A dream of freedom

1 Robert Emmet Execution

This is my fourth essay on members of the Davis family in colonial Australia, about Joseph Davis the Irish republican exile. I began with an essay on a collateral relation of mine known as William Davis (“The Wexford Pikemaker” https://phillipkay.wordpress.com/2010/01/05/william-davis-the-wexford-pikemaker/); continued with a look at his adopted grandchildren and their families (“The Pikemaker’s Orphans” https://phillipkay.wordpress.com/2012/09/10/the-pikemakers-orphans/); and then attempted to discover what could be found about a certain Joseph Davis, perhaps Wiilliam the Pikemaker’s adopted son (“Identifying Joseph Davis” https://phillipkay.wordpress.com/2012/09/28/identifying-joseph-davis/). Here I look at that Joseph’s father, also called Joseph, assembling material scattered in the three earlier posts to do so. All four Davises are connected. William adopted Joseph’s son Joseph, and then Joseph junior’s children. What began as family history (my GG Grandmother Mary Ann Davis was William the Pikemaker’s grandneice) has widened, on the six degrees of separation rule. It might be clearer if I say I am here investigating Joseph the father of two famous New Zealanders, both Maori interpreters and advocates of Maori rights, and one a famous author: Charles Oliver Bond Davis and Edward Fitzgerald Davis. What follows is not fact. It is investigation, and any details that can be added to my account may make the story clearer.

There is no trace of the birth of Joseph Davis, exiled for his part in the 1798 Irish rebellion, in any parish record (so far). When he was exiled to Australia his convict indent said he was born about 1761 (probably the “about” should be emphasised) and that his “native place” was Dublin. The term “native place” is inexact, and can mean either place of birth or place of residence. According to some researchers his father’s name was John Davis. Joseph was described in the convict indent as “Protestant”, which, given his circumstances, could mean either Anglican or Presbyterian. According to a family story passed on by one of his descendants, Russell Ormsby, Joseph flouted the conventions of the times and offended many by marrying a Catholic girl named Mary Basford or Bassford, from county Down, in or about 1790. No trace of the marriage has yet been found. His obituary says he was then a Freethinker, “he had been a steady opponent to the Divinity of Jesus Christ; up to which period he was a Deist” so perhaps he was making a protest about sectarianism. There were four children of the marriage, Sally (or Sarah), John, and two others whose names are unknown. Would it be repetitious to say no trace of the birth records have been found? Again according to family story, Joseph joined the army, was a long, or sword, cutler and was promoted to Major. He was active in Ireland’s fatally mismanaged war of independence of 1798. His convict indent classifies him as a “rebel soldier” (see records assembled by Peter Mayberry at http://members.pcug.org.au/~ppmay/cgi-bin/irish/irish.cgi) so perhaps he joined the army of Joseph Holt or Michael Dwyer which was assembled in county Wicklow early in 1797. At some time before that Joseph also joined the United Irishmen, a patriotic association formed by Theobald Wolfe Tone, a friend of Tom Paine, in 1791 to separate Ireland from English administration and English exploitation (plundering would be the apter word).

2 United Irishmen

United Irishmen
The Society of United Irishmen was founded 14 October 1791 in Belfast in order to unite “Protestant, Catholic & Dissenter” (Presbyterian) in the cause of Irish independence through parliamentary reform. A branch was founded in Dublin city 09 November 1791. At about the same time a more militant protest was being made by a guerrilla group called the Defenders. For 200 years, ever since the rule of the House of Tudor, England had plundered Ireland, often rewarding English nobles for service to the Crown by bestowing the estates of the Irish nobility on them, first conveniently killing or driving into exile those nobles. This was disastrous for the Irish. Ireland was a feudal society then, but also a clan based one, and the nobles were also clan leaders who played a vital role in preserving ancient traditions and culture. Tone wished to put a stop to this exploitation. He was deeply committed to republicanism, and strongly influenced by Danton and Paine. The spread of the society was watched with growing alarm by the English authorities and it was banned in 1793 following the declaration of war by France that year. England was only too aware of the French Revolution which had bought down the Ancien Regime in 1789, as were of course the Irish. A French fleet carrying 15,000 troops set sail for Ireland in 1796, under General Hoche, and spent days in sight of the Cork coast at Bantry Bay, but weather conditions prevented its landing, and its remnants not wrecked or captured returned to France. The British government responded to the threat it represented by sweeping up much of the United Irish leadership. It imposed martial law from 2 March 1797, and attempted to break the movement by terrorism. The failure of Robert Emmet’s rebellion in 1803 triggered the effective collapse of the Society of United Irishmen. The problem was shelved for another generation. Lack of co-ordination of Irish leadership and British resort to terrorism were to remain features of the struggle until the 20th century.

3 lord edward fitzgerald

At least 14,000 Wicklowmen swore the oath of the United Irishmen and a comparatively high number of them turned out to fight after the outbreak of the Rebellion in late May 1798. The vast majority had joined in the spring and early summer of 1797 when republican emissaries crossed into the county from Kildare and Dublin. (See the Mayberry site mentioned above for details of the rebellion).

Three United Irish leaders are worth mentioning in connection with Joseph Davis. On March 12 1798 police raided a meeting of the Leinster group of United Irishmen at Oliver Bond’s house at Dublin, arresting 12 leaders; Bond died suddenly in prison later in 1798. On May 19 1798 Lord Edward Fitzgerald was arrested and later died from his wounds on 4 June 1798.  And in 1803 Robert Emmett led an abortive rising but was captured and executed that year. These three leaders must have meant a lot to Joseph Davis, as he named three of his Australian children after them. Emmett’s famous speech to the court that condemned him must have had a lifelong importance for Joseph Davis.

“Let no man write my epitaph; for as no man who knows my motives dare now vindicate them, let not prejudice or ignorance asperse them. Let them and me rest in obscurity and peace, and my tomb remain uninscribed, and my memory in oblivion, until other times and other men can do justice to my character. When my country takes her place among the nations of the earth, then, and not till then, let my epitaph be written”.

