Lake Macquarie History

The Quigleys of Awaba Park- Marmong Point

Researched by Dulcie Hartley

photo: quigley memorial

William Bell Quigley was born on 12th July, 1840 in Glenavy, County Antrim, Ireland. He was a son of Bannister Barker Quigley of Belfast and Jane Bell. William came out to Australia aged 27 as an assisted immigrant on the ship Devonport, which arrived in Sydney on 31st July, 1868. His older brother Patrick had come out as an assisted immigrant on the ship Persia, arriving in Sydney on 10th May 1863.

Margaret Scott Mitchell was the daughter of Dr James Mitchell, physician and industrialist of Sydney, who had extensive landholdings in the Hunter. He was also the owner of a copper works at the Merewether lagoon, as well as various coal mines. Her brother David Scott Mitchell was an academic and avid book collector, who became the major benefactor to the Mitchell Library in Sydney.

James Mitchell died in 1869 and the following year Margaret, now a very wealthy woman, married William Bell Quigley in 1870. He was reputed to be Mitchell's former coachman.

Due to a dispute, it took a little while for probate of James Mitchell's will to be processed before Margaret's inheritance was finalised. The Quigley family lived in Sydney until 1878, when it was reported that ...

"Those people who, when taking a trip to the Lake confine themselves to the portion about Williamson's, have no idea of the beautiful scenery that is to be seen in Awaba Bay, the western extremity of the Lake. 'This part is without doubt, the finest' - numerous creeks, some of large size, flow into it. Cockle Creek is one of them, and for its beauty can not be surpassed. At its mouth it forms a delta, and round about it game of all kind play their sportive tricks without fear of molestation. On this bay at its southern side is situated Awaba Park Estate, containing about 1750 acres of the best land in that vicinity, and having a water frontage of ten miles. Numbers of bays indent this water frontage, giving it a most charming appearance. The owner of this large and valuable estate is William Bell Quigley, Esq., son in law to the late Hon. James Mitchell. There is, under the superintendence of Mr Charles Robinson, now in course of erection a fine house, being built expressly for the residence of Mr Quigley, and in about a month's time he intends setting down there and turning to account the products that nature has so bountifully supplied it with.

The timber alone is worth about £7000, and to give an idea of the size that the trees attain, I have seen some thirteen feet in diameter. Mr Quigley has at the present time a contract to supply 100,000 spokes to a New Zealand firm, and he also supplies to a great extent the timber cut at the saw mills of Brown and Goodsirs, situated about six miles distant.

On the estate is a seam of coal sixteen feet in thickness and its component parts are according to the analysts similar in all respects to the Wallsend Company's coal. This seam is only one mile from the water frontage, and at no distant time will be worked to the great benefit of Mr Quigley's pocket, in fact the whole formation of this estate is, according to the laws of geologists, coal-bearing, and there is no doubt that coal will be found running all through the estate. Any person wishing to form an opinion of the lake and its scenery should not let an opportunity slip by visiting Awaba Bay." (1)

Death of William Bell Quigley

Unfortunately, William Bell Quigley was never to achieve the "benefit to his pocket" referred to in the above article, as he was accidentally killed on Tuesday 19th March, 1879.

It was reported in newspapers of the day that William Quigley had been travelling home from Wallsend along the Teralba Road and was found dead at Cherry Tree Hill (now the Barnsley area). It was getting on towards evening and the horse he was riding had apparently stumbled and thrown Quigley. There was a blind stump near the body on which there was a fresh mark as if from the scrape of a horses hoof. Thomas Sidebottom and a boy named Cherry were walking in the area when they came across a saddled and bridled horse with no rider, which they recognised belonged to Mr Quigley. They led the horse back in the direction from which it was coming and found the body. The inquest ruled accidental death caused by a fractured skull after being thrown from the horse.

William Quigley was buried on his property, as the Newcastle Herald of 22 March 1879 reported "It is stated that, in accordance with a wish frequently expressed by deceased whilst living, his remains will be interred on his estate at Lake Macquarie in a secluded spot selected by him for that purpose."(2)

Daniel Quigley

photo: aerial view of awaba house

His death left Margaret a widow with three young children. This was at the time just prior to the 'Married Women's Property Act' of March 1879 coming into force. The Act enabled married women to hold property of their own, sue and be sued, enter into contracts, be subject to bankruptcy laws, be liable for the debts contracted before their marriage, and for the maintenance of their children. Margaret would not have had this protection, and would have had no choice but to enlist the help of a male to carry on the business and domestic affairs. So it was that Daniel Quigley, her brother-in-law, came to reside at the Quigley home at Awaba Park and manage the estate.

The Act did, however, eventually make a difference to the control Margaret had over her life. In 1880, Margaret was involved in a court action against her other brother-in-law, Patrick Quigley. Margaret had been left extensive lands at Stockton by her father, and Patrick, who had been made trustee of this inheritance, had been withholding the monies from these estates from Margaret. The court case was successful, and Patrick was removed as trustee for failing to account for the income of the estate.

