Currawong, originally named Little Mackaral Beach, was settled by John Clarke in 1823, a NSW Military Veteran of the 102nd regiment whom Martin Burke had met aboard the Tellicherry in 1805-1806. The land was purchased by Martin Burke in 1824. John Clarke moved to Launceston, Tasmania, on retirement. Governor Thomas Brisbane formally granted the land to Burke on 16 January 1835.

Burke leased the 40 acres (16 hectares) that included Little Mackerel Beach to Patrick Flynn. According to Honorah Collins, a long-term resident of the area in the 1880s, Patrick Flynn lived at Little Mackerel Beach between 1850 and 1854. The section then passed to Cornelius Sheehan who leased it to various people. Although he did not live at Little Mackerel Beach, following Sheehan's death in 1864, his widow lived at the property until 1871 when the land was transferred to Joseph Starr, a mariner of Sydney. In 1872, the Wilson family purchased the land from Joseph Starr.

Born in 1789 in Glen Imaal, County Wicklow, Martin Burke was five foot eleven inches in height, had dark hair and a fair complexion. He was hardly good looking, his appearance being marked by a long rather pointed nose, a long face and uneven teeth. However he was well built, with a straight back, strong legs and thighs and although a little bowed at the knees from long periods spent in the saddle he walked with a very upright gait. In all Burke had the strength and skills of a mounted soldier and he was well respected by the bandits he led. In his youth Martin Burke worked in a brewery at Rathdrum but he left this employment at the outbreak of the 1798 (27 years old) Rebellion. Following the defeat of the rebels Burke took to the Wicklow Mountains where he became the trusted second in command of Michael Dwyer. 

Martin Burke was one of the five 'Wicklow Martyrs'. This description of Burke is one of a list of about 45 men who the government had published in Irish newspapers on 26th & 31st July 1799 and on 13th & 16th December 1799. Number 1 on the list was Michael Dwyer:

The following ROBBERS, MURDERERS and DESERTERS are now wandering about, and are occasionally concealed by disaffected persons in the Counties of Wicklow, Wexford, Carlow, Kildare, Dublin &tc and Rewards will be paid for securing such of them as are first mentioned agreeably to a Proclamation dated the 8th day of June last:
“MARTIN BURKE, five feet eleven inches high, dark hair, rather fair complexion, long nose bending downwards at the point, uneven teeth, long face, straight in the back, xat? Stoops in the shoulders down from his neck, strong legs and thighs, a little bowed at the knees, walks very upright, [blank] years old, born at or near Imale.

The July notices did not list a reward, however the December notices included a reward of “Two Hundred Guineas for taking him.”
Freemans Journal Tuesday 30 July 1805 page 2:
Thursday evening, Michael Dwyer, Martin Burke, Arthur Develin, Hugh Byrne and John Mernagh [sic], were conveyed from Kilmainham prison, by the Circular-road in carriages, and put on board an armed cutter in the river, which is to carry them to Cove, where a transport destined for Botany Bay, is ready to receive them.”

He was transported on the Tellicherry, arriving here on the 15th of February, 1806. By the end of 1806 Burke had formed a liaison with Phoebe Tunstall, a thirty nine year old convict who had arrived on the Nile from England in 1801 to serve a seven year sentence. Phoebe had been assigned to a small holder, Thomas Andrews, and she had a child by him in 1803. Her husband had operated a shop in Pitt Street in leased premises and, following his death in 1806, Phoebe and her young daughter Sarah, moved to Cabramatta to live with Martin Burke where he had a land grant. 

In late 1806 Martin Burke was arrested and charged with, “an attempt to disturb the good order and discipline of the colony”. It is not known who had brought the charges but in any event they were disproved and Burke was later released. 

Michael O'Dwyre, Hugh Byrne, Martin Burke, John Morner, Thomas McCann, William Morris, Arthur Develyn and Walter Clare, were put to the bar and indicted for conniving and intending to disturb the peace of this colony, by undergoing many persons to revolt from their allegiance, and to rise in open rebellion, which meant to overthrow His Majesty's Government therein, as well upon the 27th day of August last as at other subsequent periods, prior to the prisoners being taken into custody.

The evidence on the part of the Crown was clear and connected. It appeared upon the most respectable testimony, that the conduct of many of that defendants or prisoners who had been exiled for treasonable and seditious practices, had been untoward and highly disrepectful to their masters, at and about the above stated period; and that from this sudden change of conduct, in addition to the various informations that were communicated by persons whose veracity was to be depended on, no other inference was deducible than that the projected insurrection was upon the very point of bursting forth, and that the devoted victims to delusion and artifice were confident of a successful issue.

