Family Stories

& Some brick walls to climb

Do you have a connection to these families?

Can you help someone to climb over the brick walls?

Michael Nowland

This colourful ancestor, the first of the family to come to Australia, was I think an Irishman. When in his early 20’s, he fell foul of the law in London and was tried at the Old Bailey in 1793 for “feloniously making an assault on the Kings Highway on William Lawrence. Putting him in the fear and danger of his life and taking against his will one bridle value 13s” and also of “feloniously stealing on 13 February one black gelding value £10”

Michael claimed he was innocent of the crimes and was in fact acquitted of the bridle charge for lack of evidence, but the perpetration of these daring predawn robberies having at the end of the day considerably left his “borrowed” mount to be stabled at an inn, was later identified by the stable hand as the prisoner, so for the theft of the horse the verdict was “guilty” the sentence was death. After some anxious months in the Capital cells at Newgate, however, Michael was reprieved and ordered “to be transported to some of his majesty’s Colonies and Plantations in America” (although they no longer existed) for the term of his natural life.

Exchanging one grim prison for another, Michael waited on the rotting prison hulks at Woolwich until April 1784 for a ship to America.

Four days after the “Mercury” sailed the prisoners mutinied, fearing they were destined for slavery in Virginia. They succeeded in taking over the ship and steered for Ireland, but a gale forcing them to shelter in Torbay harbour, many of the escaping convicts were seized leaving the ship. Michael managed to get away but was arrested three weeks later in bath and suspected of being a mutineer. Not waiting to be identified, he broke out of the gaol and headed for Bristol, hoping to perhaps a ship for Ireland, but he was retaken at Bristol and returned to Newgate charged with “felony on the high seas”.

Michael spent another eighteen months incarcerated at Newgate before it was decided he should remain under his former sentence of “transport for life” and was sent to Portsmouth where convicts awaiting shipment were chained in the wretched, overcrowded hulks by night and employed by day digging moats or anything other of work required in the building of fortifications. Michael laboured four years at Portsmouth before his transportation order was changed from America to The East Coast of NSW and he boarded ship once more to sail with the second fleet convicts leaving for the newly established Penal Settlement in the Antipodes. Bad as conditions were for convicted felons in their homeland, they feared exile and penal servitude in an unknown land more, so a rumour of mutiny coming to the officers’ ears, the convicts on the “Scarborough” were restricted below deck and the vogue became one of sickness and death as the prisoners succumbed to the appalling conditions they were forced to travel under. In spite of Michaels previous years of imprisonment, he survived the voyage and after one month in respite at Port Jackson was assigned to the settlement on Norfolk Island, arriving there on August 7, 1790.

On that beautiful, Island Michael settled down to the allotted farm work and proving successful, was made an overseer. He married young lass from Birmingham serving a seven year sentence for theft and their 3 eldest children were born on the Island. Before the end of the century Michael, having proved “useful and well behaved overseer” received his emancipation and a grant of fifteen acres of land, but he chose to follow to the mainland the man mainly responsible for the improvement in his lot, Philip Gidley King, 1788-96 Commandant of Norfolk Island and govern of NSW from 1800-1806

In 1802 Gov. King appointed Michael to the position of superintendent of convicts at Castle Hill, a post he retained til the king left the colony in 1806. Michael then retired to the Hawkesbury to farm. He also built a punt and in 1812 began the first ferry service across the Hawkesbury River. It plied between Wilberforce and Pitt Town. The project however was not financial success and Michael had to surrender his punt to his debtors. For a time he also held the post of constable of lower Wilberforce, but life at the Hawkesbury had always been a struggle, and survivor though he was, it finally overwhelmed him. He was dismissed for drunkenness and died at Wilberforce on 31st October 1828.

 Written by Lois Ready (Nowland). Submitted by Nerilyn Cowen.

Would they believe it

When I consulted the Hunter Valley Directory 1841 complied and edited in 1987 by Elizabeth Guilford, I discovered that the names of two men who became ancestors of my children. This book lists Charles Vout as a convict assigned to George Furber, who was a farmer living with his wife, Honora, at West Maitland. Previously George had been a publican at East Maitland.

