The parentage of Richard Morris is uncertain at this time.

Family and record information indicates that Richard may have been born in the county of Kent, but this has not been proven at this stage. A Police notice that refers to Richard in later life indicates that he was an 'Englishman', so is likely to have been born in England and not Australia. This is further supported by a prison admission record that states he came to Australia from London in approximately 1842.

Where Richard arrived in Australia is unknown, but could possibly have been in New South Wales or Victoria. This is suggested by a later prison admission records that stated he came to South Australia from Melbourne in approximately 1850 or Sydney in 1852. He would regularly change his story about from where and when he had come, likely trying to hide previous history. The earlier arrival in South Australia by 1850 is more likely due to the presence of a record that matches Richard's known details given on a later record.

South Australia[]

One prison admission record for Richard states that he came to South Australia aboard a ship called "Condon". I have not been able to locate a ship with this name at this stage and it is possible that he was giving false information. It does however, sound similiar to the name 'Canton' which was a ship that arrived in South Australia on 31st July 1846. A Joseph Morris, wife and 5 children are recorded as passengers aboard that vessel, and this family is possibly Richards.

Another possibility for Richard entering South Australia is indicated in The Argus newspaper of June 1st, 1849:

CAUTION: The undersigned have reason to fear that a young man calling himself RICHARD MORRIS who hired a horse from them on Wednesday last has gone off with the intention of not returning, and is likely to dispose of the horse in the bush, they hereby caution those parties to whom the animal may be offered for sale to decline the purchase. The horse is a bright bay, nearly thoroughbred, stands about 16 hands high, off hind fetlock white, small star on forehead, and branded with 3 letters under the mane. The young man is apparently about 18 years of age, and 5 feet 8 inches in height; wears long black hair, is rather full-faced and pale complexion, when last seen had on a blue cloth cap and blouse. - MCCAW and BROADFOOT, Horse Repository, Bourke Street, June 1st, 1849.

The physical description of this 'Richard Morris' is close to an official description of him found in a later record.

There is another record that matches a later description of Richard more precisely, dated from 1850. The South Australian Government Gazette and newspapers of that year record that on the 11th November 1850 a Richard Morris was arrested form stealing a violin from W. Wardle, on the evidence of Patrick Hayes. He was arrested by PC Lankenan. The judge sentencing this Richard Morris advised that he would not transport him, but to one year's imprisonment with hard labour, giving him an opportunity 'of reforming and getting and honest livelihood'. Information that matches his later record includes his religion (C/E), his occupation (shoemaker), from where came (Sydney) and approximate age (19).

The first official record of our Richard is when he married in South Australia. He married Mary Ann Rundle, the daughter of Thomas and Mary Rundle (nee Mutton) in the year 1853. The Rundle family had arrived in South Australia from Cornwall in 1847. The couple married in Walkerville, and 17-year-old Mary Ann was 4 months pregnant at the time. Richard was recorded as aged 22.

West Adelaide[]

Even though all their children were born in the city of Adelaide, the couple settled in West Adelaide, near Southwark in the Hindmarsh district, where Richard was employed as a shoemaker. Richard and Mary Ann would have 8 children altogether, between the years of 1853 and 1876. Their eldest daughter Eliza was married 4 years before their last child was born.

Their are two gaps between the ages of the children - one between 1856 - 1861 and another between 1864 - 1876.

The reason for the first gap appears to be work and travel. An advert in the Adelaide Observer newspaper dated 21st January 1860 states that Richard was at Mt Remarkable in the Flinders Ranges, seeking to hire two shoemakers to assist him with his work. By March of the same year, however, he is travelling to Melbourne, maybe trying to take advantage of employment opportunities in the later years of the Gold Rush. The South Australian Advertiser reported on 29/3/1860 that a Richard Morris boarded the steamer 'Omeo' for Melbourne the previous day with a James and Mary O'Brien and two of their children. The O'Brien family lived near the Morris family in the Hindmarsh district and would eventually marry into the family.

Richard was back in Adelaide later that year as his daughter Harriet was born in March 1861. The South Australian Advertiser all reported on 02/05/1862 that Richard, who had been a private in the Volunteer Force with the West Adelaide Rifles, was to be promoted to Corporal. He was a member of their band, but it is unknown what instrument he played.


In June on 1864, Richard's wife Mary Ann gave birth to twin boys. By October of the same year, Richard had deserted the family. He is recorded in the deserted and missing person's database on the Family History SA website as follows:- "Richard Morris, deserted wife and 5 children. Warrant issued Adelaide, Source PG No 185, 28/10/1864, p. 2, apprehended by PG 04/11/1864".

The South Australian Advertiser reported the incident on 2/11/1864. Mary Ann reported at the Police Courts that her husband could earn 2 pounds and 5 shillings a week at his trade (shoemaker), but he had given her only 10 shillings during the last 5 weeks. She had received some rations from the Government, but she had sought most of her support from her mother and father.

Richard in turn charged Mary Ann with infidelity, but that he had offered her 1 pound per week out of his earnings if she would leave her parents (it appears Mary Ann may have moved into their house with her children when Richard deserted her). Several witnesses gave evidence that Richard had taken lodgings with a single woman whom he introduced under false pretences. When it was discovered that Richard was a married man with a family, this lead to the expulsion of both lodgers.

An order was made for the payment of 1 pound weekly, and for costs amounting to 3 pounds, 5 shillings. It also appears that Richard was expelled from the Volunteer Rifle Band, of which he was a part, as the Secretary of the association reported this in the newspaper on the same day.

