I posted this around St Patrick’s Day in 2015. Rereading it I note that the crime that probably led to my convict ancestor Jacob Whitfield’s life sentence to Sydney occurred on 11 February 1820! Two hundred years ago yesterday. Our family historians located this somewhat murky story about charge and countercharge, giving us for the first time some good information on what Jacob’s crime had been. The official records were lost in a fire in Ireland in 1922 that did away with quite a lot of valuable genealogical information.
See also my 2018 post More on convict Jacob Whitfield.
On St Patrick’s Day I posted:
As you may recall my father’s family descended from an Irish convict who arrived in Sydney 10 March 1822, and his son who joined him age 14 as a free settler in 1826. They came from this bit of Ireland, or nearby [followed by a scene from County Cavan].
Reminder of what constituted Ulster in 1820:
I needed that to follow a marvellous document sent to me by family historian Stuart Daniels that came his way through the research of Bob Starling. It is a transcript of a petition relating to a trial in County Tyrone in June 1820. The petition is addressed to Charles Chetwynd, 2nd Earl Talbot, Lord Lieutenant of Ireland at the time.
Charles Chetwynd, Earl Talbot
Here is a key part where my ancestor is mentioned:
The document goes on to argue that Fisher (the petitioner) is not getting a fair trial in County Tyrone because a number of witnesses for the defence are in County Cavan.
I am not sure what light this casts on my ancestor Jacob Whitfield, who was convicted in relation to this matter and sentenced to life in New South Wales. I am inclined to read it as suggesting that Jacob Whitfield framed the petitioner. Stuart Daniels reads it differently:
Also I have been reading the trial of Jacob Whitfield in Cavan Ireland , and I don’t think he got a fair trial. One of his witnesses could not travel to the court room that was 40 miles away. The trial was held in Tyrone and the witnesses lived in Cavan. Both men protested about the restriction of their witnesses. Makes you wonder was it a kangaroo court, or the Irish equivalent. Was he innocent? We will never know. Our ancestor might not have been such a bad person. The writing is very hard to decipher.
…the original copy of the trial is VERY hard to read as it is in a yellow and faded copy, but Bob [Starling] did a good job of getting a readable copy.
I found also this account of County Cavan in those days.
Cavan, the southernmost county of the old province of Ulster, was a bleak inland region of limited agricultural and commercial development, but it was populous and contained the disfranchised boroughs of Belturbet and Cavan, where county meetings and elections were held. The Catholic population greatly outnumbered, yet were electorally in thrall to, the almost exclusively Protestant gentry, of whom none individually had a sufficient interest to return a Member. The leading figure since the Union had been the only resident nobleman, the 2nd earl of Farnham, a Tory representative peer and joint-governor, whose large and comparatively advanced estate at Farnham gave him an interest which was described by the Irish government in 1818 as ‘very great’. His estimated 1,000 electors were enough to ensure control of one seat, since the potential electorate was only about 6,000 (although one calculation put it as high as nearly 8,000) and in practice was probably far smaller…