First Generation Australians Of Manx Descent

The family history below was written by Frances Stewart (nee Corlett). Frances is my second cousin, thrice removed.

Don’t get confused with the distant cousins and removed bits …

  • First cousins share Grandparents
  • Second cousins share Great Grandparents
  • Third cousins share Great Great Grandparents
  • and so on.

The removed bit simply means that people are from different generations.

In my case: Frances Stewart and my Great Grandfather Victor Pye are second cousins. I am removed from their relationship by three generations (my Grandmother is removed by one generation, my Mother is removed by two generations, and I am therefore removed by three generations).


David Bayliss
(Brisbane, Queensland, Australia)


For ten years I had endeavoured to trace the descendants of my grandfather’s sister Mary Ann Corlett who had married in New Zealand and gone to live in Australia, where, as one relative put it, she had “ten little Pye’s!” Over the years the families had lost touch, therefore I had a time span of nearly 130 years, but the 1982 Genealogical Directory changed all this.

Joan Collett of Adelaide was searching for a Pye forbear who had come into Christchurch New Zealand in 1850. I immediately wrote away as we were leaving on a trip to Australia within a week or so, to attend a family reunion on my husband’s McPhee side of the family. Back came a prompt reply to say that Joan’s grandfather was Stephen Pye a Son of Mary Ann Corlett. Great excitement! Joan and I met and since that time, many letters have been sent across the Tasman. Because we had to trace so far back, we thought it best to obtains birth certificates for all the first generation of Pye’s.

These have been generously paid for by Joan as her contribution towards our family tree.

Mary Ann was the second born child of Stephen and Jane Corlett nee Lawson, born 17th March 1830 and baptised at South Ramsey, Isle of Man, on 7th May, the same year. Her younger years were spent at Ballalhergy Farm in the Parish of Lezayre, where her father was employed as an agricultural labourer. About 1844 the family moved to England where Stephen Corlett wee engaged as a farm manager on the large Capesthorne Hall Estate in Cheshire.

When Mary Ann left the island at the age of fourteen, little did she realise, that one day, she would make her home and raise a family on a continent, half-way around the world from her Manx birthplace. Many generations of her forebears had lived and diet there, never leaving their island home.

After spending six years in Cheshire, the Corlett family then emigrated to New Zealand leaving on the sailing ship “Sir George Seymour” with Mary Ann being listed as a domestic servant. Along with her family she arrived at Port Cooper (now known as Port Tyttleton) on 17th December 1850.

The day before the Corlett’s arrived in the colony a young man by the name of John Thomas Pye had arrived on the ship “Randolph”. He was listed as being a labourer, aged 21 but was at least three years younger. In a brief memo at the end of the shipping list it stated that the undermentioned emigrants had been transferred by Mr. Bowler, from the ship “Sir George Seymour”. And so it was that young John Pye, Embarkation Order 69 and Number 130 in the Application Register, became one of the 161 passengers who travelled steerage on the “Randolph” and not the “Seymour” as first planned.

They’d sailed from Plymouth on the night of Saturday 7th September, 1850. The voyage out was a pleasant one, apart from the fact that on 6th November there was almost a mutiny on board! Fortunately for all concerned, it was suppressed by the promptness of Captain Dale who was ably supported by his officers and the passengers. According to the diary of one of the passengers, a dance was held on deck for the emigrants, with the music being supplied by the black cook who played his fiddle. The 7th November was a fine day and a busy one for all the emigrants as their boxes were brought up from the hold. Warmer clothing was required as the weather was getting colder. The ship entered Port Cooper at half past three on the afternoon of 16th December 1850 and one wonders what young John Pye’s thoughts were as he set foot in a strange new land, a teenager without his family.

