Thomas Nicholas Higgins and Ann Maher

- an Irish Settler Born at Sea and his Wife -
My Great Great Grandparents

Thomas Nicholas Higgins, was born at sea aboard British Vessel Albatross on 27th July
1841 to parents
Thomas Higgins and Mary O'Neill. Thomas' birth is recorded by the Ship's
Surgeon as being one of seven births occurring during the voyage. [b] He was baptised at
East Maitland on 28th December, 1841.  His occupation is listed at various times as farmer
[1880], porter, 1871, carter [1874] labourer and clerk [1877]. Oral history suggests he
painted coaches although I have not been able to confirm this. There is a Thomas Higgins,
coach builder, of East Maitland Road, West Maitland recorded in Sands PO Directory 1878
and Thomas Higgins, labourer of Devonshire Street, West Maitland Grevilles PO directory of
1872.  Some time between 1877 and 1880, the family moved to Gunnedah. A man named
Thomas Higgins was held up by bushrangers on 20th December 1863 at Doughboy Hollow.
Higgins gives his residence as Sugarloaf and at the time of the holdup, he was accompanied
by Patrick Bourke [possibly his brother-in-law of the same name]

Ann Frances Maher, was baptised June 1841, Thurles, Tipperary, Ireland to parents Martin
Maher and Mary
Maher. She travelled to Australia with her parents aboard the Eliza in
1855.

Marriage: Thomas Higgins married Ann Maher on 11th April 1864 at St Joseph's East
Maitland [a]
Above: Sarah [right] and sister Maud  [left]- date
unknown

Below: Probably the last photo of Sarah and
sister Margaret [Maud] taken together - photo
courtesy of Peter Bartlett.
The Children of Thomas Higgins and Ann Maher

Sarah Higgins, born 21st January, 1865,
Sugarloaf, near Maitland. Elder of twins. [a]
Married
Boston Clark Bartlett - my great
grandparents

Mary Higgins, born 21st January 1865
Sugarloaf,  near Maitland  Younger twin of Sarah.  
Mary never married[e] Died 18th April 1932 at
Western Suburbs Hospital, Croydon [ref 8338]
[Trans held] her usual residence was Ashfield and
she was an old age pensioner. Cause of death was
1) Cholelithiasis [Gallstones] 2) empyema of gall
bladder [Acute cholecystitis in the presence of
bacteria-containing bile may progress to
suppurative infection in which the gallbladder fills
with purulent material] 3) Right Basal lobar
pneumonia [2 weeks after operation] 4) coronary
embolism. Informant was Maud Ryan sister.  
Buried Catholic Section of Rookwood on 20th
April 1932 [Mortuary 2 Area 9 Grave 5879]

Bridget [Babs] Higgins, born 24th February 1868
[as per brother Martin's birth cert] Maitland.
Married
James Jerry Waite on 21st February
1888 at Church of England, Murrurundi, NSW.

Thomas Higgins jnr, born 24th Decemeber, 1869,
Catherine St, West Maitland. Married
Hannah
[Annie] Cubis
, 2nd December 1906. Died 11th
April, 1961.

Margaret Ann Higgins  [Maud] born 2nd October
1871 at Devonshire Street, West Maitland.
Margaret was known as Maud.  Married
James
Ryan
, Maitland 1889. [d&e] [Transcripts held]

Martin Joseph Higgins, born 8th October 1874 at
Devonshire Street, West Maitland. [Transcript
held]
possibly known as George; a mysterious
character
[e]

Ann Frances Higgins, born Maitland 1876. Ann
aged 13 months died 12th February 1877 [ref
6332/1877 [d] Cause of death was gastroenteritis.
Length of illness was 3 months. Father Thomas, a
stone mason of West Maitland was the informant.

