Thomas Solly – Explorer, Mounted policeman and Publican

November is almost over and the World War I Blog publication I have been working on – A Horse named ‘Kojonup’ … – is not yet complete. The following tale comes from my Muir-Buirchell Family Tree and is actually an extract from a wider project I am working on called There is a pub in my family: The Head and Solly Families in the South Australian Hotel Trade.

Growing up, all I knew of the Solly name was that my great grandmother Edith Margaret (married to Duncan Muir) was “a Solly raised as a Flavell”. Her mother – Ellen Head, married to John Solly, – died in 1882 aged 44 years when Edith was just 5 years old and she was evidently raised by the Flavell family: yet another research project.

Henry Solly was born near Canterbury in Kent, England, in 1800 and in 1827 marries Ann Colyer in Hackington, Kent. Henry and Ann and their eight children depart London aboard the Royal Admiral on 7 August 1840 arriving at Port Adelaide 13 December 1840. In 1846 Henry was the proprietor of 40 acres near Adelaide but by 1854 he was established in Leasingham, Clare Valley, as a farmer and public works contractor.

Thomas Solly was the youngest son of Henry and Ann and in 1842 was their first child to be born in South Australia. As a young man in 1866, he accompanied the South Australian Police Commissioner on an expedition around the north shore of Lake Eyre. The Police Commissioner was Major Peter Edgerton-Warburton formerly an Assistant Adjutant-General in the Indian Army and brother of George Edgerton-Warburton of Western Australia fame.

The available records indicate that Thomas joined the Mounted Police 11 July 1866 aged 24 years but his engagement seems to have been earlier. Thomas was described as “driver of own bullock dray and bush employment/stock keeper” on his Police enlistment papers. Perhaps Warburton already knew him and recruited him for his bushman skills.

Warburton departed Port Adelaide 11 June on the vessel Lubra for Port Augusta from where the expedition was to kick off. Warburton’s expedition was an official Government expedition, financed by the Police and he was accompanied by three Troopers. I have located a nine-page report prepared by Warburton but he only mentions one Trooper by name and that was one Farquhar.

Warburton had carried out three previous expeditions in South Australia including locating Fowlers Bay on the Great Australia Bight and mapping Lake Torrens. Explorers at this time were trying to find a route from Adelaide to Perth; a feat achieved in 1870 by Sir John Forrest. Warburton’s 1866 expedition was meant to explore the area known as “No Man’s Land” north-west of Mount Margaret near Lake Eyre and on this basis the expedition was strongly supported. However, having gone north of Lake Eyre he then went east apparently trying to discover the fate of the missing explorer Leichardt. He followed a river which he thought was the Barcoo or Cooper Creek to the Queensland border; this transpired to be a separate river that was subsequently named the Warburton River.

In his absence, an enquiry was launched into the efficiency of the Police Force and while it was not within the remit of the Parliamentary Committee, the Committee was critical of his exploration activities and recommended Warburton be dismissed. He returned to Adelaide in November of 1866 and whilst publicly defending his reputation, he refused to appear before the Committee on the grounds it was biased against him. Warburton was dismissed in February 1867 but the controversy continued to rage in Parliament and in the Press for the next two years. Warburton was completely exonerated in December 1867 and eventually in March 1869, the incumbent officer having also been dismissed, he was appointed Chief Staff Officer and Colonel of the Volunteer Military Force of South Australia.

Warburton undertook a further expedition in 1873 – he was the first to reach the Western Australian coast from Alice Springs but almost died in the attempt. Whether Warburton’s expeditions contributed any great deal to Australian exploration remains a source of debate.

The establishment of a Detective Force was one of issues that embroiled Warburton as was his management of a ‘Reward Fund’ that Warburton claimed was a Retirement Fund.

Following his marriage to Mary Milte in 1876, Thomas Solly transferred from the Mounted Police to the Foot Police and was a Detective in Adelaide for around two years before transferring back to the Mounted Police. In 1886 Thomas and Mary’s son was born and named Thomas Warburton Solly. The name Warburton is carried on into future generations and somewhere out there now I may have a third cousin named Thomas Warburton Solly.

In 1895, after nearly 30 years service, Thomas retires from the Police Force and on 1 January 1896 he obtains the licence to the Marrabel Arms Hotel. The Commissioner of Audit’s report for the 1895-96 financial-year reveals that Thomas Solly received a ‘compensation’ payment for retirement of £290 (approximately $37000 today).

The first records pertaining to a hotel at Marrabel seem to be 1864 when the Hamilton branch of the Manchester Unity Oddfellowship seeks dispensation to open a lodge at the house of Alexander Mitchell, Marrabel Hotel. For us non-South Australians, Marrabel is about 100 km north of Adelaide between Kapunda and Burra.

