Bridget ROURKE
Name Variations O'ROURKE, BOURKE1
Father William O'ROURKE b.c. 18252 m. none d. 18923
Mother Bridget RYAN b. m. none d. bef. 1862
Step-mother unknown b. m. none d. aft. 1892
Brother William O'ROURKE b.c. 18534 m. none - d. 18865
Sister Mary ROURKE b. m. d. aft 1872
Inmate Bridget ROURKE b.c. 1857 m. (see below) d. aft. 1874
Half-sister Hannah b.c. 1865 m. d. aft. 1872
Husband unknown b. m. d.
Son b. m. d.
Daughter b. m. d.
Relationship Name Age Height Hair Eyes Complexion Build Distinguishing features
Father William6 60 5' 10¾" red/sandy to grey grey fresh stout slightly stooped; sandy whiskers; small finger of right hand contracted
Brother William7 23 5' 9½" brown blue blind of the left eye; scar on the bridge of nose
Inmate Bridget8 14 4' 8¾" light blue fair spare

Note: Some documents pertaining to Newcastle and Biloela record that Bridget’s surname was BOURKE. There was already one girl in the school with this name but they were not the same inmate and should not be confused. Bridget ROURKE was arrested from Hartley and was younger than Bridget BOURKE who had been admitted in 1867 and was discharged shortly after the younger Bridget was admitted to the school.

Bridget was reported to be twelve years of age when she was arrested for protection on 8 November 1869,9 by constable COONAN of Hartley Police. She appeared in Hartley Court before Thomas and Andrew BROWN and John DELANEY J.P.'s.10 The Police Gazette erroneously named her as Bridget BOURKE.11 Bridget was admitted to Newcastle on 11 November 1869.12 The records for the Entrance Book for this period are missing so no details concerning her family, religion, education, or discharge can be confirmed from this source. On 12 November, the day after her admission to Newcastle, CLARKE wrote to Henry[?] BROWN, Esq., P.M., of the Hartley police requesting that 'the enclosed record of the case of Bridget ROURKE be returned to me with the required particulars at the earliest convenience of the officer of your court'.13

On 14 April 1871, after the riot in Newcastle, Bridget together with Jane WHITE, Jane WINDSOR and Elizabeth THOMPSON were tried at Newcastle Court for wilfully destroying Government property during the riot. The newspaper report of their trial correctly recorded Bridget's surname of ROURKE and confirmed that she was fourteen. Bridget was admitted to Maitland Gaol as Bridget ROURKE.14 It was documented at the time of her admission there that she had arrived on the La Hogue in 1862 and that she was able to read and write. The four girls were released from the gaol on 13 May 1871, and were returned to the school in time to transfer to Biloela in May 1871, about a fortnight after their discharge. The Biloela transfer lists compiled for the transfer to Cockatoo Island in 1871 indicated that Bridget was a Catholic and was fourteen years and six months old.15 Once on Cockatoo Island Bridget was identified by LUCAS in his letter to the Colonial Secretary on 23 June 1871, as eligible for service.16

Bridget was involved in further minor, rebellious activities at Biloela, as in his report on 20 November 1871, LUCAS reported that she was one of seven girls17 who were 'confined in No. 3 Dormitory for the remainder of the day for holding conversation with some men in a boat cruising off the island.'18 On this very same day Bridget wrote to her aunt, almost certainly while she was undergoing punishment for this misdemeanor. The series of letters written by her are located in the CSIL.19

My Dear Aunt,
I write to you hopping to find you in good Health … I wrote to you three times and received no answer … I was very sorry to hear when you came to see me that you could not see me … Mr and Mrs Lucas are very kind to me and also the rest of the Matrons and my School Teacher if you please give my Kind and dearest love to my sister Mary and also my brother and to my sister little Hannah … would you send my father directions and let me know where my sisters is and let me know how long I am in this school and dear aunt let me know how old I am I would like to be home with you once more …

A further letter written to her aunt on 9 January 1872, again named her sister, Mary, 'little Hannah', her brother, Willie, and her cousin, Jim. She asked where her sisters other than Mary were located and begged that either her father or her aunt get her out of 'this school'. She requested some money be sent to her and directed that any visitors get an order from the Colonial Secretary. A week later on 16 January, she wrote to her father giving him and her brother, William, her love but expressed also love to 'Mrs Rhine20 and all her family and to Mrs Simpson and all her family'. She reported that she had 'sent my aunt my hair' so it may be that she was attempting to assist her family with finances in the only way she could. Bridget again requested an address for her sister, Mary, so she could write to her.

