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A BRIEF ACCOUNT OF THE MAGNER FAMILY'S FIRST THIRTY YEARS IN AUSTRALIA

Merrick Sims

The brothers Michael and Thomas Magner arrived in NSW aboard the convict transport, "Earl St. Vincent," on 9th September 1823, having each been sentenced to 7 years under the Insurrection Act at Cork on 17th November 1822. They were the sons of David and Mary Magner of Castlekevin, a townland about 3 miles east of Mallow. The Clenor Parish tithe book which is still in existence shows that David Magner paid ........ on 29 acres and 2 perches of land so he was, by the standard of the time, a small to medium-sized farmer. The Cork Jail Book for 1822 shows that the boys sentenced under the insurrection act but does not stipulate the offence of which they were convicted (for details of the trial see Irish Sent to Australia on this web site). However, given the history of the period, it is almost certain that they were associated with Daniel O'Connell's Catholic emancipation campaign that was just getting under way in 1822 and was being vigorously repressed by the authorities. Both men were married with families at the time of their conviction but, unlike many other convicts at the time, their families were not sent out with them. Michael was 26 when he arrived and Thomas was 24. Thomas was described on the landing manifest as a ploughman and Michael as a ploughman and sheaver and they seem to have been assigned as farm labourers in the Patterson's Plains (Morpeth) area and they were given their tickets of leave by the Patterson's Plains bench on 27th September 1827 with a recommendation they were be allowed to remain in the Patterson's Plains area. In the 1828 census they were described as farmers of Patterson's Plains with 15 acres all cleared and cultivated.

In 1832 Thomas married a housemaid who had arrived as a free assisted migrant, Jane Horigan who had come on the "Red Rover." No children resulted from this marriage although Thomas did have a daughter, Mary, in his first marriage (1819) in Ireland to Johanna whose maiden name is unknown. Mary arrived on the Calcutta in 1838.

At the auction held on 24th September 1836 for allotments of land to establish the town of Patterson (not to be confused with Patterson's Plains which is about 20 miles further down the Patterson River), Thomas bought allotments 1, 2 and 3 of Section 1 and also bought 2 acres of land at Raymond Terrace on the Williams River, all apparently connected with the venture now to be described. The following items and advertisements have been taken from the Australian and the Sydney Morning Herald newspapers of the time:

Australian, 23rd October 1837 - WANTED - A respectable person fully competent to take the management of a wholesale and retail store on the Patterson River. A liberal salary will be given on the party finding good security for £500. The stock is valued at £1,000. A married man without encumbrance will be preferred. Apply Mr. Thomas Magner, Market Street.

Thomas has apparently moved to Sydney. Then on 15th November 1837: for the Patterson River, the cutter "Delight" will leave Hugh's and Hosking's wharf at the Albion Mills on Saturday next, the 18th instant. For freight, etc., apply to Samuel Peek, George Street, or Thomas Magner, Market Street. Then a notice in the Australian of 18th May 1838 on page 3: "Delight" cutter. "Delight" will be auctioned as she lies on Stockton Beach. His shipping venture had ended in disaster. I am indebted to Mrs Goliger of Strathfield for the following account of the loss of the "Delight," which she found in the paper even though it is not in the Mitchell Library index.

"Loss of the Cutter Delight":

"The "Delight" coasting vessel belonging to Mr. Magner of Market Street went down at her anchors off Newcastle on Thursday last. It appears that she was trying to round Nobby's with a tremendous gale from the Southward and an ebb tide. Having been observed on shore, signals were made for the master to keep off until morning, as it was impossible that she could approach without danger. This advice, it is said, was unheeded and they endeavoured to get in without the least prospect of success, which they soon discovered and to prevent the cutter from going ashore, both anchors were let go. The weather still continued boisterous and those on board took to the boats with difficulty, and went to Newcastle for assistance. It was, however, too late; neither the pilot nor any other person could approach her without a chance of the boat being stove and themselves being drowned.

 The "Delight" was therefore obliged to be consigned to the mercy of the weather. During the night she filled and went down - nothing being visible in the morning save the top of her mast."

However, Thomas was not beaten. On 13th March 1838, page 3 of the Australian: "Jane Williams" cutter. Maiden voyage, arrived from Newcastle". (Records show that the Jane Williams was built on the Williams River by Mr. James Marshall).

Then an advertisement in the Australian of 20th March 1838:

"For freight. The new cutter "Jane Williams" will leave Sydney tomorrow (Saturday) for the Williams River and is now lying at the commercial wharf ready to receive cargo. Further particulars on board, I Shepherd, Master or to Thomas Magner, agent Market Street wharf, or to Mr. Dawson, Clermont, Williams River who is the agent for the Hunter District.

Then on 19th June 1838, in the Australian: "To the farmers and settlers of the Patterson's and William's Rivers. The undersigned begs to return his grateful thanks for the kind and generous patronage he has received and begs to acquaint them that he now has completed his arrangements for the expeditions and regular conveyance of their product to Sydney for sale, by having laid on that fast sailing cutter "Providence" as a constant trader to the Patterson's River, and the "Jane" to the Williams River. Applications for freight, etc. to be made to Thomas Magner, owner and agent, Market Street".

