Eliza Batman (nee Callaghan) – (b. 1802 – d. … )

Eliza Callaghan was born c 1802 in Ennis, Co. Clare, Ireland.

Though no literature is available of Eliza’s childhood, there is not doubt that she was well educated, that she could read and write eloquently, and that she possessed a superior command of religious teachings.

It has been said that her family of origin were land owners and her grandfather of great wealth.  There appears to be some separation of Eliza’s father from her grandparents and suggestions that her father was a very unhappy man.  Her mother was an elegant, learned and strong lady of exceptional character.

The family struggled, and Eliza was sent on her way at the tender age of just seventeen.  Beautiful, elegant, fiery and learned – her mother was confident that she would easily find her place in the world.

No sooner had Eliza arrived in London, she was confronted with an overcrowded, desperate peoples living in horrid and filthy conditions.

She found herself in the company of a rogue who preyed upon her beauty, and her innocence . . .

She passed a £1 note for a purchase and was provided the appropriate change.  It was alleged by the publican, that this note was counterfeit.  One week later, another young man tried to obtain change for his £1 note at the very same establishment.  He was immediately apprehended for allegedly passing a counterfeit note.  Eliza and the ringleader, who were waiting outside, were also captured.

The ringleader, John Madden, then:

. . . took a few halfpence out of his pocket, and began playing with them; he fumbled in his fob, and took out a piece of paper, rumpled it up, and put it into his mouth.  I could only see that is was paper.  I immediately told Penfold I suspected he had swallowed a note – he throttled him, but he resisted, Callaghan struck Penfold, and he swallowed it.  He said it was tobacco, but there was no appearance in his mouth of his chewing tobacco, for we made him open his mouth . . . “

 – Source: Excerpt – Samuel Bird, Prosecutor’s Brother-in-Law, Trial 956, dated 18th September 1820

Trial 956 was held 18th September 1820 before Mr. Justice Best – Second Middlesex Jury – all three were sentenced thus:


  NEWHAM – GUILTY – DEATH.     Aged 22

  MADDEN – GUILTY – DEATH.     Aged 20″

Callaghan and Newham had pleaded ‘Guilty’ whilst Madden had maintained his innocence.  They were so young –  it is highly probable that they had no idea that a crime valued at £1 would cost their lives.  They were most likely starving and sleeping on the streets . . .

. . . one can only imagine the horror of being thrown in a cold, dark, stone cell – confused – then tried and sentenced to DEATH – at just 17 years of age . . .

Awaiting death, Eliza was granted a reprieve . . . some 9 months later, she found herself on board the female convict ship ‘Providence’, departing England on the 13th June 1821 – to arrive at Hobart, Tasmania, Australia on the 18th December 1821.  Of the 104 convicts that boarded the ‘Providence’, 103 arrived – 50 in Sydney and 53 in Hobart.

Eliza Callaghan Convict Record - Small

Convict Record

 44 – Callaghan, Elizabeth – Ship ‘Providence’ 1821 – London September 1820 = 14

Eliza’s sentence had been modified from “Death” to fourteen years Transport.

. . . all for allegedly passing a counterfeit £1 note !

Her record describes:  “Transport for Felony”  “Gaol Report Bad”

Eliza escaped and was recaptured 3 times before she ultimately succeeded:

March 27 1822 – D & Dy – Punishment:  to be confined in Gaol one week & to wear an Iron Collar for that period – to sit in the solitary twice two hours each time

June 25 1822 – absconded from her Master on the night of the 24th – missing & remains about all night – Punishment:  to sit in the stocks 3 hours this Day

January 22 1823 – absconded from her Master one day and night.  Bread & water one week to sit in the stocks 2 hours each day


Eliza meets John Batman

Eliza absconded again in 1823 – this time, not to return.  Interestingly, the convict record does not document the date of this final escape . . .

