Edward WINTER, Mary REIBEY and the $20 note

Isaac BATEY (1839-1928) left an invaluable memoir of recollections of life in the pioneering days of Sunbury, Victoria, and its surrounds. Several of his stories relate to Edward WINTER (1812-1869)—his father in law and my great great grandfather. The stories are surprising, exhilarating and previously unknown—to my present day clan anyway. They’re what every family historian secretly hopes for; an insight into a forebear’s character. Here’s one such story—a connection between Edward WINTER and the woman on the Australian twenty-dollar note, Mary REIBEY (1777-1855).

2017 Mary REIBEY (1777-1855) on the Australian $20 note.

Who was Mary REIBEY (1777-1855)?

Mary REIBEY, the rather dour looking woman above, was an astute Sydney businesswoman who operated as a trader in Sydney in the early 1800s. She was added to the $20 note in 1994.1

According to the entry for Mary REIBEY in the Australian Dictionary of Biography, Mary came to Australia from England as a convict. She was convicted in 1790 for horse stealing at the age of 13. At the time of her arrest, she was disguised as a boy, going by the name of James Burrow, her real name being Molly (or Mary) Haydock. She was transported to NSW for 7 years, arriving in Sydney in 1792.

In 1794, she married Thomas REIBEY (1769-1811) in Sydney. Thomas was a free man who had previously worked for the East India company. The couple had seven children together. They owned property on the Hawksebury River and in Sydney. Mary ran a store with goods from India and China which her husband procured on his travels. They built a house and warehouse in Macquarie Place, Sydney and named the establishment, Entally, after the Calcutta suburb where Thomas spent much of his boyhood.2

Thomas became the business partner of an Edward WILLS (1778?-1811), an emancipist. Together they established a boat building business.

♦ Edward WILLS…remember that name for later…

Entally House, Tasmania

1974 Entally House, Hadspen, Tasmania. Author’s private collection.

Entally House in Tasmania may ring a bell with some of you. It’s a beautifully preserved home in Hadspen, 13 km from Launceston. The Entally estate was established in 1819 by the three sons of Thomas and Mary REIBEY.

In 1974, I visited this house as part of a school tour to Tasmania. I fell in love with it—as I did with most of Tassie. I loved the old furnishings and the imaginings they stirred. I ‘saw’ the family sitting around the luscious dining room table sharing their day. I think this is when I started to live in the 1800s.

Back to Mary…

By 1811, Mary was a widow. Thomas REIBEY and his partner, Edward WILLS, died within a month of each other in 1811. Mary was left with seven children, the youngest being only five months old. Despite the demands of a young family, she continued the trading exploits of her husband and his partner and opened another warehouse in 1812, this time in George Street, Sydney. She became a major shareholder in the new Bank of New South Wales and a governor for the Free Grammar School.

Mary REIBEY died in 1855. Five of her seven children predeceased her, one of them being Celia REIBEY.

♦ Celia REIBEY…remember that name too.

Who was Isaac BATEY (1839-1928)?

Isaac Batey was the son of Martin BATEY, a pioneer in the Sunbury area in Victoria.3 Martin BATEY acquired land on the east side of Jackson’s Creek, known as Redstone Hill, almost opposite the property of Edward WINTER, who was situated on the west side of Jackson’s Creek, in Digger’s Rest. No doubt there were ‘meetings’ down by the creek as Isaac married Edward WINTER’s eldest daughter, Lydia WINTER (1843-1899) in 1877.

I first discovered the writings of Isaac BATEY when I was searching for any mention of Edward WINTER in the digitised newspapers accessed through TROVE. BATEY’s reminiscences, including his father’s recollections of the pioneering days, were serialised under the heading ‘The Far-Off Has-Been’ in the Sunbury News of 1903/1904. They turned out to be a rich source of the history of the pioneers, including several mentions of his father in law, Edward WINTER.

A further search for BATEY’s writings revealed an original manuscript in the State Library of Victoria (SLV). It’s identified in the SLV catalogue as ‘Notes, 1840-1850’ by Isaac Batey. There’s a copy on microfilm too. The SLV catalogue entry for the ‘notes’ reads:

Accounts of the life of pioneers in the Keilor, Sunbury and Werribee areas: “Further notes on early days on the Keilor and Werribee plains…with work-painted portrait of “Big Clarke” (H7913); a leather bound volume entitled “Pioneers of the Sunbury District” (172325 and also available on microfilm at MSM 506)

The catalogue entry describes the author, Isaac BATEY, like so:

Isaac Batey was a Victorian settler and grazier in the areas around Sunbury, Werribee and Keilor. He kept sheep on this land and is known to have made an inventory of native birds in what is now known as the Organ Pipes National Park, just outside Melbourne.

