Sunday, 19 August 2012

Walter Butler- Ch. 1: Butler's childhood

Birth records

Walter Butler was born c.1807 in Sydney[i], to Laurence Butler[ii]  and probably the woman Laurence was living with between 1806 and 1809, Mary Ann Fowles.[iii] (see Blog for Laurence Butler:
 http://butlerfamilyhistoryaustralia.blogspot.com.au/2012/08/laurence-butler-intro.html )

No Parish records have been found for Walter’s birth. Although a few priests were in the colony pre 1820, they were Irish convicts and each returned to Ireland as soon as the opportunity arose. Fr. James Dixon and Fr. James Harold, both convicted Irish rebels who arrived in 1800, practised their ministry on an unofficial basis throughout their stays, Dixon returning to Ireland in 1809 and Harold the following year. Fr. Dixon was briefly authorised by the Governor to minister from 1803 and 1804, but this was revoked on the fear that the priest would incite his Irish flock to rebel following the revolt at Castle Hill of Irish convicts in 1804, now remembered as the Battle of Vinegar Hill. There is evidence that Dixon and Harold performed at least two marriages and several baptisms, including three children of Michael Hayes[iv], Laurence Butler’s close friend and fellow rebel from Co Wexford, (as was Fr. Dixon). It is highly likely, therefore, that Walter was baptised by Fr. Dixon before he left the colony. However, there are no surviving Catholic registers of baptisms, marriages and burials before the arrival of Fathers John Joseph Therry and Philip Conolly in May 1820 which marked the official establishment of the Catholic Church in Australia.

Fr. John Joseph Therry


Parish records have been found for Walter’s siblings. Many Catholics were baptised, married and buried by Church of England chaplains in the period between 1788 and 1820, as was the case for Walter’s half siblings, children of Laurence Butler and English Protestant convict Ann Roberts. Although living together by 1811, Laurence was not able to marry Ann Roberts until the death of his wife Catherine in Wexford Ireland. On receiving the information of Catherine’s death, Laurence immediately applied for a licence and they married in St. Philip’s Anglican Church on the same day as their daughter Mary Ann’s baptism on 1 July 1817, one month after her birth.
Walter’s half-brother, Lawrence Ormond Junior, was born July 20, 1812 [v] and half-sister, Mary Ann, born June 1, 1817 [vi]. Two other half siblings, George Patrick born March 15, 1815 [vii], and Elizabeth born August 10, 1819, died on November 2 and December 7, 1819 respectively.[viii]

As stated, there are no records of the birth of Walter, and his approximate birth year is calculated by the ages given in the 1822 Muster (age 14), the 1823/24/25 Musters (age16- age probably recorded in or before 1824, the year his step-mother died, as he is listed as ‘son of Mrs Butler, Sydney’), and the 1828 Census (age 21). The Census record appears to be the most accurate, going by the ages of his siblings and wife recorded in the Census which were correct, however the ages of his siblings in the previous musters varied considerably.


In the 1806 General Muster, Walter’s father Laurence Butler was co-habiting with Mary Ann Fowles a convict  classed as ‘free-by–servitude’ having completed her term. The General Muster was taken in August 1806. However, the Rev. Samuel Marsden then used that information to make a separate Muster, entitled Marsden’s Female Muster of 1806. It is thought that he also used further information that he gathered himself, including details of children. Unmarried females were listed as ‘concubines’. Mary Ann Fowles was described by Rev Samuel Marsden in his Female Muster of 1806, as a “concubine” living with Laurence Butler, with one “natural” child. (Carol J. Baxter (ed), Musters of New South Wales and Norfolk Island 1805-1806, ABGR in assoc. SAG, Sydney 1989) Whether this was Walter is difficult to determine. However, if Walter had been born in the latter part of 1806 or early 1807, he would have still been aged 21 in the 1828 Census which was taken in September/October 1828, and therefore the 'natural child' attributed to Mary Ann Fowles in the Muster was most likely Walter.



It would appear that Walter may have been named or called himself Walter George, as his many descendants from his three families have either been named Walter or George, or Walter George, or George Walter, and the death certificate of one of his sons, William, named his father as George. However, Walter’s use of this name may just have been in remembrance of his deceased younger brother.

 Walter Butler’s parentage

Walter’s father, Laurence Butler Snr was an Irish rebel convicted for his role as a rebel captain in the 1798 Irish Rebellion and transported on the ‘Atlas 2’ to the colony in 1802 for a life sentence. [ix] He was born in 1750 in County Wexford, Ireland, and extensive research on the Butlers of County Wexford indicates that Laurence was most likely to have descended from the branch of Butlers who lived in the Kayer/Munphin area of Co. Wexford ie. near Enniscorthy and Ferns in northern Wexford. This branch descended from the 8th Earl of Ormond’s second son Richard Butler 1st Viscount Mountgarrett who was appointed Governor of Wexford and Constable of Ferns Castle in the 1540’s.

