Friday, January 29, 2010

Wicklow Gaol - Where the 1798 rebels were held

The Wicklow Gaol was where those Irish patriots involved in the 1798 rebellion were held prior to transportation to Australia. Inmates included prominent rebels such as "General" Joseph Holt and Michael Dwyer.

The first Irish convicts were transported to the Sydney colony in 1791 and prisoners were sent there from Wicklow Gaol from 1796 until the 1850s. You can find more history on the Wicklow Gaol website.

Read the Wicklow Gaol blog for stories of the ghosts that still haunt the gaol today! And play the video above for a ghostly tour by Wicklow guide Marie Cromerford.

Monday, January 25, 2010

A rebel tale

Thomas Lynch was transported to New South Wales in 1796 aboard the Marquis Cornwallis. A lad from County Meath, he and a group of his friends were found guilty in 1795 under the Whiteboy Act of inciting rebellion against the government in Ireland. Initially sentenced to hang, his sentence was commuted to transportation for life.

By 1800 he was assigned to work at Mr Balmain's farm near Windsor and it was there he started to re-establish his rebel tendancies. Lynch was one of the leaders who were to bring other rebels to Parramatta (above, pictured in 1798) from the farm and surrounds in September of that year. The plan was to take Parramatta, command the soldiers weapons, "put the gentlemen to death ... and starve Sydney out" in a bid for their freedom.

The authorities thwarted the rebellion while it was still in the planning stages. Most of the leaders were punished with 1000 lashes and sentenced to hard labour on Norfolk Island. Lynch appears to have escaped punishment, but died soon after from natural causes.

Thomas Lynch's full biography appears in A Desperate Set of Villains by Barbara Hall.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Mr Knaresbro, gentleman convict

To celebrate the re-printing of A Nimble Fingered Tribe we thought we'd feature one of the more adventurous from the book - a gentleman convict who would have dearly loved to have avoided the spotlight that was put on him in the 1790s.

Spring of 1793 brought Mr James Fitzpatrick Knaresbro, seducer of heiresses and prisoner for life, to the colony. He devoutly protested that of the first description he certainly was not; he defended this by asserting that of the two women he seduced in Ireland, the first was only a milliner, and the second was “a girl in a Low Sphere”. In early 1791 he was charged in Ireland with the rape of a Miss B——n. Knaresbro, a man of property, maintained his innocence during his trial at Carlow Assizes.

He was sentenced to transportation for life, but Sydney was no substitute for the life of a womanising dandy in Ireland. He was desperate to leave the colony, and convinced the authorities to let him do so even though he was transported for life. He left for America on 19 March 1796 per the Abigail with the goodwill of Governor Hunter and David Collins, the Judge Advocate.

More than likely, he’d been allowed to leave on the proviso that he not return to Ireland. But within twelve months, he was back in Dublin. He must have known the penalties for returning from transportation, whatever the good opinion of the judge advocate in New South Wales, so his moving about town with insouciance, and his indignation when he was again arrested, perhaps evinces that arrogance necessary to any seducer of heiresses. Three men turned up on his doorstep one September morning, eight weeks after he’d returned to Dublin, and marched him down to the New Prison. Just days later, an incarcerated Knaresbro wrote alarmingly to his peers that the police have “given out that I was an officer in the French Service and came as a spy!!”

He campaigned over many months for his release, writing to as many former friends as he could think of. But he might well have been a highwayman, for all his highbrow connections proved unwilling to have a hand in his release.

Two years later, his health by now failing, he had given up petitioning for his freedom, instead requesting a solitary cell within which other prisoners would not intrude upon him. In May 1799, when news came to him of the death of his father, he requested bail in order to put certain estate and financial matters in order. This appeal appears to have been rejected: the last known record of Knaresbro in 1800 has him still lodged in the New Prison.

His date of death has not been found.

James Fitzpatrick Knaresbro's full biography appears in A Nimble Fingered Tribe by Barbara Hall

Saturday, January 16, 2010

The Irish Memorial in Waverley, Sydney

Yesterday we visited the Irish Memorial at Waverley cemetery in Sydney's eastern suburbs.

