Lest we forget

Jasper Jens Iverson

Jasper Jens Iverson (1889-1917)

Jasper Jens Iverson

Son of: Mary (nee McLean, formerly Mulcahy) and Jens Iverson

Brother of: John Roscoe (Jack) Mulcahy, Hugh McLean Mulcahy, Donald Mulcahy, David Matthew Mulcahy, Ellen Iverson, Donald Iverson, Finlay Iverson, Mary (Pollie) Iverson, Kenneth Ross Iverson, Alfred Iverson

Service Number: 2715A

Rank: Private

Unit: 9th Australian Infantry Battalion

Service: Australian Army

Conflict: First World War, 1914-1918

Date of death: 04 October 1917

Place of death: Belgium

Cause of death: Died of wounds

Age at death: 28

Place of association: Urbenville, Australia

Cemetery or memorial details: Menin Gate Memorial, Ypres, Flanders, Belgium

Source: AWM145 Roll of Honour cards, 1914-1918 War, Army


Donald Joseph Maloney (1890-1917)

Donald Joseph Maloney

Donald Joseph Maloney

Son of: Ann (nee McLean) and Edward Maloney

Brother of: Edward Matthew Maloney, David Ross Maloney, Charlotte Catherine Maloney

Service Number: 419

Rank: Private

Unit: 42nd Australian Infantry Battalion

Service: Australian Army

Conflict: First World War, 1914-1918

Date of death: 31 July 1917

Place of death: Belgium

Cause of death: Killed in action

Place of association: Woodenbong, Australia

Cemetery or memorial details: Menin Gate Memorial, Ypres, Flanders, Belgium

Source: AWM145 Roll of Honour cards, 1914-1918 War, Army


Finlay Urquhart

Jasper Iverson's  great-niece places a poppy next to his name on the Roll of Honour, Australian War Memorial, Canberra.

Jasper Iverson’s great-great-niece places a poppy next to his name on the Roll of Honour, Australian War Memorial, Canberra.

Son of: Margaret (nee McLean) and Hugh Urquhart

Brother of: Catherine Anne Marion Urquhart, Alexander William Urquhart, Hugh Kenneth Urquhart, Margaret Louisa (Lulu) Urquhart, Thomas Malcolm Urquhart, Bertha Urquhart, Isabella Ross Urquhart, Caroline (Carrie) Urquhart

Service Number: 2423

Rank: Private

Unit: 15th Australian Infantry Battalion

Service: Australian Army

Conflict: First World War, 1914-1918

Date of death: 11 April 1917

Place of death: France

Age at death: 31

Place of association: Mummulgum, Australia

Cemetery or memorial details: Villers-Bretonneux Memorial, Villers-Bretonneux, Picardie, France

Source: AWM145 Roll of Honour cards, 1914-1918 War, Army


Reuben Smith

Reuben Smith  (1891-1917)

Reuben Smith

Son of: Eliza Jane (nee Merchant) and George Smith

Brother of: George Smith, Samuel Smith, Mary Ann Smith, Rose Hannah Smith, James Smith, Hannah Louisa Smith, Matilda (Tilly) Smith, Emma Eliza Smith, Edward George Smith, Ellen Smith, Phyllis Phoebe Smith, Henrietta Smith, Agnes Smith

Service Number: 4540

Rank: Lance Corporal

Unit: 25th Australian Infantry Battalion

Service: Australian Army

Conflict: First World War, 1914-1918

Date of death: 03 February 1917

Place of death: France

Cause of death: Killed in action

Age at death: 24

Place of association: Pretty Gully, Australia

Cemetery or memorial details: Martinpuich British Cemetery, Picardie, France

Source: AWM145 Roll of Honour cards, 1914-1918 War, Army


Photos below:

By Markus3 (Marc ROUSSEL) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

By Johan Bakker (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Menin Gate Memorial

Menin Gate Memorial

Villers-Brettoneux Australian Memorial

Villers-Brettoneux Australian Memorial

Jens and Jacob

Jens Jasper Iverson and Jacob C.W. Nielsen were good friends.  They sailed the seas together, jumped ship together and lived and worked together for 60 years.

Jens Iverson

Jens Iverson


For the rest of their lives, Jacob followed Jens’ example.  Although Jacob was the elder, he would buy exactly the same things Jens bought. Jacob even bought the same size clothing, although Jens was much taller.

