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William Hancy (1766-1830)

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William Hancy
Birth: 1766 United Kingdom
Death: 6 December 1830 Baulkham Hills, The Hills Shire, New South Wales, Australia
Father: Unknown Hancy
Mother: Unknown
Spouse/partner: Sarah MacDonald (1768-1859)
Wedding: 9 November 1794 London, Middlesex, England
Sex: Male Icon
Edit Facts
William Hancy was born circa 1766 in United Kingdom to Unknown Hancy and Nomen nescio and died 6 December 1830 in Baulkham Hills, The Hills Shire, New South Wales, Australia of head injury from being thrown from the horse he was riding.
-33.763150.992


Immigrant to the Colony of New South Wales on the Minorca in 1801

Immigration

William Hancy and his family immigrated to the Colony of New South Wales as "free" (that is not convict) passengers aboard the Minorca. Also immigrated at the same time was his elder brother Michael Hancy & his family. They arriving on 14 December 1801 to a primitive Colony that was nearing it's 14th birthday.

The Minorca had first sailed from Gravesend, arriving at Portsmouth on 27 May 1801. The immigrants are most likely to have been allowed to board the ship at Gravesend rather than find another vessel to transport then to Portsmouth. On 21 June 1801 the Ship had then sailed from Spithead (an area in the strait between the Isle of Wight and Portsmouth protected from all winds, except those from the southeast) in convoy with the Canada and the Nile on a voyage that was to last nearly 7 months. The route travelled was via Rio de Janeiro, a common sailing route to the Southern Lands.

The freesettlers were travelling to the Colony of New South Wales on the promise of free land. Land ownership was something that they could not even aspire to in England. Life was also difficult in England for those of the working classes.

The Minorca carried provisions for the Colony, and transported 99 male convicts (5 of whom died during the voyage) and a number of free settlers like William and Michael Hancy and their families.

Having the immigrants on board tempered the treatment of the convicts and they arrived in New South Wales in better condition than had occured on previous transports.

After arrival of the ships in New South Wales, Governor King wrote back to England:

Sir, I have the honor to acquaint you of the arrival of the Canada, Minorca and Nile, with the persons and provisions stated in the enclosed account. The passengers were all in good health, and the convicts the healthiest and best conditioned that ever arrived here, being all fit for immediate labour... (HRA., Series 1, Vol., 3, p. 379)

Treatment of the convicts may have been better, but it was still harsh. This harsh treatment was something that the passengers could not avoid observing.

A convict James Hardy Vaux later wrote in his memoirs about the voyage:

In May 1801, after an almost fatal attack of the gaol (jail) fever, his father, mother, and sisters took a final leave of him, and he was removed to Gravesend, and put on board the Minorca transport, which lay there with the Canada and Nile bound to Port Jackson. We dare say it will be new to the majority of our readers to learn how persons in this situation are treated; and as the subject has just been raised in the House of Commons, it acquires greater importance...Having entered the ship, we were all indiscriminately stripped (according to indispensable custom), and were saluted with several buckets of salt-water, thrown over our heads by a boatswain's-mate. After undergoing this watery ordeal, we were compelled to put on a suit of slop-clothing. Our own apparel, though good in kind, being thrown overboard. We were then double-ironed, and put between decks, where we selected such births, for sleeping, &c. as each thought most eligible. The next day, we received on board forty-six more prisoners from the Hulks at Woolwich, and the Canada fifty. The Nile also took on board one hundred women, from the different gaols (jails) in Great Britain. The three ships then sailed for Spithead where, on our arrival, the Minorca and Canada had their numbers augmented, from the Hulks at Portsmouth, to one hundred men each. Every thing being now in readiness, we only waited for the convoy to assemble, with which we were to proceed to a certain latitude.

Life before immigrating

Where William and Michael Hancy were born is not known. It is possible since they both married in London that they were also born there. Who their parents were is also unknown.

It is known from census and other records that both William and Michael Hancy were Catholic. Some therefore mistakenly believe that they were Irish Catholics and that the surname Hancy came from Ireland. The Hancy/Hancey/Hansy/Hansey family name, however, does not have an Irish origin. You also did not need to be Irish to be Catholic.

There are 2 possibilities for the origin of the name for people living in Britain:

  • The name comes from "Haneca", an Old English personal name spawned by the ancient Anglo-Saxon culture that ruled a majority of Britian. The name was first found in Britain in Cheshire where a family by this name held a family seat from very ancient times, some say well before the Norman Conquest of 1066AD.
  • The name is of Norman French origin. It is well recorded in France from at least the 14th Century and almost certainly has a Norman origin as the name is found in Norman records. The 'de Hancy' coat of arms is typically Norman possibly dating from the time of Henry II of England and Duke of Normandy (reigned 1154–89).

The Catholic faith of William and Michael Hancy, however, precludes them from numbering among the many Protestant French Huguenots living in Soho, London at the time.

Both William Hancy and his elder brother Michael Hancy married at St Annes Anglican Church in Soho, London.

  • Michael Hancy at about the age of 32 married heavily pregnant Hannah Watts on 10 April 1793. It is not known how old Hannah was, but it guessed that she was about 30.
  • William Hancy at about the age of 28 married Sarah MacDonald on 9 November 1794. Sarah was about the age of 26. It is not known if she was pregnant.

As both William and Michael Hancy were Catholic, why did they marry in an Anglican Church? This was because in England from 1753 until 1836 a legal marriage could only be conducted by a minister in a parish church or chapel of the Church of England. All couples had to have an Anglican service.[1]

William & Sarah

Michael & Hannah

Marriage: 9 November 1794
St Annes Anglican
(Legal marriages could only be performed
in an Anglican Church)

Marriage: 10 April 1793
St Annes Anglican
(Legal marriages could only be performed
in an Anglican Church)

1st child: Catherine
Born 1795

1st child: William
Baptised 12 May 1793
St Annes Anglican
Died before 1801

2nd child: Simeon
Baptised 27 March 1797
St Patricks Catholic
Died before 1801

2nd child: Mary
Baptised 15 October 1797
St Patricks Catholic

3rd child: Ann
Born 1798

3rd child: Michael
Born 1798

4th child: Thomas
Born 1800

4th child: Henry
Baptised 2 February 1800
St Patricks Catholic

3 children immigrated to NSW

3 children immigrated to NSW

Faith of the Family

The family of William & Sarah Hancy

The family of Michael & Hannah Hancy

William - Catholic
Sarah - Catholic (possibly Wesleyan after 1841)

  • married Anglican - compulsory per Marriage Act 1753
  • 0 of their 4 children born in London baptised Anglican
  • 1 of their 4 children born in London known to be baptised Catholic
  • 0 of their 5 children born in NSW baptised Anglican. Records do not exist for early Catholic baptisms in NSW



  • 1828 census records both as Catholic
  • 1830 William given a Catholic Funeral by his Catholic wife
  • 1841 census records Sarah with her daughter Charlotte, son-in-law, 4 grandchildren, and a young male employee farm-labourer aged 7-13yrs who arrived free into the colony. 7 of these 8 people are Catholic, and 1 is Anglican. The conclusion is that this 1 Anglican is her young male employee or her son-in-law.
  • It is possible that after 1841 Sarah became Wesleyan like her daughter Charlotte & son-in-law
  • 1859 Sarah given a Wesleyan funeral by her Wesleyan daughter Charlotte & son-in-law

Michael - Catholic
Hannah - Not Known

  • married Anglican - compulsory per Marriage Act 1753
  • 1st of their 4 children born in London baptised Anglican. (Suggests that Hannah was Protestant)
  • 2 of their 4 children born in London known to be baptised Catholic
  • No children born in NSW


  • 1823 Hannah given a Catholic Funeral by her Catholic husband
  • 1828 census records him as Catholic
  • 1833 Michael given an Anglican funeral by his Anglican daughter-in-law

50% of their children remained Catholic,
50% became Protestant

100% of their children became Protestant

Catherine Hancy - became Protestant

  • 1818 married Anglican to an Anglican
  • Not recorded in 1828 census
  • Children raised Protestant

Mary Hancy - became Protestant

  • 1819 married Anglican to an Anglican
  • Not recorded in 1828 census
  • Children raised Protestant

Ann Hancy - became Protestant

  • 1816 married Anglican to a Protestant
  • 1828 census records her as Protestant


  • Children raised Protestant. In 1841 census her eldest son William Thomas Woolley is married with 1 child. Everyone in the family is Wesleyan, including what may have been his brother John Frederick Woolley.

Michael Hancy - became Protestant

  • Not recorded in 1828 census
  • 1833 married Anglican in New Zealand
  • Children raised Protestant

Thomas Hancy - remained Catholic

  • 1828 census records him as Protestant. This record may be incorrect


  • 1832 married Catholic to a Catholic
  • Children raised Catholic

Henry Hancy - became Protestant

  • 1824 married Anglican to an Anglican
  • 1828 census records him as Catholic. This record may be incorrect. His wife who was Anglican is also recorded as Catholic. They were both living with his Catholic father.
  • 1864 married Anglican in New Zealand
  • Children raised Protestant

Margaret - became Protestant

  • 1827 married Presbyterian to a Presbyterian
  • 1828 census records her as Protestant
  • Children raised Protestant

Frederick - remained Catholic

  • 1828 census records him as Catholic
  • 1832 married Anglican to a Catholic - who married them was not important to this couple
  • Daughter raised Catholic

Elizabeth - remained Catholic

  • 1828 census records her as Catholic
  • 1828 married Catholic to a Catholic
  • Children raised Catholic

Sophia - remained Catholic

  • 1828 census records her as Catholic
  • 1828 married Catholic to a Catholic
  • Children raised Catholic

Charlotte – Catholic when first married, but after 1841 become Wesleyan

  • Not recorded in 1828 census
  • Marriage about 1833 - no record found suggesting it was a Catholic marriage at Parramatta. (Catholic marriages in Parramatta in 1833 did not made it into the official records)
  • 1841 census records Charlotte, and all her children, as Catholic
  • 1859 Charlotte & her husband bury her mother in a Wesleyan funeral
  • 1867 Charlotte was buried in a Wesleyan Funeral by her husband
  • Children raised Wesleyan after first being raised Catholic

A Family's Story

William Hancy

Michael Hancy

14 December 1801 William Hancy, 35, and his wife Sarah & three children, arrive in the infant Colony of New South Wales.

14 December 1801 Michael Hancy, 40, and his wife & three children, arrive in the infant Colony of New South Wales.

31 Mar 1802 Michael & William receive adjoining land grants of 100 acres (40 ha) each. Their lands were watered by the Cattai Creek. Quit Rent for each grant is 2s per year beginning after 5 years, on condition of “clearing and cultivation of country”.

* For William "the said 100 acres (40 ha) to be known by the name of "Hancey Junior’s Farm".

31 Mar 1802 Michael & William receive adjoining land grants of 100 acres (40 ha) each. Their lands were watered by the Cattai Creek. Quit Rent for each grant is 2s per year beginning after 5 years, on condition of “clearing and cultivation of country”.

* For Michael "the said 100 acres to be known by the name of "Hancey’s Farm".

1802 William’s 1st child born in the Colony, Margaret, is welcomed into the family.

1803 William’s 2nd child born in the Colony, Frederick, is welcomed into the family.

March 1804 Rebellion of Irish convicts from the nearby Castle Hill Government Farm culminating in a battle near Rouse Hill that has become known as the Battle of Vinegar Hill. The rebels went from farm to farm seizing weapons and supplies including rum and spirits.

March 1804 Rebellion of Irish convicts from the nearby Castle Hill Government Farm culminating in a battle near Rouse Hill that has become known as the Battle of Vinegar Hill. The rebels went from farm to farm seizing weapons and supplies including rum and spirits.

1805 William’s 3rd child born in the Colony, Elizabeth, is welcomed into the family.

By June 1805 the families became self sufficient, being no longer dependent for the necessities of life on the issue of Government stores. By this standard they had now established successful farms. The records in the 1806 muster also record that the families were being supported from their farms.

By June 1805 the families became self sufficient, being no longer dependent for the necessities of life on the issue of Government stores. By this standard they had now established successful farms. The records in the 1806 muster also record that the families were being supported from their farms.

1806 muster records that his land was supporting:

_1 – himself

_1 – wife

_5 – children

_2 – convict labourers


He had livestock of:

_2 male sheep

_3 female sheep

_1 male goat

_5 female goats

16 male hogs (pigs)

_4 female hogs (pigs)


He also had:

_20 acres (8 ha) in wheat

_20 acres (8 ha) in maize

__3 acres (1.2 ha) in barley

__¾ acre (0.3 ha) in potatoes

__1 acre (0.4 ha) in orchard & garden

_20¼ acres (8 ha)in pasture

_35 acres (14.1 ha) fallow*

100 acres (40 ha) total

1806 muster records that his land was supporting:

_1 – himself

_1 – wife

_3 – children

_1 – convict labourers


He had livestock of:

_2 male sheep

_3 female sheep

_3 male goats

_2 female goats

_6 male hogs (pigs)

_4 female hogs (pigs)


He also had:

_10½ acres (4 ha) in wheat

__6 acres (2.4 ha) in maize

__3 acres (1.2 ha) in barley

__¾ acre (0.3 ha) in potatoes

__1 acre (0.4 ha) in orchard & garden

_44¾ acres (17.6 ha) in pasture

_35 acres (14.1 ha) fallow*

100 acres (40 ha) total

* This is a typical description of a farm in the 1806 muster - this was not, however, the description of an Australian farm but an English one. The 1806 muster was a false report for Officials living in England who had no understanding of the very different conditions in Australia. The word “fallow” was deliberately used to suggest that the whole of the 100 acres (40 ha) had been cleared.

However:

In August 1824 when his farm is then 160 acres (65 ha) William Hancy reported in a memorial than only 60 (24 ha) of the 160 acres (65 ha) are cleared and that the rest of the land is “very barren and useless”. Even this is an exageration as the November 1828 census reports 30 acres (12 ha) cleared and of these 17 acres (6.8 ha) under cultivation.


The acreage under crop is then also a gross exaggeration, not on the part of the farmer but on the part of the census taker who as a part of policy made such exaggerations for all the farms trying to show that the grantees had fully cleared their land and that the Colony was more productive than it actually was. This then also calls into question the livestock numbers. The numbers of people on the farms, however, appear in most cases to be correct (except for known omissions of many/most infants, aboriginals & half-casts.) It was the number of people in the Colony and the number of people in receipt of Government Stores that was important to the Officials in the Colony of New South Wales.

* This is a typical description of a farm in the 1806 muster - this was not, however, the description of an Australian farm but an English one. The 1806 muster was a false report for Officials living in England who had no understanding of the very different conditions in Australia. The word “fallow” was deliberately used to suggest that the whole of the 100 acres (40 ha) had been cleared.

However:

In September 1828 when Michael Hancy’s then 150 acre (60 ha) farm was advertised for sale, only 28 (11 ha) of the 150 acres (60 ha) are cleared.






The acreage under crop is then also a gross exaggeration, not on the part of the farmer but on the part of the census taker who as a part of policy made such exaggerations for all the farms trying to show that the grantees had fully cleared their land and that the Colony was more productive than it actually was. This then also calls into question the livestock numbers. The numbers of people on the farms, however, appear in most cases to be correct (except for known omissions of many/most infants, aboriginals & half-casts.) It was the number of people in the Colony and the number of people in receipt of Government Stores that was important to the Officials in the Colony of New South Wales.

