George William Cain and the McMaster Family


In an earlier post I wrote about the involvement of brothers George and Joseph Launt in the “Fred Lowry” affair, for which they received 10-year gaol sentences. Whilst researching this story I became aware that Mary Jane Cain had been the initiator of a petition to the New South Wales Government seeking their early release.

It occurred to me that Mary’s husband, George William Cain, may have been related by marriage to the Launt family and that this may have been the reason for Mary Jane’s interest. George and Joseph’s sister, Eliza Launt, had married a Thomas Cain in 1861. At present I have no evidence of such a relationship.

Mary Jane Cain is a well known figure in colonial Aboriginal history, and you can read versions of her story at The Conversation and at Wikipedia. She also left a memoir which includes some personal history but is otherwise, as Marilyn Wood has stated, a pastoral history of north-western New South Wales. [1] You can read this at the State Library of NSW.

Mary Jane’s immediate ancestry is known and documented, her husband George’s less so. The story of his parentage and early years seems to have been mostly transmitted orally. During my research I came across a few facts that give some more context to the story, particularly about the timeline of the related McMaster, Watt and McGregor families and their properties.  The McMasters are said to have adopted and employed George for most of his life, so I thought it worth recording these stray facts.

The terms “half-caste” and “Yellow George” are used only when quoting from historical documents, including Mary Jane’s memoir.

George is a significant figure to the Plains Clans of the Wonnarua people, as befits one born at Patrick Plains, and was named as an apical person in their native title claim filed in 2013.

George Cain’s Story

Mary Jane’s memoir contains this reference to George’s origins:

“After being there some years I went to Wetalabah to people who lived near McMasters by the name of McGregor who was also a cousin to the McMasters. I lived with those people until I married. It was Duncan McMaster’s stockman George Cain (known as Yellow George at that time.”

“Mr Watt having been an Hotelkeeper in Murrurundi which he sold out before joining parteners with Mr McMaster. They had no stock when they first settled on this place as my father Eugene Griffin always supplied them with beef. Duncan & John McMaster were their names. some time after Duncan McMaster & a halfcaste boy called yellow George who’s proper name was George Cain.”

A family tree and biographical information for George can be found on the Wikitree website. [2]

The McMaster Family

In 1836, when George is said to have been born, Duncan McMaster was no more than 10 years old so that it may have been his parents, Hugh and Jane McMaster who took care of George. The McMasters arrived in Sydney as assisted immigrants on the ship “Brilliant” in January 1838.

Hugh was a 42-year old blacksmith from Argyllshire, and is described as “skillful and intelligent” in his immigration papers. Accompanying him were wife Jane, age 39 and 5 children ranging in age from 7 to 16 years. The children included Duncan, age 12 years and John, age 10 years.

What happened to them next is likely as described in The Colonist newspaper of 27 January 1838:

Twenty-three families, however, remained in Sydney, unwilling to disperse, and earnestly desirous, to secure for themselves and their offspring the benefits of education and religious instruction by settling together. The heads of two of these families were accordingly commissioned, to proceed to Hunter’s River during the past week, as a deputation from their whole number, to spy out the land. The result of their examination of Mr. Eales land at the mouth of William’s River was unfavourable, for the reasons enumerated above, and they were induced to prefer a settlement higher up the Hunter, on Mr. Andrew Lang’s estate of Dunmore, situated between that river and the Patterson, near Maitland. They accordingly proceeded to their destination, to the number of thirty-two adult males, twenty-five females and forty-four children – in all 101 souls –on, Monday last, and arrived in excellent spirits the day following; the Government giving them a free passage up by the Sophia Jane steamer, and rations for two months. Each family is to have a small farm of from fifteen to twenty acres of alluvial land, of the first quality, and capable of producing any thing suitable to this climate.”

A newspaper report of a court case places Hugh McMaster in Paterson in 1843. [3] He died on 13 July 1868 at Weetalaba:

“McMASTER—July 13th, at Weetalaba, near Coolah, Hugh McMaster, Esq., formerly of Morven, Argyleshire, Scotland, 82 years, deeply regretted by a large circle of friends.” [4]

His son Duncan McMaster married Christiana Cox at Paterson on 16 December 1852 and died in Sydney on 19 March 1910:

“There died at Keira, Darling Point, on Saturday, Mr. Duncan McMaster, sen., one of the early pioneers of New South Wales. He was born at Morven, Scotland, in 1825, and at the age of fourteen came to New South Wales. Shortly after his arrival here he began farming and grazing pursuits, and retained his interests therein for some years. For the last 3 years Mr McMaster resided in Sydney in the house at which he died at Darling Point. He was one of the founders of the Co-operative Wool and Produce Company and a director of the Sydney Meat Company to within a few weeks of his death. Five of his family survive him, two sons and three daughters — Mr. John McMaster, of Binnia Downs; Mr. F. D. McMaster, of Dalkeith, Cassilis; Mrs. G. Hamilton, Sydney; Mrs. E. J. Lowe, Gulgong; and Mrs. D. McMaster, jun., of Oban, Coolah.” [5]

The other son, John McMaster, married Christina McIntyre at Shoalhaven Heads in 1856 and died in 1894:

“COONABARABRAN. (From the Watchman.)

THE townspeople received a shock on Tuesday by the receipt of a telegram conveying news of the death of Mr. John McMaster senr. of Weetalabah. We have no particulars, excepting that he died rather suddenly, and it was known that he had been suffering from a rather severe cold for about a week, but no serious consequences were anticipated. Mr. McMaster has, however, been suffering from an affection of the heart for a good many years, and it has been known that he might die suddenly. He was one of the earliest settlers in this district, and was known and respected far and wide for his liberal and large-hearted generosity, his unbounded hospitality, and his strong, far-seeing commonsense. He was one of a type of colonists who are rapidly passing away with the conditions which brought out all their best qualities, and he has had a large share in the welfare and progress of this portion of the colony Mr. McMaster has left a widow, a large family of sons and daughters, grown up, and most of them married and living in homes of their own.” [6]

The McGregor Family

Arriving with the McMaster family on the “Brilliant” in 1838 was Duncan McGregor, 15 years old, and described as “under the protection of Hugh McMaster his uncle”.

Duncan married Isabella McPherson in 1847 and died in 1915:

Death of Mr. Duncan McGregor

Mr. Duncan McGregor, one of the pioneers of the Hunter River district, died this morning at his residence, in Largs. A few days ago the deceased fell and broke his thigh, and death was due to the shock caused by the accident. A native of Argyllshire, Scotland, where he was born in the year 1820, he came to this State on January 26 (Anniversary Day), 1838. For a few years, he lived at Blairmore, near Aberdeen, and afterwards spent some time in New England. Then he went to reside in the Paterson district, and with the exception of a few years spent at Seaham, in the Williams River district, he lived the remainder of his long life in the Bolwarra district, having retired some two or three years ago, since which he had been living in Largs with his two daughters. He devoted himself principally to farming, and was widely known and deservedly respected throughout the district. He was one of the first elders of the Presbyterian Church at Hinton, and was an ardent churchman. His wife predeceased him eleven years ago. He is survived by a family of five, the sons being Mr. Angus McGregor, a shire councillor, and for several terms president of the Bolwarra Shire Council, and Mr. Duncan McGregor, of Grantham, Queensland, and the daughters, Mrs. Dalyell, of Gunoon, Clarence River, and the Misses Isabel and Christina McGregor, with whom he resided. [7]

The McGregor mentioned in Mary Jane’s account of her marriage to George Cain at Weetalabah in 1865 was probably Duncan but may also have been his 18-year old son Angus. Either way, it’s likely that whichever one it was acting as manager for the McMasters. And when Mary Jane in her memoir refers to the murder of Mary Ann McGregor (in 1877) it’s the daughter of Angus that she’s referring to. This murder took place near Angus’s selection “Hawthorn” at Ulamambri.

Angus McGregor died in 1932:

“Mr. Angus McGregor.

Mr. Angus McGregor, who died on Friday, was born near Morpeth in 1851, and was a member of one of the best-known pioneer families in the Hunter River district. His father, the late Duncan McGregor, was one of a group of Highland Scots settlers who sailed from Scotland in the ship Brilliant in 1838. He established himself in the Maitland district, and was closely associated with its development during his life of 95 years.

Mr. Angus McGregor was his eldest surviving son, and throughout his life was prominent in the agricultural community of the Hunter River Valley. For many years he was president of the Bolwarra Shire Council, and was a successful exhibitor at the local agricultural show and at the R.A.S. Show in Sydney. As a young man he spent some years in Sydney. He became a keen amateur cyclist in the days of old high bicycles. In 1891, although in his fortieth year, he established a record for a cycle ride from Brisbane to Sydney, and in 1892 established the first recognised record for a cycle ride from Sydney to Melbourne. Other long-distance records held by him were unbroken for many years. Cycling remained his favourite recreation, and, although he became an enthusiastic motorist in his 75th year, he never lost interest in this sport. His wife predeceased him by many years, and he is survived by a son and two daughters.” [8]

The Origin Mystery

There is a mismatch between the stated year of 1837 for George’s adoption at 9 months old by the McMasters, and their arrival in January 1838. This may just be a case of imperfect recollection however it does raise the possibility of another party being involved in George’s care between his “abandonment” and eventual fostering by the McMasters.

This could explain how George came to be given the surname of Cain, as over time, some Aboriginal people “acquired” English surnames through their association with particular white settlers. A quick check of convict records showed a number bearing the family name of Cain or its multiple variants in the Hunter Valley in the decade before George’s birth, and there were free settlers as well.

The standout amongst these is William Cain (Lord Melville, 1829) who obtained a ticket of leave in 1838 for the district of Patrick Plains. A brass finisher by trade he had been assigned to Catherine Sheridan and then James Hart at Maitland in 1832, and in 1837 to Samuel Clift at Patrick Plains. Clift was a former convict who became a prominent business man in Maitland but had wider interests including pastoral properties in the Breeza district.

The other puzzle presented by this period of George’s life is the mismatch between the claim that his parents were Aboriginal and his wife Mary Jane’s characterisation of him as “a halfcaste boy called yellow George”. If he was as she described him then one of his parents had to be white, or perhaps mixed race, although 1836 seems too early in the Hunter for a first generation mixed race person of Aboriginal descent to be having a child.

George is recorded in the 1901 census at Forked Mountain (Burrabeedee) near Coonabarabran with the initials “H.C” in the remarks column which probably means “half-caste” although it’s impossible to say whether George said this or the collector made their own assessment.

Growing Up

Given that the earliest acquisition of pastoral runs in County Bligh by the McMasters was in the late 1850s, it’s possible that they were at Paterson or thereabouts for about 20 years after their arrival and that George obtained any schooling and vocational training there.

There is, however, a reference to George being schooled at Murrurundi. This occurs in some reminiscences (or tall tales) by one Alfred Smith in 1909, including one titled “Entertaining Bushrangers Unawares” that tells of a supposed encounter with a member of Ben Hall’s gang. The mention in the story of the reward of £1000 offered for the capture of any member of Hall’s gang dates the story to between October 1863 and May 1865. Ben Hall and George Cain were about the same age and Ben is said to have received some schooling in Murrurundi where his parents lived. Also, when Duncan McMaster married in 1852 his abode was given as “Timor, Murrurundi”:

“Married. On the 16th December, by special license, at Paterson, by the Rev. Mr. Laughton, Mr. Duncan McMaster, of Timor, Murrurundi, to Miss Christiana Cox, eldest daughter of Mr. B. Cox, of Wollarobba, William River.” [9]

Earlier, in 1850, he was recorded at “Glengarry”, Pages River, also in the Murrurundi district. [10] His later business partner, David Watt, was also recorded at both “Timor” and “Glencoe, Murrurundi” in newspaper reports between 1851 and 1858. I should note here that the McMaster and Watt families were related, as David Watt had married Jane Anisa McMaster in 1843.

The story is too long to give in full but these are the relevant references to George Cain:

“One time I was delayed three days on Mr McMaster’s station, at Pine Ridge, through the Talbragar Creek being in flood, and while stuck up there was shepherding the sheep….

