What else was happening in Australia?

Reading other genealogy and family history blogs and posts is inspiring. One idea I’ve been impressed by is having a timeline of the historical background to someone’s life.

So here is what was happening in Australia during the time Nicholas Delaney was there, from his arrival in 1802 to 1810. I’ll cover the next two decades in later posts.


Approximately 6,000 people lived in the colony of New South Wales. Men outnumbered women by about 20 to 1. Philip Gidley King was Governor.

English: Pemulwuy

Aboriginal man (via Wikipedia)

June After a twelve-year guerilla campaign, Eora leader Pemulwuy was shot and killed. His son Tedbury would continue the resistance for eight more years.

October 30 Nicholas Delaney, aboard the convict ship Atlas II, arrives in Sydney Cove along with 189 other Irish political prisoners. Nicholas was assigned to Major George Johnston of the New South Wales Corps.


By now a total of 2086 Irish convicts were in Australia.

A second major settlement was established, in Van Diemen’s Land, now Tasmania.

May 15 James Dixon, Irish priest convicted of ‘complicity’ in the 1798 Rebellion, conducted the first Catholic Mass in New South Wales.


The population of the colony neared 7,000. One third were dependent on Government rations.

English: A painting by an unknown artist depic...

Battle of Castle Hill (Vinegar Hill) via Wikipedia

March 4 The first armed uprising in the colony, led by veterans of the Irish Rebellion of 1798, took place at Castle Hill. Also known as the second Battle of Vinegar Hill, it was put down by troops led by Nicholas’s master, George Johnston. Reprisals were swift and brutal.

One consequence was the Catholic Mass being banned. 1798 had a long arm.

In England to be court-martialled, John Macarthur of the NSW Corps convinced the British government that farming sheep for wool on a large scale would be beneficial.


The explorer Matthew Flinders, the first to circumnavigate the continent, proposed that it should be named Australia. The new name proved popular.


August William Bligh arrived as the new Governor, intent on cutting Government expenditure and curbing corrupt practices including the trade in spirits carried out by the ‘Rum’ Corps. His authoritarian attitude made him unpopular – not for the first time in his life.


Bligh decided that small crop and livestock farmers were the future of the colony, not large landowners or sheep breeders.

May Elizabeth Bayly arrived on the Brothers as a free settler.


A propaganda cartoon of the arrest of Governor...

Arrest of Governor Bligh (propoganda cartoon)

26 January The ‘Rum Rebellion’. The NSW Corps under George Johnston arrested Bligh and installed a new government.

For two years the colony was to be under military rule, headed by Lieutenant-Governors William Paterson and, later, Joseph Foveaux.

Nicholas Delaney’s term of service with Johnston ended; he became a Government overseer in Sydney.

October 17 Nicholas and Elizabeth were married by Major Abbott.


In England, it was decided that naval officers were not the best men to govern New South Wales. The Rum Corps was to be replaced by the 73rd Regiment of Foot and Major-General Lachlan Macquarie was to be the next Governor.

December Nicholas was told he had a free pardon and was granted a lease of land.

The next decade would bring a new regime for Australia and a new life for Nicholas.

I’ve used several sources for this timeline, including those cited in full in A Rebel Hand: Nicholas Delaney of 1798: From Ireland to Australia. The most detailed online is Australian History Timeline, and the Australian Dictionary of Biography and Wikipedia are useful.
If you spot anything I’ve left out, do let me know and I’ll add it.
PS: I’ve been trying to remember if there was one specific blog which inspired this timeline. It may have been Olive Tree Genealogy Blog, Family History Fun – or another. It could well have been a discussion on the Australian Genealogy Facebook page.
Has your blog or website got a timeline?
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2011 – what a year it’s been!

What a year – and what a lot I’ve learned in this first full year of blogging.

When I started this blog in November 2010 I knew I wanted to talk about topics related to the life of my great-great-great grandfather, Nicholas Delaney. But I didn’t want to just repeat what is already in the book my mother and I wrote about him, A Rebel Hand: Nicholas Delaney of 1798: From Ireland to Australia.

