“Gosh Kirsty, long time no see. How have you been? What happened”?
“Trev, I’m really sorry not to have been in touch. I’ve been having a hard time in Iso. I needed to see someone about my mental health, and thankfully found the right person to help me. Only last week she prescribed some meds that i’m still getting used to. Seriously, though, I don’t want to abandon my research, even if any kind of academic future for me is out of the question.
“Ok. I very much agree with you: early career prospects are not looking good for anyone in the humanities at present. If you want to talk about this sometime, we can do so. But just for now, if you want to continue with your research, hoping things will improve eventually, you might have a look at a couple of my blogposts , that is, if you want to pursue the question, how many Earl Grey orphans came before the courts? Ten per cent? fifteen ? More? What do you think? Is this worth doing?
And the other is ‘More court cases’. Some of the problems I have with the topic, i mention briefly at the end of this second one. https://wp.me/p4SlVj-25B
You will notice in these posts how i am indebted to a young researcher, Julie Poulter. Maybe approach Julie to ask her about her project, ‘Orphans on the streets of Sydney’. She has a new website, http://www.quirkycharacters.com.au
That is the best way to get hold of her. You might like to ask her about her methods, and how she confirms it is Earl Grey orphans she’s found in the records.
But to begin, let me recap the rich detail of Victorian records. Here are a couple of examples, and problems.
The examples are taken from PROV VPRS 516Central Register of Female Prisoners (in Melbourne gaol) and PROV VPRS 521 Register of names, Particulars, and descriptions of prisoners received (in Melbourne women’s prison).
PROV is so good these days, researchers can work with many of these records online, establish cross linkages, and prepare beforehand a visit to the records themselves, in North Melbourne, when that becomes possible.
This is just a random selection from,
VPRS 516 Unit 1 (1855-61) Register of female prisoners
Number 34 Annette Skipper born 1831 Ireland per Panama to Sydney 1949 Free married 3 children
82 Margaret Walker b. 1823 Ireland per Lady Kennaway 1848 Free married
115 Mary Ann Bourke, Mary Farrell, Eliza Turner, Eliza Tyrell, Mary Tyrell b. 1823 Dublin per Roman Empress to Adelaide 1848
231 Elizabeth Maher/ Mair b.1832 Clonmell per Lady Kennaway 1848 free widow
454 Sarah Berry b. 1833 Ireland per Diadem free widow
624 Alice Fitzgerald/ Alice Ryan b. 1832 Ireland per Eliza Caroline to Melbourne 1848 free married
886 Margaret Jones 1832 Ireland per Pemberton to Melbourne 1848 free married.
937 Kate Strahan b 1835 Ireland per Diadem to Melbourne 1849, husband in Pentridge.
And from VPRS 521 vol. 1, 1853-57, Register of names, particulars and description of female prisoners. Please note a physical description is provided.
No. 129 October 1854 Amelia NottNew Liverpool 1849 born 1827 Free 3 convictions drunk of slender build fresh complexion dark brown hair grey eyes neither read nor write two small scars on the bridge of her nose born Jersey married servant 20 October for medical treatment.
Amelia was a frequent visitor to the Melbourne women’s prison. She is there again in February 1855 , number 291 and again no. 295 as Amelia Knottwith added detail of her height 5 foot one inch with a front upper tooth decayed, this time fined 20 shillings or 24 hours incarceration.
At number 334 she is described as a habitual drunkard, and at 472 she says she arrived by the New Liverpool arriving in 1850. She is there again at numbers 597 and 601, 883, 916, 1009, 1125, recording she had eleven previous convictions and her sentence increasing in severity, 3 calendar months 10 December 1855 to 10 March 1856.
Or Julia Driscoll 402 per Eliza Caroline 1848 born 1834, five foot five and a half inches, stout, fresh dark brown hair grey eyes neither read nor write slight scar top of nose Cork RC married felony for trial sent to Police Office April 1855.
She appears again at 412 , for stealing a shawl and is sent to prison for a month.
Or Julia Connolly per Eliza Caroline 1849 b. 1835 one previous 5’6” slight brown hair blue eyes neither read nor write Ireland Catholic married imprisoned for one calendar month no means of support.
Or in the next volume, no. 701 Bridget Allen per Pemberton 1851 b. 1932 7 previous 5’2” stout sallow brown hair grey eyes non literate Ireland Protestant married Williamstown to be kept lunacy 10 October 1857 sent to Yarra Bend 1 April 1858.
There are literally hundreds of such cases in Victorian prison records, of women found guilty of minor crimes, drunk and disorderly, without visible means of support, idle and disorderly, obscene language and the like. And despite the names of orphan ships appearing regularly, their date of arrival is rarely accurate. Did they forget or were some of them former convicts from Van Diemen’s land trying to pass themselves off as orphans. Many of them are married. Does that mean we will find them in early church records, or by ‘marriage’ do the the women mean common law marriage?
It seems to me that is a tough challenge. To establish that these women prisoners in Melbourne gaol in the 1850s, were in fact Earl Grey famine orphans is a formidable, even thankless, task”.
“I’m so glad you brought that up Trevor. I’ve been thinking the same; I’d be spending so much time and getting such a small return for my efforts. Maybe i would find the percentage of orphans was greater than the 10% most people suggest, maybe not. No big ting.
I’m still not sure how to to tell you what I’ve been thinking. I’m very interested in the research papers and notes you gave me on ‘Irish women before the law’ and wondered if i should do my thesis on that. I’ve jotted down a few things, basically focussing on one particular example to illuminate the ‘crime’ i had in mind. Here then are my first thoughts,
Mt Rennie and rape, NSW:
Johanna Sullivan, infanticide, concealment of birth, abortion, South Australia:
Ellen Thompson, murder, Queensland:
Some i haven’t examples for yet,
Inheritance, marriage and divorce:
Misdemeanours, prostitution, vagrancy, drunk and disorderly, petty theft, obscene language:
Activism, women and labour legislation, women and the vote. When are women ‘allowed’ to become lawyers Do you know?
My worry is that i have no training in the law, and little knowledge of the law in colonial Australia”.
“Same here, Kirsty. But when did that stop anyone? Let me ask around to see if there is someone who can help. Being interested and excited by your research project is very important”.
Let me continue with the fiction I created last time, a researcher wishing to find out more about the Irish workhouse orphans who went into institutional ‘care’ in Australia. This time, I’ll suggest we search for orphans who went into mental hospitals, whether in Fremantle, Sunbury, Woogaroo, Ararat, Yarra Bend, Adelaide Lunatic Asylum, Callan Park, Goodna, Gladesville, Ballarat, or wherever. It won’t be an easy task.
In these days of ‘quarantino’ Kirsty and myself shall communicate via Skype, Zoom or FaceTime. I told her ‘ Kirsty, there is no easy access to secondary sources, or to some of the people you need to meet. Neither is there access to the very rich archive of different Mental Hospitals across the country. None of this has been digitised as far as i know. Even at the best of times you may not have access to these records. When I did a teeny bit of work in this area some years ago, most Victorian records were on open access; NSW records had the rider that one should be careful not to hurt anyone; and Queensland records sometimes were available, sometimes not. I’m not sure what the position is with regards to West Australia and South Australia or Tasmania. I’d love to think these records are readily available. I believe the healthy option is to be up front and open about mental illness, yet always careful of an individual’s needs. Not everyone agrees with that.
‘I have a number of books on my shelves’, says Kirsty, “hysteria is the dis-ease of women in a patriarchal culture“, according to Claire Kahane. ‘That and other interpretations of the history of insanity will be worth pursuing if you decide to pursue this further’, said I. ‘It could be a very large subject. The sheer size of original sources, never mind secondary ones, is daunting. Here are a couple of examples from case histories which by law, these institutions were required to keep. [For example, 1845 Act for the regulation and care and treatment of lunatics, 8 and 9 Vic . c. 100].
“Although the Big House was not hell for everybody, it was definitely limbo for most poor souls”. (Hanna Greally, Bird’s Nest Soup, 1971)
The following case is from Woogaroo which later became Goodna and then Wollston Park Mental Hospital in Queensland.
“Ellen (I’ll not mention her second name) 23y.o single, domestic servant from Co. Clare Ireland residing Ipswich RC suffering from melancholia…readmitted 25 Jan 1871 (thenceforward there are yearly notes 1871-1898) eg. March 24 1884 sometimes makes an extraordinary noise between a screech and a croak while she is at work…March 1885 industrious in laundry but when at home sits with folded arms and her hat down over her eyes“. Ellen suffered from ‘religious mania’.
‘With this kind of detail in the records, surely we can find Earl Grey orphans who went into these institutions, when the time comes’ says Kirsty?
‘Do you think we can’? I replied. ‘I never went through these records searching for orphans in any systematic way. One would need to know the young women’s marital history in great detail, including their common law marriages, and know about all the uncertainties relating to their age, place of origin, who provided the information to the authorities, and the like. Anyway, here’s the handful of examples I happened across. I’ll start with the Port Phillip examples’.
From the Lady Kennaway shipping list we know that Bridget was a 14 year old nurse from Dunfanaghy, Donegal, RC, who could neither read nor write and who brought with her a prayer book and testament. In the record above she is described as a ‘congenital idiot’.
Eliza Armstrong per Diadem was a 16 yo Anglican from Enniskillen, Fermanagh who had entered the workhouse without any fixed address. She was described in the Yarra Bend record as suffering from paralysis and dementia.
Interestingly I recorded in my own notes (VPRS 7417/P1/1A p.88, at number 37) Eliza Armstrong, from the Colonial Surgeon’s Hospital, 17 yo pauper per Derwent 1850. There was a Bessy Armstrong on board the Derwent who hailed from Lisnaskea, Fermanagh. And to complicate matters even further, there also was an Eliza Armstrong admitted to Yarra Bend 26 October 1848 (before the official arrival of any of the Earl Grey orphans). She was described as suffering from chronic dementia, dangerous, and being ‘not in a good state of bodily health’. That poor woman stayed in Yarra Bend for 64 years until she died in 1912.
Professor Malcolm tells us both our orphans, Bridget and Eliza, were released ‘cured’ after only a few months stay in Yarra Bend Asylum, suggesting the young women may have used the asylum for their own ends, “as a means of escaping from intolerable living conditions”. But you will notice how tricky it is to confirm we have found an Earl Grey orphan in the Mental Asylum records. The next couple of cases did not end up in an asylum but they so easily could have done so.
Margaret Gorman from Donegal Union per Lady Kennaway
This 15 year old was described by the Port Phillip authorities as an ‘imbecile’ who suffered from fits. She would most likely have ended up in an asylum, perhaps even a mental asylum, had it not been for the Chief Matron, Mrs Ensor.
Have a look at my blog post 35, https://earlgreysfamineorphans.wordpress.com/2016/06/05/earl-greys-irish-famine-orphans-35/ and scroll down to item 50/93, to a letter dated 20 /3/1850. There is information there from Irish authorities defending their sending Margaret to Australia under the Earl Grey scheme. They eventually found that information about her being subject to fits had been ‘carefully kept from Captain Herbert, Lieutenant Henry, and the Medical Officer’ of the workhouse.
The letter from James Patterson to the Superintendent recommends, and i quote, “Mrs Ensor will take charge of this orphan for a period of twelve months, and will feed and clothe her and endeavour to instruct her so that she may be able to go into service” “in return for a small remuneration”. As Kelly says,’Thank Goodness for kindly Mrs Ensor’.
