James and Catherine in Hobart.

We have very little information about James and his life but the well known bushranger Martin Cash wrote the following account of the young man he met on Norfolk Island when also imprisoned there.

"One of the men who was charged with attempting to take the launch was rather an extraordinary character. His name, if I recollect right, was James Harrison (but better known on the Island as Jimmy Harrison). He was a man above the middle size and appeared to be about eighteeen years of age, and on the occasion in question evinced both courage and determination. His party, on being attacked by the police immediately gave themselves up, but Harrison, before being overpowered by numbers, left one constable to be carried off the field and nearly disabled another; and had two or three more of his companions evinced the same determined spirit, they would undoubtedly have succeeded in effecting their escape from the Island, but as they showed the white feather, he was left to fight the battle by himself. And as a consequence of which they were all captured. And as the reader may be interested in the fate of poor Harrison, it will only be necessary to say that he was sentenced to three years in heavy irons in the gaol, every third month of which he was to be in solitary confinement. I was sorry for him as he appeared to be both manly, generous and well conducted in every other respect, and I am now happy to say that he afterwards conducted himself remarkbly well and at the expiration of his sentence he was forwarded to Hobart Town where he still resides with a wife and family, and although in humble circumstances, he is yet much respected by all who know him." [ "The uncensored story of Martin Cash, the Australian Bushranger - as told to James Lester Burke." The editors(Joan Dehle Emberg and Buck Thor Emberg) found the original manuscript in the Tasmanian Archives and re-published it. On page 229]


It is known that the family lived at 27 Barrack Street in a house

rented from Nicholas Ray in 1860.They may have lived at 46 Goulburn Street, West Hobart from 1862 and the end of 1867 (the entry is 'John Harrison'). The last official record of James was made at this time, an admission to hospital with a broken left arm in January 1862. From 1868 to the middle of 1872 they lived in nearby Melbourne St. (photo)at number 22, and in 1872 they were back at Ray's house in Barrack St. but now it numbered 29. They stayed there until at least 1877.

A Russian naval officer Lt V M Linden, described Hobart in 1869.

'The climate of Tasmania was always distinguished for its salubriousness. The town evoked memories of Geneva – ‘the Derwent takes the place of lake Leman and Mount Wellington does duty for Saleve….Liverpool St is the Nevesky Prospect (the main artery of St Petersburg) It catches the eye with shops and signs and is animated by the bustle of commerce, by carriages, even by loungers’. He recorded that the population of Tasmania was 101,592 and growing slowly by 245 persons a year. ‘Tasmania is very short of labour. A day labourer earns from 3 to 5 shillings a day, craftsman 5 to10 shillings.

James worked as a labourer. When he registered the birth of the unnamed boy in April 1862 he indicated that his occupation was ‘quarryman’, and with Flurance in September of the next year when he described himself as ‘brewer’. He signed both registrations but apparently did not notice that Flurance was registered as a girl. Catherine registered the births of the last six children affixing her mark to the register. She reported James to be a labourer. In 1879 the family moved back to Goulburn Street at number 86 in a dwelling called Hill’s Rents owned by John Cassidy. They shared this address with John Davis, William Knight, James Smith and Samuel Adam.

In July 1879 Michael was fourteen and working in a tannery when had his first brush with the law.  He spent a month in the Hobart Gaol for stealing purses. That lesson was not learnt for less than a month after his release he was back inside for stealing six shillings worth of iron from James Mulcahy.  Although half the sentence was remitted less than a year later he was back in trouble. The Court of Petty Sessions Record states that Michael was charged by Constable Delaney with stealing a vest valued at six shillings and six pence the property of Mr Wilson Reiby and another. His mother Catherine was apparently present and intervened and she also found herself in Court.  She pleaded not guilty and was discharged. Michael pleaded guilty and was sentenced to two months in prison with hard labour. It was ordered that he be kept separate from other prisoners.

Perhaps Michael was a bad influence on his brothers for when he was only nine years old James Jnr. also found himself in the penitentiary.  He was convicted of stealing three hankerchiefs but there are no remaining Court records.

Although one lesson was enough for James Jnr., Michael, like his father, was slow to realise that crime brings punishment. In April 1881 Michael and Samuel Adams, 18, were again charged by Constable Delaney this time for stealing 'quantity of apples growing in a garden the property of Mary Ann Elliott the said apples being of the value of three pence'. They pleaded not guilty on Monday 11 April and were remanded until Thursday. Then Adams was sentenced to seven days gaol and fined five shillings. Presumably due to his prior convictions Michael received a month in gaol and a fine of twenty shillings and six pence. Both had to also pay two shillings and nine pence costs.  For jointly stealing fruit valued at threepence it was a very heavy penalty. When the gaol door slammed behind him on 13 May 1881 Michael left the Hobart gaol for the last time.

However by this time Constable Delaney was keeping his eye on the younger Harrison boys. In November 1882 he found the youngest, Thomas, idle and disorderly. The Court thought that warranted a stay of a week in the Campbell Street prison.

We don't know where they lived in the early 1880s but by 1884 they were living in Melville Street opposite the present site of K&D Hardware. This was one of a small group of houses then owned by the Cascade Brewery and known as Boy's Square. Across the street was the well known hotel The Nags Head established by one John Boys. Boys Square was land originally granted to John Boys.