1806 William Hancy was one of the 244 signatories to the Hawkesbury Settlers Address to Governor Bligh complaining about the Rum Corps (NSW Corps) and of the infringements of their rights by John Macarthur.

1808 William’s 4th child born in the Colony, Sophia, is welcomed into the family.

6 May 1808 William Hancy was 1 of 7 signatures on a welcome to Lt. Governor Paterson praying for the reestablishment of the law and order and the punishment of those who had deposed Captain Bligh as Governor.

6 May 1808 Michael Hancy was 1 of 7 signatures on a welcome to Lt. Governor Paterson praying for the reestablishment of the law and order and the punishment of those who had deposed Captain Bligh as Governor.

4 November 1808 William Hancy was 1 of 25 signatories on behalf of several hundred more to a Settlers petition to Viscount Castlereagh in England in support of Bligh, and included statements to the effect that the change in government had been due to the “artifice and cunning” of John Macarthur “and not the request of the inhabitants as stated by Major Johnston”.

4 November 1808 Michael Hancy was 1 of 25 signatories on behalf of several hundred more to a Settlers petition to Viscount Castlereagh in England in support of Bligh, and included statements to the effect that the change in government had been due to the “artifice and cunning” of John Macarthur “and not the request of the inhabitants as stated by Major Johnston”.

1811 William’s 5th child born in the Colony, Charlotte, is welcomed into the family.

29 September 1816 William’s second daughter Ann, 18, marries Thomas Woolley, 31, at St Johns Anglican at Parramatta. Her new husband is Protestant. Censuses reveal that Thomas Woolley was a convict from Exeter who had arrived on the “Admiral Gambier” in 1811. His sentence had expired by September 1816 as Governor's permission was not required for the marriage, and Thomas Woolley was described as "free". They have 8 children.

23 December 1816 William Hancy of Baulkham Hills was to deliver to the Government stores at Parramatta 500 lbs (226 kg) of fresh meat as per his tender.

4 January 1817 William Hancy of Baulkham Hills was to deliver to the Government stores at Parramatta 500 lbs (226 kg) of fresh meat as per his tender.

16 August 1817 William Hancy of Baulkham Hills was to deliver to the Government stores at Parramatta 2,000 lbs (907 kg) of fresh meat as per his tender.

2 August 1817 Michael Hancy of Baulkham Hills was to deliver to the Government stores at Parramatta 500 lbs (226 kg) of fresh meat as per his tender.

9 November 1817 William’s first grandchildren are born. His daughter Ann delivers twin boys, Edward Alexander & William Thomas Woolley, the first of 8 children.

14 December 1817 William’s next grandchild is born to his eldest daughter Catherine and her de-facto James Williams. They later had their baptized at St Johns Anglican at Parramatta on 17 January 1819.

10 January 1818 William Hancy of Baulkham Hills was to deliver to the Government stores at Parramatta 1,000 lbs (453 kg) of fresh meat as per his tender.

10 January 1818 Michael Hancy of Baulkham Hills was to deliver to the Government stores at Parramatta 1,000 lbs (453 kg) of fresh meat as per his tender.

21 March 1818 William’s eldest daughter Catherine, about 22, marries the father of her 3 month old baby, her de-facto James Williams, about 28, at St Johns Anglican at Parramatta. Her new husband is Protestant. James Williams was a convict from Wiltshire who had arrived on the “Marquis of Wellington” in 1815. Governor's permission was required for their marriage. Williams was also an assigned servant on the neighbouring farm of Hannibal Macarthur. Catherine & James were to have 13 children.

2 February 1819 Michael’s eldest child Mary at the age of 21 married the mariner John Watson at St Phillips Anglican Church, Sydney. She had 4 children.


John Watson had been born in Sydney about 1795. He was a “Currency lad”, the term given the first white Australian-born colonists. His convict father Robert Watson had arrived in the Colony in 1788 on the “Sirius” in the First Fleet. His convict mother Sarah Dorset had arrived on the “Lady Juliana” in 1790 with a babe in arms who had been born during the voyage.

1819 William’s eldest daughter Catherine has her second child who dies before the end of the year.

1819 Michael becomes a grandfather for the 1st time. His eldest child Mary gives birth to twin boys. What a coincidence that the first grandchildren for both brothers are twin boys.

10 July 1819 Michael Hancy of Toongabbie was to deliver to the Government stores at Parramatta 1,500 lbs (680 kg) of fresh meat as per his tender.

27 September 1820 William Hancy delivered 417 lbs (189 kg) of salt pork to the Government stores at Parramatta. He was paid £15 12 9d.

1821 Michael’s first granddaughter Mary Watson is born to his eldest child Mary.

February 1821 Notice given to apply for a grant of land previously measured to him. This is during the time of Governor Macquarie.

February 1821 Notice given to apply for a grant of land previously measured to him. This is during the time of Governor Macquarie.

March 1821 Governor MACQUARIE made William Hancy a grant of a further 60 acres (24 ha) of land adjoining his original 100 acre (40 ha) grant.

March 1821 Governor MACQUARIE made Michael Hancy a grant of a further 50 acres (20 ha) adjoining his original 100 acre (40 ha) grant.

27 May 1821 William Hancy delivered 280 lbs (127 kg) of fresh meat to the Government stores at Parramatta. He was paid £5 16s 8d.

24 March 1822 “Mr.” Hancy of Seven Hills is reported to have subscribed £2 to the fund to erect a Roman Catholic Chapel in Sydney. It is not possible to know if this was Michael or William.

24 March 1822 “Mr.” Hancy of Seven Hills is reported to have subscribed £2 to the fund to erect a Roman Catholic Chapel in Sydney. It is not possible to know if this was Michael or William.

1822 Muster – William is shown as a landholder in the Parramatta district. Sarah and his unmarried children (although not identified correctly) are also there.

1822 Muster – Michael is shown as a carpenter at Sydney. Hannah and their son Henry are also there. This shows that by the time of the 1822 Muster Michael ceased working his land and had moved with his family to Sydney.

Back on 25 May 1820 William’s eldest son Thomas, then 19, petitioned the Governor with a memorial requesting a land grant for a farm. He stated that he was “a free born subject of this Colony”. He therefore did not say where he had been born. He also said he resided with his father following “following Agricultural Pursuits”.

He never received a land grant.

1822 Michael’s youngest son Henry, at the age of 22, made 2 memorial requests to the Governor for land.


In what he said it was his first request, he stated correctly that he had “came free” (was not a convict) to the Colony in 1801 on the Minorca. He said he wanted to become a settler and requested some land. Requesting land like this is requesting farm land.


In the other request he stated instead that he had been born in the Colony. Obviously he thought that would give him a greater chance of success. He stated he was a shipwright who had completed his apprenticeship at the Government Dockyards in Sydney. He requested an allotment in the Town of Sydney near the waterside for a yard to carry on a boat-building business.


Then in 1825 he made a 3rd memorial, again claiming to have been born in the colony. In this memorial he requests land at Cockle Bay for boatbuilding.


In a follow-up letter dated 24 October 1831 he gives his address as 26 Cumberland Street, Sydney where he and his family were living with his father.


None of his requests for land are ever granted and he has to carry on his boat-building business as his father’s at 26 Cumberland Street.

18 August 1822 William Hancy made a memorial (request for a land grant) to Governor Sir Thomas Brisbane petitioning for a grant of the whole or such part as the Governor might see fit, of an area of some 300 to 400 acres (121 to 162 ha) of barren brush, fit only for stock to run on, and adjoining his farm.
One of his referees, John Joseph King, signed his reference on 17 August, and commented that William’s conduct had been found, “invariably correct”, and that he and his family “have distinguished themselves by their Sobriety and Industry”. In this memorial he names his 3 (living) children born in England and his 5 children born in the colony. William was not successful in obtaining this grant of grazing land.

27 February 1823 William Hancy advertises about his “about 18 year old” son Frederick who is a “Runaway”. He did not know exactly how old his son was. If instead his wife had placed the advertisement his correct age may have been given.

8 April 1823 Michael advertised about a boat that his son Henry had built on Michael’s property in Cumberland Street in Sydney. The man who had ordered the boat had not yet taken delivery of it.

Michael’s son Henry, as well as building ships in Sydney, crewed on sailing vessels owned by Christopher Harris, between New South Wales and New Zealand. He was found to be Type B Crew onboard a ship 'Governor Macquarie' in 1823.

October 1823 Michael’s eldest child Mary gives birth to a second daughter, Phoebe, who dies before the end of the year.

1 February 1824 Hannah Hancy dies suddenly. Her inquest held later the same day states that her death was by the Visitation of GOD. Being given a Catholic funeral at St Marys in Sydney her death is never recorded in the official records for the Colony.

9 July 1824 Michael’s 5 year old twin grandsons both die. Their parents John & Mary Watson give them a funeral at St Phillips Anglican Church in Sydney.

17 August 1824 Michael’s youngest son Henry at the age of 24 married about 19 year old Sarah Pell at St Phillips Anglican in Sydney. Henry brings Sarah into the family home where Sarah takes over management of the household duties.


Sarah Pell was born in mid-1805 in Sydney or Newcastle. Sarah was a “Currency lass”, the term given the first white Australian-born colonists. She was an orphan who had been raised from the age of 10 by a George Phillips in Sydney.


Sarah’s convict father George Pell (a “lifer” of the “Hillsborough”, 1799), who had reoffended, was sent to Newcastle in June 1804. Given that Sarah was “nearly 11” on 9 March 1816 her mother had conceived her shortly before her father was sent to work in the gaol (jail) gang in Newcastle.


After her mother died (it is not known who her mother was, or when she died) Sarah was raised by her father.


In 1812 her father had joined a team of timber cutters sent from Newcastle to procure a special order of Hunter Valley cedar logs. As reward for a job well done, Governor Macquarie permitted five of these men to establish small farms of their own in the lower Hunter Valley, one of whom was her father. Her father’s farm was on the west bank of the Paterson River about 50 miles (80 km) from Newcastle.


On 26 July 1815, when Sarah was 10 years old, Sarah’s father drowned in a boating accident in the Hunter River as he was returning to his farm from Newcastle. His boat, overloaded with passengers and provisions including bricks, sunk near a sand shoal that had created a heavy swell.


Before his accidental death Sarah’s father has talked with a friend about what would happen to Sarah if he died. He had already made arrangements with his friend George Phillips that in this eventuality Phillips would raise Sarah and caretake the farm until the farm could become hers.


In 1822 George Phillips sent a memorial to Governor King requesting that the deeds of this farm be transferred into then 17 year old Sarah’s name.


* In the next year, 1825, Henry & Sarah’s first child Hannah is born. Hannah only lives until she is 15 years old, dying on 12 September 1840 “after a lingering illness of two years and ten months during which time she bore her pains with Christian fortitude”.


* In April 1827 Henry Jnr. is born but dies the same year.


* Their second daughter Sarah is born in March 1830.


* Another son Henry George is born in 1833.

26 August 1824 William Hancy made a second memorial (request for a land grant). He sought to obtain a grant of “such quantity of land in the New Country adjoining Hugh Kelly’s Farm as may in your Excellency's wisdom seem meet". He stated that he had 8 (living) children.

In answer to queries, William advised that of his 160 acres (65 ha), “Sixty have been cleared and fenced in, the residue of which is so very barren and useless, that it is not worth cultivating”. He had stated that he had “upwards of 90 head of cattle for which he has not sufficient pasturage”.

Of his referees, John Joseph King, confirmed his statements that the land was “neither fit for cultivation nor sufficient to de-pasture his cattle of about 90 head”. He also stated that William had a good character on coming to the colony, and had distinguished himself as also his family by “integrity, sobriety and industry”.

John Piper declared William to be a deserving man and confirmed that he had 8 children.

John Palmer also confirmed that William had been known by him since his arrival in the Colony and that he regarded him as “an industrious deserving character”.

1825 William’s eldest daughter gives birth to twin girls, her 4th & 5th children.

1825 Muster – William is shown as a landholder in the Parramatta district. Sarah and his unmarried children (although not identified correctly) are also there.

1825 Muster - Michael is shown as a Housekeeper, Sydney, and it is noted that Hannah is dead (although it incorrectly says that she was born in the colony). His son Henry is shown as a boatbuilder, Sydney.

2 April 1825 William Hancy is on a list of people who have received orders for grants of land. The land is not received by his family until after his death in 1830.

October 1825 William Hancy of Castle Hill is on a list of persons liable to serve as jurors at Parramatta.

November 1825 William Hancy of Baulkham Hills is on a list of persons liable to serve as jurors at Parramatta.

1826 return of 47 people qualified to serve as jurors at the General Quarter Sessions at Parramatta. William Hancy was listed as a yeoman landholder.

1826 William’s 2nd daughter Ann gives birth to her 5th child who dies the next year.

25 December 1827 William’s 3rd daughter Margaret, 25, married John McLeod from Scotland in a Presbyterian service in Sydney. John McLeod had arrived as a free settler in 1825. In the 1828 census they are both shown as Protestants, Margaret with her correct age. Based on his age shown in the 1828 census John was 28 when they married. They had 1 son, George Alexander, born in 1829.

5 May 1828 William Hancy’s daughters Elizabeth, about 23, & Sophia, about 20, married the Pendergast brothers Thomas, about 25, & James , about 27, at St Marys Catholic Church in Sydney. Thomas & James were “Currency lads”, the term given the first white Australian-born colonists. Thomas & James were sons of Irish Catholic convict John Pendergast & convict Catherine Williams. John Pendergast had arrived aboard the “Minerva” in 1800, and Jane Williams had arrived aboard the “Nile” in 1801. Elizabeth has 9 children, and Sophia has 8 children.

September 1828 Michael’s farm is advertised for sale. For at least 5 years Michael has been living in Sydney working as a carpenter, only returning to the farm when necessary. The farm is described as “28 acres [11 ha] have been cleared, and were under cultivation. The Farm is partially fenced, und has a constant supply of fine water. Distance from Sydney 22 miles [35 km]; from Parramatta 5 miles [8 km].”

17-18 October 1828 Michael sold his 150 acre (60 ha) farm at Baulkham Hills to Mr. A.M. Baxter. When he sold his land he was shown as a 'gentleman' residing in Cumberland St, Sydney.

17-18 October 1828 Michael also sold two lots of land in Cumberland Street Sydney. An 'Assignment in Trust' describes his land and dwelling house at 'No 26 Cumberland Street, an address that had been used by Henry Hancy (Michael's son) when he wanted an allotment for boatbuilding.

November 1828 census

William 62 with Sarah 60.

William a settler at Baulkham Hills, holding 160 acres (65 ha) of land: 30 acres are cleared (12 ha), and 17 acres (6.8 ha) under cultivation.


He owned 5 horses and 16 Horned Cattle.


Both shown as Catholic.

November 1828 census


Michael 67 living at Cumberland Street Sydney with son Henry 27 (he was 28), daughter-in-law Sarah 22 (she was 23), and granddaughter Hannah 3. Michael earning his living as a Carpenter.


Michael owned 14 horned cattle which would be agisted, possibly on his brother’s farm.


All in family shown as Catholic. In 1833 Sarah, however, gave her father-in-law an Anglican funeral.