This correspondence to her aunt and her father eventually made their way to the CSIL and it is considered likely that these private letters were used to assist in obtaining Bridget's release from Biloela. William travelled to Sydney and his petition for her release was written on his behalf but was signed by him. LUCAS supported William's request providing the police report on Bridget's family was positive. The Hartley police were also supportive of William's request and described him as 'a very respectable settler in the district.' William desired that Bridget be released so she could keep house for him and his son and hoped that the Colonial Secretary would release her as soon as possible as he was:

a poor man and coming from Hartley and waiting in Sydney is very heavy as regards pecuniary matters …21

Bridget was discharged into the care of her father on 4 March 1872. She was recorded as fifteen.22

There is very little doubt that the Bridget O'ROURKE who was assaulted by George DOYLE at Lowther, near Hartley, on 3 February 1874, about two years after this release, was an incident involving the Newcastle admission. DOYLE was thought to have gone to Bathurst.23 Nothing further has yet been found concerning this incident and no further confirmation of Bridget has yet been found.


Because Bridget's father petitioned to have her released from Biloela, he was identified in the CSIL as William O'ROURKE. Letters from Bridget, written both to her father and to her aunt, identified her sister, Mary. At the time of her admission to Maitland Gaol in 1871, Bridget stated her ship and year of arrival as the La Hogue in 1862.24 The La Hogue had arrived on 30 October 1862, carrying unassisted immigrants and in steerage were three women named Mary, Mary and Bridget ROURKE.25 These steerage passengers were not identified in the SMH. No ages or relationships were recorded but there is no doubt that this arrival was Bridget and her sister, Mary. It is believed that the other Mary was the aunt with whom Bridget corresponded so she was likely to be her father's sister although this has not yet been able to be proved. The master of the La Hogue, John WILLIAMS, amended the ship indent list on 25 November 1862, nearly a month after the passengers had disembarked.26 Bridget, Mary and Mary ROURKE haven't yet been located on the 1861C in England but because Bridget's older brother had been born in London, England,27 it is considered very likely but is unproven that Bridget had also been born in London. A birth registration has been located for William in an appropriate location of St Luke's, Chelsea but no birth for either Mary or Bridget or any other children have been identified where the surname was ROURKE or its variations and the mother had a maiden name of RYAN.

In August 1857 the new clipper ship, the Florence Nightingale was in port in Sydney where it was described that it had:

just been added to the monthly despatch of the Eagle Line of packet ships sailing between Liverpool and Melbourne. The Florence Nightingale is an entirely new ship, of very fine lines and powerful build28

Two years after this maiden voyage, William O'ROURKE and his son, William, arrived in Victoria aboard the Florence Nightingale.29 They were recorded as the 34-year-old William with his four-year-old son, William. Also on the indent was a Jas. [James] SIMPSON who was a 22-year-old farmer who may very well be the future husband of the Mrs SIMPSON referred to in Bridget's letters. By December 1874, Bridget's father, William, and his son, William, were living on the property, Linther, near Hartley,30 where William was likely working in a responsible position. It is likely but unconfirmed that Bridget had also been at this location prior to her arrest. The two Williams made an error with the purchase of some goods acquired in early 1873 and this required an appearance in court in late 1874. After this date the family situation deteriorated and both men, at different times, were admitted to the gaols of NSW. Their different gaol admission records confirmed that they had arrived together.

In June 1875 a disagreement over wages owed to one John McNERNY by Mary Ann O'ROURK, the owner of the O'Rourk Family Hotel in George Street, Grenfell, involved her brother, William in the dispute where John was asked to accept a horse as neither Mary nor her brother had money to pay him. The decision was in favour of McNERNY31 but the incident demonstrates increasing difficulty for the two men. In October 1875 William O'ROURKE, senior, appeared in the NSW Police Gazette charged with stealing a horse from Daniel RYAN and was described in the Police Gazette as a native of London of Irish parentage and was supposed to have been living with his step-daughter at the Gooderich Copper Smelting Works near Orange.32 It is unknown whether the step-daughter referred to was an actual step-daughter, a daughter or Bridget but it is unlikely to be the child of any new marriage. Some relationship must have been formed by William as Bridget referred to a 'little sister' named Hannah and no arrival of William's wife, Bridget RYAN, has been found and it is believed that she had died before 1862. No NSW or Victorian marriage can be identified for William between 1859 and 1875. William was eventually tried at Bathurst on 27 October 1875, and was sentenced to seven years on the roads. There is a deposition for this trial but it has not been viewed.33 William was transferred to Berrima Gaol and Berrima records indicated that he had been born in Ireland in about 1816.34 This age varies by about eight years from the age he gave on the Florence Nightingale indent. A petition, written in 1877,35 aimed to remit William's sentence as it was considered too harsh36 and this petition was possibly successful as William was released in 1879.37 The petition may shed light on the location of Bridget so a search will be undertaken in the CSIL for this correspondence. Images of both William O'ROURKE senior and junior, appear in the Darlinghurst Gaol records for 1875 and 1885.38

