Jane ROBERTSON
Name Variations ROBINSON
Father George ROBERTSON aka ROBINSON b.c. 18371 m. none d. 18712
Mother Alice WISDOM b. 18373 m. none d. 18644
Inmate Jane E. C. ROBERTSON b. 18625 m. (see below) d. aft. 1870
Sister Alice ROBERTSON b. 18646 m. none - d.c. 1864
Description
Relationship Name Age Height Hair Eyes Complexion Build Distinguishing features
Father George7 33 5’ 6¾” light brown blue fair medium read and write; sandy whiskers and moustache; walks lame; wearing a light tweed suit and white straw hat

Jane, 'an intelligent looking little girl', appeared at the East Maitland police court on Tuesday, 26 July 1870, charged under the Industrial Schools Act. The newspapers reported that her mother was dead, that her father had deserted her and that a warrant was out for his arrest for desertion.8 It was suspected that he had gone to Sydney. On 8 June 1870, at the time of the issue of the warrant by the East Maitland Bench, the Police Gazette identified Jane's father as Gregory alias George ROBINSON. The ‘child’ was unnamed in both the gazette and the newspaper but it was reported that she had been left with a neighbour who was unable to care for her any longer. George was arrested around 27 July 1870,9 and on 30 July, as George ROBERTSON, he appeared in court charged with child desertion but was remanded as there was only one magistrate on duty.10 One week later, as George ROBINSON, he appeared before the same court charged with deserting Jane, and with refusing to contribute towards her maintenance.11 George was ordered to contribute five shillings weekly towards Jane’s support at the school. He was ordered to find sureties for the due observance of the order, himself in £10, and two sureties of £5 each, or in default to be imprisoned until the sureties were found.

Jane was admitted to Newcastle on 27 July 1870, but did not spend the required twelve months in the school so didn't transfer to Biloela in May 1871.12 Her father, George, petitioned the Colonial Secretary for her release, stating that his circumstances had been made difficult due to his having lost his tools of trade when his house was flooded during the 1870 Maitland floods. George had gone to Sydney to seek work and had placed Jane in the care of her aunt, identified only in the correspondence as ‘CARPENTER’, who was to care for her. George further stated that he had no friends to offer any security and no money to pay. The arresting constable, Thomas KERRIGAN, wrote in support of George stating:

he has resided in Maitland for 10 or 12 years. He is an excellent tradesman and the child is the only family he has got.

Approval was given for Jane’s release to her father on 21 October 1870, and he was released from Maitland gaol in order to care for her.13 Jane's release date in this record contradicts the date recorded on the list compiled by LUCAS in April 1872. It is believed that a transcription error has occurred that identified Jane's discharge date as 20 August 1870.14 Because Jane was discharged well before the transfer to Biloela, her name doesn't appear on any transfer lists so no confirmation of her religion can be made, however, because George was recorded in gaol records as a Protestant, it is almost entirely certain that Jane shared his religion.

No trace of Jane has been confirmed after her release date. She was only about eight-years-old in December 1870 so was likely to have required the care of an adult. It is unknown where Jane was when her father was killed. It may be that both had been involved in the incident that killed him but only her fathers' body was located.

Family

Jane's name once appeared in the section of the Entrance Book that is now missing. Her surname was recorded as ROBERTSON in both the April 1872 list compiled by LUCAS and also in the correspondence in the Colonial Secretary's letters. Jane had been born in Maitland in 1862 and was the eldest and only surviving daughter of George ROBERTSON and Alice WISDOM, the youngest daughter of John WISDOM.15 It is likely that Jane was illegitimate as no marriage has been located for her parents. Jane's sister, Alice, had been born in 1864 and although no death has been found for her, based on KERRIGAN's statement in 1870 indicating that Jane was the only family that George had, it is believed that she had died and her death had not been registered. The HVPRI may identify further details about her family.

Jane's father, George ROBERTSON, was a painter who had been born in Scotland in about 1840. His given name was recorded as 'Gregory alias George' in the Police Gazette of 1870.16 He was a Protestant who had arrived on the Columbian in 1854. No further relevant gaol admissions have been found as either ROBERTSON or ROBINSON. George was drowned at the end of November only a few weeks after Jane's return to him. CLARKE in his report to the Colonial Secretary on 13 December 1870,17 stated

[Jane was] discharged to the care of her father who, I may mention has since been found drowned at Newcastle.

It took time for George's body to be identified as he had never been reported missing. It was also unknown where the body entered the water but it was suspected that, while the body was found in the harbour, it had entered the water further up the river and been washed down by floodwaters.18 Only an age was recorded on his death registration.

Jane's mother, Alice, had been born on 17 September 1837,19 and had been baptised on 8 October 1837, by RUSDEN in the Maitland Church of England parish records. There was a second baptism on the 29 January 1838, for a child with this name and the same parents who was born on 6 October 1837, undertaken by C. V. DOWLING in the Catholic church at East Maitland. Alice was the youngest daughter of the Collector of Customs at Morpeth, John WISDOM20 and his wife, Alice McGUINNESS,21 who had arrived free aboard the Arab. This family was well thought of in the Morpeth area. Alice died at the age of twenty-seven on 24 May 1864. It may be that because both Alice's parents were dead by the time of Jane's arrest, there was no family support for George and his daughter especially if George and Alice had not married.

It is unknown whether any members of the extended WISDOM family came to Jane's assistance once she had been released from the school and after the death of her father. Jane's aunt, Caroline Susannah WISDOM, who had married Abraham CARPENTER in 185222 and who had initially cared for her, died in 1909.23 Her uncle, Alice's older brother, Robert, became a writer, newspaper publisher and political activist and was eventually knighted.24

Where has She Gone?

It is considered unlikely that the Jane ROBINSON who was born in 1861 and who entered the Benevolent Asylum on two occasions – from the 22 October 1866, to 16 January 1867, and from 9 to 16 September 1868, is this girl as it is considered likely that she remained in Newcastle after the death of her father and she was known to be in Newcastle before her arrest. There are no illegitimate births that are thought to belong to Jane.

Jane was not the Jane W. ROBERTSON who died in Minmi in 190025 as this woman was 19.26 The woman who died on 17 October 1907 was buried in the Presbyterian section of Sandgate Cemetery and was a married woman.27 There is the death of a Jane ROBERTSON in 190528 in Hamilton whose father was George that may also be suitable. She doesn't appear on the Sandgate site and no newpaper item has yet been located concerning her death or funeral.

There is no suitable death of a Jane ROBERTSON or ROBINSON to 1900. The death in 1882 of Jane ROBERTSON in Sydney was for a woman who was 79 and married.29

An incident in Newcastle court in February 1877 involved a Jane ROBERTSON30 and although the report does not identify the age or marital status of the woman, it is believed that this was the same woman appearing in the Newcastle courts prior to Jane's arrest. She may be the same woman giving evidence in court in August 188931 and so is unlikely to be the Newcastle admission.

The woman admitted to Darlinghurst during 1883 had an alias of STRETTLES.32

The woman who married John SHAW in Hamilton on 22 December 1886, was born in 1863 but her 1941 obituary identified that she had been born in Brookstown, Wallsend,33 so she was not the Newcastle admission. There is little doubt that she was the Plattsburg woman whose watch was stolen in 1898 but who was recorded in the Police Gazette as the wife of James SHAW.34

Family Notices for the extended CARPENTER and WISDOM families have not yet been viewed and may yield some clues to Jane's fate.

Updated September 2016

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