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 Peter or Patrick Quigly  


Basic facts

When arrested, Peter or Patrick Quigly, for he was known by both names, was resident in the centre of Glasgow, Scotland at Little Dowhill, near Glasgow Cross. From his own statement we know that he had previously been living in Edinburgh, and before that he had kept a shop in Ireland, the country of his birth. He was a native of Derry in the north of Ireland, his birth year being uncertain. In his declaration he hit a cautious tone about his age: "and may be about thirty two years of age". This would make his birth about 1883-84, but the note of caution may mean he was older than this. One of the Indents from his Australian stay recorded his age as 35 years, which would have him born in 1880-1881. The same document stated that he was five feet four and three quarters of an inch tall. His complexion was dark and sallow, his hair black and his eyes black or dark hazel.

Earning a living

As well as keeping a shop, at which time he was 'unfortunate in business', and later being a publican in Glasgow, he stated he had been a travelling merchant until poor health caused him to abandon this occupation, whereupon he based himself at Little Dowhill, Glasgow. The declaration of 5 February 1816 noted that Peter Quigly had applied to the Glasgow Magistrates for a licence to sell alcohol, then immediately corrected this statement: "he did not make any such application, and was some time fined by the Justices for selling liquor without a licence". This tells us Peter was lying in his statement until pulled up about it, and that since all that was required to obtain a liquor licence in Glasgow of that time was a guarantee of good character from trustworthy referees, Peter was known not to be of good character even before his arrest. When he obtained his freedom in Australia he continued in the retail business, and until some poor luck with regard to his family, seems to have been fairly successful.

Mary O'Hara

Mary O'Hara, by the time of their trial, had not been his wife for very long: he stated "that it is two years since he married his present wife". We might logically assume from that that Mary O'Hara was not his first wife, and that the first wife must have died leaving Peter a widower. At first they appear to have had no family, though this does not necessarily mean Peter had no children by a previous marriage. Peter seems to have been very involved with Mary's family according to the court documents, but nothing there refers to any earlier family. Mary and Patrick agreed in their declarations that they had been married about two years. Later in their Australian life, when both had served their sentence, three children were brought to Australia, and this seems to have meant much to Peter as he went into business with his son. Who cared for their children while they were serving their term is not known. Mary O'Hara died just after the arrival of her children in Australia in March 1829; on 2 and 4 May 1829 The Sydney Monitor announces "death of wife of Mr Peter Quigley, an industrious shopkeeper".

Educational level

The two declarations made by Peter show him as someone who would be prepared to be evasive when he might get away with it, but not so stupid as to persist against his own interest. We know that he could write, at least enough to sign his name. One of the official Australian documents from his convict period noted his occupation as 'schoolmaster'. It may be that during the long period under sail he taught some of the other convicts the rudiments of reading and writing. This, the relevant literature tells us, was not uncommon. Being able to write at that period set Peter, a man of the lower classes, apart from the crowd. Slightly later in the century, in the 1820s and 1830s, there was a James Quigley who was a schoolmaster in Paisley. It is quite conceivable, from family history evidence, that the two men were related to each other. he was certainly proactive as a businessman, and information about his activities as a freeman in Australia has come down to us from advertisements he placed in the press.

Psychology and behaviour

At his trial Peter Quigly and his wife made a plea of 'Not Guilty', whereas the young thieves, said to be their accomplices, all made a plea of 'Guilty', and at least one turned King's Evidence. Since all of the accused were later found 'guilty' it raises the question of whether Peter Quigly and Mary O'Hara really were innocent, or if not, what made them opt for a 'not guilty' plea.

The newspaper accounts in the Glasgow Herald and the Glasgow Chronicle portray Quigly as a rather hostile, anti-establishment, unsympathetic individual. The Glasgow Herald commented in its account of the trial on 2 May 1816: "Quigley spoke very violently and disrespectfully to the Judges on the Bench". The next day, when Quigly was being sentenced after having been found guilty, the newspaper account added: "Quigley behaved in a very unbecoming manner in court". 