Anne Muldoon from Ballyshannon workhouse per Inchinnan
For information about Anne I am indebted to Brian Harris. See her story in Brian’s brilliant blog, ‘From Prisons and Poorhouses’,
We know Ellen was in a mental hospital, only because she told the Dunwich Benevolent Asylum that she spent some time in Goodna. Imagine looking for her using the names of her six husbands, Jones, Stanley, Heffernan, Dwyer, Munro, Hickson. It appears that Ellen too may have used the Asylum ‘to escape from intolerable living conditions’.
Ellen Brady or Brodie from Kilrush per Pemberton
Dr McIntyre recentlyreminded me of this case from my Barefoot. The information originally came from Ellen’s descendant. Ellen married John Wall in Geelong in 1852 and had five children with him. The family later moved to Batesford and Dean but by 1867 Ellen was in Ararat Hospital. That is where she died, in January 1883.
Kirsty asked. ‘Did you find out what happened to Bridget Ferry, Eliza Armstrong and Margaret Gorman? Maybe they went back into an institution later in life’.
‘Good point’ i said, ‘No, i haven’t. Linking diverse records is crucial to this study. Births, deaths, marriages, Hospital records, Prison records, they can lead us to our orphans in Mental Asylum records’.
‘I’m worried’, says Kirsty, ‘There are only three mentioned here who actually went into an asylum. The subject looks overwhelming. Do i begin by going back to Foucault, Freud, Elaine Showalter and the rest? Those case histories you showed me are so sad. Why did these immigrant Irish women end up in an asylum? I read an essay by the late Sister Mary MacGinley where she argued that family standing was what bestowed status, and it’s among Irish families of standing we find the climbers, those determined to establish themselves. At the other end of the spectrum, are the vulnerable ones, and i would assume she includes here immigrant women who lacked a strong support network, or who couldn’t cope with their intolerable living conditions, such as abuse by their husband, postpartum depression, poverty, intemperance, vagrancy, abandonment, and other hardships’.
“That’s good’, i said. ‘You are already thinking about what you said last time; it’s not about numbers, it’s about exploring the underbelly of colonial society, or something to that effect. Let’s first try and find a few more orphans who went into a mental asylum, and then we’ll see where we go from there.Were they more likely to go into such an institution in their old age, for example’?
Women Residents in the Newington Asylum c. 1890. From the State Library of NSW Picture Collection SPF/1170
Postscript: I almost forgot. Jaki McCarrick has an interesting piece about her play ‘Belfast Girls’ in the April edition of tintean.org.au
Memory is a funny thing. I just knew i had collated some of my early findings in Workhouse Indoor Registers on a file for the journal Familia, and whilst searching for that, i came across these pics. They were from Paula V., whose Dutch surname i cannot spell. There was an accompanying letter too. Now where is that? Did i give it to Marie and Perry back in the day with my other 800 or so letters from orphan descendants? Nah. I’m sure i saw it later than that. But where on earth can it be? Do i have to rely on my memory for its contents? Let’s hope my memory is reliable.
Paula even mentioned she had sought assurance from a former colleague and good friend of mine, David Bollen, in Goulburn. Yes, David said, she was on the right track. Her orphan descendant, Eliza Mahon from Carlow had arrived by the Lady Peel in 1849. Paula and her husband even went to Ireland, and visited Carlow in search of Eliza.
The ancestral link is along the female line. Can you see any resemblance between Eliza Mahon above, and Dr Julia Baird? The eyes? The forehead? The cheekbones? Or, to quote “The Castle”, should I “tell him he’s dreamin'”?
Paula’s letter, if i remember correctly, told me she employed a researcher in Ireland. But he found no records of Eliza in Church of Ireland (Anglican) records, and suggested she may have ‘converted’ during the Famine in order to receive some food. Yet there’s no trace of Eliza’s baptism in Catholic records for Carlow either.
When she arrived in Sydney in July 1849, according to the Lady Peel shipping list, Eliza was only fifteen years old, from Carlow, the daughter of James and Catherine Mahon, and a member of the Established church (Anglican).
Taking up the suggestion of Paula’s researcher, I looked for Eliza in the Catholic baptismal records for the parish of Carlow and Grague https://registers.nli.ie/parishes/0697 and found 5 January 1830, Mary Mahon daughter of James and Ann Mahon, and 5 December 1836, John son of John and Catherine Mahon of Pollardstown Road. Neither one had the appropriate pair of parent’s names.
Does anyone have access to the baptismal records of St Mary’s Anglican church in Carlow? Can we check again to see if there’s any trace of Eliza?
Or should we be looking elsewhere? Does anyone have access to things like ‘Find my Past’?
Irish workhouse indoor registers
Here, from my 1987 Familia article, are a few more examples of Earl Grey orphans from extant workhouse Indoor Registers mostly in the north of Ireland. One of the things i value most about these workhouse registers is that they bring us close to the orphans themselves, for a moment. And they allow us to review the question, “who were the female orphans”?
Have a Go
I can almost feel the quickening of your pulse when you discover something new about your orphan ancestor. It can be a wonderfully inspiring feeling. But before you view the examples i’ve provided below, may i ask you to try something challenging? That is, take off the blinkers you wear when you are chasing your own particular orphan ‘girl’. Look around. Use your peripheral vision. Let’s see if we can set aside the saccharine formulae, and imposition of present-day values on the past that are part and parcel of genealogical service providers, and television programmes. Set aside the sugar coating and feelgood elements we all prefer to find. Try putting ourselves in the shoes of the “others”.
‘Your’ orphan was one of the Famine survivors, after all. Unlike Paul Lynch’s Colly, the young brother of Grace, the subject of his moving 2017 novel. The four jet-black pages towards the end of the novel are preceded by four or five pages of young Colly dying of hunger.
…gagsmell — that was a rat are the rats not all eaten–don’t sick all over yourself the smell—there it is now bring to mouth–
…listen listen listen listen listen–why can’t I hear me–why can’t you hear me…mister don’t lift me..don’t lift don’t lift not into this cart…
Paul Lynch, Grace, pp.293-4.
Or if you are feeling ambitious, put yourself in the shoes of Garry Disher’s Her in country Victoria in the first years of the twentieth century. “Her”, she has no name, sold for a pittance, a young life tied together with pieces of foraged string. Novelists often bring us closer to the emotional life of the past, than do historians, do they not?
Varied circumstances; what did the orphans bring with them?
What we find in these Workhouse Indoor Registers is not just an understanding of how many– large numbers of– people lived at or below the poverty line. They show the variety of circumstances ‘our orphans’ emerged from as well.
Some ‘orphans’, not many, were in the workhouse from their early childhood, almost as soon as the workhouse opened its doors, confined by its walls, imprisoned by its regulations. What did that experience do to your soul, your outlook on life, your mental state?
Other young women, as Dympna McLoughlin suggests, lived a life on the begging road, only seasonally entering the workhouse, out of the cold at winter-time, leaving when they were ready, or seeking the emigrant’s escape if it was offered.
See Dympna’s chapter on ‘Subsistent Women’ in the Atlas of the Great Irish Famine or my blogpost at https://wp.me/p4SlVj-4X
about half way down.
Or there, look, that is a little family isolated or abandoned by other family members, battered by illness, or unemployment, or infirmity, getting up, knocked down again, and again, and again, and again, until ground into the dirt, swallowed by the poverty trap.
The orphans did not start out with the same ‘mentality’, or the same outlook on life. And what of those who left behind a young brother who had ‘gone over the wall’, their mother and sickly sister still in the workhouse? Inside their ‘luggage’, that 6″ X 12″ X 18″ wooden box, was their ‘outfit’ and Douay Bible. But hidden inside there was also a parcel of guilt, and bereavement.
And after viewing the examples below, you may be inspired to ask if the impact of the Famine on these northern Irish orphans was very different from that experienced by other orphans, from Galway, or Mayo, or Cork, or Tipperary, for example. There are lots of things you can explore to help you place your individual Irish orphan in her appropriate historical context
Let me show you these examples from my file. (Some people may not have access to that 1987 Familia article of mine). At last! i hear you say. Not all the examples are connected to a present-day descendant. Nor is this one,
Mother and Daughter: Catherine Tomnay from Armagh per Earl Grey
Catherine appears in PRONI record BG2/G/1 as Catherine Tomaney. At entry 456 she is described as the child of entry 322, Elenor Tomaney, a 59 year old RC widow, no calling, healthy, Armagh, coming in to the workhouse 1 February 1842 and leaving 14 October that year. Catherine was 16 but left the house earlier than her mother, on 15 August.
Yet soon after, at entry number 1166, Catherine re-enters the workhouse 1 September, and this time is described as ‘destitute’. She and her mother are regular ‘visitors’ to the workhouse throughout the 1840s until Catherine leaves 25 May 1848 to join other Earl Grey orphans on their way to Australia.
Having entered 1 September 1842, Catherine leaves again with her mum on 14 October. Then at entry numbers 1474 and 1475, 12 January 1843, Ellen is described as being ‘delicate’, and Catherine ‘unhealthy’. This time, the mother leaves 10 April 1843, Catherine not until 8 April 1844.
Once more at entry 3899, Elenor re-enters the workhouse 29 November 1845. This time she is described as a 62 year old widow who is “tolerably well”, from Armagh City. She leaves 16 March 1846.
Independently of her mother, (3967) Catherine comes back into the workhouse 13 December 1845 and is described as a 19 year old single Roman Catholic without calling who is thinly clothed and dirty, from Armagh City. This time, once again, she leaves with her mother 16 March 1846.
Finally, at entry 4536, Catherine is registered as Catherine Tamoney a Roman Catholic single female 19 years old who is thinly clothed and hungry, from Armagh City, entering the workhouse 7 March 1846, and leaving 25 May 1848. [Note the discrepancy re her surname and her date of entry].
My early findings, with a few annotations
I did find the file i was looking for. So here at last are some more examples of young female orphans inside their Ulster workhouse. They originally appeared in my 1987 Familia article. Since then, independently too, some of them were researched by their descendants. Some were not and still are not. Maybe more descendants will emerge as new generations are bitten by the family history bug.
The examples here are all Port Phillip arrivals, coming by the Derwent, and a few by the Diadem. They are from Indoor workhouse records for Armagh, Ballymoney, Downpatrick, Enniskillen and Magherafelt held in PRONI which is nowadays in the Titanic Centre in Belfast, should anyone wish to view the original records for themselves. Let me know if you have trouble reading them. My annotations are pretty scrawly.
Before returning to sources for researching the Irish background of the Famine ‘girls’, I’d like to draw readers’ attention to a reference provided by Shona Dewar (see comments to post 63). It concerns a question raised in the previous post, why family history is so popular. Here’s the link from Shona . It’s an essay by psychiatrist Chris Walsh. https://www.mbsc.net.au/genealogy-and-family-constellations/
Let me know what you think.
Here is something else from my old research notes. I’m assuming the classification is much the same nowadays for records both in Northern Ireland and the Republic. Best not to get too excited. These records may not exist for the workhouse in which you are interested.
