This painful scandal played out through NSW newspapers in 1899. Thomas Breckenridge was a storekeeper at Forster who worked with his sister Mary. When Thomas’ fiancée Jane Ann Benson became pregnant, Thomas paid for her to go to Sydney with his sister Mary to procure an abortion. They were turned away by the doctor so Mary took Jane to Newcastle where they met Annie Turnbull and Annie McCarthy who performed the operation.2
On Jane’s return to Forster, her father noticed how terrible she looked. He thought she had gone to Sydney to stay with her grandmother. Jane confessed to her father and he went to Thomas demanding he marry his daughter. Thomas promised to marry Jane admitting ‘the business’ was very bad and he deserved to be hanged.3
Jane’s father also confronted Mary Breckenridge who responded “I have done your daughter a favour, and she did not act right in leaving Newcastle without paying Mrs Turnbull for what was done for her. Don’t say I’m cruel for I stood by and nursed your daughter for a whole seven days when she was sick at Mrs McCarthy’s.” Jane’s father proceeded with legal action.4
All four were found guilty in connection with the illegal operation performed on Jane Benson and were sentenced to gaol times ranging from seven years to six months.5 After completing his gaol sentence Thomas fled NSW, married and became a grocer.6 Jane Benson moved to Newcastle where she married and had several children.7
Thomas and Mary Breckenridge were ancestors of actress Georgie Parker.8
Author: Janine Roberts
1 Permission from NSW State Archives and Records: Darlinghurst Gaol; NRS 2138, Photograph description book. [3/6064] p 70, no 7750 Thomas Breckenridge, 10/06/1899
2 Permission from NSW State Archives and Records: Darlinghurst Gaol; NRS 2138, Photograph description book. [3/6064] p 68, no 7748 Mary Breckenridge, 10/06/1899
3 Permission from NSW State Archives and Records: Maitland Gaol; NRS 2327, Photograph description book. [3/5987] p 169, no 1112 Annie Turnbull, 20/04/1899
4 Permission from NSW State Archives and Records: Darlinghurst Gaol; NRS 2138, Photograph description book. [3/6064] p 69 no 7749 Annie McCarthy, 10/06/1899
5 Truth, 11 June 1899, 8.
6 Newcastle Morning Herald and Miners’ Advocate, 26 April 1899, 7.
7 Truth, 11 June 1899, 8.
8 Australian Star, 25 April 1899, 7.
9 Newcastle Morning Herald, 10 June 1899, 5.
10 Ancestry.com.au, Electoral rolls, 1949.
11 NSW BDM, Marriage Index No. 3275/1902.