Some orphan stories, with photos
Catherine Fox from Armagh per Earl Grey
Here is the entry for Catherine Fox on the www.irishfaminememorial.org database. Some of the information came from her descendant Gwen Etherington in the late 1980s, some from my Barefoot, and some improvements were added by Dr Perry McIntyre.
Shipping: nursemaid, reads & writes, no relatives in colony. Armagh PLU PRONI BG2/G/2/ into workhouse 10 May 1847, aged 17 tolerably well clothed from Armagh town, out 7 Jul 1847; in 10 Jul 1847 (1203) thinly clothed, hungry, Union at Large, out 24 May 1848; empl Mr Hutchinson, Sydney, £10, 12 months; married widower Archibald Graham, Sydney in 1852; lived Dapto & Wollongong; sponsored her brother Bernard Fox from Glenmore, on ‘Commodore Perry’ 1856; she raised 6 surviving children her husbands first marriage, 12 of her own & 2 of her stepson’s children; died 1920.
The PRONI BG numbers refer to Armagh workhouse Indoor Admission and Discharge Registers.
You may notice Catherine’s husband was also from Armagh but she and Archie, who was eighteen years her senior, were of a different religion. I seem to remember Gwen telling me there was sectarian tension not just in the marriage (how were the children to be raised?) but also in Dapto and Wollongong, in the Illawarra, where the couple lived from the early 1850s. Catherine was, or became, a staunch defender of her religion against her Protestant neighbours. That Catholic-Protestant sectarian divide was certainly a feature of Australian history that is nowadays often forgotten. The country has moved on.
Ann Nelligan from Mallow per Pemberton
Ann and her younger sister, 17 year-old Eliza, were part of the Mallow (County Cork) contingent (about fifteen in all) on board the Pemberton. Eliza had been Superintendent of Work in the Union workhouse, something which worked to the sisters’ advantage when they were offered a place in the Earl Grey scheme.
Ann’s husband, John Baker, was a Parkhurst ‘exile’ from Birmingham. Together they had eight children, two boys and six girls. But Ann died relatively young at 39, of chronic nephritis.
Here is the family reconstitution form for Ann’s sister, Eliza Nelligan who married Joseph Midolo a sailmaker from Sicily. He was about eighteen years older than Eliza but she too was to die relatively young at 42, like her sister, of nephritis. Nephritis is inflammation or infection of the kidneys. I doubt there was effective medical treatment for Ann and Eliza in the early 1870s. Do correct me if I’m wrong.
The names of descendants researching the family history of these two orphans have changed considerably between Barefoot volume I and those now on the database. It is testimony to how strongly their families feel connected to their Irish orphan forebears.
Eliza Geoghagen from Athlone, Westmeath per Digby
Here is another example of what is euphemistically called ‘mixed marriage’. I remember Siobhán McHugh doing excellent work on this. See http://www.mchugh.org/radio/marryingOut.html
Eliza and her husband travelled throughout New South Wales. Look where they were living when their twelve children were born; Sydney, Yass, Tumut, Steiglitz, Victoria, Wattle Flat, Sofala, Pipeclay, Tallawang, Slapdash. Imagine carrying your brood all that way in those days. Both Eliza and John are buried in Gulgong. There are some magnificent photographs of Gulgong in the photograph collections of the State Library of New South Wales.
Bridget Gaffney from Butlersbridge, Cavan, per Digby
Another example of “Not Before the Altar”.
Sometimes you will notice discrepancies in our record. One of the ones here is my failure to count properly. There are five male children not four that I noted. Even so, two more have appeared on the database. My default position nowadays is the database rather than my early work. Helen Watts supplied information about Bridget and her sister Catherine and updated it for the second volume of Barefoot. Her update would account for the discrepancy.
There is a good report on the Digby voyage in State Records of New South Wales. The reference I have is SRNSW (State Records new South Wales) Microfilm reel 2852 Reports1838-49, 4/4699. The Digby arrived in Port Jackson 4 April 1849.
Colonial authorities were adamant that the terms and conditions of their charter parties, or contract, with shipping agents were met. The early orphan vessels were particularly subject to their scrutiny. The Surgeon Superintendent of the Digby, Dr William Neville kept a ‘private log’, or secret record, which he forwarded to the Colonial Secretary upon his arrival in Sydney. The consequence was an Immigration Board of Enquiry which found against the Master of the vessel, Captain Taber
- ‘..he did against the Government Regulations defraud the Emigrants of a large portion of their rations…
- the provisions and condiments etc. were not of the quality contracted for by the Government or such as ought to have been placed on board for the Emigrants “consumption”…(the Sydney Board comprising Merewether, Savage and Browne even went so far as to sample some of the provisions themselves! If only our present day so-called regulators were as keen).
