top of page

Ghost in Camperdown Cemetery

If you’re looking for things that go bump in the night, you’re barking up the wrong tree. We’re talking about Bathsheba Ghost, Matron of Sydney General Hospital (1852 - 1866).

Christened into the Church of England on 25 December 1809 in Somerset, England, Bathsheba Dominey was the eldest of six children. In 1838, aged 29, she lived at 338 Oxford Street, London, with her husband Thomas Ghost and their three-year-old son Thomas. She had been working very successfully as a ladies’ nursery maid.

Memorial in Camperdown Cemetery

However, on May 19th, 1838, the Central Criminal Court of the Old Bailey in London, found Bathsheba guilty of receiving stolen property. She was sentenced to 14 years and ordered to be transported to the colony of New South Wales. After four gruelling months at sea, Bathsheba arrived at Port Jackson in March 1839 aboard the Planter with 170 other female convicts. Thus began her solitary exile, separated from both child and husband.


After working as a Domestic Servant for six years, Bathseba was finally rewarded with her Ticket of Leave - this allowed her to work as a free woman, so long as she remained in the district of Sydney. It’s thought that soon after this event, she began working as a nurse at the Sydney Infirmary and Dispensary. Two years later, in 1847, she was granted a conditional pardon and was free, but she could not return to Britain. Just five years after her conditional pardon, In 1852, Bathsheba was appointed the Matron of the Sydney Infirmary and Dispensary. She was awarded an initial annual salary of £80, as well as provided with board and lodging. By 1854 this salary had increased to £100, and finally £120, one of the highest salaries recorded for a female in New South Wales.

Bathsheba Ghost memorial in Camperdown Cemetery


The hospital’s annual reports regularly praised her exertions in maintaining order and cleanliness, and for taking a leading role in training nurses under her care. Bathsheba worked during a period of significant change in medical practices – including the first use of anaesthetics.


Bathsheba never remarried, and we don’t know what happened to the husband. Towards the end of her life, her son Thomas migrated to Australia and she came to know her granddaughter Eliza. Other family members migrated voluntarily - her brother Thomas, wife Lydia and their two sons arrived in Victoria under the Bounty System in 1843.

She also sponsored her brother Solomon and wife Harriet, her sister Bethia and husband John Fry and the two couples’ nine children as free settlers. They arrived just months before her death, some of them working and boarding at the hospital.


Fittingly, Bathsheba died at her workplace in August 1866, the place of her reputable re-emergence into society. The cause was a lingering and painful disease of the uterus, relieved only by significant doses of drugs such as opium and alcohol. In her will Bathsheba bequeathed £100 to the hospital, a significant sum in 1866. She was buried in Camperdown Cemetery. In 1953 the then Matron Elsie Pidgeon unveiled a memorial stone to mark the gravesite in honour of Bathsheba.


bottom of page