Mounted Police Letter Book
|William Lane and Sarah Boyd
By Grahame Thom with contributions by Gaye Gibbs and Bob Wilson
William Lane was baptised on 27 May 1796, at Goodrich, Herefordshire, the son of William Lane, a bargeman, and his wife Ann Jones. He was the second child of seven known children.
At the age of 15 years, William, a labourer, joined the 39th Dorset Regiment of Foot on the 23 December 1812. He enlisted as a drummer and being under age he would not have joined the Regiment as a full time soldier until his 18th birthday in early 1814. The Regiment was stationed in France with the occupying forces from late 1815 to the end of 1818. This included postings at Tanquiers, a camp near St. Omer, at Valenciennes and Berles. In December 1818 the regiment was sent to Ireland, William sailing there by the Albany transport. He stayed there until 1825, completing 7 years in Ireland. On this tour of duty William was stationed at Cork, Castlebar, Sligo, Tralee, Limerick, Butterant, Dublin, Ballina and Munster.
Whilst in Ireland, probably when stationed at Dublin, William met Sarah Boyd who was born in 1800, the daughter of Thomas Boyd. There is a reference to Thomas Boyd being a Colonel and living at Kingston, Dublin. It has not been possible to find an officer of a suitable age, although there were several officers named Thomas Boyd in the British Army in the early 1800s.
In February 1820 William and Sarah were married in Dublin. Their first son William was said to have been born in Wales in about 1820, but this is doubtful, see story of his marriage to Mary Ann Snowden by clicking on the link below. Another son, James, was born to the couple in 1822/23 in Dublin, and daughter Elizabeth was born about 1825/26.
On 10 July 1825, William's regiment received orders to move to Chatham prior to embarking for NSW. William, by then a corporal in the 39th Regiment, his wife Sarah and three children sailed on the England (425 tons, built in Chepstow, UK, in 1814). On the voyage to Sydney the detachment performed the duty of guarding the convicts on board. They arrived in Sydney on 18 September 1826.
The Sydney Gazette of 20 September 1826 revealed that 'On Monday last arrived, from London direct, having sailed on the 6 May, the ship 'England', Captain Reay, with 148 male prisoners, in good health. The Surgeon Superintendent is Dr. Thomson, R.N. The guard comprises a detachment of the 39th, under orders of Major D'Arcy.'
On the voyage out a group of 18 convicts, lead by a smuggler, Hughes, armed himself with a knife and tried to take the ship during a squall. Hughes had been planning an escape by bribing soldiers before the ship sailed and, when this did not eventuate, planned on the taking of the ship. The attempt was put down. William Lane gave evidence at the men's trial in Sydney in 1826:-
“William Lane Corporal in his Majesty's 39th Regiment of Foot being solemnly sworn and examined Deponeth that while the Prisoner James Hughes Brown and others were in Irons, they underwent no ill-treatment other than what was necessary to keep them separate from the other prisoners and this deponent considers that generally the Prisoners had too much liberty and if they had been treated with more severity and strictness he is of the opinion there would not have been so much complaining - that on one occasion this deponent was present when the 18 men confined in the Boys Prison refused to obey the orders of the Surgeon Superintendent to clean out their berths, though afterwards they did so.
Signed W. Lane.”
Their son John, was born in 1830 in Sydney.
In 1831 the 39th Regiment was transferred to India. However, William remained in Sydney in a supernumerary position and was transferred to the Mounted Police stationed on 17 May 1832. Although he retained the rank of corporal in the army he was later promoted to the rank of sergeant in the Mounted Police.
Their sons Benjamin and Thomas were born in Windsor in 1832 and 1835. From the details known of his career, William appears as a man of action who enjoyed a drink.
