On 6 December 1840 Julia Hickey, aged 23 arrived at Adelaide, South Australia, on the “Birman” which sailed from Greenock 23 August 1840. She was travelling with her sister Mary, 21, and brother Michael, 28, and Michael’s wife and children. On the passenger list Julia and Mary were described as farm servants from Castleconnel, County Tipperary, Ireland. Michael Hickey was a carpenter from Ennis, County Clare, Ireland and a cousin of a fellow passenger Catherine nee Hogan, a servant from Ennis, County Clare. Michael died on the voyage. His wife and children returned to Ireland.

Castleconnell and Ennis are just over 40 kilometers apart.

Travelling on the Birman was William Morris, aged 21, a painter and glazier from Limerick. On 10 February 1841 Julia Hickey and William Morris married in the Roman Catholic Chapel on West Terrace, Adelaide. Between 1841 and 1857 they had eight children:

  1. John 1841–1861
  2. William George 1843 – 1906
  3. James 1845–1918
  4. Celia Catherine 1848–1916
  5. Michael Christopher 1850–1897
  6. Julia Mary 1852–1881
  7. Ellen 1854–1856
  8. Gordon William 1857–1917

In December 1844 William Morris, who had previously been employed as a keeper in the Limerick District Asylum, was appointed Keeper for lunatics at the Adelaide Gaol. Twelve months later twelve lunatics were housed at the gaol. This was deemed unsatisfactory and a public asylum opened the next year in the East Parklands modified for the purpose. Nine lunatics were placed there under the care of the Colonial Surgeon, the Keeper William Morris, a second keeper, and the wives of the two keepers.

A much larger asylum opened in 1852. The new asylum held sixty patients and staff. This building was destroyed in 1938. The East Lodge however still survives. It had been home to the Morris family.

Adelaide Lunatic Asylum and Adelaide Botanic Garden (foreground), c.1860. State Library of South Australia photograph B2773.
The Lunatic Asylum in 1869. SLSA B5014.
East Lodge photographed in 1898. Retrieved from Flickr.

In the article South Australian Lunatics and Their Custodians, 1836–1846 by Marian Quartly published in 1966, Quartly wrote:

. . . the real control of the asylum fell to William Morris, the Head Keeper. Morris appears to have been a kind and honest man who did his best by his charges, but nevertheless Sheriff Newenham’s judgment of his capabilities was probably correct: Morris ” . . . tho a very proper person to superintend the care of lunatics as respects their safekeeping is not in my mind qualified by experience or habits to watch over the mental charges and graduation of insanity so frequent amongst this unfortunate class.” Morris’ “five or six years” of experience with lunatics prior to his Adelaide appointment was all in Ireland, where the emphasis still seems to have been on custody rather than cure. He could not have held a position of any authority in Ireland as he was practically illiterate.

Quartly, M. (1966), South Australian Lunatics and Their Custodians, 1836–1846. Australian Journal of Social Issues, 2: 13-31. https://doi.org/10.1002/j.1839-4655.1966.tb01210.x

On 13 January 1857 William Morris died aged 43 years. The death notice in the Adelaide Times read:

On Tuesday, the 13th January, Mr William Morris, for many years Head Keeper of the Lunatic Asylum, regretted by a large circle of friends and acquaintances

Julia Morris worked  as Matron of the Asylum from 1846 until her death in 1884. In turn she was succeeded by her daughter Celia Morris who was Matron for eight years. The Morris family thus worked in the Asylum for nearly fifty years.

MORRIS. —On the 24th May, at Botanic-road, after a short illness, Julia Morris, the beloved mother of Celia and M. C. Morris, aged 64 years.
For 40 years in the Government service.

Family Notices (1884, May 27). Evening Journal (Adelaide, SA : 1869 – 1912), p. 2 (SECOND EDITION). Retrieved from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article197795572

THE Friends of the late Mrs. JULIA MORRIS are respectfully informed that her REMAINS will be Removed from her late residence Botanic-road To-morrow (Sunday), the 25th inst., at 3 o’clock p.m., for Interment in the West-terrace Cemetery. S. MAYFIELD & SONS.

Advertising (1884, May 24). Evening Journal (Adelaide, SA : 1869 – 1912), p. 4. Retrieved from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article197795511

Miss Celia Morris to be matron of the Adelaide Lunatic Asylum, 6th class, vice Mrs. Julia Morris, deceased.

GOVERNMENT GAZETTE. (1884, June 6). The Express and Telegraph (Adelaide, SA : 1867 – 1922), p. 3 (HALF-PAST ONE O’CLOCK EDITION.). Retrieved from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article208277210

Julia’s brother-in-law Gordon Mainwaring kept a diary in 1851. He mentions visiting the asylum several times:

24 February 1851: Went down to the lunatic asylum with Mary and the children in Mr. Kerr’s dray.

25.—At the asylum all day; walked to the Arab Steed with William Morris. 

26.—Returned from the asylum in Mr. Kerr’s dray.

March 23.—Walked to the asylum with Mackie all well. 

June 21.—Went to town to get settled with Taylor and was disappointed; saw Morris in town. 

23.—Went down to the asylum and fetched home the children on a visit.

The Mainwarings were living at Pine Forest, now the suburb of Enfield; it was about 7 kilometers or an hour and a half’s walk to the Botanic Gardens and the Asylum.

Julia Morris nee Hickey was my 3rd great grand aunt, sister of my 3rd great grandmother Mary Mainwaring nee Hickey.

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