What the Butler did

A collection of writing by Brother Tony Butler

Chapter 8 John James Whittaker – his Whittaker and Peter(s) ancestors June 25, 2015


John James Whittaker

John James Whittaker

JOHN JAMES WHITTAKER – my grandfather, Jack, Pop Whit – was a colourful enough old character but not a man I could claim I was close to or knew well. He kept to himself as far as I was concerned and was eccentric in some ways. I once told him he was on fire, the conflagration having started in his pocket, the result, he explained, of friction between a box of matches and a piece of copper wire; but maybe it had been lingering there for some time from his old pipe, the reluctant smouldering of which never seemed to take fire, except perhaps this once. The only time I can recall him bestirring himself was to wallop me for calling my sister something ungallant like “you bloody bitch”. That has often amused me as I think of him with the teams of horses he dearly loved and whom he worked with from the age of twelve: he could not have been so polite with them.

He was old when I first became aware of him in the mid-1940s, and he was in his late sixties. He once encouraged me to eat a raw onion he had dug up in the garden at 41 Boundary Street on an occasion when we were visiting from Stanmore or Kensington. Needless to say I suffered a very bad night.

Later on our family moved to 41 Boundary Street, Darlinghurst: he stayed on in the front room which was an old man’s delight as only an old bushman could make it. There was, however, an undoubtedly real quality in his family, obvious in the pictures of himself, his brother Albert and especially his sisters – they were very fine looking young people. The more I have delved into his history, the more I realise why this was so. Later Pop moved next door to 43 Boundary Street where his wife, Gladys, had moved some time before; and the front room of 41 was redecorated as a lounge room.

Pop Whit, or Grampy as we sometimes called him when we were younger, never seemed to have an ordinary job. I knew him as a man who carried a vacuum cleaner about on his back and did cleaning jobs in various places around Paddington; he was an odd job man, and I do recall it being said that even at his age he could still charm the women of Paddington who seemed to have lavished bread, butter, tea and warmth upon him – some humour in the telling.

Boundary Street Garage

Boundary Street Garage

Years before I knew him had a garage somewhere near 156 Boundary Street near Comber Street, just below where our friends the McNultys lived, but it was burnt down, some say – as people do – under peculiar circumstances.

Jack Whittaker's Team of Horses

Jack Whittaker’s Team of Horses

Otherwise, as far as I know, he spent his early years with a team of horses carting timber and wool. On his death certificate he is described as a carrier. There are pictures of Pop with his team in Condobolin and I recall hearing tales of how he had been sent out on the teams at the age of twelve, the old days out at Bogan Gate and Parkes, incidents where horses would not cross haunted bridges after dark and Pop having to go home the long way round. I suspect that life was tough for John James as a youngster, though the three photographs I have of him up to his marriage show a fine looking man always smartly, not to say elegantly, dressed.

His father, John senior, seems to have been a handsome man: the picture of him on his memorial card is of a good-looking man, rather like Ned Kelly, with piercing eyes and a strong black beard. His wife, Elizabeth Stephens, looks to be a strong woman, tough, not much truck with sentimentality but I suspect with more than touch of wit. My mother recalls her with affection and a Scottish burr, and Mum’s brother, Doug, said that she always made them welcome. Her husband John having died 9 July 1910, a week before my mother was born, Elizabeth came to be known to Honor and Douglas as Granny Smith, as she married William Smith in 1917. In my original 1985 account I wrote “Where the Scottish burr came from I don’t know: there was no Scottish in her immediate ancestry”. How wrong I was, as the story of her family, which I have since discovered, will tell.

The marriage between John Whittaker (senior) and Elizabeth Stephens, about which I know little, for I never heard Pop or Gladys (who told us many things) or even Mum or Doug, say anything about them – to my great regret, as is so often the case in writing family histories – produced eight children, of whom more later.

John Whittaker Senior

John Whittaker Senior

John Whittaker, John James’s father, was born, according to his baptismal certificate, in Gosford NSW, 4 October 1848. His baptism was registered in the parish of St Andrew’s in the county of Cumberland – St Andrew’s Church of England Cathedral in Sydney. His father’s name was given as Peter Whittaker and his mother’s name as Margaret – maiden name not recorded.[1] Apart from their “abode”, Druitt Street, and his profession, sawyer, I knew nothing about them when I first wrote, but now much more of the Whittaker family story can be told, thanks to the ongoing discoveries of many people in this age of interest in our Australian family histories and the internet.

In 1878 John Whittaker married Elizabeth Stephens: they were wedded in St John’s Anglican Church, Young, 14 March, in the presence of F.D. Peter and Barbara Peter.[2] Elizabeth signed with her mark. John’s normal place of residence was given as Back Creek, Cowra, and his occupation as sawyer. I presume he was a bachelor, but the word “Young” appears by mistake on the “Conjugal Status” column. Elizabeth was described as a spinster, living at Cowra.

Elizabeth Stephens Whittaker

Elizabeth Stephens Whittaker

I include here some information about Grace Peter’s family background.

Grace Peter was the daughter of Finlay Duff Peter and Elizabeth Paterson Bruce. She married Henry James Stephen in 1858.  Their daughter Elizabeth Stephens [sic] married John Whittaker and one of their sons, John James Whittaker, was my mother’s father.  There is some confusion over the names Peter and Stephen because at some time in the Nineteenth Century the names became Peters and Stephens.

The following material is based on information provided by Meg Laws for my nephew Wayne Davey as part of his ongoing research into the family history. Meg Laws explains her connection to the Peter family thus: “My husband Charles Reuben Laws is the great-grandson of Elizabeth Bruce Peter, daughter of Finlay Duff Peter and Elizabeth Paterson Bruce. She married William Swift in 1865 and they had five children.”

Finlay Duff Peter, son of David Peter and Jean Miller, married Elizabeth Paterson Bruce, daughter of William Bruce, 13 March 1831. Their marriage was recorded in the Old Parochial Register of Banns and Marriages for the Parish of Stirling, Scotland.  Finlay’s occupation was given as weaver.

They had seven children: David, Jane, Grace (our ancestor), Marion, William Alexander Bruce, Elizabeth Bruce and Margaret. At some time during the late 1830s they migrated to Australia.  After the birth of their eight children they separated or divorced.

On 16 August 1873 Finlay remarried as a “widower” in Young NSW, according to the rites of the Church of England. He married a widow named Barbara Bartier who already had a number of children.  His occupation was given as veterinary surgeon.  He died in Young 21 April 1884, his occupation given as veterinary surgeon.  None of his children was mentioned on his death certificate.  No issue was noted for either marriage, though Barbara Bartier (the second wife) was recorded as his wife.


Finlay was certainly no widower when he married Barbara Bartier because his first wife Elizabeth Paterson [Bruce] Peter remarried some years after Finlay. She married James Patterson, a publican, at Wilcannia, 28 October 1881 according to the rites of the Church of England.  She died at Wilcannia 27 January 1891 aged 85 years.  Her tombstone, however, gives her age as 81 years.  Her death certificate states that she had lived in Australia for 52 years, which would mean they came out from Scotland about 1839.  There was no issue from her second marriage.

Only the living children were mentioned on her death certificate: David, Jane, Grace, William Alexander, and Elizabeth (Margaret had died 22 June 1872 in the District of Sandhurst, Victoria. Marion had died soon after her birth in 1840.)

Currently the only information I have about the eight children is as follows (thanks to Meg Laws).

David Peter was born about 1834 and married Elizabeth Duggan at Burrangong in NSW 3 November 1861 according to the rites of the Roman Catholic Church. They divorced about May 1892.  No death date is known.

Jane Peter was born about 1837. She may have married a William Beaumont at Wagga Wagga in 1852.

Grace Peter was born about 1839 and married Henry James Stephen(s) 8 October 1858. The Elizabeth at her wedding was probably her mother, because of her age and as her sister Elizabeth would have been too young to be a witness in 1858.  [Referring to Grace Peter and Henry Stephen’s daughter Elizabeth, my own history says: “Elizabeth Stephens was born at Back Creek (Bendigo) Amherst, Victoria, 13 September 1859.  Her father’s name is given as Henry James Stephens, his occupation miner, his age 22, his birthplace London.  Her mother’s name is given as Grace Peter; she was 19, and was born in Sydney, N.S.W.  Their marriage took place in the Presbyterian Manse, Sandhurst (Bendigo) 8 October 1858.  Henery (as he signs himself) James Stephen (there is no ‘s’) was 21 years of age, which makes his birth year 1837; he was born in Stepney, London, and his parents were Henry James Stephen, a sailor, and Euphemia Miller.  He was a sawyer.  His wife, Grace Peter, a spinster, was born in Sydney in 1839.  Her parents were Finlay Peter, a blacksmith, and Elizabeth Bruce.”  According to her marriage certificate, Grace Peter was born in Sydney in 1839.]

Marion Peter was born 1840 and died the same year.

William Alexander Bruce Peter was born 2 May 1845. His family always claimed that he was born on board ship three days out from Sydney.  It is also claimed that the birth was registered at Strawberry Hills Post Office (Surry Hills), Sydney NSW Births Deaths & Marriages do not have a record of the birth.  William married Alice Brown at Wilcannia on 5 September 1878.  He died at Wilcannia 20 September 1909.  His father’s occupation is recorded as hotel keeper on both his marriage certificate and his death certificate.

Elizabeth Bruce Peter was born 1846, her mother giving consent to the marriage as Elizabeth as she was 19 years old.  However, on her mother’s death certificate it is claimed that Elizabeth is 41 years of age in 1891.  Elizabeth Bruce Peter married William Swift, a cook, at Bourke, 11 December 1865 (aged 19).  He was licensee of “The Finger Post” hotel at Walgett from 1870 to sometime in 1873. Elizabeth later married Francis Burns, a bachelor, 24 August 1878 according to the rites of the Church of England.  She had several more children to Francis Burns.  Elizabeth Bruce [Swift] Burns died in Dubbo 27 September 1923, aged 72 [sic] which puts her birth about 1851.

Margaret Peter was born about 1848 in Sydney NSW. She married Henry Tupper in Bourke 15 April 1867 and died aged 24 years in Victoria, 22 June 1872.  The informant was Margaret’s father-in-law (a miner, like her husband) who stated that Margaret’s father was William Peter, chemist, and that her mother was Jane Peter, formerly Bruce.  This information is incorrect as we know that she was is in fact the daughter of Finlay Peter, a veterinary surgeon, and Elizabeth Bruce, as her marriage certificate states.

Let us return to Elizabeth Stephens. She was born at Back Creek (Bendigo) Amherst, Victoria, 13 September 1859.  Her father’s name is given as Henry James Stephens, his occupation miner, his age 22, his birthplace London.  Her mother’s name is given as Grace Peter; she was about 19.  Their marriage took place in the Presbyterian Manse, Sandhurst, 8 October 1858.  Henery (as he signs himself) James Stephen (there is no “s”) was 21 years of age, which makes his birth year 1837; he was born in Stepney, London, and his parents were Henry James Stephen, a sailor, and Euphemia Miller. He was a sawyer. His wife, Grace Peter, a spinster, was born in Sydney in 1839. Her parents were Finlay Peter, a blacksmith, and Elizabeth Bruce. The celebrant was James Nish and the witnesses were Fred, John Fleming and Elizabeth Peter, probably Grace’s sister. You can read more about Grace Peter’s family background in the chapter entitled”More About Grace Peter”.  “Henery” is a gentle, benign, nice-looking man, with a good head of hair parted in the middle, and a rich beard; Grace, on the other hand, looks rigid, puritanical, tight mouthed and stern about the eyes. I have photos of them which I took at Easter 1971 from portraits in the possession of Ted and Doll Oppy (our John James Whittaker’s sister): they were touched up photographs, for I have a photograph of Grace Peter in the same dress.[3]

Henry Stephen(s)

Henry Stephen(s)

Grace Peter(s)

Grace Peter(s)

It is time to turn to the Whittaker story, to the forebears of John senior and his parents Peter Whittaker and Margaret Wall – for that was her name.

In 2008 my nephew Wayne Davey uncovered our Whittaker origins.  Thanks to his researches we can identify not only John Whittaker’s parentage but also his siblings’ names, and the history of the Whittaker forebear who came to Australia.  Let us go back to Peter Whittaker’s origins, his parents and where they came from, and thus get the Whittakers into Australia.

At this stage we can go no further back than Peter’s father, David Whittaker and mother Jane Mary Walsh (or Welsh, but we will stay with Walsh).

In earlier days it would have been an embarrassment to relate that both David and Jane Mary were convicts, but that is all water under the bridge, and if, as a “dinky di Aussie” you haven’t got a convict in the family you should dig till you find one.

David was born in 1775 and was a resident of Halifax, West Riding, Yorkshire.  On 18 July 1801 he was charged thus: “David Whitaker [sic] aged 26 years of Halifax in the West Riding, shopkeeper, committed the 25th day of April 1801, charged upon the oath of John Bairstow of Thornton in the said riding, corn dealer, on suspicion of feloniously forging and altering a certain bill from fifteen pounds to fifty pounds which said bill was drawn by William Fox for Messrs Samuel Jones, William Jones, William Fox and Co., for fifteen pounds payable at two months to John Deardon on order and drawn upon Messrs Jones, Loyd, Hulme and Co Bankers, London.”

Transported for life to NSW, David left London, England, Thursday 23 September 1802 and arrived at Sydney Cove, NSW 11 March 1803, per Glatton under Captain James Colnett RN.

According to the Colonial Secretary Index, 1788-1825 (State records of NSW) he was listed to receive a land grant 10 September 1818.  He was “On list of persons for whom grants of land have been handed over to the Surveyor General for delivery with amount of fees to be charged” 5 March 1821, and “On return of allotments in the town of Parramatta” 5 April 1823.

He married Jane Mary Walsh (Welsh) 13 November 1820 in Parramatta.  A mantua maker by trade (ie, she made female garments – mantles, bodices or dresses), she was born in Ireland in 1794 or 1795.  She fell foul of the law and was tried for stealing some handkerchiefs, in Dublin, August 1815, and sentenced to transportation to New South Wales for seven years.[4]  She sailed on the Canada, in the company of 88 other females, leaving 21 March 1817 from Cork, Ireland, arriving in Sydney, via Rio, 6 Aug 1817.  She obtained her certificate of freedom 29 January 1823.

David Whittaker and Jane Mary Walsh had nine children: Peter, Susan, Charles, John, Hannah, Elizabeth, Mary, Harriet and Phoebe.  David Whittaker died 2 January 1850, Jane Mary died 18 August 1866, both in Maitland, New South Wales.  Some details of their lives in Maitland follow later.

It seems, however, that Peter was not the son of David Whittaker.  Once again I am indebted to Wayne Davey for the information that follows.[5]  The evidence suggests that, while Peter was the son of Jane Walsh (or Welsh), his father was probably an Irishman whose identity may well continue to remain unknown.

As far as can be reasonably ascertained, Peter Walsh/Welsh/Whitaker/Whittaker was born in Ireland somewhere around 1815 – the year is uncertain, as various documents would suggest other possibilities ranging from 1814 to 1816.  Wayne writes: “It is clear to me that Peter is not the child of David Whitaker/Whittaker, but later in life took the surname Whittaker.  Peter’s real father I think will never be known.”

Let us turn to the offspring of David and Jane Whittaker.

What follows is a selection of the material uncovered by Wayne Davey concerning David and Jane’s children from the records of the time.  As is often the case in researching these times, the information is confusing and conflicting.  I record it here as I received it from Wayne.

“The NSW & Tasmanian Australia Convict Muster 1822 records David Whittaker, transported on the Glatton for life, as a labourer living at Parramatta and having five children: Peter b. about 1817, Charles b. about 1819, Hannah b. about 1821, David b. about 1824, Mary b. about 1825, Ellen b. about 1826 and Elizabeth b. about 1831.  [That could not be so if these are the records are from the 1822 Muster.]  It appears that in 1822 David had five children, but as can be seen from the known children’s birth dates, Peter is probably the six year old, making him born about 1816.  Hannah would probably be the one year old, Charles older still, and I don’t know who the other two would be.  I originally couldn’t find any records of his mother Jane in this muster, but she is recorded elsewhere as Jane Welsh of the Canada, wife of D. Whittaker, Parramatta.

“The 1825 General Muster M-Z has the following recorded: ‘Whitaker David, Glatton, L[ife], Residence Parramatta; Peter, 10, son of D. Whitaker Parramatta; Charles, 6, son of D. Whitaker Parramatta; Hannah, 4, daughter of D. Whitaker Parramatta’.[6]

“This makes Peter born about 1815.

“On a different page of the 1825 General Muster M-Z is recorded: ‘Whitaker David, son of D. Whitaker Parramatta; Mary, 1, daughter of D. Whitaker Parramatta’.  I am guessing that these two children (David and Mary) were at another location, but I am unable to find any record of their mother Jane for this muster.

“The NSW & Tasmania Australian Convict Muster of 1825 has Peter recorded as Peter Welsh arriving 1817 on the Canada, aged 11.  This would make him born about 1814.”

In the New South Wales census for 1828, District of Parramatta, No 332 we read:

David Whitaker, 60, Glatton 1803, Protestant.

Jane, 31, Canada 1816, wife of above.


Peter Walsh, 13, Canada 1816, son of Jane;

Charles Whitaker, 8, son of David;

Anne Whitaker, 6 daughter of David;

David Whitaker, 4, son of David;

Mary Whitaker, 3½, daughter of David;

Ellen Whitaker, 17 months, daughter of David.

This makes Peter born about 1815.  Anne is presumably Hannah.

Wayne has noted material from other records but it adds no further clarification.  However, it is worth adding the details from Peter’s NSW Death certificate 1897/011505:

Date of death 16 December 1897 Back Creek Cowra

Age: 81 years

Father’s name: David Whittaker

Mother’s name: Unknown

Where born: Parramatta NSW

Marriage: 21 years to Margaret WALL

Six children alive: Susan 56, Charles 52, John 50, Elizabeth 48, Mary 45, Phoebe 43. Two deceased: one male, one female, unnamed.

