Wednesday, February 27, 2008

When Newtown Almost Evicted Its Residents

Nicholas Devine was sent out from Old Blighty as a free bloke to work as a convict overseer.
Old Nick did his job so well he was rewarded with a promotion to Chief Superintendent of Convicts and given a pay packet bonus of 210 acres south of Sydneytown that is now known as Newtown.

Nicky-boy threw together a wee cottage for himself on his bush block and when old age forced him to retire in the 1820's he parked his posterior in his hut on a yearly pension of £78, with a convict, Bernard Rochfort, to look after him.

Bernie obviously took grand care of old Nick as he found himself the recipient of the old man's land on his death. Bernie flogged off the land which became a pricey place shortly afterwards as everyone wanted a piece of it as Sydney expanded with the growing number of people.

Now back in Ireland old Nick's family got wind of the land sale and how expensive the dirt was in that area and the heir, a great-nephew, trotted over to the colony and claimed the patch for himself.
He threw a couple of arguments into the pot - he claimed his great-uncle was insane when he penned his will and that poor old Bernie was a prisoner and could not have legally acquired the land.

26 residents were mightily put out at this turn of events, so they banded together to defend themselves and the roofs over their noggins.
Sydney's Supreme Court found in the resident's favour in 1852 but the greedy great-nephew appealed to the Privy Council which allowed for a new trial.
Again, in 1857, the Supreme Court handed down a verdict in favour of the residents and further litigation from the Devine family was headed off by offering them a secret amount of dosh if the great-nephew walked away from his claim, which he sensibly did.

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