Early in 1797, before fighting had really broken out, Joseph Davis surrendered to the authorities (“Surrendered himself for self transportation, Protestant” said the NSW Early Convict Index). Perhaps it was his response to the imposing of martial law in March, an attempt to protect the lives of his wife and four young children, which were at real risk from the English. On 01 October 1797 he was charged with administering an unlawful oath (to the United Irishmen) at Wicklow, tried at Dublin City in December 1797, and sentenced to seven years transportation to Port Jackson, a mitigated sentence, perhaps because of his surrender. Joseph was named in the 1798 Banishment Act (38 George III, c.78), one of 88 people subject to banishment whose return to British dominions or passage to a country at war with Britain was prohibited. Seven of these surrendered themselves (including Joseph), and were transported.

4 Taking the oath

What could have been Joseph Davis’ level of involvement? I wondered. We have a clue from his obituary notice: “…there could scarcely be found his equal, for disputation, in European politics…”. I think some time after 1791 Joseph joined the United Irishmen in Dublin, was swept up by the powerful oratory of the French Revolution, especially that of Danton, Thomas Paine, and Wolfe Tone, came to long for a more just society for Irish people, and used his own oratorical gifts to persuade others to join the movement. He must have been active in this until May 1797 (his letter of December 1798 mentions “18 months in confinement”). Joseph’s career as a long cutler in the army also needs explaining. He could only have joined the rebel army early in 1797, long enough to be classified a “rebel soldier” on his surrender later that same year. So his career as a long cutler and promotion to Major must be short, the first few months of 1797, or found elsewhere. The mention of Joseph in the Banishment Act 1798 makes no reference of a prior army career. He is there described as a cutler of Dublin city, a tradesman. I think it most likely Joseph was a Dublin tradesman with a job of recruiting for the United Irishmen between 1792 and 1796 who later joined the rebel army in 1797, was promoted to Major of a regiment of long cutlers, but surrendered  within months of this happening.

On 21 August 1798 Joseph wrote to the authorities after his trial: “Prays to be released for seven weeks to settle his affairs before being transported. States he has a wife and four children”. (Ireland-Australia transportation database Irish Archives).

5 banishment act

After trial Joseph Davis was confined in the hulk Lively until arrangements and provisioning of the transport ship Minerva were completed. “Eventually transport was arranged for … prisoners held in Wicklow. One hundred and thirty seven convicts, 19 of whom were female were put on the vessel Lively under Captain Dobson. They probably boarded the Lively in March and remained on board for up to seven months waiting to be taken to Cork, there to be embarked on the Minerva transport. Some of the mess mates on the Lively included: John Lacy, of Dublin, metal founder; Joseph Davis, of Dublin, cutler; Farrell Cuffee of the King’s County, schoolmaster;  John Kincaid of Armagh; William Henry of Armagh; Charles Dean of Dublin, apothecary’s apprentice; Richard Day (?Dry); Samuel Car, brother to a clergyman of Armagh; and Joseph Holt” (Free Settler or Felon? http://www.jenwilletts.com/convict_ship_minerva_1800.htm). On the 2nd January 1799 Captain Dobson received orders to sail. Just prior to this Joseph Davis sent a heartfelt letter to his wife Mary.

“My dear Mary,
This day I received your letter and it gives me great satisfaction to find in the post circumstances that you, my mother and the four children are well. I hope little young John will get over the cough. I am myself tolerable well in health.… I often think of our mutual attachment to each other and my children but them times are over. I am very sure we will soon sail. Every preparation denotes it. However let me be in my part of the world, you, your mother and the children will be my chief concern. I wish I could in some measure think my health be better. I am exactly nine months on board this day and 18 months in confinement. …I hope you have fortitude to withstand this great trouble and distress for tho we may be separated in this life, we should get happiness. Pray keep up your spirits we may meet again. I am extremely sorry to hear a complaint of [my daughter] Sally, I thought she promised to have better times and I strictly desire for her to mind her schooling and every other thing you or her grandmother desire for her to do. She must know how such things put me in my present situation. Not being with her, therefore inform her if she has any respect for her father, that she will mind his direction or she will repent when it’s too late. I have not a sufficiency of words to acknowledge the kindness of your mother to you and the children, she has my prayers. I don’t know what might have been the consequences only for her, and I request she will continue her kindness and to pay a strict attention to the morals of the children.…The complaint of that lump in my belly is much the old way, no tenderness here will do any service. The reality I can’t say, I got my health very bad but is entirely unable to bear hardship, sometimes weakness bordering on fainting attacks but wear off again.When you have an opportunity, give my best respects to Mr and Mrs Spencer, your sister Anne… Give my respects to the two Goodmans and Mr Donney with them, let them know Brady and Mulhall [also on board the Minerva] and the remainder of us seven are well. It gives me great pleasure to hear from you and often wonder at your neglect (I forgive you) and your mother has me affection with you the same as ever…Show this letter to my friend and cousin, [he] is next to your mother and the children… grant him peace in this life and happiness in the next. Give my duty to your mother, my love and blessings to the children and I hope Sally will be an ornament not a discredit to me. Many times I think of them, therefore I desire that they will take your advice on every particular and mind their education, particularly if in any way able to give it them and the blessing of God almighty be with you and mother is the wish of your ever loving husband. Jos. Davis.
 N.B. If anything comes relative to my pardon or any attention in the family send me and if we go away too suddenly I am afraid you or your mother will not survive to see the children provided for but I pray God you both may… I would be contented if you write, don’t forget the directions, Capt Cox, Minerva, love from me”. (quoted from a book by Barbara Hall at http://irishwattle.blogspot.in/2012/02/love-letters-from-ireland-we.html).

One can only wonder who the Spencers, the Goodmans, Mr Donny and Mary’s sister Anne Bassford of Dublin were.

6 the william pitt

“The Lively arrived in Cork on 29th January 1799. John Washington Price, surgeon of the Minerva, had long been expecting the arrival of the Lively and he immediately boarded her to examine the convicts. He found them in a most wretched, cruel and pitiable condition, lying indiscriminately in the ships hold on damp wet and uneven planks without any covering, half naked and exposed to all inclemencies of the season whether snow, frost or rain. He had never seen a more unhealthy looking or miserable set of human beings in his life. There was little he could do for them however while they lay in the hold of the Lively, even as the weather worsened and men began to die.

