November 30 - December 6, 2014: Issue 191
Maria Louisa Therry
Manly Beach - circa 1860 - courtesy State Library of Victoria - Image No.: H3671.
Maria Louisa Therry
1819/1822 - 1886
In Mona Vale Outrages George Champion OAM relates the history of what became known as 'Mona Vale Farm' and the persecution of any and all who took over the lease on this property, including the The Murder of David Foley as related in an earlier Issue by Shelagh Champion OAM.
As Mr Champion states:
“Mona Vale” continued to be advertised for lease until July 1862. About this time James Therry arrived in the Colony with his family. He was the nephew of the Rev John Joseph Therry, who had substantial land holdings to the north of John Farrell II. James Therry took the lease of “Mona Vale” and renovated the house for his family. However, before they could occupy the residence it was destroyed by fire, on 5 November 1862. Suspicion fell on John Farrell II, as Therry had already had occasion to speak to him about his cattle trespassing on “Mona Vale”, whereupon Farrell had said that Mr Therry would not remain on the farm for six months. At the inquest into the fire, however, the jury concluded that “the said premises, situated at Mona Vale, Pitt Water, were wilfully and maliciously set fire to, but the evidence does not clearly show who the guilty party or parties are.” According to the Sydney Morning Herald, Therry was then threatened that if he did not leave the district he might expect further injury, not only to his property but to his person.
The Therry family persevered, living in tents and a makeshift hovel. A reporter from the Empire, who visited the remains of the ruined homestead, said he saw standing near what had been the hearth of the burnt dwelling-house, a woman, who, from her manners and conversation, was evidently a lady. A number of young children were also gathered round a small hovel which had been erected on a rising ground beyond.
The lady spoken of was Maria Louisa Therry (nee Barry) born 1819, although some sources state her date of birth was 1822. Her Baptism took place in 1823, her parents being Thomas Barry and Maria (nee Gavin).
The number of young children Maria Louisa brought to Sydney was eight: Eugene (died aged 84 – born 1853), Edward, James Joseph, Birdie (Frances May), Helena Geraldine, John Nicholas Therry, Maria Elizabeth Josephine, and Gerald Joseph (died aged 9).
Right: 1840 Daguerreotype from New York( not Maria but showing dress of that period)
After corresponding with Father Therry, James Therry, emigrated from Waterford, Ireland with his wife, eight children and a servant, arriving in Melbourne on the Queen of Australia on 12 April 1862, and in Sydney by the Wonga Wonga on 17 April 1862:
Departure.— Within the past few weeks a gentleman who for some years resident amongst us, during which period officially and in the private relations of life, our very esteemed friend endeared himself to all with whom he came in contact, has, with his family, taken his departure for Sydney.The gentleman to whom we allude is James Therry, Esq., late Supervisor of Excise in the city. While discharging the onerous duties attaching to his offiicial position in this city, Mr. Therry's conduct was such is to merit the warm approbation of his superiors, and to give the utmost satisfaction to the traders and general public. After a long career, Mr. Therry retired from the public service on superannuation and, as we have, said, has sailed for another land, where his many friends wish him along and happy career. — Waterford News, January 3.— The gentlemen alluded to in the above paragraph arrived in Sydney a few days ago in the Melbourne steamer, having called there on his way. ASSASSINATION OF A YOUNG IRISHMAN IN FRANCE. (1862, April 26). Freeman's Journal(Sydney, NSW : 1850 - 1932), p. 3. Retrieved from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article115760074
The date of the article above is interesting in view of an April 23, 1862 article that relates a visit to Avalon by Father Therry includes information stating the good priest abandoned plans to preach in St Micheal's Cave due to ill health. This had been advertised numerous time prior to the excursion as the 'inaugural' sermon in this cave. An Empire report (The Story of Mona Vale - below) seems to state that James Therry may have been among the excursionists and this is when he first fell in love with Pittwater. See: A Steamer to Pittwater, A Run to Pittwater, A Trip to Pittwater and A Brief Respite - In Pittwater!
