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Elizabeth & Henry, 1848

By Helen Ménard


As Lydia, ‘young and somewhat pretty looking’,[1] wandered the streets of Manchester engaging in petty theft and traipsing in and out gaol, did she ever contemplate orchestrating a voyage to the antipodes in the hope of a better life? Could she have imagined that such a life would involve marrying a fellow convict and, ultimately, mixing with the glitterati of Melbourne society where her daughter, Lillie, proprietor of a successful photographic gallery, married a ‘basso profundo’ with the Italian Opera Company – described as ‘one of the handsomest men in Melbourne’[2] and many years her junior!

How much of her daughter’s high profile life Lydia shared is unclear but, over time, she loaned her daughter substantial amounts of money which, unpaid, resulted in legal action between them. Surely, this must have created some tension in their relationship! In fact, Lillie was no stranger to litigation – both as a plaintiff and a defendant. However, Lillie’s life cascaded downhill dramatically following a disastrous accident, after which she appeared to seek solace in alcohol, her marriage dissolved, and her high profile husband moved to Sydney. Yet, despite everything, it seems Lydia and her daughter lived together in Carlton, Victoria in their final years and died in the same house within two years of each other.

 From Manchester to the antipodes

Lydia Blinkhorn appears to have been born around 1828[3] in Manchester and had at least two siblings - Harriet and John – who at the time of her transportation were ‘in America’ and ‘a lunatic’ respectively.[4] Records suggest that Martha Blinkhorn was her step mother[5] and it is possible this may have been the marriage between her father John Blinkhorn[6] and Martha Smith in Manchester in 1831.[7] Census records for 1841 place Martha, aged 50, in the house of John Gibson in Manchester, Chorlton; Harriet, aged 15, in the house of James Black in Manchester, Chorlton; and John, aged 15, in the Chorlton Union Workhouse.[8]

Clearly, at this point, the family was fragmented – so, where was Lydia? Most likely house-maiding or living on the streets. In any event, it seems that her first appearance before the courts was in June 1844 when she was only 16. She was convicted of larceny by a servant (stealing a brooch) and sentenced to 3 months’ imprisonment.[9] She was later convicted of stealing a sovereign and this time sentenced to 6 months’ imprisonment.[10] Her records state ‘she robbed her places to go to the Tea Gardens’.[11] Apparently, Lydia had a taste for the finer things in life! Lydia’s third strike was to find her on her way to the other side of the world. Having spent at least nine months in English prisons, was this her plan?

On 23 October 1847 Lydia Blinkhorn appeared before the Manchester Borough Sessions on charges of obtaining money and goods by false pretences.[12] It was alleged that, on at least four occasions, she had obtained various amounts of cash and several pairs of boots from shop owners on the basis that they were for other people in adjoining shops and premises. When she was eventually arrested in possession of pawn tickets for the stolen goods, Lydia maintained her innocence but the weight of evidence and witness testimony was well against her.[13] She was convicted and sentenced to 7 years’ transportation.[14] Lydia was held in Salford Gaol for two months until December 1847 when she was transferred to Millbank Prison and then discharged to the convict transport Elizabeth & Henry on 4 February 1848.[15]

The Elizabeth & Henry, with 170 female convicts aboard,[16] arrived in Van Diemen’s land (VDL) on 30 June 1848. Lydia arrived during the probation period and was transferred to the Anson where she underwent six months’ probation before being assigned into private service.[17] Lydia had a completely clean conduct record in VDL and in April 1851 was issued with a ticket of leave.[18] Could it be that having achieved her goal of moving to the colonies she was no longer interested in a life of crime? Two years later she received a conditional pardon and would have been free by servitude in October 1854.[19]


Lydia and John

Lydia Blinkhorn (Elizabeth & Henry) was granted permission to marry John Robinson (Lady Franklin) on 29 July 1851[20] and they were married at St George’s Church of England, Battery Point, Hobart on 15 September 1851; he 34 and a shoemaker and she 24 and a spinster.[21] However, it is possible that, a bit over a year later in October 1852, John (as John Birch) made his way to Port Albert, Victoria[22] where, as John Birch Robinson, bootmaker, he appeared in the Victorian census in 1856.[23]

John Robinson (aka Birch or Burch) was born in Dumfriesshires, Scotland and in July 1832 was tried and convicted at Lancaster Quarter Sessions, Liverpool for housebreaking and sentenced to 7 years’ transportation.[24] Arriving in New South Wales (NSW) in 1833 aboard the convict vessel Asia, he received a ticket of leave in 1837[25] and his certificate of freedom in 1839.[26] However, less than a year later in May 1840, he was convicted in the Sydney Supreme Court of housebreaking, stealing £3 and wearing apparel, and sentenced to 15 years’ transportation on Norfolk Island arriving there in July 1840.[27] In November 1845, a shoemaker aged 33, married and no children, John arrived in VDL aboard the Lady Franklin.[28] After serving 12 months’ probation in the Lymington Gang, he was issued with a second class probation pass in October 1846 and a ticket of leave two months later.[29] Over the next five years he was charged with various offences including feloniously receiving and misconduct; had his ticket of leave revoked; was sentenced to two terms of hard labour at Port Arthur; had his petition for remission of sentence refused; and was recommended for a conditional pardon in 1851 which was granted in 1853.[30]

