Monday, 6 October 2014

Madness Monday

It's Monday - and Mental Health Week started in Australia on Sunday 5th October, so, it must be Madness Monday.

I know of two other members of my family, apart from myself, who have experienced 'madness'. My paternal great grandmother and my father. Both were in asylums at some stage, for long or short stays. Today I will write about my great grandmother, Mary Connor.

Mary was born Mary Cameron in 1835 in Glenmore Ardnamurchan Scotland, the sixth child of Dugald & Christian Cameron. The Cameron family left Scotland on the Blenheim 29th August 1840 and arrived at Port Nicholson (Wellington, New Zealand) on 27th December 1840. There is evidence of  the family arriving in New Zealand but no proof of the family 'crossing the ditch'. However, Ann Cameron. Mary's older sister married Hugh Connor on 20th April 1845 at Williams River, New South Wales. Mary married Hugh Connor's brother, William Connor, on 19th July 1853 at Bartie's Farm near Hinton, New South Wales. Mary was unable to read or write at the time of her marriage.
Marriage of William & Mary 1853 by Robert Blain, Presbyterian Minister

Mary and William had eleven children, four girls, six boys and one stillborn. The first five children were born in the Hunter River region of New South Wales and the remaining six after the family moved to the Clarence River region in 1860 with William's brothers and sisters.

From evidence in family papers it appears that William had a problem with alcohol and as a result could not provide for his family as he might have wished. William sold his farms by 1865 and leased land from his brother John from 1866 on-wards. William died in 1875.

Mary first came to the notice of the family and the general Grafton community around June-July 1879. Firstly Mary was taking people to court for minor affronts to her. For example, a complaint about a barrow with the magistrate dismissed as Mary had sued the wrong person. Next she was accusing members of her family of wrongdoing . 

According to family papers, in a letter to his brother, George in August 1879, Matthew mentions "the widow Connor (Mary Connor) is partly insane again - she has been circulating wicked and slanderous reports about Father. She also owes him 12 month’s rent. Her sons had her before the court but the doctors failed to find her insane, she was released from jail after one week. She had been spending all the money she could lay her hands on for the past two months. The insane woman has attacked her own family; her eldest daughter, Mary had to fly for her life. Willie left to stay with us because he was abused. Latest news is that widow Connor is leaving for Adelaide letting the farm to her son George. She had her brother Angus at Court the other day for assault. The mad woman has forbidden me to set foot on the farm Papa has leased to her".  

In October 1879, "The widow Connor is quieter."  In April 1880, Matthew writes," the widow is quiet now but there will be a cry when she gets notice to pay the rent or quit. We are unlikely to recover all the rent from her." However in June, the outstanding rent was paid.

Gladesville Asylum 1883
Clarence & Richmond Examiner 11/9/1880 states Grafton Police Court – Monday September 10th - M. Connor v. A. Connor, a charge of assault, was dismissed.  M. A. Connor arrested on a charge of being of unsound mind. Was remanded for 8 days for medical treatment.

Clarence & Richmond Examiner 21/9/1880 states 

M Connor was committed to the hospital for the insane at Gladesville.

Mary’s life and mind had completely unraveled as she continued to turn against her own family.

Matthew’s letters on January 1881 state, "The widow is unable to recover".  However, "Mary is home and looking well again" in September 1881. 

In January 1882, “Angus Connor of Swan Creek is cleared of a charge of burning down a house of a farmer at Ulmarra - the widow knew nothing of the trial.” 

Clarence & Richmond Examiner 4/4/1885 states
Before the Police Magistrate and Mr. W. Blackman. J.P.  UNSOUND MIND - Mary Connor, on remand, supposed to be of unsound mind, was ordered to be forwarded to the hospital for the insane at Gladesville.

Clarence & Richmond Examiner 1894 states
Mary Connor, Mary Jones and Thomas Fadden, deemed to be insane, were, on the certificates from Drs. Houison and Hood, ordered to be forwarded to the Hospital for the Insane at Gladesville

Clarence & Richmond Examiner 17/7/1894 states  
Callan Park Asylum, 1883
PURSUANT to the Lunacy Act of 1878 and of the Lunacy Act Further Amendment Act of 1893, the creditors of MARY CONNOR, formerly of Grafton, but now for some weeks past residing at the Hospital for the Insane at Gladesville, an insane patient, are forthwith to come in and prove their claims before the Master in Lunacy, at his. Office, Supreme Court, Chancery Square; or in default thereof, they will be excluded the benefit of the inquiry now pending relative thereto.
H. F. BARTON, Master in Lunacy. 5th July, 1894.

So you can see Mary was committed in 1880, back home in 1881-82, committed in 1885 and again in 1895. I don't know when she returned to Grafton between 1885 and 1895.
Callan Park Ward, 1883
I can only begin to imagine the shame and the distress of Mary. Locked up in the police cells, transported on the train to Sydney, probably restrained, and no doubt confused.

The picture on the left of a Callan Park ward in 1883 looks benign but I can assure you that the 'lunatic asylums' as they were called were anything but. Patients were subjected to all kinds of 'modern' treatments such as cold water baths called 'hydrotherapy', isolation in padded cells, the rotary chair (a particular horror). Like other nineteenth-century physicians, asylum doctors tailored treatment to address both the moral depravity and the underlying physical pathology of their patients.

In the 1800s, middle-class values were synonymous with older, protestant beliefs that emphasised hard work and an orderly, religiously conservative lifestyle in an agricultural setting. Thus, patients were encouraged to work on the hospital farm and were required to lead quiet, orderly lives separate from the chaotic world outside. This form of therapy also fit nicely into prevailing theories of insanity: if social, political, and economic freedoms were causing insanity, then it logically followed that severely limiting freedom in the context of the asylum would cure mentally-ill patients. Life in the asylum was an never-ending restriction and separation from Mary's family life.

Mary died at Callan Park Asylum on 26 January 1910 aged 75. Cause of death was senility of unknown duration. She was buried in the Presbyterian section of Rookwood Cemetery, New South Wales.

Life was hard for the family, Mary saw her father, husband and eldest surviving son die from a fall from a horse. She saw six of her eleven children die during her lifetime.  The farm that her husband, William had bought and where they lived for five years on the South Arm of the Clarence, near the Coldstream junction was sold for unknown reasons and the family had to lease land from then on.  She had to contend with her husband’s alcoholism and, after William's death, she had to continue farming on leased land to keep her family and pay the rent. Considering her background and the desperate situation of her family in Scotland, the long voyage to New Zealand, the disappointment and desperate conditions found there, relocation again to New South Wales and then the pioneering conditions she endured on their brush-covered farm while raising a large family and then to re-start on a leased property at Swan Creek while coping with an alcoholic husband and dysfunctional children, it would be an understatement to say she had a difficult life. 

It is sad that her mental condition most probably could be treated and controlled today and she may have had some peace in her later years with her children to support her. (Observations by Pam Zopf 2012)

Click on this link to go to some great pictures of Callan Park Views of Callan Park Hospital

Connor Family Papers
(A. M. Connor - Connor, Murray, Courage family notes)
(Observations by Pam Zopf 2012)

TROVE: Clarence & Richmond Examiner (Grafton 1889-1915)

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