Father unknown b. unknown m. unknown d. unknown
Mother unknown b. unknown m. unknown d. abt. 1868
Inmate Mary RICE b.c. 1858 m. (see below) d. aft. 1887
Brother unknown RICE b.c. 1860 m. d. aft. 1868

Mary was reported to be between ten1 and eleven years of age when she was charged under the Act and brought before the Central Police Court by constable DOGGETT on 6 February 1868. DOGGETT deposed that at about midnight the previous night and during a storm he had found Mary crying and wearing almost no clothing in Pyrmont Street. He stated that because he lived opposite Mary he had frequently seen her wandering about the streets. Mary told DOGGETT that her stepmother had turned her out of doors and when:

he spoke to the stepmother, who was sitting on the doorstep of her house; she was drunk, and he could get nothing out of her but that if she could get hold of the girl she would half kill her; he thereupon took the girl into custody for protection.2

Elizabeth BREEDON stated that she had known Mary for about three months and that her stepmother repeatedly turned her out of the house and when questioned about this, she became abusive. BREEDON said that Mary lived next door to her and that there was constant drinking going on in the house. She added that she had often heard Mary crying at three or four o'clock in the morning because she had been turned out by her stepmother. BREEDON stated that Mary was illegitimate and had been born when her father was a married man. Susan DRENNAN deposed that she also lived next door to Mary and had known her to live at the house for about three months. She said that Mary’s stepmother was a confirmed drunkard, her place was in a most filthy state and the children often had nothing to eat for days except when it was given to them by neighbours. Often Mary was scarcely clad. DRENNAN believed that the stepmother's daughters were bad, staying out all night, and coming home in the morning.3

Mary was sent to Newcastle and on her arrival on 8 February 1868, she was recorded as a Catholic who could read the alphabet. The Entrance Book recorded that her mother was unknown but that her father was dead.4 This contradicted the evidence of both the witnesses at her trial, BREEDON and DRENNAN, whose testimony, albeit by omission, implied that Mary's father was still alive. On 14 December 1870, CLARKE sought permission to apprentice Mary. He stated:

Mr WALTER has been in Newcastle for some years and is a shipping agent, his wife takes some interest in the child.5

On 27 December 1870,6 Mary was apprenticed to Mr. C. K. WALTER of Newcastle, for a period of five years at a weekly rate of three shillings a week for the first year and increasing by a shilling a week for each of the next four years of the apprenticeship. Because she had been apprenticed from Newcastle Mary doesn't appear on the Biloela transfer lists so did not make the transfer to Cockatoo Island in May 1871. CLARKE's positive statement referring to the 'interest' shown in Mary by Mrs WALTER, may suggest that if all went well with her apprenticeship then Mary may have been employed by the WALTER family after her time expired.

No trace of Mary has been confirmed after the commencement of her apprenticeship with the WALTER family. Her apprenticeship would have been completed at the end of 1875 but it is unknown whether this occurred and if it did, whether Mary was taken on for a further period of time.


No appropriate birth registration has been identified for Mary. No registration for Mary RICE matched the two stated ages reported for her. The newspapers and the Entrance Book indicated that she had been born in about 1857 or 1858 so her birth should therefore have been registered but it is unknown whether the name under which this occurred was RICE or some other surname – if in fact it was registered at all. It is also unknown whether her recently deceased father had the surname RICE or something else, nor whether the statement that he was dead was a further instance of an error in the Entrance Book.7 It is unknown whether her mother had the surname RICE. It is unknown whether her step-mother had the surname RICE. It is unknown whether her natural father and her step-mother who was caring for her had ever married.

Mary was illegitimate. Newspaper reports indicated that her parents were not only unmarried but that her father was married to another woman at the time of her birth. She had moved into the house in Pyrmont Street about three months before her arrest so had arrived there in about October or November 1867.8 Reports further indicated that Mary's mother had died in about 1867 or 1868 so deaths of women about that time are likely to identify her mother. The Entrance Book recorded that Mary's father had died shortly before Mary's admission to Newcastle. Newspaper reports further indicated that Mary had at least one younger brother or half-brother and also some step-siblings who were probably girls.

The Empire reported during Mary's trial on the morning of 6 February 1868, that:

[a] brother of the girl, her junior, was apprehended this morning, by order of the Bench, and arrived at the Police-office as the Court rose. He will probably be sent on board the training ship Vernon.

