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The pioneers of Peter and Liz:

Those Who Came Of Their Own Free Will

Richard Pidgeon & Elizabeth Foley of Co. Wexford, Ireland, arrived in Sydney on the Orestes, 14th May 1841.  Richard died during the voyage and was buried at sea near Cape Town.  Elizabeth died in Sydney in September 1844 and is buried in Pioneer Park at Botany Cemetery along with two of her grandchildren Sophia Elizabeth Pidgeon and George Whitfield Pidgeon who died in infancy.   A memorial to Richard is included on the gravestone.

Nathaniel Pidgeon & Eliza Proud & family of Co. Wexford, Ireland, arrived in Sydney on the Orestes, 14th May 1841 with their 8 month old baby, Richard. As soon as they arrived Nathaniel, who had been a carpenter and open air preacher in Ireland took up his trade at carpentry but also became heavily involved in the Wesleyan Methodist church as travelling preacher in and around the environs of Sydney.  In early 1857 Nathaniel resigned from the Wesleyan Methodist church when it separated from the Wesleyan Mission.  He was involved in the founding of Sydney's 1st City Mission and became the the city's first City Missionary.   Nathaniel and Eliza had 9 children of whom 7 survived.  Eliza who was 19 years his junior became the strength that held the family together.  In addition to raising her own children, Eliza took on the responsibility of raising her nephew and three nieces after the premature death of their father, William BRADLEY in 1854 and their mother, Nathaniel's sister, Ann in 1856.  After Nathaniel's death in 1879, their son Thomas became a widower and once again Eliza took on the responsibility of raising Thomas's 4 daughters, one of whom was Elsie Clare Pidgeon who later served as a nurse in WW1 and was a famous matron of Sydney Hospital.  Eliza died in 1902.

Thomas Mullen & Elizabeth Pidgeon & family of Co. Wexford, Ireland, arrived in Sydney on the Orestes, 14th May 1841. One child died at sea and two just after arriving.  Thomas was a Painter and Glazier by trade.   They had a total of 7 children and tragically it appears that all may have died in childhood.  Two of the 7 may have survived but I have been unable to locate any evidence of their marriage or subsequent deaths.  Elizabeth died in 1861.  No confirmed death record has been found for Thomas yet.

Isaac Leary & Phoebe Pidgeon & family of Co. Wexford, Ireland, arrived in Sydney on the Orestes, 14th May 1841.  Two children died at sea and one (Joseph Poulter Leary) was born just before arriving.  Isaac was a Printer but also was listed on some of his children's baptismal records as a teacher.  The Learys had a total of 9 children of which only 3 survived childhood.  In 1863, Joseph Poulter Leary along with his brother Richard and parents Isaac and Phoebe migrated from Sydney to New Zealand. Joseph joined the staff of the New Zealand Herald.  About 1864 he joined the New Zealand Government Printing Department in Auckland  and was afterwards transferred to Wellington.  In 1874 , in partnership  with Mr  J. W. Kirkbride and two others, he established the  Rangitikei
.  Joseph then moved to Palmerston North in 1875, and in partnership with Mr. Bond, established the Manawahu Daily Times.

Ann Pidgeon of Co. Wexford, Ireland, arrived in Sydney on the Orestes, 14th May 1841.  Ann was listed as a dairymaid in the passenger list of the Orestes.  In 1844 she married William BRADLEY, a Boatman by trade.  William was also involved with Nathaniel Pidgeon in the Wesleyan Missionary.  Sadly, both William and Ann died at early ages, 40 and 41 respectively in 1854 and 1856 leaving Eliza Pidgeon 4 grandchildren, 3 girls and a boy to raise ranging in age from 4 to 11.  It appears that one of the girls, Mary, never married and died in 1907.  No record has been found so far of what happened to the other children.

Peter Royall & Margaret Playford & family of Norfolk, England, arrived in Sydney on the Wilson Kennedy, 29th December 1852.   Peter & Margaret had 8 children with them when they arrived in Australia.   A 9th child had died at age 4 some years earlier.  They had 1 more child the year after arriving in 1853.  Peter and Margaret both lived to their 80's with more than 40 years in the colony of NSW.  Margaret died in 1891 and Peter in 1899.

