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A sense of duty : the Clerkes, an Anglo Irish family in colonial Tasmania


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Briscoe, Jeffrey R.(Jeffrey Roy),1953- 1996 , 'A sense of duty : the Clerkes, an Anglo Irish family in colonial Tasmania', Research Master thesis, University of Tasmania.

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The story of an Anglo-Irish family the Clerkes concentrates mainly around Alexander
Clerke (1804-1877) and his wife Frances Gretrude Sweetnam (1805-1881) who freely
immigrated from Southern Ireland to Van Diemen's Land in the late 1820's.
The Clerkes were from a comfortable professional, well connected (middle class rather
than gentry) family from Skibbereen, County Cork. Alexander Clerke trained as a
engineer and an elder brother, Thomas became a Judge and lawyer in New York, USA.
Another brother, Dr Jonathan migrated with the newly wed Alexander and Frances
Clerke in 1828 on the Letitia.
Mrs Frances Clerke arrived alone following the ship wreck of the Letitia after gaining
significant help from British Government. The Clerke brothers returned to Europe to
claim compensation. Mrs Frances Clerke was briefly the matron of the Female Orphan
School in Hobart. Dr Jonathan Clerke became the first assistant Colonial Surgeon at
Westbury but by the late 1830's had moved to Victoria where he prospered and returned
to Ireland.
The Clerkes initially gained land grants of 2000 acres. They built up large land holdings and
their wealth grew by grazing sheep and cattle, cultivation of the land as well as buying and
selling of property, lending out money and leasing out of their many farming properties. In
looking after their own interests significant interactions with convict servants and their fellow,
often Anglo Irish, settlers occurred.
Alexander Clerke in the 1850's became prominent in local and colonial public affairs, in and
out of Parliament. He had long served his class very well, being appointed a Justice of the
Peace in 1837. Clerke was involved with the great political movement of the time - the issue
of the transportation of convicts. Whilst at first a pro transportationist, he changed his mind.
His parliamentary career didn't include a ministry but it was eventful and influential variously
serving in each house beginning in 1854 and up to 1874. A highlight was the Council extension bill. Another highlight was when he was asked, but declined to form a ministry in
1872. Railway issues were very significant throughout his political career.
In contrast to their successful business and public life the Clerkes suffered many family
tragedies. They had ten children, nine (4s 5d) surviving to adulthood. Their eldest son
William (1832-1896) suffered from religious mania. Their second son John Sweetnam
Clerke (1835-1874), a master mariner died tragically. The children, maybe as expected,
married into the colonial aristocracy. A daughter Ellen Elizabeth(1839-1875) became the wife
of R. J. Archer, dying at the age of 36. The third son Thomas Moriarty Clerke (1837-1891)
whilst a youth nearly died in a Longford flood.

Item Type: Thesis - Research Master
Authors/Creators:Briscoe, Jeffrey R.(Jeffrey Roy),1953-
Keywords: Clerke, Alexander, 1804-1877, Clark family
Copyright Holders: The Author
Copyright Information:

Copyright 1996 the Author - The University is continuing to endeavour to trace the copyright
owner(s) and in the meantime this item has been reproduced here in good faith. We
would be pleased to hear from the copyright owner(s).

Additional Information:

Thesis (M.Hum.)--University of Tasmania, 1996. Includes bibliographical references

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