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Allman, Francis (1780–1860)

by A. J. Gray

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 1, (MUP), 1966

Francis Allman (1780-1860), soldier and public servant, was born on 1 November 1780 in County Clare, Ireland, the second son of John and Harriett Allman. He entered the army in 1794 as an ensign in the Queen's Royal Regiment, served in Holland and Egypt and was wounded at Alexandria. As a commissioned officer he served in the 48th Regiment in the Peninsular war, was severely wounded at Albuera, was captured and remained a prisoner until 1815. In consideration of his wounds he was granted a life pension of £100.

On 30 April 1818 he arrived at Sydney in command of a detachment of the 48th Regiment in the transport Minerva, with his wife Sarah, daughter of Paymaster James Wilson and Sarah, née Stirling, whom he had married at Gibraltar in 1807, and their three children. In 1821 Governor Lachlan Macquarie established a settlement at Port Macquarie 'as a secondary place of punishment' and appointed Captain Allman its commandant and magistrate, after Colonel James Erskine had strongly recommended him as 'a very steady, good officer, and perfectly competent in all other respects for such an important charge'.

The expedition of 41 soldiers and 60 convict artificers and labourers, selected for 'their steadiness and good conduct', and their families sailed in the Lady Nelson, Prince Regent and Mermaid on 17 March 1821. On the voyage most of Allman's possessions were washed overboard and he and his family were seriously incommoded. Fourteen years later his claim for compensation was dismissed by Lord Glenelg who ruled that such loss was a hazard of colonial service, although he conceded that the circumstance was 'unfortunate'.

When Macquarie visited the settlement in November 1821 he occupied Allman's cottage and found it very neat and comfortable, the barracks 'clean and commodious', the soldiers in good order, and ninety-four convicts 'healthy, well clothed and without any complaint whatever'. Allman remained at Port Macquarie until April 1824. His administration was quietly efficient. Steady progress was made in building, in farming and in sugar-cane culture which he pioneered in 1821. Discipline was regular but not in any sense oppressive.

On returning to Sydney he resumed normal duties, but served on the board of inquiry into the system of issuing rations. In December 1824 he retired on half-pay and was appointed commandant at Newcastle. Two years later Governor Sir Ralph Darling abolished this office and appointed a stipendiary magistrate, intending that Allman 'take charge of the Police Establishment'. Disappointed by this change Allman decided that farming offered better prospects of supporting his growing family. He had been granted 2560 acres (1036 ha) near Muswellbrook in 1825 and had added 640 acres (259 ha) by purchase, but in 1828 was established on a 500-acre (202 ha) property, Rathluba, near Maitland. He continued to serve as a magistrate, but found little reward in farming. In 1832 he sought re-employment in the public service; he was appointed police magistrate at Illawarra in September, at Goulburn in March 1834 and at Campbelltown in July 1836. In February 1843 Allman succeeded George Bowen as magistrate at Berrima and as commissioner of the Court of Requests. His eldest son, John, then held similar positions at Muswellbrook, while Francis was commissioner for crown lands at Wellington, and George (b.1822) was an articled clerk in the office of the crown solicitor.

Hoping to improve his financial position, Allman had applied in 1836 to have his pension commuted 'for an equivalent, at ten years purchase, in land' to be granted at the minimum price. When remitting the application, Governor Sir Richard Bourke suggested certain qualifications but added that 'the respectable character of Captain Allman, as well as his numerous family and misfortunes, entitle him to any consideration compatible with the public advantage'. The Colonial Office rejected the request. In June 1844 financial embarrassment, from which, despite his best endeavours, Allman had never been able entirely to free himself, occasioned his resignation and retirement to Yass. He died there on 24 October 1860 and was buried with military honours in the Church of England cemetery.

Except in the field of human relations his career in New South Wales was not distinguished. He failed as a farmer and in the management of his business affairs, but Colonel Erskine's estimate of his character was soundly based. He was a kindly, considerate man who respected people.

Select Bibliography

  • Historical Records of Australia, series 1, vols 9-18
  • L. Macquarie, Journals of his Tours in New South Wales and Van Diemen's Land, 1810-1822 (Syd, 1956)
  • Yass Courier, 27, 31 Oct 1860, manuscript catalogue under Francis Allman (State Library of New South Wales).

Citation details

A. J. Gray, 'Allman, Francis (1780–1860)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/allman-francis-1699/text1837, published first in hardcopy 1966, accessed online 13 November 2018.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 1, (MUP), 1966

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