Mercury 18 June 1881

RUN OVER BY A VEHICLE.-James Harrison, 51 years of age, who resides in Melville-street, was admitted to the General Hospital yesterday evening. The injured man was returning to town from his work on St. George's Hill, and, when on Sandy Bay Road, he was run over by a vehicle and stunned. Dr. Holden examined the man at the hospital, and it was found that two of his ribs were broken, and that he had a severe cut on his fore-head, besides having received other injuries.

Catherine died in the house in Boys Square on May 1 1884 aged 43 The death registration refers to her as being born in Ireland, and a labourer's wife. The cause of death was 'general debility'.  But one wonders whether this was in part due to the wayward ways of her youngest three boys.

Her death was registered by the undertaker Clarke. She was buried in Cornelian Bay Cemetery in plot B49 in the Roman Catholic section. Through an error her burial is registered as 'Chaterine Clarke'.
When Catherine died we know that -

Elizabeth would have been 25 and married to James Whitford and living in northern Tasmania.
Margaret was 24, married and living in Junee NSW with her husband John Hopwood and two of their three children.
Pat was 23 and had been married for almost a year and had one child.
Flurance was 21 and had been married for a few weeks and probably still in Launceston as was Mary Ann who was then 17.
Michael was 19,
James II was 16,
Catherine II was 14,
Thomas 12 and
Honora was only ten,
The five younger children were probably cared for by Pat and Sophie. (Florence McCarthy had died two years earlier and was probably buried in the Colebrook Catholic cemetery but Catherine's stepmother was still alive.)

It seems probable that Catherine's death led to the final breakup of the family. The older children had been independent for some years. We know that James II left for Melbourne around this time and it is likely that Michael and Thomas went with him. Perhaps they went to live with Margaret and her husband Arthur Boyce.

James continued to live at Boys Square for three more years until his death from apoplexy in the Hobart General Hospital on 27 July 1887. His death was registered by the Hospital Secretary as John Harrison age 56 born in Ireland'. He was buried with Catherine.

Surprising Information


A well known character, known in the flesh as
Knocklofty Jimmy, passed over to the great majority last Monday morning. The old fellow, whose real name was James Harrison, was picked upon the wharf one day last week in a state of insensibility, and was conveyed to the hospital by the police.
Upon examination he was found to be suffering from a stroke of paralysis. He never, spoke after his admission to the institution, and passed away very peacefully at the last.
He will, doubtless, be remembered by many who have attended our anniversary regattas as the man who took the part of the duck in the time-honoured duck hunt. He used to enter for that event each year, and always gave to it a thrilling interest by his wonderful powers as a swimmer, and his pluck in diving, as he always selected the topsail yard of the flagship to dive from.
Only recently he challenged another man to swim down to the Iron Pot, and went to the wharf fully prepared to start, taking with him a small lunch which he intended to fix upon his head and eat upon the way down, but the other man did not turn up.
He could tell many interesting tales of his Norfolk Island experience, and at one time " took the bush" in order to get away from Port Arthur. At the time of his death he must have been about 80 years of age, although in appearance he was much younger.

Mercury 27 July 1887

This article from the Mercury was framed and displayed in Patmores Antiques in Liverpool St. by the then owner John Joseph (Jack) Patmore. Jack’s mother Kate, who started the business, was the fifth and youngest child of Jimmy and his wife Catherine McCarthy.

Although a surprise to me it does seem to be about my great great grandfather. Jimmy did die in the General Hospital on the 27
th July 1887 aged 56. Why the writer felt he was older is unknown.

As told in the
Mercury story Jimmy did take to the bush to escape from the Cascades Probation Station in the Spring of 1849. He and his friends stole the Swan River packet and sailed across Norfolk Bay to Carlton. There they broke into the house of Bartholomew Reardon. After a few days they were locked up in Sorell Gaol then taken before the Supreme Court in Hobart and sentenced to death for armed robbery.

His sentenced was commuted and his was again transported beyond the seas, this time to Norfolk Island. Jimmy and Catherine began there married life in rented houses in Barrack St. a stone’s throw from Jack Patmore’s antique shop.

It appears that his life as Knocklofty Jimmy must have occurred after 1858.
The Mercury Dec 1863'
The selection of candidates fur the position of duck, and bow oarsman, in the Duck Hunt was now proceeded with. Three young gentleman presented themselves, each representing a pair. After some consideration, James Harrison was elected duck, and John Lynch bow oarsmen.

Again in 10 Dec 1866 has an account of planning for the forthcoming Regatta. It includes -
DUCK HUNT.-Duck, James Harrison. Bow oarsman, Henry Jackson.
In this event Henry Jackson won and collected the £5 prize. In 1870 the newspaper reported that James would be the oarsman and William Langford would be the duck.

How the nick-name “Knocklofty Jimmy arose is a bit of a mystery. He may have acquired his aquatic skills in the canals of Ancoats or on the Tasman Peninsular or even on Norfolk Island. However there appears to be too many agreed facts to doubt the general veracity of the
Mercury story, certainly his grandson Jack Patmore believed it.