The Arrival in Australia of

Francis Hanrahan and His Wife Bridget (Hayes)

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.

The Young Francis

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, John, Patrick Francis, Ellen and Catherine

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.

Troop Escort Duty

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—

The Norfolk of 536 tons and nearly seven feet high between decks was admirably adapted for the voyage and conveyance of such a number to so distant a part of the world as that in her passage, to which the foregoing medical, surgical cases occurred. Her crew consisted of 42. The troops 32 accompanied by 7 women and 13 children. The convicts 280. In all—374. Of the convicts, 2 appeared on embarking to be ill-adapted for the voyage. I regret to have to refer to case No. 2 in corroboration of my fears of the other convicts whose cases I record and whose diseases were constitutional, if not hereditary. A note was appended to my report of their characters apprising the authorities of their being liable to a recurrence of their complaints. I allude to cases 8, 9, and 12...

There was nothing peculiar to remark in the nature of the cases herein detailed or in the number from whence they are selected. Our voyage commencing in May and terminating in September insured our traversing the doubtful latitude at the most favourable periods. ‘Tis true that in August we experienced some severe weather, but from prior experience of its utility, the lower deck was kept as dry as possible and at every shortest opportunity, the half of the convicts were sent on deck. I conceive much good accrued from there being bacon now served out in lieu of oatmeal, as in the present voyage. I have been able, by dividing the allowance, to let them (the convicts) have a warm and comfortable meal (tho’ a small one) in the evening, whereas in a prior voyage they had nothing from the dinner of one day until the breakfast of the subsequent when, particularly in the warm latitudes, many refused the oatmeal altogether. This objection to the oatmeal, ‘tis true, was only by the English convicts, and out of my present number 280, there were 230 English.

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—

When called, found her in a complete state of collapse from profuse uterine haemorrhage. Surrounded by men, women and children and in a close berth. I thought life was extinct. The place being cleared, windows thrown open, and clothes removed from her person, by dashing cold water on the abdomen and application of smelling salts to the nose, she was restored. She cannot say whether she is pregnant or not, rather thinks not.

Haemorrhaging continuing. Directed cold applications to be applied, and the temperature of the place to be attended to, and the following draught to be taken immediately. [Prescription detailed].

About 7:00 this evening a foetus of about the 3rd month was expelled. She is miserably exhausted. Haemorrhage very profuse. After some time found it necessary to plug the vagina, gave her small quantity of brandy in warm water.

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—

Arrived Friday, 28th instant [August], the Bark [sic] Norfolk, 536 tons, Captain Gatenby, from Sheerness 14th May. 280 male prisoners, surgeon superintendent Dr Savage RN, the guard consists of 29 rank and file of the 28th regt under the command of Major Phelps and Lieutenant Ebrington of the 4th or King’s Own. Also 7 women and 13 children.

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’—

From Hobart Town, on Mon last, having sailed thence 19th ult, barque "Norfolk", Cpt Gatenby, with sundries. Passengers—Maj Phelps, 4th Regt, [et al], 31 Rank and File of 28th Regt, 1 of 50th Regt and 1 of 4th Regt.

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—

The 28th Regiment, North Gloucestershire 1835-1842. The regiment arrived in Sydney in 1835 and was quartered in the George Street Barracks. Several detachments served in the penal establishment of Brisbane. The regiment was a popular one in Sydney often giving excellent band recitals. It embarked for India in 1842 for service in the Afghan War. One of the troop transports ran aground on a reef in the Torres [sic] straits now known as Slashers Reef after the regimental nickname.

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.

The Beginning of a New Life

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).

The Role of the Convicts

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—

Another stockade was located in Bowen’s Hollow at this time [1835], here the ironed gang being principally employed quarrying stone for the bridges over Cox’s River and Farmer’s Creek. Stockades for ironed gangs were strong slab buildings roofed with stringy bark. They consisted of huts for the prisoners (called boxes), huts for the military and police guards, a hospital hut, store room and dining shelter. The prisoners working in irons were men who had committed a colonial offence in addition to that of their original sentence, and were subject to most rigorous oversight. Instructions to superintendents set out that their labour was to be as efficient as forced labour could be without tyranny or cruelty; they were to be kept hard at work, then returned to their boxes with no time for recreation so that their lot might be felt as one of privation and unhappiness and to appear formidable to others. As an aversion to honest industry had been the chief cause of most convicts incurring the penalty of the law they were to be employed at labour which they could not evade and by which they might have opportunity of becoming habituated to regular employment. Each ironed gang consisted of 70 men in irons and had attached 7 men out of irons to perform the camp chores, clean the boxes, cart the wood and water, a cook, a hospital attendant and a delegate to represent their grievances and oversee their interests. Lashings as a punishment were not inflicted as freely as we tend to think, food was sufficient to sustain them for the labour required of them, and many officers seem to have had great regard for the welfare of the prisoners, even to the extent of establishing schools. Convicts in irons were worked a ten hour day. They were obliged to rise at 5a.m. in the summer, daybreak in the winter, one hour was allowed for breakfast and two hours for dinner in the summer. Saturday afternoon from 3 o’clock was free for personal washing as was Sunday too. Weekly rations were 12 lbs. wheat or 9 lbs. flour and 7 lbs. of meat, and anything supplied above this was considered as an indulgence. Each convict received 2 jackets, 3 shirts, 2 pairs of trousers, 3 pairs of shoes and a good quality blanket each year.

Click on image to enlarge

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.)

Discharged and invalided to England

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—

For London, on Wed last [25 Mar 1840], the ship "Trusty", Capt [Alex] Jameson with colonial produce, Passengers Capt Adams, Capt & Mrs [et al], Dr Patchell, RN, Dr O’Brien, RN, Dr Moriarty, RN, Mr Reever, 47 soldiers (invalids), twelve women & 19 children.

Trusty departs Sydney for London 25 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.

Return to New South Wales

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.

Hanrahan or Hanran?

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.

Francis’ Final Chapter

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.

The Nelson Hotel

Bridget remained in Sydney until her death on 29 August 1865. Her death notice, which appeared in the newspaper the following day, read—

HANRAN—At her son’s residence, Nelson Hotel, William-street, Woolloomooloo, Bridget Hanran, relict of the late Francis Hanran, of Sydney, aged 61 years.

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!

Other Siblings

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.

Ray Thurlow,
15 Nov 2011, 02:20
Ray Thurlow,
27 Nov 2011, 23:14
Ray Thurlow,
16 Nov 2011, 02:57
Ray Thurlow,
18 Nov 2011, 23:56
Ray Thurlow,
30 Apr 2012, 04:11