Catherine Joyce c1831-1893 Earl Grey Orphan per Panama

By Averil Staunton & Jenny Chester

Catherine Joyce, 19, from Ballinrobe Workhouse, Co. Mayo, was a Catholic. Her parents Martin and Catherine Joyce (both dead), arrived at Sydney, Australia on 12 January 1850 on the Panama, (archives reference no 4/4919 reel 2461) (vol 1 of Barefoot and Pregnant by Trevor McClaughlin).

Catherine was indentured to the Rev Joseph Oram of York St Sydney at 8 pounds for 1 year (vol 2 of Barefoot and Pregnant by Trevor McClaughlin). The Rev Joseph Oram, a Wesleyan minister, and his wife Ellen were also on board the Panama as unassisted immigrants (Index to the Unassisted Arrivals NSW 1842-1855. In 1851 Joseph Oram was living in York Street Sydney. The owners of the property were the Trustees of Wesleyan Missionary Society which was a brick house with a shingled roof.

On the 8 Oct 1851Catherine Joyce married Robert John Stewart Robinson at Clare Village, South Australia (birth certificate of daughter Catherine Robinson 15 Feb 1858) but no registration or parish record yet located. This is supported by evidence presented in her husband’s 1874 bigamy trial, whereby Father McGuinn testified to this effect. Father McGuinn was stationed in South Australia at the time of the marriage, according to the SA Biographical Index and other records. Catherine probably would have been about 7 or 8 months pregnant with daughter Anastasia (from whom Jenny Chester is descended) when she married.

Anastasia Robinson was born on the 14th Nov 1851at Port Lincoln, South Australia. She was baptised at St Mary of The Angels Church, Port Lincoln, South Australia on the 18th November 1851.  Her sponsor was John Noonan. Bishop Francis Murphy, who was the first Catholic Bishop in South Australia, performed the ceremony.

Catherine’s son Charles Edward Robinson was born at Wedderburn Victoria c 1855 (no birth/baptism record yet located). This was followed by Catherine Stewart Robinson born on the 15th Feb 1858 at Mt Korong Victoria.

Another daughter Agnes Helena/Eleanor Robinson was born c November 1861 (no birth/baptism record yet located) followed by Marea Stuart Robinson born on 10 Feb 1864at Common near Goondiwindi, Queensland; Catherine Helena Joyce, was age 28 years old at this stage.

In February 1865 a warrant was issued by the Sydney Bench, for the arrest of a man named Robert J S Robertson, and Catherine Robertson (his wife), wherein they are charged with having, near Burwood, on the 23rd ultimo, assaulted and beat Mary Bourke their former servant. The former offender is 50 years of age, 5 feet 9 inches high, dark complexion, fair curly hair, blue eyes, slightly pock-pitted, sometimes wears a slight moustache parted in the centre; calls himself a Doctor.

The other was low and stout, with a dark complexion, eyes and hair. They had with them three girls, aged respectively 3, 7, and 13 years, a boy 10 years of age, and a baby (NSW Police Gazette 1865)

The 3 girls would have been Agnes born c Nov 1861, Catherine b 15 Feb 1858 and Anastasia b 14 Nov 1851, the boy would’ve been Charles Edward born c1855. The he baby would’ve been Moriea/Marea/Marie b 10 Feb 1864

According to the Empire on the 1st Feb 1865 at the District Court, Maria Bourke, a young woman who recently arrived in this colony lent all her money, and induced her brother also to lend his money to her master, J. S. Robertson and his wife, who are very anxiously inquired for at the Central Police Court; Robertson and his wife, who were charged with having cruelly beat and suddenly left Maria Bourke destitute, are now in custody, having recently been apprehended at Penrith.

The Empire reported again on Thursday Friday 3 February 1865 they attended at the Central Police Court before the Police Magistrate. Joining them was Messrs. Levey, Thorne, Birrell, Smithers, and Dangar, seven drunken, riotous, and disorderly characters, who were discharged; as were J S Robertson and his wife, for an assault on Maria Bourke, who did not appear to prosecute.

However, on the 8th Feb 1865Robert J S Robertson & Catherine Robertson (his wife) were charged, on warrant, with assaulting Mary Bourke, have been arrested by Senior Constable Warren, Penrith Police. They were remanded to Sydney, and again discharged – the prosecutrix not appearing; NSW Police Gazette 1865

By 16th Sep, 1866Robert James Robertson (who later became a NSW politician) born at Booligal, NSW to Arthur Bell Robertson and Catherine Helena Joyse (or Joyce? – has been written over) aged 31 years.

According to The Argus on Monday 21 December 1868 they understood according to the Bendigo Advertiser:

That information has been received of a most distressing calamity on the Darling by which it is feared the lives of a whole family have been lost. Dr Robinson, formerly of Booligal, went with his wife and family in a spring-cart on a journey to some place on the Darling, and took a short cut to reach his destination sooner. Nothing was heard of them until the dead bodies of Dr Robinson and three of his children were found by some travelers – want of water having evidently been the cause of death. Nothing has been heard of Mrs Robinson and the oldest daughter, about nineteen years of age, but hardly any hopes are entertained of their being found alive. This sad affair has caused a profound sensation in the district.”

