Mary Corcoran

Evidence Type: Newspaper Report
17 October 1843


POLICE OFFICE, Saturday, 7th October, 1843. — Before Dr. ANDERSON and JOHN BLAXLAND, Esq., J. P.

THOMAS BELL, MRS. BELL, JOHN HAMILTON, and MARY CORCORAN, being called on their recognizances, appeared before the Court.

On opening the case, the Criminal Crown Solicitor enquired of the Counsel for the defence, whether he was prepared to suggest any plan by which the presence of Mrs. BELL could be avoided. Mr. NICHOLS stated, that as this was a Criminal prosecution, the investigation must be taken in the presence of all arraigned. Before opening the proceedings he (Mr. N.) wished to know on which charge the investigation was to proceed, there being two charges, viz., embezzlement and conspiracy; and he apprehended the parties could not be called upon to defend themselves from a double attack.

The Crown Prosecutor stated, that in the present stage of the proceeding, it was competent for him to enquire into both charges, and that at the conclusion of the evidence he should elect on which charge to found further proceedings; he then prayed the Bench, that MARY CORCORAN be discharged, and be called as witness for the prosecution.

MARY CORCORAN being duly sworn deposed: came to this colony as a prisoner of the Crown: was now free: first held an office in the Female Factory at the time Mr. BELL was there the first time; was then acting as overseer of the third class, it might be about five years ago; Mr. BELL at first held all offices; he was acting in the same capacity as the Matron; he might have been the storekeeper, but Mr. SNAPE was acting in that capacity at that time; Mr. BELL acted as storekeeper the second time he came to the Factory; Mr. BELL and wife and family were all living at the Factory; there were four children; witness was appointed Sub-Matron, and received pay as such; does not recollect the date of appointment, the books would tell; in her capacity of Sub-Matron did everything that was required of her; received the women, and took account of those going out; knew defendant HAMILTON; had seen him once or twice at the Factory; knew he was agent for the contractor; the rations were sent from contractor’s to the Factory; witness received them sometimes and sometimes Mr. BELL; the rations were sent bang into the Factory; they were not weighed until about six months ago, when the row took place at the Factory; recollects noticing the number of children in the Factory; could tell the number on reference to a book kept by her; on 14th September, 1841, according to book, noticed the number of children; being in the office, saw THE GOVERNMENT GAZETTE, thought the number of children mentioned in the “State of the Factory” did not correspond with the number actually in the Factory; mustered the children on the following day, and immediately communicated with Mr. BELL; told him she had numbered the children and they were wrong. Mr. BELL desired witness to tell JOHNSON, the clerk, that it was her (witness) mistake and to get it rectified, and to state that she (witness) was afraid of Mr. BELL; told Mr. BELL there was a great many over, and the clerk and he calculated the number; witness told Mr. BELL she would not say it was her mistake, but would bring JOHNSON, the clerk, accordingly brought him; there might have been 70 or 80 less in the Factory than appeared in the “Gazette”; on the 13th, the number quoted was 403; saw Mr. BELL was confused and requested him to tell the Governor then and there; he said he would get JOHNSON to settle it and to take them off by degrees, which was done; witness said it would be better to mention it to the Governor (thinking it was a mistake) than to continue a wrong return after it came to his knowledge, as that would appear worse. Major COTTON, then Visiting Magistrate, came in at the time, and a conversation took place between Mr. BELL and him; witness left them speaking; had no communication with Major COTTON about the Factory business.

The Crown Prosecutor advised Mrs. CORCORAN to be cautious in giving her answers.

Examination resumed—Should not think it was her business to muster the women; Witness sometimes mustered them, and sometimes they were mustered by Mr. BELL; when witness mustered them, made a docket of the number, and gave it into the office, that the number might be corrected there; should know her own hand-writing; the figure of the dockets produced, from 30th August, 1841, to 8th October, 1841, appear to be witness’ hand-writing, with the exception of the one dated 15th September, 1841, the body of which was written by her, but not the figures representing the number of children; the dockets produced are forty in number; all those, up to the 15th September, were filled in by witness; from the 15th to the 23rd September, the dockets, as to the children, were left blank by her; on the 24th, witness began again to enter the number of the children on the dockets, and continued doing so until the 8th October; on looking more closely, witness was doubtful whether the figures representing the number of children on the dockets of 5th, 7th, and 8th October, were in her hand-writing: recollects making a complaint on the 7th or 8th August, about soap; this was previous to the investigation; had made frequent complaints to Mr. ELIOTT, during the time of his being the Visiting Magistrate at the Factory; made a statement, with charged annexed, to the Board of Enquiry, consisting of Captain M’LEAN, Commissary MILLER, and Dr. HARNETT. [Statement produced, marked A.] The statement was drawn up by Mr. CARRINGTON, from memoranda furnished by witness, and now in her possession.

