2. An Irish Family in Early Melbourne

"Tis twelve months or more since our ship she cast anchor
In Australia, the emigrant's home. "

("Paddy Malone in Australia" -


The Clancy's were taken by boats from the Diamond to Laird's Beach (later called Sandridge) on the northern shore of Port Phillip. Liardet built the first house there in 1840 and erected a lamp to serve as a lighthouse. From this point there was a walk of about 1½ miles along a bush track to a point on the Yarra above the "Falls" where a punt would take one across the river for threepence. Only a few months before the Clancy's arrived the first pile on the Melbourne Wharf was driven. The few boats that journeyed up the Yarra made fast to stumps of trees.1

Melbourne was only five years old, with a population on 2nd March 1841 of 4,479 people. Every week during that year migrant ships poured more and more people into it. Although there was plenty of work up country, many hung unemployed about the Immigrants' Depot. Though the town had some brick houses, because of rapid increase in population it also had many tents and calico huts. It had three banks, two newspapers, two sawmills, a flour mill and several shops. Some doctors were practising and clergymen of five denominations ministered to their flocks. People had watches, but no-one was certain of the correct time, for the clock at the Post Office was not installed until 1843.

"The streets were quagmires, and the only beacon to guide the wayfarer's slithering course at night was the dingy spluttering oil lamps, one of which every publican was to keep alight at night in front of the groggery. There was no hospital, no Benevolent Asylum, no lunatice asylum; but there was a gaol, a stocks, and instead of "Black Maria" the sombre hearselike police van now in requisition, a huge chain officiated as assistant pacificator at races and sports, to which refractory individuals used to be manacled, and a very unwholesome string of rascals might, at times, be seen escorted through the streets by the non-descript expiree constables of the period." 2

Melbourne from Collins Street East (Robert Russell 1841)

Melbourne from Collins Street East

(Robert Russell 1841)

Bridge over the Yarra, Melbourne (H.G.Jones)

Bridge over the Yarra, Melbourne (H.G.Jones)

(Courtesy Mitchell Library Sydney )

The streets still had stumps in them and were dust-bowls in summer and slushy in winter, Elizabeth Street being a water-course which could only be negotiated with difficulty. There were many adverse comments about them, the following verse being fairly typical:

"A beautiful city is Melbourne,
 All by the Yarra's side,
 Its streets are wide, its streets are deep,
 They are both, wide and deep.

 Escaping from one quagmire,-
 There's room enough for more;
 Such a beautiful town is Melbourne
 Was never seen before."3

First the Clancy's experienced the dust of summer. Already the temperature was giving a foretaste of what it could be in January and February. On 15th December, it rose to 103 degrees. With the heat came a new sound and they were deafened with the noise of countless cicadas in the gum trees. The Town Markets, erected on Western Hill, were thrown open to the public on 15th December.4

Stagnant water in the streets and insanitary conditions led to epidemics. During that summer there were epidemics of typhoid and dysentery and a patient was buried each week. Drainage from properties was into William's Creek (as Elizabeth Street was then called) or Batman's Swamp or the Yarra. From the Yarra, water was sold to the community, the carriers charging two shillings for eighty gallons.5

Mail was brought from ships by Mr Liardet and handed to the Postmaster, Mr Kelsh, who operated from a small brick building on the side of the present G.P.O. He was a sour and uncivil person and was superseded in July 1841 by Mr Kemp, a polite and efficient officer, from whom the Clancy's and others received good service.6

At the corner of Elizabeth and Lonsdale Streets, on the edge of the town, was St. Francis Church, where Father Patrick Bonaventure Geoghegan ministered. He arrived in Melbourne on 15th May 1839 and celebrated the first Mass in Victoria on 19th May in an unroofed store belonging to Messrs Campbell and Woolley at the corner of Elizabeth and Little Collins Street. The chalice used was afterwards given by Father Geoghegan to his cousin Dean Horatio Geoghegan at Kyneton. So both the Clancy's in Melbourne and, later, the Rankin's in Kyneton (who became linked with the Clancy's through marriage) attended Mass at which this historic chalice was used. Father Geoghegan was small of stature, "a round, chubby, natty little man, a perfect picture of health and happiness liberal minded and tolerant", and so he commended himself to Protestants as well as Roman Catholics.

Melbourne from Collins Street East (Robert Russell 1841)

Bourke St from the East (H.G.Jones)

Courtesy Mitchell Library Sydney

Bridge over the Yarra, Melbourne (H.G.Jones)

Elizabeth Street Melbourne

(Courtesy Mitchell Library Sydney)

The great influx of Irish migrants during 1841 caused congregations to increase, collections to become larger, and the need for a Church building to replace the small wooden structure to become imperative. Only a month before the arrival of the Clancy's the foundation stone of St. Francis Church was laid on 4th October 1841 (the Feast of St. Francis). The day was stormy, but nevertheless a large crowd assembled, including many Protestants. Nearly £200 was collected at the ceremony. Coins were deposited under the Foundation Stone but thieves stole them. 7

Apart from fellow-migrants, the Clancy's met others whom they had previously known in Ireland. One of the most important laymen was Alexander McKillop, a native of Scotland, who was a Church trustee. Me married a cousin from Scotland, named Flora MacDonald, in 1840 and lived at Fitzroy. Their first daughter, Mary, was baptised on 15th January 1842 in St. Francis Church, Alexander Chisholm (husband of Caroline) being a godparent. This would have been one of the first baptisms the Clancy's witnessed in this Church.

