It is important to remember that William was in effect, a man of no means.
Among the many branches of our family tree, William is probably one of my favourite characters.
His grip on life from the get go seemed to be tenuous and his grip on opportunity as fragile as threads of gossamer. The fact that he survived and achieved as much as he did in my books makes him someone I would very much have liked to have known.
William was born on the 13th June 1809. Hawkesbury Pioneer Records indicate he was born in Ireland. His parents were Patrick John London who appears to have been known as John, and Sarah Halligan (sometimes also seen as Hallighan). Sarah is later recorded as Sarah London so I can only assume that they were married.
On the 25th August 1809 the English ship Ann, leaves England bound for the new colony of Sydney. Aboard are convicts both men and women, crew, settlers and soldiers from the 73rd regiment who will serve as reinforcements and replacements for the existing marines in the wild new colony. The 73rd regiment were specially trained for this commission and were known as the 73rd regiment on foot. (Source , Australian War Memorial. https://www.awm.gov.au/atwar/colonial/).
As to where (Patrick) John and Sarah fitted into this motley crew I (and many others doing the same work) would like to tie him in as being a soldier with the 73rd regiment on foot who would come to Australia and later become the NSW Corps. (Thanks to Lyn Murphy and Allen London who have done the research behind this one and generously shared). Also aboard the ship at this time is the Reverend Samuel Marsden and his family. Rev Marsden will have a significant effect on the outcome of young William’s life in the new colonies. I wonder did they ever meet on-board or did their social divisions prevent such an event from occurring?
The journey appears to be largely uneventful. The ship calls in at Rio de Janeiro before arriving at Port Jackson on the 27th February 1810. Those aboard are remarked in the shipping notes to have enjoyed a pleasant voyage with only one man lost overboard. I wonder what the London’s would have said of their journey.
A wide and varied supply of produce had been brought from London and Ireland. Also clothing ‘slops’ had been allocated to those convicts aboard for their use when they disembarked. This would have formed their wardrobe of clothing for which they would have been responsible for maintaining. Getting new clothing from the ‘stores’ was not an easy achievement in those days and the clothing was expected to last a considerable period of time. Tracking Patrick (John) and Sarah’s movements in Sydney has to date proven exasperatingly difficult.
What is known without doubt is that a month after arriving Patrick (John) died on the 27th March 1810. His record (no. 1342) shows he was buried at what became the Old Sydney Burial Ground. His name given as John London.
This was the towns burial area at the time and was on the very outer of town. It enjoyed a dubious reputation as a gathering place for brigands, thieves and woman of poor repute. Grave robbery was rife and its use as a public urinal turned the noses of those in Sydney itself. During the hot summer months the stench from the burial ground was said to be so bad that those in Sydney could not abide its revolting perfume.
The Old Sydney Burial Ground now rests beneath the Sydney Town Hall in George Street. The town hall foundation stone having been laid in 1868. Standing on the steps of the building during a hot summer’s day in January 2014, I could only imagine what must have been going through Sarah’s mind as she faced the future with no protector, no income and an infant who was reliant on her. Did she have any friends to whom she could turn? What opportunities were available to a woman who had very little to offer?
In 1818 Sarah died and nine year old William was an orphan in a town that still struggled to establish itself and where there was very little protection for a growing number of orphans and abandoned children. By a stroke of luck William did have at least one relation in the colony. Maurice Halligan, who is also often recorded as Maurice Hallighan or Morris Hillich. I assume he was an uncle to William? It would appear he was Sarah’s brother.
Maurice himself came to the colony as a convict in 1806 aboard The Hercules. He was born in Clonmel, Tipperary, Ireland. From this I assume that it is likely Sarah was also. In 1816 Maurice acquired a grant of land in Appin, NSW and In 1818 he married Margaret Rowe in Liverpool. By 1822 he was living in West Bargo NSW. It appears that for at least a short time William was also living at Appin with Maurice.
Around the same time that little William is orphaned the Reverend Samuel Marsden was lobbying the city fathers to do something to manage the growing need of orphaned and abandoned children whose numbers spiked in alarming rates. The idea being that the children be brought to an orphan school and given a basic education until they were old enough to be apprenticed out to a master who would provide them with training and in some cases a craft from which they would be able to draw a living. Obviously this really only applied to the males as women were domestics at best.
