Laurence Hynes Halloran

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Laurence Hynes Halloran

Laurence Hynes HalloranHave you ever considered that your Ancestors marriages and baptisms in Cape Town during the 2nd British Occupation were not valid?, all by one minister who faked his identity. One of the strangest characters at the Cape of Good Hope during the first decade of the nineteenth century, was the Rev. Dr. Laurence Hynes Halloran (29 December 1765 8 March 1831). Little is known of his early life. Born in Ireland at Ratoath, he appears as a schoolmaster in Exeter at about the time when his first two volumes of poems were published, in 1790 and 1791. Next we find him in the Royal Navy as a chaplain, and present at the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805 while serving in H.M.S. “Britannia”.

Two years later, on 7 December 1807, he arrived at the Cape of Good Hope to take up his position as chaplain to the garrison, and, a little later, he became chaplain to the navy as well. His extraordinary career at the Cape has been described at some length by Theal in his History of South Africa since 1795, vol. 1, p. 237-240, and also by Laidler in his Tavern of the Ocean, Cape Town, Maskew Miller, p. 128-130, but nothing seems to have been known about his final years in New South Wales to which he was sentenced to be transported for seven years in 1818. Now, thanks to the recently published Australian Encyclopaedia, Sydney, Angus and Robertson, vol. 4, the missing information has been supplied, together with a few details in regard to his early life and his literary work which do not seem to have been recorded elsewhere.

Halloran’s career at the Cape during 1808 and 1809 seems to have been fairly uneventful. He served not only as chaplain to both the military and naval forces in Cape Town, but also held Anglican church services for the civilian population in the Dutch Reformed church, in Cape Town, which was lent for that purpose. He also established a school for boys, and another for girls which was conducted by his daughters. The trouble began when, as Theal puts it, he “annoyed” Lt.-Gen. Henry George Grey, commander of the forces in the colony, and as a result was ordered to remove himself from Cape Town to Simonstown, there to continue his clerical duties. Halloran resigned his chaplaincy and a few weeks later he was suspected of having written anonymous, threatening and defamatory letters to Grey, was arrested and brought to trial for libel.

The story which lay behind the hostility between Grey and Halloran is briefly described in The Australian Encyclopaedia, is treated a little more fully by Laidler, while Halloran presented his own account at great length in the book in which he pleaded his cause in England in 1811. This fat volume of over 700 pages was printed by T. Harper, jun., Crane Court, Fleet Street, in 1811, and is entitled: Proceedings, including original correspondence, official documents, exhibits, duly attested, and authenticated, as correct extracts from the records of the Court of Justice, at the Cape of Good Hope, in a criminal process for a libel, instituted at the suit of Lieut.-Gen. the Hon. H. G. Grey; and by order of the Right Hon. Earl of Caledon, Governor of that Colony, against Laurence Halloran, D.D. Late Chaplain to His Majesty’s Forces, etc., in South Africa. On Christmas Day, 1809, Captain R. Ryan and Paymaster Patullo fought a duel in which Patullo was slightly wounded.

As a result of this, Ryan and his second, Captain W. Burke Nicolls of the 72nd Regiment, were arrested by Gen. Grey and court-martialled. Halloran undertook their defence, because, he states in his book, the holyliesonly barrister in the colony was engaged by the prosecution, and because ” these gentlemen had long been my most intimate and valued friends ” (p.2). According to Laidler, Ryan was also Halloran’s prospective son-in-law. Gen. Grey reprimanded Halloran for doing so at the time of the court martial for he wished to suppress duelling and felt that a clergyman should not have concerned himself in the affair. He charged Halloran with encouraging discord and duelling. Halloran’s temper was fully aroused and he evidently expressed his feelings in a most unclerical fashion on several occasions during the months that followed. He is even said to have preached a sermon at the expense of the Governor himself. Meanwhile he applied for and was appointed to the headmastership of the Latin school in Cape Town, a position he intended to fill in addition to his other duties. Richard Ryan was born in Tipperary, Ireland c. 1776 and married in Cape Town on 4th November 1810 to Maria Theresia HALLORAN from County Meath, Ireland.

