A Remarkable Old Woman

Rachel and William Prentice

Rachel 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 Woman

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 following obituaries were added to this page in October 2021.

Truth 27 August 1913
page 11

A Pioneer’s Death

97 Years a Colonist

Mrs Rachel Prentice, who died on Sunday at the age of 97 years and 4 months, was one of Sydney’s oldest residents. She died in the old- fashioned weatherboard cottage where she had lived for the vlast 68 years

Mrs Prentice was born in Chelsea, London, onApril 26, 1816. She left the old country, with her parents, when eight days old, by the ship Mariner, and arrived in Sydney in October , 1816, the voyage out taking six months. Her grandfather, Obadiah Ikin, and his wife and child, had arrived in Sydney from England so far back as 1779. The child, William, was bugler, when 9 years of age, to the 102nd Regiment. He afterwards rose to the rank of quartermaster, Rachel Prentice was his daughter.

Mrs Prentice’s father (William Ikin) opened a drapery establishment and hotel on Church-hill, near Princes-street. Later on he removed to a farm at Bankstown, and afterwards to Liverpool, where he built and kept the Ship Inn, since demolished. Mrs Prentice, herself, was christened at St Philip’s Church-hill, by the Ven Archdeacon Cowper. She was married at St James’s Church,  Kings street, on August 22, 1837 – 76 years ago.

Mrs Prentice’s husband kept a butcher’s shop in Market-street, Sydney. In 1845 he transferred his business to the little wooden shop with shingled roof situated at the Bark Huts, on Liverpool[road, south of Strathfield. This shop is the sole survivor of the original Bark Huts township. All the other houses have either tumbled down or been demolished. It was in the cottage adjoining this shop that Mrs Prentice died. For over half a century she conducted the butchering business.

Her eyesight was wonderfully good. One of her sons remarked yesterday that, until about six months ago, his mother was in the habit of reading the “Herald” every morning without the aid of spectacles.

Mrs Prentice remembered that her grandfather, Obadiah Ikin, had received as a soldier’s grant a transfer of a large portion of Pyrmont – then all rocks and scrub. He thought so little of real estate that he transferred it for five gallons of rum.

In her early days, Mrs Prentice used to drive from Liverpool to Sydney to do her shopping with Mrs Mrs Hordern in King-street. Horses were scarce in those days, and it was quite common to see a bullock harnessed to a gig.

Mrs Prentice had 10 children, six of whom survive. They are: Mrs Ashton, Mrs Armstrong, Mrs Allen, Miss Emily Prentice, Frederick Prentice, and Rowland Prentice. The deceased left 75 grandchildren, 38 great-grandchildren, and 1 great-great-grandchild (2.5 years old). The Prentice Brothers, so well known in football and cricket, belong to this family. The family is noted for longevity, as Mrs Prentice’s mother lived to the age of 87 years, and her sisters are aged 88, 82, and 79 years.

The remains were buried yesterday in St Thomas’s Church of England Cemetery, Enfield. The officiating minister was the Rev Moseley.

Truth 31 August 1913 page 4

A Pioneer’s Death

A link with the long gone past

Mrs Rachel Prentice, who died on Sunday last, aged 97 years and 4 months, was one of Sydney’s oldest, if not the oldest, residents. She died in the old-fashioned weatherboard cottage in Liverpool Road, Strathfield. where she had lived for 63 years.She was born in Chelsea, London, April 24, 1816. She left England with her parents when eight days old, by the ship Mariner, arriving in Sydney 18 October, 1816 having been six months on the voyage. Her grandfather, Obadiah Ikin, according to “S M Herald’ with his wife and child, arrived in Sydney in 1779, which is simply impossible, as Sydney did not then exist, and it was not until nine years later that Captain Phillip and his First Fleet came into Port Jackson. Obadiah Ikin, or Iken, was a private in the New South Wales Corps and came to Sydney in 1790. His child, William Ikin, was, so it is alleged, bugler to the New South Wales Corps at nine years of age. He afterwards rose to the rank of quartermaster. Rachel Prentice, just dead, was his daughter. How she came to be born in Chelsea we are not told. In 1829 her father, William Ikin, kept the Chelsea Pensioner public-house in Charlotte Square, now Grosvenor-street. Later he removed to a farm at Bankstown, and later still opened a public-house., “The Ship” at Liverpool, She was christened at old St Philip’s by Archdeacon Cowper and she married at St James’, King-street, August 22, 1837 – 76 years ago. At the time of her marriage her husband kept a butcher’s shop in Market-street. In 1845 he transferred his business to a small wooden shop at “Bark Huts”, on Liverpool-road. This shop is the last pf the original township. For over half a century Mrs Prentice conducted a butchering business there, and she died in the little cottage adjoining. Obadiah Ikin did not leave with the New South Wales corps, but settled down upon a soldier’s grant of 60 acres given to him by Governor Hunter at Banks’ Town. That was in October 1799. In early days Mrs Prentice used to drive in Sydney to do her shopping with Mrs Horden in King-street, about where the “Truth” office now is. The deceased lady had 10 children, six of whom survive, she left 75 grandchildren, 38 great-grandchildren, and one great -great-grandchild (2 years old). The family is noted for longevity. Mrs Prentice’s mother lived to the age of 87, and her sisters are aged 88, 83, and 79. The remains were interred in the Church of England Cemetery, Enfield. Mr Moseley officiating at the grave side.

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

Rachel 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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