Launceston convict clockmaker and watchmaker, Arthur O'Leary

Launceston convict clockmaker and watchmaker Arthur O’Leary worked in his trade in the 1850s and 1860s in Elizabeth Street. He offered watch, clock, and jewellery repairs and engraving. Other services included goldsmith work and gold electro-plating, jewellery manufacture, and even hair plaiting.

Arthur was a native of County Cork, Ireland, and had arrived in Van Diemen’s Land in January 1849 on the convict ship Pestongee Bomangee. His crime was stealing a cow resulting in a seven-year transportation sentence to the other side of the world. Recorded as Arthur Leary on arrival, he was free of the convict system by 1854 and began to use the surname O'Leary.

On 9 November 1855, Arthur married Mary Keleher at St Joseph’s Catholic Church in Launceston. Mary was also Irish and formerly of County Clare. The couple had two children, son Olan Arthur, born in 1867, and daughter Mary Gertrude in 1870 after her father’s death.

The family resided in Bourke Street, Launceston, where Arthur died on 30 June 1869, aged 48. Cause of death, according to an inquest was ‘death from the visitation of God,’ and ‘disease of the heart’ was on the death record.

Launceston Examiner 10 August 1869: 
‘MUNICIPAL COUNCIL. A memorial was read from Mrs Mary O’Leary, widow of the late Mr Arthur O’Leary, stating that she was left in a state of poverty and asking that the water might be laid on to her house on the Cataract Hill in order that she might better obtain a living by taking in washing. Referred to the Superintendent of Waterworks.’

The Waterworks Committee reported in September 1869 that Mary's home was an isolated building; labour and material cost to connect the water would be £9. They were happy to assist, but the rule in similar cases was to provide labour only.

Mary outlived her children and died in Launceston in 1925, aged 88.

© Sallie Mulligan, August 2022.

See Hands of Time blog, July 2023, for business partnership, Wilkinson and O'Leary.  


TAHO: CON33/1/92, CON18/1/47, CON14/1/39, RGD37/1/14 no896 Marriage 1855 [O’Leary], RGD33/1/45 no283 Birth 1867 [Olan O’Leary], RGD35/1/38 no962 Death 1869; RGD35/1/65 no281 Death 1896 [Mary Gertrude Marlborough]. The Brittania & Trades’ Advocate 31 March 1851 [Arthur Leary]; The People’s Advocate or True Friend of Tasmania 13 August 1855 [O’Leary], 13 November 1856; The Examiner (Launceston) 11 August 1855, 25 August 1855, 17 November 1855, 24 November 1855, 12 January 1856, 23 February 1856, 25 July 1857, 10 October 1857 [O’Leary], 19 February 1859 [O’Leary], 10 July 1869, 24 August 1896, 2 March 1925; Cornwall Chronicle 18 September 1869; Daily Telegraph 10 March 1913 [Olan O’Leary].