1830 Michael’s eldest child, Mary, dies at the age of 32. Her husband gives her a funeral at St Phillips Anglican in Sydney.

March 1830 William Hancy is signatory to an address to the retiring Superintendant of Police at Parramatta thanking him for his service and wishing him well for the future.

July 1830 William’s daughter Sophia gives birth to her 2nd child John who died on 30 August 1830 at less than 2 months of age. She subsequently losses 2 more infants, Elizabeth in 1834 at the age of 10 months, and William who dies on his day of birth in 1835.

6 December 1830 (Monday) at 10 o'clock in the morning William Hancy dies after being thrown from his horse onto his head. An inquest is held late on the next day. He died without a will.

8 December 1830 William Hancy’s funeral is held at St Patricks Catholic Church at Parramatta. His headstone and grave is today still there in the historic St. Patrick’s Catholic cemetery in North Parramatta, on corner of Pennant Hills Road and Church Street. Being a Catholic funeral his death does not get included in the official records for the Colony.

1831 Williams’s widow applies to the Government for a (convict) servant to be assigned to her to help work the farm. Her first request was unsuccessful, but in 1835 she is successful.

15 September 1831 William received, posthumously, a grant of 60 acres (24 ha) of land at a Quitrent of 1s per annum from 1 January 1827 of land promised by Governor Macquarie (prior to his departure from the Colony in 1822). This was one of a number of these grants made at this time. This 60 acres made the total landholding of what is now Sarah’s farm a total of 220 acres (89 ha).

1832 or earlier Michael’s eldest son Michael Jr moves to New Zealand. In 1833 Michael Jr at the age of 35 married Moana Na Tarahana in New Zealand. They have a son Michael III in New Zealand in that same year.

13 February 1832 William’s eldest son Thomas, 31, marries at St Marys Catholic Church, Sydney. Thomas, earning his income as a baker, was recorded as a Protestant in the 1828 census. This record may be incorrect. Regardless his new wife was Catholic. He married the convict Catherine Dunn, 20, from Dublin who had arrived aboard the “Asia” in 1830. Governor's permission was required for their marriage. Thomas had 4 children.

11 June 1832 William’s youngest son, about 29 year old Frederick married at the Field of Mars (modern Carlingford) in an Anglican service. Frederick, earning his income as a sawyer, was recorded as a Catholic in the 1828 census. Frederick married about 34 year old Irish Catholic convict Ann Smith from Monaghan who arrived aboard the “Almorah” in 1824. Governor's permission was required for their marriage. Ann’s age is shown in the November 1828 census as Catholic and as 30 making her born, if this is correct, in 1798. One daughter, Sarah, was born in 1837. (Ann is shown as mary Ann on the birth registration.) This family moved to Victoria where theor daughter married in 1852. Frederick, his wife & daughter all died in Victoria. Their great-grandaughter Melora Jane Wood was born in Tasmania about 1880.

Late 1832 Michael’s youngest son Henry, who had been living with his family in Michael’s house, deserts his pregnant wife and children by moving to New Zealand. In the years before he deserted his family Henry’s wife and children continue to live with Michael. In 1864, even though he is still married to Sarah, Henry married again bigamously in New Zealand. He married Elizabeth Harris, the daughter of a high-born Maori, and they had 8 children. Sarah died in Sydney in 1879.

26 January 1833 Deed of Assignment in Trust of “Michael Hancy, the elder of Cumberland Street in the town of Sydney in the Colony of New South Wales, Carpenter”.


Beneficiaries under the 'Assignment in Trust' document, made out in 1833, were Sarah and Hannah Hancy, Michael's grand-daughters, and daughters of his son Henry. The deed of assignment was made just months before Michael died, no doubt to protect the children’s interests as their father had deserted them and moved to New Zealand. The Deed of Assignment was for the property at 26 Cumberland St, Sydney. The third child Henry George Hancy was born too late to be included in the trust. It is assumed that their mother Sarah (nee Pell) was to live in the house with her children.

25 May 1833 Michael Hancy dies in Sydney. Just 2 days earlier the deserted wife of his son Henry had given birth to their third child Henry George Hancy. Not given a Catholic funeral, Michael is given an Anglican funeral by his Anglican daughter-in-law at St Phillips Anglican Church at Sydney.

About 1833 William’s youngest child Charlotte, about 22, married the convict William Ashton, about 31, from Nottingham who arrived aboard the “Eliza” in 1828. No record of this marriage has been found. It is possible that they married at St Patricks Catholic Church, Parramatta, and that just like her father’s death, her marriage was never included in the official records. They have 9 children.

1835 Sarah's application for a (convict) servant to be assigned to her was successful. Her first request soon after William had died in 1830 had not been granted.

1841 census – Sarah Hancy – Castle Hill

Names are not given in this census except for the householder, Sarah Hancy.

Names and ages have been able to be placed into the below table from the known demographics of the family.

The other details come from the statistics for this family shown in the census:

  • 5 females: one <2yrs, one 2-6yrs, one 7-13yrs, two 21-44yrs
  • 3 males: one 2-6yrs, one 7-13yrs, one 21-44yrs
  • 1 female & 1 male married
  • 1 female arrived free, 4 females born colony
  • 1 male arrived free, 1 male born colony, 1 male emancipated convict
  • 1 Landholder, 1 Tradesperson, 1 Agricultural Labourer
  • 7 Catholic, 1 Church of England (Anglican)

Females – 5
_1yrs, Henriette Ashton_<2_, born colony

_4yrs, Ann Ashton______2-6, born colony

_8yrs, Jane Ashton_____7-13, born colony

30yrs, Charlotte Ashton_21-44, born colony
_____________married

73 yrs, Sarah Hancy____21-44, arrrived free
_____________single – Landholder
(The age of 21-44 shown for Sarah above was an obvious mistake in the census.)

Males – 3
_6yrs, John Ashton______2-6, born colony

_____, Unknown________7-13, arrived free
_____________single – Agriculture labourer

39yrs, William Ashton___21-44, emancipated
_____________married – Tradesman

The unknown male is a young male employee farm-labourer aged 7-13yrs who arrived free into the colony.

7 of the above 8 people are recorded as Roman Catholic, and 1 is recorded as Church of England (Anglican). The conclusion is that this 1 Anglican was the young employee or Sarah's son-in-law William Ashton.

.* * *

17 November 1859, after nearly 30 years a widow, and still living on the farm that she had established together with her husband William, Sarah dies. By the time of her death the farm was being run by her son-in-law, William Ashton, who married her youngest daughter Charlotte, who have both converted to Wesleyanism. Sarah is buried by her son-in-law and daughter Charlotte in the Parramatta Methodist Cemetery (Wesleyan Cemetery) established in the 1830s which is today a public park, the ‘Walter Lawrie Memorial Park’, on the corner of Ross and Buller Streets, Parramatta. Her daughter Charlotte and grandson John Ashton were later buried in the same cemetery

The Land Grants


Location of the Grants


The land grants that William Hancy & his elder brother Michael Hancy received were “in the district of Toongabbie” in the Hills District northwest of Sydney. The area where the grants were situated then became more commonly known as Baulkham Hills. Today where the grants were situated is within the Sydney suburb of Castle Hill, the suburb that adjoins the modern suburb that has retained the name of Baulkham Hills. In the early 1800s this was a remote, not always fertile area. Today this land is transformed into an upmarket outer Sydney residential area, on the fringes of rural settlement. The land the families had been granted, while highly valuable today, was then quite remote from the main settlement at Sydney Cove 22 miles (35 km) distant, and the secondary settlement of Parramatta 5 miles (8 km) away.

A portion of today’s Showground Road (which runs from the Castle Hill shopping centre and onto Windsor Road) intersects the grants. The Cattai Creek, which watered both the grants, intersects the Showground Road on the Western boarder of the Fred Catterson Recreation Reserve. The Fred Catterson Recreation Reserve with its preserved bushland accurately portrays the flora and terrain of the grants which were largely uncleared.

The grants were located less than 2 miles (3.2 km) from the large Castle Hill Government Farm, Governor King had established the Goverment Farm in 1801 to provide grain for the colony. The Government Farm was manned by over 200 convict labours, mainly political prisioners from Ireland. The Government Farm was operational until 1810. In 1811 Governor Maquarie converted the barracks buildings into a lunatic assylum which operated until 1826. Subsequent uses for these buildings were as a school and later a church. A small porton of the farm, including where these barracks once stood, today forms the 17 hectare (42 acre) Castle Hill Heritage Park.

Quality of Land


The heavy clay soils of the district (of Castle Hill) were difficult to work and deficient in certain mineral constituents essential to plant life. When cropped continuously the land ceased to respond, and the early settlers soon found it difficult to grow cereal crops successfully. Then rust attacked the wheat, which was the staple crop, and farmers wore forced to abandon this branch of agriculture.[2]

An Area frequented by Bushrangers


Following is part of an 1834 description of the Itinerary-road from Parramatta to Windsor & Richmond, the means of getting to the Hancy’s farms. Many of William Hancey’s neighbours are mentioned in the description.

At point 15 miles [24 km] from Sydney, bridge over Parramatta River - North side of Parramatta and Gaol stands on the left, At 15½ miles [24.8 km] point on the right along Penrith St. towards the Pennant Hills and joining in about 3½ miles [5.6 km] the road leading in from Pennant Hills to the Government wharf. From the Junction to that wharf 2 miles [3.2 km]. There is also another road from Parramatta between this and the river, which leads to the Female Orphan School; to the neat and picturesque cottage of Pemberton Grange, the seat of George Thomas Palmer Esq.; Weddon Cottage of the late John Palmer(1); Vineyard cottage of Hannibal Macarthur Esq. MC (2); One Tree Hill of Thomas Forster Esq.; Ermington House, Major Lockyer's residence and to others near Kissing Point, where a church and school house ornament the top of a rising hill. At the 16½ mile [26.4 km] point, Turnpike. On the right, road leading to Pennant Hills and to allotments marked out for the location of veterans. This portion of the country is very rocky and wild and is much resorted to by bushrangers. A little farther on is the bridge across the Darling Mill ponds. On the right, steam flour mills, named the Darling Mills. From this to the 18 mile [28.8 km] stone, the land on the left is the Toongabbie reserve land attached to the Government domain. At the 18¾ ml point, on the right, the new North road to Wiseman's and Hunter River turns off. On the left, Pye's Inn. At the 19¾ mile [31.6 km] point, The Baulkham Hills. Here two old settlers, McDougall and Suttor have extensive orange grounds, the trees are upwards of 20 years old. At the 22½ mile [36 km] point, on the left Haywood, the residence of Mr. Geo. Acres. At the 23 mile [36.8 km] point, on the right, a public House, called "Bird in the Hand”, kept by Hugh Kelly. On the opposite side of the road there is much cleared land affording an open prospect, backed by some formidable hills belonging to the lower ranges of the Blue Mountains.(ref>"Raymond's The New South Wales Calendar & Directory - 1834", pp 54/55</ref>
(1) Referees to William Hancy’s memorials.
(2) William Hancy’s daughter Catherine married one of Hannibal Macarthur's assigned servants, James Williams

Death or Liberty! 1804 "Battle of Vinegar Hill"

[3][4][5][6][7][8][9][10][11][12]

William & Michael Hancy in the midst of a Rebellion


Less than 12 months after receiving their land grants, building wattle and daub shelters for their families, and, with the assistance of their assigned convicts, beginning to clear their land, William and Michael Hancy found themselves in the midst of an Irish convict lead Rebellion, the “Battle of Vinegar Hill” – the first European battle fought on Australian soil. Significantly, the words 'Vinegar Hill' would be the password for entry to the Eureka Stockade some 50 years later.

William and Micahel Hancy's land was within 2 miles (3.2 km) of the nearby Castle Hill Government Farm where the Rebellion started. The Sydney Gazette of 11 March 1804 records that "every Settler in the wide extended range from the Field of Mars round by Parramatta, Baulkam and Seven Hills, Prospoect Hill, and Toongabbie, were completely stripped of their Arms and Ammunition." The farms of Michael and William Hancy were among the many that the rebels raided as they went from farm to farm seizing weapons and supplies. The leaders of the rebellion would also have planned for their assigned convict servants to join Rebellion, especially if they were Irish. William and Michael Hancy, like other English settler's, did not back the rebel's cause. They had brought their families to the Colony for a new life, a better life. Their interests lay in the maintainance of law and order, under the rulership of their King in England.

On the evening of 4 March 1804, in what was to be the first and only major convict uprising in Australian History, largely Irish convicts under Irish leadership escaped from the Castle Hill Government Farm intent on capturing vessels on which to sail back to Ireland.

The next day, 5 March 1804, close to Rouse Hill on a hillock that became nicknamed as “Vinegar Hill”, the convicts took their stand against a detachment of 27 soldiers of the NSW Corp (the number reported in the Sydney Gazette of 11 March 1804), and about double this number of armed civilians from Parramatta, part of the “Active Defence” militia.

The battle ended after the leader of the Government Troops from the NSW Corps, Major George Johnston, together with Trooper Anlezaek an officer in the Parramatta Militia, went forward to parley with 2 of the leaders of the Rebellion. The uprising was routed with the capture of these 2 leaders, , Phillip Cunningham & William Johnston, a capture that involved trickery and subterfuge as they had gone forward under an offer of truce.

Until it was quelled the Rebellion had spanned over 2 days, with the enthusiastic rebels declaring that the area be called New Ireland, and that Cunningham be elected “King of the Australian Empire”. These were just words, however, with no political aim.

The "Battle of Vinegar Hill" was a culmination of multi-conspiracies, mutinies, failed uprisings, betrayals, and personal tragedy. It was a rebellion for freedom freedom with no political or military goal. Without such a goal it would have ultimately failed, no matter how good the beginning.

Earlier attempts at uprisings


In August 1800 a plan was made to take Parramatta and capture the hated Anglican Minister and Magistrate Samuel Marsden, the “flogging parson”. After dealing with Marsden the rebels would pike the soldiers at Parramatta in their beds, steal their muskets, and then march on Sydney. To this end pikes, long wooden poles with metal spikes, were manufactured and hidden to ensure that the rebels would be well armed. An informant had given Marsden word of the insurrection and the Rebellion was quickly cancelled when its leaders learnt of their betrayal. The suspected Irish leaders were rounded up by the authorities and punished by being shipped off to remote parts of the Colony. The authorities also attempted to round up all the pikes. Once the population of Sydney, Parramatta and Windsor learned that the planned uprising had included pikes, the population went hysterical with fear of Irish convicts.

All the pikes were not found, and in September 1800 another insurrection was planned. This time rebels were to assemble at Parramatta when the local authorities would be in Church service on Sunday morning. The plan was to over-power the soldiers at Parramatta and then march on Sydney. The plan failed when the messenger that the leaders had been using to take word or the planned insurrection from farm to farm, and escaped convict named John Lewis, was captured. Placed in gaol (jail) he eventually informed. On learning that their plan had been discovered the rebel leaders, as in the attempt of the month before, cancelled the Rebellion. In reprisal the authorities rounded up the ringleaders, punished them with 1000 lashes, and gaoled (jailed) and isolated them with hard labour on the hulk “Supply” which lay in Sydney Harbour. Other rebels were rounded up and given 500 or 200 lashes.

