Jane Burnside (1823 – 1910), a convict, was born in Liverpool, England, the daughter of Thomas Burnside, a tailor. In 1840 she was convicted of stealing clothes in County Down, Ireland and transported to New South Wales on the vessel Margaret. In April 1840, Jane married Joseph Ray, a convict per the Bussorah Merchant. The Rays moved to Queensland in about 1851, where the youngest six of their eleven children were born, starting with John Ray in 1852. Jane Ray (née Burnside) died in Toowoomba in 1910 aged 96.
Jane Burnside, a 17-year-old child’s maid, arrived in New South Wales as a convict on board the Margaret 3 in August 1840. In March that year she had been convicted of stealing clothes in Downpatrick, County Down. As Jane had previously served a six-month sentence, she was sentenced to seven years’ transportation. Jane was just under 4 feet 10 inches tall with light brown hair and brown eyes. A canine tooth was missing on the right side of her upper jaw and she had two sets of initials, an anchor and a flag tattooed on her left arm.
In November 1843, three years after arriving in Sydney, Jane Burnside married Joseph Ray at the Cobbitty Church of England in Narellan. Joseph Ray was also a convict and had been transported on the Bussorah Merchant in 1828 for highway robbery. Jane was 20 years old and still a convict (‘bond’), while Joseph was 35 years old and had already earned his ticket of leave. The Ray’s four eldest children were born in New South Wales between 1844 and 1849. A fifth child was born in about 1850, though the details are unknown. The Rays came to the end of their convict sentences during this time, with Jane receiving her certificate of freedom and Joseph receiving his conditional pardon, both in 1847.
It is uncertain exactly when the Ray family moved to Queensland, however there are several traces in 1852 records, including Joseph being fined for being drunk and disorderly at the Brisbane Court of Petty Sessions on 26 July 1852. In October 1852, the Ray’s sixth child, John, was born at North Brisbane. Through the birth registrations of their next three children, the Rays can be traced to Kangaroo Point on the south side of the Brisbane River in 1854, Drayton near Toowoomba in 1856, and then Ipswich in 1858. In 1863, Samson, the last of the Ray’s eleven children, died at Ipswich aged nine months.
In 1864 Jane Ray appeared as an eyewitness to a case of domestic violence tried in the Ipswich Police Court. The Queensland Times, Ipswich Herald and General Advertiser reported that ‘Mrs Jane Ray’ was ‘the wife of Joseph Ray, sawyer, and lived at Little Ipswich’. She and her daughter had attempted to stop Thomas Fidgett beating his wife, Ann Fidgett, who was living in the Ray’s house at the time of the assault. Jane Ray gave evidence that Fidgett punched and kicked his wife, hit her in the face and head with a rolling pin, and tore all her clothes off. The Police Magistrate stated that ‘the Bench considered it one of the grossest cases of the kind that had ever come before them’ and sentenced Fidgett to six months’ imprisonment with hard labour.
Two years later Joseph Ray died of ‘general debility’ in the Rockhampton Hospital. There is no record of Jane Ray living in Rockhampton and it is possible that Joseph had travelled north by himself to be near his eldest son, Frank Ray. Jane outlived her husband by 44 years, dying in Toowoomba in 1910 a few days short of her ninety-seventh birthday. Her obituary, published in the Darling Downs Gazette under the title ‘A tribute to Queensland’, gave Jane’s first name as ‘Janet’ and stated that she arrived in the Australian colonies on the Red Rover in 1823, whereas archival evidence supports Jane Burnside’s birth in Liverpool, England in 1823 and her transportation to Sydney on the convict ship Margaret 3 in 1840. It appears that steps had been taken, perhaps by Jane herself, to muddy the waters and, in the process, obscure her convict background.
Note: Additional research, family information and images for this biography were provided by descendants Jan Bimrose and John Joseph Ray.
Jan Richardson, ‘Jane Ray (née Burnside) (1823 – 1910)’, Harry Gentle Resource Centre, Griffith University, 2021 (updated 2023), https://harrygentle.griffith.edu.au/life-stories/jane-burnside/.
Jane Burnside per Margaret 3 (1840).
Joseph Ray and Jane Burnside, 15 Nov 1843, Camden, NSW.
Marriage registration of Joseph Ray and Jane Burnside, 1843, Cobbitty, Narellan, NSW.
Joseph Ray per Bussorah Merchant (1828).
Jane Burnside per Margaret 3 (1840), CF No. 47/655, 28 Aug 1847.
Joseph Ray per Bussorah Merchant (1828), Conditional Pardon No. 48/4405, 31 Dec 1847.
Trial of Joseph Ray, 26 Jul 1852.
Janet [sic] Ray, daughter of Thomas Burnside, died 2 Sep 1910, Toowoomba.
Invisible stories: The presence of female convicts in Queensland following the closure of the Moreton Bay penal settlement in 1842. Jan Richardson, History in the Making, Vol. 2, No. 2 (Winter-Spring), 2013, pp. 86-108.
Early convict settlers in Queensland: Jane Burnside and Joseph Ray. Jan Richardson Generation, Vol. 44, No. 3, March 2021, pp. 27-29.
St John’s, Camden. Anniversary of Consecration, Sydney Morning Herald, 10 Jun 1933.
Breach of contract, Moreton Bay Courier, 4 Dec 1852.
Ipswich Police Court, Queensland Times, Ipswich Herald and General Advertiser, 3 May 1864.
A tribute to Queensland, Darling Downs Gazette, 19 Sep 1910.