Riordan Family history


[Letter written by my Uncle Dick.]

13. 7. 1981.


Dear Roger,

I was pleased to learn from your letter that your son Peter, a worthy young man, is applying the full power of his mental ability towards the acquisition of knowledge with a view to flattening the examiners good luck to him. I wish this confounded typewriter would not make so many mistakes. It has had a long loaf and is now cold and disinclined to take its coat off and get at it.

Re the family and its numerous skeletons, yea verily you have applied to the proper source for info. In 1941 Aunt Rose (surviving Executrix of the will of my G'father Timothy R; my Father being the joint Executor) wrote to me in some distress having received a letter from the Solicitor of her brother Walter claiming tribute and suggesting that she had been guilty of wicked work in the Estate. Knowing that my Father (who had been in the Auditor General's Office) would have checked accounts to the 1d. I opened an old suitcase of his and found final accounts in Gf. Tim's Estate and a Release to the Executors signed by Master Walter and witnessed by his solicitors. I also found a certificate of my Father's death, and on reading it was surprised to find that he, Walter Rose and Mary were illegitimate. As this was usually the case in the early days it did not worry me, and to tell you the truth I do not know whether I ever mentioned this to your Father, who in any case might not have been amused. You will remember the late worthy Governor Lachlan Macquarie's outburst on looking round the colony. He said “the people must stop living like this and get ‘married’”. He then built churches like one thing and some of the people took the hint but most didn't bother. However in the years after Aunt Mary died I decided to fossick out the past, particularly when I first had to read the Property Settlement made on Aunt Mary.

I then obtained a certificate of birth of Gran.Riordan who was born (Rose or Rosannah) on 28.2.1839, daughter of William Grady (born London 1804) who, a carpenter by trade, married Jane Grady (daughter of Felix Carney and Sarah Carney ) on 13th August 1833, at Sydney. Jane was born at Sydney on 20th January 1815 (free) and William appears also to have come out as a free settler. Then on 28th January 1856 Gran. was married to Robert John Hawkins in St. James Church, Sydney. It seems that she had three children by this marriage: Joseph John Wilson, Elizabeth Jane1 and a second son who may have been named Robert John, who died in infancy.

It appears from what my enquiries show that Catholics had to marry in St. James Church for quite a long time. Then Hawkins took to grog and deserted Gran and the kiddies. I think that the Riordans and Grady's knew each other in Sydney before William Grady set sail for Adelong where he died years later, and G'f.Tim and Gran grew up close to each other. Any way when Hawkins shot through Gran decided to throw in her lot with G'f. and became his de facto wife. There was no possibility of divorce as the law then stood and in any case as soon as Gran. became a de facto wife she was the guilty party. Hawkins appeared to change his name to Milson and also had a de facto wife later, and a number of children. He died from lung trouble and judging by the number of children to whom Gran gave birth but who died in infancy she must have been the “carrier” of this disease, while she does not appear to have contracted it. G'f, Tim and Gran went to Queensland and G' f. worked as a stonemason on the first railway built in that State from Ipswich to Toowoomba and Dalby. Remember, Tim's Father John came out from Cork in 1838 as a stonemason, so Tim must have followed in his Father's footsteps. I regret to say that Master Tim blotted his copybook by telling the most frightful whoppers when registering the birth of children in Q. I notice that one birth was registered by Sarah Thompson (an aunt of Gran's and I think the eldest child of Felix Carney and his wife Sarah.) Sarah T. gave her address as Coal Falls near Ipswich. I also notice that an adjoining suburb is Salisbury and think it probable that it was after this suburb that G'f later named his house at Waverley, and not because of his regard (if any) for Lord Salisbury, or it may have been that as a great follower of the sport of fisticuffs and a great pal of Larry Foley (the last of the great Aust. bare fist fighters with whom G'f was first associated at the Turon goldfields when Larry was a baby) he was thinking of the Salisbury rules. I don't know.

When the railway work finished G'f and Gran returned to Sydney, as G'f did not accept the offer of the English contracting company to accompany them to Spain where their next large contract was to build a bridge. G'f. then built up a considerable business within a few years. Most of his contracts were related to stone fronts, pillars, stairs, window surrounds etc. and it appears to have been been profitable. Certainly what work of his that I have seen was excellent and he was an intelligent upright and capable man.

Now I strongly suspect that G'f and Hawkins (also a stone mason) had come to some agreement that neither would blow the whistle on the other, and when Hawkins (better known as Milson) died on the 5th February 1882 (a fact which must have come to G'f's knowledge immediately) he and Gran were married at Parramatta 9 days later. This marriage however did not legitimate the children as there was a bar to the marriage of their parents when they were born. The only thing G'f. could have done was to adopt his own children, but I feel sure that he was advised not to bother because he had always stated when their births were registered that he was their Father and that Mrs. Hawkins was his de facto wife. Funnily enough I could not obtain any evidence of the birth of Aunt Rose, and the Reg. Gen. concluded that she was born on a coastal vessel on the way back to Sydney from Q. I think [this] is the answer. Births were noted in the ship's logs, but often were not notified on arrival at a main port as they should have been. Many of these ships were foreign and the logs were eventually lost and there you are. The R.G said that this caused an awful lot of bother.

Anyway my Mother told me that Dad had to get a certificate of his birth when he retired and went on the superannuation fund and was extremely upset about it. It did not make the slightest difference because of the settlements and G'f's. will, all very good documents indeed. It did not really cause me any trouble, although before I fully understood what happened when the settlements failed and the lands subject thereof fell back into G'f's, estate I was rather concerned about possible difficulties of establishing the next of kin of the deceased. However it was finally sorted out, and had it not been for that iniquitous Landlord & Tenant Act we could have been better off to-day. Anyway Wran and his fellow laborites are now in real trouble in this State. However I suppose they will keep on screaming about the wickedness of the Fraser Govt. and will be returned at the forthcoming election. The Australian people are the most frightful goats.

Anyway laddie does the above badly written screed provide the answer to your queries? When next you call I will have a large packet for you to browse through. I was on the point of posting you all the certificates and other evidence but the postage (which went up again to-day) is now something to reckon with, and there always is the possibility of loss. F. was up this week end and said that if you really want copies of evidence she could take them off on a photo copier, but so I suppose can you.

I always think that the best story I heard concerning illegitimacy is that of the father of a tribe of children who, feeling low and fearing death, called them all to his bedside and confessed that he and their dear Mother had never married, and he asked them to forgive him. The children were embarrassed and did not say anything, and the smallest child, who could not see over the bed, stood there studying their faces. Nobody said anything, so after a while the little fellow said "well I don't know what you other bastards are going to do but I am going to the pictures".

That's the spirit.

Regards to all and best wishes.

Your affectionate uncle


1. Elizabeth Cecilia, according to FMR.
 © Roger Riordan 2004-2019

Skeletons in the family cupboard

3. Letter from Uncle Dick