Jacob Nielsen

Jacob Nielsen

The only thing Jacob couldn’t match Jens in was a wife. Jens married my great-grandmother, Mary Mulcahy (nee McLean) in 1885. She was a widow with three young boys who must have been glad of the security another marriage offered.  Jens and Mary made a home at “Swallows’ Nest” on the banks of Tooloom Creek in northern New South Wales and Jacob lived on their property for the rest of his life, outliving Jens by seven years and living until he was 100.

Jens and Mary Iverson with their children and Jens' friend Jacob Neilsen c1896

Jens and Mary Iverson with their children and Jens’ friend Jacob Neilsen c1896

Jacob had been jilted by his fiancée and he wore the ring he had bought for her.  Did he never marry because he remained heartbroken and found no one who could measure up to her or was it the shortage of women in the area which caused his continuing single status?

Jens, Mary and Jacob lived a very settled existence, working hard on “Swallows’ Nest” to survive as subsistence farmers and to raise the £5 lease payment which was due each year.

The kitchen had walls and floors of slab and an open fireplace where Mary cooked with a camp oven.  The pantry, eight feet wide and the length of the house, was lined with shelves of preserves.  Mary’s grandchildren remembered that as children they would run to see Grannie’s pantry as soon as they arrived for a visit.

There was a large orchard with stone fruits, grapes, citrus, quinces, pomegranates, Japanese raisins, mulberries, persimmons, apples and pears.  Corn was interplanted with melons and pumpkins.  It was ground for porridge and corn bread and used to feed the fowls.  They grew their own arrowroot and tobacco.  Watering was by bucket from the creek but there were no fruit flies or other pests to contend with as these had not yet arrived in the area.

Jens Iversons tobacco licence

Evidence of Jens Iverson’s tobacco licence

There were cows for milk, cheese and butter for the family and some butter for sale.  They always kept a couple of pigs to slaughter in winter and then cured the pork for hams and bacon.  They ran 25 sheep and may have sold some wool.

Any supplies which they could not produce came by bullock wagon from Boonah twice a year.

Was this the life Jens and Jacob had in mind when they deserted their ship, the “Theresa”, when it was in port in Sydney in 1863?

Crew list of the "Theresa" on arrival in Sydney, <arch 1863.

Crew list of the “Theresa” on arrival in Sydney,

Did they dream of life on the land or were they hoping to strike it rich on the goldfields?  While the first flush of the gold rush was over, there were still discoveries being made on a regular basis.  Although the “Theresa” was not a passenger ship, they must have noticed the wave of immigrants arriving in Australia. Perhaps the life of a Danish seaman was not a happy one.  Family stories say that Jens’ brother, Peter, jumped ship in America.

Jens’ final resting place in Warwick, Queensland, was a long way from his birthplace in Denmark.





A hard life

Mary McLean Mulcahy Iverson led what we in the 21st century would think was a hard life.  She buried two husbands and three sons, she lived most of her life as a subsistence farmer.  She suffered diabetes in later life and she eventually died of gangrene caused by the diabetes.

Mary McLean (1851-1935)

Mary McLean (1851-1935)

Mary was born at Bonalbo in 1851 and the family moved to Tooloom (both in northern New South Wales) when she was about 13.  As was the custom for girls of her time, she helped out at home until she married.  Unlike some girls of her time, she probably received some sort of education because her family loved books and reading.   She married John Mulcahy, a miner, in 1874.  She was protestant and he was catholic but it doesn’t seem to have caused as much conflict in their families as some “mixed marriages” did.

John Mulcahy (1849-1879)

John Mulcahy (1849-1879)

Their four boys were born in 1875 (Jack), 1876 (Hugh), 1878 (Donald) and 1879 (David).  Donald, died in May 1879, only a few weeks before David was born. Then in July, Mary’s husband died in a mining accident and Mary was left with three small boys including a newborn and, if the family stories are correct, recovering from the whooping cough which claimed Donald’s life. Mary went home to her family where her brothers provided strong role models to her sons.  After five years of widowhood Mary married Jens Iverson, a Danish seaman, who had jumped ship in Sydney.   The blended Mulcahy-Iverson family made a home at “Swallows’ Nest” at Tooloom and over the next ten years Mary bore seven children to Jens.  The family’s life there consisted of hard work just to survive.  They seem to have been a happy united family but there were more tragedies to come.

