Riordan Family history


John James Riordan was born in Cork, Ireland in 1815. He and his wife Christine emigrated to Australia, and arrived in Sydney in about 1839. He died in Sydney in 1886.
He and Christine lived in a cottage near Hyde Park, where they raised nine children, of whom one, Timothy, was my great grandfather.
These recollections are taken from undated typed notes prepared by my father, Adrian William Riordan.

I have dim recollections of my father speaking of his grandfather and out of this haze of memory there emerges the barely-seen vision of a man of medium height, who suffered from gout, lived in a cottage near Hyde Park (possibly in that queer little street behind the Mint) where a number of small cottages until a few years ago still faced the Art Gallery) and whose dress on formal occasions was marked by a tall hat, a cravat, a double breasted coat, cut long in the skirts, and a gold-headed stick.

James is said to have been an orphan and, if I remember correctly, to have been in business as a ware-houseman in Cork, in partnership with his brother. He married the daughter of one Timothy Coghlan, who claimed (whether in jest or in earnest none now knows) to be The O'Coghlan and the rightful owner of some large estate in County Cork.

Timothy Coghlan accompanied his daughter and son-in-law to N.S.W., being then seventy years or more. He did not long survive this transplanting. According to family tradition he was a tall, handsome man, with a strong, finely modelled face and an air of great dignity - a description which would fit his grandson, Timothy Riordan, equally well.

On his arrival in Sydney James is said to have become a mason and later to have been a government clerk of works, in which capacity he was employed for a time at the Quarantine Station at Manly. (I remember my father telling me how James used to set off by boat, with long farewells and an air of foreboding, as tho' he were bound for China at least).

In his old age he seems to have been supported by his son, Timothy. On one occasion he sold all the plant which Timothy used in his work on building contracts and told one of his friends of his great kindness to his son, to whom he had given a pound (of Timothy's money) to spend on some clothing for himself.

He was an amusing old scallywag. One of his pastimes was to recount to my father, as a boy, his travels over all the world, known and unknown. Years later my father found the source of all this adventuring in an account of Humboldt's travels in South America - a book which was long at home and which delighted my boyhood.

James cured his own tobacco and rolled it into long ropes, one end of which he tied to a chair. He would then tell my father to sit on the chair, as ballast. Of course when he twisted the rope the chair would be over-turned and he would pretend to be very angry.

Much of his time was taken up in watching the ships in the harbour through a big telescope and occasionally he took my father walking in Hyde Park - excursions for which he had to put on his best clothes and which usually ended after a few minutes because of his gout. I wish I could have seen this humourous old man and the small boy sitting on a bench in the Hyde Park of the early Eighties.

My father loved old James and so, apparently, did the younger Timothy, despite the episode of the sale, so he must have been a likeable man.

 © Roger Riordan 2004-2019

James Riordan