The children would also be removed from the streets and given tutelage in how to be good God fearing citizens. In return for this care the children entered a contract with their masters called an indenture. They worked for these masters until the time of their indenture was ended and received food, lodgings, clothing and a trade in return. Like me do you suspect that some of these arrangements may not have necessarily been to the children’s best advantage?
Some unscrupulous arrangements were made where the boys (and girls) ages were adjusted slightly to ensure the indenture may have lasted an additional year or two where the child was required to continue at their masters bidding. The children had almost no say in what arrangements were made on their behalf.
Acceptable employment for these children was labourers, servants and domestics. The luckier ones may have actually gained a trade. It was difficult for a child to be removed or returned home (if they had one) as these arrangements were made to facilitate the workforce of the colony. The children admitted are orphans and children of the destitute and those that were abandoned by their family.
On the first day of opening the average age of admission looked to be around ten years. In William’s case he is reported in the Governor’s papers as being recommended to enter the New Male Orphans School in George Street, Sydney. The previous incumbents being the female orphans who were relocated. William’s guardian is listed as Morris Halligan of Appin NSW. The Male Orphan School is opened in conjunction between Governor Macquarie and Reverend Samuel Marsden.
On its first day of opening; 1st January 1819, William is admitted as the 32nd pupil to the school/orphanage. So it would appear that whilst William’s family have been unable or unwilling to provide his care, his fellow shipmate the Reverend Marsden had made arrangements that would ensure William grew to adulthood as best as able.
In 1824 the boys were moved to a new school on a farm in that part of the Liverpool district which would later become Bonnyrigg. William is included in this move. The School was governed by the Clergy and School Lands Corporation and from 1833 came under the control of the Colonial Secretary. The school closed in 1850.
In March and again in April of 1822 William ‘quits’ school and runs away. Each time he voluntarily returns. On the 8th October 1823, 14 year old William once again runs away with a schoolmate, Samuel Ogden. He spends the day away and returns at night. The Master of the school records that as this is his third offence and as a result he was punished by being flogged.
During the April of 1826, 16 year old William leaves the school for the last time. He is recorded as being discharged.
I visited the site in George Street in January of 2014 expecting to see nothing but a bustling city street corner. To my absolute delight I found an archaelogical dig of huge proportions underway. It would appear that today’s Sydney has recognised the huge vault of history that the site sits on. To date artefacts from the school and the original Aboriginal people have been carefully excavated and are being preserved for future generations. It made me feel immensely proud that one of my forbears who despite having a rough start in life was in some way having their modest early beginnings honoured and preserved as part of the Australian story.
What became of William between the ages of sixteen and when he reappears at the age of thirty one, I’m not sure. Did he get apprenticed out? There is only 38 kilometres between Bonyrigg and the Hawkesbury. Was the nearness of the Hawkesbury what made it attractive?
Either way, he left Sydney behind and did not return there to live. Understanding where William and his family set up home is helpful in being able to understand their lifestyle and challenges. The area was nominated by Governor Macquarie following a scouting parties report as being an area ideal for growing food for the colony. At this time the colony was in dire need of becoming self-sufficient or it would surely founder. By 1794 the first twenty eight settlers were moving into the Hawkesbury.
I visited the area in 2014 to get a better understanding of these places and their poetic names that vary so much in the London family lore. The land around the Hawkesbury where William and family were is indeed fertile and lush. What you can’t see is the many hours of backbreaking labour with basic tools that would have gone into clearing the land for agriculture. Regrettably there was also the clearing of its original owners the Kamilaroi or Gamilaroi people. There was resistance from the aboriginal people quite understandably as this was their homeland.
This must have been a horrendous time for them and a deeply saddening time to lose their own history. As was the practice of the times they were forcibly removed from the land.
The best of the land was apportioned to the English settlers or free-men. Men of finance and standing were given the pastures and nearest water sources. As a result they did particularly well in a very quick time frame.
The land was ideal for orchards and vegetables and raising meat. These early pioneers would have had their challenges surely but their lot was made considerably easier also by their access to convict labour and financial means to set themselves up in business. They also had the backing of Macquarie who had put his full support behind making this venture a success. Within a few years Sydney and its people were being supplied by the food bowl that became known as The Hawkesbury.
It is important to remember that William was in effect, a man of no means. An orphan who had been largely discarded with a penchant for running away from his guardians. At the time of writing this, I am still seeking information about William’s early life and that of his parents. What I have gleaned so far is that William may very well have been the child of free settlers as there is no record found to date of his parents being convicts. One great thing about Europeans into Australian history is that records of convicts were very well recorded. Settlers, soldiers and ships crews not so much. The reason for this is that Convicts were a financial asset.