Iverson home at "Swallows' Nest"

Iverson home at “Swallows’ Nest”

In 1892 toddler Finlay drowned in a swamp on the family property after following his brothers without anyone’s knowledge.   Private Jasper Jens Iverson of the 9th Australian Infantry Battalion died of wounds in Belgium in 1917.

Private Jasper Jens Iverson (1889-1917)

Private Jasper Jens Iverson (1889-1917)

Both of Mary’s sisters also lost a son in World War I.   Shortly before Mary’s husband Jens died in 1921, Mary suffered a stroke after which she needed a crutch to walk.  Around 1930, Mary was diagnosed with diabetes.  From this time on she lived turnabout with family members, each taking turns with the daily routine of Mary’s insulin injections.  Mary would need to stand on a butter box to get into the sulky whenever it was time to move on to the next house.   As a result of the diabetes, Mary eventually developed gangrene and lost her toes.  When the gangrene reached her foot, she was taken to Casino Hospital.  Her son, Hughie, spent an agonizing night trying to make the decision whether or not Mary’s foot would be amputated to try to stop the gangrene spreading further.  He had been told that even if they did amputate, she would probably not live much longer.

Jens and Mary Iverson with their children, one of the Mulcahy boys and Jens' friend Jacob Neilsen c1896

Jens and Mary Iverson with their children, David Mulcahy and Jens’ friend Jacob Neilsen c1896

Hughie decided to tell the doctor not to operate but when he reached the hospital in the morning, he was informed that his mother had passed away during the night.

Big John Payne

John Payne wasn’t called “Big John Payne” for nothing.

“Big” John Payne (1843-1910)

The man was 24 stone in the old money which is roughly equivalent to 152kg.  He had a special bathtub made for himself because he didn’t fit in any regular one.  I believe it is in the Upper Clarence Historical Society’s museum.

John Paynes bathtub

John Payne’s bathtub

John was born and grew up in the Hunter Valley where his ex-convict father and child-of-ex-convicts mother had been granted land.  Their house still stands near Wollombi at Payne’s Crossing.

He married Mary Ann Sophia Merrick, the granddaughter of four convicts when he was 21 and after a few years and two children they set off north in search of greener pastures or adventure.  Over the next decade and a bit they lived in different towns in New South Wales.  Mary Ann Sophia died in 1885 in her late forties of a mystery condition, recorded as “tetere grave” on her death certificate.

In the next stage of John’s life he moved to the northern rivers area of New South Wales, ran the Australian Hotel in Drake for a while and then opened his own hotel on the Tooloom goldfields in 1894.

The Tooloom Hotel with John Payne at the far left on the verandah

The Tooloom Hotel with John Payne at the far left on the verandah

Because John was such a big man, he could rest his arms on each side of the hallways as he walked through the building.

A hallway in the building which was once the Tooloom Hotel

A hallway in the building which was once the Tooloom Hotel

Tooloom Hotel

Tooloom Hotel

He also had interests in a number of goldmines and claims.  The best known of these ventures was the “Rise and Shine Gold Mining Company”. Family stories say that he and his son, Jack, salted the mine so that its wealth appeared greater than it actually was to attract investors.

In 1889 John returned to the Hunter Valley to marry Mary Eliza Macfarlane and brought her north with him.  There were no children of this marriage.

John Payne's grave

John Payne’s grave

Big John died in 1910 and is buried at Flagstone near Tooloom.

His widow ran the hotel for another ten years or so before she retired.

Mary Eliza Payne's send off from the Tooloom Hotel

Mary Eliza Payne’s send off from the Tooloom Hotel









People say that John’s ghost haunts the old Tooloom Hotel, now a private residence.  The more prosaic explanation is that it is the cedar which the walls are made out of creaking as the temperature changes.

I’d like to marry your daughter

Would you let your daughter marry this man?

I’ve written a little about William Henry O’Connor (1861-1900) before.  I’ve since learned a bit more about his life.

Physical description: 5 feet, 6 and a half inches tall, medium build, fresh complexion, dark brown hair, brown eyes, large scar centre forehead, small scar over left eyebrow, first joint small finger left hand missing, twitching in eyes

A somewhat disturbing description.  How did he acquire all those scars and lose part of his finger by the age of 20?

