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Compiled by Paul W Kelly

Private 356 John Kelly

John Kelly an Irish Ancestor

Humble beginnings
Imagine is you can, green grassy fields rolling across a low plain to the edge of a wide river.
A narrow cobblestone road passes through a collection of drab mud brick houses.
The bricks are clearly rough hewn from the nearby field, and the rooves are thatched with a thick layer of straw.
On any fine day you may find some of the incumbentís upon his roof with a sheath or two of straw mending the damage from a previous storm.
Behind the huts would be many small yard, in any one of these might be found a single dairy cow and a few chooks.
The people are all wretchedly poor, they worked on farms not for cash wages, but for the right to grow potatoes on tiny plots. They lived on a subsistence diet consisting almost exclusively of potatoes and milk, with an occasional herring caught in the nearby river Shannon.
Behind each house you might find a worker harvesting potatoes from the ground of their plot with a long crooked stick hewn into the rough shape of a fork.
Not far up the road is a small church where the Parish priest prepares his Sunday sermon. The Irish are strong with the Catholic faith and Johnís Family is no different.
In the grounds around the church is a small graveyard with a few headstones, but even more rough-hewn crosses marking the resting place of some oneís loved one. The wooden crosses indicative of the situation most in this little hamlet find themselves.
This is not a wealthy community, but a hard working community, trying to eek out a  survival, by working the land. They work hard to feed themselves and to line the pockets of their landlordís.
This is not the modern easy, way of life that you or I have become all to complacent with. We have an almost contemptuous of disregard for the hardships our forbears had to endure just to survive from one day to the next.
Life was hard for these people some two hundred years ago.
None the less the little community would have burst into song and merriment when ever one of the women bore a new child.
For John Kelly this would have been the case around November in the year of our lord 1806. John Kelly was born to his proud parents.
You can imagine the celebrations in the tiny community with many a drop of Guinness or a wee drop or two of Mead being consumed.

 In the Service of the King


Nineteen years later and a rapidly developing young man, John Kelly out of work and penniless, not knowing where his next meal is to come from, happens upon a man dressed in a red tunic. He offers young John the opportunity to see parts of the world he could only dream of, and be paid for it to boot. Or, perhaps it was a little more sinister, maybe he met some strangers at the local Inn that were freely buying drinks. Perhaps John, being young and inexperienced had maybe a few too many drinks, and these great new friends had tricked him into putting his mark on a piece of paper filled with words he could not read. After all John had grown up in a small town and his only education was one of hard work.
After barley more than a few weeks, John would be on a ship bound for some far away place.
After only a few weeks he awoke with all the other men in his company to find the ship he was on approaching a bust port full of many different coloured people.
He had just arrived in the West Indies.
This place would be his home for the next ten years.
With the hot climate and the boredom of the barracks, it wasnít long before John found himself a regular at the local Innís. Even purloining the extra ration of Rum, after all rum was good  for keeping morale high among the troops.
After tree years in His Majesties service John found himself before a District Court Martial. He was charged with habitual drunkenness. For this he had to forfeit 1 moths pay and spend two months in prison at hard labour.
John returned to the UK in Feb1836 and was stationed at Templemore, Tipperary until July when the regiment moved to Limerick. This is probably where he met Sarah OíShea. Sarah being a Shea probably came from County Kerry the keystone of the OíShea family. At around this time I believe that John and Sarah were married, possibly in Limerick, or at one of the towns where John was stationed.
It was about this time that John was to become a permanent member of the Depot company serving in the Quarter-Masterís Store.
During the period from late 1836 until some time in 1839 the Battalion was stationed at  Athlone.
While the headquarters were at Athlone, companies of soldiers were dispatched to various locations along the Shannon River at Roscommon, Shannon Bridge, Granard and St Johnston until March 1838.
In 1839 the 1st Bn of the 1st Royal Regiment were deployed to Scotland. Before this they were placed at various locations along the length of the Shannon River. 
This is a river that flows through most of Ireland finding itís way to the sea between Co. Clare and Co. Limerick.
Early in 1838 the Bn then moved via Ballyhahon to Belfast where they embarked for Scotland .From 1839 to 1841 the 1st Bn of the royals were deployed to Gibraltar, while the depot company for this battalion for remained in Glasgow and Fort Georeg at Inverness.