The prisoners were allowed every assistance requisite to their defence; which after some exculpatory argument, concluded generally with a point blank 
denial of the charge.

The Court was then cleared; and after a minute revision of the evidence, re-opened; when Thomas McCann and William Morris were found guilty, and the others acquitted.—The prisoners were taken from the bar, and ordered to be brought up to receive their sentences the following day; when 
Mr. James Ceroni, chief officer, and Mr. James Jeffries, purser of the General Wellesley, were then put to the bar and indicted on a charge of having seduced from their duty two seamen belonging to His Majesty's ship Porpoise, and encouraged them to desertion by permitting and contriving their secretion on board the ship General Wellesley and elswhere. After a clear and minute investigation, Mr. Jeffries was acquitted, and Mr. Ceroni being found guilty, was fined 20£ and sentenced to be imprisoned six months in His Majesty's gaol at Sydney.

Thomas McCann and William Morris were again brought forward, and ad-dressed by the Judge Advocate; who remarked to them, that notwithstanding the malignity of the crime they were convicted of upon, testimony clear and incontrovertible, yet the penalty incurred thereby did not extend to the lives of the. delinquents ; but the security of society from such foul, sanguinary, and abominable devices, rendered necessary the most exemplary punishment : " The Court did therefore adjudge and sentence them to receive one thousand lashes each; the Court recommending further, that as delinquents of the most dangerous principles and character, be removed by the most speedy conveyance to some remote place, where the baneful influence of their detestible principles might not be disseminated among other ignorant & credulous persons."

In pursuance of their sentence, the prisoners having received a part of their corporal punishment, have been sent away to different settlements, where the remainder will be inflicted.

May this example have a due impression upon the unwary mind, and guard it against the evil counsel of the villain, whose schemes are impotent, & whose presumption can alone be equalled by the rain which must inevitably fall upon himself and his coadjutors.

The odious project which has thus happily been laid open, had been in agi-tation for upwards of a twelvemonth; the secret informations received by Go-vernment rendered vigilance necessary, and every precaution that had been adopted was immediately succeeded by a change of measures among the principal agents in the work of intended massacre —and had their plots succeeded to their wish, dreadful indeed had been the fate of all, whom reason, loyalty, and humanity must inspire with sentiments of abhorrence and disgust at their intended plan of operations. COURT OF CRIMINAL JURISDICTION. (1807, June 7). The Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser (NSW : 1803 - 1842), p. 2. Retrieved from

William Bligh directed that Martin Burke, should go to Port Dalrymple (Launceston) in Van Diemen’s Land.  While awaiting transportation on board the vessel Porpoise in Sydney Harbour Burke arranged for Father James Harold to conduct a secret marriage service on the ship so that he was legally united with Phoebe Tunstall. While he was away Phoebe bigamously married a soldier, John Butler, at St Phillips Church in Sydney, ignoring the fact that her legal spouse was in exile in Tasmania. When Burke returned to Sydney early in 1809 Phoebe left her soldier husband and returned to Cabramatta with her young daughter, Sarah, to resume her life with Martin Burke. 

The reunion of the couple was marked by ill fortune since the house in which the pair were living caught fire and they were lucky to escape with their lives. Phoebe, Martin and young Sarah were left without any possessions or clothing and were reduced to a state of “extreme distress”. It appears that the other Irish families in the area came to the assistance of Burke and his small family and their house was rebuilt within a short period. 

Late on Tuesday night or early on Wednesday morning, a fire broke out in the farm house of Martin Burke, at George's River; which owing to the roof being thatched, scarce gave the persons, consisting of Burke, his wife, and child, time to escape ; but not a single article of wearing apparel or other property could be saved, by which the sufferers are reduced to extreme distress. SYDNEY. (1809, January 15)The Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser (NSW : 1803 - 1842), p. 1. Retrieved from

In 1809 Burke, along with those he had been transported with, was given a 100 acre land grant at Cabramatta.

By 1810 Governor Lachlan Macquarie had arrived in the colony and the State Prisoners presented a joint petition to have their pardons and land grants reconfirmed by the new governor. The five Wicklow men received their pardons in July 1811 and at the same time their finances were given a boost since they received stock from the government herd. In 1812 Martin Burke, at the prompting of Phoebe Tunstall, took the decision to give up farming and leased a tavern in Pitt Street. In that year he sold his Cabramatta farm to an Irishman, Bernard Burn, for the sum of 190 pounds. Burke appears to have succeeded in his new career and in 1813 he took over the lease of another Pitt Street hotel, The Hope and Anchor, paying seventy pounds per annum for the property. 

