Mary Jane WRIGHT (3)
Name Variations Mary Ann1
Father Joseph WRIGHT b. 18322 m. bef. 1856 d. 18653
Step-father James DILLON b.c. 18474 m. 18725 d.
Mother Margaret Ann SIMPSON b.c. 18326 m. (1) bef. 1856 (2) 1872 d. 19087
Inmate Mary Jane WRIGHT b.c. 18548 m. (1) 1877 (2) 1891 (see below) d. 19229
Brother William James WRIGHT b.c. 185510 m. d. 189711
Brother Joseph Alexander WRIGHT b. 185912 m. 188313 Annie E. TOLLIS14 d. 192915
Sister Susan WRIGHT b. 186116 m. none - d. 186317
Sister Susan Ann WRIGHT b. 186318 m. (1) 189119 (2) 190020 (1) Thomas WILLIAMS alias Alfred ROBINSON (2) George T. FRANKLIN21 d. 191522
Half-sibling unidentified WRIGHT or DILLON bef. 1869 m. d.
Half-brother Michael James DILLON b. 186923 m. d. 194224
Half-brother John Thomas aka Jack25 DILLON b. 187426 m. 190227 Millicent (Minnie) STEPHENS28 d.
Husband (1) Robert Joseph LUXTON b. 185529 m. 187730 d. 191031
Husband (2) George Henry PALMER b. 1870 m. 189132 d.
Daughter Eliza Ellen Mary LUXTON b. 187833 m. none - d. 188034
Son Robert Joseph LUXTON b. 188035 m. 190836 Isabella MAHER d. 192237
Daughter Jessie May LUXTON b. 188238 m. none - d. 188339
Daughter Lily May LUXTON b. 188440 m. 190441 Francis M. DANIELS d. 194842
Son William Henry LUXTON b. 188643 m. 191144 Annie May POTTER d. 196045
Daughter Ruby Martha LUXTON b. 188946 m. 191147 Frank Glyde HULL d.
Relationship Name Age Height Hair Eyes Complexion Build Distinguishing features
Inmate Mary Jane48 18 5’ 4” red blue fair medium
Inmate Mary Jane49 37 5' 3" sandy blue
Husband Robert LUXTON50 37 5' 9" dark dark medium small dark moustache

In early 1869 Mary Jane was arrested by constables SMITH and LENEHAN of Araluen Police. She was charged with having no lawful visible means of support and no fixed place of abode51 and was admitted to Newcastle on 18 February 1869, where she was recorded as a fifteen-year-old Protestant who was able to read and write. Because he had died her father wasn't identified in the Entrance Book, which did however, record that her mother, identified as Margaret, had absconded.52 On 7 August 1869, W. SHERMAN, the teacher at Araluen, wrote on behalf of Mary Jane's mother, Margaret, and requested Mary Jane's release. He explained that Margaret had not absconded but had gone to Sydney for medical treatment and letters that she had written to Mary Jane had ended up in the Dead Letter Office. CLARKE responded to the petition by stating:

I have the honor to report that her daughter, Mary Jane WRIGHT, was committed to this institution on 30 January last by the bench at Araluen. The girl brought with her a good character which she has steadily maintained, her father has been dead about four[?] years and I am informed that since his death her mother has had two children. The girl [?] by the mother when she was sent here. I would respectfully suggest that the police authority at Araluen be requested to report on this case.53

A detailed account from Sergeant Martin BRENNAN indicated that Margaret WRIGHT had arrived in Araluen in March 1868; that her behaviour had become more 'deranged' and that she had lived in a house 'resorted by the most questionable characters among whom was a man named "Dillon" with whom she is now living'. BRENNAN further explained that, while Mary Jane was only fifteen,

[she] had been employed at several places in the few months preceding her mother's going to Sydney but her term in each place was very short and the character given her at some of those places was not good she was discharged from her situation in January last and was reduced to such straitened circumstances that she offered her services at one public house for a mere trifle she stopped at this house a few days when she was discharged without any reason being assigned. The girl having no friends or money was reduced to a state bordering on desperation when an Italian's wife who had known her previously gave her shelter for a few nights. At this stage the man 'Dillon' returned from Sydney with the avowed intention of taking the girl Mary Jane Wright to live with him, he went to where she was stopping and told her that he would give her every shilling that he earned in consideration of her going to live with him and further that he was in love with her – the woman with whom she was, overhearing these seductive intentions made him leave the place, her returned in the night and continued whistling for some hours in the neighbourhood expecting by these means to get the girl to him. Sergeant Brennan having been informed of the matter caused her to be arrested.54

BRENNAN further indicated that he believed that Margaret was aware of DILLON's designs on Mary Jane even though Margaret stated that there was no evil intent on DILLON's part. The Secretary of the Council of Education, W. WILKINS, became involved and requested that the teacher, SHEARMAN, explain his support for Margaret. The Colonial Secretary also questioned SHEARMAN's motives in supporting Margaret's application but conceded that he may have been ignorant of what the police stated. SHEARMAN begged forgiveness and his apology was supported by the local minister, A. D. FAUNCE, who stated that 'Mrs Dillon … is a woman who can talk very plausibly.' Mary Jane's release was therefore denied and the Colonial Secretary stated:

[i]t is unnecessary for me to urge that the application should not be granted, and to strongly recommend that the girl should be apprenticed to some respectable person residing at as great a distance as possible from Sydney and the Southern district as possible.

