The Reibey Institute is proudly named after the late Mary Reibey. Mary Reibey’s portrait graces the $20 note of the Reserve Bank of Australia a testament to her contribution to Australia as one of our first and leading entrepreneurs. Yet, the facts about her life are few and some of them are in dispute. Whatever else she was, she was a private person whose actions spoke for her.
She was born Molly Haydock, May 12, 1777 in Bury, Lancashire, England. After her parents died, Mary’s grandmother raised her and sent her to be a house servant. However, she ran away from her employer and, dressed as a boy, was arrested for stealing a horse. That was August 1791 when Mary was but 14 years old. Her punishment was transportation to Australia. Carried on the Royal Admiral, Mary landed in October 1792 in New South Wales.
Mary Haydock was married to Thomas Reibey on September 7, 1794. He was a junior officer on the East India Company’s store ship Britannia. Thomas set up businesses in grain, coal, furs and skins and owned many farms. Thomas died in 1811 and Mary took over the business.
Still, Mary had seven children to care for and a growing business establishment to manage. She owned farms, the family sealing operation at Bass Strait, and, of course, the overseas commerce. Mary opened a new warehouse in George Street in 1812, and extended her fleet with the purchase of two more ships in 1817. Also in 1817, she was a founding member of the Bank of New South Wales (known as “Westpac” since 1982).
In 1820, Mary launched several new buildings in Sydney. Not surprisingly, Mary Reibey was welcomed into the governor’s social circle. Mary’s appointment as a governor of the Free Grammar School in 1825 was typical of her new concerns.
At age 50, Mary began to withdraw from direct management of the business and focused on social issues. Her last home was at Newtown, Sydney where she died on May 30, 1855 shortly after marking her 78th birthday. Mary outlived all but two of her children.
Sources and Resources
http://www.bdm.nsw.gov.au/familyHistory/reiby.htm NSW Registry of Births, Deaths, and Marriages
http://www.ans.com.au/~janbrady/writingskills/synthesizing.pdf (Extract from 1996 Metropolitan East Disadvantaged School Program)
Irvine, N, Mary Reiby: Molly Incognito, Library of Australian History, 1982.
Australian Dictionary of Biography, Vol. 2, Melbourne University Press, 1968.
200 Australian Women, Women’s Redress Press, 1988.
The Making of Australia – Prison Port and Market Town, (Sydney, 1982).)
Dear cousin: the Reibey letters: 22 letters of Mary Reibey, her children and their descendants 1792-1901. Hale & Irenmonger, 1995. The Genealogical Society of Victoria Inc. Melbourne Victoria, 3000 Australia; email: email@example.com://www.familyhistorybookshop.org.au/prod1593.htm