By this time, it is highly likely that he had travelled to Port Albert where maybe he hoped, as many did, to escape his convict past. If he was the right person in Port Albert, eventually he must have moved to Melbourne as he died John Robinson on 26 June 1871 aged 54 at Fitzroy[31] and a member of the Collingwood Lodge of the Order of St Andrew’s - a lodge for people of Scottish origin which met at the Grace Darling Hotel in Smith Street, Collingwood.[32]


Lydia (aka Lillie or Lily)

There are conflicting records as to when Lydia (aka Lillie) Burch Robinson was born but, on the balance of probability, it is most likely to have been 1851-1852 – sometime around her parents’ marriage and before the possible departure of her father to Port Albert. Even though her tombstone has her birth year as 1840, this would have been before her mother arrived in VDL and when her father was still on Norfolk Island.[33] There doesn’t seem to be any dispute in the records that Lydia and John Burch Robinson were her parents[34] and Lydia was always referred to as the 'beloved mother of Lillie (Mme de Alba)'.[35] It is also possible that Lillie went to visit her father in Port Albert in 1865 even though her recorded age onboard was overstated.[36] Maybe this allowed her to travel unaccompanied. Lillie’s death certificate states that she had lived in Tasmania for 13 years[37] which would mean she left around 1865. Records suggest that Lillie and her mother may have left Tasmania for Melbourne in December 1866 even though Lydia’s age was understated.[38]

If John did leave his wife and infant daughter in Tasmania, the question remains as to how they managed to survive. Did he ever return to Hobart? Did he provide his family financial assistance?

At some stage, mother and daughter moved to Victoria and little is known about their lives for the next fifteen years. It appears that around 1880 Lillie had become an accomplished photographer and by 1883 was in partnership with one William Tuttle (Tuttle & Co) and running Tuttle’s Portrait Galleries in Collins Street, Melbourne.[39] Collins Street in the 1880’s was the hub of the art trade in Melbourne, with an ever-expanding population of art galleries and artists’ studios.[40] Tuttle ran a similar operation in Sydney.[41] In September 1883 their partnership was dissolved with Tuttle to continue to operate the Sydney business and Lillie the Melbourne gallery.[42] According to Victoria and Its Metropolis,[43] Miss Robinson not only managed the 'very extensive business’ in Elizabeth Street, which employed 'twenty-five hands’, but she was also 'sole proprietor’ of the studio. Lily continued to be known as Miss Robinson professionally, despite being married to the Italian opera singer Tomaso Moliner de Alba.[44] Tuttle & Co. of Melbourne was awarded a first-class certificate and bronze medal for its portrait photographs at the 1880 Melbourne International Exhibition and an Honorable Mention at the 1888-89 Melbourne Centennial Exhibition. The firm’s photographs were said to be especially valued in Great Britain and the Prince of Wales ordered photographs of his sons, Princes Arthur and George, who toured Australia in 1881.[45]

In 1890 Lillie was reported as

preparing for a new show of photographs, which promise to be well in advance of the best work yet done in the city. The photographs will be of many well-known social and professional identities, and will be shown in a novel and attractive manner. Old patrons of these favourite studios will be delighted to hear that the popular directress, Madame de Alba, has resumed active charge, and will in future personally superintend all work issued from these famous galleries.[46]


Lillie and Tomaso

Melbourne glitterati must have been ‘all a flutter’ when Martin Simonsen brought the Italian Opera Company to Melbourne, opening at the Alexandra Theatre in December 1886. Included in the company of internationally acclaimed artists was Signor Thomas De Alba.[47] After a two year tour, including performances in Sydney in 1887,[48] the company was disbanded in February 1888 following its final performance in Melbourne.[49] De Alba, as well as the conductor Roberto Hazon, remained in Melbourne and contributed to the operatic life of the city.[50]

A month later, in March 1888, Lydia (Lillie) Robinson married Signor De Alba in St Paul’s Cathedral, Melbourne. Clearly, Lillie had been keeping an eye on his performances! In fact, one comment published after her accident in 1893, suggested she may have been an accomplished singer in her own right: ‘whether Madame De Alba still possesses the lovely voice which charmed the patrons of the Italian Opera Company I have not heard.’[51] Their wedding was reported accordingly:

Miss L. Robinson was given away by Mr J. Evans, of Hawthorn, and wore a costume of white Liberty silk, with pearl embroidery. The usual wreath and veil completed a toilette which became its wearer very well. Miss F. Frazer acted as bridesmaid, dressed in white book-muslin and cardinal hat. Mr M. Molinasse attended as the best man. Mrs Canterbury was in a black silk costume, trimmed with jet and black lace, and salmon pink bonnet. The musical selections wore an andante by Batiste, and Mendelssohn's Wedding March …

A good number of spectators were present on the occasion, and rice was thrown in abundance, whilst Mr J. McCarthy kindly superintended the scattering of flowers as the bride and bridegroom passed out of the church. The wedding party (which was limited to intimate friends) included Mrs Troedell,[52] and the Spanish Consul, Mr Strahan.[53]

Was Lillie’s mother Lydia present or was her social status unacceptable in such circles? Was her mother included in the group of ‘intimate friends’?