Despite Father Therry's extensive land grants at what we now call 'Avalon' the Therry's struck out on their own, taking the lease at Mona Vale Farm. While her husband set to work repairing the house on this property to make it fit for his family, Maria Louisa appears to be a trained housekeeper, who not only found time to look after her children, having brought a nurse with her and being used to employing and managing servants, but also to go into business herself:
TO BE LET, MONA VALE.-This well-known Dairy and Agricultural Farm, at Pittwater, close to Manly Beach, is now offered on Lease in one block, or will be divided in small farms, on clearing leases, for a term of years. The grant is 700 acres ; but a much greater is comprised, forming not only a rich Agricultural and Dairy Farm, with abundance of fine timber, but an extensive and secure horse and cattle run, well watered, within an hour's drive to the steamers at Manly, for the Sydney markets. The homestead consists of about forty acres of paddocks, with farm-house and out-buildings. APPLY F. O'BRIEN, 320, George-street. Advertising (1862, July 10). The Sydney Morning Herald (NSW : 1842 - 1954), p. 2 (The Sydney Morning Herald). Retrieved from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article13231223
MRS. J. THERRY begs to inform her friends and the public, that she has opened a new GROCERY ESTABLISHMENT at No. 68, William street, Woolloomooloo, which will be supplied with a choice selection of Teas, Sugars, Spices,Bacon, Hams, Flour, Cheese. Butter, &c, suited for family use. MRS. THERRY hopes by unremitting attention, as well as a strict regard to the interest of those who may kindly favour her with their custom, to merit a share of public patronage. Advertising. (1862, September 17). Freeman's Journal (Sydney, NSW : 1850 - 1932), p. 7. Retrieved from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article115760364
MRS. J. THERRY- same as above: Advertising. (1862, November 15). Freeman's Journal (Sydney, NSW : 1850 - 1932), p. 8. Retrieved from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article115429062
William Street, Sydney, ca. 1889, courtesy Powerhouse Museum
While Louisa worked or managed this business, her husband kept himself busy as well. While a report around the time he took the lease at Mona Vale includes an indication that he may well have had a bit of a temper as he too was fined £1 for striking Barbara Selwyn who may have struck him first during one visit to his Sydney town housed family:
Frederick Selwyn, Barbara his wife, and Janet the daughter, appeared on summons, to answer the information of James Therry, who charged them with having unlawfully assaulted him. He deposed that, about a week since, he was returning home in the dusk of the evening, when some persons at some distance from the road called to him, making use of both abusive and insulting words; not recognising the voices,-it was too dark to distinguish the persons at such a distance-he went toward them, to know why such language was used toward him ; he followed them into a yard at the back of a house, and spoke to them; Mrs. Selwyn was the first to assault him, striking him on the head with something like a glass bottle, the daughter struck him with a crutch, and the male defendant struck him on the arm with a spade; the blow on the head cut him, and he bled from the wound until he was almost insensible. Defendants were each found guilty : Frederick was sontenced to pay a penalty of £3, or to be imprisoned one month, Barbara, to pay £2, or to be imprisoned fourteen days ; and Janet to pay 10s. or to be imprisoned forty-eight hours.. CENTRAL POLICE COURT. (1862, August 13). The Sydney Morning Herald (NSW : 1842 - 1954), p. 5. Retrieved from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article13232736
HEIFERS wanted.-From 20 to 100 Heifers wanted to purchase; to be delivered at Sydney. Parramatta or Pitt Water. Apply to JAMES THERRY, 66 William-street. Advertising. (1862, September 16). The Sydney Morning Herald (NSW : 1842 - 1954), p. 1. Retrieved fromhttp://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article13234150
TO BOAT-OWNERS.-Wanted, a 40 or 50-ton BOAT ON HIRE, for the carriage of billet wood from Pittwater to Sydney. Apply to Mr. JAMES THERRY, 66, William-street. Advertising. (1862, October 7). The Sydney Morning Herald(NSW : 1842 - 1954), p. 1. Retrieved from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article13235120
Having prepared the premises at Mona Vale, James Therry set off to Sydney Town to collect his family
FIRE AT PITT WATER-INQUEST-The City Coroner, on Saturday last, held an investigation into the cause of this fire, which occurred at Mona Vale, a farm of Captain Darley's the inquiry was concluded on Monday the 1st instant, and from the evidence it appeared that the farm for a long time had been tenantless, and used as a common by one Mr. Farrell, and one or two others. About four months ago the farm was taken by Mr Therry, who prevented the cattle of other people from trespassing, to the wounding of the feelings of his neighbours, who had used the place so long. On the 5th November Mr. Therry was in Sydney, and the farm was in charge of a man named Madden, who went on with the usual work of the place in the morning he came to the kitchen for breakfast, in company with another man, named Turner, and again left for work, leaving everything right, the same at dinner. But between three and four o clock they saw smoke in the direction of the house. Mr Farrell was seen near the house about two o'clock the same day A number of witnesses were examined, but their was no direct evidence to show how the house was set on fire. It was situated at great distance from any other house. The jury returned the following verdict-"We find that the dwelling-house and out-houses at Mona Vale were wilfully and maliciously set fire to on the 5th November, but the evidence does not clearly show who the guilty person or persons may be"-Abridged from S M Herald. SYDNEY NEWS. (1862, December 6). The Maitland Mercury and Hunter River General Advertiser (NSW : 1843 - 1893), p. 7. Retrieved from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article18692398
Pittwater Church of England and Bolton's Farm from the Road; illustration from the Pittwater and Hawkesbury Lakes Album. 1880, Courtesy the Mitchell Library
Maria Louisa was still advertising her grocery business ten days after this fire but the destruction of the dwelling house, along with £150 worth of furniture that had been bought to furnish it, and the purchase of cattle to stock the property with, may have caused a reduction in the finances of the Therry's. Louisa, her nurse and her eight children had arrived just in time for a series of events that culminated in the destruction of her husband's whole herd of cattle. The persecution by the Farrell's and the 'mad' Collins of Narrabeen went on from the outset until 1865. These records, while distressing to read through but are also the only place we may hear how Maria Louisa spoke.
