Elizabeth Bourke: A Much-Lamented Lady

By Catie Gilchrist

Supported by a Create NSW Arts and Cultural Grant – Old Parramattans


Elizabeth Bourke, Elizabeth Jane Bourke, Betsy Bourke, Governor's wife, Richard Bourke, Governor Bourke, Old Parramattans, St. John's Cemetery Project, St. John's Cemetery, Parramatta
CLICK IMAGE TO ENLARGE. Miniature of Elizabeth Bourke c. 1800. Will Wood, Set of five miniatures of Richard Bourke and family, 1800, (Cork Street, London, 1800), P*112 / FL566335, Mitchell Library, State Library of New South Wales.

Early in December 1831, Sydney, if not the entire colony of New South Wales, is delirious with excitement. A new governor (the eighth, no less) and his good lady wife and family are about to arrive from England. Many colonists are beside themselves in anticipation of a new dawn. Their previous governor, Sir Ralph Darling (1825–1831), has already departed from the colony. Aloof, cold, conservative and officious, he had acquired the reputation of an autocratic martinet during his tenure, so few had lamented his leaving or been sad to wave goodbye. Indeed, the emancipist faction led by William Charles Wentworth utterly loathed him; so much so that as the Darlings set sail out towards the Heads on 19 October 1831, a large, lavish and rather bacchanalian celebration was held at Wentworth’s private residence, Vaucluse House, to toast the end of Darling’s perceived reign of tyranny.[1] The new governor Major-General Richard Bourke, by contrast, has a reputation for being intelligent, urbane, liberal-minded, an Irish Anglican and a Whig to boot. Some colonial gentlemen are therefore looking forward to ingratiating themselves with him, hoping for personal favours; others, more enlightened religious policies and certainly greater political rights. A few have a glorious vision for the future whereby free immigration to the colony will replace the ongoing ignominy of convict transportation. Their wives are rather more hopeful that Bourke’s genteel wife, Elizabeth Jane, will revive the polite elite circle that had once gathered under the chandeliers in the drawing rooms at Government House. And that it might again become the fashionable warm hub of ladylike sociability and jovial conviviality which had been somewhat lacking under Lady Eliza Darling’s rather severe and sober reign.[2]

The Role of the Governor’s Wife

Across the British Empire, governors were appointed to be the Queen’s representative and the head of colonial society. Responsible for carrying out both constitutional and ceremonial duties, the governor held the highest social rank. His wife, as vice-regal ‘first lady,’ was close behind him. She was the leading hostess of high society and was expected to manage and maintain the close and intimate ties that criss-crossed the upper echelons of colonial networks. Her duties involved organising fundraising luncheons and indulgent dinner parties, amusing musical evenings and concerts, genteel garden soirées, formal receptions and opulent state balls. Such gatherings cemented colonial reputations, forged political allegiances, formalised status and rank, and sometimes led to prodigious marriage alliances.

The governor’s wife was also expected to be a wife and mother, homemaker and educator, the governor’s consort and travelling companion and the doyenne of fashionable dress and style. She set the standard and the tone for le bon ton.[3] It was also customary for her to be deeply concerned with religious and philanthropic matters, patronising societies, attending meetings and sitting on ladies’ committees of charitable institutions. Governors’ wives, then, like many other middle and upper class women in the nineteenth century, had one delicate foot in the private and domestic, and another in the very robust public sphere of daily colonial life.[4] The additional expectation for her was that she stood loftily at the apex of female society. Many vice-regal women thrived in their vital, very busy, and varied roles; others found the constant round of social gatherings, polite chit-chat and official duties—not to mention frequent dress and jewellery changes—quite simply exhausting.[5]

A Gentleman’s Daughter

John Bourke, father of Elizabeth Bourke, St. John's Cemetery Project, Old Parramattans, Miniature, Portrait, Parramatta
CLICK IMAGE TO ENLARGE. Miniature of John Bourke c. 1800, father of Elizabeth Bourke, misidentified as the father of Richard Bourke in Will Wood, Set of five miniatures of Bourke family, 1800, (Cook Street, London, 1800), P*112 / FL566338, Mitchell Library, State Library of New South Wales.

Elizabeth Jane was born 19 May 1774 at Honeywood in Carshalton, Surrey, England, the daughter of John and Mary. On 18 June at All Saints, Carshalton she was baptised a Bourke and upon marriage remained a Bourke, because her father, John, bore the same surname.[6] As the youngest daughter of the family Elizabeth was affectionately known as ‘Betsy.’[7]

Born into privilege and gentility, Betsy’s upbringing was a refined and cultured one. Her family were devoutly Evangelical in their Christian faith and it was a fidelity that deeply imbued Betsy’s worldview. As a young woman she was involved in evangelical poor relief programs and school projects. Independently minded and socially active, her religious piety and gentle humanitarianism fit well with the beliefs of her brother’s school chum, Richard Bourke (1777–1855), who she fell in love with at the close of the eighteenth century.[8]

Richard was a bright and ambitious young Irish gentleman from a prominent Protestant Irish family. He was also liberal in both religion and politics.[9] Despite his intellectual leanings towards a career in the law following his education at Westminster School in London and Oxford University, he entered the military in 1798 as an Ensign in the Grenadier Guards. The following year he was promoted to Lieutenant and Captain and on 22 March 1800 Elizabeth Bourke and Richard Bourke were joined in holy matrimony.[10]

It was a long, happy and deeply loving marriage, although the first fifteen years was marked by periods of separation. With Richard posted overseas on military duties in South America and during the Peninsular Wars fighting the French in Spain and Portugal, Betsy kept home on the Isle of Wight. Later the family moved to Bognor on the south east coast of England and in 1809 they settled at Clifton in the picturesque county of Devonshire. Each location was significant for its temperate climate, because Betsy was a delicate woman and had long suffered with a rheumatic affection and oppression of the chest. Whilst Richard was away on military duty in 1809, news that she was gravely ill saw him request leave to urgently return to England. On his arrival home, Betsy was indeed dangerously incapacitated and for a time she was partially paralysed. Her frailty led Richard to contemplate leaving his career and he dropped out of military life for the next three years. As a devoted husband and father, like many well-bred gentlemen, he sincerely believed his first duty was to his wife and children.[11] The couple’s long-term plan was to return to Richard’s birthplace in Ireland. And in 1811, Thornfield, an estate of ninety acres, six miles from the medieval city of Limerick, Ireland, became their permanent family home.[12]

At Home at Thornfield, Limerick, c.1811–1825

Despite her frail health, Betsy gave birth to eight children. Although two died in infancy, Georgina (1801–1801) and Edmund (1805–1805), and Lucy (1810–1823) died a few months short of her thirteenth birthday, the other five, Mary Jane (1802–1888), John (1803–1868), Anne Maria (1806–1884), Frances ‘Fanny’ Emma (1808–1866), and youngest born Richard, known as ‘Dick’ (1812–1904), all reached adulthood.[13] As the eldest son John developed, it became apparent he had difficulties of sight, balance and movement. His invalid condition was later found to be caused by hydrocephalus (water on the brain). He was a cheerful child, yet his enfeebled state was a profound and ongoing source of deep distress to his parents. While they believed it had been ‘the will of Providence to afflict him,’ they naturally feared his life expectancy would be shortened. In the end, he outlived both of his parents.[14]

