Tuesday, 24 January 2017


Not all was rosy with the Irish Orphan girls who came to Australia. Some were badly treated, some were badly behaved, but many were just ordinary girls trying to do their best. There were good masters and mistresses ...  and some who took umbrage if a girl had an opinion or made a request. These are just a couple of instances concerning the girls.. 

Moreton Bay Courier (Brisbane, Qld. : 1846 - 1861), Saturday 26 October 1850


ORPHAN APPRENTICES.-Mr. Rode, residing at
the station of the late German Missionaries,
" Mount Zion,", appeared before the Brisbane
Bench on the 22nd inst., to prosecute a charge
against Catherine Dempsey, his indented appren-
tice (one of the "orphans," from Ireland), who
had been apprended on a charge of absconding
from the service of her master. Mr. Rode stated
that the girl had been frequently very insolent,
and had finally absconded from his service, having
no permission from him to be absent. In defence
the prisoner stated that she was willing to return
to her service, but had gone away because she was
not allowed to attend the service of her church in
Brisbane. She said further that her mistress had
reproached her with being a Roman Catholic.
The Bench immediately called upon Mr. Rode to
explain this, when he denied that the girl's mis-
tress or himself had ever in the slightest degree
interfered with her liberty of conscience, but he
said that the girl had called one of his children a
" dirty Protestant," and he presumed that the
child might have retaliated. Regarding the at-
tendance at Divine service, he said that he had
only interfered when the defendant, instead of
going to church with other girls, wanted to travel
to Brisbane in the company of some men. The
Magistrates informed Mr. Rode that he must al-
low his servant to attend Divine service at least
every second Sunday; but there was no justifica-
tion apparent for her absconding, and she must
therefore forfeit 12s. 8d., the wages due to her,
and return to her service. Margaret Slack, an-
other orphan apprentice, in the service of Mr.
Windmell, of North Brisbane, was next charged
by her master with repeated insolence and neglect
of duty. From the evidence of Mr. Windmell it
appeared that Margaret had been in his service
for more than eight months, and for some time
past had conducted herself in a most insolent man-
ner. Having been recently requested to clean the
knives on a Saturday, to prevent work on Sunday,
she inquired in a most pert and saucy manner,
" what quality they expected that day, that they
must have the knives cleaned ? She did not do
them at the time, but subsequently condescended.
On another occasion, when sent to the butcher's
for meat, she took off her muddy shoes, and placed
them in the basket, on the meat, which was con-
sequently covered with filth ; and when remon-
strated with, and asked if she did not know better,
she replied, " No, she did not." Her master
stated further, that she had declared her intention
of leaving her situation at once, as the Rev. Mr.
Hanly had provided her with another. [Mr. Hanly,
who was in Court, came forward and made some
private communication to the Magistrates, in ex-
planation of this matter, which appeared to be
satisfactory.] The complainant added, that when
he threatened the defendant with punishment if
she left without his permission, she replied that
she had been that day informed that she could not
be punished. Many similar instances of insolence
were deposed to. The defendant, on being asked
the question, said that she had no complaint to
make respecting the work she was put to, but that
her master had beaten her. Complainant acknow-
ledged that several times when she was insolent
he had boxed her ears. As Mr. Windmell was
indifferent whether he took her back or not, the
Bench cancelled the indenture, sending the de-
fendant into the depot, and *muleting her in the
wages due to her (about 8s.).
*muleting .. depriving, taking from


Mock modesty, indeed!


If you are a descendant of one of the Irish Orphan girls who were brought to Australia in the 1800's, then you might like to read this article... it concerns a documentary being made about this time.



  1. The feisty Irish girls wouldn't take such treatment meekly.

  2. That's for sure... :-) Thanks for your comment, Kerryn.


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