THE HISTORY OF THE SYKES FAMILY IN AUSTRALIA

ELLEN SYKES & Edward J. Kenny

Ellen was the first child of George Sykes (second generation) and Catherine Crowe of Spring Valley and was born on 26th June 1836. She married Edward J. Kenny (born 1832, died 1906) and they had ten children (see Ellen line). Ellen died in 1900.

Agnes Kenny (Sister M. Peter, R.S.M.)

Agnes, the third child of Ellen and Edward Kenny, was born in Queensland on 31st December 1867. She helped care for the family at home and later they moved to the Goulburn district.

At the age of 33 years she entered the Convent of Mercy, Goulburn, on 15th December 1900. She was professed in the Mercy Order on 4th February 1904, taking the name of Sister Mary Peter.

Sister Peter was known for her kind, sweet manner and spent most of her religious life in country convents. She died in the Cootamundra Mercy Hospital on 13th August 1938 and was buried in the Cootamundra Cemetery.

James Kenny

James was the grandfather of Edward James Kenny, and father-in-law of Mary Byrne the daughter of Sarah Sykes (nee Byrne). Mary married Francis Kenny (see Ellen line) .

James Kenny was the first Catholic school master in Australia. On the Life of Bligh in Royal Australian Historical Society Journal, 1950, Vol. 36, I quote:

"When the robust and stiff-necked Bligh arrived in Sydney to relieve the ailing and tired Governor, King penned a lengthy statement on the current position in New South Wales. In this report of August 12 1806, education received its due mention. After discussing the Orphan School and the school at Green Hills at some length, the retiring Governor satisfied himself with a brief summary of the rest: Exclusive of these schools, there are three at Sydney (one of which is for Catholic children), two at Parramatta, one at Toongabbee, and one at Kissing Point, under the protection of the government, besides several others, which present the means of the youth receiving suitable education. And as those who manage them are attentive to their scholars, they make a considerable progress in the common rudiments of learning. Nor are the parents in general backward of availing their children of these advantages.

"So Bligh inherited a well-founded system of education, in which the extent of the public or State school system is apparent. Harris at the Green Hills, Hughes at Kissing Point, Crook and Tull at Parramatta, Nelson and Taber at Sydney, have already been mentioned. It is unfortunate that at no time are the names recorded of the teacher at Toongabbee or the master and matron of the Orphan School at Sydney.

"The third government school at Sydney is yet another example of the advanced and liberal ideas of King. There were large numbers of Roman Catholics from Ireland in the community. King permitted and encouraged the celebration of Mass, although years later Macquarie would not permit a priest to remain in the Colony. Roman Catholics had been granted the right to teach in England in 1790-1, and King not only permitted them to have their own school in Sydney, but also gave the school government support. This school would be the first school for Roman Catholics in Australia; and it was State-aided. But it was directly controlled by the Governor, and the teacher was appointed by him.

"James Kenny, a Roman Catholic from Carlow, Ireland, was the teacher of this school. He arrived in the Boddington in 1793, and could quite easily have been one of the private school teachers to whom Hunter referred. His school was situated on the Rocks, which at that time had a mixed population of the very best and the very worst in Sydney. The high ground which in much later years became a slum area was then highly popular with the social elite on account of the views and the elevated and convenient situation. During the years, many schools held sway in the vicinity of the present Fort Street Girls' High School. But Kenny, with or without reason, gave up his school in Sydney as soon as Bligh became Governor. He proceeded to the Hawkesbury, taught a school at Wilberforce without government assistance except rations, received his land grant, became a farmer and prospered, eventually founding a station near Lake George."

William and Thomas Sykes (third generation), brothers of Ellen Sykes