Mr. NICHOLS objected to the statement being put in, on the ground that, not being on oath, it could not be received as evidence.

The Criminal Crown Solicitor admitted that at present it was not evidence.

Mrs. CORCORAN re-examined—Was in the habit of issuing the rations from the store, to one of the monitors, for distribution; never distributed more than the proper allowance for the children. The bread used to be received into the store by so many hundred loaves, either of white or brown; used to give a docket for it; a receipt would be given for the number of loaves by the party receiving them into the store; Mr. BELL would make out a memorandum of the number of loaves required for each class, and witness would count them out; if, for instance, there were 100 women, they would get 50 loaves; it was not weighed to them, but counted, for most part by witness, but if absent or engaged, Mr. BELL would deliver them. The milk was delivered to the Factory in cans, and taken in either by witness or a monitor; the most witness recollects receiving was from 272 to 280 pints at a time; the milk was for the use of those in the hospital and the children. Witness had a book in which she kept an account of what starch, blue, and soap was issued, also, one in which she kept an account of the milk; also, a sheet of paper, headed by Mr. BELL, in which she entered what tea and sugar was received, from which Mr. BELL gathered his information at the end of the month; this relates to the provision store; the papers were kept in the office opposite Mr. BELL’s, and the book in the provision store; witness found the book in the provision store, with that position in which the entries had been made torn out; this was since the “row” at the Factory by the women; the papers were given by witness to Mr. BELL, at his request, as he stated that he could not make up his accounts without them. Mrs. BELL told witness, previous to the investigation, to say that she gave out the extra bread, and that if she did not, herself and children would be destroyed; witness said she could not say that; Mr. and Miss BELL were present. On their first coming to the Factory, Mr. and Mrs. BELL seemed to live in humble circumstances, but afterwards they lived in a far superior style.

By the Bench—The rations used to come in the afternoon for the next day; Mr. BELL gave a receipt for them; witness sometimes gave a ticket for the bread; at times two days’ rations would come at once; the meat and milk came daily; Mr. BELL gave the orders for meat and milk, witness had nothing to do with them; if Mr. BELL was going to Sydney, he would instruct witness to give orders for such little things as were required during his absence, such as candles, &c.

By the Criminal Crown Solicitor—The rations were not issued for the extra number of children which appeared in the GAZETTE, only for the number actually in the Factory; swears positively as to the bread and milk, as they came through her hands; could not say for the other rations; witness is aware of Mr. HAMILTON having some communication, either as contractor, or agent for the contractor, with the Factory, ever since she had been there; is satisfied he has been so acting for the last three or four years; he was so acting at the time the error was discovered in the number of children.

Cross-examined by Mr. NICHOLS—Knew Mr. HAMILTON was the agent, because, whenever there was anything relative to the rations, he came about it; understood so from Mr. HAMILTON himself; the key of the provision store was kept hanging on a nail in Mr. BELL’s office, for his and witness’ use; had access to the store whenever it was her business; counted the women every night, and sent down the docket for Mr. BELL to make out the ration list; told the Governor about the error in the children; cannot recollect the time, having been too much upset lately. Mr. CARRINGTON drew up the charge, gave him £5 for doing it; considered he was well paid; Mr. ELIOT did not give directions as to employing Mr. CARRINGTON; Mr. C. sent the charge to Mr. ELIOTT; he would not give them to witness, who never saw them until they were exhibited before the board. The dockets were sent down by witness to the Office, that they might know how many to draw rations for; took no particular notices of the number of the children until witness discovered the error in the GAZETTE; afterwards was more particular and mustered them every month; swears solemnly that Mrs. BELL made the remark about her family being ruined if the mistake was made known; has a good feeling towards Mr. BELL and his family at this time; was obliged to come here to protect herself, her conscience forced her; nobody asked her to come forward; had not committed any robbery; was not told by any one that she would be admitted as Queen’s evidence, expected she should be.

