Biography: Isaac Kemp (1798-1857)

Isaac Kemp

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The first thing that we know about Isaac Kemp is that he was working as a labourer in the parish of Ticehurst, Sussex, in 1817, aged 21. The identity of his parents is unknown, although it appears that he had a brother called William.

At midnight on 12 December 1817, the brothers, along with John Campany, burgled a house belonging to James Golday with force of arms. Their booty consisted of 2 pairs of spatterducks, 5 yards of linen, 6 yards of printed cloth, 8 yards of sheeting, 1 yard of nankeen, 1 wrapper and 1 yard of calicut. The total value of their hoard was put at 22 shillings and sixpence.

The three were tried at the Lent assizes in Sussex on 16 March 1818. James Golday and his wife Elizabeth were the chief witnesses and they were supported by William Napper, William Haselden, William Elliott and Thomas French. Isaac and John Campany were found guilty but they were reprieved from the death sentence and committed to transportation for life. William Kemp was acquitted and discharged.

Three months later, Isaac had the misfortune to sail from England aboard the General Stewart under captain Robert Granger. John Campany was also aboard, as were several other convicts who had been convicted at the Sussex Assizes on the same day as Isaac and John: Daniel Rapley, John Harris, John Maynard, John Johnson, Daniel Sharp, John Martin and Daniel Harwood.

Robert Granger was an incompetent and cruel captain. The voyage of the General Stewart was a nightmare for all on board, particularly the convicts. Many convicts died and many more were hospitalised in Sydney after the ship arrived on New Year's Eve after five and a half months of misery.

On disembarkation, Isaac was described as 5 feet five and a half inches tall with a dark ruddy complexion, dark brown hair and hazel eyes. He was 22 years old.

It appears that Isaac was assigned to work as a convict labourer for the Blackman family who had extensive landholdings in the Bathurst to Rylstone area.

Isaac was granted his Ticket-of-Leave on 31 December 1827, the 9th anniversary of his arrival in NSW. It stipulated that he was to remain in the Bathurst district. Three years later, he had a son who he called William, after his brother. William's mother was Mary, surname unknown. Mary may have died soon after, because William was raised by Isaac and they remained acquainted until Isaac's death.

On 4 October 1836, when William was six years old, Isaac married Margaret Murphy at Bathurst. Margaret had come to Australia on the Duchess of Northumberland. Eight months after the marriage, Margaret died at Bathurst, possibly as a result of a difficult pregnancy. At this time, Isaac was living at Mudgee.

Eighteen months later, on December 3, 1838, Isaac published the banns for his intended marriage to Mary Tobin, a 20-year-old spinster and recently arrived convict. Despite this, it appears that they were never married because he married Sarah Shirvington at Kelso a few months later, on 4 September 1839.

25 years later, Isaac was making his living as a carter using his bullock dray. In the summer of 1855 he and his 25-year-old son, William, transported a newly arrived family over the Blue Mountains from Sydney to Mudgee. The family consisted of Frances Elliott (nee Gibson), her 19-year-old son George and her 15-year-old daughter, Emma. Frances' brother, George Gibson, had paid for the family to come out from England to join him after Frances' husband, James Elliott, died. He was an ex-convict who had done very well as a farmer and grazier in the Coonamble district.

It appears that Isaac' son, William, was given a job working on Gibson's station where Emma was also living. He and Emma were married in November the following year and had a very large family.

Isaac lived for only a few months after this. He was unfortunate enough to be run over by his own dray at Cobra in the Bligh district on 12 April 1857. He was buried there by John Blakemore, the local publican and John Nichols. His death was registered 4 days later at the Police Office in Dubbo. He was about 59 years old.