Sunday, 12 August 2012

Laurence Butler- Ch. 22: Catholic Community of Sydney

 The Town of Sydney c.1820-1822, by Major James Taylor (showing, foreground- the Military Hospital in the Rocks & St Philip’s behind it, and the Rum Hospital in the background.)

 For most of the time Laurence was living in the colony, Catholics were denied the right to practice their Catholic faith.  In the ‘Sydney Gazette’, Sunday April 17, 1803, the newspaper published an order from Governor King:
“General Orders
Every person throughout the Colony, professing the Roman Catholick Religion, is to attend at Government House, Parramatta, on Wednesday the 20th April Inst. At ten o’clock in the forenoon; previous to which, those residing about Sydney are to give their names, places of abode, &c. to the Rev. Mr Dixon; to the Magistrate’s Clerk at Parramatta; and to Thomas Arndell, Esq. at Hawkesbury.
By Command of His Excellency W. N. Chapman, Sec.
Government House,  April 12, 1803.”[i]

George Cargeeg wrote in his book, The Rebel of Glenmalure- a History of Michael Dwyer[ii]

 “ In May 1803, the first recorded Mass took place in Sydney, and it was celebrated by the Rev. Mr James Dixon, who had been given special permission to do so by Governor King, providing Dixon observed the seven regulations laid down by King in addition to taking the Oaths of Allegiance and Abjuration. The wording of the conditions allowing the Mass was ‘that for the extension of liberal toleration’ the Catholics would have to show ‘becoming gratitude’. At the end of one year, the toleration of Catholic worship was withdrawn until 1820. (Father Dixon received an Absolute Pardon and returned to his beloved County Wexford in 1808.)

In 1817, however, there arrived in Sydney, without permission of the Colonial Secretary, a controversial Catholic priest named Jeremiah O’Flynn. O’Flynn had been born in Ireland in 1788 and was always quarrelling with authorities, and although he was made Prefect Apostolic of New Holland by Irish and Roman officials he was unable to obtain permission from Lord Bathurst, the Colonial Secretary, to reside in NSW. It was said that O’Flynn was only semi-literate in the English language although he was fluent in Irish. Also he was lacking in theological knowledge. His enemies described him as meddling, ignorant and impulsive with shameless audacity.
O’Flynn led Governor  Macquarie to believe his credentials from the Colonial Office would be coming on the next ship, so he was permitted to remain providing he did not minister publicly. The credentials didn’t arrive, and O’Flynn began active public ministry, following which Macquarie ordered him to leave the colony. He went into hiding and was arrested and deported in May 1818.
O’Flynn became an Australian Catholic hero, for two reasons: he was considered a martyr for being deported from the colony, and on leaving he left the Blessed Sacrament behind. Seventy- six of the NSW Corps petitioned the Governor, on behalf of 100 Catholic soldiers, to allow Flynn to remain.
Tradition indicates that O’Flynn left the Blessed Sacrament in the house of William Davis, either by accident or design. The likelihood is that the Blessed Sacrament was left in the Kent Street house of James Dempsey and there the Sacrament received the constant devotion of a small group of men. Michael Dwyer was said to be one of them. In 1819 the Sacrament was consumed by the chaplain of a visiting French ship. The banishing of O’Flynn and the leaving of the Blessed Sacrament by that priest, revealed to the world the situation in which thousands of Catholics in Australia were deprived of priests necessary for their spiritual welfare. A political uproar in England resulted in two Catholic priests being sent to NSW in 1820- they were Philip Conolly and John Joseph Therry.”

In February 1820, several members of the Catholic community wrote a petition to the visiting Commissioner Bigge, who was making a detailed report for the English government on the state of the penal colony. The petition begged for the appointment of priests to the colony, for the right to practise their faith, and for their community to be given permission to establish Catholic educational schools. The first signatory was Michael Hayes, followed by Michael Dwyer, William Hayes, James Dempsey and several other Catholics. Notably Laurence was not one of the signatories. There may have been several reasons for this: he was still under a recognisance to keep the peace resulting from his conviction for assault the year previously in 1819, and this action may have been viewed as inflammatory which would have resulted in the loss of the sureties paid by himself and his supporters, and even possibly a jail term; he also may not have wanted to jeopardize his relationship with his clientele who were mainly English and Protestant.