This would make Peter born about 1816.

Before I present an account of some of the many offspring of David Whittaker and Jane Mary Walsh, I will give some account of their lives as far as we know any details.[7]

Later life of David and Jane Whittaker

Currently we do not know any further details of the life and family of David Whittaker and Jane Mary Walsh in their Sydney years.  We do know that in 1829 three of their children, Ann (Hannah), David and Mary were placed in an orphanage.  There are several documents relating to this, with Whittaker spelt with one and two t’s.  One document states “Their mother had no visible means of support and had seven children.”  It is not clear who the seventh child is.  Jane is referred to as Anne in all these documents.

At some stage David and Jane moved to Maitland.  I am not sure whether they followed son Charles, who seems to have made quite a career for himself in Maitland, or whether Charles followed his parents – I guess the former was the case.  From what follows, it is clear that while David seems to have been settled, his wife Jane was far from settled.  We can only guess what lies behind the following information gleaned from The Maitland Mercury & Hunter River General Advertiser.

Wayne writes: “David Whittaker spent the last years of his life living with his son Charles and his family in East Maitland NSW.  Charles was somewhat of a businessman and owned a number of different pubs in Maitland, one being the Red Lion, which has been fully restored and is today a B&B.  The Maitland Mercury has numerous articles relating to Charles and his businesses.

“David Whittaker is recorded in the Maitland Mercury on October 1846 as being the complainant of an assault.  He is described as “upwards of 75 years” (making him born about 1771).  A death notice in the Maitland Mercury 2 January 1850 stated: “At the residence of his son, Charles Whittaker, East Maitland, on the 1st Jan, Mr David Whittaker, in the 83rd year of his age. Mr Whittaker has been 47 years in the colony, and his loss is lamented by a numerous circle of relatives and friends.”  David’s death in the 83rd year of his life would make his date of birth 1766 or 1767.

“As for his wife Jane Whittaker (née Walsh), I have located a NSW death certificate for a Jane Whitaker who died in custody at the Maitland jail 17 August 1866.  Her death certificate has indications that it may have been our Jane.  It records her as born in Dublin and her age given as 70 years, making her born about 1796.  Unfortunately there is no record of a spouse or children on her death certificate.”

Jane’s story is not a happy one.


The Maitland Mercury & Hunter River General Advertiser all too frequently tells of her sad state: Tuesday 17 October 1865 “Protection – Jane Whittaker was brought before the bench at West Maitland yesterday, having been taken into custody for protection still being in an unfit state to be at large, she was remanded to the East Maitland goal.” Thursday 26 October 1865 “Protection – Jane Whittaker was brought before the bench at East Maitland, on Tuesday, having been taken into custody for protection. She was still in an unsafe state to be at large, and was remanded to the goal for one week.”  Thursday 2 November 1865 “Protection – Jane Whittaker, who had been confined in goal for medical treatment, having been taken into custody for protection, was brought up before the bench at East Maitland on Tuesday. Being still in an unfit state to be at large; she was sent back to goal for medical treatment.”  Thursday 9 November 1865 “Protection – Jane Whittaker, who had been taken into custody for protection, was brought before the bench at East Maitland, on Tuesday, and discharged.”  Saturday 11 October 1865 “Vagrancy – At the East Maitland police court, yesterday, Jane Whittaker was convicted of vagrancy, and sent to goal for three months.”  Thursday 17 May 1866 “Vagrancy – Mary [presumably Jane] Whittaker, for vagrancy, was sent to goal for three months, by the bench at East Maitland, on Monday.”

Finally and sadly: The Maitland Mercury & Hunter River General Advertiser Saturday 18 August 1866Death In The Gaol – Yesterday morning an aged woman, named Mary [presumably Jane] Whittaker, died in the goal, East Maitland. She was received there on the 14th May last, under sentence of three months’ imprisonment, for vagrancy. She was then in a very infirm state, being upwards of 80 years old, and scarcely able to walk. She was at once placed under the care of the visiting surgeon, and regularly attended to up to the day of her death. Death was the result of extreme old age, and at the inquest held yesterday by Mr Thomson, district coroner, a verdict to that effect was returned.”


David had his fair share of attention from The Maitland Mercury & Hunter River General Advertiser


Wednesday 21 October 1846 Assault – Mr. William Burne appeared on summons yesterday, at the police office, to answer the complaint of David Whittaker for an assault. From the evidence of Whittaker it appeared that Burne had come to complainant’s house and called him an old rogue. Complainant answered “then there are two of us,” and immediately he received a blow in the face, which hurt him severely, cutting him on the cheek and above the left eye. He could not see what the blow was inflicted with, but thought it must have been from defendant’s fist. Complainant was upwards of 75 years of age. In his defence Mr. Burne stated that complainant had been very abusive and threatening to his (defendant’s) children, and he had gone out to remonstrate with him, when he got into a passion, abused defendant by calling him opprobrious names, and ultimately concluded by banging the door in defendant’s face in a most insulting manner. Defendant had then pushed the door open, and in his doing so had struck the complainant with an edge of it, and so cut his face. It had been purely accidental, and he, at the time, had expressed his regret for it. The bench thought the assault one of a most serious nature, having been committed on so aged a man, and sentenced him to pay a fine of £5, or in default to be imprisoned for two months.


And finally for David, the Australian Whittaker patriarch, as we have seen: The Maitland Mercury & Hunter River General Advertiser

Wednesday 2 January 1850: At the residence of his son, Mr. Charles Whittaker, East Maitland, on the 1st Jan., Mr David Whittaker, in the 83rd year of his age. Mr. Whittaker has been 47 years in the colony, and his loss is lamented by a numerous circle of relatives.

Charles Whittaker – first born son of David Whittaker and Jane Mary Walsh.

I cannot pretend to have a complete account of the story of David Whittaker and Jane Mary Walsh’s first born son, Charles Whittaker, the Maitland businessman, but here follow some details for the sake of completeness.  Charles Whittaker was born 12 April 1819 and died 24 October 1903 at “Charlesville”, Alma Street, Ashfield NSW, having moved, presumably after many years in the Maitland district, to Sydney.

Charles Whittaker was, in the words of Bruce Morrison, “a bit of a lad with two marriages and a fling on the side”.  His treatment of his son Augustus, described as an “imbecile”, makes sad reading.  Charles and one of his wives, Rebecca, kept Augustus confined in a cow and though they were charged in Court, they were found not guilty as they were unable to afford to look after Augustus.  The lad was described as very dirty, dressed in filthy clothes, offensive smelling and sleeping on a piece of old carpet.  Augustus died in 1870 aged 22 years.  His death was registered at Gladesville, probably the Gladesville Asylum.

Charles’ first marriage, 17 October 1842 at St Andrew’s Church of England, Sydney NSW was to Ann Maria Bayliss, born 1823, died 1853.  There were five children:

  1. Phoebe Maria Whittaker born 1843 died 06/07/1860 East Maitland NSW
  2. William David Whittaker born 1845 died 1847
  3. Alfred John Whittaker born 1848 died 1848
  4. Augustus Charles Whittaker born 26/08/1849 died 1870 Gladesville NSW
  5. Alfred J. Whittaker born 1852 died 1852

With Margaret Salisbury there was one child:

  1. Victoria Adelaide Whittaker born 5 September 1854 Maitland NSW

Charles married, 14 February 1858 at St Phillip’s Church, Sydney, Rachel Rebecca Morrison (née Goodwin) born 1835 died 19 September 1928 Ashfield NSW.  Their offspring:

  1. Blanche A. Whittaker born 1858 died 1929 Ashfield, Sydney NSW
  2. Alma England Whittaker born 1860 Maitland NSW died 18 October 1860 East Maitland NSW
  3. Maud M. Whittaker born 1862 Maitland NSW
  4. Alfred John Morrison Whittaker born 1864 Maitland NSW died 05/12/1926 Caboolture, Qld
  5. Andrew Goodwin Whittaker born 1867 Maitland NSW, died 1942 Ashfield, Sydney NSW
  6. Charles Gregory Whittaker 1875 Maitland NSW died 04/05/1932 Cloncurry Qld
  7. Violet Payten Whittaker born 1880 Murrurundi NSW died 1960 Ashfield, Sydney NSW

These details suggest that Charles moved between Maitland and Sydney.

Let me return to the children of David Whittaker and Jane Walsh with the emphasis on Peter Whittaker.


Whittaker Descendants


Here follows what I believe to be an accurate account of the children of David Whitaker and Jane Mary Walsh as compiled by Bruce Morrison.[8]

David Whittaker b. 1775 Halifax, Yorkshire, England; d. 1 May 1850; m. (Jane) Mary Walsh (Welsh) b.c. 1794 Ireland, 13 November 1820, Parramatta NSW.

  1. Peter Whittaker [son of (Jane) Mary Walsh (Welsh)] b.c. 1815-17, d.16 December 1897, Back Creek, Cowra NSW; m. 16 April 1847 Margaret Wall b. 1820
  2. Susan Whittaker
  3. Charles Whittaker b. 12 April 1819, died 24/10/1903 “Charlesville”, Alma Street, Ashfield NSW
  4. John Whittaker
  5. Hannah Whittaker b. 26 December 1821, Parramatta NSW, d. 19 June 1920, Gosford NSW.
  6. Elizabeth Whittaker b. 1831
  7. Mary Whittaker
  8. Harriet Whittaker

What follows concerns only the offspring of Peter Whittaker and Margaret Wall – not, strictly speaking, Whittaker offspring.  However, that is the name by which they are all known.

Peter Whittaker married Margaret Wall, 16 April 1847.  He died 16 December 1897, Back Creek Cowra.  Margaret Wall was born in 1820 in Maryborough, County Cork, Ireland.   Their offspring:

  1. Peter b. 22 January 1840 Sydney NSW, chr. 17 August1840 St Philip’s Sydney, d. 27 June 1880 Back Creek, Cowra, m. Ellen (Helen) Caroline Beech[9] b. August 1839 Devonshire, England, m. 8 December 1859, d. 30 March 1907 Back Creek, Cowra
  2. Susan b. 10 December 1841, Richmond River NSW chr. 8 May 1844, Clarence River NSW
  3. Charles b.1842, d.1923, m. Margaret Jacob 1850[10]
  4. John [our concern in this chapter] b. 1848, d. 9 July 1910, m. Elizabeth Stephens 14 March 1878
  5. Elizabeth b. 21 November 1850 Gosford NSW
  6. Mary b. 1 November 1863 Gosford NSW
  7. Phoebe b.1857, d.1944, m. James Bell (several offspring including Lilly Bell m. John Fing)
  8. William Henry b.1860, d. 23 September 1917 Cowra NSW, m. Mary Louisa Gubbin b. 1878 Condobolin NSW, m. 1898 Cowra NSW, d. 23 April 1922 Cowra NSW (parents: William Gubbin and Mary Whittaker)[11] Offspring: Roy Gold 1900-1901, Cecil Harold Thomas 1902-1955,Dolly Edna 1904-1987, Ruby Mary 1906-1991, Ivy Irene 1909-1963, Raymond William 1911-1964, Una Mary 1917-1917 (aged 5 weeks)
  9. One male deceased.[12]

I now include the offspring of Peter Whittaker and Ellen Caroline Beech (or Bucknell), of Charles Whittaker and Margaret Jacob, and of John Whittaker and Elizabeth Stephens (my ancestors).

Peter Whittaker and Ellen Caroline Beech (or Bucknell) had nine children:

  1. Charles Robert, b. 29 December 1860, m. Bridget Mary Walsh b.c. 1855, 1 February 1887, Cowra NSW.
  2. William b. 1864
  3. Alfred b. 4 July 1866, m.(1) Alice McSpadden 15 December 1893, (2) Matilda Green
  4. Maria Theresa b. 29 November 1868
  5. John James b. 21 November 1870
  6. Peter b. 4 January 1873
  7. Phoebe b. 1875, d.1944
  8. Octavius (the eighth child, hence Octavius) b. 1877 d. 3 April 1959 Cowra NSW, m. Hannah Elizabeth Ranson b.c. 1881, d. 12 June 1966
  9. Margaret b. 1878

I add here some notes about the death of Peter Whittaker, the first son of Peter Whittaker and Margaret Wall, the older brother of my great grandfather John.

Australian Town and Country Journal

Saturday 3 July 1880

Supposed death through drinking deleterious liquor

Cowra, Monday – Peter Whittaker, a respectable farmer of Back Creek, four miles from Cowra, died suddenly last night.  The cause of his death is reported to have been deleterious liquor.  He was a steady man; was known to have called at a public house in the course of the last week, where he drank somewhat freely, and went home.  He then complained of a pain in the region of the liver, and was confined to bed, and had been vomiting and was otherwise seriously ill till the time of his death.  This is a case which requires investigation and a coroner’s inquest should be held. Deceased leaves a wife and nine children mourning their loss.

Cowra, Tuesday – The Grenfell coroner, who was wired for by the police to hold an inquest on the body of Peter Whittaker, could not attend.  A magisterial inquiry has just been held, but is further adjourned till tomorrow, when the services of a duly qualified practitioner from Grenfell will be made available for the purpose of holding a post mortem, when the cause of death will no doubt be ascertained.  Six witnesses, including a publican, have already been examined.

Cowra, Thursday – The inquiry into the cause of the death of the late Mr Whittaker is completed.  Dr Slade, of Grenfell, performed a post mortem.  Whatever other caused may have tended towards the death of Mr Whittaker, it was found that several of his ribs were broken. The evidence disclosed the fact that a powerful man named Brien had struck [the] deceased at Chiver’s public house.  A warrant was issued for Brien, who is now in custody.  The matter will be further investigated at the police court.  The funeral took place yesterday amidst the lamentations of the poor widow and children and a large circle of relatives.  The cortege was a very large one and the sad affair cast a gloom over the district.  Public sympathy for the family is largely expressed.

Charles Whittaker and Margaret Jacob[13] had eleven children:

  1. Charles b. 10 September 1871 Back Creek, Cowra, d. 4 March 1934 Cowra
  2. William Henry, b.1893 Back Creek, Cowra, d. 14 February 1901 Back Creek, Cowra
  3. Robert John b. 1876, d. 23 May 1930 Back Creek, Cowra
  4. Margaret b. 1879 d. 8 March 1933 Paddington, Sydney; m. James Henry Butler, b. c. 1866, m. 13 June 1900 Back Creek, Cowra, father Dennis Butler.
  5. Herbert Ernest b. 1880, d. 17 December 1882 Back Creek, Cowra
  6. Arthur Peter “Tib” b. 1882, d. 2 September 1968 Sydney NSW
  7. Mary “Polly” b. 14 October 1884, D. 23 June 1966 Parkes NSW
  8. Emma Evylyn b. 26 January 1887, d. 7 August 1967 Sydney
  9. Albert b. 20 August 1889 Back Creek, Cowra, d. 9 March 1893 Back Creek, Cowra
  10. Maud Esther Maria b. 18 September 1891 Back Creek, Cowra, d. 15 April 1955 Back Creek, Cowra
  11. Albert Herbert “Tom” b. 11 May 1894 Back Creek, Cowra, d. 24 October 1934, Cowra

When Charles Whittaker, the third child of Peter Whittaker and Margaret Wall, died, he was accorded an obituary in the Cowra Free Press, Tuesday 8th May 1923.

The Late Mr. Charles Whittaker, Senior

Sixty Years In Cowra District – Another Hardy Pioneer Gone

After a residence in this district of over sixty years there passed away on Sunday evening at his residence, Edlington, Back Creek, Mr. Charles Whittaker, a gentleman who had done more than his share of the pioneering work hereabouts.

The late Mr. Whittaker, who was born at Richmond on the Hawkesbury River, on April 14th, 1846,[14] was a son of the late Mr. Peter Whittaker.  In his early days he followed the occupation of a timber-getter.  When only a lad he came to this district and went to Back Creek, eventually settling on the fine property which he owned at the time of his demise, some 63 years ago.  For many years he was a carrier, but of late years he followed farming pursuits with a great measure of success.  He was a great lover of a good horse and during the early days raced “Elastic” and won many races.  In fact in those days no race meeting in the district would have been complete without at least a couple of “Charlie” Whittaker’s horses.  Of recent years he also bred some good ones, the descendants of that great mare “Merrcillaux”, “Aragain”, “Marvel Lawn”, “Irish Marvel”, “Rheumatique”, and others.  He was of a kind and sympathetic nature and if he knew a human being or animal was in pain he would do his utmost to relieve them.

He married Miss Margaret Jacobs, daughter of the late Mr. William Jacobs, who survives him.  He leaves the following family: Messrs. Charles, Robert, Arthur P., Albert H., Mesdames James Butler (Sydney), W. Thompson (Parkes), J. Davidson (America) and W. Gray (Cowra).  Three sons predeceased him.  There are also eleven grandchildren.

The funeral took place to the C of E Cemetery today, Messrs. Poignand and Murray carrying out the arrangements.  We join the many friends of the bereaved widow and family in tendering our sincere sympathy in their recent great loss.

And so we come to John Whittaker and Elizabeth Stephens.  John was born 4 October 1848 in the parish of St Andrew’s, Sydney.  Given that many of the Whittaker family of this generation were connected with Back Creek, Cowra, I am unaware of how John’s family came to be in Sydney.  However, a glance at the places where his siblings were born must give some clue as to the wanderings of their parents.  Peter was born and christened in Sydney NSW, chr. 17 August1840 St Philip’s Sydney, and died Back Creek, Cowra.  Susan was born Richmond River NSW and christened Clarence River NSW.  Charles was born Richmond River NSW, christened Clarence River NSW, and died Back Creek, Cowra.  John was born in Sydney 1848, christened at St Andrew’s Sydney, and died 1910 Sydney.  Elizabeth was born 1 December 1850 Gosford NSW; Mary was born 1 November 1863 Gosford NSW; Phoebe was born 1857, d.1944, places unknown; and William Henry born 1860, died 23 September 1917 Cowra NSW.  Richmond River, Clarence River, Sydney, Gosford, Cowra – the peripatetic Peter Whittaker is listed as sawyer on all the children’s certificates.[15]  The Whittaker family were often associated with timber either as loggers, sawyers or carters, these occupations being common among some of the Whittakers at least, my grandfather John James included.

