Tuesday, 25 June 2013

Unbecoming liberties - Trove Tuesday

In the early 1800s one of the main forms of entertainment was reading the newspapers which were often filled with scandalous and shocking articles. These were sensational in the fact that they were true and were often reported verbatim from the trials. From Trove the following the report was located about Catherine Connor who lived near Windsor and had originally charged William Connolly, a servant of her husband John, of rape. Following investigation into the allegations by the Windsor Police Bench, Catherine was charged with perjury. Catherine was “indicted for wilful and corrupt perjury, committed before the Bench of Magistrates at Windsor, on the investigation of a charge of rape…against one John Connolly.” The case was held at Sydney’s Supreme Court before Justice Stephen on 22 November 1826.  The story continues from the Sydney Gazette 25 November 1826 p. 3.  

It appeared in evidence, that a man named Connolly, was government servant to the husband of the prisoner, and that he (the husband), for a considerable time, suspected an improper intercourse between her and the man Connolly. On a particular day, however, Connolly obtained from his master a pass to proceed to Parramatta, and shortly after his departure the prisoner also left her home, which circumstance arousing the suspicions of her husband, he proceeded after the parties, and detected them together in the bush, at some distance on the Windsor Road. The prisoner, on seeing her husband approach, in order to screen herself, raised an outcry that Connolly had forced her off the road, and had committed a rape on her person, and on this charge he was subsequently brought before the Bench at Windsor. The prisoner there swore positively that Connolly not only forced her against her will on the occasion, but also that she never, at any other time had met him by appointment, nor allowed him to take any liberties whatever with her. A number of witnesses, however, were examined, who positively swore to the most disgraceful scenes having taken place, for months before between the parties, in consequence of which the Magistrates thought proper to dismiss the charge against Connolly, and to indict the prisoner for perjury. The trial lasted for six hours, during which a series of appointments between the prisoner and Connolly were unequivocally established by several witnesses, a number of whom also deposed to having seen them in situations which left no doubt whatever of a criminal intercourse having subsisted tor a length of time previous to the investigation before the Magistrates. 

The Australian 25 November 1826, p. 3 has a slightly different version from the above, with William Connolly’s revealing account:

Catherine Connor was sentenced to transportation for three years on the 28 December 1826 according to the Sydney Gazette, 30 December 1826, p. 3. 


  1. What a hussy! Where was she transported to?

  2. Possibly sent to the Female Factory.