- Dr Neville further charged the Master with having “permitted the sailors to be too familiar with the female Emigrants in opposition to the authority on board and clause No 20 in the Charter Party…”
The Board recommended the ship’s officers should not receive their gratuity, and that Captain Taber should never be employed on an Emigrant ship ever again. None of which was much consolation for the orphans who had to accept what they were given every day of their 109 day voyage.
The following is from the www.irishfaminememorial.org database entry for Bridget.
- Other : shipping: house servant, cannot read or write, no relatives in colony; sister Catherine also on Digby; Register 10 Nov 1849 complaint; 18 Dec 1849 Sydney, transfer. Appendix J No.128. 17 May 1850 indentures with JB Wathen cancelled, disobedience and neglect of duty; married Nathaniel Lawrence at Bathurst 13 Jan 1851; 13 children; husband a labourer, shepherd and bushman, lived Wallerwaugh, Mudgee, Bathurst & Wellington area; she died 27 Nov 1899, buried Stuart Town cemetery.
Honora Shea from Callan, Kilkenny per New Liverpool
Another ‘mixed marriage’. Honora married George Walmsley within a year of her arrival at Port Phillip. George was a Wesleyan and later, Baptist. They had thirteen children, seven boys and six girls. She probably travelled with her older sister Bridget but as neither could read or write they may have parted ways once they were married. Chrissy Fletcher who has a Facebook page for the Port Phillip orphans has asked how many orphans married ‘exiles’.
Chrissy has created a closed group for the Port Phillip arrivals on Facebook.
We might also ask how many orphans married former convicts; how many married older men; how many married someone of a different religion from their own; how many married Irishmen; how many married Englishmen; how many ‘married’ more than once? These are all interesting questions. Maybe you can think of others?
Rose Sherry from Carrickmacross, Monaghan per John Knox
My choice of orphan stories in this post is determined by the availability of photographs. Not everyone is lucky enough to have them.
Here is the entry for Rose on the www.irishfaminememorial.org database which will take you to her story. http://irishfaminememorial.org/media/Sherry_Rose_story.pdf
- Surname : Sherry (Cherry)
- First Name : Rose
- Age on arrival : 17
- Native Place : Carrick Cross [Carrickmacross], Monaghan
- Parents : Patrick & Catherine (both dead)
- Religion : Roman Catholic
- Ship name : John Knox (Sydney Apr 1850)
- Workhouse : Monaghan, Carrickmacross
- Other : Shipping: laundress, reads only, no relatives in colony; married William Alexander Chamberlain, 29 Oct 1851, St Marys, Sydney; 11 children; died 12 Mar 1899, from injuries caused by a fall, aged 66, lived Clara Terrace, off William St., Double Bay; William, a fisherman, died 6 Nov 1902, aged 73, both buried South Head Cemetery. Margaret: margkenstephens[at]bigpond.com; Kim: k.connor92[at]hotmail.com; Pamela: p.wittingslow[at]gmail.com; Judy: ronjudyhinkley[at]bigpond.com others without email contacts
- Read Her Story
Rebecca Cambridge from Ballyreagh, Fermanagh per Diadem
Here is the entry for Rebecca on the Irish famine memorial database, from my Barefoot vol.II, p. 357. She was in the Enniskillen workhouse records. Enniskillen sent a relatively large number of orphans by the Earl Grey scheme. http://www.workhouses.org.uk/Enniskillen/
- Surname : Cambridge
- First Name : Rebecca
- Age on arrival : 17
- Native Place : Ballyrag [Ballyreagh], Fermanagh
- Parents : Not recorded
- Religion : Church of England
- Ship name : Diadem (Melbourne Jan 1850)
- Workhouse : Fermanagh, Enniskillen
- Other : shipping: house servant, reads & writes; Enniskillen PLU PRONI BG14/G/5 (841) Ballyreagh, entered workhouse 9 Apr 1849, left 3 Oct 1849. Empl. Mr George Moulds, baker, Collingwood, £8, 6 months; married Samuel J Harvey, 11 Oct 1854; 11 children; husband gold digger, labourer & woodman; lived Morang, died 25 Jun 1905, buried Yan Yean. She left 10 acres of land & cottage in Separation, valued £100 & 5 cows & furniture worth £40
As you can see, Rebecca married an Englishman, Sam Harvey who was variously, a gold miner, labourer, woodman, and owner of a small farm. Together the couple had eleven children, three boys and eight girls. Two of their girls and one of their boys died in infancy. Sam and Rebecca are buried in Yan Yean cemetery.