There are three original volumes concerning the Mounted Police at the National Library of Australia, William Lane appears in these letter books on numerous occasions. The books include appointments, promotions, postings, disciplinary action, including Lane's court martial and other day-to-day events. For example:
. 19 November 1832 Corporal Lane, Mounted Police, Campbelltown. Your monthly return showing the duties performed during the month of October is dated 1 September instead of 1 November. Such inattention on your part is quite inexcusable and I have to desire you will be more careful in future.
. 11 August 1834 - Corporal Lane of Windsor and four other instructed to pursue five prisoners.
. 1 June 1835 - Corporal Lane, grog stopped for whole of the month for drunkenness on duty.
. 3 September 1838 - Corporal Lane is appointed Lance Sergeant until further orders and will be obeyed as such accordingly.
There are a number of reports in the newspaper Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser that supports comments about William’s career as a mounted trooper and policeman. These reports clearly indicate that William had a very good knowledge of Sydney and the surrounding areas. Click on the link below to see a full transcription of these reports, as summarised below.
. In January 1832 William captured the bushranger Patrick Burke near “Little Bullie” (Stanwell Park).
. On Christmas Day 1836 William took into custody a stolen horse near Parramatta and later a second horse at Liverpool, both stolen from the Tebbutt property near Windsor.
. In September 1837 near Longbottom (Concord) he investigated a stabbing and subsequently caught the culprit George Grovner (sic).
. In January 1838 William apprehended Benjamin Frazer on the Bong Bong Road. Frazer had stolen goods from the home of Joseph Williamson.
. In March 1838 he captured two convicts who had assaulted a man and his wife at Lane Cove.
. In May 1838 near Parramatta William accidentally discharged his carbine resulting in the death of an elderly man.
. In November 1839 William took into custody Charles Eyles who had been charged with the murder of several natives.
On 13 June 1840, his name was recorded in the defaulters book for being drunk when in charge of the Police Station at Longbottom (now Concord) that night. He was found guilty and sentenced to be reduced to the pay and rank of a private sentinel. The sentence was remitted.
Where was Longbottom? From the facsimile edition of The New South Wales Calendar and General Post Office Directory 1832, it was established that Longbottom was a government stockade on the road to Parramatta, now in the Sydney suburb of Concord.
The history of Concord is recorded in Sheena Cope's book Concord - A Centenary History. This well researched book included a chapter on the stockade which was used to hold 58 French Canadian prisoners from 1840 to 1842. They had been sent from Canada after taking part is an uprising over the way the British administered the colony, especially in relation to land.
A diary was maintained by one of the prisoners, and this has been published and includes a number of references to William Lane and his family. Francois-Maurice Lepailleur gives a most fascinating insight into life in Sydney at the time - Land of a Thousand Sorrows, translated by F.M. Greenwood, Melbourne, 1980. On 13 June 1840 he gives a lengthy recording of the event that led to William Lane's court martial. It all started with a fellow sergeant beating his wife as usual and Lepailleur says
“With this a general brawl broke out, such as you've never seen. Mr Baddely (the Superintendent) had the carters' room opened so they could help him. As a matter of fact when the carters arrived, the police had torn everything to bits. He then put Gorman (the other sergeant) in the lock up. Our fellows brought several of them out of Lane's house. Mr. Baddely then gave the order to open all the huts where we bunk. Everyone came out and there was a terrible scuffle between the Canadiens (sic) and the police. Mr. Baddely and Bourdon went completely out of their minds. I have never seen such a farce and you couldn't ever see anything as vile as these police of New South Wales, drunks and scum. They don't keep the peace - they promote disorder. Several of us were forced to do sentry duty during the night. It rained very hard.”
William also served in the Mounted Police at Emu Plains. Sadly, their only daughter, Elizabeth, died at Penrith on 18 July 1842 aged 16 years. She was buried at St. Stephen's Church of England cemetery at Penrith.
