Macquarie's corner connections


Convict descendant Janelle Collins visited the Hyde Park Barracks on Sunday 3 August and joined the Macquarie’s Corner Tour.  

The tour group of 14 included some local and a number of international visitors from the United Kingdom, The United States of America and Hong Kong who, along with me, enjoyed hearing about her special connection to Lachlan Macquarie.  

Her ancestor Esther Spencer was married to Governor Macquarie’s coachman Joseph Bigg and Janelle related a family story to the group.

On 6 October 1814 Bigg accidently ran over and killed a young boy aged three named Charles Thomas, while driving Mrs Macquarie in her curricle (a two wheeled open horse drawn carriage) along George Street, Sydney. A coronial inquest followed and Joseph Bigg was cleared of any charges of negligence or reckless driving. Elizabeth Macquarie was so distressed by the experience that she suffered a nervous collapse that confined her to bed for several weeks. She held Joseph Bigg in high regard and in a letter written to Charles Whalan dated February 13 1831 sent from Aberdeen in Scotland she wrote:  

"...If you ever see Joseph Biggs tell him that we never fail to enquire after him, that we often think of him; and if a letter could be of any service, he should have one long ago. That Lachlan is a good horseman and whip; and has not forgotten his first master's instructions.”

Janelle is a self-confessed family-tree-aholic and has been researching her family history for 25 years or more, creating a blog to share her research. If you would like to find out more about Janelle's ancestor Esther Spencer you can read more on her blog:

After the tour Janelle impressed our weekend staff by making her very own Hyde Park Barracks souvenir earrings from our coin minting machine.


Letter. Elizabeth Macquarie to Charles Whalan. Whalan Papers, MSS 6/1, ff.29 - 32. (Mitchell Library, Sydney).

Head and shoulders of woman standing next to brick wall.
Janelle Collins, convict descendant, at the Hyde Park Barracks Museum. Photo Amy Armour, Sydney Living Museums

About the Author

Portrait photo of young woman
Amy Armour
Visitor Interpretation Officer
Amy Armour is a visitor interpretation officer in the Macquarie Street Portfolio, which includes Hyde Park Barracks Museum and The Mint.

Hyde Park Barracks

Hyde Park Barracks Museum renewalThursday 10 January 2019

The Hyde Park Barracks Museum will close on 29 January 2019 for a major renewal project that will transform the UNESCO World Heritage-listed site into a world-leading heritage destination.

Two children running in garden in front of two storey farmstead building.

School holidays

Summer 2019: school holiday opening hoursTuesday 27 November 2018

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Internship: Indigenous Public ProgramsMonday 18 February 2019

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Internship: Collections CareMonday 18 February 2019

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Internship: Curatorial ResearchMonday 18 February 2019