Samuel Kerr : Soldier, Family Man, Business Man
( 1822 – 1903)
Author : Robert H. Dumbrell.
Original: November 13, 2008
Edit : April 9, 2011
1822 - 1843 INTRODUCTION
Samuel Kerr was born in County Fermanagh, Ulster in 1824 to Samuel & Annie Neeson. His father was a military sergeant. He was baptised in the Catholic Church. His birth place in the County and childhood is unknown at this stage but it is recorded that he enlisted in the British Army, very probably in Northern Ireland on 6 August, 1842 and after basic training was promoted to Private in the 58th (Rutlandshire) Regiment of Foot. His discharge papers dated 31 December 1849 at Auckland states that Samuel was a shoemaker by trade.
1843 - 1849 THE 58th (RUTLANDSHIRE) REGIMENT OF FOOT.
In 1843 it was decided that the 58th regiment (The Black Cuffs), who were stationed in Chatham Barracks at Gillingham, Kent, England, should take over garrison duties in New South Wales from the 80th (Stafford Volunteers) which was going to Madras. The 58th provided the guards for 19 convict ships that left London and Ireland for Tasmania or Norfolk Island in 1842-45. (for ships details, see “History of the Regiment” document).
The Regiment progressively arrived in NSW in 1844. Samuel sailed from London as a guard on the convict ship “Maria Somes” on 10 April, 1844 and arrived in Sydney 17 August that same year. As was the custom with the army, soldier’s wife and children accompanied them on their duties. In fact, from the regiment’s records, 140 wives and 175 children accompanied their soldier husbands to NSW in 1844/45. Samuel was assigned to Upper Military Barracks in Parramatta which was a couple of days march from Sydney.
The site is now commonly referred to as the Lancer Barracks, and would appear to have been so named for most of the 20th Century. During its first phase of use from 1820, the site was known as the New Military Barracks, to distinguish it from earlier military barracks in Parramatta. In the 1830s it was referred to as the Upper Military Barracks, again to distinguish it from other barracks in particular the former Commissariat Store. From 1862 until 1897 the site was known as the Police Barracks.
In 1845 N.S.W. reluctantly agreed to send the 58th to N.Z. because of the unrest with the Maori in the Bay of Islands The regiment then had an officer compliment of approximately 40 and a total strength of about 1100. There were 932 privates and 18 buglers, pipers and drummers. The C.O.s were Lieutenant-Colonels E. B. and R. H. Wynyard, with Major C. Bridge as assistant.
The Regiment embarked for New Zealand on the barque the “Slain's Castle” on 10 April 1845 with a compliment of greater than 250 rank & file with Captain Cyprian Bridge the OIC. They arrived in Auckland on 22 April 1845, from whence they went straight up to the Bay of Islands to deal with the Maori tribes led by Hone Heke and his principal ally Kawiti who were in rebellion. They took part in the fighting at Okaihau, Ohaeawai, Ruapekapeka, Boulcott's Farm, Horokiri, and St. John's Wood.
Excepting for three companies who remained in the south of the North Island, the main body of the 58th regiment was withdrawn to NSW late in 1847. They sailed from Auckland on 6 December, arriving back in Sydney on 18th, where they again occupied the Upper Military Barracks at Parramatta quit some twenty months previously. As it turned out their sojourn back in NSW was only to last for six months. An escalation of trouble in the south of the North Island in the Wanganui area in May 1847 resulted in their return to New Zealand. They were to remain in New Zealand until 1857.
1849 DISCHARGE FROM THE BRITISH ARMY.
Samuel was discharged “on Payment” as a Private in Auckland on 31 December, 1849. He married Jane O'Connor in Auckland in 1851. Jane was 11 years younger than Samuel so that when Samuel was discharged she was 16. Her parents, Patrick and Hester were Scottish out of Glasgow where Jane was born in 1835. There is no record of their marriage in NSW so apparently they married in New Zealand most possiblely in Auckland.
Samuel’s army discharge certificate also states that he was a shoemaker by trade. I don’t know if he learnt this trade in the army or brought it with him when he originally joined in 1842. However, he continued to make and sell shoe and boots for the next forty-odd years though unproven it is sure that Samuel was employed in his profession of shoe making during his N.Z. civilian stay.
LIFE IN SYDNEY. 1850 - 1859
Samuel and Jane arrived in Sydney by 1853 as their first child, Samuel Joseph was born here in 1853. The government birth record was difficult to uncover as the surname had been registrated as Cahill and an error was also shown on their second baby, Anne J who arrived in 1855, where the last name is recorded as "Carr".
