Father Thomas RICE b.c. 1821 m. d. abt. 1868
Mother unknown b. m. d. abt. 1868
Step-mother Catherine Ann THOMPSON b. m. 18571 d. 18672
Step-mother Harriet SHORT nee UNKNOWN b. 18213 m. d. 18804
Inmate Mary RICE b.c. 1858 m. (see below) d. aft. 1887
Half-brother Thomas James RICE 1860 m. d.
Half-brother William Henry alias Thomas James RICE 1862 m. none Sophia HOLMES d. 1884

Mary was reported to be between ten5 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.6

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.7 Mary was sent to Newcastle.

On her arrival in Newcastle on the 8 February 1868, Mary 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.8 This contradicted the evidence of both the witnesses at her trial, BREEDON and DRENNAN, whose testimony, 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.9

On 27 December 1870,10 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. Mary doesn't appear on the Biloela transfer lists so did not make the transfer to Cockatoo Island in May 1871 and CLARKE's positive statement referring to the interest in Mary shown by Mrs WALTER, may suggest that Mary was employed by the WALTER family after her apprenticeship ended.

No trace of Mary has been confirmed after the commencement of her apprenticeship with the WALTER family. Mary's 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.


Mary was illegitimate. Her mother was not married to Mary's father and had died in about 1867/8. Her father was married to another woman at the time of her birth and the Entrance Book recorded that he had died shortly before Mary's admission to Newcastle. Mary had a at least one younger brother or half-brother and some step-siblings who were probably girls. No appropriate birth registration exists for Mary RICE that match the two possible ages reported in the newspapers and the Entrance Book. These records indicated that she had been born in about 1857 or 1858. 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. It is unknown whether her mother had the surname RICE nor 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.

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 step-brother has also 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 the newspapers on either Friday, 7th or Saturday, 8th. As a younger child this boy may have been admitted to the Randwick Asylum instead of the Vernon however no boy described as a child with a dead father or step-father and a dead mother was admitted to Randwick between 6 and 20 February 1868. It may also 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 may also be that this boy was returned to his family and was therefore not tried at all.

The first boy admitted to the Vernon after Mary's trial went on board on 10 February. He was recorded in the newspapers as 11-year-old William DALLEY11 or DALEY.12 His trial was at the Water Police Court rather than 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 1857.13 His parents were recorded as William and Bridget. He was apprenticed from the Vernon to the South Coast and absconded from this apprenticeship, was arrested and ordered back to the ship in March 1884.14 It is not thought that this boy was the brother referred to in Mary's trial.

There is a very strong chance that the following man may be Mary's unidentified brother but it has not yet been proven – if finding proof is at all possible. Similarities in the surname, the location and the circumstances of William's family match those of Mary however there are some concerns about attributing this family to Mary.

The trial of William RICE for murder in 1884 resulted in his execution on 23 April 1884. By 1884 William had been known to use the aliases Thomas John MARANDO, Thomas RICE, CLARKE and JOHNSON.15 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 William.16

It was reported in 1884 that William had been placed on the Vernon17 when he was a child. He had appeared at the Central Police Court and was subsequently admitted to the Vernon on 17 September 1875, as William Henry RICE. No account of this court appearance has yet been located in the newspapers. Vernon admissions indicated that William had been born on 27 October 1862. No parents were identified in the Vernon records but his father, who was living in Pitt Street, Redfern, had agreed to pay for his time on the Vernon.18 A synopsis of William's history appeared in the newspapers.

The Condemned Man Rice.19
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.

William's age was recorded in the newspapers as either 2120 or 28. Darlinghurst records identified that he had been born in London in 1863 and had arrived on the Lusitania but he was identified as a native of Sydney in newspaper reports in connection to the murder.21 There is no doubt that both sets of records refer to the same man. 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.22

The birth of William RICE had been registered in Sydney in 1862. He had an older brother named Thomas J. RICE who had been born in Sydney in 1860.23 William's father was recorded as Thomas RICE and his mother was Catherine Ann. Thomas RICE and Catherine Ann THOMPSON had married in Sydney in 1857.24 Only two children were registered to the couple before Catherine Ann died in December 1866.25 Her death was registered in Sydney in 1867.26

Identifying Thomas is ongoing. He was described as a butcher from 185527 but may have been in Sydney before this date. It was thought that he was probably about the same age or older than his second wife, Harriet, so had probably been born by about 1820 at the latest. Thomas was described as an old man during his trial for Harriet's murder. No convict or assisted arrival into NSW before 1855 for a man of this age, was identified as a butcher. Thomas placed an interesting repudiation in the SMH on 3 March 1859, that very strongly suggested that he was English and had arrived alone. It also suggested that at this time a woman and two children may have been living with him. The advertisement was made after he had been married to Catherine and it 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.28

William's rap sheet in 1884 linked to a very early court appearance in April 1879 where his step-mother, Harriet RICE, identified jewellery that William had stolen from her.29 These newspaper reports identified William's family. Harriet SHORT, the widow of Alfred SHORT,30 and Thomas RICE had married in July31 186932 but by 1879 had separated. Harriet had been the proprietor of the Crooked Billet Inn and later the Ship Inn, Circular Quay. By 1875 she ran the Cricketer's Rest in Redfern33 and had a daughter named Emma Sophia.34 Harriet died in July 1880.35 There was an inquest and Thomas was taken into custody on suspicion of causing her death36 but no bill was filed.37

The baptism of a Mary A. RICE whose father was Thomas occurred in 1862. Mary's mother was identified as Ellen. This baptism appeared to have occurred after compulsory registration38 but the NSW BDM Index also recorded a very similar baptism that can't be read, ten years earlier.39 There is no doubt that the 1862 baptism is a transcription error on the 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 identified 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 them 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.

Because Harriet was described as a publican it may be that this is not an appropriate family as they were probably well off40 however because Thomas and Harriet married after Mary's arrest, it may be that Harriet was not the woman caring for Mary in 1868 but some other woman with whom Thomas was cohabiting who he later left.

If Thomas was not Mary's father, another possibility was the William RICE, whose wife was Mary Ann, and who died in 1866.41 His will could possibly be informative.

Where has She Gone?

The 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. 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.42 It seems likely that the numbering 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.43 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.44 By 1877 51 Pyrmont Street was not recorded, William PATE and Samuel DRENNAN were still at 53 and 55 Pyrmont Street respectively.45 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.

It is not considered likely that as Mary A. RICE, Mary was admitted to Darlinghurst gaol for two days for drunkenness during January 1871.46 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.47 . 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 more likely to have remained with them. As Mary RICE this woman was again admitted to Darlinghurst gaol in 1874.48 Only the Empire49 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.50

A Mary RICE was released from Darlinghurst in October 1867.51 This release may refer to a possible step-mother but is very unlikely to be the Newcastle admission.

Margaret RICE and Robert RICE were separately convicted in Sydney of various misdemeanors during 1866.52 Margaret RICE was convicted of vagrancy in May 1870 and sentenced to three months (SMH: 19 May 1870 [CPC])

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.

The death of Mary A. RICE in Sydney in 193553 is yet to be investigated.

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 very unlikely to be the girl who was sent to Newcastle.

Updated December 2017

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