Free Settler or Felon
Convict and Colonial History

Patrick Riley

Convict and Innkeeper at Newcastle

Patrick Riley was tried in Limerick in August 1812 and sentenced to transportation for life. He was sent on the convict ship Three Bees and arrived in New South Wales in 1814. He fared better than many Irish convicts, especially as he was convicted of more than one colonial crime.

In February 1816 he was sentenced to transportation for life to Newcastle with Samuel Byrne a fellow shipmate from the Three Bees, after they had robbed the premises of Garnham Blaxcell. [3]

Escape Attempt

At Newcastle Riley was soon employed as overseer of carpenters, however he fell out of favour after an escape attempt late in 1816 when he absconded from the settlement and tried to meet up with the vessel Nautilus.

Captain Wallis later reported the incident....


On 20th November I sent the whale boat up the river for wood required for a boat I was going to lay down for the use of the settlement. William Evans took charge and this man having a new house and fine garden well stocked I had not the most remote suspicion he did not return to the settlement by day, I have since learned he landed about a mile distant; his accomplices stole out and joined him taking with them government tools etc and under cover of a dark night and keeping close to the north shore they succeeded in evading the sentry and at day break were out of sight. Information was given of their plan was to proceed to Port Stevens and wait for the sailing of the Nautilus and to cut out the Hawkesbury Packet supposed to be then dispatched........The plot was well laid and carried into execution by two desperate fellows William Evans, boat builder and Patrick Riley principal carpenter.[12]

Some of the convicts implicated Captain Edward Edwards of the Nautilus in the escape attempt and Captain Wallis was inclined to believe them, however no further action seems to have been taken against Edwards.


The fugitives were soon caught and the following extract from the Colonial Secretary's correspondence to Captain Wallis at Newcastle details what happened afterwards.....

30th December 1816.

I have it in command to inform you that by the present conveyance, the Lady Nelson, six of the fugitives from Newcastle who lately ran off from thence with a Government Boat are now re embarked for their original destination under your Command.

His Excellency judging that the benefit of example will be better effected by the punishment of the people taking place where the crime was committed has suspended the punishment so justly due to them until they shall arrive at Newcastle and His Excellency desires that you will cause a suitable degree of Corporal Chastisement to be inflicted on them as soon as possible. On this occasion the measure in extent of the punishment is left to your discretion. The names of the fugitives are Patrick Riley, James Connolly, Thomas Crane, Samuel Austin, William Evans and John Johnston
. [2]

The men were punished in January 1817.... for deserting with a government boat and a quantity of carpenter's tools on the night of 21 November 1816 - Patrick Riley 80 lashes; William Evans 100 lashes; William Crane 100 lashes; Samuel (?James)Connelly 100 lashes; Samuel Austin 50 lashes; Thomas Johnston 50 lashes; Walter White 50 lashes. [4]

Employed as Carpenter

At Newcastle settlement Commandant James Wallis had embarked on an ambitious building program and artisans and tradesmen were scarce so Patrick Riley's skills were once again required.

On Governor Macquarie's visit to Newcastle in July 1818 Patrick Riley was recommended to the governor for his good conduct. [6] In this same year he married Catherine Smith who had arrived on the Broxbornbury in 1814.

In 1819 Riley appeared before Commissioner J.T. Bigge to give evidence on the suitability of different timbers in the Hunter Region in 1820.

Conditional Pardon

In November 1821 Patrick Riley applied to Governor Macquarie for a remission of his sentence and a conditional pardon.[6]

Land Allotments at Newcastle

By 1822 he had leased two allotments of land in George Street and Patrick Streets Newcastle.. The location of George and Patrick Streets can be seen on James Meehan's Plan of Newcastle dated August 7 1818. On Meehan's Plan, George Street is approximately Watt Street and Patrick Street approximately Bolton Street; Elizabeth Street is near Church Street; Wallis Street near King Street and Cowper Street is Pacific Street. In 1822/1823 surveyor Henry Dangar created a new plan for the town with aligned streets and building allotments and the streets were all re-named.

Patrick Riley's Inn

Riley's Memorial to the Governor in 1822 reveals that there was one house of accommodation already established at Newcastle although this was probably not yet licenced. -

The Memorial of Patrick Riley, Most respectfully sheweth that your Memorialist was for the period of 7 years overseer of Carpenters at the settlement of Newcastle for Government and during which time fully met and obtained the approbation of each Commandant to their satisfaction during his appointment to that station which were then including the present (Major Morisset)

And your Memorialist after he had obtained his conditional pardon remained in the employment of Government for 12 months without any remuneration whatsoever and since releasing from Government has been employed by the Gentlemen on the Banks of Hunter's River and during which time Memorialist was enabled by his lawful industry to purchase two allotments of ground in that settlement. No 1 George Street and No 6 in Patrick Street at the rear of H.M. Magazine which allotment in Patrick Street, Memorialist would wish to erect a good two story dwelling house with stores for the reception and safety of those gentlemen who visit that settlement and as they find themselves awkwardly situated at present for accommodation on the settlement and being aggrieved at the bad accommodation and exorbitant charges there being no second house of accommodation in that line Emboldens your Memorialist to implore your Excellency approbation to grant him permission to build a house of that description as Patrick Street is more contiguous to the Kings Wharf than George Street and the House in George Street being occupied at present by the Store Keeper and your Excellency memorialist has means to erect a house of the aforesaid description without being of any incumbrance on Government. Memorialist is solicited by those Hunter River gentlemen to open a house for their accommodation
. [1]