On the very day on which he was to commence in this new post, in June 1810, (Theal gives the date as 1 June, while Grey’s letter in Halloran’s book is dated 18 June) he was ordered by the General to remove himself to Simons Town on or before 14 July. The day after he received these orders Halloran resigned his military chaplaincy, pending the pleasure of the king. It later transpired that his (letters] of ordination had been forged, and this could have meant that the marriages he had solemnized in Cape Town were invalid. They were, however, declared valid by the Cape government. Back in England … under aliases, [he] continued his career of deception, appearing in various places as a clergyman, but eventually confessed all his impostures to the Bishop of London” (Giliomee). Found guilty of defrauding the Post Office of ten pence, and sentenced to seven years’ transportation to New South Wales.

What had evidently brought matters to a head was Paymaster Patullo’s election to the Harmony Society, upon which Halloran promptly resigned from his membership after expressing himself most intemperately both in his speech and in the letter addressed to the Society on 11 June 1810. Gen. Grey’s reaction was to order him to Simons Town. In the weeks that followed Gen. Grey, as well as other persons at the Cape, received unpleasant, threatening, anonymous letters. On 22 July 1810, in a letter which denied authorship of the anonymous letters, Halloran informed Grey that he had ” written for publication, several ` poetical bugbears,’ as well as ` prose strictures,’ on various parts of your conduct both public and private.” One of the letters in question had included one such ” poetical bugbear ” and this helped to confirm Grey’s suspicion that Halloran was the author.

Judging from the exchange of signed letters between the two, Laurence Hynes Halloran seems to have lost all control of his anger and so hastened his undoing. He was arrested, brought to trial for libel, found guilty and sentenced to be banished from the colony. His appeal failed and after some five weeks in gaol he was placed aboard a ship for England. It is only fair, however, to show that this difficult but most able man was not without his supporters at the Cape. That he won the friendship and respect of his civilian congregation in Cape Town can be assumed from the two testimonials presented to him, even though they were drawn up on 7 December 1808, and 25 December 1809, before his quarrels with authority. Both of these are printed in his book (p. 18, 20) and were signed by thirty-six and twenty-four members of the English church congregation, respectively.

In 1808 he was lauded for the manner in which he ” discharged all the professional duties of ` Colonial Chaplain ‘ for the civil inhabitants of this town.” The second testimonial was also couched in the most complimentary terms with regard to his ” character and exemplary conduct, and .. . his zeal, and exertions, for the promotion of religion in this Colony.” It made him a Christmas offering of one thousand rix-dollars, for the purchase of a piece of plate, as he received no emoluments for his work for the civilian congregation.

While he was in prison, he also received a very kind letter (Proceedings, etc., p. 602) from the Fiscal, Mr. J. A. Truter, who was so closely concerned with the trial, expressing ” my sincere gratitude, for the useful and manly instruction, which my son has received at your establishment, and under your care, the future interruption of which I verily lament … your name shall always remain in thankful remembrance in my family.” At the same time forty-nine English inhabitants of Cape Town addressed a memorial (p. 605) to the Governor, the Earl of Caledon, in which their high regard for Halloran was recorded, together with a plea for clemency. Among the signatories appear such names as J. B. Ebden, Hamilton Ross, Alexander Tennant, and Robert Stuart. The same petitioners also presented him with 1,200 rix-dollars (p. 644).

The sentence, however, was carried out and Laurence Hynes Halloran left for England in March 1811. There he busied himself with the publication of his appeal which merely led to his further undoing because an inquiry into his past life disclosed the unfortunate fact that his certificate of ordination was forged. His degree of Doctor of Divinity from Aberdeen University had, indeed, been obtained through favour and not by examination. Consternation reigned at the Cape where many couples feared that their marriages were invalid. The authorities hastily set their fears at rest.

