Sunday, July 22, 2012


Ethel Page, a young white woman, was part of the Aboriginal community long before she met Jimmy Governor.
She spent her first eight years in the Kempsey district on the NSW North Coast where there was, and still is, a large Aboriginal population.
She may have met her future husband, Frank Brown, there.
The mother of Francis "Frank" Joseph Brown had died in 1883, aged 39, when he was 6.
His next eldest brother, John, was 9 and the one after him, Richard, 11.
Their father, Thomas Brown, was about 46.
They appear to have had relatives in the Kempsey area and Frank and his brothers may have been sent to stay with them.
When Ethel's family left the district in 1890, he would have been 13.
Ethel Page was born at Gladstone, a town in the area, on 4 February 1882.
At the time her parents were living at Summer Island on the west bank of the Macleay River.
When they married, on 30 April 1881, they were living on the other side of the river at Kinchela Creek.
Alternatively, Ethel and Frank may have met in Gulgong.
Frank Brown's father had grown up near Aruluen, another goldfield, so he may have gone to Gulgong in connection with gold.
Another possibility is that they met in the Wollongong district where Ethel and her parents appear to have moved seeking anonimity after Jimmy Governor was hanged.
Frank Joseph Brown renounced his Catholic faith when he married Ethel Governor in St Michael's Church of England at Wollongong on 23 November 1901.
As recently as 60 years ago, Catholics were not allowed to even attend weddings at churches other that Catholic.
Marrying outside the Catholic Church would have meant automatic excommunication.

Saturday, July 21, 2012


(Annie) Hannah Nicholson was born at 'Kiora' near Broulee in 1844.
'Kiora' was a farming property owned by John Hawdon who was granted the land on the north bank of the Moruya River in 1831.
He had arrived in the colony of New South Wales from England in 1828.
In 1839 he was one of two magistrates at the court established that year at Broulee.
The supply of convict labour to farmers stopped in 1840, and as a result, local white settlers began to employ more Aboriginal people, particularly as house servants.
When Hannah Nicholson married Thomas Golden/Goulding Brown in 1858 at the age of 14, her occupation was 'house servant' and her place of residence, Broulee.
Annie Brown died on 19 October 1883, aged 39, of inflammation of the lungs.
According to her husband, Thomas Brown, her father was Charles Nicholson, a sheep overseer.
Thomas did not know the name of Annie's mother.
At the time of Annie's death at Tomakin, north of Broulee, nine of her 11 children were living.
The youngest was Francis "Frank" Joseph Brown, aged 6.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012


The baptismal record for Thomas Golden/Goulding reveals he was born at Bourke, in the far west of New South Wales.
He was baptised as 'Thomas Brown' in the Roman Catholic rite at Araluen, a gold mining town near Braidwood, on 25 February 1855.
This took place three-and-a-half years before his marriage in the Roman Catholic Church at Braidwood, St Bede's, to Hannah (Annie) Nicholson.
Thomas's baptismal record says he was a labourer living at Braidwood at the time of his baptism, and that his father was Patrick Brown and his mother 'a native Black'.
His birthdate was given as 'about the year 1839'.
Other records suggest it was actually 1837.
The settlement of Bourke began in 1835 when the colonial surveyor, Thomas Mitchell, built a small stockade there called 'Fort Bourke' during his visit to the area.
The only way Thomas's father, Patrick Brown, a convict, could have been there was if he had been assigned to Mitchell's party, or to one of the earliest settlers in the area.
The word 'Bourke' may have been confused with the name of Patrick Brown's new partner, Catherine Rourke.

Thursday, July 12, 2012


Yesterday I found a family tree on a Facebook page called 'Donovan Mob'.
This revealed that Ethel and Frank Brown are related by marriage to the current day well known Aboriginal Foley, Dixon and Donovan families.
One of Frank's older brothers, Patrick (named after his Irish grandfather), married Elizabeth Marshall, housemaid, on 3-8-1878 at Broulee on the NSW South Coast under Roman Catholic rites.
Elizabeth Marshall was a granddaughter of John Marshall and Aboriginal woman Bridget (Biddy) Donovan.
Patrick Brown was the first child of Thomas Goulding/Golden Brown and Hanna (Annie) Nicholson.
He was born at Reidsdale in the Braidwood district on 17-6-1859 and was 18 years older than his youngest brother, Francis (Frank) who married Ethel Governor.
After having three children at Broulee, Patrick and Elizabeth headed north, having two more children at Nambucca Heads, another at Macksville and three at Kempsey.
The first at Kempsey was in 1898.
Their last child, born 1904, was named 'Ethel', possibly after Patrick's brother's Frank's wife, Ethel (nee Governor nee Page).
The girl died two years later.
Most of the research for this Donovan family tree has been done by Cathy Dunn, a NSW South Coast professional genealogist.
Here is the link DONOVAN MOB