John Whittaker and Elizabeth Stephens had eight children:

  1. John James (my mother’s father) b. 14 July 1878, Back Creek, Cowra, d. 6 November 1964 Sydney, m. 12 February 1910 Yass NSW, Lilian Gladys Cant b. 9 December 1889 Goulburn, d. 20 July 1979 Sydney.
  2. Albert, b. 9 May 1880 Back Creek, Cowra, d. 24 August 1959, m. Margaret Murray d. 7 June 1972
  3. William, b.1882 Back Creek, Cowra, m. Anne Haddon; offspring Ernest d. aged 25.
  4. Phoebe “Tot”, b. 1887 Condobolin, d. 24 August 1966, m. Thomas Langford; offspring – Myrtle, Boyd, Margery, Edna, Michael.
  5. Ernest George b. 1890, d. 1892 Condobolin
  6. Frederick Herbert b. 3 June 1895 Condobolin, d. 7 September 1953
  7. Ellen Margaret b. October 1900 Condobolin, d. 1937, m. 1922 George Wheatley
  8. Grace Bertha Anthea (Doll) b. 25 January 1902 Condobolin, d. 30 January 1977, m. 13 January 1922, Molong NSW, Edmund Oppy (parents: William Oppy and Mary Ann Jane Agatha Doyle) b. 1 November 1891, d. 11 June 1972; offspring – Edward, Ronald, Mavis, William, Anthea.[16] Edward married Floris: offspring – Judith, Terrie, Susan, Rodney, Bradley, Geoffrey.

The marriage between John Whittaker and Elizabeth Stephens was indeed a fruitful one. There were eight children of whom John James, my grandfather, was the eldest. He was born 14 July 1878 at Back Creek near Cowra, his father then being 25 and a farmer, his mother 19. John James, for all that he was on the teams at twelve, was an attractive looking lad: a picture at fifteen or sixteen shows a full front face, more than pleasant, his hat perched jauntily on the back of his head, one hand on his hip, the other over bale of straw, and one leg casually crossed.

Jack the Lad

Jack the Lad

In his twenties there is another picture taken with his sister Phoebe and some friends: he is a very handsome man, smartly dressed, with a fine trim moustache. Phoebe is a beautiful, composed woman. By the time John came to marry in 1910 at the age of 31, the looks had matured and there is a touch of the know-it-all cocked eyebrow about him: still smartly dressed (did Gladys make his waistcoat? Her needlework was beautiful) with the smartly dressed small woman standing as he sits, both looking straight at the camera. I wonder whether they ever looked into each other’s eyes after their courtship: when I knew them they were both going their own ways. The wedding photograph is hand painted, pasted onto glass and set against a painted background. The whole was beautifully framed in an oval frame. It is a rare example of such work, and was broken in being reframed. It has been reproduced.

Jack and Gladys Whittaker - wedding photo

Jack and Gladys Whittaker – wedding photo

Albert was the second child, born 9 May 1880 and married Margaret Murray, born 25 December 1883. Their children were Val (b. 5 February 1905), Ellen (20 October 1908), Leonard (26 January 1912), Ivy (19 June 1917), Ronald (13 October 1919) and Pearl (25 February 1925).

I knew Albert – whom we called Uncle Ab – when we were in Darlinghurst in the late 1940s and early 1950s. I enjoyed his visits. He must have lived in Sydney while his wife still lived in Condobolin. He loved dancing and would talk all night about the dances he went to at Burwood. He and Pop Whit must have been close because they talked for hours about the old days and old friends – Mrs McNulty and Mrs Oppy and Mrs Gus Brown – and such stories have gone from my memory now (except the haunted bridge – to hear them talk you’d think they were on first name terms with Fisher’s Ghost!) but I recall sitting totally absorbed in them, both the old days and the dancing parties with women whose names danced in my head.

At Easter in 1971 Mum, my grandmother Gladys Whittaker and I visited Condobolin, à la récherche du temps perdu. We visited Albert’s wife Aunty Mag and her still single daughter, Pearl, who worked at the Condobolin Hospital. They gave me much of this material. We also visited the pisé (rammed earth) house in which, I think, Granny Smith (Elizabeth Stephens, who married again after her husband John died) used to live. I believe the then occupants were Whittaker relatives, but we did not know them. We also visited the cemetery, to see Granny Smith’s grave. Ted Oppy, a dear gentleman, drove us around.

Uncle Ab died 24 August 1958, and Aunty Mag 7 June 1982.

William Whittaker and Anne Haddon

William Whittaker and Anne Haddon

Then there was William, born 1882. He married Anne Haddon (b. 1892). Bill’s photos do not present an attractive man., but I know nothing of his personality. However, my grandmother Gladys, who did know him, spoke of his beautiful wife, Anne, who ended her days in Callan Park Asylum, 1 June 1926, driven there by her husband. They had one child, Ernest, who died at the age of twenty-five. In fairness to Bill I must say that an extant postcard from him to Anne is expressed in very beautiful terms.

Anne Haddon

Anne Haddon

The first daughter, Phoebe (Tot), was born in 1887 and died on 24 August 1966. From her photographs she appears as a lovely, self-contained woman who grew into a mature wife and mother, devoted to her husband Edward Langford, to whom she bore five children: Myrtle, Boyd, Margery, Edna and Michael.

Phoebe Whittaker and Thomas Langford

Phoebe Whittaker and Thomas Langford

Ernest George was born in 1890 and died at the age of two.

Frederick Herbert was born 8 June 1895, and died unmarried 7 September 1953; a shy lad, from his picture, but he could only have been about fourteen, and who isn’t shy then? He had the makings of his brother John’s good looks, and was already as tall as Bill.

Frederick Whittaker

Frederick Whittaker

Ellen Margaret, (Nell), was born in October 1900, and died in 1937. She married George Wheatley. Attractive and bright in her teens, she seems to have grown plain later on. I do not know that there were any children.

Aunty Doll rejoiced at her birth in the noble names Grace Bertha Anthea, but probably never used them afterwards. She was born 2 January 1902, and was a powerful beauty when she married the equally handsome Edmund Oppy, 13 January 1922. They had five children: Edward (called Terrence) (b. 11 August 1920), Ronald (26 November 1922), Mavis (17 November 1926), William (16 February 1928. According to Betty Lovejoy it was William who was living in the pisé house in Condobolin when we visited in 1972. He died in 1989), and Betty (3 June 1930) whom I sometimes hear from. Ted died soon after our Easter visit – the same year as the Duke of Windsor, I remember, for my mother was fond of both of them and was in England when Ted died.

Doll whittaker and Edmund Oppy

Doll whittaker and Edmund Oppy

These are the children, then, of John Whittaker and Elizabeth Stephens. They were a remarkably attractive lot of people, the men handsome, the women beautiful. There was a distinct quality about them, but where it came from I don’t know. My mother often spoke very warmly about Elizabeth Whittaker (Stephens, later Granny Smith) having a certain genteel quality. What more is there to be said? John died in Callan Park Asylum for the Insane, 9 July 1910, at the age of 61. The carrier was finally himself carried off by phthisis pulmonalis, a progressive wasting disease of the lungs, probably tuberculosis. But why Callan Park? So little is known about these impressive people with such beautiful children. At least John James was present at the Church of England cemetery three days later to witness his father’s burial.

It was after more than a decent interval that Elizabeth (Stephens) Whittaker remarried in 1919. She married a very dapper man, remembered by Doug as wearing leggings – “you could see him coming from the end of the street” – William (Billy) Smith, and so became for my mother and Doug “Granny Smith”; they recalled her with great affection as a “real lady”. She lived on in Condobolin till she died of senility, 20 June 1946, at the grand old age of 87. I wonder whether I met her as a very young child, because I do have the merest hint of a memory of being in Condobolin in the early 1940s, of being caught in a dust-storm, in fact: I am sure to have been presented to the old lady. She was buried in the Church of England Cemetery, Condobolin. William Smith outlived her.

Jack and Gladys Whittaker

Jack and Gladys Whittaker

When and where John James Whittaker met Lillian Gladys Cant I do not know, but it was a case of the handsome man meeting the comely young woman – I don’t think we would call Gladys beautiful, but she was lovely – he was 31, she 20. I wonder what attracted this man – a bushman in some sense, obviously intelligent, able to estimate the number of super-feet of timber in a tree at a glance – to the young lady schoolteacher, undoubtedly displaying then the impeccable care she always showed in whatever she did. I have an exercise book which she wrote her lessons in during 1908 and 1909, inscribed “Gladys Cant, Subsidised School, Rosemead, Sth Yalgogrin, via Narranderah”. The writing is exquisite and stylish: it changed little over the years, simply becoming mature and no less legible.

They were certainly very different people, differing in upbringing and different in temperament. Ultimately she proved to be the stronger of the two, as women so often do.   Once, later in his life, he once set upon her, only to be confronted by my sister: he promptly fell to the ground calling on Gladys to witness the mayhem visited upon him by “girlie”, “split the wind”, as he sometimes called her.

My sister Adele tells warmer stories of Pop Whit as he got older and more dependent after the family moved from Boundary Street to Elanora Heights in 1956. She looked after him, oftentimes bathing and shaving him and even sleeping nearby in case he needed anything during the night.

It was at St. Augustine’s Catholic Church, Yass, that they were married, 16 February 1910, she already three months pregnant. John James, the farmer, of Condobolin, a bachelor, born Cowra, aged thirty-one; and Lilian Gladys Cant, residing with her parents – though her mother Anne had been dead fifteen years, and it was Sarah Grieves who took the mother’s place, not very happily according to Gladys – at Yass Junction, a spinster, born Goulburn, aged twenty.

They must have moved to Condobolin at once because their daughter, Honor Delores, my mother, was born there 16 July 1910. Douglas John, their only son, was born a few years later, 8 March 1912, “at the foot of Billygoat Hill, Cowra”, according to Doug. I wonder why only two children, in that age of prolific families. And I wonder why Cowra!

Honor and Douglas at Myra Cottage

Honor and Douglas at Myra Cottage

Life for the children must have been enjoyable – both Honor and Doug remember it as a happy time. The family lived in a tent for a while, several miles out of town; work must have been hard, conditions unpredictable – a runaway horse doing much damage, bleeding and bandages, and Gladys coping in her memorable way. (She undoubtedly displayed more patience than I did back in Condobolin sixty years later when she, being her independent self, fell in the motel room, cracking her head – more bleeding and bandages). Gladys used to tell a story of wading in water only to find her legs covered in leeches. She dispatched them with a swipe of a sickle, leaving a permanent scar on her leg. There were stories of a camel with a ferocious bite, learning to load the dray with the help of the horses – the much loved “Prince” among them. There were picnics: a lovely picture of the boy Doug and the charming school teacher Miss McNamara with her parasol, sitting on a log near the water hole – it might have been Illyria rather than a boggy creek near Condobolin; and rock salt and molasses parties that so delighted my mother’s memories.

Myra Cottage Boarders Gladys and Jack at back Honor at front

Myra Cottage Boarders
Gladys and Jack at back
Honor at front

Jack Whittaker continued working on the teams, as family photographs show, with help from Mr Vandertack; and Gladys – everyone always called her Gladys, although my mother sometimes called her “Lilly Pilly” – opened a boarding house, Myra Cottage (was it in Denison Street?) which gather, was a cause of some jealousy on Jack’s part. Gladys was a good business woman and I’d be surprised if she stood for much nonsense from anybody – she had a strong moral streak as well, so Jack need not have feared.

Condobolin was no place for young people to find a career, so in 1926 Gladys bundled up Honor and Douglas and travelled to Sydney leaving Jack to follow. Mum says that much of the good stuff – china, glassware, linen – acquired and packed away for transportation to Sydney never arrived: she hinted that Jack may have disposed of it otherwise.

Honor went to Business College where she did very well, and Doug went to school at the Christian Brothers school at Sacred Heart, Darlinghurst. They lived in Gosbell Street Paddington, and Honor found employment soon after at Bray and Holliday, Shopfront Fitters, as a switchboard operator, a job she kept with a ten year or so break, till 1960.

Gladys, the business woman, bought and managed properties and went to work. She was mainly employed as a cleaner, but she also worked at the Pickwick Club where she made hors d’oeuvres, working late, late into the night. Her employers, including such names as Pankhurst and McGillvray and the ANZ Bank in Bathurst Street, treated her with the utmost respect: in some ways she was their moral superior though she worked for them, and they treated her accordingly. They got more than a fair day’s work for their day’s pay out of her.

What Jack did during these years, I do not know. There was, as I have said, a garage which failed. Then I think it was odd jobs for the next twenty five years.

When the family moved from Boundary Street, Darlinghurst to Cooleena Road, Elanora Heights, in 1956, old John James was on his last legs which he needed to keep wrapped in sugar bags and carpet pieces to ward off draughts. When that failed he barricaded his bedroom against the breezes, which eventually won the battle as they always do, and he died – having thrown away his much puffed and never-alight pipe some years previously – after a short spell of a few weeks in the Sacred Heart Hospice, Darlinghurst, 6 November 1964.

Jack and Gladys, Brady Street Granville, 1930s

Jack and Gladys, Brady Street Granville, 1930s

According to his death certificate he died of congestive cardiac failure, atherosclerosis, and a recurrent urinary infection. He was buried from the Sacred Heart Church by Father Brian Charlton, in the Catholic Cemetery, Botany.

How much more complete this story is than the account I originally wrote in 1985. It is bound to contain inaccuracies, but they will be for future researchers to correct.

June 2015

[1] We now know she was Margaret Wall.

[2] The Peters were Elizabeth’s mother’s family.

[3] I will deal with Elizabeth Stephens’ ancestry in another chapter – her mother’s side, the Peters, not her father’s side, of which I know nothing.

[4] Court records for this time were destroyed by fire in the mid 1800s.

[5] December 2008

[6] Note the variation between Whitaker and Whittaker – not surprising for anyone undertaking family research.

[7] Details provided by Wayne Davey.

[8] Bruce Morrison is a descendant of Charles Whittaker, son of David Whittaker and Jane Walsh, half-brother of Peter, my ancestor.

[9] Bruce Morrison writes in an email to Pauline Ramage 8 April 2012: “Peter Whittaker married Helen (Caroline Ellen) Beech or Buckner.  I found her name as being either Beech or Buckner/Buckler.  I do not know which is correct.”  By coincidence, Pauline Ramage (Duncin) and I were partners at the St Canice’s Primary School in about 1948 and there is a picture to prove it!  Bruce Morrison writes further to the question (28 April 2015): “I don’t know anything about the Beech/Buckner/Bucknell/Buckland name or where it came from.  It has cropped up in different records.  I don’t know if we will ever find out the correct name.  From the Cowra Courthouse Records transcripts which I have on my computer for the death of Phoebe Atkinson 16/11/1917 states that she is the daughter of Peter Whittaker and Ellen Caroline Buckland: this would have been given by the informant of the death.  If they thought it was Buckland, then that is what is recorded whether it is right or wrong.”

[10] See obituary below.

[11] See Bruce Morrison for offspring.

[12] According to Judith Eastwell, granddaughter of Edmund Oppy and Grace Bertha Anthea Whittaker.  Grace Whittaker is the sister of my grandfather John James Whittaker.

[13] Bruce Morrison, who has provided much information in this chapter, is descended from Margaret Jacob’s step-sister Mary Geary whose mother Margaret Geary (née Ryan) married (1) William Geary and (2) William Jacob.  Margaret Jacob who married Charles Whittaker was the first of four children of this second marriage.

[14] Bruce Morrison notes (16 June 2015): I noticed in your footnote [14] referring to the birth 1846 or 1842 of Charles Whittaker of Cowra, who married Margaret Jacob. This is incorrect Charles was born 04/04/1845 baptised 14/03/1847, baptism registered in the district of Clarence River NSW. His birth is registered under “Wall” in the NSW BDMs (V1847 2703 32) no father listed and mother Margrett. In the old BDM Index on Microfiche the birth is registered under Whittiker & Wall, for some reason the new online version only has it registered as “Wall”.

[15] Bruce Morrison.

[16] I believe I am right in saying that I knew “Anthea” as Betty Lovejoy.


Chapter 6 The story of the Day Girls from Sofala to the Orphanage and Beyond February 11, 2014

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tony @ 7:29 pm
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To The Honourable,

The Colonial Secretary:


From: The Vicar General’s Office

St Mary’s Cathedral, Sydney

28 November 1859


I have the honour to request that His Excellency the Governor General may be pleased to sanction the admission into the Roman Catholic Orphan School [Parramatta] of the following children:

Day, Mary Anne          6 years

Day, Matilda                5 years

Day, Julia                    4 years

Day, Elizabeth             2 years

Both parents are Catholics.  Their father has been sentenced to Cockatoo and their mother is utterly destitute.  The Magistrates have sent the children to the Very Reverend Dean Grant, Bathurst, for transmission to the school.


I have the honour to be, Sir,

Your most obedient servant


What heartbreak lay behind this simply worded request?  Who were these four Day girls, and what brought them to this pass at the sad ages of six, five, four and two? And who are they to me?

My father’s older sister, Julia Butler, went to live with her McLean grandparents, Julia and Malcolm, after her mother, Lilian (McLean) Butler, died in 1910.  Julia’s grandmother, Julia (Dedicoat) McLean, was the daughter of a convict-later-turned-bushranger, and was one of those four Day girls placed in the Catholic Orphan School at Parramatta in 1859.  Julia McLean never spoke of her convict-bushranger father’s history but she told my aunt enough stories for her to draw some conclusions about her great grandfather William, born and christened as William Dedicoat, transported as William Jones, married as William Day, author of Old Convict Days as William Derricourt (or Derrincourt), sometimes spelt Derecourt.  My aunt never knew the whole story.  After her death in 1982 I began the serious research which led me to the conclusions in this history of the Day girls.

