Tuesday, 1 November 2016

The mysterious William Kay or Kirkpatrick

William Kay was the father of Ethel May Kay who married George Killion. William’s origins are somewhat of a mystery!

What do we know:            
  •          William married Margaret Dietz on 4 April 1876 at Grafton NSW.
  •          When his daughter, Ethel Kay was born in January 1882, William was described on her birth certificate as being a 27 year old, Cordial Maker and having been born in Burwood NSW. This places his year of birth at around 1855.
  •          The birth certificates of his other children and his death certificate place his year of birth in 1852 or 1853.
  •          Family folklore conveyed by his granddaughter, ‘Poppy’ Maggs nee Allbutt, states that he was born a Kirkpatrick but was raised by people by the name of Kay and adopted their name.

William died on 24 September 1888 at Grafton NSW as a result of a fall from a horse. He was buried in the Church of England Cemetery in Grafton. 

There is a grave in Grafton cemetery which must be his. The grave is for a William Kirkpatrick and the inscription reads:

“Sacred to the memory of William Kirkpatrick, a native of Tasmania, the beloved son of John Kirkpatrick who died by a fall from a horse, 24 September 1888 aged 36 years”.
This is followed by an illegible verse.

There is no record of a William Kirkpatrick dying in NSW in 1888, let alone one who probably died in Grafton (in order to be buried in Grafton cemetery) and from a fall from horse. This has to be ‘our’ William.

A newspaper article in 1946, refers to William as William Kay (not Kirkpatrick) and states he was a native of Tasmania (‘Five Generations Represented’ in The Daily Examiner, 8 May 1946).

A birth record for William has not been found to date.

William’s father – John Kirkpatrick.
The plot thickens from there. A photo album which recorded births and deaths in the family, includes the death of a John Kirkpatrick on 22 August 1895.

The death certificate of this John Kirkpatrick states his death took place on 21 August 1895 at Don Dorrigo and that he was aged 78. The certificate states that he was ‘not known to have been married’ and no children are listed. Members of the Dietz family officiated at the burial.

In a series of articles appearing in the Don Dorrigo Gazette in 1926, concerning a dispute as to who felled the first cedar on the Dorrigo, John Kirkpatrick is referred to several times. One of the articles, states ‘the old hands were always whispering that he had been a bushranger in New Zealand and Tasmania’ (‘Who Felled the First Tree’ in The Don Dorrigo Gazette and Guy Fawkes Advocate, 5 June 1926).

John Kirkpatrick in Tasmania
So the trail leads to Tasmania it seems where it appears the most likely (or perhaps convenient) candidate to be ‘our’ John Kirkpatrick is a convict who arrived in Tasmania on the ‘Triton’ in December 1843. This convict was transported under a sentence of transportation for manslaughter (of a policeman, Thomas Jordan during an election row in Carlisle, County Cumberland).

This John’s age of 22 when he arrived in 1842 places him around the same age as ‘our’ John. The convict John’s origin in Carlisle, County Cumberland (a border county with Scotland) could also verify the family folklore that William Kay insisted he was ‘Scots to the backbone’. In fact, Carlisle is known as the ‘Great Border City’.

John’s convict indent records his father as James, mother Jane and siblings, William, Benjamin and Margaret.

John Kirkpatrick, the convict, received a conditional pardon in April 1852. In the previous year, he had received government permission to marry one Barbara McKechnie but the records indicate the marriage did not proceed.

In April 1852, John married a convict, Maria Collister who had arrived on the ‘Earl Grey’ in May 1850. While Maria’s convict record tracks her until 1854, there is then no trace of her that has been found to date. Was she the mother of William Kay or Kirkpatrick?

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