Is this our Whitfield bicentennial?

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.

Irish again – new light on Jacob Whitfield’s 1820 crime?

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:

2000px-Ulster_counties.svg

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.

stf_ih_59_624x544

Charles Chetwynd, Earl Talbot

Here is a key part where my ancestor is mentioned:

Jacob Whit  trial1

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.

Jacob Whit  trial2

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…

 

Family note and then Attenborough

First family. I have noted before that my grandnephew David Parkes and his sister Lauren have been on an amazing and very extensive trip through Europe. Lauren’s latest posts on Facebook are from Ireland. This is just one photo:

75210305_10157890075623970_5766890212252712960_o

So more descendants of Jacob Whitfield are revisiting the scene of the crime, so to speak. I have been wondering how close they have been to where his son William Whitfield was born 16 Mar 1812 , Parish of Drumgoon, Cootehill, Co. Cavan, Ireland.

Years ago, without even realising the family connection, David and Lauren’s older brother Nathan was in the Emerald Isle too, but only briefly.

That’s my grandnephew Nathan in Ireland in 2011.

And now Attenborough. Tonight Channel Nine is showing the Australia episode of Seven Worlds, One Planet. Definitely a must watch!

Screenshot (340)

On Facebook recently I reminded myself and everyone else of how David Attenborough moved from scepticism to acceptance on the subject of climate change. To quote the man himself way back in 2006 — and if anything his conviction has grown since.

I was sceptical about climate change. I was cautious about crying wolf. I am always cautious about crying wolf. I think conservationists have to be careful in saying things are catastrophic when, in fact, they are less than catastrophic.

I have seen my job at the BBC as a presenter to produce programmes about natural history, just as the Natural History Museum would be interested in showing a range of birds of paradise – that’s the sort of thing I’ve been doing. And in almost every big series I’ve made, the most recent one being Planet Earth, I’ve ended up by talking about the future, and possible dangers. But, with climate change, I was sceptical. That is true….

But I’m no longer sceptical. Now I do not have any doubt at all. I think climate change is the major challenge facing the world. I have waited until the proof was conclusive that it was humanity changing the climate. The thing that really convinced me was the graphs connecting the increase of carbon dioxide in the environment and the rise in temperature, with the growth of human population and industrialisation. The coincidence of the curves made it perfectly clear we have left the period of natural climatic oscillation behind and have begun on a steep curve, in terms of temperature rise, beyond anything in terms of increases that we have seen over many thousands of years.

People say, everything will be all right in the end. But it’s not the case. We may be facing major disasters on a global scale.

And here under the rubric FACTS from NASA is something from the present:

15_co2_left_040518

As I said on Facebook:  I fear I have become even more intolerant of self-styled “climate change skepticism” in recent times. I cannot even imagine why anyone in the light of so much evidence can even contemplate such an idea! But of course people are entitled to their opinions…

See also Skeptical Science, and browse extensively there!

Hey you! That might be my great X3 grandfather!

Bizarre story from the Sydney Light Rail project a few days ago.

Screenshot (201)

In short:

Days after human remains were discovered during digging for the light rail project between Sydney’s CBD and eastern suburbs, disturbing footage has emerged that shows a construction worker cracking jokes about the bones as he dug them up and tossed them out of the hole.

After the grisly find on Monday, a spokeswoman for the consortium of Alstom, Acciona, Transdev and Capella Capital (ALTRAC) building the light rail project told Fairfax Media that the bones – believed to be remnants from the old Devonshire Street Cemetery – were “respectfully removed by heritage experts” before further analysis confirmed them to be human….

Here is that cemetery prior to closure:

726px-Devonshire_Street_Cemetery,_Sydney_(2742078059)

My great-great-great grandfather Jacob Whitfield was buried there. Or so we believe. See my series of family history posts, particularly on Jacob.

There is a Wiki Tree page on Jacob too. I first accessed it last Friday. An extract:

Death date and place unknown – Jacob is found still living in 1851 according to a news article. This would make him 92 years old !