John White of Looe, Cornwall, England most likely arrived about 1865 as a 14 or 15 year old single assisted immigrant with his sights set on the railway expansion which extended from 1857 to 1890.   He was apparently the building contractor responsible for the construction of a number of NSW country railway stations.  He also built many of the terrace houses around the Paddington district in Sydney, and his most enduring legacy was Paddington Town Hall. He was also at one stage a Director of Enfield Brickworks, which was one of a number of small suburban brickyards that amalgamated in the 1930s to form the current Brickworks Ltd. He was still quite active in the late 1920's and early 1930's. He was a regular attendant at the Monday night fights at the old Sydney Stadium and was a member of the Sydney Cricket Ground, regularly attending cricket and football games there. At International Cricket and Rugby League football games, he barracked for the "old country". He was an alderman on Paddington Council from 1891 to 1896, and was Mayor for 1892.  White Lane, Paddington was named after him.  He was a long serving member of the Prince of Wales Lodge, Grand United Order of odd-fellows. The Order was instituted in 1881 and John White was initiated on the night of inauguration and appointed treasurer. This office he held for many years and later became a trustee. His five sons were also members.

William Wilson McRitchie & Ann Stephen & family of Barony, Lanark, Scotland.  William and Ann arrived in 1855 along with their 2 daughters, Mary and Isabella.  William was a Shipwright and Government Marine Surveyor during his life in the colony.  They went on to have a further 12 children in the colony of whom at least 2 dies at infancy.  Ann died in 1893 and William in 1901.

Alfred Edward Lees of Dudley, Worstershire, England, arrived in Sydney on the S.S. Oroya, 3rd September 1888 at age 16.  He was one of 10 children, two of whom migrated to New York.  Alfie was sponsored out to Australia by cousins who owned the Brittania Hotel in Oxford Street, Paddington opposite Victoria Barracks.  Alfie was a painter by trade and moved to the Bowral district in the Southern Highlands.  In 1905 he married Florence Sarah Charker and had 5 children.  The family moved to Strathfield in Sydney before WW2.  Flo died in 1963 and Alfie died in 1967 and their remains are interred in St Anne's opposite the home in which they lived for more than 30 years.

Edmund Freeman & Fanny Norris & family of Dover, Kent, England, arrived in Botany Bay on the Neptune, 11th February 1844 with their daughter, Emma.  They moved to the Berrima district in the Southern Highlands of NSW and had 3 more children before Fanny's premature death in 1854 at 35 years of age.  Fanny is buried in an unmarked grave at All Saints Church, Sutton Forest. Edmund re-married in 1854 to Sarah Ann Winwood and subsequently had at least 15 more children with Sarah.  Edmund died in 1884 and is buried in Bundanoon cemetery.  

Cornelius Comans was born in Tipperary, Ireland, in 1831, the son of Daniel and Mary, nee RYAN.  Perhaps inspired by his uncle William Comans (1806-1894) who migrated in 1850 and settled in Wagga Wagga, NSW.  Cornelius joined the rush to Victoria in 185

Margaret, who married Thomas HOURIGAN.  The family moved to Gippsland and present descendents of their six children are dispersed there and around Cessnock NSW.

Mary married John KELLY.  They brought up their family of five at Creightons Creek, Vic.

Daniel married Bridget RYAN from Pyalong.  They settled to farming in Bylands and had one son before Bridget succumbed in the final days of the Influenza epidemic.

Michael married Kate McLENNAN.  He worked as a Butter Factory Manager and Dairy Inspector.  They had four children.

Youngest children Cornelius and Bridget remained in the Kilmore District unmarried.

Cornelius was associated with the Kilmore Shire Council and was described as a "genial Irishman".  He died at Bylands age 64.

Ann, Bridget, Richard and Thomas Kennedy departed Tipperary, Ireland via Plymouth, England aboard the Joshua in late 1851.  They were the children of Mathew KENNEDY and Margaret DWYER.

