Thomas Shuldham O'Halloran

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Thomas Shuldham O'Halloran (25 October 1797 – 16 August 1870) [1] was the first Police Commissioner and first Police Magistrate of South Australia.

Magistrate officer of the state, usually judge

The term magistrate is used in a variety of systems of governments and laws to refer to a civilian officer who administers the law. In ancient Rome, a magistratus was one of the highest ranking government officers, and possessed both judicial and executive powers. In other parts of the world, such as China, a magistrate was responsible for administration over a particular geographic area. Today, in some jurisdictions, a magistrate is a judicial officer who hears cases in a lower court, and typically deals with more minor or preliminary matters. In other jurisdictions, magistrates may be volunteers without formal legal training who perform a judicial role with regard to minor matters.

South Australia State of Australia

South Australia is a state in the southern central part of Australia. It covers some of the most arid parts of the country. With a total land area of 983,482 square kilometres (379,725 sq mi), it is the fourth-largest of Australia's states and territories by area, and fifth largest by population. It has a total of 1.7 million people, and its population is the second most highly centralised in Australia, after Western Australia, with more than 77 percent of South Australians living in the capital, Adelaide, or its environs. Other population centres in the state are relatively small; Mount Gambier, the second largest centre, has a population of 28,684.


Early life

O'Halloran was born in Berhampore [1] (now Baharampur) India, the second of eight sons of Major-General Sir Joseph O'Halloran, [2] by his wife, Frances, daughter of Colonel Nicholas Bayly, M.P., and niece of Henry, 1st Earl of Uxbridge. [1] Thomas was a grandson of Irish surgeon Sylvester O'Halloran, and brother to William Littlejohn O'Halloran. [3]

Joseph O'Halloran was a major-general in the East India Company.

Sylvester OHalloran Irish surgeon

Sylvester O'Halloran was an Irish surgeon with an abiding interest in Gaelic poetry and history. For most of his life he lived and practised in Limerick, and was later elected a member of the Royal Irish Academy (RIA).

William Littlejohn O'Halloran was a British Army officer and public servant in South Australia.

O'Halloran entered the Royal Military College, Sandhurst (or Marlow [1] ) in 1808 and at 16 he was commissioned into the 17th Foot and sailed for India. He served in the Nepal war during the years 1814, 1815, and 1816, became Lieutenant in June 1817, and served in the Deccan war during that and the following year. On 1 August 1821 he married Miss Anne Goss of Dawlish, Devonshire, who died in 1823 in Calcutta, leaving two children. [3] In 1822 he exchanged from the 17th to the 44th Regiment, which he joined in Calcutta in January 1823. [1] In 1824 he was ordered with the left wing of the 44th to Chittagong, where he arrived early in June, and was appointed paymaster, quartermaster, and interpreter. On 30 October he was appointed brigade-major to Brigadier-General Dunkin, C.B., who commanded the Sylket division of the army during the Burmese war, and served on his staff until his death in Nov. 1825. He received a medal for war service in India, for Nepal and Ava. [1]

Royal Military College, Sandhurst British Army military academy

The Royal Military College (RMC), founded in 1801 and established in 1802 at Great Marlow and High Wycombe in Buckinghamshire, England, but moved in October 1812 to Sandhurst, Berkshire, was a British Army military academy for training infantry and cavalry officers of the British and Indian Armies.

A lieutenant is a junior most commissioned officer in the armed forces, fire services, police and other organizations of many nations.

O'Halloran transferred to the 99th Foot as a Captain in 1827. He returned to England after twenty years in India in 1834. On 10 July 1834 [3] he married Miss Jane Waring, of Newry, County Down, and retired on half-pay in October of that year. [1] Soon afterwards he transferred to the Coldstream Guards and was on half pay until he transferred again to the 97th Foot in May 1837. [1]

Captain (Capt) is a junior officer rank of the British Army and Royal Marines and in both services it ranks above lieutenant and below major with a NATO ranking code of OF-2. The rank is equivalent to a lieutenant in the Royal Navy and to a flight lieutenant in the Royal Air Force. The rank of captain in the Royal Navy is considerably more senior and the two ranks should not be confused.

Coldstream Guards part of the Guards Division, Foot Guards regiments of the British Army

The Coldstream Guards is a part of the Guards Division, Foot Guards regiments of the British Army.

South Australia

In 1838 O'Halloran retired from the army by the sale of his commission, and sailed for South Australia the same year with his family in the Rajahstan, landing at Glenelg on 21 November 1838. [1] He established a farm, Lizard Lodge in the Adelaide suburb which now bears his name, O'Halloran Hill. He was made a J.P. in 1839. He was gazetted Major-Commandant of the South Australian Militia on 26 February 1840, and on 8 June as Commissioner of Police. [1]

Glenelg, South Australia Suburb of Adelaide, South Australia

Glenelg is a beach-side suburb of the South Australian capital of Adelaide. Located on the shore of Holdfast Bay in Gulf St Vincent, it has become a tourist destination due to its beach and many attractions, home to several hotels and dozens of restaurants. Glenelg also became infamous for being the site of the Beaumont children disappearance in 1966.