Gaol Entrance Book 1882

Gaol Entrance Book 1882

When he gained John Payne’s permission to marry John’s daughter, Laura Suzette (1871 – ??), he had the following impressive cv:

  • Learned to read and write
  • Trained as a journalist/compositor
  • 1881: charged with aiding a prisoner to escape, further charged with stealing a watch and chain
  • 1882: imprisoned in Grafton Gaol for theft but acquitted of aiding a prisoner to escape
  • 1884: released from prison
  • 1885: working in Narrabri, New South Wales and seeking permission to marry a thirteen-year-old
Some 19th Century Australian prisoners

Some 19th Century Australian prisoners

I don’t know what John Payne was thinking but he gave permission.

Their 1885 marriage entry is the last public record to be found for Laura.  William managed to stay out of jail but seems to have been down on his luck when he died of opium poisoning on the banks of a creek in Moree in 1900.

I’m not sure if this is the same William O’Connor (but I kind of hope it was) who in 1892 was travelling with Samuel Coutts Rinder who was wanted by the police. This O’Connor was described as “a frequenter at billiard rooms and racecourses, and sings comic songs when drunk”.

Encounter with a bushranger

“What’s that gun up there for?” asked the pleasant stranger who had knocked at Tilly Merchant’s door, asking for water.  He looked up at the rifle which hung on the wall above his head.

Tilly Merchant (or more liekly her daughter of the same name)

Tilly Merchant (or more likely her daughter of the same name)

While many of us would find it a bit odd for a stranger to knock at the door and ask for a glass of water, it wasn’t so unusual in outback Australia in the 1860s.  People rode long distances and often needed a rest along the way and food and water for themselves and their horse.

Tilly glanced over his head at the firearm.

“Oh, that’s in case Thunderbolt comes”, she replied.

“Well,” said the man, “I’m Thunderbolt.  What are you going to do since I’m standing between you and the gun?”

Tilly must have been terrified but the gentleman bushranger assured her that he meant her no harm and soon went on his way.

Or so the family story goes.

Not his best look - a photo taken of Frederick Ward (Captain Thunderbolt) after his death in 1870.

Not his best look – a photo taken of Frederick Ward (Captain Thunderbolt) after his death in 1870.

Frederick Ward (1835-1870), aka Captain Thunderbolt, was a bushranger who roamed New South Wales in the 1860s.  He had originally been sentenced to prison for horse stealing, later escaped the Cockatoo Island prison and remained at large in the New England area for several years.  The authorities were searching for him but he seemed to gain the sympathy of many of the people he came across.  He was known as the “gentleman bushranger” because he was rarely violent in his encounters with people he was robbing.  There are reports that he would sometimes attend race meetings and the like but was not “dobbed in” to the police because the ordinary folk protected him.

If the story of Tilly is accurate, however, there was still some fear of him in the community.

Is the story of Tilly accurate?

The timing and the location are right.  Matilda Elisabeth Merchant (nee Neale) arrived in Australia with her husband in 1855 in pursuit of gold and she lived most of her life in the New England area.  Her husband James died in 1865 and she remarried in 1869 to William Collins.

But, what makes me just a little bit sceptical is the number of articles and stories about how people encountered Thunderbolt.  Stories from others just seem a bit too similar to Tilly’s story to be coincidence.

For example, from an article originally published in the Armidale Telegraph:

It was a peculiarity of Thunderbolt’s that he could never rob any one with whom he first entered into conversation; his nature would not permit him; hence his custom was to ride up to a person he intended to rob, and without another word simply demand his money. He pretended never to have known what fear was, and instanced this by telling a story of some gentleman in New England who had made a boast that he would shoot him the first time he met him. A short time after Thunderbolt met the boaster, and saw that he was armed. Boldly riding up to him, the bushranger asked his name, and he told him. He intimated that he knew who he was, adding, “I am Thunderbolt.” The gentleman, he said trembled, and fumbled for his revolver, observing which he cried out “Up with your arms, or I’ll blow your brains out. You were to shoot me; now is my time.” He then took from him his gold watch and a revolver, the gentleman expecting, as a matter of course, to be shot. Thunderbolt, however, assured him of his safety, and rode many miles along with him on his way.

And this one about Aunt Laura (partial transcript below):


Thunderbolt 3



My Aunt Laura was not unduly alarmed at the sight of the handsome stranger who flourished his cabbage-tree hat and asked politely “May I have a glass of water?” Aunt Laura fetched him a glass.  As he drank he remarked casually “You are alone I presume” “Yes” she answered guilelessly. The gallant stranger than blew a whistle, and two very rough “men” appeared from nowhere.