” . . . A strange episode in his career occurred during this period, in which the elements of romance and commonplace were most curiously blended.  The story, as told by Richard Howitt, is that he discovered amid the fastnesses of Ben Lomond an outlaw of the female sex, whose youth, good looks and touching story so worked upon the susceptible young man, that for once he swerved from his devotion to law and order, and provided her with a safe refuge until he should be able to negotiate for her pardon.  In due season the opportunity offered, and in consideration of services he had rendered to the Government, his petition was favourably considered by Governor Arthur, and he was permitted to lead the object of his solicitude to the altar, as a free woman.  The records are silent as to the cause of the initial trouble, but judging from Batman’s letters and journals, there are abundant indications that the marriage was one of affection, cemented thereafter by a family of one son and seven daughters . . . “

Source: Excerpt – “A History of the Colony of Victoria from its Discovery to its Absorption into the Commonwealth of Australia in Two Volumes” – Volume I – A.D. 1797 – 1854 – by Henry Gyles Turner – published 1904 – pp 99

The above quotation is supported by the following excerpts of an article published in ‘The Australian Woman’s Mirror’ on the 18th April 1933 ‘John Batman’s Bride‘ provides a romantic and heart-warming narrative, that rings true and is confirmed by writings of those that knew the couple.  Set in 1823 at the foot of Ben Lomond, Tasmania – being rugged, heavily forested and bushranger territory:

” . . . Suddenly the sound of stealthy movement caused the man to stiffen to attention.  He looked cautiously over the low scrub.  Yes, there was someone !  The man saw to his shotgun, then pushed his horse sharply to where the bushes still quivered.

A small ragged figure plunged further into the scrub and ran crouching through the undergrowth. 

“Stop – or I’ll shoot you !” shouted the farmer.  

The chase was short.  Realising the hopelessness of flight, the pursued halted in a little clearing and waited for the man to dismount and approach, gun at the ready.  

He stared in amazement.  A woman was facing him – a woman alone in that forbidding bushranger country.  

Hunter and hunted gazed at each other for a full minute.  The woman took a step backward; she was obviously afraid.  Who was this powerful-looking, bearded, frock-coated man?  She noticed his gun.  Was he Government agent or bushranger?

“I’m John Batman,” the man said.  “This is my farm.”

Despair seemed to settle on the brown, weather-scarred but nevertheless refined face of the woman.  All Van Diemen’s Land knew of John Batman, she most of all . . . “

” . . . I can’t resist,” she murmured.  “I’ll go with you.  I’m Eliza – Eliza the woman bushranger.”

Something about her – her voice, her despairing pose – touched John Batman the man, not the bushranger-chaser.  He laughed kindly, increduously.

“You !  A bushranger !”

He was sympathetic.  She answered his questions frankly, the while he studied her closely.  The bushman saw that, despite her appearance – for she looked as wild as the Bush that surrounded her – she was beautiful; he noted also that she spoke as one who had known culture and education.

In answer to his queries she told him part of her story.  An assigned servant, she had been treated by her employers so badly that the life of an outcast in the wilds seemed preferable.  She had escaped and turned bushranger – though not thief . . . “

Batman Papers - Letter notifying Authorities of Eliza in Kingston Farm - Small

Letter notifying Authorities of Eliza at Kingston

The convict record does not state where Eliza’s master(s) were located.  It would be difficult to imagine she could have survived the journey all the way from Hobart ? . . .  

What an amazing play of Destiny – that John and Eliza should find one another in the expansive, dense, rugged forests of north-eastern Tasmania.

It is interesting to note that at great peril to himself, John Batman hid Eliza in the cellar of his home.  Being a police agent and virtually a magistrate at the time, he was not only breaking the law, but also running the huge risk of losing all he had achieved by harbouring the escaped convict, Eliza Callaghan.  In the memoirs of Richard Howitt he:

” . . . gave her masculine habiliments and hid her in an underground apartment whenever strangers can near the farm”.

A Young Couple in Love & Children . . .

They fell in love and naturally their intimacy produced their first daughter, Maria, born on the 5th September 1824.  They were to bear six more daughters – with their last child being their only son.

