John Grant, Co Tipperary - transported to Australia 1811

The portrait of John Grant is now in the Mitchell Library in Sydney

John Grant was born in 1792 in Moyne, and in August 1810 he was sentenced at Clonmel to transportation to Australia for the attempted shooting of his landlord's son. The man had apparently seduced John's sister Mary, and he, perhaps falsely, claimed that John had tried to shoot him. The family was at this point Catholic but their Protestant roots still showed."He had 2 near relatives, one a minister in the Protestant Church, the other a priest of the Roman Catholic persuasion, and he had often been present at their disputations"

It should be said that the seduction was quite voluntarily on his sister's part. However John & his borther Jeremiah vowed to discover he truth behind the affair - were the landlord's son's intentions honourable, did he intend to marry their sister? Apparently the courting couple heard that the brothers were after them, and feared the consequences. They decided on a plot to remove John and Jeremiah. The landlord's son, Nicholas Maher, fabricated a story that John had fired a loaded gun at him on 22/3/1810 and had missed. John and Keremiah were arrested by a detachment of the Templemore Yeomanry. During their transfer to Clonmel gaol, Jeremiah escaped (he was later re-arrested) by getting their escort drunk when they stopped at a pub for refreshments on the way. John did not manage to escape, and continued on to Clonmel gaol.

Their sister had a change of heart at this stage, and determined now to help her brothers - by murdering her lover, as he was the only man who could testify against John. So she lured him to a lonely cabin that they used for their meetings, and when the man was asleep she beat his brains out with a stone. She was immediately arrested and taken to Clonmel gaol, which by this time was rapidly filling up with members of the Grant family.

The landlord, shocked by the death of his son, tried to implicate the whole Grant family in the murder. But Jeremiah's wife was able to intercede with some of the gentry, who investigated the charges and discovered their falseness. So the "justice of mercy" was dispensed. The sister was hanged in the Spring Assizes, John was sentenced to life transportation to Australia, Jeremiah got away with 12 months in prison and their mother went free.

John was a Catholic, 5ft 8in tall, with a ruddy complexion, black hair and hazel eyes, and had no beard. He left Falmouth on 21/1/1811 on the "Providence", arriving in Sydney on 2/7/1811. The Providence was a 649 ton ship, built in Calcutta in 1808. She was at sea for 162 days, sailing via Rio with 140 male and 41 female convicts (3 men and 2 women died on the voyage).

His life as a servant, then as a free man is well documented. He had the good fortune to be assigned immediately to William Redfern, the emancipated assistant surgeon. He worked on Redfern's farm at Campbelltown, rising to the position of overseer by 1817.

On 10th January 1814 he married Jane O'Brien at St Phillips Church of England church in Sydney, as there was no Catholic priest in the community. She was an Irish Catholic who had been sentenced to fourteen years transportation in 1811, leaving Cork on 18th May 1812 and arriving in Sydney on 16th February 1813. John had three children by this marriage, Jeremiah, Mary and Ellenor.

Soon afterwards he petitioned Governor Macquarie for "mitigation of his sentence". He stressed that he was a family man and a trusted servant of Redfern. For good measure he added three years to the period of his sentence that he claimed to have already served, and another two years to his marriage. His petition was successful, he was granted his ticket of leave, and within three years granted a conditional pardon (the condition being that he stayed in Australia) on 31st January 1820.

He seems to have been accepted by the community, as he was appointed constable of Campbelltown within three months of becoming a free man, but he resigned after six months. Twice in 1821 there are references to the government paying him to do work, for example he was paid £75 for tree felling and burning off. But like many of his contemporaries he looked west for fame and fortune. Governor Macquarie promised him 50 acres and in March 1821 he settled on land at the foot of Mount Victoria. He named his property Moyne Farm, after his home in Ireland. The government assigned him a considerable number of convicts to clear the land. He is found selling wheat to a government store in Hartley in 1823.

The Blue Mountains were first crossed in 1813, and John Grant, as the first emancipated settler there is regarded as the father of Hartley. His portrait hangs in the church at Hartley. Dr Prior had a Polaroid of it - he looked just like my grandfather!

Tragedy struck in May 1826 when his wife Jane died at the age of 34. The burdens of the young widower were relieved by Mrs Redfern, who took care of his three children. Over the years he acquired land to the west, and the 1828 census shows him occupying 150 acres (25 cleared, 11 cultivated) at Hartley. Where he also had 10 horses, 370 cattle and 2440 sheep. in addition at Belabula, near Bathurst he had 5500 sheep on 4000 acres under an annual licence. 56 convicts and ticket of leave men worked for him.

Perhaps he took solace in the bottle after his wife's death, as he was involved in a court case in 1828. Charles Thompson was sentenced to five years on the road gang for stealing £52 from John Grant's pocket whilst John was fast asleep and drunk. He was so drunk that he could not remember if Thompson had been in the house that evening or not. It was the testimony of the other witnesses that convicted Thompson. The fact that John Grant had £52 in his pocket shows that he was a man of some wealth at this time.