AJ Dispensary Minute Books
BC Letters from Poor Law Commissioners
BGMB Board of Guardian Minute Books
BGG Indoor Admission and Discharge Registers
EG Relieving Officer’s Diary
F Workhouse Master’s Diary
HD Medical Report Books
It is the Board of Guardian Minute Books and the Indoor admission and discharge registers that I’ve used most of all. Australians descended from the Earl Grey Famine orphans who visit Ireland will want to see these for themselves. But it is best to do plenty of homework before going to Ireland, finding exactly where the records are located, and what you need to do in order to gain access to them, for example. Some records may even be available online, though not always for the time you want. These links may take a while to download. https://www.irishgenealogynews.com/2018/12/more-workhouse-registers-online-at.html
Let me return to one of the cases mentioned in my previous post to illustrate further some of the problems associated with researching Port Phillip arrivals. I hope it will suggest ways of researching the background of the orphan that interests you, and help you prepare for a holiday-family history visit to Ireland.
CATHY TYRELL from Donegal per Lady Kennaway
In 1854 just over five years after arriving in Melbourne, Cathy Tyrell married a young bricklayer who was originally from Bedford, England. They settled in Carlton, North Melbourne where together they had seven children, three girls and four boys. Sadly in 1860 they lost a son Frederick when he was only six months old. When her husband died aged 58 in 1887, Cathy had thirteen years of widowhood ahead of her.
“…I know nothing of my country. I write things down. I build a life & tear it apart & the sun keeps shining“. (from Daily Bread by Ocean Vuong)
May i ask readers for their help? Let me set out the problem. How do we find out more about Cathy’s Irish background? She supposedly came from a workhouse in Donegal but if we look at the following record we’ll see that on board the Lady Kennaway were orphans from four different Donegal Poor Law Unions; Donegal, Dunfanaghy, Letterkenny and Milford. And very rarely are these names specified alongside an orphan’s name on shipping records.
Before going any further, we’d need to confirm the Archives centre at Three Rivers in Lifford holds Poor Law records for the period we’re interested in. There are in fact Board of Guardian Minute books for all of the Donegal workhouses except the one that sent most of the Donegal orphans on board the Lady Kennaway, Donegal itself! Lawdy, lawdy. And if a visitor wanted to see any of these records she or he would be advised to write to the Lifford Archives centre beforehand to arrange a viewing.
Most of these workhouse records are now held in county record offices and libraries in the Republic of Ireland. But for the six counties of Northern Ireland they are held in the Public Records Office in the Titanic Centre in Belfast. One is a decentralised system, the other is centralised.
there were some orphans on board the Lady Kennaway from Ballinasloe workhouse in Galway. That’s not far from Castleblakeney the place name associated with Cathy. I wonder if there is an error in the shipping record. Or maybe Cathy was born in Castleblakeney but somehow ended up in Donegal workhouse before leaving for Australia.
What records have survived for Ballinasloe? The wonderful thing is that more and more of these records are appearing online. Check out this link below by clicking on the plus sign alongside Ballinasloe.
Baptismal records have survived for the dates we want but they aren’t easy to read. They are a bit of an eyestrain. We’d need to take things very slowly and carefully. I suppose it comes down to how desperate we are.
will be the place to start. There will be disappointments. No records may have survived for the period you want. But you may find Board of Guardian minute books that take you into the world where your orphan lived before she left for Australia. Most likely you will not find her name in these minute books but you will discover other fascinating details about her workhouse surroundings.
“…and my dead father’svoice,
which I’d forgotten I’d loved,
just singing a foolish song”.
(from Birthday video by Penelope Layland)
Board of Guardian Minute Books
May i suggest you don’t carry preconceived notions of workhouse life with you into the archives. You know the kind of thing i mean, most of it imprinted on the common memory by the works of Charles Dickens. Most of these young Irish Famine women were but short term residents of recently built institutions, institutions that were bursting at the seams, and severely strained by the crisis of the Great Irish Famine.
The Board of Guardian minute books vary considerably from workhouse to workhouse. Guardians were legally required to keep a weekly record of the state of the workhouse: how many people received relief, both Outdoor relief and indoor relief, how many died in the workhouse, and what rates were collected and how much was not collected. Their minute books tell us what illnesses there were and how they were being treated; how discipline was maintained in the house and what punishment was meted out; what food there was for inmates, what bedding, and were teachers available for children. We see how well they coped with the shocking tragedy of the Famine, and how well they did not.
Let me give a few more examples of the kind of thing you might find, beginning with Belfast workhouse.
Belfast was one of the better-off and better organized workhouses. In early 1847, the Irish Poor Law Commission refused the Guardians’ request for more money to extend its fever wards, on the grounds “the town of Belfast is so wealthy and its inhabitants so enterprising, and the funds and credit of the Union is in such excellent condition that if assistance was given to the Belfast Board from the public purse by way of loan, it would be impossible to refuse a similar application from any Union in Ireland“. (BG7/A/5)
On the first of March 1848 (BG7/A/7, p.27) the diet for able-bodied inmates was changed to,
two days a week there would be
Breakfast consisting of 6 oz meal and one third of a quart of buttermilk
Dinner would be one quart of soup and 9 oz bread
three days a week there would be
Breakfast 6 oz meal and a third of a quart of buttermilk
Dinner would be 6 oz rice and an eighth of a quart of sweetmilk
Supper 4 ox meal and one fifth of a quart of buttermilk
and two days a week able-bodied inmates would receive
Breakfast 6 oz meal and a third of a quart of buttermilk
Dinner 8 oz meal and a third of a quart of buttermilk
Supper 4 oz meal and one third of a quart of buttermilk
Indian and oatmeal were to be used in equal proportions.
As you can see, it was not a nutritious diet.
Belfast did have its own problems: it was ‘peculiarly pressed by paupers from other places’. In 1847, authorities in Scotland, facing famine of their own, deported the Irish-born poor in their parish to the nearest Irish port which was usually Belfast. Those from Edinburgh, Paisley and Dundee were given bread and cheese for their voyage and day of landing. Those from Glasgow were given nothing. Such an influx of extra people put an enormous strain on Belfast’s local charities and public works programmes. In turn, many of the new arrivals were moved on, out of town.
In the workhouse itself the Medical Officer complained that “treating several contagious diseases in the same place is attended with very great risk to the patients”. He treated smallpox patients in a small bathroom, those suffering from erisipilas (a bacterial skin disease) in the straw house, and asked for another place for dysentery patients. In August 1847 there were 337 patients in the fever ward.
In May 1848 just before the first contingent of Earl Grey orphans left the workhouse for Plymouth a number of syphilis cases were admitted (BG7/A/7, p.153) . In November there were 30 cases still under treatment. And then, in December of the same year, the Medical Officers had their first scare of cholera, a disease that would add many more to the Famine death toll.
Belfast workhouse would be an important ‘staging post’ for Earl Grey orphans setting out to join ships that would take them to Australia, the Earl Grey, the Roman Emperor, the Diadem and the Derwent.
Cashel workhouse, Tipperary
At the other end of the country, Cashel workhouse guardians were to buckle under the pressure of the Famine in 1847 and 1848. At the end of 1847 the Matron of the workhouse wrote a damning report. “I again beg to call your attention to the state of the House. It is in such disorder and confusion that it is impossible to stand it… The pints and quarts are taken away and in consequence the children are not getting their rights. Several sheets and other articles were lately stolen. The bad characters in the House are at liberty to go out and return when they please…”.
And on the first of January 1848, the Medical Officer was equally distraught, “your Hospital is crowded to excess and the paupers are falling sick in dozens. I cannot admit anyone into the hospital for want of accommodation”.
There was such distress in the area there was an immense shortfall in the rates being collected, (Week ending15 January 1848 Collected 401 pounds and seven pence, 401.0.7, Uncollected ten thousand eight hundred and ninety four pounds fifteen shillings and two pence, 10,894.15.2). The situation was not helped by the likes of Michael Lyons, Collector for Clonoulty and Kilpatrick, collecting some of the arrears, and absconding.
11 October 1848, the Guardians were dismissed. The Board was dissolved and semi professional bureaucrats, or Vice-Guardians, took over running the workhouse–fortunately for the female orphans who would set out for Australia the following year. To give you an idea of the scale of demands, provisions for the workhouse in the last week of October 1848 included,
6,000 lbs bread
300 lbs meat
5,200 gallons milk
224 lbs salt,
2 lbs tea,
14 lbs sugar
40 lbs sugar surrup…
7 lbs candles
1 1/4 cwt soap
6 lbs starch
21 lbs washing soda
Re the female orphan emigration itself in 1849, such was the work, and such a large amount of monies required for
sending the female orphans to Plymouth,
with wooden boxes,
properly clothed, (3 Feb. 1849 Resolved that the tender of John O’Brien be accepted for the supply of 100 pairs of women’s shoes of the required sizes equal in quality and workmanship to the sample lodged with the Clerk of the Union at 4 shillings a pair”… Resolved…that advertisements be issued for other articles viz, twilled calico, twilled linen, whalebone, cheap quilts, cheap bonnets, printed calico for wrappers and gowns, wool plaid for gowns and cl0aks, neck handkerchiefs of various qualities, pocket handkerchiefs, gingham for aprons and boxes)
and equipped with Bibles, Prayer books and other religious books,
that the local economy must have benefited. Yet this benefit may not have outweighed the burden imposed on the workhouse itself. It could ill afford the expense of sending the orphans, given its other commitments. I wonder did some of the young women feel guilty about their emigration?
Some online workhouse records
Why not have a go yourself? Here is a backpack, a compass, and a toasted vegemite and cheese sandwich to help you with your ‘virtual’ exploration of some Irish workhouse records.
I’m afraid this is just bits and pieces, some more chunky than others. I intend posing some questions,
Why is there such an interest in family history in [Australia]? Enter whatever term you wish instead of “Australia”.
What are some of the problems in identifying the Earl Grey orphans who arrived in Port Phillip?
And for those wanting more on their orphan’s Irish background, what’s available for researchers?
Over twenty years ago when researching my chapter in Irish Women in Colonial Australia, I visited the Kingston Centre in Melbourne. I was looking for records of the Melbourne Benevolent Asylum. Sadly, few records have survived. Yet the keeper of the records, Sandy Forster, told me how much family history helped with the rehabilitation and palliative care of those in the Centre. It was wonderful to hear that. I hope it still helps patients in the Hospital. That’s one good reason for encouraging family history.
Why do so many people become hooked on the family history line? Is the following a major reason? A member of my own family told the story of a relative from overseas standing in the middle of a road and saying, “so this is where I come from”. That is, the perennial search for “roots”.
What is the attraction of family history or genealogy? Not everyone is so smitten, me being a case in point. Maybe readers would share the reasons for their own interest? Or try giving an answer to the first question above? Or explain the appeal of the Irish Famine orphans?
I’ve made suggestions about writing orphans’ stories throughout this blog. You may like to refresh your memory of some of them. See the post titled ‘Where to from here?’ https://wp.me/p4SlVj-Gf
Or for some specific examples, the refulgent history of Bridget McMahon from Rathkeale, Co. Limerick, https://wp.me/p4SlVj-PV
But let me take you back to some of the issues i had when i began. Most of them are still relevant.
Without an orphan’s parents’ names, how did i know i had identified an Earl Grey orphan correctly? When i first used Victorian birth, death and marriage records, for example, i began with what i thought were ‘distinctive ‘names; Sarah Totten, Susan Sprouls, Mary Birmingham, Arabella Kelly, Dorinda Saltry, for example. Maybe i was influenced by my own name. It’s much easier searching for trevor mcclaughlin, with the extra ‘c’, than it is for trevor mclaughlin.
Obviously other things were involved in identifying Port Phillip orphans. I looked at their place of origin, their age, the address of their employer, if their shipmates witnessed their wedding and the birth of their children, that kind of thing. How many of these could i line up? Did i have enough evidence to say i had ‘found’ one of the “lost children” or was there an act of faith involved? These are questions still worth posing, i believe, especially for anyone ‘discovering’ a famine orphan in their family tree.