Thornfield House, Ahane, County Limerick, The Bourkes Family Home, St. John's Cemetery Project, Old Parramattans, Elizabeth Bourke, Governor Richard Bourke, Governor of New South Wales
CLICK IMAGE TO ENLARGE. Thornfield House, Ahane, County Limerick. Courtesy of the National Inventory of Architectural Heritage: http://www.buildingsofireland.ie

Betsy was loving and devoted and she established a close relationship with all of her children, as did Richard. Her daughters were educated at home by governesses and also by their father. Brought up in the liberal arts to be accomplished young ladies, they became proficient horsewomen and all were musically gifted. The family’s surviving letters are deeply infused with both intellect and charm. They also display a very close, warm and intimate bond that was shared equally between all members of the family.[15]

Beyond the couple’s deep devotion to their children, they were both actively involved in Irish improvement societies, which were dominated by Evangelicals, and philanthropic affairs locally in Limerick. The Bourkes believed many of the ills of Ireland could be relieved by the removal of prejudice against Roman Catholics and wide schemes for mass free immigration to the colonies. In the couple’s view, education was also imperative for the betterment of society due to its ability to lift the oppressed Irish peasants from their degraded status. Betsy was so concerned for the downtrodden that she formed a ladies’ committee to help the poor of the parish. A school was established at Thornfield to teach local girls sewing and lacemaking and equal tuition was afforded to both Protestant and Catholic pupils. The goods they crafted were sold in Limerick.[16] Religious bigotry held no place in the couple’s charitable endeavours, because they sincerely believed ‘both roads’ would lead the ‘faithful to salvation.’[17] Denominations were merely ‘different branches’ of a Christian tree that ‘sprung from a common root.’[18]

By 1825 Betsy’s physical health was again fragile; so, too, was her mental state. It was clear that a change of scenery in a wholesome climate would be the best thing to restore her ‘to health and tranquillity of mind.’[19] Richard began scouting for an overseas government appointment somewhere in the colonies. In June, the family were preparing to depart for the temperate Mediterranean island of Malta where Richard had been appointed to a military post.[20] However, an urgent political crisis further afield conspired to change the Bourkes’ overseas destination.

A Colonial Appointment

Following years of intermittent warfare, in August 1814 the King of the Netherlands ceded the Cape Colony (in present-day South Africa) to the British Crown, though it remained predominantly Dutch in its laws, language and government. From 1820, therefore, large parties of British immigrants had begun to arrive, but with no free press, no political representation and no trial by jury they found themselves in a place where there was much room for high society secrecy and its upshot corollary — political and judicial corruption. Consequently, the British settlers at the Cape inundated the Colonial Office in London with letters of complaint. By the early 1820s there were rumours that the governor, Lord Charles Henry Somerset, was embroiled in rather dubious political dealings, but it was only when allegations of moral scandal surfaced that Somerset’s position had become untenable.[21] In the middle of 1825, as Betsy was busy organising the family’s move from Thornfield to Malta, Somerset was asked to answer his detractors. The embattled Governor Somerset put up his hands and accepted a grant of leave of absence to return to London to defend himself against the scurrilous accusations that had been charged to him and his cronies in the colonial administration.[22]

Cape Colony, Cape Town, Cape of Good Hope, South Africa, Amsterdam Battery
CLICK IMAGE TO ENLARGE. Thomas William Bowler, “CAPE TOWN near the Amsterdam Battery,” (London : Day & Haghe, 1844), in Four views of Cape Town, Cape of Good Hope, drawn from nature by TW Bowler, (Cape Town: JH Collard, 1944). Hugh Solomon Pictorial Africana Collection. BY-NC. © Stellenbosch University.

The Cape urgently needed a temporary governor and Betsy’s husband was well known in influential political circles in London to be a man of exacting intellect and great legal knowledge. He also had the necessary gentlemanly qualities of diplomacy, fairness and empathy. Lord Bathurst, the Secretary of State for War and the Colonies asked him to fill the post while Somerset was under investigation. Bourke, the Whig, was informed by Bathurst, the right-wing Tory, that the ‘ultimate objective was to ‘Anglicize’ the Cape’ and Richard Bourke gladly accepted the challenge.[23]

The Bourke family left England late in November 1825 aboard H.M.S. Rainbow — all except thirteen-year-old Dick who remained with his school tutor the Reverend James Joyce. How Betsy felt about leaving her youngest child behind one can only wonder. With the Bourkes travelled Lieutenant Coote (Richard’s aide-de-camp and private secretary), two maidservants and four menservants. The journey was a pleasant one and by the time they reached the temperate island of Tenerife off the West African Coast, Betsy’s health had been very much restored.[24] They arrived in Cape Town on 7 February 1826. Richard assumed his official public duties as Acting Governor on 6 March and was quick to conclude he had indeed inherited ‘a grossly inefficient and corrupt administrative system, a nearly bankrupt economy and disaffected colonists.’[25]

Family Life in Colonial Cape Town

For the next two and a half years, the Bourkes’ family life revolved around the magnificent splendour of Government House at Cape Town. Surrounded by mountains and adorned with extensively manicured gardens, the setting was both peaceful and picturesque. As was hoped, Betsy’s health steadied here. Her three daughters revelled in the lively colonial social scene with the many dances and balls, the musical evenings, the picnics and the horse rides.

Government House, Cape Town, 1831, 1832, St. John's Cemetery Project, Old Parramattans, Elizabeth Bourke, Governor Richard Bourke, Governor of New South Wales
CLICK IMAGE TO ENLARGE. Louis Day and William Haghe, Government House, Cape Town (from the Gardens), from a lithograph by Day & Haghe, lithographers to the King, 17 Gate St, London, (Cape Town: Published by G. Greig, Cape Town, 1st June 1832). [Public Domain]. Courtesy of Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum.
Not surprisingly, Betsy’s eldest daughter, Mary Jane, found love here when she met and fell for the upstanding English toff, Dudley Montague Perceval (1800–1856), Clerk of Council at the Cape and son of the Right Honourable Spencer Perceval, the first and only British Prime Minister to be assassinated.[26] Betsy would have played a leading role in guiding, advising and probably carefully monitoring her daughter’s first romance. This was her role as a devoted mother but also her duty as the chief female guardian of morality at Government House. Betsy might have even gently encouraged the relationship, too, because the Perceval family were fellow Evangelicals and central to their shared faith was the importance of marriage and family. Dudley Perceval was of Anglo-Irish noble stock, well-educated and also had much in common with Mary Jane’s father. Politics aside, (Perceval was a Tory), Richard deeply approved of his daughter’s love interest, whom he described as ‘tender, very well educated and agreeable,’ and provided a settlement of two thousand pounds on her nuptials at the Cape in July 1827.[27] A few months later, the happy couple returned to London following Dudley’s new appointment as Deputy Teller at the Exchequer.[28] Like most mothers, Betsy would have been happy that her eldest daughter had married, because daughters were expected to marry.  But she would have also felt their parting deeply, for this was the first time they had ever been separated.[29]

In September 1828, Sir Lowry Cole arrived to take over the governorship at the Cape and, early in 1829, the Bourkes returned to their beloved family home Thornfield, Limerick. Compared to their colourful colonial days, life here now ‘seemed a little dull.’[30] They also clearly missed their spirited eldest daughter and sister who had been the first of the children to marry. But the Bourkes were not to remain in Ireland for long.

