Amelia’s life after she left the Orphan School was one of hardship, at best, and sometimes great misfortune and sadness. My interest in her has come about because a man she lived with at Tunnack, John Donnell, was half-brother to my great grandfather Christopher Luke Rooney.
According to Joyce Purtscher (Apprentices and absconders from Queen’s Orphanage, Hobart Town, 1860-1883) Amelia’s apprenticeship expired on 21 January 1873. She appears to have stayed on at Tunnack working for farmer Peter Campbell. On 3 June 1874 she gave birth to an illegitimate son. The baby died when about eighteen days old, and before the birth had been registered. Peter Campbell appears to have made a hasty trip into Oatlands to rectify this oversight, naming the father as labourer Charles Rogers, and giving the baby boy the same name. An inquest found the infant had been accidentally smothered.
John Donnell was about fifteen years older than Amelia. He worked as a general agricultural labourer, including ploughing and shearing and also as a timber splitter. In 1859, in Oatlands, he had married a woman named Eliza Sullivan (or Eliza Murphy) and they had six children together. Their marriage seemed to have been a rather troubled one. I have been unable to find out what happened to Eliza, or whether she was still living with John when their youngest child, Madeline Frances, died from burns at Tunnack on 10 August 1874.
Around a year after that John Donnell and Amelia Dyke were obviously in a relationship. Their first child, MARY ANN, was born, probably at Tunnack, on 30 May 1876, and was followed by four more – BRIDGET (1877 - died in infancy), AMELIA (1879), WILLIAM JOHN (1880) and, reusing the name, MADELINE FRANCES (1882) – five children in a little over six years! When they commenced their relationship John had three children from his marriage to Eliza still living, aged twelve, nine and seven. Amelia registered the births of most of her own children at Oatlands, giving her name as Amelia Donnell, and apparently, notwithstanding time spent in the Orphan School, unable to sign her name.
John and Amelia never married, which suggests that John's wife Eliza was still living. Life must have been a struggle for Amelia with all those children, in what was probably primitive housing, and with little money. But things soon became worse. In May 1882, just a couple of months after Madeline’s birth, John was admitted as a pauper patient to the General Hospital in Hobart, suffering from chronic bronchitis. He died there on 9 July, aged just 42. He was buried in the pauper section at Cornelian Bay cemetery.
The unfortunate Amelia, with a young family to care for, was probably left destitute. She entered into a relationship with blacksmith HENRY GREENWAY. Greenway was a former convict (arrived in 1848 per Salween) and was over 30 years older than she was. Again there was no marriage but they had three children together, HENRY EDWARD (born at Tunnack in 1885), CHARLES (1887) and HENRIETTA (1889). By the time Henrietta was born they had moved to Saint Helens. Henrietta died there from convulsions aged just six months, her death occasioning another inquest.
Amelia and family appear to have become quite destitute and dysfunctional. In July 1890 Mary Donnell (i.e. Mary Ann), then fourteen and said to be formerly of the Oatlands district, was admitted to the Girls Training School in Hobart for three years after a charge of larceny. At that time her mother Amelia was still at Saint Helens. In April 1892 the aged Henry Greenway senior was admitted to the Launceston Invalid Depot, but was discharged on 1 June. In August 1892, Amelia, still at Saint Helens, was sentenced to three months’ gaol for vagrancy and her two youngest children Madeline Frances Donnell and Henry Greenway (the latter already convicted of larceny aged just seven) were placed into state care. The Police Gazette record of Amelia’s discharge from prison gives her name as Amelia Greenway. She was aged 36, five feet two and a half inches tall, and had auburn hair. She appears to have told the authorities she was born in England.
Greenway senior was in the New Town Invalid depot for short periods in 1993 and 1994 and was back there when he died in 1895.
Amelia's daughter, Mary Ann, at her marriage in 1896, said she did not know where her mother was.
There is another possible sighting of Amelia in Hobart in May 1898. Two married women said to be newly arrived from the country were convicted of stealing, during the night, two wooden posts from a pile on the wharf. The offenders were named as Amelia Donnell and Jane Wines. They said that Jane had been up all night with a sick child and they had run out of firewood. The Police Gazette records Amelia as 42 years old, free, with fair hair and standing five feet one inch tall. Both women were admonished that it was wrong to steal, even if they did need the firewood. They were held in custody for a further two hours, then released.
I have been unable to trace Amelia after this. An Amelia Donnell was gaoled for vagrancy in the Longford district in 1910, but this was clearly John Donnell’s grand-daughter Amelia Maud. Amelia’s sons William John Donnell and Henry Greenway both moved to New Zealand but I cannot find their mother there.
Of the other children: Daughter Mary Ann Donnell had a large family in Tasmania with her husband John Berrison Jones. I have been unable to trace her beyond 1918 when she was living in Sydney. Amelia junior had a large family and died in Queensland in 1957 (Amelia McDonald). Madeline Frances appears to have been adopted and later used the name Grace Maud Bentley. She married twice and died in Melbourne in 1930 (Grace Maud Lewis).