The Advertiser, Saturday 19 January 1929, page 17
The death has occurred of a former resident of Binalong, Mr. Anthony Cuneo, aged 100, at his daughter’s residence at Marrickville. Coming to Australia when he was only 12 years old, he settled at Binalong in 1858. He met with many hardships and had encounters with the bush rangers, Dunn, Gilbert, and Ben Hall. He was also present at the Lambing Flat diggings. He started in business as a baker and fruiterer in Binalong in 1874, and carried on for nearly 40 years. Five sons and five daughters survive.
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Anthony (Antonio) CUNEO died on 11 January 1929 at the home of his daughter in Illawarra Road, Marrickville, Sydney, Australia. He was buried the next day at the Waverley Roman Catholic Cemetery, on the cliffs of Sydney’s South Head, overlooking the ocean.
His death certificate states his age as 99 years, and his death in his 100th year is close enough to a century to be reported as such. Who among us would begrudge the honour to a true pioneer who arrived in Australia at the age of 12 when the colony was only a half-century old?
We do not know where Anthony (Antonio) sailed from and on what ship he arrived, but we are speculating he came with his father or an elder brother from northern Italy, via Scotland and England to Australia in about 1841-42.
They may have settled in Melbourne, Victoria during their first decade in Australia and then headed off to the Bendigo or Ballarat gold fields in 1851 in the hope of striking it rich. Or they could have travelled north and settled in New South Wales – we may never know.
Antonio CUNEO and John CUNEO are names on a list of unclaimed letters arriving on ships at Port Phillip, Melbourne and published in The Argus, Tuesday 27 November 1855. This usually meant letters from family overseas were addressed to the “Post Office, Melbourne” if the recipients had no permanent address. Highly likely if they had staked a claim in the bush somewhere and were living under canvas and digging for gold.
The obituary reports Anthony was present at the Lambing Flat gold diggings. Alluvial gold was discovered in 1860 at Lambing Flat (now the town of Young) in the south-west slopes and plains of New South Wales. The gold fields produced over 470,000 ounces of gold and up to 20,000 miners worked the fields including about 2,000 Chinese miners.
The Lambing Flat and Burrangong gold fields were the scene of a series of anti-Chinese demonstrations and riots between November 1860 and September 1861. An important aspect of the story is a contentious debate in the New South Wales parliament at that time over legislation to restrict Chinese immigration in the wake of similar Victorian and South Australian laws.
Trouble began late in 1860 with the formation of a Miners Protective League, followed by ‘roll-ups’ of European diggers evicting Chinese diggers from sections of the gold fields. After 10 months of unrest at Burrangong, the most infamous riot occurred on 30 June 1861 when a mob of about 2,000 drove the Chinese off the Lambing Flat gold field and then moved down to the Back Creek diggings, beating those fleeing, burning tents and looting their possessions. About 1,000 Chinese abandoned the fields and set up camp on a sheep station 20 km away.
The police arrived a few days later and identified and arrested the mob ring leaders. Approximately 1,000 European diggers launched an armed attack on the police camp on 14 July, which the police broke up with gunfire and mounted sabre attacks leaving one rioter dead and many wounded.
The police briefly abandoned the field, but then a detachment of 280 soldiers, sailors and police arrived from Sydney and stayed for about a year. The Chinese were reinstated on the segregated diggings and the ringleaders of the riots were tried and jailed. At the end of the affair Burrangong was quiet and the Chinese were still there, although subject to the new Chinese Immigration Restriction and Regulation Act that greatly restricted their rights.
Unfortunately, gold fever also increased the threat of robbery under arms. The local newspapers gave frequent reports of crimes on the gold fields and the activities of bushrangers. Many obituaries of early pioneers reported hardships in the diggings and brushes with outlaws, and it is to be believed that Anthony CUNEO would have had first hand experience with notorious bushrangers.
Between 1861 and 1865 Ben HALL and his gang, including John DUNN and Johnny GILBERT, robbed settlers, stores and mail coaches across the district. They ‘bailed up’ travellers on the roads between Bathurst, Young and Yass. With Binalong, Boorowa, Lambing Flat and the Burrangong gold fields all subject to their illegal activities.
All three were dangerous men who shot and killed settlers and police officers. HALL, GILBERT and DUNN were proclaimed outlaws in April 1865 under the Felons Apprehension Act, which meant any person was permitted to shoot them without warning. They each had a £1000 reward on their heads. On 5 May 1865 HALL was ambushed and shot by police near Goobang Creek on the Lachlan plain. His body, riddled with bullet holes, was buried in the cemetery at Forbes. GILBERT was shot by Constable John BRIGHT on 13 May and his body was exhibited at Binalong police station for three days before being buried in the police paddock. DUNN managed to escape but was captured in January 1866, he was only 19 years old when hanged in Darlinghurst Gaol.
Anthony CUNEO arrived in the Yass and Young district about 2 years before the gold rush hit the area. Anthony was 28 years old in 1858 when he married 16 year old Catherine BYE, the daughter of Irish immigrants John BYE (1819-?) and Margaret GOREMAN (1820-1903) who lived at Murrumburrah, about 30 km south of Young.
Anthony and Catherine had 10 children who survived (5 girls and 5 boys). The births are all registered in the Yass, Binalong and Boorowa districts between 1859 and 1881. Their descendants were:
- William Albert CUNEO (1859-1942) married Rose Annie ?
- Margaret Madeline CUNEO (1862-1949) married Frederick SUTTON (1851-1919). You can read more about Frederick SUTTON in this blog post. Their daughter Honor SUTTON (1894-1974) married Roland Cuthbert CLARK (1889-1973) the son of the Sydney department store founder Henry Marcus CLARK (1859-1913).
- Mary Amelia CUNEO (1864-?) married Thomas Henry WATSON
- Angelina Isabella CUNEO (1865-1951) married Lawrence MULLIGAN
- Albert Antonio CUNEO (1867-1952) married Helena Gertrude ?
- John F CUNEO (1869-?)
- Emily Jane CUNEO (1871-1965) married Henry NEWTON
- Catherine Maria CUNEO (1873-?) married William A R BRANDER
- Frederick Joseph CUNEO (1878-1965) married Kate J COFFEY
- Ronald Leslie A CUNEO (1881-1956) married Mary T GAMBETTA
Much of the above family research was shared with me by Liz BROWNE who is descended from the Marcus CLARK line. If anyone can shed light on where Anthony CUNEO emigrated from and his early life in Australia, we would be most grateful.
You can learn more about the Australian gold rush and bushrangers at the source links below. The SBS series Dirty Business: How Mining Made Australia is really worth watching. The first episode highlights the early settlement, migrations to the gold fields and the subsequent anti-Chinese race riots in Victoria and Lambing Flat.
Sources: Trove http://trove.nla.gov.au, http://trove.nla.gov.au/ndp/del/article/13053977, http://trove.nla.gov.au/ndp/del/article/73739268,
Australian Dictionary of Biography http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/hall-ben-1507, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/gilbert-john-johnny-3609, Wikipedia Lambing Flat riots, Visit Young website, Harden-Murrumburrah Online Genealogists website.