On 15 December 1869, some months after this exchange of letters, Mary Jane was named in CLARKE’s list of girls eligible for apprenticeship. It was confirmed that she had been in the school for a year and that she was sixteen years old.55 CLARKE responded again to the Colonial Secretary on 15 January 1870, replying to his directive dated 1 September 1869. CLARKE stated:

I have the honor to report for the information of the Honbl the Colonial Secretary that I have obtained a situation for this girl with Robert A. RODD, Esq., J. P. of Menimbah, Singleton, as housemaid at 7/- per week for the first year and 8/- per week for the second year – and I have to request that I may be furnished with the necessary authority to apprentice her. The girl has faithfully sustained the character that I gave you of her in my letter of 7th August last and as I feel confident that she will give every satisfaction I am anxious that she should be settled with Mr. Rodd’s. I have, however, to state that this girl will not have completed her year in this institution until the end of this month, but as the girl was sent here for protection that there is nothing against her and that as good an opportunity may not again present itself. I trust that the Honabl the Colonial Secretary will grant the authority I ask for at his earliest convenience.56

Mary Jane was apprenticed to R. A. RODD Esq., J.P. on 21 February 1870, even though these arrangements had been completed before she had been at the school for a full year as CLARKE acknowledged that this apprenticeship would be in her best interests. These indentures were cancelled and Mary Jane was returned to Newcastle on 12 November 1870.57 CLARKE had decided to remove Mary Jane from RODD's service and he explained his reasoning to the Colonial Secretary stating that she 'was giving every satisfaction in her place until her wretched mother sent men to see her and by letter unsettled her mind.'58

The mother made an incoherent statement about having been to your office and to the Inspector of Public Charities, and receiving instructions to go to Singleton and take away her daughter on the ground of Mr Rodd having taken improper liberties with the girl. … [F]rom circumstances that have come to light I am forced to the conclusion that the mother wanted the girl to Sydney for improper purposes. I can if necessary furnish particulars. Under the circumstances I submit that Mr Rodd be relieved of any further trouble in the matter.

No specific 'particulars' were identified in this bundle of correspondence. During the March 1871 riots at the school, Mary Jane was a participant and was identified as one of the ring-leaders. On 13 March in Newcastle Court,59 she was tried with a group of girls60 under the Injuries to Property Act. All were charged with wilfully destroying Government property and each girl was fined five pounds or was to be sentenced to go to Maitland Gaol for one month's labour.61 Mary Jane was admitted to Maitland Gaol where she was recorded as a Protestant born in Ireland.62 On her release from the gaol on 12 April 1871,63 she was returned to the school so transferred with the school to Biloela shortly afterward. This time under the supervision of CLARKE's replacement, George LUCAS.

As Mary WRIGHT she was recorded by LUCAS as eligible for service in his letter to the Colonial Secretary on the 23 June 1871. He recorded that she was seventeen.64 Shortly after 13 August 1871, Mary Jane was discharged by order of the Colonial Secretary. LUCAS confirmed her apprenticeship in his report of 7 August 1871.65 The name of her next master was poorly recorded on his April 1872 and appeared to be Mr. PETER.66 This man was in fact Mary Jane's uncle-in-law, James PATON, the husband of Margaret's sister, Susan. PATON's application, written on 17 June 1871, confirmed this relationship; acknowledged that Margaret had abandoned Mary Jane at the time of her arrest; promised that Mary Jane would receive care and safely and included a reference from his employer. The Colonial Secretary refused to allow Mary Jane to take up this apprenticeship and again referred to the belief that it was desirable to keep Mary Jane away from the influence of her mother and 'Dillon'. Only one further letter was included in this correspondence and was a further communication from the Colonial Secretary approving the apprenticeship to James PATON of Parramatta Street, Sydney.67 There is no explanation included concerning the reasons for the radical change in regard to Mary Jane's welfare in the short time between PATON's application and her release.

Mary Jane married Robert LUXTON at the Mariners’ Church or Bethel House in Sydney on 13 November 1877, and the marriage notice located that her mother was, at this time, in Queanbeyan.68 Robert was a wharf labourer.69 Mary Jane and Robert had six recorded children but the relationship was unhappy. In May 1891, a warrant was issued for Robert's arrest charging him with deserting Mary Jane who lived at 17 Ultimo Street, Glebe.70 By the end of 1891 Mary Jane had married again but in early January 1892 she was arrested by Detective COOKE and constable McLEAN and charged with bigamy.71 Sensational reports of the circumstances of the bigamous marriage appeared in numerous newspapers. Mary Jane LUXTON and her sister, Susan Ann WRIGHT, had both committed bigamy in a joint marriage ceremony at St. Silas’s Church of England Church, Waterloo, on 12 December 1891. Susan had married Alfred ROBINSON, the name assumed by Thomas WILLIAMS, to make one bigamous marriage, and Mary Jane had married George Henry PALMER. The complaints of bigamy were brought by Thomas’s wife, Rosina, and PALMER’s mother. In these cases Susan was identified as either WRIGHT or BURRELL. No reason for this second surname has been found but it may be a poor transcription of a reporter's copy of the surname 'DILLON'. Mary Jane’s second husband, George Henry PALMER, was only twenty-two when the couple married. PALMER stated that they had met in the Salvation Army, where Mary Jane was a sergeant and he was a drummer. He married her under the impression that she was a widow. He went on to say that this would be his last marriage but despite these protestations George did legally marry three years later.