Madame de Alba ca 1888

Madame de Alba ca. 1888 [54]

Thomas (Tomaso) Moliner de Alba was born in Valencia, Spain the youngest son of the Salvador Moliner[55] and Josefa De Alba.[56] His rise to fame was accounted as follows:

Young Tomaso De Alba … began to develop a voice of formidable proportions, leaving no room for doubt that his destiny was the operatic stage, and his parents, promptly despatched him for study to Padua (Italy), where he was enthusiastically taken in hand by Don Antonio Selva. Selva was the representative basso of his day, … he realised a fortune, devoting some of his leisure hours, however, to a few chosen pupils of brilliant promise. With this famous master young De Alba acquired the traditions of the Italian operatic repertoire, and subsequently made a name as a basso profundo in the opera houses of Italy and France.[57]

Signor De Alba was merely 21 when he arrived in Melbourne in 1886 and was described as

one of the handsomest men in Melbourne, and for a Spaniard he is very fair with a beautiful rosy face. Properly speaking, the young basso profundo should be addressed as Senhor, but owing to his connection with the first Simonsen Italian Opera Company, which opened in the Alexandra Theatre nine years ago, the singer has often been mistaken for an Italian.[58]

In April 1890 Lillie and Tomaso held

a dinner party at their residence, "Valencia," Rathmines-road, Auburn, … in celebration of the anniversary of their wedding. The drawing room, dining room, hall and corridors were beautifully decorated, and the tables were very tastefully ornamented with flowers. After dinner the health of the host and hostess was proposed and most heartily honoured, and after the discussion of other appropriate toasts the company adjourned to the drawing room, where the remainder of the evening passed most enjoyably in music, song and dance. Among those present were Captain Taylor, M.L.A., Mr, and Mrs. Agnew, Mr. and Mrs. Goddard, Mrs. Chuck, Mr. Wimble, Mr. and Mrs, Evans and Herr and Madame Weigall.[59]

Yet again, Lydia did not make it onto the acknowledged list of those present – was she there or was she simply not worthy of recognition?


Troubling times

During the 1880’s, there was a speculative boom in the Australian property market fostered by the commercial banks, which led to the proliferation of non-bank institutions such as building societies. Operating in a free banking system, there were few legal restrictions on their operations, and no central bank or government provided deposit guarantees. Consequently, these banks and related bodies lent extravagantly, for property development in particular, but following the collapse of the land boom after 1888, a large number of borrowers found themselves unable to repay their debts, and many began to declare bankruptcy.[60] Banks and non-bank institutions came under increasing financial pressure, and the full extent of the crisis became apparent when the Federal Bank of Australia failed on 30 January 1893. The situation was worst in Victoria, and on 1 May 1893, the Victorian government implemented a five-day bank holiday to ameliorate the financial panic and prevent any further run on the banks. Two weeks later eleven commercial banks in Sydney, Melbourne, and other locations in Australia, had temporarily or permanently closed their doors.[61]

In this context, both Lillie and her husband Tomaso were involved in several legal actions for recovery of money. In 1888 Tomaso successfully sued Mr A. Jinkins, (theatrical manager of the loss making tour of ‘Jungfrau Kapelle’) for an unpaid loan financed by his wife Lillie before their marriage;[62] the same year Lillie successfully sued her former business partner William Tuttle for breach of contract;[63] in 1889 Lillie sued James E. Moore (treasurer of Williamson, Garner & Musgrove, managers of Theatre Royal);[64] and in 1892 Lydia successfully sued her daughter Lillie for unpaid loans (£100 in 1890 and £67 in 1891) plus interest.[65] Lillie was not present in court on the day judgment was handed down against her.[66] At this point, the inescapable question is where and how did Lydia accumulate such wealth? If Lillie was running such a successful business, why was she borrowing money from her mother?

In 1895 Lillie was sued by her dentist George Dowling O’Neil for unpaid fees as part of his insolvency proceedings[67] and the same year she was sued by her treating doctor Patrick Maloney for services rendered.[68] But none of these actions included those directly arising out of Lillie’s calamitous lift accident in 1893.


A life changing event

On 26 May 1893 Lillie, her husband and one other person were descending in the lift in Nicholson’s Chambers (on the corner of Swanston and Collins St, Melbourne and where both their businesses were situated) when it suddenly stopped between floors. Attempts to restart the lift were unsuccessful. With the help of a ladder Tomaso and the other passenger were able to safely descend via the open lift shaft to the floor below. As Lillie began to exit the cage, the lift restarted and she was crushed between the floor of the lift cage and the beam of the floor below. The lift attendant immediately stopped the lift and probably saved her from being decapitated.[69] However, her injuries were catastrophic.