He had only gone about a quarter of an hour or so when Mr McMaster’s overseer, George Cain, came up and told me to be at the head station that night with the sheep. He said to me ‘ Why, Alf, you have had Ben Hall staying with you for a couple of days, so he tells me.’ I said I was not aware it was him, but I could see he knew a lot about them from what he told me. Mr Cain said ‘ I went to school with him in Murrurundi. There is a thousand pounds hanging to him, and I must get back and see if we cannot get him.’ He told me I ought to have got him, as he was sick. But how was I to know it was Ben Hall for certain? I tried to put it out of Mr Cain’s head but he reckoned if he could get him, he would have it. Anyhow, he never got Ben Hall, and I am quite satisfied I did not earn the thousand on his head, and I believe it would have done me no good, for he never interfered with me.”

Believe it or not, it’s a good story and you can read it in full at the Trove website.

McMaster Properties

The extent of the McMaster’s pastoral runs, on which George may have worked, is best shown by looking at the year 1866, the year after Mary Jane and George Cain married at Weetalabah. In that year partnerships in County Bligh between the McMasters and David Watt were dissolved.

One partnership was between David Watt and Hugh, Duncan and John McMaster.  Watt took Mowabla, Narangarie, Lagoons (Talbragar) and Cookerbingle. Duncan and John McMaster took Greenbar Creek and Ulindar Creek.

Another partnership was between Watt and Duncan McMaster. Duncan and John McMaster took Honeysuckle, Weetalaba and Binnia. [11]

Of these, all except Weetalaba were properties sold in 3 lots by the estate of William Lawson in 1854. [12] However they were not sold then to the Watt-McMaster partnerships as in 1856 they were notified as having been transferred from Lawson’s estate to T. S. Mort. [13] David Watt can be placed at Ulindah by 1859 [14] and this is likely the year the runs were acquired by the partnerships.

Weetalaba first appeared under Watt and McMaster ownership in early 1864. [16]

In 1862 Binnia and Honeysuckle were sold by Henry Bayly to Watt and the McMasters. [17]

Binnia and Weetalaba are the runs most mentioned in the Mary Jane and George Cain story. This is their later history:

In 1868 the brothers purchased Rockgedgeil in the Liverpool Plains district from Andrew Loder. Later they dissolved the partnership.

John took Weetalabah and Rockgedgeil and in 1879 purchased Premer station from Charles Lawson. Then he acquired Bugaldie and Yerina in the Coonabarabran district. …

Duncan McMaster held Binnie Downs and Bundella stations in the Coolah district from 1859 to 1899, when his son John came into possession. At that period Binnia Downs (as it was then called) had an area of 40,000 acres.”  [18]

The Other George William Cain

There exists a baptism index record for a George William Cain in 1836, the likely year of my subject’s birth. It’s the only birth or baptism for someone of that name in the NSW registry of births, deaths and marriages between 1800 and 1900, except for the birth of Mary Jane and George’s son in 1900.

One family history webpage warns that this baptism, which took place at St Mary’s Roman Catholic Cathedral in Sydney, does not relate to the George William who is the subject of this post. The index names the mother as Catherine but no father is named. Some researchers have inferred from this that the registration relates to a child of John Cain and Catherine Fogarty Hennessy who were certainly having children around this period. However John Cain was not the father in this instance.

The registration likely relates to an ex-nuptial child, as the family names of the mother (Catherine Cain) and father (William Davis) are different. The registrar showed the wisdom of Solomon and got around this by indexing the record under both George William Cain and George William Davis. I wonder which name he assumed in life?

Finale – George the Stockman

Given his characterisation as Duncan McMaster’s stockman, and with his many descendants, it seems appropriate to finish this post by quoting a stanza from David Campbell’s poem “The Stockman”. Campbell was a great-grandson of David Watt and Jane McMaster:

“I saw the stockman mount and ride,
across the mirage on the plain;
and still that timeless moment brought
fresh ripples to my brain;
it seemed in that distorting air
I saw his grandson sitting there.”

[1] Marilyn Wood, “Journey to Forked Mountain”, Aboriginal History, Volume 25, 2001, pp. 200-215

[2] – accessed 21 February 2022

[3] Sydney Morning Herald, 11 July 1843, page 2

[4] The Sydney Morning Herald, 12 Aug 1868,  p.8

[5] The Maitland Mercury, 22 March 1910, p.4

[6] Dubbo Dispatch and Wellington Independent, 10 August 1894, page 3

[7] Maitland Daily Mercury, 10 August 1915, page 4

[8] The Maitland Daily Mercury, 30 Aug 1932,Page 4

[9] Maitland Mercury and Hunter River General Advertiser, 18 December 1852, page 3

[10] Maitland Mercury and Hunter River General Advertiser, 5 October 1850, page 1

[11] NSW Government Gazette, 8 Feb 1866 p. 403

[12] Sydney Morning Herald, 2 Sep 1854, p. 10

[13] NSW Government Gazette, 11 Feb 1866, p. 471

[14] Maitland Mercury and Hunter River General Advertiser, 1 September 1859, p.

[15] Sydney Morning Herald, 21 February 1863, p. 8

[16] NSW Government Gazette, 22 Jan 1864, p. 163

[17] NSW Government Gazette, 18 July 1862, p. 1289

[18] Farmer and Settler, 16 September 1955, p. 17

Henry & Helena Curran’s Business Affairs

In earlier posts I’ve written about my great-great grandfather’s career as a gold rush era storekeeper and as the man behind the first steam flour mill in Orange, NSW.

I’ve been able to locate some 40 deeds relating to land and financial records involving Henry or his executors ranging in date between 1849 and 1881, although there are bound to be more undiscovered. So the following is a partial account.

Taken together, the deeds reveal Henry’s entrepreneurial streak, involving buying land, borrowing money with the land as security, and using the money to acquire assets that would produce an income stream by trading or leasing. These assets included stores, hotels, and a steam flour mill, not to mention beef on the hoof at the time of his death.

Henry was not afraid to borrow money. In 1853 he took out a loan of £600, not his first, from Joseph Moulder to purchase the land containing the Traveller’s Inn at Summer Hill on the road to Bathurst. It seems that this venture was unsuccessful as in 1857 there was owing on the mortgage some £638 so Henry sold the land to Samuel Phillips for £900 and discharged the debt.

The Traveller’s Inn 2017

Meanwhile, in 1852, Henry had bought 12 allotments in the town of Orange, including 4 of the 5 in Summer Street between Curran (later McNamara) Street and Peisley Street (section 44), the possession of which underpinned his Orange businesses, the store and steam flour mill. He later acquired the 5th.

Henry Curran’s Town Lots Section 44 Orange

Joseph Moulder must have had faith in Henry because in 1858 he loaned him £1,000 against the security of lot 5 of section 44. This mortgage was discharged in January 1863. Around this time Henry had need of further capital, most probably to fund the expansion of his storekeeping business to Dubbo, Wellington, Ironbarks (later Stuart Town), Forbes and Mookerawa (east of Stuart Town and now on the western side of Lake Burrendong). Joseph Moulder obliged 2 days later with a loan of £4,000 and 4 months later with another £1,000, secured again by the section 44 properties.

Both Joseph Moulder and Henry were to die in 1866. One or both may have had intimations of approaching death as in January 1866 it seems that some of Henry’s mortgages with Moulder were consolidated and taken over by the Bank of NSW, amounting to £6,000 . Moulder died 2 months later. Ten of Henry’s properties were taken as collateral:

Dubbo Lot 5 Section 14, Lot 4 Section 17, Lot 14 Section 5;

Co. Lincoln parish unnamed Butler’s Falls Reserve Lot 4 Section 16, Lot 3 Section 16;

Orange Lots 1-5 Section 14.

The month before his death, aware that he was dying, Henry assigned his estate to trustees for the benefit of his creditors, as was usual at the time. Henry had previously, in 1860, taken on the role of trustee with Benjamin Nelson of Wellington when James Mortal, an innkeeper of Molong, assigned his estate. The process spared Henry’s wife Helena the worry of resolving his business affairs whilst attending to their family of 7 children. For as Helena stated some 5 years later when making an affidavit regarding her insolvency:

“I further say that it would be a matter of impossibility for me to make up such accounts from memory from the facts that I am in no way well acquainted with figures and likewise not having a good memory of particular transactions for me to comply with the said rules.”

Henry’s chosen trustees were Sydney businessmen John Frazer and Henry Prince, whose firms were Henry’s biggest creditors. The deed of assignment contains a list of his business assets and debts and constitutes a valuable record of the inner financial workings of such a medium sized business of the period.

Henry’s creditors were owed £7,538, ignoring the shillings and pence.

Land assets were described as:

“Allotment number fourteen of section number five and allotment number four of section number seventeen town of Dubbo. Three roods and thirty four perches and fourteen acres and thirty seven perches of land situated within the Butlers Fall Reserve being allotments numbers four and three of section sixteen respectively. Allotments numbers one two three four five of section number forty four and allotment number thirteen of section number five.” [in Orange].

Only the Dubbo and Butlers Falls Reserve lands were sold by the trustees, for £1,416. It seems that the prized Orange lots in section 14 remained to be managed by Helena when she assumed control of Henry’s estate after being appointed administrator in 1868 along with Patrick Mulholland. She can be tracked up to 1881 leasing out the steam flour mill and Miners Arms hotel properties, although they were still apparently mortgaged as Joseph Moulder’s executor, William Tucker Evans, remained party to the leases to the end.

Henry & Helena Curran’s Store and Steam Flour Mill

On the physical asset side, but not costed, were:

“All store and other goods in the premises occupied by the said Henry Curran and situate in Orange Dubbo Wellington Ironbarks Forbes and Mookerawa. All monies whether in banks or otherwise. Two hundred and fifty two head of cattle received from Mrs Monaghan of Nyngan on the Bogan River and now travelling under the charge of one Patrick Burns.”

Henry’s Cattle Supplier – Mrs Monaghan

Bills payable to Henry totalled about £4,021.

Henry was possessed of some lands which don’t appear in the above inventory, and these were progressively sold by the estate. In 1873 four town lots in Wellington were sold and in 1875 two town lots in Forbes. There may have been others.

Helena’s brush with the insolvency laws resulted from her continuing operation of the Orange store, which no doubt faced strong competition from the likes of the Dalton brothers. Three creditors meetings were held in 1870. Her assets comprised £200 of stock in trade of the shop, wearing apparel of £5, debts due of £32 4s. 7d. Her debts were £270 1s. 2d. There were also several promissory notes unpaid. Her creditors “allowed her” [to keep her] furniture and wearing apparel.

Her stock in trade, which realised £117 9s. 7d. when sold comprised hardware, food, books, household utensils, clothing, fabric and haberdashery.

It’s clear Helena’s storekeeping business was of a different scale to Henry’s, and I imagine that she became something of a niche retail shopkeeper.

Lot 1, Section 44 in 1872 – part leased to Patrick Kenna for Miners Arms hotel and part vacant

She apparently was able to continue the store until at least 1877 as her name is included in a list of Orange storekeepers who advertised in the Sydney Morning Herald on 28 April 1877 that they had agreed to use a single forwarding agent, “Messrs Moulder, Leeds & Co” to cart their goods from the Orange railway station. This coincided with the opening of the station a week earlier.

Anecdotal evidence is that the store operated until at least 1882, by which time Helena was aged about 63 years. On 4 July 1884 the Evening News reported under the heading “Orange items”:

“An important sale of town property was concluded yesterday, the block of land and the buildings thereon known as Curran’s property, were purchased by Mr F. G. Treeweeke, J.P., of Clifton Grove, for £7020. If £2000 are allowed for improvements, this gives an average of over £25 per foot for the land.”

This report relates to the section 44 land and buildings in Summer Street, and is around the time when Helena is believed to have left Orange with her two unmarried daughters to live in Sydney. The following year Treeweeke mortgaged lots 1, 2 and part of 3 to William Tucker Evans, sold the other part of lot 3 to William Whipple and leased to Amelia Strachan “two dwelling houses and shops etc in Summer Street Orange and being built upon part of Allot 2 of Sec 44 in that town.”

