Eureka! Archival wonders

That moment in the State Records Office when you read something that proves something.

I was in State Records a little while ago, way out north at Gepps Cross*, a flask of tea and a sandwich sort of journey from where I live. And goodness, but it is a fabulous place. There are people working there that get as excited as I do about finding specks of useful knowledge in old bits of paper. And researchers that overhear your conversations and then turn up with books that they think you might be interested in.

I was there to keep working my way through the court papers for an 1892 case in the Supreme Court of South Australia. This case went on for a decade, and was pivotal for the Irish of Baker’s Flat around their rights, or not, to occupy that land. The papers so far have been useful in determining the names of some of the Irish who lived there, how much land they worked, and what sort of house they had.

Forster et al. v Fisher court records, dating from 1892

Court records for Forster et al. v Fisher, dating from 1892

But the eureka moment was when I was working my way through the 34th packet, then the 36th, 38th and 40th – deep in the case papers. And there they were. Affidavits from an unfortunate Kapunda solicitor who had to try to negotiate with six Baker’s Flat residents to purchase their land from the legal owners ‘on reasonable terms’.  He wasn’t received well. Ann Bolton told him that if he returned, she would throw scalding water over him. John Quigley just refused to listen to him at all. Austin Quin said that if anyone came to turn him out, they would be put into the big water hole in the River Light.

But the really interesting bit was that these individuals were acting together. From the court papers, it can be seen that they have received legal advice, and are acting in solidarity to give the same message to the powers that be – clear off, we were here first, and we’re not leaving. Using the system to fight the dominant power.


* State Records is moving its public access service into the city in August, and will be open for business in the State Library on North Terrace from 4 August.

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6 Responses to Eureka! Archival wonders

  1. Kerry says:

    Pretty tough those Irish – looking forward to the next installment.

  2. Cate says:

    A “eureka” moment indeed for myself as well! I have been trying to find information on an Irish ancestor residing in Baker’s Flat – Austin Quin – and here you have a quote from him! I would be very grateful if you could send me the State Archive reference details and explain a little more about what this dispute was about or where I can read more about it.
    Thank you

    • sarthure says:

      Hi Cate. Very interesting to hear that your ancestor was Austin Quin. I have a photo of the paper where his quote is recorded – I’ll email it to you. Susan

  3. Christine Cavanagh says:

    Hi Susan. I am researching the Quigley families of Bakers Flat, and was interested to see the John Quigley name above, and wonder if you have any more information on him. He is probably related to my Thomas Quigley, who was born 1817 or 1823 at Kilfenora Clare IRE, enlisted in the East India Company 1845, arrived Victoria 1865 on the “Louis Gervaux” from Calcutta with wife (Susan – 1/2 Indian), and 3 daughters. He was in Bakers Flat by 1866, when he enrolled in the Volunteer Force, Kapunda Mine company (as did Samuel Quigley & John Quigley). Samuel Quigley was a brother – arrived 1854 “Sir Thomas Gresham”, and Bridget Canny (married to Michael) was a sister – arrived 1858 “Bee”. There is a great poem/article (Kapunda Herald 19/12/1924) which names many attending the wedding of Edward Canny – which says “Quigley’s in hundreds there you could find”. I wonder if it was held on the dance floor, as mentioned in one of your posts!

    • sarthure says:

      Hi Christine. Lovely to hear from you. I’ll have a look in my files, and see if there is any other material I can send you. I’ll email you. cheers Susan

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