Ann married Thomas O'BRIEN.  They settled first in Kilmore, Vic. and later moved to the Shepparton area.  Ann and Thomas had six children.

Richard died in Melbourne a year after their arrival unmarried.

Thomas married a fellow Tipp, Alice COMAN, whose family had settled at Kyneton, Vic.  They too, first settled in the Kilmore area then moved north to the Shepparton area.  They had seven children.  Margaret married Andrew PATTISON from a large renowned Shepparton family.  They in turn had ten children. John went to Yerong Park, NSW.  Mathew married Kathleen O'BRIEN.  They had no children. Thomas operated a creamery at Caniambo.  Ellen married John ROSEINGRAVE and settled in Daylesford, Vic.

Thomas and Alice had two daughters who died in infancy.  Thomas died in 1907 age 73 and is buried with his wife in the Violet Town cemetery.

Bridget married Cornelius COMANS (see above) and died in 1926 aged 94.

Thomas Ryan, son of Jeremiah RYAN

Margaret married Nicholas COOKE.  They had thirteen children.

Bridget married Daniel COMANS.  One son was born.

Thomas married Mary CARROLL.  They had eight children together.

Mary never married.

Thomas died in 1913 age 73 and buried in the Kilmore Catholic cemetery.

Bridget Keane  was born about 1830 in Co. Limmerick, Ireland.  She and her younger brother came to Victoria about 1857.  They were the children of Thomas KEANE and Bridget RYAN.  Bridget married Thomas RYAN (see above).  She succumbed in the last days of the influenza epidemic in 1920 aged 90 four days after her daughter Bridget COMANS.  They are buried in separate family plots but only metres away from each other in the Kilmore catholic cemetery, Vic.

Robert Good sailed aboard the Scottish Chief via Liverpool in 1859.  He was the fourth child of Alexander GOOD and Janet RAE and was born in 1835 in Edinburgh, Midlothian, Scotland.  We are in touch with descendants of this family in the US and Canada.  He married Mary Ann MURRAY in Ballarat in 1861.  They settled in Smythesdale and had seven children.

Elizabeth Pillne Good born 1862.

Janet who married George COX.  They had four children and settled in Burwood, Vic.

Alexander who chased gold to Kalgoorlie, WA and died there unmarried age 37.

William who married Martha McCORMACK.  They also chased gold to WA, after two children, William and his son Henry served Australia in The Great War.

Mary Ann Good born 1869

Robert Ray, along with his two brothers went to WA where he married Annie Elizabeth STEVENS in Perth in 1902.  They spent some time in South Africa before returning to Burwood, Vic and operating a corner store followed by a painting and decorating business.

Henry went to New Zealand, finally settling in Wellington.  He married Susannah STARR and operated a successful wire works business.

It seems that Robert had varied interests, he was a miner, carpenter, farmer, mine shareholder and undertaker.  He finally settled in Burwood, near his daughter Janet and died there in 1906 aged 71.  He is buried with his grandson in Burwood General Cemetery, Vic.

Mary Ann Murray migrated to Victoria the same year as her husband Robert Good (see above) in 1859. She was born in 1839 in Dunlickney Co. Carlow, Ireland. The daughter of William MURRAY and Elizabeth PILLNE.  She resided at Black Hills, Browns Diggings at the time of her marriage in 1861. Mary Ann died at only age 35 leaving her husband with a very young family.  She is buried in an unmarked grave in Smythesdale cemetery, Vic.

George Vivian Stevens and Catherine James started their family in Adelaide, SA in 1850 and later came to Fryers Creek, Vic.  They had six children.

James Roberts was Stansfield, Yorkshire, England.  The fourth child and only son of James ROBERTS and Hannah MITCHELL.  He married Mary FULSHAER and together with their daughter came to

Annie Pope married George Vivian STEVENS Jnr.

Elizabeth married William PEARSE

John, a grocer, married Matilda PEARSALL

Emma married Chephas HORE

and Sarah Courtier Pope Roberts who married Henry TOLL.