In today’s values, the £7,020 from the sale of the properties in Orange equates to roughly $750,000. Enough to fund a comfortable retirement but of course I don’t know whether and for how much her properties were mortgaged or what other assets she might have had, and she was not to die for another 21 years, outliving her two unmarried daughters.

(Curran family history)

Richard Fitzgerald’s Bathurst Convict Establishment in 1828 (Part 2)


In my previous post I described Richard Fitzgerald’s property acquisitions in the Bathurst, Dabee and Coolah districts. I also provided a few details on his workforce, as revealed by the 1828 census.

The census return provided a detailed “snapshot” of his workers, which provides an opportunity to recover a few fragments of their personal stories.

All told, there were 31 people listed in the return, all except 3 being convicts or ex-convicts. The exceptions were boys who were born in the colony, John Taylor (age 11 years), John Hockey (age 13 years) and John Marr (age 14 years). All were working as shepherds at Dabey, and no doubt receiving a fine education in convict ways.

The census return is mostly accurate as far as I can tell, and there were only three sentence-expired convicts (free by servitude), John Green, Mickel Dawes and Mikel Tigh that I couldn’t tie to their convict ship and year of arrival.

Of the 28 convicts, 13 were still serving their sentence (i.e assigned servants), 12 were free by servitude, 2 had a conditional pardon and 1 had a ticket of leave.

About 2/3 were of the Protestant religion, the remainder being Catholic. All sentenced in Ireland were Catholic.

Ages ranged from 11 to 74, and all were male, as to be expected at that time and place.

Their original occupations, i.e. before conviction, included labourers, a wine cooper, a shoemaker, a ploughman, a soldier, a cotton weaver, a boatman, a weaver, a seaman & labourer, a cotton spinner, a servant & barber, a shepherd’s boy, a cloth presser, a butcher, a workman and a waterman.

Only one was still working at his original occupation. This was Irishman John Hughes, a shoemaker. He wasn’t there under compulsion as his sentence had expired in 1821. John Barker, a butcher before conviction, was Fitzgerald’s overseer but probably also kept his hand in at butchering once in a while. John Tighe was working as a blacksmith so it’s likely this was his original occupation, of which I found no record.

14 people were employed as shepherds, and 6 as hut keepers, these normally working in teams of 2 or 3 shepherds and one hut keeper. Information about the conditions of sheep farming at this time can be found in an earlier post “Deridgeree Station – the Early Years“. There were also 3 herdsmen, 3 bullock drivers, 2 labourers, 1 blacksmith, 1 shoemaker and the overseer.

Most were employed at Dabee, which was clearly the headquarters. At Wollar there was a shepherd, a herdsman and a hut keeper. At Combemelong there were 2 shepherds, at Nandowrey a herdsman and a hut keeper and at Carwell a shepherd and a hut keeper.

The earliest year of arrival was 1800, and only one ship and voyage provided more than one convict. This was the Recovery, 1823, which accounted for 3 assigned servants.

More convicts were first assigned to Windsor (10) than elsewhere. Two from the Grenada, 1819, were assigned to Emu Plains when Fitzgerald was still in charge of the Government Farm there. Parramatta, Camden and Prospect each recorded a single assignment. Masters mentioned in assignment records included Fitzgerald (Windsor), Cox (Windsor), Bowman (Windsor), William Lawson (Prospect), Macarthur (Camden) , George Thomas Palmer (Parramatta) and John Palmer.

Here are a few anecdotes from the lives of these people.

William Spower (Norfolk, 1825)

William Spower, a wine cooper, was convicted in London in 1824 for embezzlement. Of the 31 convicts, he is the only one for which I found a trial transcript. Spower’s offence was a little different to the usual story of the convict transported for 7 years for stealing a handkerchief. Here is the beginning of the transcript:

333. WILLIAM SPOWER was indicted for a fraud.

RICHARD HENRY GRAY . I am a wine-merchant , and live in Basing-lane. I know Mr. Mollard, of Greenwich.

On the 10th or 11th of December the prisoner came to me and said, “Mr. Mollard wants twelve dozen of old crusted port, have you any?” I said not, he represented himself as Mollard’s confidential servant, and said he was going to Wilson and Cutler’s, Mincing-lane; to buy two dozen of claret. …”

Like to read the full transcript?

William received his certificate of freedom in 1831.

John Tighe (Anne 1, 1801)

According to the census return, John Tighe arrived from Ireland in 1801 on “Ann 1st” with a life sentence. He was classified in 1828 as having a conditional pardon. These details identify him as John Tighe, a convict who accompanied surveyor George Evans on the second crossing of the Blue Mountains in November 1813.

Evan’s party comprised 2 free men (free by servitude), James Byrne/Burn and Richard Lewis. The convicts were John Tighe/Tye (a convict shipmate of Byrne), John Grover and John Cogan/Coogan.

Byrne and Lewis were rewarded with 100 acre land grants plus a money payment whilst the 3 convicts received 50 acre land grants, a conditional pardon and a small cash payment. Thereafter, in normal discourse, Tighe could call himself a free man, the only restriction on him being that he could not return to Great Britain, as his transportation was for life. His land grant was at Windsor.

Tighe subsequently formed part of William Cox’s road building party that constructed the road across the mountains in 1814/15, although not initially. Richard Lewis took the role of Cox’s superintendent, whilst James Byrne acted as guide.

On 1 August 1814 Cox and Byrne had a falling out, and Cox discharged him. On 4 August, Cox’s journal records “Wrote for John Tye to come and join us as a Superintendent in lieu of Burn discharged.” [1] Thereafter Tighe acted as guide in marking out the line of road, no doubt due to his experience with Evans. There are numerous mentions of “John Tye” in the journal.

1815 was a big year for Tighe. He married and as reward for his work with Cox received from the government two further payments from the Police Fund, a grant of land at Richmond and a small number of horned cattle from the Government herd.  In regard to the latter:

“WHEREAS His EXCELLENCY the GOVERNOR in CHIEF has been pleased to grant to the several Persons undernamed a Proportion of Horned Cattle as a Donation for their Services in constructing a Road across the Blue Mountains to the new-discovered Country. This is to give Notice, that on Wednesday the 5th July next, at Ten o’ clock in the Morning, Attendance will be given at the Eastern Creek Stock-yard, where the following Persons are requested to attend in Person, or send written Orders, upon which the Cattle will be delivered without Delay ; viz.

Mr. Thomas Hobby … | Samuel Eyres

Mr. Richard Lewis … | James Kelly

John Tye ……………… | William Martin

Thomas Gorman …… | Matthew Mucklow, and

William Dye ………… | Mrs. Green, widow of

Samuel Freeman …… | the late Thos Green

It will be needful for each Person to bring his own branding iron, as no Cattle can be delivered from the Governments Herds without branding.” [2]

Why did Tighe chose employment with Fitzgerald at the age of 64? Fitzgerald would have known Tighe as both were long established residents of Windsor. A blacksmith was an indispensable part of a pastoral establishment, not just for shoeing horses but for manufacturing, repairing and sharpening a wide variety of tools and equipment. Fitzgerald probably valued his experience and expertise and paid him well.

Like to read more about the Evans and Cox expeditions? Try this link.

John Hughes (Three Bees, 1814)

The shoemaker John Hughes (Three Bees, 1814), a native of Dublin, was tried there in 1812 and sentenced to transportation for 7 years. He may not have had an easy time of it.

Although I don’t know the details of his offending in the colony, he was sent to the Newcastle penal settlement on the “Estramina” in June 1815 and again in September 1817on the “Mary”. He was still there in August 1819 when his name appeared on a list of prisoners claiming expiration of sentence. John should have received this in 1819.

On 7 August 1824 he submitted an affidavit to the Colonial Secretary re loss of his certificate of freedom from his lodgings in Sydney. The affidavit appears to have been made at the courthouse in Windsor, which would be consistent with his taking up employment with Richard Fitzgerald.

A new certificate was issued on 26 August 1824, the register noting that it was in lieu of an earlier certificate.

Daniel Noonan (Lonach, 1825)

One of the older of Fitzgerald’s people, having been born about 1772, Daniel was working in 1828 as a hut keeper at Wollar. He had been convicted in Tralee, County Kerry in Ireland for cow stealing in March 1824. He was initially assigned to the Camden district, master Macarthur, at Cawdor.

The 1828 census gives his sentence as transportation for 7 years, however other records say it was for life.  He was to die on 25 February 1835 at the place where many old convicts spent their last days, the Liverpool Hospital. His burial record in the Sydney Anglican parish register says that he was a prisoner of the Crown which suggests a sentence longer than 7 years.

John Snow (Hindostan, 1821)

John Snow is the subject of a separate post “A Colonial Rarity – John Snow”.

John Barker (Larkins, 1817)

John Barker is discussed in a separate post “Deridgeree Station – the Early Years”.

William King (Porpoise, 1800)

Apart from being the oldest man amongst Fitzgerald’s people (age 74 in 1828) he had served the longest sentence and was the only one who did not arrive on a convict transport ship.

King arrived in Sydney on 9 November 1800 on HMS Porpoise, a supply ship which carried amongst other cargo a selection of useful European plants, arranged by Sir Joseph Banks, to replace those lost in HMS Guardian. En route the ship stopped at Cape Town where 9 prisoners, all ex-soldiers were embarked. King was described as a notorious thief. Follow this link to read more about HMS Porpoise.

[1] This part of the journal is excised from the version published in William Cox’s Memoirs. It can be found in the online version at the National Library of Australia – – viewed 28 January 2022

[2] The Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser, Sat 1 Jul 1815, Page 1

Richard Fitzgerald’s Bathurst Convict Establishment in 1828 (Part 1)


I’ve mentioned Richard Fitzgerald in my recent posts about John Snow and Deridgeree station. I’ve been poking about Ancestry and FamilySearch to piece together his early activities in the Bathurst, Mudgee and Coolah districts in search of further family links. Below are some fruits of my labour.

Fitzgerald was one of the great survivors of colonial New South Wales. The title of his biography,  “From Convict to Millionaire” (by Susan Perrett), reflects this. Due to the pandemic I haven’t read this yet but when I can I’ll update this post. You can read Fitzgerald’s entry in the Australian Dictionary of Biography.

The 1828 Census

Fitzgerald’s census return for the Bathurst district in 1828 is comprehensive, naming the the 31 individuals working for him under the supervision of his trusted overseer, John Barker. For each individual it gives his age, convict status, the name of the ship on which he arrived, the year of arrival, his sentence, occupation, place of residence and religion. The places of residence are Dabey (Dabee), Woolar (Wollar), Combemelong, Nandowrey, and Carwel (Carwell). The occupations are shepherd, hut keeper, herdsman, blacksmith, bullock driver, shoemaker, labourer and overseer.

To find out more about Fitzgerald’s people see part 2 of this post.

The return also enumerates Fitzgerald’s land and livestock, the land being 1,000 acres at Dabey, 5,000 acres at Nandowrey and 1,200 acres at Clear Creek. No acreage is given for either Woolar or Combemelong although stock were located at both.

Fitzgerald’s Property Acquisitions

Fitzgerald acquired many properties during his long career. However the cessation of his government employment in 1822, following the Bigge Report and Lachlan Macquarie’s recall as governor, probably freed him up to tend to his own business affairs and the acquisition of property further afield than Sydney.

The district or town of Bathurst was established by Governor Macquarie’s proclamation on 7 May 1815. Prior to this date “Bathurst district” was a reference to an administrative district of western Sydney. Both usages occur over the next 10 years or so. In 1819 Fitzgerald received a grant of 1,350 acres in the districts of Bathurst. The survey description of the land includes references to the Harris Farm (at Shanes Park), Richmond Road and the Melville district that point to it being in the vicinity of South Creek.