The names of all those who arrived on the “First Four Ships” are engraved in black granite slabs which are set under trees in Cathedral Square, Christchurch. Although Mary Ann Curlett (Corlett) and John Thomas Pye only lived in New Zealand for two years, they will be remembered in our country’s history as Canterbury Pilgrims, having sailed on those ships which brought the first boatloads of settlers into the Province of Canterbury.

A relative of our new-fond Australian branch, produced an interesting letter which was written by Rhoda Pye to her brother Johny. She had written it on his birthday which according to family was the 19th October. Rhoda mentioned that her mother, Catharine, Sarah, Emma, Hannah, Caroline, Mary Ann, Amy and herself had attended the Grand Exhibition where they had become so tired that they sat down and went to sleep, consequently they didn’t see much. The Great Exhibition was held in Hyde Park during the months, May to October, 1851.

John Thomas Pye was born at Stoke Doyle, Northamptonshire, England in 1833. He was the second son of John and Mary Ann Pye and had nine sisters in all, Sarah being the eldest and Harriet the youngest, the others being named in Rhoda’s letter. Henry was the other brother. Their father was a heavy drinker and this proved to be his downfall. In her letter Rhoda cautioned her brother “whatever you do, never give way to drink. You see what we have all come to through Father, some in one part of the world and some in another. Work for a living when we might have been as comfortable as anyone, if he would have attended to the farm, but all was neglected for that drink”.

The 1851 census shows that John Pye Snr. was a farmer “out of business” so is it any wonder that young Johny decided to emigrate? In another portion of her letter, Rhoda gives a description of conditions in England at that time. She says “Now I am going to ask you a little advice, you will have been over there long enough, when you get this, to tell me, if I was to come, could I get a respectable place? For it is no use staying here, you can scarcely keep the wolf from the door, single so much more married and as to save, I am sure you cannot.” Her words speak for themselves. It would seem that Rhoda did indeed emigrate as a son William was born to a Thomas and Rhoda Pye in Sydney on 6th June, 1855. In her letter she mentioned a cousin Tom so they must have married.

Two years after their arrival in New Zealand John Thomas Pye married Mary Ann Corlett (the family pronounced their name this way but spelt it with an “a”). The Rev. O. Mathias married the young couple at St. Michaels Church of England, Christchurch on 20th December 1852, their witnesses being Joanna Wornall and Charles Bourn. Joanna was a domestic servant at Illam Farm where Stephen Corlett was employed as a manager.

St. Michael’s was the first church to be built in Christchurch and was opened on 20th July 1851, the bell having been brought omit from England on one of the first ships. On Sunday 24th July, a small organ which had been sent out from the old country, was played for the first time. The new church had caused considerable interest among the New Zealand natives and on the following Sunday, the congregation was greatly increased with the arrival of large numbers of Maoris, the organ being a wonder to their astonished ears! In those days a flag was flown when ever a service was to be held.

Shortly after their marriage, Mary and John Pye left for Australia. It is not known why they chose to go there, especially as Mary Ann left all her family behind in New Zealand. The exact date of their arrival is unknown but a son William was born at Petersham, Sydney on 21st Jan. 1854, followed by John Thomas Jnr. born 15th March 1855 and baptised at the Parish Church of St. John’s in Parramatta, Sydney on 24th June that year. The Pye’s were living at Church Street. John Pye’s occupation was given as a navvy so it seems certain that he would have worked on the Sydney to Parramatta Railway line which officially opened on 26th September 1855. Later he was to become a contractor on the Queensland Railway.

A third son Edward was born 22nd September 1856 with his birthplace being given as the Liverpool Railway Line, Sydney which is where the family were living at that time. According to the certificate there were two children living and one deceased at the time of Edward’s birth. Further research may find this, as yet, missing child, unless it was an error.

The Pye’s first daughter Mary Ann was born at Collingwood, N.S.W. on 30th August, 1857. Edward died in his infancy, sometime before the birth of his brother Stephen on 22nd December 1858 at Liverpool. Mrs. Isabella Biggs was a witness on both Mary Ann and Stephen’s certificates. As she was a nurse it’s likely that she was present at their births.