A few years later Mary was in the same class as Agnes Clancy, Miss Caroline Kane being the teacher. She severely caned Mary for refusing to tell which of the older girls had broken some rule. Later, she prepared Mary for her First Communion. Mary grew to become the founder of the teaching Order of St. Joseph (and was known as Mother Mary of the Cross), whose mother house is at North Sydney, where Mary died on 8th August 1909. The Clancy's believed that they were distantly connected through Elizabeth MacDonald (of whom more anon) who married Donald Rankin. The three Clancy sisters, Jessie, Lily and, Anne (my aunts) followed her career with particular interest.8

Another prominent member of St. Francis Church was John O'Shanessy, who soon became recognised as the Irish Catholic leader in Victoria and who was the founder and moving spirit of the St. Patrick's Society, formed in 1842. In the same year, Victorian Catholics collected £1,300 for the Irish Famine Fund, no mean effort from a group not well endowed with this world's goods. John 0'Shanessy later became a member of, then Premier in, the Victorian Parliament.9

The Rev. Dr Polding of Sydney reported to Rome on 12th March 1842 concerning Melbourne:

"The settlement has a population of 10,000 of whom 4,000 are Catholics ............ There is a school there attended by a large number of scholars."10

Although listed in the shipping records as a carpenter, there is no evidence that Thomas Clancy ever did this kind of work in Melbourne. Soon after he arrived (if not at the time of his arrival), Thomas and his wife were engaged by Mr Edwin N. Sayers to work on his farm, a short distance from Melbourne. They were engaged to work for £40 per annum, plus rations for themselves and their children (a reasonable sum at that time). He had been engaged conditionally to work a month on trial and, if he gave satisfaction, to continue. He served his employer with satisfaction but was dismissed, presumably at the end of the month or soon after that. Mr Sayers said the dismissal was "on principles of economy". However, Sayers still owed him money and Clancy summoned him for the recovery of the unpaid wages. The case was heard on Friday, 21st January 1842. Mr Sewell (for Clancy) read Act 5 Elizabeth, authorising a servant to demand three months' wages if discharged under the circumstances stated. Mr Carrington, for the defence, referred the Bench to the Hired Servants' Act, which allowed the Magistrates a discretionary power. Mr Sewell asserted that the agreement was made by the defendant's clerks. They gave evidence that the engagement had been conditional. Mr Sayers admitted that a small balance was due to Clancy. The Bench awarded him that sum and dismissed the case.11

Apparently, Sayers was in financial difficulties for not long afterwards he ceased using a shop in Market Square near the Custom House and Wharf and he was made bankrupt on 3rd March. However, he still retained something of material value, for in May he was living at Richmond having freehold, which entitled him to be numbered among the very limited number of people in the Port Phillip District who were entitled to vote for the Legislative Council in Sydney. There were only 291 such persons in Port Phillip and Thomas Clancy was not numbered among them. Sayers was a Trustee of the Independent Church and was one of 250 people invited to attend a levee on 25th October 1841 when Governor Gipps visited Melbourne.12

Thomas Clancy next became Overseer of the Female Emigrant Hostel in Flinders Street, It was his duty to exercise oversight of the women, some of them quite young, who were housed there prior to finding employment and other accommodation. In the fulfilment of his duties, Thomas was administering medicine to some of the women who were not well at about 11.00 pm on Saturday, 19th March 1842, when in walked Constable Conroy, concealing his staff. He was drunk and commenced a tirade of filth and obscenity. Clancy requested him to leave the premises. He refused to do so and then took Clancy in custody and marched his down to the watch-house. Fortunately, Constable Wright, who was highly regarded in the community was on duty. He had been Chief Constable, but a short time before this incident, the Government appointed Mr Brodie to that position. Constable Wright could not help noticing that Conroy was intoxicated and realised that the charge against Clancy was absurd, so he refused to imprison him. Next morning, there was a private examination by the Bench of the conduct of Conroy, which ended in his dismissal. The Port Phillip Herald was quite critical:

"The Bench may be perfectly satisfied with the amount of punishment awarded but we think a rather severer mark of displeasure and punishment should have been inflected on the man, who not only violated his duty in apprehending an innocent man, but also by committing an assault. Mr Wright by refusing to receive Clancy as a prisoner, saved the delinquent from an action for false imprisonment."13