Here are a couple of my research cards when i was working with Victorian vital statistics. You can imagine the ‘fun’ i had. I still believe i achieved a high degree of accuracy for the Victorian orphans especially in the first volume of Barefoot and Pregnant?
Presumably in working back through your own family history the level of certainty increases. A direct ancestral line may convince you that is all you need. But does that mean you should have no doubts at all? The sheer number of Irish women arriving in Port Phillip as assisted immigrants during the 1850s may be problematic.
“Very few Irish people knew (or even cared about) their exact year/date of birth. Even when they wrote down a definite date, that was just a guess. They weren’t trying to fool anyone or be evasive, it was just never of any importance at home and only on emigration did it become necessary in the new country for identification purposes.”
What if your orphan’s ‘native place’ recorded on a shipping list differs more than once from that recorded at the birth of her children (as in the Margaret Sheedy example below)? What if she marries more than once, or takes the name of her ‘de facto’ husband? Or constructs a new identity for herself? Or adopts an alias to escape from the law?
Now our orphan has become more elusive, raising questions and leaving us with more and more room for error. She is slipping through our fingers. We all should be willing to check the evidence we have, question ourselves, identify when we have made ‘a leap of faith’ because we want such and such to be true, or desire an Irish Orphan in our family tree. Sometimes we just do not have the certainty or evidence we would like. In the end, it is up to us to be honest with ourselves.
There are still an number of things keeping me close to the Famine orphans; a historian’s interest in the subject, naturally, a desire to help Australians find more about their Earl Grey orphan ancestors, and stronger than ever, an interest in helping refugees through the outreach programme associated with http://www.irishfaminememorial.org
“Concern and fear are clear in the eyes of the young Rohingya boy. He looks around the group with his dark eyes, looks around with his almond-shaped eyes, searching for potential sanctuary in the faces of strangers”. (from Behrouz Boochani, No Friend but the Mountains, Picador, 2018, p. 87.)
Lately a number of people have approached me for help finding out more about the Irish background of their orphan. So here is a bit more of that dog’s breakfast. I’ll use examples from my research cards above. And I’ll be going back over some of the things said previously .
Here’s the first case, Margaret Sheedy from Clonmel per New Liverpool.
Margaret was to marry fellow Irishman Daniel Corbett shortly after arriving, and together they had ten children. She lived her short life as a farmer’s wife in Kilmore. She died aged 36 or 37, a month after the birth of her last child, a little boy called Thomas.
From the family reconstitution form below Margaret is listed as having come from Limerick–Tipperary, reflecting what was stated at the registration of the birth of some of her children. In the excerpt from the database, and indeed on the New Liverpool shipping list, her place of origin is Clonmel, Tipperary. If we want to know more about Margaret’s Irish background that would be a good place to start.
Surname : Sheedy
First Name : Margaret
Age on arrival : 15 or 16
Native Place : Clonmel, Tipperary
Parents : Not recorded
Religion : Roman Catholic
Ship name : New Liverpool (Melbourne 1849)
Workhouse : Tipperary, Clonmel Other : shipping: house servant, cannot read or write; probably sister of Ellen; Clonmel PLU 14 Apr 1849, BG67/A/9 p.257 list of 28 orphan girls about to leave the workhouse, includes Margaret Sheedy, aged 18, left workhouse on 18 Apr 1849; Empl. Henry H Nash, Stephen St., £8, 6 months; married Daniel Corbett, 23 May 1851, Melbourne; husband a farmer; 10 children; lived Kilmore; she died 12 Sep 1870, one month after the birth of her last child.
Note the reference to Clonmel Board of Guardian records. This is one of the many workhouse records held in Irish repositories. As per my last post, post 62, my first port of call is Peter Higginbotham’s great website. See http://www.workhouses.org.uk/Clonmel/
Even if Peter no longer gives details of what sources have survived, his site is still a mine of information. Click on the “Tipperary Studies” link at the bottom of that page, and may i wish you good luck with your hunting and exploring? If you are thinking of making a trip to Ireland one day, make sure you find where the records are stored, and write to the relevant library beforehand.
Clonmel Board of Guardian Minute books are exceptional in that they include the names of famine orphans who came to Australia. That is rarely the case elsewhere. Yet they will always take you into the world ‘your’ orphan occupied in the days before she left Ireland.
Here is what appears on that page (257) in the Clonmel workhouse Board of Guardian Minute Books,
“Names of twenty-eight females who have emigrated from this Union on the 18th April 1849,
Ellen Sheedy 16 years, Katherine Dunne, 16, Margaret Walsh, 16, Margaret Greene, 17, Margaret Sheedy, 18, Mary Ann Butler, 17, Bridget Gearon, 18, Mary Goggin*, 18, Catherine Ryan, 18, Catherine Hickey, 19, Bridget Flynn*, 18, Margaret Purcell, 18, Mary Murphy*, 19, Margaret Dyer, 18, Ellen Preston*, 18, Anne Gillard, 19, Ellen Nugent, 17, Mary Ryan, 16, Mary Noonan, 17, Margaret Dempsey, 19, Katherine Castell*, 16, Margaret Hughes, 17, Bridget McDermott, 16, Mary Grady*, 18, Honora Farrell, 16, Ellen Fraher, 17.
NB. Number 28 on this list Ellen Fraher is the person to make up the twenty-eighth emigrant to go. Her certificate has already been sent amongst the thirty two. I now send a certificate for Mary Murphy to replace that of Mary Farrell the latter having declined to go and Mary Murphy being now sent in her place. The general certificate of health will be taken tomorrow by the Ward Master in charge.
The six marked with an asterisk had smallpox. The rest were vaccinated. Thomas Scully, Medical Officer.
Names of female emigrants approved of to go from Clonmel Union workhouse by the next opportunity: Bridget Farrell, age, 18, Alice Crotty, 15, Judith Crotty, 17, Margaret Long, 19, Mary Crimmin, 17, Katherine Ryan, 17, (Mary Ann Willis*), 15, Judith Shugrue, 18.
There are several other females in the workhouse eligible and wiling to go, and for whom the guardians are satisfied to defray the expenses of outfit etc when sanctioned by the Commissioners”.
or in Clonmel Ss Peter and Paul. But alas the baptismal records that survived for this parish begin in 1836.
Or try contacting a local historical society to see if anyone might help. They’d be only too willing I’m sure and would be a great help in finding out more about the Famine in Clonmel and surrounds. That workhouse.org website mentioned above will direct us to the excellent Tipperary Historical Society for example.
That is enough for now. I’m tempted to put this in the rubbish bin. I’ll continue another time.
Btw, The featured image of this post is the cover of The Great Famine. Irish Perspectives, edited by John Gibney, Pen & Sword History, 2018, isbn 9781526736635. They’ve given me a promotion.
Visitors to the Irish Famine Monument at Hyde Park Barracks in Sydney will know well the glass panels where names of about 400 Earl Grey’s famine orphans are inscribed. As the late Professor Joan Kerr put it, “the transparent screen that takes its place bearing the names of…the Irish migrant women who lived at Hyde Park is a tribute to those whose journey created this bridge between a fondly remembered yet tragic past and a more promising yet alien future”.
Perhaps you noticed how the names fade away at the edge of the panels. That ‘fading’ is the artists’ intent.
I imagine this first example is one of the ‘fading memories’ the artists had in mind.
Jane Lidd(e)y per Diadem from Leitrim
Before the nineteenth century wore out, there would be few people in Australia who would remember young Jane Liddy (Liddey) from Leitrim. She may have come from Carrick on Shannon workhouse, http://www.workhouses.org.uk/CarrickOnShannon/
When Jane arrived in Port Phillip as a sixteen year old she was apprenticed to William Brickwood of Brighton, being promised £7 per annum. In 1852 she married, and married well, to a man from Denmark nearly eighteen years her senior. Like many who profited from the Victorian goldrush of the 1850s, Charles Christian Frederick Stander, or Stender, provided goods and services to miners, and for a while had success as a miner too. When their last child was born in 1868, Charles Frederick was describing himself as a ‘Gentleman’. The family owned a hotel, The Golden Age, at Knockwood.
Here is the family ‘reconstituted’ from my days working in Victorian records. Note how young Charles and Jane were when they died. Very few, if any, of their children would survive to adulthood. According to the ‘Account of Administration’ of the estate only one child, Joseph William, was still alive in 1889, and had reached the age of 21.
Here is the database entry.
Surname : Liddey
First Name : Jane
Age on arrival : 16
Native Place : Leitrim
Parents : Not recorded
Religion : Church of England
Ship name : Diadem (Melbourne Jan 1850)
Other : shipping: nursemaid, reads & writes; Empl. William Brickwood, Brighton, £7, 12 months, apprentice; married Charles Frederick Stander/Stender 3 Feb 1852, husband a carrier, miner, publican & gentleman; 9 children most did not survive to adulthood; Jane died 28 Feb 1881, 3 months after her husband. Husband’s estate valued at £1759. Owned the ‘Golden Age Hotel’ in Knockwood. The inheritance was swallowed up in the maintenance and medical care of the children.
By the time of Charles’s death in November 1880 his estate was valued at £1759, a considerable sum for those days. Jane’s estate would be valued at £338. Yet little of that would make its way into the pocket of any surviving children.
Here is the ‘Account of Administration’ of their estate which shows you where the money went. Quite a few people laid claim;
monies owing to various people;
commission to those who arranged sale of their assets whether it was the Golden Age Hotel at Knockwood, their furniture or cattle or personal effects;
and regular sums for the board and lodging and maintenance of their young children at the Melbourne Orphan Asylum.
By June 1889, eight years after Jane’s death, Joseph William Stander having reached 21 was entitled to one fourth of the remaining estate, £102 2 shillings and 5 pence halfpenny. I wonder what became of young Joseph. Did he remember much about his mother? How loving she was? Where she came from? Did he know anything of her past?
Just a couple more brief histories. These ones are remembered.
Catherine Naughton from Tynagh, Galway per Inchinnan
Catherine married John Broderick in 1852 less than three years after her arrival. John was also from Galway. Together they had eight children, six girls and two boys. Her father Edward, convicted of Whiteboy activities, was transported to Sydney in 1832 and was supposedly living in Sydney. One hopes Catherine was able to find him. Irish birth dates and ages, especially for that era, are notoriously flakey. If Catherine was indeed only 18 when she joined the Inchinnan she may still have been in her mother’s womb when Edward was tried and transported. Like many of her compatriots Catherine knew the importance of ‘family’. Her sister Mary was also part of the Earl Grey scheme, arriving in the next vessel to Sydney, the Digby. Another sister Bridget who arrived by the Sabrina in 1854 may have been sponsored by Catherine and her husband.
Catherine and John had ten, or was it eight? children, and prospered in the Goulburn area of New South Wales. When John died in 1912, nearly eleven years after Catherine, his estate was valued at £2124. At one time I did have a photograph of Catherine’s grave in Laggan, Crookwell. I only hope i gave it to someone who cherished it.
From the database, originally in Barefoot vol.2, p. 166 which lists my informant Pat Astill of Narromine.
