Born: c. 1817; Died: 1899; Married: 1. Maria Mansfield; 2. Margaret Logue
Nineteen-year-old Irishman from West Meath, John Crinigan (sometimes spelled Crinegan or Crinagan), was transported to Australia on the Waterloo in 1836, sentenced for life for ‘assaulting habitation’.
Upon arrival, Crinigan was assigned to Palmer’s Ginninderra estate. According to his convict records, he could not read or write English.
At Ginninderra in 1842 Crinigan applied for permission to marry Maria Mansfield. He was successful and they were married at Palmerville in September of that year. They had ten children together, but only one survived into adulthood (Eliza Jane). Maria died herself in 1863.
After his assignment at Palmerville, Crinigan worked as a bullocky at Duntroon. He was granted a ticket of leave in 1844 and was conditionally pardoned in 1849.
For some reason Crinigan took his mother’s name, rather than Donohoe, the surname of Thomas, his carpenter father. His offence might suggest that he was involved in the activities of the rebels known as ‘white boys’ (so-named because of their white smocks), who defended the cause of Irish rural poor and tenant farmers. Destroying crops or orchards was one way of punishing exploitative landlords. John Casey was another ‘white boy’ convict connected to the district and like Crinigan, also worked as a bullocky.
There is debate about when the Crinigans first settled at Ginninderra Creek in the Tea Gardens area and built their stone hut, but most experts concur that it was probably in the early 1850s. In any case, the couple probably had an even earlier presence at Ginninderra Creek in a temporary slab hut, or similar. The earliest written reference to the stone hut is from January 1858 when the brutal murder of Crinigan’s employee, Samuel Marley, by local teamster, Thomas Wells, was reported. The earliest reference to them living on the creek comes in the list of electors for County Murray of 1855/56.
Two months after Maria’s death Crinigan remarried. In 1863 he wed Margaret Logue (nee McAlroy) of ‘Camberry’ who had been widowed in 1860.
In the same year Crinigan and five of his neighbours (including two Rolfes) were charged with assaulting John Lonegan. Crinigan was fined £1. Six years later in 1869 he was fined £2 at Queanbeyan court for using obscene language.
Through these years, Crinigan seems to have been employed on occasion as a teamster. In 1871 the wheel of his dray ran over and killed an intoxicated John Purcell in Queanbeyan.
Margaret and John Crinigan seem to have moved back to ‘Camberry’ homestead (located where the National Library now stands) around 1867. One of the Crinigans’ only two surviving children, Eliza Jane, who married Duncan McInnes, lived in the stone hut from 1867 until about 1875.
John Crinigan died in April 1899. His obituary described him as being of ‘stirling (sic) character’ and ‘held in the highest esteem by all classes of the community’. Margaret died five years later.
- Barrow, G., Canberra’s Historic Houses: Dwellings and Ruins of the 19th Century, Hackett, 1998
- Folger, M. and H. Cooke, ‘Crinigan’s Stone Cottage’, Canberra, 2008
- Gillespie, L. L., Ginninderra: Forerunner to Canberra, Campbell, 1992
- Newman, C., Gold Creek: Reflections of Canberra’s Rural Heritage, Ngunnawal, 2004
- Robinson, F. W., Canberra’s First Hundred Years and After, Sydney, 1927
- Shumack, S. An Autobiography, or, Tales and Legends of Canberra Pioneers (ed. J. E. and S. Shumack), Canberra, 1967
- Convict records
- Various editions of the Queanbeyan Age, Goulburn Herald, and Goulburn Evening Penny Post