Daniel McKay was born circa 1768 in Leicestershire, England and died 13 January 1819 Sydney, New South Wales, Australia of unspecified causes.

Daniel Mackay - convict on the Royal Admiral in 1792

Some details of Daniel's life

7 October 1792 Daniel arrived in the Colony of New South Wales as a convict aboard the Royal Admiral. Daniel become quite a well known inhabitant of Sydney Town and the Sydney Gazette (which began publication in 1803) contains numerous references.

1797 Daniel had finished serving his sentence. He had been convicted at Leicester to transportation for 7 years on 18 March 1790. He was recorded as being on the Hulk Censor on 14 May 1792 from where he was taken and placed on the Royal Admiral for transportation. The Royal Admiral sailed from Torbay on 30 May 1792, beginning his 4 month voyage.

Well before 31 July 1805 Daniel had become gaoler of Sydney, but he made his money retailing spirits for the officers of the NSW Corps. He had a lease on land next to Simeon Lord at Hospital Wharf, and on this land he had a public-house. Well before 31 July 1805 Daniel was also well established in a defacto relationship with Judith Quinland who was running the public-house on his behalf.

31 July 1805 Daniel McKay was charged with rape. He was aquitted of the charges. It was an interesting case and more details are given below.

1805 Daniel advertised in relation to the estate of George Wells of Hawkesbury, and estate for which he was the executor. This is the earliest reference to his association with the Hawkesbury district.

1805-1806 Muster records Daniel as "free by servitude", occupation gaoler, with 30 acres of farmland leased at Sydney. Judith Quinland was also recorded as "lives with Daniel McKay as concubine" with 2 female natural children (the younger of whom was likely to have been a daughter to Daniel McCabe). Also recorded was that he had 5 convict labourers and 2 free men emplyed. There was also a note "Purchase of Wells, Richmond Hill." He is also known to have leased land Hospital Wharf, Sydney, and to have owned farmland at Richmond Hill.

From the 1805-1806 muster the 5 convicts appear to be:

  • William Williams, prisoner indented to Daniel Mckay
  • John Fisher, prisoner from the Royal Admiral
  • William Thoburn, prisioner, ticket of leave
  • William Wright (no other details)
  • Owen O'Burn alias Osburn (no other details)

From the 1805-1806 muster the 2 free men employed appear to be:

  • William Casell, emancipated convict, rents 6 acres McKay's Hawkesbury, with 1 convict
  • Charles King, free by servitude

1 January 1806 Daniel's name appears on a list of grants and leases of town allotments.

July 1806 Daniel received an issue of beer from the Government. This would have been for his public-house.

6 August 1806 Governor Bligh arrives in the Colony and immediately begins to interfer with the monopoly and coruption of the NSW Corps from the rum trade.

July 1807 Daniel was offering a reward for the return of a cedar log with a conspicuous knot lost from the Hospital Wharf. Loss of timber must have been a problem as he published a warning to persons taking wood from his premises. It would appear that the cedar had come from the Hawkesbury, as he advertises the sale of a steel mill and boat from 'the farm of Daniel Mackay at Richmond Hill' in October. In February 1809 he advertises the sale of cedar planks at his house near the Hospital Wharf. Later that month he is granted a wine and spirit licence, which is ironic since he had already been trading in spirits for some time under the name of his defacto Judith Quinland.

August/September 1807 Daniel is thrown into his own gaol by Governor Bligh.

23 October 1807 his daughter Louisa was born in Sydney to his defacto Judith Quinland.

End of January 1808 Daniel is released from goal when Governor Bligh is arrested and reinstated to his role as gaoler.

1809 there were two mighty floods in the Hawkesbury River. The first, in May, peaked at 48 feet at Windsor, the second, in August reached 47 feet, the third highest on record. Two massive floods in one year was beyond the anticipation and experience of the settlers and many who had survived earlier ordeals were now in dire straits. In August 1809 Daniel advertises for the return of a lost boat 19'6" in length, swept away in a flood from the ‘Farm of Daniel McKay at Richmond Hill'.

1809 his infant son Daniel died in Sydney.

September 1809 the Sydney Gazette recorded that Daniel Kelly had absconded from McKay's farm. It was around this time that Daniel ran foul of Samuel Terry. Terry had at least one Hawkesbury farm by 1809 as well as a hotel in Sydney. At this home away from home for Hawkesbury settlers, the guests ran up grog bills they could not pay. Their fuddled signatures on Terry's blank warrants of attorney allowed Terry to seize their farms. Daniel had prospered and bought an inn, which he transferred to Samuel Terry in 1810. Daniel swore that Terry had done him wrong and clung to the dregs of his respectability by subscribing to the Waterloo fund.

