The Humphries

Patrick Humphries was born in County Wicklow near Dublin, Ireland and baptised on 4 May 1767.

In March 1791, Patrick was convicted of possessing lead sheeting and sentenced to 7 years transportation to the fledgling New South Wales Penal Colony established in 1788. From generation to generation descendants of Patrick Humphries such as John Griffiths have passed down the story that “Patrick’s crime was that he had in his possession a piece of sheet lead which was suspected of being stolen. Patrick and it seems, an associate of his, John Ellard, had been charged with stealing two hundred weight of sheet lead (as used for flashing around chimneys), the property ‘of a person unknown’. However, Patrick claimed that this was a ‘trumped up’ charge and that the real reason was to do with a dispute with an English garrison that had been set up near his family’s farm. ‘The English soldiers commandeered the Humphries’ cow to satisfy their commanding officer’s need for fresh milk for his morning oats. Patrick demanded the return of the cow, and when it was refused, he said, “If we can’t have it, neither shall you”, so he went home, got his hunting rifle and shot the cow. The English officer thus came to look upon Patrick as an Irish “troublemaker”, and happy to find a reason to get rid of him. Patrick’s account gains considerable credibility with the officially stated fact that there was no known owner of the supposedly stolen property.”

He arrived at Sydney Cove aboard the Convict Transport ship “Boddingtons” on 7 August 1793 and was assigned to the prison farm at Toongabbie near Parramatta. His sentence ended in March 1798.

New South Wales Corps (102nd Regiment of Foot) records show Private Patrick Humphreys enlisted on 14 March 1801 and soon after was posted to Watsons Bay.

There Patrick met young widow Catherine McMahon who had been born on an adjoining farm in County Wicklow in 1772 and married Terence Francis McMahon in 1796.

Catherine arrived in Sydney on 11 January 1800 on the “Minerva” accompanying husband Private Terence McMahon who was part of the NSW Corps contingent guarding the convicts aboard.

She had three children with McMahon before he tragically drowned near South Head at Watsons Bay on 7 September 1801.

Patrick and Catherine were married on 28 February 1802 by the infamous colonial priest and magistrate Reverend Samuel Marsden at St Phillips church, Sydney with the permission of Governor Phillip King.

They continued to reside at Watsons Bay where Patrick was granted land called the “Humphreys Four Acres” and they lived near Gibson’s Beach in a sandstone soldiers cottage they named “Wicklow.”

They had six children together including Michael Humphreys (1803-1860); and his brother Thomas Patrick Henry Humphreys (22 December 1805-17 March 1881


On 26 January 1808 Patrick’s NSW Corps mutinied and deposed Governor William Bligh in what is known as the “Rum Rebellion”. Bligh was no stranger to mutiny as his crew aboard HMS Bounty had earlier mutinied in 1789 and set him adrift in a small boat in the South Pacific.

Officers of the NSW Corps governed the NSW colony until the arrival of Governor Lachlan Macquarie in Sydney on 28 December 1809 with a contingent of the 73rd Regiment.

Patrick transferred to the 73rd Regiment on 24 April 1810 after the NSW Corps had been recalled to England. He was pensioned off later in 1810 but remained a private in the Royal Veteran Regiment until his discharge on 24 September 1823 after serving 22 years and 195 days. He received a pension of 7 shillings 3-1/2 pence per week.


Because of his army service, Patrick was also granted 100 acres of land by Governor Brisbane and he chose land at Brisbane Water on the NSW central coast near present day Gosford. The land grant was named “Mount Humphreys.”

Patrick went there soon after 1823 and started farming the land at Kincumber South with son Thomas Patrick Humphreys.

After a few years, Patrick passed the running of the farm in 1825 to Thomas who was then aged 20. Thomas later bought the property from his father after title was confirmed in 1841.

In July 1838, Thomas Patrick Humphreys donated 3 acres of the original Mount Humphreys land plus money and labour to the Catholic Church for the construction of the Holy Cross parish church.

Holy Cross was built in 1842-43 on what today is 9 Humphreys Rd, Kincumber South. It is recognised as the fifth oldest catholic church in continuous use in Australia.

In 1887, the presbytery and grounds at Kincumber South were made available to future Australian catholic saint Mother Mary MacKillop (1842-1909) and her Sisters of St. Joseph of the Sacred Heart to establish a Home for Boys which operated until 1966.

Mary MacKillop worshiped at Holy Cross church and was canonised as St. Mary of The Cross by Pope Benedict XVI on 17 October 2010.

Patrick, Thomas and Catherine Humphreys are all buried in the cemetery at Holy Cross Church, Kincumber South.

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