JOHN JOHNSON, being sworn deposed: kept the books at the Female Factory, Parramatta, from June 1839, till October, 1842. It was his duty to keep the diary (produced) from June, 1841, till March, 1842: the book contains an entry of names of the women received and discharged each day, also the round number of children in the Factory; the numbers are entered from a docket received every day from one of the officers of the Factory; recognises dockets produced; there are 40 in number, the dates run from 30th August, 1841, to 8th October, 1841, inclusive; the diary was kept for the purpose of shewing the strength of the Factory, and from it the monthly returns were made, or from the dockets into the ration book and then into the diary; (book produced purports to be the ration book from October, 1836): witness commenced keeping it 1st July, 1839, and continued to do so until October, 1842; the ration book was kept for the purpose of furnishing to the Commissariat the returns for rations according to monthly returns; it ought to correspond with the diary. Referring to entry 14th September, 1841, in the diary, there appears 350 children; on looking at the docket of that date, the number of children is 354; there appears an erasure of September 13; and underwritten September 14; on reference to the diary, perceives an erasure, it was made by witness; it might have been made a few weeks after that date, probably towards the end of the month; the erasure was made in consequence of a mistake that had been said to be made by Mrs. CORCORAN, in counting the children; a day or two after witness became aware of the mistake, Mr. BELL mentioned the circumstance to him, and asked what he thought of it; witness said it was a strange thing such a number should be mistaken; the number might be about 50; Mr. BELL seemed a little annoyed at it, and said the better way would be to have it rectified in the books; thinks Mr. BELL first mentioned to him about the mistake; Mr. BELL said the extra number should be taken off from the first of the month, but not suddenly; he assigned no particular reason for this mode of rectifying it; he said he wished they had been taken off the month of August, but the returns had been sent in to the Commissariat; the decrease would by that means have appeared more gradual; witness had made up the monthly return to the 13th or 14th September; was in the habit of entering it up every day, according to form produced, marked No. 7; had to destroy the return that was thus far finished, by Mr. BELL’s order; prepared the fresh return from the diary, which witness had previously altered back to the 1st September; the number of children in the dockets was given to witness by Mrs. CORCORAN, but the number was omitted by her for about a week, and left blank, from the 16th to the 23rd September; received the docket sometimes from Mr. BELL; the number of children mentioned in the docket of 15th September is not in Mrs. CORCORAN’s hand-writing; the number of children during the blanks was given to witness, sometimes verbally, either by Mrs. CORCORAN, or Mr. BELL; on looking at the dockets from 1st to 14th September, the number of children appears to be entered in the hand-writing of Mrs. CORCORAN, and the total in pencil by witness; the number of children on the 15th September appears to be in witness’ handwriting; after the 15th, to the 22nd, are blank; 23, 24, and 25, in Mrs. CORCORAN’s; 26, blank; 27 and 28, Mrs. CORCORAN’s; 29, blank; 30, Mrs. CORCORAN’s; October 1, witness; 2, Mrs. C’s. On reference to Diary 1, Sept. 1841, there is an erasure, and the number 398 filled in; the previous number (31st August) is 400; the erasures seem to be from 1st September, 1841, to 25th September 1841, when the entry of children is 324; from 400 (31st August) it decreased 329 (30th September); October 6th, 316, 7th 317, 8th 318, 9th, 317, 10th 316, 11th 315, 12th and 13th 316, 14th 318, 15th 317, 16th 316, 17th and 18th 317, 19th 316, 20th, 21st, 22nd, 23rd, 315, 24th and 25th 314, 26th 310, 27th 311, 28th to 31st 300. From 1st September to 6th October, the number of women did not materially vary, being 890 (1st September), 891 (6th October). On the 1st November the number of children was 309; witness thinks the erasures were all made in one day, about the latter end of September it might be the 25th; the number of children in the docket of 14th September, 1841, is 354, and on 15th 397. In the diary, 15th September, the number if children is 346; the number in the corners of the docket were principally totalled by witness to see if they correspond with the Diary, (Book produced purporting to be the Diary for 1840). On the 3rd August, 1840, the number of children was 284; going through the book slowly witness finds the number of children gradually increasing to 309, 310, 311, 316, 348, 352, and so on till 3rd October, 1840, when it was 364, and still further increased until 31st August, 1841, when it was 400. On the 3rd August, 1840, the number of women was 753, and on the 23rd November, 789, shewing a gradual increase. On the day on which the error was discovered, Mr. BELL had left the Factory about 11 o’clock, with the expressed intention of going to the races, he, however, returned between 1 and 2 o’clock; the rations were received into the Factory sometimes, though rarely, by Mr. BELL; they were placed in the stores; at the end of the month Mr. BELL and Mrs. CORCORAN made up a list from the delivery notes kept at the store; on the 30th September, 1841, witness made up the monthly return from the Diary according to the alteration; Mr. BELL always signed the monthly returns.

