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Patrick was born 29 July 1819 in Castletera, County Cavan, Ireland to parents, Catherine and Thomas. Thomas was a farmer.
Patrick married Mary Ann Bolton (1831-1907, g’daughter of First Fleeter, James Bradley) on 29 January 1850 at Scotts Church, Sydney. He was 12 years, her senior.
Patrick Lawler had come to Australia as a member of the 96th regiment, British Army which had deployed several detachments as convict guards aboard many vessels during the 1839-41 period. Previously the 96th regiment had seen service in Ireland and it was not uncommon for local men to enlist, in search of a regular income, in the face of poverty and lack of opportunity at home. So Patrick left his rural home, and the lakes and green rolling hills of Cavan, for army life, and subsequently to travel for about four months across the ocean to NSW in charge of convicted felons. Nothing is known of Patrick’s parents other than their names, Thomas and Catherine[i], and that Thomas was a farmer. No church records exist at St Mary’s in Castletera and no Lawler names are legible on the weathered headstones. Set amongst farms, Castletera boasts only the church and a school, the nearest village, as such, Balliehaise.
According to the pay and muster books for the 96th, Patrick (his surname spelt both Lawler and Lalor) enlisted in the British army on 29 May 1839, aged 20, and joined his regiment on 4 July that year.[ii] His regimental number was 1281. Patrick’s first muster shows him as ‘district recruit’, second and third muster at ‘Haydock Lodge’ (seventeen miles from Liverpool), then as ‘on passage to NSW’ aboard the Maitland.[iii]
What duties Patrick carried out after his arrival is not known, but he was probably placed in charge of convicts here in the colony too. British soldiers in the colony were disparagingly known as ‘lobster backs’ because of their red jackets. Whatever the case, if he found army life not to his liking, or whether he saw opportunities here in Australia, Patrick enlisted in the New South Wales mounted police corps on 1 September 1840, directly from the 96th regiment.[iv] He was now a ‘trap’.
By 1849, it was decided to abolish the corps in favour of the civil force, the transportation of convicts having ceased, and the problems associated with their control no longer an issue. Some members returned to the military from whence they had come and others chose to join the civil force. By the close of 1850, the mounted police ‘corps’ had been disbanded but a mounted force of the civil police was to patrol the Sydney/Bathurst road from 1850-62, because of the heavy traffic associated with the gold fields.
By 1851 Patrick and his wife, Mary Ann were living in the Meadow Flat area, specifically, ‘Diamond Creek’, (to cite their earlier-born children’s birth certificates), and their first child was born on 25 May of that year, a son, Thomas, named for Patrick’s father.[v] A further thirteen children followed.
According to police records Patrick was lockup keeper at Frying Pan Hut, near the present town of Yetholme, in January 1852, having served as a policeman in some form or other for eleven years and eight months.
It was noted in the General register of Police that Patrick was ‘steady and attentive’. The same record states that at thirty-two, he could ride, could neither read nor write, and stood at five feet seven inches tall.[vi]
Patrick acquired several purchases of land at Meadow Flat from 1853 onwards and farmed there until his death. When Patrick died on 31 October 1878[vii], at fifty-nine, he left Mary Ann (forty-seven) with twelve living children, ranging from two years to twenty-seven. Patrick died of rheumatic fever and congestion of the lungs, after only a week’s illness and was buried at Kirkconnell Catholic Church, his headstone still intact today.