He was a soldier in the 95th Regiment of Foot, 2nd Battalion. He travelled to far flung places of the world in his short lifetime.
He visited Ireland, then shipped to Colonia in Uruguay where the British had an offensive on the River Plate. Then later was involved in the war with Napoleon at Walcheren (part of Holland). According to research details :
“Forty thousand men landed at Walcheren intending to destroy Napoleon’s new fleet. But the British sailed with barely a day’s supply of quinine and no hospital ships. In a master stroke of ecological warfare, Napoleon breached the Dutch dykes creating breeding grounds for mosquitoes. Soon thousands of invaders fell sick and a hundred a week died. The force ignominiously withdrew”.
Robert was court martialled at Walcheren for stealing a watch from a dutch local and was transported.
In further correspondence, Lyn adds…
Robert Higgins was involved in the Battle of the River Plate in Uruguay. As Spain was a french ally and it was a combined Spanish-French fleet that Nelson attacked off Cape Trafalgar in 1805, Great Britain apparently decided that one way of hitting back was to attack the Spanish colonies in South America. The main aim was to gain control of River Plate by conquering the dominant city, Buenos Aires. I think the British occupation lasted six months.
Forty thousand men landed at Walcheren intending to destroy Napoleon’s new fleet. But the British sailed with barely a day’s supply of quinine and no hospital ships. In a master stroke of ecological warfare, Napoleon breached the Dutch dykes creating breeding ground for mosquitoes. The British lost one hundred soldiers a week to malaria.
The is also an account referred to as the Recollections of Rifleman Harris (1848) regarding the Walcheren Expedition which is available on the net.
The court martial of Robert Higgins is contained in the Court Martial Registers (WO92/1) and the Court Martial Reports in WO91.
Transportation to Australia
Higgins was court martialled on September 6, 1809.
He came to Australia on the Admiral Gambier II in 1811.
The diary of Lachlan Macquarie, dated Sunday, September 29, 1811 records….
“The Ship Admiral Gambier Convict Transport commanded by Capt. Sindrie, with Ensigns Holmes & Wentworth & a Detachment of 30 Soldiers of the 73d. Regt. as a Guard, having on board 197 Male Convicts from England, anchored this afternoon between 4 and 5 OClock in Sydney Cove, having sailed from England finally on the 12th. of May – touching at Rio, which she left on the 29th. of July. —”
He initially worked for Rowland Hassall, an English born Presbyterian preacher and landholder who had considerable land holdings in the Camden and Nepean areas, before being made superintendent of government stock in 1814, thus acquiring management of the huge Cowpastures run.
He married convict Ann Owen on November 19, 1814 at St. John’s Parramatta. Ann, who was probably born in 1791 had come to Australia on the Wanstead, along with her illegitimate daughter, Elizabeth.
Robert Higgins prisoner age 36 of the parish of St John Parramatta by the Gambier and Ann Owens prisoner age 29 by the Wansted were married in this church by me Benjamin Vale this 19th day of November 1814 Robert and Ann signed the register in the presence of William Weatherell and John Eyre who both signed the register
Judging by the record of her trial at The Old Bailey, and having an illegitimate daughter, it appears Ann would have been desperately poor before her arrival in Australia.
On September 16, 1812, Ann was found guilty at The Old Bailey of shoplifting and sentenced to death. The court recorded she stole a gown to the value of seven shillings from a pawnbroker’s shop owned by John Hulme at 181 High Street, Shadwell (an inner-city district of London, located on the north bank of the Thames between Wapping to the west and Limehouse to the east.
Q. Were you present when Ann Owen came into your shop – A. Yes. On the 4th of September, in the afternoon, when she came to the shop, she said, that she had lost the ticket of a gown, pledged for four shillings, in the name of Ann Owen . I desired my lad to look for it; there was no gown of that description. I immediately called the eldest lad, thinking the young lad might omit looking for it. He could not find any thing to answer the description; and then he went round the shop door; and said, Sir, there is a gown gone from the door. I had never left the shop at all.
Q. How soon was that after the prisoner had left the shop – A. About seven or eight minutes; I immediately sent him in search at a neighbouring pawnbroker’s. He found it at Mr. Bradley’s. I am sure it was within the door,
MR. BRADLEY. I live about twenty doors from Mr. Hulme. About two o’clock in the afternoon, on the 4th instant, the prisoner pledged this gown for five shillings. I am positive to the prisoner’s person. I produce the gown.
Mr. Hulme. It is my gown; it has my mark on it now.
Prisoner’s Defence. I was very much in distress. I applied to the parish to take my child; they refused. I have a bad state of health, and am very poor. I am not able to go to service.
Q. to Prosecutor. What is the prime cost of the gown – A. It stood me in nine shillings. I value it at seven shillings. It pledged at the next shop for five shillings.
GUILTY , DEATH , aged 25.