By isolating the rebel leaders Governor King was attempting to settle and keep the peace amongst the remaining Irish convicts. Then in February 1801 the convict transport “Ann” arrived from Cork with its new cargo of Irish convicts. In the words of Governor King she had carried “137 of the most desperate and diabolical characters that could be selected” (King to Portland, Dispatch 3, 10 March 1801), including convicts who had mutinied during the voyage.

Quoting Lynette Ramsay Silver:
With one lot of dangerous and desperate convicts only just removed from the colony, it seemed to the governor very much as if they had merely moved aside to make room for an even worse collection of desperadoes. The arrival of the new transportees brought the total of United Irishmen in the colony to six hundred, one of them apparently bound by an oath of absolute loyalty to the brotherhood, and, in King's opinion, 'ready and only waiting to put their diabolical plans into action'. (King to Portland, Dispatch 3, 10 March 1801)[4]

This was not to be the end of the problem’s though. More ships continued to arrive from Ireland bringing out political prisoners. For example in June 1802 the “Hercules” arrived with more of these ‘desperate and diabolical characters’ who had likewise mutinied on the way.

Governor King’s forebodings were to be realised in the uprising, still future, of 1804 where the principal leader, Phillip Cunningham, was found to be an “Ann” transportee and mutineer, and one of the 2 deputy leaders, Samuel Humes, was found to be a “Hercules” transportee and mutineer.

Why start a Rebellion in Castle Hill?


  • In January 1800 Father James Dixon, an Irish Catholic Priest, arrived as a convict in Sydney - a supposedly United Irish Political prisioner. On 19 April 1803, after taking the oaths of allegiance and abjuration, Governor King gave Father Dixon conditional emancipation and permission to exercise his duties as a priest. On 15 May 1803 the first public Mass was held in Australia and others followed later at Parramatta and the Hawkesbury. For this priveledge his congregations were required to strictly obey the Governor's orders. Instead these Masses gave an opportunity for many United Irish to gather together and illegally discuss plans to rebel. Some of these illegal plans were discussed while attending mass at Parramatta between Irish convicts from Castle Hill Government Farm and others from Parramatta and outlying areas. (Consequently after the "Battle of Vinegar Hill" in March 1804 permission to hold Mass was again withdrawn. Though Father Dixon still held private baptisms and weddings until he was given permission to return to Ireland in 1808, after it was proved that he had been wrongly convicted and should never have been transported.)


  • The Government Farm at Castle Hill was 32,000 acres (12,950 ha) of land set aside to grow food for a Colony that in 1800 was still not self-sufficent in food and was constantly on the brink of starvation. Large numbers of convicts were concentrated in the one place to work such a large farm. 474 Irish and English convicts were housed and employed on the farm in 1804. The Government Farm was also close to where a well known Irish agitator, Jospeh Holt, was working. His close proximity may have increased the likelihood of an uprising.


  • Castle Hill Government Farm was in a central position to Parramatta (10.5 miles, 16.8 km South) and Windsor (10.5 miles, 16.8 km North-West) where other significant convict populations were found. This gave more opportunity for a co-ordinated uprising to be planned with the aim of overwhelming any civil or military counter-response. With constant communication between the three settlements the intent was a unified rebellion.


The leaders of the Rebellion


The leader of the Rebellion, the Irish convict Phillip Cunningham (the alias of Glenn Liath), was a political activist and veteran of the 1798 United Irish “Vinegar Hill Rebellion” back in the home country. The slogan for this new 1804 Rebellion was borrowed from the 1798 insurrection: “Death or Liberty!”.

After taking place in the “Vinegar Hill Rebellion” of June 1798, in early 1799 Cunningham had helped to reorganise the United Irish network in the south of Ireland. He was involved in rescuing prisoners and conducting arms raids, as well as sporadically attacking the Clonmel yeomanry on the ‘retaliate first’ principle, while continuing to await the arrival of the French and tried to re-establish lines of communication. On the evidence of an informer Cunningham was captured and charged with sedition at Clonmel 9-11 October 1799. A legal technicality only saved him from the hangman’s noose and instead allowed his sentence to be commuted to transportation for life. In 1800 he was placed abroad the “Ann”, the third transport to carry rebel prisoners to New South Wales. Then in an attempt to take over control of the vessel and sail to France for assistance, and along with the others crying “Death or Liberty!”, Cunningham was involved in an unsuccessful mutiny on board the “Anne”. For his part in this mutiny of the coast of Brazil, Cunningham was at first sent to Norfolk Island when the vessel arrived in New South Wales in 1801. Then he was assigned to the Government Farm at Castle Hill where he becoming the overseer of government stonemasons. Cunningham had no intention of relinquishing his hope of freedom, however. In October 1802, accompanied by fellow convict Conor Sheehan, Cunningham attempted to abscond from the Colony of New South Wales. His plan had been to travel to Sydney and join a departing French Vessel. They only made it as far as Parramatta, however, before they were captured. Sent back to the Government Farm their punishment was 100 lashes each.

Cunningham’s deputy-leaders in the Rebellion were William Johnston and Samuel Humes.

Samuel Humes had arrived in the Colony as an Irish political prisoner aboard the “Hercules” in June 1802, another veteran of the 1798 United Irish “Vinegar Hill Rebellion”. He likewise had been involved in seditious activities in the aftermath. After being arrested, tried, and placed upon the “Hercules” transport he arrived in New South Wales in June 1802. On the voyage out, near Cape Verdes, he had likewise been involved in an attempt to take over control of the vessel and sail to France for assistance, another unsuccessful mutiny

Nothing is known about William Johnston except that he was an Irish convict, not even on which ship he was transported to the Colony, or when he arrived. His background, however, would have been similar to Cunningham’s and Hume’s.

All 3 men were Irish convicts working on the Castle Hill Government Farm. Many of their fellow convicts at the Castle Hill Government Farm were also political prisoners who had been involved in the “Vinegar Hill Rebellion” of 1798 and its aftermath. Many others were assigned to work as labourers on farms throughout the region.

The plan for the Rebellion of 1804


The Rebellion was not planned to include only those about 600 Irish convicts who had arrived in the Colony since after the “Vinegar Hill Rebellion” of 1798, but any other convicts and free settlers of any persuasion who wished to join them. The ambitious plan was to try to involve the about 685 convicts in the Castle Hill area (474 Irish & English convicts were on the Government Farm, and many Irish and English convicts were assigned to farms in the area) joining with the about 1,100 convicts from the Hawkesbury River area. They were to meet at Constitution Hill (near the intersection of today’s Cumberland Highway and Old Windsor Road) in order to march on Parramatta and then Port Jackson (Sydney) itself.

In more detail the plan involved torching the Macarthur property of "Elizabeth Farm" in order to draw the Parramatta garrison out of the town. Once this was done it was planned that the rebels in Parramatta would rise up and set fire to the town as a signal. The Castle Hill rebels would gather at Constitution Hill and then raid the barracks for more arms and ammunition. From there the rebels would march to Windsor and join up with the rebels in the Hawkesbury before marching on Sydney.

The signal for the Rebellion to begin would be for a convict by the name of John Cavenah to set fire to his hut on the Castle Hill Government Farm.

How did the Rebellion play out?


Cunningham's plans were only shared with a select minority as the more people who knew about the plans, the more likely there was to be a leak to the authorities. Secrecy and a non-traceable trail of communication were 2 factors that Cunningham was trying to ensure to guarantee the success of this Rebellion, which he had been planning for about a month. There was some success in that the Rebellion did not come to the notice of the New South Wales Corps until the day before the Rebellion began. The secrecy had been blown, however late, and the Rebellion was now doomed to failure. Cunningham, however, was unaware of the leak.

On the evening of Saturday 3 March 1804 one of the Irish convict overseers at the Castle Hill Government Farm came forward and turned informant. On Sunday 4 March, the day on which the Rebellion was planned to begin, 2 more informants “came forward” naming names. The first of these informants was the publican Lewis Bulger who told Samuel Marsden about the contents of a note that Cunningham had given the day before to his fellow convict John Griffin to take to one of the pike makers, Bryan Furey, that the Rebellion was on for the next night. Lewis Bulger knew about the note because he had urged John Griffin to destroy it, which he had done. The second informant was John Griffin after he was quickly caught and gaoled (jailed) where Marsden forced the information about the Rebellion out of him. Captail Abbott and Reverend Marsden transmitted this information to Headquarters but, as previous plots had never come to fruition "no other notice was taken of it than using common precautions"[3].

The note that should have united the convicts from Parramatta, Castle Hill Prison Farm, and Windsor was never delivered. If Parramatta and Windsor had uprisen as originally planned the course of the rebellion would have been very different. The fight between the authorities and the rebels would have been longer and more bloody, and the number of convicts invloved would have been much larger.

At about 8 or 9 p.m. (accounts vary) on the evening of Sunday 4 March 1804 a bell was rung and John Cavanah set fire to his hut on the Castle Hill Government Farm as planned. The signal had been given for the Rebellion to begin. The startled convicts poured out of their huts and under the leadership of Cunningham, Johnston and Hume they took over the farm. They broke into the buildings on the Government Farm seizing firearms, ammunition, and any other weapons that they could find.

Initially pandemonium broke loose as buildings were ransacked and cries of “Death or Liberty!” filled the air. Two English convicts dragged the flogger, Robert Duggan, out from under his bed and one of them, George Harrington, beat Duggan unconscious. Only misfiring muskets saved 2 constables from being shot in the face. Cunningham dressed the rebels down for their lack of discipline, but the lack of discipline continued.

Cunningham split the mob of the over 300 convicts from the Government Farm who had chosen to join in the Rebellion into 3 groups under the leadership of Johnston, Hume and himself. They were ordered them to spread out across the countryside to raid the homes of settlers to steal weapons and rally recruits. They were to regroup later at Constitution Hill outside Parramatta. Rebels went from farm to farm looking for others to join their cause, and seized firearms, ammunition, and any other weapons they could find. They also, however, took and drank any liquor they could find which helped nothing with their discipline. They did, however, manage to arm themselves with over 180 swords, muskets and pistols. This is estimated to be close to one-third of the entire Colony’s arms.

Setting fire to a hut in the darkness of night was a good way to get the word that the Rebellion had begun out to the rebels in the area. The fire was seen at Parramatta and in the Hawkesbury. Unfortunately for the rebels, however, Cunningham’s message had never reached Bryan Furey and those at Parramatta and in the Hawkesbury did not know what the fire meant.

The fire was also conspicuously visible to the authorities. Within an hour word had reached Parramatta that convicts had escaped from the Government Farm and were raiding farms stealing arms. By 11.30 p.m. word had reached Governor King in Sydney in a dispatch from Captain Abbot, the Commanding Officer at Parramatta. Drums and gun shots rang out in both Parramatta and Sydney as the military and civilian militia, and all other able-bodied men, were called to duty. Meanwhile Samuel Marsden and John Macarthur and their families fled the town of Parramatta by boat.

At 12.15 a.m. Governor King in Sydney received a second dispatch "of the outrages committed at Castle Hill, stating the Insurgents to be in great force and advancing towards Parramatta in different directions"[3]. Governor King, after first issuing orders for Lieutenant Colonel Paterson, the commander of the HSW Corps, to send a Detachment of soldiers from Sydney to Parramatta, immediately himself set out for Parramatta on horseback. As Governor King rode past the home of Major George Johnston he despatched a Trooper (Officer of the civilian Militia) to request that Major Johnston take command of the Detachment of NSW Corps then on their march from Sydney to Parramatta.

Governor King arrived at Parramatta at 4.00 a.m. of the morning of 5 March 1804. He received information "that a great body of the Insurgents, all armed, were at Park Gate" (Constitution Hill) "at the West entrance of Parramatta"[3].

At dawn (about 5.00 a.m.) on 5 March 1804, as stragglers continued to arrive, the rebel leaders Cunningham and Johnston were to be found drilling their men on Constitution Hill while they waited for the expected signal from the rebels in Parramatta that the town was free of soldiers. Word, however, had never reached the rebels in Parramatta of when the Rebellion was to begin, and the signal never came. Compounding Cunningham and Johnston’s problems was that Humes and about 120 armed men had lost themselves in the darkness. Taking Parramatta was now out of the question, so Cunningham and Johnston decided to head off down the Hawkesbury Road (today the Old Windsor Road, and then Windsor Road) towards Windsor to meet up with the convicts from the Hawkesbury area who they believed were also in Rebellion. 233 Rebels, according to the number recorded in the Sydney Gazette, began to march down the Hawkesbury road away from Parramatta.

At 5.00 a.m. on 5 March 1804 Major Johnston with his Detachment of soldiers arrived at Parramatta Barracks from Sydney. After taking refreshmnent they proceeded to Government House. They met with Governor King and offered, as Governor King later described, "their eager services to march immediately in pursuit of the Insurgents"[3].

"From the imperious neccesity of putting an immediate & effectual stop to the progress of the Insurgents" Governor King issued a Proclamation of Martial Law for the area of the Rebellion, the first time that Martial Law had been declared in Australian history.

Proclamation
BY PHILIP GIDLEY KING ESQ.,
CAPTAIN-GENERAL and GOVERNOR IN CHIEF
in and over HIS MAJESTY’s
TERRITORY of NEW SOUTH WALES and its
DEPENDENCIES, &c, &c, &c.

WHEREAS a Number of Labouring Convicts of Castle-HILL, and other Parts in this District have assembled, and it a Rebellious and daring manner have Attacked and Robbed several of His Majesty’s peaceable and loyal Subjects of their Property and Arms, and proceeded Therewith to great Acts of Outrage, which the Preservation of the Lives and Property of His Majesty’s liege Subjects demand an immediate Stop being put to, by the most effectual means;
I DO thereby Proclaim the Districts of Parramatta, Castle-Hill, Toongabie, Prospect, Seven and Baulkham Hills, Hawkesbury & Nepean to be in a STATE of REBELLION; And do Establish MARTIAL LAW throughout those Districts.
I do therefore strictly Charge and Command All His Majesty’s liege Subjects to be assisting in Apprehending and giving up to the nearest Officer Or Magistrate every Person they may stop, who is unprovided with a Pass, under pain of being tried by a Court Martial.
And every Person who is seen in a State of Rebellious Opposition to the Peace and Tranquillity of This Colony, and does not give himself or themselves up, within Twenty-four Hours, will be tried by a court-Martial, and suffer the Sentence passed upon him or them.
And if they, or any one of them give up the Ringleaders to Justice, it may be an effectual means of procuring them that Amnesty which is so much my wish to grant
. GIVEN under my Hand at HEAD-QUARTERS, PARRAMATTA,
This 5th of March, 1804
(SIGNED)
PHILIP GIDLEY KING

God Save the King.
BY Command of His EXCELLENCY
W.N. CHAPMAN, Secretary

Sydney Gazette, Sunday 11 March 1804

(This same issue of the newspaper carried the Proclamation dated 10 March 1804 that lifted the Martial law.)


After being given information that the Insurgents were in several bodies (not all the rebels had made it to the rendevous on Constituation Hill), Major Johnston then split his Detachment into two groups. At 6.30 a.m. Major Johnston, with Quartermaster Laycock and 25 non-commissioned officers and privates of the NSW Corps, accompanied by Trooper Anlezark in charge of about double that number of the Parramatta Militia proceeded by way of Toongabbie taking Father James Dixon (the convict Irish Catholic priest who had been given permission by Governor Hunter to hold Catholic services in the Colony) with them. Lieutenant Davis, with an equal number of soldiers proceeded along the Castle Hill Road.

