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Many of the early settlers to America, Australia, Canada and other parts of the world came to their new country with no resources but the ability to work hard. We know this, and can imagine their life dominated by isolation, danger, and the need to make the necessities of life with their own hands, often with no skills to do so.
This is a story about two such settlers, a couple who were ancestors of mine, which I found in a local newspaper, The Sydney Morning Herald. It is not all that long ago: the story is dated 04 July 1855.
The place is Broulee, now a popular tourist resort on the south east coast of NSW Australia towards the border with Victoria, just north of the port of Moruya. Many of my Irish ancestors settled there, at Moruya, and further south at Eden and inland at Cooma and the goldfields of Braidwood. “Surveyed and gazetted in 1837, Broulee developed relatively early as a port for whaling ships and coastal sailing vessels.” “The first settler was Francis Flanagan, an Irish tailor with a little capital, plenty of gumption, but a habit of getting at cross purposes with his neighbours and the Colonial administration. In 1829 he was granted title to four square miles on the north bank of the river. His property and homestead he called Shannon View. It was a frail settlement, clinging to hope, battling with the Australian bush, with a lack of support from Sydney, and floods and fires the likes of which were unknown to people from Britain… it was not a significant place. The census of 1841 recorded that Broulee contained 6 buildings and 46 people. In 1848 Broulee contained four buildings and 22 inhabitants”.
In 1836 John Fitzwilliam stole a shirt in Dublin, the city where he was born in 1810. He was a merchant’s clerk. John was tried in Dublin city for the theft, and the sentence handed down was seven years hard labour in New South Wales. He arrived in Australia later that same year on board the Earl Grey, and was assigned to the Braidwood area. John’s sister Elizabeth was married in Dublin to a John Tier, and the couple came to Australia in 1850 and settled in Moruya. At his trial John Fitzwilliam said he was a married man, but we don’t know what happened to his wife. She may have come to Australia at a later date. A John Fitzwilliam married an Anne Ward at St Patricks Cathedral Sydney in 1845 (there are two Anne Wards, and the most likely came to Australia in 1840, with her parents, aged 14, and so born 1826). The story I have reproduced is about Mrs Fitzwilliam, and it is a pity I don’t know which woman she was.
By 1847 John, and wife (presumably), were resident in Broulee, as an ad of 01 March 1847 refers to him as postmaster and storekeeper at Shannon View, Broulee, a position he held at least until 1854. A later ad of 1849 is to the same effect, and refers to his sister Anne Fitzwilliam, who appears in no other record I can find. In 1855 the Fitzwilliams sued a man called Mallon for assault and battery, and the story was reported in the Herald.
“FitzWilliam and Mallon were both residents at Broulee, and there had been some squabbling between them in reference to some land which the latter had leased from the former. Mrs. FitzWilliam, it appeared, was in the habit of managing all farming affairs, and one assault was said to have been committed at a time when she was engaged in ploughing. The other assault was at a time when Mallon came with two bullocks to get away a cow which Mrs. FitzWilliam had impounded for trespass. There were severe quarrels on both occasions. At the last of these Mrs. FitzWilliam, although she permitted her servant man to release the cow on receiving some few shillings, succeeded in securing the two bullocks. It was on making a rush at Mallon and the bullocks to secure the latter, that Mrs. FitzWilliam was struck down by Mallon, and as she kept hold at the rope with which the bullocks were fastened in order to retain possession of them she was dragged along the ground for a short distance. The false imprisonment charged in the declaration was the arrest of Mrs. FitzWilliam on a charge of stealing the two bullocks, which of course came to nothing. She was likewise charged with assault, having at the time the bullocks were seized threatened Mallon, and offered to strike him. For this she was fined 40s. by the Broulee bench. Some time after the first assault, Mrs. FitzWilliam was confined of a still-born child, and it was contended that this was a result of the treatment she had received from the defendant. For the defence evidence was adduced to show that Mrs. FitzWilliam was a woman of very violent temperament, and that it was to repel a threatened attack upon himself that Mallon had knocked or pushed her down. Also that the bullocks were not trespassing at all until Mrs. FitzWilliam herself drove them upon her land. It was further shown, in order to account for the birth of a still-born child, that Mrs. FitzWilliam had been away for two days in the bush, drinking, as was supposed; that the creeks were searched for her, supposing that she might have been drowned, and that she had been brought back in a dray in a very bad state. There was evidence that two days before her confinement, this woman had had a squeeze from a foal which she was branding, but it was clear from the evidence of the midwife, that if the death of the child was caused from internal injury received by the mother, that injury must have been inflicted at an earlier period. His Honor told the jury that the plaintiff would be entitled to recover upon the court for false imprisonment, with such damages as the justice of the case might require. As to the assaults he left them to say from the evidence whether they had been morally committed in self-defence, or were wholly unprovoked. The jury found a verdict for the defendant upon all the issues”.
Who was in the wrong, I wonder, the allegedly violent tempered Mrs Fitzwilliam, or the man Mallon whose cattle had a habit of grazing on other people’s property. Mrs Fitzwilliam seemed to be working the farm alone, presumably because her husband John was occupied at the post office and store in the town. Pregnancy made no difference, and she did the ploughing, branded the horses and drove off trespassers till two days before her confinement. There was no-one to help with a miscarriage, and the alleged drinking may have been her only resource against pain. I can find no record of any children born to the couple.
Later that year, as reported in the Herald of 10 October, the couple appealed against the court’s earlier decision, and in passing we learn Mrs Fitzwilliam had died, even before judgment had been passed down, in July 1855. Her death appears to be unregistered, unless she was buried under another name. A John Mallon was resident in Broulee in 1855, and cautioned folk not to give credit to anyone in his name on 02 June 1855. A John Mallon, son of John and Hannah, died in Moruya in 1889. A Matthew and Hannah Mallon died in Broulee in 1867 and 1868. Francis Flanagan died at Broulee in 1863. John Fitzwilliam died at Broulee in 1864.
Fragments of a story, of a life, and of the effort that built towns and settled countries.
©2010 Original material copyright Phillip Kay. Images and other material courtesy Creative Commons. Historical material from the Moruya Historical Association website. Please inform post author of any violation.