Uncle John

Ireland’s Uncle John (1838–1923) was his mother’s eldest brother. He introduces another different aspect to this colourful emerging family history. John Henry Nicholson was born in Lyme Regis (home of his mother’s family), then educated at Croft House Academy in Brampton when the family returned to Cumberland. This was a renowned educational establishment with many famous alumni, among them Thomas Ismay, founder of the White Star Line, and Sir William Stephenson, Lord Mayor of Newcastle. At the age of just 16, John Henry Nicholson emigrated to Australia, at first only temporarily, then permanently. The following information is taken from Australian biographical sources:

Brisbane Harbour, Australia, c.1880, from 'Australian Pictures' by Howard Willoughby, published by the Religious Tract Society, London, 1886 (litho)

Brisbane Harbour, Australia, c.1880, from ‘Australian Pictures’ by Howard Willoughby

In 1859 he sailed once again for Australia, this time settling in Queensland, initially in Toowoomba, where he briefly operated his own private school. The following year he married German-born Anna Wagner (they had no children but adopted a daughter) and moved to nearby Warwick to take up employment as a tutor. He started another private school in 1863, but moved to Brisbane two years later after joining the Board of General Education. This subsequently led to him taking charge of schools at Nundah (1865–1868), Springsure (1870–1876) and Enoggera (1877–1885).

While working as a teacher Nicholson managed to publish  four small volumes of prose and verse (the first two were published using the pseudonyms ‘Tadberry Gilcobs’ and the second as ‘Salathiel Doles). In 1882 the book largely associated with his name was released in London. Titled The Adventures of Halek, and inspired in part by John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress, the story is essentially an allegory which communicates the idea of man’s development from sinful worldliness to ideal goodness. The sequel to this was Almoni (Brisbane, 1904).

In 1885 Nicholson resigned from the Board of General Education in order to open another private school, this one being located in Enoggera. Having begun to suffer increasingly from bouts of melancholia, he was forced to leave the school in 1891 in order to recuperate for most of the year in a Goodna mental hospital. He returned to teaching between 1892 and 1897 before being appointed registrar of births, marriages and deaths at Nundah. On 7 July 1905 Nicholson married Anna Cordes, his first wife having died in 1901. Three months after the marriage, however, Nicholson was readmitted to the Goodna mental hospital and remained there except for occasional intervals until his death.

Interestingly John Ireland also suffered bouts of depression, and knew that this was a family problem.


Brisbane Courier, 19 July 1905, p. 4.



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s