In the Emerald Isle – the Shinkwin Family of County Cork, Ireland

This week I have turned my attention to another of my Irish ancestors, William Shinkwin.

Over the years I have researched and documented William’s life, through birth, marriage and death certificates, convict records, government gazettes,official correspondence and newspapers, from his arrival in Sydney in 1825, until his death in 1881.

I have now turned my attention to researching his life before his arrival in Australia. The information given in the above mentioned records, led me to begin the research in County Cork, Ireland.

Recently the internet subscription website Findmypast added over 8 million court and prison records in Ireland to their database, including those for County Cork. A search for William Shinkwin and other variants drew a blank, which was very disappointing. However after a protracted search year by year and then hundreds of pages of entries within those years, I was finally able to locate William’s entry. It stated that William was convicted under the Insurrection Act on 8 August 1823 at Mallow Special Sessions and sentenced to seven years transportation. It also stated that he had been put on board the Convict Hulk, Surprize

.There were a number of Insurrection Acts passed by the English parliament throughout the 18th and 19th Centuries, which had a impact on the Irish people, but it was the Act of 1822, which had the greatest, and this was the Act that William was transported under.

In effect Ireland was under Martial Law with all the attending strict regulations, including banning of gatherings and a curfew, where all persons were to remain in their house of abode after sun-set. There were Special Session Courts to try persons who breached these laws, and they were automatically sentenced to transportation, if they couldn’t give a good reason for their conduct. Once sentenced it could not be reversed or changed.

The prison hulk, Surprize was originally a 38 gun frigate previously named HMS Jacobs which had been launched in 1812. She had seen service in the navy during the hostilities with France, but was decommissioned in 1822, and sent to Cork Harbour, to serve as a prison, particularly for political internees. Originally these transportees were housed in the Cork City Gaol, which was built over the old gate to the northern part of the city, but it was in a state of decay and was constantly overcrowded, and so the hulk was a solution to this problem.

I have not been able to locate any surviving official records of the Special Sessions, but I have been able to locate a report of the circumstances that brought William Shinkwin before the courts, and his subsequent trial.

At the time of his arrest William Shinkwin was employed as a servant and was residing at Mallow, a town some twenty miles north west of the city of Cork. On the 16th July 1823 he was out in the streets after sun-set. Being high summer at the time it would have been twilight for some hours after sun-set, and many would have been tempted to remain out doors. However, Constable Hales out on duty at 11 pm met William in the street. William gave various and contradictory reasons for being away from his place of abode at that hour, and so was taken into custody. He was brought before the Justices of Peace on the 20th July. On the 8 August he was again given the opportunity to explain his presence in the street, but declined to do so, so he was sentenced to seven years transportation as required by law. To whether it was a romantic tryst, a political meeting or a drinking session with his mates at a local public house, we will never know, but William was removed to the Cork Gaol. There he remained until the 6th September when he was removed to the Surprize prison hulk. William was to remain on the hulk for over a year.

Towards the end of 1824, the convict transport the ‘Hooghly’ was being prepared at Deptford, Kent for its voyage to New South Wales. She was an AI class ship of 466 tons, built at London Dockyard in 1819. She was under Captain Peter Reeves and Robert Tainish had been appointed Surgeon Superintendent.

Tainish kept a detailed medical journal, which began on 26 October 1824. He joined the ship at Deptford in early November and awaited the convict guard under Captain Patrick Logan of the 57th Regiment, which arrived from Chatham, on 13 November. They were cold and wet and nearly all developed severe colds.

Within a couple of weeks preparations were completed and the Hooghly set sail for Cork Harbour where nearly two hundred male prisoners were embarked, on and about the 18 December. The ship set sail from Cork on 5 January 1825.

The Surgeon, Robert Tainish’s Journal has survived and is now at The National Archives in London. It shows that Tainish was kept very busy during the voyage attending not only the prisoners but the crew and guards along with their families.

William Shinkwin reported sick on 17 February, and was treated for constipation. He was discharged from the sick list on 20 February. There were no further entries for him.

The Hooghly arrived at Rio Janeiro on 18 February and stayed there for over a month, presumably to add fresh fruit and vegetables to the diet, as there were many cases of scurvy among the convicts, guards and crew.

The ship left Rio on 22 March and headed for Australia. She arrived in Sydney on 22 April 1825 after a voyage of a total of 107 days.

On arrival William Shinkwin was assigned to ‘Piper’, believed to have been Captain Piper of Point Piper.

Although I have not finished the research on William Shinkwin, I am pleased to be able to add some details to this part of his life, which has encouraged me to continue. I am now putting into book form the life of this ancestor.