James was a miner and stone mason.  It has been difficult to determine when he died but evidence suggests it was before 1888.

Sarah Pope was born in 1830 in Plymouth, England.  Her parents were Thomas POPE and Sarah WEBBER.  She came to Australia on board Ontario with her sister Ann and brother-in-law Edmund COURTIER

Thomas Ryan was born in 1836 in Tipperary, Ireland.  In 1860 he resided in Geelong, Victoria working as a labourer.  That same year he married Bridget MARA/O’MEARA. They had seven children

John Michael Ryan born 1861 who married Margaret RYAN from Creswick.  They had eight children.

Margaret born in 1863, Gnarput,

Thomas born 1864, Gnarput

Catherine Ann, b.  1871 Mt. Moriac,

 Michael Mathew b. 1872 Gnarput,

 Mary Ellen, b. 1875 who married John FLETCHER.

 Bridget born 1877 Donald.

Thomas' death has not yet been determined.

Bridget Mara sometimes known as O’MEARA was born in County Tipperary in 1841.  Bridget’s parents were James MARA and Mary FLANNAHERY.  She married Thomas Ryan in Geelong in 1860.  At the time she had been working as a servant.  See above.  Bridget's death has not yet been determined.

James Ryan was born c. 1832 in Dunvargen, Tipperary, Ireland.  His parents were John RYAN and Jane HYLAN.  James married Margaret Ryan in Ballarat, Vic. in 1862.  A farmer and labourer they finally settled in Birchip, Victoria.  They had fifteen children together.

John Ryan born 1864 Creswick.

Jane Ryan born 1865 Creswick.

William Ryan born 1868 Creswick.

Mathew Ryan born 1869 Creswick.

Mary Ryan born 1870 Creswick married Edward HARRIS.  They had twelve children together.

James Ryan born 1872 Ballarat.

Margaret Ryan born 1874 Creswick married John Michael RYAN.  They had eight children together.

Ann Elizabeth Ryan born 1876 Rochester married James Henry WALSH.  They had twelve children together.

Edward Ryan born 1877 Rochester.

Elizabeth Ryan born 1880 Rochester.  Unmarried.

Bridget Ryan born 1882 Donald.

Peter Ryan born 1885 Donald.

Ellen Ryan born 1887 Corack.

Agnes Ryan born 1889.

James died in Birchip in 1916 age 84.

Margaret Ryan, nee Harrington was born in 1822 in  Co. Tipperary, Ireland.  Her parents were Timothy RYAN and Kate HARRINGTON.  She married William RYAN in Ireland at age 18 and came to Australia in 1860.  There is no evidence of William coming to Australia.  She outlived all but one of her five children who were all born in Ireland passing away in 1882 age 60.  She is buried in the Donald Cemetery.



Convict Connections

William Charker of London, England, arrived on the Baring 2, 26th June 1819.  William was a Londoner, part of a ring that distributed forged money. When he was taken from the Braing & sent to Bringelly he was forced to farm. He was sentenced to 14 years.  According to the 1828 census, William was a constable. When William married Harriett Scott he went to Berling to live. Harriett was the person who ran the farming.  It was at this pont that he became a Constable. Apparently at some stage a bushranger was shot at Bringelly. by a soldier. The body was held at the house of the Constable overnight. Apparently William claimed he had shot the busghranger and claimed the reward. William was sacked and never got past a Ticket of Leave, could not travel anywhere, was never a 'free' man and never got his land grant.   About 1858, William & Harriet bought 9 acres 3 rods at Cobbity which they called "Primrose Hill".

Jane Camm of England, arrived on the Nile, 14 December 1801.  Sentenced for life - Middlesex 3 December 1800, England.   Sailed 21 June 1801 from Spithead in 176 days. Embarked 96 females.  Jane had a daughter Harriett Scott circa 1 January, 1803 with a Captain Scott.  She later went on to marry a John Alford in 1805.  Harriett subsequently married William Charker of the Baring 2 in 1826.