 “They were not taken on board the Minerva until the 13th February and over the next few months, prisoners from Cork joined them as well. Before being taken on board the Minerva they had their heads shaved. They were washed and received a new set of clothing and bedding consisting of 2 jackets, 2 pair of trousers, 2 shirts, 2 pair of shoes, 2 pair of stockings, a cap, hat, vest, mattress, pair of blankets, and cloth bags. Once on board the Minerva they were attended by John Washington Price who suggested fresh food be procured and who ensured the living quarters remained clean and airy. The prisoners slept five to each berth and the quarters were 8 feet high between decks with a scuttle one foot square to each berth on each side of the ship.

 “The Minerva departed Cork on Saturday 24th August 1799. As well as the convicts and a detachment of the N.S.W. Corps under Lieut. William Cox and passengers such as artist John William Lewin, the Minerva carried stores – including 25 pipes spirits, 6 tons sugar, 20 cases glass, 4 casks ironware, 5 casks molasses, 60 pieces Irish linen, 4 boxes coffee, 150 bales Rio tobacco, 2trunks shoes,  20 casks provisions, 15 furkins butter, 1 box hair powder, 4 pipes port wine”. (from above, Free Settler or Felon?)

Price’s Journal of the voyage (from which these details come) is more than a Surgeon’s journal. He gives details of the town of Cork, of the 1798 rebellion, describes the ship’s company, soldiers, crew and convicts, gives a detailed picture of Rio de Janeiro, a history of Australia, a description of the Aboriginal people, and of the town of Sydney.  Joseph Davis must have been a well man on the voyage, for Price mentions him only in passing.

7 portable hospital

Life in the colony
The Minerva arrived Port Jackson 12 January 1800. Joseph Davis’ sentence expired in December of 1804, but there is no trace of him until 1806, when he appears to have received an Absolute Pardon (whether this overruled the Banishment Act’s prohibition from returning to Britain is unclear). On 05 February 1811 Joseph Davis also received a Certificate of Freedom. What the exact provisions of these two documents were I am not sure, but NSW Archives states they were both issued to Joseph Davis of the Minerva.

Joseph appears in the 1806 muster of the colony population. He is described as a labourer working for the General Hospital. The Hospital was a makeshift structure dating from 1788 in George Street in the Rocks area near Circular Quay. Today part of the grounds are accessible along Nurses Walk. In 1816 Governor Macquarie built a more permanent structure in Macquarie Street near Sydney Domain, which is the present site. A family story is to the effect that Joseph worked as a cutler for the General Hospital, making surgical instruments. Joseph confirms this in an 1813 advertisement. If he maintained a premise at Gloucester Street, as his obituary mentioned, then Joseph would have been only two blocks away from the old Hospital, and only two blocks north of William Davis’ house in Harrington Street, the site of present day Saint Patricks Church. In this modern map of Sydney you can see Grosvenor Street along the bottom, and three streets going north, George, Harrington and Gloucester Streets. St Patricks is near Grosvenor and Harrington, and Nurses Walk is between George and Harrington Streets near the top of the map. I can’t find a street number for Joseph Davis in Gloucester Street, but perhaps it was adjacent to Nurses Walk. Interesting that the two Davises, both Irish rebels, should be neighbours.

8 Nurses Walk Gloucester St

Shortly after this time, in 1806, Joseph met a woman called Ann Calder, a Scotswoman transported for theft, and the couple set up house together. The 1806 muster states that Ann Calder “lived with: Jos. Davis”. They were not married in the Anglican church, so perhaps this is an indication they were Presbyterian. (William Davis was not married in the established church either, because he was a fervent Catholic, then a persecuted religion). A family story says that Joseph’s first wife Mary and her four children came out to Australia to join Joseph, but I have not traced them so far. In particular, they do not appear on any muster list in connection with Joseph.

We do know something of Ann Calder. Her parents were Duncan Calder and Elizabeth McMillan, who married at Inverness in 1776. There were five children: John, born 1777, Elizabeth 1779, Ann 1781, Roderick 1784 and Daniel 1786. A document in the Scottish Archives concerns a property called the Black Fold and Cragans, administered by Alexander Fraser of Culloden on behalf of minor John Falconer of Drakies and presently occupied by Duncan Calder, dated 1779. Perhaps the family was not very prosperous, for in 1804, aged 23, Ann was tried for housebreaking and theft in Inverness on 22 September. She confessed, and was sentenced to 14 years transportation. She left Cork in the William Pitt 31 August 1805 and arrived NSW 11 April 1806.

To find out about the children the couple had we need to look at a letter Ann, known as Nancy, wrote to the Colonial Secretary in 1824 asking for help in supporting her children. She lists them:
Elizabeth daughter age 16 so born 1808
Joseph eldest son 14 so born 1810
John 12 so born 1812
Charles 7 so born 1817
Philip 4 so born 1820
Edward 1 so born 1823
supposing these ages are accurate. Only two of these births are registered, Joseph in 1809, and John in 1812. (Researchers also mention an Ann, born 1807, and a Sarah, born 1808, but I can find no trace of these. There is always mention of just six children). Perhaps there was a stillbirth about 1814. Of the children, as mentioned above, John was John Emmett, Charles was Charles Oliver Bond, and Edward was Edward Fitzgerald, named for three leaders of the United Irishmen killed by the British.

Joseph was mentioned, without details, in the 1811 muster. In 1813 he placed an advertisement in the Sydney Gazette: “FOUND, a Silver Watch. —The Owner by describing it to Joseph Davis, Cutler at the General Hospital,  will receive his Property, on paying the Expences of advertising. (Gazette 2 Jan 1813)”. He is mentioned in the 1814 muster: “Govt. cutler to Hospital. Resides Sydney”. In the 1822 muster Joseph is mentioned again, this time with his children (but not his wife):
Joseph Davis, free by servitude, Minerva 7 yrs, cutler, Sydney
children Sarah 13 so born 1809
Joseph 12 so born 1810
John 9 so born 1813
Charles 6 so born 1816
Philip 3 so born 1819, all born in colony
The ages seem reasonably consistent. The daughter Sarah is probably a mistake by the transcriber for Elizabeth.

