The PRICE Sisters
Father John ROCK b.c. 18181 m. 18492 d. bef. 1867
Mother Ann ROCK nee LAHEY alias PRICE3 b.c. 18314 m. 1849 d. aft. 1869
Inmate Margaret Millicent ROCK aka PRICE b. 18605 m. none (see below) d. 18896
Inmate Mary Ann PRICE b.c. 1863 m. (see below) d. aft. 1875

In July 1867, two sisters, reported to be the five-year-old Margaret PRICE, and the three-and-a-half-year-old, Mary Ann PRICE, appeared on the list of at risk children compiled by the constables of Sydney. The constables stated in their report:

Catholic: Father dead: mother keeps a disreputable house in Clarence Street which is the only means she has of maintaining her children.7

Details of Margaret's arrest in September 1867, outlined in the newspapers, indicated that she and her mother Ann, and probably also her sister, Mary Ann, were living in the same house in Clarence Street, Sydney, as the McGILL family. Margaret PRICE and Hannah McGILL were arrested at the same time and were sent to Newcastle after the same court appearance. Mary Ann, Margaret's younger sister, wasn't mentioned in this report but there is little doubt that she was also sent to Newcastle nearly two years later after being arrested at the age of six in August 1869.

In May 1871 both Margaret and Mary Ann transferred with the school to Biloela on Cockatoo Island. Both were still under the age of ten. On the transfer lists Margaret was recorded as as an eight-year-old and Mary Ann was recorded as seven. Both were confirmed as Catholic. While these transfer lists erroneously recorded that both girls were received in 1869,8 this administrative error made at the time of the transfer further supported the extremely strong but coincidental documentation that indicated that they were sisters. While it can no longer be proven as the admission record for Mary Ann has not survived, it is almost entirely certain that they had been recorded as sisters in the Entrance Book just as had been the procedure used when other sets of sisters were admitted to Newcastle.9 This notation would have been recorded in the section of the Entrance Book that has not survived and would once have been recorded beside Mary Ann's name as she had been admitted last.

Both girls were discharged separately from Biloela. Margaret went into an apprenticeship in the country but Mary Ann was apprenticed in Sydney.


The identity of the family of the two sisters has not been absolutely clarified but it is believed that the correct parents have been identified, even though the family surname attributed to them is not the name by which they became known. There is no birth registration for either Margaret or Mary Ann under the surname PRICE and with a mother named Ann/e/ie. Only one reference that is believed to refer to their family has been located on the NSW BDM Index and this record has been cited. Strength is given to this record being correct as no appropriate assisted arrivals of an Ann/e/ie PRICE or either of her daughters have been found before the arrest of Margaret in 1867.

Margaret and Mary Ann's father was unidentified in any newspapers reports. He was recorded as dead when Margaret was admitted to Newcastle in 1867 and no records for Mary Ann's admission have survived.10 It is thought that he had died in about 1865 so, according to the procedure used for other Newcastle admissions, he would not have been named in the Entrance Book. It has not been possible to accurately identify him using either the NSW BDM Index or Trove but it is considered very likely that he was the man outlined below. There is also a very strong suggestion that this identity was assumed and that he was a Tasmanian transportee. This supposition may never be able to be proven. The family's association with the McGILL family who have been proven to be Tasmanian transportees further supports this premise.

In 1867 at the time of Margaret's admission to Newcastle, the Entrance Book identified that her mother was Ann PRICE who was a widow living in Clarence Street, Sydney, and working as a washerwoman.11 It is believed that both sisters were believed to have been legitimate by the constables of Sydney as they were very specific regarding the legitimacy of other children recorded on their July 1867 list.12 While it must be considered that no marriage had occurred and that both the sisters really were illegitimate, it was stated on the birth registration believed to belong to Margaret and outlined below, that her parents had married in Hobart, Tasmania in 1849. By 1869 when Mary Ann was admitted to Newcastle, she was attributed the alias of ROOKE. It is considered likely that Ann, although she wasn't identified in court, was also using the surname ROOKE. It is believed that the surname ROOKE may have been a similar or mistranscribed surname as no evidence of anyone with this name can be confirmed in the NSW BDM Index or Trove. It is possible that an alias had been acquired from the man with whom Ann was living but it is unknown what surname had been used initially, whether the names were complete fabrications or whether there was some basis in reality for their use.