By the Bench—On the 31st August, 1841, the number of children in the Diary is 400; on the 25th September, the number is 323; on the 31st August, 1841, the number of women is 889; on the 25th September, 900—showing an increase of 11 women and a decrease of 77 children.

By the Criminal Crown Solicitor—Mr. BELL was in the habit of giving directions for the supplies; understood that the bread came from Mr. HAMILTON’s, the meat from Mr. PEISLEY’s or Mr. NEW’s; often saw Mr HAMILTON with Mr BELL at the Factory; he appeared to be friendly with him; he had no communications relative to the contract; Mr. HAMILTON would sometimes send, and at other times bring the blank returns to the Factory; witness had sometimes sent them to him under cover, and he has occasionally received them in the office; it was seldom Mr. HAMILTON did come for the returns; recollects his coming once or twice; Mr. BELL was not present at the time.

Cross-examined by Mr. NICHOLS: Mr HAMILTON was a casual visitor at the Factory, perhaps once a month; he has taken the returns once or twice from witness; when Mrs. CORCORAN discovered the error in the children, she desired witness not to mention it to Mr. BELL, stating it was her own mistake; Mr. BELL appeared annoyed by the error and desired witness to rectify.

By the Criminal Crown Solicitor: Mr. HAMILTON came once or twice at the end of the month when the returns were made out; witness has seen him go into Mr. BELL’s office occasionally; he used also to visit his family; he might have been there about 30 times during all the time witness was at the Factory; Mr. BELL seldom went into Parramatta; he was in the habit of going out to drive with his family in an afternoon; the rations generally came in about 4 o’clock in the afternoon; witness did not make the requisitions for the supplies; there were other clerks in the Factory; there was one named MADDEN in 1841; he was engaged in assisting CAMERON in keeping the account of the washing and the needlework; witness’ duty was to keep the records and requisitions for clothing, 7c.; Mrs. CORCORAN was in the habit of telling the man who brought the rations the number of loaves and quantity of meal required for the following day; Mr. BELL rarely, if ever sent for the rations; Mrs. CORCORAN used to give the order; if Mr. BELL did receive them he would tell the man what was required for the following day; Mrs. CORCORAN seemed to have the management of the store.

By the Bench—Mrs. CORCORAN generally made out requisitions; it was the storekeeper’s duty.

By the Criminal Crown Solicitor—There was no regular requisition, merely the number of loaves, &c., required; sometimes they were ordered verbally, sometimes by a docket; witness could not state who gave the requisition for the milk; either Mr. BELL or Mrs. CORCORAN would speak to the man about the quantity and quality of the milk; witness has known instances of complaints about the rations; Mr. HAMILTON has been there on such occasions; was not present at any conversation; does not remember Mr. HAMILTON coming to the Factory in the month of September; there was a Board held about the quality of the rations once, when Mr. HAMILTON appeared on behalf of the contractors.

ALEXANDER CAMERON, being sworn, states that he has been Clerk at the Female Factory since June, 1840; recollects Mr. BELL going to the Races in September, 1841; he returned in about three quarters of an hour; he went to the office; saw Mrs. CORCORAN and JOHNSON, the Clerk, with him in the office; on the evening of that day, heard about the mistake of children, from JOHNSON; saw the books in the office; saw some erasures being made in the diary, by JOHNSON; heard nothing pass between Mr. BELL and JOHNSON relative to erasure: Mr. BELL never spoke to witness on the subject; it was about the middle of September, witness saw JOHNSON making the erasures; the rations, to the best of witness’ belief, were ordered by Mr. BELL, verbally or by memoranda; the number of rations requisite would be ascertained from the docket furnished by Mrs. CORCORAN every evening; understood that Mr. BELL mustered the inmates of the Factory in the morning, with a view to check the previous return of Mrs. CORCORAN; had no access to the stores; the rations were received either by Mr. BELL or by Mrs. CORCORAN; the latter almost invariably supplied the rations from the stores to the prisoners; recollects complaints being made as to the quality of the rations; could not say anything about the quantity of rations that came into the Factory.

Cross-examined by Mr. NICHOLS—Mr. BELL mustered the women, Mrs. CORCORAN professed to muster the children.