Had the Day girls’ father not been a father, his story would have been immensely exciting; because he was a father – and a husband – his story had a tragic effect on his wife and children.  Had he been a different kind of man, his wife may have coped better as a mother and not been forced to put her daughters into an orphanage, a move which no doubt changed their lives, their attitudes and their way of relating to others forever.

William Day was an adventurer.[2]  By the time of his death at the age of 78 he had packed as much into his life as any Hollywood swashbuckling hero.  The full story has an element of the tragic.

Discovering the true identity of William Day took much work over many months in 1985; discovering his full history is an ongoing task.  What follows are the facts as far as can be reasonably ascertained by this researcher.  From the outset, it must be acknowledged that some of the dates are difficult to be absolutely certain about: they are drawn from Day’s personal memoirs, Old Convict Days,[3] as well as archival records from England and Australia, and these records often conflict.[4]

William Day was born William Dedicoat, 5 June 1819, to William Dedicoat and Mary Humphries (married 29 October 1821), in a house between the Maypole and the Packhorse Inns on the Redditch Road in King’s Norton, a village some 10 kilometres south of Birmingham, England.  Norton (OE nord tun – north farm), referred to in the 1086 Domesday Book, became known as King’s Norton in the 13th century.

St Nicolas Church Kings Norton 2009

St Nicolas Church Kings Norton 2009

William was christened William Dedicoat in St Nicolas’ church, King’s Norton, 26 October 1823.  He was the oldest of seven children, his younger siblings being Richard (christened 1824), Leonard (1826), Samuel (1829), Matilda, (1831), Ann (1834) and John (1836).

He did not do well at school: “If I did not shine at my books, I certainly showed the same turn for mischief and adventure which distinguished my future life.”

Kings Norton Grammar School 2009

Kings Norton Grammar School 2009

He was apprenticed to Toby Duffell, a gun-lock filer and publican in Darlaston.  Bullbaiting was a regular entertainment on Monday, cock-fighting on Tuesday, and Dedicoat took to both with a ready will.  He soon ran away and his adventures landed him in Stafford gaol for a month, tried as a runaway apprentice.  It was the first of many spells within prison walls.

Back in Darlaston, he was turned over with his indentures to Tom Butler, another gunsmith and publican.  With Tom Butler, things were much the same as they had been with Duffell.  Dedicoat was soon on the run again: Butler’s son was arrested for killing a lad in a boxing match, so Dedicoat, his second, headed south never, as he says,[5] to see Darlaston again for fifty years, when he supposedly returned to England (1882) in a chancery suit.[6]  Further adventures followed which reveal a sensitive, not to say compassionate, side to William’s nature.  A fuller account of his adventures can be found in his memoirs and on the website What the Butler Did.

Soon afterwards, he was apprehended for trying to sell a waistcoat, only to find “to my horror that I was offering a stolen waistcoat to the constable of the place”.  The times were violent: Derecourt lived in the midst of murder and chicanery, cholera and wife-selling,[7] false pretences and deceit.  No wonder he gave himself the name of William Jones when he was arrested and removed to Stafford to await trial at the next Quarter Sessions.  The witnesses took their oath before John Clare, Clerk, in the County of Stafford, 7 May 1839.  William Savage claimed that “on Wednesday afternoon last I heard that my house had been robbed.  I went home and discovered that I had lost a Waistcoat, Two Handkerchiefs and other articles from the house.”  Derecourt made no great effort to get off, considering that life would not be too bad in the colonies where “by patience, submission and industry I might one day become a respectable member of society, even a man of ample means”.  Alas, William Dedicoat, now known as William Jones, though he made a lot of money, never quite achieved respectability until towards the end of his 78 years.  Given the destitute condition of his wife in 1859 and the years following, we must wonder what he did with the money he made from gold.

For his pains he was sentenced to “ten years’ transportation beyond the seas”, and was sent to the hulks at Woolwich, quarters being assigned to him aboard the Justitia.  The prisoners were scrubbed so that they looked like “boiled lobsters”, had their hair clipped “as closely as scissors could go”, and were supplied with “magpie suits”, one side black, the other side yellow. Then the iron links went on, and William Jones (3rd) became Number 5418.[8]

And so William Dedicoat, alias William Jones, said farewell to old England forever, more or less, as he sailed out of Portsmouth on the Asia for Van Diemen’s Land, via Teneriffe, 17 April 1840, six weeks short of his twenty-first birthday.  His Convict Record Sheet gives these details: “JONES, William (3rd), tried at Stafford Quarter Sessions, 2 July 1839, and sentenced for ten years for housebreaking (stated this offence).  Gaol report: not known (to be) disorderly.  Hulk report: good.  Surgeon’s report: general conduct – indifferent.  Protestant.  Can read only.  Trade: boatman.  Height: 5ft 8 ins.  Age: 18.[9]  Complexion: fresh.”

The convict records from Port Arthur, Van Diemen’s Land (Tasmania) are very detailed and also very difficult to read from photocopy.  Australian novelist Christopher Koch has studied these records and made a comparison of the recorded facts of Dedicoat’s behaviour in Van Diemen’s Land from his arrival per Asia 5th, 6 August 1840, till his release on Ticket of Leave 23 May 1848, with the version Dedicoat gives in Old Convict Days.  Koch wrote to the editor of The Observer in Sydney, 18 August 1960, saying that he had studied Dedicoat’s convict records and crossed-checked them with Derecourt’s[10] memoirs.  His conclusion is that the convict record “corresponds closely to the book’s account but there are intriguing departures”, and adds that “the accuracy of the Conduct Records cannot be over-stated: offences, particularly if they are not there, did not happen”.  The reader can discover further details of Dedicoat’s Port Arthur sojourn from his personal memoirs.

He received his Ticket of Leave 23 May 1848 and moved immediately to Launceston and more adventures.  After a spell there, he sailed from Tasmania to Port Adelaide where he became a mailman on the Mount Gambier mail run.  This was an exciting period of battles, willing lubras (he is nothing if not discreet), a state funeral, murder, trials and bushfires.[11]  His account of his escape from the bushfire is such a wonderful piece of imaginative re-creation that it deserves to be read in full.[12]

And so, via Geelong and Melbourne, William at last arrived in Sydney.  Even his journey to Sydney from Melbourne provided a lucky break.  He travelled per Favourite[13] and met a young man, Henry Mahony, whose story gave him an entrée into the Crispin Arms Inn, Clarence Street, and a meeting with his future wife.  He spun the young man’s mother an incredible tale which she accepted and the upshot was a touching reunion of mother and son, a splendid meal and love at first sight.  The story of Dedicoat’s wooing and marriage of Mary Kirwin is told later in this account.  Suffice it to say here that he changed his name to Bill Day and married the Catholic girl at St Philip’s Anglican Church, Church Hill, 6 April 1852, and eventually took up residence in Sofala, near Bathurst, on the gold diggings.

Garry Tipping has gone to some trouble to ascertain more accurately the dates of William’s early adventures in Sydney.  Having researched the details of the ship Favourite, Tipping suggests the most likely time of Dedicoat’s arrival in Sydney as 15 August 1851.  Dedicoat moved to Sofala soon afterwards: the flood at Little Oakey Creek referred to in Dedicoat’s memoirs[14] occurred, according to Tipping’s researches, 18 December 1851; and Tipping points out that a man named Smith whom Dedicoat says he buried,[15] died 12 January 1852.  Dedicoat’s story that he returned to marry Mary Kirwin one month after he first saw her rather compresses the actual time.  At best it was six or eight months later, since the wedding certainly took place 6 April 1852.

Café Sofala 1997

Café Sofala 1997

William was a man of many trades.  In Sofala he was a gold miner, and being a hard worker he was commensurately rewarded.  He also took up his old trade as gunsmith during these years.  Gun-smithing here implies mending guns and pistols rather than making them: he had been apprenticed to a gun-lock filer rather than a gun-maker.  Dedicoat – now known as Bill Day – also worked as a blacksmith, carpenter, coffin-maker and undertaker, on the site now occupied by the Cafe Sofala.  In a letter of 1891[16] he was referred to as a hatter – yet another occupation, I thought, until I discovered that “hatter” was a colloquialism for a bush-worker who lived and worked alone.  Day was also described on his eldest daughter’s birth certificate as a tinsmith, further suggestion that he was prepared to turn his hand to anything.

In the next few years several children were born, about whom he was quite vague in his memoirs; in fact he never mentioned them or his wife by name and never made it clear that there were four children, all girls, nor when they were born.  Nor does he ever refer to a fifth child, a son, born in 1859, of whom more later.

So we turn to his bushranging episode, but not before questioning why an apparently successful gold miner with a wife and four young daughters should risk all by turning to bushranging.  To that question there can, unfortunately, be no satisfactory or certain answer.

William tells the story quite vividly in his memoirs and emerges from it as a hero let down by his supposed mate, Robert Wilson.  The bushranging episode was, put simply, a plan to hold up the Bathurst Mail on its way up Mount Victoria, near Hartley, 24 June 1859.  Day and Wilson held up the coach with a double-barrelled gun and a large horse pistol.  One of the passengers was the Honourable L. Holyoake Bayley, Attorney-General for the Colony.  The two bandits stayed overnight at an inn and next day Wilson and Day were arrested by the police, led by the Superintendent of the Western Mounted Patrol, the “gallant” Captain Edward Montague Battye, who had been alerted by the publican, himself an ex-policeman.  Day had been betrayed in an obviously planned move by Wilson.  Wilson turned Queen’s evidence, leading Battye to the hidden plunder consisting of some £4,800.  Wilson later disappeared and was never heard of again, much to the chagrin of the authorities, including the Chief Justice of the Colony, Alfred Stephen.

Battye accuses Day in several letters of being the man who “robbed the Mudgee Mail on two occasions” and says “I believe him to have been concerned in . . . the highway robbery of W. Phillips in 1855 if not in the murder of Trooper Codrington on Wyagdon Hill”.  But Day was never officially accused, so the matter was not brought to court.  Day himself was horrified at the accusation and set out to establish his alibi.  This matter was never pursued.[17]

After a preliminary hearing at Hartley, Day was “committed to take his trial at the first sitting of the Circuit Court to be holden [sic] at Bathurst on the nineteenth of September”.  Presiding Judge Dickinson’s notebooks are in the NSW State Archives (they are difficult to decipher) and record a summary of the proceedings of 19 September 1859, though he did not record Day’s defence which was conducted by Day himself.  Day said: “I was then called on for my defence, but having no witnesses I produced certificates of character from the highest and most influential men on the western goldfields, including the Commissioner and JPs.  I addressed the jury for about an hour and a half.”  The Bathurst Free Press of 24 September 1859 tells it somewhat differently: “The prisoner when called on for his defence, made a long vague statement with a view to throw the whole blame upon Wilson”.  The judge having summed up, the jury retired for a few minutes and returned a verdict of guilty.  “The prisoner handed several certificates of character to the Judge, two of which were read by the Jury, but as no person in the court could prove the signatures of the others they were rejected”, says The Bathurst Free Press.

At this stage Day pleaded for mercy because his wife, who was in court, had four children and “was again near her confinement.”[18]

He was sentenced to seven years’ hard labour on the roads or other public works of the colony, and having been sent to Darlinghurst Gaol, finally arrived on Cockatoo Island.

Cockatoo Island Convict Records describe great-great grandfather Day (Dedicoat) thus: William Day (arrived in Sydney) per Favourite.  Tried: Bathurst Circuit Court, 21 September 1859.  Sentence: 7 years to the Roads or Public Works.  Offence: Mail Robbery.  Age: 35.  Native Place: Staffordshire.  Religion: Roman Catholic.  Trade: Gunsmith and Blacksmith.  Complexion: Dark Ruddy.  Colour of Hair: Brown.  Eyes: Grey.  Height: 6ft 0 ins.  Remarks: Arms hairy.[19]

There were, as one might have come to expect, other escapades while Day was incarcerated on Cockatoo Island.  The official records read: 12th Oct. 1859: Received from Darlinghurst Gaol.  2nd Jan 1861: Discharged to Darlinghurst Gaol to take his trial[20] for manslaughter committed on the person of Jas Heals on 20th December 1860.[21]  lst Feb. 1861: Received from Darlinghurst Gaol.  17th Oct. 1861: Answer to petition “from the report of the state of his health the Board suggest that he may be a fit object to be invalided to Berrima Gaol”. – No. 74 this date.[22]  lst April 1864: Fighting on the works, Admonished and discharged.  19th Sept.1864: Petition refused – C.S. No. 57 dated this day.  10th Oct. 1865: Residue of sentence to be remitted on 21st Dec. next – No. 62 this date.  21st Dec. 1865: Discharged free.

One of the more intriguing episodes that occurred during Day’s time on Cockatoo involved the supposed writing of a letter to his wife.  He tells the story in his memoirs, Old Convict Days.[23]  The notorious bushranger Frank Gardiner recommended that Day send a petition requesting partial remission of his sentence.  Day doubted that such a letter would leave the island.  Gardiner was due for release soon and Day concocted a plan to have the letter written on Gardiner’s back.  A favourite cat provided some hair from its tail which was used to create a paint brush.  Day got hold of some red lead, started a nose bleed, and mixed a paint.  The draftsman in the shop wrote a letter on Gardiner’s back, stating the grounds of Day’s petition.  It seems that Gardiner “faithfully delivered my message, as I had a letter from my wife telling me that Gardiner had given her all the particulars, which should be attended to.”[24]

Mary Day may have received some such letter.  What is certain is that she wrote in 1864 to the Governor seeking remission of her husband’s sentence.  The NSW State Archives include Mary Day’s petition, a reply by the Chief Justice, Alfred Stephen, a further petition from William Day and a recommendation for release signed by W. Mann, which is acceded to 10 October 1865 by the Governor, Sir John Young.

In May 1864 a petition was sent to the Governor praying remission of William Day’s  sentence: “This petition . . . humbly shewith [showeth] that your petitioner’s husband was tried at Bathurst . . .”, received an injury going to the rescue of a fellow convict, came to the assistance of several warders under attack, that he was in danger of being set upon by other prisoners, and finally “that your petitioner having four small children depending on her for support and that her husband has never before been convicted of any crime[25] she prays your Excellency will be pleased in your great mercy to grant your petitioner’s husband the remission of the remaining portion of his sentence or whatever portion your excellency may think fit in your great mercy to grant.  I am now in great need of protection for myself and children, as my health lately has been on the decline and your petitioner will in duty bound ever pray.”  It concludes with: “Mary Day, Seymour Street, Bathurst.”

It appears that there are now only four children.  Mary Ann, Matilda, Julia and Elizabeth were, as we have seen, put into the Catholic Orphanage at Parramatta in 1859 or early 1860, and Richard was born November 1859.  Given the names of the four children on Dedicoat’s 1897 death certificate (Mary Anne 43, Julia 40, Matilda 39 and Richard 30),[26] it must be Betsy who has died.  From information received,[27] Betsy almost certainly died at the Parramatta Catholic Orphanage for Girls, 2 December 1862.  And we must ask: does Mary know and conceal the fact of Day’s imprisonment in Tasmania or is she ignorant of it?

The details of this period of Mary Day’s life are obscure.  According to her petition she was living in Bathurst during the 1860s.  Stories within the family say that the children were in an orphanage for some time, and the letter from the Vicar General’s Office, St Mary’s Cathedral, Sydney, 28 November 1859, proves this was so.  Day, in his memoirs, referred to “the kind friend” who was looking after his children while he was on Cockatoo Island.  This seems like just another of Dedicoat’s justifications or what looks like his regular way of coping with the realities of his life, so often seen in his memoirs.

Mary Day’s petition of May 1864 is sent to the Superintendent of Cockatoo Island, 28 May 1864, and to the Chief Justice, l June 1864.  Superintendent G.K. Mann summarises the details from Day’s Record Sheet but makes no recommendation.  The Chief Justice replies 2nd September 1864: “It has been impossible for me without neglecting more pressing duties, to report on the petition of William Day . . . Sir John Dickinson’s notes in the case are voluminous and I have had great difficulty in deciphering them”.[28]  He then talks about the seriousness of the crime and he concludes: “There are strong circumstances of good conduct and something more, since his conviction, in favour of the extension of indulgence to the prisoner.  He is, however, a bushranger, and two years only of his sentence remain unexpired.  The balance on these conflicting considerations I must submit to the decision of His Excellency.  It is not altogether within my province”.  Signed by Alfred Stephen.

A year later Day himself petitioned the Governor, Sir John Young still, showing that “the petitioner has now served with good conduct and industry a period of six years and humbly prayeth that Your Excellency will take his case into merciful consideration and be graciously pleased to grant him such remission of the residue of his unexpired sentence as Your Excellency may seem meet”.  William Day signs with his mark.  Another account of his police history is appended and is marked with a recommendation for a remission of the rest of his sentence, signed by G.K. Mann, the Superintendent of Cockatoo Island.

Day’s letter has written across it “His Excellency [A — ] – 7th Oct/65 gives authority for [the release of] William Day on 21st Dec. next.  J.Y.  l0th Oct.  Superintendent [J Y — Police] 10th Oct. 1865”.[29]

And so Day was released indeed, three days before Christmas as he says, but in 1865, not 1863.[30]

He returned to Sofala and took up his old calling as gunsmith, having borrowed £20 from the resident Magistrate, Joseph Walford JP, to do so.  It was a “Johnny-All-Sort” kind of establishment on Church Hill with its sign proclaiming “Carpenter and Blacksmith Shop –Guns and Pistols Repaired Here.”  He is to be found in the old Directories at Denison Street, Sofala from 1866 to 1894.  He “took a spare block of land[31] between the Hospital and the Parsonage at Sofala and built a house”.[32]  He is referred to in the Sofala District and Electoral Rolls for 1869–70 and in the Sofala Post Office Rolls 1878 and 1879.  On 9 February 1876 his name appears (as William Dericott) among a list of signatures on an “Application for the establishment of the Public School at Sofala.”  It may well be his own signature, a very neat, compact, legible signature – though his 1895 petition was signed with his mark.