I would not image that Samuel had enough finance to open a new business when he arrived from Auckland. He was surviving on a Army pension so, logically, he would have sort employment in his own profession. Within a few years he was able to fullfil his ambition to look for a place to live and operate his own bootmaking business.
Sydney was going through a very rapid change when they arrived. Sydney Cove had been developed with the Circular Quay area finished in the late 1840s with the area around Bridge to Alfred Streets cleaned & reclaimed. The larger ships were now able to berth and discharge their goods directly onto the Quay. The Cove was packed with shipping ranging from the whale & seal hunters to the barques bringing goods & gold-seeking passengers & migrants that were hoping to find their fortunes in this land of opportunity. Samuel & Jane were here to start a new life and they didn’t take long to find their niche in Sydney.
Samuel had his trade and he had to find the right area to start his business. Why not in the busiest part of Sydney Town.
Let me insert an extract from Geoffrey Scott’s book
“ Sydney’s Highways of History” and “The Rocks” Chapter:
“It was a bustling, colourful area, with parrots & cockatoos in cages before the shop doors, the street crowded with sailors jingling Spanish dollars earned from months at sea on whaling & sealing voyages, the myriad creaking inn signs- the Crooked Billet, Rose of Australia, Three Jolly Sailors and World Turn’d Upside Down- and the present hotel on the corner of George & Globe Streets, built in 1840 which is still there today in beautiful condition.
In the 1850s this part of George Street was the first Chinatown in Sydney Town.
"The Chinese were knowm as "celestials" and most were small shopkeepers and men of the Fukien Province who had come from the goldfields. There were also Chinese laundries, fan-tan and pack-a- poo was played and opium existed in dark corners. Chinatown in the Rocks existed between 1850 - 1860."
All these factors contributed to the deafening noise of the bawling, scuffling, knife-branding hubbub in the area. Jugglers, dancers & peddlers stopped the thoroughfare – all shouting at the top of their voices & trying to carry off strangers by force into their hops and stalls. The smell of cook-shops and joss sticks filled the air, mysterious sun-dried edibles dangled in the windows.”
This was the district with its unique atmosphere that Samuel & Jane decided to move their business and family from King Street.
The “Sands Directory of 1857 and the “City of Sydney Archives record of 1858” states that a Samuel Kerr operated a “boot & shoe maker “ shop at 177 George Street between Essex Street & Brown Bear Lane (near present Alfred Street). The single storey building was designed as a shop / home and had 4 rooms and was constructed from wood with an iron roof. A major 5 star hotel now stands on the site.
These three thoroughfares are still part of the area but Brown Bear Lane is not easy to recognise. It is hard against the northern footings of the Cahill Expressway and looks like an alleyway going nowhere, Its name plate is in position.
The premises was only a 100 metres from Semi-Circular Quay with unrestricted clear views over the very busy waterfront. He would have lived on the premises. The City of Sydney Archives indicates that a William Long was the owner of the terrace of five Houses and Shops with Samuel’s being the most northerly one. A remarkable item was that when Samuel moved over the number of years, he often occupied premises owned by Mr Long.
They had little time to settle into when their third child, John, was born in 1857. He sadly died the same year. Hopefully, the arrival of Mary in 1859 was a much happier occasion.
So, at the end of the 1850s Samuel & Jane with Samuel Joseph, aged 6, Anne aged 3 and baby Mary ended in a busy fashion having three young children and their business flourishing at 177 George Street.
The family remained at 177 George. The sixties progressed with the next recorded arrival being John Alexander who was born in 1864 in Sydney as were the rest. Frederick William followed two years later but he died in 1867. The family brought a family plot (no. 20785) in the Old Catholic Section, Mortuary 1, Rookwood Cemetery, where Frederick was interned and other family members where buried later.Some stability occurred in 1868 when Sophia arrived.
Research shows that, in the early 60s, this area of George Street was under constant change with both street and building re-construction. The buildings were mainly timber and were being replaced with stone materials.
Samuel was involved with the building upgrade when in 1868 the buildings owner, William Long decided to upgrade 177 to brick. They moved two blocks north and still looking east to 147 George Street, two shops south of Globe Street and north of Brown Bear Lane, Sydney. It is only a 100 metres from Semi-Circular Quay with unrestricted clear views over the very busy waterfront. He would have lived on the premises.
(A modern tourist shopping complex now stands on this site.)
The family only spent a year at 147 before returning to the new premises at 177. The family moved a few doors south to 187 George, near Alfred Street, in 1869 when Essex Street was extended to George Street. The site is now a 5 star Hotel.A much larger premisers of 2 floors and 5 rooms gave more space to t he growing family. Samuel Joseph was 17 and possibly a mature apprentice. He would be a great help to his father in their growing business.