A New Plum Post

In March 1831, Richard was appointed Governor of New South Wales with a six-year tenure.[31] And so, the Bourkes were on the move again, but this time without either their eldest or youngest daughters. Following the family’s return to Thornfield in 1829, Betsy and Richard’s third daughter Fanny had become engaged to the Reverend John Jebb (1805–1886), the son of Justice Richard Jebb of Dublin and the nephew of John Jebb, the Bishop of Limerick.[32] The Bourkes and the Jebbs were long-standing family friends and Fanny and John’s union was hailed as a most prodigious match. Perhaps Betsy had in fact gently encouraged Fanny to see that Jebb was a good choice, for both she and Richard thoroughly endorsed their daughter’s husband-to-be. Indeed, they already held a deep fondness for the talented scholar, writer of church music and leading theologian but, with the wedding set for October 1831, they would miss the big day.[33] Until then, Fanny stayed with her eldest sister Mary Jane Perceval’s family in London where she was suitably and respectably chaperoned prior to her marriage.[34]

Middle daughter Anne and sons John and Dick travelled with their parents to New South Wales. Unmarried Anne and invalid John likely had little choice in the decision, although it is probable both were happy to remain firmly ensconced in the loving bosom of their beloved parents. Dick had commenced legal studies in Dublin, but it was agreed that their flighty nineteen-year-old son would, for now at least, benefit from a colonial posting. Betsy was probably both relieved and happy that her youngest would be travelling with them, and Richard appointed him to be his private secretary.[35] Still, leaving her two daughters behind would have profoundly anguished the devoted mother.

‘Board ship’: The Long Voyage to Sydney

The departing members of the family sailed from Portsmouth in July 1831 in the Margaret, a small merchant vessel.[36] With them travelled an aide-de-camp, a number of servants, Dr. Stevenson, a detachment of the 17th Regiment ‘to guard against pirates’ and a menagerie of poultry, sheep and a cow to provide fresh provisions during the voyage.[37] The journey to Tenerife was a pleasant one and they alighted here for a short stay. Once again, Betsy found the warm climate favourable to her health. Unhappily, the next few months at sea were to be an entirely different affair. The voyage to Sydney was a long and tumultuous one and Betsy suffered greatly for almost the entire duration. Both physical illness and mental terror tortured her body and mind.

Like many colonial sojourners in the nineteenth century, Anne Maria Bourke wrote a ship board diary during the passage to New South Wales.[38] Many diaries were written simply to relieve the excruciating boredom; others were penned with the intention of sending a copy to friends and family left behind at home. Anne’s diary was written for her sister Fanny to read and vicariously experience the family’s journey later on. It is a beautiful testament to the ways in which young gentlewomen, like the Bourke sisters, had been well educated. Betsy’s second daughter clearly had a curious enquiring mind, a spirited and lively nature and was not without a little dash of daring mischief either.[39] The diary exudes a fascinating insight into the trials and tribulations of the trying nineteen-week voyage the Bourke family had to endure. The weather was for much of the time stiflingly hot and windless, and some days they hardly made headway. Anne, her father and ‘poor mama’ suffered from dreadful seasickness and, at times, monotonous ennui.

Betsy was worryingly unwell and confined to her cabin for much of the journey. Quite naturally, her ill health littered Anne’s diary pages. In September, Anne informed her sister that mama ‘felt the palpitation at the heart’ and was suffering unusual headaches.[40] She had recently been ‘bled’ to relieve her symptoms. Betsy was terrified of being ‘bloodied’ but ‘Dick kept up her courage’ and ‘the doctor bled her very well and gave her medicine.’[41] Happily, within an hour she was ‘breathing freely and evidently inclined to sleep.’[42] In the following month, Anne was delighted to write that their mother was ‘getting the better of her headaches.’[43] By the time they reached the Heads on 2 December 1831, Betsy was dangerously weak but she was beginning to contemplate the delights of fresh food on shore. In particular, she was looking forward to eating ‘a penny roll and a pat of fresh butter’ and she was also enjoying ‘the thought of arriving in the fruit season.’[44]

Sydney At Last

The Bourkes finally arrived at the ‘very pretty’ Sydney Cove on Saturday 3 December 1831. Just as Ralph Darling had departed two months previously amidst wild scenes of joyful celebration, equally astonishing scenes of exuberant rejoicing greeted the new first family as they disembarked. Animated flag-waving crowds lined the foreshore of the harbour, cheering their ‘loyal welcome’ and the noise continued with the giant boom of the 19-gun salute which officially announced the governor’s arrival.[45] According to Anne:

Government House, Sydney, 1830, Charles Rodius, St. John's Cemetery Project, Old Parramattans.
CLICK IMAGE TO ENLARGE. Charles Rodius, “Sydney 1830 [Government House Stables from the Domain looking North],” in Collection of views predominantly of Sydney, Liverpool, and the Sunda Straits, and portraits, ca 1807, 1829–1847, 1887 owned by A. W. F. Fuller, PX*D 41 / FL3323045. Courtesy of Mitchell Library, State Library of New South Wales.

Papa landed at twelve with the usual ceremonies, guns and cheering and bands playing and soldiers marching…Last night [Monday] the town was very handsomely illuminated and every manner of rockets, squibs, guns from the batteries and the ships…and an immense bonfire was lighted…the cheering was tremendous.[46] 

The family ‘sat up till eleven,’ enjoying the fireworks which were ‘kept up the greater part of the night.’[47] It was a very sultry evening and, just to add to the marvellous spectacle of the illuminations, there was ‘forked and sheet lightening’ [sic] that was ‘so blue’ and ‘beyond anything’ twenty-five-year-old Anne ‘ever saw.’[48] The Sydney Gazette was rather more astounded by the good order and sobriety that reigned on the streets of Sydney amongst the noisy and very cheerful celebrations in honour of the Bourkes’ arrival, as it noted a few days later:

The police maintained a vigilant patrol, but we are proud to record that…we have not been able to hear of a single depredation having been committed; but on the contrary, all was harmony and peace among the crowds who paraded the streets.[49]

It was indeed an auspicious start to the Bourkes’ new life in the colony. But after such an arduous journey, for now, as Anne noted in her diary, they were simply ‘perfectly happy and thankful’ just to be able ‘to go to bed without caring how the wind blows.’[50]

Government House: Sydney and Parramatta

Anne’s diary ends abruptly in late December 1831.[51] Her first impressions of Sydney were quite favourable, although the hot wind was ‘unbearable’ and Hyde Park was ‘hideous.’[52] She was rather more captivated by the charming yet somewhat rambling Government House which was ‘just like a cottage in the centre with two wings, two stories high.’[53] Upstairs her mother had a bedroom and a sitting-room, and the extensive views afforded of the beautiful sparkling harbour were reminiscent of the Cape.