Shortly after this petition was handed to Commissioner Bigge, unexpectedly, the two priests Connoly and Therry arrived from Ireland.  The Catholic community then called a public meeting in June of that year, which was reported in the “Sydney Gazette” Saturday 1 July 1820. The meeting held at the Court House was for the primary purpose of adopting measures to effect the erecting of a “Place of Public Worship, for the use of Roman Catholics of this Colony. The Meeting was attended by all the respectable Catholics of the Settlement, and also some Protestant Gentlemen of sentiments friendly to the design.”
The meeting was chaired by Rev. Conolly. A series of resolutions were adopted:
  1. That it is the indispensable duty of the Catholics of this Colony to unite in their efforts to build a House of Divine Worship.
  2.  … express “our esteem and veneration for His Majesty’s Government in England, and gratitude to the enlightened and benevolent Minister who presides over the Colonial Department whose anxious care has afforded us the object of our solicitations in selecting and sending to us Ministers of the Roman Catholic Church…
  3. To express our confidence in, and gratitude to His Excellency Lachlan Macquarie Esq… for the polite attention these Reverend Gentlemen have experienced from him, and the benevolent disposition evinced towards ourselves.
  4. We avow the great estimation in which we hold the Honorable Commissioner of Enquiry (Bigge), or neglect to express out thanks for his inestimable congratulatory letter to the Catholics of this Colony on the arrival of these Pastors…
  5. That a Committee of Subscribers be immediately chosen for the management, conducting and selecting a site for the building etc.
  6. That our Protestant fellow Colonists who have co-operated with us at this Meeting, as well as those who have evinced a disposition to aid us by their contributions, merit our lasting esteem and gratitude.
  7. That the Rev Phillip Connoly and the Rev John Joseph Therry have merited the gratitude of the Catholics in NSW, on account of the hazardous enterprise they have undertaken, and the zeal they have manifested since their arrival, in the discharge of their sacerdotal functions.
  8. That John Piper, Robert Jenkins, and Francis Williams, Esqs, be requested by this Meeting to collect subscriptions of the Protestant inhabitants of Sydney… etc. (D’Arcy Wentworth contributed £10, and supported Fr John Therry’s appeal for a government subsidy.)
  9. That being informed that Mr Secretary Campbell has kindly consented to become our Treasurer, …we return him our most sincere thanks.
  10.  To thank the Judge Advocate in kindly and politely granting us the Court House to hold this Meeting.
  11. That the Rev.Mr Conolly and the Rev. John J. Therry, Mr James Meehan, Mr William Davis, Mr James Dempsey, Mr Edward Redmond, Mr Patrick Moore, Mr Michael Hayes, and Mr Martin Short, do form the Committee. [iii]

As William Davis and Michael Hayes were closely associated with O’Flynn, it would seem likely that Laurence would have also been part of this group, although not in an openly active way. It must be remembered that these men were totally free, whereas Laurence was still under a conditional pardon, and had only recently been released from his recognizance to keep the peace.

James Dempsey was a rebel from Carnew in County Wicklow (just over the border from Co. Wexford, about 12 km due north of Ferns). He was part of the Ballymanus unit of Garrett and William Byrne, and was implicated in the deaths of a number of British soldiers, sentenced to death which was commuted to life servitude in the colony, and was transported on the ‘Atlas 2’ with Laurence. He was a stonemason aged 32 years, and oversaw the construction of the first bridges over the tankstream, and the building of a number of houses and the military hospital in association with partner John Ahern, also a rebel from Wexford. According to Whitaker  “Dempsey was a pivotal figure in the early Catholic Church. He is credited with the statement that ‘nothing on earth gave him so much pleasure as to have it in his power to oblige a Catholic, more especially if that Catholic should happen to be a United Irishman.’” [iv] A descendant, Tom Fletcher wrote: “Meetings of Catholics at his house were common and on Sundays large crowds would spill out onto the street. Dempsey organised a number of men into a group of lay-Carmelites and they lived at his house in Kent Street (No. 35) which became a spiritual and communal centre for the considerable disenfranchised Irish/Catholic population. Filled with zealous zeal he went about the construction of the first Roman Catholic Church in Australia. On an undesirable piece of land on the outskirts of town (the present-day site of St Mary’s Cathedral) he started work. He was to sink his whole fortune into it and it was to become his life’s work. It sent him bankrupt and he went travelling the world to raise funds for it. It was finally completed before his death in 1838." [v]

