Name Variations Jane Mary,1 Mary Jane
Father Patrick MURPHY b. m. d. aft. Oct. 1870
Mother Mary Ann HUSBANDS b. m. d. aft. Oct. 1870
Inmate Mary Jane MURPHY b.c. 1854 m. none - d. 18752
Relationship Name Age Height Hair Eyes Complexion Build Distinguishing features
Inmate Jane3 13 & 15 rather tall dark brown & black brown dark & brown medium & stout broad face; dirty appearance; bare-footed
Inmate Jane4 18 medium very dark brown, cut short brown stout round face; large mouth; light print dress, black cloth jacket, white straw hat with blue ribbon

Thirteen-year-old Jane was known to the constables of Sydney as two mentions in the Police Gazette preceded her arrest under the Industrial Schools Act. In April 1870 a warrant was issued, probably at the instigation of her parents, because she was:

in the habit of wandering about in company with prostitutes. … generally in company with a girl named Pike who frequents the racecourse.5

Jane was arrested by constable HENEBERRY some days later and charged with being under the age of sixteen years and in the company of prostitutes.6 On 20 April she was sentenced to seven days in Darlinghurst Gaol and was described there as a 14-year-old Catholic who was a common prostitute who had been born in Sydney. In court Jane’s unnamed parents stated that they had brought her to the police as they could not control her and had requested police assistance in arranging her arrest.7 They further stated that she was continually leaving home and associating with prostitutes. Her mother said that she had been searching for Jane for some weeks8 and her father stated that he was willing to pay two shillings and sixpence a week towards her support if she could be sent to the industrial school.9 The court decided to postpone any admission to allow the police time to ascertain the character of the girls with whom Jane was associating.

Nothing further was reported until October that same year when a further mention of her was made in the Police Gazette which named and described Jane as a suspect after the theft of two straw hats.10 Jane, now reported to be fifteen years old, was arrested by sergeant DWYER for stealing two hats from the children of John WRIGHT of Phillip Street, Sydney.11 She appeared in court on the 17 October 1870,12 and was charged under the Industrial Schools Act, with being under the age of sixteen years and in the habit of wandering about the streets in no lawful ostensible occupation. According to her parents she had left her home more than twelve months ago, and had been leading a very depraved life.13 The Police Gazette stated:

This offender is supposed to be identical with Jane Murphy of Malcolm's Lane14

It is unknown whether Malcolm's Lane was the residence of her parents or whether it was the location of the prostitutes with whom she was associating or the residence of the unidentified PIKE family. It is considered most likely that Malcolm's Lane was the location of the residence of her parents.

A James MURPHY of Malcolm's Lane was a nominator for the representative of Bourke Ward in November 1867, two years before Jane's arrest.15 He was also identified as John MURPHY in one report.16 No evidence of a family named MURPHY can be found in Malcolm's Lane in 1870 in either Sand's Directory or Sand's Street Index. A William MURPHY lived in the lane in 1861 but this particular lane was only mentioned in 1861 and 1880 in the index. Whether any of these men was Jane's father cannot be verified.

Jane was admitted to Newcastle on 20 October 1870.17 The section of the Entrance Book containing her admission details has not survived so no information about her education, family, religion or discharge can be confirmed from this source. Jane's name does not appear on the list of at risk girls compiled by the constables of Sydney in July 1867. It is also not possible to confirm Jane's actual name as the complete admission list complied by LUCAS in April 1872 transcribed her name as 'Jane Mary MURPHY'18 and the Biloela transfer lists recorded her name as Mary J. MURPHY. These transfer lists did confirm that she was a fifteen-year-old Catholic.19 Both lists were transcriptions from the original, now missing, record so it is unknown what admission information was provided in that record. LUCAS's admission list contained many transcription errors20 and although the transfer lists do not show the same, or as many, errors, it is considered likely but cannot be verified, that Mary Jane MURPHY was the name under which she was recorded when she was admitted to the school. It is conceivable that Mary Jane was known as Jane within her family and also in her day to day life within the school. This may then suggest that her mother was also Mary and the use of her second name occurred in the family to distinguish between the two.