At the time of the 1798 Rebellion, Laurence was living at Ferns.[x] He was charged with “aiding, abetting and assisting the murder” of a man who lived near Ferns, named Grimes (of the Yeomen Militia, who had killed a local Catholic blacksmith for making pikes, a weapon used by rebels). His trial revealed that Laurence carried the colours at the Battle of Tubberneering (near Ferns), one of the first decisive victories for the rebels in County Wexford. Due to his active role in the rebellion, he was very fortunate not to have been executed, the fate of a number of his rebel associates. Given the gravity of the charges, he probably received a death sentence which was commuted to transportation for life, on appeal.

Looking at the records still available for the county of Wexford, pre 1800, very few Butlers lived in this small county[xi] at that time. A pocket of Protestant Butlers lived in the NE, and there were a few families in the southern area. The only Butlers recorded in the sparsely populated Barony of Scarawalsh in the NW where Laurence was living, would appear to have belonged to the Catholic family named above.

In the Colony of Sydney, Laurence Butler became Australia’s first cabinet-maker of note, employing several journeymen and apprentices, one of whom was his son Walter who continued in the cabinet-making trade for a few years at Laurence’s manufactory at No. 7 Pitt Street (now Angel Place next to the G.P.O. and Martin Place). Laurence was given substantial orders by private citizens (such as John Blaxland), and by Government including outfitting the new Courts of Law and the private chambers of the Judge Advocate Jeffrey Bent. He also had a general merchandise and ironmongery business and became one of the colony’s leading business men. He was one of seventeen businessmen who founded the Commercial Society of Sydney, the Colony’s first attempt at regulating the monetary system. However, Gov. Macquarie, alarmed about their growing power and monetary monopoly, banned the Society.

Although Laurence received a Conditional Pardon from Gov. Foveaux in 1808, following the Rum Rebellion, pardons issued at this time were revoked on the arrival of Governor Macquarie. Having to be content with a Ticket of Leave, Laurence was eventually granted a second Conditional Pardon in January 1813. Laurence’s 1810 petition for a pardon was endorsed by Gregory Blaxland, John Oxley, ship’s captain and agent James Birnie, Captain John Apsey, and Elizabeth Macarthur (wife of John). His petition for deeds for his 100acre land grant in the District of Petersham which was recommended by D’Arcy Wentworth, was endorsed by his neighbours Maj. George Johnston and Capt John Piper, and Surveyor-General John Oxley.

Laurence was one of 78 signatories of a Petition to Macquarie in 1818 seeking relief from a restriction on imports from England, and the people signing the memorial were, in Macquarie’s own words, ‘a great majority of the most respectable Inhabitants of the Colony’. The other signatories included such notables as John Macarthur, William Gore, Simeon Lord, Mary Reiby, Rowland Hassall and Charles Throsby.
This indicates that, despite being Irish, a class despised by the English “exclusives”, and despite his convict/emancipist status, he was well favoured in Sydney society, which was probably in no small part due to his ancestry.

When Laurence died in 1820 aged 70 years, Laurence left his wife and children with a considerable estate, including two adjacent houses and premises in Pitt Street, a house and premises in Kent Street, and a 100 acre farm in the District of Petersham, now the Callan Park Hospital grounds from Iron Cove down to Brenan St, in the suburb of Lilyfield below Rozelle and Balmain.

Laurence’s partner, Mary Ann Fowles was transported from London in 1794 on the ‘Surprise’ having been convicted of perjury at the trial of her ‘lover’ Thomas Radley, who had been convicted of highway robbery in 1792 and sentenced to death.[xii] Mary Ann had been arrested pawning a diamond stolen by Radley, which she claimed she had found, and then, at the trial, denied knowing Radley. However, a witness claimed she had been living with Radley for the previous nine months. Mary Ann was born about 1767 in Ireland and was described as 26 years old, 5 ft tall, light brown hair, blue eyes and fair complexion. As Radley was also Irish, they may have travelled from Ireland to London together about 18 months previously, as claimed by Fowles. Radley was also transported on the ‘Surprise’ having had his death sentence commuted to life, and he and Fowles may have married in the colony at some time. She appeared to have had a temper and was indicted in at least two court cases for violence against other persons, in one of which in 1799, she was named as Mrs Mary Ann Radley, otherwise Fowles. Radley died in 1803,[xiii] and Fowles was described by Rev Samuel Marsden in his Female Muster of 1806, as a “concubine” living with Laurence Butler, with one “natural” child.[xiv]  Whether she was the mother of Walter Butler is speculation, but she seems the most likely candidate.