Surname : Naughton
First Name : Catherine
Age on arrival : 18
Native Place : Tenagh [Tynagh], Galway
Parents : Edward & Bridget (father living in Sydney)
Religion : Roman Catholic
Ship name : Inchinnan (Sydney 13 Feb 1849)
Workhouse : Ballinasloe or Loughrea PLU
Other : shipping: nursemaid, cannot read or write, relation in colony: father living in Sydney – Edward Naughton had arrived per Eliza in 1832, whiteboy; Catherine married John Broderick in Goulburn in 1852; 10 children; died 1901, buried Crookwell; gravestones in Laggan cemetery. Her sister Mary also arrived by the ‘Digby’ 4 Apr 1849 and sister Bridget by the ‘Sabrina’ 10 Jul 1854. Her husband’s estate was valued at £2,124, mostly real estate.
The next one is a tale of acculturation, two of Catherine’s children organised the Gilgandra Coo–ee recruitment march in the spring of 1915 during the First World War, shortly after their mother had died. I wonder would she have approved. Would she have voted against conscription? Or perhaps she too, like her sons, became caught up in defence of the British Empire.
Catherine Guare from Askeaton, Limerick perLismoyne
Parents : Richard & Bridget (mother living at Eskeaton)
Religion : Roman Catholic
Ship name : Lismoyne (Sydney 29 Nov 1849)
Workhouse : Limerick, Rathkeale
Other : shipping: nursemaid, cannot read or write, no relatives in colony; empl. Mr de Phillipsthall, Bathurst, £8, 1 year; mother’s name Mary according to Askeaton baptismal records; married George Hitchen, Bathurst 1850; 10 children; husband ex-convict and gold digger on Meroo River, 1854-83; two sons, Richard & William, organised the Gilgandra Cooee Recruitment March in the spring of 1915; grandson, Roy Munro, was awarded a DCM for conspicuous gallantry in France in 1917. George died in 1902; Catherine died 1913, buried Gilgandra.
My Barefoot volume 2, p.218 has a bit more. “Catherine died 27 October 1913, buried Gilgandra; her estate valued at £1049. Their present descendants number in the region of 1200 people. Her obituary is in The Leader and Stock and Station News, Morning Daily, Orange, 29 October 1913. There is an excellent family history by her descendant David Leese”. I see David did a good job of filling out my family reconstitution form in April 1986!
Catherine’s obituary appears in Barefoot vol.2, p.136. It begins “There crossed the bar, at the ripe old age of 80 years, on Monday night, Mrs Catherine Hitchen, one of the grand old pioneers, who “won the land from the bitterest wastes out back“. Like Charles Stander, George Hitchen would make his fortune as miner and later hotelier, first in Tooraweenah, then ‘at Collie, on the Marthaguy Creek, mid way between Gilgandra and Warren’, and finally Dubbo. According to The Leader and Stock and Station News, “Mrs Hitchen was well known for her charitable deeds and actions, and many a western man and woman of the old and sturdy stock will shed a silent tear to the memory of the departed lady“.
Finally just a couple of extracts from the wills of orphans who prospered in Australia. They are a contrast with the sad lives of those on the streets of Sydney who appeared in the last couple of posts. Neither epitomizes the history of the orphans in Australia.
The first is of
Letitia Connelly from Enniskillen, Fermanagh per Derwent
From the database,
Surname : Connelly (Connolly)
First Name : Letitia
Age on arrival : 16
Native Place : Enniskillen, Fermanagh
Parents : Not recorded
Religion : Roman Catholic
Ship name : Derwent (Melbourne Feb 1850)
Workhouse : Fermanagh, Enniskillen
Other : Shipping: house servant, reads & writes; Enniskillen PLU PRONI BG/14/G/4 (2065) orphan, Ballyreagh, Salry, entered workhouse 2 Feb 1848 left 26 Oct 1849. Empl. L Tweedy, Lonsdale St., Melbourne £7, 12 months; 18 Mar, returned to depot; 29 Apr reassigned Mr & Mrs McClelland, Collins St., Melbourne £5, 3 months; 3 Jul ‘still not returned’; married William Hayes, 4 May 1856 at Brighton; 5 children, husband a storekeeper, lived Dunolly; she died 13 May 1899; husband was an astute businessman whose wealth was from dividends of Goldsborough Mining Company, his estate valued at £7487 in 1890; See ‘Barefoot & Pregnant’, vol. 2, pp.134-6 for details of Wills, funeral and death notices.
Finally, a Queensland success story,
Margaret Blair from Ballymena, Antrim per Earl Grey
From the database,
Surname : Blair
First Name : Margaret
Age on arrival : 16
Native Place : Ballymenagh [Ballymena], Antrim
Parents : Charles & Elizabeth (both dead)
Religion : Presbyterian
Ship name : Earl Grey (Sydney 6 Oct 1848)
Workhouse : Antrim, Ballymena
Other : shipping: house servant, reads only, no relatives in colony. PLU Ballymena PLU BG/4/G/2 (49) Union at large; empl. Mr P Friell, Paddington, near Sydney, £9, 2 years indenture; Register No.262 30 Nov 1848, transfer from Philip Friell to Rev Charles Woodward, Headmaster, Sydney College, Hyde Park, allowed by committee; orphan wages: Empl Rev Charles Woodward in 1849 & empl Elizabeth Underwood, Ashfield by Oct 1849; Rev John McGarvie applied for her as house servant 12 Mar 1849, response was to send her to the country, No.901 2 Oct 1849 Moreton Bay; married John Hardgrave in Brisbane in 1850, husband a shoemaker, 8 children; died 1924, buried Toowong. Husband’s estate valued at £9250.
What a turn up for a youngster who was of no fixed abode in 1848!
Please excuse the quality of these scans. At least they should give you an idea of the Hardgrave family’s extensive landholdings.
“What is it that we really know anyhow? We cannot hold the truth of this world in our hands. And this word truth, what can a word measure? The truths that men hold solemn, their beliefs and their doctrines and their certitude, all of it is but smoke on the wind. And so I am happy to as I am in this not knowing…”. Paul Lynch, Grace, p.353
Let me pick up where I left off last time with more from Julie Poulter’s “Earl Grey Orphans in the streets of Sydney”. My sincere thanks to Julie for sharing her work with us. I hope I haven’t done it an injustice.
Later I’ll have a quick look at Melbourne Women’s prison. There are always doubts about whether we have the right person but nowadays with so much available online, we have more opportunities to correct our errors…however laborious that may be. I’ll alert readers to some of the pitfalls when chasing Victorian orphans in prison.
Let me begin with Julie’s research. The next five cases who went to Darlinghurst Gaol in Sydney are Anne Wallis née Walsh, Mary Ann Pightling née Egan, Bridget Higney, Margaret Driver née Higgins and Ellen Farrell née Maguire.
New South Wales (cont.)
Ann Walsh from Kilcolman, Co. Offaly per Tippoo Saib
It was seventeen years after her arrival that Ann Walsh committed her first crime. In 1859, she married a violent mariner, John Henry Wallis who made her life hell. 6 April 1864, page 2, column 4, Water Police Court, the Empire reported the domestic violence Anne lived with. Her drunken husband chased Ann “to the lane, beat, kicked her and tore the dress from her back”. https://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/page/5692787
Later, in 1872, John Wallis was charged again and found guilty of assaulting his wife. She in effect stayed with her violent husband for thirteen years, Julie tells us. But in the meantime, she too was arrested three times and put in Darlinghurst gaol for drunkenness, obscene language and once for assault. Her children were put in the Randwick Asylum, and in 1873 Louisa the youngest stated her father was dead and her mother was in Darlinghurst gaol. What happened to her mother is unknown.
Mary Ann Egan from Templeoran, Co. Westmeath per Tippoo Saib
Here’s Mary’s entry on the database.
Surname : Egan
First Name : Mary Ann
Age on arrival : 17
Native Place : Templetown? [Templeoran], Westmeath
Parents : William & Catherine (both dead)
Religion : Roman Catholic
Ship name : Tippoo Saib (Sydney Jul 1850)
Workhouse : Westmeath, Mullingar
Other : Shipping: house servant, reads, no relatives in colony; entered in ‘Barefoot & Pregnant’ as ‘Eagan’; married Norwich-born George Pightling 22 Aug 1853, St James CofE, Sydney; 7 children born Sydney 1854-1867; died 6 Sep 1902 St Vincent’s Hospital, Sydney pneumonia following injuries from a tram accident on Oxford Street & was noted as an old-age pensioner from Paddington
Mary’s first conviction for drunkenness was in 1890, forty years after she arrived on the Tippoo Saib. Fifteen more convictions for drunkenness would follow in the next eleven years, seven them in 1894. Julie suggests her ‘downfall’ was related to her troubles with her children, Mary’s son Henry Pightling having more than one run in with the law. See the Evening News, 23 June 1891, p.6, col.3 under “Invited Home”. https://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/113883268/12052102 He and his sister Maria Gage were committed for trial at the Quarter Sessions. Mary Pightling was literally ‘drowning her sorrows’.
Bridget Higney from Boyle, Co. Roscommon per Digby
Julie has researched Bridget carefully. Her first conviction was sixteen years after her arrival on the Digby. Bridget Higney, like her shipmate Jane Kelly, was forced to live in Sydney’s backslums near Darling Harbour. They were sex workers (?) and drinking companions who sought refuge in the Sydney Benevolent Asylum. Bridget was refused admission to the Asylum in 1863 even though her baby girl, Ada, was born there. She had turned up drunk. In desperation Bridget abandoned her daughter on the doorstep of Dr Renwick in Pitt Street. Ada later died in the Asylum. She had secondary syphillis.
Both of Bridget’s de facto relationships the first with George Jarman, the second with Michael Barry, ended badly for her. In 1866-7 she was convicted seven times for damaging property, assault, using threatening language, larceny, and riotous behaviour. Probably suffering from mental problems associated with sexually transmitted disease, Bridget died in Darlinghurst Gaol in 1866, just thirty three years old. Here is her entry in the database.
Surname : Higney
First Name : Bridget
Age on arrival : 16
Native Place : Boyle, Roscommmon
Parents : Michael and Ellen (both dead)
Religion : Roman Catholic
Ship name : Digby (Sydney 4 Apr 1849)
Workhouse : Roscommon, Boyle
Other : Shipping: house servant, reads only, no relatives in colony. Appendix J No.99, 16 Mar 1850 indentures with Mr WT Boyce, pilot, cancelled WPO; Register 2 No.631, 16 May 1850 satisfactory conduct; her daughter, Mary Ellen Jarman(e) entered the Randwick Asylum for Destitute Children in 1863, aged 4, noted as RC and the illegitimate child of Bridget Higney. In 1865 Bridget was convicted of assault with intent to rob and was sentenced to two months in Darlinghurst Gaol. In 1866 Bridget died in Darlinghurst Gaol, an inquest indicating it was due to an epileptic fit. Her daughter, Ellen, left Randwick Asylum in Jun 1872, aged 13, apprenticed to Mr George Coombe, Pitt Street, Redfern.
Margaret Higgins from Athlone, Co. Westmeath per Tippoo Saib
Margaret married William Driver two years after she arrived when she was only 16 years of age. She was dead by the time she was 37. She and William lived in desperately poor, cramped, unhealthy areas of The Rocks, a neighbourhood that encouraged conflict. Her first conviction occurred six years after she arrived. In 1856 she was fined for assaulting Catherine Molloy. See the Sydney Morning Herald 11 April 1856, p.5, column 1.https://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/12980412/1499635 Over the next seventeen years she was convicted eleven times for insulting language, riotous behaviour, thrice for assault and six times for drunkenness. In 1862 she spent a month in gaol for stabbing a lodger who owed her money. She had abused her lodger, thrown a basin at him, stabbed him with a sheath knife and even gave him a pound not to appear in court. See Sydney Morning Herald 25 January 1862, p.5, col.4. https://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/13223796
In 1873 upon release from Darlinghurst Margaret staggered drunk into the street and was killed by a horse drawn van.