Meanwhile, Eliza remained an escaped convict and in hiding.  ‘Kingston’ was searched by the constabulary and amazingly, nothing incriminating was discovered.  A few weeks later, however, one of Batman’s servants did betray them c 1825:

” . . . The information of Edward Russell, a convict who having sworn that I am an [?] servant to Mr. John Batman of the South Esk River, I have lived at his house near Mr Gibson’s seven or eight Weeks – I remember a constable having searched my Master’s House for Elizabeth Callaghan about a month ago – three or four days after, my Master told me that the said Elizabeth Callaghan was in the House, and that I was to treat her as my Mistress; he then told me to take the Tea Things into the House, and that she was there, I took the Tea Things into the Sitting Room, my Master went with me, there was a Woman on the Sofa, she was in the same Room with my Master between nine and ten o’clock that night, and I have seen . . . “

As their love grew, their family grew, and the need to be together publicly grew . . .

Batman Papers - Request to Marry Eliza - Small

Request to Marry Eliza

Another daughter, Lucy, was born on the 11th September 1826, followed by:

Elizabeth Mary     25th September 1829

Eliza     1st November 1827

Ellen     10th April 1831

Pelonamena     11th July 1834

Adelaide     1833

John Charles     5th November 1836

On the 10th January 1828, following the arrival of two daughters, John Batman plucked up the courage to seek permission from the governance to marry Eliza, declaring he:

” . . . hath been for some years acquainted with Eliza Thompson known by the name of Elizabeth Callaghan and with whom your memorialist is desirous to marry . . . “

1828   Married at last !!! . . .

St John's Church, Launceston

St John’s Church, Launceston

John Batman of New South Wales (Free) – currently of Ben Lomond, and,

Eliza Thompson alias Elizabeth Callaghan of Ship Providence currently of Ben Lomond

. . . were granted permission to marry and did so at St John’s Church, Launceston on the 29th March 1828.

” . . . In 1828 at St John’s Church, Launceston, he married Eliza Callaghan with Anglican rites.  John had come across his future bride hiding in the bush near his homestead about 1823 and she had lived with him thereafter.  She was an escaped convict and with her he established a happy and closely-knit family of seven daughters and one son . . . “

 – Source:  Excerpt – The Native-born: The First White Australians by ANU Emeritus Professor of History, John Molony, published 2000  

Batman Papers - Marriage Certificate 1828

Excerpt – Marriage Certificate – John & Eliza Batman – 29 Mar 1828

The Batman family enjoyed a happy, peaceful life at ‘Kingston’.  Eliza was known to climb Ben Lomond often, mesmerised by the beauty and the views.

” . . . it is pleasing to record the fact that their home, under Ben Lomond, at the fine farm of Kingston, was a very happy one.  From three of the daughters I have learned that the children were well educated and trained, taught the Scriptures, and even religiously cared for.  Several old settlers have spoken to me most kindly of that part of their lives.  The Governor, himself a man of family and of Christian character, liked to call in at the homestead, warmly praised the domestic managements.  An old friend, who had many opportunities of seeing the Batman family, assured me that it always gave him great pleasure to see the admirable way in which the children were trained, and the order and comfort of the whole establishment . . . “

– Source:  Excerpt – John Batman, the Founder of Victoria by James Bonwick, written 1867  

Though the boundaries of ‘Kingston’ in the north-east of Tasmania, at the base of Ben Lomond, remain much as they were when the Batmans sold and left the property in 1836, it appears that the small cottage advertised and classified as John Batman’s home does not ring true . . .  In reality, it is far too small to have been the home that housed a family of the size of Batman’s and crucially, it lacks the cellar in which Eliza (and her first two daughters) hid for so many years.

From descriptions of frequent visitors to ‘Kingston’ at the time, the home was substantial – not a tiny stone cottage.  Other ruins on the property, however, include those of a much more substantial home, which does, in fact, include a cellar . . .

1836   The move to Batman’s Hill

When the family moved to Batman’s Hill, Port Phillip, Victoria, Australia, in early 1836 – their lives twisted to a trail of destruction, death and sadness.  There was, however, one ray of sunshine, when Eliza gave birth to their only son on the 5th November 1836.  Within the next three years:

The British governance removed any right to the farm they had found, built and cultivated.

