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James Mcgrath

** community contributed record **

Name, Aliases & Gender

Name: James Mcgrath
Aliases: Magrath
Gender: m

Birth, Occupation & Death

Date of Birth: -
Occupation: -
Date of Death: 1833
Age: -

Life Span

Life span

Male median life span was 61 years*

* Median life span based on contributions

Conviction & Transportation

Sentence Severity

Sentence Severity

Sentenced to 7 years

Crime: Robbery
Convicted at: Ireland, Kilkdare
Sentence term: 7 years
Ship: Hercules
Departure date: 29th November, 1801
Arrival date: 26th June, 1802
Place of arrival New South Wales
Passenger manifest Travelled with 19 other convicts


Primary source: Freemans Journal, Thurs 6th August 1801 page 2, Column 4. Freemans Journal, Saturday 18th April 1801 page 2.
Source description:

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Community Contributions

Robin Sharkey on 23rd March, 2016 wrote:

James McGrath was transported on “Hercules” to NSW for 7 years for robbing the mail coach to Cork on 5th March 1801, with a group of men, on the road in the county off Kildare.  He and one of the other men, Lawler, were set up to be captured when selling some of the stolen bank notes to one of Kildare’s Peace Officers, posing as a man from the north, on 7th June 1801. The peace officer had been given information and assistance by a third man from the group.  Evidence was given that, in the course of the sale transaction, they admitted that the notes and been taken from the Cork mail on 5th March 1801.

According to newspaper sources, they were the same group of men who later robbed the Limerick mail coach in County Kildare on 15th April 1801] and shot and killed one Mr Blood. However, no report of James McGrath being charged with this crime, probably the evidence was strongest on the selling of the bank notes from 5th March robbery.

Freemans Journal, Saturday 18th April 1801 page 2:
The Limerick Mail coach was attacked on Wednesday night, [i.e. about eleven o’clock, at a place called Cherry Hill between Monastereven and Kildare, by a number of armed men, who fired upon the escort and coach, killed one passenger (Mr Blood, an attorney) and one horse and wounded three horses; they then carried off the post-bags, which should have arrived yesterday from the following towns, viz, Burros-in-Offory, Emo, Limerick, Maryborough, Monastereven, Montrath, Nenagh and Roscrea.

Several others of the group, unnamed,  had been committed to New Gaol in Dublin by Mid June 1801 “charged with robbing the Limerick Mail-coach in which Mr Blood was murdered.” [Finns Leinster Journal, Wed 10 June 1801 page 3]. They were also reported earlier in April to have been apprehended {Freemans Journal, 21 April 1801 p 3], however it seems this was only one of the Lawler/Lalor brothers who had given evidence.

In NSW his name was given to “McGrath’s Hill” near Windsor where he lived.  He applied his obvious organisation skills (planning and managing a group of seven other men in the robbery) to more industrious purposes in NSW and prospered, setting himself up as a dealer in 1806 and, together with John Howe of Windsor,  undertaking government contracts for road construction from 1813 - 1816. They contracted:
* in 1813 to complete and repair the road from Sydney to Windsor
* for Andrew Thompson’s executors, to build a toll-bridge, known for many years as Howe’s Bridge, over South Creek at Windsor.
* In 1815 they enlarged the Windsor wharf
* In 1816 contracted to build another wharf.

He understood the value of government contracts as he also supplied meat to the government stores, and later in life vegetables for the Windsor gaol and hospital.

In 1828 he claimed he was aged 51 yrs, therefore aged only 24 at the 1801 crime.
At his 1833 death he was said to be aged 60, making him aged 28 at the 1801 crime.

James McGrath was probably a native of Kildare. He had been married in Ireland with a child named Dennis McGrath at the time he was transported. As a grown man, the child gave his native place as Athy (in Kildare). James never saw this child again. He married again himself in NSW ten years later, in 1811, to a NSW born girl, Elizabeth Eades.  However, as a married adult, and after the death of James, this irish son Dennis McGrath and his own young family turned up in NSW, interested in James’ NSW property.