By 1816 Burke had decided to return to farming and he leased 500 acres at Bringelly from the surveyor, John Oxley, at a fee of thirty pounds per annum. Phoebe Tunstall remained the licensee at the Hope and Anchor but it seems that the hotel was by that time less profitable than it had been, mainly because of the fierce competition in the Pitt Street quarter of Sydney. It was at this time that Martin Burke agreed to become a police constable in the Bringelly area which at that time had a reputation for lawlessness and bushranging. It is evident that Burke needed the pay and provisions which came with the job since by 1820 he was unable to pay the arrears in his lease and John Oxley took him to court for the sum of ninety pounds. 

In July of that year he resigned from his post as Constable at Bringelly but not long after he was to take up a similar position at Pittwater. To settle his affairs Burke admitted his debt but as a consequence was forced to default on repayment of the debt and as a result thirty acres of land which he had purchased at Pittwater in 1813 were forfeited. 


HIS EXCELLENCY the GOVERNOR, on the Recommendation of WILLIAM MINCHIN, Esquire, Superin-tendent of Police, has been pleased to appoint Martin Burke to be a Constable at Pittwater, Broken Bay.

By His Excellency's Command,
J. T. CAMPBELL, Secretary.
GOVERNMENT AND GENERAL ORDERS. (1820, September 30). The Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser (NSW : 1803 - 1842), p. 1. Retrieved from

The situation was not entirely desperate since at about this time Martin Burke received another grant of fifty acres at Pittwater and he was later bought another thirty acres to add to his holding. In 1821 Martin Burke, Phoebe Tunstall and her two daughters (the second girl probably being the child of the soldier, John Butler) moved to Pittwater. 

The Irishman now under took a major risk since he leased 700 acres from d’Arcy Wentworth and once again began farming. It was presumably to provide himself with an additional income that Burke had accepted an appointment as a police constable in the Pittwater region. Like his fellow Irish police officers Burke must have been aware of the irony of the situation which saw a one time bandit chief appointed as an officer of the law but, unlike Dwyer, Burke appears to have been a conscientious, if not very effective, policeman. However there were other colonial citizens who were less assured about the suitability of such an appointment and in 1823 Martin Burke’s private affairs came under scrutiny when his marital status was questioned after an allegation had been made that an officer of the law was openly. “living in sin”. Martin Burke replied to this questioning with a letter to d’Arcy Wentworth in which he explained  that he had been,“ Married in Sydney in 1807 by the Reverent W. (J.) Harold, Catholic clergyman. By this marriage I have no children - but my wife’s two. I have always supported and was allowed their rations at Government store......”Burke, having at last admitted his secret marriage felt more secure in his official position and he proceeded to build a farmhouse near Mona Vale where he established a large garden and soon after he set about purchasing additional cattle. 

In 1818 his step daughter, Sarah, had married an Irish wheelwright, David Foley per Guilford in 1818 and the couple now moved to Pittwater to help Martin and Phoebe run the property. In 1819 Martin Burke leased an additional 200 acres at Bayview and by 1822 he had 34 head of cattle on the farm. The property had thirty four cleared acres of which three acres were under maize, one acre was producing potatoes and another acre was devoted to a fruit orchard. 

In 1822 Martin Burke was accused of dealing in the “slop” clothing which was issued to prisoners. It appears that he was buying the official clothing which was issued free to convicts, probably in return for liquor, and then selling the garments for profit. It was a cheap and miserable trade since the garments were issued on a yearly basis and, once a convict had parted with his clothing, the winter months would see him ragged and shivering with insufficient protection from the chilly winter days. In 1823 John Clark, a Veteran soldier of the 102 Regiment who had come free to the colony per Tellicherry, was granted land about Great and Little Mackerel Beaches (so named for the abundant supplies of this fish caught off the beaches in the early days of settlement). Together with Martin Burke the two men began farming and grazing cattle in the area in a partnership which lasted for a number of years. In 1825 Martin Burke subleased his 700 acres to David Foley but he retained the right to graze his cattle on the land as well as to retain one room in the dwelling house and half an acre for a garden. By this time Martin Burke was again the subject of a complaint, the basis of which was that he grazed cattle in the area but had no stockyards or stockmen so that his animals frequently were grazing on the properties of others. Given that Martin Burke was the district pound-keeper the local residents had no means of seeking to have the Burke cattle impounded since Burke would immediately release his own animals while keeping other “stays” firmly under lock and key until hefty pound fees were paid. In 1826 the Superintendent of Police, Captain Rossi, reported on the situation when he wrote, “ the man’s interest is certainly at variance with his public duty”. Rossi recommended that the next constable and pound keeper should be someone who held no land in the area and he went so far to say that, given that Burke had made very few arrests in his six years as a police officer, he did not appear to be very diligent in the execution of his duties. Martin Burke was now in his mid fifties and, given that his suitability for the role of officer of the law had been called into question, he appears to have been ready to give up the role of policeman. Burke continued to work on the property which he had leased until the acreage was sold in 1829. 