Also, as stated by her, she was absent during some of these incidences and her then eighteen year old daughter, Maria Elizabeth Josephine Therry, who was also called to give evidence at the subsequent trials, may have been fulfilling the duties of housekeeper on the farm. In some of the reports of this trial, which went on for almost a year, Maria Elizabeth is said to be the second daughter.
There is also the targeting of Maria by the Farrell's, to discredit her testimony, to cause more distress, more money to be spent on defence. Reports from this time state unremitting rain, and how that affects young children, as well as being accustomed to more suitable surroundings and lodgings, would have caused Maria to find shelter where she could keep her young ones safe, dry and warm :
John Farrell, senior, of Pitt Water farmer, was charged by James Therry, of Mona Vale, Pitt Water, with refusing to pay the sum of three shillings as satisfaction for trespass, committed on the property occupied by complainant, by six head of cattle, the property of defendant, on the 3rd instant. Defendent was ordered to pay 3s., with 6s. 6d, costs of Court; in default of payment, to be imprisoned during twenty-four hours. John Farrell, junior, son of the above named defendant, was charged by the same complainant with unlawfully rescuing fifteen head of cattle, which had been lawfully seized in land of which complainant was the occupier, for the purpose of being impounded. Fined 20s., with 6s. 6d. costs of Court; or, in default of payment, to be imprisoned during three days. WATER POLICE COURT.—TUESDAY. (1863, July 15). Empire(Sydney, NSW : 1850 - 1875), p. 2. Retrieved from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article60545153
Maria Louisa Therry, of Mona Vale, Pittwater, was charged with having, on the 30th June last, in the course of an enquiry before this Court into a charge preferred by her husband against Malcolm Turner and one Wright for cutting down a fence, committed wilful and corrupt perjury. In having sworn that Turner and Wright cut down the fence, and also in having sworn that the posts of the fence were split and morticed. Two witnesses were examined as to the swearing of defendant on the occasion when the alleged perjury was said to be committed; but as neither of these nor any other person was present to prove that she had been sworn, the case was dismissed.
John Farrell, of Pittwater, was charged with refusing to pay on demand the sum of 5s. 6d. for-the trespass of his cattle on land occupied by James Therry. The Bench ordered the payment of 4s. WATER POLICE COURT. (1863, July 23). The Sydney Morning Herald (NSW : 1842 - 1954), p. 2. Retrieved from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article13081973
Malcolm Turner, remanded from Thursday last on the charge of having, on the 20th August last, with divers others, stolen ten cows, valued at £90, or thereabouts, the property of James Therry, of Pittwater, farmer, was further remanded until Friday, next, at eleven a.m. WATER POLICE COURT.—TUESDAY. (1863, September 9). Empire (Sydney, NSW : 1850 - 1875), p. 5. Retrieved from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article60548012
REWARD.-Lost, large grey HORSE, brand near shoulder E over J, from Mr. Therry's estate, Pittwater. Apply 320, George-street. Advertising (1863, November 25). The Sydney Morning Herald (NSW : 1842 - 1954), p. 1. Retrieved from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article13091415
James Therry, Maria Louisa Therry, his wife, and Maria Elizabeth Josephine Therry, their daughter, aged eighteen years, deposed that they missed the cattle (milch cows) from their farm on the 20th of August, 1863. The cows, which were valued at £9 each, were quiet cows, and accustomed to the run. On the afternoon of Wednesday, the 20th August, it was noticed by them ... unusual ... that one of the missing cows came running home from the direction of prisoners' farm. On the following day (Friday, August 21) Miss Therry was looking for the tracks of the cattle when the heard the reports of shots fired, which apparently came from thedirection of Farrells. She want to a part of their property nearest Farrell's, when she saw Mrs. Farrell walking with a ...., she thought, near the boundary of their farm. Whilst there I heard four loud reports from sound... fired from the back of prisoner's house. On that morning James Therry, the complainant, was about fifty or sixty yards from Farrell's, watching their movements; and whilst there he saw Malcom Turner mount a horse and ride in the direction of his (Therry's) house, when he returned in half an hour, having had time to go very near to the house. On the following day(Saturday, 22nd) Miss Therry again went In search of the cattle, and on that morning a bull which had been accustomed to go with the cows returned from the direction of Farrells. On that afternoon she saw Mrs. Farrell in a cart coming from the direction of Manly Beach. Malcolm Turner, whom she had seen an hour before going in the direction of Manly, was then returning behind the cart. The evidence of these three witnesses(the Therrys) and of Frank Collins (boatman at Custom's Station), all of whom were looking for the missing cattle, ....had reference to the "tracks," to the effect that footprints of cattle were discovered on the boundary of Farrell's farm, and were tracked in the reverse direction to that in which the cattle had been driven to the Iron Bark Ridges. SECOND COURT. (1864, December 14).The Sydney Morning Herald (NSW : 1842 - 1954), p. 9. Retrieved from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article13112344
Above from Illustrated Sydney News - 1864 - Below -Manly 1875, courtesy State Library of Victoria. Image No. 3072303
THE STORY OF MONA VALE.
