Tasmania Reads: An Application to the Orphan School (Part Two: The Answer and Historical Background)

The State Library is issuing a challenge to Tasmanians to read five different examples of nineteenth century handwriting from our Heritage Collections, each featuring a different set of records held in the State Archives.

Just to recap:

Your Transcription Challenge

This final challenge is, for me, the most difficult to read both for its content and style. It is an application to the Colonial Secretary for the immediate admission of John Garrity to the newly opened orphanage at New Town.  The orphan school catered for the children of convicts under sentence, as well as the children of the free when the parents were unable or unwilling to care for them.

Tasmanian Archives:   General Correspondence, Colonial Secretary’s Office CSO5/1/86 File 1885 page 154

The Answer


 28th Sep.

Be so good as to direct that John Garritty 7 years of age, son of Charles Garritty formerly a soldier in the Staff Corps- be received into the Orphan School this day. – the Child is perfectly destitute, his cruel and unnatural Parent having total abandoned him.

State Library of Tasmania: Front view of the New Church and King’s Male and Female Orphan Schools now in progress of building at New Town, January 1831 etch’d by C. Bruce. Hobart Town : James Ross, [1831].

Historical Background: The Garretty Family

To find out more about the family mentioned in the above memo I consulted the “Minutes of the Meetings of the Committee of Management for the Kings/Queens Orphan Schools” between 1825 and 1833 (SWD24/1/1) (p382+). This record contained a wealth of information about the parents and revealed that little John Garrity wasn’t the only child in the family who was received into the orphanage.

At the May 1832 meeting of the Orphan Management committee the chair, Reverend Bedford announced that there was a man in attendance by the name of Shepherd who had arrived on the convict ship Asia,  with 3 children named Garrity who had been abandoned by their parents and left with him, but that he was unable to support them. As was reported:

Shepherd and the children were then called in and examined when the former informed the Committee that the Father had gone on a Whaling Voyage as Cooper at Eleven Pounds per month that the mother and Children lived in the Same House with him and that after the departure of the Father the mother cohabited with a man by the name of Bonsor  a Shoemaker, who had since gone into the Interior & it is supposed the woman after him leaving the Children totally unprovided for.

In consequence of the destitute helpless situation of the Children, the Committee recommends that they be admitted temporarily into the Orphan Schools that the Secretary address a Letter to the Chief Police Magistrate suggesting the desirability of instituting some enquiry to discover the Guilty Parties in order that the Colony may not be burdened with the Education and Support of these destitute helpless children.

Vid – John Garrity about 6 years
          Helen Garrity about 4 years
          William Garrity about 2 years

Tasmanian Archives: Minutes of the Meetings of the Committee of Management for the Kings/Queens Orphan Schools” between 1825 and 1833, SWD24/1/1, p.383.

At the following week’s meeting of the Committee, it was reported that:

that the two Youngest of the Garrity’s referred to on the last minutes had been received into the Female Orphan School but that the Eldest Boy had not made his appearance at the Male School. “

[He then] read a letter from the Chief Police magistrate dated the 9th where he wrote he had “caused the necessary enquiry to be made relative to the Parents Garrity who have abandoned their children and enclosing the result thereof.

Tasmanian Archives: Minutes of the Meetings of the Committee of Management for the Kings/Queens Orphan Schools” between 1825 and 1833, SWD24/1/1, p.383.

The Parents

Garrity was a soldier in the Royal Staff Corps whose wife had come with him to the NSW Colony on the Chapman in 1827.

A small contingent of the Royal Staff Corps was sent to Oatlands in early 1827 where they built some barracks and a gaol. (See note)

The Acting Secretary continued his report, “on the Corps being disbanded, he went as a Cooper in the “Hetty” Schooner leaving an order on the Owner.” (SWD24/1/1 page 384)

Allport Library and Museum of Fine Arts, State Library of Tasmania: [Oatlands Gaol] , photographic print on card, [Tasmania : s.n. 18–?]