He also purchased a holding at Mackerel Beach (Currawong) in partnership with a John Clark( e), the soldier whom he had first met on the Tellicherry. The first record of European settlement in this area occurs in 1823 when land at Little Mackerel Beach, first promised to John Clarke by Governor Brisbane, was sold to his friend Martin Burke. Burke retained the land even after Clarke removed to Launceston. By 1824 Burke was the sole owner of this land and in the 1830s he continued to buy and sell land in the Pittwater area. By this time Phoebe Tunstall had died and Martin Burke began to prepare for retirement. He gradually disposed of his holdings but retained the house, outhouses and enough land to support himself with hens and vegetables. By 1832 William Booth also claimed he had been promised the land, which he was farming, but possibly because Booth had made no improvements the first Crown grant was given to Martin Burke in 1835. Burke’s final years were spent in a wooden cottage near Mackerel Beach where he was close to old friends, the Sheehan and Flynn families. Martin was still living at Mackerel Beach at the time of the 1841 census but he became ill in 1842 and then moved to the Sydney Asylum, a home for old men, where he died peacefully at the age of 79. 

109. Robert Mackintosh, senior, 200, Two hundred Acres, Parish of Narrabeen, commencing at the North-east corner of Robert Mackintosh, junior, forty acres, and bounded onthe west by that farm by a line South thirty-fit e degrees West thirty-two chains; on the South by a line South tifty-five degrees East fifty-twochains fifty links to Jeremiah Bryant's eightyacres ; on the East by Bryant's eighty acresand Peter Patillo'i» eighty acres by a line Norththirty-five degrees East thirty-nine chains toPitt Water; and on the North by the watersof Pitt Water to the commencwg co-Aer.
Promised by Governor Macquarie on 1stOctobevr, 1017.' Quit-rent 4s. sterling perannum, commencing 1st January, 1827.
110. Peter Patillo, 80, Eighty Acres,Parish of Narrabeen, commencing at the North-east corner of Robert Mackintosh's two hundred acres, and bounded on the West by that farm by a line South thirty-five degrees West twenty sixchains fifty links to the North corner of Jeremiah Bryant's eighty acres ; on the South by Bryant by a line South seventy-four and a-half degrees East thirty-eight chains fifty links to a swamp called " Winne Jeramy ;" and on the East and North by that Swamp and Pitt Water to the commencing comer,
Promised by Governor Macquarie on 10thJanuary, 1810. Qui'-rent 1s. sterling per annum, commencing 1st January, 1827.
111. Jeremiah Bryant, 80, Eighty Acres,Parish of Narrabeen, commencing at the South-east corner of Peter Patillo's eighty acres, and bounded on the North by that farm by a line. North seventy-four and "a-half degrees West thirty-eight chains fifty links to Robert Mackintosh's two hundred acres'; on the West by that farm by a line South thirty-five degrees West twenty-three chains; on the West by a line South thirty-five degrees East twenty-five chainsto a swamp ; and on the East by the swamp to the commencing corner.
Promised by Governor Macquarie on 12th March, 1821. Quit-rent Is. sterling per annum,commencing 1st January, 1827.
112. John Taylor, 30, Thirty Acres, Parishof Narrabeen, commencing at the South-westcorner of John Williams' sixty acres, and bounded on the East by J. J. Therry's twelvehundred acres by a lire South twenty-threechains to a small Bay ; and on the South-west and North by the waters of Pitt Water to the
commencing corner.
Promised by Governor Macquarie on 16th January, 1316. Quit-rent Is. sterling per annum,commencing 1st January, 1827.
113. Thomas Warner, 50, Fifty Acres,Parish of Narrabeen, commencing at the Northcast corner, and bounded on the East by a sideHue of twenty-five chains; on the South by aWest line of twenty-five chains to Pitt Water;and on the West and North by the waters ofPitt Water to the commencing corner.
Promised by Governor Macquarie on 31stMarch, 1821. Quit-rent Is. sterling per annum,commencing 1st January, 1827.
114. Henry Gaskin, 50, Fifty Acres, Parish of Narrabeen, commencing at the North-east corner of Warner's fifty acres, and bounded on the West by a South line of twenty-nine chains; on the South by an East line of twenty chains ; on the East by a North line of twenty four chains to Pitt Water ; and on the North by the waters of Pitt Water to the commencing corner. Promised by Governor Macquarie on 31st March, 1821. Quit-rent Is. sterling per tan-num, commencing 1st January, 1827.
115. John Joseph Therry, 1200, One thousand two hundred Acres, Parish of Narrabeen, commencing at the South-east comer of the Government Reserve of two hundred and eighty acres, and bounded on the North by that Reserve by a line West twenty-five chains to a Stream ; on the North by that Stream and Ca-reel Bay to the North-east corner of Henry Gaskin's fifty acres; on the West by Gaskin's by a line South twenty-four chains ; on the South by a line West twenty chains, and again by a line North four chains to the South-east corner of. Warner's fifty acres; on the North by Warner by a line West twenty-five chains to Pitt Water; on the West by the waters of Pitt Water to the North-west coiner of John William's sixty acres ; on the South by that farm by a line South fifty degrees East 38 chains ; on the West by a line South forty decrees West sixteen chains ; on the North by a line North fifty degrees West thirty-nine chains to the North corner of John Taylor's thirty acres ; on the West by Taylor by a line South twenty three chains to Pitt Water ; on the West by the waters of Pitt Water to the North-west corner of James M'Donald's thirty acres ; on the South by that farm by a line East eleven chains ; on the West by a line South twenty-three chains to Robert Melvyn's sixty acres; on the South by part of Melvyn's farm, and by Porter's and Anderson's farms by a line East fifty chains to Martin Burke's fifty acres; on the East by that farm by a line North six chains to a Stream ; on the East by that Stream, which is the Western boundary of John Farrell's sixty acres; on the South by that farm by a line East twenty-eight chains to the Village Reserve of one hundred acres ; on the East by part of the Village Reserve by a line North seven chains to a Stream ; on the South by that Stream, which is the North boundary of the Village Reserve to the Sea; and on the East by the Sea to the commencing comer.
Promised by Sir Thomas Brisbane, 200 acres, on 23d July, 1824 ; 500 acres on 1st September,1824; and 500 acres on the 19th December,1825. Quit-rent £9 8s. 4d. sterling per annum, commencing 1st January, 1829.
116. John Farrell, 60, Sixty Acres, Parish of Narrabeen, commencing at the North corner of Martin Burke's fifty acres and James M'Nally's thirty acres, and bounded on the South by M'Nally by a line East ten chains; on the East by the Village Reserve by a line North twenty-eight chains ; on the North by aline West twenty-eight chains to a Stream; on the West by that Stream to Martin Burke's fifty acres ; and on the East by that farm by a line North three chains to the commencing corner.
Promised by Governor Macquarie on 31st March, 1821. Quit-rent Is. sterling per annum, commencing 1st January, 1827.
117. Martin Burke, 50, Fifty Acres, Parish of Narrabeen, commencing at the South-east corner of Robert Anderson's sixty acres, and bounded on the West by that farm, by a line North thirty-six chains; on the East by James M'Nally's thirty acres, by a line South forty four degrees East twenty-nine chains, to the entrance of a salt water creek; and on the South by that creek to the commencing corner.
Promised by Governor Macquarie on 31st March, 1821. Quit-rent Is. sterling per annum, commencing 1st January, 1827.
Classified Advertising. (1832, November 1). The Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser (NSW : 1803 - 1842), p. 1. Retrieved from