Major Johnston, on arriving at Toongabbie, received information from the inhabitants that a considerable body of the rebels were on their way to the Hawkesbury. "Notwithstanding the fatigue of his small Detachment...they immediately ran in good Order...and after a pursuit of Seven Miles" (11.2 km) "farther...Major Johnston and a Trooper" (on horseback) "...came up with the rear of the Insurgents at 11 o'clock, whole numbers have been ascertained to be 233 men, armed with..." "136 Muskets, fourteen Pistols, and a great number of Swords, bayonets on pole, and pitch-forks" "and a small number of followers which they had taken from the Settlers. After calling to them" (the rebels) "repeatedly they halted, and formed on the rifle of a Hill."[3]

The rebels needed to be delayed so that the soldiers on foot could catch up. Major Johnston firstly sent Trooper Anlezark ahead to call a truce and parley with them. The truce was refused, Analezark’s claims that Governor King was right behind them were not believed, and his demands for their surrender were ignored.

Needing more time Major Johnston next sent Father Dixon, who he had brought with him, to talk to the rebels in an attempt to convince them to surrender. Father Dixon likewise failed to halt the rebels.

Next Major Johnston, together with Trooper Anlezark, galloped ahead to call a truce and urge the rebels to surrender and "submit to the Mercy that was offered them by the Proclamation" (of Martial Law) "which they refused"[3]. Major Johnston wanted to see their leaders. He was asked into the centre of the rebels to discuss any parley. Instead Major Johnston called the rebel leaders cowardly for not wanting to come out and meet him in the open but under the cover of their rebel muskets. Phillip Cunningham and William Johnson came out and meet with Major Johnston and Trooper Anlezark. The rebel leaders listened for a period, and then agreed for the 2 officers to return to their troops and bring back Father Dixon again.

The delay had allowed the foot-soldiers and militia to catch up. With their reinforcements at the ready, Major Johnston and Trooper Anlezark again returned to the rebels to call a truce and taking Father Dixon with them as requested. Johnson claimed that he waved a white handkerchief as a flag of truce. Again Cunningham and Johnston walked out from the ranks of the rebels to meet them.

Major Johnston was planning to quell the Rebellion by breaking the truce and tricking Cunningham and Johnston into thinking that he would talk with them but instead he and Trooper Anlezark would take them prisoner.

Lynette Ramsey Silver then writes of the final confrontation between the rebel leaders and Major Johnston:
Finally, when the major asked them [the rebel leaders] what they really wanted, Cunningham replied 'Death or Liberty' adding (according to one account) the very practical request 'and a ship to take us home'.[4]

At this point Major Johnston pulled out his hidden pistol and, according to the account in the Sydney Gazette of 11 March 1804 "presented his pistol at the head of the Principal leader (Philip Cunningham)". Major Johnston ordering Cunningham to walk towards the soldiers and militia who had just appeared over a rise and begun to march towards the base of the then unnamed hill. Anlezark likewise pulled out his hidden pistol and held it at Johnston’s head. (Other accounts say that Major Johnston took Johnston prisoner, and Trooper Anlezark took Cunningham prisoner.) Cunningham and Johnston had been gullible enough to trust the English officer, and now they, and all those with them, were to pay the penalty.

Lynette Ramsey Silver writes of the start of the battle:
Major Johnston without any other preliminaries, ordered his men to charge and open fire. Over fifty armed civilians, a mounted trooper, and 29 military men (26 of whom were capable of firing 780 prepared rounds of ammunition in 10 to 15 minutes), were pitted against 233 rebels. The odds were technically with the rebels, but it was Enniscorthy's Vinegar Hill all over again. With machine like precision and the economy of movement that comes with practice and military training, the red-coated soldiers formed ranks and for 15 minutes carried out their duty precisely as ordered. Leaderless, caught completely unawares and totally unprepared, the rebels weakly returned the fire before fleeing in all directions.[4]

The Aftermarth


With the short battle over a day-long pursuit of the fleeing rebels began. Some of the prisoners who were taken were murdered in cold blood by the troops. Major Johnston had to threatening his troops with his pistol to save the lives of six others.

In the meantime William Johnston managed to temporarily escape his captors and flee into the bush. As for Cunningham, Quartermaster Thomas Laycock struck at him with his sword and the wounded Cunningham fell to the ground assumed dead. Soldiers busy pursuing other rebels left Cunningham behind and he was not picked up until the next day. Picking up what they assumed to be a body the next day, Cunningham was found to be still living.

The men in the uprising were not just Irish convicts. There had also been a significant number of English convicts, and a smattering of free men such as Charles Hill. Governor King decided that the best thing to do was to only punish the ringleaders who had caused the others to follow. This decision meant that most of the rebels, still needed to work the Government Farm, were not punished.

Taking advantage of the Martial Law, Major Johnston ordered Phillip Cunningham to be hung without trial at Windsor on Monday 6 March 1804 from the staircase of the public Windsor Granary store, a place that he had boasted that he would plunder.

William Johnson eventually gave himself up before Martial law was lifted. Others of the rebels surrendered in great numbers. By 8 March all the leaders had been captured and now faced court-marshal.

William Johnston and the others who played leadership roles were then brought before a judicial panel. William Johnston plead guilty, while John Neale admitted that he had been in the rebel group. The rest claimed that they had been forced to join the Rebellion, except for Jonathon Place who outright denied all charges. William Johnston, and Samuel Humes another of the senior leaders of the Rebellion, were hung until dead in a public place, Johnston at Castle Hill and Humes at Parramatta, and then their bodies were hung in chains. Another 6 men were executed by hanging – 2 at Parramatta, 2 at Castle Hill, and 2 at Sydney. Four of these men were English convicts.

Lynette Ramsey Silver writes:
There are very old legends about the two 'hanging trees' at Toongabbie. .. one on Toongabbie Hill and the other by Johnston's Bridge. It is probable that the body of Samuel Humes was hanged on one of these two trees. The Johnston's Bridge site is favoured, as it was by the main road to the Hawkesbury and right in the centre of the Government Ground. .... The body of Johnston was hanged in a small hollow on the road to Prospect where the road climbs from Parramatta and then descends, shortly after leaving the township.[4]

Johnston’s body was hung in a very public place as the road to Prospect was a busy road just outside of Parramatta. The bodies were left to rot as a warning to others and were not taken down until June, 3 months later, and then only because of the pleas of a free lady recently arrived in the Colony.

In total 9 of the rebel leaders had been executed and many more were punished before martial law was finally repealed on the morning of Saturday 10 March 1804. Governor King rode into Sydney on that morning, and Major Johnston and his Detachment had marched back into Sydney the afternoon before, Friday 9 March 1804.

Seven of the remaining leaders received between 200-500 lashes in Sydney before being exiled to Newcastle with 23 others. Another 34 were placed in irons. Father Dixon, who it was perceived had played a part in the Rebellion, was made to put his hands on the raw and bloodied backs of the rebels who had been flogged.

Finally many others whom it was suspected had played a part in the leadership of the Rebellion, but for whom there was insufficient proof of their involvement, were exiled to Norfolk Island.

Where did the battle take place?


The battle took place at what became nick-named “Vinegar Hill”. “Vinegar Hill” is somewhere along the road that the rebels were marching along on their way from Coronation Hill to Windsor, what was then called the Hawkesbury Road. Today it is the Old Windsor Road and then continues along Windsor Road.

Originally it was thought that “Vinegar Hill” was at Rouse Hill. From the 1950s a number of historians began to contend instead that it was about 1 mile (1.6 km) before Rouse Hill near where Schofields Road meets Windsor Road. From the writings of Major Johnston about the battle, and the topography of the area, this is now the accepted place of “Vinegar Hill”, in the area occupied today by Castlebrook Lawn Cemetery. (In 1988 a sculpture commemorating the battle was dedicated at Castlebrook Lawn Cemetery by former Australian Prime Minister Gough Whitlam.) This is only about 4 miles (6.4 km), as the crow flies, from the farms of William and Michael Hancy.

Final comment from The Hills Shire Council


“THE CASTLE HILL REBELLION & BATTLE OF VINEGAR HILL 1804”:
The rebels were not bloodthirsty revolutionaries but ordinary men motivated by a single desire – to go home. The ideals of Liberty and Freedom, for which they fought and died, are as much a part of our Australian ethos today as they were in 1804. It is significant that the password for the 1854 Eureka Stockade in the Victorian goldfields was ‘Vinegar Hill’.[5]


William and Michael Hancy, Political Activists

[12][13][14][15][16][17]

Where was the free-economy?


When William and Michael Hancy arrived in the Colony of New South Wales in December 1801 to make a new life for themselves and their families it was into an economy that was largely controlled by the “Rum Corps”. It was not the free-economy that they had been hoping for. As a result they were later to put their signatures to documents in support of King and Country, and against the anarchy caused by the actions of the “Rum Corps” and John Macarthur.

Who were the “Rum Corps”?


“Rum Corps” was the disparaging nick-name that was given to the Officers of the NSW Corps (later renamed the 102nd Regiment), a Regiment that was created in 1789 to relieve the Royal Marines who had accompanied the First Fleet to Australia in 1788.

The Regiment named the NSW Corps began arriving with the 2nd Fleet in 1790, but their commanding Officer, Major Francis Grose did not arrive until February 1792. It was the arrival of Major Grose in the Colony that began, intentionally or unintentionally, to place economic power into the hands of the Officers of the NSW Corps.

One of the decisions that Major Grose made in 1792, that was subsequently to lead to an increase in economic power for the Officers of the NSW Corps, was to appoint Lieutenant John Macarthur as Paymaster for the Regiment. Macarthur, who had arrived in the Colony in 1790 with the 2nd Fleet, was ambitious. Under the governorship of Arthur Phillip, however, he had been unable to make any advancement in his military career. Instead Macarthur had only received reprimand. Now, with his Commanding Officer in place as Lieutenant-Governor, Macarthur was given an important post and an increase in pay of more than 200%.

When Major Grose had arrived in the Colony in February 1792 it was governed by Arthur Phillip who had established a fair system of government with civilian magistrates, and equal rations for all. In December 1792, however, Governor Phillip returned to England leaving behind a European population of 4,221, of whom 3,099 (73%) were convicts. The result of Phillip’s return to England was that for the next nearly three years the military were in complete control of the Colony.

The government of the Colony was left in the hands of Lieutenant-Governor Major Grose who immediately abandoned Phillip’s plans for governing the Colony. He believed that the best interests of the Colony would be served by establishing military rule. To this end he abolished the civilian magistrates and replaced them with military magistrates. His favoritism towards his troops was also evidenced when he cuts rations for convicts but not for the Corps after crops failed in 1793.

In an attempt to improve the agricultural yield of the Colony, Grose made land grants, in accordance with instructions from England, to those who requested them. At this time in the history of the Colony, however, those in a position to be able to request a land grant were mainly Officers of the Corps. As a result Officers of the Corps became the owners of 100 acre (40 ha) land grants. They were also provided with convict labour, government fed and clothed. In addition there was a ready market of the government to buy any produce that the Officers may produce on their farms.

Another decision that Grose made in 1793 was to further promote John Macarthur. He gave Macarthur the position of Inspector of Public Works, a position that he held until he resigned from it in 1796. This unpaid this position gave Macarthur more power as it gave him extensive and crucial control of the Colony's rudimentary resources.

Also Grose relaxed Phillip’s prohibition on trading in rum. Phillip had realized that unless there was some control over the sale of alcoholic spirits, great evils would follow, but Grose made no efforts in this direction. Officers of the NSW Corps gained control of the rum trade, the custom of Officers trading in spirits became almost universal, and great abuses such as the payment of wages in spirits became common.

The Officers of the NSW Corps also established a system of Government Stores where the government bought commodities from producers at prices set by the government, and then acted as distributor and exporter. The result was the monopolisation of many markets within the Colony.

How had the Officers of the NSW Corps gained control of the rum trade?


The beginning of their monopoly, where they purchased all rum that was imported into the country, and even began distilling rum in the Colony from its inadequate grain supplies, was the arrival of the American ship, the “Hope” in Sydney Harbour in early 1793. The Captain of this ship demanded inflated prices for the goods that it carried, much needed in the Colony. It held the Colony further to ransom by demanding that its cargo of 7,500 gallons (36,000 litres) of rum had to be sold first.

The Officers of the NSW Corps formed a ring to buy the "Hope"'s cargo without competition. John Macarthur, the paymaster of the NSW Corps and holder of its purse-strings, used Regimental funds to buy the rum. He fixed the necessary IOUs against the Regiment's funds in England. The rum was then exchanged for other goods and labour on very favourable terms. With this taste of successful, highly profitable commerce the NSW Corps then monopolised the rum trade. They purchased all imported rum.

Rum then became a de-facto currency, especially as the Colony was short of coins. This control of the “currency” gave the Officers of the NSW Corps the ability to inflate or deflate prices at will.

From gaining control of the rum trade the Officers of the NSW Corps earned the nick-name of the “Rum Corps”.

The “Rum Corps” under Hunter and King


When Grose left the Colony in December 1794 after governing the Colony for just 2 years, he left behind a junta of Officers who had established for themselves a strong economic base, and who would do whatever was necessary to retain this advantage. They didn’t have any worries in this area at this time, however, as for the next 9 months, with the Colony governed by Captain William Paterson in the role of administrator, they were able to further strengthen their position.

When Governor John Hunter arrived in the Colony in September 1795 the European population of the Colony had fallen to 3,211, of whom 1,908 (59%) were convicts. The remainder were military and administrative personnel, prisoners whose terms of servitude had ended, and about a dozen or so free immigrants. The Officers of the New South Wales Corps had a monopoly on the local economy, policing, civil control, and the judiciary. The only part of government that they did not control was the Governor.

At first Hunter allowed the status-quo to continue, despite instructions from England to the contrary. This was because, at least initially, the era of military rule that had begun in December 1792 had been profitable for the agricultural community. Later charges of increased crime and excessive drunkenness during the time of military rule under Grose and Paterson are unsupported by surviving documents from the period. The material progress of the Colony as he found it was commented on in Hunter’s early dispatches. As a gesture, however, he did allow a minority of civilians, chaplains and medical men, to act as magistrates.

By 1798, however, Hunter had become aware that trading by the Officers had to be controlled if the settlers were not all to be made bankrupt. This was demonstrated in his report of March of that year about settler’s grievances re inflated prices showing mark-ups of 700% between importation cost and price of sale to the public. From then he began to take steps to curb the power of the Officers.

In an attempt to reduce the power of the “Rum Corps” Governor Hunter tried to use the troops of the NSW Corps as guards to prevent their Officers from purchasing the imported rum, and also to guard the supplies of imported rum. This was doomed to failure. The Officers then also began importing their own rum by chartering foreign ships to bring in their own shipments. Hunter began a public store with goods from England to provide competition and stabilise the price of goods, but supplies were too erratic. His attempts to limit the amount of convict labour that Officers could use, something that he had been ordered to do from England, was also unsuccessful as he had no way to enforce it. Hunter was opposed strongly by Officers of the Corps who criticised him in letters and pamphlets. Macarthur wrote a letter to England accusing Hunter of ineffectiveness and trading in rum, surely the pot calling the kettle black. As a result of Macarthur’s accusations, however, Hunter was recalled to answer the charges in a letter from England dated 5 November 1799. This was a time when considerable power remained in the hands of the “Rum Corps” who between them owned 32% of the Colony's cattle, 40% of the goats, 59% of the horses and 77% of the sheep. In September 1800 Hunter handed over the government to Lieutenant-Governor Philip Gidley King and sailed back to England.