1798 memorial, Ballyellis (from A Rebel Hand: Nicholas Delaney of 1798)

1798 memorial, Ballyellis

That wouldn’t inspire me, and if I’m not excited about what I’m writing about it won’t be interesting to anyone else – especially those who have read the book and won’t want repetition.

So I decided to expand on topics in the book, and write around the history and the family events I knew about as well as exploring new angles. More of this soon.


I was hugely lucky this year because BBC TV showed two programmes which couldn’t be closer to Nicholas’s story and the lives of the people he knew.

English: Lachlan Macquarie

Lachlan Macquarie (image via Wikipedia)

On Australia Day (January 26) they screened The Father of Australia, a drama-documentary about Governor Lachlan Macquarie, who Nicholas worked for as a road gang overseer and who mentions Nicholas in his diaries.

Then in the spring, Fergal Keane’s five-part series, Story of Ireland, was broadcast and on May 30 it covered the Irish rising of 1798, where Nicholas’s story begins for us.

But what really kick-started my blogging was Twigs of Yore‘s Australia Day challenge – and this was one of the real revelations of 2011 for me; the online genealogy community.


I knew about a few people on Facebook, like Irish Wattle, but it was only when I started looking at other genealogy blogs (and there’s no better place to start than Geneabloggers) and adding to my Facebook contacts that I realised how many others there were with vast experience to inspire me.

Then Google+ started up and I joined Twitter and… well, I could spend hours reading about history and genealogy – if I had a double to do everything else.

Sarah Simpson's grave. Photo by Michael Wood

Sarah Simpson's grave (Michael Wood)

Some of my most popular posts have been the ones about Nicholas’s trial, about 1798 and his work building the infrastructure of early Sydney. But one was completely unpredictable – the discovery that my 3xgreat grandmother on another branch of the family tree is said to be a famous ghost. What can I learn from this?

And now…

So, that’s enough looking back, what about 2012? Unlike many more experienced genealogy bloggers I’m not going to make any resolutions, since so much of what happened last year was a pleasant surprise.

Instead I’ll promise myself to keep my mind as open as my eyes and continue to ask -

More Irish history? More about the early days of colonial Australia? Or something completely different? What would you like to see here in 2012? I’d love to hear from you.

And a happy New Year to you and yours!

Posted in A Rebel Hand, Nicholas Delaney | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

How’s your family tree?

Flourishing? Many-branched?

Or lop-sided (mine is a bit, at the moment)? A seedling? Not yet started?

If yours needs a bit of nourishment and care, now is a good time to start looking after it -

It’s Start Your Family Tree Week in the UK and Republic of Ireland.

English: Ahnenblatt Family Tree Example

Family tree (image via Wikipedia)

And there are sites to give us tips, encouragement and even competition prizes. I’m going to be looking at Findmypast Ireland and UK and at Chris Paton’s British GENES as well as Ancestry UK’s Family Tree.

Do you know any others?

Posted in Nicholas Delaney | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

My first Christmas – a link with the past

I treasure this photograph.

It’s of my grandfather, Laurence Thomas Delaney, holding me on his knee on my first Christmas Day.

Photo of Laurence Thomas Delaney and me

Laurence Thomas Delaney and me

He’s my link to all the generations of Delaneys (and Marshalls, Simpsons, Wilsons and Henleys) in Australia over two centuries.

Pop, as we called him, was born on the family farm, Moyne, in Little Hartley, New South Wales, but left to go adventuring, breaking the long tradition of working on the land. As a journalist, he went to Hong Kong and South America and ended up in London where he worked in the entertainment industry.

He died when I was three years old and I wish I’d known him better.

So this Christmas I’ll be thinking of my family; the ones who are no longer alive as well as the ones who make this time of year so precious.

I wish you and yours a very merry Christmas.

Posted in Australia | Tagged , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Did Nicholas build the oldest bridge in Australia?

If you visit the Royal Botanic Garden in Sydney, take a few minutes to look for a small bridge over a stream near the Wollemi Pine, ‘Australia’s homegrown Christmas tree’, close to the information booth.

This is Macquarie Culvert.