There’s something magical about seeing someone’s writing in the flesh and touching their original journal, so I ordered the ‘Notes’ and spent a delicious hour or so in the beautiful Manuscripts Room of the SLV soaking up BATEY’s musings. His reminiscences are an invaluable resource for anyone interested in the ‘goings on’ of the early days of the colony, especially around the district of Sunbury.

Edward WINTER and ‘Mrs BLANK’

The following extract from BATEY’s notes entitled, ‘Pioneers of the Sunbury District’ caught my interest. It describes the interactions between his father in law, Edward WINTER, and Edward’s employer in Sydney, a ‘Mrs Blank’, and some fellow employees (pages 382-384). Transcribed as written:

…The late Edward Winter whose tenacity is not to be doubted emigrated to Tasmania, from thence to better himself he went to Sydney where he obtained a situation as farm manager to a lady who had been transported. She had married well, when Winter entered her employ one of the assigned men said to him  ‘If Mrs Blank begins bullying you, give it her, that’s the way to beat her’. She opened on one day with ‘Who are you Sir?’ Winter responded with ‘Who are you. Madam when, I came to this colony I brought my character in my pocket’. Seemingly she admired the overseers plain speaking, for on her return to town she sent as a present a ham and a bottle of rum…

It seems that Edward gained the respect of his employer, but the interaction doesn’t throw a good light on the manner in which she, Mrs Blank, treated her employees—some of them anyway! The continuing extract perpetuates the supposed poor treatment and gives a hint as to the identity of Mrs Blank…

…Judging from what I have heard some masters were hard on their assigned men but by Winter’s account his mistress must have believed in the lash, because she said, ‘What Mr Winter, you have been here a month and not a man flogged’. There were little shortcomings that he winked at, one was loading firewood, down to Sydney at night, sell the wood, and with the money buy rum or other luxuries. The fellows would be back in time to go to work, and it seems the hands worked all the better in being allowed A little licence. The boatman said to Winter in speaking of Mrs Blank ‘Many a time I thought of upsetting the boat to drown her- but I can’t swim. It would be unfair to give Mrs Blank’s real name beyond saying that she is supposed to be the heroine of Cabbold’s novel, bearing the title of Margaret Catchpole.

The last sentence was a teaser. It was too good not to follow up. I investigated. It turns out that the novel, Margaret Catchpole, written by Rev. Richard Cobbold in 1845, was rumoured to be based on the life of Mary REIBEY.4

So, BATEY, in his quest to not ‘name names’, indirectly informed the reader of Mrs Blank’s true identity: she was the highly successful Sydney businesswoman, Mary REIBEY.

Figtree Farm, Hunter’s Hill, Sydney.

Mary REIBEY owned a farm—her country retreat—in Hunter’s Hill which she named Figtree Farm owing to a large Port Jackson fig tree nearby. The land was bought in 1835.

My great great grandparents, Edward WINTER (Parish of Hunter’s Hill) and Honoria TANCRED (Parish of St Lawrence), married on 28 Jan 1840 in the Parish of St Lawrence, Church of England after Edward arrived in Sydney in Dec 1839. The family folklore as per some recently discovered WINTER cousins is that Edward pursued Honoria to Australia from Ireland after their families tried to keep them apart because of religious differences, Edward being Protestant and Honoria, Catholic. At first, Edward went to Tasmania looking for her then returned to Sydney where he ‘met her in the street’. A romantic story good enough for a movie!

The witnesses to the marriage were Henry HOVENDEN of Sussex Street, Sydney, possibly Edward’s uncle, and William JONES of George Street, Sydney (the same street as the church), relationship unknown. Both living in central Sydney.

Perhaps Edward WINTER managed the Figtree Farm before taking up the position of manager at Lucerne, the farm in Alphington, in the Port Phillip District (Victoria was yet to be separated from NSW)? Edward and Honoria had left Sydney by April 1841 because their first child, Margaret, was born at, Lucerne. Also, the 1841 census of ‘New South Wales’ places Edward at Lucerne.