9. Cumberland, fifty acres, parish of Broken Bay, situated at the basin at Pitt-water, commencing at a marked tree in a small bay, and bounded on the west by a line north 22 chains ; on the north by a line east 25 chains to Pitt-water; and on the south east and all other sides by that water to the marked tree. Applied for by Martin Burke. Price five shillings per acre. Colonial Secretary's Office, Sydney, 5th Nov. 1833. SALE OF LAND. (1833, November 11). The Sydney Herald (NSW : 1831 - 1842), p. 4. Retrieved from

CUMBERLAND-50 Acres Parish of Broken Bay, and at the Basin at Pittwater; applied for by Martin Burke ; price 5s. per Acre No Title. (1834, January 14). The Sydney Monitor (NSW : 1828 - 1838), p. 3 Edition: MORNING. Retrieved from

No. 188. By Martin Burke, of Pitt Water, to 100 acres of land, promised by Sir Thomas Brisbane to John Clarke, now of Launceston, a pensioner of the 102 ½ regiment, described as follows: situate in the county of Cumberland, parish of Broken Bay, 60 acres at Great Mackerel Beach, (in the western shore of Pitt Water, and 40 acres adjoining and extending towards an inlet called the Basin, bounded on the north by  James Retbey's 40 acres, on the west by a line south 46 chains, in the south by a line east 18 chains, and on the east by the Little Mackerel Beach, Pitt Water, and The Great Mackerel Bench. CLAIMS TO LAND. (1834, April 28). The Sydney Herald (NSW : 1831 - 1842), p. 4. Retrieved from

ROBERT EMMET. The Centenary of His Execution His Companions Exiled to New South Wales.