Newspaper reports about Margaret's court appearance indicated that by 1867 Ann had been the keeper of a brothel for about two years. Senior-sergeant WATERS deposed about the house and Margaret’s mother, when questioned about keeping the brothel, stated that she had no other way of obtaining a living and the report suggested that she had operated a brothel since about 1865. This statement replicated the statement made by the constables in July 1867.

It is very interesting to note that appearances for Ann/e/ie PRICE begin to appear in Sand's Directory from about 1865 but it is unknown whether this woman was the same person as the mother of the Newcastle admissions. The Ann PRICE recorded as a laundress, was living in 306 Kent Street in 1867. She may have been living in Susan Street, Newtown, in 1866; was possibly in Richard Street, Newtown, in both 1868 and 1870; in 1870 she may have been operating a boarding house in New John Street and may have been living in Ann Street, Balmain in 1871. From 1871 there are no clear entries in Sand's Directory for an Ann/e/ie PRICE until 1905 and this person is not believed to be her. The occupation of laundress and the frequent changing of residences would not be unusual in a woman who was in straightened circumstances and operating a house of ill-fame. If any of these women are references to Ann it would confirm the statements made by Senior-sergeant WATERS and again suggest an approximate year of death of about 1865 for the children's father.

Ann PRICE's age cannot be accurately identified. The only reference yet located that may indicate an age occurred after an arrest in 1875 of a 35-year-old Ann PRICE13 so she had been born in about 1840. If this age does refer to Ann she would have been about fifteen when Margaret was born. This possible age does make it more likely that Margaret and Mary Ann were illegitimate but no reference has been found to confirm that this was their mother. The year of birth of about 1840 has tentatively been attributed to Ann PRICE. A 51-year-old Ann ROACH appeared in Sydney courts during the early 1870s so it may be that this surname was a mistranscription of ROACH.14 The Police Gazette identified in 1871 that Ann A. ROACH had been born in London in about 1829. She had arrived on the Planter. There is no suggestion that this is the mother of the inmates.15 It is unknown how long the use of this surname continued. Another possibility of this surname was in the birth of Margaret Millicent ROCK in 22 April 1860. Her parents were identified as John and Ann or Anne.16 The registration identified that the couple had married in Hobart Town in 1849. There are no appropriate marriages for this couple in NSW. John ROCK had been born in County Armagh, Ireland in about 1818 and Ann LAHEY had been born in Limerick, Ireland in about 1829. The number of children already born to the couple is ambiguous as the registration reads '1 boy, 2 girls dead'.17

It was more than likely that Ann had appeared often in court both before and after her daughters' admissions to the school. Appearances for obscene language and minor assaults have been identified for an Ann PRICE although no reports have been found for prostitution. Records for the name Ann/e/ie PRICE are rare. None have been located in either the Police Gazette or in Darlinghurst Gaol, that provide an age, description, ship of arrival or place of birth. Only reports from the newspapers can be used to identify her and none can then be confirmed. Ann may have been the woman appearing in court charged with false pretences and sentenced to fourteen days in gaol, on 23 March 1863,18 as she was described in this appearance as Mrs Ann PRICE.19 She may also have appeared in February 1865,20 and May 1871.21

Gaol admissions for women named Ann PRICE have been identified only after 1875. The Sydney Court recorded appearances in May 187622 and during December 1876.23 A further likely appearance then occurred in May 187724 when Ann probably appeared with a man recorded in the newspaper as Henry PRICE. In July 1877 an Ann PRICE was living in Brougham Place when she was attacked by another resident of the property, Susan EGAN. Ann took EGAN to court charged with inflicting grievous bodily harm.25

The last reference yet located in the Sydney courts for Ann PRICE was in December 1876.26 It is possible that one of the following deaths may refer to her:

Ann E daughter of Samuel and Martha in Glebe (2286/1877)
Annie daughter of John, mother unknown in Sydney (2375/1885)
Annie C. daughter of John A. H. and Frances in Paddington (5043/1885)
Anne parents unknown, maiden name NEWTON, died in Sydney (958/1891)

Ann cannot be the woman who married Thomas PRICE in 1851 in Yass because there are no registrations for children named Mary Ann or Margaret and it is believed that there is little chance that births occurred but were unregistered. Online trees confirmed birth registrations and indicated that Thomas was still alive and the family was still together when the sisters were arrested. Ann cannot be the woman who married Edward PRICE aka PRYCE in 1860 because there are no registrations for children named Mary Ann or Margaret and there is little chance that their births occurred but were unregistered. Further, online trees indicate that Edward outlived Ann. It is not considered likely that he was the man named William PRICE who died in 1866 as this man held a position of importance and had two Funeral Notices placed in the papers when he died.27 His parents were identified as William and Caroline.28

Changing the given name of a child is a difficult change to maintain so it is believed that any birth records would still appear with the given names of Margaret and Mary Ann. Because an alternative surname was provided at the time Mary Ann was admitted to the school it may be that this surname was the that used by the family at the time the sisters were born. A search of all children named Margaret and Mary Ann born between 1860 and 1865 with a mother named Ann, Anne or Annie with any surname, identified no clear births or possible families with the exception of the record outlined below.