Death and Burials : Friends Burial Ground – Old Devonshire Street Sandhills Cemetery, reference : “Burial Notes missing : Jacob Whitfield” no indication of his date of death or burial….

Friends Burial Ground – Old Devonshire Street Sandhills Cemetery, reference : “Burial Notes missing : Jacob Whitfield” no indication of his date of death or burial. Burials took place in the Friends Burial Ground from after 1851 ..

The Devonshire Street Cemetery (also known incorrectly as the Brickfield Cemetery or Sandhills Cemetery) was located between Eddy Avenue and Elizabeth Street, and between Chalmers and Devonshire Streets, at Brickfield Hill, in Sydney, Australia. It was consecrated in 1820.[1] The Jewish section was used from 1832.[2] By 1860, the cemetery was full, and it was closed in 1867….

That Wiki Tree page has lots of information congruent with the researches of Bob Starling and other family historians, and some that isn’t. Interesting. See also my Family stories 3 — About the Whitfields: from convict days which features quite a few contributions by those family historians. On the subject of Jacob’s age, for example:

Thanks to the amazing Internet I have actually been able to trace my father’s family further back to the father of convict Jacob, to a John Whitfield who was born in County Kildare, Ireland, in 1735, but there is a bit of a mystery now about Jacob’s age. The puzzle about Jacob’s real age remains, but probably he was in his forties rather than his sixties when he arrived in Australia. That story I found on the Net about Jacob’s (third, it now appears) marriage would require him to have been born around 1760, and I had always understood he was about 60 when he arrived in the colony. Stuart Daniels writes (3 June 2004): “William was born in Cootehill, Co. Cavan and came out to NSW ? and died ? as he can’t be found in the NSW records. I found the Jacob in the shipping records and that he came out here at the age of 60 years, and if he was 60 at his arrival date means that he was born in about 1762?” I thought perhaps the 1774 Jacob was a different Jacob at first, but not according to the very thorough Genealogy of the Leslie Family of Innisfail, the source too for Mary Gowrie’s dates — except the Leslies keep on working on that genealogy, it seems, wrecking the links each time they do; they work now (December 2006) but I guess I will have to check from time to time. [2011: no longer fully available to the public.] The Jacob there is definitely the right one, father of Mary, William, and three other siblings. 1774 better fits the marriage record pictured above.

Further information in a comment below from Kathryn Whitfield arrived in December 2007:

Jacob Whitfield (per Isabella I, 1822) is often said to have had six children with Mary Gowrie in Ireland. I can find no record of what happened to two of the children and to Mary herself, yet Bob and Linda are mistaken to think that only Mary and William came to Australia. Jacob requested that four children be allowed to come to Australia and the four were on the Thames (1826). You will find that 16- and 17-year-old Judith and Catherine were already married and do not, therefore, appear on the list as Whitfields. The shipping list for the Thames shows the four siblings as Catherine Aaron, 16; Judith Doyle, 17; William Whitfield, 10 (true we think he could have been aged 14); and Mary Whitfield, 18.

Bob Starling has traced Jacob back to an earlier John Whitfield, born in 1695 in County Tyrone.

William

William Whitfield 1812-1897

# Perhaps this really is the final answer: William WHITFIELD (above) & Caroline Philadelphia WEST: William WHITFIELD Born: 16 Mar 1812 – , Parish of Drumgoon, Cootehill, Co. Cavan, Ireland. Died: 12 Oct 1897 Sydney, New South Wales, Australia. Buried: Rookwood, New South Wales, Australia. Father: Jacob WHITFIELD (1774- ? ) Mother: Mary GOWRIE (1781-1841) Married: 20 Jun 1836 – , St Andrews Church of Scotland, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia. Wife Caroline Philadelphia WEST: Born: 12 Jul 1817 – Seven Oaks, Kent, England. Died: 21 Oct 1881 – Picton, New South Wales, Australia. Buried: Redbank Cemetery, Upper Picton, New South Wales, Australia. See also Jacob WHITFIELD & Mary GOWRIE. Convict Jacob is given this birthdate: Born: May 1774 – Ballyhagen, Co. Kildare, Ireland, and Mary died in Co. Tyrone, Ireland in 1841. Mary, the wife of Daniel Sweeney, was the daughter of these two, and William (above) their son. Curious though that we don’t know when Jacob died.

