The Trial of Nicholas Delaney (Australia Day challenge)

The ealiest document about my great-great-great grandfather, Nicholas Delaney, is the record of his trial for murder. The manuscript is in the National Library of Ireland in Dublin.

In November 1799, at the courthouse in Wicklow, he was charged with the abduction (in June 1798) of John Hope and John Brady and, with Edward Neil, of the murder of Richard Twamley and George Heppenstall in July 1798. If found guilty, he would be hanged.

My mother, Patricia, first heard of Nicholas’s trial when she was back in Australia researching her family history. The people in the Post Office in Little Hartley, NSW, showed her a folder compiled by our distant cousin, Antoinette Sullivan, a noted family historian. It included a typed transcription of the trial document. Mum visited Antoinette, who gave her a photocopy.

Page from the trial of Nicholas Delaney, 1799

Page from the trial of Nicholas Delaney, 1799, NLI

We were inspired to find out more and in 1994 we went to Dublin and found the original MS and some related papers. I can still remember the thrill of sitting in that huge, quiet room, reading the vivid words and carefully writing every one down (including abbreviation signs) with the pencils we were given – ink was forbidden.

It turned out that Antoinette’s copy, made by a researcher, contained quite a lot of mistakes, and indeed the MS wasn’t always easy to read. We were delighted to send her a correct transcription. We owe Antoinette so much for starting us on the trail of the trial – and of Nicholas.

There’s a photo of a page of the original trial transcript on p34 of our book, A Rebel Hand: Nicholas Delaney of 1798: from Ireland to Australia.

I’ll talk about the trial in my next post.


© Frances Owen and A Rebel Hand, 2010-2014

About rebelhand

A Rebel Hand is: about Nicholas Delaney, Irish rebel of 1798, transported as a convict to New South Wales, roadbuilder, innkeeper and farmer. My great-great-great grandfather. Other ancestors transported to Australia, like Sarah Marshall, John Simpson and James Thomas Richards, pop up as well. This blog's also about the historical background to their lives, in England, Ireland, and Australia. My respectable Welsh ancestors sometimes get a look in.
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16 Responses to The Trial of Nicholas Delaney (Australia Day challenge)

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  6. Anna says:

    My kids are descendants ,I grew up in regent vile , I would like to know the address of Nicholas delaney s grave,to take my kids there


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  9. Leisa says:

    I am also a decendant of Nicholas Delaney, he is my 4 x great grandfather via his grandson Edward. I am about to go to Ireland (June) and will be visiting Wicklow Gaol and Vinegar Hill etc and hope to gain a little more incite into our ancestor’s life before his transportation. If there is any information that may help me on my journey regarding Nicholas Delaney I would be very grateful to recieve it.
    cheers 🙂


    • rebelhand says:

      Hi Leisa! I remember my first journey to Wicklow Gaol, Vinegar Hill etc and how exciting it was.

      There’s more information on Nicholas on our website,

      and in the book we wrote about Nicholas, his wife Elizabeth and his family, A Rebel Hand: Nicholas Delaney of 1798 by Patricia and Frances Owen.

      Because Nicholas was an illiterate, landless peasant records are quite thin. Records of births in the Carnew area before 1780 are incomplete, so no help there.

      You should be able to see a transcript of his trial at the National Library in Dublin if you get the chance to go there.

      He is also mentioned in Wicklow Gaol – check the Biddy (Bridget) Dolan display.

      This is just a short message, but I hope it gives you some pointers. I’ll have a think and get back to you with some more.

      When are you going?


    • rebelhand says:

      Leisa – you’ve done me a big favour! I got inspired to write a bit more about Nicholas’s trial – hope it’s useful!


  10. Shelley says:

    Thanks for joining in. I would love to be able to go on a research trip like that! It doesn’t have to be to the other side of the world, Melbourne would do me fine right now…
    You are going to tell us about the trial now, aren’t you 😉


  11. rebelhand says:

    Thank you, too! It’s been fascinating, hasn’t it!

    I’ll post again tomorrow.


  12. geniaus says:

    So exciting to read the account of your criminal ancestor. Thanks for telling the story and joining us on Australia Day


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