Looking back at this past 10 years reveals a period of turbulence with constant city upgrading resulting in the family moving to new premises on a number of occasions. They now had 4 living children with 3 having died as well.
Samuel's financial situation must have been very fortunate when it is revealled that he purchased three brick houses at 203, 205 and 207 Cumberland Street. He leased them out to tenants.
Another healthy girl whom they called Esther was born in that year with Robert Edward coming in 1872 and Catherine in 1875.
Recently it was found in the Sands Directory that Samuel operated a "bootmaker" business at 75 King Street in 1871. His business at 187 George was described as "P. R.". The King Street address appears to have been very temporary as it did not appear in the 1873 edition of Sands.
Another move occurred in 1875 when a bootmaking shop was opened in 728 George Street in the Haymarket area near Hay Street. Perhaps they found the Rocks ‘too much’ for the young children and found that Haymarket was better for business. Catherine died and was buried in the family plot at Rookwood in 1875, the year she was born.
The eldest son, Samuel Joseph was married in 1878 to Anne Agnes McCarthy in Sydney. The next year saw the arrival of the first of their two children. Catherine Esther, probably named after two of Samuel Joseph’s sisters were remembered. It seems that the main branch of the family were keen to return to the Rocks. In 1882, Samuel branched out to a new enterprise of furniture making at 187, 189 and 191 Cumberland Street. The premises were listed as a furniture warehouse in 1885 to 1888. Number 187 was the shop, 189 housed Samuel & family whilst 191 was leased to a Richard Penfold. This group of properties was listed over the next few years with 1891 revelling that they were owned by Samuel but leased out. By 1911 the western side of Cumberland Street was resumed by the State Government for future use.
His bootmaking store at 187 George Street was still operating in 1889.
CHILDREN EDUCATION IN THE ROCKS
BEING PREPARED AT THIS TIME.
Samuel continued with his busy attitude in the 1880s. His boot warehouse at 728 George was still operating when his name appeared At 92 Miller Street, Victoria, now known as North Sydney, as a boot and shoe maker. And his name also was in the news in seveal domestic places on the lower North Shore. Samuel Joseph was listed at 728 George Street so Samuel was free to venture elsewhere.
The 187 to 191 Cumberland Street properties was still being leasted.
At the start of this decade in 1882, there was a small but significant change in Samuel's attitute. For thirty years, Samuel had operated his boot business in The Rocks and Haymarket. However, in 1882 he opened a shoe business at 92 Miller Street, Victoria, now named North Sydney and it was only a few metres north of the present Pacific Highway. I believe he placed Samuel Joseph to run his George Street business.
Samuel also moved into a number of dwelling on the lower North Shore inckluding Neutral Street, Neutral Bay and Falconer Street, St Leonards. It's unsure how long his Miller Street business ran but living local removed the busy drag across the Harbour each work day.
The Sands Directory recorded John Alexander as living in Underwood Street Paddington in 1885.
1890 THE PADDINGTON CONNECTION.
By this time, Samuel was in his late 60s. He had a very successful business going and two sons, Samuel Joseph and Robert Edward to help out. John Alexander, I believe, was an accountant but still a great asset to his father.. But he eventually retired and moved in Paddington. He tried a couple of homes in the area including a few years at 81 Point Piper Road, Paddington and then Windsor Street, also Paddington. He must have liked the area as he finally settled at 83 Paddington Street, adjacent to Elizabeth Street. The remaining family would have joined Samuel at no. 83.
Another marriage occurred with Sophia wedding Henry J Reynolds in Woollahra in 1893. Robert A.J was born to the couple in 1895 and Florence E.J. in 1899.
Samuel Joseph and Annie had been living in the Erskinville area. However, for some reason yet unfounded he moved to 55 Kent Street in 1893. Their elder Daughter, Catherine Esther married Henry Doohan in 1895 and had 4 children by Samuel's death - Annie, Henry Samuel, Eleanor and Hugh. Their younger daughter was unmarried but was to wed John Griffin in 1908.
