Earl Grey’s Irish Famine Orphans (40):”Excessive ” female immigration to South Australia 


In my last post, I asked researchers in South Australia to consider making an in-depth study of the four thousand or so ‘Irish Famine women‘  who arrived there in the mid 1850s. If i may be allowed to explain myself further, or at least assure myself I wasn’t talking codswallop, I’d like to suggest some first steps for research into this topic. Here are a few basic questions.

  1. How do we know there were as many as 4,000 Irish females? When did they come, and on which ships? Where did they come from, even if our records only tell us their county of origin? Did they come alone or with other family members?
  2. What problems did the influx of such a relatively large number of female immigrants pose for South Australian authorities? How were the women received? (Some excellent secondary sources have broached this subject already. See for example Eric Richards, “The importance of being Irish in Colonial South Australia”, in The Irish Emigrant Experience in Australia, John O’Brien and Pauric Travers eds., Poolbeg Press, Dublin, 1991 and Marie Steiner, Servants depots in South Australia, Wakefield press, Adelaide, 2009, to mention but two.)
  3. What became of these Irish women both in the short term and during their life in Australia?

To address number one above, South Australian Parliamentary Proceedings 1858, Paper 16, allows us to extract the number of single Irish females who arrived in the mid 1850s. There were 251 in 1853, 1044 in 1854 and 2978 in 1855. That makes 4273, i.e. about the same number of Earl Grey Irish Famine orphans.

If we turn to the Reports of the Select Committee of the Legislative Council of South Australia appointed to inquire into the Excessive Female Immigration; together with minutes of evidence and appendix, Adelaide, 1856, South Australia Legislative Council, Votes and Proceedings, First Session, 1855-56, Vol.II, No.137, we discover which ships carried most single Irish female immigrants.

The following table is from the appendix and relates to 1855 arrivals. Apologies, my copy is not the best. Which ships would you pick out? Coromandel, Rodney, Northern Light, Flora? Europa, Nashwauk, Grand Trianon, Seapark, Velocity, Constantine, Octavia, South Sea, Aliquis, Admiral Boxer, Thomas Arbuthnot, Warren Hastings, Bucephalus,? Others too? Double click or pinch the image to make it larger and more legible.

blogsaexcessIt would be a time consuming, yet necessary, task to go through the shipping records for all the vessels that arrived in Port Adelaide from the UK in these years. Some information is available online but it does not cover all the years we want or provide all the details that are available. See for example, http://www.archives.sa.gov.au/content/official-passenger-lists#overlay-context=user

It is a work in progress.

And unfortunately, some websites do not name which county the young women came from; see for example, http://passengersinhistory.sa.gov.au/ship-search

Indeed, not every shipping list names the county of origin of these young women. When you turn up in person, you will need to rely on the goodwill and assistance of the wonderful people in the State Library and the South Australian State Archives for direction.

I’m hoping the records contain enough information to compare the origins of these young women with Irish women who arrived elsewhere. Did most of them come from Munster, from Clare, Cork, and Tipperary, for example?  Rachel Boardman on the Telegraph was from Antrim; Norry Nelson on the Flora was from Clare as was Sarah Bouchier; Catherine Condon and Anastasia Keane on the Northern Light were from Limerick. On the Grand Trianon, Mary Kewson (Kenson?) was from Cork, Ann Quinlivan from Clare, Jane Stack from Kerry, and Ellen Shanley from Westmeath.

Shipping lists do give the age of the women when they arrived, and thus we know how old they were when the Famine struck. A better knowledge of these women is possible, I’m sure of it.

I hope too that there will be some way of finding if these women came with other family members, with  their brothers, other sisters or ‘friends’.  Or did they travel alone? Fingers crossed this can be done.


The questions at number 2 and 3 above, I hope you will find interesting.

Was this deluge (the word is Professor Richards’) of Irish females to South Australia easily and quickly absorbed; “…the most remarkable aspect of the crisis was its brevity and swift evaporation” (Richards, p.79)?

Yet were the women forced to work long hours in the South Australian sun for miserable wages,

“some walking 16 miles in the heat of the day, barefoot, to go to a situation; others returning to depot sun-burnt, blistered, overworked and cast out after harvest was finished; some found crying, disappointed, despondent and depressed at their prospects”?