The pressure of the lift and of the cross beam was on the chin and the apex of the head respectively, and the result was that the upper and lower jaws were badly fractured, the face was smashed, the teeth were driven down the throat, and the scalp was taken off behind.[70]

Initially, it was not expected Lillie would survive but she was immediately conveyed to Mr O’ Hara’s private hospital in Collins St where he

… wired all the bones, and, with the assistance of photographs of the lady, replaced the flesh of the face in its normal position. The result so far is highly satisfactory, and should Madame De Alba recover it is thought that her disfigurement will not be so great as might have been expected from the nature of her injuries.[71]

Although Lillie was able to resume work some months later,[72] she was severely scarred and ‘in very poor health, and her features suffered so much she is not recognisable by her former friends and admirers.’[73] In October 1894 Lillie successfully issued legal proceedings for negligent operation of the lift against the owner of the building (Freehold Investment and Banking Company) and was awarded £3000 in damages.[74] Subsequently, the liquidators of the company sought to appeal the judgment on the grounds that the verdict was against the evidence and the judge had misdirected the jury.[75] The Supreme Court dismissed the appeal and the application for a new trial.[76]

But that was not the end of the litigation! It seems all was not well between Lillie and Tomaso. In December 1895 Tomaso sued the liquidators of Freehold Investment and Banking Company for £1500 for ‘the loss of services of his wife’ caused by the company’s negligence.[77] He claimed following the accident ‘she was very ill for a long time afterwards, and [he] was totally deprived of her services for at least 18 months and she was not well yet’.[78] Although a case of this kind had never been brought before the court, the Chief Justice stated ‘the action was one that was permitted by law. He was not prepared to say it was repellant [sic], and it certainly was not so far as the assertion of the legal rights of a husband was concerned.’[79] He awarded Tomaso £500 damages.


Collins Street contretemps

During the court case arising from Lillie’s accident, unsurprisingly, there was some disagreement amongst the medical experts about the nature and long-term effects of her injuries. Following the verdict, senior counsel for the defendant, Mr Purves Q.C., and Lillie’s treating surgeon, Dr O’Hara, were involved in a ‘rather discreditable sequel’ in Collins St.[80] Purves alleged that the 500 guineas O’Hara had charged Lillie for surgical treatment was ‘exorbitant’. When O’Hara stated he had charged much more for some lesser operations, Purves suggested that such operations may have been illegal. Justice Hodges rebuked Purves for this suggestion but it appears that was insufficient vindication for O’Hara who ‘apparently cherished feelings of revenge’ and

It seems that the relations between the surgeon and counsel have not been of the most amicable description for some years past, and it only needed this latest display of mutual animosity to bring matters to a more serious climax than sharp verbal exchanges in a court of law afforded.[81]

… Dr. O'Hara …was walking along the north side of Collins-street … Mr. Purves was proceeding to the Law Courts on the same side … Dr. O'Hara went boldly up to Mr. Purves. Without any preliminary explanation he dealt him a heavy blow, accompanied by the remark, "Take that, you ---- scoundrel." By springing back Mr. Purves managed to minimise the effect of the blow, but it fell with sufficient force by the side of his nose to draw forth blood. Realising the determination of his assailant to indulge in fisticuffs, Mr Purves promptly retaliated, and a smart set to looked imminent.[82]

The burly surgeon … rushed at the Q.C., who physically was at a great disadvantage being 3st. or 4st lighter in weight and some inches shorter in height than his opponent. In stepping back to avoid the blow Mr. Purves tripped up and fell on to the footpath … Dr. O'Hara manifested a desire to continue hostilities while his opponent was on the ground, but was held back by several persons who had collected and who shouted loudly for fair play. Mr. Purves, in somewhat forcible language, remonstrated with his formidable opponent for attacking him, an elderly man, unawares. The crowd prevented further hostilities and Dr. O'Hara walked away …[83]

The news of the extraordinary affair soon spread over the city, and throughout the day was the chief topic of conversation. The general opinion seemed to be that apart from the question of justification or no justification for the attack, the time, the place, and the manner of carrying it into execution were ill judged, and discreditable in the highest degree. There is no probability of the matter being taken into the courts, so far as Mr. Purves is concerned.[84]


The final years

In 1896 it appeared that Signor De Alba might have been headed for the London concert platform[85] but, eventually, and at least by 1904, he had settled in North Sydney[86] where, in between performances, he became well known as a singing teacher at his studio in Hunter Street, Sydney.[87] Upon hearing of Lillie’s death in 1904 he ‘left by last night’s express for Melbourne’.[88] Tomaso died aged 67 on 28 June 1932 at St Lawrence Private Hospital, Chatswood.[89] Following Lillie’s death thirty years beforehand, there is no record of a later wife or any children.

Obviously, after her accident, Lillie suffered many years of pain, discomfort and humiliation from her facial scars. Surely, it must have taken a toll on her professional life and her marriage. How did she feel about Tomaso placing their private life in the public domain and exposing her inability ‘to carry out her wifely duties’?[90] Records suggest she suffered from alcoholism for many years leading up to her death.[91]

In May 1899 ‘the complete furnishings of drawing room, dining room, library, best bedroom and three other bedrooms, kitchen, yard, &c. and Prize Canaries’ of “Alma House”, Adam Street, South Yarra together with a ‘superb ebony and gold upright grand piano’ were put up for auction under instructions from Madame De Alba.[92] Was this when Tomaso moved to Sydney and Lillie moved to Carlton to live with her mother? Had Lillie’s injuries and disfigurement finally resulted in her desertion by the glitterati?