In NSW James & Elizabeth had only two children:
* James junior born in 1824, and
* Mary Ann born in 1831,
They were young children when he died in 1833.


Freemans Journal, Thurs 6th August 1801 page 2, Column 4.

“ At the above Assizes on Monday last, [i.e. 3rd August or 27th July] held before the Hon Judge Daly, came on the trial of “JOHN” McGRATH indicted for robbing the Cork mail coach on Thursday the 5th March last, and felling the [illegible . no??].

“ The principal Witness was Mr Logan, one of the chief peace officers of this city, who had found means, through the information and interference of one of the parties, to be introduced to McGrath, and one Lawlor (or Whelan) on the 7th June last, at a public house in Britain street, as a person from the North, who they might have no dread to deal with, as a purchaser for the notes that had been robbed from the mail as above mentioned.

“ Mr Logan, in a very clear testimony, proved the having purchased, after some time spent in bargaining with the above offenders, a 30l bank-note, and a fifty guinea note, from them for which he gave 15 & 1/2 guineas in notes, that he had previously marked; there were other notes produced to the witness at the same time, who on expressing an apprehension that he feared they were forgeries,  and those also he had bought [i.e. forgeries], they assured him they were not, but real ones, which had been taken out of the Cork mail on the 5th of March.

“Mr Wilson, another of the chief peace officers of this city, proved the having apprehended McGrath and Whelan, immediately after Mr Logan had left them on purchasing the notes, and the finding upon them the identical notes which the former witness had marked, and given as purchase money.

“Whelan, otherwise Lalor, one of the offenders above-mentioned, who was admitted a witness for the Crown, gave evidence of the manner of the robbery as follows:
There were eight in the banditti, armed with blunderbusses and pistols, who had formed the plan to attack the coach as soon as it came up, another of the eight was to stand at some distance, at the side of the wall, with a reserved shot to fire at the guard in case they stood to give resistance, in order to kill, or throw them into note consternation, that the guard ran off upon the firing of the seven shots, and the banditti afterwards carried away the mail to an adjoining house where they then divided some of the booty and the remainder on the Sunday night following.’

“Mr Foster, of the bank, proved the notes to have been issued from thence.

“The Deputy Post Master, Mr Fitzgerald, and the guard of the mail coach gave evidence as to the delivery and conveyance of the mail.

“The jury, without retiring from the box, found the prisoner - Guilty.

“Counsel for the Prosecution Mr Lees, Mr Barrington, Mr Moore, and Mr Johnson.

“The court gave great approbation to the manner in which the prosecution was conducted and highly commence the vigilance and great attention of the peace officers, for having brought this offender, and recently many others, to justice, and hoped the service they had rendered the public would be properly rewarded.

“The banditti above mentioned, were those who fired upon and robbed the mail coach in which Mr Blood was murdered.”

Robin Sharkey on 23rd March, 2016 wrote:


* March 1806 - Received issue of beer at Sydney (James McGrath - Sydney - 60 Gallons)

* 1806 Census - Dealer, Sydney. Emancipated Conditionally.
Lived with Charlotte Belton per “Glatton”

* MARRIAGE 16 December 1811 - MARRIED Elizabeth Eades. Both of the Windsor parish. James Magrath Signed; & Elizabeth Eades made her mark.
registered St Matthew’s Church of England Windsor by Banns by Rev Cartwright; Witness: Tho,as Wheeler, Signed; Witness: Law May, Signed; Witness: Mathew Hughes, Signed

Elizabeth was born in Sydney in December 1792, to Joseph Eades, a private with the NSW Corps who arrived as a soldier on “Surprise” in 1790 with his wife Catherine and two English-born children (Joseph & Ann). Joseph the father was drowned in January 1796. Catherine the mother died in 1804.
This left Elizabeth an orphan at age 12.  She was aged 19 years at marriage. James was probably about 34 years.