By this time John Pye was only 25 years of age, a father of six children with two of them deceased. His wife Mary would have been kept busy with four little ones under the age of five. Australia was the third country Mary had lived in since her departure from the Isle of Man. Both parents were young in age but old in experience as those first six years in Australia would have been hard indeed.

1st October, 1860 saw the birth of Emma, a sister for Mary Ann. The family were living at Menaryl Road, near Picton, South of Sydney. John Pye signed with a cross, when he registered her birth, which is surprising as his sister Rhoda had obviously been educated if her letter was anything to go by. Perhaps the Pye girls had the schooling while the boys were expected to help on the farm.

By the 3rd December 1861 another son Alfred was born at Picton. He would have been named after Mary Ann’s youngest brother, my grandfather, then aged thirteen and living in Riccarton, Christchurch. Catherine Pye was born at Bong Bong near Sydney on 11th March 1863. Her sister Mary Ann’s death certificate says that the family made the arduous trip from Sydney to Queensland by dray. The first section of the Railway-was to be built between Ipswich and Grandchester. 25th February 1864 saw the turning of the first sod to mark the beginning of the line. Unfortunately the London Bank financing the railways, failed, and all work was suspended for a time. The Pye family must have returned to Bong Bong as a daughter Eliza was born there on 23rd April, 1865, unless of course John Pye had gone ahead and returned later for his family. 31st July 1865 saw the official opening of the first 22 miles of railway line to be built in the State of Queensland.

By this time the family were living in tents and moving along with the construction gangs. Living conditions would have been unbearable with the flies, heat and dust to contend with. Quite a contrast to the life Mary and John had been used to back in the British Isles but they were made of the stuff pioneers are made of and bravely battled on. Catherine Pye in her later years was a strong advocate for education, due to the fact she’d missed out, in her early days of living in Railway Camp conditions, with a minimum of education.

The next two children were born at such camps. Caroline on 14th October, 1866 at William’s Camp near Drayton and Arthur at Spring Creek on 16th September, 1867. Arthur’s birth certificate shows that two brothers had predeceased him, further proof of there being another son in the family.

Sadly young Arthur died of convulsions at Allora on 13th October, 1869 and on 26th September the following year his sister Caroline died of the croup. Both children were buried in the Allora Cemetery. Hannah Jane, the youngest Pye child was born at Hendon on 20th September, 1870, her father by this time being a contractor for the railways.

Life was to take a tragic turn when after being ill three weeks, Mary Ann died of pulmonary congestion on 2nd August, 1872 leaving behind nine children aged between two and nineteen years. She died at Glengallen Swamp near Hendon and is buried beside her young children in the Allora Cemetery. John T. Pye was barely forty years of age and the passing of his wife would have been a cruel blow. Mary Ann his daughter then aged 15 would have taken over the roll of little mother to her younger sisters and brothers.

William Pye was the first of his family to marry. His bride was Sarah Jane Gilliver, daughter of James Gilliver of Gallon. They were married on 18th September, 1876.

Mary Ann Pye married Henry (Harry) Andrew on 5th August 1880. They had eleven children, one of whom died tragically at the age of two, when it fell into a tub of boiling water and was badly scalded. The child was rushed by sulky, for urgent medical treatment, but later died at Toowong. This terrible washing day incident, brought to the fore the urgent need for a hospital in the area and as a result the Royal Children’s Hospital was established in Brisbane. The child was buried in the Chapel Hill Churchyard, followed a year later by her mother who died of acute hepatitis and heart failure on 15th July, 1899.