This younger brother or perhaps a step-brother can not been identified. He would most likely have been tried the following day, Friday, 7 February at the Central Police Court but no mention of any appearance under the Act for the Relief of Destitute Children was identified in and of the Sydney newspapers on either Friday, 7th or Saturday, 8th February. More importantly the Appendices of the Royal Commission report that contains a complete list of every child under the age of 16 who appeared in court, whether under the Act for the Relief of Destitute Children or not, confirms that no child, either boy or girl, appeared in either the Central or the Water Police Court the day following Mary's appearance.9 This child may have been sent to either the Benevolent Asylum or to Randwick. No boy described as a child with a dead father or step-father with a dead mother was admitted to Randwick between 6 and 20 February 1868. It may be that this boy was admitted to the Benevolent Asylum and may have never appeared in court. It is impossible to identify any admission to the Benevolent Asylum using the index without a name and only the original records will enable a possible identification. These records are available at the Mitchell Library and may eventually be viewed but permission will need to be sought and it may not be received as this person is not an ancestor of the researcher. It is also possible that this boy was returned to his family and was therefore not tried at all.

At the time of Mary's arrest her family lived in Pyrmont Street, almost certainly between the married woman Mrs. DRENNAN, the wife of the shipwright, Samuel DRENNAN, and Elizabeth BRADDON or BREEDON, the wife of Samuel BREEDON. Members of these families gave evidence at her trial. This address in 1868 may have been 53 Pyrmont Street.

In 1867, Samuel BRADDON lived in 53 Pyrmont Street, Charles GIBSON lived at 55 Pyrmont Street and at 57 Pyrmont Street was Joseph WARDROP.10 It may be that the numbering of the street changed between 1867 and 1870 so by 1870 Samuel BRADDON, the engineer, was at 51 Pyrmont Street, Thomas LAVENDER, a plasterer, was at 53 Pyrmont Street and Samuel DRENNAN was recorded at 55 Pyrmont Street.11 By 1871 Samuel BREARDON was still at 51 Pyrmont Street, William PATE was at 53 Pyrmont Street and Samuel DRENNAN was still at 55 Pyrmont Street.12 By 1877 51 Pyrmont Street was not recorded, William PATE and Samuel DRENNAN were still at 53 and 55 Pyrmont Street respectively.13 Charles GIBSON moved to 5 Goulburn Street between 1867 and 1869 so the person residing in 55/53 Pyrmont street in 1868 was unnamed in both Sands Directory and the City of Sydney Assessment Books. There are no results for a search for either 53 or 55 Pyrmont Street yet found for the 1860s on Trove. Might it be that Charles GIBSON be Mary's father? Investigations into this man are continuing.

The Family of Thomas RICE, Butcher

The chance that the following family belongs to Mary, appears to be becoming increasingly remote as a connection has not yet been found – if finding proof is at all possible. Similarities in the surname, the location and the circumstances of the family match those facts known about Mary. Investigations into the family haven't negated her inclusion, as any inconsistencies especially for addresses, are able to be explained. There are some concerns about attributing this family to her but the following extensive and time-consuming research has been retained.

Father Thomas RICE b.c. 1821 m. (1) unknown (2) 1857 (3) 1869 (4) unknown d. aft. 1884
Mother unknown b. m. unknown d. abt. 1868
Step-mother Catherine Ann THOMPSON née JILKS14 b. 182815 m. (1) 1848 (2) 185716 d. 186617
Step-mother Harriet SHORT née UNKNOWN b. 182118 m. (1) unknown (2) 186919 d. 188020
Step-mother unknown b. m. d.
Inmate Mary RICE b.c. 1858 m. (see below) d. aft. 1878
Step-brother George H. THOMPSON b. 184921 m. Margaret Mary DEVER22 d.
Step-sister Emma M. THOMPSON b. 185123 m. d.
Step-sister Leah E. THOMPSON b. 185324 m. none - d. 185425
Half-brother Thomas James RICE b. 1860 m. 189226 Annie WOODFORD d.
Half-brother William Henry alias Thomas James RICE b. 1862 m. none Sophia HOLMES d. 1884
Step-sister Emma S. SHORT b. m. 1866 Henry HICKING27 d. 188228