The two brick arches were built as part of the construction of Mrs Macquarie’s Road, which Nicholas Delaney and his gang finished on her birthday in June 1816. They had a double purpose: a drain for the creek’s water, and a bridge.


Built from sandstock brick, the culvert is both typical of early 19th-century drain construction and historically significant, the historian Anna Wong says. But at the end of the 20th century it was in a state of disrepair, with most of the mortar gone and a rare giant fern’s roots threatening to damage it further.

And the original road was covered with two centuries’ worth of sediment. “It is one of the oldest-known sections of road in Sydney, but its existence surprised archaeologists and heritage architects from the Department of Public Works and Services when they began to dig,” says the Sydney Morning Herald.

A joint team from the department and the RBG set out to conserve and restore Macquarie Culvert and the surface of the road Nicholas and his men laid nearly 200 years ago. Then the road was re-covered to preserve it for the future.


Of course, it’s exciting for me as a descendant of Nicholas Delaney to know that his brick bridge still exists and has been restored, but how important is it as part of Australian history?

As Anna Wong points out, “The age and material used within its historical context makes it a significant item. Other culverts and bridges were built during the early nineteenth century, but most have collapsed or were dismantled due to poor construction and inadequate knowledge.

“This brick culvert appears to be the only brick example from this period.”


So – did Nicholas build the oldest bridge in Australia?

The Richmond Bridge in Tasmania, convict-built between 1823-5, has a claim, and the Lennox Bridge, also called the Horseshoe Bridge, convict-built in 1832, is known as the oldest on the mainland.

But Macquarie Culvert beats them both. True, it’s not so big or so well-known, but at a date of 1816 at the very latest, it is certainly the oldest surviving bridge in Australia.

Not a bad achievement for an illiterate peasant and transported convict.


When we were writing our book, A Rebel Hand: Nicholas Delaney of 1798, the reconstruction was still to take place and several of Nicholas’s descendants were lobbying for the preservation of the stretches of his original road that still existed. It exciting to think that this part is safe for at least  the next 100 years, according to the Public Works and Services department.

“The best thing is that the culvert is not high and dry in a museum,” the Gardens’ acting curator, Ian Innes, said at the time. “This is still working as a culvert.”


I haven’t got a picture of Macquarie Culvert to show you, unfortunately. A few weeks ago I emailed the Royal Botanic Gardens to ask if they would let me use one of their photos but I haven’t heard back from them and I haven’t found one under Creative Commons on the net. (Update: Jeff Farrar’s photos now posted here)

But here are some links to pictures of the culvert from Stone Mason & Artist, Oceanskies and zuctronic.

Anna Wong's AHA article about Macquarie Culvert, built by Nicholas Delaney and his convict gang c1816

Anna Wong’s AHA article about Macquarie Culvert

I found useful information about early nineteenth-century drains in Anna Wong’s paper in Australasian Historical Archaeology, 17, 1999 and about the restoration of Macquarie Culvert in James Woodford’s article in the Sydney Morning Herald of June 24, 2002.

The AHA article also has an old photo of Macquarie Culvert before restoration.

Posted in Macquarie, Nicholas Delaney | Tagged , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

1798 – the television programme

United Irishmen

United Irishmen - Image via Wikipedia

Here at last! A link to the episode of BBC TV’s Story of Ireland which deals with the Rebellion of  1798 and the United Irishmen.

Earlier this year, this four-part series presented by Fergal Keane took us at some speed through the history of the island of Ireland.

I posted my thoughts at the time it was transmitted (May 30th, 2011) but I’d love to know what you think.

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Tombstone Tuesday: Sarah’s haunted grave

At last I’m posting a photograph of the grave of my great-great-great grandmother, Sarah Simpson, who arrived in New South Wales as a convict on the Friendship in 1818.

Sarah's grave (Michael Wood 2011)

Sarah's grave (Michael Wood 2011)

Sarah Marshall, as she was then, was lucky to be sentenced to seven years’ transportation. She had been caught stealing clothes to the value of fivepence – but theft was still, in those days, a hanging offence.*

As I’ve written about earlier on this blog, Sarah died in December 1838 and local legend says that she was murdered and that her ghost haunts Castlereagh Cemetery to this day.

