- Compiled by Paul W Kelly
- 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
- 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
- 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
- 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.
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
- 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
- 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
- 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.
- 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
Uniforms of the Royal Scots
Discharge from the Army
following is a transcription from The Medical report for the discharge of No
356 Private John Kelly from Her Majesties Service.
- Given at :-
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]
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.
appointed by ********* Act Vice Superintendant
Opinion of the principal Medical
Officer, at Dublin 20 June 1843
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
DECISION OF THE CHELSEA BOARD
Service Record of Private John Kelly
- 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
- 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
- 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
- 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
- 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
- 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
The following is a transcript of
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.
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.
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.
- 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
- Sarah his wife lived until 1882 and passed away on
her sonís farm Brook Head
near Blackamore, not far from Deloraine.