Sunday, 8 December 2013


ESTHER GEARY. 1880's. Source: Personal Collection.

Wanted. Hard-working woman with initiative, required to live in isolated conditions. Local inhabitants could be hostile. Must be able to use firearms.

If John Clark had been advertising for another wife, Esther Geary would have fitted all of those key selection criteria. Esther who would become John Clark’s second wife was well known to the Clark's. She had been working for them as help for Jane Clark. In 1880, John and Esther married in her hometown of Gundaroo, New South Wales. He was forty-six and she was thirty-one. John Clark was marrying into one of the more “colourful” families in Australia.

Her great grandfather, Michael Geary (my great,great, great, great grandfather), had “immigrated” to Australia after stealing a watch in Cork, Ireland in 1793. The sentence was seven years. The ship was one of the first ships to bring Irish convicts to Australia. Most of the convicts, both male and female, were your usual motley crew of thieves but there was a Republican lawyer  named Laurence Davoren ( Davoren was fighting for liberty from England. In a rare gesture of goodwill, he was allowed to bring his wife and children) and three highwaywomen, I repeat women, who would rob travellers dressed as men.


You’d imagine the convicts been starved and flogged but they were well-fed and treated reasonably. There was beef to eat every day and there was oatmeal for breakfast. Of course, there was an ulterior motive behind the good diet; the authorities wanted healthy convicts to be able to do the hard work when they got to the other end. The voyages to Australia took four or five months and when the ship arrived in Sydney there had been only one death. In 1793, Australia’s European settlement was only five years old.

Several of the convicts escaped into the bush soon after arrival and two were speared to death by the Aborigines. Michael Geary was more a lover than an escapee. Soon after arrival he started a de facto relationship with an Eleanor McCarty alias Donovan. De facto relationships were then known as concubines and weren’t uncommon. Eleanor had also received a seven year sentence for stealing. Her journey had been a little more eventful as one of the convicts on the ship had been executed for planning a mutiny. 

Michael was freed in 1801. Eleanor and Michael settled in  Pitts Row ( now Pitt Street, the main street of Sydney) . More about Michael Geary in my next blog.   


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