The management of land grants was a bit of a shambles at this period, and some grants promised took a decade or more to progress to alienation, or conversion to freehold. This didn’t seem to preclude occupancy of the chosen site, “possession being 9/10ths of the law” being the unwritten rule. In some cases “certificates of occupation” were issued for a 12-month period.

Clear Creek

Fitzgerald’s first acquisition in the later Bathurst district beyond the Blue Mountains seems to have been at Clear Creek in 1821. This may tie in with the presence at “Bathurst” of his overseer John Barker as recorded in the 1822 muster, with the occupation of “stockman”, although perhaps Barker was at the western Sydney Bathurst.

A Colonial Secretary memorandum of 17 September 1821 records the Governor’s approval of a grant of 500 acres of land, with 3 government men (convicts) to be victualled from the government store for 6 months. His name then appears on an 1821 list of those who were to receive grants at Bathurst, with 2 entries, one for 700 acres and one for 500 acres.

There was further correspondence with the Colonial Secretary in 1822. It seems Fitzgerald had been asked to provide evidence of the grant promise by the new Governor, Thomas Brisbane. On 8 December Fitzgerald replied saying that the previous governor, Lachlan Macquarie,  had approved the grant of 1,200 acres to him and his eldest son. He refers specifically to the grant being on the “Bathurst Plains”. The evidence provided reads:

“The Governor has received Mr Fitzgerald’s Memorial of this day’s date; and in consideration of his numerous Flocks and Herds, and late great increase thereof, he will receive an additional Grant of Seven hundred (700) Acres of Land as a Grazing Farm at Bathurst. Windsor 17 Septr 1821 A true copy. R. Fitzgerald”

Hmmm! Two memoranda with the same date but mentioning different amounts of land. The first was written at “Government House, Windsor”. Was Fitzgerald entertaining Governor Macquarie at his Macquarie Arms hotel before his departure? Was there one memorandum before the port was circulated and one after?  Did I mention that Fitzgerald was a trusted advisor to the Macquaries, husband and wife, a relationship prolonged beyond the Governor’s departure? Here are the two memoranda for you to judge.

Memorandum 1 for 500 Acres
Memoranda 2 for Additional 700 Acres

I’ve sighted a record of the grant of the 700 acres, in the County of Roxburgh and Township of Peel with the date of grant being 30 June 1823 with quit-rent of £14 to commence after 5 years. The survey description of the grant mentions Clear Creek. The land is portion 14 in the parish of Peel and fronts Clear Creek.

The Australian, 14 Jul 1825, Page 1

The 1828 census showed that Fitzgerald had no employees or stock at Clear Creek but that his overseer John Barker had 500 sheep, 19 horned cattle and a horse there whilst 2 others also were running cattle. It’s likely that Barker was being paid his wages in livestock and their grazing as was common at the time.


I’ve been unable as yet to tie Combemelong to any subsequent identifiable place although the return says it was 55 miles north of Bathurst. In 1823 Fitzgerald had applied to the Colonial Secretary for approval of temporary occupation of  a piece of land “two geographical miles in each direction” 58 miles to the north-west of Bathurst and 10 miles from Dabey and known by the name “Combemelong and Merumegal”. These directions and compass bearings are incompatible but my “best guess” is that the place was in the general vicinity of Lue.

(Thanks to Virginia Hollister, who tells me that the Aboriginal locality names still exist in much modified form. Combemelong is the vicinity of Cumber Melon Mountain, which overlooks Kandos. The Geographical Names Board describes it as ” Mountains about 1 km SE of Kandos and about 1 km E of Charbon.” It appears on the topographic map 8832-2N Kandos but is only designated with the name “Baldy Peak” which is the name of a feature on the mountain. The trig. station Cumber is coincident with Baldy Peak and is also named on the map.

Likewise, Merumegal is the area immediately east of Cumber Melon Mountain  and almost due south of Dabee homestead. It has the locality name Merry Angle, which is not recognised by the Geographical Names Board. However the property name of Merri Angles appears on the topographic map 8932-3N Olinda.)

The application was approved, as was a renewal on 27 February 1824. These applications name the employees to have charge of the stock. John Barker was named as overseer in 1823.

The 1828 census records only 2 shepherds and 758 sheep at Combemelong, plus 1 horse.

Dabey (Dabee)

Parish maps show that Fitzgerald had 2 large portions of land at Dabee, in the parish of Rylstone, portion 2 of 1,000 acres and portion 3 of 1,066 acres. Portion 1, of 2,000 acres, bears the name of Elizabeth Macquarie, the Governor’s wife. Fitzgerald’s grandson Robert Marsden Fitzgerald acquired further property surrounding these grants in later years.

A record of the grant for the 1,000 acres says that it was not alienated until 17 May 1838, with quit-rent commencing 1 January 1831. In the survey description of the land it says:

“Being the land promised to the said Richard Fitzgerald on or before the 1st August 1824, and advertized as lot 87 in the Government notice dated 15th August 1836.”

This makes it difficult to say when actual occupancy of the land commenced. According to one writer, “By January 1823 he was running 600 cattle and six flocks of sheep and employing eleven stockmen at Dabee.” A Colonial Secretary minute of 6 January 1825 addressed to the Deputy Commissary-General is an order for Fitzgerald and 3 named convict servants to be victualled from His Majesty’s stores at Bathurst for six months. Was this Fitzgerald on a scouting trip for new land, or to commence operations on existing grants? Perhaps both.

The Monitor, 15 Dec 1826, Page 8

The 1828 census shows that Fitzgerald had 22 of his 31 employees based at Dabee as well as most of his sheep (3,045), 144 cattle and 25 horses.

Neighbourly relations were strained in Dabee in October 1828 when Fitzgerald found it necessary to write to the editor of The Monitor complaining of the unneighbourly behaviour of Edward Cox, who was another large landholder at Dabee. Cox had impounded Fitzgeralds’ straying sheep, thus causing Fitzgerald to have to pay a significant amount to recover them from the pound.

There is a hint in this of social tension between Fitzgerald, the experienced emancipist made good and the young Cox, son of a Lieutenant in the NSW Corps and born free in the colony. Edward Cox had obtained his first grant of 300 acres at Mulgoa at the age of 4 in 1810!

Nandowrey (Uarbry/Tongy/Coolah)

This massive grant of 5,000 acres, with later additions, became the jewel in the crown of Fitzgerald’s landholdings. A record of the grant states that it was approved on 24 September 1834 with quit-rent to commence on 7 May 1828.  The survey description of the grant mentions that it was made in accordance with Sir Thomas Brisbane’s warrant of 3 May 1825 that set the purchase money at 5 shillings per acre.

The location of Nandowrey can also be found written as Nandowey and Nandowa. The name survives in the parish name of Nandoura, near Uarbry, that encompasses some of the Tongy lands. The 1897 edition of the parish map includes a location named Nandowry adjacent to Fitzgerald’s portion 34.

Michael O’Rourke has written the following note on the origin of the name:

referred to the tribelet (band) of the upper Goulburn River as ‘the blacks belonging to the Nandowa Plains’. This was no doubt the same as ‘Nandowey’ plain in the Talbragar headwaters near Cassilis, first occupied by employees of the Cox family in c. 1825

The grant locates the land as “At Uarbry, Nandowa Plains, commencing on the Talbragar River at the junction of the Turee Creek …”.

The 1828 census shows only two assigned convict at Nandowrey, John Moors (Mangles, 1820) a herdsman and Archbald McDougall (Shipley, 1818) as hutkeeper. Of the 5,000 acres 4,000 had been cleared and there was 1 acre of cultivation. Present were 372 cattle and 1 horse.

Woolar (Wollar)

The 1828 census return doesn’t show the acreage of Fitzgerald’s Wollar land. The parish map for Wollar show his name against portion 1 of 1,235 acres and portion 2 of 1,000 acres. The grant for portion 2 was approved on 17 May 1838, the same date as for the Dabee grant mentioned above. It also mentions that it relates to land promised to Fitzgerald on or before 28 February 1824.

Three of Fitzgerald’s employees were present at Wollar at the time of the 1828 census as were 587 sheep, 434 cattle and a horse. Three acres had been cleared for cultivation.


The 2 portions of land comprising Crowie, one of 780 acres and one of 1,240 acres were not taken up until after the 1828 census.  They comprise portions 1 and 2 on the parish map of Munmurra, and both front the Goulburn River, or Reedy Creek as it was often called then.

In the deeds of sale from the Government there is no suggestion that these had been promised grants and the two lots appear to have been advertised for sale as lots 49 and 50 on 4 May 1835. The deeds were signed by Governor Bourke on 3 December 1835.

The adjacent property named Deridgeree, in the parish of Durridgere was purchased just 3 months later by someone called John Barker – surely Fitzgerald’s trusted overseer.

Crowie was not held long by the Fitzgerald family, being sold to Thomas Lennox. Anecdotal evidence says that “On arriving in Australia Thomas worked at “Dabee” Rylstone where his three eldest sons were born. In1849 he took up land on the Goulburn River at “Crowie” where 5 more children were born prior to the death of his first wife Anastasia.” (

Elizabeth Macquarie’s Grant at Dabee

According to Rebecca Geraghty:

Prior to Macquarie’s recall, Elizabeth gave the power-of-attorney over her affairs in the colony to the Macquarie’s ‘intimate friend’ Richard Fitzgerald and Henry Anthill. Elizabeth left her livestock on Anthill’s property in Picton, while Fitzgerald extracted from the new Governor, Brisbane, a promise of 2,000 acres of land for the use of her stock, subject to Lord Bathurst’s approval. Unfortunately, nothing came of this request.” (Rebecca Geraghty, A Change in Circumstances – Individual Responses to Colonial Life, BA(Hons) thesis, Sydney University, 2006)

The promise appears on a register of promises as having been made on 4 November 1825. It took until 1837 for the promise to be kept and by that time Elizabeth had died and the grant was made instead on 11 February 1837 to her sole surviving child Lachlan Macquarie junior. It’s his name that appears on the Rylstone parish map although the land was subsequently acquired by Fitzgerald’s grandson, Robert Marsden Fitzgerald.

Who made use of the land whilst all this was being sorted out isn’t clear to me although the 1828 census shows that overseer John Barker was running 376 cattle there as was another person who had 20.


Having established the properties mentioned above, Fitzgerald, who was to live until 1840,  seems to have resisted the push onwards beyond the Uarbry/Cassilis/Coolah district to the Liverpool Plains, as were others such as the Cox and Lawson families. He focused instead on augmenting his existing properties.

At his death his estate was valued at  £34,000, a fortune at the time, his sole heir being his son Robert Fitzgerald (1807-1865). It was Robert who extended the family empire onto the Liverpool Plains and beyond. Ownership of Dabee and Tongy persisted through the life of Fitzgerald’s grandson, Robert Marsden Fitzgerald (1835-1910). His grave memorial at St Matthews Anglican Church Windsor, the construction of which was overseen by his grandfather, proudly refers to him as “Robert Marsden Fitzgerald of Dabee and Tongy”.

A Colonial Rarity – John Snow


In an earlier post I speculated on the identity of Elizabeth Anderson’s 3rd partner, John Jones, and invited readers to judge the evidence for themselves.

This post deals with a similar puzzle, the identity of Elizabeth’s 2nd partner, John Snow.

Although John Snow and Elizabeth Anderson had 5 children between 1839 and 1847 the single piece of documentary evidence for the relationship is the baptismal register of St John the Baptist Church in Mudgee. This records that all 5 children were baptised by Reverend James Gunther on 9 March 1847. It describes the parents as John Snow, farmer, and Elizabeth Anderson, mother. It also says that their residence was at Moolarben, Reedy Creek.

Elizabeth married John Jones on 22 December 1848, less than 2 years later, when the Reverend Gunther again officiated. In the marriage register she is described as Elizabeth Anderson, spinster, indicating that she had never married John Snow.

What happened to John Snow, i.e. death or desertion, I don’t know, and may never know, given the conditions of frontier life at this period. Death records weren’t collected where death and burial occurred remote from town unless there were special circumstances such as a coroner’s inquest, police investigation or a clergyman attended the burial. John Jones was buried on the family property and there would be no death record for him if his mother had not placed a notice in the newspaper.

