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Cyrus Matthew Doyle (1793–1855)

by Alec B. Doyle

This article was published:

Cyrus Matthew Doyle (1793-1855), pastoralist, was born on 27 November 1793 at Palmerston, near Dublin, the eldest son of Andrew Doyle (1774-1841) and Sophia Isabella, née Norris (1769-1855). According to tradition, Andrew was of that family of Doyles which descended from Thomas Doyle (D'Oyly) who settled in Ireland in 1333.

Andrew Doyle was exiled from Ireland for life for his part in the Irish uprisings in 1798 and 1801. He arrived in Sydney in May 1803 in the Rolla; Sophia and their three eldest children, including Cyrus, came in the same ship as free immigrants. The family lived first in the Rocks area, and then at Toongabbie where Sophia was granted land in 1804. By 1809 Andrew had bought land on the Hawkesbury River, near Lower Portland, and built a home where he and Sophia lived till they died. Andrew gradually extended his holding and by 1828 had 1220 acres (494 ha), 100 (40 ha) of them cleared and cultivated, 14 horses, and 130 horned cattle. In 1822 he applied successfully to Governor Sir Thomas Brisbane for a grant of some 300 acres (121 ha) adjoining his home farm, declaring that he lived on a farm obtained by purchase, and had settled a family of seven children on similarly purchased estates, and also that, on arrival in Sydney, he had been 'appointed to draw in water colours two collections of the Natural Shrubs of this Colony by Governor Philip Gidley King for Sir Joseph Banks'. It is recorded that he painted several yards of ribbon with wildflowers as a present for Mrs King. Two of his drawings in watercolour of shrubs and plants, now in the hands of Bruce McDougall, show that he was a gifted artist, but his other paintings appear to have been lost.

Andrew and Sophia had four sons. By 1880 their descendants held properties from the Hawkesbury through the north and north-west of New South Wales into southern Queensland and the Gulf country; many of them were in the van of pioneers in the north, and they produced solid settlers who contributed a fair share to its development. Of them perhaps Cyrus Matthew was the most notable.

On 18 October 1814 Cyrus had married Frances Bigger, daughter of a local farmer. They lived at Sackville Reach, where Cyrus had bought a farm and built a home which he called Ulinbawn, said to be after the family home in County Wicklow, Ireland. Cyrus and Frances had five children. Frances died in July 1827, and in January 1828 Cyrus married Elizabeth Maria, daughter of Andrew McDougall, of Roxburgh Place, Baulkham Hills; they had three children. By 1833 Cyrus had holdings on the Hunter River and in 1839 he moved his home to Midlorn, Maitland, though he still retained his properties at Sackville Reach.

After moving to Maitland Cyrus was active both in community affairs and in extending his holdings. He held office in the Anglican church, the Hunter River Agricultural Association, the racing club, and on the Maitland Hospital Committee and was chairman of the Maitland Steam Navigation Co.; he won prizes at the Hunter River Show and raced horses. By 1852 he had been appointed a magistrate of the colony.

His will, dated 22 April 1837, referred to several properties on the Hawkesbury, Wollombi and Hunter, and in and around Maitland, as well as to 'allotments on the South Heads Road, and situate at Waverley Terrace'. Two decades later he had acquired more property round Maitland and elsewhere. By family tradition his eldest son, Andrew (1815-1878), was sent in 1832 with four assigned servants and some Aboriginals to what came to be known as the Narrabri district, acting swiftly after Major (Sir) Thomas Mitchell reached that area in January. A run of 150,000 acres (60,704 ha) was taken up for Doyle by his overseer, Patrick Quinn, and was taken over by Andrew when he came of age in 1836. Part of the station known first as Nurrabri was later named Killarney; by 1848 Cyrus and his sons had four separate leaseholds, apparently subdivisions of the original holding on which the town of Narrabri now stands. Cyrus also seems to have extended his holdings into southern Queensland, for in 1843 his son Bartholomew wrote to him from Nurrabri station reporting that Aboriginals had raided the property on the Moonie 'which you are aware is at least 240 miles (386 km) beyond this'.

Cyrus died on 16 March 1855, reputedly from typhoid fever contracted when visiting Melbourne.

His son Andrew remained at Narrabri until 1864, when he moved to the Bokhara River, north-west of Brewarrina. He married Catherine Broughton, daughter of John Howe, of Windsor, by whom he had four sons and six daughters; after Catherine died he married Emily Agnes Williams, by whom he had five sons and two daughters. Andrew died at his home on Retreat station, near Brewarrina, in March 1878. A local obituary described him as 'one of the oldest bona fide pioneer settlers of the district', who 'had the satisfaction in his latter days of knowing that enough of his old vast domain is held by those of his blood and name to make it a power in the district'.

Select Bibliography

  • A. B. Doyle, Interim Notes on Andrew Doyle (np, 1960)
  • R. J. Webb, The Rising Sun—A History of Moree and District (Moree, 1962).

Related Thematic Essay

Citation details

Alec B. Doyle, 'Doyle, Cyrus Matthew (1793–1855)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1966, accessed online 19 May 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 1, (Melbourne University Press), 1966

View the front pages for Volume 1

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]


27 November, 1793
Dublin, Dublin, Ireland


16 March, 1855 (aged 61)
New South Wales, Australia

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