JAMES McMANUS 1770 - 1798

Author: Dennis James Thomas McManus PSM BA, Dip T and C P, M.B.Env. [dennis.mcmanus3@bigpond.com]


James McManus 1770-1798 Summary


Born: Date and place unknown, about 1770. Likely to be in  England or Ireland. Author would appreciate any information.


Occupations: Marine Private 59th(Portsmouth) Company 1785-1791. Arrived on Charlotte. He was on Norfolk Island as a settler 1791-1792. Returned to Sydney and joined the NSW Corps on 10th May 1792 for 5 years. In 1794 promised a grant and in 1797 granted 65 acres at Mulgrave Place (now Agnes Banks) on the Hawkesbury River. This grant and other land passed to his wife when he died.


Died: 15 April 1798.  Registered: St Phillip's Anglican Church, Sydney.  


Buried: Old Sydney Burial Ground, George Street, Sydney - now the Sydney Town Hall site.


Married to Jane Poole: Norfolk Island in November 1791.


Children of James and Jane: Sarah (1793-1793) James (1794-1839) and John (1797-1873).


UK background

In 1786 James was in the 59th (Portsmouth) Company serving as a Marine Private on the guard ship Hector. He may have joined the Marines in 1785.  Prior to that we know nothing of him. I am hoping further information will come forward. I have contacted the Royal Marines Museum and the UK National Archives without success.

James travels to Botany Bay


There is a discrepancy in the records as to which ship James travelled on. Some accounts say James arrived on the Charlotte and others the Sirius. Historian Mollie Gillen explains the discrepancy. James was in fact on both ships. He was on the Sirius but moved to the Charlotte on 19 March 1787 some eight weeks before the first fleet sailed. (Molly Gillen, Founders of Australia, Sydney, 1989, p. 233.) HMS Sirius was one of the two naval escorts for the First Fleet. The first Governor of New South Wales, Arthur Phillip, travelled on the Sirius.


When leaving, the Charlotte had 34 marine privates under the direction of Captain Watkin Tench. On the Sirius there were 43 marine privates.  Prior to leaving England in early 1787 Tench was commissioned by John Debrett to write an account of the journey to the new colony. Four others were also commissioned to write accounts - Governor Arthur Phillip, Judge Advocate David Collins, (both on the Sirius), Lieutenant Governor John Hunter and Surgeon John White (on the Charlotte.)


All of these accounts and more are available as free e-books at http://gutenberg.net.au/first-fleet.htmlA word search has been made of all five First Fleet accounts. With the exception of Collins, none makes specific mention of James McManus or Jane Poole.  But they provide a first-hand view of the very same small world in which both James and Jane lived even if through a different prism to Marine Private James and Convict Jane.


First account of James McManus in the colony

The first record of James in New South Wales is a sad one and there are three accounts. “26 August 1790 confined for stealing a chest containing several articles, the property of Private Charles McCarty; 4 October 1790 charged with stealing 4 shirts value twelve shillings, 5 pairs of trousers value fifteen shillings, one white Dimoty waistcoat value one shilling and six pence, one pair of shoes value three shillings, one pair of stockings value one shilling, all the property of Private Charles McCarty ….... Pleaded not guilty. Evidence was given by Private McCarty, Acting Sergeant John Curry and Private William Charlton all of the New South Wales Corps. The verdict was Not Guilty.” (http://www.gencircles.com/users/bshaw3/1/data/23)The Australian History Research site says “The next day McManus tried to cut his own throat in the guardhouse, but was prevented by Corporal James Bagley after scaring himself in several places. James Scott, a marine sergeant who kept a journal from 1787 to 1792, records that “Since his confinement he seems insane. For eleven days he took no sort of victuals, except a few spoons of flour and water”.


1791 - James decides to stay

On 21 September 1791 the Gorgon arrived in Sydney. The Gorgon was also assigned to transport officers, including Watkin Tench, and the marines back to England after 4 years in the colony (January 1788 to late 1791).  Tench says of the event he “hailed it with rapture and exaltation” (Source: Tim Flannery, Watkin Tench's 1788 p.210.) But apparently this is not how James McManus and another 62 marines viewed it for they decided to stay.


Government offer of land grants

Phillip's original instructions did not provide wide allowance of land grants. However, with the arrival of the second fleet in 1790, Governor Phillip issued an invitation to non-commissioned officers and privates to take up land. At that time every private soldier was offered an allotment of 80 acres if single and 100 acres if married plus 10 acres for every child.  In the same 1790 invitation a bounty of £3.0.0  was offered to every soldier who enlisted in the NSW Corps.  They were given a further assurance that “ in the case of a proper demeanour on their part, they shall, after a further service of five years, be entitled to double the former portion of land, provided they chose to become settlers in the  country.....to be subject to .. annual quit-rent of one shilling for every 50- acres.”  (Source: Tim Flannery, Watkin Tench's 1788 p.129-130)

Tench says that 63 out of 160 marine privates accepted the offer to enter the New South Wales Corps and to take up grants at  Norfolk Island or Rose Hill. On 5 April 1791 39 persons, sailors or marines, including James McManus, were granted 60 acres of land each at Norfolk Island. (Source: Cathy Dunn, 'Some land grants of 1791 Parramatta NSW and Norfolk Island') 


1791 - James goes to Norfolk Island

Governor Phillip's Despatches for 1788-1791 show that James McManus was among 29 marines who sailed from Sydney on the Atlantic on 26 October 1791 to settle on Norfolk Island.