Marrabel Hotel; c. 1900

Marrabel Hotel; c. 1900


Marrabel Hotel; c. 2010

Marrabel Hotel; c. 2010

However Thomas did not enjoy his retirement for long – he dies 27 December 1896. The licence to the Marrabel Hotel transfers to his widow Mary (Milte) Solly and she continues as mine host of the Marrabel Arms through to the end of 1899 before taking on the Fountain Inn Hotel in Adelaide.

Image - Milte and Solly Family photo c.1900.e

Thomas Solly’s sons Thomas Warburton Solly (1886-1956) and Vivian Henry Wellington Solly (1882-1960) are upper left and upper right and his wife Mary (Milte) Solly  (1852-1936) is seated centre right.

The Advertiser publishes the following obituary 1 January 1897:

“The Late Mr. T. Solly. The friends of Mr. Thomas Solly will regret to learn of his death which occurred on December 27 at Marrabel. Mr. Solly was connected with the police force of the colony for almost 30 years, having joined Major Warburton’s exploring party in the northern areas in 1866, and on his arrival at Adelaide he was entered as a mounted constable. Early in the following year he was raised to the rank of a second-class officer, and in October, 1871, to that of first-class. In February, 1876, he was transferred to the foot constabulary where he remained until November, 1878, at which time he returned to the mounted force. In June, 1882, he was promoted to the position of lance-corporal and in July, 1888, to a corporal. He resigned his connection with the force after long and honorable service in June, 1895. Deceased will be missed by a large circle of friends.”

  • Sources
    • Thomas, Jan Biographical index of South Australians 1836-1885: bicentennial bulletin South Australian Genealogy and Heraldry Society, 1988
    • The South Australian Advertiser (Adelaide, SA: 1858-1889)
    • South Australian Police Gazette 25 Oct 1871
    • Hoad, Joseph L Hotels and Publicans in South Australia: 1836-1984 Australian Hotels Association. South Australian Branch, 1959
    • Deasey, Denison, Warburton, Peter Edgerton (1813–1889), Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 12 June 2012.
    • Warburton, Peter Edgerton. Major Warburton’s explorations, 1866 :Major Warburton’s diary
    (accompanied by map) of explorations in the northern portion of the province, in 1866. Adelaide, 1866.
    • 1896 ‘THE AUDIT REPORT.’, South Australian Register (Adelaide, SA : 1839 – 1900), 20 November, p. 7, viewed 29 November, 2012,
    • (Thomas Solly Obituary) 1897 ‘MISCELLANEOUS NEWS.’, The Advertiser (Adelaide, SA : 1889 – 1931), 1 January, p. 6, viewed 29 November, 2012,
    Image Acknowledgment
    Ancestry Member “ocallaghan_margaret” is acknowledged as the source of the photograph of the Milte and Solly family members.
Posted in Muir - Buirchell | 3 Comments

The ‘Young Thief’ was my Second Great Grandmother

The ‘Young Thief’ was my Second Great Grandmother

I came across this article entirely by accident when using the National Library of Australia’s Trove to search the digitised newspapers for something different entirely.

The Perth Gazette and Independent Journal of Politics and News, 5 Aug 1859

The Perth Gazette and Independent Journal of Politics and News, 5 Aug 1859

This incident occurred in Howick (now Hay) Street on 27 July 1859 and Maria appears before the Police Magistrate Mr TN Yule Esq. JP on 5 August.  Maria is represented by Nathaniel Howell, a young Solicitor then aged 27 who had been in the Colony 6 years.

Evidence is adduced that Maria pockets two ribbon reels while Mrs Dickson is getting change; on being accused of have something in her clothing she is accosted by Mr Dickson who, with ribbon in hand, summons Senior Constable Male.  Taken into custody, Maria confesses to Police Sergeant Dunmale, offers to pay for the ribbons and tells him she took them for a “lark” and asks to be returned to school.

The newspaper account tells us that:

A Mrs Robinson was then called upon by Mr Howell to state to the Bench what she knew about the accused. She said that she had been in Perth only a few weeks, and was placed in the school of the Sisters of Mercy a few days before her father returned home. Her father was a very respectable settler and lived at Kojonup ; and that she was never in a town before, and consequently was very ignorant in many things.

In summing up his defence of Maria, Mr Howell:

… urged upon the Bench the extreme youth of the accused, and her utter ignorance of the usages of society and the customs of shops. They had heard that she had been brought up in great ignorance, and had hitherto lived apart from all but the members of her own family. That that was the first or second time she had ever been in a shop, and he felt certain she did not know that she had done anything very serious. She had broken the laws of her country through ignorance, and contended that she was not by any means guilty of felony in the proper meaning of the term. He felt assured that no Jury would convict her upon the evidence that had been adduced, and therefore urged the Bench to dismiss the case.

