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  • ID: I4370
  • Name: James (JAMIE) SINCLAIR
  • Sex: M
  • Birth: 21 APR 1811 in Paisley, Renfrew, Scotland
  • Burial: 06 APR 1850 Parish of Camperdown, County of Cumberland, NSW. Shifted to St Stephens Church, Newtown Cemetery 1
  • Event: BDM Reg No 1850 V1850 602 36A
  • Death: 04 APR 1850 in Benevolent Asylum, Camperdown, NSW 2
  • Note:

    From records obtained in April 2000 from the 99th regiment in England, it appears that James Sinclair was born in 1811 in Paisley in the county of Renfrew about 15 miles west of Glasgow (according to information supplied by himself he was 36 when he was discharged from the army in 1847). However when the 99th regiment was established for service in Mauritius in 1824, he claimed he was 16 & enlisted for service on 8th May, 1824. His occupation on joining the army was given as a weaver. Jamie on joining the army, according to his medical records, was 5'4.5 tall, with a pale complexion, grey eyes & brown hair. His height gives credence to his age of 13 years when joining the regiment. His registration was No 346, so he was an early member of the unit. As he actually signed his "Application for Enlistment" it is presumed he was literate.


    The Colonel of the sixth Regiment of "99th," raised in 1824, was Major-General Gage John Hall, who had recently acted as Governor of Mauritius. On 19th March, 1824, he received a letter from Lord Palmerston at the War Office, stating that the King had been pleased to order a Regiment of Infantry to be forthwith raised for general service under his command, that the number was to be the 99th, and that it was to be placed on the establishment from the 25th inst. The establishment consisted of 32 Officers and 617 Rank and File, with 8 Companies, raised to 10 later in the year. On 24th April, 168 rank and file were on the books. There were also thirty Officers, but seven of them were absent without leave. By October the 99th were up to strength, and marched to Edinburgh Castle via Airdrie and Bathgate before the end of the year.

    The following January they went by sea from Leithe to Portsmouth, occupying barracks at Haslam, Gosport and other nearby places. In October, having shed their four Depot Companies, they sailed from Spithead in the transports Kainy, Layton and Southworth. Their destination was Mauritius in the Indian Ocean, east of Madagascar, a picturesque mountainous island captured from the French in 1810. The 99th were to remain there for twelve years. The Commanding Officer was Lieutenant-Colonel George Harding, who held the Peninsula Medal and had been wounded five times. Disembarking at Port Louis in February and March 1826, the Regiment found themselves on an island about five times the size of the Isle of Wight, inhabited by English, French, Creoles, Africans and Indians. There were extensive sugar plantations and the climate was pleasant enough except between December and April, when it became oppressively hot. This part of the year was spent at Mahebourg on the South-east coast, and the cooler weather found them at Port Louis, on the North-west coast. This was the capital with a big harbour and forts. Detachments went from time to time to villages with the picturesque French names of Flacq, Poudre D'or, Cannonier Point, Jacole, Souliac and Cure Pipe. Life was peaceful, the working hours being spent in drill, field exercises, marching and being inspected by the Commander-in-Chief, who must have had a most pleasant command. In 1829 Lieutenant-Colonel George Harding was succeeded in command by another "Peninsula" soldier, James Johnston, and a Detachment was sent to the Seychelle Islands to the North. Lieutenant-Colonel Johnson produced some voluminous Regimental Standing Orders, which he must have had plenty of time to write.

    Much space was devoted to the rules governing the Regimental tailors, who were Private Soldiers. Entirely under the direction of the Quarter-Master and the Master Tailor, they were excused all duties except Church Parades when clothing was on hand. There working hours were from daylight to dusk except for the necessary intervals for meals. "any garment or cloth rendered useless or spoilt by the cutting out, must be made good by the Master Taylor so that the Colonel may sustain no loss by his neglect or ignorance...The tailors, if absent, drunk or irregular, will be punished accordingly." Army punishment still included flogging. For this the Standing Orders stated, the Drum Major was responsible that all was in immediate readiness with fresh cats, the cost of which was met by every man so punished paying one shilling.

    In 1832 the 99th received permission from Her Majesty to be styled "The Lanarkshire Regiment," as they had been raised in Glasgow. In 1837 the Regiment sailed from Mauritius in the transports "Arab" and "Maitland", disembarking at Cork, and in October were stationed at Fermoy, where their Depot Companies joined them from Portsmouth. Asiatic Cholera broke out among those who had been in Mauritius, and Fifteen men died "(i) Jamie was promoted to Corporal on 18th Nov 1834 but was reduced back to private again on 8th Oct 1836.(ii) While in Ireland Jamie met & married Elizabeth Harvey. It appears they had 2 male children & 1 female child while in Ireland, however all were deceased on leaving Ireland.