The Glasgow Chronicle reported: "Quigly when called on to plead, behaved in a very indecorous and disgusting manner, and reflected on the administration of justice in Scotland, and expressed his determination to plead his own cause. During the whole trial he behaved with the utmost levity; and appeared to entertain much enmity to the city officers". The Chronicle also reported, at some greater length than the Herald, the 'deal' Quigly was alleged to have offered John Smith, one of the thieves, who turned evidence against him in return for his freedom: "Quigly has promised witness money to begin business as a pedlar, and to take him to Ireland, if he (witness) would not say any thing against him; and Quigly said, that on his trial he would pretend to be radgy (insane); and advised him (witness) to do the same. In all transactions witness has had with him, he never believed him to be a lunatic".

In these accounts we perceive Quigly to be a robust and independent character who, even at the cost of lawlessness and ridicule, did not take lying down whatever life threw at him. Both papers reported the rationale the judges set out during their sentencing of the young thieves, along with Quigly and his wife: "The three former are mere boys, and the Court considered them only as tools in the hands of Quigley and his wife, and seduced by them to the commission of the offence." To the judges' eyes, Quigly presented himself as manipulative, evil of intent, and greedy. The State of that period had the upper hand, no doubt of that; our modern understanding of what a person might do simply to survive in such circumstances gives a somewhat different perspective.

Australian convict

In Australia, Peter or Patrick Quigly was simply Peter Quigly, most probably his baptismal name. This is certainly true as far as the official Colonial Index is concerned. One example of Patrick being used as an alias was turned up by researcher Russell Kelly, in the SRNSW site for certificates of Freedom index:"Peter alias Patrick Quigley", (Quigley is a variant spelling of Quigly and gradually took over from it), "30 May 1830 Sir William Bensley 1817 4?4301 986 TL29/101". His Ticket of leave document dated 24 April 1829 recorded the name Peter first, then Patrick as his alias. So it is not certain that Peter was used as his given name 100% of the time, perhaps only for official filing purposes.

Peter arrived in Australia in March 1817, probably at least in his mid-thirties. His Ticket of Leave cites his birth year as 1784, based on the age he gave the authorities at his trial, but, he actually told them then that he may be 32 years of age. So then, he was a man between 30 and 40 years of age, with much of his life before him. The physical description we have of him comes from Australian sources.

He did not seem to change his ways all of a sudden, because  on 8 July 1818, he was listed with prisoners to be sent to Newcastle on suspicion of having committed a robbery, and on 13 September 1820 he was absent from Barrack cell for three days. However around 1822 there is evidence that both Peter and Mary were settling to a more purposeful and cooperative way of life. Matters had turned around so much that that a man called Michael McDermott was convicted by the Court of stealing from Peter!  Later in 1823 a convict called George Davey was also convicted for receiving goods stolen from Peter Quigly. At this time Peter was operating as a dealer in Sydney on a Ticket of Leave issued in September 1822. About the same time he was listed as a person to whom convict mechanics had been assigned; and, between July 1823 and December 1824, he was officially inscribed on account of rents received for assigned convict tradesmen, for the three quarters ending 30 June 1824. It seems, therefore, that he was coming out from under the burden that transportation for his crimes had laid on him, and and had begun to take advantage of the opportunities placed before him. He was continuing to survive.

According to the 1823-25 Muster, Peter had two men working for him, John Norriss and Patrick Nowlan, as government servants. Indeed, Peter acted as witness to the character of his worker, John Norris, in a attempt to mitigate his sentence. In 1825 Mary was recorded as the wife of Peter Quigley and in November, Peter was applying to be granted a conditional pardon. This suggests that he had, at the very least, learned to 'play the game', probably with a view to gaining his freedom again relatively soon. The searches that were made into the character and behaviour of Peter concluded in his favour. It is difficult to know whether Peter had had a real change of heart or not. he may have decided to 'go along to get along'. As his trial account demonstrates, he was somewhat of a realist and somewhat of a liar, but predominantly a self-interested individualist. These qualities are recognizable in the course of his time as a convict.

The New South Wales Census of 1828 recorded Mary O'Hara, still in government servitude, as a Housekeeper to Peter Quigley in Market Street, Sydney. Peter himself was recorded as a shopkeeper there, and the owner of three horses. He was recorded as a Catholic and Mary as a Protestant. Peter had a clerk working for him called John Smithers who had come out to Australia, a free man, on the ship Harvey in 1827. On 24 April 1829 Peter applied for a Ticket of Leave. He was granted it, to replace that of 1822.  At the foot of the page there was an annotation referring to a previous 1822 Ticket of Leave "In lieu of No 99/103, dated 13th Sept. 1822 now returned mutilated and cancelled". At right angles, across the details of the first Ticket of Leave, there is writing that is not altogether clear, but reads: "Torn up 3 May 1830 on his receiving Certificate of Freedom No 30/236".