Here is her database entry.
Surname : Higgins
First Name : Margaret
Age on arrival : 14
Native Place : Athlone, Westmeath
Parents : Timothy & Margaret (both dead)
Religion : Roman Catholic
Ship name : Tippoo Saib (Sydney Jul 1850)
Workhouse : Westmeath, Athlone
Other : Shipping: nursemaid, reads, no relatives in colony, sister Mary [Maria] also on Tippoo Saib. Register 3 No.309, 26 Mar 1851 in employ of John Rayner, Emu Plains, Penrith; married William Driver 21 Aug 1852 St Andrews Presbyterian church witnessed by her sister Maria Higgins; by 1862 Margaret and William were living in Jarvisfield, same area as Maria and her husband John Mathews. Margaret & William were both known to the Police & bought before Court numerous times for assault or bad language; back in Sydney by 1870 Margaret before court numerous times; died 26 Nov 1873 after being struck by a cab, buried Rookwood CofE. Anne Mathews: pamat47[at]hotmail.com
Ellen Maguire/McGuire from Loughlinnan, Co. Cavan per Digby
Ellen Farrell had a short criminal career. She married James Farrell in 1853 and in 1857 was working as a barmaid in Pitt Street when she stole from a patron and sent to gaol for six months. Her first crime committed eight years after arriving. In 1858 once again and perhaps for the last time she was sent to gaol for twenty four hours for drunkenness. See the Sydney Morning Herald, 24 November 1858, p. 3, column 2 Water Police Court https://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/28630107/1491920
Thereafter she no longer appears in the criminal records. Her database entry reads
Surname : Maguire (McGuire)
First Name : Ellen
Age on arrival : 15
Native Place : Lough Loughlin [Loughlinnan], Cavan
Parents : Charles & Jane (both dead)
Religion : Roman Catholic
Ship name : Digby (Sydney 4 Apr 1849)
Workhouse : Cavan, Cavan
Other : shipping: housemaid, reads & writes, relative in colony: an uncle Pat McGuire supposed to living in Sydney, complaint on board: her hair was cut for taking another girl’s part. Also an annotation against Catherine Horrigan [who]: ‘complains that the Master struck her and beat her head against the bed and then blackened the eye of Ellen McGuire who came to take her part’.
Please see the previous post for information about how to get in touch with Julie.
Some Victorian examples
The Public Record Office of Victoria is to be congratulated for making so much material available to the public, lots of it online. Time will fly by as you become enmeshed in what they have made available. For Victorian women prisoners, for example,
One of my problems at the moment is that I cannot find the names I noted down when I
worked in the Public Record Office of Victoria in the 1980s and 1990s. I was using PROV VPRS 521 and described it in my notes as ‘Prisoners’ personal description Register‘. That certainly exists via the link above. But my names are not appearing. I wonder what I’m doing wrong. I had used, presumably on microfiche, Unit 1A March 1850-March 1853, and another 1A (?) March 1850-March 1852, Unit 1, 1852-1857 and Unit 2, 1854. The scan of the 6″x4″ card at the beginning of this section is made from my notes. Yet i cannot find either Ann Lewis or Polly Tyrell on the digital links PROV provides, never mind a host of others.
Here are some women prisoners, from my notes,
No. 36 Ann Hall per Derwent, 1850,
No 207 Jane McGuire per Diadem 1848,
209 Maria Walker per Diadem 1848,
328 Margaret Beatty per Derwent 1850,
Catherine Ellis per Lady Kennaway 1848,
382 Mary McGill per Derwent 1850,
261 Mary Smith per Derwent 1851,
325 Ann Beaty per Derwent 1850,
366 Ellen Brenan (Ellen Stewart) per Diadem 1851,
559 Margaret Baker per Eliza Caroline 1850,
667 Anne Hubbard per Diadem 1849,
755 Eliza Nelligan per Derwent 1849.
VPRS 521 Unit 2 Catherine Day per Lady Kennaway 1849
and from VPRS 521 Unit 1A No. 13 Susan McCullock per Lady Kennaway 1848,
235 Elizabeth Dunn per Lady Kennaway 1848
and 459 Maria Walker per Diadem 1848.
And from a separate set of notes from VPRS 521 vol.1 1853-57
No 129 October 1854 Amelia Nott per New Liverpool 1849, also 291 Feb 1855, 334, 472, 511, 597, 601, 883, 916, 1009 9 previous drunk one calendar month, 1125, 1856 644, 919, now saying she came on the Lysander in 1849,1857 26, 112 New Liverpool again,
Dec. 1854 151 Eliza Fitzgerald per Eliza Caroline 1849,
321Julia Johnstone per Pemberton 1848, 462 as Susan Gafney
355 Margaret Walker per Lady Kennaway 1845,
402 Julia Driscoll per Eliza Caroline 1848, 412,
Bridget McCarthy Lady Kennaway 1847,
470 Mary Ann Wallace Eliza Caroline 1848,
and this one ,
655 Alice Butler Eliza Caroline 1849 born 1835 5’3 1/2″ stout fresh complexion dark brown hair grey eyes reads imperfectly large mole left cheek Ireland RC single obscene language 14 days in prison.
826 Julia Connelly Eliza Caroline 1849 married no means of support,
833 Mary Ann Tyrell Roman Emperor 1848 married,
982 Jane Pindar or Pinder Diadem 1849 married b.1832 4′ 11 3/4″ reads imperfectly scan on forehead Ireland Protestant married imprisoned drunk 24 hours,
984 Mary Ann Forrester Inconstant 1846 no means of support,
1043 13 Nov 1855 Susan Stewart Pemberton 1848 1 previous drunk 5′ 2″ stout fresh hazel eyes reads imperfectly scar left back of left hand Ireland Catholic single medical enquiry unsound mind remanded to Police Court, 1856 133, 15 Feb idle and disorderly Pemberton 1850
1856 68 Margaret Halcup(?) Roman Emperor 1847 2 previous widow,
22 Polly Tyrell now listed as arriving by Covenanter in 1848 which raises the question how many were from Van Diemen’s Land,
606 Mary Ann Hawks Lady Canneway 1847 b. 1827 1 previous lunatic Ireland Catholic Married Remanded assault to Police Court 15 August 1856.
VPRS 516 Central Register of female prisoners is also available online. I noted from the first volume, Mary Ann Bourke, Mary Farrell, Eliza Turner, Eliza Tyrell, Mary Tyrell per Roman Empress to Adelaide 1848
and Mary Ann Yatton and Mary Ann Forrester per Inconstant to Adelaide 1846, quite a few claiming to be on orphan ships.
And that is only a selection.
But you can see some of the problems. How many of these were Earl Grey orphans? Susan Stewart and Alice Butler maybe. But note how common are the errors regarding the date of arrival of ships. Note too that most of these names do not correspond with the names of female orphans on board those ships. Many of the prisoners said they were married. I only spent a morning looking at Early Church Records without having any success establishing that some of the married ones were in fact Earl Grey orphans. Perhaps they meant common law marriage. Then again how many do you think were Van Diemonians using the names of orphan ships to hide their origins? Nor did I chase any of them in newspapers. There’s a research project here for someone based in Melbourne, is there not?
The featured image to this post is of an 1832 painting by Daniel Maclise of a Hallowe’en party in County Cork. It appears on the cover of Fintan Vallely’s Companion to Irish TraditionalMusic, Cork U.P., 2011. My thanks to Fintan Vallely.
This list should make it easier to navigate the blog. Some of the bits and pieces, photographs, maps, graphs and family reconstitutions et al., are meant to illustrate what I’m saying in other posts.
Clicking on the http:// link should take you directly to that post. At the end of each post, after the ‘Comments’ there is a Search box. Type in what you wish to search for and you will see if I’ve said anything about what you are looking for
Here are details of some of the orphans who arrived or settled in Victoria, from my family reconstitution work. They may be of interest to anyone going to the commemoration in Burgoyne Reserve, Williamstown on 19th November 2017. My best wishes to all taking part.
I hear there are moves afoot to set up an Outreach programme. That is brilliant news. Here’s to everyone looking forward…to helping others…in memory of the Port Phillip orphan ‘girls’.
There is lots of information on the www.irishfaminememorial.org database about the Port Phillip orphans. It is well worth your ‘mining all within’. Maybe someone can tell me where all the information is from?
From my map showing the location of the orphans in Victoria, c. 1861 (from the birth/baptism dates of their children) one cannot help noticing how the orphans and their family were attracted to the gold fields. And yet they arrived in Port Phillip before the discovery of gold. Colonial authorities moved some orphans away from Melbourne, to Geelong, and to the Western Districts via steamer, to Portland. So not every orphan went to the diggings, though undoubtedly many of them did, even from Portland. See if you can identify which ones did not, from the reconstitution forms below.
[I recently discovered that you can no longer make these images larger using an ipad. Pinching the image doesn’t work. It must be the template I’m using. Bummer. I wonder how I might remedy this.]
“The first glance at the great and glorious gold-field of Ballarat we got was the celebrated Canadian Gully, then radiant with the still fresh fame of the enormous 137 lb. nugget”, (William Kelly, Life in Victoria 1853…1858, , Historical Reprint Series, Kilmore, 1977, p.178.)
Mary and Jane Byngfrom Enniskillen per Diadem
Enniskillen workhouse sent a comparatively large number of orphans to Australia by the Earl Grey scheme. 16 year old Mary Bing came into the workhouse 28 November 1848 as part of a large family group comprising 50 year old George Bing from Enniskillen Asylum, (George left the workhouse 5 September 1849), 48 year old Mary Anne, young Mary’s sister Jane, who was 14, and siblings William (11), George (10) and Catherine (5). Mary and Jane left the workhouse 3 October 1849 on the way to Plymouth to join the Diadem. (Public Records Office of Northern Ireland, BG14/G/4 [4611 and 4612]).
Both sisters went with their husbands to the Victorian gold diggings, and for a time at least settled near to one another, in Inglewood. Three of Mary’s children died at a young age. Jane lost two children when they were less than two years old, and her son Joshua when he was sixteen. My thanks to Nancy Pilat and Michaela Rosenberg for the original information. I must have had access to vital statistics to fill in some of the dates.
Mary Dohertyfrom Carrick-on-Suir per Eliza Caroline
Here is what is on the www.irishfaminememorial.org database about Mary. Mary’s details, including the lovely photograph, originally came from Margaret Murray who was a teacher at East Doncaster High School. Margaret told me that William, Mary’s first child by Ray Salt took the surname Ranson. Some of the Eliza Caroline orphans would do well for themselves.
Surname : Doherty
First Name : Mary
Age on arrival : 16
Native Place : Carrick on Suir, Tipperary
Parents : Not recorded
Religion : Roman Catholic
Ship name : Eliza Caroline (Melbourne 1850
Workhouse : Tipperary, Carrick-on-Suir
Other : shipping: nursemaid, reads; Empl. Mrs Rachael Ackerman, Corio St., Geelong West, ₤10, 6 months; married 1) Ray Salt at St Mary’s Geelong, 8 Jan 1852, 1 child; married 2) Samuel S Ranson, Ararat, 19 Jul 1859; 6 children; husband a farmer on the Wimmera at Elmhurst. He left his estate to two sons after bequests totalling ₤500 to his other four children; Mary died 21 Dec 1913.