Jane transferred with the school to Biloela on Cockatoo Island in May 1871 and was one of the eight girls arrested by constable DICK who were charged at the Water Police Court on 17 October 1871, with damaging and destroying Government property on the island.21

The conduct of the girls prior to their arrest was described by the police as outrageous. Stones and bricks were flying about in all directions, and about 100 panes of glass were destroyed. On being placed in the Water Police boat the prisoners commenced singing, and continued in the exercise of their vocal powers up to the Circular Quay.22

In court the girls pleaded guilty but also pleaded:

in extenuation that there were six girls placed in a dormitory with nothing but the bare flags to lie on.23

Each girl was ordered to pay a fine of thirty shillings, with an alternative of two months' imprisonment. Jane and her co-accused, Sarah BOURKE, were fined a further £3 each, with an alternative of two months' imprisonment for breaking a door – the property of the Government – valued at £3.24 The sentences were to be cumulative. Darlinghurst Gaol records for 1871, where the girls were recorded together thus verifying Jane's identification, document that Jane was a Catholic who had been born in Sydney in about 1853. Jane, Mary COUGHLAN and Sarah BOURKE were released from Darlinghurst by February 1872.25

On 6 June 1872, LUCAS wrote a letter requesting permission to apprentice Jane to Mr. HATHWAITE of Goulburn for a year at three shillings a week. No other letters were included in the correspondence but the notation 'approved' was recorded in the margin. LUCAS repeated Jane's admission date and made the surprising, and for LUCAS probably generic, statement that she had been conducting herself well.26 It is unknown whether Jane ever took up this apprenticeship because LUCAS, in his report of 9 December 1872, informed the Colonial Secretary that both Jane and Sarah BOURKE had been apprenticed to Pemberton Campbell PALMER of Queanbeyan27 thus sending two of the ringleaders of the attack on Biloela in September the previous year, together to an apprenticeship. By 12 December 1872, the pair had run off. They were recaptured and appeared in the Police Court in Queanbeyan

charged with having absconded from their employer. The girls, it appeared, having run away, a warrant was issued for their arrest, and resulted in their being brought in custody from Molonglo on Friday, and confined in the jail for the night. Upon the hearing of the case the fair prisoners wisely elected to return to their service instead of abiding the more unpleasant alternative.28

This return to the apprenticeship either didn’t occur or PALMER sought to punish the girls as a report appeared in the Police Gazette early in 1873 noting that Jane had been arrested by the Water Police in Sydney.29 It may be that Jane or both girls absconded again but no report of this has been found. Both girls subsequently appeared in the Sydney courts on 14 January30 and were remanded until 21 January 1873.31 They were charged on warrant with absenting themselves from their indentured service and were ordered to pay £10 each or in default to be imprisoned for two months. The Empire stated that:

One of the girls asked the police magistrate whether they would be free at the expiration of their time of imprisonment, or whether they would be sent to the Biloela school again. His Worship informed her that they would be sent back to the school, and after they were discharged from there they could be compelled to complete their term of service with Mr. Palmer, the person from whom they had absconded.32

Sarah and Jane were sent to Darlinghurst Gaol and were subsequently returned to Biloela on the 20 March33 after their two month sentence was completed.34 Darlinghurst Gaol records for March 1873, match the admission numbers for two admissions for Jane but the record is unclear and may be a clerical error made at the time. The record indicated that Jane had been arrested for drunkenness and had appeared in the Central Police Court on 8 March.35 There are no reports concerning this appearance found in either the Sydney Morning Herald or the Empire. Sarah also appeared separately from Jane during the January and March periods.36 No explanation has been found as to why this was the case but the girls may have absconded separately from PALMER's employ, been arrested separately but appeared in court together and therefore served time separately – although the records do not indicate that this occurred. The descriptions of Jane are sketchy but she was recorded as both a twenty-year-old and a 17-year-old Catholic who had been born in Sydney.37

After Jane's return to Biloela she remained rebellious as she and Emma GREY, another Biloela girl, were 'confined for the day for misconduct while at prayers on Sunday'. On 15 September 1873, Jane and two Biloela girls, Mary Ann WILLIAMS and Elizabeth SHARKEY, were confined to Number 3 Dormitory for insolence to the Matron.38 On 9 October 1873, LUCAS recorded her name as Jane MURPHY alias Mary MURPHY, when he announced to the Colonial Secretary that she would turn eighteen 'on the 20th instant.'39 He requested advice as to what was to be done with her and the Colonial Secretary stated '[b]eing over eighteen years Mary Murphy may be discharged' and this was approved.40 LUCAS wrote in his report on 27 October 1873, that Jane alias Mary had been discharged to the care of her mother. Her mother wasn't named.41

The CSIL Index will be reviewed to ensure that all references to Jane aka Mary Jane aka Mary have been located as the reference to her mother strongly suggested that some communication from this unidentified woman might exist. It is considered very unlikely that LUCAS would have been so specific to the Colonial Secretary without any prior external correspondence occurring.