An account of Dedicoat’s time in Sofala[33] tells that he was responsible for building sections of the telegraph line from Sofala to Bathurst; being “as strong as an ox”, he was able to handle the telegraph poles without any assistance.  He built a house, “having a frontage of 35 feet to the Sofala and Bathurst Road”, near the Showground; and there he lived “with his daughter, and prospected among the dry gullies, living to a grand old age into the present [i.e. 20th] century.”  Brian Hodge, Frontiers of Gold, 1979, quotes from a manuscript by Mark Hammond, about 1901, saying he saw a man identified as Bill Day on Racecourse Hill “apparently as happy as a king, puffing his pipe, 40 years since gaining his liberty”.  This is only partly true, given that Day/Dedicoat died in 1897.

At some stage around 1882 Day returned to England.  He was involved in a Chancery suit, the details of which I know nothing: they are not given in his book and I have found find no evidence of this visit.  H.H. Neary, in his reminiscences Ghosts of the Goldfields. Pioneer Diggers and Settlers on the Turon 1940, says that Day would not return to England “which he cursed repeatedly for the ruin of his life in deporting him as a convict in his early manhood”; instead he sent “his niece (or a lady that claimed to be his niece) home to England to pick up the fortune that was left him – saying he would never return to the country that had wronged him”.  Neary’s account differs markedly from Day’s own memoirs: no such bitterness towards England occurs in them.

I am inclined to believe Day did return because he refers in his memoirs to being on the road between Shirley (some three miles due east of King’s Norton) and Birmingham.[34]  He probably visited his family at this time.  He was reconciled to his family many years earlier, before the Cockatoo Island period, perhaps 1856 or 1857, and certainly by the last years of his life he had established some correspondence with his family, “of which he is now by no means reckoned the black sheep”.[35]  “Before leaving the Turon, I bethought me I had never written to any of my family in the old country, and as I had a tolerable competence I would send them something as a reminder of their long-lost relative.  Accordingly I made up and sent to each of my six brothers and sisters about 3oz. of gold and 50 pound worth to my mother, father being long dead.”[36]

One of the last acts of this man of many stories was to dictate his memoirs for publication in the Sydney newspaper, The Sydney Evening News.  That they were dictated is attested to in a letter in the Mitchell Library, 27 August 1940, from the Mitchell Librarian.  The series was entitled Old Convict Times to Gold Digging Days.  Complete History of Australian Life for Fifty Years.  It ran from Saturday 11 July 1891 until 5 September 1891.  At the bottom of the first instalment the following note appears: “The history of William Derricourt, or Day, once of Darlaston, England, now of Sofala, NSW.”

By all accounts, Derecourt settled to sober ways and respectable old age until he declined somewhat, sought admission to, and died in, Bathurst Hospital, 20 April 1897 under the name Dedicoat, thus returning to the name appearing on his parents’ wedding certificate.

According to Pearce and Tipping, he was buried in a grave now unmarked in the present cemetery near his home beside his long-time friend, Bill Musgrave, having painted his own wooden tombstone with the inscription

I lie on your right hand

When the roses grow up

They will shade you and me

When decayed and forgot

God will not forget me

Born 5 June 1819 – WD[37]

So now that we have the story of William Dedicoat, or William Day, we must turn to that of Mary Kirwin, the mother of Dedicoat’s five children.

Mary Kirwin was fifteen years of age when she arrived, in the company of 243 orphan females and other immigrants, in Sydney, 29 June 1850, on the ship Maria.  She had been a farm servant in County Carlow, Ireland, and her parents, both deceased, were named Timothy and Martha.  Mary was C of R, i.e. Church of Rome, or Roman Catholic.  She could neither read nor write; her health was good and no remarks were recorded for her.  Mary Kirwin was probably born about 1835.

By March 1852 she was employed by Bartholomew and Ann Mahoney at the Crispin Arms, 112 Clarence Street Sydney, a “house of call for sailors and soldiers, and from first appearances rather a rough shop, although the landlady seemed a jovial hearty woman”.  Dedicoat calls her Mrs Marley in his memoirs, but Mary Kirwin’s marriage certificate and a directory of the time give her name as Mahony.

William Dedicoat describes Mary Kirwin (whom he never names) as a “good-looking” girl.  Having eyed the girl during the meal, he said to his companion, Henry Mahony: “That girl shall be my wife some day soon.  You keep an eye on her as I start for the diggings tomorrow morning, and this day month I shall be down again and marry her”.  She was “about sixteen years old”, and all of this was said “without [my] having spoken to her”.[38]  It was more like six or eight months later that he returned, as we have seen, and the wedding took place 6 April 1852.

Dedicoat returned to Sydney from the Turon, walking to Penrith, taking a coach to Sydney and staying for the rest of the day at the Dog and Duck in the Haymarket.  He proceeded up Brickfield Hill to King Street where at a confectioner’s shop he had a wedding cake made, “and a good one for three pounds”.  Thursday, 3 April 1852 he made his way to the Crispin Arms, “to my intended to whom be it remembered I had not yet spoken a dozen words”.

He entered “to their surprise” and in the presence of the girl’s mistress he said “Are you quite ready?”  “Without further hum or hah, she said Yes”.  Though Mary was “content and agreeable” to what he wanted, she wished to know about his religion, as she was a Catholic.  He said, “You can be married in any church you like.  I’m sort of Protestant, or in truth a Ranter, but I’m not particular, and if we get married and have any family the boys shall be Protestants and you can bring the girls up in your own persuasion.”

They went next day to St Mary’s Catholic Cathedral, but it being Lent the priest would not allow them to get married because “the rules of the church forbade it”.  Nothing daunted, they went on Saturday to Dean Cowper, a Church of England parson, who directed them to St Philip’s, Church Hill.  There were the usual questions and the requirement that “she must have the consent of her parents.”  “I told him they were in Ireland and how could I get their consent”.  There were further problems: “You’ll have to be called three times in church, and we can only call twice in one day.”  William was not greatly bothered by rules: “Let us be called twice and I will give you five pounds for a licence.”[39]

And so the “next evening, in the company of Mr and Mrs Marley, the master and mistress of the girl, I went to the church and after the service the ceremony was performed and we returned home to the Crispin Arms.”  That was Sunday 6 April 1852.  Dean William Cowper, Church of England Chaplain, in the presence of “Batw [Bartholomew] Mahony and Ann Mahony her x mark”, at St Philip’s, Sydney, married William Day, bachelor, and Mary Kirwin, spinster, both “of this parish”.  Mary Kirwin had no idea what she had let herself in for: she is about 17; he is about 33.

Day was confident of himself, having made preparations for marriage before he got Mary Kirwin’s consent.  He said he was “determined to have a wife and at first sight took fancy to this one”.  Had he been refused he would have gone to the Registry Office and “the girls being assembled [I] would have declared myself in want of a wife, showing plenty of gold and notes”.  He never dreamt of failure; besides, he says, being “quite respectably togged out in my newly-purchased sailor’s garb and with my expectations did [you] think for a moment I would be long without a wife?”[40]

Day went off to Sofala a few days later and made arrangements for Mary Kirwin to join him after a month or so.

The marriage could not have been an easy one for the 17 year old Mary Kirwin.  She gets scant mention in the book, and it is hard to know what kind of woman she was, since all the information is told from Day’s point of view.  My conjecture is that she started off as a good mother, but conditions on the goldfields, her friendship with Wilson’s wife[41] and maybe her treatment by Day, turned her to drink and its inevitable consequences.

On one occasion Mary complained to him: “It does not look well of you working in the company of an unmarried girl”, which he had been; so he desisted.  On another occasion he was digging underground and his wife came to the top of the shaft and called him.  When he came up and asked what she wanted, she “seemed like one bewildered, and stammering and stuttering had only time to say ‘I – ’ when the whole ground under which I had been working sank bodily down, burying tools and everything I had below under hundreds of tons of dirt”.  When he asked Mary why she had called, she said she had “no particular object in going to the shaft and she knew not what possessed her to call me.”

From independent records we have details of his children’s births and their names, which he never mentions.  Their first daughter, Mary Ann, was born 10 April 1853 and was christened 1 May 1853 by William J.K. Piddington, a Wesleyan minister on the Bathurst Circuit.  William’s profession is given as tinsmith, one of his many professions.  Mary Ann was later to marry, as Mary Ann Derecourt, John Seech.[42]

Their second daughter, Matilda or Mathilde (according to different certificates) was born 4 August 1854. She was christened Roman Catholic by Fr Kums in the parish of Sofala.[43]  Her father’s occupation was given as digger.  She eventually married, as Matilda Derecourt, James Cross.

Day was a successful digger, making at this time thirty or forty pounds per night.  “Upon its being known that I was lucky”, he says, “some of my gossiping neighbours, getting on the vain side of my wife, persuaded her to employ a girl to help look after the two children and assist in the house affairs”.  He tried to dissuade her but, “the more I argued and remonstrated, the more bent she became on accomplishing her desire”.

One can hardly blame the lass, mother of two children at the age of nineteen, living in the rough conditions of the gold fields.  She was uneducated and not greatly experienced, whereas husband William had learnt to fend for himself at a very early age, having wandered around the Birmingham area for some years, in and out of jobs and scrapes, until he was eventually transported for stealing a waistcoat.  Ten years in Van Diemen’s Land, a variety of experiences in the Adelaide area, plus a worldly wisdom, a physical strength of some note and an ability to handle men and situations to his advantage, all those things must have made him a formidable husband and more than a handful for Mary Kirwin.

Mary, nonetheless, got her servant girl and William got a lesson on the dangers of boasting.  He brought the servant back from Sydney by several stages and whiled away the time by a “good deal of blowing and gassing”.  Unfortunately “my wife wormed out of her quite innocently, all particulars of my proceedings in Sydney, and getting on the soft side of her, heard of all my boastings in the coach on our passage over the Blue Mountains”.  The results were inevitable: William, “merry as a cricket”, was in the midst of displaying to his wife a real “darling of a two pound bonnet”, when up she sprang “with the fury of a tiger cat, snatched the millinery from my hands, gathered up all the other presents and toys without a word and bundled them into the flames of the hearth.”  There was more, but suffice it to say that he soon got the message and he says “foolish boasting was ever to prove a thorn in my side”.[44]

There were other children.

Julia, my great-grandmother, was born at Sofala 24 November 1855 and at her baptism, 24 January 1856, her name was recorded as Julia Dee.[45]  Given this confusion, I had originally relied on her death certificate and her brother Richard’s birth certificate for the date of her birth.  She was to marry, also as Derecourt, Malcolm McLean.

Elizabeth, or Betsy, was born 3rd December 1857 at Ironbarks.  “William Day, 40, gunsmith, of Birmingham, and Mary Curwin, 34, of Dublin.  Previous issue: 4 children.  Informant: William Day, father, Ironbarks”.  This certificate well illustrates the unreliability of the certificates associated with Day.  In 1857 he was 38, Mary was 22, and there were only three other children: he seems to have included Betsy among the “previous issue”.  Betsy almost certainly died at the Parramatta Catholic Orphanage for Girls, 2 December 1862, her name noted as Eliza Day.[46]

At this time, between 1857 and 1859, Mary Kirwin must have turned to drink.  How serious the matter was is hard to gauge.  Day introduced his former manager on the Turon, one Robert Wilson, who married a wife considerably younger than himself and could not control her.  It appears she and Mary Kirwin took to drinking together.  “After a time”, says Day, “I found my wife had been induced to join her in her cups; indeed on one occasion I found the two dancing on the floor Jack the Lad, to their own music and no dinner cooked.  Before the advent of Wilson’s wife my old woman was noted as a hard working woman, attentive to her household duties, and a kind and affectionate mother; but now these orgies were of a daily occurrence and how to mend matters puzzled me.  I got maddened to such a pitch at their increasing drunken fits that I was almost tempted to bundle both of them down a hole”.[47]

His inexplicable response to this situation was to go along with Wilson’s plan to hold up the Bathurst Mail, which they did 24 June 1859.

He ended up, as we have seen, in the Bathurst Court, tried and convicted by Judge John Dickinson, and sentenced to seven years’ hard labour, in spite of the fact that “he had a wife [she was present in court] and four children and his wife was again near her confinement.[48]

Mary was delivered of her fifth child and first boy, Richard, 4 November 1859.  “Father: William Day, confine(d) at Cockatoo, 40 England. Mother: Mary Kirwin, 24, Dublin, Ireland. now of Ranken Street, Bathurst.  Married April 1851, Sydney NSW, four children, Mary Ann 6, Matilda 5, Julia 4, Elizabeth 2, none dead”.  And although Mary could sign only with x her mark, she seems to have been a more careful informant than husband William.

What happened to Mary Kirwin and her five children while William was confined at Cockatoo?  References are scanty.  Apart from the fact that she had several addresses in Bathurst – Ranken Street and Seymour Street – nothing is certain.  In his book, Day writes “After dinner [early during his confinement on Cockatoo Island] I got my noble friend to write a letter to the kind friend who had taken charge of my children in my trouble, receiving in due time a favourable and most consolatory letter”.[49]  Now we know that by 28 November 1859 the four girls had been sent to the Very Reverend Dean Grant for transfer to the Catholic Orphan School at Parramatta.  This action was to cost Mary the affection of her children – Julia’s at least, for hers is the only story I have heard.

Nothing more is mentioned of his wife in the book.  What happened to Mary Kirwin?  I do not know.

What happened to the children in the Orphan School, when they left it, and what happened to them between leaving the Orphanage and their marriages, or in the case of Betsy, her death, are not easy questions to answer.

Roman Catholic Orphan School c.1864

Roman Catholic Orphan School c.1864

A little history as background to the Parramatta Orphanage.  In 1836 a government-funded Roman Catholic Orphan School opened at Waverley House.  It moved to permanent premises at Parramatta in 1844.  Salaried staff ran the school, with some involvement from the Sisters of Charity, until 1859 when the Good Samaritan Sisters[50] took over its management.  The Catholic Orphanage closed in 1886.  The Archivist of the Good Samaritan Sisters informed me that there are no records from 1859 till 1886; however, I believe the three Sisters who began work at the orphanage in 1859 were Sisters Magdalene, Gertrude and Agnes.

A Report from the Commission Appointed to Inquire into the State of Education throughout the Colony [of NSW], respecting the Orphan Schools at Parramatta, from the Sydney Morning Herald Monday 19 November 1855[51] gives us some insight into the conditions that prevailed in the Catholic Orphan School at Parramatta just before the Day girls arrived.  The Report makes upsetting reading, so one can only imagine what conditions were like for the children.  There is a glimmer of hope that, with the arrival of the Sisters, conditions improved and that the Day four girls aged six, five, four and – it is shocking to realise – two, were reasonably well treated, though the reality is that it is difficult for any institution to make significant changes to the prevailing culture in a short time.

Catholic Orphanage with Sisters c.1860 (maybe the day girls are in this photo)

Catholic Orphanage with Sisters c.1860 (maybe the day girls are in this photo)

“The Roman Catholic Orphan School consists of two distinct parts – a stone building, erected for the purpose, but ill adapted, and a brick building, recently added, which is still less suitable.  The ground attached to the institution is too limited in extent.

“The diet of the children appeared to us to be sufficient in quantity, but inferior in quality.  It seems to us a defect that the animal food is invariably boiled; the children never taste baked or roasted meat.  The kitchen is a dark and dirty apartment, unsupplied with the means of baking or roasting for the number of inmates.  [The kitchen] is so far from the dining-room that the food is frequently cold before it can be eaten.

“The dining-room is too small, unventilated, and ill-supplied with furniture; owing to the want of seats the children are obliged to stand at their meals.  Food is taken with the fingers, no implement being given to the children but spoons, although a large majority are old enough to use a knife and fork with safety and propriety.  [Think of the two year old Betsy.] It is scarcely necessary to observe, that the want of seats, of tablecloths, and knives and forks, tends greatly, not only to encourage habits of grossness, in taking food, but also to prevent the acquisition of civilised manners.  Perfect silence should be maintained at meals; inasmuch as, if allowed to talk, the great number would soon render hearing impossible.

“In many particulars the dress of the children is peculiar and unbecoming, without any extra advantages in the way of cheapness or convenience.  Very few wear shoes and stockings, and none have clothes which are distinctively their own.  The children sleep in the under-garments worn by day, which are only changed once a week; they should be changed oftener, or it would be better to supply them with night clothes.

“Some portions of the house seemed dirty, especially the windows; the female servants were slatternly in their dress, and uncleanly in their persons; in both respects showing a very bad example to the children.  The water-closets are close to the kitchen, where the effluvium can be distinctly perceived, even in cold weather.  They are too small, too much exposed; and are in a filthy condition.  From our experience this is the cause of much indecency, if not immorality.

“The dormitories are very badly ventilated, and the old buildings in particular, infested with bugs; but a great improvement has taken place since our visit in May last; although coupled with beds, the accommodation is so insufficient, that in many instances two children are obliged to sleep together.  The mattresses are made of straw, which is changed as occasion requires.  Clean bed linen is distributed once a fortnight.

“The children are locked in the bedrooms, a very undesirable procedure, as there is no possible means of escape in case of fire – should the keys be mislaid, or the teachers in their alarm neglect to open the doors.  Care should be taken to preserve order and quietness in going to bed, while in the rooms, and on rising in the morning.  Private prayer should be encouraged, and the teacher should give instruction to the children on this subject.[52]

“There are three teachers who have the charge of the boys, girls, and infant schools respectively.  In addition to their proper duties as teachers, they are required to exercise surveillance over the children from the time of rising till they retire to rest … are answerable for their good conduct in the bedrooms … attending to the cleanliness and neatness of the children – of accompanying them to their meals, of watching them in the play-ground, and performing many offices of a menial kind.  The duty of instructing the children, together with occasional supervision, is sufficient employment for a teacher.  Other persons should take charge of them out of school hours.