I am constantly uplifted by the high standard of research being done on the Irish Famine orphans, especially by family historians. See for example Aileen Trinder’s work in blog post 48 http://wp.me/p4SlVj-2
or Karen Semken’s in blog post 51 http://wp.me/p4SlVj-14R
You may wish to view another brilliant effort, about Bridget Donovan per John Knox from Middleton, county Cork. It’s author Rowena has found fascinating new material to add to her WordPress blog. I’m looking forward to reading it there.
or maybe it is here https://beyondtheflow.wordpress.com/
Rowena’s energy and engagement with Bridget is a delight. Who knows? She may even encourage you to set down your own orphan story in a WordPress blog.
A FEW MORE ORPHAN STORIES
One of the advantages of this blogging business is that you can lay your cards on the table however you like. Some of what I’ve done already is all of a jumble, set down and put out as I came across material in my filing cabinets. The beauty of it is, nothing is set in stone. My intention is to revisit some of my more substantive posts when I get the chance. Post 16 http://wp.me/p4SlVj-h8 looks as though it could do with some reworking, for example.
In the meanwhile, here are a couple more stories I hope you will like. South Australian Irish Famine orphans are relatively neglected. It may be because there weren’t so many of them or maybe they are just hard to trace. Let me suggest some avenues of research which I hope may have wider application. I’m just casting a net and hoping when I drag it to shore I’ll have an interesting catch.
Mary Taafe from Dublin per Inconstant to Adelaide
Mary was to live a long life with her convict husband, Samuel Dunn from Nottingham. After marrying, the couple moved quickly to Victoria where Mary was to give birth to fourteen children, nine boys and five girls, three of them dying in infancy or childhood. She herself lived till she was ninety.
It must have been Dawn Barbary who sent me this. Thankyou Dawn. Dawn supplied the names of her and Samuel’s childrens’ spouses, Hanns Wanned, Niels Jorgens, Nellie Plunkett, W. Renison, Tom Lucas, and Maud Tr…. Maybe their descendants have yet to discover they have an Irish Famine orphan in their family.
Our starting point, as always, must be the Irish Famine Memorial database for it has the most up to date information. There in synopsis is what is known about Mary. I wonder if Eliza was Mary’s older sister. That would mean she had a younger sister called Ellen and a mother called Mary. What kind of proof would we need for that?
I remember working with those North and South Dublin workhouse Registers in 1987. They were large, heavy registers closely packed with names which were sometimes difficult to read. Nowadays you can gain access to these Dublin registers online if you subscribe to findmypast.ie
In the North Dublin Register (National Archives of Ireland [NAI] BG 78/G/6 number 30984) Mary was described as being ‘in good health‘ and from Jervis Street in the city. Jervis Street runs directly north from the Ha’penny Bridge, not far from the city centre. Not that Mary would recognise it today. In Mary’s case, the Workhouse Register explicitly states, “sent to Australia“, as indeed it did for some others, Bridget Fay (28228), Eliza Harricks (29777), Mary Ann Newman (BG78/G/5 No.20650) and in G4, no.14640, Rebecca Thompson. Mostly, however, one has to use the method I described in blog post number five, http://wp.me/p4SlVj-4X See about a third of the way down under “Identifying the female orphans”.
The next step is to Peter Higginbotham’s brilliant work on workhouses to find out more about the workhouse Mary was in. See http://workhouses.org.uk/DublinNorth/
That is one excellent website, worth the many hours I’ve spent exploring it.
Casting the net a second time, I dragged ashore an article by Flinders University academic, Mark Staniforth, that treats the orphans who came to Adelaide on the Inconstant. Do have a look for yourself
Dr Staniforth also offers information about individual orphans, some of it originating with family historians. Mary Taafe is one such, where the claim is made that Eliza was indeed her sister. But no proof of that is offered there. I believe it is important to always ask, how do you know that, what evidence do you have, and how reliable is your evidence? Is your claim based on hard fact or have you taken imaginative license or a leap of faith? Just so long as you state clearly what the position is.
