Ghosts of Irish Australia: Mary Kirwan

Mary (Kirwan) Furlong, Wexford

My name is Mary Kirwan, from Wexford, Ireland. Hello to my newly found descendants in South Australia. I would never have guessed that tragedy in my daughter’s early married life would have resulted in my DNA ending up at the bottom of the world.

I was born in 1840 and married Thomas Furlong who was two years younger than me. We were pig dealers in Wexford town. Our sons worked in the business, and we could afford to keep our daughters Mary Anne and Dora in education into their 20s. I had five children.

My daughter Johanna (Annie) was born in 1863 in Wexford and died in England in 1943. She married first of all a Wexford man, William Gaddren, who was a sailor. Tragically, he died of throat cancer when he was only 25. William’s death led to another marriage and that’s how my DNA began its travel outside of Ireland.

James and Johanna in Bradford

Three years after William’s death, Johanna married English stonemason James Bates. They lived in Bradford, England, and had eight children, with only three living after 18 years: James, Mary Leah, and William. Johanna worked from home as a dressmaker. She did well enough to be able to buy her own Singer sewing machine for ten guineas in 1907.

Tailoring runs in the family. My other daughter Dora was a tailoress as we used to call a female tailor and married into the Wexford tailors, the Maddoxes. She and Michael Maddox moved to Dublin where they had thirteen children. I hear that some of their descendants have been finding each other across the world. That’s how my photo surfaced, apparently, but there is some uncertainty whether it is a photo of me, as nothing is written on the back. It is me, and I am beautifully dressed, if I say so myself.

As I died in Enniscorthy, Wexford in 1915, I was spared the sorrow of losing my grandson James who died of wounds at the Somme in 1916. I was unable to be of comfort to his mother, my daughter Johanna, over in Bradford, England. I know she prayed hard for the safe return of her ‘Jemmie’, but her prayers went unanswered.

Private James Bates awarded the British War Medal and the Victory Medal

James’s brother William was only nine when his brother was killed in the war. William was 35 when he emigrated to Australia, only six years after the death of his mum, my daughter Johanna. I wonder if he delayed emigrating so as not to visit another loss on his mum? I hear he had a good and productive life. Around the same time as William’s emigration to Australia, my daughter Dora’s husband died we think from post-traumatic stress disorder from his service in the Boer War (we called it ‘shell shock’). So much sadness from these wars. I’m glad to see that there hasn’t been another world war since.

William, Johanna, and Mary

My daughter Johanna said my granddaughter Mary looks just like me. I think I can see the resemblance around the mouth. Anyway she is a lovely looking girl. I wish I had known her better. My English grandson William is my link with South Australia. He, his wife Mary, and their two children, Peter and Patricia, emigrated to Sydney in 1951.  I hear he had a good and productive life, first in Sydney, and then in South Australia where he is buried in Adelaide. His son Peter (Crafty) is buried in Peterborough. Peter’s son Michael who lives in South Australia is now in touch with my sister Dora’s granddaughter who emigrated to Adelaide in 1972. They haven’t met yet. Some pandemic is making it difficult for them to travel at the moment.

I am really enjoying finding out about my family saga, and no doubt there is more to come. Johanna wasn’t the only Furlong family member to travel to England. This DNA science has unearthed another Ireland-England story that links my family with a famous English actor and ultimately to King Richard III. As they say today, watch this space!

Dymphna Lonergan from Adelaide is Mary Kirwan’s great-great granddaughter through the Furlong, Maddox, and Hunt lines.