The house of accommodation mentioned in the memorial above probably belonged to John Smith. In correspondence dated January 1823 requesting grant of a lease in the Township, John Smith stated that he had already constructed a good dwelling house in the line of George's Street as marked out by the Surveyor General, consisting of eight rooms with other appurtenances [7]

In correspondence dated September 1823 Patrick Riley's application for the lease of No. 6 Patrick Street, Newcastle was approved and in December approval for a second lease of land [5]. These allotments were held on lease for 21 years subject during that time to a small annual ground rent; and should the lessee within the period of 21 years build a house of one thousand pounds value he was entitled to a grant of the allotment. (Dangar's Index)

In a return of town allotments dated 6 November 1824 Patrick Riley has allotments 55 and 57 [4]. In 1824 Scott Street did not exist and Hunter street stopped at Watt Street.

In 1824 Patrick Riley paid 120 Spanish dollars for a licence to sell spirituous liquors and to keep an ale house in Newcastle.[9] Fines for breaching licensing laws were harsh. In October 1827 he was fined for harbouring prisoners of the Crown and in November of the same year he was fined 25 pounds for selling spirits without a licence. [8].

There is no record of Patrick Riley holding a publican's licence after this time. He was however proprietor of at least one of the mills in the township until about 1832. In 1828 he employed John Kitchingman as a miller. [10]


Patrick Riley was also granted 64 1/2 acres of land in the parish of Morpeth. [11] Improvements to this land in 1823 included a log and thatched barn and a log hut; small garden and peach orchard.

Notes and Links

In March 1816 the Nautilus was driven to the north and severely damaged in gales and Captain Edward Edwards was brought into Sydney in a state of severe indisposition. The following notice appeared soon afterwards.....Notice is hereby given that the very fine Coppered India Brig Nautilus, burthen exceeding 100 tons, built at Calcutta, and now upon her first voyage, having two Suits of Sails, three Cables, and well supplied with all necessary Stores, is to be disposed of by Private contract, should any acceptable Proposal be made previous to her intended time of departure, which will not exceed 21 days. - She sails fast, carries a great burthen, being built by an European Architect on the plan of a London Trader, equally consulting velocity and accommodation. If not Sold, she may be either chartered or freighted for Calcutta or elsewhere ; and particulars known of Captain Edwards.

The Map executed by Lieutenant Jeffries and dated March 1816 has the location of the wreck of the Nautilus (March wreck)

After being wrecked again in November the remains of the vessel were put up for Sale (for the Benefit of the Underwriters)......... the Hull of the Brig Nautilus, wrecked at Hunter's River, with her Masts and standing Rigging, two Cables, an iron stocked Anchor, a Number of Sails, and other Articles of the first Consequence to Ship Owners.

Two years later in November 1818 Captain Edwards died by his own hand......On Thursday morning last Mr. Edwards, late Commander of the Nautilus from Calcutta, unhappily put a period to his existence by strangulation, in a fit of insanity, leaving four orphan children to deplore the melancholy catastrophe.

Map of Newcastle, NSW
Allotments at Newcastle (n.d.) (Click to enlarge)


[1] State Records NSW. Colonial Secretary's Papers. (NRS 897) Main series of letters received, 1788-1825 Item: 4/1808 Page: 349-54. (Ancestry)

[2] State Records NSW. Colonial Secretary's Papers (NRS 897) Main series of letters received, 1788-1825. Item 4/1806. Page 102-3 (Ancestry)

[3] Sydney Gazette 10 February 1816

[4] State Records NSW. Colonial Secretary's Papers (NRS 898) Special bundles, 1794-1825 Item: 4/1718 Page: 53 (Ancestry)

[5] Sydney Gazette 26 December 1818

[6] State Records NSW. Colonial Secretary's Papers. (NRS 900) Petitions to the Governor from convicts for mitigations of sentences Item: 4/1863 Page: 54 (Ancestry)

[7] State Records of NSW. Colonial Secretary's Papers. (NRS 899) Memorials to the Governor, 1810-1825 Item: 4/1835B Number: 300 Page: 821-4 (Ancestry)

[8] The Australian 10 October 1827

[9] State Records of NSW. Colonial Secretary's Papers. Series: (NRS 897) Main series of letters received, 1788-1825 Item: 4/1810 Page: 67 (Ancestry)

[10] 1828 Census

[11] Index to map of the country bordering upon the River Hunter... by Henry Dangar (London : Joseph Cross, 1828). p3

[12] State Records of NSW (NRS 897) Main series of letters received, 1788-1825 Item: 4/1806 Page: 56 (Ancestry)