“The Girls’ Schoolroom is ill adapted to the purpose, though tolerably well furnished.  Maps have been supplied since the appointment of the present matron.  The Infants’ School is destitute of gallery pictures, and every other appliance necessary for a school of the kind.  The children are extremely ignorant, and their minds entirely uncultivated.  [Think again of the two year old Betsy.]  No progress has been made in any branch of instruction.  Until the present matron took charge geography and grammar, and even arithmetic and writing were not taught.  They have the catechism very imperfectly, and understand as little of it as any children we have met with.

“It is much to be regretted that there are no means of teaching handicrafts.  Few of the children that we saw appear to possess constitutions sufficiently strong to enable them to endure the severe toil of a day-labourer.  If taught some lighter employment, such as gardening, they would have a much greater chance of success.  In the first place, the establishment would derive much pecuniary benefit from the cultivation of a garden.  The children employed in it would be learning a useful and healthy occupation, while at the same time they imbibed a love for the most innocent and delightful of recreations.

“Parents or friends, who visit the children, are permitted to see them in a part of the building separate from the rest.  [Did Mary Day ever visit the children?]  The children, unless sent specially upon a message, are, very properly, prevented from leaving the establishment: because the class of people with whom they would in all probability mix – outside the walls – would be rather calculated to injure than improve their morals.  But, as this seclusion tends to increase the difficulty of their position after leaving the protection of the school, it is necessary to provide some means of making them acquainted with the world in which they will have to live and labour.  To this end we recommend that, on certain days of the week, the children should be taken out to walk by the teachers.  These walks, together with their visits to church, would have the effect of familiarising them with the realities they will have to encounter in after life, while they would also strengthen and develop their muscular powers.

“In wet weather, the children play in the schoolrooms – a most objectionable course.  There should be a day room in which they could sit and read, or amuse themselves during the prevalence of unfavourable weather.  The day room should be furnished with seats and benches, a small library, pictures, and other objects of interest.  Every possible means ought to be adopted for expanding their minds and giving them a knowledge of the varied productions of the earth; especially as they are precluded from making the same observations that children more favoured by circumstances are enabled to make every day.”

One can only imagine the impact that some four or five years under such conditions had on these four girls.  Three of them survived and went on to marry, have families and many descendants; one died at probably five years of age.  Of the child Richard’s history I know nothing.  However, he was alive when his father died in 1897, according to William Dedicoat’s death certificate, so he lived to adulthood, and may also have married, produced a family and had many descendants.  At present I do not know.

We do know something of the three girls who survived – Mary Ann, Matilda and Julia.

While in the final period of his life Dedicoat makes no mention of his wife, he does refer a number of times to his daughter “living at Mr Greninger’s near Braidwood”.  And, as mentioned, Pearce and Tipping say that he built a house, “having a frontage of 35 feet to the Sofala and Bathurst Road”, near the Showground; and there he lived “with his daughter, and prospected among the dry gullies, living to a grand old age into the present century.”  A letter from the Braidwood Historical Society informs us: “There was a family by the name of Grenenger [sic] here in the 1860s.  Wenzil and James or John were born in Germany, named Gruinenger.  Bushrangers, the Clarke brothers, were very active in this district about that time, also Frank Gardiner and Starlight briefly.”[53]

This daughter was involved in several interesting episodes at the time: being captured by the Clark gang, meeting a “very tall man, seemingly covered with a coat of hair and looking as frightened of me as I was of him” – she described this creature as a “Yahoo”.[54]  It is most likely that it was Mary Ann who was looking after her father as referred to above.  We may never know the details of her story: born at Sofala, attending school there, transferred to the Orphanage at Parramatta, living with the Grenengers (possibly as a servant girl), her encounters with the Clark gang, meeting the “Yahoo”, probably travelling back and forth to her father in Sofala and looking after him till his death 20 April 1897, marrying, at the age of 25 years and nine months, John Seech, a Sofala man, in Bathurst 4 January 1879.  She had already given birth to a daughter, Florence, in 1870; the child died, aged two, in 1871.  She was buried in Sofala.  Miss Carol Churches, the archivist of the Anglican Cathedral in Bathurst, provided the information “– Derecourt, October 1871” from the Sofala Burial register, no Christian name, no specific date, no age.  Ken Taylor pointed out that what I thought may have been Mary (Kirwin) Day’s burial was in fact that of Mary Ann’s daughter Florence Derecourt, who lived less than two years.  Rita Birrell, née Seech, a granddaughter of John and Mary Ann Seech, says that Mary Ann used the Dericot form of the name: it appears in that form on the marriage certificate of her son, William John.

Nona Ruston told several stories of her grandmother, Mary Anne Seech, a formidable old lady who ruled the roost at her house: she once reprimanded one of the boys, who took no notice of her, so she promptly threw a fork at him and hit him in the eye!  Mary Anne recalled occasionally having to take food up the hill at Sofala to various bushrangers, of being in a stagecoach on one occasion, and of being held up by bushrangers.  When she blurted out at one of the bandits “I know you”, someone, according to Nona Ruston – her mother?, her father?, a Sofala local? – promptly clapped a hand across her mouth.  It also appears that Day would regularly do some horse-shoeing for the bushranger Starlight, an elegant man who would wait around with top hat and cane whilst his horse was being attended to.  He would leave town, and ten minutes later – “you could set your clock by it” – the troopers would ride into town in search of him.  Mary Ann died in 1931 at Annandale NSW aged 79.

Matilda, the second daughter, was apprenticed at the age of thirteen in 1867 to Mrs Connor of Shoalhaven.  We have no information as to when the girls left the Orphan School or what other employment they may have been engaged in; and we do not know how Matilda came to meet and marry James Cross in Sydney.  She was married, 2 March 1874, at the age of 19 years and six months, as Matilda Derecourt, to James Cross, 26, a bachelor and labourer, “both of Sydney”, at Elizabeth Street, Sydney, “according to the rites of the Presbyterian Church, at the home of the Reverend Doctor James Fullerton, Elizabeth Street, Sydney, as was the custom of the time”,[55] in the presence of Julia Derecourt and Peter Moss.  After that, the present author knows nothing of Matilda and James Cross’s story. She died in 1926 aged 72 at Marrickville, NSW.

Julia Dedicoat c.1875

Julia Dedicoat c.1875

Julia Dedicoat, aged 18, married Malcolm McLean, 29th April 1874.  On the wedding certificate her name is given as Derecourt.  Witnesses were Isabella Bell and Daniel McLean, and the ceremony also took place according to the rites of the Presbyterian Church at the home of the Reverend Doctor James Fullerton, Elizabeth Street, Sydney.  Malcolm’s occupation was given as cordial manufacturer, which had been his father’s occupation before him.  It is possible that when Julia left the Orphan School maybe in 1865, aged 10, the year her father was released from Cockatoo Island, she went to work in Surry Hills.  If she were a servant girl in the area, she may have met Malcolm McLean as he delivered cordial to the local houses; she may have even worked in the Fitzroy Street, Surry Hills, cordial factory.  Julia died 8 August, 1941 aged 86 at

Julia (Dedicoat) McLean later in life

Julia (Dedicoat) McLean later in life

Randwick, NSW.

Betsy, we can assume, died in 1862.  Of Richard I currently know nothing.

Mary Day’s death remains a mystery.  Possibilities for Mary Day’s death include “Mary Day, 3 February 1867, buried at Camperdown, born England, fifteen years in NSW”, and “Mary Day died 1890 aged seventy-four, at Camperdown, widow”.

Julia Butler/Blake, my aunt, who was raised by her grandmother Julia McLean, told me, and Nona Ruston, granddaughter of Matilda Seech recounted the same story as told her by my aunt, that on some unspecified occasion Mary Day came to visit her daughter Julia in Sydney.  Julia, who may have been married at the time, would not believe that the woman was her mother, until Mary produced a prayer-book and recited the Ave Maria, which appeared to serve as sufficient proof to Julia.  Sadly, even then Julia refused to have anything to do with the woman because of her perceived abandonment of them as children.  This brief story only adds to the heartbreak of the whole Dedicoat/Day saga.

If this visit took place when Julia was only about ten or twelve, i.e. about 1867, then it is possible that the Mary Day who died of phthisis (a wasting disease, consumption) 3 February 1867 and was buried at Camperdown Cemetery, was her mother. This woman had been in the Colony for 15 years, though the death certificate indicates that she came from England and gives no indication of marriage or children.  If Julia was a married woman when the visit occurred, then the Mary Day buried at Camperdown in 1890 could have been her mother, who being born in 1835, would have been 55.  It is impossible to clarify these details any further.[56]  Whatever the facts, the circumstances of Mary (Kirwin) Day’s life and death are tragic, made all the more so by her rejection by her daughter – we may regret Julia’s choice of action but dare not blame her.

Julia (Dedicoat) McLean and her sister Mary Anne (Dedicoat) Seech c.1918

Julia (Dedicoat) McLean and her sister Mary Anne (Dedicoat) Seech c.1918

Thanks to some family photographs we know that Mary Ann Day/Seech and her younger sister Julia Day/McLean kept some contact.  And I am fortunate that my aunt Julia Butler/Blake gave me several precious family photos ten years before she died.  Had she not done so, these photos would have disappeared.

Mary Ann Day’s husband John Seech had three children from his first marriage: John Oswell, Elizabeth Mary and Richard Edward.  She had a daughter, Florence, born out of wedlock in Sofala in 1870 when Mary Ann was about 17 or 18 years of age.  Florence died in 1871 aged 2 years and was buried in Sofala.  Mary Ann and John Seech had eight children: Robert J., Beatrice Mary, William John, Norman Thomas, Dora Winifred, George Arthur, Malcolm McLean (apparently named after Mary Ann’s sister Julia’s husband) and Oswald Leonard.

Matilda Day and James Cross had nine children.

Julia Day and Malcolm McLean had five children: Lilian, Daniel, Julia, Blanche and Malcolm.  Lilian, Daniel, Julia and Blanche married and had offspring; Malcolm died aged 11 years.  Lilian married William Edward Butler and they had five children: Edward, Julia, Sydney, Malcolm and Percy.  Malcolm Butler was my father.

Back: Malcolm McLean and wife Julia (Dedicoat) McLean. Front: Their daughter Blanche and Eliza (Helyar) Butler (See Alexander Edward Butler chapter). Family Picnic La Perouse September 1900

Back: Malcolm McLean and wife Julia (Dedicoat) McLean.
Front: Their daughter Blanche and Eliza (Helyar) Butler (See Alexander Edward Butler chapter).
Family Picnic La Perouse September 1900

The story of the four Day girls has a profound element of sadness to it.  However, we know that at least three of the children went on to happy marriages and the pleasure of large families, who, in turn, produced hundreds of descendants.  That is of more than some comfort in the whole sorry saga.

Back: Edward Butler, -, his brother Malcolm Butler, - Front: Julia (Dedicoat) McLean (grandmother of Edward and Malcolm) and others. McLean residence 38 Maroubra Bay Road c. 1921

Back: Edward Butler, -, his brother Malcolm Butler, –
Front: Julia (Dedicoat) McLean (grandmother of Edward and Malcolm) and others.
McLean residence 38 Maroubra Bay Road c. 1921










1.  Image on front cover: Julia Dedicoat aged about 18.

2.  I am indebted to Ken Taylor for reading the text, making corrections and suggestions, and allowing me to use several photographs which were not in my collection.

3.  I am especially indebted to Bonney Djuric who invited and inspired me to write the story of the Day girls.  Bonney’s work on the history of the various establishments on the Parramatta site has been of the utmost importance

Ken Taylor and the author are second cousins.  Ken’s mother, Lily, was the daughter of Daniel McLean, second child of Julia and Malcolm McLean, brother of Lilian (Butler), Julia (Donald), Blanch (Hickey) and Malcolm (died young).  Lily (McLean) Taylor, Olga (Donald) Nisbet, and author’s father Malcolm, aunt Julia and uncles Edward, Sidney and Percy Butler were first cousins.

Tony Butler

July 2013

[1] Archivist, St. Mary’s Cathedral, Sydney, 18 December 1989.

[2] His story can be found on the web at What The Butler Did.  (The website requires updating.)

[3] William Derrincourt [Derricourt] Old Convict Days, first published in Sydney Evening News, 11 July 5–September 1891; reprinted as a book edited by Louis Becke in 1916; reproduced by Penguin Colonial Facsimiles editions 1975.

[4] I am indebted to the research which my second cousin Ken Taylor has done over many years.

[5] Old Convict Days Part I Ch. IV.

[6] I cannot find any independent evidence for this.  See comment p. 9.

[7] Old Convict Days Part I, Chs II and III.

[8] Ibid Part I Ch VIII.

[9] Anomalies like this made it difficult to come to definite conclusions about the facts of Dedicoat’s life.

[10] That is, in Old Convict DaysDerecourt is another version of Dedicoat’s name.

[11] Old Convict Days Part IV.

[12] See What the Butler Did or Old Convict Days Part IV Ch. V.

[13] By a curious coincidence, Favourite was the name of the barque built for Henry William Mortimer in Launceston, about 1838.  Mortimer was related to the author on his father’s paternal side.

[14] Old Convict Days, Part V Ch. III.

[15] Ibid Part V Ch. IX.

[16] Letter from J.W. James, Sofala, 24 August1891 published in The Sydney Evening News Saturday 29 August 1891.

[17] For all his adventures, Dedicoat does not appear to be a man for whom violence was the default position.  I believe murder was not in his make-up.  I believe that he was essentially an honest man, prepared to take his punishment.

[18] That information took me by surprise because I knew, from his death certificate, of only four children.  The information ultimately helped me prove that Dedicoat, Derecourt, Day and Jones were one and the same person.

[19] Some of these details differ from what is known from other records.  By 1859 Dedicoat was 40, and had grown 4” since 1839.

[20] Conducted by his old friend Judge Dickinson from Bathurst.

[21] This episode involved a spear throwing which ended in the death of James Heal who, before he died, exonerated Day of all responsibility.  “Well, Bill, I can’t blame you; it’s all through my bigheadedness this has happened.  It’s my own fault”.  Old Convict Days Part VII, Ch. VIII.

[22] He was never sent to Berrima.

[23] Old Convict Days Part VII, Ch. VII.

[24] Ibid.

[25] My italics.

[26] These ages are not correct.

[27] Bonney Djuric, email 27 Sept 2008.

[28] So did I.

[29] The script is not easy to interpret.

[30] The date given in Dedicoat’s memoirs – Part VII, Chapter XIV.

[31] Marked as William Dedicoat on a Sofala map of about 1870.

[32] June Durie, People and Places of Sofala.

[33] Joyce Pearce and Garry Tipping, A Walk Through Historic Sofala – In the Shadow of the Old Goldminer, Bill Day.

[34] Old Convict Days Part VIII, Chapter X.

[35] Old Convict Days 1899 edition.  Editor’s comment, p336.

[36] Old Convict Days Part V Ch. XVIII.

[37] This verse also appears at the end of his memoirs in the editor’s note.

[38] Ibid., Part V Ch. II.

[39] Ibid., Part V Ch. VI.

[40] Ibid, Part V Ch. VII.

[41] Ibid, Part VI Ch. I.

[42] The name is variously spelt Seech and Seach.  I have opted for Seech for the sake of consistency.

[43] The records are in the Catholic Church at Kandos.

[44] Ibid., Part V Ch. XII.

[45] This information courtesy of Ken Taylor.

[46] Courtesy Bonney Djuric, email 27 September 2008.

[47] Old Convict Days, Part VI Ch. I.

[48] The Bathurst Free Press and Mining Journal, 24 September 1859.

[49] Old Convict Days Part VII Ch. II.

[50] An Australian Institute of Sisters, founded by Archbishop Polding in 1857.  Until 1866 the sisters were called Good Shepherd Sisters, but the title was changed to avoid confusion with an older order of the same name.

[51] Courtesy of Bonney Djuric, June 2013.

[52] The Day girls learnt their Catholic prayers.  I recall my Aunt Julia, brought up by her grandmother Julia Day (McLean), saying that her grandmother always included the Catholic Hail Mary in her evening prayers, even though she was married to a devout Scottish Presbyterian.

[53] A letter from the Braidwood and District Historical Society, 15 May 1992.

[54] Old Convict Days Part VIII Ch. VII.

[55] The Librarian of the Sydney Presbyterian Church, 29 October 1985, explained that marriage in the Rev. Fullerton’s home was indeed the “custom of the time”.

[56] Ken Taylor suggests: “I prefer the 1867 death date for Mary in the Infirmary, Sydney, of phthisis, 30 years old. She may have been 32.”

Revised February 2014


A very special day


On Sunday 9 March 2014 I was privileged to attend and speak at a formal function at the Parramatta Female Factory Precinct. Her Excellency Governor Marie Bashir truly graced the occasion with her presence and I was privileged to assist her in planting a commemorative tree. I cannot adequately express my appreciation of this wonderful woman’s intense interest in each person, her compassion and her utter dedication to this function.


This is a formal statement of the day: “Children’s Day 2014 is a free event sponsored by the Parramatta Female Factory Precinct Memory Project. Coordinated by Bonney Djuric, it was an eventful day with many VIPs in attendance including the Governor Marie Bashir, Dr Geoffrey Lee MP, and Brother Tony Butler.


“Children’s Day connects past to present and brings together the community in a ceremonial planting of a Children’s Garden and various art and environmental activities designed for primary school aged children. Marking 170 years since the first children arrived at this institution, Children’s Day will remember the children who once lived here at this first purpose built orphanage for Catholic children in the colony of NSW.


“The Welcome to Country was given by Aunty Sandra Lee and assisted by Leanne Tobin and Gypsie Hayes, and there was also a choir of sixty children from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, most of whom had played an integral part in preparing the site through various service projects.