Another twist according to the Manning River News on the 22nd November 1873 that at the Bench of Magistrates Special Court, Wingham, on Monday, Nov 17 1873 before Joshua Cochrane, Esq., JP

Robert John Robertson was brought up in custody of Constable Emerson, charged with unlawfully deserting his legally married wife Catherine Joyce Robertson, residing at Trunkey Creek, in the colony of New South Wales.

The prisoner pleaded not guilty. Constable Emerson, on oath, deposed and arrested the prisoner now before the Court yesterday by virtue of a warrant from under the hand and seal of T Askell Smith, Esq, JP, where the said prisoner is charged with having deserted his legally married wife Catherine Joyce Robertson, residing at Trunkey Creek, and also leaving her without sufficient means of support.

I read the warrant to prisoner at the time of arrest. In reply he said she was not his lawful wife, and, pointing to a female who was riding with him at the time, said that she was the only lawful wife of his. The warrant and other documents I now produce. As the principal witness resides at Trunkey Creek I pray for a remand to that place. Granted. Prisoner applied for bail. The application was adjourned till the following day.

News from Port Macquarie on the 13th December, 1873 re Robert John Robertson who on the 18th November last, was remanded from Wingham Court to Trunkey Creek, has, we are informed, been found guilty of the charge brought against him, and has been ordered to pay fifteen shillings weekly for the support of his wife. We may have occasion to allude to Mr Robertson again before long.

Robert John Stewart Robertson was tried for Bigamy at Sydney Quarter Sessions according to the Sydney Morning Herald on Saturday 7 February 1874 before District Court Judge Meymott. 

The prisoner, who pleaded not guilty, was defended by Mr Windeyer. 

It appears that on the 6th of October last year, the prisoner was married at Wingham, in this colony, to Elizabeth Hardy – his first wife Catherine Joyce, to whom he had been married at Clare, South Australia, being then alive.  The marriage to the woman Hardy was proved by Mr Jasper Cray, the registrar of the district in which the marriage was celebrated.  As regards the first marriage, the Rev D McGuinn, of Berrima, deposed that in 1851 he solemnised marriage between Catherine Joyce and a man whose appearance he could not recollect, but who signed the marriage certificate as Robert John Stewart “Robinson”. 

According to The Empire on Saturday 7 February 1874, on the previous day Friday at the

Metropolitan Quarter Sessions before Mr District Court Judge Meymott with Mr W J Foster prosecuted for the crown, Robert John Stewart Robertson was charged that he, on the 1st of October, 1851, at Clare, in the colony of South Australia, did marry and take to wife one Catharine Joyce, and that afterwards, and while he was so married, to wit, on the 6th of October, 1871, at Wingham, in the colony of New South Wales, he did feloniously and unlawfully marry and take to wife one Elizabeth Hardy, his former wife, Catherine, being still alive. Prisoner was defended by Mr Windeyer.

The second marriage was proved by Mr Jaspar Cray, registrar of the district in which the marriage was celebrated. In reference to the first marriage, the Rev Denis McGuinn, of Berrima, stated that in the year 1851 he performed the ceremony of marriage between Catherine Joyce and a man whom he cannot now remember, but who signed the marriage certificate as Robert John Robinson. He had no recollection of the woman either, except from statements which she had made to him.

A warder in Darlinghurst Gaol, named Michael Wallace, produced a written document, purporting to be a power of attorney, which prisoner had given to a woman named Catharine Robertson, and whom prisoner acknowledged as his wife. This happened about twelve months ago, when prisoner was undergoing a sentence in Darlinghurst gaol. John Robson, a person living at Port Macquarie, stated that he and prisoner were confined to the gaol at that place. They used frequently converse together, and prisoner often admitted that he had a wife and six children living at Bathurst. When he (Robson) was discharged from gaol, prisoner requested him to write to his wife at Bathurst and he did so. On a subsequent occasion, prisoner told witness that he would swear he was not married, as all the witnesses were dead and the priest had gone home. Samuel Levey Bensusan stated that the handwriting on the marriage certificate, purporting to be the signature of Robert John Robinson, was the prisoner’s, although the signature was not prisoner’s ordinary one, the name being spelled differently. A letter, in prisoner’s handwriting, was produced, in which he addresses some female as his “dear Kate,” as if he were writing to his wife. – The defense was that the woman Catharine Joyce was married to a man named Robinson, that she left him and lived for several years with prisoner as his wife, and that upon his deserting her, she put herself forward as his wife. The jury, after about twenty minutes’ consideration, found a verdict of guilty, and prisoner was sentenced to two years’ imprisonment in Darlinghurst gaol with hard labour.

Photo of Catherine Stuart-Robertson nee Joyce 2nd from left on view at the Hyde Park Barracks Museum, donated by descendant Gabrielle Blackstock. I think the photo would have been taken in the late 1880s or early 1890s with the women probably Catherine’s spinster daughters Marie b1864 and Catherine b1858 and her sons Charles Edward born c1855 and Robert James b1866.


Course: Remembering our Heritage – Ballinrobe Workhouse

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