Other land in the area that was considered not quite so attractive and was on the slopes of the hills, giving way to names such as The Slopes and the much maligned Sally’s Bottom. This land was made available to those who perhaps were not quite so financial. Freed convicts and settlers who could take up the challenge to make something of this remaining bounty. Names that were allocated were quite diverse, some of these remain today and other’s for the sake of modesty were changed. Sally’s Bottom (which I adore) became Sallis Flat or Sallias Flat even Sallais Flat. Today it is a more sedate Tennyson. Comleroy Road was named for the part of the road it occupies and not its destination (Comleroy). Kurrajong is an Aboriginal word. The Slopes is fairly obvious to even the most obtuse of us.
Travelling this area I immediately fell in love with the panoramic vistas and curly corners. I could imagine those days where the hillsides were covered in fruit trees of all descriptions and how easily the family children must have been able to reach down for a piece of windblown fruit and be immediately refreshed and fed. No cold stored food for months for these folks!
Regrettably those days are gone as are the fruit tree orchards. The area now is peppered with lush looking farm homes and country homes. I doubt that our William could afford one of these sought after locales today with only a bit of good luck and determination to line his pockets.
William first turns up in the Hawkesbury with the available Hawkesbury pioneer records that I have found on the 15th November in 1841. He married Miss Diana Riley who was born in Parramatta. William is 32 years of age and Diana 17, they were married at St Matthew’s Presbyterian Church in the nearby bustling town of Windsor.
Diana was the daughter of an ex-convict Catherine Latimore from Birmingham in England and John Riley one of the first Europeans born in Sydney, whose own mother was also the convict Susannah Nairn. From these quite humble beginnings the new London family begin their lives in the Hawkesbury.
Diana’s family had moved to the Kurrajong when her parents acquired land on the Comleroy Road. The Riley family were one of the first white families to settle in the area. On the 5th December 1843 William and Diana welcomed their first child a daughter Catherine. She was baptised at St Peter’s Church of England in nearby Richmond on the 8th January 1844. They are recorded as living at Boggy Swamp/Putty and William’s occupation is given as a Stock-keeper. Boggy Swamp and Putty were the names of stock route resting places along the Comleroy Road. The bullock drays would travel approximately ten mile per day laden down with their load before stopping at the next rest point. It must have been a long and arduous journey getting the produce down to be shipped off to Sydney town.
Their first son William John London arrived on the 1 March 1846 and was also baptised at St Peter’s Church of England in Richmond on the 7th of June 1846. By this time the family have moved to Kurrajong and William’s occupation is given as a Labourer.
Another son Robert arrived on the 21st October 1848 and was baptised on the 19th of November in 1848 also at St Peters. William’s occupation was given as a Farmer. Things must have been starting to look up for William and Diana by this stage.
Their daughter Sarah was born on the 20th October 1850 whilst they were living at Yango where William was a Grazier. Sarah was not baptised at St Peter’s Church of England in Richmond until the 2nd February 1853. Yango is one of those names that seems to have disappeared off the map over the course of time. Given that two children are baptised on the same day a few years apart, it’s possible that Yango was an area further away from Richmond and that the London’s may have moved there for work.
A son Albert was born on the 1st of January 1853 the family were living at Swann. Swann like Yango seems to have been an old local name. William is still a Grazier. Albert and his older sister are baptised on the same day at St Peter’s Church of England in Richmond.
In 1855 another son Henry was born on the 14th August. He was baptised at St Peter’s Church. The family are recorded as living at Kurrajong where William is again recorded as a Farmer.
In 1858 a daughter Diana is born. No visible record exists for her at St Peters. However it is likely that she would have been.
22nd June 1860 sees the arrival of Elizabeth Ann. She is baptised at St Peters on the 29th August 1860. The family were still living at Kurrajong with William giving his occupation as a Farmer.
Emily Jane was born on the 16th November 1862 and baptised at St Peters on the 8th February 1863. At this time William is a Farmer and their home location is recorded as Howes Creek/Sally’s Bottom.
A further son John Edward is recorded in 1865 but no visible records exist for him at St Peters.
From cross checking records it appears that all of William’s and Diana’s children (as recorded above) reach adulthood. No small feat in those days.
