'THE CROPPIES ARE COMING'-1804 New South Wales
Just after supper on the 4th of March 1804, The Reverend Samuel Marsden, preparing for bed at his home in Parramatta, heard shouts from the street,"THE CROPPIES ARE COMING!" He was immediately struck with fear, God knows he'd flogged too many of them to feel safe.
In New South Wales, Marsden had earnt himself the nickname 'The Flogging Parson' for his terrible cruelty and harsh sentences. Therefore, he quickly bundled himself onto a boat and headed for Sydney.
The feared Irish rebellion in New South Wales was born.
The Irish croppies, so called because of their short cropped hair were Irish political prisoners who had arrived in the Colony in 1800.
After 4 years of ill-treatment, they had become desperate and decided it was time to take action.
The first armed rebellion by a group of about fifty convicts from Castle Hill began, marching towards Parramatta burning farms and looting muskets and pikes on the way.
Their leader Phillip CUNNINGHAM, hardened by rebellions in Ireland, knew this rebellion would not succeed without secrecy and discipline and although the convict farms on which the rebels worked were full of informers, word of the planned rebellion didn't leak out until that day, when a convict overseer, turned informer, warned them just hours before of the uprising, he was ignored. It began at nine o'clock in the evening with a signal fire that lit up the sky.
When Marsden arrived in Sydney, he alerted Major George Johnston who gathered fifty of his soldiers from the New South Wales Corps, marching them overnight to Parramatta.
On arrival in Parramatta they found no sign of the rebels and were told that after a night of drinking they'd headed up the Hawkesbury.
Johnston and his Red Coats gave chase and just 10 mile from Windsor, on a hill, the next morning, Johnston found the numbers had swelled to two hundred and thirty three, all shouting "DEATH OR LIBERTY"
Calling on them to surrender, Johnston rode forward to speak with Phillip Cunningham - then breaking all the rules of parley, he suddenly put his pistol to Cunningham's head and arrested him. At the same time, ordering the Corps to open fire. Within a few minutes fifteen convicts lay dead, several were wounded with not one British casualty.
Punishment was swift, nine were hanged and nine were flogged of the rest, some were taken, to serve out long sentences at Coal River* where a convict/military outpost known as Fort Scratchley had been established that year to mine coal, harvest timber and prepare lime. The rest to Van Dieman's Land.
The Hill was forever after known as VINEGAR Hill so named after Vinegar Hill in Wexford, Ireland. Vinegar Hill was the site of the only battle, apart from Eureka, (fought fifty years later) ever fought on Australian soil
NB: Skilled in-fighters in politics, the Irish produced more Australian Prime Ministers than any other group: SCULLIN,LYONS,FADDEN,CURTIN,FORDE,CHIFLEY,MCEWAN,MCMAHON,KEATING and John GORTON had an Irish mother. They were physically and mentally tough they helped to found and later dominated the Australian Labor Party. Their exploits, rebel songs and traditions would mix with those of the English and Scots to form the basis of our folklore.
*Coal River became Newcastle