No doubt many people encountered Thunderbolt but I’m not convinced that Tilly was one of them.


Walter Adams, pillar of the church, one-time Mayor and current member of state parliament, had a secret.


Walter Adams is marked on the left of this picture from the late 1880s or early 1890s.


Like his daughter-in-law, Catherine Mackinlay Adams Forrester, he was a bigamist.


Catherine Mackinlay  1868-1939

Catherine Mackinlay


Walter Adams (1830-1892)

Walter Adams (1830-1892)













After their arrival in New South Wales in 1849, Walter’s family (parents, brothers and sisters) lived initially in Sydney and then in the Hunter Valley. 

In 1851, Walter married Elizabeth Parnell in West Maitland, New South Wales.  In 1854, he married Mary Shannon in Gayndah, Queensland.

Mary Shannon (1832-1904)

Mary Shannon (1832-1904)

There is no record of the death of an Elizabeth Adams between 1851 and 1854 although the early records are incomplete.  Walter claimed to be a bachelor when he married for the second time.

What happened to Elizabeth?  She may have married Henry Baker in Richmond, New South Wales in 1853 or that may have been a different Elizabeth Parnell.

Did Walter and Elizabeth just agree to go their separate ways?

Was the reason Walter started a new life in Queensland to put some distance between them?

Did Mary know?


Black sheep and bigamy

What did Walter Adams, former Mayor of Bundaberg, Member of the Legislative Assembly of Queensland, respected and revered member of society, think when his son announced his intention to marry the daughter of a convicted criminal?

Walter Adams (1830-1892)

Walter Adams (1830-1892)

Admittedly, it was 16 years since Patrick Mackinlay’s release from prison but the sensational court case had been front page news.  Surely Walter would have known about it.

The Mackinlay Conspiracy





Walter’s son, James, was the black sheep of the family so perhaps his father’s opinion didn’t matter very much to him.  He was of full age and didn’t need his father’s permission to marry.

The relationship between Walter and James was obviously a rocky one.  In 1890, Walter wrote to his daughter about her brother, “I told him a few wholesome (sic) truths for which I shall not beg his pardon”.  Walter and James seem to have been reconciled shortly before Walter’s death in 1892 when Walter amended his will to include James as an executor and trustee (Connor, 2012).

James’ marriage was ill-fated.  James Walter Adams married Catherine Beatrice Mackinlay in Bundaberg in 1887 but by 1900 the couple had separated.  They never formally divorced.  Divorce after all was much less common, harder to obtain, and they were both Roman Catholic.

James Adams and Catherine Mackinlay  1887

James Adams and Catherine Mackinlay

James seems to have lived a lonely, semi-nomadic life in his remaining years with a horse named Gladys his final companion (Connor, 2012).

Catherine’s sisters had moved to Western Australia in the early 1900s because of a mining boom.  Catherine (or Sissy as she was known to the Mackinlays) and her two youngest children followed.  In 1908, Catherine married James Richard Forrester in Greenough, making herself a criminal by committing bigamy.

In those days of limited communication, Western Australia was a long way from Queensland.  Catherine was unlikely to run into anyone who knew that her first husband was still alive.  Of course her sisters knew but they doubtless thought Catherine better off well away from a man who family oral history says drank a lot and beat her.

Catherine in later years with her son, Ossie.

Catherine in later years with her son, Ossie.


Connor, R.L. and Connor, J.K. (2012). Bundaberg’s Beginnings: the Endeavours of Its Very Early Pioneers. Richard Laurence Connor: Brisbane.

Disproving another family story

Ned Kelly’s family used to come into his shop.

Two of his apprentices (Barry and Roberts) betrayed him and went on to start their own grocery store. 

He lost everything in a fire on Christmas Eve.

These were some of the family legends told about my great-great-grandfather, Patrick Mackinlay.

Like many family legends, they turned out to have a grain of truth but the facts had altered over the years – probably accidentally – but it’s possible that there was a deliberate attempt to hide what turned out to be a skeleton in the closet.