* Receiving Govt Cattle
Sydney Gazette 19 Sept 1812:
Receiving Cattle from the Government herds, on credit. Person who have executed the necessary bonds are to attend on Mr Jamieson, Superintendant of Government Stock, at the Stock yard at Parramatta, on Thursday 1st october next, to recieve the said cattle: viz … James McGrath …

1814 Muster - Elizabeth Eades, born here, Wife to James McGrath, Windsor;  James McGrath, landhlder Windosr. Free. arrived per Hercules. mustered Windsor


* Sydney Gazette - 23 Oct 1813
For Quarter ending 30 Sept 1813:
Messrs. Howe and McGrath, in part compleating of their Contracts of the Roads between Sydney and Windsor paid £150    

* Sydney Gazette - 31 Jul 1813
For the Quarter ending 30 June 1813:
Mr. John Howe and James Mcgrath, in Part for repairing the Turnpike Road, between Sydney and Windsor.  paid £150

McGrath and Howe, were contracted to build a wharf at Windsor and lay a sewer to the wharf, and were to be paid 350 pounds and 350 gallons of Bengal Rum

* Memorandum dated 2 February 1814:
Requesting extension of time
John Howe and James Mcgrath wrote to the Governor:
“That from the late drought they have experienced much loss and inconvenience from events of xxxx for the working cattle allowed them as contractors for the turnpike Road, and also for the loss of three working bullocks that died during the continuance of the same, leaving the number they have only nineteen, they received at the commencement of their contract twenty three, one of which being lame they returned as also the hides of the three last ….
Memorialists humbly pray Yr Exc will be pleased to extend the time allowed to them three months, and also allow them five more oxen from Government Herd to make up their number.

* Macquarie scrawled on the side: Answer the prayer of the memorialists Howe and McGrath will be granted.

* Sydney Gazette - 30 April 1814:
Statements from Police Fund for quarter ending 31 March 1814:
Mr. John Howe, for a Street and Road constructed by him and James McGrath, between the Town of Windsor, and the New Bridge over the South Creek.    Paid £200
Ditto, in Part of their Contract for compleating the Turnpike Road, between Sydney & Windsor   Paid £150

* Sydney Gazette - 12 Nov 1814 p 1:
Messrs Howe and McGrath, in full of their Contract for making and repairing the Turnpike Road from Sydney to Windsor Paid £150
Ditto, for filling up Thompson’s Square, and erecting a wharf at Windsor paid £150

* Col Sec Papers page 151
paid from Police Fund:
Messrs Howe and McGrath the first instalment of their contract for enlarging and improving the wharf at Windsor     £200 - 0 -0

* 1816 Government Wharf at Windsor - complaints about poor quality materials and workmanship:
Letter March 1816 from Secretary, J T Campbell, to James Mileham JP
and Richard Fitszgerald Esq, both of WINDSOR

” It having been lately represented to the Governor that a very inferior and bad description of timber and other materials having been latterly used in the construction of the Government wharf at Windsor, by Messrs Howe and McGrath the contractors for that works and the square leading thereto, in the town of Windsor and it being further stated that he workmanship is very slight and insufficient, contrary to the true intent of the contracts,  H.E is herein pleased to herein order and direct that you shall constitute yourselves into a committee of Survey on the said Public Works, calling to your assistance any well qualified respectable Carpenter in your neighbourhood and that you proceed with such assistance with Survey and inspect the materials and workmanship thereof at whatever time or times you may deem expedient, reporting thereon in writing to His Exc, And in the event of your discovering any deficiency in either in the materials or workmanship you are to require the Contractors to replace such insufficient work or materials sat their peril and to replace it or them with such other as you may consider conformable to the terms of the contract itself.  For reference to said contract you are entitled to call upon and dressed ?? of the contractors to show the contract itself - and should thy xx refuse to alter bad materials or bad workmanship and to render them conformable to the true spirit and meaning of the original contract you are hereby authorised and directed to put a stop to the work altogether until His Exc’s pleasure shall be made known.”

Mileham and Fitzgerald reported back straight away on 14 March 1816. They said they thought “ … the job has been let to labourers whose work has not been overlooked [supervised?] which is the cause of it being finished in the insubstantial way we found it.” and recommended the more important part of the work be looked after by the employers themselves.

Also “ .. some of the planks and timber are very insufficient not by any means what they ought to be according to the Contract. We therefore marked such planks and timber and our judgement ought to be removed.” Mr Howe had promised to do so.