At some point between 1809 and 1811, Mary Ann Fowles must have died, and Walter was raised by his father. Laurence married Ann Roberts on July 1, 1817,[xv] having lived together from c.1811 and having had three children together before their marriage. They were not free to marry until the death of Laurence’s Irish wife, Catherine, who died c.1816. Her existence is confirmed in letters written by one of Laurence’s close friends, Michael Hayes, another Wexford rebel who wrote several letters back home to his family in which he refers to Laurence and his Wexford wife Catherine.[xvi]

Ann Roberts was a convict who was sentenced to seven years transportation after her conviction for larceny in Worchester in 1807. [xvii] She arrived in October 1808 on the ‘Speke’ and was listed in the 1814 Muster as “wife to Laurence Butler.” She was illiterate as she signed her name on their marriage licence with an ‘X’. She bore four children, Lawrence, George Patrick, Mary Ann and Elizabeth, as mentioned.


In the 1822 Muster, Walter and Lawrence Jnr and Mary Ann were each named as “child of Mrs Butler Sydney,” while Ann Roberts was described as ‘widow of Laur. Butler Sydney’.
In the 1823/24/25 Muster, the children were described as son/dau of Mrs Butler Pitt St Sydney, while Ann Robert was described as widow Butlers Pitt St Sydney. As she was deceased sometime between March and December 1824, the Muster records must have been conducted before then.
The ages of the children varied considerably in the Musters and in the Census which was more accurate:
1822 Muster- Walter 14, Lawrence 12, Ann (Mary Ann) 6.  
(NB. should be- Walter 14/15, Lawrence 10, Ann 5)
1823/24/25 Muster- Walter 16, Lawrence 14, Ann 8   (in 1824- Walter was 16/17, Lawrence 12, Ann 7)
1828 Census- Walter 21, Lawrence 16, Ann 11, Walter’s wife Margaret Dunn 20 (born October 1809)
 Notably this Census record appears to be the more accurate- it was taken in Sept/Oct 1828.
The inaccuracy of the Muster records may have been due to Ann Robert’s illiteracy, as opposed to the information for the Census being supplied by the children personally.

When Laurence died in December 1820, aged 70,[xviii] his son Walter was only 13/14 years of age, Lawrence Junior was 8 years and Mary Ann was only 3 years.  Ann Butler (nee Roberts) continued to run Laurence’s business after his death. Between March 1824 and December 1824, Ann died, leaving Walter (17/18 years), Lawrence (12 years) and Mary Ann (7 years) orphaned.

Walter’s Memorial of December 1824 and June 1825, requesting a land grant for the 50 head of cattle left to them by their father, stated he and his siblings were recently orphaned. [xix]
Endorsements on Walter’s Memorial in 1825 stated:
 It comes within my knowledge that the Memorialist by industry and good conduct supports his orphan Brother and Sister with much credit to himself”
and “The Memorialist is distinguished for his application to business and propriety of conduct.”

Ann had continued to run Laurence’s business for the three years following Laurence’s death. She applied to marry Miles Leary in August 1823.[xx] Leary was a cabinet-maker/carpenter from County Wexford (given a 7 year sentence, he arrived in 1802 on the ‘Hercules’), who had worked for Laurence, and helped Ann run the business following Laurence’s death. However, Rev. Cowper (C. of E.) on the advice of Rev. Therry (R.C.) refused to marry them.  Something must have happened to their relationship as shortly after Ann made this application, she put the following advertisement in the Sydney Gazette, February 12, 1824:
“CAUTION- I have to Caution the Public against giving Miles Leary any Trust or Credit on my Account. As he is not authorised by me to receive any Debts, or make any Contracts whatever, I will not hold myself responsible for any of them. And Notice is hereby given to the said Miles Leary, that he will be prosecuted if he shall hereafter attempt to come into my House, or upon my Premises.
Ann Butler.”

Within the next few months Ann died. It is unknown whether they had patched up their relationship before her death, however, Leary continued cabinet making at the Pitt Street address and was assigned a bonded mechanic there in April 1824. It is highly probable that Walter learnt his cabinet making skills from Leary.
Leary was still listed as a carpenter in Pitt Street in the 1828 Census, and in the 1834 Sydney Directory,[xxi] the same year as his death.