Distinguishing between the women named Jane MURPHY in Darlinghurst Gaol is difficult. Other than Jane's gaol admissions at the time of she was sent to Newcastle, no other appearances have been confirmed. After Jane's discharge from Newcastle it is thought that all Sydney newspaper reports and gaol admissions for a girl of her age and birth location refer to Jane. The Newcastle admission was identified in Darlinghurst records in 1870 as number 1223 where she was described as a common prostitute; in 1871, with the Biloela rioters as 3828 and in 1873, with Sarah BOURKE as number 79 and later, alone, as number 999. Admissions for another one or possibly two other women named Jane MURPHY appear in the Darlinghurst records but while the name is very common, and appearances from this time can't be proved, it is believed that all references to the girl born in Sydney refer to the girl who was sent to Newcastle. The Jane MURPHY who appeared often from the early 1860s till about 1869 in court and gaol for riotous behaviour, prostitution and obscene language, had been born in Ireland and had arrived on the Southwark in about 1849. This woman was definitely numbered in the 1871 Darlinghurst records as 1423, 2859 and 3577. Jane is unlikely to be either of the women admitted to Darlinghurst Gaol in 1871, number 1364 or in 1872, number 72.

The very first reference that almost certainly refers to Jane probably occurred in early 1868 before her arrest.42 Her parents had stated in October 1870 that Jane had left their home and been on the streets for at least a year.43 After leaving Biloela she was also almost certainly the 'girl'44 associated with thefts by Rose Ann DIVINE and Mary Ann WILSON45 in July 1874. Jane was eventually discharged as she was considered not to have been involved.46 Her name was recorded in the newspaper reports of these incidents as both Jane MURPHY and Mary Jane MURPHY,47 further supporting that these incidents referred to the Newcastle inmate, although it may be that reporting errors exist that may confuse her name with that of Mary WILSON.48

The age of the woman entering the Benevolent Asylum on 19 August 1874, and leaving on 19 September 1874, relatively closely matched Jane's age. It is possible that this visit was to deliver the child, Thomas, and this boy has been tentatively attributed to her. Unusually there is no corresponding entry, exit or death in the asylum records for him but the original record has not been viewed. Newspaper reports of court appearances for Jane MURPHY, with the exception of those outlined below, cease shortly after this date.

On the evening of 8 April 1875, Jane was almost certainly admitted to the infirmary after being found lying in a fit by constable JAYCOCK49 at the corner of King and Castlereagh streets50 and the following day she was charged with vagrancy.51 A month later Jane was again almost certainly the woman who needed treatment for lacerations caused by putting her arm through a window.52 She was sent to the Sydney Infirmary on Monday, 31 May 1875, after having been removed from the Central Police Station at 11 o'clock suffering from epileptic fits.53 Jane MURPHY died at the age of twenty54 shortly afterwards. An inquest was held by the Coroner, Henry SCHIELL, on Wednesday, 2 June 1875.55 The verdict was that she had died from 'natural causes accelerated by intemperance.'56 The NSW BDM Index recorded only her age which was confirmed in the newspaper report but also noted that she was a native of the colony. No further reports can be found for Jane MURPHY in the Police Gazette or the newspapers after this date, further supporting an early death.


Without further supporting evidence of other family names from other sources, Jane's family and ancestry cannot be positively identified. The family outlined below has been tentatively attributed to Jane but there is no verification that Jane was a child of this couple.