The 1860 birth and baptism of Margaret Millicent ROCK whose parents were John and Ann,29 is considered strong circumstantial evidence that the family has been identified. The baptism30 cannot be read on microfilm. This child was an appropriate age to match the elder of the two RICE sisters. The similarity between the surname ROCK and the alias ROOKE, attributed to Mary Ann PRICE in 1869, is clear. Margaret M. ROCK had been born on 22 April 1860, at Cumberland Street, Sydney. Her father was John ROCK who was from County Armagh, Ireland and who had been born in about 1818. Her mother was Ann LAHEY who had been born in Limerick, Ireland in about 1829. The couple stated that they had been married in Hobart Town in 1849. Margaret had one older brother as well as two older sisters who had died but the record was ambiguous as to whether the brother had died as well as the sisters.31 The very close association of the PRICE family with the McGILL family, who were known to have adopted completely different names to hide their convict past, does suggest that this may have been a possibility with the PRICE sisters too.

Further circumstantial evidence lies in the interesting advertisement placed in the SMH in July 1860, about three months after this birth. It is almost certain that Ann was the woman referred to in the advertisement.

NOTICE.—If ANN PRICE does not call and take away her goods left with me, they will be sold, to pay expenses, in seven days. Mrs. C. PRICE, 138, Cumberland-street.

Ann PRICE had almost certainly resided with Mrs C. PRICE at this address32 in Sydney and while Cumberland Street is quite a long street, it was the birth location in April 1860 of the child Margaret Millicent ROCK.33 While the birth registration does not identify a street number, in 1861 Mrs PRICE operated a boarding house at 138 Cumberland Street on the corner of Long's Lane and it is very likely that this was where Margaret had been born.34 This very strong circumstantial evidence may indicate a link between Ann PRICE and Ann ROCK and therefore Margaret PRICE and Margaret Millicent ROCK. For this reason this 1860 birth registration has been linked to the Newcastle inmate.

An Ann ROCK was imprisoned in Darlinghurst Gaol on 14 March 1871.35 She had been born in Ireland in about 1831 and had arrived on the Simmons.36

Margaret PRICE

Husband unknown b. m. d.
Daughter Ethel A. PRICE b. 188937 m. none - d. 189038

Margaret was apprehended in Sydney by constable THOMPSON and appeared in court on 2 September 1867, and was reported to be either five39 or six.40 The Empire newspaper report indicated that one of the arrested girls’ mothers was crying bitterly when her daughter was sent to Newcastle and it is thought that this was probably Margaret's mother, Ann, as she was known to be in court. On her arrival in Newcastle on 5 September 1867, the Entrance Book recorded that Margaret was seven. She was a Catholic and her educational level was described as 'alphabet on slate.'41 Margaret’s medical assessment by Dr HARRIS showed that she was a virgin.42

The Entrance Book and in his report from December 1872, LUCAS43 recorded that Margaret had been apprenticed for six years to Mr Thomas WALDIC or WALDIE, Manager, of the Victorian Gold Mining Company, Trunkley, on 29 November 1872. In the letter requesting permission to arrange the apprenticeship, LUCAS recorded that Margaret was about twelve years old.44 The apprenticeship to WALDIC aka WALDEY proved to be a problem for the government because LUCAS had made a poor match with Margaret's and WALDIC's religions. The WALDIC family were Protestant and according to a complaint made by the Rev. John COOKE on Margaret's behalf in July 1875, 'she has been interfered with in regard to her religion.' Mr WALDIC had reportedly denied Margaret the opportunity to attend Catholic worship and Mrs WALDIC was reported to have destroyed Margaret's prayer book so COOKE threatened to take this mistreatment before Parliament 'if satisfaction be not given.' He demanded that Margaret be moved to a Catholic family and stated that the Sisters of Charity would care for Margaret in the interim. He was also concerned that:

now Mrs Waldic is gone to England and will be away at least twelve months. I don't think it prudent to leave the girl there. There is no grown female in the house.