Fr James Dixon, unknown to Bligh, had continued to minister until his return to Wexford in 1808. Later records indicate Fr Dixon performed at least two marriages in about 1807, between James Galvin and Jane Morgan, and William Davis and Catherine Miles. He also baptised Michael Hayes’s son Richard born in 1808, while Fr Harold baptised two of Hayes’s other children, Mary born in 1806 and Patrick born in 1810. [vi]  It is highly likely that Dixon also baptised Laurence’s son Walter, born 1807/08, during this same period. Fr Dixon returned to his Parish Crossabeg where he was reappointed as curate in 1811, becoming Parish Priest in 1819 where he remained until his death in 1840.

William Davis, a blacksmith known as the “Wexford Pikemaker”, was tried in November 1798. (Peter Mayberry’s Irish Convicts in NSW website has his trial place as King’s County and his Native Place as Birr, King’s County and Enniscorthy, co. Wexford [vii]). As Laurence appears to have had an association with Davis (as indicated in a court case involving Miles Leary, discussed later), as did several other rebels from Wexford, he must have had a long association with this county.
A biography of Davis in “Unfinished Revolution” has the following: “Davis, a blacksmith and United Irishman; reputedly born in Birr, Co Offaly (Kings) in about 1768. After his marriage to Catherine Miles, Davis held a victualling licence in Parramatta from 1808 to 1810. He received an absolute pardon in 1809, which was confirmed in 1814. A prominent Catholic layman, he died childless in August 1843. His nephew’s descendants held a family reunion in Sydney to mark the sesquicentenary of his death.” [viii] A biography on Davis gives the following information:
Davis was initially assigned to an overseer in the lumber yard, named Abbott. In 1800 Rev. Samuel Marsden, a Magistrate in Parramatta in a memorandum to Acting-Governor King concerning a suspected plot by Irish Convicts in the Parramatta district to revolt and seize control of the colony, reported William Davis as a “suspect person,” because he was known to be a United Irishman, and had some suspicious tools in his possession. He was apprehended and although no direct evidence either against him or for him can be found, Davis was recommended for 200 lashes to be inflicted at Parramatta. Doctor Ullathorne records that “William Davis had suffered much for his faith. Twice he had been flogged for refusing to go to the Protestant service- and so long imprisoned in the black hold that he almost lost his sight”.  He referred to Davis as “a most devout Catholic in the rough early times when there were no priests in the Colony and he did his best to preserve his Catholic faith”, when bigotry and prejudice reigned supreme here. After the landing here of Fathers Conolly and Therry who were at first accommodated by William Davis, remained at Davis’s cottage while waiting for a permanent place of abode, and most of their letters were addressed to and from there for some time. He and his wife Catherine were on the committee for building the first chapel of St Mary’s. He purchased and was granted quite a number of allotments of land in Sydney, leaving 18 properties in his will. His estate was valued at ₤10,000.  In 1840, Davis gifted one of his properties as the site for St. Patrick’s Church, Church Hill. He died in 1843, 12 months before St. Patrick’s was opened.  Davis  received his CP in July 1811 and his AP in January 1814. The following year he was engaged by the Government as an overseer of timber carriages. In 1807/09 , he purchased an allotment in Charlotte Place (Harrington Street and Grovenor Street), for which he petitioned in 1829 to have it made into a town grant. This was issued in 1834.