The prisoner was recommended to mercy by the jury, on account of her being distressed.
Second Middlesex jury, before Mr. Justice Heath.
She sailed from Spithead, England on 24 or 28 August 1813 with 120 female prisoners and arrived in Sydney with 117 of them 138 days later on January 9, 1814. Two of the female convicts died on the way out and one was re-landed.
On account of his good all round behaviour, in 1817, a petition was made on behalf of Robert Higgins in suport of a land grant and for him to be made a Constable at Cow Pastures. Regrettably, I can’t read all of the words, but publish them below. Your assistance in transcribing the words would be appreciated.
To His Excellency Lachlan Macquarie Esquire, Captain General, Governor and Commander in Chief, in and over H.M Territory of NSW and its Dependencies.
The Humble Petition of Robert Higgins herewith
That your Excellency’s Petitioner came to this Colony per ship Gambier 2nd in the year 1811 through his good conduct and SOMETHING recommendation of the same, Your Excellent was SOMETHING pleasure to grant him an Emancipation in the the year 1817 and at the same time made him Constable at the Cow Pastures which both he SOMETHING at this date.
Your Petition SOMETHING in that great SOMETHING arrangement to deserving persons which marks the general character of Your Excellency, jumbly solicits the grant of a portion of land.
May it please Your Excellency to grant your Petitioner such indulgence he will to the extent of his ability endeavour to show that such benevolance was not bestowed on an unworthy character and Your Petitioner as by duty bound will ever Pray.
I beg leave to SOMETHING to Your Excellency that his Petitioner is a sober, honest and industries Man, having known him from his first arrival in the Cllony and therefore beg leave to command him to the petition of your excellency
CANNOT READ NAMES
You can download the memorial, located by fellow Higgins descendant, Greg Tevelen as a pdf (about 3 megs in size)
His conditional pardon in 1817, gives some description of his physical appearance.
AO Reel 774; p 103; Ticket No 796 Date of Pardon: 30-1-1817; Name : Higgins Robert; Ship & Year : Ad. Gambier 2; Native Place: Nottinghamshire; Trade or Calling : Formerly a soldier; Place & Date of Trial : Walcheren by Court Martial 6 Sept.1809; Sentence :Life; Height: 5′ 4 ½ ; Complexion : Dark ; Hair: Black; Eyes: Hazel
Of Robert Higgins, the Colonial Secretary’s Paper’s record the following…
HIGGINS, Robert. Per “Admiral Gambier”, 1811
1817 Feb 1 Appointed constable at Cow Pastures (Reel 6038; SZ759 pp.308-9)
1818 Jun Constable at Cowpastures. Memorial (Fiche 3021; 4/1824A No.347 p.313)
1821 Jan 24 Store receipts of for wheat (Reel 6051; 4/1748 p.147)
1822 Feb 21 Dismissed for neglect (Reel 6039; 4/424 p.38)
1823 Mar 5 Re victualling of (Reel 6010; 4/3507 p.402)
It is believed that he assisted the early Surveyor Robert Dixson as a creek was named Bob Higgins creek after him in 1827. This creek ran into the Wollondilly. This creek is now apparently completely submerged within the dam and the name is retained within the dam as Higgin’s Bay.
In 1828 Robert and Ann separated. The record of Robert’s death indicated Ann had an extra marital affair. Incidentally, the 1828 census records Ann (aged 37) “as living and working at Camden as a housemaid for William Scott.”
Death of Robert Higgins
A few months later, at Burragorang, NSW Robert (Senior) died from asthma on June 11, 1828
A few days later it was reported in “The Monitor” on Friday 16 June 1826…
John Malony, Chief Constable, Appin, James Jackson, ex-publican, of Campbell Town, Whaley, Constable of Myrtle Creek and Robert Higgins of Bargo, have all severally been fined in the full penalty of 25 pounds sterling, for selling spirituous liquors without a licence
CORONERS INQUEST : Reel 2233 A.O. p5-14 17.6.1828 Robert Higgins on Wed. morning the 11th day of June 1828 at Burragorang in the colony died suddenly of suppression of breath from an old disease he had been afflicted some time viz Asthma that he had no marks of violence appearing on his body & died by the vindication of God in a natural way & not otherwise.