WALDIC's response to this accusation was to deny the allegation. He stated that Margaret had opted to attend the Protestant Sabbath School and attributed this choice to the fact that they had a library and allowed borrowing of books. He was adamant that she didn't wish to change her religion and that the accusation that the Prayer Book had been destroyed was 'quite a mistake' and that COOKE should have had the courtesy of speaking to him before going to the Colonial Secretary. He assured the Colonial Secretary that

every one beneath my roof has free Religious Liberty but I will not allow any Priest or Parson to dictate or in any way interfere with any member of my household holding such views it would certainly be most inconsistent for me to dictate to any one what particular creed they should profess, but I am afraid that Mr Cooke's ideas are not in keeping with the progress of this colony.45

It is unknown how this situation was resolved as further communications were not recorded in this bundle of letters. It is also unknown whether Margaret continued to attend the Protestant church, returned to worshiping at the Catholic church or whether the Sisters of Charity took care of her until a new apprenticeship had been arranged. It also must be questioned why Margaret was sent to a non-Catholic household and this was a further indication of the lack of care exhibited by LUCAS.

Twelve years after this event it is considered almost certain that Margaret was the twenty-eight-year-old Margaret PRICE, the mother of the illegitimate daughter, Ethel A. PRICE, in Blayney in 1889. Ethel lived for only a few months and Margaret died of puerperal inflammation on 6 November 1889, almost certainly shortly after this birth. Margaret was recorded as a domestic servant of Blayney but nothing more was known of her by the informant, E. M. REED, the undertaker. She was buried in the Church of England Cemetery, Blayney. While this religion doesn't match Margaret's known religion, it does reflect the reported difficulties supposedly experienced by her during her first apprenticeship. This birth and death have been attributed to Margaret as Blayney is very close to Trunkley and the death was for a woman the correct age working in an occupation that would be expected to have been completed by Margaret.46

Mary Ann PRICE

Name Variations alias ROOKE
Husband b. m. d.
Son b. m. d.
Daughter b. m. d.

Mary Ann was six years old when she appeared in court charged with living with prostitutes on 10 August 1869.47 Her court appearance attributed to her the alias ROOKE,48 Mary Ann’s admission to the school occurred on 12 August 1869.49 The page containing her family, religious, educational and discharge information is the first page of the missing section of the Entrance Book so has not survived. All her details have been attributed to her based on the statements made on the list of at risk children compiled in July 1867 and the admission details of Margaret, who was almost certainly her sister.

On 31 March 1875, Mrs Mary FLYNN of Randwick, applied for an apprentice to assist in domestic duties and specifically requested Mary PRICE.50 Selina WALKER, the superintendent replacing LUCAS, in her report on 26 April 1875, confirmed that Mary Ann had been apprenticed on 20 April.51 No details of her apprenticeship term or payment was included in the correspondence indicating her location. It is unknown how FLYNN came to request Mary as an apprentice but it must be considered that Mary Ann's mother, Ann, had played a role by seeking assistance from someone that she knew to have Mary Ann returned to a location near her.

No indication of Mary Ann's time after beginning this apprenticeship in 1875 has yet been located. It is unknown whether she completed the apprenticeship. In light of the likely use of the surname ROCK, investigations of Mary Ann ROCK need to be undertaken.

Where has She Gone?

No record can be found that may suggest any gaol admissions for Mary Ann PRICE.

There are some illegitimate births that also may refer to Mary Ann but her name is so common that no record can confidently be attributed to her without proof of her age.

It is possible that she was involved in court appearances52 after her release but none of these have yet been confirmed and another woman of this name, who was a protestant born in about 1855 and for whom a gaol photo remains, also appeared in the Sydney courts.

Mary Ann may possibly have married William Thomas HARRIS in Sydney in 1878.53 When this woman died in 1909,54 only her surname was recorded on theNSW BDM Index. Some online trees identified that this woman was twenty-one when she married and had been born in Sydney in about 1857. Other trees indicate that she was nineteen and married at St David's Church, Surry Hills, on 6 September 1878.55 She was too old to be the Newcastle admission and while it is possible that she lied about her age when she married because she was under the age of twenty-one, because trees have identified her parents as Edward PRICE and Jane JORDAN who had married in 1856.56 Because a birth registration does exist for 1857 with these parents, this woman is considered unlikely. It is unlikely that Ann PRICE was Jane JORDAN when she married as these are no births for any other siblings.

Updated July 2019

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