CHAPTER SEVEN Ulster & Argyll:- Orange & Tartan origins
(Please note:- this has grown into a long chapter and is divided into two documents. Continue reading the chapter by following the link at the bottom of the page)
Honorah, the second child of Thomas and Bridget Bensted was born at Pt Henry on July 28th 1859. No details are known of her early life until her marriage to a John Berry which took place in Colac on April 19th 1879. The marriage celebrant was Fr M Nelan and the ceremony was witnessed by Thomas Hugh Baum and Mary Annie Rourke. The address of both John and Honorah was given as Birregurra although it was noted that the usual address for Honorah was Curlewis. The couple's first child was born at Moolap on August 27th 1879, and given the name Bridget Theresa. 1
John Berry had been born in the Barrabool Hills just outside Geelong on Oct 7th 1854. 2 His father, a farmer also named John, was a native of Co.Tyrone, Ireland, having been born near Strabane around 1821 who arrived at Port Phillip as a bounty immigrant aboard the "Catherine Jamieson" accompanied by his older brother James. The "Catherine Jamieson" had sailed from Leith (near Edinburgh) Scotland on 29th May 1841 and arrived at Port Phillip on Oct 22nd of that year. The "native place" of the brothers was recorded as Co Tyrone and both could read and write. 3
Although born in Ireland, one of John's parents seems to have been a native of Scotland. At least Sarah Leckie was living in Glasgow when she married a soldier of the 40th Regiment of Foot named John Barry, on 15th Dec 1817. 4 It is now known that John Barry joined the 2nd battalion of the 40th Regiment at the Phoenix Park barracks in Dublin, on 5th April 1813. No date of birth was entered on the enlistment form which was required if he was under 18 years of age. Obviously then it would seem that John was Irish, as were many, even most, soldiers in the British army at this time, but nothing more is known of his origins or his family.
Through the quarterly muster rolls of the 40th Regiment John's subsequent military career is well documented. He was stationed initially with the second battalion at Athlone and Mallow in Ireland, then Plymouth in England, before being transferred to the first battalion of the same regiment which arrived in Brussels in 1815, just in time to play a significant part in the battle of Waterloo on18th June. "At Waterloo the 40th were at first in reserve but later were moved into the centre of the allied line, near the farm of La Haye Sainte. There, like the 30th, they withstood repeated attacks by cavalry and infantry and were pounded by cannon, but they stood firm. Towards evening they drove back Napoleon's final attack by massed infantry. Shortly afterwards the Duke of Wellington personally ordered the Regiment to advance. The 40th charged, swept away the French infantry to their front and took part in the recapture of La Haye Sainte. One quarter of the Regiment fell that day. For their steadfastness and discipline at Waterloo the 30th and 40th were permitted to encircle their badge with a Laurel Wreath. The battle is commemorated annually by the Regiment." 5
Following Waterloo, John was stationed near Cambrai in France performing garrison duty with his regiment before being posted to Glasgow in late 1816 or early 1817. Presumably it was here that he first met Sarah whom he married in Dec of that year. The 40th stayed in Glasgow until 1819, then was based in turn at Sunderland and Rochdale in England during the following year. At about this time the couple's first son, James, was born at Greenock, near Glasgow. Their second son John however was born near Strabane in Ireland. This is something of a puzzle as although John was stationed in Ireland from late 1820 none of the locations in which he found himself:- Ennis, Co Clare; Templemore, Co Tipperary; Newcastle, Co Down; Buttevant, Co Cork; Athlone, Co Westmeath or Dublin were anywhere near Strabane or Co Tyrone. I will return to this point later.
In 1823 John formed part of a detachment of the 40th Regiment that embarked for Australia aboard the "Medina" accompanying 177 Irish convicts on their voyage into exile. Possibly for John this was to amount to a more severe punishment than that given to those who had been convicted of crimes, as it seems probable that he never saw his family or native land again. Upon arrival in Australia he spent time at Parramatta, Bathurst and Moreton Bay (Brisbane) before embarking for Van Dieman's Land in late 1825. He then spent almost a year at the penal settlement of Maria Island with shorter periods at Port Dalrymple, Norfolk Plains (Longford)and the Clyde(Bothwell). 6
The duties performed
by the British Army Regiments in Australia were varied and sometimes
onerous as the following passage suggests.
Apart from those connected with the system of convict transportation, both afloat and ashore, they established and maintained the Mounted Police in New South Wales between 1825 and 1850.
The troops constructed fortifications; attended fires and executions; assisted the police in keeping the peace between rioting sailors, rival election parties and squabbling sectarians.
They provided guards for wrecks, goldfields, colonial treasuries, quarantine stations, government houses and the opening and closing of legislatures and mounted escorts for gold in transit.
