There is little accurate information available on Jane Walker, the wife of businessman and philanthropist Thomas Walker of Yaralla. Our understanding of who Jane was is hampered by a lack of primary documentary evidence and by statements in secondary sources that are made about Jane, but which do not appear to be grounded in any primary source. Various writers have continued to uncritically quote these secondary sources which has compounded the confusion. The purpose of this short paper is to clarify what is actually known about Jane and her life.
Dr. Paul F. Cooper, Research Fellow, Christ College, Sydney has carried out considerable research into the life of Jane Steel Walker. By drawing all his material together from primary sources and removing unsupported secondary source assertions he has presented a more accurate version of her life.
Jane Hart was born on 2 July 1832 at St Andrews, Fife, Scotland to Thomas Hart, originally of Limerick, a corn merchant of St Andrews, Scotland, and his wife Agnes Swinton. She had at least five or six siblings consisting of at least three or four boys and two girls. By 1844, both her parents and one sibling, Thomas, had died. At least one sibling, George, who was a corn merchant, was living in Edinburgh from 1844 to 1850 and was thought to be still alive in Canada in 1873 as he was mentioned in Thomas Walker’s will. It is possible that Jane was a music governess, teaching at the Elm Bank House, Hamilton, Scotland, an establishment for the Board and Education of Young Ladies.
What is known is that Jane came to NSW around 1854 and resided in Woolloomooloo. There is no evidence that Jane’s family ever came to Australia.
Her marriage certificate records that Jane Hart married Thomas Walker on 25 July 1860 at the Holy Trinity Church, Sydney. It stated she was a spinster, was born in St Andrews, Scotland, and that her usual place of residence was Woolloomooloo, Sydney.
For some time Joanna, Thomas’ younger sister, had been living with Thomas at his home at The Rocks. She returned to Britain in 1861 and was absent from Sydney when Eadith Campbell Walker was born to the couple on 19th October, 1861.
Joanna, however, returned to Sydney in July 1862 while Thomas, Jane and Eadith were still overseas. She probably remained in NSW from that time on.
Jane died on 26 December 1870 when her daughter Eadith was nine years old.
It is certainly true that Joanna was to play a significant role in the raising of young Eadith, but Joanna had not remained in London and was not overseas at the time of Jane’s death in 1870.
This is a precis of the researched document. To access the full research go to https://phinaucohi.wordpress.com/2016/04/19/jane-steel-walker-nee-hart-1832-1870-wife-of-businessman-and-philanthropist-thomas-walker-of-yaralla/