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Australian history

The great Everingham dynasty

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Barry Everingham outlines the history of his famous Australian pioneering family.
Barry Everingham


WHEN Robert de Everingham married Isabel de Birken in 1279, it was the union of two great families of the day and their children’s subsequent unions were to be the ancestors of some of England’s most noble houses. It may be safely assumed that Robert and Isabel had no idea that forty or so generations on one of their ancestors would arrive in Australia in what was called the First Fleet, marry and start an Antipodean dynasty which has made its mark in many facets of this great country.

Matthew James Everingham was 18 when he got here in chains. 

Matthew James Everingham

A law clerk in London he was short of his rent money one week and pinched from his boss a book worth five shillings which he pawned. His boss called in the police; young Matthew was hauled before a judge at the Old Bailey and sentenced to seven years transportation.
The grandson of an Earl, he didn’t tell his family of his fate and never again made contact with them—but his education saved him from many of the deprivations his peers went through and he was soon released given a grant of land and became a farmer. He met a woman from the Second Fleet, Elizabeth Rimes, married her and they had five sons and four daughters, who in turn gave the couple 85 grandchildren!

He wrote of his wife:

“...a most excellent woman…hard indeed to be found in this Colony for the generality of them disgrace the very name of woman!”

Talk about a dynasty.

Matthew didn’t talk to his children about his background in England—that was all in the past and he was interested only in the future. Had he gathered them around the fire and told him of his back ground they would have learned he was educated at Christ’s Hospital in the famous Blue Coat School. That an ancestor was the Hereditary Butler to the Archbishops of York. And, most amazing of all, that one of his ancestors was the Hereditary Keeper of Sherwood Forest—family legend had it his actions in that role gave his the nickname of Robin Hood!

Former Federal Health Minister, Doug Everingham

The early English Everinghams were members of the House of Lords, others were knighted for service to various monarchs—most made their marks in society.

None of this mattered to Matthew in his new role of husband, father, farmer and later Chief Constable of the Hawkesbury River district of Sydney where he was charged with stopping the rum runners of the river.

But he was determined to find out as much as he could about his new country. In 1797, along with two mates, he blazed the first trail over the Blue Mountains—missing out by only one day of reaching his goal. The trio ran out of food and they were shoeless after traversing the rough terrain so they returned to Parramatta. It was many years later that Blaxland, Wentworth and Lawson completed the journey and wrote themselves into the history books.

Matthew was drowned on Christmas Day in 1813 while chasing the rum runners and Elizabeth was left to raise the big family.

The children dispersed—some of them going down to Sydney, others trekking to the Northern Rivers and later some to Western Australia. They all married; some married into the same families—Chaselings and Woodburys, mainly. The younger son, John, married the last full blood Aboriginal woman in the Hawkesbury district.

The crack Sackville cricket team boasted three Aboriginal Everinghams: Sidney, Dick and Charlie—John’s grandsons.

There are in our family doctors, politicians, lawyers, journalists and labourers. Some are rich, some are poor, some are educated, and some are not. We are numbered in the thousands and we are all fair dinkum Aussies and all proud to be members of this incredible family.
Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser with Paul Everingham in 1978 as Everingham became the Northern Territory's first Chief Minister

Douglas—Health Minister in the Whitlam government; Paul—Chief Minister of the Northern Territory; Bill—a Brisbane surgeon and former State President of the Liberal Party; John—a photo journalist who swam the Mekong River to rescues his girlfriend (later his wife) from the Communists. Ernie Bridge, famous for his country music, is also Australia’s first Aboriginal cabinet minister having served in an ALP Government in the West Australian parliament, is also a descendent. Today our family boasts Chinese, Vietnamese, Burmese, Iraqis, Afghans, Germans, and Icelandics—the whole, ethnic gamut.

All this from a union which was formed 7 centuries ago.

It’s a suitable ending to this piece to mention that when Paul Everingham, as NT Chief Minister, greeted Charles and Diana and the then child William to our country he was in the company of distant cousins—the Spencers and the Bowes Lyons are descendants of Robert and Isabel!  
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