Undaunted by this unwelcome exposure, Laurence Hynes Halloran pursued his clerical career in England under various assumed names and armed with spurious documents. His career there came to an abrupt end in 1818 when his rector had him prosecuted for franking a letter in the name of a Member of Parliament and defrauding the Post Office of ten pence. He was sentenced to be transported to New South Wales for seven years.

For his career in Australia we turn now to The Australian Encyclopaedia. When he reached Sydney in June 1819, he was fortunate enough to find in Governor Macquarie’s secretary an old friend from Cape Town-John Thomas Campbell, who, incidentally, was one of the men who signed the testimonial presented to Halloran in 1808. Campbell, who was one of those concerned in the founding of the Bank of the Cape of Good Hope, had accompanied Macquarie to Sydney in 1809. Campbell recommended that Halloran be granted a ticket of leave, but this was cancelled when the courts decided that certain charges brought by him against the master of the transport “Baring,” which had brought him to Sydney, were “false and malicious.”

Fortunately for him he was assigned as a servant to Simeon Lord, with whom he had already found favour. A second ticket of leave having been granted, Lord permitted him to open a school. Halloran appears to have been an admirable school-master and received unstinted praise from both Governor Macquarie of New South Wales, who described him as the best and most admired school master in the colony, and Commissioner Bigge, who admitted that the school was well conducted, very efficient and preferred by the principal residents to one kept by the official schoolmaster.” In 1825 Governor Sir Thomas Brisbane also reported very favourably on the manner in which the school was conducted, and in a private letter referred to Halloran’s “assiduity, ability and success,” not to mention his good conduct as a citizen and a journalist. In the same year a free grammar school was established by free settlers and military officers and Halloran was invited to be the headmaster.

Once again misfortune came his way, for the school failed and Halloran was jailed for debt. On his release in 1827 he asked Governor Darling to support his proposal to set up another free grammar school, and when this support was refused he began to publish a newspaper, the Gleaner which lasted from April to September 1827. Darling’s comment in a dispatch to the Colonial Office brings to life the Halloran of the Cape-” he writes well, though intemperately.” In 1828 the Governor made Halloran coroner, but this was cancelled in September because of a quarrel with Archdeacon Scott in the course of which Halloran threatened to publish defamatory documents about him. ” In this case, at any rate,” states the Australian Encyclopaedia,” Halloran had extreme provocation; because he had prefaced his Sunday lectures at the court-house with prayers from the Anglican liturgy, not having obtained permission from Scott to do so, his lectures were prohibited, his pew in St. James’ church was taken from him, and an appointment with the Australian Agricultural Company … was withheld through Scott’s interference.

As a last resort Laurence Hynes Halloran opened in 1830 a ` memorial office ‘ where-in persons with a grievance against the Government might have their wrongs persuasively set forth for official perusal in London.” Halloran died in Sydney on 7 March 1831. His son Henry Halloran, 1811-1893 is also given an entry in the Australian Encyclopaedia. Henry was born on 6 April 1811 in Cape Town a few months after his father’s disgrace and banishment to England.

He was educated at his father’s school in Sydney and rose to the position of principal under-secretary in the public service. He was created C.M.G. on his resignation in 1878. He also wrote verse, evidently not of the same standard as that of his more talented father, who produced in all, four volumes of poems and a play before going to Australia.

Acknowledgment: Africana Notes and News September, 1961 Vol. 14, No. 7 Acknowledgement: Messengers, Watchmen and Stewards. A biographical register of clergymen licensed, ordained for service, or otherwise active, in the Anglican diocese of Cape Town prior to the death of Archbishop William West Jones on 21 May 1908. Andries William de Villiers Historical Papers, The Library, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg. 1998.

Image Acknowledgement: Danny Hellman

2017-10-22T17:17:18+00:00