Charles Rodius, Government House, Parramatta, Old Government House, St. John's Cemetery Project, Old Parramattans
CLICK IMAGE TO ENLARGE. Charles Rodius, “View of the Government House Parramatta from the Bridge over the River, 1833,” in Charles Rodius, Views of Sydney and Parramatta, 1833, PXA 997 / FL3151424. Courtesy of Mitchell Library, State Library of New South Wales.

Betsy, however, had landed very much in a state of debility. She spent the first week in her private rooms, too weak to greet the many ladies who visited the vice-regal residence with their calling cards, anxious to become acquainted with the governor’s wife. On 14 December she was well enough to take her first drive around the pleasant grounds of the Domain and the Botanical Gardens. For a while, this became a daily excursion, although Anne noted that she was still too weak to walk very far. On medical advice, His Excellency moved his family to the governor’s official country-like residence at Parramatta. It was hoped the salubrious air here would restore Betsy back to health. On Saturday 31 March 1832, the Sydney Monitor happily informed its readers that ‘Mrs Bourke has experienced beneficial effects from the air of Parramatta.’[54] Two weeks later, the Sydney Gazette likewise noted the family were continuing their residence here because the air was ‘found peculiarly congenial to the health of Mrs Bourke.’[55]

Sadly, Sydney’s first family were to be dealt a devastating blow. And the elite ladies of the colony would not, in the end, get to meet the governor’s wife, nor attend one of her much-anticipated functions at Government House.

‘Console our Dearest Fanny’

I closed her eyes and kissed her forehead and left her with her God. Those eyes I trust will open upon me at the Resurrection and that we shall both be finally accepted thro’ God’s mercy in Christ our Saviour.[56]

On 12 May 1832, Richard Bourke penned what was quite possibly the hardest letter written during his long lifetime. It was imbued with great religious faith, yet it was also written with the natural heartbroken sorrow of his youngest daughter in mind. As he regrettably informed his son-in-law John Jebb:

You must comfort [Fanny] my friend and enable her to bear the loss of a mother. It has pleased God to take my dearest Betsy from us…she died on the morning of the 7th inst…About half an hour before she breathed her last, she uttered a short…Christian prayer and she expired without a struggle full of hope and charity as she lived. She was quite prepared for death and met this…with perfect resignation.[57]

Betsy died peacefully at Government House, Parramatta on 7 May 1832. The rheumatic carditis she had long suffered had caused her death. On Thursday 10 May, her ‘solemn’ and ‘impressive’ funeral was presided over by Archdeacon William Grant Broughton at St. John’s Church, Parramatta and she was buried in the cemetery.[58]

Government House, Parramatta, Old Government House, 1838, Charles Rodius, St. John's Cemetery Project, Old Parramattans, Elizabeth Bourke, Governor Richard Bourke, Parramatta Park
Charles Rodius, Government House, Parramatta, Nov.r, 1838, (1838), SSV* / Sp Coll / Rodius / 17 / FL3270414. Courtesy of Mitchell Library, State Library of New South Wales.

The colony sank into a great collective grief over the death of the much-lamented lady. Many obituaries in the newspapers dwelled on the melancholy fact that Elizabeth Bourke was the first lady of any governor in the southern hemisphere to have died. There was also a very deep regret expressed for the lost opportunities to meet the reputedly very amiable and accomplished woman. Many had hoped that Elizabeth Bourke would elevate both the taste and tone of colonial society. As the Sydney Herald sadly bewailed:

…the female portion of our upper classes, in particular, have lost a patroness of the most accurate discrimination, most refined sentiments, and…most dignified but unassuming and prepossessing manners. Her absence will be deeply felt by those to whom she would have set the fashion of excellence in sentiment and general conduct. Such a patroness, is at all times invaluable; but is particularly desirable in an infant colony, with a varied population and placed at an immense distance from the centre of civilization in Europe.[59]

Accordingly, a high society ball, scheduled for 28 May at Government House to celebrate the birthday of His Majesty the King, was respectfully cancelled.[60]

A Husband Mourns

Richard Bourke was plunged into a deep sorrow and a dark grief which, despite his abiding religious faith, was long in healing. A few months later, he erected a white marble tablet on the walls in St. John’s Church, Parramatta, which testified to his profound love for his wife, her accomplished life, and his sincere belief in the afterlife:

Reader, she was the most gentle and affectionate of God’s creatures, correct in all her duties, she led a life of unassuming virtue and practical piety; she was the comfort and solace of her husband, the friend, teacher and nurse of her children and a blessing to the poor. He who places this marble to her memory would indeed be the most wretched of mankind, did he not feel the Christian’s hope of meeting in a better world, her whom he has lost in this.[61]

In August 1833, Richard was still overwrought by the enormity of his bleak loss. He admitted in a letter to his daughter Fanny that ‘he prayed for strength to resist affliction’ for ‘my heart is ready to burst.’[62] Two years after her death, a still despondent and restless Richard was considering resigning and moving back to Ireland. There was no satisfaction to be found in his public duties anymore and there was only one reason for his remaining in the colony: his wife’s grave at St. John’s. As he noted in another private letter to his friend Justice Richard Jebb in June 1834:

My public duties have been discharged as a matter of obligation but without pleasure, and I should long ere this have asked to be recalled if I could persuade myself to leave the spot where her earthly remains are deposited. But this is perhaps a foolish feeling and should be combated.[63]

His ‘foolish feeling’ was indeed ‘combated’ and in the end the grieving widower stayed in the colony until 5 December 1837.

In the Midst of Death, Life Goes On

After Betsy’s death, the mantel of vice-regal lady fell upon her very capable second daughter Anne. She busied herself with charitable affairs and, from time to time, official balls and musical soirées were held at Government House in Sydney. In May 1836, the Governor’s ball to celebrate His Majesty’s birthday was attended by ‘upwards of eight hundred persons…amongst whom was all the wealth, beauty and fashion of the colony.’[64] But most of the time, the Bourke family chose to reside rather quietly at their official residence at Parramatta with its picturesque parklands and bountiful orchards. Of an evening they read, played cards, conversed and enjoyed Anne’s musical talents of piano and song.