Governor King continued Hunter’s efforts to prevent the Officers trading in rum. He levied an excise duty on alcohol, something that Hunter had not been given the power to do. He also required all ships to lodge a bond which was forfeit for disobeying the Governor’s orders, which included the prohibition against landing more than 500 gallons of rum. King encouraged private importers and traders, and introduced a schedule of values for Indian copper coins and Spanish pieces of eight which were being used as currency. King’s actions antagonised the Officers, and like Hunter he became the subject of pamphlets and attacks. From Macarthur began an extensive and subtle campaign intended to dismay and discredit King. As a result of this campaign Macarthur then challenged to a duel his commanding Officer, Captain William Paterson who had told Macarthur to show some respect to the Governor. As a result of this duel Macarthur sailed back to England to face court-marshal in November 1801.

It was into this political climate that William and Michael Hancy stepped when they disembarked from their ship in December 1801 – a political climate where the major broker of power was the Officers of the NSW Corps, albeit now without one of their main movers and shakers, and where the Governor was trying to regain control.

Macarthur returns to NSW, and Hunter departs


Since May 1803 Governor Hunter had been requesting a replacement. In the interim, in 1804, Hunter had needed to deal with the “Battle of Vinegar Hill”. Eventually William Bligh was appointed as Hunter’s replacement in 1805. Hunter then just needed to continue as Governor until Bligh arrived.

In the meantime, in June 1805, John Macarthur, who had resigned from the army, returned to the Colony. Documents were lost and he had never been made to face a court-martial. He instead returned with an order for him to be granted a substantial holding of what was the best land in the Colony upon which to pursue sheep farming. A main mover and shaker of the “Rum Corps” was back, and with political and economic backing from England. He also commenced as a merchant in his own right by purchasing a ½ interest in the whaling ship Argo that brought him back to NSW.

Finally Hunter, exhausted from his tussles with the “Rum Corps” and seething from the return of Macarthur, was able to hand over the reigns of the Colony to Bligh a week after he arrived in the Colony on 6 August 1806.


In early convict Australia there were two insurrections, and the Hancy brothers lived through both. There was the one by the Irish led convicts in 1804 which culminated in the “Battle of Vinegar Hill”; and the other by the local “Rum Corps” junta against Bligh in 1808, the “Rum Rebellion”.

  • The “Battle of Vinegar Hill” took place in the area where the Hancy brothers had settled. It was based around the Irish rebellion organisers seeing British authority as illegitimate, and bringing a level of professional organisation to what had previously been ad-hoc escape attempts.
  • The “Rum Rebellion” was an economic battle where Major George Johnston, John Macarthur, and the rest of the “Rum Corps” replaced the Executive, Governor Bligh, in order to maintain their economic and military monopoly on the Colony of New South Wales.

Although these two rebellions were only four years apart, they were radically different in nature.

It is indeed ironic, however, that Major George Johnson, the principal player in the defeat of the “Vinegar Hill Rebellion” of 1804 then turned rebel himself and became the principal player in the success of the “Rum Rebellion” of 1808.



Bligh and the “Rum Rebellion” = Time for Settlers to become politically active


Bligh arrived in the Colony on 6 August 1806 with strict instructions to put the Colony in order.

When Bligh took the reigns of government a week letter he was presented, on 14 August 1806, with a written address of “congratulations to the new naval governor”. This address was signed by:

  • Major George Johnston for the military inhabitants
  • Richard Atkins (Judge-Advocate) for the civil inhabitants, and
  • John Macarthur for the free inhabitants.

This incensed the free inhabitants who were annoyed that John Macarthur would have the audacity to sign on their behalf. 135 Sydney inhabitants and 244 Hawkesbury settlers then prepared their own addresses. These addresses were presented to Governor Bligh about 5 weeks later. The Sydney inhabitants stipulated that John Macarthur would never be chosen to deputise for them. The Hawkesbury settlers authorised their own deputies to express their indignation at this infringement of their rights and privileges by John Macarthur. This Hawkesbury address is the first time that we have any indication of the effect that the actions of the “Rum Corps” and John Macarthur were having on William and Michael Hancy.

  • William Hancy was one of the 244 who signed the “Hawkesbury Settlers’ Address” which complained of practices of Officers of the “Rum Corps”, and also of the infringement of the settlers’ rights, privileges and liberties by John Macarthur.

The “Hawkesbury Settlers Address” outlined the difficulties that settlers at the Hawkesbury were suffering. These colonists supported what they saw as the lawful government of the Colony and were opposed to the depravations of the “Rum Corps”. Only one of their difficulties, the two disastrous floods of the previous year that had affected their farms, and then the whole Colony by causing a shortage of grain, was not a result of actions taken by the “Rum Corps”. They complained of the evils arising from the depreciated currency and the extremely low price they had been getting for their grain and other agricultural produce. They asking Bligh to restore freedom of trade, to allow commodities to be bought and sold in a fair open market and to prevent monopolies and extortion which was currently being practiced.


Part of the Hawkesbury Settlers’ Address of 1808:

We look up to your Excellency in wisdom to put in practice the means as may be for the salvation, honor, and interest of the Colony, and for averting the approach of famine and distress to inhabitants —

By restoring the freedom of trade.

By permitting commodities to be bought and sold at a fair open market (by all the inhabitants).

By preventing that painful monopoly and extortion heretofore…

By protecting the merchant and trader in their properties, and the people in general in their rights, privileges, liberties, and professions, as by law established.

By suffering the laws of the realm to take their due course in matters of property without control.

That justice be administered by the Courts authorized by His Majesty, according to the known law of the land.

By causing payment to be made in such money or Government orders as will pass current in the purchase of every article of merchandize without drawback or discount.

We most respectfully assure your Excellency we are ready on Profession occasions to lay down our lives and fortunes for the protection and support of your Excellency in the good government, welfare, and prosperity of the Colony, and to comply with every recommendation your Excellency may in wisdom propose for the Government of this territory.

We look up to the time when it may please His Majesty to authorize in such a manner as his justice may deem meet a legal authority to make local laws for the government of the Colony.

We subscribe this address, the loyal people, settlers, landholders, cultivators, and other principal inhabitants of Hawkesbury and lands adjacent.


Bligh then made attempts to alleviate the distress of the Hawkesbury settlers. He toured the whole of the occupied area, and inquired into the circumstances of each individual settler, a course of action which not only gave him a first-hand acquaintance with the people but also of their troubles. He had government cattle slaughtered and given to the needy of the Hawkesbury and promised to purchase for the government supplies all the surplus wheat from their next crop at ten shillings a bushell. Lord Castlereagh in London commended him for his zealous and patriotic exertions on behalf of the Hawkesbury sufferers. By showing he was interested and cared about them he became highly regarded amongst the settlers. Bligh then began to make it difficult for the profiteering of the “Rum Corps”. He banned the trade in spirits, required currency to be pounds sterling and began to re-establish a free market. Bligh was threatening to over-turn the “Rum Corps” control of the Colony. Macarthur had broken former Governor's Hunter and King, he was determined to break Bligh too, using courts as the initial arena of combat. Bligh's requirement that promissory notes be discarded in favour of pounds sterling led to MacArthur making a claim against Andrew Thompson. MacArthur had a history of buying up promissory notes as a third party so he could prosecute and extort his opponents in court. Thompson was a Hawkesbury settler and bailiff for Bligh.

Macarthur was a law unto himself, and other cases were fought between Bligh and MacArthur: the use of convicts without government approval; imported stills; and the use of the schooner Parramatta. In this last Macarthur openly defied the rule of law. This abuse and defiance of the law was soon to be escalated into a military coup, what we today know as the “Rum Rebellion”, at Macarthur's guidance.

In January 1808 Macarthur was arrested on charges of sedition laid out against him as a follow on of the Parramatta incident. To make a long story short, Bligh then refused Macarthur the bail that had been granted to him by 6 Officers of the NSW Corps acting as magistrates. Macarthur was imprisoned. Macarthur then organized the “Rum Rebellion” from his cell by writing a letter to Major Johnston suggesting that he arrest Bligh. Bligh had earlier threatened the 6 officers of the NSW Corps with court-martial for their part as magistrates in the illegally-constituted and abortive Macarthur trial. Worried for his men Major Johnston decided that arresting Bligh was his best recourse.

On 26 January, the anniversary of the day that Governor Phillip raised the British flag in Sydney Cove, the day that is now celebrated as Australia Day, Major George Johnston ordered Macarthur’s release, arrested Bligh and assumed government. Major George Johnston, who had commanded the NSW Corps unit and militia that ran down the 1804 “Vinegar Hill” rebels, was now a rebel himself and established himself as Lieutenant-Governor.

The “Rum Corps” and John Macarthur had got back control of the Colony. Macarthur was even appointed a magistrate and Colonial Secretary, the second appointment meaning that he administered the Colony (a position he held until July with the arrival in the Colony of Lieutenant-Colonel Joseph Foveuax). The military coup had ensured the junta could continue operating as it always had, including their mercantilist and monopolist ways which operated in defiance of the law.


Some of the settlers of the wrote letters of their concern over the current state of affairs in the Colony. 2 examples are below.

[Settlers to Major Johnston]

Sir,

We, the undersigned freeholders and cultivators of land in the county of Cumberland, in His Majesty's territory of New South Wales, are impressed with surprize and alarm to see John McArthur, Esq., hold the office of Colonial Secretary; and we believe that, under colour of discharging the duty of that office, said John McArthur has violated the law, violated public faith, and trampled on the most sacred and constitutional rights of British subjects.

John McArthur does not hold the above-mentioned office by commission from the King; and as the inhabitants of this Colony have not confidence in the said John McArthur, he having without any authority from them, assumed to himself the office of our representative, and in our name presented an address, which we have already disavowed, and declared our sentiments that John McArthur is the last man we would depute to represent us in any case whatever.

We believe John McArthur has been the scourge of this Colony fomenting quarrels between His Majesty's Officers, servants, and subjects. His monopoly and extortion have been highly injurious to the inhabitants of every description.

We most earnestly pray that the said John McArthur may be removed from the said office of Colonial Secretary, from all other offices, and from all public councils and interference with the involvement of this Colony.


[Settlers to Lieutenant-Colonel Paterson]

Sir, 18th April, 1808.

We the undersigned freeholders most earnestly wish, and anxiously hope for your Honor's speedy and safe arrival at headquarters, to take upon you the re-establishment of His Majesty's Government, and to restore tranquility in this Colony.

The particular state of the Colony is truly alarming to every man of observation and reflection.

His Majesty's Governor- in-Chief a prisoner; public Officers appointed by His Majesty, magistrates and other Officers, legally appointed, all removed; also five of the magistrates created by the now ruling power, who acted with impartiality, and justly opposed the present measures, dismissed or resigned ; their Acting Judge- Advocate sent Home; the Civil and Criminal Courts annulled; the independent and impartial judgment of the Officers who composed them publicly censured and condemned by proclamation of the 3rd instant; the superintendant of the police (John Harris, Esqr.) also under orders to leave the Colony, whose departure we might have much reason to regret, and whom we request you will be pleased to retain as a principal man, now holding the confidence of the people and supporting their rights.

The whole government appears to be put into the hands of John McArthur, Esqr., who seems a very improper person, he having; been a turbulent and troublesome character, constantly quarrelling with His Majesty's Governors, and other principal Officers, from Governor Phillip to Governor Bligh; and we believe him to be the principal agitator and promoter of the present alarming and calamitous state of the Colony.

We solemnly declare that we had no fore-knowledge, act, or part of the strong measures taken on the 26th day of January last. We protest against the means adopted to obtain signatures to a paper carried round to sanction what was done on that day — threatening individuals with imprisonment; to be sent out of the Colony by the first ships, and that they would be marked men who refused to sign it; that many of the most worthless and abandoned members of society have subscribed that address, and even prisoners in gaol (jail).

We pledge ourselves, on your arrival, to give you our support at every hazard that is dear to man, in restoring the government and placing us again under the protection of the King and the laws.


Governor William Bligh was a very popular man in the Hawkesbury area. He had done much, in his years as Governor, to gain the respect of the local settlers. During his time of imprisonment Bligh delayed his departure to England after the rebellion by spending a lot of time at his own Hawkesbury farm, knowing he would be safe surrounded by the local settlers who were his friends and allies.

After Governor Bligh's arrest by the military some of the Hawkesbury settlers who supported him wrote letters of support.

  • On 6 May 1808 William and Michael Hancy were 2 of 7 signatories on a welcome to Lieutenant-Governor Paterson in anticipation of his arrival in the Colony. (He was then still in England, he did not arrive in the Colony until January 1809.) They wrote praying for the re-establishment of law and order, and asked for punishment of those who had deposed Governor Bligh.


Part of the letter of welcome from Hawkesbury settlers to Lieutenant-Governor Paterson dated 6 May 1808:

…to you they look up for the reestablishment of that law and order which the most extraordinary and violent interposition has so recently deprived them of, and substituted in its room anarchy, confusion, and the most unjustifiable oppression.

We, therefore, deem it the duty of every honest and well-meaning man, to step forward and make known his real sentiments at the present crisis. And we pledge ourselves to be ready Offers of to give you every information and support in our power in order that full satisfaction and justice may be given to the Governor (whom we highly revere) and Government of our most gracious Sovereign in this Colony, for the gross insult and injury done them, in the person of His Excellency Governor Bligh, to whom we are most zealously attached.

Therefore, sir, from your known loyalty to His Majesty's person and Government, we cannot but feel the most confident reliance that you will take prompt and effectual means to secure the… principals in this most unjustifiable transaction. In so doing you… will have, not only the good will, but the highest esteem of every unbiased and deserving character in this Colony, joined with the 1st applause and support of the British Empire.


  • On 4 November 1808 William and Michael Hancy were 2 of 25 signatories, on behalf of hundreds more, wrote a petition to Viscount Castlereagh in England in support of Bligh and condemning Macarthur and the Officers of the NSW Corps. They disagreed with Bligh’s arrest by the military and asked for Bligh’s reinstatement. They had known nothing about Bligh’s arrest until after it had taken place. They wrote their own account of what they considered the causes of the rebellion. They felt that the Officers had been merchants, traders and dealers, had employed convicts as their agents which gave them "a dangerous influence". The Officers also monopolised all of the spirits bought into the Colony, which they purchased cheaply and sold at 200% to 300% profit. Some of the wealthy Officers bought up whole districts, placed convicts tenants on the land and later sold at huge profits. The Officers also demanded payment for their goods in promissory notes with exorbitant rates of interest, and which in some cases they redeemed at 1,000% profit. Bligh had issued orders against these practices, and that in consequence the military had deposed Bligh. They had also released McArthur from the Gaol (Jail) where he was awaiting the hearing of a case against him, and appointed McArthur a magistrate and Colonial Secretary, “by which means the man got to the head … of public affairs”, they complained, “…and, no doubt, his artifice and cunning was the cause of the change of government, and not the request of the inhabitants as stated by Major Johnston.” They also pointed out that the cultivators of land laboured under the greatest inconveniences, as they can get no cash for their grain, from which circumstance they were not able to discharge their debts or get necessaries for their families; and that the military monopolised to themselves the use of labourers, and put them to work at other than agriculture, so that the Colony was being impoverished.