That was how I put it in my previous post. See,


Eric Richards, in his essay mentioned above, provides a sympathetic treatment of his subject. He stresses the hardships of their early days and their eventual absorption and acculturation. “The girls”, he says, “were sometimes humiliated by their employers and insulted by offers of employment at wages one-third…of the normal servant rates. Some of the girls who went to Gawler weren’t even provided with mattresses and were expected to sleep on straw, just like pigs, according to one of their outraged countrymen. At Willunga they became mutinous, apparently out of fear of the bush and snakes, refusing to travel the rough country tracks, complaining bitterly about the lack of letters from home, poor wages, and about being dispersed and thereby isolated from their friends.” The matron at Willunga defended the women against their critics, “I can assure you, Gentlemen, that what I state is nothing but the truth: three of the poor girls walked yesterday, barefooted, about sixteen miles, between the hours of ten and four, to get a situation. Mary Cain will leave today, at five shillings per week—and the other two expect to be sent for this week. Catherine Uninn was hired, yesterday, at two shillings and sixpence per week. My husband gave Mary Cain an old pair of boots to go to her situation.” (cited in Uphill all the way. A documentary history of women in Australia, compiled and introduced by Kay Daniels and Mary Murnane, University of Queensland Press, 1980). Other women returned to Adelaide their hands and their feet painfully raw from the work they were expected to do.

We might try approaching things from the Government’s point of view (for which lots of sources exist) and then try viewing what happened, from the perspective of the female immigrants themselves. Were they so easily and so quickly absorbed? How many became dependent on government for relief? Is there evidence that their Famine experience had an impact on their life? What trials did these young immigrants face in their new country? How many left South Australia? How many fell on hard times? Did our individual Irish Famine female become fatalistic, too easily accepting the constraints of her new surroundings? Did she abnegate, sacrifice her own hopes and ambitions for the sake of her children? What happened to her? You might like to think about these questions.


Encounter Bay c. 1846 GF Angas courtesy State Library South Australia

Encounter Bay c. 1846 GF Angas courtesy State Library South Australia

Let me direct you to some of the sources.

For a clear and balanced exposition of the way the South Australian Colonial Government dealt with the “excessive female immigration” of the mid 1850s, have a read of Marie Steiner‘s book Servants Depots in colonial South Australia, Wakefield Press, Adelaide, 2009. There’s a good bibliography at the end, and two interesting appendices; one using the work of Janet Callen, on the ‘Servant girl passengers’ on the shipwreck, Nashwauk, the other enumerating how many young women were sent from the  Adelaide immigrant depot to country depots by the end of January 1856. There were 121 sent to the Clare depot, 61 to Willunga, 80 to Guichen Bay (incl. Penola and Mount Gambier), 91 to Encounter Bay, 129 to Gawler and 246 to Mount Barker. Twelve more went to Morphett Vale and 17 to Yankallilla, though these districts did not have immigrant depots.

Sir Richard Graves MacDonnell photograph c.1860 courtesy State Library of South Australia

Sir Richard Graves MacDonnell photograph c.1860 courtesy State Library of South Australia. He was Governor of South Australia from mid 1855 to 1862, one of the many Irishmen who held high office in the British Empire.


As I’m sure many of you agree, there is nothing quite like getting hold of  primary sources themselves. For this little project they are basically the same as for the Earl Grey Famine orphans viz. records in the Archives, for example, SAA (South Australian Archives) GRG 24/6 Colonial Secretary Letters received (look for the appropriate year(s)),

SAA GRG 24/4 Colonial Secretary Letters sent; SAA GRG 35/43 Immigration Agent incoming correspondence; GRG35/47 Health Officer Port Adelaide; GRG 35/48 Ships Papers, or even GRG35/301 Irish female immigrants expenditure in Adelaide and country depots 1855-6 with similar returns for the Aborigines. Expenditure at the Adelaide depot was £2730.4.1 for the period December 1855 to November 1856, and £2285.12.10 for the country depots. When there is a demand upon the public purse, politicians are usually quick to act.

As you may have deduced already from the title of Marie Steiner’s book, one practical step authorities took was to distribute immigrants throughout the interior. But first the Colonial Secretary asked local councils if they would be willing to take them.

Thus GRG 24/6 2153 6 July 1855 from Brixton Laurie JP at Port Elliott, “There us a demand in the district of Encounter Bay for about thirty female domestics and farm servants in equal proportion…I have also to remark that the District Councils have suggested the propriety of employing the unoccupied females in the destruction of thistles under proper superintendence“.

And from John Hope who was Irish, at Clare, one of the most welcoming districts, (2155) They can take about 30 farm and 5 domestic servants and adds “…any assistance in my power will be given in carrying out the Colonial secretary’s wishes”.