House of William Davis in Harrington Street, built 1809

Davis extended his land interests and in the 1828 Census he held 1700 acres. He was one of the 37 who purchased shares in the original Bank of NSW in 1816, buying 2 shares at ₤50 each. [ix] Along with John Connell, Davis would act as executor of Laurence Butler’s estate when Laurence’s wife Ann died.
 “In the Sydney Burial Ground the monument of William Davis stated: He was one of the last survivors of those who were exiled without the formality of a trial for the Irish Political Movement of 1798.” [x]
Fellow Wexford rebels also have a monument recognising their rebel status: The joint grave of Atlas II transportees, John Fowler (of Wexford, tried in Wicklow), Thomas Connor (born and tried in Wexford), and Nicholas Bryan (of Baltinglass Co Wicklow, tried in Co Carlow) at St John’s Catholic Church, Campbelltown, included the words: They were all Shipmates, and Countrymen and all sent out on a Charge for that Unfortunate Business of 1798.  [xi]  Interestingly, that phrase “The Unfortunate Business of 1798” was also used by Laurence in lieu of the word ‘Rebellion’ in his 1812 petition.

 Michael Dwyer was the renowned “Wicklow Chief”, a famous rebel exiled to the colony in 1805. Laurence’s rebel army fought alongside Dwyer at the Battle of Arklow and other skirmishes, so it is likely they knew each other. (These two families would become associated through their children’s relationship, Walter Butler and Eliza Dwyer, at a later time.)

Michael Dwyer

Joseph Holt

Michael Dwyer, at one time during the Rebellion, was closely associated with the Wicklow rebel general Joseph Holt, until they fell out. They fought together from their base in the Wicklow Mountains. Holt had surrendered on terms of exile, and was transported on the “Minerva” in 1800. Holt wrote a book about his experiences, and after receiving his Absolute Pardon, returned to Ireland, which he later bitterly regretted. Holt’s memories of Dwyer, written in his memoirs, rather scathingly refer to him as “vulgarly called Captain Dwyer” and then, “Michael Dwyer, name by Captain Dwyer after my departure”. [xii]  This was from a man self- styled as ‘General’ Holt. Michael Dwyer was re-interred at Waverley Cemetery at the turn of the twentieth century, after the closure of the Devonshire Street Cemetery- a cortege carrying his remains to Waverley through the streets of Sydney was followed by thousands of people. The largest monument erected in the cemetery marks his remains, and also pays tribute to all Irish rebels who died in exile away from their beloved homeland, as well as a tribute to the United Irishmen leaders such as Wolfe Tone, Lord Edward Fitzgerald, Fathers John and Michael Murphy, Fathers Quigley, Roche and Kearns, etc.
It says, in part,
Underneath lies the remains of the Wicklow Chief Michael Dwyer. (other names follow).
In loving memory of all who dared and suffered for Ireland in 1798.
On another section of the memorial are the words:
Who fears to speak of ‘98
Who blushes at the name?
When cowards mock the patriot’s fate
Who hangs his head for shame?

Michael Hayes was closely associated with Father James Dixon, and another Wexford rebel William Gough (Goff) from Dranay, SE of Ferns in northern Wexford, not far from Boolavogue. Both were transported on the ‘Friendship’ with Hayes, and both received their Absolute Pardons and returned home in 1809. Gough, a tanner in the Colony (Gough sold his No. 7 Pitt Street property to Laurence before he left for Ireland, and Laurence would buy Gough's adjacent property in 1816), was convicted of being “a Principal in the Rebellion”. (refer to a Deposition concerning Goff in Musgrave’s ‘Memoirs’,  related earlier in document [xiii].) Brian Cleary, in his chapter on “The Battle of Oulart Hill-”, listed the names of the leadership in the Oulart area at the initial outbreak, and wrote “In the west and north, Fr John Murphy, Tom Donovan, William Gough and Gahan were in charge in Boolavogue… These were all prosperous middle-class families.” [xiv]
Fr James Dixon, was falsely accused of being associated with rebels, as his cousin Captain Thomas Dixon was the rebel responsible for the massacre of the Protestants on Wexford Bridge. The Dixons were related to the Butlers by marriage. [xv]