Patrick Mackinlay was born in County Antrim in Ireland in about 1836, the son of Patrick Mackinlay and Catherine Connolly.  He arrived in Australia in 1857 on board the “Commodore Perry” and was listed as a labourer.   His brother Denis arrived in 1860 aboard the “Persian”.  In 1861 “Mackinlay Brothers” were trading in Erskine Street, Sydney and advertised a couple of times in the newspaper – once they were looking for a second-hand cart and harness, and a revolver, and the other time for one ton of beeswax. 26122013kirkman.jpg

Patrick married Elizabeth (Eliza) Mary Theresa Walsh (daughter of Michael Walsh and Mary Ann Fennell) at Bandon Lachlan in 1863 at which time he listed his usual place of residence as Forbes and his occupation as storekeeper.   In 1866 the couple was living in Bathurst where both Patrick and Eliza owned property but by 1868 they were living in Mary Street, Brisbane and “Mackinlay Brothers”, grocers were trading in Edward Street.  It seems that Patrick was running the Brisbane store while Denis ran the Sydney stores (there was one in King St as well) and oversaw their operations in north Queensland.

Myths Busted

A simple search of Australian history showed that Australia’s most famous bushranger being a customer of Patrick Mackinlay’s was not likely, since the Mackinlays had probably left Victoria within a few years of Ned Kelly’s birth in 1855.

Ben Hall

Ben Hall

Ben Hall, arguably Australia’s second most famous bushranger, did however live in the Forbes area and was at large in the early 1860s so this may be a case where the story has been changed as it passed through the family by word of mouth.

The names of Thomas Joseph Barry and Samuel Roberts are familiar to anyone who has lived in Brisbane for a long time.  In 1898 Barry and Roberts “opened a small shop in George Street where they soon startled the trade and the public, by the cheapness of their goods”.   Their business model did indeed horrify their competitors – “old-fashioned retail merchants” (The North Queensland Register, May 15, 1905) – and may have impacted the business of Mackinlay Brothers but there is no evidence that they were apprentices to the Mackinlays and there is much more to the story of Mackinlay Brothers’ financial demise!

There were a few fires in the early days of Brisbane when most of the buildings were made of wood.  The “great fire” of December 1, 1864 destroyed buildings on Queen Street between George and Albert Streets and cottages between Queen and Elizabeth Streets but in 1864 Patrick was probably living in Forbes or Bathurst.

Another fire occurred in April 1870 in Elizabeth Street and it is mentioned in the Brisbane Courier (16 April) that flames in the roof of the cottage occupied by Mrs Mackinlay were extinguished but that the damage to the roof was minor.  Why was Mrs Mackinlay listed as the resident?  Because her husband was in jail in Sydney.

The Mackinlay Conspiracy

It is thanks to the National Library of Australia’s Trove website (http://trove.nla.gov.au) that I was able to find out about the circumstances surrounding this fire and another which affected the Mackinlays.  When I entered “Patrick Mackinlay” into the search field, the first newspaper article which popped up had the headline “Conspiracy to Defraud” and there followed a number of articles about Insolvency Courts. The Mackinlay Conspiracy

This is the short version of the story. As mentioned Patrick and Denis Mackinlay were trading as grocers in Sydney and Brisbane.  They also had some sort of operation in northern Queensland with stores held on Sweer’s Island in the Gulf of Carpentaria.

In June 1869 they were experiencing financial difficulties and declared insolvent (incidentally some thirty years before “Barry and Roberts” was established) but were still in business and attempting to meet the demands of their creditors. Somewhere around July they bought goods from two companies and said that they would be shipping these goods to Sweer’s Island with the intention of selling them in north Queensland.  The insured goods were loaded onto a ship called the “Snowbird” which the Mackinlays had recently purchased, and at this point, different people’s versions of the story begin to differ.

According to the prosecution at their Criminal Court trial, most of the goods were secretly removed and a large quantity of gunpowder was loaded.  The ship left port from Sydney heading north, Patrick Mackinlay came on board in Brisbane and on the next leg of the journey a fire broke out which ended in an explosion and the loss of the ship, although all on board made it safely to Townsville. The prosecution alleged that the Mackinlays and others working with them deliberately caused the explosion with the aim of claiming the insurance money meanwhile raising money by selling the goods which they claimed had been destroyed but which had in fact been “rebranded” and sold in Melbourne and New Zealand.

The lawyers for the Mackinlays maintained that their clients were not intending to defraud and that they were merely attempting to realise income from the sale of the goods in order to pay their creditors, those goods being destined for Sweer’s Island had been a misunderstanding or they had changed their minds about what to do with them, and the fire was a terrible accident.