By contrast, from Evandale, the hundred of North Rhine, (2227) “…the proportion of English settlers is small compared with that of Germans…there are some Irish families and I think a few Irish females might find employment as farm servants”. As domestic servants, “some have already obtained situations but their conduct in many cases has been such as to induce their employers to determine that they will not take  into their houses persons whose habits, education and religion are frequently the source of much inconvenience and annoyance”.

And from Charles Brewer, Government Resident at Robe 1 Sept. 1855 (2969), “One of the girls Bridget Henessy has been so insubordinate that I have been under the necessity of expelling her from the Depot. She in the first instance having been named one of the party for Penola, refused to go…she was afterwards selected for Mount Gambier, but on the morning the party left, she hid herself away and did not make her appearance until night…”. See Marie Steiner, page 61 where she is described as Bridget Mahey(?)

Or see SAA GRG 35/43 Immigration Agent incoming correspondence where there are  letters from relatives enquiring about individual immigrants. There are letters from Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and New Zealand, from Thomas Smith of Melbourne asking about his sister Elizabeth Cassidy –“we have many Elizabeth Cassidys on our books”; Mrs Theresa Sheehan in Wellington New Zealand asking about her daughter Mary Ann who arrived by the Isle of Thanet; Mary Donovan from Kilkee, County Clare asking about her daughter Johanna per Northern Light; letters about Mary Ann Lynch from Dublin, Frances or Fanny McDowal from Dublin, and Bridget McCausland from Sharn, ManorCunningham, County Donegal.

There are letters of desperation, “And I beg of you if there is any humanity in your country to relieve a broken hearted parent from the chains of sorrow and anxiety of mind for neither night nor day do I know one peaceful hour. This is the tenth letter I have written to you and never got any answer to any of them…” (7 April 1857); “I am very much depressed in  mind since I parted with a sister of mine. I understand she arrived to the colony as there have been letters from many who went out in the same ship” (18 May 1857). And as late as 24 February 1859 a letter from James (shoemaker) and Elizabeth Orr, Lurgan, Armagh asking about Mary Jane Orr per Victoria Regina (arr.11/55) “…we her parents never received any word from herself although she could read and write well”.

There’s even one dated 16 July 1855, enquiring about an Earl Grey orphan, Bridget Mahony per Elgin,  from her mother Margaret Mahoney, widow, No 5 Alley Coppingers Lane, off Popesquay Cork, Ireland. Matthew Moorhouse replied 23rd October that she was hired from the depot on the 3rd October 1839(sic) to Mr Walker shopkeeper Hindmarsh, “I know nothing of her since then”.

The best of luck working with these.



Nowadays it is a lot easier to gain access to contemporary newspapers, for instance, the Adelaide Observer or the Adelaide Times or the South Australian Register. You can do so via www.trove.nla.gov.au

Here is a link to a few of relevant newspaper articles http://www.slsa.sa.gov.au/manning/sa/immigra/irish.htm

And here is my order for copies of newspaper articles which the South Australia State Library kindly provided back in the 1980s.

Lots of them relate to the Earl Grey orphans, especially on this first page


blogsapapers1Click or pinch these to make them larger.

These newspapers entries are not difficult to find. Thus, see the Adelaide Times 29 June 1855 page 2 http://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/207025989

Or the Register 10 March 1856 http://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/49749655?browse=ndp%3Abrowse%2Ftitle%2FS%2Ftitle%2F41%2F1856%2F03%2F10%2Fpage%2F4143289%2Farticle%2F49749655

It’s worth looking for more. There’s a large number of editorials in the Register condemning the Colonial Land and Emigration Commissioners in the second half of 1855, for instance.

We hope that Sir Richard McDonnell, in the course of his peregrinations through the various public establishments, will not omit to look in at the Female Immigrants’ Depot on North Terrace. There is something to be seen there which requires his instant attention. He will find there between 300 and 400 strong healthy girls, all with vigorous appetites, living idly at public expense. They have been sent to this colony at an expense of nearly £20 per head by the Colonial Land and Emigration Commissioners. By a fiction in which these Commissioners are fond of indulging, they are called “domestic servants”, and have been ostensibly shipped to these shores for the purpose of occupying that position in the social scale, and in answer to a demand for a supply of female immigrants of that description. But they are not “domestic servants”, and never have been.” (The South Australian Register, Tuesday, June 19, 1855)



In addition to the Report mentioned at the beginning of this post, there are other South Australian parliamentary papers worth perusing, for example, South Australia, Correspondence on Emigration No 54, ordered to be printed by the Legislative Council, November 23, 1855, Despatches on Emigration No 54, ordered to be printed December 18, 1855 and two more, all numbered 54, February 6 and February 12 1856. These comprise correspondence between the Secretary of State, and Colonial Land and Emigration Commissioners in London, and Richard Graves McDonnell, newly appointed Governor of South Australia.