Catherine Bracken from Parsonstown
And to emphasise how treacherous this ‘telling orphan stories’ can be, compare Dr Staniforth’s brief biography of Catherine Bracken with Karen Semken’s that appears on the Irish Famine memorial website at http://irishfaminememorial.org/media/Catherine_Bracken_Inconstant.pdf These two accounts show us how easy it is to become ensnared in the tangled webs we weave.
One is a straightforward account of Catherine from Parsonstown (Birr) workhouse marrying William Robinson at Mount Barker in 1851, their having at least three children, and Catherine dying aged 52 in the Clare Valley. (Staniforth, p. 37, after the endnotes).
The other is a thoroughly researched and beautifully illustrated tale of ‘murder and mayhem’. Catherine’s first husband had his throat slit in 1856, and her second was executed in 1862 for the murder of their servant Jane McNanamin at Salt Creek. Catherine married yet again, for a third time, to George Ingham in 1871. According to Karen, she died in 1915 and is buried in West Terrace Cemetery, Adelaide. Karen mentions that one of Catherine’s descendants Dawn Ralfe was writing a book about Catherine. Does anyone have any news about this?
I see Dawne Ralfe has published her book. It’s called Murders and Mayhem: the true secrets, Inspiring publishers, 2014.
Karen has a facebook page devoted to the orphans. There are some great photographs there. https://www.facebook.com/EarlGreyIrishOrphans/ On the 5th April 2015 for example, she posted a pic of Matthew Moorhouse’s residence, next door to the Native School that acted as an Immigration Depot for the orphans. The same pic appears in her account of Catherine’s history at page three of the link above.
Karen’s revision of Catherine Bracken’s history raises a larger, interesting question: how many of the orphans had a criminal history in Australia, however minor their crimes or misdemeanours might have been? Those that did were found guilty of minor crimes, being drunk and disorderly, obscene language, petty theft, or ‘vagrancy’, a charge which the police often used instead of ‘prostitution’.
Margaret Dehee (or Duhy)
Dr Staniforth also draws our attention to a South Australian government report that lists sixteen Inconstant orphans who were prostitutes, including Margaret Dehee (various spellings) from Donohill in Tipperary. Dr Staniforth argues convincingly her surname was Duhy.
The information on this next family reconstitution form was from an excellent genealogist, Wendy Baker, sent to me in 1986. I hope Wendy is still with us. Margaret Dea(n)(e)/Duhy had five female children by her first husband Robert Strickland and another, Lucy, by her second, Charles Lindrea. Like Mary Taafe she left South Australia and sought her fortune in Victoria.
The Government report Dr Staniforth refers to can be found in British Parliamentary Papers. I’ve used the hard copy 1,000 volume Irish University press edition.
On the second of November, 1850, Governor Sir H.E. F. Young wrote to Earl Grey,
I have the honour of forwarding a report by the Children’s apprenticeship Board, on 621 female orphans introduced into the colony during the last two years.
2. Thirty two cases of crime or misconduct were brought before the police magistrate; six are mothers of illegitimate children, and required relief as destitute persons at their lying-in.
Six more are living in the country in adultery.
Forty three have fallen into the condition of common prostitutes; although all had been placed by the Board in respectable situations…”.
(In all, less than fifteen percent of orphans, my comment).
Sixty-six circulars had been sent to Police Magistrates throughout the colony asking about ‘the conduct and respectability’ of the orphans in their district. Only thirty Magistrates had replied. (British Parliamentary Papers, Irish Universities Press edition, Colonies Australia, vol.13, Sessions 1851-52, Papers relative to Emigration, p.292). [I only wish our own present-day pollsters explained to us the methods they use, and on what their results are based].
I wonder if asking how many of the orphans were incarcerated in Melbourne Women’s prison or in Darlinghurst gaol, or in Yarra Bend mental hospital, or Wollston Park, in Liverpool Lying-in hospital, or Dunwich Benevolent Asylum, or any similar institution, is the question I want to ask. A minority of the orphans (and how substantial a minority is moot) i believe were bound to spend part of their life in such institutions.