Wednesday, July 11, 2012


The Parson(s) family, associated with Ethel Governor, appears to be an old NSW South Coast Aboriginal family.
When Ethel married Frank Brown at the South Coast town of Wollongong in 1901, one of the witnesses was Henry Parsons.
Then Ethel's first daughter, Thelma Violet, married a George Parson in 1918 at the South Coast town of Moruya.
She married under the name 'Violet Governor', not Violet Brown.
The Parsons couple had four children, Cyril, Ethel, Robert and Ruth.
A report I found on the web about the significance of the Biamanga & Gulaga mountains of the NSW South Coast, published by the Aboriginal Cultural Association and others,claims that an Englishman, Samuel Parsons had a son Daniel with a Wandanian woman called Sally.
He may have been the forebear of the Parsons associated with Frank and Ethel Brown.
The report also contains a photo of a Cronjy Parsons ('Sonnoboy') as a member of The Leaf Band at Lake Wallaga in 1922.
In 1873, a Henry Parsons married Dorcas Stumbles at Wollongong.
In 1877, they had a child, Henry M Parsons.
Either may have been the witness of Frank Brown b.1878 at his wedding to Ethel Governor in 1901.
However, it seems it may have been the younger Henry who named his first child, a girl born in 1902, Ethel.


Another of Ethel's brothers, Thomas 'David' Givney Page, shared a close friendship with Aboriginal people.
David Page
A descendent of his who has given me permission to use his photo on my blog tells me Aboriginal people taught him how to divine water.
David Page used to spend a lot of time in the bush prospecting for gold so this was a very handy skill for him to have.

He married a lady of Irish descent from Milton on the NSW South Coast, moved to Sydney where he lived near Ethel and their mother on the northern beaches while working in a garage, then back to the South Coast near Nowra.


Ethel was not the only member of her family to have an Aboriginal marriage partner.
Her younger brother, William (Willy) Page, married an Aboriginal woman, Elizabeth Jane Cooley.
In 1922, Willy, a labourer, and Elizabeth, domestic duties, were living at Ulladulla while his sister, Ethel and her husband, Frank Brown, labourer, were living at Milton.
Both Milton and Ulladulla are on the NSW South Coast.
[Source: 1922 Electoral Roll Milton Ulladulla Districts]
In January 1918, a white woman carried out to sea by a rip at Seven Mile Beach (on NSW South Coast) was saved by a local Aboriginal man, [Thomas] Coolie.
The local newspaper, the Illawarra Mercury, reported that he had come from an Aboriginal camp, over half a mile away.
He went out beyond the surf with a rope to rescue the woman in waters known to be infested with sharks.
It was intended to strongly recommend him for the Royal Humane Society's medal.
The Parents' and Citizens' Association was also taking steps to have him generously rewarded.
Mrs Hinton, the woman whose life he saved, came from the inland town of Dubbo.
[Source: Study of South Coast Aboriginals by Michael Organ, University of Wollongong, 1993.]
The word 'coolie' was used as a label for indentured workers from India brought to New South Wales, and also for Chinese working on the goldfields.
People of the colony of New South Wales, just before it became one of a federation of states to form the country of Australia at the turn of the 20th century, were scandalised by the marriage of a white woman to a black man.
Jimmy Governor's three-month's rampage across the central and northern part of the state brought this perceived social abberation to the public's attention and approbation.
Yet as far as Ethel was concerned, marrying a part-Aboriginal man had been an acceptable thing for her to do.
He was good-looking, a hard worker, keen on her in preference to other girls and wanted to marry her.
What could be 'wrong' about that?


In an interview for the Coastal Custodians newsletter of February 2005, Aunty Vic Carriage, Ethel Governor's only living child, said that the Page family lived next door to the Governors [on the outskirts of Gulgong in 1898].
She said that Jimmy hung around a lot and so, to protect the family, 'Julia [Ethel's mother] made my mother [Ethel Brown nee Governor nee Page] marry Jimmy Governor'.
When Jimmy Governor arrived at the O'Brien home intent on murdering the man of the house, Mick O'Brien, he instead found his persecutor's pregnant wife with her 15-month-old son.
Coincidentally the child was the same age as Ethel's boy.
Was the rage he inflicted on this mother and child really subconsciously meant for Ethel and her son?


The other name Ethel chose for her first child, 'Louis', also presented me as a family historian with some food for thought.
I discovered that Ethel was very particular about the names she gave her children.
When her daughter Ruth Victoria Brown was born, her mother, Julia Page, wanted to call her granddaughter, 'Queen Victoria', after the former ruling British monarch, but the authorities would not allow it.
So she settled for Ruth Victoria Queen Brown instead.
[Source: Coastal Custodians, Feb 2005 see  via link in right margin of  this blog]
It appears to me that Ethel seemed to think she had royal heritage.
'Louis' is the name of a long list of French kings and some lived at the Palace of Versailles which is near the town of Giverny (also spelt 'Givney').
Ethel's mother's mother's maiden name was Givney.
Was there a family French royal connection?
Ethel named her first child with Frank Brown after their marriage 'Robert Joseph Golden' Brown.
Was it just a coincidence that she had given her first son the name 'Golding' which could be a misspelling of 'Goulding'?
Or was Frank Brown the father of her first child, and not Jimmy Governor?