Stephen Pye married Maria Gilliver (sister to Sarah) on New Year’s day 1884. Meantime work on the railway forged ahead and the contract for the Stanthorpe to Wallangara section of the line was let in March 1885. Work commended the following month, while sub-contractors carried out the construction of bridges and cuttings. A major cutting just before Tonwong Station is known as Pye’s cutting. It is interesting to note that the phrase “getting the bullet” is said to have originated during the building of the line. Foremen from a vantage point, watched their gang at work and if they noticed a man not filling his large shovel full enough or often enough, a pebble was thrown at the man signifying his dismissal.

“The Illawarra Mercury” dated Tuesday 16th November, 1886 tells the tragic story of how William Pye was killed the day before, at the stone quarries at America Creek, Mt. Kelba. The quarries were used in connection with the ballasting required for the Illawarra Railway. William Pye one of the chief gangers, was engaged in superintending operations where a large number of men were employed. He’d taken up his position on a huge rock above the quarries, when a stone gave way and he was precipitated with great force into the chasm below, a distance of sixty feet. A large quantity of stone came down with him and he was literally crushed to death. His wife and five children were living at Clarence River. It had been his intention to return home after pay day on the Wednesday, with the idea of spending a few weeks holiday and Christmas with his young family but fate decreed otherwise. Amazingly, a watch he’d been wearing was found to be still going, the only mishap being that the glass was cracked. The paper states that William Pye was held in high esteem by his employees. It was said of him that he never asked any of the men to perform work, preferring to run all the risks by doing the job himself. If he had a fault, it was that he was too venturesome. Had he taken the precaution of using a lifeline he very likely wouldn’t have lost his life.

That same year Alfred Pye married Elizabeth Pilkington. In 1888 Eliza Pye gave birth to a son whom she called Arthur. Two years later she married Thomas Andrew, a brother to Harry, both of whom were employed by Eliza’s father. The Andrews had nine children, two of whom predeceased their mother who died in Brisbane Hospital on 29th April 1928 and is buried at Toowong Cemetery.

Catherine Pye married George J. Yelland another employee of John T. Pye on 4th February 1892. They had three children. Catherine died at the Stanthorpe Hospital on 29th December, 1929 and she too is buried at Toowong.

John Thomas Pye Snr. lived to the age of 76 years passing away at his residence in Marmion Parade, Taringa, on 18th February, 1910. Thus ended the life of one of Australian’s railway pioneers.

John Jnr. never married, he died in Brisbane Hospital on 20th February 1935. His unmarried sister Emma died at Taringa on 20th August, 1938. In her 95th year Hannah Jane passed away at Eventide, Sandgate North, Brisbane on 6th August, 1965. All three are buried, along with their father in the family plot at Toowong Cemetery. Hannah was the last of her generation to go and with her passing the final chapter of our first Australian Pye family, was written.

“Meeting of the Branches”

One thirty years on, we’ve found with glee,
Those missing boughs of our family tree.
Spanning the Tasman, with roots now spread,
Much stronger the tree, whose branches were dead.
New life has assured it’s growth once more,
With branches spreading from shore to shore.

May it grow from strength to strength,
With buds and leaves spreading full length.
Planted in soil by those who came,
Across the seas to make their home.
We Are proud of this mighty tree,
Grown from the blood of our ancestry.


Written 28th November, 1982 following the linking of our Australian branches after 130 years.

Grateful thanks to:

  • Dal Campbell, Brisbane
  • Joan Collett, Adelaide
  • Lorna Church, Warwick, Queensland
  • Peg Hall, Brisbane
  • Cliff Pye, Ipswich, Queensland

Other sources of information:

Canterbury Museum Library, Christchurch, New Zealand 1841 and 1851 census sent by Isabelle Charlton of London History of St. Michael’s Church. History of Ballandean, compiled 1959 Obituary of William Pye Rhoda Pye’s letter held by Peg Hall. John Oxley Library, Brisbane “Lyttleton Times” 1851 voyage of the “Randolph”.

Compiled by Frances E.V. Stewart nee Corlett

Greenhills R.D.11

Invercargill, New Zealand, January 1987