Adelaide City in South Australia

Adelaide is the capital city of the state of South Australia, and the fifth-most populous city of Australia. In June 2017, Adelaide had an estimated resident population of 1,333,927. Adelaide is home to more than 75 percent of the South Australian population, making it the most centralised population of any state in Australia.

In December 1839 he was appointed by George Gawler as one of four members of a Board of Police Commissioners. Upon the dismissal of the founder and first commander of the police, Superintendent Henry Inman in May 1840, the Board was abolished and O'Halloran was appointed under a new title of Police Commissioner. He retired from Government service in 1843 as a result of his disinclination to serve as both Police Commissioner and Police Magistrate. [4]

George Gawler Governor of South Australia (1838-1841)

Lieutenant-Colonel George Gawler, KH, was the second Governor of South Australia: from 17 October 1838 until 15 May 1841.

Henry Inman (police commander) Australian police chief

Henry Inman (1816–1895) was an English cavalry officer, pioneer of South Australia, founder and first commander of the South Australia Police, overlander and Anglican clergyman.

Maria controversy

Major O'Halloran's expedition to the Coorong, August 1840. Painting by unknown artist, held at the Art Gallery of South Australia. Major O'Halloran's expedition to the Coorong, August 1840 - Google Art Project.jpg
Major O'Halloran's expedition to the Coorong, August 1840. Painting by unknown artist, held at the Art Gallery of South Australia.

In June 1840, the brig Maria set sail from Port Adelaide towards Hobart. By July 1840, stories and rumours had circulated that all 26 people on board had survived a shipwreck, but had been murdered by members of the Ngarrindjeri along the Coorong. After a police investigation, which discovered some of the bodies and determined who the murderers were believed to be, Governor Gawler ordered O'Halloran (as police commissioner) and Police Inspector Alexander Tolmer to lead a party of police and sailors to the area. His orders were to find and execute those responsible. [5] [6]

On 22 August 1840, after several days of interviews, investigations and a drumhead court-martial, two Ngarrindjeri men were publicly hanged on the Coorong in front of 65 people from their tribe. O'Halloran then told the people (through an interpreter) that their bodies were not to be taken down and that this was to be a warning against violence towards Europeans by Aboriginal people. [7]

This was one of the most contentious incidents in South Australian legal history. At the time, Aboriginals in South Australia were considered British subjects, and therefore deemed to be under the protection of British law. Gawler's ordering of a drumhead court-martial and the executions was not well received by the London authorities and contributed to his removal as governor.

At that same time O'Halloran's younger brother, Captain (later Major General) Henry Dunn O'Halloran (1800–71), 69th Regt., posted at New Brunswick, Canada, was conducting a significant study of the language and customs of the indigenous Mi'kmaq people.


Although O'Halloran attracted a reputation for belligerence, one of his mounted troopers of the 1840s related that, "Old Major O'Halloran used to say 'I never hated a man longer than a day'". [8]


O'Halloran married Anne Goss (died 1823) on 1 August 1821; she had two daughters. He married again, on 10 July 1834, to Jane Waring; they had three sons and one daughter. His eldest son Thomas Joseph Shuldham O'Halloran SM, married Harriet Julia Woodforde, daughter of the Adelaide Coroner. Their son Thomas Shuldham O'Halloran KC was a noted lawyer and football administrator in South Australia. A daughter Eliza O'Halloran married farmer and flour miller Samuel White in 1853.

O'Halloran died at his home "Lizard Lodge", and was buried at Christ Church, O'Halloran Hill, an Anglican church which he helped to establish and is also located in the suburb, now overlooking Glenthorne CSIRO Research station. [3]


  1. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 Mennell,Philip (1892)." Wikisource-logo.svg   O'Halloran, Major Thomas Shuldham".The Dictionary of Australasian Biography.London:Hutchinson & Co. Wikisource
  2. Dolling 1981, p. 16.
  3. 1 2 3 4 Ross, D. Bruce. "O'Halloran, Thomas Shuldham (1797–1870)". Australian Dictionary of Biography . Canberra: Australian National University. Retrieved 6 April 2013.
  4. "Nomenclature of South Australia". The Register . Adelaide: National Library of Australia. 4 July 1908. p. 7. Retrieved 13 October 2012.
  5. "Shipwrecks - Maria Creek". Australia: ABC. Retrieved 31 December 2018.
  6. Doolette 1997, p. 21.
  7. Doolette 1997.
  8. Retired trooper Robert Kewley (1821-88), Burra Record , 28 October 1884, p. 3 - via Trove.

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Further reading