Bridget ROURKE
Name Variations O'ROURKE, BOURKE
Father William O'ROURKE b.c. 18161 m. bef. 1857 d. 18922
Mother Bridget or Mary b. m. d. abt. 1862
Brother William O'ROURKE b.c. 18533 m. d. aft. 1885
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 William4 60 5' 10¾" red/sandy to grey grey fresh stout slightly stooped; sandy whiskers; small finger of right hand contracted
Brother William5 23 5' 9½" brown blue blind of the left eye; scar on the bridge of nose
Inmate Bridget6 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 girl and are not to 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 1869,7 by constable COONAN of Hartley Police. She appeared in Hartley court before Thomas and Andrew BROWN and John DELANEY J.P.'s.8 The Police Gazette identified her as Bridget BOURKE.9 Bridget was admitted to Newcastle on 11 November 1869.10 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 but the transfer lists indicated that Bridget was a Catholic.11 On 12 November, the day after her admission, CLARKE wrote to Henry[?] BROWN, Esq., P.M., of 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'.12

On 14 April 1871, after the riot in Newcastle, Bridget and three others13 were tried at Newcastle Court for wilfully destroying Government property during the riot. The newspaper report of their trial correctly recorded Bridget's surname as ROURKE and confirmed that she was fourteen. Bridget was admitted to Maitland gaol as Bridget ROURKE.14 She stated at the time of her admission to Maitland 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 on Cockatoo Island in May 1871, about a fortnight after this discharge. The transfer lists indicated that Bridget 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 indicated 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 is held within 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 Rhine 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 in the only way she could with finances. She again requested an address for her sister, Mary, so she could write to her.

This correspondence to her aunt and her father made their way to the CSIL as it is likely that this private correspondence was used to assist in obtaining Bridget's release from Biloela. William travelled to Sydney and his petition 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 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 …20

Bridget was discharged into the care of her father on 4 March 1872. She was fifteen.21 There is very little doubt that the Bridget O'ROURKE who was assaulted by George DOYLE at Lowther, near Hartley, on 3 February 1874, was the Newcastle admission. DOYLE was thought to have gone to Bathurst.22 Nothing further can be found concerning this incident.


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, identify her sister, Mary. Bridget stated her ship and year of arrival as the La Hogue in 1862 at the time of her admission to Maitland gaol.23 The La Hogue had arrived on 30 October 1862, carrying unassisted immigrants and in steerage were three women named Mary, Mary and Bridget ROURKE.24 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 may be, but it is unable to be proved, that the other Mary was the aunt with whom Bridget corresponded and not her mother. This woman was likely therefore to be her father's sister. The indent list was 'amended by me (the master, John WILLIAMS25) this 25th November, 1862' nearly a month after the passengers had disembarked. Bridget, Mary and Mary haven't yet been located on the 1861C in England but because Bridget's older brother was born in London, England,26 it is likely but unproven that Bridget had also been born in London.

By December 1874, Bridget's father, William, and his son, William, were living on the property, Linther, near Hartley,27 and it is likely but unconfirmed that Bridget had also been at this location prior to her arrest. After this date the family situation deteriorated and both men, at different times, were admitted to the gaols of NSW. Their gaol admission records confirmed that they had arrived together. William O'ROURKE and his son, William, had arrived in NSW aboard the Florence Nightingale.28 The only recorded voyage of the Florence Nightingale occurred in August 185629 but other voyages that are not listed in Mariners and Ships in Australian Waters may have occurred. William and William probably left England shortly before Bridget's birth. In August 1857 the new clipper ship, the Florence Nightingale was in port and was being inspected. 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 build30

It may be that the O'ROURKE's worked their passage on one of these voyages but they have not been confirmed on crew lists. Images of both men appear in the Darlinghurst gaol records for 1875 and 1885.31

It may be that the Mary Ann O'ROURKE, the sister of William O'ROURK, and the proprietor of the O'Rourk's Family Hotel in George Street, Grenfell, may be the aunt.32 This hotel was being managed by William O'ROURKE in November 1878.33

In 1875 William O'ROURKE, senior, appeared in the NSW Police Gazette. He was 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.34 It is unknown whether the step-daughter referred to Bridget or a possible half-sister or the child of a new marriage. No NSW marriage can be identified for William between 1857 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.35 William was transferred to Berrima gaol. Berrima records indicated that he had been born in Ireland in about 1816.36 A petition, written in 1877,37 aimed to remit William's sentence as it was considered too harsh38 and this petition was possibly successful as William was released in 1879.39 The petition may shed light on the location of Bridget so a search will be undertaken in the CSIL for this correspondence.

William may be the man who applied for two auriferous lease in August and December 1880 in the Windeyer area near Mudgee.40 William was probably alive in 1886 and at this time he was living in Glen Innes.41 He was admitted to the Liverpool Asylum in January 1892 at the reported but possibly erroneous age of 58. He was married at this time and his wife lived at 3 Wexford Street, Haymarket. He was 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 earlier42 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 appear on his death registration although the details on the registration match those on his admission record. Nothing further, including details of his wife and marriage, was recorded.43

It is believed that William O'ROURKE junior was the man arrested in 1869 by Hartley police for theft.44 He appeared in the Darlinghurst Gaol records in 1885 indicating that his place of birth was London. He may also have been admitted to the Liverpool Asylum in both February and May 1885.45 His father, William, advertised for information as to his whereabouts when the younger man went missing in 1886.46 No trace of this William has been confirmed but it must be considered that he was the man who died in Sydney on about 16 or 17 June 1886, where his parents were recorded as William and Bridget.47 It may be that this registration would be a good registration to buy.

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 located 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.

Online trees indicate 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 January 2016

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