More than twenty years ago I asked, retouching what I said just a bit, ‘did Irish immigrants (to Australia) agree with other immigrants on …”the big issues”? Did they accept ‘capitalism and the modernizing, anglophone, world’ (D. Akenson), or were the casualties among them those would not or could not adapt to this new world? … And among those Irish immigrants were ‘friendless’, single, Irish Famine orphans the most vulnerable of all because of their ethnicity, because of their sex, because of their class, because of their lack of independence, because of their lack of kin support, and because of their dependence on males? The questions are easier to pose than to answer’.
Some have even suggested the trauma of the Famine made the Irish more susceptible to mental illness. I remain unconvinced. As I’ve said elsewhere, to suggest our orphans were transmitters of some workhouse dumping ground mentality, or biologically prone to some sort of “Celtic Melancholy”, or psychologically predisposed to mental illness, ‘borders on bigotry'(Akenson?).
Unlike most assisted Irish immigrants, the Earl Grey orphans were not part of a safety network. They did not have a network of ‘friends’,– friends in the usual sense of people from the same village or locality with whom they had a close, long-established relationship, and friends in the Irish sense of family members, once, twice and even thrice removed–friends they could turn to in times of need. They did not have a complex safety-net, woven with threads of kinship. That is what made them vulnerable to alienation in their new Australian world.
The question we may prefer to ask is what stratagems did the orphans use to deal with whatever life threw at them? What legal rights did they have? When they were young, did they get married in order to escape a burdensome master-servant contract? And if their husband was legally allowed to beat them with a stick, how did they withstand domestic abuse? Did they adopt the drinking habits of their husband? Fit in, or flee? Ellen Leydon from Ennistymon in County Clare who arrived by the Thomas Arbuthnot, ‘married’ six times, using(?) males as her ‘shelter’, her way of coping. See her story towards the bottom of http://wp.me/p4SlVj-dQ And when old, if your husband has died and you do not meet the requirements for entry to a Benevolent Asylum, do you deny your children, say you have lost touch with them, say you have no money, and no means of support. Then you will meet requirements. Do as needs must. Did the orphans contest the historical role colonial society imposed upon them? Did they negotiate a place for themselves? Or is that being too optimistic?
(I’ve just started reading Garry Disher’s Her. That will cure any desire to return to the ‘good old days’).
May I ask if anyone knows a good general history of women in Australia that would help answer the questions asked in the last part of this blog? Which historians can we turn to? Shurlee Swain? Christine Twomey? Tanya Evans? Diane Kirkby? All suggestions gratefully received.
For those who didn’t get to hear Dr Kildea’s oration at Hyde Park Barracks on the 27th August 2017, Tinteán have kindly put it online at https://tintean.org.au/2017/09/06/only-nineteen/
Thank you Jeff for a brilliant, poignant speech.
some more graphs and some more photo-graphs
These maps were drawn in the mid 1990s and thus need updating with material that has come to light since then. I’m putting them up because i know they are accurate and they still give a good idea how widely the orphans were ‘scattered’ throughout Eastern Australia in the second half of the 19th century.
Another reason is that mapping the orphans’ movements is a useful tool for discovering more about their history. Barbara Barclay has made excellent use of maps in her study of Famine orphans from County Mayo. There is no reason this cannot be done on a larger scale. I’ve already mapped the origin of the orphans based on the workhouses they were from (see blogpost 4). Could maps be drawn which show their more precise origins in Ireland, as well as their place of first employment in Australia, as indeed Barbara does for those from County Mayo, on her website www.mayoorphangirls.weebly.com ?
Is there not a computer programme that would allow us to map their movements over time? We could follow them between places of employment, and through marriage, birth and death records for much of their life. We’d need to find out more about such a programme. Does it exist already? There may be a lot of work involved?
The other maps I drew for Barefoot vol.2 were frozen at specific points in time, 1848-50; 1861; and c.1890-1900. They are still useful I hope. I’ve run the 1861 ones together for the map below, as indeed Mike Murphy did, in the Atlas of the Great Irish Famine. The colonies of New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland were ‘separated’ from one another by that date.
I’ll add a couple more which might allow a closer look. The first is of Queensland in c. 1861.
And this one shows the location of Earl Grey Famine orphans in New South Wales at the time of their death in c. 1900.
See post 12 for maps showing the location of orphans in Victoria.
Here are some more graphs illustrating workhouse conditions, a bit of a throwback to earlier posts. You may wish to compare these with the ones in post 6.
Now for some more orphan photographs and once again, my heartfelt thanks to the descendants who kindly sent me these to use.
Oh dear, I still haven’t made much progress in mastering WordPress. I’ll try uploading some more and see what happens.