There is a fair chance that the following man may be Mary's unidentified younger brother even though he was not arrested at or near the time of her arrest. The trial of William RICE for murder in 1884 resulted in his execution. By 1884 William had been known to have used a variety of aliases including Thomas John MARANDO, Thomas RICE, CLARKE and JOHNSON.29 He was recorded as Thomas James MARANDO in court before his arrest for murder. At a Quarter Sessions trial further aliases of Christopher FITZSIMMONS, alias MACINTOSH were provided for him.30 Newspaper reports from 1884 stated that William had been placed on the Vernon31 when he had been a child. His age was recorded in the newspapers as either 2132 or 28. Different Darlinghurst Gaol records show that William was an adept liar as it was initially identified that he had been born in London in 1863 and had arrived on the Lusitania. He was eventually identified as a native of Sydney in the newspaper reports written in connection to the murder.33 William's father was identified as Thomas RICE, a butcher, who stated at his murder trial that:

his son was 28 years of age. He had taken to drinking many years ago. He was witness's son by a former wife, and when he was a child was sent to the North Shore, and lived in charge of a nurse at Mr. Dyne's house. While there he rolled over a bank on to some glass bottles, cut his nose and injured one of his eyes, which was quite blind. He was attended by two doctors. Witness had had a great deal of trouble with the prisoner, who at times was strange in his manner and very violent. Witness had frequently had to strap him down.34

Newspapers reports from September 1875 confirmed that William had appeared at the Central Police Court and had been subsequently admitted to the Vernon on 17 September, the same day as his trial, as William Henry RICE. His father Thomas RICE, had applied for a warrant to send him to the Vernon as he had been out of control for over two years.35 Vernon admissions confirmed that William had been born on 27 October 1862. While no parents were identified in the Vernon Entrance Book, Thomas RICE, who was living in Pitt Street, Redfern, had agreed to pay for William's time on the Vernon.36 A synopsis of William's history appeared in the newspapers.

The Condemned Man Rice.37
The convict William Rice, who is shortly to be executed for murder, was a Vernon boy. Captain Neitenstein, the present master of the vessel, was second in command at the time Rice was on board; and recollects him perfectly. He was discharged to the care of his father, and when he left the ship was nearly blind. His conduct on board is described as having been very bad. He was punished for stealing, for dirty conduct, for attempted desertion, and for other offences. Nothing in his conduct on board led Captain Neitenstein to think the boy had a tendency to insanity. He was apprenticed from the vessel twice. On the first occasion he did not turn out well, and was in consequence of that returned. On the second occasion he was returned through loss of sight. He appears to have been first received on board the Vernon in September, 1875, under warrant from the Central Police Court for habitually wandering about the streets in the city of Sydney, in no ostensible lawful occupation. A police report dated in January, 1878, states that when Rice should come of age he would be entitled to £2000.

These reports show that the Darlinghurst Gaol admission and the Vernon admission were the same person. The birth of William Henry RICE had been registered in Sydney in 1862. He had and older brother, Thomas J. RICE, who had also been born in Sydney in 1860.38 William's parents were confirmed on both registrations as Thomas and Catherine Ann RICE. Thomas James RICE had been baptised in St Andrew's Cathedral in Sydney and at this date the family were living in Pitt Street, Sydney.39 Thomas RICE and Catherine Ann THOMPSON had married in Sydney in 1857.40 Catherine Ann was a widow and was the daughter of George JILKS.41 She had married John THOMPSON as Catherine JELKS in 184842 and the couple had three children baptised. Catherine Ann died in December 1866.43 Her death was registered in Sydney in 1867.44

Both William and Thomas RICE were younger than Mary RICE and, if Mary was an older sister or half-sister, would have been about six and seven respectively at the time of her arrest. Mary had been born at about the time of the marriage or Thomas RICE to Catherine so could have been from an earlier liaison that ended when the marriage occurred. Even though Thomas J. RICE had been baptised in the Anglican church in Sydney,45 because Mary was illegitimate this difference in religion does not negate this family as Mary's mother may have been Catholic.

It is records mostly associated with William that his father's family can be identified. Thomas appeared to have had a series of relationships around Sydney and not all his partners have been identified. Finding Thomas is an ongoing and complicated task. Even with the knowledge of the names of his parents, there has been no death yet been located for Thomas and the latest reference to him was at the time of the execution of his son in 1884. William's letter to his father written before his execution was reproduced in the Evening News on 3 May 1884 and does refer to his 'brother's and sisters', confirming the existence of at least the children listed here but none were identified in William's letter.46

From September 1855 Thomas was described as a butcher living in Bank Street, Chippendale.47 Ratepayers listed in the City of Sydney Archives suggest that he may have been in Sydney before this date but no confirmation of this has yet been found in the way of advertisements. In July he was described as a master butcher.48 An advertisement, also from July 1856, identified that he had originally gone into business with a J. RICE.49 The partnership between James and Thomas RICE was dissolved in March 185750 and by June that year James RICE had died at the age of 33. His Funeral Notice identified that he had two brothers, Thomas and Henry, who were both living in Sydney.51 The NSW BDM Index identified that his parents were Thomas and Elizabeth S. RICE. The match of these parents on the NSW BDM Index identified the death of the master butcher, Henry C. RICE, in Newtown in 1918.52 There was no identification of any family member in his Funeral Notice.53 Thomas was described as an old man during a trial in 1880 so it is believed that he was probably about the same age or older than his wife Harriet so he had possibly been born by about 1820. James his brother had been born in about 1824. It is believed that such a specialised and desirable skill of butcher would have been recorded on an indent and by 1866 Thomas was a relatively large employer so it is believed that he came with some money. It is considered unlikely that Thomas was a convict and no convict with this name was identified as a butcher. There are no assisted immigrants named Thomas RICE who was a butcher by trade. It may be that Thomas had arrived into Victoria as he was described as 'late of Fitzroy' during his insolvency proceedings54 although this may have referred to Fitzroy Street, Sydney.