Laurence was also part of this circle of friends. In his letter of 1812, Michael referred to his despair when Gough/Goff and Dixon returned to Ireland. His brother had written to Michael and must have asked about the use of liquor in the colony. Michael replied “I have resorted to it as a restorative to assuage despondency, but not to that excess to deprive me of my mental faculties. It’s with temperance and only occasionally that I have been obliged to resort to it, at the departure of Goff and Dixon it prevailed more, than it has since or before, or ever will again.” [xvi]  In a previous letter, Michael had referred to Laurence and had written that: “his business was good where sobriety was attached”.  [xvii]The departure, one by one, of their friends who received Absolute Pardons and returned to their native Wexford, must have been very sad and depressing occasions for those left behind. Although Michael was given an Absolute Pardon and could have returned, he chose not to as he had debts and a young family to raise, as indicated in the same letter in which he responds to his family’s  admonition for not returning to Wexford with Gough and Dixon. The letter to Michael’s family was delivered by another well known rebel, Joseph Holt, the rebel ‘general’ from County Wicklow who was associated with the Wexford rebels and with Michael Dwyer, during the uprising, and returned to Ireland in 1812. Travelling with Joseph Holt was Sir Henry Brown Hayes, another Irish associate from Cork, who had been transported for kidnapping a young woman in the attempt to force a marriage with her. The pair of them were shipwrecked on the Falkland Islands for several months before being rescued. Holt’s memoirs indicate there was no love lost between them.
In following letters, Michael often made mention of Goff and Dixon, so obviously missed their company.  Hayes wrote in April 1817 that he had had a letter from Gough: Mr Goff who accompanied Mr Dixon from this country
informed me in his last letter I had the pleasure of receiving from him that his woman and child resided in Wexford.[xviii]

In 1817, another rebel, John Ahern from Tintern in southern Wexford, also returned home, carrying one of Hayes’s letters dated 4 April. He had been employed under Government as Master Builder and Deputy Engineer and received an Absolute Pardon, despite having been convicted of “being a rebel captain and for murder”. He was also in partnership with Catholic James Dempsey, a stonemason. Together they had several contracts with the government to build bridges over the Tank Stream, amongst other projects. [xix] Although initially on the ‘Friendship’ indents, he arrived on the “Anne” in 1800. Michael wrote that Ahern considered himself “old” and felt he was unlikely to survive the journey home, a prediction that unfortunately came true when Ahern died during the voyage.

Michael Hayes played an important role in Laurence’s life and, despite their age difference of 17 years, their relationship was one of long standing, beginning in Wexford. Michael referred to Laurence’s wife in Wexford, Catherine, in several of his letters, and in a letter in 1812 directed his mother to “remember me to her”, so the families were obviously known to each other. Michael was one of three witnesses to Laurence’s will in 1820, so this was a friendship of over twenty years standing.

In the four letters Michael wrote (see note XVI):

 2 November 1802 (letter to sister Mary Hayes):
Inform Catherine Butler that her Husband is perfectly well. He is employed under Government. His Trade is very good but where sobriety is attached.

25 November 1812 (letter to brother Richard Hayes):
Inform Lau. Butler's wife that I make an application to him to forward some money. His reply was he could not now, but at another time he would remit her 20 pound or more. He has five men employed but he is badly paid. He is not yet free. Remember me to her.

20 May 1814 (letter to brother Patrick Hayes):
Inform them that L. Butler is well. He has a family. I done all in my power to make him send some support to his wife in Wexford. He might if he was well disposed.

4 April 1817 (letter to his mother):
Laurie Butler I frequently urged to send ten or twenty pounds to his wife. He shuffles off by excuses. He is certainly encumbered with Debts. He has three children by his Housekeeper.