The Name “John Snow” in Colonial New South Wales

John Snow was a rare name in the colony of New South Wales (NSW) to 1840, which makes it possible to consider the probability that any of the known John Snows were likely to have encountered Elizabeth. In 1828, 68% of the population were either convicts or ex-convicts and although this proportion decreased over the next decade, it was more likely than not that her partner was from that segment of the population.

There were only 3 convicts with the name John Snow transported to Australia before 1840. These came on the Mary in 1822, Hindostan in 1821 and Lord Lyndoch in 1838.

A possible fourth, John Snow (Princess Royal, 1823) is listed at Bathurst in the 1825 convict muster. However there is no such convict on the indents for that vessel, he does not appear on the Colonial Secretary’s list showing the convicts from that ship sent to Bathurst or elsewhere, and there appear to be no other records of a John Snow from the Princess Royal. The record is likely to be a clerical or transcription error, as the document in question is a compilation from individual muster returns.

In terms of free settlers, I’ve been unable to locate a single individual named John Snow who was resident in the colony prior to 1840. This is consistent with the rarity of the name in the convict population, and the proportion of free settlers in the total population.

Timing a Pregnancy?

I’m embarrassed to say that I’ve known some of the key facts about John Snow for a few years but failed to draw all the conclusions from them until now. One such fact is the date of birth of John and Elizabeth’s first child, Sarah, which was 29 January 1839 according to the baptism register. She was thus conceived around the 3rd week of April, 1838.

It’s possible to eliminate 2 of the 3 convicts on this conception date alone. John Snow of the Lord Lyndoch did not arrive in NSW until 8 August 1838, far too late for him to be Sarah’s father.

John Snow of the Mary was in gaol at the Moreton Bay penal colony between 1835 and 1838. He was returned to Sydney gaol on 6 July 1838 and was released on 12 July 1838, too late to be Sarah’s father.

Unless there was a “wild card” free settler, John Snow of the Hindostan is the last man standing to be Elizabeth’s partner.

All 5 children of John and Elizabeth had precise birth dates recorded when baptised. Could Sarah’s have been in error? Even if this was the case, there are other reasons to discount the the other John Snows as Elizabeth’s partner.

John Snow of the Mary was aged 61 years in 1838. He was a continuing criminal recidivist from the time of his arrival in 1822, and was likely the John Snow admitted to the lunatic asylum in 1833. He was a member of a Bathurst Road ironed gang in 1831, but otherwise all his records relate to Liverpool, Sydney or Parramatta. He was familiar with the Sydney and Parramatta gaols, the Phoenix convict hulk, the male factory at Parramatta, as well as the scourgers’s lashes. After his return from Moreton Bay he was admitted to Parramatta Gaol on 20 September 1838 (record notated “treadmill”) and Sydney Gaol (record notated “confine 14 days”) on 18 December 1838 and released on 2 January 1839. He is likely the John Snow whose death in Sydney General Hospital was recorded on 7 April 1839, however the burial registration does not permit positive identification. He had no credentials to have been a farmer at Reedy Creek in the 1840s and raising a young family.

I’ve not been able to trace John Snow of the Lord Lyndoch after his arrival in 1838 beyond the issue of his certificate of freedom in 1847 and his death in the Liverpool Hospital in 1878. Sarah Snow’s birth date would have to be out by 4 months at least for him to be in contention. With an occupation of stocking maker and an age of 22 in 1838 it’s also unlikely that he had the skills to be a farmer on the banks of Reedy Creek.

Locational Evidence

There is locational evidence that supports my hypothesis that Elizabeth’s partner was John Snow of the Hindostan.

This John is unequivocally identified in the 1828 census, employed as a shepherd by Richard Fitzgerald at his Dabey (Dabee) sheep station. This places him in the Bathurst/Mudgee region where Elizabeth spent most of her long life. His 5 years as an assigned servant of John Bowman at Richmond, and later as a shepherd for Richard Fitzgerald meant that he had been exposed to colonial cultivation and grazing practices and thus fitted to be farming at Reedy Creek. He was aged about 33 years in 1838, a good match for 23 year old Elizabeth.

John Snow of the Hindostan in the 1828 Census

Also, in 1842 a John Snow who was “free by servitude” appeared before the Bathurst Circuit Court charged with horse stealing, although the Solicitor General on the day elected not to prosecute. At that time John Snow of the Lord Lyndoch was not yet a free man so that John Snow of the Hindostan is the only person who meets the description of free by servitude. The date of this court appearance falls between the births of John and Elizabeth’s second and third children and again places John in the Bathurst/Mudgee region. Unfortunately, the court records (depositions) relating to the trial have not survived which is unfortunate as they may have provided additional identifying information.

There I rest my case, but not before noting that John Snow of the Hindostan and Elizabeth Anderson both had a relationship with either Richard Fitzgerald or his son and heir Robert Fitzgerald and/or their properties in the Bathurst/Mudgee district.

John’s employment by Fitzgerald at Dabee has already been mentioned. But when Elizabeth gave birth in 1849 to her son Luke James Jones it was at Crowie, a Fitzgerald property at Reedy Creek. Reedy Creek is mentioned on Luke’s baptism record, whilst “Reedy Creek, Crowie” is mentioned in Luke’s obituary published in 1920 in the Mudgee Guardian.

Elizabeth’s 4th partner, Anthony West, was likely the convict of that name (Mellish, 1829) whose convict master was Richard Fitzgerald and who also worked on Crowie.

Biography of John Snow of the Hindostan

John was born about 1805 in Kent, England. On FamilySearch there is only one matching baptism record in Kent, where a John Snow was baptised at St Mary Cray on 3 August 1806. However this record hasn’t been verified as applicable to this John Snow.

On 7 May 1821 he was convicted of larceny at Surrey Quarter Sessions and was sentenced to transportation for 7 years.

John travelled to Australia on the convict ship Hindostan, leaving Portsmouth on 29 July 1821. During the voyage he was taken ill and admitted to the sick bay. This is from the medical journal of the Hindostan:

“12 October 1821, opened two bottles of gravy and one of vegetable soup for convalescents. William Callowhill, convalescent. J Scalding and J Cooper convalescent. J Taylor rather better than yesterday, continued medicine. John [Powck?], convalescent. John Snow (convict boy) pain in the head and limbs, nausea and vomiting. …

24 October 1821, John Snow quite well discharged from the sick list.”

The Hindostan arrived in Sydney on 24 November 1821. John’s convict indent describes him as 5 foot 4 inches tall, complexion florid, brown hair, grey eyes. His occupation was given as “shepherd’s boy”. He was sent to Windsor to be assigned and ended up with John Bowman of Richmond, a free settler.

John is listed in the convict musters of 1822 and 1825 as a government servant of John Bowman. He is mentioned incidentally in a letter from the Colonial Secretary to Bowman dated 7 April 1825. Bowman died in December that year and it is presumed that John was transferred to Richard Fitzgerald of Windsor to serve out the remainder of his sentence. He obtained his certificate of freedom on 7 May 1828. That year he was recorded on Richard Fitzgerald’s census return as employed as a shepherd at Fitzgerald’s Dabee sheep station near Rylstone. It also recorded that his religion was Protestant.

If you’re a family history researcher and would like to see more details of the evidence discussed above please contact me by comment or email. You can find a link to my email address by checking the “About Borclaud” link at the top of this page.

(Herrmann Family History)

Alias “Reedy Creek”

The place name of Reedy Creek crops up seemingly everywhere in colonial Australia, often to be later discarded or superseded by other names. Even today, a search of the NSW Geographical Names Register returns 121 applications of the name.

In my family history research into people living in the area between Mudgee and Cassilis I encountered the name in differing contexts that gave little precision to the question of exactly where Reedy Creek was.

One of my favourite poems of Henry Lawson, who grew up in the Mudgee area, is called “Reedy River”, and I’ve often surmised that it was really about Reedy Creek and that he changed the name for poetic effect. When you think about it, a creek is more likely to be reedy than a free flowing river. In mentioning the poem I risk disappearing down a rabbit hole as it also mentions Rocky Creek – but that’s a story for another post.

One of the puzzles was that I found the name used in the 1840s in connection with both the names Moolarben and Deridgeree, locations that are some 20 kilometres apart. I pored over old parish and county maps endeavouring to pin it down but to no avail.

Enlightenment finally came when I read a parliamentary report from 1864 and realised that, like some of the desperadoes who then inhabited the region, a river could have an alias, although not for criminal purposes.

This report was published in the Sydney Morning Herald of 2 November 1864 and is about the survey of a railway between Muswellbrook and Mudgee. In it, the author P.D. Brown of the Engineer’s Office of the Railway Department, wrote:

“… Treating the subject as a whole, and finding, on extensive inquiry, that the Mudgee traffic to Muswellbrook, in preference to the direct Goulburn route, which is shorter, takes either a direct route through Cassilis, or, branching from near Collaroy, across the Munmurra towards Deridgeree, and thence by the general line of watercourse of Goulburn (alias Reedy Creek, above junction of Munmurra) by brown line towards Mudgee …” (p.8).

The alias was evidently in use by 1839 when land was advertised for sale by the government and was described as “Six hundred and forty acres, parish unnamed on Moolarben Creek; bounded on the south by the third section line north of a measured section of 640 acres on Reedy Creek …” (NSW Government Gazette, 26 January 1839, No. 385).

Enlightenment didn’t help that much with my research questions as “Reedy Creek” was very much a linear concept, and could refer to anywhere along a river straight line distance of 30 kilometres but much more as it meanders. The Goulburn River is reckoned to commence in the vicinity of Ulan, where Moolarben Creek and Sportsman’s Hollow Creek converge. From there to the Munmurra River is “alias Reedy Creek”.

Just downstream from the commencement of the river, where Ulan Creek converges, once stood the Reedy Creek Inn, built by John McDonald in the 1850s to serve the traffic on the Mudgee to Cassilis road.

Much of Reedy Creek traverses gorge country unsuitable for close settlement and there was only one village, Ulan, near it. For the remaining pastoral or farming properties that were close to the river Reedy Creek served as the locality name. I have two examples in my records – from a baptism in 1847 where the residence name is “Moolarben, Reedy Creek” and a newspaper obituary from 1920 where the birthplace is “Reedy Creek, Crowie”. It’s where the name is used without a secondary identifier that creates problems. An 1847 newspaper account of the murder of Joseph Palfrey at “the Rivulet” contains many references to precise locations such as Coggan, Cassilis, Bylong, Drummond’s Flat, etc but several references to Reedy Creek are unqualified and thus the location of the events described as occurring there can’t be determined with any precision.

The alias has persisted as a cultural concept to this day, as exemplified by the Wikipedia page for the Goulburn River that contains a photo of the river captioned “Goulburn River – Reedy Creek” – not put there by me I should add!

If you look for this Reedy Creek using the search facility on the NSW Geographical Names Board website you won’t find it. To do that you need to select the option to “Download all GNR records” which will download an Excel spreadsheet. Find “Goulburn River” on that and you’ll find Reedy Creek listed as a previous name. Which isn’t quite correct as it was the former name for only part of the river.

For the avoidance of doubt, I should mention another Reedy Creek that could be confused with “alias Reedy Creek”. Commencing in the 1860s, and in connection with a gold rush, the lower section of Cooyal Creek before it enters Wyaldra Creek, was often called Reedy Creek. This can be seen on the 1885 Town Map of Wyaldra and the 1887 Parish Map of Gulgong. This “alias Reedy Creek” is only about 20 kilometres distant from the older one. It now seems defunct, at least as far as the Geographical Names Board is concerned, but according to Trove was in local use as late as the 1940s, for example in relation to the Reedy Creek bridge at Home Rule.

I’ll leave the last word to Henry Lawson after all:

Reedy River

Ten miles down Reedy River
A pool of water lies,
And all the year it mirrors
The changes in the skies,
And in that pool’s broad bosom
Is room for all the stars;
Its bed of sand has drifted
O’er countless rocky bars.