Uniforms of the Royal Scots

Discharge from the Army


The following is a transcription from The Medical report for the discharge of No 356 Private John Kelly from Her Majesties Service.
Given at :-



__________________ Templemore on 24th of May 1843_______________________

Medical Report Ė [ In cases of men to be discharged as unfit for Service, the Regimental Medical Officer is to state the nature and cause of the disability and whether the same has been the result of indulgence in the use of Intoxicating Liquors, or Vices. If from an accident, under what circumstances the accident occurred, and whether on or off duty. In Ophthalmic cases or other disorders of the Eyes, it must be stated how the disease was contracted and whether the same was or was not prevalent at the time in the regiment or at the station]

  Private Jonhn Kelly served in the West Indies for Ten Years, during which time he suffered severely both from diseased property of the climate, from dysentery and intermittent fever, and Ague, all of which he had in a severe and protracted form, and also repeated attacks of Pneumonia at Barbados in 1834. Since his return home in 1836 he has always been in indifferent health and chiefly employed in the Quarter ĖMasterís Stores. He is unfit for military service, being unable to wear his knapsack, nor to make any exertion, from coughing pain in the left side & difficult aspiration, althoí there is apparently not much organic disease of the lungs. He also suffers from constant dyspeptics and is consequently, feeble and unsuitable. His disabilities are clearly the result of climate and service being caused by long and continued service in the West Indies.

*ot ******* appointed by ********* Act Vice Superintendant

Conduct in Hospital; good

Opinion of the principal Medical Officer, at Dublin 20 June 1843

John Kelly was this day examined by a Medical Board at Beggars house at which I was present. I found unfit for further service from pulmonary affiction of pain in the left side

                                    Signature of board members.


THE DISCHARGE of the man above is approved by the General Commander in Chief

Lt General Commanding                    Signature of Officer





Service Record of Private John Kelly

A growing family
John moved to Fort George Inverness Scotland with  the Royal Scots in 1838.
Around 1840  a son John Michael Kelly was born, most likely not the first and probably not the second. John Michael Kelly was one of at least five children born to John Kelly and his wife Sarah OíShea.
John Michael Kelly had brothers Edward Kelly and Thoma Kelly. His Australian born brothers were, James born 8/8/1852 in Westbury Tasmania, James Patrick Kelly  born in Perth Tasmania on 28/11/1853.
Infant mortality in the pioneering days of the 1850ís was very high. The colonists had to contend with any number of strange insect and creatures, plus a god knows what  unknown diseases. So it is not surprising that James born in Westbury did not survive.
 John had come to be in Tasmania after surviving through outbreaks of potato blight that decimated the Staple food crops of Ireland in 1845, 1847 and 1848 .
He had found it ever so difficult to look after his small family in Dublin, where food was in increasingly short supply.
John was lucky enough to be receiving 8 pence a day pension, having been discharged from the 1st Royals with Pulmonary Disease on the 18th of July 1843. This enabled him to be able to buy enough food to feed his wife and children.
He was in Dublin for two main reasons the British army had seen fit to return him to his homeland, but also to Dublin where the Killmainham hospital for Pensioner Soldiers was established.
By the 1840ís Johnís father and mother would have most likely passed away.
His brothers and sisters would have been scattered around Ireland, and perhaps even America.
John found himself trapped in a starving city, and bound to keep close by to Killmartinham Hospital because of his poor health. This was after all where help could be given for his illness.
By the 1850ís the British Government had come up with a scheme to settle Pensioner Soldiers in the colonies. This provided relief to an already stretched British Army.
For their efforts the Pensioner Soldiers would receive a grant of Land and a cash bounty.


