Personalising the Immigrants: A Convict

In my talk at the Conference mentioned previously, I provided some statistics and followed up with a short series of stories. As time was short some of these didn’t get quite the coverage I’d planned, so I’ll include them in full here. I’m also able to include some of the images I’d found which couldn’t be included in the presentation.

My first example was A CONVICT: James Boland



First up, a member of Australian royalty which is what we call our convicts.  James Boland was convicted of the attack on a house, or Whiteboyism, at the Galway courts on 28 March 1832 and was sentenced to life. The National Archives of Ireland hold a petition from James’ father Francis which includes a letter from John Lopdell Co Galway stating that James and his brother Michael had been tenants on his estate since 1 May 1831 (NAI Convict transportation database). There were also character references from inhabitants of Feakle parish, Co Clare, where the convict was born and where his parents were residing.


Cooke, Edward William. 1829, Prison-ship in Portsmouth Harbour, convicts going aboard , [London viewed 16 November 2016

James was held at Cork on a prison hulk before being transported on the ship Roslin Castle (450 tons) under the guard of the 21st Regiment of the Royal Scottish Fusiliers. James and 194 other prisoners sailed from Cork on 8 October 1832, arriving in Sydney on 5 February 1833 after 120 days at sea. James was allocated to Mr TWM Winder of Windermere, near Maitland in the Hunter Valley, where he was employed as an agricultural labourer. It would be many years before James’s name would cease to linked with that of the Roslin Castle as this was how they identified one convict from another.



Grosse, Frederick 1864, THE SHEPHERD’S HUT, Ebenezer and David Syme, Melbourne, State Library of Victoria.

His son’s obituary suggests he worked as a shepherd for Wentworth but this would have to be verified by detailed research. Shepherding was a challenge in those early days setting the shepherd against the depredations of dingoes (wild dogs), wild blacks and wild whites.[i] It could be a very lonely life.


As a convict James had to apply for permission to marry and in 1844, aged 33, he married Bridget Savage in Maitland. Bridget was a 29-year old free settler. James was already living at Luskintyre where he would remain for the rest of his life.


boland-james-pardon-1849James’s life sentence was essentially commuted by gaining first a Ticket of Leave on 11 May 1842, enabling him to move freely around the Maitland area.

In 1849 James gained a conditional pardon meaning he was now a free man, though he could not return to the British Isles. This would have been a great moment for him. He was about 37 and had been a convict for nearly 16 years – not quite life, but not an easy path for a man who was barely an adult when convicted.

1849 ‘Government Gazette.’, The Maitland Mercury and Hunter River General Advertiser (NSW : 1843 – 1893), 31 March, p. 4. ,

James Boland died in a riding accident on 16 October 1876.


1876 ‘Death of James Boland, Esq.’, The Maitland Mercury and Hunter River General Advertiser (NSW : 1843 – 1893), 21 October, p. 10. ,

boland-james-maitland-mercury-27-mar-1877-p8James left an extensive estate which was auctioned:

  • 600 very superior cattle
  • 64 acres of highly improved farm with frontage on the Hunter River
  • a dwelling house with 8 rooms, kitchen, stable, coach-house, hay-shed, barn, corn-shed, figgeries
  • 560 acres of 1st class grazing and agricultural land of which 40 acres are under cultivation and a large area ring-barked.
  • Improvements including three houses, stockyards etc together with good will of the lease for a term of years of 7700 acres of 1st class grazing land which is permanently watered and well grassed.

Quite an achievement for this Clare convict.

[i] DEATH OF A PIONEER. (1929, July 13). The Maitland Weekly Mercury (NSW : 1894 – 1931), , p. 8. Retrieved July 27, 2016, from

[2] list of property 1877 ‘Advertising’, The Maitland Mercury and Hunter River General Advertiser (NSW : 1843 – 1893), 24 March, p. 12. ,

15 thoughts on “Personalising the Immigrants: A Convict

  1. Very interesting Pauleen! I have Bolands marrying into my Anglim family in Killuran, Clare. Possibly my Anglims moved from northern Vic to the Newcastle area because of their Boland relatives already up there. I also have O’Neill, Brackenreg & Cruckshank families in Luskintyre & Windemere.