John Batman became terminally ill in his late thirties, as was incredibly common with the early explorers and surveyors of Australia.  So many who had risked life and limb, trekked many kilometres by foot at lightning speed, carved paths through open plains and woodlands, explored and charted these new lands and seas – died by the time they were forty.

They had ploughed all their savings into the Port Phillip venture, and into the building of their new home.  John Batman did all he could to honour the Treaty with the Aborigines, but, he was ill, and he, himself was being robbed of his discovery and his life’s work.  His health and life’s savings dwindled – then vanished.

John and Eliza fought with all they could to keep their home on ‘Batman’s Hill’.  They appealed directly to England.  Eliza, herself, went to England during which time, John had sadly passed in the May of 1839.

Their children were dispersed.

Their home on ‘Batman’s Hill’ became Governments Offices upon the death of John Batman . . .

There is no determining why Eliza left John at such a crucial time of his ailing health.  Perhaps they did not realise how dire his health really was?  Perhaps he sent her to England in a final act of gallantry, so that she did not see him wither away and die?  Perhaps they truly believed that there may be some justice to be found by going directly to the Queen?

It is hard to believe that she would leave John and her children for purely selfish reasons.  She was quoted as being a strong and determined woman – one “you would not mess with”.  She was a woman who would scale Ben Lomond, just to embrace its beauty.  She was a woman who adored her husband, her children and her home.  She ensured her children were happy, well mannered and educated, both morally and linguistically.  Recollections of those who knew the family well spoke of a warm, happy, welcoming home filled with happy, healthy children.

The notion of Eliza leaving to go to England for purely selfish reasons does not seem in character with a woman described as such.  It seems much more viable that she went in a desperate attempt to appeal directly to the English governance to stop the Australian governors taking their home and all they owned.  To his dying day, John Batman pleaded with the governors to allow his family to stay on the farm they had discovered and built – on the very day he died, they evicted the children and moved the government offices into their home.  It appeared that the governance wished to remove all trace of John Batman, his discoveries and pioneer settlement.  They succeeded.  Much of the literature at the time was to discredit the family, and even today one will often read that John Batman was a murderer of Aborigines, a villian, a womaniser, a drunk – and that Eliza was a drunken whore.

However, there were many who continued and still continue to fight for the injustices imposed upon this family . . .

Eliza returned to Melbourne, from her unsuccessful trip to England, arriving on the 17th March 1840, via Adelaide, SA, on the ship ‘Branken Moor’.  She found herself alone, without her children, penniless and desperate – with the loss of her husband – and the love of her life.

She wed William Willoughby (formerly Batman’s Clerk) in 1841, at the Church of England St James, Melbourne.  As a woman at that time of history, this could well have been her only option to survive; and to bring her children back to her ?? . . .

One can feel the sadness and hopelessness that descended upon her, and her children.  Resolving to a loveless marriage of convenience after having experienced a love that so many of us travel through life never knowing . . .  eight children depending on her . . . their home stolen . . . no money for food, shelter, clothing . . .

Her life had turned a full circle . . .

All she and John had worked so hard for – all their dreams – her husband – gone . . .

1842   Freedom

The last entry on Eliza Callaghan’s Convict Records states:

“Free Certificate – 23rd September 1842”

1843   Petition to the Queen

On the 25th July 1843, Eliza again petitioned for some recompense from the ‘Queen’s Most Excellent Majesty’.  The following excerpt from an article published in The Argus on the 22nd June 1889, titled ‘John Batman’s Widow and Children’ outlines the plea:

” . . . it humbly sheweth how the late John Batman did at his sole cost and expense in the year 1835, “charter a vessel to proceed from Van Diemen’s Land to the southern portion of New Holland”, how on arriving he was inexpressibly gratified to find a great tract of country admirably adapted for agricultural and grazing purposes.  How, having established friendly and confidential intercourse with the natives, he returned to report to Sir George Arthur, then Governor of Tasmania.  How Sir George reported to the Colonial Office, and the settlement of Port Phillip was begun.  How Sir Richard Bourke coming over from Port Jackson to take formal possession of this province expressed himself as highly pleased with the exertions of Mr. Batman, and recommended that he should prefer a claim to some portion of the waste lands.  All this, however is duly chronicled in the histories of the colony.  We only touch the pathos when we come to the close of the petition which is in these words :—

” That the said John Batman in consequence of the exposure of his person under all changes of weather and from sleeping for many months in the open air, while engaged in traversing and exploring this country, contracted a disease which, having confined him to his house and bed for two years, terminated his existence in May 1839, at the age of 39 years, leaving behind him a family of eight children, seven of whom are females of from eight to sixteen years of age, and one boy seven years old.