9 Gloucester st

Joseph lived with Ann until his death. It is likely he spent a period as cutler to the Hospital, perhaps 1810-1816, before setting up a shop at his house in Gloucester Street 1816-1820, after which he started to become incapacitated from illness. His death occurred 25 September 1823, after an illness of two or three years. The following obituary appeared in the Sydney Gazette.

On Thursday evening last [25 Sep], almost suddenly, Joseph Davis, of Gloucester-street, Sydney. The deceased was extremely aged [he was 62], and worn out with lingering illness, but still was to employ himself in the duties of his trade, by which he was well known in the Colony for upwards of twenty years as a cutler. In his humble station of life, no man was more respected for sobriety, industry, and integrity. Till within the last two or three years of life, he had been a steady opponent to the Divinity of Jesus Christ; up to which period he was a Deist. In possession of a vigorous and somewhat enlightened mind, there could scarcely be found his equal, for disputation, in European politics. In the late wars, which covered the earth with blood, there was no individual felt more lively interest, nor indeed could reason with greater depth of penetration. About two years since, perhaps less, the mind became turned to more profitable subjects. He was led to contemplate, in the midst of pain, on the vanity and brevity of human existence. He was impressed with the solemnity of death. Reflection laid hold upon him from the following cirumstance: he observed the grass springing up around, and while soliloquising upon the certainty and approximation of Death, he thought that man might be assimilated [likened] to the blade of grass, which came forth to continue for a short season, and then disappeared for ever. Then it was that he became struck with the hopes the Christian, the believer in a Mediator, professed to enjoy; and the inference followed, that he was, of all men, the most miserable. Another time he was led to think the merciful Creator dealt hardly with him; and, at the same moment, a flash of heavenly light burst in upon the mind, and he saw, and felt, the temerity and ingratitude of the thought. From this time he began to enquire for himself, and the result, (as it ever must) turned out most satisfactory. His sincerity as a firm believer in the glorious truths of Christianity, no one that knew him would presume to question – not even the most censorious or uncharible. He leaves six children to deplore the loss of an excellent father, which title the deceased will deserves, when it is known that he did all in his power to lead his children, and others around him, in the way to the regions of blissful immortality”. (Sydney Gazette 02 Oct 1823).

This I think is Joseph Davis’ epitaph. A civilised man of the 18th century with a lively interest in, and knowledge of, politics and current affairs, and a passionate interest in engaging friends and neighbours in discussion on these matters, and a former orator for the United Irishmen cause, a lover of liberty. And a parent who educated his children so as to form their interests in the same way.

Financially things had been tough for the family, as Joseph had been ill for two or three years, since about 1820 (perhaps this is the old ailment, “The complaint of that lump in my belly is much the old way” that Joseph mentions in his 1798 letter to his wife Mary, which might have been a tumour that finally became malignant). Perhaps he lost employment when the Hospital was relocated in 1816. There is an indication that in these straightened circumstances, Joseph, or Nancy, approached the by then wealthy William Davis for help (there is no trace of a relationship, but William might well have been a cousin of some sort). William suddenly acquired two children (he is denoted “Parent or Guardian” on the form) in the 1823 muster, Elizabeth and Joseph, “children of Mr Davis”. These are probably Joseph Davis’ two eldest children, though the ages are different: Elizabeth 2 so born 1820 and Joseph 10 so born 1812 (Joseph’s two children were 16 and 14). As against this discrepancy in ages, William says in an 1834 court case he had adopted a Joseph whom he had known since the age of three. And in the 1828 census there is an Elizabeth Young, born 1808, living in the household of William and Catherine Davis of Harrington Street and the following notice: “MARRIED — On Monday last, by Dr. Lang, Presbyterian Minister, Captain Young, of the Colonial brig Minerva, to Miss. Elizabeth Davis, of Harrington-street, Sydney. (The Australian Wed 23 Apr 1828)”. It’s not proof, merely an indication that Nancy Davis was trying to provide for her family and might have sought William Davis’ help.

Then, in April 1824, Nancy wrote the Colonial Secretary for further help.

“8 April 1824 rec’d 22 April 1824
To Frederick Goulburn Esq, Colonial Secretary
The Memorial of Nancy Davis Relict of the late Joseph Davis of Sydney
Humbly Showeth
That your Memorialist having been left with a large and helpless Family, consisting of six children, whose maintenance depends solely upon the exertions of her eldest son who is as yet but fifteen years of age.
That Memorialist finding that in consequence of his youth, (trusting it may be an apology for his neglect) his application to business can’t be called close, thereby rendering his earnings inadequate to the support of the family!
That Memorialist, under these circumstances, humbly hopes, that you will take it into your humane consideration and allow two of her children (boys, the one seven and the other five years old) to be placed in the Male Orphan Institution which if complied with will be a material relief to the rest of the family, and for such mark of humanity, Memorialist will as in duty bound will now pray.
Nancy Davis
Recommended by Wiliam Cowper
Widow of the late Joseph Davis of Sydney, six children (the list quoted above follows here)
Charles and Philip is the two she wishes to get in the school”.

10 Parramatta Orphan school

The Orphan School then notes.

“Register of Orphan School entries
97. Jan 10 1823, Joseph Davis, 10 yrs parent/guardian Wllm Davis Sydney
116. Jul 14 1824, Charles Davis 7 yrs parent/guardian Ann Davis Rocks Syd
117. Jul 14 1824 Philip Davis 4 yrs Ann Davis Rocks Sydney widow”

Sadly, just two years later, 13 June 1826 Ann died, aged 44. She left 18 year old Elizabeth and 16 year old Joseph to look after three year old Edward, six year old Philip, nine year old Charles and 14 year old John.

