More convict stories

There was a bit of a clue to our background in my grandfather’s name: Thomas Daniel Sweeney Whitfield. He tended to suppress the highly Irish “Sweeney” bit. So who was Daniel Sweeney?

Well the truth is he was another convict, having arrived before my ancestor Jacob.

Alias: Sweeny     Religion:  Age on arrival: 20
Marital status:
Calling/trade: Labourer
Born: 1799        Native place: Bandon Cork Co
Tried: 1818      Cork Co          Sentence: 7     Former convictions:
Ship: Daphne (1819)

That is from Peter Mayberry’s Irish Convicts to New South Wales 1788-1849. Our leading family historian, Bob Starling, put an enquiry online a while ago:

I am looking to locate relatives of Daniel Sweeney, convict transported on “Daphne” to Sydney in 1819. Daniel married Mary Whitfield, born 4/1808 died 13/4/1872, daughter of Jacob Whitfield transported on Isabella I in 1822. Daniel and Mary had three children: 1. Daniel born 1828 married Catherine Ryan 1845 (unconfirmed) 2. John born 1830 married Ann Monague 1866 (unconfirmed) 3. William born 1832 married 1851 Mary Callaghan (unconfirmed)

For some time I mixed up this Daniel Sweeney with another, who arrived on a rather famous convict transport, the Three Bees in 1814. I subsequently adjusted the story thus:

The following is a good story, but appears to be wrong. I leave it though as the “Three Bees” story is worth it! It appears I had the wrong Daniel Sweeney herethe one in question arrived on the Daphne in 1819.

Did you note my grandfather’s name? On May 6 1814 the ship Three Bees, a transport of 494 tons, arrived from Cork. One of the convicts on board was a Daniel Sweeney, sentenced to seven years. It was something of a hell ship, and within a week of arrival it blew up, bits of it landing in King Street.

By 1822, Daniel Sweeney seems to have prospered.

2014 addendum: I note that in 1825 he is listed as employed by Dr James Bowman, a pioneer in the Hunter region. His status is Free by Servitude. “When convicts had served the period of their sentence and therefore became free they  were recorded as being ‘free by servitude’.  Men and women sentenced to life could never be freed by servitude in time they would be granted a pardon.” Daniel Sweeney was back in Sydney by the 1828 census.

Four years after Jacob arrived on the Isabella, the Thames arrived (11 April 1826) with 37 free women and 107 children, one of whom was a ten-year-old (sic), but it appears he was really 13 or 14, named William Whitfield. Also on the ship was his older sister, Mary, who subsequently married Daniel Sweeney at St Matthew’s Church at Windsor in 1827. Here is a complete passenger list for the Thames.) In the 1828 census, William Whitfield is recorded as residing with Daniel Sweeney in Kent Street Sydney, and in 1833, Jacob Whitfield is recorded as assigned to Daniel Sweeney.

If you want more on the Three Bees story, check this out. It is quite a story. “The Three Bees was one of three “fever ships” to arrive that year.  Aboard four of the ships to arrive in 1814 the mortality rate was one death to every 89.5 prisoners embarked, but in the General Hewart, the Three Bees and the Surrey the rate was one death to every 9.1 convicts embarked .   After the excellent health record or the transports in the immediate preceding years, this high mortality surprised and shocked both official and public opinion, and led to the decision to appoint a surgeon-superintendent in charge of each convict ship .”

Coincidentally, the Captain of the Three Bees was John Wallis, who was also the Captain of Isabella on which Jacob Whitfield arrived, as recounted in yesterday’s post. And speaking of Jacob, there is a great reference work available: Australian biographical and genealogical record series 1, 1788-1841, with series 2 supplement, 1842-1899 / series 1 edited by John T. Spurway, assistant editor Allison Allen; series 2 edited by Kenneth J. Cable and Jane C. Marchant. They are in Wollongong Library. Here is their account of Jacob Whitfield.

Folklorist Warren Fahey explains the history of Australian convict transportation ballads and sings Moreton Bay.

And a nice coincidence. I worked 1990-early 1991 at Wessex College of English, which happened to be situated almost on the spot where Jacob Whitfield was growing his strawberries!

Wessex College was in this building on Wentworth Avenue