The reason this photo is so special is that it arrived in my inbox today, sent by my cousin Michael Wood, who is descended from Nicholas and Elizabeth Delaney’s son William (9th January 1817 – 14th December 1881).  Michael has just got back from visiting the graveyard, where he took this picture.

Thank you, Michael!

* That makes three of my ancestors lucky to escape the gallows, and who knows, I may discover more.

What’s Tombstone Tuesday? you may ask. It’s an idea by the excellent people at Geneabloggers to prompt genealogy bloggers to write. If you’re one, do visit their website – it may inspire you, too.

Posted in Convicts, Nicholas Delaney | Tagged , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

I’m one!

Cropped version of a PD birthday cake image, s...

Image via Wikipedia

It’s hard to believe, but… its one year since I began this blog.

At first I was nervous, and posted, oh, once every two months or so. Big mistake. It’s like everything else; the more you do it, the easier it becomes.

And what to post about? Nicholas Delaney, of course, and family history, but I didn’t want to replicate what’s already on the website. And I didn’t want to just repeat what’s in our book, A Rebel Hand: Nicholas Delaney of 1798. That would be dull for anyone who’s already got it.

Then I realised this gave me the freedom to go farther and wider, and talk around the story.  For instance, when I came across the mystery of my other great-great-great grandmother, Sarah Marshall, BBC TV’s series Story if Ireland and finding the Who Do You Think You Are? clip where Graham Norton hears about his yeoman ancestor in Carnew.

Twitter feed for ARebelHand (A Rebel Hand: Nicholas Delaney of 1798)

ARebelHand's Twitter feed

Or to pick up inspiration from other bloggers, like Twigs of Yore‘s Australia Day challenge,  West in New England‘s Great Genealogy Poetry Challenge or National Family History Week from the Australasian Federation of Family History Organisations. Geneabloggers has lots of inspirations, too.

I got busy on Facebook and I’ve recently started tweeting as @ARebelHand and joined Google+.

And I’ve got a huge amount to learn still.

But the most important thing I would like to find out is – what would you like to read more about?

Posted in Blogging | Tagged , , , , , , , | 13 Comments

Now that’s a plus!

The battle lines are drawn up. As of yesterday, Google+ has pages, much as Facebook does. Who will win the social media struggle?

I’m quite happy to use them both, so I’ve jumped at getting a G+ page. If you’re on Google+, come and join me here

Or if your prefer Facebook, here’s our page

Or come and chat with Rebel Hand. I’m friendly!

In a hurry? Tweet me @ARebelHand

What do you like about this blog? What can we do better? What else would you like to see?

I’d love to hear from you!

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The song that inspired ‘A Rebel Hand’

At Boolavogue as the sun was setting
O’er the bright May meadows of Shelmalier,
A rebel hand set the heather blazing
and brought the neighbours from far and near.

That’s the first verse of the song Boolavogue, which tells the story of the 1798 Irish rebellion in Counties Wexford and Wicklow, and of one of its leaders, Father John Murphy.

1798 memorial cross, Ballyellis

1798 memorial cross, Ballyellis

Nicholas Delaney, my great-great-great grandfather, was a landless peasant from Ballyellis – a small townland on the Wicklow/Wexford border – and worked near Carnew, scene of a notorious massacre.

Inevitably he became involved in the uprising as a United Irishman and was later accused of murdering four yeomen (from the government’s volunteer military units). Convicted of killing two of them, he was sentenced to death, but this was later commuted to transportation to Australia.

While my mother and I were writing Nicholas’s story, we wanted to give our book a title which had a ring to it. There are many songs about 1798 and we thought about several of our favourites, like The Boys of Wexford, The Croppy Boy and The Rising of the Moon before choosing Boolavogue.

Father Murphy centre, Boolavogue

Father Murphy centre, Boolavogue

I’d loved the song long before I realised I had a connection with it. My friend Tom had the Dubliners’ version on an LP (yes, that long ago) and I’d insist on hearing it. Far too often, probably. And it mentions places Nicholas was in – Ballyellis, Camolin, Vinegar Hill, for instance.

