A Remarkable Old Woman

Grahame Thom grthom@bigpond.com
Rachael and William Prentice

Rachael Prentice nee Ikin 1816-1913

The following article appeared on page 7 of the Sun (Sydney) on Sunday 26 May 1912 and was repeated on page 7 of the Clarence and Richmond Examiner on Thursday 20 June 1912. Rachel died on 24 August 1913 at Strathfield, NSW.

I first published this article in Ikin Newsletter No 18 in February 1997 as it gives very good background information about the Ikin family’s early years in the Colony of NSW and spans six generations.

In Business at 96 - A Remarkable Old Women

To attain the great age of 96 years and still be hale and hearty, and able to conduct a business falls to the lot of very few people. The Hawkesbury district is generally supposed to hold the palm for longevity, but it is questionable whether any of its old inhabitants have ever been able to lay claim to the wonderful record of Mrs. Rachael Prentice, of Liverpool-road, South Strathfield, who celebrated her 96th birthday on April 24 last. Mrs. Prentice has a brother and sister in the eighties, and they are all hale and hearty and able to do a day’s work with the best of them, while several of her children are working their way to the three-score-and-ten post.

Mrs Prentice was born at Chelsea, England, on April 24, 1816, and left England with her father and mother by the ship The Mariner, on May 2, 1816, she being only eight days old. They arrived in Sydney in October of the same year. Her grandfather was Obadiah Ikin, a full private, who arrived in Sydney with the second fleet in July 1789, bringing his wife and children with him’ Mrs Prentice’s father was one of these children, and he, at nine years of age, joined the 102nd Regiment, then quartered at Sydney, as bugle boy, under Colonel Johnstone (who played a prominent part in the desposition (sic) of Governor Bligh), and rapidly rose to the rank of quartermaster-sergeant. At the time of Quartermaster-Sergeant Ikin’s - that is Mrs Prentice’s father - marriage he was only 20 and his bride 18. The eldest child - a son -, and Mrs Prentice’s brother - was born in the West Indies, where his father went with his regiment. Two boys and two girls were subsequently born, but these died in England - the girls of that dread scourge smallpox - soon after their parents’ arrival there. It was while in England on this occasion that the subject of this sketch was born, and, as already mentioned, she left eight days later for Australia.

On arrival in the colony Mrs Prentice’s father opened a drapery establishment and an hotel on Church Hill, near Princes Street, and remained there for about two years, afterwards removing to a farm at Bankstown, which they at a later date disposed of to a Mr Trotter. Mr and Mrs Ikin then moved to Liverpool, where they built and kept the Ship Inn, an old-fashioned hostelry quite recently demolished.

Mrs Prentice’s father and mother lived to a ripe old age - Mr Ikin being 73 and his wife 87. Both died at their old home at Clarence Town, which is at the present time occupied by one of their daughters, who, of course, is Mrs Prentice’s sister. She has two other sisters and one brother still living, the latter being 87 years old, one sister 82, and the other 78.

Mrs Prentice was christened at St Phillip’s Church, Church Hill, by the late Venerable Archdeacon Cowper, and was married at St James’s Church, Sydney, on August 22, 1837 - that is, 75 years next August - the ceremony being performed by the Rev Robert Cartwright, who was formerly chaplain at Liverpool, where Mrs Prentice’s husband started business as a butcher in Market-street, Sydney, soon after his marriage, but did not remain long there, as he moved out to what is known as Moorefields, near Canterbury, where he carried on business until 1845, after which he removed to Liverpool-road, Enfield (or, as some people call it, South Strathfield). In those days the Liverpool-road was the main artery leading out of Sydney, and a butcher’s shop did a thriving business with travellers to and from Sydney and Liverpool. His first shop was about 100 yards from the present place of business, and later on he shifted on to the rise of the hill nearer Bankstown, finally settling down in the present shop and dwelling, where Mrs Prentice has lived for the past 58 years. This shop and dwelling were in the early days among the finest buildings on the road from Sydney to Liverpool. They are of weatherboard, and are substantially built, with a split shingle roof, the architecture being of bygone age.