James Higgins, [ref 6492/1877]  born 23rd
October 1877, elder of twins. Present at the birth
were R.J Pearce [medical attendant] and Mary
Maher [possibly Ann's mother][Trans Held] Died
24th October West Maitland 1877 Cause of death
'defective vitality' Buried 25th October 1877
Roman Cathoilic Cemetery East Maitland. [Trans
held]

Catherine Higgins, born 23rd October 1877,
younger of twins. Died October 1877 West
Maitland.  [exact date to be determined - possibly
same as James] [ref 6491/1877]

Highway Robbery: It appears that Thomas and his
brother-in-law
Patrick Burke were the victims of highway
robbery. The following account appeared in the Maitland Mercury
dated 16th January 1864:
MAIL AND HIGHWAY ROBBERY. - William Mackie and Robert
Johnstone were brought before the bench at East Maitland, yesterday,
charged with mail and highway robbery. Sergeant Thorpe deposed : I
arrested Mackie on a charge of robbing the Murrurundi and
Tamworth mail, at a place called Betty's Creek, near Singleton ; at the
time I arrested him he had with him a double-barrelled gun, now
produced, and a brace of   single-barrelled pistols; he was lying
concealed in a bush fence ; the arms were loaded at the time ; also a
flask of powder (produced) ; told him to stand or I would shoot him ;
he attempted to creep through the fence ; constable Leonard first
seized hold of him, and he and Gordon handcuffed him ; we all came
on him together, and I ordered Leonard and the other constables to
handcuff him, while I covered him with a revolver ; when he was
secured, I searched him, and found on him the pocket book now
produced, containing amongst other documents a bill of exchange,
dated Tamworth, for £34 3s. 6d. payable at the Bank of New South
Wales, Maitland ; also a quantity of other documents, cheques, and
bank notes. - Constable Arthur stated that he had received the prisoner
Johnstone, with a warrant charging him with mail robbery . - Patrick
John Coghlan was called to give evidence but did not appear. - John
Smith deposed : I am mail driver, and live at Tamworth ; I drive Mr.
Gill's coach, which carries the mail between Tamworth and
Murrurundi ; the mail was robbed on the 20th of December last about
3½ miles from Doughboy Hollow, to the northward ; the mail was
robbed by two armed men - one had a double-barrelled gun ; and the
other a pair of single-barrelled pistols. The tall prisoner (Mackie) is the
man who had the gun ; I do not recognise the gun. The other man had
blank crape over his face, and I could not swear to him further than
from his general appearance ; the other prisoner resembles the man.
They came up to me at about a quarter to twelve, I had three
passengers; one was named Dyer, and lives at Tamworth; the robbers
told me to turn in in off the road ; I did so ; the little man then jumped
up and took the mail bags out, cut the strings, and took the letters out,
tied them on their horses, and rode away ; they did not detain me
more than a quarter of an hour ; we were in friendly conversation
about Wilson and other things ; I did not offer any resistance, or
object to their proceedings ; Mackie did not got off his horse ; they
robbed Dyer of £19 ; they went away together, and acted together ;
never saw Johnstone before that I know of ; I swear positively to
Mackie. At the request of sergeant Thorpe both prisoners were then
remanded on the charge of mail robbery.
The charge of highway
robbery was then proceeded with. Thomas Higgins deposed
:-I
lived at Fort Bourke
(1) for eighteen months ; I now live at the
Sugarloaf ; between the hours of six and seven in the morning in
question I was stopped on the main road between Dough- boy Hollow
and the Willow Tree by two armed men ; one of them had his face
disguised with crape; the tall man had a double-barrelled gun, and the
other had two small pistols ; I recognise the tall man as one of the
robbers ; I have heard the other man (Johnstone) speak without his
knowing that I was near, and his voice is very much like that of the
small bushranger; I first saw the tall man, and he ordered me to turn
down a gully ; a man named Bourke was with me ; when we turned
in, Mackie ordered the other robber to come up, and when he was
coming up behind me the pistol went off and shot my horse, it died
afterwards ; Mackie reprimanded the man for firing at the mare ; both
dismounted, and they took four cheques and 13s. in silver from me;
they did not take anything from Bourke, as I had the money of both.
They kept us there until about one o'clock, and said they were waiting
for the mail ; they let us go at one o'clock ; I swear positively to
Mackie as one of the men, and I believe Johnstone to be the other.
Patrick Bourke deposed: I live at the Sugarloaf; I am a carrier on the
road ; on Sunday, the 20th of December, I was with Thomas Higgins,
between Doughboy Hollow and the Willow Tree; the prisoner there
(Mackie) came up to us, and said "Stop, my lads; hold on a bit;" he
then shouted out to another man, roughly, and with a curse, " Why
don't you come up ;" the other man then came up ; I strongly believe
Johnstone was he ; I could not swear positively to him ; his face was
hidden by the crape ; he did not speak much, but I heard his voice
several times when Mackie spoke to him ; I have heard his voice
since, and it is the same voice; the pistol that shot Higgins' horse went
off before the other man spoke a word. They kept us until the mail
was coming up, and then left us and robbed the mail within our sight.
The prisoners were then remanded on both charges until Friday next.
Notes:
(1) Fort Bourke refers to Fort Bourke Stockade on the banks
of the Darling River abut 12 kms from Bourke.
Above L-R Mary, Bridget [Babs] Margaret [Maud
and Sarah Higgins. This photo must have been
taken when sister Babs returned from NZ for a
visit with her sisters. Photo courtesy of Sharon
Above: Thomas Higgins junior - photo courtesy
of Rick