The Hobart Town Gazette reported on 3 March 1827 that, “Lieutenant Vachell (sic) with a party of the Staff-Corps and mechanics [was] proceeding to Oatlands to build a military barracks there.  By November of that year the Tasmanian newspaper was reporting, “The Township of Oatlands under the superintendence of Lieutenant Wachell (sic) of the Royal Staffs is in a state of great forwardness. The stonework of the Officers’ Quarters and the Gaol is just about finished. This settlement is about five miles from the Tindish holes where Mr Bennett was lately killed by the Natives.”  The gaol was finished December 1827.


The Interloper

Thomas Shepherd and James Bonsor knew each other as they were both convicted in Nottinghamshire and both arrived on the same convict ship the Asia 1, January 1824. They  also spent time in jail together awaiting transportation.  Bonsor was a young man of 20 when transported, Shepherd was old enough to be his father at 59 years of age. So, it’s not surprising that in 1831/2 when Bonsor found himself in trouble, he turned to his old friend at New Norfolk for a place to stay. 

The Opportunity

I don’t know why the Garrety’s moved to New Norfolk, as it was only slightly larger than Oatlands, but it may have been that they thought its proximity to Hobart would allow Garrety more employment opportunities. He was unlucky as his skills, as a tradesman, that had been in demand and well paid until the late 1820s, had experienced a 50% decline since then. (Statistical Returns of Van Diemen’s Land 1824-1839, Table 19)  

This explains his motivation in gaining employment on a whaling vessel, which would be away for months at a time from his family.

By leaving his wife and children with Shepherd who was by then in his sixties I am sure that Garrity would have thought his wife safe from temptation and that Shepherd would not trouble her. But Garrity had no idea that a much younger man would also be residing at the house with his wife.

The Father’s Continuing Misfortune

Charles Garrity’s run of bad luck was not yet over.

Following his discovery of his wife with Bonsor, Charles Garrity set sail on another whaling voyage, this time on the Dragon.  It set sail for the New Zealand whaling fisheries. (Nicholson, Part II, p10)

In May of 1833 it was reported in the papers that the entire crew of the Dragon, except for a young boy, had been killed and eaten by the New Zealand Māori and their ship burnt.

The report is as follows:

A letter has been received in Hobart Town, dated on board the brig Amity 2nd of April, when lying off Clark’s Reef. The brig had 100 barrels of oil on board and the Lindsay’s 370 barrels. The latter vessel had picked up in an open boat, at sea, a New Zealand lad, who had witnessed the capture, by the blacks, of the brig Dragon. He states the vessel was burnt, and all the crew were put to death and afterwards eaten. The attack first commenced when the crew of the whaler had made fast to a fish and had run it into a small islet where the numbers of the natives soon overpowered them, and the disastrous sequel too easily was affected.”

Colonial Times, 1833, May 28, p. 2.

This news was not reported in the Hobart papers until May 1833 a year after the two youngest Garrety children had been admitted into the orphanage.

In case there is any doubt that the unfortunate Charles Garrety was on board this ship this is quashed by the letter sent by his widow Ann two years later, on the 6th of May 1835 to the Colonial Secretary.

The Mother’s Appeal

In case there is any doubt that the unfortunate Charles Garrety was on board this ship is quashed by the letter sent by his widow Ann two years later, on the 6th of May 1835 to the Colonial Secretary. Her letter, written from New Plains, reads:

Ann, widow of the late Charles Garrety who arrived in this Colony per Chapman in 1827 begs that she may be informed if 100 acres of Land could be granted to her of behalf of her late husband who belonged to the Royal Staff Corps who was drowned, … “her Three Children Two Boys and a Girl have been by the kindness of his Excellency the Lieutenant Governor been placed in the Orphan School.

Tasmanian Archives: General Correspondence, Colonial Secretary’s Office: CSO1/1/803, File 17184)

Her request was denied.

The news that had been received in 1833 had meant Ann Garrety was free to marry again.  Her application to the Colonial Secretary in May 1835 was no doubt prompted by her forthcoming marriage to Daniel Simms of New Plains.