Michael Dwyer, John Mernagh, Hugh Byrne, Martin Bourke, Arthur Develin, John Fitzpatrick, and Lawrence Fenton. Their Persecutions under Bligh. (No.V.) 

(By 'Old Chum')

Among the papers of Governor King which have been published in the "His-torical Records," is one of interest now in connection with Emmet's Insurrec-tion. It is from Secretary A. Marsden to Governor King, and dated from Dublin Castle, August 17, 1805, nearly two years after the execution of Emmet :

Sir,— The Lord Lieutenant of Ire-land has this day signed a warrant for transmitting one hundred and thir-ty men and thirty-six women, now embarked on board the Tellichery in Cork Harbor, for New South Wales. Among the number are five men, Michael Dwyer, John Mernagh, Hugh Byrne, Martin Burke and Arthur Develin, who were engaged in treasonable practices here, and who have requested to be allowed to banish themselves for life to New South Wales to avoid being brought to trial; and as it has been deemed expedient to make such a compromise with them, they are sent there. Not having been convicted, they claimed the advantage of this distinction; the effect of which is not, however, to prevent their being subjected to all the laws and discipline of the settlement and that any further indulgence is to be earned by their behavior, of which there has been no reason to complain during The term of their confinement here. I have, etc., A. MARSDEN. 

John Fitzpatrick and Lawrence Fenton came to New South Wales under the terms contained in Mr. Marsden's letter. Here there is an alleged breach of faith on the part of the Earl of Hardwicke, the then Lord Lieutenant of Ireland and his immediate advisers. Dwyer sent a message to Mr. William Hoare Hume, of Humewood, that he would accept the terms offered, by the Government, which were some cash and permission to go to America. Mr. Hume had waited upon the Lord Lieutenant, of Ireland and the Castle authorities were so pleased to be rid of such a troublesome fellow that they agreed to give him £500 and his passport to America. 

Dwyer refused the terms unless his friends Burke and Byrne were similarly dealt with. Eventually it was settled that Dwyer should have £500, and his two companions £200 each. This being settled, Dwyer met Hume, each unarmed and alone at a spot fixed upon, and went to Humewood, where Dwyer remained ten days. Hugh Byrne and Martin Burke soon after took up their abode in the same hospitable dwelling. It must not be supposed that Mr. Hume was entirely disinterested in desiring the surrender of Michael Dwyer. 

The tenants on the Humewood Estate, though sympathisers to a man with the Irish insurgents, were complaining of the raids of the Yeomanry and the "regulars," who, while professing to search for rebels, were really raiding the pea-santry. Mr. Hume wrote to Dublin Castle that Dwyer and his two lieuten-ants had surrendered. In ten days Hume, Dwyer, Byrne and Burke set out for Dublin, and at the Castle the terms of surrender were repeated and ratified. Quarters were to be provided for the trio that night in the Castle. Next day Mr. Hume called to see how the ex-rebels were getting on, and to his amazement, found that the three had been removed to Kilmainham Gaol, prior to their transportation to Botany Bay. Annoyed at this breach of faith, Mr. Hume waited upon Earl Hardwicke to remonstrate, when that "noble-man" told him that the Executive did not feel bound by any promises made to rebels, and that Mr. Hume need not feel any way squeamish about them. Hume fiercely retorted that he wished he had left the men in their native hills, where Lord Hardwicke did not dare to look for them. 

"They shall have their lives and nothing else," observed the Lord Lieutenant, and with that the interview closed. Hume went to Kilmainham to explain himself, and on leaving gave Dwyer £10 and Burke and Byrne £5 each, all the cash he had about him. Through this breach of faith the men whose names head this article came to New South Wales, and each one made a good colonist, though Governors King and Bligh threw every obstacle in the way of their success in the new land, and in their efforts to start a new life. Governor King made his complaint before he had any experience of the men by the Tellicherry

That vessel arrived on February 15, 1806 and Governor King writing to Secretary Marsden, seven days after, penned this :— 

However great the necessity must be of sending such characters as Dwyer and four other persons from Ireland to this settlement, yet I cannot but regret that they were sent without convictions, which I am apprehensive may not be attended with the most pleasant consequences to this colony, where more than half the present inhabitants are subordinate characters of the same description, and who perhaps only want the assistance and abilities of leaders to renew what has been so lately got under. As Dwyer and his companions are not liable to the restraint placed on prisoners sent here under the sentence of the law, they very justly consider themselves en-titled to all the rights and immunities of free subjects, but how far they may prove legal ones remains to be discovered by their future conduct. That no plea may be made by them of wanting the means to obtain their living by industry, and well knowing the capricious disposition of the Irish character, I have very clearly explain-ed to them the footing they are on, and on their promises of being circumspect in their conduct, and not giving any cause of complaint, I have allow-ed them to become settlers, with the encouragement generally given to free settlers sent from England. How far these indulgences will operate on their turbulent dispositions time will show. King does not enlighten us as to what the "encouragement" and "indulgences" were, as the grants of land were not for some time after King left, perhaps he gave them permission to sell rum. 