[Some of the facts disclosed below are so strange, and the condition of things stated to have prevailed for a long period and even to be yet existing, at Pitt Water, so extraordinary, that the writer thinks it necessary to say that, his information having been derived from investigations made personally on the spot, and confirmed in all essential particulars by official and other documentary evidence, the truth of the statements may be fully relied upon. — ED. Empire.]
EVERY person in the habit of paying the slightest attention to the proceedings in our local criminal courts, must have noticed for seven years past frequently recurring cases involving charges and counter-charges of perjury, cattle-stealing, assaults, and other crimes between the members of certain families residing in the district of Pitt Water. The latest result of these criminal charges is that one of the litigants named Farrell, a man of considerable property, both freehold and personal, is now undergoing a sentence of seven years' hard labour. He was convicted on the 30th December, of the malicious destruction of cattle, the property of a Mr. Therry, his nearest neighbour. The countercharges brought by Farrell, before his conviction, against Mr. Therry and members of his family, were all dismissed by the magistrates before whom they were investigated, and the result clearly proved that they were concoctions of the most base and wicked description. While these charges and counter charges were pending, we thought it necessary to refrain from publishing many facts which had come to our knowledge respecting the persecution and ruin of the Therryfamily, and of previous occupants of the Mona Vale estate, by unprincipled neighbours, during a period extending over nearly a quarter of a century. The story of the misfortunes of the family who are at present tenants of the farm of Mona Vale is a most distressing one, and would, if not confirmed by undoubted testimony, be utterly incredible. But bad as have been the sufferings, and great as have been the wrongs of the Therrys, they have, so far, escaped with their lives, while one, at least, of their predecessors at Mona Vale was foully murdered, in addition to having been persecuted and plundered of his property. The state of things which has prevailed at Pitt Water during the last twenty or twenty-five years has been such, it is to be hoped, as has never before prevailed in a Christian or any other country.
To make the circumstances connected with the wrongs and sufferings of the Therry family intelligible, it is necessary to give something like a twenty five years' history of the locality in which they live. The district called Pitt Water, as most of our readers are probably aware, is a part of the county of Cumberland, situate on the coast between Port Jackson and Broken Bay. It commences about eight miles north of Manly Beach, and extends along the shores of the Pacific for ten or twelve miles to the waters of Broken Bay. The first farms granted to private settlers, after the formation of the settlement at Sydney Cove in 1788, were in this district, and informer times a considerable quantity of land was in cultivation there; but for many years past the farms have been almost exclusively used for grazing and dairy purposes. There are not now above eight or ten families in the whole district, although, when tillage was more extensively pursued, the population was larger.
Near the middle of the Pitt Water district, that is, about a dozen miles from Manly Beach, is situated the estate of Mona Vale, at present in the occupation of Mr. Therry, as tenant of the heirs or trustees of the late Captain Darley. Mr. Therry's nearest neighbours on the south, or Manly Beachside, are a family part of whose members are named Collins and the others Poyner. On the north, or Broken Bay side, his nearest neighbours are the Farrells. It is the head of the latter family who is now undergoing a sentence of hard labour as before mentioned. Poyner, a near relative of the Collinses, and an inmate of their house, not long since finished a sentence of hard labour at Cockatoo for horse-stealing Collins, so far as is now known, has not been convicted of crime in this colony, but he has been for several years at large on recognisances to appear when called upon to answer a charge of murder. It is material to the understanding of what follows that the reader should bear in mind the above facts ; and this is the more desirable
because there are other persons of the name of Collins in the district, who are in no way related to the Collinses above referred to ; and are most respectable people, of irreproachable character. Mr. Therry's immediate neighbours, that is, the Collinses and the Farrells, are persons of considerable wealth. Collins was, many years since, servant to an oldman, the owner of the farm on which he lived. On his mister's death, the old gentleman having no relatives in the colony, Collins came into possession of the whole property.