So it wasn’t a hard decision in the end, especially since Nicholas was both a rebel and a labourer – a hired hand.


At Boolavogue as the sun was setting
O’er the bright May meadows of Shelmalier,
A rebel hand set the heather blazing
and brought the neighbours from far and near.

Then Father Murphy from old Kilcormack
Spurred up the rocks with a warning cry:
‘Arm! Arm!’ he cried, ‘For I’ve come to lead you;
For Ireland’s freedom we’ll fight or die!’

He led us on against the coming soldiers,
And the cowardly yeomen we put to flight:
‘Twas at the Harrow the boys of Wexford
Showed Bookey’s regiment how men could fight.

Look out for hirelings, King George of England;
Search every kingdom where breathes a slave,
For Father Murphy of County Wexford
Sweeps o’er the land like a mighty wave.

We took Camolin and Enniscorthy
And Wexford storming drove out our foes
‘Twas at Slieve Coilte our pikes were reeking
With the crimson blood of the beaten Yeos.

At Tubberneering and Ballyellis
Full many a Hessian lay in his gore,
Ah! Father Murphy, had aid come over
The green flag floated from shore to shore!

At Vinegar Hill, o’er the pleasant Slaney
Our heroes vainly stood back to back,
and the Yeos at Tullow took Father Murphy
and burned his body upon a rack.

God grant you glory, brave Father Murphy
And open Heaven to all your men,
The cause that called you may call tomorrow
In another fight for the Green again.

I’ll post more about Boolavogue in a separate post (under this) if you’re interested, but briefly: it was written by Patrick Joseph McCall to commemorate the centenary of the rising in 1898 and set to the old Irish air Youghal Harbour. The lyrics here are from Wikipedia.

PS: to the person who lifted my photograph of the Ballyellis cross today, 12th February 2012, and re-used it without crediting this site, you can’t get away with doing that in secret these days. I won’t give you a link, either. But I know what you’ve done!
If you’d asked to use it, I probably would have said yes. Oh, well…
Posted in 1798, Nicholas Delaney | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 12 Comments

More about Boolavogue

The lyrics to Boolavogue were written by Patrick Joseph (PJ) McCall and set to the Irish air Eochaill, or Youghal Harbour.

There are many versions of this well-loved song on the net. Probably the best-known is the one I heard first, by the Dubliners. The Dubs cut the original song slightly and introduced a riff still used by some other musicians.

1798 memorial, The Harrow

1798 memorial, The Harrow

I also like Brian Roebuck’s take on Boolavogue. Here’s one with a slideshow, and another slideshow. He sings the long version. Less Dubliners-like are the High Kings (with some odd slide editing). There are many other Boolavogues on YouTube.* A word of warning – some of the comments below the clips contain strong language.

PJ McCall wrote many other songs, two of which, The Boys of Wexford and Kelly the Boy from Killane, are also about 1798.

McCall based his song on a much older one, Come All You Warriors, written soon after 1798. Interestingly, Joseph Holt, the Wicklow rebel leader who Biddy Dolan may have had an affair with, mentions the song in his 1837 Memoirs.

Youghal Harbour is a tune many Australians may recognise, as it’s also used for Moreton Bay, written by Irish convict and poet Frank McNamara. Some lines from this song are relevant for Nicholas Delaney, too:

I am a native from Erin’s island
But banished now from my native shore.

* This is possibly the most unusual Boolavogue on the net. I think it’s great!

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Book sale – special Christmas offer

This offer is now closed –

thank you to everyone who ordered ‘A Rebel Hand’ at the reduced price!


From today until December 24th we’re offering A Rebel Hand: Nicholas Delaney of 1798 at the special price of £6.50, or £6.00 for two or more copies (plus P&P).

All the details of postage and packing are here on the order form on our website.

Of course, we’d be glad to sign and/or dedicate copies for anyone who’d like that.