The verdict and the aftermath

The jury obviously believed the prosecution and all the accused but one (James Bourke) were convicted and sentenced.  While acquitted on charges of conspiracy and fraud James Bourke went on to stand trial for receiving stolen goods.

Denis Mackinlay (1838-?), taken on his release from jail.

Denis Mackinlay (1838-?), taken on his release from jail.

The sentences given were:

Denis Mackinlay: 2 years for conspiracy and 3 years for fraudulent insolvency

Patrick Mackinlay:  2 years for conspiracy

James Rogers:  2 years for conspiracy and 3 years for fraud

George O’Brien: 2 years for conspiracy and 3 years for fraud

Alexander Shaw: 2 years for conspiracy and 2 years with hard labour for burning a ship

My great-great-grandfather’s defence lawyer claimed that Patrick was only a bit player and since he was living in Brisbane while all the operation was taking place in Sydney, had no real knowledge of what was going on.  He did receive a shorter sentence than the other men involved and Denis’ insolvency trial was certainly much more complicated.

The insolvency cases went on for several years, including once Patrick was out of prison but he went into business again and any rift with his brother must have eventually been mended because in March 1879 Patrick Mackinlay, Denis Mackinlay and Mary Ann Walsh (Patrick’s sister-in-law) who had been trading in co-partnership in Brisbane, Cairns, Torres Strait and Smithfield were declared insolvent.  A short six months later Patrick announced in the newspaper that he had purchased a grocery business (the Brisbane Tea Warehouse) from one Charles McLeod.  In 1883 insolvency procedures were again (or still) occurring, and in 1885 Patrick was advertising for all parties owing him money to please pay up!

Patrick Mackinlay appears in the Brisbane Post Office Directories up until 1908 at a series of addresses in inner Brisbane.  In 1888 he is listed as a grocer’s assistant, in 1903 as a commissioner’s agent.  From 1909 he was living in Merton St, Woolloongabba, which is where his funeral left from in 1916.

Was he a crook, a naïve victim of his brother’s scheming or just a businessman who made some bad decisions?



Ancestry.com. Victoria, Australia, Assisted and Unassisted Passenger Lists, 1839–1923 [database on-line]. Original data from Victoria. Inward Overseas Passenger Lists (British Ports). Microfiche VPRS 7666, copy of VRPS 947. Public Record Office Victoria, North Melbourne, Victoria.

Australian Marriage Index

Trove (National Library of Australia)

THE MACKINLAY BROTHERS’ AFFAIR. (1869, August 10). Clarence and Richmond Examiner and New England Advertiser (Grafton, NSW : 1859 – 1889), p. 3. Retrieved December 26, 2013, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article61890575

Classified Advertising. (1866, December 10). The Brisbane Courier (Qld. : 1864 – 1933), p. 3. Retrieved December 26, 2013, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article1277680

This article first appeared in the February 2014 edition of “Australian Family Tree Connections”.

Disproving family stories

Disproved family story 1.

My grandmother’s brother, her closest sibling in age, died of appendicitis.  It was actually meningitis and he died in the same epidemic which claimed the lives of a brother and a sister and almost took another brother and a niece.

Disproved family story 2.

May Payne (1895-1925)

May Payne (1895-1925)

Two other sisters – twins – were blue babies.  This medical term refers to a blueish tinge to the skin caused by either a congenital cyanotic heart defect or the ingestion of water with a high level of nitrate contamination.  One of the twins, Maude, died at three months of inflammation of the lungs so it’s possible that she had some sort of heart condition.  The other twin, May, died at the age of 29 of Bright’s Disease.  This was a term used to cover a variety of kidney diseases which are now referred to separately.


The death of May Payne, 1925

The death of May Payne, 1925







While I’m talking about historic medical terms, I would love to know what it was that the grandmother of these twins died of, a condition named as “tetere grave” on her death certificate.

 Disproved family story 3.

John Mulcahy (1849-1879)

John Mulcahy (1849-1879)

My great-grandfather John Mulcahy died in a mining accident when a tiny rock fell down into the shaft and hit him on the head.  He did die in a mineshaft but his death was caused by him falling into the 40-foot shaft.  His death came two months after the death of his third son and the birth of his fourth.  The family story goes on to say that the third son, Donald, died of whooping cough and that his mother was also very ill.  That can’t be proven or disproved now because Donald’s death certificate is very short on detail.

The best story I’ve disproved so far involved a bushranger, a fire and a betrayal.