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Spotlight on: Samuel Breakwell

Or Sir Henry Browne Hayes’ “fancy man”, as he was otherwise called by General Joseph Holt.

You may remember that we highlighted colourful Irish convict, Sir Henry Browne Hayes, in our November newsletter. Hayes had been the Sheriff of Cork before he abducted an heiress and was transported to New South Wales on the Atlas. One of Hayes’ many reputed antics in the colony was to import soil from Ireland to fill a trench around his home in Vaucluse, Sydney, with the belief that it would keep out snakes.

Samuel Breakwell sailed to Australia from Cork as a free man aboard the Atlas, arriving at Port Jackson in 1802. He served as Sir Henry’s valet until 1812 when they departed the colony on the Isabella. Their journey back was just as eventful as their lives in the colony, for the Isabella was wrecked in the Falklands enroute to Ireland.

Breakwell was, at the time of leaving Sydney, the owner of two properties, a 60-acre land grant (the site of the present-day Rose Bay) that he named Tivoli (after a stately home in Cork overlooking the River Lee) as well as the Vaucluse House estate (pictured above, though a later building than the one Hayes had built) that Hayes had generously given him. Breakwell was probably at the time also a father.

Once he returned to Ireland, Breakwell settled in Cork. Later, in July 1830, Breakwell gave Attwell Adam Hayes (nephew of Sir Henry) Power of Attorney to sell both the Vaucluse and Tivoli estates. In 1831 Breakwell, while living at Grattons Hill in Cork, sold Tivoli to Thomas Horton James of Sydney. Hayes at that time was also said to reside at Grattons Hill, possibly in the same house as Breakwell. Hayes died a short time after in 1832.

Four years later Breakwell married Julia Crowley in the Diocese of Cork and Ross. He was listed as a business owner in the 1844-1845 General Post Office Directory as “Samuel Breakwell, glover, 38 Grand Parade”.

The probate of his will was approved in 1847, so he probably died either in that year or the year before. There is no record of his death or burial record in the Death Registry because the Registry started in 1864.

This information is supplied by Rolf Grunseit, who would like to hear from anyone with further information on Samuel Breakwell and Sir Henry Browne Hayes. He is especially hoping to find any clues as to which ship may have delivered the Irish soil to Hayes in Sydney. If you are able to help, please contact us and we’ll forward your details to Rolf.

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