Some Notes on George Seymour Robley and Sarah Williams AKA Robley

George Seymour William Robley was born in August 1795 at Parramatta, New South Wales to John Robley and Jemima Robley nee Wilson AKA Wasker. George's parents were both convicts. John Robley was working as a blacksmith at Parramatta. The family was transferred to Norfolk Island shortly after Jemima gave evidence against another person which resulted in him being hung. The judge at the time believed that Jemima was the instigator of the crimes, but was protected as when the authorities were making enquiries into some crimes Jemima approached them and gave information so long as she was protected from prosecution.

At Norfolk Island, John Robley was appointed in charge of the other blacksmiths and no further trouble over the Robley family came under notice. George's sister, Elizabeth, was born at Parramatta in 1795 and at 14 years of age married a convict named Michael Massie Robinson who was many years her senior. When Robinson was released to return to Sydney Elizabeth accompanied her husband.

In 1807 John, Jemima and George Robley were resettled in Hobart Town. George apparently obtained casual work on whaling and fishing boats, as well as learning the trade of blacksmithing from his father.

On the 10th of October 1814 George married Ann Adams the adopted daughter of William Mitchell. William Adams, the father of Ann, had been convicted on a charge of incest committed upon Ann on Norfolk Island and had been sent to Phillip Island just south of Norfolk Island. William Adams did not come under further notice and speculation was that he either drowned or was picked up by a fishing boat.

On the 20th of May 1824 a son, William Michael Robley, who had been born to Ann and George Robley was christened at Hobart Town. Nothing further was recorded in relation to William. It was at this time the marriage of Ann and George was in trouble, and between then and 1830 George allegedly borrowed a substantial sum of money on a house in Macquarie Street, Hobart Town which had been willed to Ann by her foster father, William Mitchell. When a law suit came into being against Ann in 1836 with the intent that the person who allegedly loaned money could recover his money, George was presumed dead.

Records reveal that George had left Hobart Town and had taken up residence in the Cygnet area with Sarah Williams AKA O'Neil, O'Neill, O'Neal. Sarah O'Neill was born in the Antrim County, Ireland in 1797. She was baptised on the 4th of February 1798 as the daughter of Henry O'Neill at Carnmoney,Antrim. There was no record as to her mother.

In May 1816 Sarah O'Neill was convicted in the Antrim Count Court on a charge of pick pocketing under the name of Sarah O'Neil and was sentenced to 7 years transportation. On the 21st of April 1817 she was transported from Cork to Sydney Town on the Canada with some 88 female convicts . The ship was mastered by James Allen. The ship arrived in Sydney Town on the 6th of August 1817 and Sarah was immediately transported to Hobart Town on the Elizabeth Henrietta arriving in the 27th of August 1817.

In January 1818 two male persons named Skinney and Brown together with Sarah were found stowed away on the ship Pilot. They were described as being in a deplorable state. (Hobart Town Gazette 24/1/1818.) In February 1818 Sarah O'Neil together with Benjamin Williams,AKA Francis Varden, Vardon were found stowed away onboard the brig Spring. They were both sentenced to 4 months imprisonment. ( Hobart Town Gazette 7/2/1818.)

On the 6th of July 1820 Sarah O'Neil married Benjamin Williams AKA Varden etc. A female child named as Elizabeth, was born to them on the 26th of December 1820. Elizabeth Williams went on to marry Matthew Rennie at Hobart on the 22nd of October 1846. Records do not disclose who looked after the child from her birth to her marriage.

In 1823 Sarah Williams received a "Free Certificate". On the 30th of August 1823 Elizabeth Williams was fined 5 shillings for being drunk and disorderly and she came under notice again when on the 8th of September 1828 she was fined for harbouring a convict named Mary Wright.

Sarah's husband Benjamin Williams was convicted in Middlesex, England under the name Benjamin Varden in 1813 and was sentenced to life transportation. He died in a New Norfolk mental hospital on the 13th of May 1833.

In the meantime Sarah Williams together with her various aliases had arrived in the Cygnet area and had taken up residence with George Robley.

George Robley and Sarah Williams, now known as Sarah Robley had three daughter:-

1. Elizabeth in 1829. She went on to marry a former convict named James Sayer. Sayer had been convicted on charges of theft of tools in England.

2. Sophia in 1834. She married John Blades on the 30th of April 1855. Blades had been convicted of highway robbery in England.

3. Ellen in 1835. She married George Pregnall on 6th of March 1856.

James Sayer, at the time of his arrest, gave his occupation as a sawyer and shipwright. It is recorded that he helped his father in law with the construction of the ship Vansitaart and other vessels in own right. Before he and his family migrated to Victoria Sayer at times held the licence to two hotels in the Cygnet district.

George Robley lived and worked in the Cygnet district at times as a cutter of huon pine, blacksmithing, assisting in shipbuilding which included using a saw pit near his residence to cut timber used in ship building.

An article in a book "Built to Last" records that Wilsons had built boats in the area now known as Robley's Point at Cygnet and in 1933 there was still evidence of the saw pit and a garden near where George Robley had lived. They also recorded the story as told by George Robley and that was that in the area where he lived was often frequented by natives. He said as an example in the way the male natives treated their wives was that he, George Robley, would give the natives food probably to keep them in good humour, The men, when they had eaten their share would throw what was left over their shoulders to the women and their dogs where they would be patiently waiting for the scraps. This story was also published in the Hobart Mercury in November 1933.

Sarah Williams AKA Robley died at Port Cygnet on the 14th of November 1870. George Robley died at Port Cygnet on the 23rd of January 1973. Both are buried in the Cygnet district.

Descendants of Sophia and John Blades and of Ellen and George Pregnall still reside in Tasmania.

Trevor Hoodless June 2011