Below: Martin Joseph Higgins - photo courtesy
of Sharon
What happened to Thomas Higgins?
The whereabouts of Thomas Higgins, Sarah's father, is unknown after 1880.  He is the
informant on wife Ann's Death Certificate in April. The NSW Police Gazette of 6th October
1880 tells us that a warrant was issued for Thomas Nicholas Higgins by the Gunnedah Bench
charged with embezelling 23 pounds from his employer Joseph Conlon about 1st July.
Higgins is described as being about 40 years of age, 5 foot 11 inches tall, dark complexion,
very dark hair and whiskers. Believed to have gone to Temora Gold Fields.  When daughters
Bridget and Margaret marry in 1888 and 1889 he is not present to give his permission.  
Instead, permission is given by the Guardian of Minors, suggesting that Thomas is either
dead or has abandoned his family and his whereabouts are unknown. However when
Thomas' mother Mary Higgins dies in 1891 her death certificate lists Thomas among her
living children. When Sarah eventually married in 1898 Thomas is listed as deceased. The
story passed down through daughter Maud's family is that one day Thomas went out riding
and his horse returned without him. Some years later a skeleton was found that was thought
to be Thomas. So far I have been unable to prove this story. The following notice appeared in
the Missing friends section of the Australian Town and Country Journal dated 4th March
1882:
HIGGINS. - Any information respecting THOMAS NICHOLAS HIGGINS, late of Gunnedah,
will be gladly received by railway stationmaster, Gunnedah.
To date have found no record of Thomas' death.   Possible deaths for Thomas include:
117/1880  HIGGINS  THOMAS  THOMAS  DIED SYDNEY  SYDNEY  - Transcript held - not ours
5895/1880  HIGGINS  THOMAS  AGE 41 YEARS  DIED BURROWA  BURROWA -  Transcript Held -possible
15441/1893  HIGGINS  THOMAS  UNKNOWN  UNKNOWN  WENTWORTH -not ours transcript held
1854/1884  HIGGINS  THOMAS  UNKNOWN  UNKNOWN  SYDNEY -Not our, transcript held
Death:
Ann died 9th April 1880, at Gunnedah
aged 36. The cause of death was
premature birth. Husband Thomas was
the informant. She is buried in
Gunnedah [probably Roman Catholic]
Cemetery [Ref 10369]
[trans held]

Oral tradition tells that after the death
of their mother Ann in 1880, the
Higgins children were split up and sent
to live with various relatives.  According
to Sarah she eventually gathered up
her siblings from their various new
homes and ran away to Sydney to raise
them with twin sister Mary.  So far I
have been unable to prove this story to
be true, however recent discoveries
may shed light on some of these claims.