On Wednesday 18 September 1833, and with her father’s blessing, twenty-seven-year-old Anne married Edinburgh-born Edward Deas Thomson at St. John’s Church, Parramatta.[65] Thomson was then Clerk of the Councils and, with Anne by his side, he went on to have a long and very successful colonial career. After a short honeymoon, the couple returned to live with Richard at Government House, Parramatta where Anne was wife to Edward and first lady to Richard. Taking on the responsibilities that would have belonged to her mother Betsy, that same year she became actively involved with a ladies’ committee established to advise the hundreds of free women who had begun to emigrate to the colony from England and Ireland.[66] Anne gave birth to her first child, a daughter, on 3 September 1834, but the infant tragically died of convulsions six days later.[67] Another daughter arrived in November 1836 and proud Australian grandfather Richard wrote that he finally had a ‘currency lass.’[68] Family had always been first and foremost to both him and his darling late wife. Betsy Bourke, had she lived, would have undoubtedly much cherished being grandmama to her beloved Anne’s own children.

Time to Say Goodbye

Sir Richard Bourke, Governor Richard Bourke, Parramatta, New South Wales, St. John's Cemetery Project, Old Parramattans, Elizabeth Bourke
CLICK IMAGE TO ENLARGE. Arthur Levett Jackson, Sir Richard Bourke, (1874), after Andrew Moreton’s portrait of Bourke commissioned by James Macarthur in 1840 or 1841, now hanging in Government House, Sydney, 1765887 / wp003724. CC-BY-4.0. Courtesy of State Library of Victoria.

In December 1837, his six-year tenure at an end, Richard Bourke left New South Wales and, with a heavy heart, the final resting place of his dear wife Betsy. Did he visit her graveside at St. John’s one last time? Perhaps he murmured a prayer in the church or even wept mournful tears there? Maybe he spoke to her quietly, as though she were still there in person, standing by his side?

He returned to Thornfield, Limerick with his son John, knowing that in the final year of his governorship he had set up his ‘very sensible, very steady and very honourable’ son-in-law (Edward) in the lofty and onerous position of Colonial Secretary.[69] Richard spent the rest of his life at Thornfield ‘in contented busy retirement.’[70] He resumed his local legal and philanthropic activities and edited a collection of correspondence belonging to the statesman, politician and philosopher Edmund Burke, who was a distant relative. In 1839 Richard was appointed High Sheriff for the County of Limerick. He also did what he could during the appalling years of the Great Famine (1845–1849) to help his suffering tenants when a million people died from starvation and disease and between 1845 and 1855 two million more emigrated from Ireland to North America and Australia.[71] In 1855 the Deas Thomson family visited, reuniting the former governor with his antipodean grandchildren. By this time, Richard was almost blind and his health was failing him. Shortly after returning home from church service on Sunday 12 August 1855, he died of heart failure.

Today, the hope and belief that he would once again be reunited with his beloved wife Betsy remains inscribed on the white marble tablet on the walls of St. John’s Church, Parramatta. And reader, I truly hope that they were.[72]


CITE THIS

Catie Gilchrist, “Elizabeth ‘Betsy’ Bourke: A Much-Lamented Lady,” St. John’s Cemetery Project, (2019), https://stjohnscemeteryproject.org/bio/elizabeth-bourke, accessed [insert current date].


References

Primary Sources

Bourke Family Papers, 1809–1855, M1863, Mitchell Library, State Library of New South Wales, https://search.sl.nsw.gov.au/permalink/f/1ocrdrt/ADLIB110323406, accessed 20 June 2019.

Anne Bourke, Diary of Anne Bourke, daughter of Sir Richard Bourke, kept on the voyage from England to New South Wales on the Margaret and during her first few weeks in Sydney, (19 August 1831–27 December 1831), Series: Bourke Family Papers; File: 1, Australian Joint Copying Project (AJCP ref: http://nla.gov.au/nla.obj-742808528), accessed 20 June 2019.

Family Correspondence of the Bourke Family (45 letters), 1822 to 1855, Series: Bourke Family Papers, File: 3, Australian Joint Copying Project (AJCP ref: http://nla.gov.au/nla.obj-742808566), accessed 20 June 2019.

The Late Mrs Bourke,” The Australian (Sydney, NSW : 1824 – 1848), Friday 11 May 1832, p. 2. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-page4250923, accessed 20 June 2019.

Demise of Mrs Bourke. The Lady of his Excellency the Governor,” The Sydney Herald (NSW : 1831 – 1842), Monday 14 May 1832, p. 2, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-page1527458, accessed 20 June 2019.

Secondary Sources

Alison Alexander, Obliged to Submit: Wives and Mistresses of Colonial Governors, (Tasmania: Montpelier Press, 1999).

David Clune and Ken Turner (eds.), The Governors of New South Wales, 1788–2010, (Annandale: The Federation Press, 2009).

Hazel King, Richard Bourke, (London and Melbourne: Oxford University Press, 1971).

Penny Russell, A Wish of Distinction, Colonial Gentility and Femininity, (Melbourne: Melbourne University Press, 1994).

Anita Selzer, Governors’ Wives in Colonial Australia, (Canberra: National Library of Australia, 2002).

David Stoneman, “Richard Bourke: For the Honour of God and the Good of Man,” Journal of Religious History, Vol. 38, No. 3, (September, 2014): 341–355.


NOTES

[1] Not everyone hated Darling. For a measured account of Ralph Darling the man and his divisive governorship see Brian Fletcher, “Ralph Darling (19 December 1825–22 October 1831)” in David Clune and Ken Turner (eds.), The Governors of New South Wales, 1788–2010, (Annandale: The Federation Press, 2009), pp. 148–66. For a rather more damning one, see C. M. H. Clark, A History of Australia, Vol 2, New South Wales and Van Diemen’s Land, 1822–1838, (Melbourne: Melbourne University Press, 1968, 1999), pp. 105–09.

[2] In the 1830s Government House was located on its original site at the corner of today’s Bridge and Phillip Streets and it remained here until its replacement, built in the Governor’s Domain, was completed in 1845. Governor George Gipps (1838–1846) was the first Governor to occupy the beautiful new building. For the original Government House see Helen Proudfoot, Anne Bickford, Brian Egloff and Robyn Stocks, Australia’s First Government House, (Sydney: Allen & Unwin in conjunction with the Department of Planning, 1991). For a brief history of the second Government House see Laila Ellmoos, “Government House,” Dictionary of Sydney, (2008), http://dictionaryofsydney.org/entry/government_house, accessed 16 May 2019.

[3] Le bon ton is a French phrase meaning “the good style.” “The ton” is a term that was especially associated with Britain’s high society during the late Regency.

[4] The nineteenth-century ideology of “separate spheres” and the gendered dichotomy of what was “public” (male) and what was “private” (female) was never as pronounced as the binary suggested. As Davidoff and Hall suggested in their classic study of the English middle classes, “Public was not really public and private not really private despite the potent imagery of ‘separate spheres.’ Both were ideological constructs with specific meaning which must be understood as products of a particular historical time.” See Leonore Davidoff and Catherine Hall, Family Fortunes Men and Women of the English Middle Class, 1780–1850, (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1987), p. 33.

[5] See Anita Selzer, Governors’ Wives in Colonial Australia, (Canberra: National Library of Australia, 2002); Alison Alexander, Obliged to Submit: Wives and Mistresses of Colonial Governors, (Tasmania: Montpelier Press, 1999).