The Google Earth view below locates Figtree Farm at the site that is now known as Reiby Road, Hunter’s Hill and the church, St Laurence, where Edward and Honoria most probably married. Edward, living in the Parish of Hunter’s Hill according to his marriage certificate, was either living near the farm or on it if my supposition of him being the manager is right.

Now…remember Edward WILLS, Thomas REIBEY’s business partner?

Well, the reason I asked you to remember Edward WILLS is that I suspected there was a connection between him and the Thomas WILLS who owned the farm Lucerne in Alphington where Edward WINTER was later employed (about 1841) as the manager. See  What’s in a Name?

I checked the lineage of  the WILLS family.

Mrs Celia Wills daughter of Mary Reibey, ca. 1820 – watercolour on ivory miniature. Courtesy of Collections, State Library of NSW.

Sure enough, Edward WILLS had a son named Thomas WILLS (1799-1872) and his details fitted with the Thomas WILLS who married Celia REIBEY (1803-1823), one of the daughters of Mary and Thomas REIBEY. Celia died not long after the birth of their first child. Thomas then remarried and bought land in Alphington in 1840 and named the farm, Lucerne.5

So, Edward WINTER and Thomas WILLS both had connections to Mary REIBEY; Edward by employment and Thomas by marriage to her daughter and by his father’s business partnership with Mary’s husband. Edward and Thomas could well have met in Sydney through this association. And maybe, Edward, being a trusted employee of his mother in law was encouraged by Thomas to move down south to Lucerne and manage his farm.

All supposition…

So there you have it…

By way of a hint by a cheeky memoirist in a carefully preserved, publicly available memoir I’ve been able to gain some insight into not only my great great grandfather’s character but also into the character of the highly respected, colonial businesswoman, Mary REIBEY.

Much to my relief, Edward WINTER, comes across as a ‘good’ man: caring, respectful, non violent, not intimidated by bullies and a believer that if you treat your workers fairly they’ll reward you with productive work.

On the other hand, Mary REIBEY comes across as a bit of a tyrant: a bully and a believer in physical punishment. An interesting fact is that in 1817, Mary was found guilty of assault upon one of her debtors. She, apparently, wasn’t averse to a little rough stuff.

As with any family history research there’s always some trepidation when delving into new information. You hope you don’t find out something bad about your forebear, that he/she was cruel or dishonest or just not likeable. But, fortunately, in this case, my forebear Edward WINTER sounds like a decent bloke, a relative to be proud of.

There are other recollections in BATEY’s notes regarding Edward WINTER but I’ll leave them for another time…


1.Reserve Bank of Australia. http://banknotes.rba.gov.au/australias-banknotes/banknotes-in-circulation/twenty-dollar/

2.Dictionary of Sydney. Entry for Entally House. http://dictionaryofsydney.org/building/entally_house

3.Fords of Katandra. Entry for Thomas Place BATEY, Isaac BATEY’s brother. http://www.fordsofkatandra.com/index.php/ancestor-chart-sp-8908/42-thomas-ford/pink-descendants/92-example-layout-page

4.Australian Dictionary of Biography. Entry for Mary REIBEY. http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/reibey-mary-2583

5.Dorothy Rogers, A History of Kew. Kilmore, Vic., 1973, pp. 3-5.

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7 Responses to Edward WINTER, Mary REIBEY and the $20 note

  1. brian cockerall says:

    I shall treat my $20 notes with more respect now. Personally, I knew little of Mary Reibey so thank you, Marg. Karlene knew some from a book she had read (I think you have another fan of your blog there). Very informative read, Marg.
    Brian C

    • Marg says:

      Thanks Brian. Who knew? I’ll be looking at the 20 dollar note very differently now too. And welcome Karlene! Cheers, Marg

  2. Rosemary says:

    Very interesting and informative Marg. I can’t imagine how many hours it would have taken to unearth and piece it all together. Rosemary x

    • Marg says:

      Thanks Rosemary. It was a challenge but worth it to get that Aha! moment. Memoirs can prove to be goldmines. xx

  3. crissouli says:



    Thank you, Chris

  4. Pingback: Edward WINTER witnesses the hanging of three bushrangers - Cicadas, Bees and Barge PolesCicadas, Bees and Barge Poles

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