Somewhere along the road, William had acquired the local nickname of “Bill the Native”. This is recorded in an article “Some Ups and Downs of an Old Richmondite (Mr Alfred Smith), chronicled by Mr Robert Farlow for The Gazette. I would dearly like to know how William acquired this elaborate nickname and wonder did his early days of nicking off from school show a man who would rebel against the social norms?
Was he living so far out of genteel Richmond on the Comleroy Road at Kurrajong that he was considered to be out the back of beyond? Had he had his fill of city life and city strife as a child to want no more part of it?
On the 2nd August 1865 an article appears in the NSW Police Gazette. A John Turner had been caught stealing a horse from William who is listed as residing at Kurrajong. The horse is recovered and a trial committed to be held at Windsor.
On the 30th December 1877 tragedy came to the district; William died as a result of a Typhoid outbreak at his son Robert’s home at Sally’s Bottom/Sallias Flat. Christmas is a terrible time for the family this year with many deaths of both adults and children, family, friends and neighbours. I could not hope to recount the events with as much effect as the following article.
The Ravages of Typhoid at Kurrajong FURTHER AND FULLER PARTICULARS (From the Evening News’ Special Correspondent) Richmond, Saturday evening. I have now visited the whole locality that has felt the ravages of the dreaded typhoid, and am in possession of fuller and more reliable particulars, and I find a shocking state of affairs.
From Richmond I got Mr. Houghton to drive me to Kurrajong. At the town off the Colo Road, I procured a horse from Mr. Charles Stanford, and proceeding along a road on the summit of a range for one mile, turned off beyond the Wesleyan Chapel, at the house of Mr. T. John, down a steep lane. Here I came on to the party preparing to put up seven Government tents for the sick people, and I interviewed three of the sick people.
From one of those, who had just recovered, I received the following account: – Edward Mitchell, a finely- built young fellow, evidently suffering from fever, said: “I live on this farm, and cultivate it, but for the last few months I have not been able to do anything. That is the reason you see it so much neglected; the sickness broke out about three months ago. Mrs. Robert London took it first, then her little boy about three years of age fell ill; this was three weeks before Christmas.
Mrs London is my wife’s sister and being a relation and going backwards and forward to see each other, it spread. Mrs. Robert London died on Christmas Eve. Then her husband took ill and died, and his old father then took ill and died, a week after Mrs London’s death. I, who never had a day’s sickness in this healthy district, where I have lived all my life, took the same illness, and was given up for dead.
The next to take it – almost the same day as I fell ill – was Mrs London’s own sister, Margaret Overton, 18 or 19 years of age. Thomas Tierney got ill three or four days after me; then my poor old mother, MrsOverton (she was married twice), was struck down in a few days. My wife, Mrs Mitchell, and my half-sister, Elizabeth Overton, 17 years of age, fell ill in a day or two.
My stepfather, Mr James Overton, got the typhoid fever, and we buried him yesterday. The next one who took it was my full married sister, Mrs Mary Ann McCabe; she is dead too. The great misfortune is, she was a widow and leaves eight children un-provided for, because their father and mother now are dead.
We buried my sister, Mrs McCabe, last Saturday. The next who took the fever was my other sister, Charlotte’s little boy. This little boy, Johnny, may get through, but it is doubtful. The next person who took it was Mrs Tierney, who is not expected to recover, according to the doctor’s belief, who visited her this morning.
The next victim was Mrs Tierney’s little girl, Angelina, about three years of age. The two next persons who took the dreadful fever were George Tierney, about twenty-three years of age, and John Overton, a married man, who is very bad. I got the doctor several times, but he could not save those I have mentioned who died, namely, Robert London, his wife, Mrs London, Mrs McCabe, James Overton, William Mitchell, my little boy, aged 1 year, and Clara Overton, the little girl, aged 3 years.
About fifty yards from where we stand, you see the remains of the house I burnt down, belonging to my mother. The doctor advised it. The house had four rooms and a kitchen. Now they are talking of burning where I live in the hollow. I cannot afford to have it done.”
This is Mitchell’s account. He says the fever comes on with a dreadful headache; then it is felt in the neck, and spreads through the body. Most of those who died were three weeks ill. After hearing his story, I went to the little bark cottage of Mitchell, in the hollow. I was horrified at the sight.
The hut was deserted, but under a row of peach trees were found human beings suffering badly. They were Mrs Overton, an old woman 61 years of age, and her daughter. Thomas Tierney, a young fellow about 23, was crawling between the trees on his hands and knees. A perfect skeleton, sitting listlessly on the grave, was a very little girl. All the food was removed from the hut and scattered on straw outside.
