Margaret McAdam from Derrycorr, County Armagh
Produced by Robert H. Dumbrell November 14, 2008
Margaret was my mother’s grandmother who was born in the small village of Derrycorr, County Armagh, Ulster on 8.10.1837. Derrycorr is southwest of Belfast and about 10 miles northwest of Portadown and part of the parish of Tartaragham. She was the fifth child of nine born to Henry and Judith McAdam . She was a Protestant and in 1863 she migrated to NSW with her elder sister, Sarah, sailing on the “Sir John Moore”.
The two girls initially stayed with their cousin, Isaac Stevenson at Surry Hills, on the then outfringe of Sydney’s east. Sometime in the next year or two, they moved a few miles east to a rapidly growing village named Paddington. The area at that time was very rural and not part of Sydney Town. It was situated on South Head Road that was the path to the old lighthouse at South Head.
The original George Street Military Barracks, were in the middle of Sydney Town (Barrack Street) and as Sydney expanded, it was decided to move the soldiers out of Sydney Town and build new barracks adjacent to settlement.. This was done in the 1840s along South Head Road (now named Oxford Street) at Paddington just a short distance from Darlinghurst..
Paddington expanded with the new troops and their families. The soldiers’ wives used to set up roadside stalls there to sell preserved plums and home-made pies to the gentry who rode pass on their way to Bellevue Hill or Watson’s Bay. Around the barracks clustered the first sandstone cottages that were built for the Scottish sand-masons that built the barracks. (See Shadforth Lane where some original stone houses is still there and in good condition)
After the George Street Barracks were closed, the military tailors, saddlers etc, moved to be near their customers. Taverns like the Britannia and the Greenwood Tree did a roaring trade near the barrack gates. Shops opened and people were attracted to settle in the new buildings sitting in the narrow streets.
Margaret was part of this growth.
Margaret had met and was courted by another young Irishman named John Robson who also lived in Paddington. John was born in 1837 in Ireland and raised in the adjoining county of Fermanagh. He arrived in Morton Bay in 1863 on the ”Duke of Newcastle”. The family rumour is that he enlisted as a mounted policeman in Queensland. The Queensland Police Museum has no record of this but their records did not start until 1865. Let me include an email that I received from the Queensland Police Museum after my initial inquiry:
“We do not have any record of a John Robson in 1860. The Queensland Police Force came into being in 1864. Records prior to this time are in NSW. There was a John Matthew Robson sworn in on the 04.03.1885 as a constable. He resigned on the 15.06.1885.
Qld Police Museum
Qld Police Service
200 Roma St
However, in 1867, he appeared in Sydney when he married Margaret at the Church of England, Paddington. John joined the NSW Police Force later in that year on 26 November.
The NSW police Archives gives a good description of John. I quote:
“John was born in Ireland in 1837, was 5 feet eleven tall, with brown eyes and hair and fresh complexion and smart appearance. He was married, a Protestant by faith and assigned to the Sydney Metropolitan area.
His initial rank was probational constable.”
The police area that John was assigned was Darlinghurst and my family told me that John was outposted to work in Paddington where he stayed until he retired in 1898.
I am not sure where John and Margaret first lived after their marriage but as they were married in Paddington and I imagine that they lived there. Also, Paddington police station did not exist in those days and the control station for the area was Darlinghurst. There may have had an outpost at Paddington as the area was rapidly growing. My family told me that John worked in Paddington until he retired. They also said that he was in charge of the station but even so, he could have been at a low rank. NSW police records show that he retired as a special 1st class constable.
Family life really started in 1869 when their first daughter, Sarah was born. The records say Sydney. Unfortunately, Sarah died in the same year.
Margaret Jane followed in 1870 and was the first of the family to be born in Paddington. A years break and my grandmother, Anna Elizabeth arrived in 1871, also in Paddington as are the girls that followed. Another Sarah, Sarah Florence was born in 1873 but died next year. Edith arrived in 1875 and finally, Mabel G in 1879..
Result, six girls of which four survived.
Of the six girls, five were named after Margaret and her sisters back in Ireland.