The Rev. Therry had been the appointed guardian of Laurence’s children under the terms of Laurence’s Will [xxii] and was probably looking after the interests of the children and their estate when he refused Ann permission to remarry, possibly because she applied to a Protestant minister, and Laurence had stipulated that the children be brought up as Catholics. (Notably Leary was Catholic - his relatives were rebels transported from Wexford with Laurence on the Atlas 2, so this may not have been the reason for the denial of permission. Possibly Fr. Therry sensed that marriage to Leary would deny the children their inheritance.) The Will made the provision that Rev. Conolly or his successor (Rev. Therry), would:
“ inspect and see justice done them agreeable to my Will” Ann’s compliance “under pain of forfeiting her share and control over my children.”
Also, for Rev. Conolly/Therry:
 “ to superintend the education of the children and improve them in morality and virtue.”

The Butler Inheritance

Laurence had left his considerable estate equally to his wife and the three children. The estate, stated by wife Ann as being valued at less than £500 [xxiii], but stated by Walter in his Memorial (endorsed by Fr. Therry) to be worth upwards of £2000, comprised three houses/premises in Pitt St and Kent Street, Sydney, and a 100 acre farm in the district of Petersham, 50 head of cattle, and the valuable contents of three warehouses of furniture and merchandise, as well as their own personal furniture.[xxiv] The value therefore, would have been closer to Walter’s estimate. To gain an idea of the value of currency at that time, the Chief Constable or a low ranked military officer earned about £50 p.a.  (Laurence’s will had been witnessed by three of his close friends, fellow Wexford rebel Michael Hayes a Pitt Street merchant, English free settler and neighbour John Connell, and Wexford school master and ex-convict Isaac Wood.) In December 1819, Laurence sold a property in Elizabeth Street which he had purchased in 1815- the sale was registered just prior to his death.

Map of Sydney showing Laurence Butler's Pitt Street porperty
NB Rosetta Marsh wife of Samuel Terry
John Connell's property where William Kearns is marked


The Petersham 100 acre farm was still in Butler hands in 1837, when it was sold for ₤300 to their friend and solicitor George R. Nichols who built “Garryowen” house on the estate in about 1837-9. [xxv]

The No. 6/8 Pitt St property, which Laurence Butler bought from Samuel Terry under mortgage agreement  in 1816 for ₤400, [xxvi] along with the No. 7 Pitt Street property which Laurence purchased in 1809 (for about ₤200), were sold to sibling Mary Ann’s fiance, John Campbell Macdougall in October 1833, who then sold it back to the Terry family two weeks later. It then made up part of Samuel Terry’s Allotment 22, part of which the Terry family subsequently sold to the Government to provide a laneway to the Post Office, now known as Angel Place, adjacent to Martin Place.

At the time of Walter’s Memorial in August 1825 and his marriage in May of that year to Margaret Dunn, Walter gave his address as No 7 Pitt Street. Sometime after 1825, he and Margaret moved out and by 1828 were lodging in the French household in Cumberland Street. The two Pitt Street properties were located between Samuel Terry’s and John Connell’s properties.  A Town Allotment Plan for Section 37, Allotment 22 (which belonged to the Terry estate in 1834), includes the No.6/8 property, and the No. 7 property which was originally purchased in 1809 from William Gough (according to a statement by John Connell in Case No. 399 Claims Court- but the transaction was not registered officially). Notably William Gough was a fellow Wexford rebel from very near Laurence’s home town of Ferns. Gaining his Absolute Pardon, he returned to Wexford in 1809.
The buildings were still standing in 1848, as seen in Fowles’ streetscape drawings.[xxvii] Although they appear small in the front, a large extension at the rear of the first building must have contained the workshop (as seen on the City Section 37 Plan map of c 1835).


A streetscape drawing of the Butler properties, No. 7 and No. 6/8 Pitt Street, by Joseph Fowles 1848. (NB. No. 8 Pitts Row became No. 6 Pitt Street in 1810)



The City of Sydney Assessment Books for 1845 gives a description of the buildings. [xxxiv] Each cottage is described as made of wood with shingled roofs. Each cottage is divided into two premises (hence the two doorways in each building).
Cottage 1 has two rooms, width 16ft depth 25ft;
cottage 2 has three rooms width 19.6ft depth 30ft;
cottage 3 has one room width 18.8ft depth 12ft;
cottage 4 has two rooms width 16.6 ft depth 20ft.
The four cottages were let to R. Tindel for £60 per year, and sub-letted:
Cottage 1 (no. 7): £25;
cottage 2 (no. 7): £25;
cottage 3 (no. 6): £10;
cottage 4 (no. 6): £20.
Neighbour John Connell’s cottage was described as wood, shingle roof, 4 rooms, £75; garden, outhouses, while the Terry’s mansion was described as brick, shingle roof, 9 rooms, £200, extensive gardens, outhouses, stores etc. 