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The day we met the President

The Irish presidential election is in the news these days – it takes place on Thursday, 27 October 2011. There are seven hopefuls in the race, some more controversial than others.

It reminds me of the day, 13 years ago, when we met the current President, Mary McAleese, in Wicklow town.

Wicklow Gaol opening day - Mary McAleese speaking

Wicklow Gaol opening day – Mary McAleese speaking

We were invited to the re-opening of Wicklow Gaol as an interactive visitor centre.  It’s now also famous for its ghosts (a bit of a theme this month, ghosts).

We’d visited the gaol before, when we were researching Nicholas’s story. This is where he spent many bleak months waiting for sentence to be carried out after his trial in December 1799, and many more months after Lord Cornwallis commuted it to transportation on January 17, 1801.

While we were there we met Joan Kavanagh of the Wicklow Heritage Centre. Hugely knowledgeable and helpful, she told us stories of Wicklow in 1798. Biddy Dolan came up, of course, and Joan knew Nicholas Delaney’s name. We swapped stories about Nicholas and she and put us on the trail of other local historians.

Wicklow Gaol was undergoing restoration, ready for the bicentenary of the Irish rebellion, and we were thrilled to get an invitation to its reopening on May 30th 1998.

Opening Day, Wicklow Historic Gaol - ecumenical blessing

Opening Day – ecumenical blessing

It was a memorable day. Speeches, a blessing, a feast and a tour of the new Gaol, including horrific reconstructions of prison life and the transport ships.

After the ceremony, we had a quick chat with the President. Sadly there are no photos of this as we were too busy talking. But here are some of a very special day in our hunt for the story of Nicholas and how a landless peasant became a convicted murderer and an Australian pioneer.

Mary McAleese, the Mayor and other guests at the opening of Wicklow Historic Gaol

Mary McAleese, the Mayor and other guests

Coming soon… more about Sarah Simpson

Posted in 1798, Ireland | Tagged , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Was Sarah murdered? Is she a famous ghost?

For a change from thinking about Nicholas, I typed Sarah Marshall into Google. She’s my g-g-g grandmother, a convict who arrived in New South Wales on the Friendship in 1818. She married* John Simpson (Ocean II, arr 1818) and later that year their daughter Lucy was born. Lucy married Nicholas Delaney’s son Thomas in 1834.

And including the details of their crimes and sentences we only had about four pages’ worth of information about Sarah and John. Until now.

Imagine how surprised I was when result after result came up. The first I clicked on had a query about her – did anyone know anything about Sarah, who was murdered?


Murdered? Some mistake, I thought. Not ‘my’ Sarah. But I checked the dates, and the convict ship, and the places, and it looked more and more as if  I’m descended from a woman who was brutally killed in Castlereagh, NSW in 1838 at the age of 42.

How could this not have come up in our research? How could the family not remember such a shocking event? I wondered.


I went on a googleathon. Some very lurid stories came up. Pretty soon I was reading that she haunts her grave in Castlereagh General Cemetery. She was murdered by a gang of men ‘in a fit of lust’.

I also read (and these are urban legends) that she was 17 when she died, that she had eight children out of wedlock with John, ‘an independent, well-to-do man’ who married her as she lay dying so that she could pass into the next life without sin.


Romantic touches, but the truth is that she had a husband, a tailor and freed convict, at the time of the first Australian census in 1828.

I learned that Sarah and John may both have been already married before they were transported to Australia. So that’s two more possible bigamists in my family tree.

Unfortunately I couldn’t find any newspaper articles about her death on Trove.

As for the haunting, the net’s full of it. Apparently ‘Sarah’s Grave’ is a well-known scary place in the Penrith area, and she’s been seen by a lot of people, a spirit in white with a strong dislike of men. So many people go there at night that the graveyard has been fenced off. There are even tours to her grave.

I’m not putting an image of her grave up because the ones on the net belong to other people, but I’ll put some links at the bottom (Update – I’ve posted one by my cousin, Michael Wood, here). This is the inscription:



the memory of


died Decr 10th


aged 42 years


And am I born to die
To lay this body down
And must my trembling spirit fly
Into a world unknown
A land of deepest shade
Unpierc’d by human thought**
The dreary regions of the dead
Where all things are forgot

So for the moment I’m stuck.