“That the property which the said John Batman possessed had at the period of his death decreased considerably in consequence of his long illness, and owing to a number of unfortunate events which have occurred since his family have been entirely deprived from any benefit existing therefrom, and have been for more than one year past without any means of support.

Four petitioners most humbly pray that, in consideration of the various and important services of the late John Batman on behalf of his country and in furtherance of which he ultimately lost his life, together with the pitiable condition of your memorialists, may induce Your Most Gracious Majesty to order that a grant of some portion of the wastelands of this district may be given to them.

“And as in duty, &c.

Melbourne, Port Phillip, July 25, 1843.”  

Then follow the signatures :—

“Eliza Willoughby late widow of John Batman

Elizabeth Batman

Ellen Batman  

Adelaide Batman

Maria Batman

Pelonamena Batman

Lucy Batman

John (his mark) Batman aged seven years.

Eliza Batman” 

And these sufficient guarantees of the good faith of the petition :—

“We knoweth statement made in the within to be true, and would humbly beg leave to recommend to Her Most Gracious Majesty’s consideration the prayer of the petitioners.


Mayor of Melbourne, and Member for Melbourne of the Legislative Council of New South Wales.


Member for Port Phillip of the new Legislative Council of New South Wales . . .”

The reply must have been very disheartening.  It is as curt as it is cruel:

” . . . Her Majesty has no power to accede to the prayer of the petition.

C.O., Jan 30, 1844.”  

And this was the end of the famous negotiations with the blacks for the purchase of the 600,000 acres of land, which, if held, might have became the most valuable estate ever acquired or held by private hands in the world.  Poor Batman coughed his lungs away in his cottage near the old Flagstaff Hill, in 1839, and four years later his widow and children were appealing for aid to the Colonial Office.  We have not always enriched or honoured our pioneers in Victoria . . . “

1845   The Loss of John Batman (Jnr)

Destiny, was yet to serve another blow to this poor family . . .

On the 11th January 1845, John and Eliza’s only son drowned in the Yarra River, at ‘The Falls‘ – at only eight years of age.

” . . . JOHN BATMAN, JUNIOR. — Batman, though blessed with a family of eight children, had only one son, and through a strange fatality, this boy was drowned in the Yarra some six years after his father’s death.  Unable to find any printed particulars of the manner in which he met his untimely end, I applied through the Hon. G. F. Belcher, of Geelong, to the Mr. William Weire before mentioned, to supply so important an omission, and through his courtesy, I append an account of the melancholy occurrence in Weire’s own words:  “The particulars of the boy’s death, as often told to me by Mrs. Batman, her daughter (my late wife) Elizabeth Mary, and her youngest daughter Pelonomena (Philemena?) — born 11th July, 1834, and died in July, 1859, and, indeed, by every member of the family, are as follow :—The family, after Batman’s death in May, 1839, resided in the large two-storey brick house then, at the corner of William and Collins Streets, on the site now occupied by the Australian Mutual Provident Society and other offices.  On the day — 11th January, 1845 — when the boy was drowned, his sister Pelonomena took him down to the Yarra at the “Falls,” as she had done many times previously.  He had a little fishing rod with him, and got on the stones at the “Falls” for the purpose of fishing, when, owing to the stones being slippery, he fell off into the river, striking his head against a stone, and was drowned before assistance could be given.  It was said that Pelonomena was a short distance away from the place where her brother went on to fish, and she was much blamed by the family for her apparent carelessness and neglect for not better looking after him.  It was also said that the lad took off his shoes and stockings to go on the stones to fish.  If such was the case it would cause him to slip off more readily than otherwise.  This is a brief outline of the death of ‘John Charles Batman’ — John Batman’s only son and heir!  Had he lived, the fortunes of the small remnant of the family now left might, perhaps, be of a brighter character.” . . . “