McDonnell asked why such a disproportionate number of single Irish females were being sent, and the London Commissioners gave the familiar reply, ‘it is impossible to obtain the proper proportion of English and Scotch for their emigrant ships…they have been obliged…to draw largely on Ireland, especially for females…’ (54**).

But McDonnell would have none of it. Just arrived at Government House in Adelaide, he writes to Lord John Russell in England, “It is my duty…to state to Her Majesty’s Government the great evil springing up here in consequence of the Emigration Commissioners sending to this Colony so many single Irish women, of a class, generally speaking, unfitted for Colonial employment, and whose probable future destiny it is painful to contemplate”. (25 June 1855) The reply from W. Molesworth, Secretary for the Colonies, dated 12 September 1855, is swift,“I have instructed the Emigration Commissioners to cease sending any unmarried female emigrants from Ireland to South Australia, excepting only such unmarried females as may form part of any families who are sent out …”.

Do have a look at this correspondence. McDonnell lets his Imperial masters know how misguided he thinks their emigration policy is; how expensive it is for the colony to provide lodging and rations for such a large number of immigrants; to provide welfare for the sick and the destitute and unemployed single Irish women; that as many as one fifth of the arrivals did not want to come to South Australia in the first place but had wanted to go to Melbourne or Sydney; that twenty five had arrived under assumed names; and what arrangements were being made to distribute the women throughout the colony. As early as 27 June 1855 circulars were sent to District Councils asking them to reply to the following questions,

  1. What demand exists in the District of         for female domestics or female farm servants…?
  2. Would any, and what, advantages attend the establishment of a Depot for female immigrants, and for what number of such immigrants in the District of       or its neighbourhood; those immigrants being boarded and lodged in such Depot whilst waiting employment?
  3. Supposing the establishment of such Depot expedient, what facilities does the District of      afford for its erection and maintenance, and what would be the probable cost per diem of rationing each female immigrant?
  4. Are there any, and what, buildings to be hired in the said District suitable to the purposes of such Depot and at what rate? and
  5. Are there any and what parties in the District willing to contact for the maintenance in the said Depot of the females who might be sent there.

In time, the position of McDonnell and the colonial government would be supported by the South Australian Legislative Council’s inquiry into “Excessive Female Immigration”. The full title is at the beginning of this post. There should be a copy in the South Australian Parliamentary Library or the Mortlock Library. If you know of others, please let us know. Do try and have a look at it, especially its Minutes of evidence and Appendix.

It is in the minutes of evidence we hear the young women speak for themselves, at least through the intermediary of a clerk, as well as the voices of people such as Mr Moorhouse and Mrs Ross, Superintendent of the Female Immigrant’s Depot, and Matron of the Female Immigrant Depot respectively, among others. The evidence of the young women is particularly useful. In addition to what they tell us about historical context, they give the name of their ship, often (but not always) their county of origin in Ireland, and most interestingly, their reasons for coming.

Thus, 15 February 1856, Margaret Hanlon was called in and examined. She had arrived by the Admiral Boxer and was originally from Naas in county Kildare. She had what she called ‘the evil in my arms’. Her sister Bridget Odon had assisted her and her daughter’s passage. Frances McDowell had arrived from Dublin twelve months ago by the Rodney; Jane O’Hara from county Antrim was three months in the colony and had wanted to go to Sydney; Ellen Door but a week in the colony was from the City of Cork; Honor Kennedy had come by the Northern Light; Jane Higgins was from ‘the County Kildare’; Ellen Neal from the City of Cork; Mary Fitzgerald had wanted to go to Melbourne as did Mary Ring, Bridget Broderick, Elisabeth Cagney, Margaret Duggan and Ellen Downey but were sent to Adelaide instead. So too was the case with Anastasia Collins from county Kilkenny, Margaret Fitzgerald, and Elisabeth Williams. Miss Williams and her sister applied through Mr Ellis of Marlborough Street in Dublin for a passage to Melbourne but on arrival in Birkenhead ‘were told we must go where we were sent’. Mary Connolly, Jane Carolly and Sarah Keogh were from Dublin, Mary Riley came from county Cork, Mary Ann O’Brien from Clare, Bridget Keogh from Gort in county Galway, Mary Fohey also from county Galway and Harriet Hunt from Tuam in the same county. All were questioned about their experience as servants. Harriet Hunt had been ‘greatly petted and indulged by her friends’. Young Jane Carolly, from Dublin city where her father was an engineer on the Dublin and Drogheda railway, had never been in service before but had hoped to be employed as a nursery governess.