    • Sorry Janelle, your comment vanished into my unapproved comments hence a major delay – my apologies. Interestingly I’ve just heard today from a descendant from James Boland (check my About Me page). If you want me to pass on your email just let me know in a FB pm. Pauleen

  2. You can’t help but wonder what James’s life would have been like in comparison if his sentence had been other than transportation. Would he have become the much respected gentleman that he did in Australia? My 4th great grandfather, Robert Hobbs, had a similar conversion, from thief to highly respected gentleman landowner..seems Australia has always been the land of opportunity.

  3. Yes indeed Chris and Jill – there were certainly some convicts, James Boland included, for whom transportation probably changed their lives for the better…in the long run.

  4. Hi, my ancestors Michael and his younger brother Patrick Moran (my G-G-Grandfather) were convicted with James Boland for the crime that saw them transported to Australia. James Boland petitioned his innocence, however, this was overturned and he was sent to Australia instead. A contact in Ireland sourced the newspaper article on the conviction as follows:

    Reference found from a report of the Assizes (Court) held in Galway, March 1832:
    “Martin (s/be Michael) Quinn, John Sheedy, Michael Moran, Patrick Moran and James Boland, whiteboy offence, judgement of death recorded.”

    Another paper stated:
    “James Boland, Patrick Moran, Michael Moran, James Sheedy and Michael Quinn, for the assembling of arms and attacking the house of Michael Quinn (s/be Martin Glynn (Glinn)) in May last: Guilty”

    The Galway Advertiser of 1st October 1831 has the following:
    Committed to Galway Jail 9th September, by Walter Moloney (s/be Molony), Chief Magistrate at Gort:
    “John Sheedy, alias Silk charged having on the 20th May aided by an armed party attacked the home of Martin Glynn. On same day he committed Michael Quinn charged with having on the 28th August, aided by others, committed a burglary at Patrick Glynn’s house who was wounded in the last attack – John Sheedy, alias Silk, aided him.”

    Thoroughly enjoyed your history on James Boland. You may already have the information above, but thought I would share anyway. They appear to have lived in the same areas, so I wonder if they were friends or went their own ways, especially if James was innocent.

    Jacinta Moran
    Brisbane, Australia

      • So happy it was of help – I had made contact with another Boland descendant who offered the following information as well. The more pieces of the jigsaw we can put together can only help build the story of our descendants:

        “James Boland was arrested in February 1832, tried, found guilty and given a life sentence at Galway in March, during April while waiting to be transported from Cork to Sydney, the following 4 petitions on his behalf were presented to the authorities. They were rejected. He arrived in Sydney as a convict in February 1833.

        1. From his Parish Priest. “I certify that I Have known James Boland, now a convict at Cork. from his infancy, and that he has conducted himself in the most correct and in impeachable manner. April 25th, 1832 Thomas McInerney P. P. Feakle.”

        2. From his fellow Parishioners of Feakle.”County of Clare. The under named inhabitants and land holders of the Parish of Feakle in said County Make Oath and said that they had known James Boland, Lately convicted of Whiteboyism at Galway and now in Cork under sentence of transportation, from his infancy and that he was a well conducted industrious boy. That they have known him to take land on last May, and to be annoyed (harmed) on that account. That they have read his father’s petition and consider it to be true, and to the best of their opinion and belief that the said James Boland is innocent. Sworn before us at Tulla, 26th April 1832.? Malony, Anthony Molony, James Molony, Mich Houlahan, Pat McMahan, Michael Houlahan, John Rogers.”

        3. From his Landlord. “I certify that James Boland with his brother Michael Boland with other partners, became my tenants from the 1st May last on the lands of Fahy in County of Clare, being recommended to me in the strongest manner by Barry O’Hara Esq., and I consider them honest, quite and industrious young men, otherwise I would not have let them any part of my property, since they became my tenants I have found them anxious and willing to pay my rent, Tho. I believe they were annoyed and much injured by persons who were disappointed in not getting their holding.Loughrea. John Lapdill, J. P. County of Galway.”