[6] Betsy was the daughter of JOHN BOURKE and MARY BATTYE. For Betsy’s birth and baptism dates see, Baptism of “ELISABETH BOURKE, 18 June 1774,” at Carshalton, All Saints, Surrey, England, Anglican Parish Registers, London Borough of Sutton, Sutton, England, Reference Number: P32/1/2. An erroneous recording of Betsy’s age at the time of her death in the St. John’s Parish burials have led to her birth year being calculated as c. 1776. See burial entry for “ELIZABETH JANE BOURKE, Government House, Parramatta, 10 May 1832, age 56, wife of H[is] Excellency the Governor,” Parish Burial Registers, Textual Records, St. John’s Anglican Church Parramatta, New South Wales, Australia; V. W. E. Goodin, St. John’s Cemetery Parramatta, Monumental Inscriptions and Key to Graves, (Sydney: The Society of Australian Genealogists, 1964), p. 95.

[7] Her husband later continued using her informal name.

[8] See Jennifer Ridden, “The Forgotten History of the Protestant Crusade: Religious Liberalism in Ireland,” Journal of Religious History, Vol. 31, No. 1, (March 2007): 98.

[9] The Bourke family had been landowners in Limerick and Tipperary for generations.

[10] Hazel King, Richard Bourke, (London and Melbourne: Oxford University Press, 1971), p. 14.

[11] See ‘Fatherhood’ in Leonore Davidoff and Catherine Hall, Family Fortunes Men and Women of the English Middle Class, 1780–1850, (Chicago: Chicago University Press, 1987), pp. 329–35.

[12] Richard and Betsy’s great-great grandson Gerard Bourke lived here until he died in May 2014 aged 92.

[13] According to Frank Bongiorno, “we know little about John” and I have been unable to discover the date of his death, although he was still alive when his father died in 1855. See Frank Bongiorno, “Sir Richard Bourke (3 December 1831–5 December 1837),” in David Clune & Ken Turner (eds.), The Governors of New South Wales, 1788–2010, (Annandale: The Federation Press, 2009), p. 180.

[14] Because of his eldest son’s infirmities, Richard made his youngest son Dick his heir rather than John. Hazel King, Richard Bourke, (London and Melbourne: Oxford University Press, 1971), p. 252.

[15] A collection of family letters has survived. Bourke Family Papers, 1809–1855, M1863, Mitchell Library, State Library of New South Wales https://search.sl.nsw.gov.au/permalink/f/1ocrdrt/ADLIB110323406, accessed 20 June 2019 and also online here: Family Correspondence of the Bourke Family (45 letters), 1822 to 1855, Series: Bourke Family Papers, File: 3, Australian Joint Copying Project (AJCP ref: http://nla.gov.au/nla.obj-742808566), accessed 20 June 2019.

[16] Hazel King, Richard Bourke, (London and Melbourne: Oxford University Press, 1971), p. 54.

[17] Cited in David Stoneman, “Richard Bourke: For the Honour of God and the Good of Man,” Journal of Religious History, Vol. 38, No. 3, (September, 2014): 351.

[18] Cited in David Stoneman, “Richard Bourke: For the Honour of God and the Good of Man,” Journal of Religious History, Vol. 38, No. 3, (September, 2014): 351.

[19] Hazel King, Richard Bourke, (London and Melbourne: Oxford University Press, 1971), p. 56.

[20] Malta became a British colony in 1815.

[21] Somerset had been Governor at the Cape since 1814.

[22] But really, the much-maligned Somerset was simply part of a much wider problem at the Cape with its mishmash of Dutch and English jurisdictions, its lack of legal rights for British settlers and a failing economy. The colony required a revolution in the entire administration of its government and a complete reorganisation of its civil and judicial establishments. Only a certain type of leader would be fit for the mammoth task.

[23] Hazel King, Richard Bourke, (London and Melbourne: Oxford University Press, 1971), p. 87.

[24] Hazel King, Richard Bourke, (London and Melbourne: Oxford University Press, 1971), pp. 59–60.

[25] Hazel King, Richard Bourke, (London and Melbourne: Oxford University Press, 1971), p. 86.

[26] On the evening of 11 May 1812, Spencer Perceval had walked through the Central Lobby on his way to a debate in the House of Commons where he was shot in the chest by an assailant who (in an extraordinary English display of polite fair play) immediately apologised and then surrendered. But Perceval was mortally wounded, and he expired within a short time. His assassin, John Bellingham was an unhinged, failed businessman who blamed the government for the large debts he had unhappily accumulated. Bellingham was tried for murder at the Old Bailey on 15 May 1812 and was found guilty. He was executed outside Newgate Prison. As was the custom of the bloody legal code, his body was taken to St Bartholomew’s Hospital where it was “dissected and anatomised.” See Old Bailey Proceedings Online (www.oldbaileyonline.org, version 8.0), 13 May 1812, trial of JOHN BELLINGHAM (t18120513-5), https://www.oldbaileyonline.org/browse.jsp?div=t18120513-5, accessed 17 May 2019.

[27] Hazel King, Richard Bourke, (London and Melbourne: Oxford University Press, 1971), p. 124.

[28] Hazel King, Richard Bourke, (London and Melbourne: Oxford University Press, 1971), p. 124. See also David Stoneman, “Richard Bourke: For the Honour of God and the Good of Man,” Journal of Religious History, Vol. 38, No. 3, (September, 2014): 347.

[29] Penny Russell has noted how the “bride’s family’s grief” was real in the nineteenth century, because the “separation of the bride from her family was often complete. Some never saw their families again, and even if she took up residence close by, the bride’s future loyalties were to her husband and to his family.” See Penny Russell, A Wish of Distinction, Colonial Gentility and Femininity, (Melbourne: Melbourne University Press, 1994), p. 137.

[30] Hazel King, Richard Bourke, (London and Melbourne: Oxford University Press, 1971), pp. 123–4.

[31] According to Hazel King, “…the appointment to New South Wales was regarded as one of the plums among colonial governorships. The climate was good, the Colony healthy and steadily growing in population and economic opportunity.” Hazel King, Richard Bourke, (London and Melbourne: Oxford University Press, 1971), p. 134.

[32] Frances Jebb died at the Bourke family home of Thornfield, Limerick on 15 January 1866. “Family Notices,” Empire (Sydney, NSW : 1850 – 1875), Wednesday 21 March 1866, p 1.

[33] Reverend John Jebb was educated at Winchester College and Trinity College Dublin.

[34] They married on 31 October 1831. “Family Notices,” The Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser (NSW : 1803 – 1842), Thursday 17 May 1832, p 3.