The first election at Windsor for a newly constituted Legislative Council took place on 19 June 1843. The residents were very excited - there were problems with protesters even in those days and elections often bought out violent demonstrations of partisanship. The two candidates were Robert Fitzgerald and William Bowman. Due to the required property qualification only 287 voters were enrolled for the whole electorate. Voting took place on 19 June 1843 with the main polling place being the Court House at Windsor. When Bowman arrived a riot broke out and Sergeant Lane with six mounted troopers had to escort Bowman through the town. Crowds pelted them with sticks and stones causing sparks to fly from the drawn swords. Thus William Lane found himself facing missiles from sources other than bushrangers. “The Good Old Days” by J C L Fitzpatrick (p128) reports:-
Just about 4 o'clock Bowman and his son-in-law (Cadell) came through the town in their carriage and the crowd assailed them with stones and brick-bats. Sergeant Lane and six other mounted troopers, with drawn swords had to escort them through the town, the stones striking the swords and knocking fire from them. Disturbances continued till 2 am next morning and five citizens were committed to stand trial for their part in the riot. Declaration of the poll saw Bowman elected by 129 votes to 126.
On the 25 December 1844, when he was 47 years old, it was reported in the Sydney Morning Herald:-
The colony at large, particularly Muswellbrook and the Barton River, will be glad to hear that Sergeant Lane of the Mounted Police, stationed at Windsor, captured on Sunday morning, at Cattai Creek, near Pitt Town, Daley, the notorious cattle stealer. It is supposed he has been connected with gangs of cattle stealers in all quarters of the colony. He has been absentee from Government during the last ten months and was the leader of the gang of McKenzie notoriety.
In April 1847 William was commended by the Governor on his capture of a murder suspect, the Governor considering “the Sergeant to deserve great credit for his exertions”.
Later that year on 26 November, Sarah, aged 47 years, was buried in McCarthy’s Private Burial Ground, a Roman Catholic Cemetery at Castlereagh, north of Penrith. The headstone still stands. The inscription includes an interesting phrase - 'Wife of Sergeant Lane of the Mounted Police for 27 years and 9 months'. This last fact is assumed to relate to the length of their marriage. William was probably stationed at Emu Plains at this time.
In an article titled A look at McCarthy's Cemetery published in The Gazette (Windsor) on 30 April 1904, by On Tramp (George Johnson) William's son John recalls the past:-
McCarthy’s Cemetery, Castlereagh, NSW - “This is the Roman Catholic burial ground, and my surprise may be guessed when, upon almost the first stone I stop to look at, I find this inscription :-
Sacred to the memory of Sarah Lane, Beloved wife of Sergeant Lane of the Mounted Police who departed this life November 25th, 1847, aged 47 years (see above).
I consider a bit. In St Stephen’s, Penrith, the other day I discovered the resting place of Corporal William Lane’s daughter, Elizabeth, who died, at the age of 16, in July, 1842. Is this Corporal William Lane and Sergeant Lane the same person? Very likely, and no doubt the father of Windsor’s esteemed townsman, John Lane. So that in the interval between the death of his wife in November, ‘47 - say five years - the Corporal has become a Sergeant, and is wifeless. And his wife was a Roman Catholic! I must talk to John about this.
When in Windsor I did see the son of old Sergeant Lane, and he confirmed what I suspected. His sister was buried at Penrith when he was twelve years of age, and Elizabeth was her name; his mother, Sarah Lane, was buried at Castlereagh, in McCarthy’s burial ground, and was a Roman Catholic. Sergeant William Lane was a rigid churchman, a stern, inflexible, masterful man - one that brooked no opposition, and thus it can be understood that his son John had rather a rough time of it when he embraced Methodism, as he did when quite a young man.
During my tramp I heard much of Sergeant Lane from one and another; and while he had charge of the district extending from Windsor to Penrith he was the terror of evil-doers - of breakers of the law, anyhow. The stern old trooper was buried, probably, in St Matthew’s burial ground, Windsor.”