I wonder when and where this photograph of Mary was taken. She looks quite young, does she not?
Let me see if I can find some more of my family reconstitutions for the Eliza Caroline. Note that these completed family reconstitutions favour those in long-term stable relationships.
Margaret Ryan from Nenagh per Eliza Caroline
Margaret married David Murray, a Scot, whose religion was different from her own. They had twelve children together, at least two of whom lived a long life. From what my informant Kevin Murray told me, David rose from being a farm labourer to a farm owner. Margaret might even have witnessed the women rioting in Nenagh workhouse in 1849. In Nenagh, women were the leading characters in the protest over food and entitlements, ‘dashing saucepans, tins and pints of stirabout to the ground and smashing windows’. Margaret and David are both buried in Balmoral in the Western District of Victoria.
Ann Maroney from Ballyna, Tipperary per Eliza Caroline
Ann married within nine months of arriving in Port Phillip. Her husband also had a different religion from hers. Together they had twelve children, the boys raised as Anglican, the girls as Roman Catholic. Ann’s estate was valued at £801 when she died. She was a widow for twelve years, and apparently a good farm manager. Both Ann(e) and her husband are buried at Lake Rowan. I wonder how she got to Benalla so quickly. It would appear she and her husband did not go looking for gold. Considering where she lived, she must surely have been aware of Ned Kelly’s mob and their doings. (Incidentally, there’s some very good historical fiction on the subject. I’m thinking of Jean Bedford’s “Sister Kate”, Penguin, 1982, Peter Carey’s “True History of the Kelly Gang”, UQP, 2000 and Robert Drewe’s “Our Sunshine”, Macmillan, 1991. Ian Jones’s, Ned Kelly. A Short Life, Thomas Lothian, Port Melbourne, 1995, will provide a good historical context).
My thanks to Brenda Cooke for the original information for Barefoot vol. 1. She also supplied the names of the children’s spouses.
Ann Cathcart from Sligo per Eliza Caroline
Ann married William Newman, a Londoner, within three years of her arrival in Port Phillip. They had fourteen children, including triplets Albert, Edward and James, one of whom appears to have died at childbirth and another, James, a few months later. That made four of their children dying in infancy. They tried their hand on the goldfields, without much success but William had a trade to fall back on: he was a plasterer. Both are buried in Melbourne General Cemetery.
Charles Norton map Port Phillip and around courtesy State Library of Victoria
Bridget Watt or Watson from Milltown, Kilkenny per New Liverpool
Bridget, originally from Kilkenny, was one of those who went to Portland. Notice she lost her first four children at childbirth. I wonder if Bridget’s famine experience affected her child-bearing capabilities. Janet Mc Calman in her Sex and Suffering (Melbourne U.P., 1998) describes the effects of malnutrition on young Irish women giving birth at the Royal Women’s Hospital in Melbourne. Malnutrition and poverty had led to underdeveloped and deformed pelvises. Once the women had a better diet, rest and sunshine in Australia, their babies grew larger in the womb, making for a difficult birth. The procedures involved, including craniotomy, were gruesome.
Most of Bridget’s twelve children were dead before they reached the age of 21. Only two survived beyond 60. According to Lorraine Thomas, Bridget’s descendant, all of Bridget’s children were born in Portland. After her husband died in 1873 she remarried, this time to John McPhee. She is buried in Footscray.
Bridget Flood from Cappoquin, Waterford per Eliza Caroline
My thanks to Claire Palmer for the photograph of young Bridget Flood. Bridget was 16 when she joined the Eliza Caroline. She was first employed by a reporter from the Melbourne Morning Herald, Edward Flood of Spring Street. I wonder was he related. 11 July 1853 she married a widower Joseph Plummer in St Peter’s Anglican Church. She had six children, four of whom survived to adulthood. She died in 1884 aged 52 and is buried in Melbourne General Cemetery.
Margaret Britt from Carrick on Suir, Waterford per Eliza Caroline
Margaret married a Welshman Robert Parry, only two months after her arrival. They had seven children, two girls and five boys, born at various places, Kangaroo Ground, Eltham, Cale, and when Robert was a farmer at Healesville. Margaret died in 1913 when she was 80 and is buried in Coburg, East Brunswick.
Catherine Rooney from Sligo per Eliza Caroline.
Catherine was sixteen when she went on board the Eliza Caroline. After 25 days in the immigrant depot she was employed, for three months, at a rate of £7 per annum, by John Green of Little Bourke Street. She married in 1852 John Dowling a farmer from Colac with whom she had nine children. She died in 1904.
Catherine Rooney per Eliza Caroline
Bridget Miniter from Kilrush
Unfortunately I don’t have much on the orphans who came from Kilrush. There is something about Bridget Miniter at the back of my mind but it escapes me at the moment. Was it something a descendant had told me? Bridget married a lad from Devon who was both a mason and bricklayer. I suspect some of those such as Bridget, who ended up in the Western Districts of Victoria went first by steamer to Portland and later travelled north from there. Bridget and James had eight children, four boys and four girls, but three of the boys died in infancy or childhood. She herself lived until she was 77 or 78. She is buried in the Roman Catholic section of Horsham cemetery.
Catherine Magee/McGee per Earl Grey
Just one more to finish. It is a reminder that many of the orphans did not remain near the port of their arrival. Kerry Cory told me about Catherine Magee/McGee recently, “Catherine and Charles went to the Victoria Goldfields and finally settled in Echucha Victoria with the remaining 7 of her 12 children, but unfortunately her 11th child died while working at the saw mill with his father. I have visited the graves at Echuca and the site of where they may have lived on the Murray river at the old saw mill on the Golburn rd. They are all buried together in an unmarked grave. When I get more information together the historical society are going to assist me in placing a marker and adding Catherine to their history tour because of her Earl Grey past“.
I eventually found what I had for Catherine; my original informant was Norma Sims of West Brunswick.
The following is from the entry in Barefoot vol. 2, p. 149. I’d found Catherine in the Antrim Workhouse Indoor Registers, held in the Public Records Office of Northern Ireland (PRONI) at BG 1/GA/1 (3398 and 4317). In the first entry, she was described as a ‘dirty’ single 16 year old Roman Catholic female residing in Crumlin who entered the workhouse 30 September 1847, and left six months later, 27 March 1848. The second entry was the same, except that she was now described as a 21 year old servant who entered 6 April 1848 and left two months later, 25 May 1848. She was on her way to Plymouth to join the Earl Grey.
Catherine ‘married Charles Brown 13 July 1849 at St Andrew’s Presbyterian church, in Sydney, the Reverend John McGarvie officiating. The couple had twelve children, seven of whom survived infancy. Charles was a mariner but in 1854-5 became a goldminer in Avoca, Maryborough, Adelaide Lead, and Elphinstone, Victoria. The family moved to Echuca c. 1869 where Charles was a sawyer and carpenter. Catherine died 12 April 1906, exactly one year after her husband’. That looks as if it should be ‘eleven years’.
I’m sure Catherine would be pleased at being part of the history tour at Echuca.
My best wishes for the commemoration at Burgoyne Reserve, Williamstown commencing 3 p.m. on the 19th November. Here’s to everyone looking forward…to helping those in need…in memory of the Irish orphan ‘girls’.
The poster above contains essential information about the November commemorative ‘Gathering’ in Williamstown this year. Wouldn’t it be good to see an Outreach programme associated with this Standing Rock in memory of the young Irish Famine women who arrived in Port Phillip? Organisers and descendants could choose the kind of outreach they would like. What do you think? I’m sure Dr Noone would encourage any proposal.
To return to some of the issues raised in my last post. Most of us will agree that the Earl Grey orphans had psychological baggage when they came to Australia. Some of them from places such as Skibbereen or Dingle or Kilrush may have been damaged more than others, making it hard for them to cope with the troubles they met in their new home.
If I may quote from Dr Kildea’s poignant oration, ‘Only Nineteen ‘ delivered at Hyde Park Barracks in Sydney at the end of August 2017,
“To be uprooted from your home country by force of circumstance, whether it be persecution or the prospect of starvation, and transported to a strange and foreign land can be a deeply traumatic experience. The fact that the refugee is thereby enabled to survive is unarguably a good thing. But that obvious benefit does not eliminate the emotional damage which the forced displacement causes”.
Reading his oration again I’m aware how much I’m indebted to him in these two blogposts on “Skibbereen and beyond”.
Were Skibbereen orphans especially vulnerable?
But let me play the devil’s advocate. What counter arguments or qualifications might be made to the claim that orphans from the Skibbereen area were especially vulnerable? Was Skibbereen so exceptional? Some qualifications to the claim have appeared already viz. there are places other than Skibbereen just as badly affected by the Famine. Dingle and Clare Abbey were mentioned in the previous post, for example. Note too the cover picture of the last post which features Captain Arthur Kennedy’s young daughter distributing clothing to children at Kilrush.
Kilrush, in County Clare, was notorious for the number of evictions that drove people from their homes. Captain Kennedy, the Poor Law Inspector in Kilrush Poor Law Union, reported in July 1848,
“These helpless creatures are not only unhoused, but often driven off the land, no one remaining on the lands being allowed to lodge or harbour them. Or they, perhaps linger about the spot, and frame some temporary shelter out of the materials of their old homes against a broken wall, or behind a ditch or fence, or in a bog-hole (scalps as they are called), places totally unfit for human habitations, or they crowd into some of the few neighbouring cabins still left standing, when called to do so, as lodgers, where such numbers congregate that disease, together with the privations of other kinds which they endure, before long carry them off. As soon as one horde of houseless and all but naked paupers are dead, or provided for in the workhouse, another wholescale eviction doubles the number, who in their turn pass through the same ordeal of wandering from house to house, or burrowing in bogs or behind ditches, till broken down by privation and exposure to the elements, they seek the workhouse, or die by the roadside”.
And from April 6 1848, …the crowding of the fever hospital causes me serious anxiety. The relieving officer has directions to send no more in, yet, notwithstanding this caution, panic-stricken and unnatural parents frequently send in a donkey load of children in fever a distance of 14 or 15 miles for admission. How to dispose of them I know not. BPP [Reports and Returns relative to evictions in the Kilrush Union ,1849  XLIX, pp.315-71]
Or to take a different tack, there were another eighteen or so orphans from Skibbereen on board the Eliza Caroline and another eighty-five (85) on board the Elgin to South Australia about whom we know little or nothing. We just do not know how they fared in Australia. And therefore surely cannot be certain their Famine experience predisposed them to disaster in Australia.
Remember too that the orphans did not board ship carrying disease or wearing lice infected rags. They had an outfit, a wooden box, a Bible, and would be well fed during their voyage to Australia.
My thanks to Síle Ní Muirchú (O’Driscoll) whose spiritual home is the beautiful Gougane Barra in West Cork. Síle provided the following excerpts from the Dunmanway Board of Guardian Minute Books. Dunmanway is just up the road from Skibbereen. Fifteen orphans from Dunmanway were also on board the Eliza Caroline.
“1st December 1849 “The Reports of the Master and other Officers were read, and orders made thereon, as follows”:
“The matron reported that 350 yards of gingham was required for girls bibs”
“The clerk was directed to advertise for contractors to supply gingham. Contracts to be made on the 8th inst.