Joseph the younger attempted to carry on his father’s business, as the following advertisement attests. “JOSEPH DAVIS, the Son of the late Joseph Davis who has only been dead a few days, respectfully informs the kind Inhabitants of Sydney, that he will carry on his Father’s Business in the Cutlery Line, as usual, on the most moderate Terms. The Advertiser craves the Patronage of the Public, in Behalf of an aged Mother, and five Brothers and Sisters, who depend on his juvenile Exertions for Support. (Sydney Gazette 09 Oct 1823)”. In 1824/5 he may have travelled to England and returned a married man, married to Catherine Davis’ daughter Margaret Noonan with whom he had three children. After being acquitted of theft in a 1834 court case, Joseph simply disappeared. In his 1843 will William Davis calls him deceased, though his sister Elizabeth indicates he may have died in the mid 80s. The search is still on to trace him.

Elizabeth married Captain William Young in 1828, whose brig Minerva (note the name!) plied the trade route between Sydney and New Zealand. When he decided to settle in New Zealand in 1831 Elizabeth took her young brothers with her and they were bought up with her own family there. Joseph stayed behind with William and Catherine Davis.

New Zealand
William Young was a Scotsman born 18 March 1795 in Dundee. On his death 18 September 1867 in Auckland this obituary was published: “ln our obituary notice of to-day, we have to record the death of Captain William Young, formerly of Hokianga, one of the fast-diminishing band of old settlers who connect the younger colonists with the days of Old New Zealand, before the islands had been brought under the British flag. As such, and also because he was regarded with esteem and affection by both Europeans and natives with whom he came in contact, his death deserves more than Ihe mere obituary notice. Captain Young was a native of Dundee, from which place he, as a lad, made a voyage to Greenland on board a whaler. He afterwards came out to Australia as mate of a vessel, and entered into the New Zealand trade, bringing over from Sydney cargoes of goods, and taking back prepared flax. After voyaging about Cook’s Straits, where he was acquainted with Raupwaba, Rangihaeata, and other celebrities, Captain Young came north, and, in the year 1826, went up the Thames, casting anchor off what is now Shortland Town, Kauaeranga. All that district was then an unknown land to Europeans: boarding nettings were used, and only two or three natives were allowed on board at a time. In 1831 Captain Young took up his residence at Hokianga, living there during the whole of Beke’s war, when all the other European settlers in the district had left. He removed to Auckland with his family in 1856. (Daily Southern Cross, Volume XXIII, Issue 3175, 20 Sep 1867, Page 3)”. Captain Young was survived by his wife Elizabeth and five children. Elizabeth died in Auckland 07 June 1890.

John Emmett Davis died 01 May 1867 in Otago. “At his late residence, Ruapuke, in the province of Southland, John Emmett Davis, the beloved brother of Mr. C. O. Davis, of this city. (Daily Southern Cross, Volume XXIII, Issue 3047, 2 May 1867, Page 8)”.

11 charles oliver bond davis

Charles Oliver Bond Davis died Auckland 28 June 1887. “DEATH OF MR. C. O. DAVIS. At 7.15 this morning one of New Zealand’s earliest colonists passed away. We refer to Mr Charles Oliver Davis, the well-known native interpreter. Mr Davis was a native of Sydney, having been born in 1816. His parents were born in Ireland, but emigrated very early to Australia. The deceased had one sister and four brothers, the sister being the eldest ot the family. As the parents were soon removed by death this sister was left at the age of fifteen with the care of the whole family. Five years afterwards she married Captain Young, and accompanied him to this colony in 1831, just 56 years ago. As the parents were dead. Captain Young bought with him his wife’s two brothers, Edward and Charles Oliver, who were reared up with their own children. They settled at Hokianga, and thus it was that the deceased became one of our earliest settlers. When it was known that Mr C. O. Davis was dead one of our representatives waited upon Mrs Young. The old lady, who is now 81 years of age, received him courteously, and only regretted that owing to a recent illness she was unable to furnish a complete sketch of her brother’s career. Notwithstanding her great age Mrs Young was able to quote dates with great certainty. She said that she was now the last of the family, her five brothers having been buried respectively in Otago, Taranaki, Coromandel, and Sydney, and the last one just deceased in this city. She said that the deceased was never married. He was always of a studious nature, a taste inherited from his father. At one time he was tutor to the family of the Rev. Mr Woon. When the war broke out, he sided with the natives, contending that it was unjust. The old lady said that in this her brother was quite right. It was because people did not understand the rights of it that more people had not held similar opinions. Her brother always favoured the natives, and she also held that there had been no provocation for the war. When Auckland was formed her brother came to it, and subsequently was appointed a Native Interpreter. She knew that he had written several books, one of which was entitled Maori Mementoes. She was sure that at one time he had possessed considerable property, but he had lost a lot of it and given other portions away. Herself and her son William Young, and Mrs Tattersal, her daughter, were his nearest relations. Mr J. 0. Davis, of Waikato, is a nephew of deceased, and Mrs Halley, of Cambridge, is a niece, and there are other surviving relatives. Mr C. O. Davis had of late got very weak. He was also almost blind. It appears he underwent an operation at Otago which was not a suocess. The trouble was heightened by his catching cold in the eyes, which ended in almost entire blindness. The deceased has been staying with various friends lately, and a few days ago he came to town and remained with Mr Alexander Mackay in Vincent-street. He was suffering from an affection of the chest, for which he was attended by Dr. Mackcller. He became rapidly worse while in Vincent-street, and ultimately passed away at 7.15 o’clock this morning. Mrs Mackay states that he died very peacefully, and was conversing with her on religious matters shortly before his death. (Auckland Star, Volume XVIII, Issue 150, 28 June 1887, Page 5)”. Charles has a considerable entry in the NZ Encyclopedia http://www.teara.govt.nz/en/biographies/1d3/davis-charles-oliver-bond.

Philip Davis I have not traced, but a man of that name died 1899 in New Zealand.