[35] Dick served in this capacity in Sydney until March 1834 when he returned to England to resume his legal studies. Appropriately, he went to live with the Percevals in London under the watchful eye of his eldest sister— the influence of the family once again paramount in the lives of the Bourkes. In London, between 1834 and 1837, Dick acted as his father’s personal representative and confidant: his “eyes, ears and voice at Whitehall.” With his sharp legal mind and deep interest in both British and colonial politics (and indeed his first-hand knowledge of colonial affairs) the young Bourke was taken seriously by the British Government. He went onto become a successful barrister in Dublin and ‘an even more ardent Whig than his father.’ He served as an assistant commissioner for the Poor Law in Ireland in 1847 and became deputy-lieutenant for Limerick. He married Anne O’Grady of Kilballyowen in 1844 and resided at the family seat, Thornfield until his death in 1904. See Frank Bongiorno, ‘Sir Richard Bourke (3 December 1831–5 December 1837)’, in David Clune and Ken Turner (eds.), The Governors of New South Wales, 1788–2010, (Annandale: The Federation Press, 2009), pp. 180–81; Hazel King, Richard Bourke, (London and Melbourne: Oxford University Press, 1971), p. 173.

[36] In her diary Anne Bourke noted that “board ship” became one of her mother’s most frequent expressions during the journey to New South Wales.

[37] Hazel King, Richard Bourke, (London and Melbourne: Oxford University Press, 1971), p. 133.

[38] Anne’s diary can be viewed in the Bourke Family Papers, M1863, Mitchell Library, State Library of New South Wales and also online here: Anne Bourke, Diary of Anne Bourke, daughter of Sir Richard Bourke, kept on the voyage from England to New South Wales on the Margaret and during her first few weeks in Sydney, (19 August 1831–27 December 1831), Series: Bourke Family Papers; File: 1, Australian Joint Copying Project (AJCP ref: http://nla.gov.au/nla.obj-742808528), accessed 20 June 2019.

[39] However, for all her supposed enlightened and liberal education, her diary later reveals her very derogatory attitude towards the Aboriginal people she encountered in Sydney. On 19 December 1831, she wrote, “The natives are the most frightful wretches I have ever seen, fifty times more ugly and disgusting than the hottentots, they are very nearly in a state of nature, with long matted hair … and are for ever as drunk as Chloe, with an expression of the greatest cunning and wickedness.” Shocking to the reader today, nonetheless this was a common belief held at the time by the colonial elites. Anne’s diary can be viewed in the Bourke Family Papers, M1863, Mitchell Library, State Library of New South Wales and also online here: Anne Bourke, Diary of Anne Bourke, daughter of Sir Richard Bourke, kept on the voyage from England to New South Wales on the Margaret and during her first few weeks in Sydney, (19 August 1831–27 December 1831), Series: Bourke Family Papers; File: 1, Australian Joint Copying Project (AJCP ref: http://nla.gov.au/nla.obj-742808528), accessed 20 June 2019.

[40] Anne’s diary can be viewed in the Bourke Family Papers, M1863, Mitchell Library, State Library of New South Wales and also online here: Anne Bourke, Diary of Anne Bourke, daughter of Sir Richard Bourke, kept on the voyage from England to New South Wales on the Margaret and during her first few weeks in Sydney, (19 August 1831–27 December 1831), Series: Bourke Family Papers; File: 1, Australian Joint Copying Project (AJCP ref: http://nla.gov.au/nla.obj-742808528), accessed 20 June 2019.

[41] Anne’s diary can be viewed in the Bourke Family Papers, M1863, Mitchell Library, State Library of New South Wales and also online here: Anne Bourke, Diary of Anne Bourke, daughter of Sir Richard Bourke, kept on the voyage from England to New South Wales on the Margaret and during her first few weeks in Sydney, (19 August 1831–27 December 1831), Series: Bourke Family Papers; File: 1, Australian Joint Copying Project (AJCP ref: http://nla.gov.au/nla.obj-742808528), accessed 20 June 2019.

[42] Anne’s diary can be viewed in the Bourke Family Papers, M1863, Mitchell Library, State Library of New South Wales and also online here: Anne Bourke, Diary of Anne Bourke, daughter of Sir Richard Bourke, kept on the voyage from England to New South Wales on the Margaret and during her first few weeks in Sydney, (19 August 1831–27 December 1831), Series: Bourke Family Papers; File: 1, Australian Joint Copying Project (AJCP ref: http://nla.gov.au/nla.obj-742808528), accessed 20 June 2019.

[43] Anne’s diary can be viewed in the Bourke Family Papers, M1863, Mitchell Library, State Library of New South Wales and also online here: Anne Bourke, Diary of Anne Bourke, daughter of Sir Richard Bourke, kept on the voyage from England to New South Wales on the Margaret and during her first few weeks in Sydney, (19 August 1831–27 December 1831), Series: Bourke Family Papers; File: 1, Australian Joint Copying Project (AJCP ref: http://nla.gov.au/nla.obj-742808528), accessed 20 June 2019.

[44] Anne’s diary can be viewed in the Bourke Family Papers, M1863, Mitchell Library, State Library of New South Wales and also online here: Anne Bourke, Diary of Anne Bourke, daughter of Sir Richard Bourke, kept on the voyage from England to New South Wales on the Margaret and during her first few weeks in Sydney, (19 August 1831–27 December 1831), Series: Bourke Family Papers; File: 1, Australian Joint Copying Project (AJCP ref: http://nla.gov.au/nla.obj-742808528), accessed 20 June 2019.

[45]Post Script. Arrival of Governor Bourke,” The Sydney Monitor (NSW : 1828 – 1838), Saturday 3 December 1831, p. 4.

[46] Anne’s diary can be viewed in the Bourke Family Papers, M1863, Mitchell Library, State Library of New South Wales and also online here: Anne Bourke, Diary of Anne Bourke, daughter of Sir Richard Bourke, kept on the voyage from England to New South Wales on the Margaret and during her first few weeks in Sydney, (19 August 1831–27 December 1831), Series: Bourke Family Papers; File: 1, Australian Joint Copying Project (AJCP ref: http://nla.gov.au/nla.obj-742808528), accessed 20 June 2019.

[47] Anne’s diary can be viewed in the Bourke Family Papers, M1863, Mitchell Library, State Library of New South Wales and also online here: Anne Bourke, Diary of Anne Bourke, daughter of Sir Richard Bourke, kept on the voyage from England to New South Wales on the Margaret and during her first few weeks in Sydney, (19 August 1831–27 December 1831), Series: Bourke Family Papers; File: 1, Australian Joint Copying Project (AJCP ref: http://nla.gov.au/nla.obj-742808528), accessed 20 June 2019.

[48] Anne’s diary can be viewed in the Bourke Family Papers, M1863, Mitchell Library, State Library of New South Wales and also online here: Anne Bourke, Diary of Anne Bourke, daughter of Sir Richard Bourke, kept on the voyage from England to New South Wales on the Margaret and during her first few weeks in Sydney, (19 August 1831–27 December 1831), Series: Bourke Family Papers; File: 1, Australian Joint Copying Project (AJCP ref: http://nla.gov.au/nla.obj-742808528), accessed 20 June 2019.

[49]Illumination in Honour of Governor Bourke’s Arrival,” The Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser (NSW : 1803 – 1842), Thursday 8 December 1831, p. 2.