Despite her remarriage it was not until five years later, in May of 1840, that her youngest child William Garrity who had been admitted at the age of two and listed in the orphan school records as “an orphan” was reunited with his mother. He was by then nine years old.

John and Helen Garretty – the two elder children

What happened to the other two children?

The orphan school records are very minimal in their detail and often only record when the child was admitted and when the child was discharged.

Joyce Purstcher writes in Children in Queen’s Orphanage, “when children turned 14 years of age they were apprenticed out. They had to work for no money until they were 18. They were at the mercy of their masters regarding food, clothing, and housing.”

John Garretty (sic) was discharged on the 7 July 1840, two months after his younger brother was returned to his mother and apprenticed to E.W Carter Esq. He was fourteen years old.

E.W Carter is most likely William Carter Esq, a merchant, who was appointed an officer of the Court in 1840 and who owned property in New Town, the suburb where the Orphan School was situated. He later became a member of the Legislative Council.

In 1840 William Carter was living at New Town, renting a farm, from G.W. Evans and complaining of stock damage to his crops due to the failure of the Government to erect a fence along New Town Road.  It wouldn’t be a stretch to imagine that young John Garretty was apprenticed to either build a fence or watch over the stock.

Sadly, we have no further records for John Garretty. We hold no marriage records, no departure records nor a death record, so we don’t know what happened to him once he could earn his own way in the world. His sister Helen/ Ellen was discharged from the orphanage on the 12 July 1842, two years after her brothers had left the Orphan School.  She was then fourteen years old. She was apprenticed to George Horne Esq, a solicitor and farmer in Launceston.  Unfortunately, Helen also disappears after her apprenticeship. We don’t have a record of her marrying, or having children, leaving the state, or dying. Nor do we have records of either of the children.


Tasmanian Archive Sources

Tasmanian Archives, CON13-1-3,  Convict Department, Assignment Lists and Various Papers, 1824-1826 page 15

Tasmanian Archives: CSO1/1/803 Colonial Secretary’s Office, Correspondence Files, 1824-1836 File 17184

Tasmanian Archives: CSO5/1/86 Colonial Secretary’s Office, Correspondence Files, 1837-1841, File 1885,  page 154

Tasmanian Archives: CSO5/1/93 Colonial Secretary’s Office, Correspondence Files, 1837-1841  File 2074 page 66

Tasmanian Archives: SWD24/1/1, Kings/Queens Orphan Schools, Minutes 1826-1833, page 382+

Tasmanian Archives: SWD28/1/1 Kings/Queens Orphan Schools, Register of children admitted and discharged 1828-1863,  page 3

State Library Sources

Bruce, Charles, Front view of the New Church and King’s Male and Female Orphan School now in progress of building at new Town, January 1831, print, Hobart Town, James Ross [1831]

Nicholson, Ian Hawkins, Shipping Arrivals and Departures, Tasmania, Volume 1, 1803-1833, Canberra Roebuck, 1983

[Oatlands Gaol], photograph, [Tasmania, 18–?] Allport Library and Museum of Fine Arts, State Library of Tasmania

Purstcher Joyce, Children in Queen’s Orphanage, Hobart Town 1828-1863, New Town, Tas, I.       Schaffer, 1993

Purstcher Joyce, More references for Tasmanian Children in Care 1826-1899, Mt Stuart, Tas,       J. Purstcher, 1996

Statistical Returns of Van Diemen’s Land 1824-1838, Hobart Town, V.D. Land 1839

Newspaper articles

HOBART TOWN, MARCH 3, 1827. (1827, March 3). The Hobart Town Gazette (Tas. : 1825 – 1833), p. 2. Retrieved February 7, 2023, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article8791780

Further Reading

Publications about the New Town Orphanage

Archival records of the Kings/Queens Orphan Schools 1828-1860

Author: Elizabeth Brown

Elizabeth Brown is a Librarian with the State Library of Tasmania and Tasmanian Archives

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