30 January 1810 Daniel supported the petition to the colonial secretary for amelioration of sentence of his common-law wife, Judith Quinlan, from the Experiment. It is known that she did receive a conditional pardon, though her petition may not have been a factor in this decision.

25 November 1810 his son John Harris was born in Sydney to his defacto Judith Quinland.

December 1810 he was a signatory to address from the settlers of the Hawkesbury to Governor Macquarie.

25 February 1811 there was a Circular re Committee of Survey on Mackay's premises at Hospital Wharf.

20 Apr 1811 he was paid from the Police Fund for purchase of his house. Throughout 1811 Daniel was pursued by creditors, with numerous references to auctions of his goods & chattles in the Sydney Gazette. 1813 he was gaoled for debt.

6 Apr 1813 there was a memorial to Simeon Lord re lease to property assigned to Daniel.

31 May 1813 there was an Authority to Edward Eagar to receive a new lease for premises in Sydney on Mackay's behalf

1814 Muster does not record many details - Daniel McKay status free, landholder and Judith Quinlan, status free with 4 children. The four children were either the 2 daughters from the 1805-1806 muster and Louisa and John, or 1 of the daughters from the 1805-1806 muster (the other may have been deceased) and Louisa, John & Hugh. This cannot be ascertained as it was common not to record infants in the musters, and Hugh was an infant. It is also not known if the census details were taken before or after Hugh's birth in April.

28 Apr 1814 his son Hugh Lord, named after Simeon Lord, was born in Richmond to his defacto Judith Quinland. 21 November 1816 there was a Government man to be assigned to him.

1 January 1819 his defacto Judith Quinland has their 8 year old son John admitted to the Orphan School at Parramatta. The Orphan School took in children of convicts, not just orphans, and in this instituation boys received an education and vocational training.

13 January 1819 Daniel, recorded age 50, died in Sydney. He is buried the next day in the Old Sydney Burial Ground.

Daniel’s Children

Birth records do not exist in the New South Wales for many children born in the early years of the colony. Knowledge of the existance of these children comes from other sources like government documents including censuses, other documents including newspapers, the existance of descendants, family bibles, church records that have not been recorded into the NSW indexes, or family lore.

Birth records exist for only 3 of John's children - Louisa, John & Hugh. In addition a death record exists for his son Daniel McKay who died as an infant in 1809. The mother of these 4 children was Judith Quinland.

A son born from a relationship with Eleanor McCabe?

There are some who believe that, prior to his relationship with Judith Quinland, Daniel had a relationship with Eleanor McCabe who had arrived as a convict aboard the Friendship in 1788 as part of the 1st Fleet. They also believe that this liason resulted in a son Daniel born in 1793.

This can be disproved.

  • (1) The mother of Daniel was not Eleanor McCabe. Eleanor McCabe married another first-fleeter Christopher Williams alias Magee in the year that she arrived in New South Wales on on 31 August 1788. They had a son, James, who lived just 2 months and was buried on 31 January 1790. A year later their daughter Mary was born. Shortly after this they moved to Rose Hill where Williams had a grant of land. Then 6 months pregnant Eleanor and her toddler daughter Mary drowned in a boating accident on 18 January 1793 on a trip that the family was making returning from Sydney to Parramatta. After the bodies were able to be recovered, Williams buried them a few feet from the front door of his house. In his grief he was observed sitting at his door sharing a bottle of rum with his wife by drinking a glass of rum alternatively with pouring a glass of rum on his wife’s grave while declaring “how well she liked it during her life”. Eleanor McCabe is known to have lived with her husband Christopher Williams until the day that she died. She never had a relationship with Daniel McKay, and never had a child with him.
  • (2) When little Denis McCabe was baptised, the son of a couple by the name of Daniel & Eleanor McCabe, in St John’s at Parramatta in 1793 it was noted that he had been born ‘in the month of May 1791 at sea’. This then created 2 references in the records of New South Wales Birth Deaths & Marriages:



The first reference is for the birth at sea in May 1791, while the second reference is for the baptism of this child in 1793. Little Denis was NOT born in 1793.

Who then are Denis’s parents? As Denis was born at sea in 1791 his father cannot be the convict Daniel McKay who sailed from England on 31 May 1792, and arrived in Sydney on 7 October 1792. Little Denis’s parents were sailing to Sydney in 1791. The only conclusion that can be reached is that this is a different Daniel McKay to the convict who later became the gaoler of Sydney. This Daniel McCabe, who was accompanied on his voyage out by his pregnant wife, was probably a soldier.