Governor Bligh was, like King, very apprehensive of rebellion; and his apprehensions were not of the Irish alone though that nationality had to bear the brunt of his suspicions and irritability. In writing to the Right Hon. W. Windham under date Government House, Sydney, March 19, 1807 :

-In general we are improving, and have every hope we shall do well, notwithstanding a late attempt to insurrection, which has been preparing for 18 months past, and was to have, been put into execution the day before I arrived, but was prevented by my appearance off the coast, and of which Governor King had an alarm. No arms have been found, or any positive overt act been committed, our information only leading to declared plans which were to be put into execution by the Irish convicts, headed by O'Dwyer (sic) and some of the Irish State prisoners, as they are here called. It appears that, in order to avoid detection, they determined to rest their success on seizing the arms of the loyal inhabitants; and in order to effect this, the Irish servants of the inhabitants were, on a certain time fixed, to massacre their respective masters and the principal persons of the colony, and then to possess them-selves of their arms. Of this determination I continued to have proofs, more or less, when I at once determined on seizing the persons represented as ringleaders, and effected my purpose. O'Dwyer I have put on board the Porpoise : Byrne, Burke, and some others are in jail for trial, and will be brought forward as soon as our evidences are all arranged and prepared. 

Governor King's statement that "more than half the present inhabitants of the colony" were of the same insurrectionary stamp as Michael Dwyer is sheer non-sense, as the records show the number of prisoners then in New South Wales, and generally indicates their nationality. But Governor Bligh "takes the cake" for reckless statements, and seeing the style in which he took in hand these "Irish rebels," we can scarcely wonder that when he placed "irreverent hands" upon the English loyalists in the colony the latter very soon became rebels in fact, their rebellion overshadowing anything that had occurred of that description in New South Wales previously or since. 

Bligh, on March 19, 1807, said that the intended insurrection had been "preparing for 18 months" yet from Kings note we find that Dwyer and his friends "per Tellichery" arrived just 13 months before. But what an opinion Bligh must have formed of himself and his prowess when he tells us that his arrival off the coast had prevented the insurrection taking place! 

"No arms were found, and no overt act committed," yet Bligh cast his net and made a haul on mere suspicion. Worthy, indeed, of the best days of "Buckshot" Forster. From an account given in the "Sydney Gazette" of August 10, 1806, it ap-pears that when the suspicion of the existence of the alleged plot was first formed, the rumor found no credence, Governor King, with all his nervous-ness, did not believe it. (King retired from the government on August 12, 1806, Bligh assuming the government next day.) 

It will be remembered that the "Sydney Gazette" in those days was the Government organ and under the censorship of Government House : consequently Bligh must have fathered the paragraph which appeared in the news-paper of February 22, 1807 :-

They were to have destroyed the Governor, who they supposed would be going into the country as soon as the Buffalo had sailed, on his way to the Hawkesbury, and which was to have been the commencement of the general insurrection. The New South Wales Corps were to have been surprised, the leading gentlemen of the colony were to have been killed at the same time, the Porpoise and shipping were to have been seized, and a general massacre was to have taken place. We may rest assured that George Howe, editor and Government Printer, never wrote a line of that. Bligh's malignant spirit is shown in every word and letter. 

Surgeon John Harris, in a long letter to ex-Governor King, dated October 25, 1807, writes thus :— 

Know, then, that shortly after your departure the Governor seemed to think that he had suffi-cient information against the crop-pies to annihilate the whole of the supposed leaders. He consequently had O'Dwyer (sic), Burn (sic), Burke and Merney (sic) taken up and tried, but nothing appearing against them they were acquitted but not without their total ruin, as they were sent from their farms to different outposts. Two of the men who swore against them being for life, one of them a servant, of that scoundrel Ramsay, and a notorious character, his Excellency thought proper to give them free pardons, and which will be all of the kind he will ever do as he does not seem to have much of the milk of human kindness in him. He has executed more men in the time he has been here than you did the whole of the time you were with us, nor has he ever given any reprieve, except to a man condemned the day his friend Gore was acquitted. 