8th December 1849
“Letter from the Commissioners of 6th Inst No. 76770 containing instructions respecting Female emigrants – directions were given to the union officers to carry out the instructions of the Commissioners.
Special Business “Tender for supply of gingham deferred for consideration”.
“The clerk was directed to advertise for persons willing to convey to Cork 15 female emigrants with their boxes etc? – tender to be considered on the 15th inst”.
15th December 1849
Special Business “Tenders for conveying female emigrants to Cork deferred for a few days”.
“The tender of Mr Ralph Phipps? To paint boxes for the female emigrants at 5/2d each was accepted”.
22nd December 1849
“Debit Workhouse Invoice Account, and Credit Treasure, with the several sums as above”.
“4. Emigration Account”.
Messr Skilling? And Co Books £1 s3 d9
Mr. ? for Bonnets 1 0 0
Mr Standley for Emigrants shoes 1 5 0
Mr Winder? For conveyance to Plymouth 3? 13 10 0
Mr ?? Fares to Cork 1 15 0
“The Reports of the Master and other Officers were read, and orders made thereon, as follows”:
“That all? The clothing and requirements/requisites? Required for the outfit of the Female emigrants are now complete”.
Bibles, bonnets, boxes, shoes, and dressed in gingham, the Dunmanway orphans were privileged indeed, and cut a fine bib as they made their way to Cork en route to Plymouth and thence Port Phillip.
I doubt that today many Syrian children seeking refuge in Lebanon or Jordan, or in Canada or Germany are receiving professional counselling. Nor are the Rohingya fleeing to Bangladesh. How far have we failed to come? Such psychiatric help did not exist for our Famine orphans either. Yet maybe 235 Earl Grey orphans living close to one another on board the recently built, well appointed but small, Eliza Caroline, fostered memories of home. Living cheek by jowl for a ninety day voyage provided plenty of opportunity to share and talk about past experiences, and about anxieties, and hopes, and dreams. Good medicine in itself, for some at least, was it not?
There are different and subtle hues to our picture of ‘Skibbereen and beyond’, are there not?
Australian circumstances and events
What tipped a vulnerable orphan into the abyss? What things made her life so difficult in Australia? Maybe the life cycle of an ‘at risk’ orphan became a disaster because of events that happened in Australia. How many of them fall into this category? It is hard to know. We may never know. My gut reaction would be, about ten percent (10%) of the whole. But if we include any Earl Grey orphan who went into an institution, even once, to a Benevolent Asylum, a Lying-in hospital, a women’s prison, a Mental Asylum, or whose children went to an Industrial school, I’d put the figure higher. We just do not know the history of all the orphans. Which is why the work of people such as Perry Mc Intyre, Karen Semken, Cheryl Mongan, Richard Reid, and committed family historians is so important to our understanding of this issue.
Let me briefly explore, in general terms, the kind of thing that had an adverse effect on an orphan’s life. Here’s an incomplete list just off the top of my head. I hope you will identify others. Let me know your thoughts.
the vulnerability of a lonely female immigrant who lacked a support network from ‘home’
sexual and domestic abuse
mental illness, and other maladies
poverty and hardship
desertion, illness and death of her husband
Sexual and domestic abuse
I’ll just look at a couple of things from the list above. Under sexual and domestic abuse let’s include any orphan, vulnerable because of her servitude, who was a target for an employer abusing his or her power as master in the master-servant relationship. There will be more than the ones that came to court. Here are a few that were reported in the Melbourne press, the Argus.
Sarah Higg/Head ( the Melbourne Daily News named her as Sarah Head) a 14 year-old from Limerick per Pemberton took her employers to court in November 1849. Richard Clarke a printer in the Gazette office in Melbourne abused her with ‘the most insulting language’, calling her a ‘poor-house brat’. His wife had grabbed her by the neck and thrown her out the door. See Argus, 13 Nov. 1849 p.2 col 6 http://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/page/504313
Catherine Mackie per New Liverpool was also a 14 year-old but from from Wicklow. The Argus 3 Nov 1849 reported as follows,
“The evidence went to prove that Mr.Williams (a schoolteacher of Brighton) had struck the girl repeatedly with a broom handle, and when she cried with pain he filled her mouth with ashes, to prevent the neighbours being alarmed”. Or in Catherine’s words,”he then knelt upon me and took two fists full of ashes and put them down my mouth”.
Tragically, in April 1850, Alice Ball a 16 year-old from Enniskillen per Diadem committed suicide by throwing herself into the River Yarra in Melbourne. “Even though reins were thrown to her from the bank of the river, she would not, she refused to lay hold of them”. She was pregnant by her married master. See the Argus, 26 April, 29 April and 1 May 1850. http://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/4773296
“He pulled me out of bed and shoved me one way and then another. I was stupid and taken in labor after he beat me, and I can’t tell half what he did to me… The child was born dead. Prisoner struck me with his hand and his foot. He struck me all over. He struck me with the point of his foot. I was tumbling on the floor. My daughter was in the house when he beat me. He ill-used me from the Saturday till the Friday, when the child was born. Sometimes he’d up and give me a shove or a slap”.
The sad thing is, a husband’s so-called “rights” to discipline and punish his wife and children was enshrined in law, a legal position which was underpinned by the ideology of most churches of the time. The head of a household, that is, the male, had a duty to administer ‘moderate’ correction to his wife and children to keep them on the straight and narrow. I wonder do we really live in more enlightened times. There are still plenty of troglodytes about.
In the 1990s I did some research on Irish women in Mental asylums for my Irish Women in Colonial Australia. I am glad to say some excellent work has appeared since then, particularly by the former Professor of Irish studies at the University of Melbourne, Professor Elizabeth Malcolm. Have a look for Elizabeth Malcolm, “Mental Health and Migration: The case of the Irish, 1850s-1990s”, in Migration, Ethnicity and Mental Health…, ed. A. McCarthy & C. Coleborne, Routledge, 2012, and her chapter on Yarra Bend Asylum, “Irish Immigrants in a Colonial Asylum during the Australian Gold Rushes, 1848-69”, in Asylums, Mental Health Care and the Irish:1800-2010, ed. Pauline M. Prior, Irish Academic Press, 2012, 2017. One can gain access to substantial portions of these works by searching via Google books.
Professor Malcolm identifies two orphans in her chapter on case histories in Yarra Bend, Bridget Ferry from Dunfanaghy in Donegal per Lady Kennaway, and Elizabeth Armstrong from Enniskillen per Diadem. One was described as a ‘congenital idiot’ and the other as suffering from ‘paralysis’ and ‘dementia’. But both were released ‘cured’ after only a few months stay in the institution. Professor Malcolm suggests they may have used the asylum for their own ends, “as a means of escaping from intolerable living conditions”.
There was no shortage of Irish women in Australian mental hospitals. Dr Malcolm lists the reasons for their being there; post natal depression, grief at the death of children, alcoholism, head injuries and poor physical health, and some evidence of ‘gold fever’ i.e. overwhelming disappointment at not finding gold on the Victorian gold fields.
And if I may add, from my own research notes, the reasons given by the medical authorities of the day as the ‘supposed cause’ of an inmate’s illness. They help identify some of the ‘difficulties’ an ‘at risk’ orphan may have faced. These are taken from mental hospital records in Victoria, Queensland, and New South Wales;
“her mind is affected by her child burning to death”,
“feeble and much emaciated”,
“drunkenness and ill usage of her husband”,
“death of her husband and destitute circumstances”,
“states she has been living in a solitary hut, her husband having been up the country and that continued fear was the cause of her illness”,
“form of mental disorder, nostalgia. Supposed cause, grief at leaving her country and ardent desire to return to it”,
“she continually reads her Prayer Book…becomes excited over religious subjects stating she has renounced her husband, that she considers sexual intercourse a crime and that she would sooner die than submit”,
“supposed cause of her melancholia, ‘regret at leaving home coupled with her recent desolate condition'”,
“she is a native of Ireland and lived by selling fruits…she has been long parted from her husband on account of his brutal usage”,
“the mother states that during her pregnancy with this child she received the most cruel usage from her husband”.
No matter how heavy the psychological baggage the orphans brought with them from a Famine ravaged Ireland, sometimes the struggle they had in their new home in Australia tipped them over the edge, and determined the downward course their lives.
Elsewhere in my blog I’ve drawn readers’ attention to the fact that because so many orphans married older men, in their old age they were more likely to spend their last days in an institution such as a Benevolent Asylum. Or as Dr Malcolm puts it, ‘elderly working class widows were especially vulnerable to psychiatric institutionalisation’. They coped as best they could, whatever way they could.
Unfortunately records of the names of those in the Melbourne Benevolent Asylum have not survived. But they have done so elsewhere. One needs to be aware of the name of the ship and date of arrival to detect an Earl Grey orphan. Here are a few from the ‘Register of Personal details relating to persons admitted to Dunwich Benevolent Asylum’.(Queensland State Archives Ben 2/4). Dunwich is on Stradbroke Island in Moreton Bay.
In alphabetic order,
Mary Clarkaged 69 admitted January 19th 1897. Born in Belfast, daughter of Charles Murray and Mary Donnelly…came to Australia 49 years ago by ship Roman Emperor, landed at Adelaide S.A. Goodness how far had she travelled.
Eliza Dwyer aged 75 admitted May 4th 1898. Born in Belfast, daughter of John Frazer and Margaret Gallagher…came to Australia 50 years ago landed Moreton Bay. Eliza was one of the original Belfast girls who arrived by the Earl Grey.
Ellen Agnes Hickson aged 61 admitted Oct. 29 1895 . Born Clare Ireland, daughter of John Leyden and Mary Cronin…came to Australia 1850 landed in Sydney…last two years in Asylum Goodna. Ellen Leydon from Ennistymon in County Clare arrived by the Thomas Arbuthnot.
Eliza Scholes aged 52 admitted October 10th 1889. Born Belfast, daughter of Anthony Rodgers and Jane Harver…came to Brisbane ’48 & have been in Queensland ever since. Eliza was another of the original Belfast girls who arrived by the Earl Grey.
It would be a major research project searching for, and cross referencing orphans in different institutions throughout Australia. Eliza Scholes nee Rogers had served three months for vagrancy in March 1888 and another 6 months for the same ‘crime’ in January 1889 in Toowoomba Women’s prison.
A reminder, though, searching for orphans in such institutions, as I’ve said elsewhere, ” is merely adding the bias of expectations to the bias of the evidence itself”. But it is still worth doing.
The work of family historians can act as a counterweight to this, even if they too have a bias of their own. Their concern is not with the ‘lost’ orphans. They are the survivors, and sometimes, maybe too often, view things through rose-tinted spectacles. As Noeline Kyle puts it in her very useful book, Writing Family History Made Very Easy, Allen & Unwin, 2007, in her chapter called “Nostalgia, Sentiment and Blazing Sunsets”, “we read about devoted wives, hardworking men, dear children and pious wives” (p.165). Noeline has important and valuable advice for all would-be genealogists and family historians.
My intention was to include somePort Phillip orphan stories via family reconstitutions in this post, on the occasion of this year’s Williamstown commemoration. But the post is too long already. Next time, I promise, before the ‘gathering’ occurs.
I hope it may be of use to the actors researching their roles for Jaki McCarrick’s play “Belfast Girls”. Break a leg!
At the bottom of each blog post after the comments there is a search box. Type in whatever you are looking for and click enter and you will find what reference there is, if any, in the whole of the blog. Thus if you enter “Ellen Leydon” you will be told she appears in posts 51, 25, 9, and 4. Happy hunting.