Lydia (Blinkhorn) Robinson ‘beloved mother of Madame de Alba’ and ‘relict [widow] of the late John Burch Robinson’ died on 27 September 1902 at 36 Carlton St, Carlton and was buried at the Melbourne General Cemetery.[93] Less than two years later, on 28 July 1904, her daughter, Lillie De Alba ‘wife of Signor De Alba of Sydney’ and housewife, died ‘without issue’ at the same address after a ten year history of acute alcoholism, renal failure and exhaustion.[94] She, too, was buried at the Melbourne General Cemetery.[95]

There are many gaps in Lydia’s story and her years in Melbourne are almost invisible. However, her daughter appears to have been a consistent theme in her life – for better or for worse! Was Lydia ever accepted into the social circles her daughter occupied? At the very least, when Lillie was seemingly cast aside by her husband for being unable to perform her ‘wifely duties’ and high society abandoned her as she was no longer one of ‘the beautiful people,’ her mother was there in the last years of her life. Over time Lydia obviously acquired some wealth of her own – how, when and where remains a mystery.



[1] Manchester Courier 23 October 1847; ancestry.co.uk

[2] TROVE: Newspapers & Gazettes: Table Talk (Melbourne, Vic.: 1885 -1939) Fri 24 Apr 1896 p 14 Music and Musicians

[3] Court records in 1844 have her as 16 (est. dob 1828); on transportation in 1848 her age was recorded as 20 (est. dob 1828); on marriage in 1851 she was 24 (est. dob 1827); and on death in 1902 she was 70-71 (est. dob 1830-32).

[4] LIB TAS: Names Index: CON15/1/4 pp 280-81 DI 284-85

[5] Ibid

[6] VIC/BDM Deaths 7963/1904

[7] Familysearch.org; It is also possible but unverifiable that her mother was Elizabeth Blinkhorn who died in 1828 aged 29 and whose spouse was John Blinkhorn. https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:JCLK-1Y5

[8] 1841 Census for England, Scotland and Wales: Refs HO107 Piece 580 Book 12 Folio 6 Page 4; Refs HO107 Piece 583 Book 13 Folio 47 Page 41; Refs HO107 Piece 583 Book 17 Folio 51 Page 4; findmypast.co.uk; By the 1850’s the majority of those forced into the workhouse were not the work shy but the old, the infirm, the orphaned, unmarried mothers and the physically or mentally ill. The workhouse was not a prison and people could in principle leave as they wished but for some it became permanent accommodation. https://www.workhouses.org.uk/intro/; see also https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Workhouse

[9] Criminal Register for Manchester Borough Sessions 24 June 1844; ancestry.co.uk; findmypast.co.uk

[10] LIB TAS: Names Index: CON41/1/17 DI 16; CON15/1/4 pp 280-81 DI 284-85

[11] LIB TAS: Names Index: CON41/1/17 DI 16

[12] Manchester Courier 23 October 1847; ancestry.co.uk; findmypast.co.uk

[13] Ibid

[14] LIB TAS: Names Index: CON41/1/17 DI 16

[15] Letter to the High Sherriff of Lancaster dated 18 December 1847; Millbank Prison Register; Letter to the Governor of Millbank Prison dated 31 January 1848; findmypast.co.uk

[16] https://convictrecords.com.au/

[17] LIB TAS: Names Index: CON41/1/17 DI 16; on 8 Feb 1852 Lydia was assigned to William Jones, Murray St, Hobart at £8 for 12 months but a week later was reassigned to Stephen Addison in High St for £9 for 12 months. See LIB TAS: Names Index: CON31/1/1 p221; CON31/1/2 p87

[18] Ibid

[19] Ibid

[20] LIB TAS: Names Index: CON52/1/3 p386

[21] LIB TAS: Names Index: RDG37/1/10 N297 DI 120; witnesses R Searle & Janet McMillin

[22] PROV: John Birch Oct 1852 Hobart/Pt Albert/ Macquarie; Port Albert is a coastal town in Victoria, on the coast of Corner Inlet on the Yarram - Port Albert Road, 82 kilometres south-east of Morwell, 236 kilometres south-east of Melbourne, in the Shire of Wellington.

[23] https://www.nla.gov.au/research-guides/australian-electoral-rolls/victoria; TROVE: Newspapers & Gazettes: Gipps Land Guardian (Vic.: 1855 - 1968) Tue 13 May 1856, Page 6 Advertising

[24] LIB TAS: Names Index: CON33/1/71 DI 92; CON17/1/1 DI 124

[25] https://search.records.nsw.gov.au/primo-explore/fulldisplay?context=L&vid=61SRA&lang=en_US&docid=INDEX327928

[26] https://search.records.nsw.gov.au/primo-explore/fulldisplay?context=L&vid=61SRA&lang=en_US&docid=INDEX327929

[27] LIB TAS: Names Index: CON33/1/71 DI 92; CON17/1/1 DI 124

[28] LIB TAS: Names Index: CON17/1/1 DI 124; even though his records say ’W Isabella in Sydney’, there are no records of any permission to marry in NSW.