By November 1878, after a remission of his sentence, William became the manager for his sister's hotel in Grenfell for some time.39 The hotel had been sold by September 1879 and was renamed The Squatter's Arms.40 It was destroyed by fire three months later.41 A 1906 history of Grenfell identified that William had been manager of the Bogo Bogolong Station for Mr GIBSON, confirmed the relationship of the family and located the hotel in what was in 1906 the yard to the Royal Hotel.42 The family seem to have left Grenfell around this time.

William was likely to have been the man who applied for two auriferous lease in August and December 1880 in the Windeyer area near Mudgee.43 William was almost certainly living in Glen Innes in 1886 but44 moved to Sydney shortly afterwards to be with his son when he died. William was admitted to the Liverpool Asylum in January 1892 at the reported age of 58. He was married at this time and his wife lived at 3 Wexford Street, Haymarket. He was described as a chair carver but hadn't worked for about ten weeks at the time of his admission. It was confirmed that he had arrived on the Florence Nightingale into Victoria 37 years earlier45 and that he came to NSW the same year. William died in the Asylum on 29 December 1892. The NSW BDM Index indicated that his parents were unknown and no further family details appeared on his death registration although the details on the registration matched those on his admission record. Nothing further, including any details of any wife or marriage, was recorded.46

There is little doubt that Bridget's brother, the younger William O'ROURKE was the man arrested in 1869 by Hartley police for theft.47 He appeared in the Darlinghurst Gaol records in 1885 where the record identified that his place of birth was London. He is also believed to have been the man admitted to the Liverpool Asylum in both February and May 1885.48 His father, William, advertised for information as to his whereabouts when the younger man went missing in 1886.49 Bridget's brother died in Sydney on 17 June 1886, of pulmonary consumption. His father, William was the informant, confirming that the younger man was 32 years of age and had been born in London. He had arrived in Australia in about 1858. His parents were confirmed as William O'ROURKE and Bridget RYAN who had never married. He had died at the residence of his father at 507 Kent Street, Sydney.50 The younger William was buried at Rookwood Catholic Cemetery on 18 June 1886, in SEC*M1*10**286. While the death registration for the older William O'ROURKE indicated that he had also been buried in Rookwood Catholic Cemetery, no burial location has yet been found online for him.

It is believed that William's mother was also Bridget's mother and that Bridget had been named after her. The death registration for William O'ROURKE identified that her name was Bridget RYAN and that she and William had never married. Bridget was therefore illegitimate. Bridget senior did not arrive in Victoria with her husband and son in 1859. She did not arrive with her two daughters, Bridget and Mary in 1862 aboard the La Hogue. These girls almost certainly arrived in the care of their mother's sister-in-law, Mary ROURKE.

Whether this Mary was the future licensee of the O'Rourk Family Hotel in Grenfell is uncertain as also in 1862, a Mary ROURKE from Hartley sponsored the arrival of the widow, Catherine CROCK or CROOK, from Newmarket, Cork, Ireland, and her son James who had been born in Marylebone, London. The pair arrived aboard the Star of Brunswick in 1865. Unfortunately only one immigration reel remains and this reel does not identify any relatives in the colony

Where has She Gone?

After the attack on her by George DOYLE in early 1874 no further confirmation of Bridget has been found. She may be the woman referred to as William's step-daughter in 1875 and if this is the case she was living near Orange at the Gooderich Copper Smelter. No appropriate deaths for Bridget ROURKE, O'ROURKE, RORKE, or O'RORKE can be located on the NSW BDM Index between 1874 and 1950. No marriage has yet been confirmed for Bridget using any variation of her surname. It is possible that she never registered a marriage and adopted the surname of the man with whom she lived and subsequently died with this surname as her parents had never married.51

The marriage of Bridget ROCK to Patrick HEYDON in Woollahra in 188652 is particularly interesting as it occurred on 14 June 1886, and it is known that Bridget's father was in Sydney at this exact time. Online trees indicate that their ancestor had been born in Ireland in about 1858 and moved to Western Australia where she died in 1937. No parents were recorded on the WA BDM Index.53 None of the children for this couple match any names in Bridget's family.

Online trees indicated that Bridget was not the person who married James McQUADE in Sydney in 1896 as this woman was too young and had been born in NSW. She was not the the woman who married Mountford HARRIS at the Richmond River in 1873 as this woman was too old.

Updated March 2018

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