The year was 1800. The Irish Act of Union was proclaimed on 1 August and Francis was born to Michael (a farmer) and Ellen Hanrahan before the year’s end in the parish of St John in Limerick City. Six months later the Irish legislature was abolished and under the terms of the Act, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland was created, thus setting the stage for the history that follows.
Shortly after his 15th birthday, young Francis joined the British army. He enlisted with the Connaught Rangers, nicknamed ‘The Devil’s Own’, also known as the 88th Regiment of Foot, at Ennis, county Clare on 9 January 1816. He was the regiment’s 706th soldier. At the time of enlistment, Francis was described as standing 4’11½" (151 cm) tall, having brown hair, grey eyes, an oval shaped face and a fresh complexion. Troops were enlisted from age nine years and were paid men’s wages from age 15. It was not long before his regiment left for France where it remained for two years, to be followed by a similar period at Edinburgh in Scotland. In 1820, Francis, aged 19 years, married Bridget Hayes, a mere slip of a girl, four years his junior and the daughter of John (a cooper) and Bridget Hayes. Limerick was also the young Bridget’s birthplace—something that she had in common with her new husband—possibly they were friends from childhood. Francis’ regiment spent the next two years in England with a year each in Hull and Chester before returning to Ireland where it was stationed for similar spans of time, firstly in Enniskillen, Co. Fermanagh, and then Castlebar, Co. Mayo.
Michael, the first child, was born in Limerick, the hometown of both his parents. On Christmas Eve 1824, Bridget gave birth to John at Ennis, Co. Clare, the town where her husband enlisted in the army eight years earlier. Francis was stationed at Naas, an army barracks in county Kildare at the time, and this arrangement continued into the following year after which the Connaught Rangers transferred in 1826 to serve King George IV in the Ionian Islands, off the west coast of Greece. After 12 years with the Connaught Rangers, Francis switched to the 28th (North Gloucestershire) Regiment of Foot at Corfu, on 15 April 1828, possibly with the prospect of an early posting nearer his home in Ireland. It was a move that was soon realised and the regiment transferred to Cork in 1830. The following year marked the arrival of another son, Patrick Francis, who was born on 16 September 1831. Francis spent the next three years at barracks in either Ireland (Dublin and Cork) or England (Chester) during which time Bridget gave birth to a daughter Ellen, who was born in Chester on 19 March 1834. Catherine, the only Australian-born child of a family of five, arrived in 1845 after her father had retired from the army and the family had resettled in Sydney's Darling Harbour.
At this point it should be remembered that the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland was still transporting prisoners to the penal colonies of New South Wales and Van Diemen’s Land (now Tasmania). This arrangement, beginning with the arrival of the First Fleet in 1788, was to continue until 1868, when the last convict ship carrying only male prisoners, including 63 Fenians (Irish political prisoners), arrived in Western Australia. Therefore the prospect of Francis coming to these shores as a serving member of a regiment and troop escort on a convict transport ship was looming on the horizon. The year 1834 signalled Francis’ departure from Ireland for Chatham in England to rendezvous with the regiment and await further orders. Before too long, Francis was assigned to the guard to escort the convict transport Norfolk, which sailed from Sheerness, England on 14 May 1835, bound for the antipodes.
During the sea voyage, Dr Arthur Savage RN, ship’s surgeon, made the following general remarks in the ship’s medical and surgical journal—
And more specifically, the surgeon’s report included references to Mrs Hanrahan and her son, John, both of whom were treated for illness. John, identified as ‘a soldier’s son’, was treated for tonsillitis. Mrs Hanrahan, identified as ‘a soldier’s wife’, was described as ‘a weakly woman, mother of three children, one of 14 months now at her breast.’ The surgeon’s notes for 13 May 1835 concerning Mrs Hanrahan follow—
Bridget continued to receive medical treatment, which led to her making a full recovery, and she was discharged from Dr Savage’s care on 31 May.Arrival in Van Diemen’s Land
After a voyage lasting a little more than three months, the Hobart Town Courier of Friday, 4 September 1835 reported the ship’s arrival in Van Diemen’s Land in its ‘Trade and Shipping’ column—
To New South Wales
The Norfolk sailed from Van Diemen’s Land on 18 September 1835 bound for Sydney, docking there ten days later when the Sydney Herald of 1 October recorded the ship’s arrival in its ‘Shipping Intelligence’—
The Sydney Gazette included a similar article on 6 October 1835 informing its readers that the ship had been also ‘carrying male prisoners & govt stores’.The 28th Regiment’s Distinct Badge
Members of the North Gloucestershire Regiment were noted for the distinct badge worn at the back, as well as the front of the cap—this commemorated a back-to-back engagement against the French at Alexandria during the Egyptian War in 1801. Allan Box in his book, A soldier in the family : a source book for Australian military genealogy : The First Fleet to the Gulf War, states—
Army nicknames were common and according to another source, the North Gloucestershire Regiment also carried the nickname ‘The Old Braggs’. British soldiers generally were called ‘Red Coats’, or more particularly, ‘Lobsters’, here in Australia.