[29] LIB TAS: Names Index: CON33/1/71 DI 92

[30] Ibid

[31] VIC/BDM Deaths 3609/1871; John ROBINSON, Mo Anderson, Fa Richard, born SCOT, 54, spouse unknown, place of death not recorded; https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/195117492/lydiarobinson; https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/195117479/lillie-burch-de_alba

[32] TROVE: Newspapers & Gazettes: The Argus (Melbourne, Vic.: 1848 - 1957) Thu 29 Jun 1871, Page 8 Family Notices; https://collingwoodhs.org.au/resources/notable-people-2/collingwood-notables-database/entry/286/

[33] No other records support the date of 1840. While John Robinson’s records say ‘W Isabella in Sydney’ there are no marriage records in NSW and if he left a pregnant wife in NSW, it's unlikely the infant child would have made her way to VDL on her own! On arrival in VDL John Robinson was 'married / no children'. In addition, if 1840 is correct, Lillie would have been 48 when she married Tomaso De Alba who was then only 23 - possible but not likely.

[34] TROVE: Newspapers & Gazettes: The Argus, Melb, Wed 11 Apr 1888, p1, Family Notices

[35] For example, see TROVE: Newspapers & Gazettes: The Age, Melb, 29 Sep 1902

[36] PROV: July 1865 / Miss Robinson, female, 16, dob 1849, cabin, Free Trader, Hobart to Port Albert

[37] Death certificate 30898-2022; 1904 Deaths in the district of Carlton in the colony of Victoria No. 25752 Lily De Alba

[38] PROV: Dec 1866 / Miss Robinson, female, 16, dob 1850, cabin, Southern Cross, Hobart to Melbourne; Dec 1866 / Mrs Robinson, female, 26, dob 1840, steerage, Southern Cross, Hobart to Melbourne

[39] TROVE: Newspapers & Gazettes: NSW Government Gazette (Sydney, NSW.: 1832-1900) Tue 25 Sep 1883 [Issue No 402] p 5263 Private advertisements

[40] https://latrobejournal.slv.vic.gov.au/latrobejournal/issue/latrobe-75/t1-g-t10.html

[41] William Nutting Tuttle and Co. was a commercial photographic firm active in Australia in the 1880’s and 1890’s. The firm had various studios and were active in a variety of areas: Sydney 1883-91; Goulburn 1895; Brisbane 1885-95; Charters Towers 1888; Adelaide 1882-89; Melbourne 1881-94; Hawthorn 1888-89; Perth 1892, Fremantle 1892; Coolgardie 1895-96 (Davies and Stanbury 1985, p. 244). https://artblart.com/tag/19th-century-studio-photography/

[42] TROVE: Newspapers & Gazettes: NSW Government Gazette (Sydney, NSW.: 1832-1900) Tue 25 Sep 1883 [Issue No 402] p 5263 Private advertisements

[43] (1888), 'Victoria and Its Metropolis’, vol.2b, Melbourne, Victoria.

[44] https://www.daao.org.au/bio/version_history/lydia-burch-robinson/biography/

[45] Ibid

[46] TROVE: Newspapers & Gazettes: Melbourne Punch (Vic.: 1855 -1900) Thu 17 Jul 1890 p15 Student Songs

[47] TROVE: Newspapers & Gazettes: The Lorgnette (Melbourne, Vic.: 1878-1898) Sat 13 Nov 1886 p2 New Italian Opera Company

[48] TROVE: Newspapers & Gazettes: The Sydney Morning Herald (NSW.: 1842-1954) Fri 1 Jul 1932, p13 Obituary

[49] TROVE: Newspapers & Gazettes: The Argus (Melbourne, Vic.: 1848-1957) Fri 17 Feb 1888 p8 The Italian Opera Company

[50] https://api.research-repository.uwa.edu.au/ws/portalfiles/portal/9844782/Rocha_Esmeralda_Monique_Antonia_2012.pdf

[51] TROVE: Newspapers & Gazettes: The Mercury (Hobart, Tas.: 1860-1954) Sat 18 Aug 1894 p3 Our Melbourne Ladies’ Letter; it is possible that the author was confusing her with the well-known soprano English Madame Alva who toured Australia in the late 1890’s with Mr John Lemmone’s Alva-Verne Company and who was married to Mr St John Brennon. Alva died in London in 1904. TROVE: Newspapers & Gazettes: The Register (Adelaide, SA.: 1901-1929) Wed 8 Jun 1904 p5 Death of Madame Alva

[52] Troedel & Co were master printers and lithographers in Melbourne from around 1865 – 1900. http://latrobejournal.slv.vic.gov.au/latrobejournal/issue/latrobe-62/t1-g-t7.html

[53] TROVE: Newspapers & Gazettes: The Herald (Melbourne, Vic.: 1861-1954) Thu 29 Mar 1888 p4 The Social Circle

[54]https://find.slv.vic.gov.au/discovery/fulldisplay?vid=61SLV_INST:SLV&tab=searchProfile&docid=alma9921239603607636&context=L; Madame De Alba [picture]. Date [ca. 1888]. Description 1 photographic print: albumen silver; 7 x 4 cm. Copyright statement This work is out of copyright. No copyright restrictions apply. Identifier(s) Accession No : H28190/370 Subjects De Alba, Madame