Charles had been born at Salle, Norfolk, England and arrived in Sydney in 1833 on the “Andromeda” after being sentenced to seven years for stealing a watch. Later after committing another crime, he found himself in Tasmania, where he married in 1855, Catherine Bryan, a servant girl, who had arrived on “The Caroline Middleton” in 1854 from Kilkenny in Ireland. They had ten children with Thomas being the youngest son. When their mother died in 1884 Tasman and Margaret, the two youngest were cared for by an older sister. When Charles died in 1897, aged 85 he was buried in Hobart with Catherine.

Tasman came to the Northern Rivers of NSW and married Elizabeth Margetts, born in Casino in 1880, at Billinudgel on 1st February, 1904. They had three children, George Alice and Frederick my father, who married Deldorita Alcock, a descendant of George and Honora Alcock, who came to Casino in 1852.

The second man listed was Allen McDonald, a Shepard, who with his wife, Ann and family was at east Maitland. They had arrived on the “William Nicol” in 1836 after sailing from the Isle of Skye. Allen and Ann are both buried in the Catholic section of the Inverell cemetery. Allen and Ann’s son, Angus, with his wife Mary, Lulham came to the Richmond River of NSW. Their family included James, who married Mary Connolly in 1896 and they had six children with Felix as the eldest son. He married Alma Cox and their two sons were John and Gregory, who married Patricia, Fred and Dell Vout’s eldest daughter. When Greg and Pat’s four children were born they were descendants of Allen McDonald and Charles Vout, who, I’m sure, would never have thought they would share common descendants.

One reason I became interested in family history with the Casino group, 20 years ago was to discover information about my grandfather Tasman Volt, who died when I was 10. I was fascinated about his coming from Tasmania.

Any inquiries welcomed by P. McDonald, P.O Box 254 Casino NSW. 2470

The Luck of the Irish

By Patricia McDonald


One reason I started family history was to answer questions that my mother had. Her relative had been killed by a piano. HOW?  WHEN?  WHERE?  WHY?


Daniel O’Grady and his sister Mary arrived in Australia in April, 1884 on board the “Cambodia” after leaving their parents, Patrick and Bridget and their brother Patrick Bodyke, County Clare, Ireland. They came to Coraki to live, where there Uncle James O’Grady and his family were living.

In 1890, Mary married Timothy Alcock, the youngest child of George and Hannah Alcock, who came  to Casino in 1852, where George was a policeman. Timothy and Mary’s family included five children and both are buried in Casino. Descendants still live in the area.

I used to tell my mother that as Daniel was Irish he was probably celebrating St Patrick’s Day and an accident had occurred. Although I was only a teenager I was very close to the facts.

St Patrick’s Day (17th March) in 1895 was a Sunday so no celebrations were held at Coraki on that day because of religious beliefs.  On the Saturday a sports days was held and Daniel competed successfully in the foot races.

A dinner was to be held at the Commercial Hotel, which was owned by Mrs Annie Mobbs, a cousin of Daniel, on the Monday night. It was necessary to move a piano from one place to another, the sample room of the hotel.

Daniel and a friend took a horse and cart to collect the piano. After it was loaded, Daniel climbed into the cart to balance the piano while the other man led the horse. When they were almost at the hotel the cart wheel went into a rut, causing the piano to tumble from the cart, taking Daniel with it. The piano hit Daniel on the head, causing major injuries and his instant death.

His body was taken to the hotel and the doctor was called. His sister Mary, living in Casino, was informed. A magisterial inquiry was held the next morning and death by accident was returned. The funeral, attended by many shocked friends was held later in the day and a wake followed as “Dan” was a popular member of the community

By using the Irish phonebook I have been able to make contact with relatives still living in the village of Bodyke.

I am happy to exchange information with interested researches

Patricia McDonald PO Box 254 Casino NSW 2474