About two years after Thomas married Catherine a very interesting repudiation appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald. The occupation recorded on the advertisement confirmed that Thomas had placed the ad on 3 March 1859. The ad very strongly suggested that he was English. Whether the woman and two children referred to were Mary, her brother and their mother cannot be ascertained but it is possible. There are no assisted immigrants yet found who identified a Thomas RICE as their relative in the colony and there is no indication that these people had the same surname. The advertisement read:

£20 REWARD.—I, the undersigned, hereby offer the above reward of £20, on conviction of the person or persons who originated and circulated a false and scandalous report that I, the undersigned, was married in England, and that my wife and two children had lately arrived in this colony from England. The above reward will be paid by my attorney, Mr. E. J. CORY, of 209, York-street, Sydney. THOMAS RICE, butcher.55

In October 1866, Shortly before the death of Catherine, Thomas was named as the employer of William Henry SCOTT, suspected of murdering his wife Annie. The report indicated that RICE was a big employer of men56 but was operating his shop on Lower George Street.57 The Sussex Street Murder was still sensational news in 1904.58

William's rap sheet in 1884 linked the family in a very early court appearance in April 1879 where his step-mother, Harriet RICE,59 identified jewellery that William had stolen from her.60 The publican Harriet SHORT, the widow of Alfred SHORT,61 and Thomas RICE had married in July62 1869.63 Harriet had been the proprietor of the Crooked Billet Inn and later the Ship Inn, Circular Quay. The license of the Ship Inn was transferred from Harriet to Thomas shortly after their marriage.64 Harriet and Thomas were probably quite well-off65 but wealth was not a guarantee against an arrest under the Act for the Relief of Destitute Children.66 Thomas and Harriet had married after Mary's arrest and it may be that Harriet was not the woman caring for Mary in 1868.By 1875 Harriet ran the Cricketer's Rest in Redfern.67 She and Alfred SHORT had had at least one child, a daughter named Emma Sophia.68 In 1879, either when Thomas was made bankrupt or when the couple separated, Harriet received the license back.69 Harriet died of complications with infection after an assault on 24 July 1880.70 There was an inquest and Thomas was taken into custody on suspicion of causing her death71 but no bill was filed.72

At the time of Harriet's death, Thomas and Harriet had been living separately73 and this had been almost certainly since July74 1875 when conflicting statements appeared in the newspapers concerning debt responsibility.75 Transfers of licenses of various hotels occurred. The interesting transfer of the publican's license from Thomas RICE to Mary WADLEY in November 1876 needs to be investigated.76 Nothing certain has yet been identified for Mary WADLEY and whether she was connected in any way to the Newcastle inmate is pure speculation.

There is little doubt that Thomas RICE was the man who assaulted William MOFFATT on 23 September 1881. MOFFATT and his wife lived 'at the butcher's shop' owned by RICE in Redfern.77 Thomas was sent to gaol six weeks for this assault. Unfortunately no gaol record or Police Gazette entry has yet been found that will identify Thomas in either 1880 or 1881. It is possible that there may be some indication of an age or ship of arrival in the Quarter Sessions depositions from 1880 or in Darlinghurst Gaol letter books. A letter in the CSIL may also be available.

When William RICE was executed on 23 April 1884, there were attempts to save him from execution due to insanity. At the time of his trial a charge of insanity had not been able to be proved in court. His step-mother at the time attended at least one of these meetings78 and this was a new step-mother because Harriet RICE had died in 1880. Petitions were written and many witnesses were called to try to save him.79 It may be that the name of the step-mother was recorded on a petition, perhaps in the CSIL.

Might Thomas have married again after Harriet died? There are only two Sydney marriages of a Thomas RICE between 1875 when he and Harriet are thought to have separated and 1880 when she died. The first was to Mary RICE80 and the second was to Emily HOCKEY.81 Both these marriages occurred when Harriet RICE was still alive. The marriage to Emily HOCKING occurred on 20 July 1884, four days after the assault on Harriet and four days before she died. Might this marriage have been made by Thomas? It is not considered likely under the circumstances but the registration has not been viewed.