At the date of the letter Bligh had been 14 months in the colony. King had been over six years. In a progress report from Bligh to Windham, dated October 31, 1807, occurs this passage :— 

Referring to my letter of March 19, stating that an insurrection was on the eve of breaking out, and that the leading persons were taken up, I have to inform you, sir, that, they have since been tried, and the fact, in my opinion, proved, yet they were acquitted, except two, who were sentenced to corporeal punishment. The whole being prisoners for life, I immediately divided the gang, and sent two to each of the settlements of Norfolk Island, the Derwent, and Port Dalrymple, and kept two here. The two men who informed me of this conspiracy gave their evidence so steadily as to induce me to give them free pardons, and they remain here without any apprehension of being molested by the disaffected Irishmen. Bligh appears to have been a persistent perverter of the truth. 

The men Dwyer, etc., were not convicts for life ; they were to all intents and purposes settlers, according to the letters of Marsden and of King, quoted above. Lieutenant Minchin, who was one of the Court trying Dwyer and his comrades, spoke very highly of Michael Dwyer. The evidence at the trial of these eight suspects was not published. The "Sydney Gazette" of June 7, 1807, gives a short account of the trial, which took place in May. Bligh taking ample time to eliminate such portions as did not suit his purpose. The men were charged with "contriving and intending to disturb the peace of this colony by instigating many persons to revolt from their allegiance, and to rise in open re-bellion, with intent to overthrow his Majesty's Government herein, as well as upon the 27th day of August last, as at other subsequent periods prior to the prisoners being taken into custody." The two principal witnesses were the two convict informers to whom Bligh granted free pardons, and who, strange to say, again, according to Bligh, were not afraid to remain in the colony amongst the disaffected Irish. 

The writer in the "Sydney Gazette," inspired, or censored by Bligh, writes :— 

''It appealed upon the most respectable testimony (two convicts!) that the conduct of many of that description of prisoners, who had been exiled for treasonable and seditious practices, had been untoward and highly disrespectful to their masters, at and about the abovestated periods, and that from this sudden change of con-duct, in addition to the various informations that were communicated by persons whose veracity was to be depended upon, no other inference was deducible than that the insurrection was on the very point of bursting forth, and that the devoted victims of delusion and artifice were confident of a successful issue. 

Notwithstanding the "respectable" evidence, six of the eight were acquitted, not by juries such as to-day are summoned, but by jury of military and officials all in the pay of the Crown, and interested in maintaining the supremacy of the Crown in this colony. The writer in the "Gazette" thus winds up his report : 

The odious project which has, thus happily been laid open, had been in agitation for upwards of a twelve-month. The secret information received by the Government (two convicts) rendered vigilance necessary, and every precaution that had been adopted was immediately succeeded by a change of measures among the principal agents in the work of the intended massacre, and had their plots succeeded to their wish, dreadful indeed had been the fate of all whom reason, loyalty and humanity must inspire with sentiments of abhorrence and disgust at their in-tended plan of operations. 

No one to-day will accuse the editor of the "Gazette," himself an exile, with having composed the above. The indictment was, without doubt, drawn by George Crossley, the convict attorney transported for forgery, whom Bligh employed as his legal adviser; and it is also apparent that the report in the 'Gazette' was the product of the same fertile brain. Two of the eight, were convicted and sentenced to receive one thousand lashes each! 

On May 27, 1807, Bligh sent — aboard the Porpoise - to Norfolk Island two of the suspects. Michael O'Dwyer and William Morris, with the following order to Captain John Piper, the Commandant :-

Michael O'Dwyer and William Morris, two convicts for life (the lie repented) being removed from this settlement, you are hereby required and directed to receive the said two men, and victual them accordingly. Taking care that they are not suffered to quit Norfolk Island unless by authority under my hand. And the said William Morris, having received five hundred and twenty-five lashes pursuant to his sentence of one thousand, you are hereby required to direct the remaining part of four hundred and seventy-five lashes, to be inflicted according to the warrant sent herewith by the Judge Advocate. Could anything be more ferocious than the instructions conveyed in this order? 

Presumably the unfortunate "suspect," Morris, succumbed at 525, and the tyrant was compelled to postpone the remainder until the culprit's back had healed. Agreeably to Bligh's order, the others were sent, two to Port Dalrymple and two to Hobart Town. Dwyer was recalled from Norfolk Island during Colonel Johnstone's Governorship; the others were also recalled, and Colonel Patterson, during his government (in 1809) gave Dwyer, Develin, Byrne, Burke and Mernagh grants of 100 acres each in the district of Cabramatta

(To be concluded.)

ROBERT EMMET. (1903, September 27). Truth (Sydney, NSW : 1894 - 1954), p. 3. Retrieved from