The marble and mosaic structure was built in 1898 to commemorate the Irish Rebellion of 1798, and particularly the part played by Michael Dwyer, 'the Wicklow Chief'.

Michael Dwyer, born in Wicklow, Ireland, in 1772, was 26 when the 1798 Rising against English rule began. He led the English on a merry dance until December 1803, when he surrendered on condition he and his colleagues be sent to America. However, the English reneged and sent them to Botany Bay aboard the Tellicherry in 1806.

Governor Lachlan Macquarie gave him a full pardon in 1814. Dwyer died 11 years later, aged 53, and was buried in Sydney's Devonshire St cemetery (where Central Station now stands).

In the lead up to the centenary of the uprising, the Irish community in Sydney campaigned to have a memorial erected for the Wicklow Chief and his colleagues. The £2000 needed was raised by the Irish in Sydney, country towns in NSW and in Queensland, Victoria and New Zealand.

On 22 May 1898, Dwyer's remains, and that of his wife's, were moved from Devonshire St to the memorial in Waverley. It was the largest funeral Sydney had seen with 400 horse-drawn carriages following the hearse in a procession of 10,000 people watched by 100,000 others.

More than 100 years, the memorial still stands in tribute.

Friday, January 15, 2010

2010 Nepean Family History Fair

Fresh from the success of last year's fair, the Nepean Family History Fair is on again in 2010. Irish Wattle will be having a stall there so come and say hello.

When: 10am-4pm, 7 March 2010

Where: Penrith City Library
601 High Street Penrith NSW

Cost: gold coin donation

Contact Penrith City Council for more information

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Being Irish in New South Wales

Check out Irish Community NSW, a terrific service for people living in and visiting NSW who are interested in finding out about events that the many Irish cultural and sporting groups and businesses put on throughout the year.

Visit their website here for the latest news and events!

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Treasures of the National Library of Australia

I love looking through the digital photo collections at the National Library of Australia.

Some of my favourites are the beautiful watercolours done by John Hunter before he became the second governor of New South Wales.

These treasures form one of the earliest European records of Australian birds, and one of the first collections of drawings made during the European settlement of the country.

Monday, January 4, 2010

New stock arriving at Irish Wattle!

Great news! A Nimble Fingered Tribe by Barbara Hall has been sold out for a while now, but we're embarking on our third print run. First published in 2002, A Nimble Fingered Tribe traces the lives of 164 Irish convicts transported on the Sugar Cane in 1793.

New stock is due to arrive at Irish Wattle in February 2010.

Visit Irish Wattle for more information on A Nimble Fingered Tribe.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Event: Researching the first Irish transported to Sydney

Event The Irish Vanguard: Researching the first Irish transported to Sydney

Presented by Barbara Hall and Cassie Mercer

Where Vonnie Young Auditorium, Level One, Bowen Library, 669 Anzac Pde, Maroubra, 2035

When Saturday, February 20, 2010

How to book Contact the Randwick & District Historical Society

During the 1790s close to 1000 Irish were sentenced to transportation to Botany Bay. At a time of great political and social upheaval in Ireland, the authorities were convinced these unwanted citizens would be better off out of sight, out of mind. Barbara Hall has spent the past 15 years researching their stories, from their convictions in Ireland, to the lives they carved out in the penal settlement and the contributions they made to early Sydney society.

An author of five books that cover these transportees, Barbara, and her editor, Cassie Mercer, will talk about the research process, challenges they’ve encountered along the way, and some of the fascinating stories they’ve uncovered on those very first Irish in Australia.

The Irish Vanguard is out now!

In The Irish Vanguard, Barbara Hall traces the lives if the
155 Irish convicts transported to Sydney on the Queen in 1791. Some, including the heavily pregnant Catherine Edwards, became notorious for absconding into the bush from Parramatta, in the hope of reaching China.

The Irish Vanguard is Barbara Hall’s fifth book in her series
of Irish convicts transported to New South Wales prior to 1800. Her meticulous research chronicles each and every convict on board the Queen and brings their stories to life. Here, discover their crimes in Ireland and their fate in the penal colony.

The Irish Vanguard is available for purchase now
through Irish Wattle.