Others convicts connected to the family through marriage include:

John Anthony Fernance of London, England, arrived on the General Hewitt, 7th February 1814.

John F Cobcroft of Keighley, Yorkshire, England, arrived in the Second Fleet aboard the Scarborough, 28th June 1790.

Cobcroft, John (c1760-1853)

John Cobcroft, John Wood and William Fubbs or Fielder were sentenced to death at the 7 May 1788 Old Bailey sessions for highway robbery. At 4am on 16 April William Frost, an elderly fisherman, had been driving a cart from Harrow Hill to market in London with his wife and daughter. On Edgware Road they were stopped by three highwaymen, one of whom brandished a pistol, shouting: "Your money or your life in a minute" and threatening to blow their brains out. The men took a guinea, six shillings, a thimble and some small change and ran off towards Edgware. Frost then drove to the Bell public House near Kilburn and raised the alarm. The publican and three other men went out in search of the highwaymen and spotted three men coming from Golders Green along Hendon Road near the Bull and Bush public house on Hampstead Heath. After a struggle the three were arrested and found to be carrying a pistol, a knife and some money. They were taken to the Bow Street Public Office and charged. Frost said he had seen their faces clearly: it had been a "moonshiney" night.

At the trial the three men retained a defense counsel who closely cross examined Frost, his wife and daughter, trying to discredit their evidence and suggesting that they were pursuing the case only to obtain the forty pounds rewards for the conviction of highwaymen. Cobcroft had been wearing a leather apron and they said he had been the one pointing the pistol. He called six character witnesses who had known him between five and twelve years, which suggests that he was well established in London. The jury recommended him and his co-defendants to the King’s clemency. A temporary respite was granted but he was not formerly reprieved until the end of the September 1789 Old Bailey Sessions when he was among more than one hundred capital convicts called to the bar of the court and offered a pardon on condition of transportation to New South Wales for life.

On 10 November he was sent from Newgate Gaol to the Scarborough transport. Soon afterwards Sarah Smith (QV), aged 18, embarked on the Neptune transport, as one of about six wives or de facto spouses of convicts who had accepted the government offer of a free passage to the colony. Although she was to live with Cobcroft for the rest of his life, the couple did not marry until 1842. The legal wives of Wood and Fielder also sailed on the Neptune.

In colonial records their surname was often spelt Cobcraft. A son born to the couple on 3 February 1793 was baptised Richard William at Parramatta on 17 March. Cobcroft received a conditional pardon in December 1794 and a 30 acre land grant on the left bank of the Hawkesbury River at Wilberforce Reach in July 1795. He was granted another 40 acres in the same district in June 1797. By July 1800 Cobcroft had 17 acres sown in wheat with seven ready for planting maize, owned nine hogs and seven goats and supported himself. His wife and three children were supported from government stores. Two years later he had 20 acres in wheat and barley, 6 in maize and increasing numbers of hogs and goats. Holding 10 bushels of wheat and 20 of maize he fully supported his wife and four children and two free workers. His holdings were increased by a 50 acre land grant in September 1802. Cobcroft was mustered in 1806 with 120 acres (nearly 33 cultivated in wheat, maize, barley, orchard and garden), four horses, 57 sheep, 40 goats and 15 hogs, 15 bushels of grain in store, and supporting his family and three convict workers. While many other farmers were suffering from indebtedness and flood damage, his prosperity seems to have continued unchecked.

In June 1820 Cobcroft petitioned Governor Macquarie for additional land. He described his land grants of the 1790s as one of 30 acres at Wilberforce an another a back farm, also of 30 acres (sic). In 1820 he had a wife and nine children and owned 70 head of cattle. He was granted a further 60 acres at Kurrajong and in October 1825 he petitioned for the allowance of government rations for himself, his wife, four children and two convict workers who were living on the grant. He stated that he had cleared and cultivated 12 acres and had built a dwelling house and outhouses. His request was granted shortly afterwards.