2 daughters born from a relationship with a Mary?

The 1805-1806 Muster of New South Wales records Judith Quinland living with Daniel McKay as his “concubine” and 2 female natural children. These 2 girls were born before Louisa in 1807.

Family lore for the McKay family is that these 2 girls are daughters of Daniel McKay from an earlier relationship with a woman by the name of Mary, that the girl's names were Mary and Elizabeth, and that they were born about 1798 & 1799 respectively. This piece of family lore, unfortunately, does not agree with the evidence. The 1805-1806 Muster is recording that Judith had 2 natural born daughters, not Daniel.

In the 1814 Muster one or both of these daughters are again recorded as children of Judith. (It is difficult to know if it was one of both of the daughters as in 1814 Judith had 4 children with her which could have been both of these daughters, Louisa & John; or instead one of these daughters, Louisa, John & Hugh – who was born in 1814. It depends upon whether the muster was taken before or after Hugh was born, and if it was after it depends upon if he was counted as it was common not to include infants in the muster.)

Who was the father(s) of these 2 daughters? Judith arrived in the colony on 12 June 1804, and Louisa was born on 23 October 1807, a period of 3 years and 4 months. This short space of time in which to give birth to 3 children shows that Judith either brought her eldest daughter out on the voyage with her, or that she was born very soon after landing. Either way Daniel McKay cannot be the father of Judith's eldest child. Judith was in a defacto relationship with Daniel McKay well before 31 July 1805 as it was well known at this time, when Daniel McKaye was charged with rape, that Judith was his defacto and was running a public-house on David's behalf. It is then highly possible that David is the father of her second daughter. There is unfortunately, however, no way to prove this.

In conclusion these 2 girls were the daughters of Judith Quinland, and Daniel McKay cannot be the father of the eldest girl. He was, regardless, her step-father and would have more than likely raised her as his own daughter and given her his surname. In the Children's box below Daniel McKay is shown as the father of the younger girl, something that is also highly likely. As there is often something to family lore, her name is shown as Elizabeth.


Offspring of Daniel McKay and Judith Quinland (c1783-1853)
Name Birth Death Joined with
Elizabeth McKay (c1806-)
Louisa McKay (1807-1885) 23 October 1807 Sydney, New South Wales, Australia 13 October 1885 Richmond, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia George McGuire (1812-1850) George McGuire (1812-1850) Richard Skuthorpe (c1791-1880)
Daniel McKay (1809-1809)
John Harris McKay (1810-1830)
Hugh Lord McKay (1814-1855)

Changes of surname by daughters:

  • Louisa McKay married George McGuire in 1833

Accused of Rape

On 31 July 1805 Daniel McKay was charged with rape. The man who accused him was the African-American emancipist Billy Blues who lived at the Rocks with his wife Elizabeth Blue nee Williams who he had been living with for about 12 months earlier, but who he had married just 3 months earlier. Billy worked as a ferryman transporting people and goods hither and thither on the waters of the harbour.

During the trial Billy claimed that from his work in Sydney Cove he had ‘looking towards his house he saw his wife struggling with someone’. He hurried home where his wife told him that ‘McKay had carnal knowledge of her without her consent’. Elizabeth Blue maintained that McKay called at her house and after some conversation pulled her to the floor and raped her. Another witness, Dulcibella Piper, who was visiting at the time, contradicted Elizabeth’s testimony. She said that McKay only ‘took [Elizabeth] by the waist and she fell down and some conversation passed between them’. Yet another witness, George Darling, who claimed to have been with McKay at the time, supported Piper’s evidence. If a rape had occurred, ‘he must have seen it’, he said, emphatic that he had seen no such thing. A neighbour gave evidence that McKay wanted to send Blue to jail and that Blue was looking for revenge. Finally, Chief Constable John Redman reported that Blue told him that, on entering the house, ‘he saw his wife lying on the floor with her petticoat up’—a different story from that offered to the court. It had also been the contention of the defence that Blue had beaten his wife to force her to lie to the court about a rape that had not taken place. Elizabeth, however, was emphatic that ‘she had not been beaten or struck by any person’.

