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About Joseph

General Joseph Holt was the only United Irish General to be banished to New South Wales following his surrender in County Wicklow during the 1798 Irish Rebellion. The Bank of Ireland director, Peter La Touche and his wife, Elizabeth La Touche, as members of the Ascendancy, apparently helped orchestrate Joseph's safe surrender to Lord Powerscourt IV at 11 O'Clock on the 11th November 1798 at his demesne of, Powescurt, in County Wicklow. Captain Salkeld's new ship, Minerva, embarked the political prisoner, Joseph, who had to pay passage for his wife, Hester, and elder son, Joshua who were to accompany him. Hester Holt's sister was an employee of Elizabeth La Touche. Elizabeth had her pay the passage and cover the expense of the cabin that Joseph had to build on deck to house them. This was a normal custom of the time. He also had to supply victuals for them for their long voyage.

In addition, it housed the wife and children of his friend and fellow United Irishman, Reverend John Fulton. Joseph Harrison Holt was born aboard during their six months wait in Kingstown (Cobh of Cork) before the Minerva sailed on the 24th August 1799 as a member of the convoy to Port Jackson (Sydney), New South Wales. It had a crew of 28, including Captain Salkeld.

Apart from the 4 members of the Holt family, it carried 34 women and 132 male prisoners, mainly United Irish convicts. The 32 members of the accompanying N.S.W. Corps were under the command of Lieutenant William Cox of Dorset who, in addition, was accompanied by his wife, Rebecca, and four sons, Charles, George, Henry and Edward. As with Joseph Harrison Holt, Francis Edmund Cox was born on board as they waited for the convoy to sail. Their eldest son, William, and previously youngest son, James, remained behind to finish off their education at King Edward VI Grammar School, Salisbury, William Cox's former school.

Because of the strain placed on his new ship through the need to hold it back to keep pace with the slower convoy, Captain Salkeld was given permission to leave the convoy behind and sail independently. The Minerva, created a then world record by taking only 4 months, 17 days, from August 24 1799 to January 10, 1800, to reach Port Jackson from the Cobh of Cork via Rio de Janeiro and Cape Horn using the Trade Winds. During the voyage, Joseph and his family were befriended by Lieutenant William Cox and his family. Hester Holt and Rebecca Cox shared their motherhood on board and would have had many a conversation during their long voyage. With their husbands already learning to respect each other's qualities, it was the start of a family friendship which has endured throughout each subsequent generation to this day since its commencement in 1799.

Joseph's father, Joseph J. (John?) Holt, of Ballydonnell, a farmer and builder, had apprenticed his other sons into the building trades. In 1773, as Joseph was interested in farming, he encouraged his desire by having him work for his friend, John Low, the steward and gardener for Mr Sweeney, at his property near Bray, Co. Dublin. After 5 & 1/4 years there, he left for the North to gain further experience. Upon his return, Joseph was met in Phoenix Park, Dublin, by Captain Fitzgerald, a family friend, who offered him the position of Paymaster Sergeant of his 32nd Regiment of Foot provided that he recruited 32 men for the East India Company. He accomplished this in 1778 and stayed with them until his parents requested that he come home. He then left the regiment and remained two years with his parents until 1780. There are two years unnacounted for as next we learn, "In 1782 I married Hester Long, of Roundwood, in the county of Wicklow She was the daughter of a comfortable protestant farmer, a tenant of Andrew Price, Esq." (Memoirs of Joseph Holt, T. Crofton Croker, Editor.)

From their many discussions on board the Minerva, William Cox realised that Joseph's agricultural knowledge and experience:would be advantageous for him in New South Wales. When Joseph stepped ashore on the 11th January 1800, William immediately sought Joseph's advice for his land purchases and appointed him his farm manager. They commenced with the purchase of Captain John Macarthur's, 100 acres, The Brush, then the departing Reverend Mr Richard Johnson's 460 acres farm, Canterbury (Memoirs of Joseph Holt, General of the Irish Rebels, T. Crofton Croker editor, 1838; Land Grants, 1788-1809, R. J. Ryan, 1981; Canterbury Farm - 200 years, B. Madden & L. Muir, 1981; op cit, P. O'Shaughnessy editor, 1988, Looking for Joseph, P. Goesch, 2008).

Joseph set about enlarging, The Brush, by acquiring the adjacent farms on William's behalf. The Brush Farm Estate had grown to 455 acres from the original 100 acres when it was sold by Captain William Cox to Gregory Blaxand to cover the unexpected sudden calls on his promissory notes commenced by his former friend, Sir John Jamison, following an argument in Sydney during February 1803. The original homestead is not extant.

When Governor Bligh was deposed, Major Abbott arranged for Joseph to be pardoned by Lieutenant-Governor Colonel Paterson on the 6th June 1809. A few weeks later, he also arranged for the Colonel to grant 110 acres each to Joseph and his son, Joshua. The area was surveyed by the acting surveyor, the United Irishman, John Meehan. Joseph's grant was adjacent to Joshua's and the Thirteen Thousand acres of Common.

