Monday, December 11, 2017

The unfortunate Bridget Jules

As a family historian, I often find myself researching the lives of people who are not genetically related to my family. Friends, neighbours, in-laws and god-parents are all of interest, since their lives often illuminate the lives of my forebears. I've mentioned how tracing the friends of John and Catherine Mason helped me to finally prove (at least to my own satisfaction) that John was an Irish convict.

One of the unrelated people who has fascinated, but eluded, me up to now is Bridget Jules, the friend of Susan Mason. She appeared in the Adelaide court with Susan, David Whybrew and Richard Hughes in 1868. I wrote a little about her in my book "Susan: convicts daughter, soldier's wife, nobody's fool" but since then I've discovered more details of her life.

Bridget began life either in Galway or Clare (both are mentioned) in the west of Ireland, as Bridget Bradley, the daughter of Henry Bradley. She arrived in Adelaide aboard the Rockcliff in 1864, at the age of 19. She came with hundreds of other English and Irish migrants, including 16 year old Mary Bradley, who was perhaps a younger sister. Bridget was looking for an opportunity to create a better life. But like many young single women from Ireland she probably had little education or experience in the sort of domestic work that employers wanted.

Adelaide Hospital in the 19th century
Despite this, Bridget apparently found work. In March 1866 she was admitted to the Adelaide Hospital. The admission index doesn't say for what reason, but it does reveal that she was working as a domestic servant in Bowden, in the north of Adelaide.

The Genealogy SA database shows that in 1866 a child was born  to Bridget Bradley, so perhaps her hospital admission was related to that event. Neither the baby or the father's names are recorded. I haven't been able to trace any further records for the child, but certainly it doesn't seem to have been in the care of Bridget.

Some time before 1868 she changed her name to Jules, or Julius (both versions appear in the records). Whether this was through marriage is unclear. If a Mr Jules existed, he seems to have disappeared from her life very quickly. Nevertheless, she kept the name for several years, and she is variously described as married or widowed in the records.

Bridget seems to have stayed out of trouble with the law until the episode in 1868, when she and Susan and the two soldiers were involved in relieving the sleeping Frank Jones of his pocket watch. Susan Mason managed to wriggle her way out of being tried for larceny, but poor Bridget was not so lucky. Fortunately she and the two soldiers were acquitted.

A downward spiral

Part of the Destitute Asylum in Adelaide
(now the Migration Museum)
After that her name appears regularly in the Adelaide newspapers. She was charged with larceny, the use of bad language, prostitution and disturbing the peace. In the newspaper account of one court appearance in January 1870 she was described as "an unfortunate", a term used for women with no means of support. Several times she was sentenced to imprisonment for a few days or weeks. In 1871 she spent time in the Destitute Asylum, where her usual occupation was listed as "prostitution".

In 1873 she gave birth to another child, a boy named James. The father was also named this time, as John Ross. The baby died before the age of two. Bridget's name is associated several times with that of John Ross in the newspapers, at least once as a result of a fight between them.

Bridget was in hospital again in March 1876 (as Bridget Julius). The hospital records show a 6 year old child named Mary Jane Julius from Bowden was admitted in April the following year - perhaps another of Bridget's children. Her age suggests a date of birth of about 1871, which co-incides with the birth of a Mary Jane McCarthy, whose parents are listed as John McCarthy and Bridget Julius Bradley. Again there is nothing to suggest that the child was in Bridget's care.

By 1878 Bridget was seldom out of trouble. In September she was charged with larceny in company with John Ross, They were said to have been living together for five years. Ross was discharged, she was sentenced to two months imprisonment with hard labour. The South Australian Police Gazette for 6 November 1878 provides a description of Bridget when she was about to be released: 
Bridget Jules, married woman, native of Ireland, aged 34 years, height 5ft 2in, sandy hair, grey eyes, small scar above nose.
In September 1881, when she was in her thirties, Bridget married Henry Tilley, a "cow keeper" from Somersetshire in England, and the son of George Tilley. They were both witnesses the following year during a coroner's inquest into the death of a young man, Thomas Maloney, from a head injury. It seems Maloney had accosted Bridget late at night, when she was out in the street, and two other men had come to her defence. During the fight Maloney had hit his head on the ground and fractured his skull.

Henry Tilley denied being involved. He explained the blood found on his clothes by saying that he had hit Bridget across the mouth when she was drunk. Despite this, he was exonerated, while her conduct was described as "disgraceful".

Last appearance

During the 1890's Bridget had several spells in hospital. She was listed as Bridget Tilley, married, but her address was constantly changing and she was employed as a charwoman, so she may not have been with Henry. In 1892 and 1893 she was back in the Destitute Asylum, which suggests Henry had died by then, or they had separated.

The last appearance I can find for Bridget is a hospital admission in 1897, when she was 49 years old. What became of her, or her children if they survived, is (so far) unknown. A Bridget Tilley died in South Australia in September 1919, but I'm not certain that this is her. Henry also disappears, so possibly they left South Australia.

Susan Mason, my great great grandmother, had a hard life as a soldier's wife, as I've described in the book. But compared to her friend Bridget, it seems she had much to be thankful for. Had she remained in Adelaide she might well have followed poor Bridget into chaos and destitution.









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