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Orphan Number: 4109
Orphan: John NEWBY
Mother:McEVOY, Eleanor
Father:NEWBY, Thomas
Mother's ship:Alexander 2
Father's ship:Competitor
Age when admitted:9yrs
Date admitted:3 Jul 1828
Date discharged:19 Sep 1831
Institution(s):Queens Orphan School
Discharged to: Rev Norman
Remarks: father a convict
References: SWD24p43, CSO5/86/1885

This orphan has been claimed by: Sally Bloomfield

John McEvoy or Newby. Orphan number 3624 and 4109

John was a half-brother to my great-great-great grandmother Eleanor McEvoy or McDonald (orphan no. 3574) and also to Julia McDonald (orphan no. 3588). He was born in Hobart on 8 Dec 1817 and baptised on 18 January 1818, recorded as the son of the unmarried Eleanor McEvoy. No father was named, but we know that for some years after her arrival in 1816, Eleanor cohabited with Thomas Newby and that John later went by the name of Newby.

Eleanor McEvoy was convicted of larceny in Dublin in 1815, transported for 7 years per Alexander, and arrived in Hobart on the Kangaroo in April 1816, aged about 23, with her infant daughter Eleanor. Newby was somewhat older, born about 1770. He was a second fleet convict, who, while clerk to a London attorney, had been convicted of horse stealing. He was tried at the Old Bailey in June 1788. The case was a strange one and he was recommended to mercy because of his “youth and folly.” He attained some notoriety for initially refusing to accept the commutation of his sentence to transportation. He later changed his mind, came out in the Surprize, served his sentence on Norfolk Island (where he cohabited with Sarah Jones) and received an absolute pardon in 1804. After relocation to Van Diemen’s Land Newby acquired a little property and a government job as a sort of bailiff to the Provost Marshall, Martin Tims. Sarah Jones died in 1814, so Thomas was in need of both a housekeeper and some company when the Kangaroo arrived with 40 female convicts on board. Eleanor and Thomas never married, although she appears to have been commonly known as “Mrs. Newby.”

Things may have begun to go downhill for Newby from about 1818. In that year he was involved, while very drunk, in a bungled and probably illegal attempt to arrest Magistrate Humphrey for debt. Provost Marshall Tims was sacked after this disgraceful affair and if Newby was not, he certainly deserved to be. Early in 1823, possibly as a consequence of having falling on hard times, Newby, described as a free man and also as “aged,” was convicted of stealing money and altering a promissory note with intent to defraud John Fawkner. He was sentenced to transportation for life. He appears to have died at New Norfolk in 1833.

Around the time of Newby’s conviction Eleanor appears to have commenced a relationship with Charles McDonnell (or McDonald). He was a native of Tyrone, Ireland, transported per Canada.* He arrived in Hobart in 1816 and had a very chequered career indeed thereafter, particularly after he forfeited his ticket of leave in 1824. Eleanor McEvoy had a clean conduct record while living with Newby, but after she began associating with McDonnell she appeared a couple of times for being drunk and disorderly and was assaulted by McDonnell.

When the census of children was taken in 1827, John was recorded with his two half-sisters in Brisbane Street, the mother’s name said to be Newby. McDonnell, continuing his downward trajectory, was by then confined to the Prisoners’ Barracks.

The admission of John and Julia to the Orphan School in July 1828 coincided with the arrest, trial and conviction of their mother and older sister. On 12 July 1828 Eleanor junior was sentenced to transportation for 7 years for stealing from her employer, and her mother received a 14-year sentence for receiving the stolen goods.

In July 1831 Eleanor McEvoy and Charles McDonald finally married, permission having been granted on their second application. Julia and John were discharged from the Orphan School the following December. The family lived at Oatlands, where McDonnell commenced business as a general dealer in 1832, but he continued his colourful criminal and often confrontational career (harbouring runaways, and destroying the glebe cottage amongst other things). In 1835 he was sent to Port Arthur and in 1840 allowed to reside in the Morven area with a ticket of leave but “on no account to be allowed to go to Oatlands.” He finally received a conditional pardon in 1845, his wife having received hers five years previously for, believe it or not, “living in good repute with her husband.”

On 21 May 1839 John Newby, by then 21 and working as a sawyer, married Charlotte Kellow at Oatlands. The witnesses were John’s half-sister Eleanor and her husband Joseph Salmon. Charlotte had been born in Sydney about 1820. She was the daughter William Kellow, a former private in the 73rd regiment, who had returned to New South Wales as a free settler and worked as a police constable in Sydney for several years before relocating to Van Diemen’s Land with his wife Elizabeth and several children in 1824.

John Newby’s personal life was marked by several sad losses. His two sons with Charlotte, Thomas (born 1840) and John (1845) both died in infancy. Then in 1846, after just seven years of marriage, Charlotte herself died of consumption, leaving John a widower with two daughters, Annie (five) and Elizabeth (three). Annie was to die at just 18 years old, in 1859, after a severe illness. My great grandmother Annie Newby Salmon (her niece) was obviously named in remembrance of her.

In 1856, two years before Annie’s death, John had remarried. His new wife was the recently widowed Sarah Sutton (nee Wright). Her first husband Charles Sutton had been proprietor of the Wilmot Arms Inn and John Newby continued as licensee of this well-known Oatlands establishment until his death on 23 November 1876. The demise of “one of our early Tasmanians” prompted a brief obituary in a number of newspapers. This praised his honesty, industry, independence of character, and kindness to those he perceived as worthy. Its account of his father, Thomas, is an interesting example of the way families could hide their convict origins and romanticise their pasts: “Mr John Newby was born in the year 1817, and was the only son of the late Mr Thomas Newby, barrister at-law, who arrived in this colony with Governor Collins, and was Provost-Marshal during that gentleman's tenure of office.” [emphasis added]

John had no further children with his second wife Sarah, although at age 51 he appears to have fathered a child with a woman named Mary Ann Adams. This boy, Henry Adams, was born at Oatlands in September 1869, and in his will written a few months before his death, John acknowledged him as his son. Henry drowned after falling from Elwick Jetty in January 1881, aged just 11. He was said to have been the adopted son of Mrs. Newby, Oatlands.

John’s widow Sarah died at Oatlands in 1884, and his daughter Elizabeth, who had married John Gillies Stansfield, died in Hobart in 1925, as far as I can ascertain without issue, so there are probably no direct descendants of John Newby living today to remember him.

*The Orphan School records are in error in identifying Charles McDonald as having arrived on the Competitor. That man was another, later, convict of the same name.



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