The Story of Margaret (c1827-1894)

The Story of Margaret (c1827-1894) Margaret was born about 1827 at “Waiong [Wyong] near the Hawkesbury River”. Of her early life, little is known. Margaret married Awabakal man, Ned, and it seems they resided or often visited the Norah Head region. While living there, Margaret and Ned’s eldest child, Ellen’ (born c1849) was taught to read by Miss Fanny Hargraeves. Margaret and Ned’s son, William was baptised by Rev Glennie at Edward Hargraeves’ home at Norah Head during 1860. Glennie described William Henry as “a very fine little boy of about 7 months old” and noted that he and Hargraeves stood as the boy’s godfathers, and Eliza Couldroy was godmother. Two or three other Aboriginal people attended the ceremony.

Margaret and Ned later settled on land on the shore of the lake near present-day Swansea. During a threat to remove them from their land during 1871, Rev John Shaw protested in local news media against this injustice. Mayor of Newcastle and Member of Parliament, James Hannell, secured a reserve of around twenty-five acres for Ned and his family. Margaret was identified by Shaw as “an ornament to her sex…[who] had some Christian instruction…[is] of irreproachable character and…has never been known to taste liquor”. Others said Margaret was very industrious, making and selling cabbage tree hats. She was also an excellent dressmaker and needlewoman.

After Ned’s death, Margaret was again threatened by expulsion from her home around 1880. Concerned resident, Robert Talbot, wrote: “Ned, Margaret’s late husband, brought her here [Lake Macquarie] some twenty years ago…where she has resided ever since, but not all the time in her present abode. Margaret is between 40 and 50 years of age, has two children by Ned – Ellen, aged about 22 and Willie, about 19. Old Ned…lays buried near Margaret’s present abode”. Parliamentarians responded by confirming Margaret’s life tenure of her holding at Pelican Flat. The Newcastle Morning Herald reported on 20 February 1880 that a “movement” had commenced to secure a grant of land for “Old Margaret” and her children, the so-called “the last surviving” Aboriginals of the Lake Macquarie district. Mr Flemming originated the effort, Mr Hungerford MLA raised it with the Colonial Secretary, and Sir Henry Parkes ordered officers report to him on the matter. Margaret died at Newcastle Hospital on 14 October 1894 and was buried in the Primitive Methodist section at Sandgate Cemetery, Newcastle.

Margaret’s daughter, Ellen, married twice. Her first marriage to Edward Milton bore several children: Frederick, Sarah and another male child. Ellen’s second marriage to John Williams bore Albert, Emily, William, Henry and Selina. Ellen died in 1902. A number of her children married. William Henry Williams married Lily Phillips. Descendents of William and Lily still live in Wyong Shire to this day, including grand daughter, Bronwyn Chambers. (Blair, 2003, 70-71).