The farm of Mona Vale, situated, as before stated, between the properties of the Farrellsand the Collinses, contains about a thousand acres of the best land in the district. All but a very small portion is unenclosed, and having been frequently unoccupied, the cattle of the Farrells on one side, and of the Collinses on the other, have been accustomed for many years to graze over nearly its whole extent. The occasional occupants of Mona Vale have invariably had their property stolen or destroyed, and have left the place under the impression, whether rightly or not we do not pretend to say, that the injuries were inflicted on them by their neighbours, in order to drive them from the spot — the depredators thereby securing for themselves the unrestrained enjoyment of a very valuable property.
So far back as 1840, a Mr. Samuel Taylor who had just arrived in the colony, with his wife and family, from England, purchased a farm at the locality in question, adjoining the Mona Vale farm. He immediately commenced to fence and improve it, and built a substantial house at a cost of £350 ; but Mrs. Taylor dying in Sydney just as the house was finished, and before it was occupied, Mr. Taylor, instead of going into farming pursuits himself, determined to let the place. He shortly afterwards secured an eligible
tenant, who was about to take possession, when word was brought that the house and premises had been totally destroyed by fire. In a letter received a few days since from Mr. Taylor, who now resides in the Bathurst district, that gentle-man, in reference to the treatment which he experienced, says: "When it was known that I had let the place, those parties who had the benefit of my ground, and would of course lose the benefit of their cattle grazing there if the tenant had come, rendered the place useless to any one by maliciously firing the dwelling-house ; and the fences having all been destroyed, the place has lain waste ever since ; and Mr. Farrell has had the use and benefit of my land for a number of years."
Soon after Mr. Taylor had abandoned his property, that is in 1843 or the following year, an elderly man named Foley, became the tenant of Mona Vale. Foley had been a warder in the old debtors' prison, in Carters' Barracks, and was afterwards a milkman in Sydney. He was a man of most untiring energy and industry, of great fearlessness of character, and was not likely to allow his property to be destroyed with impunity. His appearance at Mona Vale was the signal for renewed depredations. His fences were destroyed, an attempt was made to fire his house, a fine horse, valued at a hundred pounds, had its throat cut, and some of his cattle were driven away or destroyed. His opinion of some of his neighbours was very freely expressed, and he and his family consequently lived in a chronic state of warfare with those by whom they were surrounded. He had an only son, just approaching manhood, and two daughters a year or two younger. The unfortunate youth was, one day, discovered lying dead in the bush from a gunshot wound. But whether he was killed by accident, or whether he was murdered, has never been satisfactorily ascertained.
All Foley's endeavours to bring the guilty wretches who were constantly destroying his property to justice were, for a long time, in vain. At last, however, in 1849, his house having been plundered, during his absence and that of his family, of almost everything it contained, he procured a search warrant, and on the premises of his neighbour Collins discovered some of the missing articles. Collins was thereupon committed for trial, but allowed bail. The time for the trial had nearly arrived, when one day (the 8th November, 1849), as the old man was returning home, driving his horse and cart, he was waylaid and foully murdered, within a short distance of his farm. He was discovered, a few hours afterwards, quite dead, shot through the heart. The charge had entered at the back and came out at the breast. The murderer had evidently concealed himself, and awaited the approach of his victim, in a lilly-pilly bush by the road side. The police who examined the spot found the bushes arranged so as to form asmall bower, large enough to hide a man. At the entrance, or opening, were the marks of aman having knelt on one knee, as if to take aim, and at a little distance lay the wadding of the gun from which the fatal shot was fired. The coroner's jury returned a verdict of willful murder against Collins and Poyner.
Collins absconded the morning after the murder, but was taken some time afterwards at Pambula, Twofold Bay. His relative Poyner was, however, at once apprehended, and shortly afterwards put upon his trial for the murder. There was strong circumstantial evidence to connect him with the deed, but he was acquitted. Collins when captured was tried for the robbery of the house, but, as Foley, the only man who could give evidence against him, was dead, he was also acquitted. There was no tangible evidence to connect Collins with the murder. The strongest circumstance against him — his absconding immediately after the crime had been committed— was contended to be capable of explanation on the ground of his desire to escape the approaching trial for the robbery of the house. Having been acquitted of the robbery, he was liberated on the charge of murder, on entering into recognisances to appear when called upon. Poyner was some time afterwards convicted of stealing a very valuable horse, the property of Miss Jenkins, the proprietor of another adjoining estate. Having served out his sentence at Cockatoo, he re-appeared two or three years since at his relatives' place at Pitt Water. Since then things have been worse than ever ; and it will give but a faint idea of the terror which at present prevails among the few respectable inhabitants in thatlocality, when it is stated that even the men hardly dare leave their houses alone or unarmed in broad daylight. With females, it is, of course, still worse ; and valuable animals have frequently had to be taken into the dwelling houses at night to prevent their destruction.