12 Edward Fitzgerald davis

Edward Fitzgerald Telford Davis died 03 October 1876 at Coromandel. “Mr. Edward Davis, of Kikowhakarere, near Coromandel, died yesterday at his residence. Mr. Davis was a native of New South Wales, and came to Eokianga in 1830, when a boy. He resided there up to 1841 or 1842, when he came to Auckland with his brother, Mr. C. O. Davis. For about seventeen or eighteen years past the deceased has resided at Kikowhakarere. Mr. Edward Davis probably surpassed every European as a speaker of the Maori language. He had been amongst the natives from his youth,he could appreciate and understand their every sentiment and feeling; and he had a great natural aptitude for vhe niceties of language. He was superior to many of the Maoris in the chanting of their songs. In these departments, Mr. Davis leaves probably not an equal, and with the change of the circumstances of the country, it will be impossible for any European to reach the excellence which he attained. Few men were better known to the old settlers of Auckland province than the deceased, who was liked by all for his kindly disposition and open-heartedness. (New Zealand Herald, Volume XIII, Issue 4646, 4 October 1876, Page 2)”.

Joseph Davis, about whom I have written an earlier essay, is a bit of a mystery. His sister Elizabeth said he died in Sydney. His guardian William Davis said he died before 1843. There is a Joseph Davis who died 1885 at Canterbury , parents Joseph and Ann, listed on the NSW RGO Index.

13 liberty

So ended the life and career of a man sacrificed to the cause of Irish “liberty, fraternity and equality”. A man who neglected his trade for love of his nation, sought to rouse his countrymen to find their liberty, and was a victim to more efficient oppression and found himself in exile on the other side of the world. Sought for freedom in vain in Ireland, perhaps he found it in Australia.

©2014 Original material copyright Phillip Kay. Images and other material courtesy Creative Commons. Please inform post author of any violation.


25 thoughts on “A dream of freedom

  1. Hello Philip Kay. I am a direct descendant of Edward Fitzgerald Davis. He married Mere Kaimanu Anderson. They had 7 children. Elizabeth Davis married James Hally a Scotsman from Auchterarder, Scotland who resided in Cambridge NZ. James and Elizabeth are my GGrandparents. I do have quite a bit of information of families who followed if you are interested.

  2. Hello to all Davis descendants. I have recently done a DNA test as was wondering if anyone else has done one as well. If so would you like to compare results. My email is diz88@y7mail.com. Hoping to sort out a couple of things. Many thanks Diane

  3. WOW Phillip, this is some pretty awesome work, Edward Telford Davis is my GGG Grandfather and its wonderful that you have so much information about him.

    1. Thanks Jahvis. Anything you can add would be welcome. The ‘Telford’ for instance, do you know where it comes from? Do you have any burial details for Edward? Little details build up a big picture eventually.

    2. I am not a Davis descendant but have done a bit of research on them due to a whanau connection.

      The New Zealand BDM have Edward Fitzgerald DAVIS died in 1876 aged 52 years. The New Zealand Society of Genealogists burial records have Fitzgerald Edward DAVIS aged 52 buried in 1876 in the Buffalo Cemetery, Coromandel.

      I do not have the death certificate so cannot confirm that this is the same person, but it would seem very likely. There are several DAVIS’s buried in the same cemetery before 1900.

      1. Ooops, I jumped the gun, if I had looked up my own reference I would have posted this:

        Burial/Death Records – Coromandel
        Davis Fitzgerald Edward died 3 Oct 1876 Native Interpreter aged 52 years . Parents Joseph and Ann Davis, Born Sydney NSW. 25 years in NZ. Married Mere Haimanu. Issue 5 sons, 2 dau.

        There is an error on the transcript and Mere’s name was Kaimanu.

        Sorry about that.

      2. Thanks for that Heatherbelle. Others look here so this serves as a kind of repository of info. What a’bout the’Telford. Any idea?

    1. Hi Bastiaan
      FYI from the Irish genealogy site. NB: all these are guesses!
      Children of Joseph Davis and Mary Bassford/Bessford (presumed)

      1. Sarah Davis 28 Feb 1785 of Crane Lane Dublin bapt. St Werburghs father Joseph mother Mary
      a Sarah Davis of Golden Lane marr William Haughton 09 Nov 1806 St Werburghs

      2. Joseph Wollmer Davis 31 Oct 1786 Crane Lane bapt St Werburghs father Joseph mother Mary

      3. Elizabeth Davis 27 Mar 1789 Crane Lane bapt St Werburghs father Joseph mother Mary

      4. Joseph Davis 01 Sep 1790 Crane lane bapt St Werburghs father Joseph mother Mary

      5. Pierce Davis 05 Nov 1795 Crane Lane bapt St Werburghs father Joseph mother Mary

      6. John Davis 19 Jul 1798 of Mary St bapt St Marys father Joseph mother Mary

      all COI (the Wollmer might suggest Methodism?)
      Crane Lane was part of the cutlers’ district of Dublin, near the Liffey
      John would have been born while Joseph had been arrested and was in prison. His prison letter suggests he may never have seen this son
      it is supposed two of these died (i.e. the first Joseph, and a girl) as there were four children when Joseph was on the hulk Lively
      he refers to Sarah (Sally) and John in the one letter I’ve seen, there are said to be others
      an Elizabeth Davis of Crane Lane was buried 29 November 1757 St Werburghs (COD dropsy)
      and, a Joseph Davis of Whites Quay Dublin was baptised at St Marks COI 01 Jun 1755, parents Joseph Davis and Mary.

      all these are assumptions, as there is no more info in the registers. Same for the following.

      Also Mary Bassford 29 Jun 1763 of Fleet Lane bapt St Marks father Joseph Bassford mother Mary Fitzgerald
      Joseph Bassford marr Mary Fitzgerald 03 Apr 1761 St Marks Rev Jones Burches (Blessford/Fitzgerrald)
      Sarah Bassford 27 Sep 1764 of Fleet Lane
      Samuel Bassford 10 Jan 1767 of Dublin

      Mary Fitzgerald married Joseph Bassford, and worked for the Countess of Moira, who had homes in Dublin (Ussher’s Island, Moira House), and at Moira in county Down (where her daughter Mary supposedly married Joseph Davis). The name Fitzgerald suggests the close ally of the Countess of Moira Lord Edward Fitzgerald, both fighting for Irish liberty.It is possible Joseph Davis might have been a part of this faction through his mother-in-law. His letter mentions Mary Fitzgerald twice.

