BARRINGTON, George (1755-1804)


BARRINGTON, George (1755-1804)
whose real name was Waldron, pickpocket
was born near Dublin in October 1755. His father, Henry Waldron, was a silversmith, his mother's name was Naish or Naith. The various early memoirs of Barrington were all catchpenny books in which accuracy was not a consideration, and none of Barrington's statements about himself may be accepted without suspicion. All that can be said with certainty of his early life is that he obtained a certain amount of education, and while still a youth began a career of pocket-picking. He dressed well and got into good society, and when brought before the court had so plausible and ready a tongue that he usually succeeded in evading punishment. In January 1777 he was sentenced to three years' hard labour at the Woolwich hulks, but was released in 1778 after serving about a year of his sentence. This experience did not act as a deterrent, as he was in trouble several times during the next 10 years, yet on nearly every occasion he was either discharged or escaped comparatively lightly. In September 1790 he was accused of robbing a man of his watch, found guilty, and sentenced to be transported for seven years.
Barrington arrived in Sydney in August 1791. There is no evidence for the story of his having prevented a mutiny during the voyage, but he seems to have found favour with the authorities very soon after his arrival. An extract from the journal of George Thompson in May 1792, mentions that "Barrington holds the post of head-constable at Parramatta and is a very diligent officer" (H.R. of N.S.W., vol. II, p. 796). Governor Phillip (q.v.) granted Barrington conditional emancipation in November 1792, and in the Dublin Chronicle of 4 June 1793 it was stated that "Governor Phillip tells many curious stories of His Majesty's subjects in Botany Bay. Barrington is high constable of the settlement and administers justice with an impartial hand". (ibid, p. 809). This, however, suggests that Barrington's position was more important than it really was. Governor Hunter (q.v.) in a letter dated 20 August 1796 said: "He (Barrington) has constantly done the duty of chief constable at Parramatta, and in that office has been indefatigable in keeping the public peace and in guarding private property. It is much to be regretted that a man of this description, because once having offended the laws of his country, should be ever afterwards considered as unworthy of favour." In the following September he was appointed superintendent of convicts. In March 1801 a statement appeared in the government and general orders that Barrington had, from infirmity, resigned his position as head constable and that the governor had directed that half his salary was to be continued to him. Despite this, his name still appeared as chief constable in the list of civil and military officers holding land in November 1802. About this time he became a lunatic and he died on 27 December 1804.
Barrington is the reputed author of A Voyage to New South Wales (1795), The History of New South Wales (1802), and other works. There is no evidence to show that they were written by Barrington and he never claimed them. The books relating to Australia were compiled from the works of Phillip, Hunter, Collins and others, and it has been suggested that their author may have been F. G. Waldron, a writer of the period, who was possibly related to Barrington (E. A. Petherick, the Athenaeum, 19 February 1898, and Notes and Queries, 19 November 1898). The famous prologue supposed to have been recited at the opening of a playhouse at Sydney on 16 January 1796 containing the lines:
"True patriots all, for be it understood, We left our country for our country's good."
was also not written by Barrington. In The History of New South Wales, 1802, it is not even attributed to him, it is simply stated that the lines were spoken. (On the question of the real authorship see the Native Companion, March 1907). It would have been quite in keeping if Barrington had claimed the authorship, for the central idea was probably "conveyed" from another source. In Farquhar's comedy The Beaux' Stratagem Aimwell says: "You have served abroad sir?"
Gibbet: "Yes, sir, in the plantations; 'twas my lot to be sent into the worst service. I would have quitted it indeed, but a man of honour, you know——Besides, 'twas for the good of my country that 1 should be abroad." Act III, scene II.
R. S. Lambert, The Prince of Pickpockets; Historical Records of New South Wales, vols. II and V; Historical Records of Australia, ser. I, vols. I to V; E. A. Petherick, Athenaeum, 19 February 1898; Notes and Queries, 19 November 1898. A. W. Jose, Journal and Proceedings Royal Australian Historical Society, vol. XIII, pp. 292-4; Times Literary Supplement, 27 November 1930. A remarkable amount of information relating to Barrington is recorded in J. A. Ferguson's Bibliography of Australia, especially on pp. 13 to 17, vol. I.

Dictionary of Australian Biography by PERCIVAL SERLE. . 1949.

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