On 1 May 1830 The Sydney Monitor reported that Peter Quigley will begin trading on this date under 'Quigley & Son'. On the 3 May 1830, exactly fourteen years to the day after his conviction in Glasgow, Peter Quigly was granted his Certificate of Freedom. In May 1831 The Sydney Herald reported Mr Quigley of Market Street had been missing property for the last eight months. Earlier Mrs Quigley, who was dead by mid-May 1829, had discovered it was their assigned servant Peter Davies who was the thief, so presumably the case continued for some time. In September and October of the year Peter and James Quigley, his son, had to attend Supreme Court in King St regarding insolvency. On 1 November 1831 Peter & James Quigley "lately of Pitt Street Sydney" were involved in insolvency proceedings. Later the same month James Quigley, Peter's son, testified at Sydney Supreme Court against Alexander Thompson, indicted for stealing a substantial amount from him in September of that year, while his father Peter Quigley was in Europe, in Ireland to be precise. On 5 December The Sydney Herald reported that [James]Fraser, Ann Quigly's husband, had been given bail: "On Thursday, Fraser, who was committed to take his trial for embezzling money and treasury bills belonging to Quigley, was admitted to bail by Judge Stephen, himself in 100L. and two sureties in 50L- each." On 7 December The Sydney Monitor reported a statement by James Quigley, Peter's son, regarding a charge of embezzling made against James Frazer, a life convict, his brother in law.

In 1832 Peter was still listed in The New South Wales Calendar and General Post Office Directory, 1832 as "Quigley, Peter, Dealer, Pitt Street." On 15 March 1834 the Sydney Gazette advertised the sale of Lot 88, a piece of land which was then or formerly belonging to Peter Quigley on two of its borders on the south side of Market St, Sydney. On 25 September 1834 the Trustees of the estate of Peter & James Quigley sold by auction four building allotments corner of Market & Kent Streets, Sydney. On 1 October 1836 Peter Quigley was mentioned in Correspondence to Editors of The Sydney Herald, but by 1837 no employer named Peter or Patrick Quigly figured in the muster of that year. Peter, in his mid-50s, had again seen his life slip away from him.


It is the belief of this researcher that, a widower and let down in business by his family, Peter returned to the United Kingdom from Australia. No death certificate exists for him in Australia. What he did and where he went between the mid-1830s and 1850 is unknown. The 1851 census for Mochrum in Wigtownshire recorded "Peter Evans Quigley" living at Elrig as a lodger. He was recorded as married and aged 50 years. His occupation was 'dealer in hardware'. He had been born in Ireland. He was living with Jane Evans Quigley, 'dealer's wife', aged 40 years and born in Ireland. They were living in the household of Thomas and Catherine Creily whose family, with the exception of their grandsons and son-in-law, had been born in Ireland. Thomas was 72 years old and had formerly been an agricultural labourer. His daughter Bridget was married to Charles McAlaster, and they and their family and Bridget's brother all lived together at Elrig. Charles, born in Saltcoats Ayrshire, and Bridget had been married at Newton Stewart by Father Robert Sinnott in 1845. Charles was the son of Bernard McAlaster and Agnes Brown, and Bridget the daughter of Thomas Crilly and Catherine McMahon.

In the 1861 census for Wigtown parish in Wigtownshire, Scotland, there is a record of a Peter Quigley, a labourer, born in Ireland, living at West Side, Low Vennell. His age is noted as 60 years.

In February 1868, at the recorded age of 83 years, "Peter Quigeley", a pauper married to Jane McCaffery, died at Croft-an-Righ in Wigtown, Scotland. No parental information was recorded in the death certificate. Rosy Sally, "Neighbour in Charge", of Bank Street, Wigtown, gave notice of Peter's death before James Shaw, registrar, on 24 February 1868 at Wigtown, and made her X mark. Thus ended the extended adventures
of Peter or Patrick Quigly.

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