Thomas continued his shipping operations from 1838 until 1844 as shown by advertisements in the Australian and the Sydney Morning Herald during those years. He operated the vessels, "Jane Williams," "Providence," "Comet" and "Lucky Ann," all built by James Marshall at Clarencetown on the William's and apparently jointly owned by him and Thomas Magner. While Magner remained a small coastal operator, Marshall embraced other shipping opportunities and by 1840 was the largest shipping magnate in the colony. Among many enterprises, he had secured the contract from the British Government to transport bounty migrants to the colony and in his heyday in 1841 he had a ship a month arriving from England or Ireland. Also, in 1832 a Captain John Biddulph (ex-Royal Navy) had arrived with the steam ship "Sophia Jane," which was the first steam vessel to come to Australia, arriving a few months before the completion of the locally build "William IV." Biddulph operated the "Sophia Jane" between the Manning River and Sydney and after 1838 Magner became his agent in Sydney, billing the "Sophia Jane" with his other vessels although he never owned it as he part-owned the others. Biddulph was a larger than life character whose exploits and activities could only be done justice in a book.

By 1842 the economic outlook in the colony was changing. The great boom of the 1830's, when wool production was increasing exponentially and finding a ready market in England, finally outran demand and the situation was compounded by the onset of recession in England around 1840. Then in 1842, the newly elected Tory government cut the tariff by 20%, being assured by the economic know-alls that this would cure the situation. It made things about ten times as bad and the bottom fell right out of the wool market inducing an even bigger slump here. To make things worse, the potato famine struck in Ireland and the potential surge in Irish migration induced the British government to suspend the bounty scheme. It does not take much imagination to see what that meant financially for Marshall. With his big commitment to the scheme, he went down like a cow in the drought and, because he had a half interest in Magner's ships, he quickly followed him. On 18th October 1844 the following advertisement appears in the Sydney Morning Herald: "Commission Agency, Mr. Thomas Magner, late of Market Street, West Sydney having given up his agency business to embrace farming pursuits, I beg to offer my services to those of his customers who may require an agency in Sydney."

Henry Ferris - Agent, 103 York Street, Sydney

 Thomas went back to farming in the Hunter Valley and appears to have been killed in a road accident on 27th March 1866. He is buried in East Maitland cemetery. It might be noted that from the time when the Magner brothers received their tickets of leave until the time when Thomas set up his own shipping business with warehouses in Patterson and Sydney as well as his own vessel, it was almost exactly ten years. The 1830's was certainly a time of opportunity in the colony, the life might have been hard but you could not say that it was not interesting.

Soon after Thomas set up his business in 1837, Michael went back to County Cork and then returned to NSW arriving on 18th October 1838 aboard the bounty migrant vessel "Calcutta" bringing about a dozen of his near relations with him. It is reasonable to conclude that in this enterprise he received assistance from Thomas and Marshall. Among the arrivals on the "Calcutta" was Michael's son Thomas, a shoemaker, who set up a shop and residence at 164 Kent Street just around the corner from his uncle Thomas' shipping agency and warehouse at 2 Market Street. Another arrival was Michael's nephew John and John's wife, who were also shoemakers and who set up shop in George Street. During the second half of the nineteenth century, as the population moved westward, John moved his business out in stages along George Street and Parramatta Road, finally settling in Glebe where some of his descendants still live. In the 1850's Thomas moved to 10 Crown Street but he apparently maintained his shoemaking activities at 164 Kent Street. Some of his descendants live in the Eastern suburbs today.

After returning in 1838, Michael must have gone back to the Morpeth-Maitland area for some time as in late 1838 he signed, on behalf of the residents of the Maitland district, the address to be read to the young Queen Victoria at her coronation the following year from the people of Maitland. Some time later Michael moved to Sydney where he lived with his son's family in Kent Street. He died on 30th November 1844 in the Tarban Creek Asylum (Ryde) and is buried at St. Ann's at Ryde.

The closing months of 1844, with the loss of Thomas' shipping business in October and Michael's death in November, (possibly not unconnected events), must have been a harrowing time for the Magner family, relieved only by the birth on 7th December of a son to shoemaker Thomas and his wife Mary: Thomas Joseph who in the 1860's became a surveyor with the roads department. In the late 1860's and early 1870's he surveyed much of the original north coast road and in the late 1870's was appointed superintendent of roads for the northern district, (Newcastle to the Queensland border). In 1871 he married Elizabeth Dee of Stroud and their first son, Thomas Sidney Magner (my grandfather), was born on 26th January 1872. On the death of Elizabeth's parents in the late 1870's she became part beneficiary of their estate which included the "Cottage of Content" Inn at Stroud and, on buying out the other beneficiaries' interest in the Inn, they became its proprietors.

Thomas continued his roads job while Elizabeth ran the hotel during the long periods in which he was away. He died at the hotel of "pulmonary inflammation" (apparently pneumonia) in 1886. About 1890 Thomas Sidney became a telegrapher at the Stroud Post Office and in 1894 married Evelyn May Hemers whose father Thomas Hemers had an orchard north of Stroud. My mother, Veronica May Magner, was born in Daunt's cottage in Stroud on 6th December 1895 and in 1900 Thomas Sidney was appointed Post Master at Angeldool and the family left the Stroud district. Thomas Sidney's brother Horace Magner remained in the Stroud district until within living memory.

 

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