By the Criminal Crown Solicitor—Has seen Mr. HAMILTON two or three times during all the time he, witness, has been at the Factory.

By the Bench—Witness’ duty was Clerk of the washing and needlework; had nothing whatever to do with the rations.

THOMAS O’NEALE on oath states—Resides in Parramatta; he is a milkman; has supplied milk at the Female Factory for the last five years; the largest quantity of milk ever supplied has been from 200 to 280 pints a day; he could not say what quantity his servants might have supplied when he was absent; when at home always supplied it himself; has been for four or six months at his farm near Bathurst during the last two years; when first got the contract always supplied it himself going every day; almost daily until 1842 witness was in the habit of going to the Factory; thinks it was the last two years he supplied the 280 pints; kept no books; could say that up to 1842 did not supply more than 280 pints; was paid by Mr. HAMILTON monthly, in cash or checks; does not think Mr. HAMILTON was paid for more than 280 pints; should recollect if he did; Mr. HAMILTON has paid witness for three or four years out of the time he has supplied the Factory with milk.

Cross-examined by Mr. NICHOLS—Mr. HAMILTON paid witness in cash for the milk, and he gave him the water into the bargain; in dry seasons when the cows did not yield enough, made the deficiency good with water; when first witness took the contract, Mr. RUTLEDGE had it; the second year being a dry season, and milk running short, a substitute was allowed; does not think it was in 1841 that there was a substitute.

At the instance of the Criminal Court Solicitor, who stated that he was not satisfied at this stage of the proceeding, that he should be able to establish a sufficient case against Mrs. BELL to make her a party to the information, she was discharged.

JANE EDGE, prisoner of the Crown, having charge of the orphan children in the school of the Female Factory, being sworn deposed—That she drew the rations for the children from Mrs. CORCORAN; knew how many children there were under her charge; they were mustered once a month during the last two years; three years ago last month they had the largest number, which she thinks was 111; these were what were called the “large children,” and some few of them three or four years old, since that period there have been from 80 to 100; the children had their allowance, but not more, unless Mrs. CORCORAN of her own goodness gave them some “plush,” such as fruit, meat, or bread, from her own table, but they never had more than their rations drawn; Mrs. CORCORAN was always very kind to the children; she never supplied witness with any thing beyond her allowance.

WILLIAM PEISLEY being sworn—States that he is a butcher, in Parramatta; supplied meat to the Factory during the years 1842-3; thinks he supplied the contract in 1841; got the contract from HUGHES and HOSKING; Mr. HOSKING made the agreement with him; was paid by HOSKING, either by a cheque on the back, or a bill; any way he could get it. [On stating that he could refresh his memory from his books at to date, the Court adjourned for ten minutes, to allow witness to procure them.] On his return, witness produced a book containing an account of the contract for 1842-3; the account was kept partly by a man named KIPLING, since dead, and partly by witness’ sister; the book of 1841 is mislaid; could not state when he saw it; Mr. HEXLEY kept the book produced; he has kept witness’ books for some time; witness has had no communication with any person about his evidence in this case; no one has spoken to him about the evidence in this case; several persons have spoken to witness since he left the Court; Mr. HUGH TAYLOR for one; no one else; if witness had said several persons, he had made a mistake; Mr. H. TAYLOR told witness not to produce his book, he said it might implicate him, (witness); but he knew better, no one could implicate him; Mr. TAYLOR said he was a good if he produced any book at all; witness did not speak of the book for 1841; knew he had not the book for 1841; there is a mistake in the book being headed 1841 instead of 1842; the Chief Constable spoke to him (witness) about the book a month ago; no communication was made to him (witness) about the book, either by Mr. HAMILTON or Mr. BELL; never had any dealings with Mr. HAMILTON about the account, further than his looking over it; he (Mr. HAMILTON) would mark it if it was correct, and witness would get the money for it from HUGHES and HOSKING; witness furnished the accounts to Mr. HAMILTON, and he forwarded them to HUGHES and HOSKING, and corrected them if they were wrong; witness believes Mr. HAMILTON was agent for HUGHES and HOSKING; always went to HAMILTON about the account; without reference to the book of 1841, witness could not tell the quantities supplied by him.

Cross-examined by Mr. NICHOLS—Witness is frequently away from home; seldom saw what meat was weighed out for the contract for the Factory; Mr. ELIOTT asked him (witness) about the books.

The Court adjourned until Monday morning, at eleven o’clock, to which time the recognizances of the defendants were enlarged.

(For conclusion, see other side.)


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