The month of March began with a round of outdoor entertainment. Races were held on 1st March, a sultry day when the attendance was good and on 2nd March when the day was cool. The country came to town when the First Annual Pastoral and Agricultural Society Show held in the cattle market but the show of cattle was not numerous. Business generally was buoyant and building was going on apace in the suburbs and "where the bird whistled today, the chimney smokes tomorrow". Present high rents encouraged some to rush up Jerry built houses. New Town was renamed Collingwood and building blocks were advertised in several streets. Bushrangers were operating on the outskirts of Melbourne and in the Geelong area. These men - Martin Fogarty, Charles Ellis and Daniel Jeep - were captured, condemned to death, and paraded through the streets to their place of execution. There also took place, for the first time, the public execution of natives on 21st January 1842 when two Tasmanian murders, "Bob" and "Jack" were hung.14

Natives strolled about the streets in considerable numbers. The annual Census in 1841 showed 175 blacks in Melbourne. This number dropped to 92 in 1848 and continued to dwindle. Later, they were prohibited from the town by the Corporation because of their non-conformity of attire, the temptations to drink and their constant begging. From time to time, they held corroborees, the last of these being held near Melbourne in the middle of 1844. A blacks' school was started near the junction of Merri Creek and the Yarra River, under Mr Peacock. The school was later transferred to Newtown.15

The Rev. Father McGuinness arrived in December 1841 to provide assistance to Father Geoghegan, who left for Sydney the following March. A meeting of Catholics was held in St. Francis Church on Sunday, 3rd April to receive a report on work being done on the property - fencing, clearing the land, erecting the presbytery and completing portions of the Church. Members contributed sixpence per week, totalling £9 a Sunday. On Sunday, 22nd May the completed portion of the Church - the nave - was used for the first time, when Rev. Michael Stephens celebrated Mass.16

By 1842, the boom period of employment for migrants was over and many were finding difficulty in obtaining employment. A depot was formed, the first of the immigrant Homes, and work was found for a hundred or two during several months in making a good carriage road from the falls of the Yarra to Sandridge. One of those so employed was Daniel Clancy, who came from Cork on the Mary Nixon just a month after Thomas Clancy. A reduction of wages from twenty shillings to eighteen shillings per week led to a strike.17

The first elections for a Municipal Council were held in 1842, there being 729 burgesses entitled to vote but Thomas Clancy was not one of these.18


The first Regulations for Schools in Australia took effect from 1st January 1842. A Government grant, not exceeding a penny a day, was made for children whose parents could contribute little toward the cost of education. Quarterly returns were checked by the Inspector of Schools. In 1842, Melbourne had schools conducted by the Church of England, Church of Scotland, Wesleyan, Independent and Roman Catholic Churches, with a gross enrolment of 422 children. Private schools had 2l4 children. Only one-third of the children were attending schools.19

The three elder Clancy children enrolled at St. Francis School, where Thomas and Mary Lynch were teachers. For the last quarter of 1842 John, Eleanor and Thomas were most regular in attendance. Thomas was classified as "labourer" and was not able to contribute anything towards their education. In fact, only 39 parents did make a contribution. Thomas Lynch's work as a teacher was acceptable, Father Geoghegan stating that the School was satisfactorily conducted. Lynch wrote out his report in a beautiful copper-plate hand.

Thomas Clancy was Overseer of the Female and Orphan Asylum (probably the same place as that previously mentioned) from May to June 1842, at least. Paid at the rate of 3/- per day, he received a cheque for £5:14:0 for 38 days work from Captain J.C. Thompson, the record stating that his duties were "satisfactorily performed'20

Their seventh child, Richard Patrick, was born to Thomas and Anne Clancy on 10th October and baptised by Rev. Daniel McEvey on 24th October, eldest son John and Eleanor Carey (probably mistaken for Clancy) being sponsors. The parents address is given as Melbourne. Their son, Thomas Gerald, in his old age said they were then living between Bourke and Little Bourke Streets, which at the time he gave his reminiscences was at the rear of the Telegraph Department and is now occupied by Myers Store.21

Heavy rain fell about the time Richard was born and the river rose some eighteen feet about its summer level, causing a major flood. Melbourne's first extensive fire occurred on Sunday, 2nd October, when Dr Clutterbuck's residence and an adjoining two-storey residence in Collins Street East was destroyed. On the day Richard was born at the other end of Collins Street, A.H. Hart's draper shop and other buildings were destroyed. At that time, they had only water-carts drawing water from the Yarra to quell the blaze. There was great rivalry among water carriers, for the first driver to arrive on the scene of a fire with his load of water would get 8/- for it, the second driver got 6/- and the third driver 4/-.22

The Lynchs relinquished teaching at the end of June 1843 and resumed later in the year. For the first two weeks in July, James and Mary Seward were the teachers, then Thomas and Anne took over on 17th July and continued until 30th September, for which they received £22:11:0.

