Last night our family celebrated what I’ll call a brief trip to Ireland.
Unfortunately, we were still very much at home in Australia. However, we did the next best thing. We cooked ourselves an Irish Stew and some Irish Soda Bread, listened to Riverdance and instead of our usual grace, we said an Irish Blessing. We even had green serviettes.
While it wasn’t St Patrick’s Day, we had a special Irish celebration of our own. You see, yesterday marked the 160th anniversary of the arrival of the first Curtin in Australia. His name was John Curtin and he was my Great Grandfather’s Grandfather. John Curtin came from Cork City, County Cork and he was an Able Seaman arriving in Sydney on board the Scotia on the 4th April, 1854.
As I’ve never been to Cork City, County Cork, I did the next best thing and went their online via Kieran McCarthy’s blog. I recommend you pop over for a quick visit yourself. Like me, you might find out it extends into quite an extended sojourn!
Unfortunately, we haven’t been able to find a picture of John Curtin or the Scotia but the Scotia was one of those beautiful Tall Ships with white sails like tea towels billowing in the wind. These were the sorts of sailors who no doubt shared many, many yarns about their time at sea, especially stories about “Crossing the Line”, which referred to crossing the equator for the first time. These ceremonies were quite theatrical and sailors dressed up as King Neptune and his bride and the unfortunate initiates called “Johnny Raws”, were usually shaved with a very nasty, rusty implement and dunked. I will elaborate more on these ceremonies in a subsequent post. It is no wonder I’ve been so lost in my research. It’s riveting stuff!
Of course, the journey itself wasn’t my only entertainment. Their arrival in Sydney didn’t go unnoticed by the local water police.
On the 10th April 1854, The Sydney Morning Herald reported that John Eatough, Edward Wall, William Ferris, Stephen Malone, Henry Franklin, and John Grur, six seamen belonging to the Scotia, were charged with obstructing a constable in the execution of his duty. It appeared from the evidence, that constable Cassidy, of the Water Police, went on board the Scotia, at the request of the captain, for the purpose of apprehending a man on the charge of drunkenness, and that whilst so engaged the prisoners combined to prevent him from executing his duty, that several of them struck him, tore his clothes, and otherwise ill-used him.
At the trial, it appeared from the evidence of Captain Strickland that the assault was a most cowardly and unprovoked one, nearly the whole of the men having assaulted and ill-used the constable, who at the time was endeavouring to perform his duty in the most inoffensive way possible, and who was not in a position to command assistance. As there was no material evidence against Eatough and Greer, they were discharged, and the others were sentenced to pay a fine of 20s, each, or be imprisoned for fourteen days.
This wasn’t the only incident which ended up in court. On the 29th May 1854, The Sydney Morning Herald on page 5 again reports:
Daniel Carlos, a Portuguese seaman, belonging to the Scotia, was charged with desertion. The evidence showed that he had been apprehended on board the American vessel Revenue, on board which he had managed to obtain an engagement through the Shipping Master’s office by means of a false discharge. This document represented him as being a man lately discharged from the Jane. Captain Strickland stated that the prisoner had shipped as an able seaman on board his vessel some months previously, but that he had since been disrated for incompetency. The pri denied, amid much laughter, that he either knew Captain Strickland or his vessel. The case was ultimately remanded until Monday (this day), for the production of the articles, &c.
Another man, belonging to the Scotia, named Engine Depouta, was also charged with desertion. Like his shipmate, Daniel Carlos, he was discovered with a false discharge in his possession, bearing the name of Robert Ripley. Having pleaded guilty, he was sentenced to 12 weeks’ imprisonment with hard labour, his Worship remarking that he considered this a case in which the full term of punishment ought to be inflicted, in consequence of the aggravation which the offence received from the possession of a false discharge.
Never a dull moment, there was even a death onboard the Scotia:
SUDDEN DEATH.-Yesterday morning a very melancholy and unexpected occurrence took place on board the Scotia, whilst that vessel was being drawn off from the wharf, for the purpose of being placed in a position to proceed to sea. The business was entrusted to the management of Captain Barnett, one of the harbour pilots, au old and respected public servant connected with this port. Whilst releasing the vessel from the wharf, Captain Barnett was one of the most active in hauling on the ropes, and it is feared that he exerted his physical strength to an undue extent, for in about two minutes after he had relinquished his hold of the rope, he fell down on the deck and expired instantly. Medical aid was immediately sent for, but, unfortunately, too late. It appears that the deceased gentleman had been suffering for some time past from a disease which had worked very perceptibly on his frame, and which was generally attended with spitting of blood. The immediate cause of death appears to be the rupture of a blood-vessel SMH Tuesday 30 May 1854 pg 2
So while we do not have a great many details about John Curtin himself, we are slowly putting together some kind of jigsaw of his life or milieu.
After looking at a selection of paintings depicting Cork Harbour and Sydney around 1854, we had our dessert. I thought it was only fitting for us to finish our trip to Ireland with an Australian pavlova oozing with cream and topped with sumptuous kiwi fruit, strawberries and banana. After all, although John Curtin wasn’t born in Australia, he did become an Australian. Actually, he wasn’t technically an Australian because he died in 1882 and that was 18 years before Federation. Let’s just say that he was an Australian before his time who still had a chunk of Ireland lodged in his heart.
I really recommend you do something similar to share your cultural heritage with your family. Bring some of your assorted ancestors out of the closet and celebrate who they were and indeed what is a part of ourselves our very flesh and blood. You never quite know who you will meet once you start digging beneath the surface.
I have posted the recipes separately to make them easier to print out.
Just one note about this menu. It is best to make the pavlova the day before. This allows the pavlova to cool properly and it also allows you to juggle the use of your oven better if you only have a single oven. Pavlova is fairly quick and easy to make but it does need that hour to rest in the oven after cooking and can tie your oven up if you are trying to bake the bread.
I don’t know how to wish you a Bon Appetit in Gaelic but there’s always 2,4,6,8 bog in, don’t wait!