There’s Always a ‘Black Sheep’ Amongst Your Ancestors
|Published: 15th September 2009 12:40|
East Yorkshire's link with
an infamous Australian
By Peter Hopper
George Metcalf innocently got himself mixed up in the infamous outlaw Ned Kelly Gang siege - an event much like the Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow shoot-out in America- but this one in faraway Australia a long time ago, in 1880.
What's that got to do with East Yorkshire, you may well ask? Well, George's father, Robert snr. was born in Beverley, and his son, also Robert, was the bad-boy brother of my great, great grandmother, Ann Hopper (nee Metcalf) , who married Spurn Point lifeboat coxswain Fewson Hopper in the mid-19th century.
St. Mary's Church in Beverley A further generation back to George's grandparents, Robert and Mary Metcalf produced a total of nine children. All were born in the Beverley parish of St Mary's, and christened in the town's Lairgate Independent Church.
Robert jnr. was born in 1815 and was soon in serious trouble with the law as a young man. He was transported to Van Diemen's Land (the original name given by Europeans to Tasmania, now part of Australia) on board the good ship Moffatt, arriving on 9th May 1834, having been sentenced to seven years imprisonment at York in March the previous year.
His stated offence was manslaughter. "I quarrelled with my master's son, Charles Voss, while we were at work," he said. "I had a knife in my hand and struck him with it in the left side. He lived 24 hours after it."
Robert's jail record was reasonably good, having only one other conviction, that of insolence and being absent frequently, for which he was given 14 days solitary confinement. However, he was granted a "free certificate" in May 1850.
It was in 1838 that Robert applied for permission to marry Sarah Ellis. Sarah was then aged 19, having arrived in Van Diemen's Land as a children's maid two years earlier. On arrival, she was employed by Major Gray, of St Pauls, the name then given to the Fingal area.
Sarah and Robert were wed at Cambelltown in 1839, and their marriage was blessed with six children, the fourth being George, who was born in Fingal on 7th July 1846.
From about the age of five, George was living with his family in the town of Kyneton. As he reached adulthood, he became well known in the district and had the reputation of being of good character and a steady, hardworking man.
George did not marry, and just before his 34th birthday, Sunday, 28th June 1880, he found himself in the wrong place at the wrong time while employed with five other men in quarrying stone near Glenrowen. It was the morning that the notorious Ned Kelly gang came to town - with the police not far behind, guns out ready to corner them.
George and his mates were locked up by the gang in the Glenrowen Hotel and when the shoot-out with the police commenced, George was lying on the floor near the chimney. He was severely wounded in both eyes by the first volley thought to have been fired by the police, though there is some dispute about that and other reports suggest that he could have been shot by the feared Ned Kelly himself.
Ned Kelly's entry on Wikipedia The Kelly Gang, its leader the son of an Irish convict also sent to Van Diemen's Land, had done some dastardly deeds: robbing banks and giving money to some of the lower class settlers in Victoria who helped to shelter them, before they killed three policemen in an earlier shoot-out.
After the gun fight at Glenrowen, George Metcalf he was sent to the Eye and Ear Institution in Melbourne, and was later discharged from the hospital in early October 1880, but stayed at "the Wilson's," intending to stay there until he was fit enough to travel back to Kyneton.
George was one of a number of hostages taken by the gang, but died from his injuries on 15th October 1880, four months after the shoot-out.
What of the infamous gang? Ned Kelly was seriously wounded but survived to be hanged, while the other three gangsters were all killed by the police marksmen.