In January 1849 William petitioned the Governor for permission to buy 15 to 20 acres of land at Emu Plains on the Nepean River (where he was stationed) at the upset (reserve) price which was required to be sold by auction. He wanted to build a small house on it for his retirement, and wished to live in this area because it was a place endeared to him by many Pleasing as well as Mournful associations. (His only daughter and his wife were buried nearby). His Commandant speaks of him as one of the most active and meritorious non commissioned officers in the corps. However, the petition was refused.
The Mounted Police in its military form was disbanded in 1850 when the Legislative Council declined to vote funds for its upkeep. William's discharge papers were signed in England on 21 December 1849 after serving 33 years and 354 days in the army (3 years in France and 23 years 3 months in N.S.W., the rest on home duties including in Ireland). He was officially retired on 30 November 1850 while he continued to be listed in the pay musters as being on furlough. He is listed in the Chelsea Pensioner returns as receiving 2 shillings and 1 penny from 1 December 1950. His discharge papers describe him as aged 52 years with brown hair, hazel eyes and fresh complexion, a labourer.
The discovery of gold in the colony forced a review of the question of disbanding the Mounted Police and it was revived as a civil force though carrying through with much the same equipment, organisation and even, at first, personnel. Sergeant Lane appears again as a N.C.O. in charge of a gold escort party on the Western Road (i.e. between Bathurst and Sydney). He was appointed on 17 July 1851, but retired at the end of the year. He received a medal stating:- Colony of New South Wales. Granted for faithful and distinguished service. Sergeant William Lane M.P. 1851.
He made a lasting impression in the District. John Tebbutt remembered him in a letter he wrote to the Hawkesbury Herald in 1901:
The neighbourhood of Parramatta was a place greatly dreaded by travellers in these early days. I well remember seeing Sergeant Lane the father of our much respected townsman Mr John Lane, mounted on his horse and armed with a carbine, brace of horse pistols and a broadsword.
William lived to 65 years of age, and died at the residence of his son (John?) in George St, Windsor, on 3 February 1863, after a short but painful illness (colic, one day). He was buried at St Matthew's Church of England Windsor, where his headstone still stands. William and Sarah raised a family of eight children, five of whom were living at the time of his death.
Some of the above information appears in the book Nepean District Cemetery Records by LJ McD Jones, pages vi and vii. And on page 213, entry 4110 appears the transcription of Sarah’s headstone, a photograph of which appears as Plate XI.
Of his children:-
1) William - born about 1820, married Mary Snowdon (widow of John Smith, aged 30 with two daughters Mary Ann and Susannah, both alive in 1873) on 13 July 1842 at Prospect, NSW. They had nine children, seven daughters and two sons:
Elizabeth Sarah, b 1842, m. Isaac Aarons 1864, d 1924, Ryde, NSW
Louisa, b 11 April 1845, Pitt Town, NSW, m Jacob Alexander 1873, d 1919, Marrickville, NSW
Ellen, b 11 April 1845, Pitt Town, m William Davis, 1866, Orange, NSW, d, 1903, Newcastle, NSW
Frances b 29 May 1847, Pitt Town, m Walter Harris 1868, Sydney, d 1915, Woollahra, NSW
William James, b 2 July 1849, Pitt Town,
Amelia, b 5 June 1851 d. 8 June 1854, Windsor
Henrietta, b 19 June 1856, Windsor, m William A Pepper, 1874, Sydney, d 1913, Sydney
Alice Snowden, b 7 January 1859, Windsor, d. 7 May 1868, Windsor
Sydney Horatio, b 11 January 1862, Windsor, d 21 December 1870, Windsor
William was a coach builder in Windsor. Mary died suddenly of a heart attack on 11 December 1873, in Albion Street shortly after 9 o'clock Sunday evening. The body was removed to her husband's residence. Mary was aged only 52 but had been under medical treatment for heart disease. She had been living at 11 Junction St, Surry Hills, and was buried at St Matthew’s Windsor. William lived to 83 and died at Windsor on 22 December 1902 and was buried at St Matthew’s Windsor.
