I was born in Kilkeel, near Warrenpoint in Co Down in what is now known as Northern Ireland. It was all just Ireland back then, 1832, a few years after Daniel O’Connell persuaded the House of Commons to grant Catholic Emancipation to Ireland. You will find different dates for when I was born and even different places, because we Irish were inclined to be loose with facts like that.
I came to Australia as an unassisted passenger on board Royal Charter, a voyage that took three months, arriving in March 1858. There were four of us – the others were James Horan and cousins Daniel and Michael Gallagher – all with the same embarkation number on the ship. It was common practice for authorities in those times to encourage groups from the same town or village to emigrate together, with the idea that if they were successful, they would let people at home know and thereby encourage more to emigrate. So the four of us made our way together to Liverpool to catch Royal Charter; it would go down the following year off the coast of Wales on its way back from Australia carrying folk with gold dust, in some cases sewn into their clothing.
In Australia I went to live with my uncle Dan Gallagher in Maldon, near Castlemaine in Victoria and worked with him in hotel keeping and butchering. In 1865, I married Mary Anne Fenton, who had come from Tralee Co. Kerry. It was her second marriage; we had one daughter, but Mary’s health was never good and she died the following year. In that final year of her life, she was looked after by our housemaid Mary Clancy, a native of Pallasgreen, Co. Limerick where she was born in 1847. She and I married the year after my first Mary died, and she was my companion for the rest of my life.
I worked as a storekeeper for many years and built the White Flag pub which I ran for the rest of my life without even one breach of the licensing law. I also ran a few rural properties and was fond of the horses. I was closely involved in the establishment of St Brigid’s church in Maldon where my requiem mass was said after I died in the first decade of the new century. My wife Mary Clancy donated the splendid pulpit at that church in my memory. When she died in 1919, she was grandmother to more than 50 grandchildren; by that time our family had extended numerically and geographically, though the Maldon area was our centre.
My name did appear in the local newspapers on a few occasions. Once it was for not sending my two oldest boys to school for a total of 30 days, an offence for which I was fined half a crown for each. There was also a case where I was charged for assault by James Murphy. I entered a counter-claim against him; his claim was dismissed, but mine was found in my favour. James was fined five shillings plus a cost of £1 14s 6d or three days imprisonment. He and I have a good laugh about it up here when we meet.
My descendants in Australia number in their hundreds, a number that is getting larger every year. You will find them with surnames like Dillon and Morgan, Harrison and Kennedy, Minogue and Stormont, Owens and Whittington.
Reminds me that I was speaking with Tennyson recently; he was very pleased to be mentioned in last month’s Tinteán and regrets that he can’t tell his story like the Irish do.
The editors thank Mary Stormont, niece of Katherine Kennedy, for the information in this article.