William Peter Hickson
Last Update 6th July 2014
Hickson:  William Peter [Peter William] born 1871 Macleay River [ref 12341/1871] son of
Peter Hickson and Matilda Ann Sheppard and brother to my great grandfather George
Thomas Hickson

Randwick Asylum for Destitute Children
On 10th March 1880 William [recorded as Peter] along with siblings Walter, Ada, George,
Edward and Frederick were admitted to the Randwick Asylum for Destitute Children by their
mother, Matilda. Baby Benjamin is not listed. Her address at the time was Maitland Place off
Parramatta Street, Sydney. The reasons given for the admittance of the children were
mistreatment [?], neglect and desertion by father. Their admission was noted 'To pay two
pounds six per week for each child'. The asylum opened in 1858 and operated until 1915. It
was constructed to hold 400 children but by 1868 had been expanded to hold 700. The
'boarding out' system began 1883 and by 1886 numbers had reduced to 250. The asylum had
a farm where boys learnt farming schools. All children were given a basic education and older
boys and sometimes girls were apprenticed to the institution. The Prince of Wales Hospital now
stands on the site.

On 14th April 1880 all of the children except Edward were discharged to their father, Peter,
who gave the address 8 Glenmore Rd Paddington.  What followed then was recorded in The
Sydney Morning Herald dated 18th May 1880 under the headline "Shocking Destitution":

SHOCKING DESTITUTION.
The truth of the aphorism that one-half the world has no idea how the other half lives was fully
exemplified at the Water Police Court yesterday morning, when a case was brought under the
notice of the magistrates which disclosed a state of misery and wretchedness seldom heard of
in this community. Peter Hickson, a middle-aged man, described as a sawyer, together with a
woman named Mary Jane Mackay, was charged with having no lawful means of support, while
five children-four boys, whose ages ranged from 2 years to 11 years, and a girl-were also
brought before the Court as destitute children, having been found on Saturday night sleeping
out in the open air. From the statement of senior-sergeant Bremner, it appeared that he
discovered the five children on Saturday night at about 8 o'clock lying in the scrub at the water
reserve, Moore Park, in company with the father and a woman of the vagrant class. The
children, who were lying asleep on the bare ground, were in a most filthy and pitiable
condition. They were wretchedly clad, what little clothing they had on being in a state of rags,
and the unfortunate waifs were shivering bitterly with the cold. One of the children, a girl
about 11 years of age, told the constable that she was sent out begging by her father every day,
and whenever she came home without either money or food she was flogged. Whatever money
she obtained by begging she always gave to her father, who invariably spent it in drink. The
children were not only disgustingly dirty, but also more or less afflicted with blight in the eyes,
the result of exposure and want. The constable had the children forthwith conveyed to the
police station, where they were washed and fed. The father and the woman who was found
lying in the scrub with the children were also taken to the station, and were charged with
having no lawful means of support. Matilda Hickson, the mother of the children, informed the
Bench that she was in service, and received a sum of 12s per week, out of which she had to pay
10s for the support of one of her children two years of age. In March last she got five of the
children into the Randwick Asylum, where they were in good health and quite contented ; but
the father took them out against her wishes and without her consent, and since then they had
been going about the streets begging. The father stated that he was turned out of his house
with his children lately because he could not pay the rent, and that he took them out of the
asylum to provide for them himself, but had since been unable to obtain work. Mr. Marsh, in
commenting on the case, said that it was very painful to see an able-bodied healthy man like
the prisoner living in such degradation and abject misery, and allowing his children to suffer
such horrible privations through his own laziness. His personal appearance was sufficient to
inspire any one with disgust, and he was nothing better than a disgrace to humanity. Hickson
was sentenced to six months' imprisonment, with hard labour, in Darlinghurst gaol ; and the
woman who was found in his company, and who said that she had been "hired by Mr. Hickson
to mind the children," was sent to gaol for two months. The children were ordered to be sent to
the Industrial School.

Nautical School Ship Vernon 1887:
William along with his brothers was sent to the Industrial School aboard the ship Vernon (est.
1867)  Boys received a combination of moral training, nautical and industrial training and
instruction, and elementary schooling. The Vernon was docked at Cockatoo Island.
At some point William was discharged but returned to the school on 1st March 1887. The
Entrance Book report states: 'Was away four years then had to be returned on account of his
parents causing the boy to misbehave and abscond'.

Darlinghurst Gaol 1898: William Peter Hickson of 18 Regent Street Paddington aged 27 is
admitted to Darlinghurst Gaol for a 2 months on a charge of larceny on 30th November. He
was 5 foot 2 and 3/4 inches tall with brown hair and grey eyes. He was a labourer of the
Church of England faith. He was released on 3rd December after paying the fine of ?

The Shoalhaven Telegraph dated 17th September 1902 reported:
William Peter Hickson, for using indecent language in East street, was fined £1. Walter
Hickson, for a similar offence at the same time and place, was also fined £1.

Wollongong Gaol 17th May 1905: William along with brother Walter was admitted to the
Wollongong Gaol for being drunk and disorderly and using obscene language. He is described
as being 'ex-Vernon' from Sydney 35 yeas old, a labourer, church of England, 5 foot 2 1/2
inches tall, light brown hair, blue eyes, with a tattoo of a woman on his left forearm, faint
marks of hands? on his right forearm, scar on calf of right leg. He was discharged on 5th June.
The Shoalhaven Telegraph [Wollongong] dated 17th May 1905 reported:
Walter Hickson pleaded guilty to making use of indecent language in Berry street. Fined £1, or
one month in Wollongong gaol. William Hickson, for being drunk and disorderly in Berry
street, was fined 10s or 14 days in Wollongong gaol.

WW1: William aged 44 applied to join the AIF during WW1 but was either rejected,discharged
while still in training, or went on to serve within Australia only [usually as depot troops or
camp guards]. The most common reason for rejection is on medical grounds. [research
continues]

Illawarra Mercury dated 7th April 1928 reported that William Peter Hickson was one of
several people who did not appear to answer charges of being found drunk.:

Electoral Rolls
In 1930,33 &36, William, a labourer,  is residing at Dolan's rd Cronulla.
In 1936 & 37 brother Walter is also living at that address. [Aust Electoral Rolls]
1943 shows William and Walter residing at Gannon's Road, Cronulla. Both are shown as 'no
occupation'

Death: William Peter Hickson died on 21st December 1944 at the St George District Hospital,
Kogarah. He is recorded as being late of the Sutherland Shire. [ref 25041/1944] He is
recorded as being a 73 year old labourer who was not married. The informant was brother
Walter Hickson of Gannon's Road, Caringbah. Cause of death was Hypostatic Pneumonia and
Senile Decay, Bronchitus, which he had suffered from for 5 days. He was cremated at the
Woronora Crematorium on 22nd December 1944. According to the cemetery website, his ashes
are buried in the grounds.