Much of the information on this page came from "Remembering All the Orrs" by R. H. Foy, published (by the Ulster Historical Foundation in association with Antrim and District Historical Society, 12 College Square East, Belfast, Northern Ireland, BT1 6DD) in 1999. Also consulted was "As the Crow Flies over Rough Terrain" compiled and edited by James G. Kenny, 61 Parade Road, Ballygarvey, Ballymena, Co. Antrim, Northern Ireland BT43 7JZ. The Papers shown are those originals which are in my own possession. Other papers relating to William Orr are kept at more official locations.

William Orr was born in 1774 to James and Eliza Orr of Creavery, one of several farming Orr families around Antrim, the main town of County Antrim in Ulster (Northern Ireland).
Being a younger son he wasn't in line to inherit the farm so he went to Dublin and trained as a watchmaker and when, in 1797, his father died, William returned home to live with his mother.
In 1798 the United Irishmen Rebellion broke out in Ulster. This was a rather amateurish effort and was put down quite readily by the English military, but a number of the Orrs had been deeply involved and had to pay the price. (An older cousin had already been executed in 1797 for administering the UI oath to two soldiers). William himself was accused (falsely as it turned out) of a number of rebel-type crimes by a neighbour, tried, convicted and, in 1799, transported to Botany Bay in New South Wales, Australia.
For a variety of reasons the authorities became convinced of William's innocence and, in 1805, issued a pardon and an order for his release, but, by the time this reached Botany Bay in 1806, he had already escaped aboard an American ship.
After a series of adventures, including shipwreck in the Torres Strait, journeys totalling some 2700 miles in the ship's open longboat, and being stranded in Sumatra, William Orr finally made it to Calcutta in February 1805. Here he adopted the name 'William Jamieson'. In 1806 he moved to Penang, or Prince of Wales Island as it was then known, off the Malay peninsular, and stayed there until 1822 when, having accumulated a reasonable store of wealth, he returned to his native land.
He bought a Newgrove, a house near Broughshane, in County Antrim, married a local lass by the name of Ellen Killen, and lived in comfortable obscurity until he died in 1860, childless, at the age of 86.

By now you are probably sitting back and asking yourself: "This is really quite fascinating stuff alright, but what on earth does it have to do with us Wilsons?"

Good Question! Now listen up.
Ellen Killen was a sister of the Sarah Killen who married the Ballymena draper, William Wilson. One of their children, William Orr Wilson was a nephew, namesake and godson of William Orr. He was also one of my Great-Grandfathers.
WOW and his wife, Jemima, seem to have moved into Newgrove after William's death, while Ellen, who didn't die until 1870, was still living there. The Wilsons lived there until they acquired Knowehead and its 70 acres of farmland in 1867. In fact their first two children, which included my Grandfather, James Barnett, were actually born in Newgrove.
(WOW also inherited his father's drapery business and did very well in it. After his death the business was sold and the new owners called it "W.O. Wilson's Successors" for the next half-century.)

So here then is my collection of The Orr Papers relating to William Orr's Banishment, Pardon and later Career in The Far East. The papers shown on this page may not be very distinct, but, by clicking on them, you'll be able to reach larger, more readable versions.

I can only summarise; if you want the whole story of this episode (and much more besides) you're just going to have to get hold of a copy of Dr. Foy's book:

Remembering All the Orrs


In which our hero asserts his innocence, points out the discrepancies in his accusers story and offers to emigrate to America if he is found innocent.

Mr President

The Crimes with which I am Charged are many, And the Evidence to Support them rests entirely with one Man, and from the manner in which he has delivered his Evidence, Stating it all to be in Conversation with myself and persons whom he implicated equally, It is Impossible I can be prepared with Evidence to disprove it.