1st witness Wm. Pearse free – Overseer to Master Cox stationed at Burragorang being duly sworn states That the deceased Robert Higgins having some little time ago separated from his wife, I suppose a month, came & asked if I would allow him to stop at my hut, as he had detected his wife with another man. I considered, & he remained at my hut until his death which took place on the 11th instant. On the 10th deceased went over to a neighbours to grind a knife & when he returned, he said, there is your knife, I have ground it, but my breath is so short I did not think I should have been able to have got to the hut though. He said this was about dusk, he ate a heavy supper & seemed very cheerful & went to bed between 9 & 10 o’clock at night – he went to sleep. I slept with him, & I thought I smelt his breath offensive. I turned away from him & went to sleep. I felt him turn himself, about 3 or 4 o’clock in the morning, & then he got up & went out of doors, he awoke me by asking if I was awake – he came in doors again smoked a pipe – I got up & went out of doors & when I returned was looking about he asked what I was looking for & said I’ve got the pipe which he then gave me – at that time he said “Bless me my winds so bad. I shall never be able to get up the mountain – I must go to bed again, the wind comes so cold to my back – he then went to bed – after which he said I’m so bad I must get up again – I went into the room to go to bed, & he was putting on his clothes again – he said he was very bad – & came out of the room & asked a man in the hut, Gainon, by name, to put a long pair of boots on him, the deceased, which he did – deceased then went out of doors – in a minute or less he returned into the hut & said “For God’s Sake William get up & write my will for I am going to die, & devised I would see that his children had everything belonging to him, do take my little boy & keep him to yourself for God Sake – he then prayed a short time & then said to the men in the hut, “I am sorry I can’t speak more to you ” he afterward tried to speak to me but was unable & finding him fainting, led him to the bed & supported him on his knees & he then said “Lay me down there “- I laid him down & he died in half a minute. William Pearse
2nd witness Thomas Smith Government man to Master Cox stationed at Burragorang That on Tuesday evening on my return to my hut the deceased came in & complained of being short of breath & said he could hardly get up the sand bank of the river, he went some time by the fire talking of soldiering & seemed cheerful – about 10 o’clock he went to sleep – early in the morning I was awoke by Pearse to get up – & then I heard deceased coughing very hard outside the door & say the Lord receive my soul, & then said Bill get up (to Pearce) & write his will for he was going to die – I got up & saw deceased coming into the hut stopping – I led him a short distance when he threw up some white phlegm & said for the Lords Sake pray for me men & said Bill take care of my boy – deceased was then led to the bed & desired to be laid down – he was laid down & never moved afterwards. Thomas Smith
3rd witness Thomas Gainon government man to Davson Douglas stationed at Burragorang. After sun down on the 10th June/Tuesday I returned with my sheep for the hearth & sat down by the fire with the deceased who was telling some stories about soldiering – the deceased bid me good night & went to bed about 10 o’clock -as I lay on the floor I could not go to bed till the room was clear, & then I did go, & went to sleep – about 3 or 4 o’clock on Wednesday morning I was awoke by deceased coming into my room – he went out & smoked a pipe, & then he had a violent lot of coughing outside the hut, he then came in & went to bed, afterwards in a minute or five he got up again & went out saying his breath was very short, that he was going to die & called Pearse to write his will, he came to the door & seemed fainting, Smith & another man led him to a bed, he was laid down, deceased said Lord have mercy on my soul & desired Pearse to take care of his little boy & died immediately. Thomas Gainon
Children Placed In Orphan School
On April 16, 1829, Ann asked for the children, Robert Martin (aged 5) and Sarah (aged 7) to be placed in the Orphan Schools. at Cabramatta.
The Male Orphan School was authorised to admit destitute boys aged between seven and ten. The boys received a basic education (reading , writing ‘arithmetic) and industrial training . On Sunday they were to attend service at an Anglican Church. The boys became the legal responsibility of the School and remained in the care of the Master until they turned 15 when they were apprenticed out to tradesmen, or as farm labourers for 5, 6 or 7 years. The School was intended to house only 50 boys, (4) ( but at its most populous in 1834 there were 160 boys in residence.
Name: Robert Martin Higgins Age: 5 When admitted: 28 Dec 1829 Time of quitting the school: 25 Jan 1837 Parents’ names: Robert & Ann Higgins Occupation: Residence: Remarks: Mr John Griffiths Sydney
The records indicate Robert Martin and Sarah remained in the orphan schools until January 25, 1837.
Death of Ann Owen
Ann died on July 23, 1832, and is buried beside her daughter Elizabeth Scott at Sutton Forest
Sacred to the memory of Ann Higgins who departed this life the 23 July 1832 aged 41 years. ….. ADIEU VAIN WORLD WE SEE AND LITTLE I CAREST WHAT THEY SAY AND AS I AM SO YOU MUST BE SO BE PREPARED TO FOLLOW ME.
* Elizabeth Owen/Higgins was born in about 1806 and came to Australia with her mother, Ann, on the Wanstead. She married William Scott in 1834 (V18341354 18/1834) and died soon afterwards (aged 28) on November 18, 1834 (V18342245 18/1834). She and her mother are buried together at Sutton Forrest.
With thanks to researcher, Garry Buchanan, I have the follow biographical information about the Scott/Higgins marriages…
Little is known of Scott except he too came to the colony as a convict and as fate dictated was, like William White, among the 197 convicts who arrived on the same ship, the ‘Admiral Gambier’.
