Fairhall/Fairall - Migration to Australia


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Tom Fairhall's 1981 Notes on Migration to Australia

Late in the afternoon of November 6th, 1838, the migrant ship "Maitland", five months out from Gravesend, London, sailed through Sydney Heads and hove to in Watson's Bay. It was a welcome anchorage for the 350 passengers after one of the worst emigrant voyages of the time.

Since the second day out, scarlet fever, typhoid, pneumonia and other illnesses had swept the ship, taking nearly forty lives, 29 of them children. Some were still suffering and all, even the crew, were described as "sickly". Sydney Port Medical Authorities, appalled at the pitiful conditions on board, immediately put the "Maitland into quarantine.

Among the immigrants who survived that terrible voyage, were William Fairhall (aged 47), his wife, Ann (nee Huntley) (42), and eight of their children Thomas (21), Samuel (20), Sophia (18), Charlotte (14), William (10), and twins Benjamin and James (8). This appears to be the first family to arrive in Australia. Not all of the family emigrated but Mary, the eldest, came out in 1841 on the "Barhampooter". The "Maitland" records show that a Fairhall baby was born at sea, but died ten days later. Another son, David, was born to William and Ann in N.S.W. about 2 years later.

Thomas was among the sickly ones sent to what was then described as the "Quarantine Grounds" at South Head. His father went into quarantine too but only to nurse Thomas through convalescence.

This pioneer Fairhall family came from Guestling, in Sussex County. They were farmers, recruited, along with hundreds of other agricultural workers, mechanics and other artisans, to come to the colony as free settlers under the "Bounty Scheme" of assisted passages, paid for by the sale of crown lands the "Wakefield Scheme". N.S.W. was then just fifty years old and, technically, still a penal settlement, for convictism did not officially end until 1840.

Following close on William's heels were two other Fairhall families. They reached Sydney in 1839 in different ships and came from the neighbouring districts of Guestling, Brede and Icklesham, all in Sussex. All were farm workers and were obviously related; however the only information given here is taken from the records of the ships in which they arrived. It is likely that the three heads of family were cousins. But more of these families later.

The original William and his family, after leaving the "Maitland", moved up the Hunter River and settled on a property on "Anambah Estate", near Lochinvar. According to the Newcastle and Hunter River Historical Soc., "Anambah" was originally a grant of 2,110 acres made to George Cobb in 1822. Cobb lived on it for a time, but subsequently sold it to George Kenneth McKay, who bought it for his son. In 1880 the McKays erected the present 27 room "Anambah House", a mansion in which, over the years, many prominent people were entertained, among them various state governors and Madam Melba. It is now used for wedding and other social receptions.

Other descendants of William may know something of the family's activities at "Anambah". I have found nothing, not even the nature of their holdings on the estate; only that some members still lived there in the 1870s. Nor have I found out who the legendary Fairhall girl was, who was said to have become the "Queen of Brickfield Hill" through land and other commercial activities. According to the legend, she amassed a considerable fortune, then sold everything and went back to England because she did not like the rugged life of Sydney Town. Was she Sophia, Mary Charlotte or one of the other Fairhalls?

William Fairhall died at "Anambah" on 10th December 1873, aged 83 years, and 34 years after bringing his family out to the colony. It is interesting to reflect that he was born two years after Captain Phillip's first fleet arrived in Botany Bay, to found Australia. The Maitland coroner held an inquest into the circumstances of his death, which the "Maitland Mercury" reported as follows:
"An old man named William Fairhall, Living at "Anambah", died rather suddenly. Up to his death he had enjoyed his usual good health, but about 9 a.m. or 10 a.m. he complained of pain and his wife put him to bed. He seemed easier after this, but towards evening gradually lost his breath and a noise was heard in his throat. His wife and son, Thomas, sensed no danger from the symptoms and did not think it necessary to call for medical assistance. He died early in the evening. Dr. John Pierce examined the body and gave the opinion that death was due to old age and the decay of nature."

William's second son, Samuel, died two years later on 8th June 1875, in tragic circumstances at Maitland Hospital, where he was a patient. Evidence was given at the inquest that he had been in hospital for several months suffering from disease of the liver and stomach and also pneumonia and had been ailing for some eighteen months before this. The matron reported that he had a habit of sitting up at night, because he could not lie down. He often walked about the wards late at night. The nurses reported him missing and his body was found beneath a 24ft. high verandah from which he had apparently fallen and broken his neck. The coroner returned an "open finding". He was 59. His family 5 sons and 4 daughters, all pre deceased him.

William's first son, Thomas, had nine children, all boys and all born at "Anambah". He married, at the age of 28, a 19 year old girl, Jane Martin, from Heathfield, Sussex. They were married in St. Mary's Church of England, Maitland, about 1845. Jane died 15 years later, aged 33 years, and was buried in Lochinvar Cemetery, where her headstone can still be seen. Their sons were John, James, Eugene, Benjamin, William, George, Mark and Joseph. The eldest was about 15 and the youngest only 3 months when Jane died. David, the last son, was born to Elizabeth Grainger, nee Frost, in 1861. The boys all remained close to the land, all good horsemen and Bushmen and not without a spirit of adventure. While some were still in their youth, they drove cattle and trucked supplies, including butter, into what was then the wilds of Central Queensland. Joseph was said to have had both his legs broken when run over by a wagon, far from medical attention, on an overland trek, leaving him bandy legged.