They manned coastal defences and fired ceremonial artillery salutes. They also operated intermittently against aboriginal resistance in most of the colonies. 7
John Barry's regiment was then posted to India in late 1828, although John did not join them immediately, only reaching Bombay on 10th June 1829. He then served in India for almost nine years being based successively at Bombay, Poona, Colaba and Deesa. His service however was interrupted with several periods of hospitalisation. Probably he was over forty years of age by this time and the climate and harsh nature of military life had taken a toll on his health. So much so that on 8th Jan 1838 he boarded the "Boyne" with a group of soldiers classified as "invalids and men for a change of climate" which set sail for England. Unfortunately he never reached "home". He died on board ship on April 27th and was buried at sea.8
Some insight into just how difficult the life of the common soldier was at this time can be gleaned from the following:-"As
late as the 1870's a soldier was issued with his uniform, a mattress, a
pillow, blankets and a pair of sheets. The blankets were seldom washed,
fresh sheets issued once a month and new straw for the mattresses once
a quarter. The soldier's working day began at 6.30am and ended well
after sunset. Sunday was supposed to be a rest day but it included a
full-dress church parade followed by an inspection of stables and
quarters by the commanding officer. The extra work involved ensured
that Sunday was anything but a day of rest ...
Peacetime rations were scant. Up to the Crimean War there were only two meals a day - at 7.30am and 12.30pm. Until the 1870's the only food issued was 12 ounces of meat (usually of poor quality), a pound of bread and a pound of potatoes for which sixpence a day was deducted from the soldier's pay. Any additional foodstuff had to be paid for out of what was left. Even at the end of the century the last meal of the day was tea at 4pm. This consisted of tea, bread and butter...." 9
In all of this
a significant question remains. What happened to Sarah and John's two
sons in the meantime? Did Sarah accompany her husband in his various
postings or did she remain in Ireland or Scotland? All that is known
from the documentary record is that she is not listed in the only
muster that names the women and children who accompanied the troops of
the 40th Regiment to India (Sep 1829). Something that is known for
certain however is that life for a soldier's wife in the 19th century
was far from easy, as the following passage indicates "The ordinary
soldier was discouraged from marrying and his commanding officer's
permission was necessary before he could do so. The army believed that
the married soldier would be too easily distracted from his military
duties by his domestic responsibilities. Wives and children were also
an unnecessary encumbrance.
For soldiers who did marry it was often the case that the wife suffered the greater hardship. In the first half of the century wives who were "on the strength" were accommodated in the barracks with the men. Their home was a corner of the barrack room partitioned off with blankets.
The women had to work for their keep, washing clothes for the other men, cooking or sewing. In this way they might earn a few pennies to buy extra food for their children. When the regiment went overseas some wives accompanied them. Numbers were severely restricted and lots were drawn for the privilege. Those who lost out and stayed behind had to fend for themselves. If their husbands were killed no provision was made for widows and orphans. There were private charities that tried to assist destitute army widows but these were few. It was quite common for a widow to remarry in a matter of weeks, usually to another soldier from her late husband's regiment simply to remain "on the strength". For the Victorian army wife romance was a stranger. Security for themselves and their children was the prime consideration." 10
Another possibility was that Sarah was estranged from her husband by the time of John's birth. Although despite the fact that John Jr would not have been old enough to remember his father leaving for Australia, he at least retained the memory of his father's name and occupation, as the details were recalled for documentation in Australia some 90 years later. This would seem less likely to have happened if Sarah had not at least retained some feelings for her husband. Another possibility is that Sarah died young and the two boys placed in the care of relatives. Of course the single 1829 muster record does not preclude the possibility that the family were able to be together for some of the period 1823-1838 or at least able to maintain some contact during that time. Maybe it was John's stories of his tour of duty to Australia that influenced his sons' decision to emigrate in 1841. If the family was apart but still in contact and hoping to eventually be re-united then it only adds poignancy to their forced separation and the tragedy of John's premature death.
To return then to take up the story of the two brothers from the time of their arrival in Australia. James' life seems to have been dogged by misfortune and it ended prematurely with his death in an accident with a threshing machine near Lorne in 1861. He was survived by a daughter Eliza who is remembered by many family members with whom I spoke, chiefly because she lived to an advanced age. Her life was also marked by tragedy and she is also remembered for the fact that she gave birth to triplets named Faith, Hope and Charity, all of whom died. 11
Although not without its own difficulties and share of tragedy, John enjoyed a much happier fate than his older brother. According to his grandson, Jim Berry of Birregurra (a son of John and Honorah) John Berry was believed to have spent some time in Van Diemans land before coming to Victoria. If that is accurate it must have been either in the company of his soldier father or between the time of his arrival in Port Phillip in 1841 and 1847 because on On February 18th of that year he married Jessie Cameron at St James Anglican Church in Melbourne. The ceremony was performed by the Rev A.C.Thomson with Isaac Press(?) of Dandenong and Flora McDonald of Melbourne acting as the witnesses. 12The church is today located in Batman St beside the Flagstaff gardens, having been moved from its original site in 1913, but reconstructed exactly as it was when it served as the first Anglican church in Melbourne. The entry in the register indicates that both were from the parish of Geelong and that Jessie was married "with the consent of her mother". It would seem unusual that the marriage took place in Melbourne given that both were from Geelong and appear to have returned to live there, however whatever the reason it is unlikely to be ever known.
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