The latest Blast From The Past courtesy of our resident historian, Gary Acheson, has some rather illicit goings-on over in Kilcoole 194 years ago.
Oh, the very idea…
Between 1791 and 1853 (and some Fenians after 1867), over 26,000 Irish men, women and children were transported to Australia for periods of 7 years to life. The reality was that very very few ever returned home. Their crimes were mainly crimes against property and, to us now, seem very slight – the theft of a pair of boots or a handkerchief.
The National Archives of Ireland holds some transportation records including some petitions from relatives or friends. Some asked for clemency – others from a spouse asked to accompany their convicted partner and family to Australia at government expense; this was often granted as an intact family was thought to be more stable and productive on arrival in the colony (and not remain in Ireland as a burden on the rate payers!)
These are two petition records related to this case:
Full name: MICHAEL STANLEY
Document date: 26/06/1822
Sentence:Transportation 7 yrs
Petitioner: Mathew Cullen
Petitioner is 82 years and was born and bred in the parish of Killadrima, Co.Wicklow <likely this is Killadreenan near Newcastle. GA> where he still lives. States he has leased a small farm from Lord Fitzwilliam during the life of the convict.
Full name:MATHEW KNOCTOR
Trial place: Wicklow
Document date: 24/06/1822
Crime: Suspected of smuggling
Petitioner: Mathew Knocktor
Petitioner is aged 85 and resides at Kilcoole, Co. Wicklow. Several character references.
Neither of these petitions worked as both prisoners went to Australia.
There is no trace of two of the convicted – John Connell and Anthony Pluck – in the Australian records. Perhaps they had more successful petitions.
174 convicts aboard the’Countess of Harcourt’ (ship’s master George Bunn) arrived at Sydney on December 21 1822 having left Cork on September 3 – a voyage of 109 days.
Convicts were recorded on arrival in a ‘muster’ and again recorded from time to time. Many of these records survive today. With good behaviour, they could apply for a ‘Ticket of Leave’ which allowed them free movement within a defined district to seek work, etc. At the end of their sentence they got a ‘Certificate of Freedom’.
From these records we can trace the history of these seven – some with more detail than others.
John McCabe – born Co. Dublin aged 21, no occupation recorded.
Patrick Grace – born in Co. Wicklow, aged 20, labourer, (an 1825 muster shows him as a general servant to Mr Smithers in Sydney). He got his Certificate of Freedom on April 7 1829. In Sydney, he married Mary Ann Hughes nee Dwyer, a widow, eldest daughter of Michael Dwyer of 1798 and Glen of Imaal fame.(Michael Dwyer had held out in the Wicklow Mountains until late 1803 when he agreed to surrender with guaranteed safe passage to America. The British government reneged on this agreement and held Dwyer in Kilmainham Gaol for two years before exiling him and his young family to Australia.) Patrick Grace had 3 children with Mary Ann and died in 1872 at Shea-Oak Log near Adelaide in South Australia where he had lived as a farmer.
Thomas Gregory – born in Co. Wicklow, aged 24, labourer and fisherman. In 1825 he is mustered as a general servant of Mr Thompson at Melville. A Ticket of Leave was issued to him on March 21 1827 in the Hawkesbury district – but there is also a notation that the ticket was cancelled later as Gregory had died October 31 1827.
John Castles – born in Co. Wicklow, aged 29, carpenter, (a muster of 1825 lists him as general labourer for Dr Douglas at Cawdor) He got his Certificate of Freedom on April 18 1829.
Matthew Naughton (formerly spelt Knackler or Knoctor) – born in Co. Wicklow, aged 31, occupation ploughman. He received a Ticket of Leave on March 30 1827 in the Hunter’s River district and a Certificate of Freedom on June 11 1829.
James Booth – born in Co. Dublin <some sources say Shanganagh. GA> aged 25, ploughman. His Ticket of Leave was issued on February 29 1828 in Inverary district. His Certificate of Freedom was granted on May 20 1829. In 1832 he married a fellow convict, Scottish-born Margaret Robinson. They went on to have 11 children together. James died in 1855 at Gunderoo, New South Wales.
Michael Stanley was supposedly on ‘Countess of Harcourt’ according to one record. Immediately after landing at Sydney, he got employment with the Rev. William Redford and went to Hobart, Tasmania aboard the ‘Caledonia’.