Even official sources such as this one can be misleading. Note the difference between some of the names as they appear in the minutes of evidence, and as they appear in the ‘Proceedings of Select Committee’ that precedes the minutes. Honor Kennedy was recorded in the ‘Proceedings’ as Honor Kermoody, Mary Ring as Mary King, Elisabeth Cagney as Elizabeth Kagney, Elisabeth Williams as Elizabeth Fitzwilliams and Jane Carolly as Jane Connolly!

Appended to the report is a list of those women known to have travelled to other colonies.McDonnell estimated that upward of a fifth of the immigrants did so. Appended also is a list of which young women were sent to South Australia, despite their having asked for other destinations.

Here are these two appendices.

Appendix to minutes of evidence

Appendix to minutes of evidence


And here are some who left for Sydney, Melbourne and Geelong.  My apologies I failed to align the next two pages.




And what became of all these young Irish Famine women, the Lord only knows. Our best bet for finding more about their life history will be the valiant work of family historians. South Australian researchers have made a start on this already. Here are two pages from Marie Steiner’s lovely little book. She has used the work of Janet Callen for her appendix on the women who arrived by the shipwrecked, Nashwauk.


This appendix will also be useful in researching the women sent to the Clare Depot, on the main route to the north of the colony. Clare had a strong Irish community and welcomed the young females who arrived there. If I remember correctly, in 1964, Cherry Parkin  in her BA Hons thesis at the University of Adelaide identified some the women who made the three day trek over rough roads to Clare in 1855.

SAA GRG 24/6 2431 25 July 1855 names them as the following, (best to look yourself. My hurried transcription may have misread what was written. I’ve followed one of the basic rules of historians. Don’t change the original document!)

Brigit O’Brian, Brigit Flavity, Johanna Rian, Margaret Henasey or Hanassy, Bridget Redling or Rodling, Mary Cathale, Ann? Jones, Hannah McCarthy, Margaret Green or Gavin, Cathrin Carthy, Cathrin? Kneal?,Cathrin Tracey, Ellen Lubin, Mary Brian, Mary Rian, Nancy Slattery, Mary sexton, Elen Collings, Susan Callagin, Bridget Wite, Ellen Barney or Bonney, Brigit Minihan, Kate Downer, [Bridget Steven, Bridget O’Leary or is it Bridget Horan or Kearn and Judy Sheary?], Elen McDowale, Elen More, Catherine Corpey, Mary Coppinger, Mary Fogarty, Ann Fogarty, Susy Donnovan, Elen Dalton. Elen Wood, Bessy Donnovan, Mary Carse or Kearse, Johanna Fitchgarld, Margaret Fitchgarld, Mary Lakeman or Lokesnan, Hannah Steal, Elen Carmody, Bridget Callagin, Bridget Wite, Bridget Rian.

Some of these appear in the St Aloysius College, Sevenhill marriage register at Clare. For example, an Ellen Moor married John McKenzie 20 January 1857; Elizabeth Donovan married John Hearn 21 March 1857; Johannah Fitzgerald married Joseph Tilgner 4 October 1857 at Kooringa and Catherine Ryan was a witness; Hanna Fitzgerald married Thomas J Everett 7 November 1857; and a Mary Coppenger married John Langton 15 November 1857 at Kooringa.

I’m sure many of the women who appear in that Register from 1856-7 onwards are part of that ‘deluge’ of mid 1850s Irish immigrant women.  There are excellent South Australian researchers and family historians, (I know of a couple, Stephanie James, Simon O’Reilley and Ann Herraman, for example) who will be able to identify these women in marriage registers. Researchers like these have the skills to compile a database of these young Irish women.

St Francis Xavier Cathedral, Adelaide, Lithograph, c. 1850 courtesy of the State Library of South Australia

St Francis Xavier Cathedral, Adelaide, Lithograph, c. 1850 courtesy of the State Library of South Australia

Maybe one day we will recognize them as Irish Famine women. We will place the 1850s South Australian immigrants alongside the Earl Grey workhouse orphans, and the  convicts transported to Van Diemen’s Land, 1846-53, as refugees from that terrible calamity, the Great Irish Famine.