And more than a bit surprised.

In the space of a few hours my obscure ancestor has become a bigamist, a murder victim and a famous ghost. I’m left wondering how a murder which spawned local legends in the Penrith area could have been forgotten by Delaney family members who lived nearby. Or did they suppress the story, ashamed of its notoriety (especially if Sarah had been sexually assaulted)? After all, our convict origins were hushed up for at least four generations.

Or – is the murdered, ghostly Sarah not my ancestor at all? Was she a woman in another graveyard – whose story has been attached to Sarah Simpson, as Sydney Spirit Stalkers wonder?


And I’m yet again amazed at how different genealogy and historical research is now, with the net, from how it was when we started researching Nicholas Delaney and his family. Finding information like this is what makes writing this blog so worth while – I can put so much in here that’s an add-on to A Rebel Hand.

And of course now I would like to see her grave. I’d like to leave some flowers and wish her peace.

Is there anybody there…….. who has any answers?

*Since writing this, I’m not so sure they were married. They were certainly a couple and Sarah is referred to in the 1828 census as John Simpson’s ‘wife’

** The original epitaph reads ‘Unpeirc’d by humam thought’

- – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – -

Here are a few more snippets and links:

I have a feeling I’ll be coming back to Sarah’s story in the future…

And I did – here’s Sarah’s grave and here’s more about her life.

Posted in Australia, Convicts | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 39 Comments

At the heart of Sydney

‘One of the most historically significant urban spaces in Sydney and Australia’.

Photo: Macquarie Place, Sydney, NSW

Macquarie Place, Sydney

That’s how another of Nicholas Delaney’s building projects has been described by New South Wales’s Office of Environment and Heritage.

It’s Macquarie Place.

Just over a fortnight after Nicholas and his men finished the construction of Mrs Macquarie’s Drive in the Government Domain on 13 June 1816, he was hard at work again for the Governor.

As Lachlan Macquarie records in his diary:

Monday 1. July !

This Day Nicholas Delaney’s Gang of Labourers commenced clearing and levelling that Piece of Ground in the Town of Sydney, adjoining the Government Domain called “Macquarie Place,” preparatory to its being enclosed by a Dwarf Stone Wall and Paling in the form of a Triangle!

Photo: Macquarie's diary entry about Nicholas and his gang

Macquarie's diary entry about Nicholas and his gang (Original in State Library of NSW)

Macquarie Place is probably best known now for its obelisk, designed by the convict architect Francis Greenway, who was so important to the Governor‘s plans for Sydney. It was erected in 1818.

Greenway eventually fell out of favour with Macquarie, but his buildings stand as a memorial to two singular-minded men – and to the labourers who carried out their vision.

Inscribed at the base of the obelisk is its purpose:

To record that all the
Public Roads
Leading to the Interior
of the Colony
are Measured from it.

And here are the measurements:

Principal Roads.
Distance from Sydney
to Bathurst }                           157 Miles
From Sydney to Windsor 35 1/2 D
to Paramatta                      15 1/2  “
to Liverpool                        20 “
to Macquarie Tower
at the South Head }              7         “
To the North Head
of Botany Bay }                  14         “

So all roads from Sydney began from where Nicholas made his mark on the city.

Nearly 200 years later, this green space in the centre of Sydney still remains, a little smaller and now dwarfed by buildings.

But nothing should overshadow its significance in Australia’s history. As the Office of Environment and Heritage says:

Picture: Macquarie Place: inscription on the obelisk. Photo © Patricia Owen

Macquarie Place: the obelisk

“Although the original importance of Macquarie Place as the main town square of Sydney, the geographic and symbolic centre of the Colony, the setting to First Government House and the landmark qualities of Obelisk are now less apparent than in Colonial times due to the level of surrounding changes, the park and its monuments remain one of the few tangible links to this first Colonial town centre and thereby part of the earliest history of European settlement in Australia.”

Posted in Macquarie, Roadbuilder | Tagged , , , , , , | 7 Comments