“There were many family-fun activities that included talking circles, painting daisies, making origami bats, gardening demonstrations, drawing, and exhibition spaces both in Kamballa and the Bethel building.”


My role in the day was to speak about my great grandmother and her three sisters who were inmates of the Roman Catholic Orphan School which occupied the site from 1844 till 1886. These girls aged 6, 5, 4 and 2 – the thought is shocking – were sent to the Orphanage at the end of 1859. I have no idea when they left, though the youngest girl Eliza (Betsy) died there in 1852. Her name is recorded on a Memorial Quilt along with the names of the other 128 children who died in the Orphanage. There are no records of the establishment, but I was fortunate to receive a document from the St Mary’s Cathedral Archives which gave me enough information to shape their story. I have been able to put together a rather substantial account of their lives, though there are great gaps in my knowledge.


I had the pleasure of sitting next to Governor Marie Bashir during the proceedings and assisting her with the planting of a tree to mark the occasion. I also gave an account of the Day girls’s involvement in the Orphanage. As I spoke a butterfly hovered around us much to the delight of the assembly. I took it as a sign that the souls of the children and their mother Mary Day finally found rest after their tough and troubled life.

Some pictures from the day

Tony with Governor Bashir

In front of the Memorial Quilt – Eliza Day’s name appears Row 3, second from left

Planting the Memorial Tree

Tony speaking to the assembly

From left: Tony, Governor Bashir, Local Member Goeff Lee, organiser Bonny Djuric




Governor Bashir and Brother Tony Butler


Governor Bashir and Brother Tony Butler in front of the Memorial Quilt











Tree Planting - Brother Tony Butler assisting Governor Marie Bashir  Brother Tony Butler addressing the gatheringL-R Br Tony Butler, Governor Marie Bashir, Dr Geoff Lee MP, Bonney Djuric, John Cunniffe (Church of LDS), Mike the Gardener



Appendix 2 Spilsbury – My Cousin Shakespeare May 25, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tony @ 9:26 pm
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The Spilsbury Family

and My Cousin Shakespeare – sixty-six degrees of separation!


To thee, my cousin Shakespeare, this poor verse

I dedicate in honour of thy name.

I draw a rather long bow, or much worse,

When distant kinship I with thee proclaim.


Much have I admired thy wondrous power and sway

And worship thee “this side idolatry”

(As once thy rival Jonson dared to say),

For I, in sooth, love thy sweet harmony.


The road that lies betwixt my name and thine

Is long indeed and truly sinuate;

The links, as in a golden chain, are fine,

That golden road a maze to navigate.


But, oh, fair coz, what pleasure ’tis to me,

To find I am related so to thee.

My great grandfather Alexander Edward Butler (b.1828, d.1899) had a brother named Spilsbury (b.1836) and a son named Charles Spilsbury (b.1865, d.1876).  It never occurred to me to question the origin of the unusual name, Spilsbury.

So, it was with some surprise that I received an email in May 2009 from Joanne Sholes (of California USA) entitled “Butler and Spilsbury connections question”.  It opened up a whole world of enquiry and pointed me eventually towards a relationship – albeit a circuitous, “sinuate”, one – with William Shakespeare.

The aim of this article is to indicate as clearly as I can from the documentary evidence available the connection between my Butler family and William Shakespeare, the Stratford man who wrote those wonderful plays.

My information is gleaned from several sources.  I am primarily indebted to Joanne Sholes for setting me on this path and for providing a great deal of information that allows me to trace the Butlers back to Edward Butler who married Deborah Vicares in 1681.  It was their son Joseph who married Mary Spilsbury (1720).  And it is the Spilsbury family that provides the link with Shakespeare through his mother, Mary Arden.  One member of the Arden family, Anne (b.1750), married a Spilsbury – Benjamin (b.1746).  No date is currently available for the marriage.

This primary information has been corroborated and developed from two other sources: Stirnet.com, and the website of John Spilsbury of Wolverhampton UK, rootsweb.ancestry.com.

In my own research I did not trace my Butler ancestry back beyond Edward Butler and his wife, Elizabeth Hammond Bishop.  Thanks to Joanne Sholes I have found some ancestors of Edward Butler (b.1766) and Elizabeth Hammond Bishop (m.28.7.1794).  His father was Edward John Butler (b.1736, Kidderminster, Worcestershire, UK; d.11.7.1779) who married Mary Austin.  Edward John Butler’s father was Joseph Butler (b.4.10.1694) and his mother was Mary Spilsbury (b.23.1.1697).  Both Joseph and Mary were born in Kidderminster, Worcestershire, UK, and they were married in Kidderminster, 23.11.1720.  Joseph Butler’s parents were Edward Butler and Deborah Vicares who married in 1681.  And that is as far back as I can trace the Butlers at present.

So it is that we turn to the Spilsburys, which family will give us the link to the Ardens, which will, in turn, link us to Shakespeare.

It must be said that tracing families back to the distant past is fraught with dangers and it is easy to assume connections where none exist.  I found, for instance, the following information on RootsChat.com: “I have William of Bewdley being born in 1565 in Rock (IGI references plus another document).  William is the son of John Spilsbury (b. 1525, also Rock).  John is the son of Thomas, b. 1498.  Thomas had one other son, John, b. 1525.  From the original Thomas, there are a whole mess of Spilsburys.  I’ve a copy of the Domesday book … Paraphrased it says: ‘Between the parish of Fladbury is Worcester and Chipping Norton in Oxford lies the village of Eynsham.  The family of Richard de Spellesbury described as a landowner had occupied the land in 1086 … No idea how Richard came to ‘occupy’ that land.”

However, Joanne Sholes advised me: “The quote you included from Rootschat was that of my sister Carol aka Bamboogirl.  I am not convinced of the earlier connects being made for William.  I do feel comfortable with William and family forward.  I am not sure of his birth year … Death, yes.  I think there might be some leaps of faith being made re the earlier ancestors so I decided to work from William forward.  This tree on rootsweb by John Spilsbury takes William back to Richard then to Thomas.”

The following material, then, is derived from John Spilsbury’s site


and also from


Because I have not undertaken any research for this article personally, I am relying on the information of others.  Sometimes the details about a particular ancestor available from the several researchers do not coincide, so I have tried to give both accounts.

According to John Spilsbury’s researches, the earliest authenticated Spilsbury in the family relevant to this story is Thomas (b.1520, Rock, Worcestershire UK; d.1574, Worcestershire UK).  He married Isobel — (b.1520, Worcestershire UK).  They had five children, all born in Rock, Worcestershire UK: Thomas (b.1546), Richard (b.28.4.1550), John (b.4.1.1553), Robert (b.13.3.1553) and Edward (b.21.9.1555).

Richard (b.28.4.1550).  His wife’s name is presently unknown.  There were seven children, all born in Rock, Worcestershire UK: Joyce (b.31.8.1589), Thomas (b.8.12.1590), Margaret (23.9.1592); William (b.1.4.1594), Anne (b.20.4.1596), Richard (b.21.9.1598) and John (b.14.11.1600).

William (b.1.4.1594, d.27.11.1672, buried Ribbesford Church, North Bewdley,[1] Worcestershire UK) married Ann — (b.15.10.1600).  No date is currently available.  There were seven children, all born in Ribbesford: Mary (b.6.6 1623), Sarah (b.5.3.1625), John (b.25.5.1628), Anne (b.28.12.1630), Susanne (29.9.1633), Elizabeth (b.26.2.1636), and James (b.24.11.1639).  Sholes writes: “William Spilsbury of Bewdley (d. 1673) and wife Anne (d. 1664) are buried in the churchyard of St. Leonard’s in the hamlet of Ribbesford.  The church is located in the countryside near the River Severn one mile south of Bewdley.  The baptisms of at least seven of the recorded nine children born to William and Anne can be found in the parish records of St. Leonard’s, and William and Anne are buried there.”

It is the descendants of John and James that concern us here: John’s granddaughter Mary married Joseph Butler (23.11.1720), and James’s great grandson Benjamin married Anne Arden (no date currently available).  John and James are of some further interest because they became prominent as Dissenting Ministers.

John (b.25.5.1628, d. 10.6.1699) married Hanna Hall (b.c.1630) in Bromsgrove, Worcestershire.  They had one child, John (b.1667, Worcester).  Sholes adds some important details: “John is often referenced in association with the Particular Baptist movement.  Records for John note that he obtained his MA from Magdalen in 1652 and afterward held a fellowship there for two years.  He married Hannah Hall 5.6.1661.  Hannah’s brother, John Hall, was an associate of John Spilsbury’s and was referred to as the Bishop of Bristol.  He was vicar of Bromsgrove until being ejected in 1662 because of religious differences.  John was imprisoned in Worcester because of his dissenting views.  The three years he spent incarcerated took a toll on his health.  He continued his ministry privately to believers.  He and Hannah had one child, John, born 1667.  This branch of the Spilsbury family has long been referred to as the ‘Dissenting Ministers’ as several of John’s descendants continued to pursue the ministry.  There appears to be some debate regarding the actual date of his death.  Several early references list his death as 1669, but transcription of a copy of a funeral sermon for John Spilsbury delivered by John Eccles and dated 1699 suggest he lived several years several years past 1667.”

John (b.1667, d.31.1.1727) married, 26.10.1693, Mary Bridges (b.1672, Worcester). There were eight children, all born in Kidderminster except the last child, Francis, who was born in Bromsgrove: William (b.?), John (b.11.1.1694), Hannah (b.1.5.1696), Mary (b.23.1.1697), Hester (b.2.1.1698), Hall (b.18.11.1701), Elizabeth (b.22.4.1704), and Francis (b.1706).  Sholes adds the following information: “Like his father, John went into the ministry, becoming pastor for a congregation of Dissenters in Kidderminster.  His marriage to Mary Bridges (1672-1759) was recorded 26 Oct 1693.  A portrait of Mary Bridges Spilsbury survives in the Baxter United Reformed Church of Kidderminster, a church built on the site of the original meeting house.  After John’s death, his son-in-law, Matthew Bradshaw continued the ministry.  There is a plaque on the wall of the church noting his service from 1693 till 1727.  It was John and Mary’s daughter Mary who married Joseph Butler.”

Mary Spilsbury (b.23.1.1697) married (23.11.1720) Joseph Butler (b.8.5.1692) in Kidderminster, Worcestershire.  There seems to be some difference of opinion about the number of children.  Joanne Sholes lists five children, all born in Kidderminster: Mary (b.24.2.1728); Deborah, named after her grandmother (b.31.7.1730); Edward who was born 5.3.1734 and died aged 13 months, 4.4.1735; Edward John (b.1736) who married Mary Austin; and John (b.13.3.1738).  John Spilsbury lists seven: Hanna (b.?), Mary (b.24.2.1728), Deborah (b.31.7.1730); Edward (b.5.3.1734), Sarah (b.13.3.1743); Edward John (b.13.3.1737) who married Mary Austin, and Joseph (b.-.5.1746).

As I wrote above, Joseph Butler’s parents were Edward Butler and Deborah Vicares who married in 1681.  The descendants of Edward Butler and Deborah Vicares relevant to this account are Joseph Butler who married Mary Spilsbury (23.11.1720), their son Edward Butler who married Mary Austin (m.1761), their son Edward Butler who married Elizabeth Hammond Bishop (m.28.7.1794), their son Alexander Bishop Butler who married Charlotte Selina Mortimer of the prominent Mortimer gunsmith family in London (m.13.9.1827), their son Alexander Butler who married Eliza Helyar (m.8.4.1852), their son Edward William Butler who married Lilian McLean (m.29.12.1897), and their son Malcolm George Butler who married Honor Whittaker (m.26.9.1936), who are my parents.

So we now turn to the Dissenting Minister James Spilsbury (brother of John Spilsbury), for it is his great grandson Benjamin who married into the Arden line.

James was born 24 November 1639 in Ribbesford and died 5 February 1698 in King’s Norton, Worcestershire (the home of another of my ancestors, William Dedicoat, aka – among other names – William Jones, the convict, and William Day, the father and bushranger).  His main place of residence seems to have been Oxford, but in 1663 he was head teacher at Bewdley Grammar School and in 1878 he was chaplain at St John’s chapel, Deritend, Birmingham.  He was buried in Mosely, 5.2.1698.  Sholes adds some more information: “Fewer references to James appear but records exist for his matriculation at Magdalen College Oxford and identify him as a curate of St John’s Chapel Deritend until his death in 1699.  In research compiled by his descendants, he was referred to as James of Rock but this is not proven.  He is also referenced in a book titled Nonconformity by William Urwick as having been educated at Tewkesbury.”

James married Ann — (b.1650) and there were four children, all born in King’s Norton: James (b.3.2.1682), William (b.3.9.1687), Mary (b.30.5.1690) and Elizabeth (b.17.7.1694).

Their first son James (b.3.2.1682, d.1740) married (1) (10.6.1708) Elizabeth Bridges (b.18.8.1674) by whom he had one son, James (b.14.4.1710, Kidderminster) who, we may assume, died young; and (2) (1.7.1712) Elizabeth Lucas with whom there were six children, all born in Alcester, Warwickshire: Elizabeth (b.10.6.1713), Lucas (b.7.1.1714), James (b.9.3.1715), Thomas (b.13.9.1718), John (b.4.1.1720) and Ann (b.14.9.1723); and then, in 1736, James married (3) Mrs Flowers.

Lucas Spilsbury (b.7.1.1714, d.14.7.1764) married (26.1.1741) Dorothy Ward (b.1720, Willington, Derbyshire).  There were seven children, all born in Willington: Francis Ward (b.6.11.1742), Lucas Ward (b.9.10.1743), John (b.1744), Benjamin (b.1746), Elizabeth (b.1748), Joseph (b.1752) and Dorothy (1754).

It is Benjamin Spilsbury (b.1746, d.-.8.1818) who married into the Arden line in the person of Anne (b.19.5.1750, Yoxall, Staffordshire; d.31.12.1829).  No date is currently available for their marriage.  There were three children, all born in Willington, Derbyshire): Elizabeth Ward (b.21.2.1787), Francis Ward (b.10.5.1788) and Anne Georgiana (b.23.4.1789)From here we work through the ancestry of Anne to discover her kinship with William Shakespeare.  It is a long way back to her g.g.g.g.g.g.g.g grandfather Walter, one of whose grandsons, Robert, was the father of Mary Arden, Shakespeare’s mother.  A long trail of breadcrumbs or a serious clew will help!

But first, something about the illustrious Arden family.  Wikipedia writes:

“The Arden family is, according to an article by James Lees-Milne in the 18th edition of Burke’s Peerage/Burke’s Landed Gentry, volume 1, one of only three families in England that can trace its lineage in the male line back to Anglo-Saxon times (the other two being the Berkeley family and the Swinton family).  The Arden family takes its name from the Forest of Arden in Warwickshire.

“Alwin (Æthelwine), nephew of Leofric, Earl of Mercia, was Sheriff of Warwickshire at the time of the Norman Conquest.  He was succeeded by his son, Thorkell of Arden (variously spelt Thorkill, Turchil etc.), whose own son and principal heir, Siward de Arden, subsequently married Cecilia, granddaughter of Aldgyth, daughter of Ælfgar, Earl of Mercia, and from this union the Ardens descend (Siward was Thorkell’s son by his first wife, whose name is not recorded; his second wife, Leofrun, was another daughter of Ælfgar).  Subsequent generations of the family remained prominent in Warwickshire affairs and on many occasions held the shrievalty.  From the time of Sir Henry de Arden in the 14th century the Ardens had their primary estate at Park Hall, Castle Bromwich.  Robert Arden was executed in 1452 for supporting the uprising of Richard, Duke of York.  The same fate befell Edward Arden in 1583, who came under suspicion for being head of a family that had remained loyal to the Catholic Church, and was sentenced for allegedly plotting against Elizabeth I.  His father William was second cousin to Mary Arden, mother of William Shakespeare.  Edward’s great-grandson Robert died unmarried and without issue in 1643, bringing the Park Hall male line to an end.  The Arden family survives to this day in many branches descended from younger sons in earlier generations.”[2]

“The descent from Alwin is as follows:

  1. Alwin (d. c.1083)
  2. Thorkell of Arden (d. c.1100)
  3. Siward de Arden, m. Cecilia
  4. Henry de Arden (d. aft. 1166)
  5. William de Arden, m. Galiena
  6. William de Arden, m. Avice
  7. Sir Thomas de Arden, m. Riese
  8. Ralph de Arden (d. aft. 1290)
  9. Ralph de Arden, m. Isabel de Bromwich
  10. Sir Henry de Arden (d. c.1400), m. Ellen
  11. Sir Ralph Arden (d. 1420), m. Sybil
  12. Robert Arden (executed 12 Aug 1452), m. Elizabeth Clodshall
  13. Walter Arden (d. 5 Aug 1502), m. Eleanor Hampden
  14. Sir John Arden (d. 1526), m. Alice Bracebridge
  15. Thomas Arden (d. 1563), m. Mary Andrewes
  16. William Arden (d. 1546), m. Elizabeth Conway
  17. Edward Arden (executed 20 Dec 1583), m. Mary Throckmorton
  18. Robert Arden (d. 27 Feb 1635), m. Elizabeth Corbet
  19. Sir Henry Arden (d. 1616), m. Dorothy Feilding
  20. Robert Arden (d. 1643)”

We begin our story with Walter de Arden, the thirteenth of the Ardens listed above.

Walter de Arden (b.c.1441, Park Hall, Warwickshire, d.5.8.1502, Aston, Birmingham, West Midlands) and Eleanor Hampdon (b.c.1445, Great Hampden, Buckinghamshire) were the parents of Sir John Arden (b.c.1461, Park Hall, Warwickshire, d.27.6.1526), the eldest son, and Martin (b.1467), Thomas (b.1469), William, Joyce, Elizabeth, Margaret, Alice, Robert and Henry.  It was from Thomas (b.1469) that William Shakespeare was descended – but of that in its place.

