied on the available records and in 1872 she stated that she had been born in about 1850.43 Hannah was admitted to Darlinghurst for two months on 17 June 1877, for theft, for drunkenness on 7 February 1878, and on 16 February 1878, for fourteen days for indecent language.44 Unfortunately no records yet located contain a description.

Hannah died suddenly of a fit in Sydney on 10 May 1878. She was twenty-four. Her death was registered as Ann ROWLEDGE. There were no parents recorded on the NSW BDM Index and by this stage both Joseph and Bridget were dead. At the inquest of Ann M. ROWLEDGE in the Star Hotel on 11 May,45 her father-in-law, George ROWLEDGE, gave evidence that she was of intemperate habits and had frequently been in gaol for drunkenness. She and William had separated and she had been living with George and Rosanna ROWLEDGE at the time of her death.46 Dr. MILFORD, of Elizabeth Street, gave the cause of death as extensive heart disease.47 There were no births of any children registered for the couple and no children are mentioned by Hannah's father-in-law at the time of her death.

Gaol records show that William was also imprisoned often from 1872 and was the man sentenced to five years in gaol for larceny in 1880.48 He was sentenced to a further five years for larceny in 1886.49 William almost certainly remarried Matilda WHEELER in 1890.


Hannah was recorded in the Entrance Book as the daughter of Joseph and Bridget McGILL who owned a house in Sydney. The record also indicated that Joseph was in gaol in Parramatta at the time of her admission.50 A compilation of all records relating to Hannah McGILL show that she was actually the daughter of the Tasmanian convicts, Joseph SHORT and Bridget CARROLL, and had been born in Hobart on 14 July 1855. She was recorded as Maria SHORT in Tasmanian records.51 The surname McGILL was an alias adopted by Joseph and Bridget and given to their children who were probably unaware of the deception. The use of the alias is supported by the lack of any references to the McGILLs in NSW newspapers or NSW BDM records before 1865 and no references for either Joseph, Bridget or their children have been found in Tasmanian newspapers or records after March 1860.52 Bridget's surname of CARROLL, recorded at the time of her arrival and provided at the time of Hannah's marriage, confirmed further strong evidence of the real identities of her parents. Joseph SHORT and Bridget CARROLL had been transported to Tasmania – Joseph on the Blenheim and Bridget on the Martin Luther.53

Joseph SHORT and Bridget CARROLL were married by H. P. FRY on 6 March 1854, in the St George Church, Hobart, Tasmania.54 Twin daughters, Bridget and Maria SHORT, were born on 14 July 1855, in Hobart. The death of Bridget SHORT was recorded the following week on 20 July,55 leaving her sister, Maria still alive. A son, Henry SHORT, was born on 1 October 1857.56 One other as yet unidentified child was born in about November 1859. The couple applied for Maria and Henry to be admitted to the Queen's Orphan School in February 1860 but had removed them by March 1860.57 By February 1863, Joseph and Bridget McGILL were almost certainly the couple acquitted of the theft of a considerable sum of money from Patrick BURNS in Melbourne.58 From Melbourne it seems that they made their way to Sydney where they begin to appear in the NSW records from about 1865 still using the alias of McGILL.

On 20 June 1865, two years before Hannah and Henry's arrest, Bridget McGILL, was remanded for the theft of a purse.59 She was discharged as there was insufficient evidence to convict her.60 In February 1867 Bridget spent time in Darlinghurst charged with being a common prostitute and behaving in a riotous manner.61 Darlinghurst gaol records indicated that Bridget was unable to read or write and had been born in Limerick in about 1828 and had arrived on the Martin Luther in 1851. The Martin Luther was a convict transport to Tasmania from Dublin.62 The Tasmanian conduct report for Bridget CARROLL indicated that she had been tried in Limerick and had been born in 1826. She had formerly been married in Ireland and had arrived with one unidentified child.63 There is no indication of the identity of this child on her Tasmanian conduct report and no reference at all to her marriage or the name or sex of the child on the Martin Luther indent.64 Bridget's Tasmanian marriage recorded that she had been born in 1828. It is unknown whether CARROLL was a married or maiden name but it is thought that it is more likely to be a maiden name. Bridget received her certificate of freedom in Tasmania on 14 April 1858.65

In 1867 a petition from Bridget requesting her husband's release from Darlinghurst stated that since Joseph's arrest she and her children

had fallen into great distress and want and is now suffering from some illness and is endeavouring to obtain Admission to the Infirmary.

