The sad story of a marriage on Christmas Eve

On 24 December 1881, Susan Harriett Parkinson was married to William Alfred Clarson.[1] Susan was the daughter of Arthur Wellesley Parkinson and Ann Parkinson (nee Stevenson), and was a niece of our 2x-great-grandmother Harriet Duesbury (nee Stevenson), making her our first cousin three times removed. As Susan was only 19 years old (and obviously pregnant) her father gave his consent to the marriage.

In fact, the marriage was void. Eight days earlier, on 16 December, Clarson had been married to Martha Payne[2].

The situation came to the attention of the authorities, and on 29 May 1882, Clarson was convicted of bigamy and sentenced to four years hard labour[3]. He was sent to Berrima Gaol on 30 June[4]


On 28 February 1883, Martha Clarson was granted a decree nisi for divorce from her lawful husband, in an undefended suit; the decree was made absolute on 28 August 1883[5].

In the meantime, Susan Parkinson was left with a void marriage and a son, Arthur Lucien Clarson, born on 18 April 1882[6]. She must have truly loved the boy’s father, because they were married (this time legally) on 29 April 1886 after his release from gaol[7], and they had another son, Sydney Clifford Clarson, the following year[8].

Susan Harriett Clarson died on 3 August 1951[9], the death notice describing her as “wife of the late Alfred Clarson”. His death is not known for certain, but has an index entry for an Alfred Clarson who died in Queensland in 1906.

[1] NSW Marriage Registration, 1803/1881

[2] NSW Marriage Registration, 1941/1881

[3] Sydney Morning Herald, 3 June 1882, p.5

[4] SRNSW, NRS 2138, Gaol Description Books, [3/6044], p.156

[5] Sydney Morning Herald, 1 March 1883, p.1, and 29 August 1883, p.7

[6] NSW Birth Registration, 1130/1882

[7] NSW Marriage Registration, 720/1886

[8] NSW BDM Online Index 2831/1887

[9] Sydney Morning Herald, 4 August 1951, p.44

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