The following people had children at School while Thomas was teaching -Philip Ahem, David Barry, James Brown, Andrew Burnes, Patrick Burns, Jeremiah Bradley, Jeremiah Bowles, Charles Bunford, Daniel Connell, William Connell, Widow Connell, Timothy Callaghan, Patrick Connors, Jeremiah Carey, Daniel Calbo, Widow Carmody, Patrick Cahill, William Cook, Peter Connell, Widow Cummins, Alexander Deaves, Daniel Delaney, Widow Doolin, John Doherty, Patrick Donoghue, Widow Dwyer, James Curry, Michael Fitzgibbon, William Finn, Michael Galway, Neale Gallagher, John Hegarty, Thomas Hendrick, Widow Hennessy, George Holland, Daniel Holmes, T. Holmes, Michael Hogan, Simon Hogan, John Hart, Michael Heaffey, John Hilton, John Kennedy, Lawrence Kinnan, David Leary, John Lynch, Patrick MacLaughlin, Widow McAuliff, Widow McLean, James McCrory, Callaghan McCarthy, Michael Mahony, Patrick Magann, William Maddox, John Madigan, Widow Mars, Henry Miller, Daniel Murray, Dennis Murphy, Mr McNamara, James Neville, Andrew Nelson, John O'Neill, Widow Page, William Ryan, Daniel Regan, John Riordan, Daniel Rawlinson, William Sullivan, Mrs Sullivan, John Shea, Widow Shea, John Walsh, Isaac Woods, James White.23

In his reminiscences, Thomas Gerald Clancy said he first attended school opposite St. Francis School on the site where Lynch's Hotel then stood. Mr Lynch was headmaster. He had not met a school fellow since, until on St. Stephen's Day (the year is not given) he met "Bob" Riordan at Mossgiel, New South Wales. Riordan's father for a while taught at Lonsdale Street School (I have not found any evidence for this) and afterwards kept the "Harp of Erin" Hotel at Geelong. His own father also taught at that school. Later, the School was moved into the grounds of St. Francis Church and the master was a Mr Hines or Hynes. One of his fellow pupils was William Finn, afterwards Father Finn in charge of Heidelberg for some years and died at Geelong 30 years before. William was a younger brother of Edmund who wrote under the nom-de-plume "Garryowen". Edmund was a school-mate of John O'Shanessy in Ireland and they were close friends in Melbourne.24

The teacher Thomas referred to was John Hynes, who said he was appointed by Father Geoghegan in 1844. He was still there in 1848 and replying (in excellent handwriting) to a questionnaire from the newly appointed Denominational Schools Board, he gave details of the School programme. Morning - reading, writing, grammar; Afternoon - arithmetic, reading, spelling, religious instruction. The children generally purchased their own books. He purchased some at his own expense. The ages of the children were 3-12 years.25

Thomas said there were not many houses in Lonsdale Street in those days. There was a horse bazaar opposite St. Francis Church and a few houses higher up to the west. In September 1843, Thomas Clancy was living in Lonsdale Street and made claim to be enrolled as a burgess because he had a house. The Revisions Court dealt with applicants in Gipps Ward on 10th October but the result is not reported. By this time, property values had dropped because of the depression and a cottage and garden in Lonsdale Street which had previously been let at £360 per annum was sold for £450.26

About this time, 579 Catholic men in Melbourne signed an address to Bishop Polding on his return from overseas. The original is done in beautiful handwriting and is in St. Mary's Cathedral Archives, Sydney, but the pages containing the signatures are not attached. It is hard to believe that the name of Thomas Clancy, occupying such a position as headmaster of St. Francis School, would not have been one of the signatories.27

About the end of 1843 or a little later, the Clancy's moved to New Town (later called Collingwood) concealed behind Eastern Hill (then covered with gum trees). A higher and healthier place than Melbourne, it soon boasted a population of 400 inhabitants. Open spaces in the area were visited by blacks till the later 1840's.28

The eighth and last child, Geraldine, was born to Thomas and Anne Clancy on 13th May 1844 and baptised on 10th June by Father Geoghegan, the sponsors being John and Margaret Tuomy. The parents' address was given as Melbourne, possibly a general term which included Collingwood.29

Thomas and Anne (i.e., Agnes Anne, now five years old) were attending the School at Scots Church, Spring Street, for the quarter July-September 1845. Probably John (aged 14 years) was working, and Eleanor (13 years) was helping at home. The teacher was Moses Thomas and 108 children were enrolled. Once again, the Clancy parents were not contributing to their education. In fact, only £18:7:3 was contributed. Surnames of some of the children at this School were Archer, Barr, Bruce, Campbell, Fegan, Foy, Gamble, Gilmore, Henderson, Meiklejohn, McDonald, Stevens, Stoneham, Wilson.30

Next quarter, Thomas was back at St. Francis School together with Richard (whose age was given as five, but he was not yet four years of age). I did not notice the name of Agnes but girls were on a separate list and I may have missed it. According to this record, the Clancy's lived at New Town.31

A little earlier in 1845, Scots School received a bad press at the hands of the Port Phillip Gazette which stated, "It is well known that in consequence of bad teachers, this School had dwindled to nothing". The Port Phillip Patriot came to the defence of the School by stating, "The number of scholars has increased since Mr Tydeman commenced as teacher". Tydeman could not have stayed long for we have noticed Moses Thomas was teacher later that year.32

Agnes attended St. Francis School for 42 days during October-December 1846 when her teacher was Caroline Kane. As Miss Kane prepared Mary McKillop for her First.Communion, she probably also prepared Agnes.33

At this time, there was a dangerous channel running along the Elizabeth Street fence of St. Francis Church. It was getting deeper and there were fears that it would undermine the foundations of the Church.34


We will now note some other events occurring in Melbourne in which the Clancy's would be interested or even involved or which affected them in some way.