She neglected to mention in the petition that by this stage both her children had been admitted to either Newcastle or the Vernon industrial schools. Bridget was admitted to the Hyde Park Asylum on 12 June 1868, and the medical officer, George WALKER MD reported that she was suffering from

subacute inflammation of the bowels complicated with disease of the liver and jaundice. … She is in a very dangerous condition and will most probably not recover.

Bridget was dead before 26 June 1868, when this notation was added to her petition.66

Joseph SHORT's Tasmanian conduct report indicated that he had been born in 1830 and tried in Dublin City.67 Joseph received his certificate of freedom in 1855 and had at one time prior to this been appointed as a constable in Tasmania. His age was verified at the time of his Tasmanian marriage but is also confirmed in the NSW gaol records of Joseph McGILL. Joseph McGILL, appeared at the Sydney Quarter Sessions charged with cutting and wounding James aka Charles CHRISTIE68 and was sentenced to eighteen months in Darlinghurst Gaol with hard labour.69 The newspapers only report that the sentence was for six months.70 Joseph falsely stated that his ship of arrival was the Donald McKay in 1853.71 No confirmation of the arrival of this ship or of any passengers has been found so this statement was either a lie or possibly was the name of a colonial ship moving between the states. A petition to the Colonial Secretary after Joseph's arrest requesting special consideration due to his ill-health. There is little evidence that many statements made in the petition were true although he was described in Tasmanian records as totally blind.72

… your petitioner's husband had been totally deprived of sight until a short time before the commission of the offence … That since Prisoner's imprisonment his sight has become worse and his health greatly impaired and petitioner fears unless he obtains again the medical aid … he will again become blind and on his release from prison be unable to obtain a living for himself and family. That Prisoner's brother73 who is at present in Sydney is willing to procure for Prisoner the medical aid he before had …

A report from the visiting surgeon on 18 August stated

the prisoner Jos. McGill is suffering in general health as well as in the eyes from old syphilitic disease. I do not believe that any treatment will restore his sight but his health will not be improved by confinement in this gaol unless discharged. I think Port Macquarie would be fittest for him as I believe I reported some time ago, when by some oversight he was sent to Wollongong.74

It is unknown whether the recommendation for transfer to Port Macquarie was undertaken but Joseph's sentence was eventually remitted and he was released from Darlinghurst in October 1868.75 On this record he was described as having been born in Ireland in about 1828 and could read and write. As Joseph McGILL alias CARROLL he was re-admitted to Darlinghurst after a court appearance on 13 December 1869, for a theft from Charles PENROSE. Joseph was 'discharged but to return when called on.'76 Gaol descriptions for Joseph are inconsistent and Darlinghurst records are often incomplete in comparison to those of other gaols. The 1870 description records Joseph's eye colour as grey but, if Joseph had a loss of vision as described by both his wife and a doctor, this colour may refer to the appearance of his eyes. No gaol record had been located that stated that his vision was impaired.

After Bridget’s death Joseph lived with a woman named Jane DILLON. At an inquest held while his children were in the industrial schools, Joseph, described as a carpenter, gave evidence into the death of twenty-six year old Jane. who had been living with him for the previous ten months as his mistress. The couple was living at McGILL’s residence 'in a lane at the back of Mr. FENN’s Public-house, at the corner of Barrack and York Streets.' McGILL was not blamed for the scalding that killed DILLON but the inquest indicates the associations in which Hannah and Henry almost certainly mixed as children of Joseph and Bridget. McGILL is further mentioned at the inquest into the death of the prostitute, Lizzie MOORE, in the Empire on 4 June 1869, as a girl living in his house, Mary BRENNAN, gave evidence.77 Joseph died in Sydney in 1871 at the reported age of 40 shortly after his daughter's marriage to William ROWLEDGE.

No concerted attempt has yet been made to trace Henry McGILL after his admission to the Vernon but prior to his arrest under the act he had appeared in court after his involvement in a theft.78 He was discharged. A Henry McGILL was involved in horse-stealing in Charters Towers in 1883 and was imprisoned in Queensland. No marriages or deaths have been found for any man of this name in Queensland and no deaths in NSW. He cannot be the man who was admitted to Bathurst gaol in 1875 as Bathurst gaol records indicate that this man had been born in about 1830 and this admission indicated the court case79 from 1875 in Dubbo. One researcher has corrected Henry's admission record for the Vernon but it is unknown whether this was a family historian investigating Henry or a helpful researcher correcting a name.

It is very unlikely that Henry married the widow, Mary Ann STEWART formerly REID nee COLE, in Wellington in 1881 because Mary Ann was a widow and 44 years old at the time they married.80

Updated October 2015

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