Tragedy struck the family in the mid 1870s when two of the boys lost their lives after taking a shipment of cattle to Darwin, then only a newly surveyed settlement known as Palmerston, barely six years old. One of the brothers, Mark, died, probably from fever, under a gum tree outside Darwin. The other, William, was lost in one of Australia's worst shipping disasters. Mark was about sixteen and William twenty when they lost their lives. The only account of what happened that was ever published seems to have been printed in the Maitland Mercury of 22nd October, 1937, when Benjamin, one of the brothers who went on the trip, died at Lower Belford. It says that in early manhood, Benjamin, with others, pioneered a track from Newcastle to Central Queensland in bullock wagons with supplies for settlers. The journey took 18 months to two years to complete, "travelling under adverse conditions and often troubled by blacks". The Mercury article says that Benjamin and five brothers took cattle from Newcastle to Darwin on a sailing ship. No dates or names of the other brothers are mentioned the voyage took place in early 1874, but we know that one of the brothers was James, who was aged 27 at the time, and had married Emma Clements of Tocal just before sailing with the cattle. That he had sailed in the first available ship from Darwin to rejoin his wife probably saved his life. The article continues, "While at Darwin, one of the brothers, Mark, died and was buried under a gum tree. When about to return with another of his brothers (William) Benjamin took ill and had to stay behind. The boat on which he was to return (with William) to N.S.W. was wrecked on the Great Barrier Reef and all hands, including his brother, were drowned with the exception of the cook. After recovering, he returned to N.S.W. and took up land on the Richmond River, but later came back, married and settled down close to where he was born." On the evidence of his parents' death certificates, Mark would have been 16 when he died under the gum tree at Darwin.
(Bruce's Note: I wrote to both the Northern Territory and South Australian Registrars General, but neither had any report of his death.)

William sailed from Darwin on the S.S. "Gothenburg" (500 tons) in a gala atmosphere on 16th. February 1875, bound for Cape York, Newcastle, Melbourne and Adelaide. Nothing more was heard of her until 3rd. March, when news came that S.S. "Gothenburg" had been lost in a gale on the Great Barrier Reef in Flinders Passage, off Townsville, on the night of 24th February. She carried 86 passengers and 36 crew, of these 102 were lost and only 22 were saved, 12 of them seamen (presumably including the cook). The dead included the captain, Pearce, high ranking administration officials and members of the South Australian Judiciary, who had presided at Darwin's very first Circuit Court Hearings. Some of the men lost were goldminers returning from the newly discovered Tennant Creek diggings. It was said that they refused to discard their gold filled money belts and quickly sank to their doom. Some 3000 oz. of gold went down in the "Gothenburg". The Northern Territory was then under South Australian control and newspapers reported that there was scarce a home in Adelaide not touched by the tragedy. The Maitland Mercury made no mention of the loss of William or of the farm home at "Anambah" doubly touched by disaster in it's report of the wreck of the "Gothenburg" (not at the time anyway).

Like his father (William) Thomas lived into the eighties. He died, aged 84, on the 25th May 1901, at Bolwarra, where he was probably living with his youngest son, David, who registered his death. Born in 1816, he had lived through most of the 19th Century. It is interesting that his son, James, also lived to 84. Thomas was buried in Lochinvar Cemetery, where he had buried his 33 year old wife, Jane, nearly 40 years earlier.

As mentioned earlier, three Fairhall families came out from Sussex in 1838-39, and the task of compiling a family tree is a colossal and bewildering task. Here they are taken from shipping records in the State Archives. The first was, of course, William of our family line. He was aged 47 when he sailed from England on 24th June 1838 with his family in the "Maitland". He was the son of John Fairhall of Brede, Sussex and his Wife, Ann, daughter of John Huntley of Roberts Bridge, Sussex. They were living at neighbouring Guestling when they emigrated.

The second family to emigrate was, coincidentally, also that of a William Fairall. They sailed from Gravesend in the "Juliana" four months later on 20th. October 1838. This William was aged 49 and came from Icklesham, Sussex, the son of Edward Fairall/Fairhall of the same place. It is also coincidental that his wife's name was similar Anna (or Hanna) aged 46, daughter of William Weller of Icklesham. To make matters a little more confusing, William had a son William (aged 28) married to Charlotte Lavender (24). They emigrated on the "Juliana" with the rest of the family; John (25), Anne (18), George (13), Grace (10), Valentine (8), Edward (5) and Ellen (2). Theirs was an adventurous voyage. Ninety days out from Gravesend the "Juliana" was blown onto rocks at Green Point, Capetown and wrecked. There was no loss of lives however and the emigrants were lodged in Capetown until other ships could be chartered to take them to Sydney. They arrived, eventually, in the "Morayshire" on 20th. May 1839. On the voyage, 22 emigrants had been buried at sea, mostly from the "Juliana".
(Bruce's Note: This family became established in the southern highlands of New South Wales with the surname FAIRALL, and there are many descendants of William and Anna/Hannah throughout the eastern states today.)

The third family to emigrate was that of John Fairall, aged 45, of Brede, the son of William Fairall, also of Brede. His wife was Philadelphia, aged 39, daughter of William Masters, of Icklesham. They had two daughters, Harriet (13) and Philadelphia (9) at the time of their arrival in the "Prince Regent" on 20th. March 1839. John was described as a farm labourer and brickmaker in the ship's records.
(Bruce's Note: The two girls were actually issues of Philadelphia's marriage to Robert Chester, and it is believed John adopted them, or at least changed their name to Fairall, when he married Philadelphia in December 1838, just before they emigrated. Harriet married William Radford and they had one son who died in infancy. Philadelphia married Thomas Boucher, and their only child also dies in infancy. Philadelphia then married Henry Watton and they had no known issues. This family thus ends at that point.)

FROM: My Family - the Fairhalls, by Thomas J. Fairhall, 1981

Read more about this author here: Tom Fairhall

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This page was updated on: 2 September 2020