Thus began life for the Hanrahan family in New South Wales in 1835. Army records show that Francis was posted initially to Port Macquarie and, soon after his arrival, he took furlough of 61 days to be with his family and settle them in to their new abode. In April 1836 he was transferred to Maitland, thence to Cox’s River (mid-1836), Sydney (1837) and Liverpool (1839).
Overland travel westward of Sydney in the 1830s to the open pastures of the Bathurst Plains was an ordeal for any but the stoutest heart and strongest carriage. Horseback was the most common way to reach the west but the original route, built in 1815 via Mt York, was rough and rutted with water channels. In 1832 the New South Wales Surveyor-General, Major (later Sir) Thomas Mitchell (1828-1855), directed the engineering feat that was to become known as the Victoria Pass, thereby providing improved travel between Bathurst and Parramatta. Most of the road construction work was performed by convicts in chains and the following report, by a local historian, is testimony to the life of a convict at Bowen’s Hollow, to which settlement Francis was promoted as corporal on 16 June 1836 and placed in charge of convicts—
Bowen’s Hollow renamed Bowenfels
Bowen’s Hollow, situated some 84 miles (135 km) west of Sydney ‘...near the junction of the [then] roads from Bathurst and Mudgee to Sydney...a distance of little better than four miles from...Hartley which at that time boasted of a fine new Court House...’, was renamed Bowenfels following a proposal put to the NSW Legislative Council in February 1842 to establish a village on the site of the former stockade. Although Bowenfels village developed slowly, both the Presbyterian and Wesleyan churches were active there as well as in the smaller nearby communities which were settled in the early 1830s. At this time the Queen’s Bounty, an allowance of £25 ($50) towards the purchase of up to 100 acres (40 ha) of land, was available to retired army personnel. Several veterans of the 39th Regiment of Foot took advantage of this bounty to secure land along Mitchell’s new line of road to Bathurst on which to settle and others more enterprising erected hotels to benefit from the passing horse and buggy trade. (While the popular Royal Hotel at South Bowenfels, known today as the Donnybrook or the Brook, still dispenses refreshment to thirsty travellers from its original site, it did not come into being as a hotel until 1886—well after the period that our ancestor was in the area.) Remnants of the original settlements of family interest—the hamlets of Old Bowenfels and South Bowenfels, still exist but today are skirted by the Great Western Highway and should not be confused with the contemporary Bowenfels, a suburb on the western outskirts of the City of Greater Lithgow, opposite the railway station. (With further suburban development the former hamlets will probably be absorbed into Greater Lithgow.)
Early Australian history reveals that life in the colony was rugged and the lot of a soldier in the foot regiments was probably more so. Indeed, many soldiers suffered the effects of burnout while still in the prime of their life. Therefore it came as no surprise to learn that by 1839 Francis was suffering ill health and was hospitalised for two months. Dr J. Campbell, surgeon of the 28th Regiment, diagnosed that Francis Hanrahan had ‘... become infirm and subject to severe pains of the extremities, aggravated by exposure to cold or atmospherical changes; he is worn out and permanently unfit for the Service’. Due to the state of Corporal Francis Hanrahan’s health the Regimental Board at Parramatta subsequently authorised on 22 February 1840 that he be discharged. One week later he was formally retired from the army after four years five months’ service in Australia and arrangements were soon put in place for him and his family to return to England on board the Trusty which was due to sail from Sydney on 25 March. Parramatta is believed to be where the family was residing just prior to their return to England. The Trusty’s departure was reported in the columns of the Sydney Herald of Friday, 27 March 1840—
On arrival in London, a medical examination at Chatham on 26 September found Francis to be ‘unfit for service and likely to be permanently incapacitated for military duty’. After serving with the army for a little more than 21 years, Francis was awarded a military pension on 14th October 1840 and officially discharged two days later at the age of 39. At that time army records described him as being 5’8" (173 cm) tall, having brown hair, grey eyes, a fresh complexion and labourer was his calling. It seems that the family had the intention of returning to New South Wales because there is no record of their sons, Michael and John, accompanying them to England or returning to Australia.
