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Edward Harrigan (1803–1891)

By the death of Mr. Edward Harrigan, of Fairy Meadow, on Friday last, the oldest Australian native living up to that time, so far as we are aware, passed away. References to this gentleman having appeared in the Mercury from time to time of late years, many of our readers are therefore familiar with the fact that he was in all probability the oldest native in all Australia, as well as in reality the oldest in the Illawarra district. He was born in Sydney on the 20th August, 1803, or only fifteen years after the founding of the colony in 1788 by Governor Phillip, The part, of the then future great city where he was born was what eventually became Phillip-street. In the early days of the boy, his parents removed from Sydney to Campbelltown. At that time Sydney was only a bush township of small magnitude, and possessing little of the convenience and advantages of civilisation. And as regarded Campbelltown, it was considered in those days a far interior locality, with its wooded wilderness and hordes of aboriginal inhabitants. At Campbelltown young Harrigan resided until he was fifteen years old, having in the meanwhile attended a night school for about six months. This was the only schooling he ever received, and in those days, and under such circumstances, any youth was fortunate to have even so much advantage in the way of education. At that early age, or about seventy-two years ago, he went as a lad with a party of cedar sawyers to work in the ranges above what afterwards was termed Bulli. There he remained for several years, and with the whole party suffered privations and hardships of which modern residents of the colony can form no conception. The cedar, when sawn on the eastern side of the range, had to be carried shoulderwise up to the tableland, whence it was conveyed to Sydney, via Campbelltown or Liverpool in the crudest of manner, and over the roughest of bush made tracks. Some few months after his arrival at the Bulli ranges he made his way to where Wollongong afterwards sprung into existence. His object was to endeavor to procure some food from a small vessel that was known to trade now and again to that place for cedar. He travelled through the bush along the coast, but was doomed to bitter disappointment. On arrival at the future site of Wollongong, he could not find either the vessel he was looking for nor any white inhabitant. Disappointed and almost famished, he had to return to the haunt of the party in the mountain, and as the stock of food there, such as it was, was done, he had to make his way at once as best he could to Campbelltown, where the supplies were not much better. Having attained to manhood, he in course of time applied to Government for a grant of land, and his request having been complied with, he selected the piece of land at Fairy Meadow, where with the exception of a few years, he resided until his death. About forty-two years ago he joined a friend of his (the late Mr. Henry Angel, of Wagga Wagga), in taking up a large piece of land near Hay for squatting purposes. He remained there for about three years, but squatting not being congenial to his inclinations, he relinquished it, and returned to his favorite Illawarra once again. And there he stayed all the remaining years of his life. Of Mr. Harrigan, it has to be said that he was one of the most honest minded and guileless of men. He was of a most retiring disposition, and in simple manner and demeanor was the very type of the now almost bygone race that pioneered the settlement of this colony, which generally means the settlement of all Australia, as far as such has been done. It is almost needless to state that he was strong and healthy in a marked degree. He was twice married, and leaves a widow, two sons, three daughters, thirty-two grand-children, and twenty-two great grand-children. About a year ago he suffered from a severe attack of bronchitis, from which he never fully recovered strength, and a cancer having formed on his lips hastened his end. Thus lived and thus died a man who, though humble and retired at Fairy Meadow, was in a historic sense perhaps the most remarkable man in all Australia during the last few years of his existence. A goodly number of persons paid their last respects to the deceased on Saturday by following his remains to the Church of England new cemetery, at Wollongong, where the Rev. T. O. Ewing, R.D., officiated.

Original publication

Citation details

'Harrigan, Edward (1803–1891)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 16 June 2024.

© Copyright Obituaries Australia, 2010-2024

Life Summary [details]

Alternative Names
  • Brooker, Edward

20 August, 1803
Sydney, New South Wales, Australia


9 July, 1891 (aged 87)
Wollongong, New South Wales, Australia

Cause of Death

cancer (lip)

Cultural Heritage

Includes subject's nationality; their parents' nationality; the countries in which they spent a significant part of their childhood, and their self-identity.

Religious Influence

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