Sir John Arden (b.c.1461, Park Hall, Warwickshire, d.27.6.1526) who married (13.2.1474) Alice Bracegridle (b.c.1462, Kingsbury, Warwickshire), had seven children: Thomas Arden (b.c.1481) and (as listed on the Stirnet site) six other children: John, Geys, Katherine, another daughter, then Margaret and Agnes.

Thomas Arden of Park Hall (b.c.1481, Saltley, [3] Warwickshire, d.5.2.1563, Saltley) married Mary Andrewe(s) (b.c.1481, Charwelton, Northampton).  Simon Arden (b.c.1500, d.1600[sic!]) was the oldest of their nine children. The other children were: Thomas (b.1504), William (b.c.1509), Edward (b.c.1513), George (b.c.1515), Joyce (b.c.1517), Elizabeth (b.c.1519), Cecily (b.c.1521), and Mary (b.c.1523).  They were all born in Saltley, Warwickshire.

Simon Arden Sheriff of Warwickshire (b.c.1500, Park Hall, Warwickshire, d.1600) married twice: Margaret — and Mrs Christine Bond – the order of the two marriages is not clear.  Ambrose Arden of Longcroft (b.1555) was the oldest son of Simon Arden and Margaret — who had several other sons: John, Ambrose of Barton, and, maybe, Richard, Simon and Walter.

Ambrose Arden of Longcroft (b.1555, Barton Under Needwood, Staffordshire, d.1624, Barton Under Needwood) married (1588) Mary Wedgewood.  There is one son: Humphrey Ambrose Arden (b.1610, Barton Under Needwood).

Humphrey Ambrose Arden (b.1610, Barton Under Needwood, d.15.7.1656, Longcroft, Yoxall) married twice: (1) Elizabeth Lascelles by whom there were two children – Henry and John; and (2) (1.12.1630 Marchington, Staffordshire) Jane Rowbotham by whom there was one son, Humphrey, and, according to Stirnet, four daughters: Mary, Elizabeth, Anne and Grace.

Humphrey Arden of Longcroft (b.2.11.1634 Barton Under Needwood, Staffordshire, d.1706 Longcroft, Yoxall [a/c to John Spilsbury] OR b.c.1631, d.31.1.1705 [a/c to Stirnet]) married [a/c to Stirnet] — Lassal of London OR [a/c to John Spilsbury, Elizabeth Lascelles].  No date is given for the marriage.  Their offspring included Henry Arden (b.7.11.1665), Catherine and Elizabeth.Henry Arden (b.7.11.1665 Longcroft, Yoxall, d.10.8.1728) married (14.1.1692 Alrewas, Staffordshire) Anne Allcock (d.6.1.1698).  John Arden (b.1.1.1693) was the oldest son and there was a daughter, Elizabeth (buried 12.6.1696, probably only 2 or 3 years of age).

John Arden (b.1.1.1693 Longcroft, Yoxall, Staffordshire), Sheriff of Staffordshire, married (1) (date currently unknown) Anna Catherena Newton (d.17.3.1727).  Henry Arden was the oldest child and there were two other children: Catherine and Anna.  John Arden later married (2) Anne Spateman.

Henry Arden (b.18.4.1723 Yoxall, Staffordshire, d.22.6.1782 Longcroft, Yoxall) married (Lichfield 18.5.1749) Alathea Cotton (Alithaea Cooper, b.31.10.1723, d.1.7.1783, a/c to John Spilsbury [Rootsweb]).  According to Stirnet their issue included John (b.-.3.1752, d.10.2.1803), Humphrey (b.6.12.1758), Anne Arden (b.19.5.1750, Yoxall, Staffordshire; d.31.12.1829 Willington, Derbeyshire) who married Benjamin Spilsbury; Henry (b.1754), Robert (1757-1759), Samuel (b.23.11.1760) and Alathea Catharina. [4]

To complete the connection with William Shakespeare, we have to return to an earlier member of the family.

It is from Sir John Arden (b.c.1461)’s brother Thomas Arden (b.1469) that William Shakespeare was descended.  From above, we remember that Sir John Arden (b.c.1461,) was the oldest son of Walter de Arden and Eleanor Hampdon and that there other children, including Thomas (b.1469).

Thomas Arden (b.1469, Wilmcote, Aston Cantlow, Warwickshire) – wife’s name unknown – had two children: Robert Arden (b.1506, Wilmcote, Aston Cantlow, Warwickshire; later of Snitterfield; d. 16.12.1556), and Grace (b.1515 [1512 a/c to Stirnet], Stratford on Avon, Warwickshire, d.3.12.1539).

Robert Arden (b.1506, Wilmcote, Aston Cantlow, Warwickshire; later of Snitterfield; d. 16.12.1556) married (1) Agnes Webb (b.1536 [?] Stratford on Avon, Warwickshire) and (2) Mary Webb (b.5.2.1511, Stratford on Avon).  There were eight children: Joyce (b.c.1534, Stratford on Avon), Agnes (b.c.1536, Stratford on Avon), Mary (b.c.1537, Wilmcote, Aston Cantlow, Warwickshire), Margaret (b.c.1538, Wilmcote, Aston Cantlow), Thomas (b.c.1540, Stratford on Avon), Joan (b.c.1542, Stratford on Avon), Alice (b.c.1544, Stratford on Avon) and Katherine (b.c.1545, Stratford on Avon).

Mary Arden (b.c.1537, Wilmcote, Aston Cantlow, d.9.9.1608, Stratford on Avon) married (June 1557) John Shakespeare (b.c.1537, Wilmcote, Stratford on Avon, Warwickshire).  And of her was born William who was called The Bard.

There were eight children born to Mary Arden and John Shakespeare: Joan (bpt.15.9.1558, d. soon afterwards), Margaret (bpt.2.12.1562, died one year later), William (b.23.4.1564, d.23.4.1616)[5], Gilbert (bpt.13.10.1566, d.3.2.1612, unmarried), Joan 1569-1646, m. William Hart; their descendants lived in Stratford until 1806.[6]), Anne (b.1571, d.1579), Richard (bpt.11.3.1574, d.4.2.1613, unmarried), Edmund (bpt.3.5.1580, d.1607, unmarried).

While it can never be proved conclusively, it is a strong possibility that William Shakespeare grew up in a strongly Catholic family.  His mother’s family was undoubtedly committed to the old faith and there is some evidence that John Shakespeare was also committed to the same faith.  As for Shakespeare’s strong personal commitment to that same faith, it is unlikely, though in my view his works are pervaded by a deep understanding of the Christian faith of one variety or another.

So while this branch of the Butler family cannot claim any direct connection with the Ardens, let alone William Shakespeare, there is a happy if somewhat circuitous connection which has some delight if not much import.

[1] Rock, Ribbesford and Bewdley are west of Kidderminster, near Stourport (Map 29, A33, Collins Road Atlas, Britain 1985)

[2] Wikipedia

[3] Park Hall was situated in Bromwich, north-west of Birmingham.

[4] According to the list generated by Stirnet.

[5] No, there are no direct descendants of William Shakespeare living today.  Shakespeare and his wife Anne Hathaway had three children: Susanna, who was born in 1583 and twins Judith and Hamnet, who were born in 1585. The boy Hamnet died in 1596 aged 11 years.  Susanna married John Hall in 1607 and had one child, Elizabeth, in 1608.  Elizabeth married twice (in 1626 to Thomas Nash and in 1649 to John Bernard), but she never had any children.  Judith married Thomas Quiney in 1616 and had three sons, one of whom died in infancy. The other two sons both died unmarried in 1639.

[6] I believe there are numerous Hart descendants alive today.


Appendix 4 Two Butler Men at War December 14, 2008

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tony @ 9:39 am

Two Butler Men at War

Alexander Edward Butler and Edward Malcolm Butler

In my original account of the Edward William Alfred Butler’s family I had little to say about his children for the simple reason that I knew little.  During 2008 my nephew Wayne Davey did some research among the papers from the Australian War Museum and found details of the War Service of two Butler boys, the oldest, Alexander Edward, son of EW Butler and Jessie Hilda Burke, and EW Butler’s second son Edward Malcolm, the first child of his marriage with Lilian Blanche McLean.

In 1886 Edward William Butler married Jessie Hilda Burke in Melbourne.  There was one son, Alexander Edward, named after his grandfather Alexander Edward Butler, and he died a bachelor 29th January 1964.  He was a Gallipoli veteran.  At this time I know nothing else about him.

[From the Australian War Museum]

Alexander Edward Butler Service No: 160.  13th Battalion AIF (New South Wales) [4th Infantry Brigade]

The 13th Battalion AIF was raised from late September 1914, six weeks after the outbreak of the First World War. The battalion was recruited in New South Wales, and with the 14th, 15th and 16th Battalions formed the 4th Brigade, commanded by Colonel John Monash.  The Brigade embarked for overseas in late December. After a brief stop in Albany, Western Australia, it proceeded to Egypt, arriving in early February 1915. Australia already had an AIF division there, the 1st. When the 4th Brigade arrived in Egypt it became part of the New Zealand and Australian Division.

The 4th Brigade landed at ANZAC Cove late in the afternoon of 25 April 1915. On the 2nd May 1915 Alexander Edward Butler was wounded and was evacuated to Egypt with lacerated fingers but returned to Gallipoli several weeks later.

From May to August, the battalion was heavily involved in establishing and defending the ANZAC front line. In August, the 4th Brigade attacked Hill 971. The hill was taken at great cost, although Turkish reinforcements forced the Australians to withdraw. The 13th also suffered casualties during the attack on Hill 60 on 27 August. The battalion served at ANZAC until the evacuation in December 1915.

After the withdrawal from Gallipoli, the battalion returned to Egypt and on 15th Feb 1916 Alexander was promoted to lance corporal. While in Egypt the AIF was expanded and was reorganised. The 13th Battalion was split and provided experienced soldiers for the 45th Battalion. The 4th Brigade was combined with the 12th and 13th Brigades to form the 4th Australian Division.

Battle Honours: Landing at Anzac, Anzac, Defence of Anzac, Suvla, Sari Bair, Gallipoli 1915.

The 45th Battalion AIF (New South Wales) [12th Infantry Brigade] was formed Egypt 4 March 1916 from 2 companies of the 13th Battalion AIF.  The 45th Battalion was raised in Egypt on 2 March 1916 as part of the “doubling” of the AIF. Approximately half of its new recruits were Gallipoli veterans from the 13th Battalion, and the other half, fresh reinforcements from Australia. On 3rd March Alexander was transferred to the 45th battalion. Reflecting the composition of the 13th, the new battalion was composed mostly of men from New South Wales. On 25th March 1916 Alexander was promoted to full corporal.

As part of the 12th Brigade of the 4th Australian Division, the 45th Battalion arrived in France on 8 June 1916, destined for the Western Front. On 22nd July 1916 Alexander was hospitalized in France and transferred to England 9th August 1916 with bronchitis. The 45th Battalion fought in its first major battle at Pozières in August, defending ground previously captured by the 2nd Australian Division. Alexander contracted mumps 21st December 1916. After Pozières the battalion spent the period until March 1917 alternating between duty in the trenches and training and rest behind the lines, first around Ypres in Belgium, and then in the Somme Valley in France.

The 45th Battalion was in reserve for the 4th Division’s first major action of 1917 – the first battle of Bullecourt – and was not committed to the attack. It was, however, heavily engaged during the battle of Messines in June, and suffered commensurate casualties. Alexander was discharged from the AIF on 13th July 1917.

Although by now Alexander was back in Australia it is interesting to note what the 45th battalion went on to do

Like most AIF battalions, the 45th rotated in and out of the front line throughout the winter of 1917-18. In the spring of 1918 it played a crucial role in turning the last great German offensive of the war when it defeated attacks aimed at breaking through the British front around Dernancourt. The Allies launched their own offensive on 8 August with the battle of Amiens. On the first day of this battle the 45th Battalion captured 400 German prisoners, 30 artillery pieces and 18 machine guns. 8 August became known as the “black day of the German Army” and initiated a retreat back to the formidable defensive barrier known as the Hindenburg Line. The 45th Battalion fought its last major action of the war on 18 September 1918 around Le Verguier to seize the “outpost line” that guarded the approaches to the main defences. The battalion was out of the line when the war ended on 11 November, and was disbanded on 2 May 1919.

Battle Honours: Egypt 1916, Somme 1916-18, Pozieres, Bullecourt, Messines 1917, Ypres 1917, Menin Road, Polygon Wood, Passchendaele, Arras 1918, Ancre 1918, Amiens, Albert 1918, St Quentin Canal, Hindenburg Line, Epehy, France and Flanders 1916-18.

In 1893 Alexander Edward Butler senior moved to Sydney with his sons Edward, Hubert and Percy.  In 1897 Edward William set up as a house agent at 99 William Street and in that same year remarried, 29th December 1897; he was 33 and his new wife, Lilian Blanche McLean was 23.

Their first child, Edward Malcolm, was born 18th October 1898 while the family was living at 99 William Street.  He was, in the general opinion (as expressed by his sister Julia), “the finest of the Butler boys”, an upstanding, fine build of a man, from his photographs.  There are a number of photos of Ted and the other Butler boys at their father’s funeral in 1928.  Ted is the most impressive looking one of them all.

Ted went to the First World War at the age of eighteen, much to his father’s regret, and was “never the same again”.  In my original account of the family, I wrote: “I don’t know what that meant, but talk of Ted was always tinged with regret and the note that his potential was never achieved.  According to the back of a postcard, ‘3771, Pte. Edward M. Butler, C Company, 9th Rem., 19th Batt., A.I.E.F., 5th Inf.  Brigade’, sailed off to ‘Egypt or elsewher’ 20 January 1916 on the Runic; ‘left wharf 8 a.m. left harbour 4 p.m.’  There are no photos of him in uniform, no memoirs of his service.”  Thanks to Wayne’s research, we can now read of his military service.  At the time of his father’s funeral (8 August 1928), when his address was given as Y.M.C.A., Melbourne.  He died a bachelor, 31 October 1938.

[From the Australian War Museum]

Edward Malcolm Butler Service No:377

Hazel eyes, fair hair, 5’8 tall.

First posted as the 9th reinforcements to the 19th Battalion but shortly after arriving in Egypt he was transferred to the 55th Battalion on the 3rd April 1916.

The 55th Battalion AIF (New South Wales) [14th Infantry Brigade] was formed Egypt 14 February 1916 from the 3rd Battalion AIF.

The 55th Battalion was raised in Egypt on 12 February 1916 as part of the “doubling” of the AIF. Half of its recruits were Gallipoli veterans from the 3rd Battalion, and the other half, fresh reinforcements from Australia. Reflecting the composition of the 3rd, the 55th was predominantly composed of men from New South Wales. The battalion became part of the 14th Brigade of the 5th Australian Division.

Arriving in France on 30 June 1916, the battalion entered the frontline trenches for the first time on 12 July and fought its first major battle at Fromelles a week later. The battle was a disaster, resulting in heavy casualties across the division. Although in reserve, the 55th was quickly committed to the attack and eventually played a critical role, forming the rearguard for the 14th Brigade’s withdrawal. Despite its grievous losses the 5th Division continued to man the front in the Fromelles sector for a further two months.

After a freezing winter manning trenches in the Somme Valley, in early 1917 the 55th Battalion participated in the advance that followed the German retreat to the Hindenburg Line. It was spared the assault but did, however, defend gains made during the second battle of Bullecourt. On 2nd April 1917 Edward was wounded in action in France, a gunshot wound (GSW) to the left hand. It is not recorded the extent of the injury but it must have been fairly serious as the following day, 5th April he was transferred to England to a military hospital.  [His father, at 99 William Streete Sydney, received a letter from The Australian Imperial Force dated 26 April 1917 which informed him: “that information has been received to the effect that Private EM Butler was admitted to the Royal Surrey County Hospital Engalnd 5.4.17 suffering from a gunshot wound.  His postal address will be … Any further reports received will be promptly transmitted.”]

On 7th July he was charged with absent without leave (AWL) from a tattoo (military) and fined 1 day’s pay. On 21st July 1917 he was transferred to Australia and was eventually discharged from the AIF on 7th Feb 1918 as medically unfit from Holsworthy Army Base NSW. Edward later received the British War Medal, number 32702 and the Victory Medal number 32295. He applied for and was granted a war pension of 1 pound 10 shillings a fortnight from 8th Feb 1918.

[What follows is an account of the battalion’s service for the remainder of the war.]  Later in the year, the AIF’s focus of operations switched to the Ypres sector in Belgium. The 55th’s major battle here was at Polygon Wood on 26 September.

With the collapse of Russia in October 1917, a major German offensive on the Western Front was expected in early 1918. This came in late March and the 5th Division moved to defend the sector around Corbie. The 14th Brigade took up positions to the north of Villers-Bretonneux and held these even when the village fell, threatening their flanks.

Once the German offensive had been defeated, the Allies launched their own offensive in August 1918. The 14th Brigade did not play a major role in these operations until late in the month, but its actions were critical to the capture of Péronne, which fell on 2 September. The 54th fought its last major battle of the war, St Quentin Canal, between 29 September and 2 October 1918. For his valour during this action Private John Ryan was awarded the Victoria Cross.

The battalion was resting out of the line when the Armistice was declared on 11 November. The progressive return of troops to Australia for discharge resulted in the 55th merging with the 53rd Battalion on 10 March 1919. The combined 53/55th Battalion, in turn, disbanded on 11 April

Battle Honours: Egypt 1916, Somme 1916-18, Bullecourt, Ypres 1917, Menin Road, Polygon Wood, Passchendaele, Ancre 1918, Villers-Bretonneux, Amiens, Albert 1918, Mont St Quentin, Hindenburg Line, St Quentin Canal, France and Flanders 1916-18.

I never knew my uncles, even though Alex was still living until I was 24.  One can only regret not knowing either these men or their stories.  I am grateful that my nephew has taken the time to find out more about them.

December 2008