An advertisement announced a meeting on 28th June 1842, stating, "All true sons of the Emerald Isle are expected to be in attendance". Possibly as a "true son" Thomas was among the 500 present. This meeting formed the St. Patrick's Society "for the encouragement of national feeling, for the relief of the destitute, the promotion of education, whatever may be considered by the members best calculated to promote the happiness, honour and prosperity of their native and adopted land"35.

The Society organised a procession on 17th March 1843, some 400 to 500 concluding the march by attending High Mass, the first time it was celebrated in Melbourne. One report has it:

"The Irish were the only people in the world who honoured their saint with a public procession in Port Phillip and St. Patrick's Day used to be ushered into the world with a loud-sounding din of a rather noisy town band. A half-drunken, lively crowd escorted their musicians "shouting" in a double sense through the streets and at the hotels without annoying anyone who did not interfere with them, and after "beating the boundaries" in this noisy though otherwise harmless manner, they separated good-humouredly at sunrise."36

When it came to processions, Melbourne did things in a big way. There was a Grand Procession for the laying of the foundation stone of the new Court House on Monday, 25th July 1842. Led by the Police, then the band, then the children of all the Schools (surely the Clancy children were there), then the Masons and members of other Lodges, the clergy, magistrates, civil officers, members of the legal profession and the inhabitants of the town brought up the rear.37

Soon afterwards, heavy rain fell and late in July, the Yarra had risen "to unprecedented heights". The beautiful gardens of several residents on the banks of the Yarra were inundated.38

In 1843, the elections for a representative to the Legislative Council in Sydney provided "the background for the first real sectarian outburst to disturb the town of Melbourne". The contest was between Dr John Dunmore Lang and Edward Curr. Writing under the nom-de-plume "A Scottish Highlander" Alexander McKillop denounced Lang. This led to McKillop's later financial difficulties.39

Towards the end of 1843, Melbourne experienced a grasshopper plague, when potato and turnip crops near Melbourne were destroyed. "The grasshoppers were lying in myriads all the way from the Catholic Church to the Supreme Court". An idea of the cost of living can be gained by prices reported on New Year's Day 1844 - potatoes 8/6 to 9/-per cwt, retailing at l¼d to 1½d per lb, lettuce 1d a head, French beans 2d per quart, oranges 2½d to 3d each, eggs 1/- a dozen, fresh butter 7d to 8d per lb, bacon 1/- per lb, beef 1½d to 2d per lb, flour first-grade retailing at 12/- per 100 lb.40

Bishop Polding visited Melbourne in October 1844 and a large crowd attended Mass, after which members of the Father Mathew Temperance Society accompanied by many others, processed to the Cemetery where Bishop Polding consecrated the Roman Catholic portion. The following day, 21st October, Pontifical High Mass was celebrated by the Bishop of Adelaide, Dr Murphy, after which the Sacrament of Confirmation was administered by the Bishop, there being 312 candidates. It is reasonable to assume that John and Eleanor Clancy were among them. After careful preparation by Father Geoghegan, these two would regard this as a high and holy moment in their lives.41

The Father Mathew Temperance Society was winning many people and at the St. Patrick's Day festivities in 1845, it had 300 members.42

Melbourne had a population of 13,500 in 1845. About 1,500 were now attending School - Roman Catholic Schools had 331, Weslyans 191, Church of England 125, Baptist 97, Independents 93, Presbyterians 93. Non-denominational Schools catered for 481 pupils and there were some private schools.

The district had emerged from the days of depression and there was a strong demand up country for shepherds and stockmen. Agitation was afoot for separation from New South Wales. Strong protests were lodged against the presence of "Penton-villians", i.e., convicts from the Royal George.

In Lent 1845, Bishop Polding issued regulations regarding food - a small collation morning and evening, a tablespoon of milk being allowed in their tea or coffee, a small quantity of butter with bread, "provided no other article of luxury is used". Eggs and fish were not to be used at the same meal. Meat was allowed on Sunday, Monday, Tuesday and Thursday.43

Despite these restrictions, Irish people in Melbourne were dining in luxury compared with most of their compatriots in Ireland. The year 1845, with the widespread failure of the potato crop, ushered in a famine the like of which the people of Ireland had never known before, a famine that brought appalling misery and widespread death.

