Esther Williamson (nee McClure)

Born: c1844, Ireland
Died: Aged 77 (headstone ref age 72), 11 August 1921, Tingha NSW Australia.
Buried: Methodist section of Tingha cemetery.
Married: William Tootong Williamson

At an early age 16 or 18, Esther left Ireland and traveled to Australia. It’s not known if she traveled out alone or with her parents – father Joseph Mcclure, a farmer, and mother Esther. According to her death certificate, she spent the first 18 years in Queensland and 45 years in NSW, living and working as a domestic servant or nursemaid in Gympie in the colony of Queensland.

It’s possible the following source could be our Esther McClure 

Assisted Immigration
“GOLCONDA” 1865 – Departed Plymouth April 1865 – Arrived Brisbane 16 August 1865
Esther McClure is listed as 18 years, and it looks like she may have traveled with a companion – Anne McClure aged 20

Assisted Immigration -1865 Golconda -Esther McClure

“The Golconda” Brisbane Courier 1865 

Great Uncle Sydney Lesley recounted that Esther was employed as a nursemaid in Gympie.

A few years after her arrival in 1868, at the age of 24, Esther gave birth to my great-great-grand-mother Mary Fuller, (later wife of Quin Jack) the birth certificate records the fathers’ name as William Fuller. The couple was not married.

Around the mid-1870s, Esther, along with her daughter Mary moved south into the Uralla or Tingha region of northern NSW.

A similar pattern has emerged as pinpointed by *Hale in identifying the types of women most likely to find themselves in relationships with Chinese men. The birth of Esther’s illegitimate child – Mary, suggests that she may have perhaps been pressured into a conjugal affair with her employer or, at worst, was the victim of sexual abuse.

In 1877, when Mary was 10 years old, her mother Esther found security in an enduring marriage with William Too Tong, a Chinese miner, and labourer.

Together they had 5 children. The eldest was Ellen also known as Nell, born in 1878. Strangely, on the birth certificates, Esther has given her daughter’s name Mary Ann Fuller as the mother.

Children of McClure and William Fuller

Mary Fuller — Born: 9 November 1868 in Spring Hill, Brisbane QLD (no record found in QLD BDM)

Children of Esther and Too Tong Williamson

Ellen Too Tong
BIRTH —  30 Nov 1878, Auburn Vale NSW Australia

Francis William Williamson
BIRTH —  5 August 1881, Inverell NSW Australia
DEATH —  4 Jul 1955, Sutherland, New South Wales, Australia

Thomas Joseph Williamson (Joe)
BIRTH — 1883, Tingha NSW Australia

Sarah Jane Too Tong
BIRTH — 1887, Tingha NSW Australia

Sidney Tootong Williamson
BIRTH — 1889, Tingha NSW Australia

The children took the name / Too Tong / Tootong and later Williamson.

Ellen with Joe Williamson
Ellen Tootong with Brother Joe Williamson

Sarah Tootong 1908

Joe Williamson with niece Una (left) and Friend Kitty White (right)
Sidney Williamson (left) as a young boy, with unknown Chinese man 


Group Photo Tingha, Esther McClure Seated on right
Family photo, Esther is seated – 2nd row, first on the right. No other details are known about this photo. If you have any information please leave a comment below. Photo credit – Elizabeth Watson

Death Certificate Esther WIlliamson

Memorial to Esther McClureTingha Advocate Fri 18 Aug 1922

Grave Esther Williamson (nee McClure)
Grave of Esther Williamson (nee McClure), Located in the Methodist section of the Tingha cemetery. Interesting to note she is sharing the grave with her son-in-law John Joseph Hyde.

*  Dinah Hales, in her essay ‘Lost Histories: Chinese-European Families of Central Western NSW’  ([1] in Journal of Australian Colonial History, Vol 6, 2004) re-examines the widely-held belief that  …“European women in relationships with Chinese men are variously described as lazy, mostly Irish, prostitutes, opium addicts, degraded creatures, victims of lewd Orientals, victims of sexual or physical abuse by European men, and outcasts from European society.” These loaded derogatory comments reflect the anti-Chinese sentiment of most white Europeans throughout the Australian colonies, who felt directly threatened by Chinese successes.

Based on her own independent nuanced research Hale finds a variety of factors that provide plausible reasons why white women got into relationships with Chinese men. Her broader findings vary somewhat from those of the Commission into Chinese Gambling and Immorality of 1892, which was based on interviews with only eight urban women. They had somewhat simplistically found that there was …“a pattern of ‘seduction and betrayal’ by European men which resulted in a slide into prostitution, followed by stable relationships with Chinese men. They were usually introduced to Chinese partners by other women already in such relationships.”,

Individual relationships developed and yielded their own pathways and destinies, but the consistent theme on average, was that couples stayed the course of their marriages unless death intervened. By accepting the protection and stability offered them in their newly-adopted roles in distinctive Chinese social sub-groups, the women, and their children, of these mixed-race unions were, in turn, welcomed-into and became fully-integrated members of these communities.

3 Replies to “Esther Williamson (nee McClure)”

  1. Esther was my great great grandmother. Her son, Frances William Williamson, was my great grandfather, and his son, Sidney Cecil Williamson was my grandfather.


    1. Hello Rowena,
      Thank you for getting in touch, I’d love to hear more about your side of the family, I’ll send you an email.


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