Edward Denny Day
Edward Denny Day was born in 1801 into an aristocratic and protestant Anglo-Irish family in Tralee, Ireland. His father was Reverend John Day and his mother was Charlotte Denny. The lineage of both parents was filled with ancestors possessing privilege and influence , or who were respected clergymen.
Day arrived in Sydney in 1834, as a civilian hoping to find success and maybe own property in the strange new land.
His military career had seen him spend several years in India so it can be assumed that he was well prepared for the Australian heat and harsh conditions, unlike many of his British counterparts.
Day's first job in the colony was as a clerk in the office of the Colonial Secretary Alexander Macleay.
At the age of 34 Edward Denny Day married Margaret, the 19 year old daughter of aristocrat James Raymond. James Raymond, his wife and nine children found their way to Australia through numerous social connections which ensured free passage and employment upon arrival.
In 1833 the role of police magistrate was created by a British Act of Parliament. Police magistrates were paid government officials, appointed by the Governor and given sweeping powers.
Denny Day's first post as police magistrate was in 1836 in the Blue Mountains. He arrived in Wallis Plains (Maitland) in 1837. He was so efficient in cleaning up the wild town of Maitland that after only nine months he was sent to Muscle Brook (Muswellbrook), being replaced by the highly inexperienced Patrick Grant.
Edward Denny Day is remembered not only for his exceptional work in Maitland, Muswellbrook and Port Macquarie as a peacekeeper and police magistrate, but also for his role in the trial of the perpetrators of the Myall Creek massacre. On the 10 June 1838, 28 Wirrayaraay Aboriginal men, women and children were massacred in the stockyard at Henry Dangar’s run.
Through Day's investigations, 11 of the 12 perpetrators were arrested and brought to trial and seven of them were executed on 18 December 1838.
Prior to Myall Creek only three British subjects had been convicted of murdering Aboriginal people but none had ever been executed. This was the first time that British subjects had been executed for the murder of Aboriginal people and it set a judicial precedent.
Day was also instrumental in the capture of the Jewboy gang of bushrangers.
In December 1840 Day was a private citizen visiting Muswellbrook when news of the increased bushranger activity by Edward / Teddy Davis and his Jewboy Bushranger Gang reached him. There was no Police Magistrate in Muswellbrook and the Chief Constable at Maitland had been shot.
Day gathered volunteers and Mounted Police to track down Davis and the gang. They were captured at Doughboy Hollow (Ardglen) and taken to Scone, and then to Sydney, where they were convicted and found guilty. They were executed on 16 March 1841.
In appreciation of his works in the capture of the gang Edward Denny Day was presented with silver Sheffield plate.
Denny Day and his family spent many years in the Maitland area and subsequently Day was involved in many civic duties such as laying the foundation stone for the Maitland Benevolent Asylum in 1846. Although Day and the family moved to Sydney in 1849 followed by a move to Port Macquarie in 1853 to take up position of Provincial Inspector of Police, by 1858 Day had moved back to Maitland to take on the role of police magistrate again.
Edward Denny Day died in Maitland on the 6 May 1876 and his wife a few years later in February 1879 and they are both buried at Glebe Cemetery in East Maitland.
In St Peters Church in Maitland above the altar there is a stained glass window dating to 1887 with the following dedication “To the Glory of God and in memory of Edward Denny Day of the 62nd Regiment who fell asleep 6 May 1876”.
The Edward Denny Day Collection at Maitland City Library provides an in depth look at Denny Day's personal and professional life.
An example of these documents can be seen in Denny Day's poem 'An Impartial Chief Justice' seemingly about his family life.