News of this appalling tragedy was published in the papers. This item from the Port Phillip Patriot is indicative of the nature of many published reports. "IRISH FAMINE "I. Lamentable records of starvation are published in the May, files of Irish papers, eg., from the Nation -"Cork is like a city of the plague - the unburied corpses trip men in the streets"." In addition, details would come in letters to the Clancy's (as to many others) who anxiously waited for mail, telling how their two little girls were faring.

The Rev P.B. Geoghegan called a meeting on 12th August 1846 to consider what they could do to help the people who were suffering. Some 300 attended (and surely Thomas was among them). A sum of £250 was collected from those present. In four days, this grew to £423 and a little later, the sum of £500 was remitted to Ireland. Later, the amount reached £l,362:17:3.44

In 1846, 9,000 - or one quarter of the population of Victoria - was Irish born. As a result of the famine from 1847, another 16,000 Irish arrived in Victoria in the next six years, many of these coming from County Cork. Coming from one region, sharing one religious faith (in the main), belonging to the same economic and social class, they provided a remarkable homogeneity in this rapidly growing community. Indicative of their numbers is the fact that when St. Francis Church was completed and blessed on 25th October 1845, 23 babies were baptised A Census of Gipps Ward taken in March 1846 revealed 886 Roman Catholics, 691 Church of England, 343 Presbyterians 99 Wesleyans and 99 adherents to other denominations, making a total of 2,118.45

No information is available concerning the work Thomas Clancy did in 1844. From January to June 1845, at least, he was employed by the Melbourne Police Department as a Petty Constable on the princely pay of 2/6 a day. The Chief Constable was W.J. Sugden, described by Edmund Finn as "a tall, straight, good-looking man, who strutted like a retired dragon through the streets". The Sergeants were Charles Swindall, Thomas Lawrence and Patrick Stapleton. Other Petty Constables were Thomas Bradon, John and George Heffernan, John Higgins, Thomas King, Maurice O'Connor, John Stanton, John Thornhill and Peter Tucker. That was the entire Police Force for Melbourne at that time. Sugden's name appeared in the newspapers frequently, King and one or two others got some publicity but Clancy never.46

The Police Force was frequently the subject of comment in the Press, usually adverse. Probably sensitive to these criticisms, the Chief Constable in May 1845 drew up a Code of Regulations for the guidance of constables.47

On New Year's Day 1845, a grand field day was held at the Police Office. The Police were inspected by the Superintendent, Major St. John, who professed himself satisfied by the appearance of the men and commented that with the exception of four (one being the newly recruited Clancy) they were the same as those who had appeared before him twelve months earlier, clear proof that they behaved themselves well.

The report does not clearly indicate what the Superintendent meant when he referred to the "appearance" of the men - whether fine physique, neatness of uniform or a combination of both. Clancy was a big man but it is not known how he was dressed. T. O'Callaghan writes of the Police uniforms prior to 1850:

"Uniforms were supplied to the Police when obtainable, but the greatest difficulty was experienced in getting supplies from Sydney or England. It was an everyday experience to see Constables dressed in plain clothes, a broad leather belt around the waist, a baton slung thereon, and a badge or band upon the hat or cap, bearing the words "Melbourne Police"."

Hugh MuCrae's account is more colourful:

"Very likely the Constable would be an old man, dressed in civilian clothes, with a belt, or saddle-girth to hang his truncheon from; on his head a cabbage-tree hat, marked like a zoological specimen, "MELBOURNE POLICE"."48

We do not know whether Thomas had a uniform. At least he had belt, baton, and identifying words, "Melbourne Police". Even then Gilbert and Sullivan could have sung "A Policeman's lot is not a happy one" for what with lack of uniforms, carping criticism in the Press (only some of which was justified) and reduction in pay, he would not find life easy. The Port Phillip Patriot refers to reduction in pay which occurred while Clancy was in the force, and speaks up for the Police:

"When Constables were appointed for the district at the beginning of the year, their pay was 3/3 per day; shortly afterwards this was reduced to 3/- and remained at that figure until 31st March 1845 when the Superintendent directed that it be reduced to 2/6 and further ordered that the 6d between 3/-and 2/6 be deducted for the period of 59 days and it was deducted leaving Constables at a mere fraction of their last month's pay. The making the men refund what they had received during the preceding two months appears a monstrous stretch of authority. Is it justice? or is it the right act of a subordinate ready for £1,500 a year to do the dirty work that may be forwarded to him to perform?"49

The words were well spoken but they did not effect a restoration of pay for, at the end of June, T. Clancy signed for his pay at the meagre rate of 2/6 a day. On this he was expected to keep a wife and six children, with just the possibility that the two elder ones were earning something. Young Tom, either from choice or necessity, was earning a little, even though he was only ten years old. Years later he recalled:

"My first employment was in the office of the Port Phillip Patriot of which "Johnny" Fawkner, the founder of Melbourne, was the proprietor. The office was at the back of the Shakespeare Hotel, which was on the corner of Collins and (Market Streets. I was a "runner" for the Patriot-took out the newspaper when it was published. I was one of the earliest Melbourne "newsboys". The Post Office was then on the south side of the block now occupied by the Western Market - half-way between Market Street and William Street. The Stocks were close to it. I have seen a woman and two men in the stocks there."50

He does not say when he was a newsboy. However, in the Port Phillip Patriot an advertisement appeared on 11th August 1846, "Wanted - a boy to act as runner to the Patriot office". He could well have applied for and got the job at that time.