Around the lower edges
There waves a bed of reeds,
Where water rats are hidden
And where the wild duck breeds;
And grassy slopes rise gently
To ridges long and low,
Where groves of wattle flourish
And native bluebells grow.

Beneath the granite ridges
The eye may just discern
Where Rocky Creek emerges
From deep green banks of fern;
And standing tall between them,
The grassy she-oaks cool
The hard, blue-tinted waters
Before they reach the pool.

Ten miles down Reedy River
One Sunday afternoon,
I rode with Mary Campbell
To that broad, bright lagoon;
We left our horses grazing
Till shadows climbed the peak,
And strolled beneath the she-oaks
On the banks of Rocky Creek.

Then home along the river
That night we rode a race,
And the moonlight lent a glory
To Mary Campbell’s face;
And I pleaded for our future
All through that moonlight ride,
Until our weary horses
Drew closer side by side.

Ten miles from Ryan’s Crossing
And five miles below the peak,
I built a little homestead
On the banks of Rocky Creek;
I cleared the land and fenced it
And ploughed the rich, red loam,
And my first crop was golden
When I brought my Mary home.

Now still down Reedy River
The grassy she-oaks sigh,
And the water-holes still mirror
The pictures in the sky;
And over all for ever
Go sun and moon and stars,
While the golden sand is drifting
Across the rocky bars

But of the hut I builded
There are no traces now.
And many rains have levelled
The furrows of the plough;
And my bright days are olden,
For the twisted branches wave
And the wattle blossoms golden
On the hill by Mary’s grave.

John Jones junior of “Turee” – A Family Mystery – You be the Judge


On 7 February 1850 Luke James Jones was baptised by the Reverend Richard George Boodle of the Church of England parish of Althorpe and district of Cassilis, New South Wales. His date of birth was recorded as 6 November 1849 and his parents as John Jones, settler, and Elizabeth Jones of Reedy Creek, near Cassilis. This post explores the identity of Luke’s father.

At this time in the Cassilis district, the locality name of Reedy Creek was applied to the upper reach of the Goulburn River above the Munmurra River. Even as I write in 2021, the Wikipedia page for the Goulburn River shows a photo of that section of the river sub-titled Reedy Creek.

There is no doubt that Luke’s mother was Elizabeth Anderson (c. 1815 – 1902) who by this time had at least 6 children from two previous partners, John Price and John Snow. Little beyond their names is known about these previous partners. Luke is the only child named on her headstone and he was the informant for her death registration.

Elizabeth was the mother-in-law of bushranger Thomas Dillon, whose exploits are described in earlier posts.

On 9 March 1847 Elizabeth’s 5 children with John Snow, born over 8 years, were baptised as a “job lot” by the Reverend James Gunther of the Parish of St John the Baptist in Mudgee. Elizabeth’s name was recorded as Elizabeth Anderson, and not Elizabeth Snow suggesting that she had not legally married either John Price or John Snow. Yet by the date of Luke’s baptism in 1850 she was Elizabeth Jones, implying that she had legally married someone called Jones. For her subsequent marriage in 1855, also solemnized by the Reverend Gunther, she identified as Elizabeth Jones, widow. There is only one marriage record in the NSW Registry that matches in names, dates and locality. On 22 December 1848 the Reverend Gunther had married Elizabeth Anderson, spinster and John Jones, bachelor, at Mudgee.

Marriage Registration for Elizabeth Anderson and John Jones

Who Was John Jones?

But who was John Jones? Two candidates have been offered by family researchers.

One perceptive researcher noticed that the witnesses to the marriage were Wellington and Elizabeth Hume (or Hulme) of the Cox family property Burrendulla near Mudgee. Wellington Hume was an ex-convict and one of his convict ship-mates was a John Jones, a shoemaker before his conviction in 1829 (convict ship Marquis of Huntley, 1830). Unfortunately, I’ve not been able to trace this John Jones after he obtained his certificate of freedom in 1836. He remains a possibility, although by 1848 he would have been aged about 68, so a little old to be marrying the then 33-year old Elizabeth.

The other candidate is the 25-year old John Jones, junior, of the Coolah property “Turee”. At the end of this post you will find some information about John Jones senior, but for this post the salient fact is that when he was murdered in 1837 his will provided for John Jones junior to inherit 500 acres of land at Kelso, near Bathurst.

In 1895, nearly 60 years after John senior’s death, his will was scrutinised in a court case concerning inheritance by the children of his son Alfred Thomas Jones. This revealed that the children of John inherited their portions entail, so that the land supposedly remained within the family in succeeding generations. (Singleton Argus, 14 August 1895, p. 3)

This opened up an avenue for proving that Elizabeth’s son, Luke James Jones, was the son of John Jones junior as Luke should have inherited the 500 acres at Kelso on his father’s death.

John Jones junior died at “Turee” on 10 May 1849 just 5 months after the marriage in December 1848. His death is recorded only in the newspaper notice placed by his mother:

“DEATH: At Turee, on the 10th May, at the residence of his mother, Mrs. Ann Street, John, eldest son of the late John Jones, Esq., aged 26 years, after a severe and protracted illness.” (The Sydney Morning Herald, 21 May 1849, p. 3)

So commenced my first foray into the detailed land records of the Colony of New South Wales. Alas, records dating from 1864, when an application was made for the 500 acres to be transferred from Old to Torrens title, showed that the land was no longer in the hands of John Jones junior after 1845. 1844 was the year John turned 21, and he appears to have mortgaged it as soon as he legally could and then sold it to Edward Lee the following year. That the land was bequeathed entail is mentioned in the deeds of these transactions but seems not to have been an impediment to the sale.

Land Record Showing Disposal of John’s 500 Acres at Kelso

Whilst this discovery closed off one avenue for finding the elusive proof it opened another. The documents concerning the land dealings in 1844 and 1845 are preserved with John’s signatures. This presented the opportunity to compare them with John’s signature in the register for the marriage in 1848.

John Jones Signatures

The signature at bottom right is from the marriage registration in 1848 and is somewhat cramped due to the space constraints of the register form. You can see the full register entry towards the top of this post. The others are from legal deeds in 1844 and 1845 written on plain paper. I think there is sufficient similarity between the signatures to be confident that the marriage registration signature is that of John Jones junior of “Turee”.

What do you think? Post a comment to let me know.

If you would like to view the original documents concerning the mortgaging and sale of the 500 acres at Kelso follow the instructions at the end of this post.

Another Mystery

It seems strange that Elizabeth is not mentioned in the notice of John junior’s death placed by his mother.

John junior was a boy of about 14 when his father died, and without him around he may have become overly influenced by older convicts and ex-convicts. In August 1842, when about 19 years old, he was indicted for cattle stealing, along with his brother Alfred, half-brother Joseph Palfrey and Thomas Pearce, James Reynolds, George Simpson and Patrick O’Donnell. (The Sydney Morning Herald Wed 31 Aug 1842 p. 2) Reynolds and O’Donnell were “Turee” convicts or ex-convicts. They were all discharged from Maitland Gaol the following month so may have been found not guilty.

Then, John had cashed in his inheritance as soon as he was legally able. Perhaps Ann viewed the marriage as another ill-judged action by her first-born of whom she had higher expectations in the marriage stakes. Also, she may have doubted the paternity of Elizabeth’s developing child. (A count back from Luke’s birth date suggests that he was conceived around 30 January 1849 or a little over one month after the marriage date.)

John is said to have been buried at “Turee” in the same grave enclosure as his father although unlike him he has no headstone.

John Jones Graves at Turee

There is other evidence that supports the theory that Luke’s father was John Jones junior of “Turee”.

There is a lengthy account of the “Turee” family in the book “Around the Black Stump” by Roy Cameron (Coolah, 1993). I presume this was compiled from information given by a family informant, as it is detailed but no primary references are given. There is no mention of Elizabeth or of any other wife of John Jones junior. However there is a reference to John junior having a son, also named John Jones. This is likely an imperfect recollection of Luke James. If John Jones junior did have a son, then there must have been a wife or partner. Similar information appears in the heritage listing for the “Turee” homestead reproduced below.

Luke’s baptism registration records that the family residence was “Reedy Creek near Cassilis”. In 1847, the year before the marriage, John’s half-brother Joseph Palfrey was murdered near the Goulburn River and there are several newspaper reports of the resulting legal proceedings that record that John was then living at Reedy Creek.

There is also a newspaper advertisement from March 1849 that associates both John and Elizabeth Jones with Reedy Creek:

“NOTICE. TO JOHN JONES, OF REEDY CREEK, NEAR MUDGEE; AND TO ELIZABETH JONES, OF THE SAME PLACE. Take Notice, that unless the Mare, Cart and Harness, now in my possession, be released before the thirtieth of this month, and all expenses paid thereon, the same will be sold at your risk.

JOHN C GOOCH. Mudgee, 9th March 1849″

(Bell’s Life in Sydney and Sporting Reviewer, Saturday 17th March 1849)

When Luke James Jones died in 1920 his death notice in the Mudgee Guardian and North-Western Representative (28 October 1920) stated that he had been born at “Reedy Creek, Crowie”. “Crowie”, a pastoral property, was at Reedy Creek as defined in the opening of this post. Also, when marrying Sarah Turvey in 1911 he nominated his father’s occupation as Station Manager.

I’m just speculating now but up to 1849 the property “Crowie” was owned by Robert Fitzgerald who had inherited it from his father Richard Fitzgerald on the latter’s death in 1840. Richard Fitzgerald and John Jones senior had been contemporary and prominent citizens of Windsor, with both involved in the construction of St Matthews Church there. Both acquired large properties in the Coolah area towards the end of their lives. In the late 1830s both Jones’ “Turee” and Fitzgerald’s “Tongy” were similarly worked with assigned convicts. If John Jones junior had blown his inheritance, working for Robert Fitzgerald managing “Crowie” may have been his next best option.

Crowie was sold around 1849 to Thomas Lennox, who had arrived in Australia in 1842 and then worked at Fitzgerald’s Dabee property. Around 1858 Elizabeth’s son John Price, alias John Snow, worked for Thomas Lennox as a bullock driver, as evidenced by witness statements when he was tried with his step-father Richard Camden, alias Richard Cribb, for horse stealing.

More About the Jones Family of “Turee”

This extract is taken from the NSW Heritage Listing for Turee Homestead:

“The initial section of the old stone house on New Turee Station off Tongy Lane was [built] by John Jones with convict labour early in 1837. Since then the house has been, more or less, constantly occupied and has undergone several changes particularly additions.

Late in the year 2004 internal renovations were being carried out. The fact that the building has stood the test of time can easily be appreciated when one is aware that John Jones himself was a builder and that among the 30 convicts that were employed on the property there would have been one or two capable stone masons. Prior to coming to Bathurst and then Turee, Governor Lachlan Macquarie, granted him in 1821, 500 acres of land at Bathurst for the assistance that he gave on the construction of St Matthews Church of England at Windsor.

In 1835, Jones applied for the purchase of portions 1 and 2 Parish of Turee, which was granted. It is possible that he held the area under license for some prior years. Jones early in the second half of 1835 giving his address as Turee, made application to the Court of Petty Sessions, District of Bligh, at Cassilis, for the assignment of four additional convicts:- a cook, coachman, footman and groom. At that time John Jones held 8833 acres of land with a frontage to the Talbragar River (previously called Nandoura River) and Turee Creek.

On the night of 21st October, 1837, after a day’s sheep washing and drinking debatable amounts of rum, employee Edward Tufts attacked John Jones with sheep shears. Mr. Jones was wounded in the thigh and groin; and six days later he died. Edward Tufts was aged 25 years when he arrived in the ‘Guilford’ in 1822 with a life sentence. He was a house servant of John Jones in Bathurst in 1828, and therefore would have been in Jones’ service for at least 9 years. Tuft was sentenced to death, for the murder [of] Jones and was executed at the Sydney Gaol. 