I was told by my mother that Robert Edward, being the youngest son and not the heir to the business looked elsewhere about this time. Gold had been found in Hall’s Creek, Western Australia in 1885 and in Coolgardie in 1891. Robert, unmarried and in his 20 years, took off to find his own fortune. He sailed to the west with a gold sovereign that his mother had sewn in his coat. It came in handy during his hard times on the gold-fields around Kalgoorlie. He returned to Paddington unsuccessful where he met Anna Elizabeth Robson, the eldest daughter of the local police constable who lived around the corner in 53 Elizabeth Street, Paddington. Her mother, Margaret McAdam, came from Derrycorr, Tartaraghan Parish, County Amargh in Northern Ireland and is not far from Robert’s father’s home county of Fermanagh. (Derrycorr is a small village about 10 miles north-west of Portadown). (The premises at 53 Elizabeth Street in Paddington is now being upgraded).
Unfortunately, Mother Jane died in Paddington in October, 1896 and she was buried with her two children, John Samuel and Catherine, at Rookwood cemetery. She was 61 years of age. There was still Samuel Senior, John Alexander, Robert Edward, Sophia and Esther living in the Underwood house.
Recently , Luke Alexander Quoyle, a Great Grandson of John Alexander has put a lot of light on John's marriage and the Kerr's association with his brides family. It is still early days but it appears the two families had some contact for a number of years pior to the wedding of their respective off-springs. The girl's parents were Carl Carlson and Catherine Gallagher. Carl was born in Borgholm on the Island of Oland near the coastal town of Pataholm, Sweden and Catherine from County Donegal, Ireland. They were successful business family and lived at "Carlson House" 270 Glebe Point Road, Glebe.
John Alexander had moved to 106 Broughton Street, Glebe in the last period of the century and had married Catherine Carlson at St. Patricks, Church Hill in 1899. A little time after their wedding they moved to 'Carlson House" to join Annie's parents.
Robert married his Anna Elizabeth on the 22 September, 1899 in Paddington but I am unsure if it was the Catholic or Church of England church. (Samuel was a Catholic and John Robson a Church of England). But I’m betting it was the Catholic Church when you realise that all their future girls were baptised in the Catholic religion.
Robert and Anna moved to Newtown where they used their shopkeeping skills by opening a draper shop in 196 Enmore Road, Newtown.
Children soon followed with Robert & Anna opening the account with the first of their seven daughters, Florenda Doris on 13 March 1900. Florenda was probably named after one of Anna sisters who had died as a baby in 1874. Her Auntie Sophia was choosen as her Godmother.
Florenda and Carl were to remain firm friends throughout their lives.
A NEW CENTURY 1901. SAMUEL'S PASSING ana
The new decade started well with John Alexander and Anne producing a son, Carl Vincent. They had moved to live with Anne's parents at Glen Point Road. Mamie Roberta Kerr arrived on the 30 March, 1903 to Robert Edward and Anne Elizabeth with John and Anne completing the trio with Annie also in 1903. Florenda Doris and Carl Vincent were to remain firm friends throughout their lives.
The end of the era is apparent with the death of Samuel in Paddington on 6 July, 1903 at his home in 83 Paddington Street, Paddington. He joined his wife and two children in the family grave in the Old Catholic Mortuary Cemetery, Rookwood on the 6 September. His life of 81 years had seen many changes covering the hardships in Northern Ireland as a Catholic, the perils of the Maori Wars and the build-up of the successful business during those changing years in mid century Sydney.
He left Samuel Joseph, 49, Annie, 47, John Alexander, 38, Sophia, 32, Robert Edward, 29, with nine grandchildren. He has spent 8 years in NZ and 51 years in NSW.
Samuel left his remaining family with the properties at Paddington Street and 187, 189 and 191 Cumberland Street.
IN CONCLUSION: THE KERR'S HERITAGE
Ever since I could remember, I considered Robert Edward Kerr, my grandfather, to be a 100% Scot. His looks, manner with the soft approach pointed in that direction. What really made my mind up was his family Lounge Room which was fully of Scottish decorations including a number of large oil painting of the Scottish Hi-lands.
And his surname was KERR.
His wife, Anne Elizabeth heritage was Northern Ireland so she had no influenze with the room.
Then my research found that he was born in Fermanagh, Northern Ireland. That completely destroyed the image that I had carried since my youth.
Later, further research revelled that his father, Samuel, was a sergeant in a British regiment stationed in Fermanagh. Since then I have been trying to find some of Samuel Senior details with no result.
But, at least, I now have my faith restored knowing that my Kerr heritage does lead back to the Glens and Hi-lands of that wonderful country.
STATEMENT WRT SAMUEL’S DEATH CERTIFICATE.
Date of Death 6 July, 1903
Age at death 79
Time in Colony 51 years NSW, 8 years NZ.
Children of Marriage Living
Samuel Joseph 49,
Annie J 47
John Alexander 35
Robert Edward 29
2 Males, 3 Females deceased.