Source:  Excerpt – ‘Chronicles of Early Melbourne – 1835 to 1852 – Vol II’ – by Garryowen – published 1888

Eliza Letter re Drowning of John Batman Junior

Extract – Eliza Batman’s Handwritten Letter re the Death of John Batman Junior – 30 Jan 1845

The following is a transcript of Eliza Batman’s heart-wrenching letter:

“Market Square

30th January 1845

My Dear Elizabeth

I am sure you were very much distressed when you heard of the death of your dear brother.  I wrote a hurried letter to your aunt, acquainting her of the sad event and also sent a newspaper with the particulars; it seems that he was catching small fishes, which are left by the tide amongst the stones at the falls, and in getting up in haste one of the stones he was stankiing upon gave way and he was immediately carried away a considerable distance by the current, into the middle of the unlucky Yarrow Yarra, and before any assistance could be procured my lovely boy had sunk, every effort was made to get the body, but to no purpose untill next morning, when several of the blacks dived in different parts of the River and were successful in finding him.

Oh, my dear child, had you but seen him you would never have forgotten his countenance; no person would have thought he was dead, he looked as if he were in a quiet sleep, with a heavenly smile on his sweet face.  I am almost heart broken when I think of him and believe me Elizabeth all my happiness in this world is buried in the grave with him.  I loved him to excess – the only thing that reconciles me to this bereavement is that I am sure he is now in heaven, the Lord has taken him from the evil to come.  He gave him to me and He has in the order of his divine will taken him from me – and blessed be his holy name.

I send you a piece of his hair, which I cut off myself before he was put in the coffin – he was buried very respectably; several gentlemen attended; they wore white bands and scarfs.  He was carried in a hearse and about one hundred and fifty children followed, carrying flowers in their hands, which they strewed over his grave.  

He was buried in a vault with his father, and placed on top of his coffin, which looked as fresh and as new a the first day it was placed there, although six years have nearly elapsed since the unfortunate occurrence – Lucy has been living with Mr. Solomen for some time and intends to remain while the return from V D Land.  The go once for the [?] Shamrock – the wax candles Lucy has now in her possession they are very good.

Give my affectionate love to my sister and Mr. Stevens and accept the same.

Your Affectionate but Afflicted Mother.”

The devastation that is heard, and felt, amongst these words carry so much pain – it is almost impossible to bear.

Her daughter, Elizabeth, at the time of this heartfelt letter appears to have be living with her Aunt and Uncle.  The letter being addressed to “Miss Elizabeth Batman – John Stevens – Norfolk Plains, Van Diemen’s Land“.  Eliza also requests to “Give my affectionate love to my sister and Mr Stevens and accept the same.”  which would suggest that a member of Eliza’s family of origin, a sister, was also in Australia.  The transcript excerpt from Manuscript 3251 – Van Diemen’s Land 1821 – 1862; makes mention of the wife of John Stevens, being Mary Stevens, of Norfolk Plains, Van Diemen’s Land.  We could therefore conclude that Eliza’s sister was Mary . . .

1852   The Murder of Sarah Willoughby

Records of Eliza beyond this point are scant.  It is known that she left her second husband soon after the loss of her son and headed towards Geelong.

A diary entry in 1848 by Caroline Newcombe (the children’s governess when the family first arrived in Melbourne) notes that she had heard from Eliza stating her relief that Eliza was shortly arriving to pick up her two youngest daughters, Pelonamena and Adelaide, and that Eliza was very grateful for her help, but, would not be needing any further assistance.

Caroline Newcombe and Anne Drysdale resided at ‘Coriyule’ at this time, located just out of the township now known as Drysdale, on the Bellarine Peninsula, Victoria.