It was a year after his arrest before Bligh agreed to sail back to England. However, he quickly commandeered the ship and sailed instead to Tasmania, remaining in exile there until Governor Lachlan Macquarie arrived in January 1810. By that time Johnston (in 1808), and then Macarthur (in 1809), had sailed for England to plead their case that Bligh was a tyrant and their coup was just. Bligh had expected to be reinstated, but he discovered that Macquarie, who had been sent out to clean up the mess, had come as his replacement, bringing his own troops from the 73rd regiment with him. The bulk of the NSW Corps were recalled to England; a few of its officers and long-serving privates, about 100, were allowed to remain by a transfer to the 73rd; and some of the Officers were allowed to retire and farm their land. The power that the “Rum Corps” had held in the Colony was broken.

In the words of Cameron Riley: The Rum Rebellion was more economic than political. MacArthur and Bligh clashed politically only because Bligh stood in the way of the economic monopolising and racketeering the Rum Corps was able to indulge in. The Rum Corps worked outside of the law, having complete contempt for anything but their own power. Bligh was a strong enough man to enforce the law, and see the need for the equitable nature of the rule of law and free market. MacArthur and the Rum Corps responded as they always had, by disregard for the rule of law, and staging Australia's only military coup.[12]

Postscript


  • Governor Bligh reached England on 25 October 1810 and was soon involved in the court martial of Johnston. Since the defence was justification, this was virtually his trial too. Johnston's conviction was his own acquittal; but the rider to the sentence on Johnston, that 'novel and extraordinary circumstances' offered some, though not a 'full', extenuation of his conduct, suggests that the court thought the governor not free from blame, unless it was merely unwilling to punish Johnston for being Macarthur's tool. Though Bligh's hot temper and violent language did not justify mutiny, they certainly marred his record and reduced his efficiency, especially as they seem to have been accompanied by the normal belief of contemporary administrators that offices were to be valued as much for their perquisites as for their salary. For all that, Bligh's rule and its aftermath proved that even in New South Wales and even by John Macarthur the law must be obeyed. [14]. After Johnston’s trial Bligh received his routine promotions, first to Rear-Admiral backdated to July 1810, then tio Vice-Admiral in June 1814. He lived in Lambeth, London for a time and gave valuable evidence to a select committee on transportation in 1812. He received a pension in 1813 and moved to Farningham, Kent. He died in 1817.
  • Major George Johnston was court-martialled in England, but his sentence was only to be cashiered (stripped of his commission). He returned as a civilian to the Colony in May 1813 to resume his farming interests. His passage had been provided by the British Government, and Macquarie was directed to treat him as he would 'any other ordinary Settler'. By November 1814 Macquarie had become convinced that he had nothing to fear from Johnston and frequently entertained his family at Government House. He also gave him additional generous grants of land, valuable appointments and other favours. Johnston in turn gave Macquarie a thoroughbred stallion, and acted as chairman of a committee that presented him with an address in 1821 when Macquarie returned from his farewell tour of Van Diemen's Land. Johnston died in 1823.
  • John Macarthur at first could not return to the Colony as it had been decided in England that civilians involved in the “Rum Rebellion” should be tried in the Colony. To return meant to be arrested. Macarthur finally received permission to return to the Colony in 1817, and then only on condition that he should in no way associate in public affairs. Though of course that was not to be: Macarthur had arguments with Macquarie over land grants; and influenced the report of Commissioner John Thomas Biggs in 1819 to reflect Macarthur’s then vision for the Colony as an extensive wool-exporting country controlled by men of real capital with estates of at least 10,000 acres (4,047 ha) each and landless convict labourers. Sir Thomas Makdougall Brisbane, who had taken over from Macquarie as Governor in December 1821, was impressed by Macarthur and his talents He intended to appoint Macarthur as a magistrate, but this proposal produced such opposition that Brisbane had to withdraw his offer. In July 1825, under the new Governor Sir Ralph Darling, Macarthur became one of the three unofficial nominated members of the newly-created Legislative Council. Macarthur then began an extended dispute with the governor on the composition of the council. Nevertheless Macarthur was appointed to the reformed Legislative Council in 1829 and remained until 1832 when he was removed at the request of the next Governor Sir Richard Bourke on the ground that he had been 'pronounced a lunatic', there being 'little hope of his restoration'. By 1830 Macarthur had managed to amass for himself 60,000 acres (24,281 ha), by grant or purchase, in what was called 'the first (most-important) agricultural establishment in the Colony'. Macarthur died in 1834.


William Hancy advertises for his runaway son

WHEREAS my Son, FREDERICK HANCY, has absconded from paternal protection and support for some weeks since, I hereby caution all Persons from giving countenance or encouragement to the said Runaway; and any one harbouring him after this Notice, will do it at their peril. He is about 18 years of age, and is addicted to company. WILLIAM HANCY.

Sydney Gazette, 27 February 1823

William Hancy's death

CORONER'S INQUEST. An inquest was held at Baulkham Hills, on Tuesday last (7 December), to inquire into the cause of the death of the late Mr. William Hancy, an old emigrant settler, who came by his death by a fall from his mare, which at full speed came in contact with a cow lying upon the Windsor-Road. A verdict of accidental death was returned.

Sydney Gazette, Saturday 11 December 1830



William Hancy's body lies exposed on road for 2 days


To the Editor of the Sydney Gazette. SIR, A fatal accident occurred in our little neighbourhood yesterday, to an old respectable emigrant settler, Mr. William Hancy, who, when returning home from Parramatta, in company with two other persons, was thrown from his horse and killed upon the spot. It appears that the deceased and the two other persona were all riding at a smart pace, within a few rods of Wood's house, when the deceased's horse came in contact with a cow lying in the middle of the road, and precipitated the rider with such violence (having fallen upon his head) as to cause immediate death. Information of the accident was immediately sent to Parramatta, but the Coroner for Parramatta and its districts was absent, at Sydney; in consequence of which the corpse was left exposed, on the middle of the high road, from 10 o'clock yesterday morning, when the accident occurred, till about 6 o'clock in the afternoon, when the body was moved to the side of the road. Now, Mr. Editor, as a friend to humanity, I make those facts known to the public, that not only was the corpse of a respectable emigrant settler, and father of a large family, exposed to the vulgar gaze, and to the lamentation of his afflicted wife and family, but the body is still lying on the side of the road, and it is now past 4 o'clock in the afternoon of the second day since the accident happened, and no jury is yet convened. Had the weather been as hot as it usually is at this time of the year, it is easy to imagine what a state the corpse must have been in. I am, Mr. Editor, your obedient Servant, A FRIEND TO HUMANITY. Baulkham Hills, December 7th, 1830

Sydney Gazette, Saturday 11 December 1830



William Hancy's funeral


William Hancy's funeral was held on 8 December 1830 at St Patricks Catholic Church at Parramatta. His body was buried in the cemetery there, and a headstone still exists. If you go looking for his death registration, however, it is not to be found, not under any of the various spellings of his surname: Hancy, Hancey, Hansy, or Hansey. This is because his death was never included in the official records. In the very early days of the Colony no Catholic births, marriages, or funerals were included in the official records. Then by 1828 when William Hancy's daughters Elizabeth & Sophia married in a double ceremony, Catholic Ceremonies held in Sydney had began to be included. At the time that William Hancy died in 1830, however, Catholic ceremonies held at Parramatta were still not making it into the official records.

The Family Secret

On 21 March 1818 at Parramatta, Catherine Hancy, William Hancy’s eldest child, married James Williams the father of her 3-month-old son, at Parramatta. James, who had been in the Colony for 3 years, was an assigned servant to one of William Hancy’s neighbours, Hannibal Macarthur, the nephew of John Macarthur.

A native of East Knoyle, Wiltshire, James had been convicted of horse stealing in the Dorset Assizes in March 1814. His original sentence had been death but it had been commuted to transportation for life. In June 1814, whilst he awaited a ship he had been put aboard the Laurel hulk in Langston Harbour (near Portsmouth).

James Williams, a miller by trade and a married man with 3 children, had come to the Colony of New South Wales as a convict aboard the “Marquis of Wellington” in January 1815. Some of the men aboard the Marquis of Wellington had their wives and children follow them to the Colony, at government expense. Six of these families had come out on the Northhampton arriving in the Colony 5 months later in June 1815. James William’s wife and children remained in England.

Marriage for a convict in the Colony was only allowed after first having received the Governor’s permission to marry. How then was it possible for James, a married man, to have received the Governor’s permission to marry Catherine?

An explanatory note to the “Index of Convicts” at the NSW State Archives states:-
It was not uncommon in the early years of the settlement for convicts to marry again in the colony, when they had been married already prior to conviction. Various reasons accounted for this - the mistaken belief that their spouse was dead or the attitude they would never see them again. It was almost impossible to prove a convict was married if he stated otherwise. Some convicts believed transportation annulled marriage. Moreover bigamy after 7 years was probably not a crime. (see below)

BIGAMY: The Acts 1 Jac 1 C 11 and 10 Car a C 21 however made exception to five cases in which such 2nd marriage (though in the three first are void) is yet no felony. Where either party has been continually abroad for 7 years, whether the party in England hath notice of the others being living or no. (Tomlins Law Dictionary, London, 1820, Vol.1)

James William’s 2nd marriage to Catherine Hancy, however, was definitely bigamous. It had been just less than 4 years since he had left England. He was one of the many convicts who re-married in the Colony by hiding their marital status. Rev. Samuel Marsden, “Principal Chaplain, Parramatta”, would not have signed James’ request for Governor’s consent to marriage if James had not assured him that he was single.

On 7 August 1819 James Williams was convicted of an offence within the Colony of New South Wales. He had been “selling liquor without a license”. He was sent to Newcastle for 3 years. He was, however, returned to Sydney one year early. This did not mean, however, that he was allowed to live with his family. He was still a convict serving a life sentence. He was at this time labouring for the Government and sleeping in the Barracks in Sydney. In May 1822 his wife Catherine petitioned Major Frederick Goulburn - Colonial Secretary, asking for her husband to be allowed to sleep out of barracks, as she is alone with her children and had no protection.

In May/June 1822 James was assigned to Rev. George Augustus Middleton at Newcastle. Catherine received permission to proceed with their youngest infant child, George Frederick, to Newcastle to join her husband. Her 5 year old eldest son, James Philip, was probably left with family until he could later join her.

Then in October 1826 Catherine petitioned the Governor, Lt.Gen. DARLING, for her to be allowed to take her husband off the stores, and, as she had came free to the Colony, for him to be assigned to her instead of to Rev. Middleton. Her petition contained some interesting information:

  • In 1822 in either May or June, James Williams had been assigned in Sydney to Rev. George Augustas Middleton. (Rev. Middleton was Assistant Chaplain, had been appointed 6 August 1819 by the then Under Secretary for State in England, and lived in the Hunter's River Valley at a Glebe Farm, "Glen Rose", Paterson's Plains.)
  • In 1823 Middleton had allowed Williams a ‘Clearing Lease’ of 20 acres (8 ha) of the Glebe Farm. (An unusual thing to have done, since Williams was assigned to him and Middleton could have used his services without leasing land to him.) Williams did clear part of the land, sufficient to permit him to erect a dwelling house and barn, but Catherine and the children did not reside on the farm.
  • Middleton agreed to rent to Williams another 40 acres (16 ha) of the Glebe Farm at a rental of £40 p.a. For another £50 p.a. Middleton allowed him the services of 2 Govt. Servants to be rationed from the Government Stores at Newcastle. There was also the added expense of £50 for three Working Bullocks.
  • Williams paid some of the rent, but could not make up the rest, his explanation being that his crops had been blighted and Bushrangers had robbed him of £90.
  • Relations were very much strained between Middleton and Williams. Catherine contended that Middleton was being very exorbitant in maintaining his demands to be paid the rest of the money due to him. At the same time, although Williams had the opportunity to go and work for other men on their properties for wages that would have allowed him to clear his debt, Middleton refused permission for him to go, claiming that Williams' assignment to him was for work only on his, Middleton's, farm, and to allow Williams to go, Middleton would be breaking his contract to the Government.
  • James & Catherine had 5 children to maintain; that 2 of the 5 were twins, only 3 years old, and that the youngest was but 13 months old. (James Philip, 11, & George Frederick, 7, twins Eliza Catherine & Julia Ann, 3, and Louisa Margaret 13 months.)

Catherine’s petition was strongly resisted, not to his credit, by Rev. G.A. Middleton to whom James had been assigned. This resulted in further correspondence and further petitions. Despite the objections James was finally assigned to his wife on 14 February 1829 by a “Ticket of Exemption from Government Labour” (from Middleton) on condition that he was “to reside with his wife, Catherine Williams, who came free to the Colony, District WALLIS PLAINS. Vide Petition No 28/10195 22nd Dec. 1828.” (Wallis Plains was soon to be renamed Maitland.)

Government records show that James’ “Ticket of Exemption from Government Labour” was renewed yearly until on 10 September 1833 James was granted a “Ticket of Leave”.

TICKET OF EXEMPTION FROM GOVERNMENT LABOUR was used as a form of assignment to relatives. The individual was not allowed to work for themselves or to acquire property. The Exemption Ticket allowed “simply the privilege of residing until the next 31st December with the person therein named, generally a relation, in some specific district and no other.” The convict also had to attend church service every Sunday and had to renew the Ticket each year. A large number of those convicts who had received a Ticket of Exemption were assigned a Ticket of Leave in August/September 1833. It appears that the issuing of Tickets of Exemption was discontinued at that time.

TICKET OF LEAVE allowed convicts to work for themselves on condition that they remained in a specified area, reported regularly to local authorities and if at all possible, attend divine worship every Sunday.

Convicts with life sentences could receive a pardon. The two main types of pardons were:

  • CONDITIONAL PARDON - the convict was free as long as they remained in the colony
  • ABSOLUTE PARDON - the convict's sentence was entirely remitted. They were free both within and outside of the colony and could return to Britain.

Information from NSW State Archives


Then just 2½ months later, on 21 November 1833, James was granted a “Conditional Pardon” - “PROVIDED ALWAYS and on Condition that the said James Williams continue to reside within the limits of this Government for and during the space of his Original Sentence or Order of Transportation; or as if this Remission had never been granted.” Finally James was to all intents and purposes a free man. He would remain a free man as long as no one ever discovered his secret.