Thomas G Brown was born in Bourke c.1839 and baptised a Roman Catholic at Araluen near Braidwood in 1855.
His father, Patrick Brown, appears to have been Irish, or born in the colony of Irish descent, and his mother was an Aboriginal mother.
In 1858, when he was 19, he married Hannah (Annie) Nicholson, under the Roman Catholic rite at Braidwood.
They had 11 children, six of whom were living at the time of their father's death: Patrick (b.1860), Charles (b. 1862), Thomas (b.1865), Richard (b.1873), John (b. 1875), and Frank (b.1878).
The two deceased girls were Myrtle and Margaret.
When the couple married, Thomas was living at Currawang on the Clyde River at Bateman's Bay and and Annie at Broulee.
He was a servant and she a house servant.  
The name Ethel Governor gave her first child, Sydney Golding Louis Governor, has always struck me as 'odd'.
In those days, first sons were usually named after their father, in this case, 'James'.
'Louis' appears to be a French family connection.
But where did his middle name 'Golding' come from?
In a post I made last February, I observed that this was the middle name of the father of Francis (Frank) Brown, Ethel's second Aboriginal husband.
According to transcripts of Thomas Brown's marriage and death certificates, his middle name was spelt 'Goulding' or 'Golden'.
These were the names of a South Coast Aboriginal leader, Budd Billy II (c.1815-1905), who was given a breastplate by the whites denoting him as 'King of Jervis Bay'.
He was also known as 'Jimmy Goulding' and 'King Golden' and his wife Mary (c.1822-1928) as 'Queen Golden', Mary Goulding, Mary Golden and Queen Mary.
[Source: Lady Denman Heritage Complex website]
If Thomas Golden/Goulding Brown was connected with this Aboriginal couple, then Ethel married into Aboriginal royalty when she married his youngest son, Frank in 1901.
Jimmy drowned his sorrows by killing people for a while, but by early September, six weeks after last seeing Ethel, he wrote her a letter.

To the police of NSW
My dear Ethel.
You did not now suppose you was free, dear, when you was with me; you never think that you was at home. I have been good to you, and often say the Lord take me away. I hope he got you. You know you are going fast, dear. I suppose you glad, but I am not. I feel sorry for you, dear Ethel...

He asked for her to come and spend some time with him before he gave himself up to the police, but she did not go.
Either she feared for her life, possibly knowing that under tribal law Jimmy could kill his deserting wife, or the police would not let her.
The police would want to protect their chief witness and would not want to do a deal with an outlaw with a price on his head.
These days when a wife tells her husband she is planning to leave him, the man sometimes becomes deranged with grief and anger, and wounded pride, and kills their children.
But Jimmy Governor killed his employers' wife and children instead.
He blamed them for the break-up of his brief marriage of only 19 months, just over a year and a half.
After the murders of four members of the Mawbey family, Jimmy wanted to kill his own wife and her child, but was prevented by one of  his older kinsmen who was with him.
The Aboriginal culture was based on 'honour and shame' Jimmy had been shamed and his honour shattered in the eyes of other people by his wife leaving him.
He was broken hearted.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

On a cold winter's evening in July 1900, a young white woman, Mrs James Governor, gave her part Aboriginal husband, Jimmy, some bad news.
She was leaving him.
It was dinner time and they had no food to eat.
All their rations freely given to them by their employer, farming husband and wife, John and Sarah Mawbey, had been exhausted.
This was because Jimmy had invited some male relatives and a friend to stay with him, and they had eaten some two-thirds of the rations meant for two adults and a small child.
Jimmy had not only used up all the rations, he was 15 shillings in debt for those he had been given generously in advance by the Mawbeys.
Ethel was fed up with living in a humpy by a creek, an isolated existence with no family or friends for support.
After she had married Jimmy in December 1898, she had moved into his father's house next door to that of her parents at Wyaldra Creek on the outskirts of Gulgong.
She had apparently not anticipated having to 'camp out' with her husband, even though she knew he was an itinerant farm worker.
Most of all she was fed up with Jimmy's refusal to stand up to the Mawbey women and the female school teacher about their salacious and malicious comments about her sexual relationship with a black man.
She wanted him to defend her honour, to teach them some respect.
There were several valid reasons Jimmy had found this hard to do.
Ethel had decided she wanted a better life.
She was starting to put on airs and graces, even using the same expressions as the school teacher with German parents, like 'pooh' to dismiss what he said to her.
And Mrs Mawbey had advised her that if she wanted a better life for herself and her 15-month-old son, she would have to leave Jimmy.
Jimmy later told of the heated discussion he had with Ethel at their camp that evening, before the two of them left to murder the Mawbeys.
My wife and I had a word or two about cooking and something or another about the camp.
With that I said, 'I suppose I am in this world alone with no one to care for me. I thought you was my wife.'
She said, 'Go to the devil.'
Everything I said to her she said, 'Pooh, that's nothing! Pooh, that's nothing!'
With that me and Underwood cleared out.
I thought I might as well die, so the Mawbey murders were committed.
A couple of days earlier, Jimmy had broken all the crockery in the camp because he was planning to leave.
This meant there would be nothing heavy to carry by people travelling on foot.
But it could also have symbolised the breakdown of Jimmy and Ethel's domestic arrangements, the end of their marriage.