      As for the sons of Ann Calder and their places of burial. I think Elizabeth has thrown dust in our eyes! We know about three of the sons (BTW I quote their obits in my article, together with sources, so you don’t have to re enter the info each time it’s mentioned). ie John at Ruapuke, Charles at Auckland and Edward at Coromandel.
      We now know Philip died at Sydney (also note I didn’t suggest Joseph died in Sydney: I said he was a mystery). That leaves two place names mentioned by Elizabeth we don’t know about. Google tells me Otago is south, on the South Island, and Taranaki further south on the West coast than Ruapuke on the North Island. Not only has Elizabeth mentioned the brothers in random order, not consecutively, but she’s thrown in place names I can’t find a reference to in the Davis records I’ve seen. Could one be Joseph’s resting place? As I understand it the brothers were all active in the Auckland area with negotiations with the Maoris and not further south. So unless there is more to support the Pioneer Register, I think it best to be sceptical of its Joseph Davis, of which there are an alarming number of that name, who died 1873 in Otago and whom is the wrong age. Mind, I said sceptical, not more than that.

      1. Hi Phillip, Re John Emmet Death notice: Daily Southern Cross 2/05/1867 At his late residence, Ruapuke, in the province of Southland, John Emmett Davis, the beloved brother of Mr.C.O. Davis of this City. [the DSC was a news paper published in Auckland]. This Ruapuke is an Island at the southern end of the South Island between Steward Island and Southland, Otago. The Ruapuke you found is 60km from Hamilton in Waikato, North Island. There are quite a few descendants from John Emmett so maybe they can enlighten us?

      2. You’re correct Bastiaan. I should have looked closer. Ruapuke is a town and beach in Waikato province, not Southland; Southland is the southernmost region and includes Ruapuke island; above it is the province of Otago, and in 1867 Southland was part of Otago. The obit clearly states that John’s “residence” was named Ruapuke. The name of a house. So Elizabeth’s reference to Otago must mean John. Why he was living on an uninhabited island is a mystery, and just whereabouts there another one.So Elizabeth’s other reference, Taranaki, must refer to Joseph. Ta da! Now what cemetery info is there on Taranaki I wonder. An afterthought: if Ruapuke (two hills says Heather) is a residence, then it could be anywhere in Southland/Otago, and doesn’t have to mean the island at all. So finding the grave might be a real job!

  4. Hi Philip, I recently come across your articles about Joseph Davis. I have done a lot of research on those two and and their children over the last 10 years and posted my findings on Genealogie Online [a dutch website] and FamilySearch. Some of the data is now out of date and some of it incorrect. Some of your commenters/ contributers obviously copied some of my data. Blatantly copying other researchers data is always dangerous because some of it maybe guess work, That is the main reason why FamilySearch.org is so unreliable! However due to your articles I have discovered some new facts! thanks for that. it also gave me a reason to do some more research. I found that Philip Davis age 4 was admitted to the Male Orphan School on the 16th of July 1824 together with his brother Charles age 7. Philip died there on 18th of August 1824 of worm fever after having been there 23 days. Charles left there in January 1825 and was listed as a runaway and probably returned to the family. Ann died in 1826 and Elizabeth became the head of the family. Elizabeth Davis and William Young where married at Scots Presbyterian Church in Sydney by the founder of the Church “John Dunmore Lang”. I do have a copy of their marriage cert. They moved to The Hokianga in 1831 aboard the brig Tranmere [also mentioned as Tranmore and Tranmire] where they first settled at the trading post of Rodolphus Kent who was a friend and associate of Captain William Young [ in about 1827 they explored the New Zealand Coast together] The brig Tranmere first came to Australia on a charter for The Van Diemen’s Land Company’s and later traded between Australia and New Zealand [Trading Guns for timber and flax?] Elizabeth bought with her her Daughter Elizabeth and brothers Charles and John and possibly also Edward. In an early muster of the Hokianga There was a William Young and wife Elizabeth and two children one of those might have been Edward. There also was an Charles Davis and an John Davis listed as assistants to William Young. As for Joseph? well the he probably was the one listed as having died 21/06/1873 father: Joseph , mother: Ann. His age was given as 82 which was probably a transcription error, it would not be to difficult to mistake an 8 for an 6 that would have bought his age close to his timeline as he would actually have been 64 [1809-1873] in those days they did not carry passports, driver license or welfare card and few people would know their exact birth date, and since they did not write the obituary it would have been a close relative who did not know for sure. He could have come to New Zealand much later after his cutlery business failed and sought out his brothers who were residing in Otago. I have a transcript of Joseph Davis Trial at Marble Bar and also a copy of the Trial of Ann Calder which I have tried to transcribe but is to Scottish and long. Suffice to say that she was convicted for stealing her own clothes from her previous employer who kicked her out and she was sentenced to dead by hanging which was later commuted to 14 years and transported on the William Pitt. Her and Joseph could not marry because he was known to be married and could not get divorced [divorce was unlawful in them days]

    Regards Bastiaan Kleijnendorst

    1. Hi Bastiaan, thanks for your comments. You may like to puzzle over Mrs Young’s comment on the death of Charles Oliver in his obit: “Notwithstanding her great age Mrs Young was able to quote dates with great certainty. She said that she was now the last of the family, her five brothers having been buried respectively in Otago, Taranaki, Coromandel, and Sydney, and the last one just deceased in this city”.

      Of course you are correct about care needed when copying others’ research. I think of what I do as ‘scientific’, which means it is a theory which conforms to evidence but must be adjusted to any reliable and conflicting evidence newly come to light. Never final, always a conjecture.

      The question of marriage in the colony is treated by Robert Hughes in The Fatal Shore, which I am now reading and find illuminating. Basically Anglican ceremonies were encourages, other rites were proscribed or discourages, and the fear of revolt by the convicts a very real one apparently. Joseph snr seems either Presbyterian or, as I guess, a Freethinker, which Samuel Marsden would have equated with an atheist.