Surveyed map of Allotment 22 (A and B) in 1840 after it had been sold to the Terry family. NB. the shape of the adjoined buildings of Nos. 7 and 6. The long building on the left adjacent to John Connell's allotment wa probably the cabinet-making workshop. The pink areas were gardens and contained fruit trees. The rear of the allotment bordered the Tank Stream. The large building on the right belonged to the neighbour  Samuel Terry and his wife.


Surveyed maps of Butler’s allotment held by the Titles Office, viz. Map of City Section 37 Plan, Parish St James, Town of Sydney  has the outline of the buildings on this part of Allotment 22, that extends to the rear of the building towards the Tank Stream. It appears to extend from the original ‘No. 7’ premises, and was quite sizeable. The central window of the building on the left (viz. No. 7) appears to be a shop display window, and there appears to be a sign on the roof above the right hand door. Therefore, this would indicate that the original family residence was on the left and the store to the right of the first door. The map indicates that the family residence also extends backwards into the rear of the allotment. When the adjacent building was purchased in 1816, the family may have moved their residence into that building, or it may have been used for their expanding business

 
Map of the Kent street property


The No. 32 Kent Street property was subject to a case in the Supreme Court of New South Wales in December 1829,  Bell vs Leary, reported in the Australian 23 Dec 1829. Bell (probably George Bell, named in the 1828 Census) rented the premises in Kent Street from Miles Leary for 15s./week and was behind two weeks in rent. Bell stated he had notice from a Mr Butler (ie. Walter), to pay Leary no rent. Witness John Connell stated that he was executor jointly with a Mr Davis (William Davis, 1798 Rebel from Co. Wexford) under the will of Laurence Butler deceased, and the house in question was demised to defendant (Leary) on condition of his effecting certain repairs, in consideration of which, he was to receive the rent, but that he had never sent in his bill.
The Sydney Gazette 19 Dec 1829 (P2.3), reported John Connell’s testimony:
“The house in question was part of the property of the late Lawrence Butler, who died, leaving his wife executrix; when she died, I and Mr Davis were left executors to her will; defendant (Leary) was not an executor, but he was to receive the rent of the house on condition of putting it in repair, until his expenses were paid; he has not rendered any account; there are three orphan children of Butler’s living; the eldest is of age.”
Bell had told another witness (William Farrell, who was living at 7 Pitt street in 1828 Census) that “the rent had been demanded of him by young Butler.”
(Notably, Davis was not named as executor of Laurence’s will, but may have been appointed following the deaths of  Hayes and Wood.) Miles Leary died before June 1834 and his estate was demised to William Davis and John Leary. (William Davis, Miles Leary and John Leary all came from the Enniscorthy-Gorey area of County Wexford- John Leary and Davis were 1798 rebels- whether this was the same John Leary is unknown.)

What is noticeable about the above case is that Connell and Davis were appointed executors to Ann’s will, and notably Leary was not appointed; the case also indicates that there was no love lost between Walter Butler and Miles Leary. It would appear that the Kent street property was only demised to Leary on the understanding that he repair the dwelling and he could only claim rent during that period until his expenses were paid. As he had not effected the repairs (or at least rendered an account for those repairs), Walter was trying to reclaim the property back from Leary.

The Kent Street property was sold sometime after 1836.  Notably Bell was no longer at the Kent Street address in 1834, but Lawrence Junior was listed as living in Kent Street, whether at this same address is unknown.[xxviii] The 1834 Directory indicates that Leary was still at the Pitt Street property at the time of his death in June, and he was living there in the 1828 Census, with several other carpenters.

The orphaned children of Laurence Butler

It is difficult to fathom how three children orphaned at such a young age could manage in such a harsh, cut-throat society as Sydney was in those early years of the colony. Although left financially comfortable, the estate would have been under the control of guardians and appointed executors  until they all became of age. Their survival could only have happened through a tight network of family friends and the guardianship of the Catholic priest, Father Therry.[xxix] Such a young family with so many assets would have been a prime target for thieves and charlatans.

Walter at the age of  17/18  years had been suddenly given the responsibility of looking after 12 year old Lawrence and 7 year old Mary Ann (also known as Ann). Both boys, and it would seem Mary Ann as well, had received a good education, as Laurence made a specific provision in his will that their education must be continued, and for Father Therry to care for the moral and educational welfare of the children.