It is not known whether Clancy remained a member of the Melbourne Police Force for the whole of 1845 but he was on the payroll as a Petty Constable for the first quarter of 1846, this time in the Police District of Bourke, but attached to the Melbourne Police Station. In this position he was involved in a series of public happenings which took place during that year.

First, there were the New Year's Day amusements on the beach provided by Mr Liardet in which some "Tipperary boys" attempted to enliven proceedings with "shillelahs" until interrupted by the Police. Mr Ward L. Cole, son of the proprietor of the Wharf, fell from a pleasure craft and was drowned; a fracas during the afternoon led to one being taken into custody.

Towards the end of the month, there was a battle between rival aborigine tribes seven miles out on the Sydney road, which called for the attention of Police from the district of Bourke.51

On 20th March, there was a big double function, the laying of the foundation stone of the Prince's Street Bridge across the Yarra and the laying of the foundation stone of Melbourne Hospital. For the occasion "the sun shone in unrivalled splendour".

The procession commenced at the Royal Hotel in Collins Street - the Chief Constable (on horseback), Mounted Police, Constabulary (spick and span uniforms), children of the Schools six abreast, the Total Abstinence Society, the Burgesses of the Town, members of the Town Council, the Mayor, the Civil Officers of the Government, Magistrates, Clergy, Members of the Legal and Medical Professions, His Honour the Superintendent (Mr La Trobe), Military Officers, Independent Order of Oddfellows, Masons. Thomas Clancy would either be keeping order or marching and the younger Clancy children would be with their school mates.52

St Francis' Melbourne  Courtesy La Trobe Library Collection

St Francis' Melbourne

( Courtesy La Trobe Library Collection )

After the ceremonies, the Chief Constable entertained the Police Force at dinner at the Market Square Hotel (licensee Thomas Bail) which was in Flinders Lane, on the north side and a little west of Elizabeth Street.53

It is not known when Thomas Clancy ceased being a policeman or what his next work was. In his reminiscences, his son Tom said that his father was managing a property at Darebin Creek for Mr P. Browne. It was about harvest time and the boys were engaged in fencing with stocks. John had quite a short stick. He saw what appeared to be a good length stick and went to grab it only to discover that it was a black snake.

On another occasion young Tom went with two men on a shooting trip. he saw a large black snake, which one of the men, O'Connor by name, (shot with a gun. The men got lost; they saw a large fire, which they thought to be a bonfire lit to guide them home. It happened to be a bushfire. The men then followed a fence. But they were lost and had to spend the night in the open. Next morning they discovered they were near the homestead and a very relieved Anne Clancy received her son back again.

No dates are given in these anecdotes. Harvest time suggests the end of the year or early in the new year. From other known information, the earliest possible time would be early 1847 and more likely the end of that year. It may be that Thomas saw in this position on the land an opportunity of having his growing sons usefully employed and yet remain part of the household.

At this point it is as well to record other items recalled by young Tom. After working as a "newsboy", he went to work as a shepherd for Barnes, Morton & Co., who kept a boiling-down establishment on the Yarra close to where the Union Steamship Company's Wharf was when his recollections were recorded. One of the partners was Mr Lockhart Morton, who years afterwards used to write letters to the newspapers. There were three partners in the firm. Young Tom said, "It was down there on the Yarra I first met George Coppin, the actor. He was fishing and he asked me to get him some "gentles" - worms. Bream, trout, mullet and schnapper were to be got in the Yarra. From Barnes, Morton & Co., I went to work at Tabletop Station, near Albury, of which Mr Foot was the proprietor. For many years, much later on, Mr Foot used to sit as magistrate on the Emerald Hill Bench. I returned to Melbourne in July 1845, in a coach-and-eight. You're surprised.' I mean a bullock dray."

Tom had a whimsical humour, which surfaced in many of his reminisences. For instance, he called himself a "bottle-stopper" by birth. "I mean a Cork man" and then he added that he was born at Castletownroche.

Although he had a clear memory regarding persons and places, Tom is slightly inaccurate regarding dates. He was very young when he worked as a"newsboy" in 1846. Then he went to work as a shepherd and after that went about two hundred miles away to New South Wales to work on a station. Obviously, he is in error in saying that, after having done these things, he returned in July 1845. Probably, he left school when he was 12 years of age, then worked for a short while as a shepherd, after which he went to Tabletop.