I must therefore humbly Submit to this Court that the principal part of my defence rests upon their Humane Interposition in Considering the Character of this Witness, the manner of delivering his Evidence, his Motives for giving it, And their comparing his Evidence with that given by the Witnesses Ferguson, Williamson and Mr. Agnews Servant to Judge if it was possible for me to have had a part in the Crimes Charged within the time positively Sworn to by the Witness Mayse.

I Beg Leave to Trouble the Court with an Observation or two on the Evidence.

Mayse Swears the time to be 6 or 8 weeks ago and that I told him Ferguson Williamson and Agnew Castle were robbed on the same night and that between Dusk in the Evening an Day Break which I compute to be at that Season only a Space of 9 Hours. The Distance from my Mother's House to Agnew Castle was admitted to be 17 miles in a Direct Line, So that to Commit the Robberys Charged I must have travelled 34 Miles in the Space of 9 Hours, and gone to three different Houses, which must Occupy some part of the time.

The same Witness Swears that I could have Shot him at all times after the 7th. of June for not turning out on that day, or to use his more Correct Words, I shewed him a (Dryness) and not withstanding on the Morning of my return from the Housebreaking and Robbery, I called him out of Bed as a Confidential person to tell him, what I had done, yet he can give no account of what was done with the Arms which he saw.

He Swears there was Snow on the Ground, Ferguson Swears there was none when he was Robbed, and Agnews Servant Swears ther was none when his Master was Robbed. And from the Evidence of Ferguson, Williamson, and Mr. Agnews Servant may be Collected that the three Robberys Charged were Committed on three different Nights, Mayse saw me at Dusk in the Evening and Agnew Castle was Robbed at half past 8 in the Evening 17 miles off!!!

I beg Leave to Refer the Court to the Newspaper Advertizing Mr. Agnews Robbery and Stating it to have been Committed 21st. of February.


I Fear to Trespass too much on the time of the Court, and shall conclude with a Brief Account of myself.

I was Bred to the Trade of a Watchmakere, and Worked in Dublin untill the beginning of the Year 1797, when I came home on my Father's death to Reside with my Mother and Brother. On my Arrival I found that several of my Relations had been charged with some of the crimes which then disgraced the Country. And I profitted by the Melancholy Examples I saw before me, and Studiously avoided entering into any Society or Schemes whatsoever. Shortly after my Mothers House was Destroyed by the Military on Account of my Brother being suspected of being Concerned in the Insurrection. And I then was obliged to Seek a Home Elsewhere.

The Opprobrium brought upon my family, and the Vengeance which seems to follow them at home added to the Loss of what Property I had, made me Form a Resolution of going to America to avoid Suspicions, and Strive to better my Fortune, and I would e're now have carried my Intentions into effect were it not for my present unhappy Situyation. And Though from the Honor and Humanity of this Court I have every Reason to hope for an Honorable Acquittal after hearing Evidence on my part, Yet I beg leave to propose to the Court that I am ready to depart to America at my own expence the first Ship that offers, and in the mean time to give Ample Security for the due performance of this my engagement should this Honorable Court be Graciously pleased to accept of my proposal.


An Allegory of William Orr's travels up to 1807 written by the pilgrim himself.


May 10

Feby 16

May 24

June 10th

July 24

A Vision

Grew Sick
Died & Sailed for unknown

Crossed Styx and arrived at Purgatory

Embarked for the regions of Bliss

being partially ascended by Want of faith fell to the Infernal regions to which I decended (sic) on the 27th Cinst.

Embarked again for bliss But by mistake of the guide I wandered through Hell

Embarked again for happiness and arrived at the land of ease on the 16th. of feby. 1805 ----- Wrote the Earth on the 24th. May Do. on the 1st Feby 1806 Do. on 6th Septr. 1st of Nov.