Michael, baptised in January 1767, was the son of a well-to-do Wexford citizen, Richard Hayes and his first wife Eleanor Maddock, of Selskar, WexfordTown. Michael had several siblings and half siblings from Richard's second wife Mary Broe. 
 He was convicted of administering the oath of the United Irishman, a crime punishable by death, so he was fortunate to receive a life sentence. At the time of his arrest he was described as of Ballymurn, a few miles east of Enniscorthy. Whether he had inherited this from his father, or obtained the property after his marriage to Eleanor Dempsey, is uncertain. (See Chapter 24 of this blog for more details)
Michael was transferred to New Geneva Barracks in Waterford to await transportation,[xx]  and was transported in August 1799, arriving in 1800, on the ‘Friendship’ along with several other Wexford rebels, who would remain as strong friends in the Colony. He received his conditional pardon in 1803, but was convicted of illicit distilling in 1805 and sent to Norfolk Island. He had been acting as factor for George Bass and Charles Bishop. On Norfolk he acted as factor for several of Sydney’s merchants, especially Thomas Jameson, for whom he recovered many debts. Captain Piper, in charge of Norfolk, interceded in Hayes’ favour with Governor Bligh, and he was allowed to return to Sydney. In September 1808, Governor Foveaux granted him an absolute pardon. Although cancelled by Macquarie, it was re-issued in February 1812. In 1809 he ran a business in Pitt Row selling assorted goods and conducting a boot factory. In 1810 he was given a wine and spirits licence and had a public house in George Street. This was renewed in 1811 and then lapsed. Michael was granted 120 acres on the Nepean River in 1812. From that time, his fortunes declined owing to bad debts and speculation, and the loss of his benefactor George Bass. Although he now had an absolute pardon, he was unable to return to Ireland due to his debts and his now large family of seven children. During this time Michael wrote many letters home to his mother, sisters and in particular, to his brothers Patrick and Richard, which have been preserved and give researchers a great incite into the state of the early Colony. He tried to interest Patrick in investing in the Colony. To Richard, a Franciscan priest based in the Vatican, he appealed for his help to have Catholic priests appointed. Michael led the Catholics in their appeal to Commissioner Bigge, being the first on the Catholic petition to Bigge in February 1820 seeking the benefits of their religion and clergy and the right to establish schools for the education of their children. He was also elected a member of the committee to select the site for the Roman Catholic Chapel in July 1820.
Michael lived in a property rented from his mentor, Thomas Jamison, in Market Place George Street until July 1811 when it was transferred to Mary Reiby (viz. No. 72 Meehan’s map of 1807). He then rented Kable’s warehouse in George Street, next door to the gaol (viz. No. 7 Meehan’s Map ). [xxi]

Plan of the Town of Sydney by James Meehan Asst. Surveyor of Lands
By Order of His Excellency Gov. Bligh-   31 October 1807
(NB. No. 72= Thos Jamison; No. 7= Kable’s warehouse- both rented by Michael Hayes)

In 1823, Michael Hayes was imprisoned for debt- in October 1823, his wife Elizabeth Hayes prepared two petitions to Governor Brisbane in which she indicates that the family was in desperate straits, verging on bankruptcy and in imminent danger of being expelled from their home. In the second petition, Elizabeth declares that Michael is in debtors’ prison. There is evidence to suggest he was still there in April 1824. In January 1825, Michael wrote to his brother Patrick and said that he had “two sons apprenticed to the sea and cabinet business.” There is a record of his son Patrick leaving as a crew member on a ship for Hobart in March 1825, and his eldest son Richard appears in the 1828 Census as a carpenter living in York Street with carpenter Aaron Byrne and his family.
Byrne, 50 yrs of age, came free to the colony in 1802 on the ‘Glatton’.  In the 1834 Directory, Richard Hayes was a cabinet maker in Prince Street, and was also known, in the 1830’s, as an ‘undertaker and builder’ in Prince Street.[xxii]

On 7 September 1825, Michael was found drowned off the Market Wharf. The “Sydney Gazette” described him as having been once in affluent, respectable circumstances and suggested that he had committed suicide.- “It is feared the poor man destroyed his life in a fit of despondency. Verdict-Found drowned.”  [xxiii] For such a devout Catholic, this would be an unthinkable act, which he would believe would condemn him to eternal damnation, so surely there must have been another explanation. He was buried in the cemetery of Sandhills, so suicide was obviously not found to be the official cause of his death, despite the insinuation in the newspaper. [xxiv] However, given his dire financial situation, the implication of suicide was plausible. It would also appear that Michael and his wife had been separated for quite a while which may have also been a factor.

