Saturday, 12 August 2017

Our "Australian Royalty" - John Killion - From Athlone to Port Jackson

John Killion is the patriarch of the Killion branch of the family - the descendants of Edward John (Jack) Killion, Rose Porter (nee Killion), Thomas Killion, Mary Jane Newton (nee Killion) and Margaret Gersbach (nee Killion).

Few details remain about John's life. We're looking for more information to enrich John's story including his birth family and early life in Ireland. What follows is based on the research of Martyn Killion, our family historian.  

John was born about 1806 in Athlone, County Westmeath, Ireland. Athlone is in central Ireland on the River Shannon about 120 kms west of Dublin. 


Athlone between Dublin and Galway

Althone Castle and River Shannon
The only things familiar to John when he left Althone in 1883
On 01 March 1833 in the Assize (County Court) at Mullingar, Westmeath, John was found guilty of "assault on the habitation of Jas. (James) Scanlon" and convicted to transportation for life.


Mullingar Courthouse, County Westmeath opened 1829
John Killion was sentenced here on 01 March 1833
The Westmeath Journal of 7 March 1833 shows that John was convicted of the crime along with James Reilly (transported for life) and James Kelly (transported for seven years). James Reilly was transported with John and died in Sydney Hospital after his arrival in 1834. At this time, we're still looking for information on James Kelly's transportation.  Their crime was damage to James Scanlon's property rather than to person. 




After the court hearing, John was transferred from the court building to Mullingar Goal by an underground passageway that ran between the two. The tunnel is still there but the goal no longer exists. We don't know whether John spent the next six months in goal or on a hulk (prison ship) waiting to be transported.


On 6 September 1833, John along with 169 other male prisoners departed aboard the Royal Sovereign from Dublin for Port Jackson. The master was John Henderson and the Surgeon Superintendent was Peter Leonard. The average length of sentence for the convicts on the Royal Sovereign was 7 years but there were 46 convicts, including John, with life sentences. Two prisoners died on the voyage.

Peter Leonard kept a medical journal where he observed-

"They were all in good health when sent on board the ship with the exception of a few of those received from the hulk at Kingstown who had concealed their complaints that these might be an obstacle to their departure for the "New Country", from which they seemed to anticipate great things. The cases of cholera made their appearance before leaving the coast of England and among the Guard only. As in almost all cases of cholera the means used seemed to be of very little service."

Leonard's journal shows that John was "put on the sick list" on 16 October 1833 and discharged on 27 October 1833 noting "prisoner - sick or hurt - herpes". This was a common viral disease suffered aboard convict ships and was often contracted in the unhealthy and crowded environment of the hulks. It spread as the convict ship entered the tropics and, while usually treated with "stimulants and sedatives", often did not abate until the ship moved to cooler weather.


 The map above shows the typical route taken by convict ships to Port Jackson.  There were limited stops - usually only one.  This was primarily to reduce the risk of illness.

After 135 days at sea, The Royal Sovereign arrived in Port Jackson on 19 January 1834.  John was about 29 when he arrived in the young colony.



John was one of the 144 convicts from the Royal Sovereign who went into private service and was assigned to John Dillon of Sydney.


John Killion's assignment to John Dillon
The 1834 Convict Indents provide the best description of John - Catholic, unmarried, a farm labourer who could not read or write, 5 feet 4 3/4 inches, with a ruddy complexion, light brown hair and grey, inflamed eyes, a raised mole on his left temple and two scars on the back of his right hand. There's no evidence that John had any tattoos unlike so many of his fellow convicts.


John Killion details on Royal Sovereign
So less than a year after his conviction in Westmeath, John was living in Sydney and assigned to John Dillon probably as a labourer.

John's story will continue with his move to Port Macquarie.....

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