SOME MORE BRIEF HISTORIES
A reader recently mentioned how much she liked reading stories about the orphans. So you will forgive me, i hope, if i add some more. These are based on my ‘family reconstitutions’ some of which appear elsewhere in my blog. But this time I’ve added a little gloss.
May I suggest these orphan stories illustrate the many textures and hues of the female condition in colonial Australia? Some of the orphans were lucky in marriage, some not so. Most of them had agency of some kind, even if often limited by historical circumstance, and societal norms and constraints.
Let me begin with two from the notorious Earl Grey, the first vessel to arrive, carrying the “Belfast Girls”. I’ll refer to a couple more towards the end.
ELLEN PARKS from Belfast
Ellen Parks married twenty-five year old, London born, George Clarke, in May 1850, less than two years after she arrived. George proved to be a successful restaurant keeper, dealer and fish-monger whose estate was valued at £3500 when he died. Ellen predeceased him by six years. The couple lost two of their children at an early age. But Ellen was assured her other children would be well looked after. In his will, George spread gifts of glassware, furniture, jewelry, books, and fine engravings among them; to James, a large diamond ring, to Christina, a gold locket and chain in a box, to George(?), a gold hunting watch with Albert and locket attached, to Lillian, a ladies gold watch with Albert and Pendant gold chain with cross attached, to Anna Lloyd, a gold miniature brooch with Emu and Kangaroo on a wreath, to Alice, a gold brooch and earrings containing topaz, to Ellen Sewell, a cluster diamond ring, and to Frank Fowler a number of books and engravings. It is always worth checking probate records, is it not?
A different fate awaited her shipmate, JANE HOGAN from Ballymena.
She married a former convict, Francis Hanley, a good bit older than herself, scarcely six months after arriving. But she was to die in childbirth in 1860 when she was twenty-eight years old.
FROM MALLOW, COUNTY CORK to PORT PHILLIP
MARY BARROW per Pemberton
Mary Barrow is not so well-known as her older sister, Ann. Ann married a former convict, Samuel Phillips. The photo is of Ann and her husband Samuel on shopfronts in front of cab stables, Sydney Road, Brunswick, unfortunately now demolished. Their son David was to become Mayor of Brunswick.
And among their illustrious descendants was their grandchild, Sir Ronald East CBE MCE FICE FRHSV. Try typing his name into a search engine. My informant for the entry in Barefoot vol 2, p. 320, told me the family now embraces twenty-two different nationalities. It is very much part of multicultural Australia.
It is fitting we also acknowledge Ann’s sister, the young fourteen year old Mary Barrow who arrived by the Pemberton in May 1849.
Mary was to marry a Cork man, Michael Doherty, and together they went searching for gold. The couple travelled west, living in Raglan, Charlton, Avoca and Ararat. Both of them are buried in Ballarat New Cemetery. One can only hope the two families remained in touch with one another. Is there any evidence for this, does anyone know?
DORINDA SALTRY FROM SLIGO per Lady Kennaway
I must admit my choice of family reconstitutions is pretty much a random choice. But I notice I am influenced by my knowing some people who may be interested, such as Terry, Barbara, Kay, Anne-Marie, and Chrissy.
Dorinda Saltry from Sligo married an ‘exile’ Lemuel Bryanton from Suffolk. Lemuel was in Pentonville prison as a horse thief before being sent to Australia. He evidently used his skill with horses later in life for he was a groom and a horse cab owner in Melbourne when all of his nine children were born. Note that William Lonsdale, a member of the Melbourne Orphan committee, was required to give his approval to the marriage of the young couple in 1850. Four of their children, including two named after their mother, died at a young age. Orphans’ children dying relatively young surely affected their attitudes to death. Maybe it was a common enough occurrence throughout colonial Australia. Giving birth every two or three years was a common experience for women too.
The couple do not seem to have travelled far. Bowondara or Boroondara cemetery is in Kew, Melbourne.
ELLEN CURRAN from Enniscorthy per New Liverpool
Here’s one who did travel– as far as Casterton in Glenelg Shire near the South Australian border. Ellen Curran married an Englishman nearly twelve years her senior. But he outlived her. Most of their children inherited their longevity. Ellen’s father, step-mother and half-sister came to Australia in c. 1851. Her ancestor who provided this information has supplied the married names of their children. Note there are few Irish sounding names among them. Like many an orphan, Ellen’s children were absorbed into the larger, dominant, dare I say, Anglo-Australian culture.
Ellen was a Wexford orphan most of whom came to Australia on board the New Liverpool. A similar number of their Wexford workhouse “sisters” disembarked at the Cape of Good Hope in South Africa.
One more to Port Phillip,
CATHY CULBERT from Tuam per Lady Kennaway
Port Phillip, and what was soon to become the colony of Victoria, attracted people from all over the world at the time of the 1850s gold rush. Cathy Culbert, originally from Tuam in County Galway, married William Swain, or Swane, from Flores in Portugal on the first of January 1850, both residing at Sugar Loaf Creek north of Kilmore. William was there before the rush for gold began. I wonder what his history is. Together Cathy and William had ten children, six boys and four girls. At some stage they moved north of Ballarat to Maryborough which is where Cathy was buried in 1899.
Some more who lived in Queensland,
CATHY DURKIN from Ballyglen, Mayo per Panama
Maybe Barbara or Terry can tell me where exactly Ballyglen is in County Mayo. I suspect it is somewhere between Killala and Ballycastle in the north of the county. Times must have been really hard in these beautiful western districts of Ireland during the Famine.