    The 99th in Australia

    The 99th regiment was then used to supply guards for convict ships going to Australia."This Miserable duty was not without tragedy for the 99th, as forty-six all ranks were lost at sea in two disasters, also with a number of their families. But as each ship discharged its wretched human cargo in Sydney cove and the escorting soldiers, rejoined their Regiment, life in early colonial New South Wales was far from unpleasant" (i) James was sent to Australia in mid 1842 on board the "Marquis of Hastings" arriving in Sydney on November 7, 1842 having left from Spithead England on July 7, 1842. His wife was allowed to travel with him. A child, John Sinclair, was born soon after arriving in Australia on 22 Nov 1842. A further child William James was born on the 4th Nov 1844. Both were christened in Scots Church Sydney in1842 & 1844 by the same pastor J.D.Lang.

    The 99th in New Zealand

    Jamie served in NSWales, being posted to the Hunter region at Rutherford, until 1845 when his regiment was sent to New Zealand following a disastrous defeat of a British regiment by the Maoris. "to redress the wounds of this reverse, reinforcements were soon on their way from Sydney. In early June the British Sovereign arrived in Auckland harbour with 200 officers & men of the 99th under the command of Henry Despard, who was deputed to assume command of all troops in New Zealand with the temporary rank of Colonel on the Staff. The choice of commander, Henry Despard of the 99th, could hardly have been more unfortunate; though an officer of some Indian experience, he was of a fiery and impatient disposition which was not alleviated by a generous share of bovine stupidity......his whole choleric outlook and limited military ability were unequal to the leading of a joint force in primitive terrain. The going was so difficult that it was sunset before they covered the mere seven miles to Ohaeawai." (iii) Jamie participated in the assault on the Ohaeawai Pah on the 1st July 1845 where forty of his companions were killed and a further 80 were wounded. It was a stunning defeat, however 2 days later the Maoris abandoned the fort because of the blood spilt in the area. (iv) " The War in the North - Ohaeawai"

    The British determined to follow up on Heke's defeat at Te Ahuahu as quickly as possible. On th 24th of June, Lieutenant-Colonel Henry Despard (who had replaced Hulme at the beginning of the month) arrived at Ohaeawai with 615 men and a battery of cannon and mortars. He immediately opened fire with the artillery and continued the bombardment for six days. Unable to breach the palisades with his 6 pounders, on the 1st of July he opened fire with a 32 pounder. Until a complete overthrow is given to Heke, the British possessions in New Zealand are not worth having. The attention of the whole Island is drawn to this struggle and the future state of the Colony depends on the result...& Kawiti sallied his warriors against one battery and Despard quickly responded with a frontal assault on the pa. 250 crack troops attacked to be met with a devastating close-range volley from the defenders.

    Despite the gruesome carnage, the attack continued with almost suicidal courage until Despard sounded the retreat. Although the pa contained only 100 warriors, the British were driven back leaving an incredible 110 soldiers dead or wounded. It was an impossible defeat, where Despard was tired and dispirited and disgusted beyond expression at having been defeated by a mob of savages - and with such fearful cost. "History has all too often laid the whole blame for the defeat on Despard. Disregarding the advice of Waka Nene, he probably did attack too early and might have been better to have waited until the 32 pounder had had time to breach the palisades. But probably more important is that he did not know of the extensive modifications made to the old pah. Maintaining an unusual degree of secrecy, Kawiti had denied missionaries and pro-government maori access to the pah while he engineered modifications which virtually made it a whole new kind of fortification.

    On the 10th of July, the British bombardment resumed - although Despard certainly knew that Kawiti was planning to abandon the pa the next day. Despard claimed victory, and the pa was destroyed - but not before he'd had time to inspect the military engineering skill which was clearly evident. The Colonel was convinced that a pakeha must have directed the design and construction of the pa. To his cost, he refused to recognise that the effectiveness of the defences

    The War in the North was not going well for the Pakeha with Heke and Kawiti so fiercely opposing the British. " (vi) Jamie was also present at the taking of Kawitis Pah on 11 Jan 1846. This again was a disaster due to the ineptitude of Henry Despard, however victory was saved from defeat when the Maoris took time off on the Sunday for religious observance in the forest near their fort & while they prayed Despard occupied their fort. Jamie fell ill from the harsh conditions in New Zealand and "was hospitalized for several months".