Interestingly no reference has been located concerning William Scott in the musters up until these details found in the 1828 census. Scott served his time, and was granted his freedom, thought to be while he was still employed by Elizabeth Macarthur. Along with his freedom he was given a grant of land at Bargo, which by the time of the 1828 muster had grown in size to 5000 acres thereby assuring his position as a businessman in the local community. The livestock on the property consisted of 2 horses, 48 cattle and 1010 sheep.
By 1830 William Scott former convict, tanner and landholder at Bargo became one of the new breed of far-sighted adventurers and squattered on land known locally as Greenlands near Nimmitabel to raise cattle. His run was apparently called “Tom Groggin”, this lay probably to the north of the present Nimmitabel town reserve. Scott appointed his employee William White, ex-convict, as overseer or as was sometimes-called superintendent, to manage the property and supervise the reported few hundred head of cattle on it.
* Ann Eliza Higgins. married her previously mentioned brother-in-law William Scott on February 23, 1835 (V18351325 19/1835).
The Scott Nature Reservewas named in recognition of its highest point, Scott Trig, itself named after the family of William Scott who settled the adjoining land along Mulloon Creek in the 1830s.
* Sarah Higgins. With her younger brother, Robert’s permission, she married the convict William White (who came to Australia on the same ship as her father) in 1840.
According to researcher, John McInerney they moved to the Mulloon Creek area near Bungendore in about 1836.
He was superintendent of Scott’s ‘Tom Groggin’ lease in the Snowy Mountains from 1830 to 1841. He left Scott in 1854 to work for Dr. Throsby at ‘Kybean’ at £100 per year with double rations for a period of 2 years. Sometime after this William moved to the Long Swamp area near Bungendore.
With thanks to researcher, Garry Buchanan, a more extensive biography now exists for Sarah and William….
The registration of this marriage states it occurred at Goulburn and the witnesses to the marriage were Alexander and Mary Myers of Goulburn. The marriage registration details also indicate both William and Sarah were residents of the Maneroo Parish, he was aged about 47 and she had just celebrated her 19th birthday the previous month.
The first ten years of their married life can be traced by the birth, in this isolated area, of six of their seven children four which have been confirmed as occurring at Greenland, one at Gunningrah, and the other recorded simply occurring at Nimmitabel.
It seems that William White ceased working for William Scott on his property at Greenland about 1850 when he changed employer, and possibly commenced worked on the Gunningrah property located south of Nimmitabel towards Bombala, as this was the registered birthplace of his daughter Emma White on 12 June 1852. Two years later William and family moved camp again and accepted a two-year contract to work for Mrs. Throsby on her property at Kybean, about ten miles from Nimmitabel.
The NSW registry of births, deaths and marriages shows it was at Long Swamp that William and Sarah’s seventh child, Sarah Ann White was born on 9 February 1860. William’s occupation is shown as stockman.
Four years later their eldest son William married Elizabeth Brown at the Bungendore Church of England school house on December 29, 1864 and their marriage registration indicated William’s father William White senior, was deceased, but the place and date of his demise has not been determined. Similarly the place and date of Sarah White’s death has still to be discovered.
A more complete history of William and Sarah has been written by Gary, which you can read here. (File Size: 5.8megs, Word Document)
* Robert Martin Higgins was born at Bargo NSW in 1824 (V18246805 1B/1824). On March 26, 1829, his parents asked for he (aged 5) and his sister Sarah (aged 7) to be placed in the Orphan Schools. at Cabramatta, which occured on April 16, 1829. I haven’t established yet, how long they were there for. Although aged only 16 himself, he gave consent to the marriage of his elder sister, Sarah to William Scott in Goulburn in 1840. Robert married Ellen Triggell at Greenland near Cooma NSW on on June 11 1848 in (V1848364 33B/1848). Ellen had come to Australia with her parents on board “The James” arriving as an infant. She spent her early years in the Cooma district, before settling with her husband at Towamba. Not long after their arrival in Towamba, two of their children died in infancy. Robert was a signatory to the application to establish a school at Towamba. Aged 42, Robert died 29 July 1866 (4110/1866) and is buried at the Towamba Cemetery, NSW. Aged about 44, Ellen died 3 February 1874 at Towamba NSW (7025/1874). The NSW BDM record lists her as Helen, as does the Towamba cemetery record. But Thomas is listed as the father, so it’s very likely it was her despite a perhaps misheard version of Ellen. When Ellen died, their property passed on to their son Robert.
Acknowledgements: Thanks to Kerrie Beers for the information about the death of Robert and Ann.
Sharing Around: Please feel free to copy any of the information on this page which may help you in your own research. My feeling is that family research is hard enough, without the need to constantly re-invent the wheel. It would be great, however, if you’d leave a comment below just to say “hi”.