Ellen Cafferty, ex Inchinnan
Ellen Cafferty was 18 years old when she arrived in Sydney on board the Inchinnan. She was from Ballina, her parents were James and Cecilia, and her mother was still living. The Famine Orphan Girl Database records that Ellen was employed in Parramatta for four years at £8 a year. Newspaper records reveal that she was employed by Mr Robert Hilton Shackles, a merchant of 224 Church Street in Parramatta, who was also the Superintendent of the Parramatta Volunteer Fire Brigade.
Ellen Cafferty's refusal to work and go back to her service "for any consideration" resulted in her detention in "the lock-up", drawing comment from the Sydney Morning Herald (1 March 1850). Using her case as an example of the Irish orphan girls in general, the paper noted that Ellen Cafferty "is a girl in a situation where regular hours are kept, good food, and good wages".
The newspaper complained of the amount of wages that are demanded, which are double that of what "good housemaids" are paid in England, and yet "these girls... have to be taught everything". The paper goes on to comment on how the girls then spend then money, that "they pant for liberty to spend it in useless and unbecoming dress, in a place where there is little or no restraint".
Ellen Cafferty's defiance continued, as she summonsed her employer, Robert Shackles, to appear in Court for the remainder of her wages. Robert Shackles provided evidence of payments to Ellen and goods received at cost, to which Ellen eventually agreed, with the exception of a couple of items. The court awarded Ellen a balance of £1. She was also reprimanded by the court by her false claim "that her mistress had six servants since she left her".
Ellen's feisty personality certainly shines in these newspaper reports. It is not yet known what happened to Ellen Cafferty after this event.
Of interest is Robert Shackles' statement that "through the misconduct of the girl, he had lost five days in attending the Court at various times", indicating that, although no records have yet been found, Ellen Cafferty had come to the Court's attention on previous occasions.
Robert Shackles may also have been trying to claim some type of compensation as a result of his losses. This was attempted on the same day by Mr Arthur Barker, also of Church St, Parramatta.
Arthur Barker's employment of Irish orphan girl "Bessy McCormac" (Betsy McCormick from County Galway) had been cancelled previously. Barker claimed he was willing to pay Betsy's outstanding wages, but he wished to deduct ten shillings "for loss incurred by him in leaving his business to attend the Court on two occasions". However, the Court found "that they could not allow the claim of the master for such a loss of time, because the Apprentice Act did not expressly provide for such a case", and Betsy was to be paid the full amount owing.
© Barbara Barclay (2015)