From this point on, records appear to disappear into obscurity.  We can only hope that Eliza was able to establish a home for her, and her children – perhaps she returned to where her husband, John, first set up camp at Indented Head ??  Perhaps she was supported by those who first travelled with her husband to the unknown territory of Port Phillip ? – perhaps she and John did realise that their cause could well be lost and prepared for the same ? – perhaps Eliza did manage to escape the treachery of the governance and settled quietly, in a place far away from it all – but in a place from where she could view Melbourne from afar – across the sea, unbeknown to those that had so happily stolen so much ?  Could this property be ‘Laura Villa‘, located in Portarlington in Victoria ???

However, history prefers to depict that she became Sarah Willoughby – a woman ” . . . of abandoned character (at least at present so reported) . . . “ who was brutally murdered in her home in ‘Ashby’, now known as the elite Packington Street area of West Geelong bordering Newtown.

The following article suggests that this poor woman was beaten beyond recognition, and possibly only over a £1 note:

” . . . I am called upon to record another atrocious murder committed on the person of a female of rather abandoned character (at least at present so reported), name Sarah Willoughby.  I have not gone out to see the body yet as the inquest which sits at 3 o’clock will afford me an opportunity of doing so; but I am informed that it presents as horrible an appearance as ever human eyes beheld.  At present it will perhaps, be better for me not to acquaint you publicly with all particulars obtained, but the following may be read on as correct having obtained them through the chief constable.

Information was given to the police about half past eleven o’clock this forenoon, that the unfortunate woman was found dead in her house at Ashby ; and on going out there, they were informed that a disturbance had taken place between the deceased, a woman named Eliza Wilson, and one or two men.  This coupled with other information, induced the police to apprehend the woman, Eliza Wilson and a man named John Trigg.  On searching the female prisoner at the watchhouse a one pound note with fresh blood stains on it was found concealed under her arm pit.  I am glad to say that, as yet, appearances are favourable to the opinion that there will be little difficulty in tracing the dark deed home to the perpetrators of it.  It has caused a great sensation, not only in the neighbourhood, but all over the town and suburbs; and it is not to be wondered at ; for while the Executive is talking and promising to increase the police force to the necessary strength and efficiency, the people are being murdered in their houses and in the streets like dogs.  Up La Trobe ! And act like a man, or fly from the Colony in disgrace . . . “

Source:  Argus – Excerpt – Article “GEELONG – Wednesday, March 31.” – published 1st April 1852


” . . . John Tregg, and Eliza Wilson, for the murder of Sarah Willoughby, at Ashby, were ordered back to jail, to allow opportunity for more evidence being produced by the next sessions . . . “

Source:  Geelong Advertiser & Intelligencer – Excerpt – Article “GEELONG – Wednesday, March 31.” – published 22nd April 1852


Incidentally, the two accused of the murder awaited trial, but were later acquitted:


Returns of Coroners' Inquests, 1852

Returns of Coroners’ Inquests, 1852


It is difficult to understand how the correlation came to be, that Eliza Batman was in fact, the poor, murdered, Sarah Willoughby . . . – especially considering that there is no mention of any such relationship in any newspaper articles or court reports of the time ???


One can only hope that Eliza managed to disappear into obscurity ??? – to allow her the freedom of living out the rest of her life without further ridicule, heartbreak, loss and sadness ???


There is also the matter of the legend of the Batman jewellery and treasures, hidden in an iron box, somewhere . . .

The article John Batman – Descendants of the Founder outlines the injustices to this poor family who had such love and high hopes.  Perhaps one day, the elusive treasure box will be found and the mysteries laid to rest:

” . . . Batman’s family was composed of seven daughters and one son.  Maria, the eldest daughter married a Mr Robert Fennel, who owned what was then known as the Yarra Grange Estate, situated on the river near where the punt used to be at Studley Park.  There is a tradition that some members of the Batman family buried an iron box, containing considerable jewellery and money belonging to the family, somewhere in the estate, and from what can be learned that iron box is rusting somewhere beneath the surface of the soil now . . . “

Perhaps a diary may emerge – that will tell the full and true story of this remarkable woman, and of this remarkable couple ?? . . .


View other important events in Tasmania’s History . . .

View other important events in this Region’s History . . .

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