1792 - James joins the NSW Corps and returns to Sydney

We do not know why James chose to go to Norfolk Island. Was it simply because his land grant would be there? Was it related to the convict Jane Poole being there? Jane was sent to Norfolk Island on 11 November 1789. He probably first met Jane on the Charlotte on their journey out from England. They almost certainly knew each other before James landed at Norfolk Island because they were married within days of his arrival.  We also do not know what happened to the grant offered on Norfolk Island, what he did while he was there nor why he left after a stay of less than 10 months. 

In August 1792 James left Norfolk Island on board the same ship he arrived on – the Atlantic - bound for Port Jackson.  On board was his wife Jane Poole and her daughter Margaret who is reported to have been born on Norfolk Island in 1789. The father of Margaret is unknown.

James joined the NSW Corps on 10May 1792 while he was still on Norfolk Island and was discharged 10 May 1797. “The NSW Corps was formed in England in 1789 as a permanent regiment to relieve the First Fleet Marines. A fourth company was raised from those marines wishing to remain in NSW under Captain George Johnston, who had been Governor Phillip's aide-de-camp.” (Wikipedia) Jane's seven year sentence expired on 19 August 1793 and  we have the birth of Sarah who died in her first year in 1793 and James (1794-1839). A third child, John was born in 1797 (1797-1873).


1797 - James receives his land grant on the Hawkesbury River

On 10 May 1797 (his discharge date from the NSW Corps;  exactly 5 years’ service started on 10 May 1792) James was granted 65 acres in the district of Mulgrave Place on the Hawkesbury River by Governor Hunter at a rent of 5 shillings after 5 years (R J Ryan, Land Grants 1788-1809 p.84). 

There is an excellent detailed book on the history of the Hawkesbury settlement by Jan Barkley-Jack - Hawkesbury Settlement Revealed, A new look at Australia's third mainland settlement 1793-1802, Rosenberg 2009. From this book we know the details of the grant to James and its later transfer to Jane.

James was one of 23 soldiers, 63 ex-convicts and 5 free settlers promised land at Mulgrave Place in 1794 by Acting Governor Grose.Barkley-Jack explains the 65 acres. James was entitled to 25 acres plus 20 for Jane his wife plus 10 for each of the children still living at that time – Sarah and James Jnr. Barkley-Jack says that James was one of two marine privates in 1794 to be promised acreage on the Hawkesbury based on a family – the other marine was John Atkins at York Reach. 


1800 - Jane is given a grant of 160 acres.

Jan Barkley-Jack (pp. 400-401) goes into some detail of the 160 acre grant to Jane and what happened next:

The grant to ex-convict Jane Poole (McManus) registered in March 1800 was unique in the colony because of the caveat it carried. Governor Hunter had been particularly careful to ensure that no male could ever take over Jane Poole's grant. This was because Jane and her family posed a special case within the settlement. Like John Watts, a double acreage had been promised to marine private James McManus, when he enlisted as a member of the New South Corps in the colony, as it was to all such men. The army had a way of looking after its own in providing for their families even after they had died. Patronage links in 1800 had ensured Jane a 160 acre grant on behalf of her deceased husband James, to replace his smaller acreage given by Grose.

By 1800 Jane was farming in conjunction with Ridge, a transportee who arrived on the Atlanticon the Third Fleet. In 1798, two years after he had served out his sentence, Ridge had begun living on his purchased South Creek grant of William Butler. In the 1800 muster, the large McManus grant is listed as belonging to Ridge, although the governor's involvement, does result in the rare acknowledgement that part of Richard's property was a grant to his ‘wife’.”

A daughter, Martha, was born in 1803, before the couple split, but by 1806 Jane is shown with four male and two female children. By 1809 Richard Ridge was renting in the Cornwallis area from Sarah Cooley, presumably part of Argyle Farm. He has married Margaret Forrester, the daughter of Robert and Isabella, and it seems Richard and Margaret later lived downriver on Richard's 1804 Portland Head grant, Richard later being a constable and provost marshal's bailiff.


James' Death in 1798

James McManus died in 1798 cause unknown. Assuming he was born in about 1770 he died at about 28 years of age. He was buried on 15 April in the Old Sydney Burial Site in George Street which is now the site of the Sydney Town Hall.  This cemetery operated from 1792 to 1820.  The Burial Site Register compiled by the City of Sydney holds the names and some detail for 2,266 persons including 73 First Fleeters. James is listed as No 1340:  McManus James, No age, 1798, April 15, Settler.  The main source for the McManus entry is the St Phillip's Church Parish Register.DJTM



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