Education

Their father’s good friend and witness to his will, Isaac Wood (from County Wexford), ran The Sydney Academy in Macquarie Street, a school for young gentlemen scholars, but whether Laurence’s sons attended this Academy is unknown. Father Therry encouraged an Irish convict, named Andrew Higgins, a surveyor, to set up the first school for Catholic children in the Colony. The records of children enrolled in its first term in April 1822 at the Higgins and Muldoon School included Walter, Lawrence and Ann Butler,[xxx] and the children of Laurence’s close friend Michael Hayes, and Walter’s future father-in-law Thomas Dunn. Lawrence was also listed on the fifth term list said to be the first term of St Mary’s School in August 1823. Mary Ann’s education continued at David Greville’s boarding school where she was lodging in 1828, and her later life would indicate that she was well educated.
 
Isaac Wood’s advertisements in the Sydney Gazette Jan 1819, stated that:
 “Mr Isaac Wood has spared no Pains of expense to render this Seminary complete in every branch of Education necessary to form the accomplished Gentleman and Scholar; including the graceful accomplishment of Dancing which is considered so necessary to the acquirement of becoming demeanour. Latin, French, German, Italian and Portuguese languages will continue to be taught by a person fully competent.”

Certainly Walter and Lawrence Junior’s signatures on various documents, and their future occupations, indicate that they were well educated, however, it is uncertain where Walter and Lawrence Jnr began their schooling before entering the Higgins School set up by Andrew Higgins and Fr. Therry for Catholic children in 1822.  George Robert Nichols, the son of ex-convict Isaac Nichols (Australia’s first postmaster and a very successful entrepreneur), made the statement that he had been school-fellows with Walter Butler.[xxxi] Nichols, born 1809, would be sent to England for his schooling between 1819 and 1823 and became a lawyer, acting on behalf of Lawrence Junior at his trial in 1836, and giving character references to Lawrence’s wife in a job application in 1845, and as a character witness for Walter at his trial in 1839/40.

According to Frank Murray, ‘School places were scarce in the early days of the Colony. The few schools that did exist operated under the stewardship of the Church of England, and then mainly for the children of the middle classes. The Catholic emancipists, overwhelmingly Irish, did not fit into this category.”  (see ref 20 below)
However, George R. Nichols, an English Protestant, stating that Walter was a school-fellow of his, indicates that Laurence’s children were admitted to the Protestant schools during his lifetime. Laurence may have been a staunch Catholic, but he was also pragmatic, and accepted the advantages offered by an English Protestant dominated society, both in his personal and business affairs. His three children would carry on their lives with this same attitude.

Growing up in this environment was fraught with danger, resulting in many children suffering horrendous injuries that debilitated them for the rest of their lives. Many died. The following account, reported in the ‘Sydney Gazette’ 2 October 1819, relates to the son of close family friend, Michael Hayes:
 “On Tuesday in the afternoon an infant son of Mr Michael Hayes, of two years, was nearly trampled to death in George Street, by a restive horse, which we understand the rider was breaking in. The unfortunate infant, with another of the same age, was sitting on a pavement, out of the public road, in front of which the horse began to rear and back; the rider lost all management, and the animal backed upon the children, one of whom miraculously escaped unhurt; but the other had the right shoulder broke; the left arm trod upon and severely bruised; and the belly also trod upon. Animation was for a time suspended and its return to life doubtful. With able surgical assistance, however, the life of the child is at present supposed to be out of danger. With no desire to add to the poignancy of feeling which must be natural to a parent in cases of this afflicting nature, yet it would be doing too little, barely to report the accident, without offering some remark on the causes which have very often led to similar consequences- the too frequent carelessness of parents, as it regards the security of their children. Burns and scalds, drowning in wells, kicks from horses, and every other species of accident to which infancy could be exposed, has furnished our columns with many a lamentable subject; and we know none that claims attention more than the suffering of infants to gad about the streets without a guide. In the lower part of George Street, which is the constant thoroughfare for horses, carts, carriages, and cattle, there are seldom less than from twelve to twenty little creatures exposing themselves in the middle of the street to dangers from which Providence alone could have defended them.

One has to remember, this was a time when there was no child care, no parks for the children to play in, and schooling was only available to some. To survive childhood in this environment was a feat, and to survive when both ones parents have died is an even greater feat.

As Walter was only just 14 years of age when his father died, he must have gained his skills as a cabinet maker from Miles Leary who was in charge of his father’s business; whether as an apprentice or by just working alongside Leary in the workshop, is unknown. As previously mentioned, Walter was enrolled in the Higgins and Muldoon School  for Catholic children  in its first term beginning April 1822 when he was still 15 years of age. He probably 'graduated' when he turned 16.  However, growing up in the house and workshop premises of his cabinet-making father, and watching his father and employees at work,  no doubt Walter's woodworking skills were honed from a very young age.