After old Mr. Foley's murder, the cattle of his neighbours, Farrell and Collins, again grazed unchecked over the Mona Vale estate. The place since then has been let to several successive tenants; but the results, although not quite so tragical as in his case, have been fully as disastrous in a pecuniary point of view. It would occupy too much space to enter into a detail hereof all that has taken place at Mona Vale during the last fifteen years ; and we will, therefore, proceed to give a short outline of the trials and losses of Mr. Therry, the present tenant.
Mr. James Therry, a relative of the late venerable Father Therry, and also of Judge Therry, arrived in New South Wales, with Mrs. Therry, a family of eight children, and an old and attached servant, by the ship Queen of Australia, about the middle of 1862. Mr. Therry had held a good Government appointment at home, which he left to come to this colony, at the invitation of his relative, the late Father Therry. A few days after his arrival, Mr. Therry went on an excursion to Pitt Water, and while there was charmed with the scenery, fertility, and appearance of the Mona Vale estate, which was then unoccupied. He had resolved to enter into farming pursuits, and thinking, from its proximity to the metropolis, and the advantages it seemed to possess, that Mona Vale would suit his purpose exceedingly well, he soon became its tenant. The house, which was then in a dilapidated state, was soon put into a fit condition for the residence of a respectable family ; the fences were repaired, valuable livestock was purchased, and the necessary farming implements provided. Mr. Therry intended to carry on dairy farming on a large scale, and amongst his stock were about fifty choice milch cows, selected from the best herds in the colony. The house was furnished at a cost of about £150, and Mrs. Therry and her large family were about to occupy it, when Mr. Therry, having gone to Sydney to make arrangements for their removal, found, when he returned to the spot with his wife and children, the place reduced to ashes. The fiendish incendiary had gone to work during his absence, set fire to the place, and totally consumed both the dwelling house and out offices. Nothing was left in which the family could take shelter, and a respectable household of eleven persons, accustomed to every comfort and convenience, was reduced to the necessity of erecting a refuge from the weather, composed of sods, pieces of canvas, and such few odds and ends as had escaped destruction. In this wretched abode they lived for several months — fearing if they left the spot for an hour that their live stock, now their only dependence, would be driven off or destroyed.
The writer of this notice, a short time after the fire, happened to pass through the district. At the remains of the ruined homestead, he saw standing near what had been the hearth of the burnt dwelling-house, a woman, who, from her manners and conversation, was evidently a lady. A number of young children were gathered round a small hovel which had been erected on a rising ground beyond. These persons and their surroundings appeared so singular and so incompatible with each other, as to lead to inquiries, and the result is now before the reader.
At the inquest on the fire, evidence was given which threw strong suspicion upon Farrell as the incendiary ; and the coroner expressed in very plain terms his opinion of his guilt ; but the jury did not think there was sufficient evidence to justify a verdict against him.
The burning of their house was but the beginning of the troubles of the Therry family. Not-withstanding all their watchfulness, a few days afterwards, several of their cattle were found dead. They had been driven into nearly inaccessible gulleys and shot. In a short time three or four others disappeared, and after a long search their carcases were discovered — all bearing marks of gunshot wounds. The next loss was the disappearance of ten milch cows. A few days after this occurrence, as Mr. Therry could discover the carcases of but nine animals, he procured a search warrant and found on Farrell's premises the remains of a recently slaughtered cow. One of the missing cows had been a favourite with the Therry family, from the fact of having a peculiar mark on her coat, which they said resembled the shape of Ireland on the map. They called her Tuffy, and with that clinging recollection of old country associations which people of Irish birth retain in such intensity, the cow, from the circumstance to which we have referred, was treated as a pet, and the peculiarity of the mark frequently referred to. They were accordingly able to identify a part of a hide discovered at Farrell's place as that of the cow in question. Proceedings were thereupon taken against Farrell, and he was committed for trial, but allowed bail. In the mean-time the Therrys, being in daily dread of assassination, had applied for and obtained the protection of an officer of police, who often remained on the premises day and night. Still their cattle were slaughtered, their fences destroyed, and other depredations committed as before. Their whole stock was by this time reduced to seventeen cows and two horses. The weather during the greater part of the time they remained in the hovel they had at first constructed was most unfavourable, and after some months they were enabled to erect a rough building of slabs. They were, by this time all but utterly ruined. The frequent attendances which they had been obliged to give at the Police Court in Sydney, and the cost to which they were put in procuring legal advice and in prosecuting their oppressors, had exhausted all the means at their command, while they were prevented by almost constantly recurring troubles and annoyances from attending to the affairs of the farm, and making the best of the few that were left of their dairy cows.
Farrell's Beach and Bushrangers Hill, Newport from Small Picture File, Courtesy Mitchell Library.
In the midst of all their troubles, almost the only friend and relative they had in the country, the Rev. Father Therry, died suddenly. Their landlord, the late Captain Darley, who had taken much interest in their affairs, had died in a similarly sudden manner a short time before. Father Therry's will had been made many years previously to the Therry family coming to the country, and contained no provision for their benefit, although it is probable, if his life had been spared a little longer, that he would have disposed of a part, at least, of his property differently.