The few schools that existed in the Colony operated under the stewardship of the Church of England and mainly for the children of the middle classes. Laurence’s son Walter must have attended one of these schools, as George R. Nichols, friend and solicitor who bought their Petersham property, and the son of Postmaster Isaac Nichols, claimed in a court case “that he knew Mr Butler since he was a boy- they had been schoolfellows together- that he had always borne a respectable character- that he always had, and did consider him to be an honest man.” [xxv]
 In 1819, George Nichols sailed to England to continue his education in law.

After Fr O’Flynn’s expulsion by Macquarie, Father Therry was appointed to the Colony, arriving in 1820, shortly before Laurence died. Fr John Joseph Therry, born in County Cork in 1791, was responsible for attending to the spiritual needs of a flock numbering upwards of 10,000 Catholics. (Died Balmain 1864.)
Following instructions in their father’s will (dated 1820) re Laurence’s children’s continued education, specifically  directing Fr Therry to attend to the children’s spiritual, moral and educational needs, Lawrence Junior and Mary Ann were enrolled in the Higgins and Muldoon RC School Sydney  [xxvi] in its first term (April 1822). Andrew Higgins, a convict and a surveyor who had been assigned to Father Therry after arriving on the ‘Daphne’ in 1819, set up the school for RC children, with encouragement from Fr Therry. Higgins came from County Meath and was born in 1791. He was given a life sentence at his trial in County Kildare, and was described on the convict indent as a ‘land surveyor, overseer of road works’. Fr Therry petitioned Governor Brisbane on 3rd April 1822 for assistance to enable Higgins to maintain the school:

Sir, Permit me to recommend to the favourable consideration of His Excellency Sir Thomas Brisbane, Andrew Higgins, Schoolmaster of Kent Street, who teaches sixty children, half of which number are instructed gratis as he is a sober, attentive and moral young man, to solicit for him the usual weekly allowance or provisions from His Majesty’s stores.” [xxvii]

Although the Memorial stated there were 60 pupils, by the time the claim was submitted in August of that year, there were 106 pupils, including Walter, Lawrence and MaryAnn Butler (aka Ann), and the children of close family friend Michael Hayes- Eliza, Richard and Eleanor; the sons of Thomas Dunn (Walter’s future father-in-law)- Edward, Thomas and Richard; and children of other Irish rebels. The exact location of the Kent Street address is unknown but may have been near the house of James Dempsey in Kent Street near Erskine Street, or even Laurence’s Kent Street property. James Dempsey owned two properties in Kent Street, one of which was situated at No. 35 Kent street, near Laurence’s No 32.
In reply, the Colonial Secretary wrote, rather condescendingly, on behalf of Governor Brisbane:
“… for the encouragement of education among children of lower orders, (he) will allow you out of Colonial Funds, a penny a week for every child regular in attendance on Andrew Higgins Schoolmaster in Kent Street, and such attendance from daily class rolls open to public inspection during the hours of instruction in his schoolroom.” [xxviii]

By February 1823 the Higgins School had moved from Kent Street to King Street, where it remained until it moved to Fr Therry’s new building on the St Mary’s site in 1824. The St Mary’s school continues today.

