Tuesday, 15 May 2012

Taphophile Tragics - Escaping the rope-ender

Detail from the base of the memorial to Samuel Henry Harris

Most of the convicts sentenced to transportation by the 'First Fleet' came from London, and the FF was thereby, quite multicultural. There were a number of Jewish convicts on the FF, but fewer than ten males, and there were 11 West African convicts on the FF. However, by 1850 there was still fewer than 1,000 Jews in the colony because of the difficulty of establishing congregations and therefore, valid Talmudic marriages. Of the first 250 Jewish convicts who arrived before 1820, only 45 married in Australia and ALL were married in the Anglican Church.

The imposing memorial to Harris. Garcia is beside this memorial, and Napthali behind.

On the first Sunday in May, I participated in a 'Convict' tour of Rookwood Necropolis, during which I stood at the graveside of: Samuel Henry Harris, who was sentenced to 7 years in 1833 for stealing one hundred pounds from his employers; Daniel Garcia who arrived in 1816 on the 'Morley' having received a life sentence; and, Michael Napthali, who arrived on the 'Glory' in 1818 having been sentenced to 7 years for stealing 100 glass lights.

More of the base of Harris' memorial. The quote to repair the flaking sandstone around the base of the memorial was $50,000.

The indent papers for Napthali describe him as 5'8", with a dark, ruddy, pockpitted complexion, dark hair and eyes, being blind on the left side. He was born in 1789, making him 29 years of age. He was indentured at Windsor nearly immediately, and in 1821 married 17 year old Fanny Dunn at St Matthews Church of England, Windsor. They had 11 children.

Coming out of his time in 1825, Napthali did not let grass grow under his feet. in 1826 he had a general store in York Street, and another in Pitt Street in 1828. My guess is serially, not parallel. In 1829 he was granted an unofficial liquor licence, and opened the "Shamrock, Rose, and Thistle' in Pitt Street, followed in 1830 by the 'Bunch of Grapes' at the corner of Pitt & Market, and the 'Bald Faced Stag' in George Street, and then the 'Ropemakers' Arms' on the corner of Market and York Streets in 1834. He was a seat-holder at the Sydney Synagogue in 1845, but was declared bankrupt in early 1847.

He died at his residence in George Street South on 22nd September 1847, aged 58, leaving Fanny, at the age of 43, with 11 children ranging from 22 years to 1 year. I have read in various places that he was buried at Windsor, or at Rookwood, or at Devonshire Sandhills Cemetery. Windsor is unlikely considering the distance and his family circumstances. Rookwood was not established until 1867, which leaves Devonshire Street. So when DS closed in 1901, his remains were moved by his very large number of descendents, to Rookwood.

Garcia on the left, and Napthali on the right.

Fanny, of course, had little option but to remarry, which she did in 1850 to William Everingham, who had the temerity to die in 1859, causing her to have to marry for a third time, this time to Roger Cain in 1863. She died in 1872 - after Roger - and is buried in Rookwood, but nowhere near Michael Napthali.

Detail from the headstone of Michael Napthali


This is my contribution to the Taphophile Tragics community.

25 comments:

Mo said...

The "Empire" had some very patronising ideals.

Jim said...

Julie, we were bound to cross paths again with our posts. :)

Ann said...

Any info on the shell (?) and horn. Talmudic? The rams horn is but what's the significance of the shell.

Peter said...

You and Jim did the same tour or Outstanding coincidence.

Joe said...

A wonderfully informative post. There's a movie in this.

Julie Storry said...

Ann: I have searched but to no avail. I am hoping Dina will drop in later.

Peter: Yep, the coincidence option. We have done it once before.

Francisca said...

It's fun to read these personal snippets of history. What did Harris do - post ripping his employer off for what must have been a huge amount of money - to deserve such a grand memorial, and yikes, $50K to restore... just the base! (If you've told that story, forgive me, my head is in a major for today, thanks to summer heat). I also need to comment on Fanny's ability to wed twice more, even after bearing 11 children... she must have been one hot mamma!

[I have not forgotten TT, Julie, but have not had time to properly put a post together. Wish I could retire, but that is not in my near-future cards.]

Gemma Wiseman said...

Wonder if Fanny was hot or just severely needed financial support with all those children! And imagine being stepfather to so many! Wonder too how the children felt about the quick turnaround of stepfathers! Lively times described in this post! Fascinating!

Francisca said...

Gemma, to clarify, it's exactly BECAUSE she was probably very needy - what with 11 children - that I say she must've been hot. I meant hot to look at, not hot to trot! Why else would TWO men agree to marry her and take on such a hefty burden? :-)

Joan Elizabeth said...

The top shot is so beautiful I want to touch it.

I think it is wonderful that so many of the convicts did well in the colonies ... makes me wonder if we shouldn't give people who leave jail today more of a hand up. I drove past Bathurst jail on the weekend and saw families visiting the inmates and felt sad for them all.

Mark said...

Fascinating post Julie.

Julie Storry said...

What I love about the stories of our early settlers, is that so many people with little hope elsewhere, thrived over here. AND and and ... we still remember them.

Nicola Carpenter said...

Such an ineresting post. Sometimes I wonder if transportation did these people a favour as they seemd to better themselves after leaving England.

Herding Cats

Julie Storry said...

I am convinced that transportation did some of them a favour. Not those sentenced to life, and sent to Van Diemen's Land or Norfolk Island. But those sentenced to 7 years in and around Sydney. They weren't even locked up to begin with. Being transorted to the end of the earth was thought sufficient. Like where were they going to escape to?

Deb said...

Transportation was certainly a second chance at life for some. Fascinating to hear the stories.

I seem to remember reading that a clam shell is a symbol of a journey towards (and ending in) baptism into the Christian church. Perhaps he converted, or maybe it has another meaning in Judaism?

hamilton said...

Now I wish we had an image of Fanny.

Julie Storry said...

Me so too, an image of Fanny would be wonderful. But I could not even find an image of Michael! Not even one of his close descendents on Ancestry.com. Shows they really did not have a brass razoo to rub together!

Which reminds me, need to detail for Francisca just how come Harris turned his fortunes around to warrant such a flash memorial over his bones. Will do that this arvo.

Julie Storry said...

Nothing as yet specifically about the shaped shell on Harris' memorial. But ...

Scallop shell: the sea shell, especially the scallop shell, is the symbol of Baptism, and is found frequently on Baptismal fonts. The dish used by priests to pour water over the heads of catechumens in Baptism is often scallop-shaped. The scallop, too, is a symbol for the Apostle James the Greater.

Dina said...

I'm no expert on old Jewish graves, but I don't remember ever seeing a scallop shell on one.
My first reaction was also its symbol for baptism and for Christian pilgrims.
Will try to look for some info when I get back from Tel Aviv tonight.

Nellies said...

Very interesting Julie. Thanks for the background information, I enjoyed reading this.

Jeroen van de Ven said...

Cemeteries are in an odd way always fasanating....

CaT said...

interesting...
but im confused. so... these people were sentenced in the UK and then sent to australia? did i understand that correctly? why?
and for what they did, stealing 100 pounds or 100 glass lights isnt their punishment a bit much...?

Dina said...

Sorry, I looked around but could find nothing to shed light on this symbolism.

Julie said...

Thanks for looking, Dina. I am beginning to suspect that the monument is a mix of both Judaism and Christianity AND pure choice. Guioded by the need to make the monument imposing and full of importance. For posterity's sake.

Dina said...

That is likely what it was, I think.