Currency lads

In the Colony, there were several distinct classes already established in this small society. Free settlers emigrating from England were a quite distinct class from those who had come from convict stock, each treating the other with distain and suspicion.
“Those born in the Colony were dubbed ‘currency’ while English-born colonists were known as ‘sterling’, a discriminating acknowledgement of the superiority of old-country Englishmen. The problem for ‘currency’ Australians was that most bore the convict stain. Although born free, few would ever be considered the equal of a true-blue Englishman.”
“The English did their best to keep the Australians in their place, at the very bottom of the social scale. The Catholic Irish and their offspring were the first to be accused when anything went awry. And there was little love lost between the transported Irishman abroad, whether political prisoner or criminal, and the ‘born-to-rule’ Englishman swanning around in the colonies.” [xxxii]

The ship’s Surgeon, Peter Cunningham wrote about “Currency”: “Our Colonialist born brethren are best known here by the name of Currency, in contradistinction to Sterling, or those born in the mother country. The name was originally given by a facetious paymaster of the 73rd regiment quartered here- the pound currency being at that time inferior to the pound sterling. Our Currency lads and lasses are a fine interesting race, and do honour in the country in which they originated.” [xxxiii]

For Walter, a boy of 17, to be required to shoulder the responsibility for his young brother and very young sister must have been a huge burden for the youth. As “currency lads”, those first generations of children of convicts born in the colony, together with their Irish descent, put Walter and Lawrence Junior at a distinct disadvantage in Sydney society. Despite their wealth, and their father’s acceptance in Sydney society, they would always be considered at the bottom of the social scale by English born free settlers, “sterling”, and their offspring. However, the loss of their parents also forced them to be independent and self-reliant. It gave them the confidence to “have a go”.

In his later life, Lawrence Jnr. would become known for his fractious nature and have several scrapes with the law as a result, yet, given their harsh upbringing, it is not to be wondered at. Both Walter and Lawrence proved that they were well capable of standing up for themselves in any conflict, and for what they considered were their rights. Like their father before them, they were more than willing to use the Courts to settle disputes with employees, or in business deals in which they felt hardly done by, and to defend their own actions or reputations. When they chose to begin new lives in settlements other than Sydney, no doubt they kept their ‘convict heritage’ very quiet. None of their descendants have been aware of their ‘convict’ descent, until recently.


© B.A. Butler

contact  butler1802 @hotmail.com (no spaces)



