The story of the missed voyage to Australia on the ill-fated Dunbar is well known by many of the descendants of Thomas Smyth. The story claimed that they had tickets to emigrate to Australia on the ‘Dunbar’, but because of illness, they exchanged the tickets with someone else. Who was sick was never explained and who they exchanged the tickets with was also a mystery?
The “Dunbar’, one of 4 sailing ships owned by Duncan Dunbar an English shipowner, was wrecked on the reef at South Head, at the entrance to Sydney Harbour in 1857. Only one person survived.
In 1857 Thomas was probably 27 years old but Ann was only about 17 and they were not married and so this planned voyage in 1857 seemed implausible if Ann and Thomas were the passengers. Ann and Thomas were married in 1859 in Longford, Ireland, and had three children before they made the trip to Australia on the ‘Annie Wilson’ in August 1865. Baptismal records exist for the three Irish-born children and there are no records for children born in Australia to Thomas and Ann before the birth of Rose Ann in 1866 at Boorowa, on Longford Farm.
Thomas Smyth’s obituary mentions that they came to Australia to farm cattle with his brother, a brother who lived in Sydney apparently when Thomas died.
James Smith of Murringo is very likely to be Thomas’ brother. James appears to have arrived in 1856 at the age of 20. The boat he arrived on was the ‘Phoebe Dunbar” a sister ship of the Dunbar. While the ‘Phoebe’ was not wrecked on a reef if was however lost in a fire in Newcastle Harbour. The ‘Phoebe Dunbar’ was the last convict ship to leave Ireland in 1853.
James married Ellen Speering in 1861 in Binalong.
James Smith and Ellen Speering Marriage certificate
James, according to his obituary, owned a hotel on the Lambing Flat goldfield. This hotel, the Cosmopolitan, was located on Main Street, opposite where Main Street meets Cloete Street. James Smith purchased the hotel for 400 pounds from James Torpy in May 1862.
James may have run this hotel as well as farmed on land closer to Boorowa, at Cattle Creek, on a farm named Longford Farm. This property, shown on the map below, had a fresh water supply from Cattle Station Creek, with its origins in the Black Mountain Range behind Thomas’ Moppity property, and was recorded on many birth certificates of Thomas and Ann’s children. James signed a title deed for this land on September 4th, 1862.
Title Deed Cattle Station Creek
It was on this property, sometime between the date of their marriage on April 21st, 1861, and November 1863, when James and Ellen were held up, in their home, by Johnny O’Meally, a bushranger, and acquaintance of Ben Hall and Frank Gardiner. The article states: “Pale shafts of twilight fell across the tall figure of O’Meally, the bushranger, standing by the window in the drawing-room of Mr. and Mrs. Smith’s home.” O’Meally stole 25 pounds from James Smith, who had a further 300 pounds buried in the garden that the bushranger did not find. Ellen’s rings, however, were removed from her hands and taken along with the money.
The story is a recollection of Anne Smith, James and Ellen’s oldest daughter, some 60 years after the event and contains some inaccuracies, namely that Ellen was surrounded by her 11 children, however since the youngest child was born in about 1880, and Johnny O’Meally died in 1863, this cannot be correct. Anne could have been no more than an infant at the time.
Having had a few good seasons in the Boorowa district, James sold his property early in 1874 and moved to the Murrumbidgee district. The journey of 250 kilometres took 6 weeks. Provisions and furniture were carried in bullock drays and the stock was driven ahead of the wagons, cows, sheep, and goats traveling in one large flock. Fierce wild pigs and huge kangaroos were frequently seen along the bush route, as were wandering aboriginal tribes.
By 1874 James and his growing family were in the Narrandera district living on the Banandra Estate, part of the Tubbo Station. Their nearest town was Wagga Wagga and once a year the family wagons would be driven the 85 miles to the town to gather provisions for the following year. James successfully farmed sheep on Banandra for 18 years and in 1885 he was appointed as a Commissioner of the Peace. He was referred to as James Smith Esq., J.P. in stock sales reports.
While they lived at Banandra, Ellen Smith adopted a young indigenous boy called Sam. He grew up to be a staunch and faithful servant who fearlessly protected the Smith children. Since he didn’t like the cold he would often stand bare-footed on the colas in the fireplace. Sam married an indigenous woman who also worked on the property for many years as well.
In 1889 James was suffering from ill health, due to a tumour for which he had received treatment for a number of years. He and his family took up residence in Stalbrook house, on the corner of Milton and Church Streets in Ashfield. The property is described as an elegant, well-built, and commodious 2-storey brick house. slate roof, containing a wide hall, drawing and dining rooms, four bedrooms, bathroom, sewing-room, kitchen with Slee’s large cooking stove, front and back verandah as well as a balcony, with fruit trees and a garden.
James Smith died in Sydney in 1891 and listed his mother as Mary Sheridan. James’ headstone acknowledges his origins as County Longford, all details matching Thomas’ death certificate.
Children of James and Ellen Smith
John Thomas born in 1862, Binalong, NSW. Married Margaret Lackey in 1897 in Sydney and died May 6, 1955.
Anne born in 1863, Binalong NSW. Married John Kelly in 1886 in Hay, NSW. Lived in Whitton and then Jerilderie. They had 8 children. Anne died November 7, 1941, at Jerilderie, NSW.
Mary Ann born 1865. Married April 16, 1897, to Arthur Cashel in New Zealand. They had 1 daughter, Georgina. Arthur died in 1902 and Mary remarried in 1906 to Henry John Cashel. They had a daughter Vera and a son Arthur. Mary died on December 4, 1957, in Auckland, New Zealand.
Patrick Francis born on April 23, 1866. Married Charlotte Biggs in Sydney, in 1902. Died June 7, 1934, in Granville, NSW. They had 3 children.
James Stephen born in April 1870. Died December 3, 1893, in Ashfield, NSW.
Hannah May born in 1871. Married George Fletcher Wild on April 29, 1897, in Sydney, NSW. Died March 23, 1934, at sea between Australia and New Zealand. They had 3 children.
Bridget born 1873. Died January 28th, 1905 in Kew Victoria.
Ellen born in 1874, Narrandera, NSW. Died in South Melbourne, 1829.
Thomas Michael born in February 1876, in Narrandera, NSW. Died August 10, 1893, in Sydney, NSW.
Catherine (Mother Mary Cecilia) born in 1878 in Narrandera, NSW. Professed as a Sister of Mercy at Forbes on November 3, 1897. Died 24th August 1953 at Forbes, NSW.
Martha Margarita born on June 9, 1881, in Narrandera, NSW. Married James Lackey in 1909 in Sydney. Died 1924 In Ashfield, NSW. They had one daughter, Josephine.