We also are intrigued by the possibility Jacob was a Quaker. A Ph.D. thesis I am currently reading sheds much light on the nature of Ulster Protestantism, beyond the rather cliched picture we probably all have: Philomena Sutherland (2010 UK, Open University), The role of Evangelicalism in the formation of nineteenth-century Ulster Protestant cultural identity. While that thesis deals with  the Ulster Revival (1859), disestablishment of the Church of Ireland (1869) and the threat of home rule (1880s), for none of which were any of my ancestors still in Ireland, it does hark back to King Billy and all that, which I know from my father’s testimony still exercised the minds of his grandparents — that is, of convict Jacob’s children and grandchildren.

On my recently discovered Irishness

I was watching Antiques Roadshow on ABC last night: this episode

Fiona Bruce and the team return for another busy day at the Titanic Drawing Offices in Belfast.

Objects uncovered include a medicine chest from early Victorian times, complete with many intact medicines; an historic document marking the end of World War II; and a pair of rare Irish plate buckets worth the price of a new car.

I found myself fascinated by the accents I heard, as I had been many years ago at Cronulla Presbyterian Church by the accent of the then minister Thomas Peden McEvoy, born in Belfast in 1895. Back then I had no idea at all that my father’s family too had come not from Belfast, but not too far away in areas now divided between Northern Ireland and the Republic. I guess at one time they had the accent, or something near. The truth about my family only emerged less than 25 years ago.

In September 2011 I posted Returnee! It featured this photo of my grandnephew Nathan in an Irish landscape that year.

Nathan

I am 99% sure he is the first of Jacob Whitfield’s descendants to set foot in the Old Country since the 1820s! Of course someone may have…

See among many posts here Irish again – new light on Jacob Whitfield’s 1820 crime? For an overview of the Irish in Australia see Australian Communities: Irish Australians and Richard Reid’s essay Irish in Australia.

St Patrick’s Day but no parade

Not in Sydney this year at any rate.

A significant funding shortfall has been blamed for the cancellation of this year’s St Patrick’s Day parade through the centre of Sydney.

Sydneysiders have been celebrating Saint Patrick’s Day with an annual parade through the CBD streets since the 1800s, and it will be the first year the city will go without a parade since 1979.

Poor weather on parade day for the past couple of years led to a funding shortfall of around $150,000, meaning this year’s event has to be scrapped, according to the President of the Sydney St Patrick’s Day Organisation, Robert Kineavy.

“In 2014, the parade was on in Hyde Park,” Mr Kineavy said.

“The weather during the day was very good to start with, but half an hour into the parade, the event was hit by thunderstorms … and it pretty much rained the event out.” he said.

He says the event costs are usually between $250,000 and $300,000 each year.

The event went ahead in 2015, with a hope that it would raise the additional funds to pay off the previous event.

In the end the day only broken even, and this year’s planners decided there was not enough money for a parade, despite 2016 being the 100-year anniversary of The Easter Rising against British rule.

7241202-3x2-700x467

As it was outside Sydney Town Hall

See also What is St Patrick’s Day? and my posts last year  Irish and Irish again – new light on Jacob Whitfield’s 1820 crime?

Irish

Posted on March 17, 2015 by Neil

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:

3143135_26971342

I am not sure where they would have stood on St Patrick’s Day – which is of course today. See National Museum of Australia.

Here in Wollongong one joint that will be jumping is Dicey Riley’s near the railway station. I won’t be there though.

P1011342

Mount Keira Road this morning