[i] M. Sainty & K. Johnson, Census of NSW 1828, rev. ed, CD, Library of Australian History, Nth Sydney 2008;
Carol J. Baxter (ed), General Muster  and Land and Stock Muster of NSW 1822 , ABGR in assoc. with Soc. Of Australian Genealogists, Sydney, 1987
[ii] SRNSW: Early Probate Records; NRS 13725; [7/2582, no. 097]; Reel 2658. Copy of original Will from the Supreme Court of NSW, Sydney. Walter named as son and heir of Laurence Butler.
[iii] Carol. J. Baxter (ed.), Musters of NSW & Norfolk Island 1805-1806, ABGR in assoc. with SAG, Sydney, 1989- A1589, p41; Marsden’s Female Muster 1806- C0439, p159.
[iv] Michael Hayes, Letters 1799-1833, NLA MS 246 (copies in State Library of NSW and National Library of Australia, originals in Franciscan Archives, Dun Mhuire, Killiney, Dublin.) Thirteen letters written between 1799 and 1825 by Michael Hayes to his mother, sister and two brothers, plus three letters written by F. Girard, Sydney (son-in-law) to Patrick Hayes in Ireland written in 1831-33.
[v] SRNSW: Archives Resources Kit, Births, Deaths, Marriages Registers 1787-1856; Reel 5002; Lawrence Butler, Vol 6/154
[vi] Ibid, Mary Ann Butler, Vol. 7/563
[vii] Ibid, George Patrick/Patrick George Butler, Vol. 6/228;  Elizabeth Butler Vol. 8/108.
[viii] Ibid, George P. Butler Vol. 8/130; Elizabeth Butler, Vol. 8/151
[ix] National Library of Ireland, Ms 17, 795 (4). Trial of Laurence Butler; SRNSW: AO Reel 2417; Atlas II Indents 1802, p25
[x] National Library of Ireland, Trial of Laurence Butler, op.cit
[xi] County Wexford is approx. 48 miles N-S, and 28 miles E-W, surrounded on four sides by mountains and sea, with only three passes into the neighbouring counties of Wicklow, Carlow and Kilkenny. As a result of its isolation, for many centuries the population has tended to remain homogenous, intermarriage within local families.
[xii] Old Bailey Proceedings Online www.oldbaileyonline.org  (Date accessed 29/3/09), October 1792, trial of Thomas Radley (t17921031-34): (Date accessed 29/3/09), December 1792, trial of Mary Ann Fowle (t17921215-122)
[xiii] Old Sydney Burial Ground- inventory of burials 1792-1819- www.cityofsydney.nsw.gov.au/AboutSydney
[xiv] Carol J. Baxter (ed), Musters of New South Wales and Norfolk Island 1805-1806, ABGR in assoc. SAG, Sydney 1989
[xv] SRNSW: Colonial Secretary; Abstracts of Marriage Licenses to Free Persons 1813-1827; Fiche No.836, p.163, No.52
[xvi] Michael Hayes, Letters 1799-1833, NLA Ms 246, (originals in Franciscan Archives, Dun Mhuire, Killiney, Dublin.)
[xvii] County Court Sessions, AJCP Reel 2753; Transportation Register 1787-1809; PRO ref HO 11/1; pp399-403, PRO Reel 87; SRNSW: Indents, 1786-1842, CGS 12188:Indents 1801-1814; [4/4004, pp267-274; SR Fiche 630-634, SR Reel 393, COD 138].
[xviii] Sydney Gazette, 9 December 1820
[xix] SRNSW; Colonial Secretary; [4/1836B, no.148, p681-90]; Walter Butler’s Memorials, 6 Dec 1824, 13 June 1825; Fiche 3081. [4/3514, p478]; Reply; Reel 6014.
[xx] SRNSW: Colonial Secretary; [4/1772, p.94/94a]; Memorial re her marriage to Miles Leary, 27 Aug 1823; Reel 6059.
[xxi] Australian Almanack and Sydney Directory for the Year 1834, printed Sydney 1834.
[xxii] SRNSW: Early Probate Records; NRS 13725; [7/2582, no.97], Reel 2658. Copy of original Will from the Supreme Court of  NSW, Sydney.
[xxiii] Statement to Judge Barron Field, whose record is attached to the Will.
[xxiv] Butler’s Will, Vol. 1, No. 97, Supreme Court NSW; and,  SRNSW: NRS 13725; [7/2582, No 97]; Index to early Probate Records; 2 Jan 1821; Reel 2658
[xxv] Ken Leong, Rozelle Hospital 1819-1984- the amalgamation of Callan Park Mental Hospital and Broughton Hall Psychiatric Clinic, 1984 thesis for Bachelor of Architecture at School of the Built Environment at UNSW; page 8-9; Chapter 1.2- Lawrence Butler’s Hundred Acre Grant; Leong’s ref: RGD, OST, Bk L, No.596, and Book O, No. 853
[xxvi] NSW Government Gazette, 1833-1850: 4 May 1839 p589; Court of Claims, Case No 399, Rosetta Terry;
NSW Dept of Lands, Old Registers One to Nine, Book 6, page 158 no.39 and p222 no.16; Government Gazette, 1834 p882 Town Allotments.
[xxvii] Joseph Fowles Sydney in 1848- A Project Gutenberg of Australia eBook- http://gutenberg.net.au/ebooks06/0600151h.html
[xxviii] Australian Almanack and Sydney Directory for the Year 1834, microfilmed for the NLA by AGPS 1987.
[xxix] SRNSW: Early Probate Records; NRS 13725; [7/2582, no. 097]; Reel 2658. Copy of original Will from the Supreme Court of NSW, Sydney. Father P. Conolly or his successor, viz. Father J.J. Therry, named as guardian of the children in the Will.
[xxx] Frank Murray, 1820’s NSW Early Education of the Irish Emancipists’ Currency Lads and Lasses, Descent Journal, June 2008, Vol 38, Part 2, p80, Society of Australian Genealogists. Also Murray’s website: www.frankmurray.com.au/?page_id=304  for list of the students at Higgins and Muldoon School.
[xxxi] Sydney Gazette, Tues 4 Feb 1840, p2, Report of Trial of Walter Butler.
[xxxii] Geoff Hocking, The Rebel Chorus- Dissenting voices in Australian History, The Five Mile Press, Rowville, Victoria, 2007, pp.9, 74
[xxxiii]  Peter Cunningham, R.N. Surgeon, “Two Years in NSW”, 2v, London 1827
[xxxiv] The Assessment Books 1845-1948, City of Sydney Archives, Volume: CSA027141 Page: 25, No. of Assessment Book: 596-599, record details of ownership, occupation, construction, and value for buildings in the city of Sydney between 1845 and 1949  http://photosau.com.au/CosRates/scripts/home.asp