Daniel Quigley seems to have easily settled into the role of 'estate manager'.

The Newcastle Herald reported "On 25 May 1886, the Queen's Birthday Holiday Picnic of Newcastle Employees Protective Association went to Quigley's at Awaba Park by train (courtesy of Messrs Amos Bros) with the engine 'Murrumbidgee' pulling one of the two trains 1st carrying 1200 people and the 2nd 1600 - they picnicked in the grounds 'facing a most beautiful bit of country' which reminded English folk of the Old Country. Hardy's Band entertained and there were games, sports, footraces, fishing, boating and shooting. The Party was met at the train terminus and escorted to Awaba Park by Mr Quigley. They captured 2 native bears during the day."(3)

Death of Margaret Quigley

On 21st October 1886, the Newcastle Herald reported that

"There had been a fire sometime between 3.30 and 4 am yesterday morning which burnt the residence of Mr Quigley. The dwelling of two stories and of weatherboard was completely destroyed. The fire was thought to have started on the top storey. Mrs Quigley was severely burnt before managing to escape. The home was in an isolated part of the bush." (4) and

"During the height of the great storm a fire broke out at the residence of Mr Quigley.... and within half an hour the fine two storied building was reduced to ashes. Mr Quigley (Daniel) was away from home at the time. Some men fishing close by landed and rendered assistance, but owing to the great wind that was blowing and the building being of wood, nothing was saved. The loss is a large one to Mr Quigley. The whole of his furniture, valuable pictures, and a number of curios were destroyed. In attempting to save a few things Mrs Quigley had one of her hands severely burnt. However, no danger is anticipated." (5)

It is quite telling of the times that the newspapers lamented greatly on the 'large loss to Mr Quigley' of 'his furniture' etc., (which were actually all owned by Margaret), but mentioned only briefly the burns she sustained.

It is uncertain how the fire started, but conjecture was that the house was struck by lightning during the storm, which set fire to the timber structure. No mention was made as to whether the children had been injured. The building was insured for £1000, less than half the cost of the furniture and residence. All that remained were the chimneys. Unfortunately Margaret Quigley died from her injuries a few weeks later on 4th November 1886, and was buried at the homestead.

photo: quigley house

So now the three Quigley children - James aged 14, Augusta aged 12, and William aged 11 - were orphaned, and under the care of their uncle Daniel. Daniel Quigley married Mary Violet Ferguson, daughter of David Ferguson of Muswellbrook, in 1889. A new house had been built by this time, said to be on the spot where the other home had been. This was a very large single story weatherboard home with a return verandah, and Daniel, his new wife and the orphaned children were living there.

Guardianship battle

There are many articles in the newspapers of the early 1890s regarding guardianship of the children. Moves were made to strip Daniel of guardianship of the estate and of the two children in 1894. There were suggestions of impropriety with respect to royalties held in trust for the children, with Daniel accused of using the funds for himself.

It should be noted that the word infant is used in the following articles to descrbe in legal terms anyone under the age of consent, which was 21 years of age.

The Australian Town and Country Journal of Saturday 1 September, 1894 reported:

"The Chief Judge in Equity on August 23 delivered judgment in the matter of Augusta Sophia Quigley and William Frederick Banister Quigley, infants, which was an application by Arthur John McKenzie, manager of the Perpetual Trustee Company, for the removal of Daniel Quigley from the position of guardian of the Quigley estate and person, and the appointment of himself in his stead ... Under a settlement made on February 1.4, 1871, between the parents of the children, they were each entitled to a third share in certain valuable real estate in the neighborhood of Newcastle. The land, which included coal-mining property, brought from rental and royalties about £7000 per annum. The applicant submitted that the respondent was an unfit person to act as guardian. Mr. Wise, for the respondent, raised no objection to his being removed from his position as guardian of the estate, but he objected to his being interfered with as guardian of the person. His Honor made an order that the respondent be removed from the position of guardian of the estate, but he directed that he should continue as guardian of the person." (6)

Daniel did not retain guardianship of the children for long. On 8th December 1894 it was reported

"In the matter of Augusta Sophia Quigley and another (infants), a summons for the appointment of guardian was disposed of in the Equity Court by Mr. Justice Manning on Thursday. His honor made an order for the removal of Daniel Quigley as guardian of the persons of the infants, and A. J. Mackenzie was appointed guardian in his place. It was ordered that D. Quigley should give up the infant to A. J. Mackenzie and an injunction was granted restraining D. Quigley from holding any communication, personally or by letter, with the infants except in the presence of some third person appointed by A. J. Mackenzie." (7)

This was not the end of the matter, and the Evening News of 12th February 1895, continued the saga. Apparently the children did not want to be removed from Daniel's care and efforts had been made to hide them away from their court appointed guardian.