[50] Anne’s diary can be viewed in the Bourke Family Papers, M1863, Mitchell Library, State Library of New South Wales and also online here: Anne Bourke, Diary of Anne Bourke, daughter of Sir Richard Bourke, kept on the voyage from England to New South Wales on the Margaret and during her first few weeks in Sydney, (19 August 1831–27 December 1831), Series: Bourke Family Papers; File: 1, Australian Joint Copying Project (AJCP ref: http://nla.gov.au/nla.obj-742808528), accessed 20 June 2019.

[51] Now on dry land, she could write letters to her friends and sisters and post them in the normal manner, hence the shipboard diary, written for Fanny’s benefit, was perhaps no longer necessary.

[52] Anne’s diary can be viewed in the Bourke Family Papers, M1863, Mitchell Library, State Library of New South Wales and also online here: Anne Bourke, Diary of Anne Bourke, daughter of Sir Richard Bourke, kept on the voyage from England to New South Wales on the Margaret and during her first few weeks in Sydney, (19 August 1831–27 December 1831), Series: Bourke Family Papers; File: 1, Australian Joint Copying Project (AJCP ref: http://nla.gov.au/nla.obj-742808528), accessed 20 June 2019.

[53] Anne’s diary can be viewed in the Bourke Family Papers, M1863, Mitchell Library, State Library of New South Wales and also online here: Anne Bourke, Diary of Anne Bourke, daughter of Sir Richard Bourke, kept on the voyage from England to New South Wales on the Margaret and during her first few weeks in Sydney, (19 August 1831–27 December 1831), Series: Bourke Family Papers; File: 1, Australian Joint Copying Project (AJCP ref: http://nla.gov.au/nla.obj-742808528), accessed 20 June 2019.

[54]Sydney Police,” The Sydney Monitor (NSW : 1828 – 1838), Saturday 31 March 1832, p. 4.

[55]No Title,” The Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser (NSW : 1803 – 1842), Tuesday 17 April 1832, p. 2.

[56] Richard Bourke to Reverend John Jebb, Letter dated 12 May 1832 in Bourke Family Papers, M1863, Mitchell Library, State Library of New South Wales and also online here: Family Correspondence of the Bourke Family (45 letters), 1822 to 1855, Series: Bourke Family Papers, File: 3, Australian Joint Copying Project (AJCP ref: http://nla.gov.au/nla.obj-886950137), accessed 20 June 2019.

[57] Richard Bourke to Reverend John Jebb, Letter dated 12 May 1832 in Bourke Family Papers, M1863, Mitchell Library, State Library of New South Wales and also online here: Family Correspondence of the Bourke Family (45 letters), 1822 to 1855, Series: Bourke Family Papers, File: 3, Australian Joint Copying Project (AJCP ref: http://nla.gov.au/nla.obj-886950137), accessed 20 June 2019.

[58] She was buried in Section 3, Row H, No. 6, St John’s Cemetery, Parramatta. See Judith Dunn, The Parramatta Cemeteries: St John’s, (Parramatta: Parramatta and District Historical Society, 1991), p. 167. Broughton was later consecrated Bishop of Australia at Lambeth Palace chapel in February 1836. See K. J. Cable, “Broughton, William Grant (1788–1853),” Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/broughton-william-grant-1832/text2107, published first in hardcopy 1966, accessed online 21 May 2019.

[59]Demise of Mrs Bourke. The Lady of his Excellency the Governor,” The Sydney Herald (NSW : 1831 – 1842), Monday 14 May 1832, p. 2.

[60]The Late Mrs Bourke,” The Australian (Sydney, NSW : 1824 – 1848), Friday 11 May 1832, p. 2.

[61] Judith Dunn, The Parramatta Cemeteries: St John’s, (Parramatta: Parramatta and District Historical Society, 1991), p. 195.

[62] Richard Bourke to Fanny Jebb, Letter dated 14 August 1833, cited in Hazel King, Richard Bourke, (London and Melbourne: Oxford University Press, 1971), p. 167.

[63] Richard Bourke to Richard Jebb, Letter dated 15 June 1834, cited in Hazel King, Richard Bourke, (London and Melbourne: Oxford University Press, 1971), p. 167.

[64]The Ball at Government House,” The Australian (Sydney, NSW: 1824 – 1848), Tuesday 31 May 1836, p. 2.

[65]Family Notices,” The Sydney Herald (NSW : 1831 – 1842), Thursday 19 September 1833, p. 2.

[66] Between 1833 and 1837 approximately 3000 women were assisted to migrate to New South Wales and Van Diemen’s Land under the scheme administered by the London Emigration Committee. See Elizabeth Rushen, Single and Free: Female Migration to Australia, 1833–1837, (Kew, Victoria: Australian Scholarly Publishing, 2003).

[67]Family Notices,” The Sydney Herald (NSW : 1831 – 1842), Monday 8 September 1834, p. 1; “Family Notices,” The Sydney Herald (NSW : 1831 – 1842), Thursday 11 September 1834, p. 2.

[68] Cited in Hazel King, Richard Bourke, (London and Melbourne: Oxford University Press, 1971), p. 172; “Birth,” The Colonist (Sydney, NSW : 1835 – 1840), Thursday 17 November 1836, p. 7.

[69] Hazel King, Richard Bourke, (London and Melbourne: Oxford University Press, 1971), p. 171. This promotion carried with it membership of the Executive and Legislative Councils. Edward Deas Thomson’s promotion also saw him serve as the governor’s chief adviser and “the channel through which all the Governor’s correspondence flowed.” Edward remained in this important and arduous role until June 1856. The Thomsons lived most of their married life at the grand Georgian villa Barham in Forbes Street, Darlinghurst and on Sundays they worshipped at St. Jude’s Church in Randwick. They had five daughters and two sons and, just as for Anne’s parents in Limerick, the couple were both actively involved in numerous local charities and philanthropic endeavours. In 1874, Anne became a Lady when Edward was appointed Knight Commander of the Order of St. Michael and St. George (KCMG) in recognition of his long record of public service. Sir Edward died on 16 July 1879 and Lady Anne followed him to the family vault in the pretty St. Jude’s Cemetery, in February 1884. See M. E. Osborne, “Thomson, Sir Edward Deas (1800–1879),” Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/thomson-sir-edward-deas-2732/text3855, published first in hardcopy 1967, accessed online 21 May 2019; “Funeral of Sir Edward Deas Thomson,” Evening News (Sydney, NSW : 1869 – 1931), Saturday 19 July 1879, p. 4; “Funeral of Lady Deas Thomson,” The Daily Telegraph (Sydney, NSW : 1883 – 1930), Wednesday 6 February 1884, p. 1.

[70] Hazel King, Richard Bourke, (London and Melbourne: Oxford University Press, 1971), p. 248.

[71] See James Donnelly, The Great Irish Potato Famine, (Stroud, Gloucestershire: Sutton Publishing, 2002).

[72]Sir Richard Burke, K.C.B,” The Sydney Morning Herald (NSW : 1842 – 1954), Tuesday 20 November 1855, p. 4.

© Copyright 2019 Catie Gilchrist