Owen Connor: Elderly Kid on the New Block

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Owen Connor was born in Annaghdown, Portumna, Galway in 1808. He enlisted in the 99th (Lanarkshire) Regiment of Foot, Private #278 when he was 16 years old. His overseas service of over eleven years was in Mauritius and the remainder in Britain. At the age of 31 he was discharged from the Army on 4 Sep 1841 on medical grounds, suffering from a fistula of the urethra. His medical condition entitled him to a Chelsea Pension of sixpence per day from 25 Sep 1841. His conduct and character was reported as “… has been that of a good and efficient soldier seldom in hospital trustworthy and sober.” He lived in Galway until 1849 when he moved to Liverpool, by which time he was married with a daughter.

Owen Connor, his wife Bridget (nee Conroy), their two daughters, and two teenaged female relatives of Bridget, boarded the convict ship Mermaid bound for Australia. He was enrolled with the Pensioner Force and left Portsmouth early in 1851 as one of 29 former military servicemen engaged as guards of the 208 men sentenced to transportation to the Swan River Colony. After a voyage of 123 days, the ship arrived in Fremantle on 21 May.

Shortly after arrival Connor was one of 19 pensioners who settled in North Fremantle. The ticket-of-leave convicts at the North Fremantle Hiring Depot built temporary huts for the pensioners and families which were gradually replaced by two-roomed cottages with concrete floors, stone walls and shingle roofs. Owen Connor was among the first nine pensioners to be assigned land in November 1852. It was a wedged-shaped corner lot, slightly over one acre, on Lot P1. This would later be mapped (1877) as the corner of Swan and De Lisle Streets, with a riverside frontage. Connor applied for the Title to the land which was granted on 31 Dec 1858.

Connor was described as a ‘labourer’ on his Army discharge documents, but I am unaware of his occupations in the Colony. He and Bridget had a son in 1852 and daughters in 1855 and 1858. In 1863 Connor applied for pauper relief with the explanation that “wife and children are starving”. The authorities responded with “he is residing on his own ‘fee simple’ [title to property] and as both [Owen and Bridget] are able bodied – application refused [James:152]. Shortly thereafter he and the family left for South Australia and his pension transferred to Adelaide accordingly. Owen Connor died in Stepney, Kent Town, South Australia on 2 Dec 1882.

Chelsea Pensioners British Army Service Records 1760-1913 [WO97-1061-86, WO-23 and WO22-252, National Archives, Kew].
A Superior Body of Men, M S James, 2016, Authorhouse.
Bicentennial Dictionary of Western Australians Vol. 1, Rica Erickson, 1987, UWA Press.
Portion of Fremantle Town Map, Woodhouse Series dated 1877 [Call No. 9024.F85G46, Battye Library, WA].
Portion of North Fremantle Map 19c, 1866 [Cons 3868 Item 116, Battye Library, WA].
SA Registrar of Births, Deaths & Marriages [Registation No. 123/493].