"Before the Chief Judge in Equity yesterday, Mr Gregory Walker moved in the matter of Augusta Sophia Quigley, an infant, for an order for the committal for contempt of Miarus Moore, auctioneer, of West Maitland. It appeared from the affidavits that some time ago Daniel Quigley, the uncle of the infants was removed from the position of guardian, and Arthur John McKenzie appointed by order of the court. With the full knowledge of this fact, it was alleged that Moore subsequently made arrangements for the disposal of the infanst without communicating with their guardian, and without any justification for his action. The girl, who is within a few months of attaining her majority, was sent to a ladies' school at Goulburn, and the boy was placed at Hinton with a tutor.
Mr. Wise, who appeared for Moore, while admitting there could be no justification for his client's interfering with a ward of the court, argued that he had done so under a misapprehension that he was entitled to carry out the wishes of the ward herself... On Daniel Quigley's removal, Miss Quigley was bitterly opposed to leaving his house and placing herself under the charge of M'Kenzie. She appeared then to have spoken to Moore, who ... aided those who were trying to keep Miss Quigley out of the charge of her lawful guardian. He induced Miss Quigley to defeat the order of the court, and in making arrangements for her residence at the Goulburn School gave instructions that she was to be kept free from visitors, so that she might not be disturbed by 'wolves in sheep's clothing.' His object was clearly, to hide her from the guardian appointed by the court. There could not be a greater contempt, and he therefore committed Moore to the Darlinghurst Gaol for the period of one week, so that all those who heard what had been said by the court might know, that when a ward was placed in the custody of a guardian, no one must interfere with such ward. He ordered Moore to pay the whole costs of the proceedings, and also granted an in junction restraining him from further in terfering with the infants until they had attained their majority." (8)

The Quigley grave site

photo: quigley memorial front view

In a touching epitaph, William Bell Quigley's remains were to be reburied next to his wife in later years.

Writing in 1967, P Jepson in his book 'Teralba, some notes on its early history' states:

"Mrs. Margaret Quigley was buried only a short distance from the site of the old home, on a hillside, which was at that time a burial place for the Teralba township. Unfortunately most of the graves were not marked with headstones, and today no trace of them remains. This could easily have happened to the grave of Mrs. Quigley; however, some years after her death, Mr. J.P. Cowdery became manager of the Quigley Estate, and he determined to find the remains of William Bell Quigley and inter them with his wife, so that a suitable monument might be installed. No one then living could remember where Mr. Quigley had been buried and many sites were investigated before a slight depression was noticed alongside one of the paths leading to the original homestead. Excavations here uncovered the coffin, and the remains of Quigley were taken and re-buried alongside the grave of his wife. An elaborate monument was erected over the graves, and it may be inspected today at Primrose Street, Booragul. It may be added that the burial grounds here were used only in the very early days of Teralba and after about 1890 a cemetery was formed on top of the hill near Booragul Railway Station. Dozens of graves were made there over a long period of years, but the site has since been abandoned". (9)

In 1982 the Quigley grave was moved to Park Parade, near the turnoff to Mikal Way. It has been classified by the National Trust.


1878 'Awaba Park Estate.', Newcastle Morning Herald and Miners' Advocate (NSW : 1876 - 1954), 8 June, p. 2. , viewed 16 Jan 2019,

1879 'FATAL ACCIDENT.', Newcastle Morning Herald and Miners' Advocate (NSW : 1876 - 1954), 20 March, p. 2. , viewed 16 Jan 2019,

1886 'Picnic to Awaba Park.', Newcastle Morning Herald and Miners' Advocate (NSW : 1876 - 1954), 25 May, p. 5. , viewed 16 Jan 2019,

Wallsend & Plattsburg Sun 16th January,1895

1886 'Local and General News.', Newcastle Morning Herald and Miners' Advocate (NSW : 1876 - 1954), 21 October, p. 5. , viewed 16 Jan 2019,

1886 'FIRE AT MR. QUIGLEY'S, LAKE MACQUARIE.', Newcastle Morning Herald and Miners' Advocate (NSW : 1876 - 1954), 22 October, p. 7. , viewed 16 Jan 2019,

1894 'Magistrate's Jurisdiction.', Australian Town and Country Journal (Sydney, NSW : 1870 - 1907), 1 September, p. 46. , viewed 16 Jan 2019,

1894 'CURRENT NEWS.', Newcastle Morning Herald and Miners' Advocate (NSW : 1876 - 1954), 8 December, p. 4. , viewed 16 Jan 2019,

1895 'Interfering With Wards.', Evening News (Sydney, NSW : 1869 - 1931), 12 February, p. 5. , viewed 16 Jan 2019,

Jepson, P & Clouten, Keith & Lake Macquarie (N.S.W.). Council & Lake Macquarie and District Historical Society 1967, Teralba : some notes on its early history, Lake Macquarie Shire Council for the Lake Macquarie and District Historical Society, Speer's Point