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HUNTER VALLEY COLONIAL MEDICAL PRACTITIONERS

Henry Turner Harrington

East Maitland


 

Following is part of a colourful account in the Sydney Gazette in 1839 entitled 'Harrington the Swindler':

'Harrington was originally transported for stabbing a little French actress who refused to listen to his addresses. He had come as a prisoner to Van Dieman's Land and had by some means succeeded in obtaining leave to remove his ticket of leave from that place to this colony. He settled as a practitioner of medicine at Maitland on his arrival in the colony and soon after married the daughter of a Mr. Muir, a respectable hotel keeper in that town' (*This was George Muir, who died in 1833).

'While in Maitland, he got involved in an affair which made considerable noise in the Sydney journals as connected with an exceedingly difficult operation performed by Dr. Bland on a patient in the Benevolent Asylum, and his conduct in the matter having called down severe censure from a portion of the colonial press, his practice ceased to be so lucrative as it had been. He has since become free, and as was generally understood, having had some money left him at the death of a relation, he has been for some time back showing off in great style on the streets of Sydney. On its being ascertained that he was free, he was of course released from custody , but in the meantime the creditors he had intended to leave in the lurch got scent of what was in the wind, and aided by the Sheriff succeeded in detaining him. Harrington it seems had taken his passage in the name of Turner. Messrs. Irving Lamb & Co with whom he had contracted considerable debts for jewellery, had accidentally discovered his intention to abscond and had procured a writ with which Mr. Lamb went on board the 'Roslyn Castle' accompanied by a Sheriff's officer to arrest Harrington. During Mr. Lamb's absence Harrington called at the shop and with the coolest effrontery proceeded to select various articles of jewellery comprising a diamond ring value 25 guineas a musical box and various other articles amounting to upwards of 50 pounds which he requested might be sent forthwith addressed to him at the Maitland Steamer's office it being his intention to leave town for Maitland that evening. When the articles were made up, Harrington requested that the bill should be made out and a liberal percentage allowed as he meant to give a check for the amount. The sheriff's officer returned at that time and took him into custody. In expectation of still getting off, he paid the amount owed to Messrs Irving, Lamb & Co and others. He got on board once more only to be lugged on shore on suspicion of being a runaway convict, a ruse adopted by Mr. Barnet, another of this creditors. By the time he reached the shore the hue and cry was fairly raised among his creditors and finding all hope of making a profitable escape completely frustrated, he resigned himself to his fate and discontinued satisfying the writs that came pouring in against him.'

Henry Turner Harrington was tried at the Old Bailey on 14th January 1830 when he was 21 years old. The French actress mentioned in the account above was Sophia Requie. Sophie was unable to speak English and gave her evidence in Court through an interpreter. Henry Harrington had been acquainted with Sophie for some months and Sophie testified that they had met at various theatres eight months previously when she first lodged with Mr. Pollack in Charlotte Street, St. Marylebone. Henry Harrington was also new to the country. He stated he was in a land of strangers removed far from friends and a thousand miles from a single relative.  He had no resources and no means of procuring counsel for defence, however fully aware of the perilous and awful situation in which he was placed, spoke eloquently but quietly on his own behalf. Although he denied stealing the jewellery, money and an eye glass of which he was accused, pointing out that the witness -  pawn shop owner Arthur Jones had not been able to see the man who pawned the jewellery, he had been arrested by Constable Byrne previously on another charge and had little hope of escaping a serious penalty this time. He was found guilty of the crime of theft and sentenced to death, later to be commuted to transportation.

Henry Harrington was taken from Newgate prison on 13 March 1830 and admitted to the Dolphin Hulk then lying at Chatham. On 17th April 1830 he was transferred to the Manlius bound for Van Diemen's Land. (1) The Manlius departed Sheerness on 27th April and arrived in Van Diemen's Land on 12 August 1830. (6)

In April 1831 he was apprehended for absconding (3).  In July 1833 he was apprehended after absconding and charged with felony(5). In 1833 he was transported to Port Arthur (4)

In 1835 a muster lists him as being employed in public service (4)

He was granted a ticket of leave in 1837 and in 1838 a free pardon. He made his way from VDL to Sydney on the Blenheim. (2)

Henry Turner Harrington had married Priscilla Muir, the 4th daughter of George and Elizabeth Muir in 1838 at Maitland.

By the 1840's he had a practice in Maitland situated in a house formerly occupied by Rev.  Innes. In the early 1840s he was offering to vaccinate children of the town free of charge.

Along with many others in the colony, Henry Turner Harrington was declared insolvent in 1843. His brother-in-law Phillip Henry Magrane had undergone insolvency proceedings in 1841. Dr. Harrington was permitted to retain his wearing apparel, household furniture and surgical instruments. Those who had claim upon his estate included, B.P. Griffin, Elizabeth Muir, John Mayo H.I. Pilcher, James Smithers, James Smith, Alexander Dodds, Alexander McPherson and William Lipscomb.

Previously, in April 1842, he had attempted to sell his practice, describing it as having a return of 600 and a comfortable cottage with furniture. At that time he stated he was shortly intending leaving the colony, however he may have remained in Maitland at this time. He attended West Evans who died from burns received in a fire at the Queen's Arms Inn in High Street in May 1843 and in May 1844 he was was practising medicine in Maitland from rooms at Mrs. Muir's Hotel

His son Henry James died in February 1846 and Dr. Harrington announced his return to the United States. Later in July he advertised the auction of his belongings from his residence in High Street, West Maitland, including a quantity of superior household furniture consisting of : Tables, chairs, sideboard, sofa secretary, ladies, work table, bedstead, feather beds and bolsters, horse hair mattresses, straw mattresses; kitchen utensils, in great variety. As well as books and a small invoice of Price and Gossnells' perfumery, a first rate mare quiet and gentle accustomed to all sorts of harness, in foal to a first rate horse, and is sister to the celebrated horse 'Highlander'

In December 1846 he returned from the United States and Europe stating that he had visited the largest medical and surgical establishments in the world and was associated with some of the most eminent medical men of the day. He brought with him lymph vaccine from the Royal Vaccine Institution in London and commenced his practice in the house formerly known as Cox's Hotel, East Maitland. He also brought with him some American cotton seed from Louisiana.  This seed was planted in the garden of Henry Eckford (a brother in law) in East Maitland and by July 1847 a crop had been grown.

The cotton produced was considered not inferior to the average quality and quantity grown in Louisiana. It had toughness of fibre with a more silky or woolly texture than usual. No particular trouble was taken by Mr. Eckford to grow and it was felt that cotton would be a practical crop in the colony. Dr. Harrington still had seed left and offered to give some to any party desirous of trying the experiment of growing it

In July 1847 he once again made plans to return to Philadelphia.

Priscilla Harrington (nee Muir) accompanied her husband to Philadelphia and died there on 24 November 1848 aged 26 years.

A poem was written as a tribute to her memory by Mrs. M. St. Leon Loud of Philadelphia.

 

Notes & Links:

Other convict surgeons in the Hunter Valley included Patrick Montgomery John Waugh Drysdale, George Bridge Mullins, Thomas Parmeter, William Whitelaw and Henry White

 

 

References:

(1) Founders & Survivors Web site

(2) Government Gazette 29 August 1838

(3) Hobart Town Courier 16 April 1831

(4) Ancestry.com. New South Wales and Tasmania, Australia Convict Musters, 1806-1849

(5) Hobart Town Courier 5 July 1833

(6) Bateson, Charles, The Convict Ships.

 

 

  

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