With further grants to other United Irishmen, such as Michael Dwyer, Arthur Devlin, Martin Burke, Hugh Byrne and John Mernagh on Cabramatta Creek in May 1809, the area soon became known as Irish Town, now Mt Pritchard (op.cit. P. Goesch). When Governor Macquarie subsequently confirmed Joseph's pardon and the two grants of land to his family, he was allowed to sell his grant which he had called, Holt's Fancy, to Martin Short from County Kildare. He then sold his purchased convict George Tilley grant, which he had renamed, Glen Bride Estate, to Mr Edward Lord, who is remembered today as a successful Sydney leader of commerce. It was near William Cox's Brush Farm.

He sold his livestock, poultry, grain, corn crop and farm equipment to the leading men of the day. Upon the sale of his previously purchased, Mt Hester Estate, named after his wife. Joseph then removed to Sergeant Major's Row in Sydney with Hester and youngest son, Joseph Harrison Holt, to await passage to Ireland. His sales totalled over One Thousand Eight Hundred Pounds Sterling which he later invested in a public house in Dublin. He was subject to a great deal of animosity there from patrons who believed that he had turned informer in 1799. He sold his public house and invested in tenement houses in York Road, Kingston (Dun Laoghaire) where he lived off his rents in number 72 until his death in 1826.

Portion of the Mt Hester Estate is now part of The Kings' School at Parramatta. Lake Parramatta Reserve contains his, 'Rocks of Jerusalem', where he illicitly distilled his peach brandy and had hidden his still, (Memoirs of Joseph Holt, General of the Irish Rebels, in 1798, p. 273, T. Crofton Croker, editor; A Rum Story, p. 102, 1988, Peter O'Shaughnessy; Looking for Joseph, p.4, Pamela Goesch, 2008). In December 1812, he took passage in the Isabella, with Hester and Joseph Harrison Holt bound for Liverpool and their daughter Mary Anne in Dublin, leaving the married Joshua with his wife, Elizabeth Holt nee Bray, to go on to fame and fortune. Little did Joseph, Hester and Joseph Harrison Holt realise what lay ahead for them.

Despite an unblemished record with the British East India Company, Captain Richard Brooks earned the censure of Governor Philip Gidley King in 1802 for the ill-health and high death rate amongst the convicts aboard the 452 ton convict transport, Atlas under his command to Sydney, reportedly from overcrowding due to his huge personal cargo. He subsequently commanded the Alexander in 1806; then the trading vessels, Rose, 1808; Simon Cock, 1810; and the Argo in 1811, on their voyages to New South Wales from England. (A.D.B. Vol 1, M.U.P.,1966, Vivienne Parsons). He was thus well versed in the vagaries of the icy storms of Cape Horn. The passengers and crew were lucky that this ship's master was returning to England as a passenger on board the Isabella. The Isabella departed Port Jackson on the 5th December 1812. Captain Richard Brooks found it necessary to chastise the Isabella's master, Captain George Hicton, and his crew for their shoddy seamanship and took over temporary command as they rounded Cape Horn.

Captain Hicton was drunk as they neared the Falkland Islands (Malvinas). During a heavy storm, the Isabella was blown off course and wrecked on Eagle (Speedwell) Island having safely negotiated its passage between New Island and Steeple Jason Island. "Captain Brooks was on deck all the time and God and him was our protectors. When she lost her rudder he made them square the yards and run for the land and, as it was the will of God, she run in between two rocks and her bowsprit was over dry land." (op. cit., Peter O'Shaughnessy, 1988). Joseph then joined Captains Brooks and Durie to form a shipwreck management committee with others. Sir Henry Browne Hayes joined the drunken faction of sailors and marines who helped themselves to the ship's alcohol cargo. The majority of personnel were subsequently rescued.

Joseph, Hester and Joshua arrived in a sailing packet from Liverpool at the Pigeon House in Dublin Bay on the Fifth Day of April 1814 after sailing in convoy from Rio de Janeiro on October 23, 1813 to there in the brig, Venerable.

Captain Brooks also returned to England before sailing back to New South Wales in the, Spring, with his wife and children in 1814. Governor Macquarie granted him land in Cockle Bay (Darling Harbour), where he set up as a ships chandler. Upon his success, a further 300 acres in the Illawarra region was also granted. He went on to become a prominent early settler who supported religious charities of all denominations, possibly as a result of his past experiences. A member of the New South Wales Agricultural Society, he was gored in the thigh by a wild cow when on horseback at Denham Court (near Ingleburn) a property he obtained from Judge Richard Atkins in a debt settlement. He died on October 16, 1833. "He was buried in a vault at Denham Court and the Church of St Mary the Virgin was built to enclose their remains." (op.cit., Vivienne Parsons). His wife, Christiana nee Passmore, died on April 12, 1835.

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