John Jones was buried near the old stone house. His grave enclosure is said to include two burials, the second that of John Jones, Junr. After a severe illness, he died at his mother’s residence, ‘Turee’ on the 10th, May, 1849, aged 26 years. John Jones, Junr. also had a son John Jones. “

( – no longer available as at 27 November 2021)

Instructions for Accessing the Documents Concerning the Sale of the 500 acres at Kelso

You can view the deeds for these transactions at the NSW Land Registry – see
instructions below.

The deeds are copies of the original, although made at the same time and
each contains a solicitor’s sworn statement at the end that the
signature of John Jones is identical with that on the original.

To view the deeds, use the Historical Land Records Viewer
( In the Refine Search list at left select
“All”. Then enter the following “Book and Number” identifiers into the
Keyword Search box at top (one at a time):

From the results (there may be several) select the one identified as
“General Register of Deeds (Old System Deeds). The first page of the
deed will then be displayed and subsequent pages will be displayed along
the bottom of the screen.

The Scotsman’s Gramophone

As a young boy I was introduced to the Scotsman’s Gramophone by my Scottish grandmother, Peterina. As I can’t find any reference to this party trick on the internet I thought I should record it for posterity – particularly as the props – a box of matches and a coin – are fast disappearing. The trick requires a “victim” who is required to have possession of a coin, preferably a higher value one.

The Gramophone

The gramophone (record player/turntable for younger readers) is constructed from a match box and 3 matches. Make 2 holes about 2.5 cm apart with a skewer. Place a match in each hole with the match heads upwards. Push the 2 heads together and lay the third match onto the other two. You should now have a tripod with the three match heads in contact.

The Gramophone

The Record

At this point you tell the “victim” that they need to lend you a coin so that the gramophone will work. Place the coin under the leg of the third match. You could ask for two coins – one to be the turntable and one for the record.

Gramophone with Record

The Record Tracks

Explain to the “victim” that the gramophone plays two hymns and a music hall song. Then light the three match heads. As the matches flare explain that this is the hymn “Lead Kindly Light”.

Gramophone Playing Lead Kindly Light

As the matches continue to burn the third match will lift itself upwards (it always does!). Explain that this is the song “Horsey Hold Your Tail Up”.

Gramophone Playing “Horsey Hold Your Tail Up

Now for the Punch Line!!

Once the tail has lifted, remove the coin, put it in YOUR pocket or purse, and explain to the “victim” that this is the second hymn, “Abide with Me”.

The Iron Cove/Five Dock Heavy Anti-aircraft Gun Battery


In this post the word “battery” has two meanings. If the “B” is capitalised, it refers to an Australian Army organisational unit. If not, the word refers to a physical site at which guns, associated equipment and soldier’s barracks were located. A Battery could have guns at a number of physical sites.

Rodd Point is a small peninsula in Iron Cove which is part of Sydney Harbour. I visit it often to conduct shorebird surveys.

I came across a reference to a heavy anti-aircraft gun battery at Iron Cove during World War 2, on the OzatWar website.  This was about the radar detection of a Japanese naval float plane over Sydney on 23 May 1942. Curious to know more I checked the 1943 aerial photography available at the SIX Maps website, and soon found a likely battery site at Rodd Point Park.

The standard layout for a heavy anti-aircraft battery at this time had 4 gun positions on the perimeter of a semi-circle, equally spaced between 90 and 150 feet apart. At the focus were 3 small structures, a predictor post, a command post and a HT and Rangefinder shed. The whole formed a distinctive pattern.

Closer inspection of the area on the 1943 photography revealed two more sites, both displaying the standard layout. One of these was to the south of Rodd Point, within what is now Timbrell Park, whilst the other was north of Rodd Point, in the area west of Nield Park, straddling Nield and Princess Streets which had not yet been built on.

Typically at this time dummy or decoy batteries were constructed near active batteries. But which was the active battery site and which were the dummies?

Which Site?

The Iron Cove battery was part of the defences of Sydney. Adjacent to Iron Cove were some major potential targets for attack . These were the Cockatoo Island Dockyard, the Woolwich Dock, the RAN Armament Depot at Spectacle Island, the Australian Army’s Base Ordnance Depot located near where the Hawthorne Canal enters Iron Cove and the Dunlop rubber factory at Birkenhead Point. In mid-1942 other heavy anti-aircraft artillery batteries provided protection from the west (Concord Golf Links), north (Naremburn) and east (Rose Bay Golf Links, Georges Heights, and North Head).

My guess is that the southern sites were the dummy ones as this would offer the best arrangement to decoy aircraft approaching from the south. However there are more compelling reasons to conclude that the Nield Park location was the active one.

Records from Australian War Memorial (AWM) and the National Archives of Australia (NAA) provide some more information about the site.

NAA indexes show that the Army had requisitioned houses and land in Duchess Avenue, Five Dock (now Rodd Point) to provide quarters for the gunners manning the battery. These houses backed onto the Nield Park site. The other sites were too distant from the quarters to permit a rapid response to a general alarm.

The AWM has a War Diary in 7 parts for “15 Heavy Anti-aircraft Battery”, the Army unit which established the Iron Cove battery amongst other battery sites on the south side of Sydney Harbour. The first of these covers only the months of May and June 1942 but includes a 2-page history of the unit since mobilisation in December 1941. Later parts refer to the Iron Cove battery as “Section C” or “356 station” or “356 troop”.

The first part of the Diary records that in June 1942 the gun emplacements were reconfigured so that they enclosed a 24-foot square revetted in brick. This was to carry the blast effect of the guns outside the revetment. On the aerial photo the square shape of the revetments is apparent at the Nield Park site but not at the others where the shape is circular. Shadows also reveal well-defined walls surrounding the emplacements at Nield Park but not at the other sites.

Detail of Gun Positions at Nield Park Site

There are two further pieces of evidence in the War Diary. The Diary entry for 2 September 1942 describes the Rodd Point site as a dummy. And on 17 May 1942 US Air Force pursuit planes (probably Airacobras of 41st Fighter Squadron) carried out a simulated dive attack at Iron Cove “but pilots were apparently deceived by dummy positions at Hawthorne Canal.”  There was no anti-aircraft gun battery at Hawthorne Canal so it’s likely that this was a mistake and that the dummy position attacked was the one at Timbrell Park which is near the Iron Cove Canal. It must have been quite a day for the residents of the nearby houses on Henley Marine Drive!

Timeline December 1941 to June 1942

Here’s a brief timeline of the battery extracted from the War Diary:

8 December 1941:  Orders were received to man two 3-inch 20 cwt anti-aircraft guns at Iron Cove. Strength was 1 officer (Lieut. W. N. Prior) and 25 other ranks.

3 March 1942: Dummy sites were selected.

3 May 1942: The temporary command post was removed to allow construction of a new one.

4 May 1942: Commenced sandbagging to raise height of emplacements.

8 May 1942: Sites for reserve ammunition dumps selected.

9 May 1942: Cottage at 20 Duchess Avenue taken over as extra quarters.

11 May 1942: Work commenced on reserve ammunition dumps.

15 May 1942: GL Mark II equipment withdrawn. (This was a British mobile gun laying radar.)

15 May 1942: The Officer-commanding inspected camouflage by plane at 2,000 feet and reported that “with previous knowledge of location of stations they were easily picked out. Salient fault is regularity of design and construction. Dummy positions need more camouflage to be made more realistic.”

21 May 1942: There was an epidemic of influenza, with 22 cases. By the following day it was 30 cases.

27 May 1942: The new command post was sufficiently completed to allow occupation and use.

3 June 1942: C.R.E. A.A Defences (Major Robinson) visited with a view to alteration of gun emplacements, reducing the inside dimensions to a square of 24 feet. Work to be commenced immediately.

6 June 1942: Work commenced on alterations to emplacements, to be carried out in brick with ammunition to be carried in a recess in the revetment made with sandbags inside the bricks.

10 June 1942: Work on ammunition dump completed and ammunition moved in.

13 June 1942: Lieut C. W. Spooner and 35 other ranks marched in to new gun station at Moore Park.

16 June 1942: Lieut Randale, of Gun Operations Room, brought in station chart and other necessary gear for engaging unseen targets by G.L. Barrage.

22 June 1942: Work commenced on filling in the new revetments with earth, using a working party of 12 from H.Q. and Moore Park.

24 June 1942: Work continued using 23 trucks. A camouflage unit arrived to spray tents but this was abandoned due to rain.

25 June 1942: Work completed at 1720 hours.

26 June 1942: Informed by foreman in charge of new building  that only one of the new buildings would be painted as the money allocated to the job had run out.

28 June 1942: Strong winds in the night. A tent with personal belongings was burnt. The cause was a spark from a fire in a brazier.

29 June 1942: Loose barrels removed for inspection. Found to be in good condition.

The Guns

The first part of the War Diary only mentions two 3-inch 20 cwt guns whilst OzatWar refers to four 3.7-inch guns. 3.7-inch guns were in short supply when the battery was established so the obsolescent 3-inch guns would have been used as a substitute until 3.7-inch guns were available.  The first 3.7-inch gun from Australian manufacture was completed in early 1940. Production per month reached 8 in January 1941 and 22 by June 1942. A total of 600 were completed. Later parts of the War Diary refer to 3.7-inch guns at Iron Cove.

Information about the gun can be found on Wikipedia.

A Bofors 40mm medium anti-aircraft gun was present from 31 July 1943 for training purposes.

Members of the Volunteer Defence Corps training with a 3.7 Inch anti-aircraft gun emplaced on Kensington Golf Links in Sydney, 30 May 1943

Searchlights and Radar

The defence of the Iron Cove locality would also have involved searchlights. These were operated by other Army units known as searchlight companies and are difficult to detect on aerial photography as the searchlights were dispersed, do not form patterns as the gun batteries did, and were camouflaged. A searchlight position may have comprised only one searchlight, a generator, a sound locator and some communications. In early 1945 the War Diary of 61 Australian Searchlight Company R.A.A listed a site at Iron Cove. This company may have operated the site throughout the war however earlier records conceal the geographical location of sites for security purposes and sites were sometimes moved between companies.

The GL Marks 1 and  II radars mentioned in the Diary were mobile gun laying radars. It seems clear that at the period covered by the Diary the Battery had not yet achieved proficiency in the use of the radar. This comment was made on 16 June 1942:

“This system (i.e. GL Barrage firing) was explained, and it appears that a very high degree of training among Command Post personnel will be necessary for its successful application”.

It’s reported that a GL radar was active at Rozelle, which borders Iron Cove, at the time of the Japanese float plane flight over Sydney on 23 May 1942. According to the OzatWar website, the plane was detected by the radar but the contact was ignored as it was considered an anomaly on what was an experimental unit.

Peter Grose’s book “A Very Rude Awakening” gives the source of this claim as an Army gunner, Donald Caldwell Smith (Service No. N171477):

“Don Caldwell Smith, at the mobile radar station at Iron Cove, now takes over the story. The existence of a radar unit in Sydney was still highly secret, and the brand-new operators had spent their training time attempting to track a Tiger Moth which the RAAF sent up to fly around Sydney as a practice target.The wood-and-fabric biplane was hopeless. Its flimsy frame barely returned an echo on their radar screen. Now, to the delight of the radar crew, they had an unexpected and strong return. The all-metal Glen was a much better quarry. They tracked it enthusiastically down the harbour, with no thought that it might be an enemy aircraft, only that at last they could get in a bit of genuine practice with their secret weapon. The radar unit was linked to a nearby antiaircraft gun, so the radar crew gave the gunners instructions on the range and bearing of the convenient intruder. Everyone was pleased.

At this point the regulations called for the radar unit to report the intruder to Combined Defence Headquarters near Circular Quay. Don’s unit grabbed the telephone. ‘The next thing, headquarters came back and they said: Stop! We’ve just been in touch with the Air Force and they have no aircraft in the air at the moment. So you’d better get that machine of yours tested by an artificer [radar technician] tomorrow.’ Combined Defence Headquarters had clearly weighed up the possibilities. If there was a plane over Sydney it had to be one of theirs. So if none of their planes were over Sydney that left only one explanation: the radar must be on the blink again.” (Grose, Peter. A Very Rude Awakening: The night the Japanese midget subs came to Sydney Harbour (pp. 63-64). Allen and Unwin. Kindle Edition.)