7 thoughts on “Earl Grey’s Irish Famine Orphans (40):”Excessive ” female immigration to South Australia 

  1. Hello I have a descendant named Johanna Maria Shea (various spellings). She was born 1838 Kilkenny Ireland – father Michael (farmer of Kilkenny). Johanna is mistranscribed as Judith on the Nashwauks passenger list (which was common on this ship). A Mary Shea from Kilkenny was also on the ship. The girls ages are crossed out and corrected. Mary could be b1833 or b1823 according to which age you use? They had both requested Sydney.
    The Nashwauk sunk just before reaching Adelaide in 1855.
    Mary Shea (various spellings) may have married in SA either a Thomas Ebenezer Foulkes/Faulkes in Adelaide 1863 of Kent Town (Mary Oshahy signed Shea was born Kilkenny 1833 father listed as William Shahy) Mary died in 1917 Little Sisters of the Poor home Glen Osmand)
    or a David Mutton in Kooringa 1862 (Mary Sheahy b 1830-35 was listed as father Patrick)
    or a Michael Donohoe in Gilbert (of Kapunda) in 1859 (Mary Shea B 1833 father Edward Shea).
    A 1918 newspaper article confirms that mounted police trooper of SA John Bentley (London b1820) helped to rescue the girls from the Shipwreck and went on to marry Johanna Shea and have 10 children with her. It also mentions that John pre deceased Johanna.
    Johanna became involved in a Supreme Court of Adelaide case contesting her and her children’s right to a share in her husbands last remaining sibling/brothers estate (Thomas Friend Bentley) who died intestate, unmarried and rich in SA in 1915!
    Johanna Shay b 1838 father Michael Oshay married a Thomas Castle in Sevenhills College near Clare SA in 1858 (both residing in Kooringa). She does not appear on the list of servants sent to Clare. Her place of abode was Kooringa? By 1859 she was in Sydney and settled in Katoomba NSW with John Bentley.
    A bogus name was used (due to Bentley being Protestant and Johanna Irish).
    The Supreme Court case mentioned in the advertisement discusses the “missing marriage” of Johanna and John and the only marriage being found being when Johanna married a “Thomas Castle”and the legality of applying for a share of John Bentley’s brothers estate (Thomas Friend Bentley).
    Thomas Castle innkeeper Kooringa b1833 Folkestone Kent father Thomas from same place does not appear to exist.
    I recently viewed Johanna’s intestate estate (after the required 100yr wait). This estate confirms in writing that Johanna married John Bentley under the assumed name “Thomas Castle”.
    John Bentley died in Hartley 1881 and Johanna in Blackheath in 1918.
    Interestingly Kilkenny is near Castlecomer and Thomastown
    Irish sense of humour perhaps?
    I have a copy of the Nashwauks original passenger list. Also admission to the destitute asylum in Adelaide. Also John Bentley’s police records in SA and NSW and 1841 London census details.
    I also have the details of all John’s brothers, sisters and parents (most of which came to SA from London on the Cheapside in 1849).
    All I can find here in Australia is my Johanna “Maria” Oshea/Shea b1838/9 arrived in South Australia in 1855 (as an Irish servant girl) on a ship called the Nashwauk. She was only 16 and had a possible relative Mary aged 19 on the ship with her. They were both from Kilkenny and both Roman Catholic!
    Johanna was transcribed as Judith on the ships list and certificates indicate her father was Michael Shea (farmer of Kilkenny). Mary b 1833-35 (later Foulkes) father was William Shea from Kilkenny. Mary b 1835 could have been (later Mutton) father Patrick. Or a Mary Shea father Edward who mattied a Michael Donohoe in 1859. Perhaps the girls fathers were brothers?
    The Nashwauk became a famous shipwreck off the coast of South Australia and Johanna/Judith was rescued by an English Mounted Policeman from London (John Bentley-a Protestant.
    Catholics did not marry Protestants so the marriage Was arranged using a bogus name!
    (Court documents for a later event confirms this information)!
    The couple then moved to NSW and settled in a remote area of NSW called the Blue Mountains. Their first child Amelia was stillborn in Sydney in 1859. They had 10 further children first boy named Thomas!
    Mary married a Thomas Foulkes in South Australia and remained there. She had a girl stillborn Mary and then a son Thomas and then another girl named Maria Therese.
    Both girls first sons were Thomas (could be their grandfathers name- if they were cousins)?
    BothJohanna/Judith Bentley (nee Shea) and Mary Foulkes (nee Shea) born Kilkenny 1838 and 1833 respectively died in Australia 1817 and 1818 respectively!
    The other Mary Shea father Patrick married a David Mutton and they settled in Kooringa and then Kapunda South Australia Kooringa is the same place Johanna/Judith married Thomas Castle in 1858.
    In 1817 Johanna/Judith was granted a share in her deceased husbands last remaining siblings deceased intestate estate.
    John Bentleys family in South Australia (his parents and 9 siblings) did not know what had happened to him after he left South Australia just after 1858!
    An archbishop of New Zealand (Thomas Oshea) may be connected to Johanna (as he visited the Blue Mountains)?
    Reference to the names Foulkestone/Thomas and Castle may have been used due to names from Johanna/Judith’s hometown in Kilkenny! The Irish sense of humour perhaps?
    Johanna’s Shea’s first daughter b Sydney 1859 (with Protestant John Bentley) was named Amelia. Interestingly the address given was Clarence Street Sydney where in 1860 a Mary Coogan (also from Kilkenny) had a child with a James Bentley at the same address?

    A McMullen Clan Family Website on MyHeritage Family Trees has a Julia/Johanna Ryan (died 1887 Hill End NSW) (parents James and Alice Ryan) marrying a Martin Shea.

    A Martin Shea b 1816 Kilkenny married a Julia Ryan (b1826 died 1887) in 1857 Sofala NSW

    A Martin Shea b1816 died aged 67 Kilkenny Jan-March 1883 Vol 3 page 457 FHL film 101592

    A Martin Shea married a Johanna Ryan 26th Jan 1854 Upperchurch and Drombane Tipperary Ireland Diocese Cashel and Emly

    A Martin Shea farmer/miner was born 1819 Kilkenny died January 27 1894 (son of Martin and Catherine Shea)

    A Martin Shea b 11 November 1833 Lisdowney Ossary Kilkenny-died 1901(5 October 1901 Kapunda South Australia) father Patrick Shea b1800 Kilkenny and mother Mary Phelan b 1805 Ireland baptised14 Nov Grangewood Lisdowney Co Kilkenny (godparents James Shea and Ellen Phelan)

    his siblings were

    Mick b1829 Lisdowney Ossory Kilkenny bap 28 April 1829 Martin Shea and Annie Phelan of Grangewood godparets
    Kitty b1831 Lisdowney Ossory Kilkenny bap 10 April 1831 Denis and Biddy Phelan of Grangewood godparents
    Martin married married an Annie Fisher 1833-1919.
    Perhaps this Martin Shea of Kilkenny is connected?

    I have used Rootsireland to find the closest baptism matches.

    I have found the following

    Rootsireland has Judith Shea born to Michael Shea and Ellen Doran 4 Dec 1839 Coula Callan, Kilkenny.
    Ancestry has the same Judith born to Joseph Shea and Ellen Doran Dec 1839 Callan Kilkenny diocese Ossory?
    When I checked the original baptism record on microfilm it has father as being Joseph mother Ellen Doran? All other children of this couple are transcribed from the microfilm correctly as parents Michael Shea and Ellen Doran except for Judith? Maybe this Judith had a different father to the rest of her siblings or her fathers name was mistranscribed?

    I found also a Honor Shea (could be short for Johanna) born 22 Dec 1840 Kilanasbig Carrigeen and Mooncoin Kilkenny diocese Ossory father Michl Shea mother Mary Walsh (Johanna’s middle name was Maria)? This could be her also?

    One other possibility is a Julia Shee baptised 19 Jul 1834 (date a bit early though) Windgap Kilkenny diocese Ossory father Michl Shee mother Mary Nowlan/Nolan. The microfilm states that this child was born out of wedlock? Which might explain the absence of any record/mention of my Johanna/Judith’s mother?