The reference to the school of the Sisters of Mercy is that school established by the order in Victoria Square in 1846.  Initially two schools – the free co-educational St Josephs and the Ladies College – they continue to operate today as Mercedes School.

St Joseph's College; c. 1896

St Joseph’s College; c. 1896


Ladies College; c. 1896

Ladies College; c. 1896


Mercedes College; c. 2010.

Mercedes College; c. 2010.

Maria is Anna Maria Norrish born in Hobart in Van Dieman’s Land 7 November 1846 to Richard and Honora (Regan) Norrish.  Richard was a Corporal in the 96th Regiment of Foot which transferred to the Swan River Colony aboard the Java to relieve the 51st Regiment in 1847.  After spending nearly two years in Kojonup, Richard Norrish was transferred to Perth and when the Regiment was slated for transfer to India he sought and obtained a discharge in 1849.  After a period working in Perth, including on the construction of the Canning Bridge, the family returned to the Kojonup district and established the Warkalup farm.

Ann Maria Norrish married Edward Treasure at Warkalup on 17 February aged 16 years.  Edward was 21 years Anna Maria’s senior and had established Martinup in the East Broomehill district.  The farm was stay with the Treasure family for more than 100 years until 1984 and was placed on the Heritage Register in 2011.  Anna Maria and Edward had 12 children although twins born in 1881 and a daughter 1872 did not survive.  Edward took over the Old Semblance of England Hotel in Kojonup and died there in January 1886; the Coroner found the cause of death to be “excessive drinking”.  Notwithstanding this unseeming end, Edward Treasure was a respected community member, pioneering farmer and contributor to the development of education facilities and services. At this time, Anna Maria was left with seven children aged 14 years and less and later in 1886 she marries William House by whom she has one daughter.  This marriage takes place in the Bunbury district and for a time it appears she lived at Noralup (present day Nornalup) but eventually returns to Kojonup.  Anna Maria dies in 1902 and her obituary notes that she was highly respected and had been under medical treatment for the previous two years having been thrown from a carriage.

Of the stealing charge against the youthful Anna Maria, she was found ‘not guilty’ in the Quarter Sessions on 6 October 1859.  With some irony however, her future husband Edward had arrived in the Colony in 1848 as Convict No. 802 having been convicted of Larceny in 1848.  Edward received his Ticket of Leave in 1851 and his 10 year transportation sentence was ‘expired’ in 1855.  Their third child, Matilda Mary Treasure married William Thomas Jones and so they were my great grandparents.  The young thief of 1859 was my second great grandmother.

Anna Maria (Norrish) Treasure with her brother George Norrish (1844-1911)

Anna Maria (Norrish) Treasure with her brother George Norrish (1844-1911)


A Young Thief 1859 ‘Perth Police Court’, The Perth Gazette and Independent Journal of Politics and News (WA : 1848 – 1864), 5 August, p. 3, viewed 21 October, 2012,

v  The Mercedes School images were sourced from the public domain and are free of copyright.

v  Erickson, Rica (Comp.) Dictionary of Western Australians 1829-1914: Volume 2, BOND 1850-1868, University of Western Australia Press, Nedlands, Western Australia, 1979

v  Erickson, Rica (Comp.) Dictionary of Western Australians 1829-1914: Volume 3, FREE 1850-1868, University of Western Australia Press, Nedlands, Western Australia, 1979

v  Hollier, Michael GN, The Norrish Family 1847 to 1979, private publication.

Posted in Jones-Sexton | 4 Comments

Is this marriage legal?


Headstone for Frances Bridget (Carroll) Goldup (1882-1904), General Cemetery, Cooktown, Qld

Recently, a team from the Genealogical Society of the NT gave a series of presentations during Seniors Month in effort to promote an interest in family history research. My session was entitled Is this marriage legal: Learning about social history through family history research.

The subject interest stems from two relationship events in my Jones-Sexton Tree – one on England, the other in Australia – that I learned were subject to different legal perspectives. At the time, I wrote an article Two sisters one husband: Or two wives one mother-in-law

that I may in the future re-edit for publication on this Blog.

The England story concerns the family of my second great grandmother Jane Trevelion who arrived in South Australia in 1852 and married James Sexton in 1853. Jane’s father George Trevelion was a Blacksmith (and sometimes described as an Engineer) who became a shopkeeper. He died at age only 35 in 1838 leaving Ann Maria (Cook) Trevelion with 11 children under the age of 15 years. The eldest daughter Ann Maria Trevelion marries in 1843 to William Carter with her sister Emma Creed Trevelion as a witness. In 1849 Ann Maria the matriarch dies evidently with a disastrous impact on the family. In 1851 Emma Creed Trevelion is living with her sister Ann Maria and her husband William Carter along with Emma Creed’s younger brothers Joseph and William. Eleanor and Jane Trevelion are in ‘service’ and the other sister Mary is age 16 years is living in the Female Orphan Asylum, Westminster Road, Lambeth.