Sarah, a midwife, bore a total of ten children (see her biography for details). In 1828 Cobcroft was described as a framer of Wilberforce, aged 68, living with his wife, aged 57, and their younger children; his older sons and their families were established on farms nearby. A successful and prosperous farmer, he held 485 acres in 1828 (130 cultivated) and owned 7 horses and 300 cattle. He kept the George and dragon public house, Wilberforce Road, Wilberforce, from around 1822-1846 and was actively involved in the public life of the local community. He died on 4 June 1853 and was buried in a family vault at St Johns Cemetery, Wilberforce on the 7th. An obituary notice in the Sydney Morning Herald stated that he left 58 grandchildren and 47 great-grandchildren. His wife was buried with him on 2 June 1857 and their headstone survives in Wilberforce Cemetery. Their descendents are estimated to number well in excess of 8,000.

Notes: Some details contributed by W. Luxford, P. McIntyre & A. Needham; see AONSW CSIL 1829; 7/318.1; Bowd Hawkesbury Journey p99.

Source: The Second Fleet, Britain’s Grim Convict Armada of 1790; Michael C. Flynn, 1993 ISBN 0 908120 83 4; pp 207-8

Sarah Smith (free) of Holborn, London, England, arrived in the Second Fleet aboard the Neptune, 28th June 1790

Smith, Sarah (1772-1857)

Sarah Smith, aged 17, was one of a small group of women and their children who embarked on the Neptune transport in late 1789. They had accepted a government offer of a free passage to the colony for the wives or de facto partners of convicts on the fleet. In the colony she lived with John Cobcroft (b.c1760, tried Old Bailey), but for an unknown reason they did not marry until 1842. It seems almost certain that she embarked as Cobcroft’s de facto wife. Two of the other free women who embarked on the Neptune were legally married to John Wood and William Fielder, who had been convicted with Cobcroft. Sarah Smith was baptised at Holborn, London on 3 December 1772, the daughter of William and Esther Turner.

The couple’s children born in the colony were: Richard William (1793), Elizabeth (b. & d. 1795), John Frederick (1797), Sarah (1799), Mary Ann (c1801), Susannah (1805), James (c1807), George (1810), Eliza (1812) and Matilda (1813). Until his death at 23 in 1830 she cared for her son James, who suffered from a condition described as parralitic insanity (epilepsy) from childhood. From 1795 the couple were settled on a 30 acre grant on the left bank of Wilberforce Reach on the Hawkesbury River. They prospered steadily, building their landholdings by grant and purchase to a total of 485 acres by 1828.

Throughout her working life Sarah acted as a midwife to the women of Wilberforce district and delivered the children of convict women free of charge. A portrait of her in old age depicts a determined and indomitable matriarch. She was reunited with her sister Susannah after a separation of 50 years when the latter arrived in the colony in 1839 (dying 1844), John Cobcroft died in 1853. Sarah died on 31 May 1857, aged 85, and was buried with her husband in the family vault in Wilberforce Cemetery. Their descendants are estimated to number well in excess of 8,000.

Notes: See D. Bowd, Hawkesbury Journey p98; Sarah Smith was unable to write her name; some publications have incorrectly identified her as a female convict of this name who arrived on the Neptune; Sarah stated in her 1825 memorial (AONSW 4/1840C, p777) that she had come free to the colony together with six other females sent out by Government for the purpose of practising midwifery per ship Neptune; although she undoubtedly became a skilled midwife in the colony there is no evidence that the Government sent free women to the colony for this specific purpose; her statement is more likely a slight distortion of the circumstances of her arrival in an attempt to give her position and services a more official appearance; some details contibuted by W.J. Luxford, P. McIntyre & A. Needham.

Source: The Second Fleet, Britain’s Grim Convict Armada of 1790; Michael C. Flynn, 1993 ISBN 0 908120 83 4; pp 541-2

John Cross of East Knoyle, Wiltshire, England, arrived in the First Fleet aboard the Alexander, 19th January, 1788.

Mary Davison (Davidson) of Kirkaldie, Scotland, arrived in the Second Fleet aboard the Lady Juliana, 28th June, 1790.




Last Updated - 27 August, 2009