I’m feeling thrilled and very honoured. The Irish genealogy online magazine, Irish Lives Remembered, has just (July 10th) published a two-page article about Nicholas Delaney, the great-great-great grandfather and transported convict whose life inspired this blog and its sister website.
Eileen Munnelly, the editor, also asked me to write an introduction about how the book, A Rebel Hand: Nicholas Delaney of 1798, came to be written.
Phew – 200 words to describe the excitement, frustration, hard work and surprises of those five or so years from my mother’s coming across a file in the Old Post Office in Hartley, New South Wales to the last proof correction and the arrival of the printed books in my slightly shaky hands.
Of course there wasn’t room to give credit to everyone who helped us, and I’d like to mention the person who set us on Nicholas’s trail, Antoinette Sullivan. Her tireless research in the days before internet genealogy went into that file and surprised and inspired us. Until then we’d thought Nicholas had been a respectable emigrant from Ireland. Family myths had him as a butler in Government House, Parramatta, or even Lord Mayor of Belfast (how unlikely is that!)
And, like many others with Australian families, we were delighted and amazed to learn that he’d been a convict – and an Irish rebel, and a convicted murderer (or freedom fighter, take your pick) as well.
In fact the book could never have been written without the generous help of many of our relatives, including Jeff and Bruce Farrar, Sylvia Hollier, Owen Benson, Brian Soutter, Doug Honess, Edna Delaney and Geoff Wilkin, in Australia and New Zealand.
When we began our research in Ireland, in the exciting days leading up to the bicentenary of the Irish Rebellion of 1798, we realised how lucky we were. Counties Wicklow and Wexford were buzzing with preparations for the commemoration of ’98 and new research was coming to light – and to bookshelves – all the time.
Many writers and historians were generous with their time, including Joan Kavanagh of the Wicklow Family History Centre, Ruan O’Donnell, Vincent O’Reilly, Nicholas Furlong and Owen Dudley Edwards as well as the staff of the National Archives and National Library in Dublin.
I think it’s important to thank them all and to say that we could never have found out about Nicholas’s colourful life without the help we had from family members and experts in Ireland and Australia.
Along the way we learned about a period in Irish history which textbooks across the water never told us about. We had another myth debunked; sadly Nicholas did not kill the man called the ‘Walking Gallows‘ (I’d like to write more about that another time).
We met some fascinating people, travelled though beautiful countryside, took dozens of photos and spent happy hours in libraries reading old books. It was an unforgettable time.
At the end of the introduction I mentioned how rewarding it is to write a family history blog. Being part of the genealogy blogging community has opened my eyes to another level of research and information and I’ve ‘met’ some inspiring people and had a lot of fun. So I won’t apologise for saying again, if you have a great family story to tell, do join us and start blogging!
Thank you, Eileen, for the privilege of writing for Irish Lives Remembered, and for reminding me of that time my mother and I spent finding out about Nicholas and the others caught up in 1798, the convict system and early colonial Australia.
There’s a list of links to sites about Irish convicts in Australia here.