Their few well disposed neighbours were almost unanimous in advising the Therry family to leave Mona Vale, in order to save their lives. But Mr. Therry, rendered desperate by his losses and the treatment he had received, determined never to leave the place while there was a chance of obtaining justice against his oppressors.
Mrs. Therry and the female portion of the family, were, however, removed to Manly Beach. The father and four boys, mere children, remained on the spot. With firearms inconstant readiness, the father mostly watched at night and the children by day. Their case had grown so urgent, previous to this, that the Government had thought it necessary to place two constables (one of them a mounted trooper)in their immediate neighbourhood. Still the work of destruction went on, and at last the whole of their remaining milch cows, seventeen in number, were swept off at once ; and so secretly was this effected that their carcases even could not be discovered for a long time.
The well-disposed part of the neighbours —all who had shown the Therry family the slightest sympathy or afforded them the smallest assistance — were likewise placed under the ban of the wretches who had treated them so shamefully. Some of their animals were driven off or destroyed, and they as well as the Therrys lived in a constant state of terror ;seldom venturing out unarmed, and being in dread of having their houses burnt over their heads. They are in this state at the present moment. To their credit, however, be it said, they did not allow a feeling of selfishness to deter them from doing their duty. Though they numbered but five or six families in all, they subscribed one hundred pounds as a reward for the discovery of the perpetrator or perpetrators of the atrocious crimes to which we have above referred. The Government added fifty pounds to the reward of one hundred, offered by the neighbours, and, in addition to the two policemen already on the spot, sent McGlone, the detective officer who had just previously captured Gardiner, with instructions to spare no exertions in detecting the guilty parties and bringing them to justice.
In the meantime, pending these arrangements, Farrell had been brought to trial for stealing and slaughtering Mr. Therry's cow. The evidence of Mrs. and Miss Therry as to the peculiar mark on the hide, "resembling Ireland on the map,” was clear and distinct, but Mr. Isaacs, as counsel for the prisoner, contended that even allowing, for the sake of argument, that the piece of hide produced was that of the cow in question, it only proved that Farrell had made a mistake and killed Therry's cow instead of his own. Eleven of the jury were for a conviction, but one stood out, and they were ultimately discharged without arriving at a verdict ; the prisoner being remanded on bail, until the next sitting of the court.
Mr. Therrys live stock had been reduced to two horses when McGlone appeared upon the scene. That officer commenced his investigations very skilfully and cautiously, and did not take any open steps until he had made himself acquainted with the characters, habits, and circumstances of the people of the district.
Farrell's first step on being allowed bail was to institute a prosecution against Mrs. and Miss Therry for perjury, in swearing that the piece of hide found on his premises was that of their cow Tuffy. The animal in question had, it appears, very peculiar horns, one of them being broken and hanging down at the side of her head. Farrell, in his evidence at the Police office, against Mrs. and Miss Therry, produced the head of a bullock which he stated to be that of the one from which the piece of hide sworn to as having belonged to Tuffy was taken. It was evident that, if Farrell's story was true, Mrs. and Miss Therry must have committed perjury, because the horns of the head produced were very different from those described as having belonged to Tuffy. It was noticed when this bullock's head was produced in court by Farrell that he handled it very tenderly. This might be accounted for perhaps from its dirty condition, its appearance being as if it had lain in a mud hole. Some of the hair remained on the head, but its colour could scarcely be ascertained on account of the mud with which it was encrusted. The magistrate, Mr. George Hill, in order to ascertain the real colour of the hair, and perhaps suspecting something wrong from the gingerly way in which Farrell handled the head, ordered it to be taken out and washed. When this was done it was discovered that not only was the colour of the hair different from that of the piece of hide, but that the horns were actually fastened on the head by artificial means ! They were secured in their places by small French nails.
On this discovery, Mrs. and Miss Therry were of course discharged at once. But it may give some idea of the annoyance and expense to which they were put by repeated journeys to Sydney, and in defraying legal and other costs, when we state that the investigations connected with these two cases at the Police Court extended over a month.
Detective McGlone, after a time, discovered a means by which some, at least, of the crimes committed might be brought home to the guilty parties. There had been in the service of Farrell for several years a youth named Malcolm Turner. This young man absconded from Farrell's place shortly after the last of Therry's cattle —that is, the seventeen milch cows — had been destroyed. It was believed that this youth could, if he liked, give such information as would throw considerable light upon the affair. He was discovered residing at Lane Cove, and after some time, agreed to point out to a Mr. McMahon the spot where the remains of the slaughtered animals were to be seen. He said he left Farrell's place because, having a knowledge of the crimes which had been committed, he considered his life in danger while he remained there. He took the person to whom he made this communication at once to the place where the seventeen carcases lay. It was an almost inaccessible gully. He also pointed out, at other places, the carcases of other cattle of Therry's which had been destroyed. His story was that he had been sent with Poyner to drive the seventeen head to where they had been shot. That Poyner had shot all except one or two, which he, Turner, shot at Poyner's command, being under fear of the consequences if he refused. He stated that he had previously assisted Farrell in killing the ten head, of which Tuffy was one, in much the same way as he had afterwards assisted Poyner. He had at first refused, but Farrell having taunted him with cowardice and not being " game," and fearing the consequences to himself if he did not comply, he had at last shot one of them — Farrell shooting the others himself.