    The War in the North - Ruapekapeka For five months after Ohaeawai, there was no fighting. Despard received orders from Governor FitzRoy which were tantamount to a suspension of all active operations

    Using the missionaries as intermediaries, FitzRoy started negotiating for peace. Heke's response was that he would allow Pomare (a neutral chief) to re-erect the flagstaff at Kororareka but only if it were to be used as a signal station for shipping ....but if it is for an Ensign of Sovereignty of the Queen, I will never submit to the flag. FitzRoy's response demanding that some Maori land be forfeited was rejected by both Heke and Kawiti. Not at all happy with the peace proposal his predecessor was offering, Grey demanded a decision from the 'rebels' within five days - an impossibly short space of time. Having thereby disposed of the peace plan, he began to assemble the largest force the colony had yet seen . Heke was at Hikurangi. Grey sent Te Taonui to try to prevent Heke from joining Kawiti. Te Taonui did not succeed this time, but it was over a month later before Heke arrived at Ruapekapeka" For his part Kawiti had not been idle. After the success of Ohaeawai, he took himself off into his Ngati Hine heartland and set about the construction of his fortifed masterpiece: Ruapekapeka. The innovations he had developed at Ohaeawai were employed again (or improved upon) and he was confident that he could withstand anything the British would send against him. On the 7th of December, Grey's new force started to arrive at the Kawakawa River. With Despard once again in command, the force consisted of 800 regular infantry, 400 seamen and marines, 60 volunteer militia and 80 sailors and artillerymen from the East India Company. About 1,300 men in all, supported by 500 or so Maori under Waka Nene.

    Hampered by 30 tons of artillery and cutting roads as they went, it took Despard's force three weeks to make their way across the 18 rugged miles of bush and river. They would have been easy targets for harassment had Kawiti chosen to do so, but he did not, presumably supremely confident in his fortification. Building stockades progressively closer to the pa, Despard opened fire with his guns as soon as they came into position. Eventually, there were three 32-pounders, an 18-pounder, four 12-pound mortars and two 12-pound howitzers together with a number of 6-pounders, Congreve rockets and four fast-firing mortars. The combined firepower was awesome and even Kawiti's brilliant engineering could not have prevented the scene inside the pa from being absolutley hellish. By the time Heke and about 60 warriors arrived, the palisades were already breached in three places. On the same day - 10th of January 1846 - Despard ordered the guns to begin a storm bombardment, firing all day and on through the night. Most of the garrison of the pa were forced to withdraw during that night; only Kawiti and a dozen or so of his warriors remaining in the pa to meet the attack which came the next day. After firing one volley, they too withdrew into the bush followed by some of the British. It was a trap. Fierce skirmishing broke out as Kawiti and Heke's warriors ambushed from previously prepared fortified positions in the bush. Gaining the upper hand, some of these warriors attempted to retake the pa, but were driven back. No matter how brilliant the engineering of defences, no human being could be expected to withstand such intense. A few days later, Heke and Kawiti met with Waka Nene at Pomare's pa and sued for peace. Grey responded by announcing an unconditional pardon to all concerned in the late rebellion.

    Just a few months after the Battle of Ruapekapeka, Henry Williams wrote: Heke's cause is by no means extinguished. He is at large and could mount as large a force as ever. Public reaction amongst the Pakeha (and some Maori) was relief mixed with some concerns that taking over an empty pa was not quite the complete victory being claimed by Despard and Grey. Certainly, Heke and Kawiti did not regard themselves as defeated, and Heke's influence continued to grow. Kawiti, who was already in his seventies when the war began, never attempted to regain his position, but Heke became very powerful and remained so until his death in 1850 .

    But the Union Jack didn't fly over Kororareka again until after both Heke and Kawiti were dead."(vi) Jamie was discharged as unfit for further service on 12th March 1847 having chronic rheumatism of the knee joints and severe varicose veins of the thighs "this was not aggravated by vice or intemperance" according to the medical officers report. It appears Jamie died in 1850 in the Camperdown Benevolent Asylum.(v)

    (i) The Wiltshire Regiment (The 62nd & 99 Regiments of Foot) by Tom Gibson, published by Leo Cooper Ltd., London.
    (ii) Jamie's Record of Service.
    (iii) The Wiltshire Regiment.
    (iv) From his medical records on discharge.
    (v) From his death certificate.
    (vi)"The New Zealand Wars" A History of the Maori Campaigns and the Pioneering Period by James Belich

    Father: Hugh SINCLAIR
    Mother: Isobel DAVIE

    Marriage 1 Elizabeth HARVEY b: 1820 in Downpatrick, Ireland
    • Married: 1837 in Ireland
    1. Has No Children Unamed Male SINCLAIR b: BEF 1842 in Ireland
    2. Has No Children Unamed Male SINCLAIR b: BEF 1842 in Ireland
    3. Has No Children Unamed Male SINCLAIR b: BEF 1842 in Ireland
    4. Has No Children Unamed Female SINCLAIR b: BEF 1842 in Ireland
    5. Has No Children John SINCLAIR b: 21 NOV 1842 in Sydney, NSW
    6. Has Children William James SINCLAIR b: 05 NOV 1844 in Sydney, NSW

    1. Footnote: V1850602 36A
      Note: V1850602 36A
    2. Details: Anglican Church Dioces of Sydney Citation Text: Many of those buried in Camperdown Cemetery situated in Church St Newtown were disintered from Devonshire Street Cemetery following an act of parliament in 18 67 anmd moved to Camperdown Cemetery Footnote: V1850602 36A
      Note: V1850602 36A
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