Children


Offspring of William Hancy and Sarah MacDonald (1768-1859)
Name Birth Death Joined with
Catherine Hancy (1795-1879)
Simeon Hancy (1797-bef1801)
Ann Hancy (1798-aft1859)
Thomas Hancy (1800-1876)
Margaret Hancy (1802-aft1859)
Frederick Hancy (1803-1872)
Elizabeth Jane Hancy (1805-1874)
Sophia Hancy (1808-1845)
Charlotte Hancy (1811-1867) 1811 Baulkham Hills, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia 20 June 1867 Baulkham Hills, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia William Archibald Ashton (1802-1881)
Edit child facts

Changes of surname by daughters:

  • Catherine Hancy married James Williams in 1818
  • Ann Hancy (1798) married Thomas Woolley in 1816
  • Margaret Hancy married John McLeod in 1827
  • Elizabeth Jane Hancy married Thomas Pendergast in 1828
  • Sophia Hancy married James Pendergast in 1828
  • Charlotte Hancy married William Archibald Ashton about 1833

Establishing who William Hancy's children were, and their years of birth

When William Hancy immigrated to New South Wales with his family he is recorded as arriving with 3 children. In trying to establish who these 3 children were, and who were the additional children born in New South Wales, other documents need to be consulted. As William Hancy & his wife Sarah were Roman Catholic the process is a little more difficult. In the early days of New South Wales the only birth records came from a child's baptism. The only period in which a Catholic baptism was available in these early years was between 1803 and 1808 with Father James Dixon, and these baptisms were not included in the official records. Then it wasn't until 1820 that Catholic baptisms were again able to be performed with the arrival in the Colony of Fathers Conolly and Therry. Even then baptisms of children into the Catholic faith were not included in the official records. Slowly this began to change, but this began first with the main Catholic Church in Sydney before records in Parramatta, near where William Hancy settled, were included. There are therefore no birth records for any of William Hancy's children born in the Colony.

William & Sarah Hancy had 9 children in total

Records of all except one of William Hancy's children are found in the Musters & Censuses of New South Wales. That one child is the only child born in England for whom a baptism record has been found, and also the only child born in England who was not able to immigrate as he was already deceased. Little Simeon, William Hancy's second child, was baptised in at St Patrick Catholic Church in London on 27 March 1797, but died before the Minorca sailed on 21 June 1801.

Problems in the records

In the death registration for Sarah in 1859 it states that Sarah had 8 children still living when she really only had 7 children living in 1859. The information for her death registration was provided by her son-in-law William Ashton who had married her daughter Charlotte and he had made a mistake. Without the memorials that are referred to below, however, it would have appeared that this information in Sarah's death certificate had instead been correct and that William & Sarah Hancy had 10 children in total, the 10th being a second daughter by the name of Ann born in 1807. This is because the 1822 & 1825 Musters both have recorded such a daughter.

  • Ann was recorded in the 1822 Muster. Recorded age 14 = YOB 1807.
  • Ann was recorded in the 1825 Muster. Recorded age 17 = YOB 1807.

The above records are incorrect. No such second daughter by the name of Ann existed. Errors like this, unfortunately, were common in the Musters.

A memorial (a request for a land grant) that William Hancy wrote to the government on 18 August 1822 reveals the names of William Hancy's other 8 children

On 18 August 1822 William Hancy wrote a memoral where he stated that he and his wife had arrived free on the Minorca in 1801. They had brought there three children with them "namely Catherine, Ann and Thomas" and had since had another five more children "namely Margaret, Frederick, Elizabeth, Sophia and Charlotte". In a subsequent memorials dated 26 August 1824 he again stated that he had a wife and 8 children, and one of his independant referees also stated that he was the father of 8 children.

The Musters & Censuses of New South Wales reveal additional details about William Hancy's other 8 children

In the 1806 Muster of New South Wales William Hancy is recorded as having 5 children, suggesting 2 children had been born into the family in the period 1802-1805. Subsequent records, however, show that 3 children were born in this period, and that William Hancy had 6 living children at the time of this Muster. How can this be? It was common in the musters not to include infants, especially in the muster of 1805-1806. What was being counted in the Muster was children being sustained either on government stores or by the parent. An infant was being sustained at its mother's breast and was not counted. The youngest of William Hancy's 6 children was an infant.

  • (1) Catherine born 1795 in London.
    • Catherine was 1 of the 3 children aboard the Minorca in 1801.
    • Catherine was one of the 5 children counted in the 1806 Muster.
    • Catherine married on 21 March 1818 in an Anglican service in Parramatta. No age was recorded.
    • Catherine was recorded in the 1822 Muster. No age was recorded.
    • Catherine was recorded in the 1825 Muster. No age was recorded.
    • Catherine WAS NOT recorded in the November 1828 Census.
    • Catherine was one of the 7 children living in 1859.
    • Catherine was recorded as 84 years of age at her death on 24 Octobber 1879. This suggests a year of birth of 1795. This agrees with Catherine being William & Sarah Hancy's eldest child, born in the year after they married on 9 November 1794.
  • (2) Simeon born in 1797 in about March in London. Deceased before 1801. Refer to above.
  • (3) Ann born 1798 in London.
    • Ann was 1 of the 3 children aboard the Minorca in 1801.
    • Ann was one of the 5 children counted in the 1806 Muster.
    • Ann married on 29 September 1816 in an Anglican Service in Parramatta at the recorded age of 18 = YOB 1798.
    • Ann was recorded in the 1822 Muster. No age was recorded.
    • Ann was recorded in the 1825 Muster. No age was recorded. (Muster also records born in Colony - this was a very common error in the 1825 Muster.)
    • Ann was recorded in the November 1828 Census. PROTESTANT. Recorded age 30 = YOB 1798.
    • Ann was one of the 7 children living in 1859.
    • No record of Ann's death has been found.
  • (4) Thomas born 1800 in London.
    • Thomas was 1 of the 3 children aboard the Minorca in 1801.
    • Thomas was one of the 5 children counted in the 1806 Muster.
    • Thomas stated on a amemorial dated 25 May 1820 that he was then 19 = YOB 1800.
    • Thomas was recorded in the 1822 Muster. Recorded age 20. Census data is only a guide as it can be incorrect. In this case the age given cannot be relied upon. He would have been 21. (Muster records born in Colony - this was a very common error in the 1822 Muster.)
    • Thomas was recorded in the 1825 Muster Recorded age 22. PROTESTANT. Census data is only a guide as it can be incorrect. In this case the age given cannot be relied upon. He would have been 25. (Muster born in Colony - this was a very common error in the 1825 Muster.)
    • Thomas was recorded in the November 1828 Census. Recorded age 28 = YOB 1800. (Census also records born in Colony - this was a very common error in the 1828 Census.)
    • Thomas married on 13 February 1832 in a Catholic service at St Marys Sydney. (His wife was Catholic.) Marriage banns state he was born in London. This was a time when marriages performed at the Catholic Church at Sydney were recorded in the official records. In January permission to marry his convict wife records his age as 31 = YOB 1800.
    • Thomas was one of the 7 children living in 1859.
    • Thomas was recorded born in London and 75 years of age at his death on 17 April 1876. This suggests a year of birth of 1800. This agrees with the age given in the 1828 census.
  • (5) Margaret born 1802 in New South Wales.
    • Margaret was one of the 5 children counted in the 1806 Muster.
    • Margaret was recorded in the 1822 Muster. Recorded age 19 = YOB 1802.
    • Margaret was recorded in the 1825 Muster. Recorded age 23 = YOB 1802.
    • Margaret married on 25 December 1827 in a Presbyterian Service in Sydney at the recorded age of 25 = YOB 1802.
    • Margaret was recorded in the November 1828 Census. PROTESTANT. Recorded age 26 = YOB 1802.
    • Margaret was one of the 7 children living in 1859.
    • No record of Margaret's death has been found.
  • (6) Frederick born 1803 in New South Wales.
    • Frederick was one of the 5 children counted in the 1806 Muster.
    • Frederick was recorded in the 1822 Muster, but no name or age was recorded.
    • Frederick was "about 18" on 27 February 1823 when his father put an advertisement in the newspaper that he was a "Runaway". His father put the advertisemnt in not knowing his sons age. Frederick was "about 18" - he was 19.
    • Frederick was recorded in the 1825 Muster. Recorded age 13. Census data is only a guide as it can be incorrect. In this case the age given cannot be relied upon. He would have been 22.
    • Frederick was recorded in the November 1828 Census. CATHOLIC. Recorded age 25 = YOB 1803.
    • Frederick married on 11 June 1832 in an Anglican Service at Field of Mars. (His wife was also Catholic.) No age was recorded.
    • Frederick was one of the 7 children living in 1859.
    • Frederick was recorded as 68 years of age at his death on 18 September 1872. This suggests a year of birth of 1803. This agrees with the age given in the 1828 census.
  • (7) Elizabeth born 1805 in New South Wales.
    • Elizabeth WAS NOT counted in the 1806 Muster. She was an infant.
    • Elizabeth was recorded in the 1822 Muster, but no name or age was recorded.
    • Elizabeth was recorded in the 1825 Muster. Recorded age 19 = YOB 1805.
    • Elizabeth married on 5 May 1828 in a Catholic Service at St Marys Sydney. No age was recorded. (This was a double marriage with her sister Sophia. They were marrying brothers.) This was a time when marriages performed at the Catholic Church at Sydney were recorded in the official records.
    • Elizabeth was recorded in the November 1828 Census. CATHOLIC. Recorded age 23 = YOB 1805.
    • Elizabeth was one of the 8 children living in 1859.
    • Elizabeth was recorded as 67 years of age at her death on 12 November 1874. Data given for death records is only a guide as it can be incorrect. In this case the age given cannot be relied upon. She would have been 69. A year of birth of 1805 agrees with the other data.
  • (8) Sophia born 1808 in New South Wales.
    • Sophia was recorded in the 1822 Muster. Recorded age 13 = YOB 1808.
    • Sophia was recorded in the 1825 Muster. Recorded age 16 = YOB 1808.
    • Sophia married on 5 May 1828 in a Catholic Service at St Marys Sydney. No age was recorded. (This was a double marriage with her sister Elizabeth. They were marrying brothers.) This was a time when marriages performed at the Catholic Church at Sydney were recorded in the official records.
    • Sophia was recorded in the November 1828 Census. CATHOLIC. Recorded age 20 = YOB 1808.
    • Sophia was recorded as 37 years of age at her death on 28 November 1845 = YOB 1808.
  • (9) Charlotte born 1811 in New South Wales.
    • Charlotte was recorded in the 1822 Muster. Recorded age 6. Census data is only a guide as it can be incorrect. In this case the age given cannot be relied upon. She would have been 10 or 11.
    • Charlotte was recorded in the 1825 Muster. Recorded age 13 = YOB 1811.
    • Charlotte WAS NOT recorded in the November 1828 Census.
    • Charlotte married about 1833. No marriage record has been located. Possibly married at St Patricks Catholic Church in Parramatta. This was a time when marriages performed at the Catholic Church at Parramatta did not make it into the official records. (Wesleyan marriages were also not included in the official records. The NSW Wesleyan Marriages Confirmation Act No. VII of 1839 was passed to ensure that Wesleyan marriages were registered and confirm that they were legal.)
    • Charlotte was one of the 7 children living in 1859.
    • Charlotte was recorded as 57 years of age at her death on 20 June 1867. Data given for death records is only a guide as it can be incorrect. In this case the age given cannot be relied upon. She would have been 55 or 56. A year of birth of 1811 agrees with the other data.

Estimating the years of birth for William Hancy, his wife Sarah, his older brother Michael Hancy, & his sister-in-law Hannah.

Their is not enough data available to establish a year of birth for the adults who immigrated on the Minorca.

  • William Hancy - estimated year of birth 1766.
    • William was recorded in the 1822 Muster. No age was recorded.
    • William was recorded in the 1825 Muster. No age was recorded.
    • William was recorded in the November 1828 Census. CATHOLIC. Recorded age 62 = YOB 1766.
    • No official record William Hancy's death on 6 June 1830 has been found. He had a Catholic funeral and was buried at St Patricks, the Catholic Church at Parramatta at a time when death records from Catholic funerals at Parramatta were not included in the official records.
    • Although census data is only a guide as it can be incorrect, the only estimate available is from the 1828 census.
  • Sarah MacDonald - estimated year of birth 1768.
    • Sarah was recorded in the 1822 Muster. No age was recorded.
    • Sarah was recorded in the 1825 Muster. No age was recorded.
    • Sarah was recorded in the November 1828 Census. CATHOLIC. Recorded age 60 = YOB 1768. (Census data is only a guide as it can be incorrect. It is very plausible, however, that Sarah was 2 years younger than William Hancy.)
    • Sarah died on 17 November 1859 at a recorded age of 94 = YOB 1765. (Data given for death records is only a guide as it can be incorrect, and other data provided in Sarah's death certificate by her son-in-law has already been shown above to be incorrect.) Her burial was arranged by her son-in-law William Ashton who had married her daughter Charlotte. She had a Wesleyan funeral and was buried in the Wesleyan cemetery in Parramatta.
    • There is a 3 year difference between the estimated years of birth that come from the 2 sources. The estimate from the 1828 census has been chosen for consistancy.
  • Michael Hancy - estimated year of birth 1761.
    • Michael was recorded in the 1822 Muster. No age was recorded.
    • Michael was recorded in the 1825 Muster. No age was recorded.
    • Michael was recorded in the November 1828 Census. CATHOLIC. Recorded age 67 = YOB 1761. (Census data is only a guide as it can be incorrect. It is very plausible, however, that Michael Hancy was 5 years older than William Hancy.)
    • Michael died on 25 May 1833 at the recorded age of 76 = YOB 1756-1757. (Data given for death records is only a guide as it can be incorrect.) His family gave him an Anglican funeral at St Phillips Church in Sydney.
    • There is very little difference between the estimated years of birth that come from the 2 sources. The estimate from the 1828 census has been chosen for consistancy.
  • Hannah Watts - estimated year of birth 1763.
    • Hannah was recorded in the 1822 Muster. No age was recorded.
    • Hannah's inquest was held on 1 February 1824. She had died the same morning. No other record for Hannah's death exists. She had a Catholic funeral at St Marys Church in Sydney at a time when death records from Catholic funerals at Sydney were not included in the official records.
    • The only estimate that can be made for Hanna'h year of birth is to take 2 years of the estimate for her husband Michael Hancy.

References

  1. ^ UK Parliament – The law of marriage – Marriage Act 1753-Marriage Act 1836
  2. ^ James Jervis, "The Journal of the Royal Australian Historical Society Vol.XV", pp 226-266
  3. ^ a b c d e f g Sydney Gazette – Sunday, 11 March 1804
  4. ^ a b c d e Lynette Ramsey Silver (1989), "The Battle of Vinegar Hill Australia's Irish Rebellion, 1804"
  5. ^ a b Death of Liberty, The Hills Shire Council
  6. ^ Movie re-enactment of Vinegar Hill Rebellion, The Hills Shire Council
  7. ^ Phil Cunningham: A forgotten Irish-Australian Rebel, Australian Society for the Study of Labour History
  8. ^ 1804 Australian Rebellion and Battle of Vinegar Hill, Cameron Riley
  9. ^ Castle Hill uprising
  10. ^ Was Vinegar Hill an Irish Rebellion? Cameron Riley
  11. ^ Why an uprising in Castle Hill? Cameron Riley
  12. ^ a b c Vinegar Hill and the Rum Rebellion, Cameron Riley
  13. ^ Part 1 of “Rogue Nation” documentary – Film Australia & Australian Broadcasting Corporation, 2008
  14. ^ a b Australian Dictionary of Biography
  15. ^ Jose, A.W. et al., ed. (1927), "The Australian Encyclopedia". Sydney: Angus & Robertson
  16. ^ Kuring, Ian (2004), "Redcoats to Cams: A History of Australian Infantry 1788–2001". Loftus, New South Wales: Australian Military History Publications
  17. ^ Robert Hughes (1986), "The Fatal Shore", Random House, London



Sources and notes

Contributors

  Selkcerf, Robin Patterson

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