John Pendergrass - town crier
Browsing through the Colonial Secretary’s Index, 1788-1825 an interesting subject of Town Crier caught our eye. A quick check of the three names showed an intriguing entry for John Pendergrass who “…had his ‘good leg fractur'd and the wooden one broke’ when run over by a bullock cart.” He “wanted an old hack horse to carry him around…”
What on earth had happened to him and what was the outcome of his request?
Going through the letter entries the first states John Pendergrass became the town crier in 1813 after John Bingham was dismissed:
“… John Pendergrass is appointed Town Cryer in the Town of Sydney, in the Room of John Bingham, dismissed from that Office for fraudulent and highly improper conduct.”
The next entry lists his occupation as bellman - another term used for town crier.
In the third item in January 1825 he is still in the role of town crier however injury has befallen him. He wrote to the governor to request a horse to carry him around.
“…September 1823 I had The misfortune to have my good leg fractur’d And the wooden one broke, while calling a sale For government, by a Bullock cart belonging to The crown the leading one ran me down and the cart went over both legs and rendered me quite Incapable of walking…all I request is that is excellency will give me an old Hack Horse to carry me about town As Mrs Macquarie promised me previous to their Departure from hence she said my little Place On the Bridge should be fitted up and made quite Comfortable…May god incline the heart of his excellency to do it and may the blessing of a poor old veteran come upon your for you will cause a poor old man to Sing with joy...”
TRANSCRIPT of request for hack horse Reel 6063; 4/1785 p.41
10 Jan.y 1825
Relying on your Goodness to pardon this intrusion
I have been in this colony 35 years this month at
the first, daily exposed to every difficulty incidents
to those times when men only did the work as
there was no working cattle, I have been bred To
the sea and saild from this port to places adjacent
for 20 years until I was appointed Town Cryer
by Governor Macquarie in which state I have
Remained since 1812 and always did that duty
with credit to myself and satisfaction to all the
Merchants in Sydney, until September 1823 I had
the misfortune to have my good leg fractur’d
and the wooden one broke, while calling a sale
for government, by a Bullock cart belonging to
The crown the leading one ran me down and
the cart went over both legs and rendered me quite
incapable of walking, however I hird a man as
Substitute who went about town and did the
Business tolerable well under these distressing
Circumstances I most humbly intreat you
to represent my case to his Excellency and can assure
you I am in such a state of convalescence and as well
in health as I was fifty years ago, altho in my 76
Year and if required the truths of what I have asserted
Can be confirmed by most of the old inhabitants of the
Town and all I request is that is excellency will give
me an old Hack Horse to carry me about town
as Mrs Macquarie promised me previous to their
Departure from hence she said my little Place
on the Bridge should be fitted up and made quite
Comfortable, but never was, so pray pardon my ignorance
in saying Declining life few consolations lend, for when
I lost Maquarie then I lost a friend, which I most
Humbly trust will be compensated by your interest(?)
With Sir Thomas in my behalf, and should be so
Happy as to obtain this request my fervent prayers
Will be for God almighty to bless you and yours and
May god incline the heart of his excellency to
do it and may the blessing of a poor old veteran come
upon your for you will cause a poor old man to
Sing with joy, and remain Sir your most Obdt HS
Jno Pendergrass Town Cryer
Sir please condescend to answer this by bearer
Sadly, his request was not granted and this offocial reply was penned on 22 January 1825
“…The Governor cannot grant the Application to be allowed a horse which your Letter of the 10th Instant presents : but should The misfortune that has befallen you render you An Object fit for the Benevolent Asylum, His Excellency will recommend you to its Committee.“
After this exchange we wanted to find out more about John Pendergrass but there were no entries under this name in any of our other indexes. The Colonial Secretary’s entry lists him as arriving in Sydney on the Neptune in 1790 - part of the Second Fleet - but we couldn't find him in the early convict index under this name. A quick check of the excellent secondary source The Second Fleet, Britain’s Grim Convict Armada of 1790 by Michael Flynn reveals John Pendergrass is a cross-reference to his original name, Joseph Pentecross (it was unclear in our search when he changed his name but he is listed in the 1811 Muster as Pendergrass).
With his correct name to hand a search of Joseph Pentecross in the early convict index shows him on the convict indent for the Neptune. He was tried at the Old Bailey in September 1783 and sentenced to transportation for Life, to America. America was a destination for transportation before New South Wales. How did he end up in New South Wales? Back to The Second Fleet, Britain’s Grim Convict Armada of 1790 which confirms Pentecross was en route to America when the convicts mutined and he escaped. He was recaptured, retried and ended up with a sentence of transportation for life to New South Wales.
The entry for Joseph Pentecross is third from bottom of page.
An internet search for John Pendergrass found entries in Trove and a listing for him on the AustralHarmony (University of Sydney) website, confirming his occupation and name of Pentecross. The entry includes links to Trove and the The Second Fleet, Britain’s Grim Convict Armada of 1790 by Michael Flynn as a source of information. The AustralHarmony website is "An online resource toward the history of music in colonial and early Federation Australia".
From the AustralHarmony source above there is a report of his death in 1835, in the Sydney Herald, 27 July 1835 (available on Trove). He is referred to as Pendray, and a first-fleeter (many convicts used to claim this more respectable 'first-fleeter' status) who died at a very old age. It seems a sad end to a long life.
An old man named Pendray, one of the "first-fleeters", and who followed the occupation of town-crier, some years ago, was found near the King's wharf, on Sunday last, quite dead. It was supposed he had died from the decay of nature, being upwards of 90 years of age.
For more about the life of John Pendergrass see the brief but thorough entry in The Second Fleet, Britain’s Grim Convict Armada of 1790 by Michael Flynn.