Anna, my grandmother told me that John was officer-in-charge at Paddington. and lived with his family in a number of houses in Paddington. Eventually, in 1884, the first record that I found was in the “Sands Directory” states that he lived in Underwood street and he moved to 53 Elizabeth in 1888 where he remained for the rest of his days. The three-storey building at 53 Elizabeth Street, Paddington is still there and in good condition.
The family grew as Paddington grew.. The period from 1870 to 1885 saw rapid expansion in the area but mainly on top of the hill near Oxford Street (South Head Road). The stone Police Station and Court were built in the 1890s.
THE YEARS OF MARRIAGES
The four remaining girls married.
Margaret Jane in 1889 Paddington to George Begg.
Anna Elizabeth in 1899 Paddington to Robert Edward Kerr
Edith in 1902 Paddington to Thomas Malony
Mabel G in 1922 Paddington to Thomas John Cubitt
Margaret Jane married George Begg and into a very interesting family. The first mentioned that I found was when a John Elly Begg, in 1860, rented the old tannery in Paddington, which, with its adjoining land, formed a large portion of the Underwood Estate and extended from Glenmore Road and Cascade Street to Point Piper Road. Sometime afterwards he purchased the block and subdivided it. He sold a large portion of the surrounding land, some for as much as 10 pounds a foot and enlarged the tannery.
In 1868 he purchased the “Engerhurst Estate” property in Glenmore Road and later Ormandy House (now a trust property in Oxford Street)which was immediately behind his property. He put Begg Street, now Ormandy Street, through to South Head Road.
Anna Elizabeth in marrying Robert Edward Kerr also married into a business family. Her father-in-law was Samuel Kerr was born in county Fermanagh, Northern Ireland which is adjacent to Anna’s family’s county Armagh.. Samuel was a shoemaker by trade and had joined the British Army’s 58th Regiment (The Black Cuffs) in 6 August 1842 and trained at the army barracks at Chatham, Kent. The 58th provided the guards for 19 convict ships that left Deptford in London docks for NSW & Tasmania. He had travelled to NSW in 1844 on the convict ship “Maria Somes” which left Deptford on 10 April to arrive in Sydney on 17 August that year. He was stationed at the Old Barracks (now the Lancer) at Parramatta for 7 months before being sent to Auckland to fight in the Maori War. He was discharged in Auckland on 31 December, 1849 where afterwards he married Jane O’Conner, a native of Glasgow.. They sailed to Sydney about 1851 with the first of their children arriving the next year.
She married Robert Edward Kerr, the youngest son of Samuel & Jane at Paddington in 1899.
Robert Edward was raised in The Rocks where his fathes flourished running his successful bootmaking business for over 35 years. Robert Edward and his two brothers learnt the trade and used it to further enhance their own futures.
I recently was told by a cousin how the two met. It seems that Robert Edward was a popular baritone and conducted musical receitals in the area. Om one occassion his accompanist was not well so Robert in his endeavour to find a fine pianist found one in Anna Elizabeth. From that time fate was sealed and the pair became engaged and married.
They both exhibited their musical skills many time to their enthrolled family and friends.
Edith married Thomas Maloney at Paddington in 1902.
Mabel G married Thomas John Cubitt at Paddington in 1922.
Constable John Robson
Although very little is known about John’s police work, it must be remembered that he was in the midst of the every growing Paddington area where it progressed from a quite rural area with only South Head Road wandering along its ridge on its way to Watson’s Bay. With the comings of Victoria Barracks came the rapid expansion that opened up the eastern parts of Sydney.
His police records show that he started as a Probational Constable on 26.11.1867, promoted to 1st class constable on 01.02.1875. Family hand-downs state that John was Officer-in-Charge at Paddington. However, this is not been proved.. He retired on 27 May, 1898, aged 60, living at 53 Elizabeth Street, Paddington. He received a pension of seven & sixpence.
The end of the generation.
There is a very strange factor to the end of this generation. John died in his Elizabeth Street home on 6 October, 1910 and Margaret, his wife followed him 11 days later on the 17th. They are buried in the Anglican section (20) of Waverley cemetery together with their daughters Margaret Begg & Mabel Cubitt. The site is in very good condition.
TO BE CONTINUED.
RECOMMENDED OTHER KERR DOCUMENTS:
• Samuel Kerr: Soldier, Business and Family Man
• Robert Edward Kerr: My Grandfather
* Carl Carlson: