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Joseph Doonan

Joseph Doonan was the Fremantle Prison Comptroller and then a shopkeeper. He owned and operated J. Doonan & Sons c. 1890-1909 in Adelaide Street on Lot 330, the first in the street on the left as you leave High Street. Doonan Street was named after him in 1897, but the name was later changed to Holdsworth Street, after Lionel Holdsworth.

The assistant superintendent, in effect head warder of the Prison, was Joseph Doonan. Born in Ireland in 1831, he had arrived in Western Australia with his mother and sister in the Travancore in 1853. Joining the convict service in 1853, he had a quick promotion to principal warder in 1859. In 1866, when [Doonan was] seeking promotion, the superintendent acknowledged his ‘sound judgment, industry and high principles’ and described him as ‘the most trustworthy and deserving subordinate officer of this service and as to education, manners and conduct I think him well qualified to take charge of any convict prison or depot. ...’ He was appointed assistant superintendent in August 1867 and assumed some of the duties of Superintendent in 1875 on the retirement of the incumbent. The Home Government cut the position as an economy and the duties were divided between Doonan and acting comptroller-general Fauntleroy (Heseltine: 27).

Fremantle Prison:
Assistant Superintendent of Fremantle Prison, and Acting Superintendent at the time of the Fenian escape in April 1876. Doonan was an Irishman, and was investigated due to having been informed of the possibility of an escape. Following this, Doonan attempted suicide by cutting his throat with a bread knife, then resigned from his position. He was also committed to the Lunatic Asylum. Once he recovered, Doonan went into the merchant business, running a General Store of his own, with dwelling house of eight rooms and balcony, known as Adelaide House, situated on Adelaide Street, opposite the Fremantle Town Hall. He died in 1886.

This photo from page 90 of Hitchcock of a reception for Governor Smith in 1896 shows Doonan's store on the left as the first building in Adelaide Street. The corner of the Town Hall is at the other extreme edge of Nixon's photo.

DOONAN, Joseph B. b. 1831 (Ireland), d. 8.7.1888 (Frem), arr. 13.1.1853 (with mother & sister) per Travancore, m. 18.7.1855 (C/E Frem) Harriet Sarah JACKMAN b. 1834 d. 15.1.1908. dtr. of Robert, she arr. as a servant with H.M.Lefroy's family 6.4.1854 per Sea Park. Chd. Thomas George b. 1856 d. 1928, James b. 1860 d. 1925, Mary Jane b. 1862, John Robert b.1865 d. 1901, Alfred b. 1867, Elizabeth Ann b. 1870. Was member of committee of Frem. Mechanics Inst. 1861. He bt. Town Lots in 1861, 1865 & 1868. Appointed Princ. Warder at the Convict Estab. 1863. Assistant Supt. 1873 & retired 1876 after the escape of the Fenian prisoners in the Catalpa. This event so preyed on his mind, he contemplated committing suicide. He was auditor of Frem. Town Council 1871. He owned drapery & grocery stores as well as a large house in Adelaide St. by 1880s. He employed a T/L man 1865 & 2 in 1B81. C/E.

References and Links

Davidson, Ron 2008, Fremantle Impressions, Fremantle Press: 203-4.

Heseltine, William 2004, 'The escape of the military Fenians from Fremantle Prison: the warders' perspective', Fremantle Studies, 3: 26-45.

Erickson page for Doonan.

Garry Gillard | New: 14 May, 2016 | Now: 1 November, 2022