2) James - born 1822/23 in Dublin, married Mary Silk on 1 October 1849 at South Creek, near Windsor. She was 33 years old, born on 29 March 1816 in Richmond, NSW, the daughter of Thomas Silk (farmer) and Sarah Rodgers. Mary was the widow of Henry Hudson whom she had married in 1837. Mary and Henry had six children:-
two died young
Elizabeth b 27 January 1838, Windsor
Sarah Ann b 3 May 1839, Windsor, died 16 August 1841, Windsor
Henry Robert b 17 January 1841, died 9 August 1841, Windsor
Lucy Ann b 30 May 1842, Windsor
Mary Ann b 8 March 1844, Windsor
Robert b 2 September 1846, Windsor
Henry died on 31 July 1848. Mary brought her four children with her, along with her husband's business interests. Henry Hudson's coach ran from the Jim Crow on the south side of Macquarie Street, Windsor (near Baker St.) in the 1840's. After James married Mary, he renamed the inn The Farmer's Arms and carried on the business until the late 1860's. The two storey building was right on the street line and when it was demolished in 1964 the words Parramatta and Sydney Coach Office could still be discerned though painted over many times in the intervening years.
James and Mary had five children:
Thomas b 11 August 1851, Windsor
James b 4 June 1853, Windsor, died 21 September 1853, Windsor
Sarah b 1 February 1856, d 28 April 1931, Marrickville
Anne Ellen b 12 June 1858, Pitt Town
a son died by 1868.
James died on 4 July 1868 aged 44 years from consumption (12 months) and was buried in Windsor at St. Matthew’s. Mary died a year later on 12 April from effusion on the brain (8 days) aged 53 years and was buried at St. Matthew’s, Windsor in the Dunstan family plot.
3) Elizabeth - born about 1825/26, probably in England, died on 18 July 1842 aged 16 years, and was buried in St Stephen’s Church, Penrith.
4) John - born 12 July 1830 Sydney, baptised at St. Phillip's Church of England, Sydney on 1 August 1830. He married Margaret Anderson in 1851 and had 13 children. He worked as a bootmaker and was a very active member of the Methodist Church, Windsor. He died in 1913 aged 83 years. Click on link below to see the story of this family.
5) Benjamin - born about 1832, Windsor, never married. He died on 8 August 1866 aged 34 years at his brother's residence (John) in George Street Windsor, after a long and painful illness which he bore with Christian fortitude - his end was peace - deeply regretted by all who knew him. He was buried on 9 August 1866 in Windsor.
6) Thomas - born 5 July 1835, Windsor, baptised 7 September 1835 at St Mary's Roman Catholic Cathedral, Sydney. Thomas married Ellen McGrath in Sydney in 1871. They had four children;
Ellen, b 1872, Redfern
Elizabeth Sarah, b 1874, Windsor
Benjamin b 1877, Redfern
Thomas James, b 1879, Redfern
Thomas died on 14 November 1890 aged 55 years. At this time the family were living in Woodburn Street, Redfern, with Thomas working as a bootmaker. He died of paralysis of the pulmonary system and phthisis from which he had suffered for two years. The informant was his brother John Lane of George Street, Windsor. He was buried in the Church of England Section at Rookwood, Sydney, on 16 November 1890.
Plus one male and one female deceased by 1863.
Goodrich Parish Registers,
British Army Records,
St Matthews, Windsor, parish register and cemetery
NSW BDM Indexes and Certificates
Email address for Gaye Gibbs - firstname.lastname@example.org
Return to my home page
Return to the summary of the Lane generations
See article about researching army and other records
Reports about William Lane in the Mounted Police
The story of John and Margaret and their children
The story of Mary Ann Snowden and her marriage to William Lane (son)