© B.A. Butler

Contact email:  butler1802 (no spaces)

Link back to Introduction:

Links to all the chapters in this blog:

The 1798 rebellion
Laurence Butler's trial for his role in the Rebellion
Analysis of Butler's trial
Laurence Butler at the Battle of Tubberneering
Laurence Butler's imprisonment
Butler's life and family in Wexford
Laurence Butler's transportation to Sydney in 1802 on the Atlas 2
Conditions on Convict Ships
Life as a convict in Sydney
Laurence Butler's property investments in Pitt Street Sydney
Sydney Town in 1800-1810
Laurence Butler's petitions to the Governor
Laurence Butler's 100 acre land grant in District of Petersham
Butler's membership of the Commercial Society of Sydney
Laurence Butler's court cases
Laurence Butler's business interests in Sydney
Laurence Butler's cabinet making business
Laurence Butler's property investments in Sydney
Laurence Butler's colonial family
Laurence Butler's death in 1820
Laurence Butler's issue- Walter, Lawrence Junior and Mary Ann
The Catholic Community of Sydney up until 1820
Genealogy- Butler's possible ancestry and possible descendants in Ireland, and BDM records
Butler's fellow Irish rebels transported to Sydney
Conclusion about the life of Laurence Butler

[i]  Sydney Gazette, Sunday April 17, 1803
[ii]  George Cargeeg, The Rebel of Glenmalure- a History of Michael Dwyer, Hesperian Press, W.A., 1988, p16
[iii]  Sydney Gazette, I July 1820
[iv] A. M. Whitaker, Unfinished Revolution, op.cit, p198
[v] Tom Fletcher, James Dempsey,
[vi] Ibid, p181
[vii]  Peter Mayberry website on Irish Convicts-
[viii] A. M. Whitaker, op.cit, p203;
[ix] B.T. Dowd, William Davis, The Wexford Pikemaker, Privately pub. document Sydney 1971
[x] A. M. Whitaker, op.cit, p31
[xi] Ibid, p31
[xii]  Joseph Holt, (P. O’Shaughnessy ed.) A Rum Story.., op.cit, p 104, 107
[xiii] Sir Richard Musgrave, Memoirs, op.cit, p755-56
[xiv]  Daire Keogh & Nicholas Furlong (Ed), The Mighty Wave- The 1798 Rebellion in Wexford, Four Courts Press, Dublin, 1996, p81- Chapter by Brian Cleary, The Battle of Oulart Hill
[xv] David Goodall, Dixon of Castlebridge, Co. Wexford, The Irish Genealogist CD, Vol 6, 1984, Issue 5, p629
[xvi] Michael Hayes, Letters 1799-1833, NLA MS246 (copies in State Library of NSW, originals in Franciscan Archives, Dun Mhuire, Killiney, Dublin), letter to brother Patrick Hayes 25 Nov 1812. 
Also transcripts of all letters in  The Past: The Organ of the Ui Cinsealaigh Historical Society Journal, No. 6 (1950) pp. 45-103 (, and article in the Journal of the Wexford Historical Society, No. 23 (2011-2012) pt. 1 p.143, and No. 24 (2012-2013) Pt. II, p. 143, author William Sweetman.
[xvii] Ibid, to sister Mary Hayes 2 Nov 1812
[xviii] Ibid, to his mother, 4 April 1817
[xix] Veronica Walker, The James Dempsey Story, 1971, on website of grandson Tom Fletcher, 2003,
[xx] Irish-Australia Transportation Online Database (National Archives of Ireland), Petition of Michael Hayes 1799
[xxi] Old Registers One to Nine, op.cit, Bk 5 p178 entry 885a, and Bk 5 p221, Entry 979
[xxiii]  Sydney Gazette, 15 Sept 1825, p3
[xxiv] ADB, Vol 1, Melb Uni Press, 1966, Vivienne Parsons, Hayes, Michael (1767?-1825), p527-528
[xxv]  Sydney Gazette, 4 Feb 1840, p2 ,Supreme Court report
[xxvi]  Frank Murray, Article “1820s NSW- Early Education of the Irish Emancipists’ Currency Lads and Lasses” , SAG Descent Journal, June 2008, Vol 38, Part 2, pp 78-82;
and Frank Murray's website: Roll Call of the First Five Terms 1822-23:   & 
Irish Emancipist Childrens Education 1820's:  

[xxvii]  SRNSW: Colonial secretary; [4/1769, p8] Reel 6055
[xxviii]  SRNSW: Colonial Secretary: [4/1760, p8], Reel 6055; and [ 4/3505, p189], Reel 6055