Insights into Mary Jane’s life with Robert LUXTON makes very sad reading. She was almost without doubt a victim of domestic violence as she stated that LUXTON had drawn a knife on her and had tried to break her back across a mangle. Robert appeared at the bigamy trial stating that he had told her that if she married again

… the law would punish her. [But he did give] her the paper allowing her to marry anybody she pleased. ‘I didn't think the law could touch me, … when I had that permission. I have a Judge's order against him, and I have had fourteen years of cruelty with him. Some of my children are in the grave owing to your cruelty, and the little boy you have is deformed owing to your cruelty before birth. I worked hard for you, but you sold my home over my head, and then ruthlessly took my little children from me.’72

Mary Jane was committed for trial for bigamy at the Sydney Quarter Sessions on 1 February 1892, where she was sentenced to three months light labour in Darlinghurst Gaol.73 Another case awarding her a 'judge’s order' hasn’t yet been located but it may be in the 1893 divorce papers for the couple.74 Robert was granted a decree nisi in 1894 and was given custody of his three children, due mainly to Mary Jane’s conviction of bigamy and adultery. Mary Jane didn’t appear in court.75 By the time of the death of Margaret DILLON nee SIMPSON formerly WRIGHT in 1908 the couple appeared to have reconciled as both were identified in Margaret's Funeral Notice.76 Robert died in Sunderland two years later on 25 May 1910, and was buried at Woronora where a headstone remains.77 Mary Jane died on 22 September 1922,78 and her death was registered in Macksville on the North Coast of NSW. Both her parents were identified on the NSW BDM Index.


Mary Jane was the daughter of Joseph WRIGHT and Margaret Ann SIMPSON and had arrived with her parents aboard the Kate that reached Sydney on 27 December 1856. While the family all came from Northern Ireland, the Kate indent recorded that they were members of the Church of England. Mary Jane had been born in Belfast, Ireland, and this birth location was verified in the Maitland Gaol Discharge Book after she had been released after serving time for her involvement in the riots at the school in 1871.79

Joseph WRIGHT died in Queanbeyan in 1865. There is considerable confusion concerning his death on some online trees, who have clearly not purchased the death registration for the man of this name in 1903, but there is no doubt that between Joseph's arrival and the time of his death, he and his family had used their extended support system in NSW and had moved to an area south of Goulburn. Joseph's parents were identified on the death entry on the NSW BDM Index as James and Margaret and these names matched those identified on the Kate indent80 at the time he arrived.

On her arrival Margaret already had a considerable support network in NSW. Details of her relations in the colony on the Kate indent indicated that two brothers, John and William SIMPSON, were already in NSW – John in Goulburn and William on the Parramatta Road. A sister was further identified in the letters of the Colonial Secretary and was confirmed at the time of her arrival. Susan PATON and her husband, James, had arrived on the same voyage of the Kate as her older sister, Margaret, and her brother-in-law, Joseph WRIGHT.

After Joseph's death Margaret and her children moved to Araluen as they were there by March 1868 when she commenced living with James DILLON, 'a comparatively young man.'81 James and Margaret's son, Michael James DILLON, was born at some time between 1865 and 1869. His birth may have been registered as James WRIGHT in 1869 where his parents were recorded as Joseph and Margaret. Alternatively, Michael may be an additional step-brother to Mary Jane82 and James was the additional child identified in the police reports written in 1869. There is no doubt that Michael was Mary Jane's step-brother as police reports indicate that Margaret had had two illegitimate children when she applied to have Mary Jane discharged to her from the school at Newcastle in August 1869.83 James DILLON and Margaret WRIGHT eventually married in 1872 and, two years later, another son was born. It may be that by 1876 James was abusing84 and abandoning Margaret but further investigation needs to be undertaken into the number of couples with these names in NSW at this time and this has not been undertaken. By February 1868 Margaret was living in 256 Kent Street, Sydney, when her daughter, Susan, ran away from home.85

Margaret commenced giving lecture tours and some of the content created controversy.86 Margaret Ann's obituary indicated that she had worked extensively on aboriginal missions and began the Orange Lily Ladies Lodge87 – a Protestant, temperance association providing physical and financial support to members during times of illness and death.88 Margaret Ann DILLON died in April 1908 and her parents, James and Mary, identified on the Kate indent, were confirmed on the NSW BDM Index.89 She was buried on 13 April 1908.90

Updated May 2016

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