Arrived at Calcutta
the 16th. Feby 1805
Left Calcutta Decr. the 16th
Arrived at Peneng on
the 6th Jany 1807

[ According to R.H.Foy, these sometimes crypic notes relate to his early troubles.
WO was arrested on 16 Apr., 1799, and May 10 was the second day of his trial. Sentenced to transportation to Australia, he landed there on Feb.16, 1800. While a pardon was on the way he escaped, leaving Botany Bay on May 24, 1804. His ship was wrecked on June 10th, and he, with a few other survivors continued in the ship's long-boat making it to Dili, in East Timor on June 27th. After refitting the long-boat left Dili on July 24 arriving in what is now
Bengkulu, on the western coast of Sumatra where WO seems to have been stranded. He found another British ship which left Bengkulu on Nov. 6th and finally arrived in Calcutta, the "land of ease" in February 1805.
"Wrote the Earth" probably refers to letters he subsequently sent back to Ireland.]

It might be significant that the allegory is limited to the front of the page (which had, by the way, been torn out of a small account book - the red vertical lines are still clearly visible). The "Memo" on the back is in a much clearer language and copperplate writing. It might have been added at a later date.


Letter from Lord Castlereagh, Then Chief Secretary for Ireland, to Doctor Macartney.

(Dr Macartney, Vicar of Antrim, was the arresting magistrate in the WO case but had been convinced by a reconsideration of the evidence that an injustice had been done to William Orr, had written to Lord Castlereagh and enclosed a statement from WO's mother.)


London 9th. February 1805

Dear Sir
I have received your Letter of the
29th. of last month respecting William Orr
and inclosing a Paper containing his
Mother's Statement of his Case.
I cannot at present call to my
recollection the Circumstances mentioned
in that Paper of my having interfered
in Orr's favour - but I shall not
fail to take an early opportunity

[addressee] The Revd. Geo. Macartney


of communicating your Letter and
its Inclosure to Mr. Marsden in
order that every justice may be
done to Mr. Orr which his Case
may appear to merit.

I am
Dear Sir
Your faithful and obedient
humble Servant

Letter from J. King (Whitehall bureaucrat) to
Alexander Marsden, Secretary at Dublin Castle.

Whitehall 10th March 1805

I have laid before Lord Hawkesbury (The
Home Secretary) your letter of the 13th. of this
month signifying The Lord Lieutenant's
request that William Orr, a convict who
was transported to New South Wales in
the year 1799. may be permitted to return
to Ireland by the first opportunity as
there is reason to believe that Orr was
unjustly charged with the offence for which
he was transported.
In reply I am directed to
acquaint you for the information of The Lord
Lieutenant that no time has been lost in

[addressee]Alexander Marsden Esq.

making a communication upon the
subject to the Colonial Department, with
a view to His Excellency's desire being
complied with.

I am etc.
J. King

Letter from Alexander Marsden to Doctor Macartney.

Dublin Castle 23rd. March 1805


In consequence of a representation laid before The Lord Lieutenant of the Case of William Orr of the Parrish of Antrim who was transported to New South Wales in the year 1799, His Excellency has recommended that he should be permitted to return to Ireland and I have the honour to send you a Copy of a Letter from the Under Secretary of State signifying that the necessary steps will be immediately taken agreeably to His Excellency's desire.

I have the honour to be
Sir your most obedient
humble Servant
A Marsden

Revd. Doctor Macartney

Letter from Dr. Macartney to William Jamieson (William Orr) 1806

In which Dr. M. can finally tell WO of his pardon and permission to return to Ireland; suggests a way of getting some funds to WO and advises him to stay in India until he has made his fortune.

