Free Settler or Felon?

Hunter Valley Settlers

Richard Siddons
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Newcastle - Ash Island - Hunter River - Iron Bark Creek

Richard Siddons arrived in Australia in 1804 aboard the English whaler Alexander. He had an adventurous life and captained ships in the sealing and sandalwood trade.

He became master of the King George at the end of 1807 and brought cargoes of sandalwood, seal oil and seal furs to Port Jackson.

In Sydney, Siddons was employed as Captain of the Campbell Macquarie by ship owner  Joseph Underwood. Underwood had purchased the Campbell Macquarie in Calcutta.  In 1811 and in 1812 Siddons returned to India on the Campbell Macquarie and later in that year arrived in Port Jackson with  prisoners  and a cargo of spirits. Also on board a soldier of the Dragoons, Captain Locjyer.

Soon after he again set out on the Campbell Macquarie on a sealing voyage to the South seas. They called at Kangaroo Island and collected seal skins and salt and then headed for Macquarie Island. The area was treacherous, and the seas wild when on a foggy night in June 1812 the first mate James Kelly failed to notice how dangerously close the ship was to the shoreline.  When the alarm was finally raised, Captain Siddons called all hands to deck, however attempts to set sails failed and the ship struck rocks.

Siddons tried to anchor the ship but the anchors dragged and the ship began taking water. That night they launched their lifeboats in gale force winds and luckily made it to shore where the next day they began salvaging efforts, rowing through the dangerous surf again and again. They continued to toil or a fortnight and built a hut for storage during this time. Some of their efforts were doomed however as high tides washed some of the precious water supplies and seal skins out to sea where they were destroyed. While they awaited rescue the crew foraged for food, killed more seals and dried the skins. They probably made shelters and clothes for themselves  but conditions were harsh and at least four of the castaways died. Twelve of them were rescued by the Perseverance, a ship that had arrived at Macquarie Island to collect a gang of sealers in October of 1812. Underwood sent the ship Elizabeth and Mary to the Island to rescue the remaining crew. 

In 1816 Richard Siddons married Jane Powell at St. Phillips in Sydney. The couple set sail in the Campbell Macquarie soon after.

In 1823 he applied for the position of harbour pilot in Sydney. The couple's son Joseph was born the following year.

In 1824 Richard Siddons received a 640 acre grant of land at the Hunter river, The boundary commenced at the South West corner of Graham's Farm. Across the river in 1837 was the holding of J.T. Lamb. The area was known as Motto Farm and Heatherbrae.

Two convicts servants at his grant in 1828 were Jeremiah Burnes and Darby Burnes (Byrnes) who had arrived on the Ann & Amelia in 1825. Darby married Mary Duffy in Maitland in 1837. They were described as living at 'Hollow Tree' Newcastle and Hunter River.

The Siddons family did not reside at the Hunter River property as he continued his position as harbour pilot in Sydney. In 1830 as a Mr. Furneraux  (or Furner) was renting his estate.

Furneraux and Oliver Graham (cousin of George Graham) assisted Sir Edward Parry as he travelled from George Graham's property  to Newcastle. They had to swim across the river with their horses to a landing spot just below Sparks farm, 'a heavy swim' that they would have been unable to manage without the assistance of Graham and Furneraux.

In 1830 while working as Pilot (Sydney) Richard Siddon's boat was upset forcing him to swim for over 1/2 an hour to reach shore. He was luckier than his crew however, one of whom drowned.

In 1832 he resigned from this position due to ill health. He was then employed as Superintendent of the Light House at South Head a position he retained for several years.

Richard became unwell and sold his property at Hunter River. He died in  Sydney in 1846.

His son Joseph took over duties as Light House keeper at the Macquarie Lighthouse and remained there until 1897. Joseph married Frances Hannah, the fifth daughter of Rev. Lancelot Threlkeld on 6th October 1847, at Bathurst Street, Sydney.


Ash Island - Alexander Walker Scott John Laurio Platt Australian Agricultural Company Joseph Weller George Weller William Brooks Jonathon Warner George Brooks Richard Windeyer & Adam Beveridge William Peppercorn Richard Siddons John Maclean G.T. Graham William Sparke Henry Rae Vicars Jacob Francis Shortt Francis Moran John Eales William Bradridge Nobbys Island c. 1910 Black Swan from the Skottowe Collecion. Artist R. Browne Iron Bark Creek 1907 Escape of Convicts - Bushrangers



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