Cathy was lucky. She had relatives in the colony, a cousin Catherine White, who lived in the Moreton Bay district. A few months after arriving in Sydney she went with a party of another twenty-two orphans to Moreton Bay! Either the Sydney Immigration Agent was most accommodating or Cathy herself managed to take advantage of her circumstances. A few years later she married Henry Wakefield from Oxford with whom she spent the rest of her hard working life, in Brisbane, giving birth to ten children.
CATHY KENNEDY from Kerry per Thomas Arbuthnot
This one will be of interest to Kay Caball, author of The Kerry Girls. Her book is essential reading for anyone with a Kerry orphan in their family. I’d recommend it to everyone with an interest in the Irish Famine orphans. Kay tells us that Cathy gave her place of origin to the Dingle workhouse Board of Guardians as Brandon Bay, which is in the Gaeltacht in the north of the Dingle peninsula. There is always room for error in our official records, and interestingly here we have strong evidence that the first language for some of the orphans was Irish. Like Cathy Durkin above, or the young Moriarty sisters from Kerry, Cathy Kennedy may have had Irish as their first language.
Perhaps Irish was the first language for many orphans from the West of Ireland? Or perhaps my East-West fault line is too crude? 1851 Census records identify the areas with the largest number of Irish only speakers, Galway, Kerry, Clare, Cork, Mayo, Waterford, Donegal, for example. Like Cathy Durkin above, from Mayo, or the young Moriarty sisters from Kerry, Cathy Kennedy was probably at least bilingual.
But as Máiréad Nic Craith reminds us in her brilliant chapter in the Atlas of the Great Irish Famine, ” Legacy and Loss: the Great Silence and its aftermath”, (p.583), the 1851 census probably underestimates the number of Irish speakers in the country at the time.
The language question is a fascinating subject is it not? Other questions about attitudes to death, posed earlier, or about the ways geography impinges on an orphan’s life–Kay Caball reminds us that Cathy Kennedy and her parents walked miles across difficult mountainous terrain to get to the Dingle workhouse–or in Queensland, Mary Moriarty from Dingle, restlessly moving with her husband, Samuel Brassington, from Brisbane to Ipswich to Dalby, Condamine, Moraby, Roma, Mitchell up the Maranoa River, across the mountains to the Warrego River and finally reaching Augathella in 1864, would be very much aware of how the natural environment impacted on her life–these sort of subjects can bring us to a closer understanding of an orphan’s life both in Ireland and Australia. We shouldn’t be afraid to cast our net as wide as we can.
I intended including the young Moriarty sisters in this post. Maybe another time. Let me finish, as promised, with two more of the orphans Surgeon Douglass banished to the Moreton Bay district.
ELIZA FRAZER and VIOLET LACKIE per Earl Grey
One of Eliza‘s descendants figures prominently in Siobhan McHugh’s Radio National podcast which you can download and listen to at http://www.abc.net.au/radionational/programs/hindsight/the-famine-girls/4857904
Violet Lackie reminded me of young James Porter’s disparaging account of the orphans who went to Brisbane by the steamer Eagle,
“Within forty eight hours they had all been married and they could be seen all over the town trecked out in the gaudiest finery that could be procured in the few drapers shops then in Brisbane. Of course the men from up country represented themselves or were understood by the girls to be squatters and when their cheques were spent the difficulty was to get their wives out of town. They had been spoilt by the few days carouse and did not care to face the discomforts of a bullock drivers camp. One girl positively refused to move but her husband by main force got her to the camp pad locked a bullock chain round her waist and fastened it to the tail of the dray. Eighteen months afterwards I got to the Merro diggings I reconnised her living under the protection of a man other than hr husband, keeping a sly grog shop”. (cited in Barefoot…, vol.2, p.112).
Evidently it was not Violet. She remained with her native born husband, George Fitzpatrick, all her life.
I knew these two appeared in court records not long after they’d married and hoped I could find out more using the digitized newspapers in http://trove.nla.gov.au/
Eliza had rushed to the rescue of a young servant working next door, in Humby’s the bootmakers in Brisbane. Fourteen year old Mary Maddocks was being sexually assaulted by a Mount Elphinstone ‘exile’. The culprit was sentenced to seven years imprisonment (Brisbane Court of Petty Sessions (QSA Z2833 31 July 1850).
I had a little trouble with trove and had to login to my account before I had any success.
Unfortunately I found nothing on the Mary Maddocks case but did find a brief reference to a fight Eliza and Violet had in late 1849. See the Moreton Bay Courier, 10 November 1849 column 3. Eliza was fined 5 shillings, and ordered to pay ten shillings costs.
There was little more using ‘Violet Fitzpatrick’ as my search term. But there were rich pickings using ‘Edward Dwyer’ and ‘Eliza Dwyer’.
Edward appeared before the Brisbane Petty Sessions court on charges of drunkenness. See for example, http://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/3718161?searchTerm=Edward%20Dwyer&searchLimits=l-state=Queensland|||l-title=14
I cannot sing the praises of Trove enough. It is a great research tool. Create an account for yourself, persist with it. You will be rewarded many times over.
Just a quick reminder of the gathering at Hyde Park Barracks this coming Sunday 27 August. You will be made very welcome. See https://www.facebook.com/GreatIrishFamineMemorial/
Cad a dhéanfaimid feasta gan adhmad,
tá deireadh na gcoillte ar lár;
níl trácht ar Chill Chais ná a teaghlach,
is ní bainfear a cling go bráth;
an áit úd ina gcónaíodh an deighbhean
a fuair gradam is meidhir thar mná,
bhíodh iarlaí ag tarraing thar toinn ann,
is an tAifreann binn á rá.
Noli timere (Seamus Heaney)