Richard spent some time in the Adelaide Gaol as a result of his desertion. The Gaol Register (dated 2nd November 1864) states that he deserted Mary Ann on 21st October and the date of his sentence was November 2nd. His date of discharge was 31st December 1864 with remarks that time had been 'served'. In a database on the Family History SA website, it records the following:- "Richard Morris, 36 years, English. Deserted wife. Lately discharged from Stockade. Source. PG No 288, 19/10/1866, p.1." The Gaol Register also gives some personal information relevant to Richard - that he could read and write, that his religion was Church of England, his occupation was shoemaker and that he had arrived in South Australia via Melbourne in the year 1850.

Further Prison Sentence[]

Richard returned to gaol in August of 1865. On this occasion, his offence was for unlawfully obtaining by false pretences, from John Cross, one saddle and one watch, and from James Manning, one saddle, which Richard then sold at Saddleworth between the 11th and 18th of May. The incident was widely reported in the newspapers of the day, with Richard originally protesting that he had borrowed the items. When hearing that the items had been sold on, the judge forcibly withdrew his claim.

Richard was committed by the court at Redruth (in Burra) and was sentenced on 8th August 1865 to 18 months hard labour. He was to serve this time in what was known then as the Dry Creek Labour Prison (now known as Yatala).

The Adelaide Gaol Register provides personal detail about Richard, but he has again adjusted facts, possibly trying to hide his earlier offending. The Yatala Prison Record shows similar evidence of him trying to 'çover his tracks', providing different detail to that provided on the Adelaide Gaol Register. For instance, when asked about previous convictions in the colony, Richard said he had none. There is enough information provided however, that matches him exactly to the 1850 theft of the violin. Richard also stated in the record that he could read and write.

The physical description of Richard on his Yatala Prison record is very detailed. Given the allocated number of 666, he is described as follows:

  • age - 31
  • Height - 5 feet 9 and a quarter inches
  • Weight - 10 stone 1 pound
  • Make - slender, breast contracted
  • Complexion - sallow
  • Face - long
  • Hair - Dark brown
  • Forehead - Low
  • Eyes - bluish grey
  • Nose - small sunken
  • Mouth - small
  • Teeth - irregular discoloured black
  • Chin - small pointed
  • Whiskers - Dark brown inclined to sandy about mouth and chin, wears beard and moustache
  • Expression - good
  • Marks or other particulars - mole on left breast, scar outside right fore finger, 2 moles left shoulder blades, 1 mole small of back, large varicose veins back of leg.

Remission of Sentence[]

Richard served 1 year, 2 months and 2 days of his original 18 month sentence, being released in October of 1866. He (along with many other prisoners who were convicted between May 1864 and November 1866) was given a remission of his sentence as a result of some innocent parties being incorrectly convicted during this time period. This was reported in the Adelaide Observer newspaper on 30th March 1867. The time remitted off their sentences was in part calculated based on credit given for hard labour they had carried out.


Richard disappeared sometime after he left prison. An entry in the South Australian Police Gazette dated 3rd December 1873 states that he may have gone to Melbourne shortly after his discharge in October 1866. The article was placed under the 'Missing Friends' section, indicating that someone was looking for him. The article also described Richard as "aged 44, dark hair and complexion, formerly served in the volunteer force under Captain Rankine at Strathalbyn."

Separation from Wife[]

A search of records relating to divorce and petitions for dissolution of marriage has shown that Richard and Mary Ann never divorced in South Australia. The couple appeared to have reunited briefly 14 years later in 1876, when their last child Albert Edward was born, but would separately permanently by September of 1880, when Mary Ann married for a second time to a James Wishart. It is unknown whether Richard was still alive at this time, so I am uncertain if this was a bigamist marriage. Mary Ann called herself a widow at the marriage.

Son's Crimes[]

Richard and Mary Ann's son Richard was also involved with criminal activity in 1879. He was charged with assaulting and robbing a James W. Hayes of a pocket book and money valued at 20 pounds on October 23rd 1879.

It is interesting to note that the person young Richard assaulted had the last name 'Hayes' - The witness in the violin stealing incident from 1850 had been a Patrick Hayes. If the two 'Hayes' men are related, this potentially could have been a revenge based crime.


How, where and when Richard died is yet to be determined. The approximate date given of 1884 is based on a newspaper entry in the Chronicle in October 1884 about son William's marriage. It states that his father was "the late Richard Morris". A search of the majority of death indexes across Australia has not found a matching death entry at this stage. He may have died interstate.


Name Birth Death
Children of Richard and Mary Ann Morris

Eliza 4/8/1853
Adelaide, South Australia
Southwark, South Australia

Richard 7/9/1854
Adelaide, South Australia
Southwark, South Australia

Emily (Amy) 7/1/1856
Adelaide, South Australia
Adelaide, South Australia

Harriet 1/3/1861
Adelaide, South Australia
Adelaide, South Australia

Mary Ann 4/7/1862
Adelaide, South Australia
Solomontown, South Australia

George 23/6/1864
Adelaide, South Australia
Southwark, South Australia

William 23/6/1864
Adelaide, South Australia
Whyalla, South Australia

Albert Edward 9/11/1876
Adelaide, South Australia


  • Information from Ken Mills
  • South Australian BMD records
  • Family History SA website - deserters and missing persons database
  • The South Australian Advertiser, 29/3/1860, 2/5/1862, 2/11/1864, 14/1/1882, 4/3/1882, 16/8/1882
  • The Chronicle, August 1882 and October 1884
  • SA Prison Registers