Here Mrs Prentice has lived and reared a family of ten children, and to-day she can claim over 50 grandchildren, 38 great-grandchildren, and one great-great-grandchild. During all these long years, and since the death of her husband, she has carried on a butchering business, and she is just as keen a business woman to-day as ever she was. She can read a newspaper or sew without the aid of glasses - in fact, she is a remarkably alert old lady.

She has a splendid memory, and can relate many happenings of fifty and sixty years ago. She states that her grandfather, Obadiah Ikin, received nearly the whole of Pyrmont as a soldier’s grant, but as it was in those days nothing but rocks and scrub he showed his appreciation of the bargain by exchanging it for five gallons of rum, which he distributed among his comrades. As a girl she was often sent by her mother to do shopping in Sydney, and used to leave Liverpool by the old mail coach at 7 o’clock in the morning. If the roads were good the coach arrived in Sydney about 10 o’clock, but otherwise it was all hours before it reached its destination. She mentions that she did all her mother’s shopping at Mrs Horden’s, in King-street, whose business place had five steps leading up to it from the street. “I remember Mrs Horden well,” said Mrs Prentice; ‘she was a nice old lady, always dressed in lilac prints, with a snow white apron cap on.”

Her father Quartermaster Sergeant Ikin, was chief constable at Liverpool for many years, and she has vivid recollections of his having been shot at several times by bushrangers, on one occasion - at Lansdowne Bridge - have a very close call, as he had his “billy-cock” hat shot off his head. Mrs Prentice explained that in those days the Police wore tall hats and white vests.

She also relates that horses were a rare luxury, and anyone who possessed one or two was regarded as specially favoured. To show how scare this useful animal was, she recalls an incident in which a well-known identity of the town used to drive to church in a gig drawn by a spotted bull, and nobody thought it anything out of the ordinary - in fact, it was quite a common thing between Liverpool and Bankstown to see people making calls in vehicles drawn by shod bullocks.

Mrs Prentice is a fairly good scholar, and rarely misses reading the daily papers. Her schoolmaster was a convict named John Cutler. Mrs Prentice, however, does not think that this was his right name. He was a well-educated man, was married, had a large family in the Old Country, and was transferred for forgery.

When Mrs Prentice went to live at South Strathfield the country thereabouts was a huge wheatfield; in fact, the house where she is at present living was almost in the centre of it. Just behind the home can be seen the remains of an old stockade, which is remembered by a daughter of Mrs Prentice who is living with her at present. The old lady has seen many ups and downs during her long life, but is cheery through it all. Like most pioneers, she had had to work hard, but the later generations have come along and reaped the benefit. A most remarkable thing in connection with her descendants is that they all live near by, only one - a son - living as far away as Rockdale, on the Illawarra line. Many of her great-grandchildren have made names for themselves in the sporting world, the most notable;e being the Prentice brothers - Ward, Wheaton, Clarry, Walter and Archie - of football and cricket fame. The old lady still takes a keen interest in the butcher’s shop, but, of course, the days of a big business have gone, and she is only required to meet the wants of a limited neighbourhood. At the rear of the shop is one of the oldfashioned sheep-folds, where sheep are kept even at the present time.

The records show

Obadiah Ikin married Sarah Butts
Arrived Sydney on the second fleet ship Surprise on 26 June 1790

William Ikin married Mary Longford 18 January 1807, St Phillips, Sydney
First arrived Sydney 26 June 1790
Second arrived Sydney on the Mariner 11 October 1816

Rachael Ikin
Born 24 April 1816, Chelsea, England
Baptised 27 October 1816, St Phillips, Sydney
Died 24 August 1913, Strathfield
Arrived Sydney 11 October 1816
Married William Prentice, 22 August 1837, St James, Sydney
1. William Henry born 6 July 1838, Sydney - eight children
2. Edward born 30 June 1840, Bankstown - eleven children
3. Jane born 21 November 1842, Bankstown - eight children
4. George born 22 June 1845, Ashfield
5. Joshua John born 23 July 1846, Ashfield
6. Emily born 1 February 1850, Enfield
7. Caroline born 29 October 1852, Enfield - three children
8. Frederick born 1855 - twelve children
9. Rowland born 1858 - eight children
10. Alice R born 1860 - four children

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