A check of Smith’s service history shows that he transferred from the Army to the Royal Australian Air Force on 9 October 1942. At that time he was serving in the Headquarters of 15 Heavy Anti-aircraft Battery.

The Battery’s War Diary for 23 May records only an alarm condition at 0618 hours which was discontinued at 0715 hours. The overflight occurred around the middle of the day. As mentioned above, the GL Mark II radar had been withdrawn from the Iron Cove battery only 8 days prior. This overflight was a precursor to the Japanese midget submarine raid on Sydney on 31 May 1942.

Both Don Caldwell Smith’s recollections and the War Diary place a GL radar at the Rose Bay heavy anti-aircraft battery, also operated by 15 Heavy Anti-aircraft Battery, in the early morning of 8 June 1942. This was when when a Japanese submarine (not a midget) shelled Sydney’s eastern suburbs. It seems clear that the radar was being moved around as the gunners struggled to master the new technology.

After July 1942

According to the OzatWar website mentioned in the introduction:

“In July 1942, the Five Dock guns became 356 HAA Gun Station. Troops from the 11th Volunteer Defence Corps Battalion (11 VDC Bn) trained at Five Dock from May 1943. In August 1943 they became 356 HAA Tp (Static) in 15 HAA Bty (Static) and the troop was a mixture of AMF and VDC soldiers.”

The involvement of VDC (Volunteer Defence Corps) troops at this time was consistent with a policy decision in early 1943 to man coastal and anti-aircraft batteries in southern Australia with volunteers to release regular Army troops for service in northern Australia and New Guinea.

Soldiers of the Australian Women’s Army Service (AWAS) were amongst the complement at Iron Cove before the end of 1942, filling roles associated with target acquisition and gunlaying. In early 1944 cottages that had been requisitioned for soldier’s quarters commenced being returned to their owners. Demolition of dummy gun sites commenced in June 1944. By July 1944 all cottages had been returned to their owners. In the same month demolition of gun sites commenced. In November 1944 camouflage and radars were removed and AWAS soldiers were marched out. In December 1944 bomb blast walls were removed and the War Disposals Commission inspected the site buildings for disposal. All ammunition was removed and despatched by rail, probably to either the Moorebank or Myambat ammunition depots. On 1 January 1945 the four 3.7-inch guns were removed from the gun pits, departing the site the following day. On 7 February the site was evacuated, with guard duties to be undertaken by camp staff at Randwick. On 20 March 1945 at 1400 hours the remaining complement of 15 Heavy Anti-aircraft Battery, comprising 1 officer and 2 other ranks, marched out thus completing the disbandment of the Battery.

A search of Trove revealed only one set of newspaper references to the Iron Cove battery. This was in May 1946 when a post-war housing crisis was manifest. There was an “invasion of homeseekers” wanting to occupy some of houses in Duchess Avenue which had been vacated by the Army “about 9 months ago”.

Almost certainly the Iron Cove battery never fired a gun in anger, having missed their one chance to do so on 23 May 1942 . Ammunition was fired at drogue targets in training, but these firings seem to have been conducted at external sites where firing over the sea was possible, such as Bluefish Point at North Head. This would have been to avoid shrapnel falling over residential areas as projectiles self-destructed. Blank ammunition may have been fired at Iron Cove in training as this did not contain a projectile.

Like to Know More?

The War Diary for 15 Heavy Anti-aircraft Battery can be downloaded from the Australian War Memorial website. Just perform a collection search using the search terms ” War Diary 15 Heavy Anti-aircraft Battery”.

Anthony West – A Story of Old Cassilis


In an earlier post “Deridgeree Station – the Early Years” I mentioned the role of convicts and ex-convicts (emancipists) in the operation of early sheep runs in the Cassilis district.

On 9 April 1913 a writer using the pseudonym “H.W.S.” published in the “Sydney Mail” an affectionate biography of one of these men, Anthony West, some 40 years after his death. 

Anthony was a convict (Vincent, 1829) whose convict master was Richard Fitzgerald of Crowie, a pastoral run adjacent to Deridgeree on the upper Goulburn River, amongst many other properties. Fitzgerald had himself been a convict and is reputed to have been a humane employer.

Anthony’s story deserves to be known by a modern audience, so without more ado, here it is.

Anthony West’s Story

Anthony West.

by H.W.S.

IN a little cemetery near Deridgerie Homestead there stands a headstone, old, and discoloured by drips from an overhanging gum tree and by the sun and rains of nearly two score years. The sandstone slab is not much weathered, however, and the visitor can look into it, and without much difficulty read the quaint epitaph: —

Anthony West is my name;

In 1829 into the country a prisoner I came;

I’ve roamed about, but now lie here;

I came from Sudgershall, England, in Buckinghamshire;

On this river I’ve lived, on this river I’ve died,

But now I lie on the bank so high

By the side of this river, that runs all round.

The Day of Judgment must be found;

This river I have delighted on;

Here I still remain, though my breath is gone.

NOW, this slab of stone, with its curious inscription, marks the resting-place of perhaps the most generally remembered of the white invaders of the bush, who arrived at the Upper Goulburn with the first tide of settlement. Anthony West’s name is still familiar in those parts, even to hundreds who did not live in the early days that knew him, and many incidents in his career are still related. He was a man of few words, who seems to have lived his own life, heedless of, and uninfluenced by, the popular vote of praise or of blame. His eccentricities and peculiarities of character evidently made an impression in his day, for his unwritten story has lived on through several generations, handed down from old to young. He composed his own epitaph, and had the headstone made and inscribed years before his death.

The river several times referred to in the inscription is the Upper Goulburn (Reedy Creek), and his remains lie “on the bank so high” of Deridgerie Creek, a mile or so above its junction with the Goulburn. He arrived in the country, as told in the epitaph, in 1829, and was assigned to Robert Fitzgerald, the original owner of Tongy station, near Cassilis. The. Fitzgeralds at that time owned also the old Crowey Estate, adjoining Deridgerie, both on the Goulburn River; and it was here that Anthony West lived most of his time of penal servitude — a term of seven years.

During that period, and afterwards as a free man, he proved a trustworthy servant, always conscientiously regardful of any duty he had to perform. He remained in his old neighbourhood, doing general bush work for such pioneers of the Goulburn as Cope, Barker, Nevell, Blaxland, and others, on Crowey, Deridgerie, Coomealla, and other stations around. In time he became a thorough bushman, well acquainted with the wild, broken, and scrub-clad country in the catchment of the Upper Goulburn — rough country, that well might have held terrors to him as a newcomer from Bucks. It is noteworthy that it was he who blazed the first track over the rough country between the Goulburn and Wollar, and it was he who took the first dray over.

Anthony West Certificate of Freedom

Anthony West – Certificate of Freedom

Later in life he made a home on the Munmurra River, at the foot of Summer Hill, on an eighty-acre block, belonging at first to John Nevell, and afterwards to the Collaroy Company. Here he had the permission of the company to live as long as he wished, and here he kept a herd of several hundred cattle. In those days there were few fences, and West’s cattle grazed unmolested on the open country for miles around.

IT would seem that the way was open to him to lease or procure land of his own, increase his herds, and prosper as others have done. But the God of Riches never claimed Anthony West as a votary. He at no time acquired land of his own, and he died a poor man. He was liberal and unselfish to a fault. When money came it poured freely from his overflowing store of good nature. Like many of the old hands, he was in the habit of paying periodical visits to the shrine of Bacchus, and in the fifties and early sixties’ it was no uncommon thing for him to visit the village of Cassilis on a drinking bout. Money was then plentiful, and he would put in three or four weeks at a stretch drinking and wasting money in other ways. On these occasions he would employ ‘Blind Yarry,’ the blackfellow, to wheel a barrow loaded with bottles of grog around the town to every house, he following and calling out, ‘Grog, oh! Come and drink old Anthony’s health, ladies and gentlemen! If, as often happened when the master of the house was absent, the doors and windows were shut when it was known that he was coming, he would drop a bottle at the door, and the sable barrow-man would move his so far diminished load to the next house. All whom he met were invited to drink. Some turned aside, but most did not so offend.

Men of the roads generally accepted, but the ‘knights of the bullock-whip’ laboriously wending their way through dust and heat along blacksoil tracks with sore-footed bullocks hauling drays heavily laden with goods brought all the way from Maitland or Morpeth, always appreciated a halt for refreshments. When his ready cash was exhausted his word was good for whatever supplies he needed from the tradespeople, for all knew him and his ways. When his shopping was done he would return to his hut and home at Summer Hill. Though he was, as people said, ‘a fool to himself,’ no one had a bad word for ‘old Anthony West.’ They forgave him his weaknesses, for they knew he meant well; and that ‘he loved his kind.’

Postscript 1

“WRITING from Chinchilla, Western Queensland, regarding the article on Anthony West in a recent ‘Mail,’ H. W. Nevell says: — Anthony West did not die at Summer Hill, but at Deridgeree. My brother (the late John Nevell, of Deridgeree) collected all the cattle belonging to the old man, and had them sold, and forwarded the proceeds to his relatives in Buckingham shire (England). The headstone illustrated in the ‘Mail’ was used by old Anthony for many years as a table — he had it made in plenty of time. Beside him in that little cemetery lies another old hand, Richard Clayton, who lived with the Nevell family over 80 years ago. About Deridgeree there are still fences and buildings that were erected by Anthony West.” [1]

Postscript 2

In 1852, and again in 1853, an Anthony West fathered daughters with Elizabeth Jones. These were Ann Isabella West, born 9 April 1852 [2] and Angelina West born 3 November 1853 [3]. Both were baptised on 17 November 1854 at Mudgee with the father named as Anthony West, labourer, and the mother as Elizabeth Jones of Cooyal. Elizabeth was a widow of 3 years at the time.

Elizabeth Jones (nee Anderson) is believed to have been at “Reedy Creek, Crowie” in November 1849 when her son Luke James Jones was born there. [4]. John Jones [5] and Elizabeth Anderson had married at Mudgee in December 1848 and John died the following May. Elizabeth was also living at “Reedy Creek” when Luke was baptised at Cassilis in February 1850.

Elizabeth, who subsequently married Richard Cribb, alias Camden, in 1855, is known to have subsequently lived on Richard’s selection on the Munmurra River near Summer Hill. Her son-in-law Thomas Dillon also selected and lived nearby.

Summer Hill Area of Munmurra Parish

Summer Hill Area of Munmurra Parish

According to the story above, Anthony West spent his later years living at the foot of Summer Hill. The map above shows Summer Hill in relation to Thomas Dillon’s selection. Richard Camden’s selection was just to the north of Dillon’s. The distance from the top of Summer Hill to Dillon’s selection is about 3 km.

I can’t at this time prove that the two Anthony Wests were the same person, however it seems likely.

Postscript 3

The “old hand, Richard Clayton” mentioned in Postscript 1 had been a convict (Prince Regent, 1828) who gained his Certificate of Freedom in 1834. In 1836 Clayton gave evidence in the trial of Alexander Lambert for the murder of Corporal James Hardman of the Mounted Police at “Flatlands”, the station of James Vincent at Dabee near Rylstone. Vincent was the father-in-law of John Nevell, the third proprietor of Deridgeree station. Lambert was found guilty, sentenced to “execution on Monday, and his body for dissection”.

[1] Sydney Mail, 7 May 1913, Page 26

[2] NSW BDM 622/1852  V1852622 40

[3] NSW BDM 623/1852 V1852623 40

[4]  Mudgee Guardian and North-Western Representative, 28 Oct 1920, Page 30

[5] This John Jones was likely John Jones junior of “Turee”, a pastoral run in the Coolah district. John Jones of Turee can be placed as living at “Reedy Creek” in 1847 when his half-brother Joseph Palfrey was murdered nearby and again in March 1849 shortly before his death.