The three sisters – Eleanor, Jane and Mary depart England for South Australia 29 July 1852 aboard the Sea Park. The older sister Emma Creed Trevelion evidently continues to live with the eldest sister Ann Maria and her husband William Carter. In 1860, Ann Maria dies leaving William Carter with four sons and a daughter age 5-17 and according to the 1861 Census, Emma Creed Trevelion is still living with the family. Within a few months, Emma Creed Trevelion marries William Carter. Emma Creed has married her deceased sister’s husband.

In England, the Marriage Act of 1835 confirmed the legality of such past marriages but the bill was amended to make such future marriages illegal. There was considerable debate about the issue for the balance of the century. In Australia, each of the colonies in the 1870s had passed a Deceased Wife’s Sister Marriage Act whereby such marriages were legal. Arguably, the Australian Colonies moved to distance themselves from England on this social issue. Such marriages remained illegal in England until the Deceased Wife’s Sister Marriage Act passed in 1907 and the Deceased Brother’s Widow Marriage Act of 1921. The Gilbert and Sullivan opera “Iolanthe” refers to this social debate of the time:

Every bill and every measure
That may gratify his pleasure,
Though your fury it arouses,
Shall be passed by both your Houses!
You shall sit, if he sees reason,
Through the grouse and salmon season;
He shall end the cherished rights
You enjoy on Friday nights:
He shall prick that annual blister
Marriage with deceased wife’s sister:

I had first come across Deceased Sister’s Wife issue in Queensland where my great grand aunt Frances Bridget Carroll married a wolfram miner named Frederick Goldup 30 December 1903. Frances died in childbirth in Cooktown 25 December 1904 age only 22 years. Frederick and his brothers were subsequently quite successful in their mining ventures without ever becoming tycoons and he was obviously able to finance a quite ornate headstone. The headstone inscription reads:

In loving memory of
Dearly beloved wife of Frederick Goldup
Died Dec 25th 1904 aged 22 years
Thou art gone but not forgotten
Never shall thy memory fade
sweetest thoughts shall ever linger
round this spot where thou art laid

France Bridget Carroll and Frederick Goldup, Wedding 30 Dec 1903, Cooktown, Qld.

France Bridget Carroll and Frederick Goldup, Wedding 30 Dec 1903, Cooktown, Qld.

Headstone for Frances Bridget (Carroll) Goldup (1882-1904), General Cemetery, Cooktown, Qld

Headstone for Frances Bridget (Carroll) Goldup (1882-1904), General Cemetery, Cooktown, Qld

Then in 1907, Frederick marries Frances Bridget’s younger sister Margaret Agnes Carroll and together they have four children. Frederick continues as miner at Bamford in the Chillagoe region but by 1922 he was in the Westwood Sanatorium, near Rockhampton, which was established to treat people afflicted with Miners’ Phthisis, and he dies in 1923 age 43 years. Margaret raises her four children then age 7-15 years in Bowen, Queensland, where she lives until her death in 1951.

At the time, life is tough and in remote Australia the opportunities for social interaction are so limited I thought little of this marriage to the deceased wife’s sister. It was only later that I began to learn of the background history and that the concept had been a social controversy.

Furthermore, there is an interesting twist on this marriage situation to be found in my wife Lorelei’s Chin-Chee Quee Family Tree. James Chee Quee marries Moo Kim Foong in Darwin in 1909 and their first child Alberta is born that year. Probably in 1910, Moo Kim Foong dies, presumably in childbirth and this second child Alex survives at least for a time. James Chee Quee then marries his deceased wife’s sister Moo Kim Kow in 1911; together they move to Thursday Island and have eleven children. Sometime around 1920 on Thursday Island, James takes a “third wife” named Jurng and they have six children. James Chee Quee dies in 1928 and his wife Moo Kim Kow takes over the store and by various accounts becomes a prominent businessperson in her own right. While some of their children had moved to the mainland – Cairns and Sydney – Moo Kim Kow and Jurng continue to raise their children on Thursday Island. Many of the family move to Queensland and New South Wales particularly following Moo Kim Kow’s death in 1939 in Sydney after medical treatment there.  Her body was returned to Thursday Island but then most of the remaining family including Jurng are evacuated to the mainland with the advent of World War II.

Posted in News and Views and General Research | 1 Comment