      1. Hi Phillip,
        I Have taken up your challenge in regards to the interview with Mrs Young
        I found the article in the Auckland Star, volume XVII, issue 150 28th of June 1887, page 5
        “ Notwithstanding her great age , Mrs Young was able to, quote dates with great certainty. She said that she was now the last of the family, her five brothers having been buried respectively in Otago, Taranaki, Coromandel, and Sydney, and the last one just deceased in this city” [Vincent St, Auckland]
        The journalist did not note the dates, and the article did not mentioned anywhere that Joseph Died in Sydney!
        Thus we have: Died
        1. Otago: John Emmet Davis 01/05/1867 Daily Southern Cross, Volume XXII, Issue 3047, 2th May 1876, Page 8
        2. Coromandel: Edward Fitzgerald Telford Davis03/10/1876 New Zealand Herald, Vulume XIII Issue 4646, 4th October 1876, Page 2
        3. Sydney: Philip Davis 18/08/1824 Male Orphan School – Roll Book 1 January 1824 – 18 September 1848
        4. Auckland: Charles Oliver Bond Davis 28/06/1887 Auckland Star, volume XVII, issue 150 28th of June 1887, page 5
        5. Taranaki? That just leaves Joseph Davis* and a whole new lot of questions.
        BDM , NSW #1946/1809 V18091946 and #20/1809 V180920 5 “Davis Joseph, Father Joseph, Mother Ann”
        BDM, NZ have a Joseph Davis # 1873/7235 who died in 1873.
        According to two of your commenters he was born 20/09/1809 in Sydney and died 21/06/1873 in Otago age 82. The difference between those two dates is 64 years. Assuming that the 8 was wrongly transcribed but was in fact 6 than that would fit the time line give or take a few years. Elizabeth said that one of her brothers was buried in Taranaki and that could be true because there are still quite a few Davis In that area. He could have been visiting one of his brothers in Otago? I could not find a marriage online for Joseph but he could have had a Maori Wife! Needs a lot more research or a little help!!

    2. Hi Phillip,
      My apologies for the mistakes in my Previous post. Elizabeth bought with her daughter Elizabeth and brothers Charles and Edward and possibly also John. In an 1839 muster of the Hokianga, There was a Captain Young and Mrs Young and two children at Koutu Mangeru. Young was listed as a trader. There also was a Charles Davis and an Edward Davis at Koutu Mangeru listed as assistants Young. John Davis was also listed as a sawyer at Mangamuka.
      The data of Charles and Philip came from the Male Orphan School – Roll book 1/1/1819-18/09/1848
      Page 9 #116 Charles #117 Philip The mother was Ann Davis. Interesting to note that the transcription said that they were admitted on the 14th of June 1823 while on closer inspection it was 16thof July 1824. Under remarks it noted that Philip died on the 18th of August and had been at the school for 23 days? 16/07/1824 – 18/08/1824 = 34 days, but then he could have been in Hospital for some time?
      Just comes to show that it is easy to copy other peoples mistakes and Genealogy is full of it!
      Also p9 #97 Joseph Davis age 10 father William Davis expelled for running away repeatedly
      Regards bk

      1. Thanks Bastiaan. I can cross Philip off my list now thanks to your citation. Regarding the Joseph you mention, he is commonly seen as William the Pikemaker’s ward or natural child. However, I notice that in 1823 Joseph son of Joseph is carrying on the cutlers business. I think this Joseph at the Orphan School belongs not to our Joseph, or William the Pikemaker, but to one of the other William Davises about, of which several occur in the school rolls. I note that many are 10 years old. Perhaps that was a cut off age

  5. Interesting to see the Davis brothers, like James Fulloon, ahead of their time in dealing with race relations, and their descent from Irish freedom fighters influenced by Lord Edward Fitzgerald (‘the republican lord’ who fought for Indian rights in the USA as well) and in Falloon’s case probably of Huguenot stock. They knew the effects of intolerance from their fathers’ stories. Yes I would like a copy of the poem, as I know very little of the Davis family in NZ. You can reach me at phillipkay at yandex.com. Thanks.

  6. I have a poor copy of a poem dated 12 October 1865 written by Charles Oliver Bond Davis I guess in an effort to console Elizabeth Koka Smith nee Fulloon after the sudden and violent death of her brother James Francis Fulloon. If you would like a copy of it let me know.

    I have only done a tiny bit of research into the Davis’s here in New Zealand as one of them married a veeeery distant relative, so it was wonderful to read all of the history on your website.

  7. Alby Davis writes with some further details of Joseph Davis. There were six children born to Joseph Davis and Mary Bessford (or Bassford) 1785-1795, two of these deceased before 1798. Mary was born slightly earlier than 29 June 1763 (her baptism date) to Joseph Bessford and Mary Fitzgerald, the lady who is mentioned in Joseph’s letter from prison. Joseph Davis’ address as given in the birth register is Crane Lane, just south of the Quays area of Dublin along the Anna Liffey, noted as an area where many cutlers set up business. Alby believes the family of Joseph Davis was in Dublin for at least two generations before his time.

  8. Here is a further comment from Russell Ormsby: “I should have been a bit clearer in some of my points. The reason I think the birth of Joseph Davis isn’t listed In Ireland is because, as I was told, he was a major with the British army ( I would have to assume stationed in Ireland) and so the charge of seditious behaviour (for marrying a Catholic). As I understand it this is how he lost his position with the British army, and most likely why he became the man he did, rather help out the inlaws…”

    1. Hi Russell. It may or may not be relevant, but Lord Edward Fitzgerald was promoted to Major of the 54th Regiment of the British Army in 1787, where he had served since 1779, fighting with distinction in the American War of Independence (American rebellion as the British saw it). After a period as a kind of Deerslayer with the Hurons, Fitzgerald returned to England in 1792, travelled to France, lodged with Tom Paine and imbibed the doctrines of the French Revolution, and renounced hereditary rights and his own title. When news of this reached the English administration, he was dismissed from his army post.

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