        4. From his Father. “To his Excellency the most noble the Marquis of Anglesey, Lord Lieutenant General and General Govenor of Ireland. The petition of Francis Boland humbly herewith that petitioner is seventy years old, that he is the unfortunate father of James Boland, one those persons who has lately been tried at the Galway Assizes for an attack on the house of Patrick Glynn in the month of August last. That James Boland the convict resided in the County of Clare, Parish of Feakle at a distance of ten miles from Glynn’s house and never did he know or see Glynn in all his life until he was made prisoner on the 12th February last, nor did James Boland the convict know any of his fellow prisoners and convicts before his imprisonment. The said James Boland was engaged that very time in building a dwelling house for himself on a farm called Fahyhalloran which he had taken the May previously from Mr. Lopdille whose certificate accompanies this petition and that he was taken a marked object for annoyance from others on the account but could feel no possible interest in that abominable system of Whiteboyism. That the misfortune and infatuation if impeaching said James Boland cannot be accounted for any other way than throb a similarity of dress with one of the offending party. That wretched petitioner rests all his hope and reliance on the tender feelings, humanity and benevolence of his Excellency to extend the prerogative of his mercy to said James Boland the only support of an aged father and mother and as in duty bound petitioner will ever pray.”

        The actual facts of the conviction was something that was not generally talked about (or maybe the story lost over time), as I guess they were trying to forget the past and build a new life for their families. My Dad’s cousin can remember our convict Patrick’s daughter declaring their innocence, however, this could have been affection for her father or what she may have been told. We will never know the truth in this life time, however, I do feel great pride if they had stood up for their rights and to protect their family. Even though I do not condone violence, it was a very sad time in history, that I believe would test us all to our limits.

        Happy researching

    • Hi Jacinta,
      I am another one of James Boland’s descendants and was thrilled when I came across your information from the Irish newspapers about the trial of James and your ancestors, the Morans. I am only just getting around to including this info into my story of James (Covid lockdown has spurred me on!) Do you have copies of the newspaper articles or record from the Assizes that you mention? I am trying to reference my history correctly.

  5. Hi Cassmob,
    James was my G-G Grand Father and I am just starting to pull the material together. Interestingly Jacinta’s last contribution is a document I have in my possession but would be interested in which Boland researcher contacted her with that information.
    At the moment I am trying to establish more about James’ family . What we know is that his brother Francis (41yo), came to Australia via Adelaide with his wife Catherine ( nee Corry aged 39) in 1854 and their nine children. It is believed that James’ mother was Eliza and there may have been female siblings, likely a Bridget and Eliza. Too date though we haven’t been able to reliably confirm however. Jacinta’s document speaks of Michael as well.
    Francis and family did move to the same area for some time then went north to upper Manilla NSW.

    One tantalising piece is a 4th March 1915 Catholic Press obit for Bridget Cooley of Glenfield. (Mrs. Bridget Cooley. (1915, March 4). The Catholic Press (Sydney, NSW : 1895 – 1942), p. 29. from “She was born in Gort, County Galway, Ireland, but left there very young. She was a niece of the late Mr. Francis Boland, of Manilla, N.S.W., and she was in her 76th year.”

    We don’t believe James Boland fathered any children prior to his 1844 marriage to Bridget Savage. While James and Bridget Boland had a daughter Bridget, she was born in 1850 and unfortunately drowned in the 1857 Hunter floods. So, who were Bridget Cooley’s parents? Unverified fragments of the story so far suggest that she migrated to the USA as a child, married there and had children there (Pennsylvania????) and on-migrated to Australia with her husband and children. Could she be the daughter of Michael Boland? Or the unverified Bridget or unverified Eliza?
    Any clues would be appreciated.

    • Hi Mark – somehow I must have missed this post back in 2019, however, the lady who kindly gave me the information was Alyce Jackson – her g-g-g-g-grandfather was Francis Boland and his brother was James Boland.

      I also had contact from a Jennifer Wilson, her g-g-g-grandfather was James Boland who also kindly shared information regarding her ancestor.
      Jacinta Moran

  6. Hi Jacinta, I’m so sorry that I’ve omitted to thank you for this generous information…it really adds to the story of James Boland. Very much appreciated, despite the delay. Sadly this blog has been neglected as you can see.

    • That’s OK – I am happy to add to the story, as it is indirectly related to my guys, so your information was much appreciated. Never enough time for researching family trees LOL

      • Thanks Jacinta, Dont know either of the girls but will now look for them. I have a cousin who is also doing background research. Have you written up the Moran boys story ? It would be great to know what happened to them .Cheers Mark

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