    On Rootsireland I found a Mary Shea b14 May 1834 Cloneen Clough Kilkenny with father William Shea and mother Catherine Mealy this date fits with Johanna/Judith’s likely cousin Mary on the Nashwauk shipwreck of 1855. I can not locate this record anywhere else though (including the microfilm)?
    Hopefully one day we can unravel what happened to all the Irish servant girls and orphans who arrived in our shores!
    Any help appreciated?
    Kind Regards
    Sandra Tamburini


  2. Hello I am a descendant of a Johanna Maria Oshea/Shea of Kilkenny b 1838 father Michael. (Farmer of Kilkenny). Johanna was transcribed as Judith on the Nashwauk shipwreck passenger list SA in 1855. A Mary Shea was also onboard. Johanna/Judith was rescued by mounted trooper John Bentley. They moved to the blue mountains of NSW
    In 1859 and settled there. Interestingly Johanna married a Thomas Castle in 1858 in Clare SA (Sevenhills) and was a resident of Kooringa at that time.
    Any further information appreciated?
    Kind Regards
    Sandra (Wollongong NSW)

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Laurie Cousins writes, “I have a copy of the drawing you show as Emmiggrants landing at Glenelg 1847 courtesy Library of South Australia and hope these details may be helpful.
    “Landing the emmigrants at Glenelg from the ‘Caroline Moffatt’ and ‘Duchess of Northumberland’ dated Decbr.20th 1839 M.Hindmarsh (Daughter of the first Governor of South Australia).
    The Mitchell Library, Sydney has photograpic copies available Reference ZPXA 6921 EMIGRATION AND IMMIGRATION S.A. , 1839
    Patrick and Anne O’Dea with their six children arrived in Melbourne on the ‘Duchess of Northumberland’ in June 1841. They were the oldest generation of my family to arrive in Australia. In 1849, their daughter Ann married Thomas Seward who had landed in Sydney in 1837, a convict on the Mangles”. Thanks Laurie


  4. Here is some history of two SA Irish famine girls.

    I have another great, great Irish grandmother named Bridget ( Biddy) COLLETON who arrived on the ‘Confiance’ Adelaide Sept 12th, 1854, age 21yrs. It has taken me a long time to find her on a shiplist as her name changed many times on marriage and birth cerificates. Names on birth certificates include Calussen, Collisson, Colton, Cullighan, Lotten, and Beate Colluson!

    Bridget COLLINSON married Johann Traugott WEINERT at the Mount Barker Catholic Church 28.08.1856 and a witness was Anne WILLIAMS.
    I decided to search for Anne WILLIAMS (age18) and eventually found her name adjacent to Biddy COLLETON ( age 21 yrs) on the ‘Confiance’ ship list and both were servants from Kilkenny. Johann Traugott was from a nearby German village of Lobethal.
    Bridget died named as Mary Ann WEINERT 02.08.1919, age 85 yrs, buried Lobethal cemetery, 75 years in the colony, (should be 65 years), age 18 at marriage, 5 females living, 3 males living, 1 female dead, 1 male dead, cause of death Influenza and sanility.

    Bridget COLLETON/WEINERT was not a witness at the wedding of Anne WILLIAMS (father Michael) aged 21, house servant) to Conrad Diedrich ENGELKING aged 27, farmer on the 11th of March 1858, at the Anglican Church Balhannah. However her sister-in-law Johanne Pauline WEINERT (recorded as Pauline WEINERT, occupation housekeeper) with a farmer with the initials F.D were present.

    Do you think that I have cracked it????

    Anne nee WILLIAMS/ ENGELKING died on the 22nd of February 1870, aged 36yrs 9 months. Cause of death: diaphragmatic paralysis. 15 years 5 months in the colony.
    Conrad Diedrich ENGELKING was a brewer at Lobethal and died on the 4th of October 1883 aged 52. Cause of death: dropsy, also known as edema.
    Their daughter Maria Henrietta ENGELKING died on the 20th of January 1864 aged 4. Cause of death: Scarlatina or Scarlet Fever.

    I assume that Bridget and Anne were at the Mount Barker depot but I haven’t been able to find any information to prove this. They both married prominent German men from Lobethal and resided there. Why was Bridget known as Mary Ann instead of Bridget???

    I would like to know where the two girls came from in Kilkenny and I have had no success in finding any information. Thirteen girls from Kilkenny sailed on the ”Confiance’ to Adelaide. Clues needed please. I can forward a photo of Bridgit.

    Pleased to see that a records of these South Australian girls are being collected. Thanks you for your hard work.

    Kind regards

    Dianne Sinclair-Warren

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Trevor, TT would love to link with this blog, so if you could write a para of intro, that would be grand. If not, we could have a go and get back to you. Next drop us Sunday. Be great to meet it!

    Sent from my iPhone


    Liked by 1 person

    • Would certainly love to appear in Tintean again, Fran. Please feel free to do an intro. Maybe something like “Trevor McC has added to his September Tintean article in his latest blog about “Excessive” Irish female immigrants to South Australia in the 1850s. Just spuddling, he says, and invites others to take up where he left off.”


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