The Barracks Square at Fort George

The Journey
Ever the opportunist John took advantage of the offer of free passage to one of the colonies. This was also a way he could safeguard his family from the tyranny of starvation should the potato crop fail again. After all how hard could it be to guard a few prisoners chained and bound with irons for three months. John took up the offer and together with his wife and children set sail for Australia.
Their ship Nile left Dublin on the 5th of July 1850, having sailed there from Portland (near Portsmouth) on 17/6/1850. The ship ported at Dublin on 5/7/1850, then on to Hobart. Prior to sailing all the arrangements for the Regimental pensions payments to continue to be paid him in Van Diemans Land. It must have been strange leaving Ireland with its moderate summer, to arrive in Australia to similar weather, but that it was only really late spring.
The Nile arrived in Hobart town on the 3rd of October 1850. The ship had departed with 300 convicts, and arrived in VDL with 299 still alive, also aboard were 46 children, 22 wives and 5 passengers.
John along with his companion guards marched from Hobart to Launceston. This would have taken them through New Norfolk, and Oatlands with itís many freed convicts settlers and shortly on to Longford. The detachment of pensioner soldiers would have been deployed at Westbury and at Perth. Perth was on a major route from Hobart to Launceston, and was the site of a major river crossing. There was a fort near the bridge built to protect the crossing. 


Perth Bridge 1859


John was granted a parcel of land at Longford in December of 1850. This was at the corner of Malcombe and Catherine Sts in Longford.
The grant was a parcel of land about 1 and half acres in size, and would have been a rough bush block. Many of Johnís fellow soldiers received land adjoining or near by.


Having arrived in early October and being placed on their land soon after, the men of the Nile would soon be looking forward to Christmas.
Their first Christmas would be foreign to the family, not like what they had grown up with. Not the traditional white winter Christmas of Europe, but a Christmas with many hot and humid days. While the pensioner soldiers had experienced equatorial Summers, not many of their families had.
It wouldnít be long before the soldiers of the Nile would be toiling furiously upon their land, first clearing a place for their home, and then clearing a patch to grow food to feed them.
Life in the Colony


The land at Longford while arable was certainly not verdant. The family had to work hard to turn what was essentially a bush block into a 1-Ĺ acre farm that would support the family.
John was bound to serve in the garrisons of the colony for seven years and saw service at Westbury where James (1) was born, and most likely died.
He also served at Perth were James Patrick Kelly was born on 28th of November 1853. From the fact that two of Johnís children where born at the garrisons it is evident that their land was not providing sufficient sustenance for the family to go off stores.
After several years John and two of his companions wrote to his Excellency Sir Henry Edward Fox Young, Governor in Chief of e colony of Tasmania asking for an additional grant of land.



The following is a transcript of that letter


The humble petition of James Kelly, Pensioner late of H.M. 27 the Regiment of Foot and John Kelly, Pensioner late of the first battalion of the Royals, and John Kearn, Pensioner, late of H.M. Honourable East India Companies Service, praying for an additional allotment of land which now lays vacant at Longford and which was formerly appropriated by Government for the use of pensioners.

Respectfully shewith

That your petitioners are pensioners residing at Longford on a small allotment granted to them by Government on their arrival in this colony, but in consequence to he allotments being so very small, your petitioners would feel truly thankful t your Excellency for an additional allotment which could b sufficient to support your petitioners and their familles.

Our petitioners therefore most humbly hope that your Excellency will take their case into your kind consideration and be pleased to accede to the prayer of your petitioners, and your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray.


                                                                        John Kelly X his mark

                                                                        John Kearn

                                                                        James Kelly(very shaky signature)




By the Mid 1860ís son John Michael Kelly had married Bridget Scanlon and was a farmer in Deloraine.
It is most likely that the small farm in Longford was sold to buy 44 Ĺ acres at Dunorlan
Johnís death is not clearly recorded. It is probable that he was living with one of his children who could care for him in his declining years. There is a record of a John Kelly dieing in Oatlands around 1875. It is clear that he had lived until then, as the pension payment records held by the Royal Scots Regiment show payment until 1875.
Sarah his wife lived until 1882 and passed away on her sonís farm Brook Head near Blackamore, not far from Deloraine.