Index terms Australia; Victoria; Melbourne; Centennial International Exhibition 1888; Victorian Court

Notes Title and business affiliation inscribed on opposite page: No. 370, Tuttle & Co. Summary Woman, seated with right arm resting on chair, to left, wearing bonnet. Is part of In collection: Album of security identity portraits of members of the Victorian Court, Centennial International Exhibition, Melbourne, 1888  Record ID 9921239603607636

[55] TROVE: The Argus, Melb, Wed 11 Apr 1888, p1, Family Notices

[56] Josefa De Alba died 10th January 1890, at her residence, Valencia, Spain, relict of Salvador Moliner, and much-loved mother of Tomas M. De Alba, of Auburn, aged 70 years. TROVE: The Australasian (Melb, VIC.: 1864-1946) Sat 26 Apr 1890 p46 Family notices; his second eldest brother Julio Moliner De Alba died 5 sept 1891 at Valencia, Spain. TROVE: The Australasian (Melb, VIC.: 1864-1946) Sat 9 Jan 1892 p45 Family notices

[57] TROVE: Newspapers & Gazettes: The Sydney Morning Herald (NSW.: 1842-1954) Sat 8 Jun 1918, p8, Music and Drama

[58] TROVE: Newspapers & Gazettes: Table Talk (Melbourne, Vic.: 1885 -1939) Fri 24 Apr 1896 p14 Music and Musicians

[59] TROVE: Newspapers & Gazettes: Melbourne Punch (Vic.: 1855 -1900) Thu 3 Apr 1890 p13 Government House Garden Party

[60] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Australian_banking_crisis_of_1893

[61] Ibid

[62] TROVE: Newspapers & Gazettes: Table Talk (Melbourne, Vic.: 1885 - 1939) Friday 20 July 1888, p14, On the Wing; TROVE: Newspapers & Gazettes: Melbourne Punch (VIC.: 1855-1900), Thu 26 Jul 1888, p21, Theatrical Gossip; TROVE: Newspapers & Gazettes: The Age (Melbourne, Vic.: 1854 -1954) Thu 1 Jul 1888 p7 News of the Day

[63] 1888/2457 Lydia Burch de Alba Lydia Burch Robinson Tattle and company v William Mitting Tuttle / 1888; https://prov.vic.gov.au/archive/VPRS267; William Tuttle went bankrupt soon after and died in Sydney in 1895. https://artblart.com/tag/19th-century-studio-photography/

[64] Presumably for monies owed; 1889 / 6067 Lydia Burch de Alba v Agnes Moore James E Moore /1889; https://prov.vic.gov.au/archive/VPRS267

[65] 1892/2788 Lydia Robinson Lydia Moliner de Alba / 1892; https://prov.vic.gov.au/archive/VPRS267

[66] Ibid

[67] 1895/296 George Dowling O’Neil Alexander Dawson v Lydia Burch Moliner de Alba / 1895; https://prov.vic.gov.au/archive/VPRS267

[68] 1895 / 265 Patrick Maloney v Lydia Burch Moliner de Alba / 1895; https://prov.vic.gov.au/archive/VPRS267

[69] TROVE: Newspapers & Gazettes: The Argus (Melbourne, Vic.: 1848 - 1957) Mon 29 May 1893, Page 6

[70] Ibid

[71] Ibid

[72] TROVE: Newspapers & Gazettes: The Age (Melbourne, Vic.: 1854 -1954) Thu 6 Jul 1893 p6 Madame de Alba’s Accident

[73] TROVE: Newspapers & Gazettes: The Mercury (Hobart, Tas.: 1860-1954) Sat 18 Aug 1894 p3 Our Melbourne Ladies’ Letter

[74] TROVE: Newspapers & Gazettes: The Herald (Melbourne, Vic.: 1861-1954) Tue 9 Oct 1894 p4 Perils of the Lift; TROVE: Newspapers & Gazettes: The Age (Melbourne, Vic.: 1854 -1954) Fri 12 Oct 1894 p5 A Lift Accident

[75] TROVE: Newspapers & Gazettes: The Herald (Melbourne, Vic.: 1861-1954) Thu 1 Nov 1894 p4 The De Alba Case; TROVE: Newspapers & Gazettes: The Argus (Melbourne, Vic.: 1848 -1957) Tue 5 Feb 1895 p6 The Lift Accident to Madame De Alba

[76] Ibid; TROVE: Newspapers & Gazettes: The Age (Melbourne, Vic.: 1854 -1954) Tue 5 Feb 1895 p5 Liabilities of a Lift Owner

[77] TROVE: Newspapers & Gazettes: The Argus (Melbourne, Vic.: 1848 -1957) Wed 11 Dec 1895 p7 The Accident to Madame De Alba

[78] Ibid

[79] Ibid

[80] TROVE: Newspapers & Gazettes: The Age (Melbourne, Vic.: 1854 -1954) Sat 13 Oct 1894 p7 A Collins St Fracas

[81] Ibid

[82] Ibid

[83] Ibid

[84] Ibid

[85] TROVE: Newspapers & Gazettes: Table Talk (Melbourne, Vic.: 1885 -1939) Fri 24 Apr 1896 p14 Music and Musicians

