On the 4th of May 1807 Michael John Quinn was born to Thomas Quin(n) and Ellen Cleary. Soon after his birth he was baptised in St. John’s Church.  In 1825 at the age of 18 Michael left his family and began his career in the armed services as a Drummer Bugler in 21st Regiment of foot. On the 20th of August 1829 he married Margaret (Mary) O’Brien, who would accompany Michael as he was posted around the world.

In 1832 when his mother wrote the letter below he was on his way to or stationed in Chatham Barracks in Kent (now the University of Greenwich). Within the year he would travel to Tasmania, via Sydney, to guard convicts serving in Port Arthur. He would be transferred to the Swan Colony, Perth Feb 1835 aboard the ship Caroline.

The first few years he spent on the other side of the world were tough even for the guards, as can be seen by Michael’s imprisonment for one month for the theft of 3 planks of mahogany in 1835. Soon after on 22nd October 1838 his wife would pass away due to an ear abscess, leaving him with 4 children under the age of six.  He was discharged from the armed services on the 31st July 1840 at the Swan Colony, Perth.

Michael John Quinn passed away on the 6th of September 1876 in Perth, leaving a legacy of at least 29 grandchildren in Australia.

Chapham barracks where the letter was sent

Chapham barracks where the letter was sent


September 16th 1832

Dear Son,

I take the opportunity of writing these few lines to you hoping to find you and Margaret in health as we are at present thank God for it.

Dear son you mentioned to send you account of John Ryan the number of the house where he lives. he lives in Compton place Brunswick Square London. The cholera still raging here and business is bad. There’s no means of reaching to you through the means of idleness and sickness.

You mention business to be good where you are and thee wages you mentioned the men could not believe it.send me a correct account your next and make a strict enquiry into the wages.Your mother has very poor health one day up and another down.all enquiring friends are well

No more at present from your loving mother

Ellen Cleary

(letter courtesy of Jenny Addison)