The Redferns persuaded him to remarry, and introduced him to Elizabeth West, then aged 21 and the daughter of a free Protestant settler from Northern Ireland. They married in 1833 and had nine children. Soon afterwards the Redferns returned to England, but kept in touch with John, and one of their relatives later married one of John's daughters.

Over the next thirty years he acquired a considerable quantity of land. In 1853 his eldest son John married Julia Finn of Hartley, and he gave them Moyne Farm plus 160 acres as a wedding present. He lived on his estates at Merriganowry on the Lachlan River where he owned several thousand acres. The two surviving sons of his brother Jeremiah (the highwayman) came out to Australia after the famine, and John set them up with land. In his later life he became quite withdrawn from public life and ran his own affairs quietly.

the white-haired man shown is the senior John Gran

He eventually died on 13th December 1866, aged 74, after several years of illness. He is buried at Merriganowry, and left an estate worth £3000.

A further twist to the story of John Grant concerns the "Black Grants". This is difficult to trace, but stems from a book written by an Australian aboriginal TV presenter called Stan Grant (The Tears of Strangers: A Memoir), who notes his descent from John Grant. One of the sons of the convict John Grant's was another John Grant of Hartley (in the photo above). This son John had a child William Hugh Grant (born 1860 at Cowra) apparently as a result of a union with an Aboriginal woman. William’s property was at Bumbaldry near the Lachlan. He married a Margaret Brien, they had 10 children around Dubbo. William and Margaret went their separate ways later (sometime between 1900 and 1908). William then had three further children by Catherine Ryan nee Elms. One of these was Cecil William Grant who had five children with Josephine Johnson one of these Stanley Vernon Grant, married Elizabeth (Betty) Cameron and of their four children, the eldest, Stan Grant (jnr.), was the Australian television news presenter, later working for CNN based in Hong Kong.

Leo Grant (a Catholic priest and a respected Australian researcher) wrote about the "Black Grants" "There are conflicting accounts about who is the Father of the Aboriginal Grants. There are four stories connected with this matter". It seems no one will ever know with certainty who was the original "father". It is left to our readers to make up their own minds. " The Brien Family-Irish Origin ” by Colin Fleming & Noel Wickliffe Brien, the authors make the following statement “ John Grant (1792-1866) the squatter, was the father of William Hugh Grant (1856-1939) who married Margaret Jane Brien (1865-1940), a daughter of John Brien, at the Grenfell Church of England on 8th. July, 1878. Leo Grant goes on to publish inconclusive evidence from a Donald Grant, grandson of a William Hugh Grant. William Hugh Grant was born around 1856, and was undoubtedly the son of a white man and an aboriginal woman. William Hugh Grant died in a Dubbo hospital in 1939, so the 1856 birth looks about right from the point of view of his being 83 at the time. William Hugh Grant cites "John Grant the squatter" (implying John senior) as his father on his marriage certificate in 1878. Donald changes his view on who the white man was from his first letter saying it was probably Thomas Patrick to his book many years later where he categorically states that it was John the convict. Donalds final word is:-

My claim that my own belief in John Grant senior being my Grandfather’s Father, would of course be open to dispute by the “True Grants”, from both of John’s marriages. And I would be of a mind to understand their discomfiture on reading about my claim. But the evidence of the Marriage Certificate, and John’s name there, plus a whole raft of “Family Stories” passed down to us by both the Briens, and the Flints (through Tibby’s Mother) and those Aboriginal relatives who knew, and lived with William Hugh, in his later life among “His People”, plus the personal testimony to myself from Colin Brien, whose Aunty ( my Grandmother) married William Hugh, convinced me that the Briens of that era believed this to be the truth.

There appear to be only 3 men in the frame as his father - John Grant senior b1792, or either his son John b1835 or Thomas Patrick b1836. The evidence for it being John senior is that is what William Hugh's marriage certificate says, the evidence against is that he was 63 at the time and well into a supposedly happy second marriage: John had been "beween wives" from 1826 and 1833, which would rule out William Hugh's conception at that time. The evidence for it being Thomas Patrick is that he never married, and is believed to have shacked up with aboriginal women on the station, the evidence against is that he is not John named on marriage certificate, and he would have been about 17 at the time. John junior has the name John, but does not appear to have been "the squatter", he also appears to be "anti-aborigine" from his actions when he inherited the property on his brother's death - however a great-grandson Lindsay Grant believes that it is probably John junior.

Leo's opinion is that Donalds (first) version appears the more likely and reasonable of the accounts we have, and that it is is backed up by other sources, such as Thomas Patrick Grant, the present owner of “Merriganowry”, who also has the hearsay coming from his father and relations.(and that therefore Leo is of the opinion that Thomas Patrick Grant is the culprit)

It is quite an ironic story when one considers that John Grant was originally transported to Australia because in August 1810 he was sentenced at Clonmel to transportation to Australia for the attempted shooting of his landlord's son, because his landlord's son had seduced John's sister Mary. Apparently landlord's families in both Ireland and Australia enjoyed privileges over their tenants. DNA evidence certainly would not prove which it was, at best DNA would show that one of the Grants was the father.

There is a tree here for the Australian descendents of John Grant

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