Whytehall near Ballymena 31st July 1806

Your Mother having yesterday shewn me a Letter from you to Mr. Sam Redmond dated Calcutta January 28th, 1806 under a name that the direction of this Letter Carries. I think it necessary to say, that, from a strict enquiry into the Charge against you, I found it was unfounded in truth, having proceeded from the most Shameful malice established by the most infamous perjury. The Result of my enquiry I communicated to Government who sent orders to New South Wales to permit you to return to your Country. This Communication I make to you with great pleasure, having been the Magistrate who arrested you by the order of the General of the district. Your Brother John is with your Mother at Creavey both well, I have a great regard for them both & from your excellent Character I have the same for you. I am happy to say that in the Course of my enquiry about you, I found that your advice instead of tending to promote rebellion in this Country, was of a very different Complexion, having used your influence in dissuading the People from engaging in the foolish attempt. I assure you I was heartily sorry for your sufferings in Consequence of the Villainy of the Artillery Deserter, who was the Cause of them by his unexampled Perjury. He died shortly after he left this Country.
Your Brother (when I called at your Mother's house yesterday on my way here where I now reside having put a Curate into the Parrish of Antrim) was on the point of

going to Derry to settle with the friends of Mr. Alexander, the Hindostan Banker at Calcutta, about remittances to you. However I thought about a plan Which will answer you better. I have written a Letter which I enclose to Counsellor Stewart my Nephew Who is at the head of his Profession as a Lawyer at Calcutta who I have no doubt will be your friend in your business as a Watch Maker. I advance what money you may want. I have mentioned L100. Your Brother John will pay to Counsellor Stewart's Mother at Ballytweedy near Antrim What money he advances to you immediately on intimating the amount of the Sum advanced.
I shall Copy Lord Castlereagh's together with Mr. Secretary Marsden's Letter to me & the Letter of the Under Secretary of State for Great Britain, Mr. King to Mr. Marsden the Under Secretary here from Which you'l see that an order was sent to the Colonial Department for your enlargement in order to your returning to your Country.
If the Climate agrees with you I think you ought to remain in Calcutta, until you have realised what will make you comfortable for the remainder of your life & enable you to assist your worthy Mother.
We are so short sighted that we often look on events when they occur as misfortunes Which the Wisdom of Providence intended for our good - in your case this observation applies in its full extent as your past sufferings promise greater advantages than you could have reap'd in your own Country and the prospect of returning in a few years in Opulence, Where you will be higher in the esteem of all Who have heard of you, than you would have been perhaps, had you been permitted to remain at home.

I am your friend and well-wisher
Geo Macartney

You may shew this Letter
to Counsellor Stewart, as my Letter
to him, so far as it relates to you, is
confined to the money you may want.

[There follow copies of three letters (Castlereagh-Macartney, Marsden-Macartney and King-Marsden.]

I enclose my letter to Counsellor Stewart in your Brother's
Letter as it is lighter than this Letter. GM

Letter from W. Clubley, Secretary to the Governor of PWI, to William Jamieson

We jump ahead some 15 years. WO has established himself in Penang and even has a contract to maintain the public clocks. Now he plans to return to Ireland and must surrender his charge to his successor.

Mr. W. Jamieson
I am directed by the Hon'ble the Governor in Council to Desire that on your Departure from this Island,m you will Deliver over charge of the Government Clocks to J. Ruggills, who has been appointed to the care of them.

I am
Your most obedient Servant
W. Clubley
Secy to Gov.

Fort Cornwallis
The 14 Decemr.1821

Police Permission for William Jamieson to Leave Penang

Prince of Wales Island Police Office
The 15th December, 1821

This is to Certify that Mr. William Jamieson, has permission to quit this Settlement and proceed to Europe in the Ship Amity.

R A............y
Superintendant of Police

Letter from W. Clubley to William Jamieson - a very favourable testimonial from the Governor.

Mr. W. Jamieson
I am directed by the Hon'ble the Governor in Council to acknowledge receipt of your letter of the 15th. Instant, and to acquaint that the Government have much satisfaction in testifying the highly favorable opinion they entertain of your Conduct during the time you have resided in this Presidency, and to add that in the event of your wishing to return to India you may exhibit this Testimony in your favor with an assurance that it will be highly advisable to comply with your wishes in that respect.

I am
Your most obedient Servant
W. Clubley
Secy to Gov.

Fort Cornwallis
The 17th Decemr. 1821