[86] TROVE: Newspapers & Gazettes: The Daily Telegraph (Sydney, NSW.: 1931-1954) Wed 29 Jun 1932, p6 Family Notices

[87] TROVE: Newspapers & Gazettes: The Sydney Morning Herald (NSW.: 1842-1954) Fri 1 Jul 1932, p13 Obituary; TROVE: Newspapers & Gazettes: The Daily Telegraph (Sydney, NSW.: 1931-1954) Sat 6 Feb 1904, p2 Advertising

[88] TROVE: Newspapers & Gazettes: The Sydney Morning Herald (NSW.: 1842-1954) Sat 30 Jul 1904, p10

[89] NSW/BDM Deaths 6021/1932; TROVE: Newspapers & Gazettes: The Sydney Morning Herald (NSW.: 1842-1954) Fri 1 Jul 1932, p13 Obituary

[90] TROVE: Newspapers & Gazettes: The Argus (Melbourne, Vic.: 1848 -1957) Wed 11 Dec 1895 p7 The Accident to Madame De Alba

[91] Death certificate 30898-2022; 1904 Deaths in the district of Carlton in the colony of Victoria No. 25752 Lily De Alba; VIC/BDM Deaths 7963/1904

[92] TROVE: Newspapers & Gazettes: The Age (Melbourne, Vic.: 1854 -1954) Mon 1 May 1899 p2 Advertising

[93] VIC/BDM Deaths 12941/1902; Mother MOSS, Father Jno BLINKHORN; TROVE: The Age, Melbourne, 29 Sep 1902; Registration Number: 12941 Edwardian Index Victoria 1902-1913; https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/195117492/lydia-robinson 

[94] Death certificate 30898-2022; 1904 Deaths in the district of Carlton in the colony of Victoria No. 25752 Lily De Alba; VIC/BDM 7963/1904; TROVE: The Argus, Mon 1 Aug 1904, p1 Family Notices

[95] https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/195117479/lillie-burch-de_alba:

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FCRC Seminar: Sunday 5 May 2024:  Call for papers

Topic: Freedom: Time served, moving on

This seminar will focus on the pathways to freedom for convict women and will explore the lives they led once emancipated.

Possible topics may include:

  • Pathways to freedom.
  • Emancipation – prosperity or poverty? How the emancipated women lived out the rest of their lives. Individual stories.
  • Exploring subsets – return to their home country, moving to another colony or country; marriage; non-marriage; business women; relying on the State to survive.

If you would like to present a 20-minute paper at the seminar, please forward an abstract for consideration to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. by 20 October 2023. The abstract should outline your intended topic, the points you will highlight and the sources you will be using to inform your paper.


Call for submissions for the next Convict Women's Press book: Convict Motherhood

Cut-off date for submissions extended to 14 October.

You are invited to submit a chapter for the next CWP book, provisionally titled Convict Motherhood. It will cover all aspects of this fascinating topic:

  • women with children in Britain prior to conviction
  • those who brought children with them
  • childbirth on board ship
  • the loss of children and mothers
  • children born under sentence at convict institutions
  • children born elsewhere
  • children born once women free again

How did women cope with the stresses of the convict system? How did they experience childbirth and child rearing? How many did/could not have children? How did these experiences affect children?

We are looking for papers under 2000 words, about individual convict women, groups of women or more abstract discussions of the topic.

If you are interested, please submit a 100-word abstract by 14 October to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. 



The 13th BIENNIAL CONFERENCE of the George Town & District Historical Society Inc.


This conference will be held in the Performing Arts Centre at the Port Dalrymple School with registrations from 8.45 am ready for a 9.15 am start and finishing around 4 pm. Registration required.

Website: www.gtdhs.com


The Marita Bardenhagen Memorial Award

The Marita Bardenhagen Memorial Award for Local History is a biennial prize acknowledging outstanding original research in the field of local history with significant Tasmanian content.  Applications are now open for the 2023 Award and will close on 30 September.

To obtain an entry form, please contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or phone 0409 140 657.

Recent Updates

Whats new?

Latest Convict Stories

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Latest Blogs

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Other Updates:

Voyages: The Voyage of the Tasmania 1844, including a map of the voyage, by Dee Hoole (14/09/2023)

Convict Ships  Martin Luther 1852, Surgeon's Journal, transcription courtesy of Colleen Arulappu (10/07/2023)

Books, Theses & Reports - Convict Orphans by Lucy Frost. (14/06/2023)

Books, Theses & Reports - Convict Lives:  Young girls transported to Van Diemen's Land edited by Alison Alexander (4/05/2023)

Freedoms - The Path to Freedom. Page updated and edited by Helen Menard 1/05/2023, to include  'Freedom v emancipation'.

Featured in Publications - A list of VDL convict women featured in publications (compiled and updated by Ros Escott April 2023).

Pre-Transportation: The British Justice System in the 18th & 19th Centuries -  A new page for the website, contributed by Helen Menard 18/03/2023.

Terms of Access - Additional Policy for accessing and using our website (6/02/2023)


GTDHS 13th Conference   

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