My husband Greg’s great grandfather was Ebenezer Henry Sullivan, born at Gheringhap near Geelong on 7 August 1863. Ebenezer’s father was William Sullivan, aged about 24 years, a Londoner. His mother was Matilda Sullivan nee Darby, age 18, born in New Zealand. The birth of Ebenezer was registered on 3 September 1863 by his grandmother Matilda Hughes of Gheringhap; there were no other children from the marriage at that time.

William Sullivan labourer and Matilda Frances Hughes (in fact Matilda Darby, for her stepfather was David Hughes) both of Gheringhap, had been married on 6 October 1862.

In 1861, two years previously, Matilda had given birth to a child, Eleazer surnamed Hughes, by a different father. The baby Eleazar was farmed out, cared for by a woman in the country—a ‘nurse’—for 5 shillings a week.

Six months after their marriage, a few months before Ebenezer Henry was born, Matilda was deserted by her new husband. About a year later, on 12 June 1865, Matilda gave birth to a third child, given the name Margaret Maria Sullivan. The father, she said, was William Sullivan, who had ‘visited’ her twice since their separation.

Matilda Sullivan worked at Geelong Hospital. Her two younger children were cared for by their grandmother.

On 20 November 1865 Margaret Maria Sullivan died, four months old. At the inquest, medical opinion was that the baby had starved to death, and the jury returned a verdict of manslaughter against the grandmother [Matilda Hughes], and the mother [Matilda Sullivan], as being an accessory to it.

In April 1866 Matilda Hughes and her daughter Matilda Sullivan were called upon to surrender to their bail, but they did not answer to their names. I have found no further trace of Matilda Sullivan née Darby.

On 28 May 1866 the Geelong Advertiser reported on the case of Mary Sullivan, an unmarried mother of three, who was charged with stealing. Mary was sentenced to 14 days imprisonment. A “poor old woman” who lived in the house with Mary was left in charge of these children and another child who had been abandoned by another woman named Sullivan. I do not know if this Mary Sullivan is connected to William.

On the 15th May 1866 there had been another report in the Geelong Advertiser of a child and a young woman called Sullivan:

The attention of the Bench was again called, yesterday, to the case of the young child left in the care of a woman named Sullivan, who now seeks to shift the responsibility she undertook to Mr Hughes, the stepfather of the mother. Mr Hughes appeared in the Court and refused the charge of the child, who, he said, had been placed collusively by the mother with the woman, with a foregone intent to abandon it. He had undertaken the care and education of an elder child to save his stepdaughter from shame; but her subsequent career had been of a nature to preclude any further favourable consideration of her conduct. She had been twice married, and her husband had left her, and was supposed to have gone to New Zealand, whence no tidings were heard of him, and she had recently left Geelong with some man with whom she had formed an intimacy, and had deserted her children, leaving the one in question with the woman Sullivan, who had been pre paid for its keep for a fortnight, at the end of which time it was planned that the child should be left with the stepfather, a scheme that was defeated by Constable Collins, who saw the woman depositing the child at the stepfather’s premises, and warned her of the consequences of the act. The Bench refused the application of the woman Sullivan, who avows that she will not keep the child any longer. A warrant will be issued for the apprehension of the mother, who, it will be remembered, was the parent of the infant upon, whom an inquest was held at Ashby some time ago.

On 11 June 1866 Henry Sullivan, whose parents had deserted him, was committed as a state ward to Geelong Orphanage. His birthdate was given as 1862 but in fact he had been born in 1863, so he was a little less three years old. He was blind in one eye; family stories have this the result of a magpie attack.

Geelong orphanage buildings photographed October 2022

On 23 June 1873 Henry Sullivan was recommitted for a further five years.

On 28 April 1876 Henry Sullivan was licensed out to Mr Jas M Jenkins, a market gardener in Moorabbin.

On 28 May 1878 Henry Sullivan was licensed out to Mr Wm George of 72 Brunswick St Fitzroy for one month at 4/- per week.

On 23 June 1878 Henry Sullivan was discharged as a state ward. He was just under 15 years old.

Henry continued to work as a gardener. He married Anne Morley on 17 February 1887 in Victoria. They had five children and 27 grandchildren. He died on 1 June 1943 in Victoria at the age of 79, and was buried in Cheltenham Cemetery.

Henry Sullivan about 1940 at his home “Navillus”, 7 Evelyn Street, East Bentleigh with his wife, a daughter-in-law, and a granddaughter, Elaine Sullivan, from the collection of a cousin and used with permission

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