Robin Sharkey on 23rd March, 2016 wrote:

Purchased 30 acres out of the 120 acres of the farm of the late Andew Thompson’s farm called West Hill Farm (formerly Red house Farm) from the Thompson Estate.  te 30 acres became known later as McGrath’s Hill.

* Land Grant Register 1816
James McGrath 80 acre Grant at Upper Nelson granted by Gov Macquarie on 8 October 1816. Quit rent to commence 8th october 1821

“Bounded on the SE by a NE line of 32 chains. Commencing at May’s SE corner in the NE by a line N 48 Degrees N 36 chains 80 links to the Ponds, on the xx by the Ponds and on the S-W by the Windsor Road.
Condition - to cultivate 18 acres.

* 1822 Muster
James McGragh, of Windsor; Grant & Purchase Resident; Total: 235 acres, Cleared: 165 acres, Cultivated, 50 acres wheat, 46 acres maize, 7 acres barley, 2 acres potatoes, 30 bushels maize held, 2 horses, 16 horned cattle, 57 sheep, 84 hogs

* 31 July 1819
Weekly Return of Cattle from Government Stock from 26 June to 3rd July 1819 - Decrease - 2 working oxen died under charge of Wm Howe and McGrath

* 1820 - Grants and Leases ready for delivery includes james McGrath ( Syd Gazette 26 August 1820 page 2)

* Sydney Gazette, 19 Feb 1824
CATHOLIC BOOKS, Religions, Moral and Polemical, may be had, at first Cost, of ….  Mr. James McGrath, and Mr. Patrick Byrne, Windsor;

* 1825, 23 June Syd Gazette
Tenders accepted for supply: Fresh Beef - James McGrath, Windsor,  150 at 11s 6d

* 1828 Census:
- McGrath, James, 51, free by servitude, Hercules, 1802, 7 years, Catholic, farmer, Windsor
- McGrath, Elizabeth, 34, born in the colony, Protestant
- McGrath, James (Jun), 4, born in the colony, Catholic

Many Government Servants
* James Whalen, Age: 18, Catholic, Arrived per Regalia 1826, 7 years, Govt Servant; Servant; Householder: Mr McGrath, Windsor [Died Dec 1829[
* Brian Garvey, Age: 35, Catholic, Arrived per Phoenix 1826, 7 years, Govt Servant; Servant to James McGrath;
* William Kemble, Age: 32, Protestant, Arrived per Asia 1825, Life, Govt Servant; Servant;
Robert Roberts, Age: 32, Protestant, Arrived per General Hewitt 1814, Life, Ticket of Leave; Servant;
Joseph McTeer, Age: 45, Protestant, Arrived per John Barry 1821, 7 years, Free by Servitude; Servant;
* Mary Sherwood, Age: 14, Protestant, Born in Colony; Servant;

* 1831 year - Tenders accepted by Commissariat Department for 1831
Vegetables for the Gaol and Hospital, 1/2 d per lb J McGrath (Sydney Gazette, 28 Dec 1830 page 1)

* BIRTH of DAUGHTER: Mary Ann McGrath registered 1831
Mary Ann McGrath, daughter of James McGrath & Elizabeth Eades, Baptised 6 Apr 1831 Windsor, Registered at St Mary’s Roman Catholic Sydney, [NSW AUS]; Sponsor Richard Keppies; Sponsor Rosanna [?] Walsh

DEATH - 1833 Windsor Jas McGrath, Farmer; Abode: Windsor Died Windsor, Aged: 60; Buried 24 Feb 1833 by Rev Joseph Docker; Registered at St Matthews Church of England Windsor
Volume Number: V1831344 128

Convict Changes History

Robin Sharkey on 23rd March, 2016 made the following changes:

convicted at, term: 7 years, voyage, source: Freemans Journal, Thurs 6th August 1801 page 2, Column 4. Freemans Journal, Saturday 18th April 1801 page 2. (prev. ), firstname: James, surname: Mcgrath, alias1: Magrath, alias2: , alias3: , alias4: , date of

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