This would mean that he returned in July 1847 or more probably, in July 1848. In later years he kept a diary and for the year 1882 he recorded that he travelled by train from Albury to Sydney.

He writes that he had not seen Albury for 35 years when he went to Tabletop. This would put the year at 1847.

Commenting on his boyhood days in Melbourne, Tom mentioned some of the people he had seen, including John Batman, Captain Lonsdale the first Police Magistrate and Governor La Trobe, also Robert Kerr who owned the Courier. "I "took out" the first and last number of the Courier of which Isaac Pitman was the proprietor. There was only one issue. I verily believe this was the man who invented the shorthand system." He said that Father Geoghegan lived in a small cottage where St. Francis Presbytery now is. When Dr Goold, the first Bishop of Melbourne arrived in 1848 or 1849 (the year was 1848) he lived there, too. So did Dr Fitzpatrick (he arrived from Sydney in November l848) "who prepared me for confirmation. Dr Goold confirmed me".54 Dr Goold, assisted by Dean Coffey, Dr Fitzpatrick and Father Kavanagh, confirmed 90 persons - children and adults - on Pentecost Sunday, 29th May 1849. So this definitely fixed one date, indicating that the Clancy's were still in the Melbourne area at that time. The Rev J.A. Goold had driven overland from Sydney with a coach and four-in-hand after his consecration in St. Mary's Cathedral, Sydney. Roman Catholics met him as he neared Melbourne and swe1led the procession. He was installed on 10th August 1848.55

The Mr P. Browne Tom said his father went to work for was Sylvester J. Browne of Heidelberg, who was well-known in those days as "Paddy" Browne. He was an early purchaser of land in Melbourne, a block on which later the Wesleyans erected their first chapel. He was also a member of the Committee of St. Patrick's Society when it was formed in 1842. He had 2,000 acres leasehold on Darebin Creek, called "Iranoon", which was a dairy farm near the centre of what is now Northcote. This was probably the property on which Thomas Clancy worked. He also had properties in a number of other places. He was the father of T.A. Browne, who wrote under the nom-de-plume "Rolf Boldrewood". (Robbery Under Arms" and "Old Melbourne Memories" are two of his works.)56

When Melbourne was no more than two or three years old, there was already a settlement north of Darebin Creek. In 1842, the road ran through the morass from the junction of Smith and Reilly Streets to the Merri Creek Ford, slightly east of the present bridge. The road was macadamised in 1846 and a toll-bar erected5tjhe following year. In 1848, the Ford was succeeded by a causeway.57

During the 1840's, the Roman Catholics who settled on the Darebin Creek received priestly ministrations from St. Francis Church. For example, an announcement appeared in the Port Phillip Herald on 18th May 1848 that on the following Monday evening Father Geoghegan would arrive at Mr Alexander McKillop's house, Darebin Creek, and would "perform divine service" there on the following morning. The Clancy's were probably there then and on this and other occasions shared with the McKiliops and others in worship and fellowship. Very likely, Agnes Clancy and Mary McKillop, renewing contacts established at St. Francis School, talked and played together. The Clancy name does not appear on St. Francis School roll for 1847, indicating that they had made their move early that year. If there was no school within reasonable distance, the parents would have taught them at home.

During 1847, the great Irish leader; Daniel O'Connell, died and a solemn Requiem Mass was celebrated in St. Francis Church58. Due to the shortage of labour, some pastoralists favoured the transportation of convicts to the Port Phillip district. Anti-transportationists held a monster meeting on 1st March 1847. Great excitement was kindled by the arrival of the Thomas Arbuthnot on 4th May 1847 with "Penton-villians". The following year, opposition reached fever pitch when the Randolph arrived with a shipload of convicts. They were refused permission to land and the ship proceeded to Sydney. In 1851, a league was formed with the object of preventing any convicts being landed or employed in Victoria. The indirect effect of this upon the Clancy's related to the opportunities, working conditions and wages which they were able to have as employees on the land.59

The winter of 1849 was very cold and the people of Melbourne were amazed to find snow (in many places, one foot deep) covering Melbourne when they awoke on the morning of 31st August. Towards evening rain came and this, with the melting snow, created a major flood. At Heidelberg, Darebin, Merri Creek and along the Yarra, there was a large destruction of property60.

The move of Thomas Clancy to Darebin Creek was a stage along the way of a move much further from Melbourne. He began his Australian life by accepting employment on the land for Mr Sayers. Then followed years of depression when men on the land were boiling down their sheep because they were no longer profitable and little or no rural employment was available. So Thomas remained in Melbourne and accepted whatever employment was available. Being essentially a countryman, he went back on to the land when the opportunity came.

Click Here To Go To the Topup arrow

web design and development x webcore.com.au Copyright © 2002 - 2017 All Rights Reserved.

"The Overflow of Clancy" Copyright © by Eric Clancy 2002 All Rights Reserved.

Publisher: webcore.com.au Location: Brisbane. Qld. Australia. Enquiries: Phone +61 7 3202 7089 or contact webcore.com.au