Rachel Harpur (c1829-1904)

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Rachel Harpur
Sex: Female
Birth: c1829 Glencormick, County Wicklow, Ireland
Baptism: 14/2/1829 Glencormick, County Wicklow, Ireland
Death: 17/12/1904 Portland Estate, South Australia, Australia
Father: William Harpur
Mother: Jane Clarke
Spouse/Partner: Thomas Underdown
Marriage: 30/08/1851 Adelaide, South Australia

Rachel Harpur was born in Glencormick, County Wicklow in approximately 1829, a child of William Harpur and Jane Clarke. Her parents married in Bray in 1829, so it is likely that she was their eldest child. She had two siblings that we are aware of - Robert and William - but more research is required to determine if there were others. There are a large number of people with the surname Harpur buried in St. Paul's Church Yard, Bray in County Wicklowlow who may be connected to this family in some way.

Travel to AustraliaEdit

At age 21, Rachel decided to immigrate to Australia. She boarded the ship "Joseph Somes' a 774 ton barque under the command of Captain Elmstone. The "Joseph Somes" was an old convict ship, which left London on 12th August 1850 and Plymouth on 22nd August 1850, with 270 Government emigrants on board. Rachel travelled on her own as a single woman, and was listed as a domestic servant under the surname of 'Harper'. The ship arrived in Port Adelaide on 23rd November 1850.


Rachel married a former sailor name Thomas Underdown in Adelaide on 30/8/1851. He had originated from Devon in England. It is uncertain where the couple lived during the first few years of the marriage, but their early married life appears to have been unsettled due to Thomas travelling back and forth from the Victorian Goldfields. There is a record of a T Underdown traveling from Melbourne to Adelaide on the ship BROOKSBY on 10/12/1852 and a Thos Underdown on the ship PHANTOM on 29/12/1852. This would explain why the couple's first child was not born until early 1854, some two and a half years after the marriage. Rachel is likely to have stayed behind in Adelaide until Thomas took her over to Victoria with him.

It is uncertain how successful Thomas was on the goldfields, but the family lived there for approximately 10 years. In that time, they lost 3 children in infancy. They were located in the Bendigo area around Iron Bark Gully, First White Hills and Bullock Creek. A lithograph by the artist Samuel Thomas Gill, depicting how Iron Bark Gully was at the time of Rachel being there can be found on the National Library site at the following location:-

Port AdelaideEdit

The family moved back to South Australia between 1863 and 1867, where their son Robert is recorded as being born at Portland Estate (part of Port Adelaide). What he did while there is uncertain, but it is noted that he may have been involved in carting and farming.


Rachel was hospitalised for tuberculosis on the 20/10/1869 in the Adelaide hospital. Unlike others of the time, she managed to survive the condition, and was discharged only a few weeks later on 8/11/1869.

In 1874, she returned to hospital, when she was suffering from ulcered legs.

Later yearsEdit

Thomas died when his youngest daughter was only 4 years old, of 'softening of the brain' in 1876. He was buried at Alberton.

Rachel underdown PO 1903

Rachel in the 1903 SA Post Office Directory. All the Underdown's listed are related in some way.

Rachel continued to live at Portland Estate after her husband's death. She is listed in the South Australian Directories continuously on the west side of College Street (later College Place), Portland Estate, Port Adelaide, between 1882 and 1905.

Rachel was hospitalised two more times for ulcered legs, once in 1887 and again in 1895.


Rachel died in December 1904 of heart disease (several years), cerebral embolism (2 days) and coma (1 day). She was buried next to Thomas at Alberton Cemetery.

She was fondly remembered by her children, who placed memorium notices for her in the Advertiser newspaper for several years after her death.

Her property at College Place, Portland Estate, passed to her eldest son, Thomas, who is recorded in the SA Directories as a labourer living at the property in 1906.

Rachel underdown memorial

An 'In Memoriam' notice for Rachel entered by her son Robert in December 1906


Name Birth Death
Children of Thomas & Rachel Underdown

Jane 27/3/1854
Iron Bark Gully, Sandhurst, Victoria
Sandhurst, Victoria

Thomas 14/3/1855
Iron Bark Gully, Sandhurst, Victoria
Portland Estate, South Australia

Rebecca Jane 27/2/1857
First White Hills, Sandhurst, Victoria
Woodville, South Australia

William 14/12/1858
First White Hills, Sandhurst, Victoria
Sandhurst, Victoria

William John 5/10/1860
Bullock Creek, Sandhurst, Victoria
Sandhurst, Victoria

Anne Elizabeth 22/1/1862
Bullock Creek, Sandhurst
Port Adelaide, South Australia

William George 13/9/1863
Bullock Creek, Sandhurst, Victoria
Port Adelaide, South Australia

Robert John 29/6/1867
Portland Estate, South Australia
Birkinhead, South Australia

Arabella 23/7/1869
Portland Estate, South Australia
Portland Estate, South Australia

Mary Eleanor 14/10/1872
Portland Estate, South Australia
Birkinhead, South Australia


  • Parish records
  • Cemetery records for Bray
  • Births, Deaths and Marriages for South Australia and Victoria
  • Genealogical information from Peter Underdown
  • National Archives of the UK - Seaman's ticket 389.198
  • Maitland Mercury and Hunter River General Advertiser on Saturday 6th October 1849
  • Shipping records & passenger lists
  • Adelaide Hospital Admission records
  • South Australian Directories, 1882-1905
  • The Advertiser newspaper 17/12/1906, 17/12/1909, 16/12/1911, 17/12/1914

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