John Molloy

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search

Captain John Molloy (5 September 1786 – 6 October 1867) was an early settler in Western Australia. He was one of the original settlers of Augusta.

Early life[edit]

The outline of John Molloy's birth and early life are now clear, though we have little detail and published accounts vary greatly. John Molloy was baptised at St Martins in the Fields in Trafalgar Square, London, on 8 October 1786, the son of William and Mary Molloy.[1] As John celebrated his birthday on the 5 September in later life, his birthdate is most likely to have been the 5 September 1786.

William Molloy had a shoe warehouse at 16 High St, St Giles, London. He made his will in 1804, leaving bequests to his son, John, and his daughter, Susanna, who were to inherit their shares of the estate when they reached the age of 21.[2] The will also stipulates regular payments from the estate to William Molloy's mother who was living in Kings County, now co. Offaly, Ireland. St Giles was well known as a quarter where Irish tradesmen settled. William Molloy died in December 1804.

John Molloy was able to buy a commission in the Rifle Brigade on 17 December 1807, just over three months after his 21st birthday, when he came into his inheritance. He fought in the Peninsular War of 1808–10 and was promoted Lieutenant in 1809. Then, during a two-year break in military engagements, he attended the Royal Military College, Great Marlow. From 1812 to 1814, he fought in the Napoleonic Wars under Wellington, taking part in eight battles. In 1815 he fought at Waterloo where he was badly wounded and received the Waterloo Medal. After recovering his health, he returned to active duty, being posted to Glasgow in 1819–20, then Ireland until 1825. In 1824 he was promoted to Captain.

Emigration to Western Australia[edit]

On 6 August 1829, Molloy married Georgiana Kennedy, and began to consider emigrating to Western Australia. The Molloys eventually sailed for Western Australia on board the Warrior in October 1829. On arriving at the Swan River Colony in March 1830, Molloy was advised by Governor Stirling that the best land in the area had already been granted. Stirling suggested instead that the Molloys join with some other newly arrived settlers in forming a subcolony in the vicinity of Cape Leeuwin. Late in April, a group of prospective settlers including the Molloys and Bussells accompanied Stirling and his official party to the proposed site of the subcolony. After a four-day exploring expedition up the Blackwood River, Stirling confirmed his decision to establish a settlement at the location. The settlers' possessions were unloaded, and Molloy was appointed Government Resident and Resident magistrate for the settlement, to be called Augusta.

Settlement at Augusta[edit]

For the first few years of the settlement, Molloy's main tasks, other than establishment of his own farm, were the allocation of land, and laying out of the townsite. When Molloy named the streets and coastal features of Augusta in 1832, it is notable that he chose the names and titles of the Duke of York, who had died five years previously: Osnaburg Street, York Street, Albany Terrace, Duke's Head and Point Frederick.

Initial relationships with the Aborigines of the area (the Bibbulmun and Wardandi peoples) were friendly, but the relationship soured over the years, as the settlers further encroached on the natives' traditional lands and the natives increasingly stole from the settlers. By the mid-1830s, natives and settlers had become hostile to one another. In 1837 nine natives were shot in response to the killing of a settler's calf. Molloy, who valued protection of the settlers' property over protection of the natives' lives, took no action in this case. On the other hand, when a settler named George Layman was murdered by a native named Gaywal in February 1841, Molloy led a punitive party against him. Gaywal was ultimately shot dead while trying to escape. In March 1842, Charles Bussell shot a seven-year-old Aboriginal girl in the stomach while interrogating her about the location of some fugitives. Molloy reported the shooting as an accident. After charging Bussell and finding him guilty, Molloy is said to have fined him just one shilling.[3]

Later life[edit]

Molloy's wife died in 1843, but Molloy decided to stay on at the settlement. In 1850, he visited England, returning to Western Australia in 1852. In 1859 he transferred to the 9th Foot and was promoted Major and Lieutenant-Colonel, but sold the commission the same day. He resigned as Government Resident in March 1851 on grounds of old age. From 1860 on, he gradually turned over management of his property to Richard Gale. He died on 6 October 1867, and was buried alongside his wife. The age given on Molloy’s grave, 87, is inaccurate: it should be 81.[4]

John Molloy's eldest daughter Sabina married Matthew Blagden Hale, who became the first Anglican Bishop of Perth. Another daughter Flora married William Locke Brockman.


  1. ^ St Martin in the Fields parish register
  2. ^ PCC Prob 11, 1419 folio 37
  3. ^ Lines, William J. (1996) An All Consuming Passion: Origins, Modernity, and the Australian Life of Georgiana Molloy, p. 320, Berkeley: University of California Press, ISBN 0-520-20422-0.
  4. ^ The date of Molloy's baptism and his father's will both suggest an age of 87 is highly unlikely. If 87 in 1867, John would have been about 24 in 1804 when his father's will mentions him as under 21.
  • Hardwick, Gil (2000) The Irish RM: Capt. John Molloy of the Vasse, in The Irish in Western Australia: Studies in Western Australian History, 20. Centre for Western Australian History, Department of History, University of Western Australia. Nedlands, Western Australia. ISBN 0-86422-929-1.
  • Hasluck, Alexandra (1955) Portrait with Background: A Life of Georgiana Molloy. Oxford University Press, Melbourne.