Between 1836 and 1845, the officially sanctioned method of assisting immigrants to Australia was known as the ‘Bounty’ system, the bounty being the sum of money paid by the colonial government to anyone who introduced into New South Wales, immigrants of a suitable age and occupation. Bounty immigrants were required to bring with them ‘entitlement certificates’, certifying their correct age and occupation, signed by a local minister of religion. If the Board in Sydney accepted the certificate as genuine, a bounty was paid. This system was open to misrepresentation and often the ages given were less than accurate in order to qualify the applicant for assisted passage! Such was the case of Francis and Bridget Hanrahan whose documents for their return to New South Wales show their ages to be 36 and 32 respectively. The formalities of emigration completed, the family prepared for the voyage to Australia where Michael and John are believed to have remained. For the purposes of emigration, Francis Hanrahan was described as a farm labourer and brickmaker, Bridget a housekeeper, and together with their son Patrick Francis, aged 11, and daughter Ellen, aged 9, they sailed from Liverpool, England aboard the William Sharples on 24 October 1841. Further descriptions revealed they were Roman Catholics; Francis could read and write; Bridget was able only to read. Aspinall Brown and Co. were the agents responsible for bringing the family to Australia and, under the bounty arrangements, they received from the government £58 ($116), including £10 ($20) for each child. The Hanrahan family was among the 182 male and 183 female bounty immigrants to make the journey which lasted 95 days. Their ship of 794 tons was under the command of William Hanks Jones, Master, and arrived in the colony on 29 January 1842. After the ship’s arrival at Port Jackson, the family spent a further 11 days on board ship before disembarking. In just a few short years, Francis, obviously a man of some vision, commenced a commission agent’s business in Sussex Street, Sydney in 1846.
Records show that by this time the family had adopted the spelling of Hanran and it is by this name that the descendant families of John and Patrick Francis have been known ever since.
Three years later, Francis died at the age of 48 years. The St Mary’s Cathedral Burial Register 1845-1853 records that he was buried from the parish of St James (the original Anglican church in central Sydney). In the 1800s, Sydney was divided into civil parishes, named after the Anglican churches, and the Catholic Cathedral was then known as St Mary’s Church (or Chapel) in the parish of St James.
Francis’ funeral notice invited friends and relatives ‘…to attend his funeral, to move from his late residence, Steam Company’s Wharf…’ and the burial, which was conducted by the Rev. Fr James P. Roche, took place on 19 October 1849 at the Sydney Burial Ground. Sydney’s Town Hall and Central Railway Station mark, respectively, the sites of the former Sydney Burial Ground and Devonshire (Street) cemetery. In 1901 the coffined remains were reinterred at the Bunnerong cemetery. Later, by Act of Parliament in 1972, Bunnerong cemetery was absorbed into the adjacent Botany cemetery and, today, Pioneer Memorial Park, complete with headstones that have stood the test of time, is a tribute to Sydney’s earliest settlers. Unfortunately, the monumental inscriptions of Francis and Bridget have not survived.
Bridget remained in Sydney until her death on 29 August 1865. Her death notice, which appeared in the newspaper the following day, read—
The notice suggests that Patrick Francis managed the hotel, which was situated on the corner of 130 William Street (north side) and Duke Street (renamed McElhone Street in 1922). The Nelson has long disappeared from the streetscape and all efforts to find a photograph of it or any other details have been unsuccessful.
Bridget was laid to rest with her husband on 30 August 1865. Until her demise, she resided at 3 Napoleon Street, Sydney, which links Kent Street (considerably higher terrain) with the waterfront level of Sussex Street where Francis conducted his commission agency. (The house at 3 Napoleon Street would, in today's terms, be approx below Sydney's Western Distributor - see contemporary view). It has been written that ‘If George Street was the shop front of old Sydney Town then Sussex Street was the tradesmen’s entrance. Tiny cottages blossomed on either side and these were occupied by people with quaint occupations. A boot closer. A chandler. A teacher of the quadrille.’ Occupational terms such as these have little meaning in the modern parlance and Francis’ position as commission agent suffers by comparison!
According to Bridget's death certificate, the details of which were provided by her son, Patrick Francis, 5 living children—3 boys and 2 girls, survived her. John, Patrick Francis, Ellen and Catherine are the subject of separate chapters. In the case of Catherine the youngest child, we have only just "found" her in March 2004. Recent searches have successfully discovered the whereabouts of the elusive son, Michael, who, after marrying Ellen (Dawson) in Sydney, moved to the Victorian goldfields. I am also quite certain that Michael is one and the same as a Michael Hanran who was known to be in Ipswich in 1850 (Queensland Early Pioneers Index 1824-1859). It is thought that he may also be one and the same who enlisted with the 28th Regiment of Foot at Parramatta in 1838.