Jane's stated age in police and gaol records varied. These ages do not match well with the few industrial school admission details able to be located yet they are known to refer to the same girl. It must be considered firstly, that Jane's parents had not been completely honest at the time of her arrest and had lied to get her into the school and to a place of safety. Secondly, that for some reason Jane had lied about her age or finally, that Jane was uncertain about her actual age. All are valid reasons for age discrepancies at this time and in connection with the school. An exact date of birth for Jane had been provided to the Newcastle authorities. On 9 October 1873, LUCAS identified that Jane would turn eighteen on 20 October,57 and this calculated to a year of birth of 1855.58 Unfortunately little or no credence can be placed on this birth year or actual date. It is questionable whether the actual date provided by LUCAS was correct or close to either a birth or a baptism date as the coincidence of her birth date being exactly the same as Jane's admission date to Newcastle may suggest either carelessness on LUCAS's part, a story on Jane's or an ambiguity in the correspondence. Jane's name also cannot be verified. It does however, seem very likely that Jane was actually born as Mary Jane MURPHY and because she was Catholic it is possible that a baptism exists although none has been found. Gaol records consistently stated that Jane had been born in Sydney. Newspaper reports indicated that by October 1870, both Jane's parents were alive and her mother was still alive in October 1873. Most importantly, Jane's parents were accepted by the Sydney constables and the Sydney courts as a married couple. Neither has any indication been found suggesting that Jane was illegitimate although the only evidence for this was based on newspaper reports at the time.

The NSW BDM Index identified many girls named Jane MURPHY but few were named Mary Jane MURPHY. The one record for Mary Jane MURPHY indicated that Jane had been born on 10 March 1853, and had been baptised on 20 March 1853, by Rev. John MEAGHER.59 The parents on this record were Patrick MURPHY of Victoria Barracks, and his wife, Mary A. HUSBANDS. This baptism and these parents have tentatively been attributed to Jane but they are unverified. No evidence of any marriage or other children exists in NSW for this couple and no further trace of them has yet been found. Little more is yet known of this couple and military records have yet to been viewed.

Other possible siblings are also being investigated.
Ten years before Jane's arrest, on 23 April 1845, another Jane MURPHY was born. Her baptism by V. BOURGEOIS at St James' Catholic church, county Cumberland, on 4 May 1845, identified that her father was Patrick MURPHY of the 99th regiment, Victoria Barracks, and her mother was Mary QUINN.60

It is possible that the following incident refers to Jane's parents but as there are likely to be more than one couple with these names in Sydney at this time, this is uncertain. In 1868, Patrick MURPHY, was charged with assaulting his wife, Mary.61 Jane's association with 'a girl named Pike' may suggest that the Mrs MURPHY who assaulted George PIKE in June 1872, while Jane was still under the care of the government, may have been Jane's mother.62

The Michael MURPHY who was admitted to the Vernon on 21 July 1870, shortly before Jane's admission to Newcastle, was arrested in similar circumstances to that of Jane but is not thought to be connected to Jane. The newspaper account of his appearance stated:

Michael Murphy, 12, was charged with, and pleaded guilty to, having been found drunk in Dickson-street. He said that a man gave him some beer and some rum – he does not know what man. The apprehending constable gave him a very bad character. A woman came forward who claimed the boy as her son, and gave a very bad account of him – remaining away from home by night as well as by day, and keeping the company of thieves ; he is altogether beyond her control, and she wished that she could get him on board the Vernon. His Worship told the woman to lay the information under the Industrial Schools Act, directing the boy in the meantime to stand back. The information was laid, the boy was brought into custody under it, and, on his mother's evidence, was ordered to be sent on board the Vernon.63

The Vernon records confirmed that Michael MURPHY was a Catholic and that his parents were still alive. His mother was recorded as able to read. His father was identified as Patrick MURPHY, a carpenter of Smith Street, Surry Hills, who was unable to support him at the school.64 This boy had almost without any doubt been born in 1857 to Patrick and Mary MURPHY.65 This record confirmed that Michael had been the oldest child of the carpenter, Patrick MURPHY, and his wife, Mary HOGAN. They had married the previous year.66 Unless Patrick or Mary had a child from an earlier relationship that they brought to the marriage, this cannot be Jane's family.

The baptism of Jane MURPHY in 1854 is unlikely. Although the ages are very close to those of the Newcastle girl, this girl was probably slightly too young. The record was Catholic and indicated that Jane had been born on 15 November 1854, and had been baptised on 5 December 1854, at St James’s Catholic Church, Sydney, by the Rev. Dennis McGINN. Her parents were identified as Henry MURPHY and Maryann THOMAS who had married in 1854.67 Online trees suggest that this Jane MURPHY married William Kennedy EVANS in 1877 in Victoria, and this likelihood is strengthened as no trace of the family can be found in NSW. The strong possibility of a Victorian marriage makes it far less likely that the girl admitted to Newcastle was the daughter of Henry and Mary MURPHY.

Updated March 2019

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