With this additional evidence of Turner’s Farrell was again placed upon his trial. The case against him was now complete, and after a trial extending over several days, during which a number of very remarkable facts came to light, he was, on the 30th ultimo, convicted and sentenced to seven years' hard labour. Criminal prosecutions were also instituted against Mrs. Farrell, and Poyner, but the cases against them have not yet come before a jury.
Many extraordinary facts in addition to those above related, have come to our knowledge in connection with the Mona Vale crimes, and the persecutions of the Therry family, but as they involve charges in cases where no legal proceedings have been taken, and consequently do not rest upon sworn testimony, we think it advisable not to relate them at present.
Persons who have never visited the district of Pitt Water will probably wonder how such a series of crimes, extending over many years, could have been committed with impunity. It will be difficult for a stranger to the neighbourhood to comprehend how cattle could be killed, or driven away, while their owners were almost constantly on the watch. To those who know the place the matter needs no explanation. The district consists of a series of bold headlands, sandhills, lagoons, and gullies. The country is for the most part covered with thick scrub, and scarcely any of the houses are less than two miles distant from each other. The largest portion of the estates are almost entirely unfenced, and consequently it is impossible to keep cattle always insight, and often difficult to find them when they are almost close at hand.
The district is a very picturesque one. The road, or rather pathway through it, winds about— sometimes on the verge of lofty cliffs, sometimes through deep gullies, where the cabbage-tree and tree fern flourish, sometime over bleak hills and sandy dunes, descending at times to fertile grassy flats, and intercepted at places by pretty lagoons and babbling brooks. One or two of the cottages are pictures of rural taste and neatness. The whole district being nearly surrounded by the waters of Broken Bay on the one side, and those of Port Jackson on the other, and there being no practicable road by which it can be reached from Sydney, either in a vehicle or on horse-back, although within little more than a dozen miles as the crow flies, it has remained for many years almost unknown, and, to a certain extent, shut in from the inhabitants of the rest of the colony. To this circumstance is perhaps to be ascribed the comparative impunity with which crime has been perpetrated, and the little attention the strange facts above related have hitherto received in Sydney. It is hardly necessary to say, after the above disclosures, that there is not and never has been such a thing as a church, chapel, or school-house in the whole district.
The thanks of the community are due to detective McGlone for the energy and sagacity with which he has acted in bringing Farrell to justice. It is to be hoped that the proceedings which have been initiated against others will be prosecuted to a successful issue, if they are guilty —for it is melancholy to know — as we are assured is the case — that the few respectable inhabitants at Pitt Water are still living in constant fear not only of the destruction of their property but of their lives. Mr. Therry and his boys still stick to their hut, although all their property is destroyed, determined not to budge while one of the gang remains unconvicted. THE STORY OF MONA VALE. (1865, January 20). Empire(Sydney, NSW : 1850 - 1875), p. 5. Retrieved from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article60564465
TO THE EDITOR OF THE EMPIRE.
Sir, — Having read with much interest your " Story of Mona Vale" may I bring before your notice, or rather the notice of the public, one party to whom the inhabitants of Pitt Water are much indebted — I mean Constable John Sheaves, of the Manly district. To him we are indebted for the first discovery of the piece of cowhide, being a portion of the hide of one of my cows, for which Farrell was prosecuted in 1863, and to whose sterling honesty and unshrinking perseverance in the discharge of his duty, by bringing every legal means to bear upon the suppression of crime, too much praise cannot be bestowed.
If an honest man and a faithful servant can add efficiency to a government department, the police authorities may be proud of Mr. Sheaves.
I have the honor to be, Sir,
Your obedient servant,
[In connexion with what appeared in the Empire respecting Mona Vale, we take this opportunity of stating that we have been requested by a relative of the late Mr. Foley to say that he occupied the estate in question many years earlier than the date we mentioned, and that, although he was for a short time a constable, he accepted that position only that he might be the better able to protect his property, and deal with the lawless characters in his neighbourhood. — Ed. Empire.] TO THE EDITOR OF THE EMPIRE. (1865, January 25). Empire(Sydney, NSW : 1850 - 1875), p. 5. Retrieved from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article60564744
Matriarchs of Pittwater I - Maria Louisa Therry - threads collected and collated by A J Guesdon, 2014.