Monday, 18 April 2016

Oh My, Miss Mary Prince.

On Sunday, I was reviewing the information and sources I had for Harriett Helena Gill (1869 – 1953), her husband John Charles Prince (1855 – 1930), and their children. This led me to a very interesting find, but first, some background information for you. 

Harriett is my 3x Great Aunt, being the sister of my Great Great Grandmother Elizabeth Lucilla Gill (1867 – 1905). Harriett was born in the Macleay River area of New South Wales (NSW) in 1869. In 1891, she married John Charles Prince (originally from England) in Nambucca, NSW. They had 8 children together – Christopher, Mary, Louisa, Emma, John, Hadden, Alma, & Gladness. After their youngest was born in 1912, Harriett and Charles moved to Melbourne, Victoria with all but Christopher who had moved to Queensland. Charles passed away in 1930, and Harriett in 1955. They are buried in Box Hill Cemetery, Melbourne.

Which one of Harriett’s children is the focus of today’s post? Mary! Full Name - Mary Alice Helena Prince. Mary was born in 1894 in Macksville, NSW. She originally relocated to Melbourne with her parents, and is listed as living with them in the 1924 Electoral Roll for Victoria. 

Mary Alice Helena Prince listed in the 1924 Electoral Roll
for Camberwell, Kooyong, Victoria
[Source: "Australia, Electoral Rolls, 1903-1980",]
By 1930, Mary had moved back to New South Wales and was living at Little Billabong Station, near Holbrook and Little Billabong. She remained there until at least 1949; the last Electoral Roll I have found that has her living at Little Billabong.

Mary listed in the 1930 Electoral Roll for Holbrook, Hume, New South Wales
[Source: "Australia, Electoral Rolls, 1903-1980",]
Map showing location of Little Billabong Station
and NSW/Victoria border
[Source: Google Maps]
I was searching Mary’s name on Trove to see if I could find anything about a marriage for her. I did not. But I found a whole lot of something else! I was amazed. I was filled with shock, confusion, laughter, and intrigue as I read article after article. Which article do I show you first? I think this one…

Oh, Mary's suing...
[Source: ENGAGED FOR 21 YEARS—FIANCEE (1953, May 13). Daily Advertiser (Wagga Wagga, NSW : 1911 - 1954), p. 1. Retrieved April 18, 2016, from]
In summary, Mary is suing John James McLaurin, a grazier at Little Billabong to whom she was engaged for 21 years, for breach of promise. Well, now I know why she lived at Little Billabong for so long! 

[Source: WOMAN SUES GRAZIER (1953, May 14). National Advocate (Bathurst, NSW : 1889 - 1954),
p. 4. Retrieved April 18, 2016, from]

But wait, there's more!

They were even questioned about their kisses!
[Source: HOLBROOK MAN SAYS HE ENDED ENGAGEMENT IN 1929 (1953, May 15). Daily Advertiser (Wagga Wagga, NSW : 1911 - 1954), p. 3. Retrieved April 18, 2016, from]

This title is sure to grab anyone's attention...

Oh my goodness...
[Source: Breach-Of-Promise Suit (1953, May 15). The Newcastle Sun (NSW : 1918 - 1954), , p. 4. Retrieved April 18, 2016, from]
So what happened? What was the result of the court hearing? Mary was granted $1000 in damages for McLaurin's breach of promise. The result even made its way into the newspaper in Western Australia...

[Source: AFTER 20 YEARS SHE WAS JILTED (1953, May 23). Mirror (Perth, WA : 1921 - 1956), , p. 6. Retrieved April 18, 2016, from]
And that my friends, was my Sunday night discovery. I know I know, you want to know what happened to Mary after all that kerfuffle. I'm still figuring that out too! I do know she returned to New South Wales. In 1963, she was living in Castle Hill, Sydney, except her surname was now Lawson. In 1968, she had moved to Swansea, Newcastle, NSW. In both Electoral Rolls, there is no other Lawson at her address. I have not been able to find a marriage for Mary to a surname Lawson in Victoria or New South Wales. Did she really marry? Or did she change her surname for protection of a sort? Mary passed away in 1971 in Newcastle, and I am going to order her death certificate soon to find out.


  1. Wow, what a fantastic find. Would loved to have been a 'fly on the wall' in that house. I hope the death certificate has the answers.

    1. I know right! A 'fly on the wall' at the court hearings too!

  2. Oh, dearie me! What else can one say? A very interesting story, good luck with finding the rest of it.

  3. Juicy!
    Are there any elderly relatives around who can shed light on the story?

    1. I'm not sure. I haven't been able to track further descendants of Mary's siblings at this stage.

  4. You had me in all the way with this story... I certainly hope you find out the rest of the story... As with Lillian and Carmel, I await the outcome with great interest.

  5. Your tale fascinated me the moment I saw the words "little billabong ". The remains of My great uncle James Walter MORLEY was found in a paddock on "Hillside Station" at "Little Billabong" in 1921 having been devoured by his dogs after he was shot by himself. He may have known your Mr Mc Laurin.

    1. Oh wow! Who knows, they indeed could have known each other and/or the same people.

  6. Caitlin, I have included this post in Interesting Blogs at