The family on William RICE
Another possible family for Mary was the William RICE, whose wife was Mary Ann, and who died in 1866.82 His will could possibly be informative. This family is still being investigated.

Where has She Gone?

It is not considered likely, although it cannot be discounted, that as Mary A. RICE, Mary was admitted to Darlinghurst Gaol for two days for drunkenness during January 1871.83 This woman appeared in the gaol records as Mary RICE alias WEIGHT or WRIGHT and was the correct age. She had been born in Sydney in 1857, was Catholic and was unable to read or write.84 While this appearance was after Mary's release from Newcastle, the positive comments regarding the family who took Mary as an apprentice suggest that she was likely to have remained with them or moved on to another reputable family. Education in the school was good and the gaol admission with an inability to read and write makes her unlikely. As Mary RICE this woman was again admitted to Darlinghurst Gaol in 1874.85 Only the Empire86 reported on her trial as she was not named in the SMH. It may be that this woman was the Mary RICE, also the correct age, who entered the Benevolent Asylum on 25 November 1878, at the age of 21. No record has been found of her leaving.87

A Mary RICE was released from Darlinghurst in October 1867.88 This release may refer to a possible step-mother but is considered very unlikely to be the Newcastle admission.

The baptism of a Mary A. RICE whose father was Thomas and whose mother was Ellen, recorded on the NSW BDM Index in 1862, is not considered to be a reference to Mary's family. This baptism appeared to have occurred after compulsory registration89 but the NSW BDM Index also recorded a very similar baptism that can't be read, ten years earlier.90 There is no doubt that the 1862 baptism is a transcription error on the NSW BDM Index as the actual register recorded that this child had been born on 4 June 1852, and had been baptised on 9 January 1853, in the gaol by Rev. Samuel J. A. SHEEDY [?]. The record was Catholic and Mary Ann's parents were confirmed as Thomas RICE and Ellen NOWLAN. This couple had probably baptised four other children between 1839 and 1846 so Mary Ann was their youngest child. No marriage for the couple has been identified on the NSW BDM Index between 1830 and 1870. While Mary was reported to be older than the possible brother and her age is still uncertain, this girl would almost certainly have been too old to have been the Newcastle admission so this baptism is not considered a reference to the family.

The first boy admitted to the Vernon after Mary's Trial is considered unlikely to be connected to her at all. He was admitted to the Vernon on 10 February 1868, and was recorded in the newspapers as 11-year-old William DALLEY91 or DALEY.92 His trial was at the Water Police Court rather than at the Central Police Court and he was older than Mary. The notation '[t]his boy was found sleeping in the open air in the city of Sydney' was included with a clipping from the newspaper that added no further information concerning William's details. Further notations in the Vernon records stated:

I don't know anything about my parents They deserted me. I have a Godmother she lives in Cumberland Street. Mrs Boston. My aunts live with her.
Average conduct and lively disposition and good in school
Received onboard 31 3 1870

William appeared in the Vernon index as William DALY. The birth of William DALY had been registered in Sydney in 1857.93 His parents were recorded as William and Bridget. He was apprenticed from the Vernon to the South Coast and absconded from this apprenticeship, was rearrested and ordered back to the ship in March 1884.94 It is not thought that this boy was the brother referred to in Mary's trial.

Mary was not the Mary RICE who married on 14 May 1873,95 in Sydney to Alfred Alexander SAPSFORD.96 Mary SAPSFORD died in September 189297 and her parents were identified as Thomas and Ann98 so she had been born in 1850 so was too old to be the Newcastle admission.99

While online trees show that the Mary RICE who married Gilbert GEORGESON was approximately the correct age and experienced similar situations to be the Newcastle girl, communication from descendants indicated that Mary GEORGESON's father remarried after the death of her mother. The family lived near Bowral rather than in Sydney and that Mary had two sisters and no brother. The wife of Gilbert GEORGESON is therefore extremely unlikely to be the girl who was sent to Newcastle.

The Prince Alfred Hospital Fund recorded a contribution by John and Mary Rice and Mary Rice Junior during the April after Mary’s arrest so this can’t be her family.

Margaret RICE and Robert RICE were separately convicted in Sydney of various misdemeanors during 1866.100 Margaret RICE was convicted of vagrancy in May 1870 and sentenced to three months (SMH: 19 May 1870 [CPC]) This couple are yet to be investigated.

The death of Mary A. RICE in Sydney in 1935101 is yet to be investigated.

Updated January 2019

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