The people were afraid to go inside the hut after the last two deaths in it. Near the peach trees, and twenty yards from the hut, I visited a skillion, covered by four sheets of bark, and the sides protected by old blankets. In here I found, lying on a cotton mattress, a poor woman in her clothes in great pain, and apparently dying.
On her breast I found her little girl, two years and three months old, also very ill with the fever. The poor woman is Mrs Michael Tierney, a resident of the Orange district. She had come down to nurse her son Thomas, and caught the disease while attending him.
I should suggest to the Colonial Secretary to quarantine the place, burn down the hut, and provide complete new clothing. Bed clothing is required at once.
TELEGRAPHIC INTELLIGENCE (from the Herald, Echo, and Evening News.) RICHMOND. Saturday.
[Evening News.]-A public meeting was held at the School of Arts, last night convened by the Mayor, to take steps to afford prompt relief to the sufferers.
It wasn’t until early April of 1878 that the Maitland Mercury reported an end of the typhoid outbreak that had claimed so many lives.
Typhoid at Kurrajong
A correspondent gives the Evening New further particulars of the pestilence of typhoid at that part of Kurrajong, recently described by its special correspondent. The fell complaint continues its ravages; all attempts to get rid of it have failed.
The last fatal case is that of George Tierney, a fine young fellow of 22 years. Since the outbreak of the disease this young fellow has employed himself assiduously in attending to his suffering friends and relatives, and it was while engaged in his faithful work that he fell a victim to the complaint. He became ill a few days ago, and notwithstanding the skill of Dr. Jukel, and the unremitting attention of the Sydney nurses, he succumbed to the effects of the attack. He died on Thursday, and was buried a few hours afterwards.
In the case of the man Overton, there are some very painful and strange circumstances. The body was allowed to remain uninterred for rather a long time, – until indeed decomposition had completely set in. The fever-stricken inmates of the house were compelled to leave it, being unable to remain with the body, and crawling out as best they could, sought refuge under a cluster of peach trees.
The undertaker was unable to obtain assistance in burying the body, placed it as best he could in the coffin, and committed it to the grave. It is stated that next day the relations and friends of the deceased assembled on invitation in goodly numbers to attend the funeral, and pay their last tribute of respect to the deceased.
Slowly and reverentially the cavalcade followed the hearse to the burial ground at North Richmond a distance of a few miles. On arriving at the ground they found to their surprise that they had been following an empty hearse.
The body had been interred at least twelve hours previously. Our correspondent, referring again to the complaint and its ravages, states that several persons are still suffering, and that three at least are not expected to live, among them being that devoted woman who came down from Orange to attend her son, and was herself attacked by the disease. There is every ground for the demand that the place should be quarantined.
Of William’s children; his daughter Catherine married a neighbour Thomas Norris and lived her whole life in the Kurrajong dying at the age of 67.
William John London (my 2nd great grandfather) went on to have quite an exciting and some might say a bit of a wild life of his own in the Kurrajong dying in North Richmond aged 85.
Robert London, his wife and one of his children very sadly died in 1877 at the age of 29 as a result of the typhoid outbreak.
Sarah London went on to marry Cyrus Dover and then William Hitchenor before dying at the age of 57 in Richmond.
Albert London married Rosetta Turner and later tragically shot himself aged 44 at Sallai Flat.
Henry London married Mary Jane Turner and lived his whole life in the area before dying at Richmond aged 73.
Diana London married local neighbour Henry Bottle and died aged 78 in Richmond. She was rather fondly known in the district as Granny Bottle.
Elizabeth London married William Douglass and died in Richmond aged 78.
Hannah London married George Knight and lived and died in Richmond aged 89.
Emily Jane London married William Pashington Terry Gow. She died in Richmond aged 87. She was the last of William’s children to die in 1949.
The only child who moved away was John Edward London who married Everleen Sylvester and moved to Quirindi NSW. He died in Bankstown aged 81.
William’s wife Diana lived on to a great age and died on the 26th July 1905 in the township of Richmond.
In the Windsor & Richmond Gazette, Diana’s passing is reported on the 5th August 1905.
‘The death of Mrs. London, senior., a very old resident of Francis-street. Richmond, took place on Thursday morning of last week, at the age of 88 years. The cause of death was senile decay. The late Mrs. London was a sister of the late Mrs. Wilson, who died at Kurrajong recently at a very ripe age. The funeral took place the following day at 2 o’clock.’