With no witnesses to support the word of Blue and his wife Elizabeth, Daniel McKay was found not guilty. The Sydney Gazette of 18 August 1805 reported that the case against McKay was dismissed and concluded that the attempt to frame the innocent McKay ‘left no doubt that Mr Blue’s centre was several shades darker than his superficies’ (that is to say that his morals were darker than his skin). There were other significant people in Sydney instead who saw McKay’s ‘not guilty’ verdict as a miscarriage of justice and regarded Blue’s challenge of McKay as a sign of Blue’s moral integrity. One of Blue’s supporters was to be Governor Bligh after he arrived in the colony 12 months later on 6 August 1806, but more to that later.

Daniel McKay, the emancipated convict, was the gaoler for Sydney Town. He lived close to Blue, and he made his money retailing spirits for the officers of the NSW Corps He had a lease on land next to Simeon Lord at Hospital Wharf. On this land he had a public house that was kept by his convict defacto, Judith Quinlan, who had arrived with Elizabeth Blue on the Experiment.

On one hand Daniel McKay was in a well placed position to be able to threaten Blue with gaol: he was the town gaoler, possessing a well-deserved reputation as a hard man. It is therefore possible that Blue was looking for revenge. It was, however, absolutely rash and foolhardy for a recently emancipated convict to either force or collude with his convict wife to concoct a rape case knowing that there were 2 eye-witnesses to events who would give testimony that no rape had ever occurred. This was especially so considering the man who they were accusing.

On the other hand all the witnesses had motivation to give testimony, and consistent testimony, that contradicted the evidence of Blue and his wife Elizabeth. They also had motivation to carefully repeat McKay’s insult that Blue was a ‘second wooden Joe’ a sly reference to Blue being a black-skinned cuckold. Chief Constable Redman was a long-time associate of McKay. Dulcibella Piper had come to the colony a free-woman, but her husband, and George Darling who had corroborated her evidence, were both still serving convicts. In addition all the members of the court, being the Judge Advocate Richard Atkins and six magistrates who were all military officers (in this case 6 officers of the NSW Corps), with the possible exception of Atkins, had business dealings with McKay. This was especially so in the case of the military surgeon John Harris, who held many important colonial positions and was one of the magistrates sitting on the bench. McKay just happened to be clerk to Harris in Harris’s role as collector of the gaol fund. It was this 7 men who would decide the verdict of the case.

One of Governor Bligh’s first actions in the Colony after he arrived on 6 August 1806 was to investigate what was occurring on the waterways so that he could issue new port regulations to tighten up government control. As part of this process, and also his investigations into the actions of the NSW Corps and their supporters like John Harris and Daniel McKay, he would have come to know of both Billy Blue the ferryman and the rape case. As part of his attempts to clean-up the administration of the Colony he stripped John Harris of his position of Naval Officer in May 1807. By October Blight had stripped Harries of all his offices. In a letter to King dated 25 October 1807 Harris complained that not only had he been deprived of all his offices, but that in September 1807 his fellow military surgeon and magistrate Thomas Jamison had been removed from the bench, and that Daniel McKay had been incarcerated in his own goal ‘for some weeks past’. In a letter of reply to Castlereagh dated 30 June 1808 Bligh explained that he had removed McKay ‘out of motives of humanity’.

In contrast Blue’s economic and social standing saw a marked improvement. Just two years after the court case the Sydney Gazette of 2 August 1807 carried an advertisement ‘respectfully informing the public’ that William Blue was ‘the only waterman licensed to ply a ferry in this harbour’ and that Blue’s ferry was ‘the first of its kind in the port’. For Blue to have obtained that coveted license and be in a position to be able to make an advertisement of this sort he has to have obtained direct, or much more likely indirect, access to the new Governor. Blue was able to get both financial backing and the Governor’s approval to advance his business. It is possible that the merchant Robert Campbell, who had become Bligh’s new naval Officer in May 1807, had become Blue’s patron and interceded with Governor Bligh on his behalf. Blue’s economic and social standing continued to improve after Macquarie arrived at the end of 1809, continuing with his ferry business and receiving grants of land.

Instead McKay had sat in his own gaol for about 4-5 months from August/September 1807 until Bligh’s arrest on 26 January 1808 when McKay, Harris, and others like them that Bligh had removed from power, were immediately reinstated to their former positions. McKay was never able to return to his former glory. He lost his inn, was pursued by creditors, and placed into gaol for debt. Fortunately for his family he managed to hang onto some of his land interests, while remaining friends with some of the movers and shakers of Sydney like Simeon Lord.


Footnotes (including sources)

§ Remains
  • Buried: Old Sydney Burial Ground (Sydney Town Hall site)
McKAY DANIEL AGE 50, buried 14 Jan 1819
Occupation as list in St Phillips Goalkeeper.