WATERFORD AND THE SOUTH-EAST OF IRELAND
SOME LINKS WITH AUSTRALIA
There were 3 Waterford convicts on the transport Queen which took the first Irish to New South Wales in 1791.
It is sad to note that two of them, Sarah BRAZILE and Michael MURPHY, were only 18 when they were convicted.
Later the New Geneva Barracks on the shores of Waterford harbour was used as a prison to hold convicts awaiting transportation. Its ruins can still be seen.
The 1798 uprisings were centred in the south-east of Ireland and many of the participants were transported to New South Wales.
Philip CUNNINGHAM of Clonmel was shipped out in 1799 after being convicted of ‘fomenting sedition’. In 1804 he was one the leaders of Australia’s first popular uprising, among Irish convicts at Castle Hill, now in the western suburbs of Sydney. For this he was hanged.
But not every Irish convict was a political martyr. Also shipped out in 1799 was a County Carlow man, Patrick FARRELL, convicted of sending a threatening letter demanding money with menaces. He claimed that he was illiterate, did not know what was in the letter, had found it by accident and thought he should deliver it to the addressee. The jury found his defence internally contradictory.
Nor were the Irish all agin’ the government. A Tipperary man, James DALTON, joined the Victorian police. One story (can it really be true?) claims that he accidentally invented the Australian term ‘larrikin’ while describing, in a Tipperary accent, suspicious individuals who were ‘lurking’ about.
Australia’s best-known bush ranger, Ned KELLY, was the son of another Tipperary man, ‘Red’ KELLY, probably from the Fethard area, and according to legend, born within sight of the Rock of Cashel. Ned Kelly was sent to the gallows by a judge from Cork, Sir Redmond BARRY.
It’s less well-known that Ned Kelly got his apprenticeship in bushranging from a Waterford man, Henry POWER. Indeed, there is a strong suspicion that the young Ned turned Power into the police so that he could take over his patch. Henry POWER was transported from Waterford in 1840 for the crime of stealing a pair of shoes - but since he claimed to have committed 600 robberies in a single year during his career as a bushranger, this may have been a token prosecution.
County Waterford had its own bushrangers, the Connery brothers who conducted a reign of terror in the 1830s from their base in the Comeragh mountains. Two of them were transported to New South Wales in 1836. Like Australia’s own bushrangers, they were remembered in song and legend as freedom fighters and victims of injustice.
Another famous Australian bushranger, Martin CASH, was originally a farm boy in County Wexford. Despite his depredations in early Van Diemen’s Land (Tasmania) he was a popular figure, and he ended up as caretaker of the botanic gardens in Hobart. (Power, by contrast, drowned in the Murray River.) Cash claimed to have been transported for a crime of passion, after trying to shoot a man who had made advances to his girl friend. Court records show him to have been a thief.
Two other Wexford men played an important part in gold-rush Australia. Henry FRENCHAM claimed to have been the discoverer of gold at Bendigo in Victoria (although, it seems, not everybody believed him) and James ESMOND from Enniscorthy received the official reward for finding the first gold at Ballarat.
Martin LOUGHLIN was a typically ‘horsey’ Kilkenny man, who twice won the Melbourne Cup. When he died in 1894, he left a quarter of a million pounds to his family back home. George WATSON from Fennagh in County Carlow, imported hounds from the Carlow Hunt pack to establish the Melbourne Hunt: they chased emus and kangaroos.
From Leighlinbridge in County Carlow came the famous Cardinal Patrick MORAN, Australia’s first cardinal. He is a rare example of a prince of the Church who actually ran for public office, trying unsuccessfully in 1898 to get himself elected to the Convention that drafted Australia’s federal constitution.
Cardinal MORAN’s successor as archbishop of Sydney was a Waterford man, born and educated, Michael KELLY. Kelly’s greatest success was the launching in 1901 of the Pioneers, Ireland’s famous total abstinence society. Although colleagues in Ireland felt he possessed ‘great piety, but a small share of wisdom’, he was nominated in 1901 as co-adjutor to succeed the mighty Moran. The Cardinal did not like his designated successor and treated him with cold contempt. By the time he succeeded to the archdiocese in 1911, Kelly was 61. His biographer says this Waterford man ‘had nothing original to offer’ and calls him ‘strident, uncompromising, but often inept and unnecessarily narrow’.
The first Catholic archbishop of Brisbane, Robert DUNNE, was born at Ardfinnan, in the Suir valley.
Joseph DALTON, from Waterford, was a Jesuit who founded Sydney’s celebrated St Ignatius College, Riverview.
Another lively Jesuit personality was William HACKETT from Kilkenny. He became too much involved in the politics of Irish independence and was shipped off to Australia in 1922. There he became confidant to the aloof figure of the Archbishop of Melbourne, Corkman Daniel Mannix. On a rainy night in 1954 a taxi-driver failed to spot the elderly man in dark clerical garb darting across the street in front of him. Hackett was gravely injured, but characteristically joked on his deathbed that he ahd never expected a taxi to take him to Heaven.
Joseph SLATTERY from Waterford was educated at the Christian Brothers College in Waterford City. Unusually for the C19, he trained as both a priest and a physicist. In 1888, he was sent with a group of Vincentians to take over St Stanislaus College, Bathurst, New South Wales. In 1893, he installed gas burners into the study rooms, a year before they were on the market in Australia. In 1896, he read about Roentgen’s discovery of X-rays and promptly built a working X-ray machine himself. Indeed, he invented a modification to the original apparatus and corresponded with Roentgen about his invention. Next he heard about Marconi’s experiments, and by 1900 St Stanislaus College had its own wireless transmitting station. With heavy solemnity, it was dismantled on the outbreak of war in 1914 as a possible security risk!
Slattery was stern in appearance, but with an unexpected smile: ‘… he refused to tolerate foolishness in class or vagueness in answering, nor could he resist a slight sarcasm.’
Pioneer nuns in Australia are almost uncountable, such as Ellen WHITTY of Oylgate County Wexford, who in 1860 led a group of Mercy Sisters to become the first religious in Queensland, and Mary BARRY, also from County Wexford, a Loreto sister who went to Ballarat in 1875 and did important educational work.
Charles GAVAN DUFFY is one of the few people to have played a prominent role in both Irish and Australian politics. MP for New Ross from 1852 to 1855, he became Premier of Victoria in 1871 and later campaigned for Irish Home Rule. His family has been prominent in the history of the modern Irish State.
Patrick PERKINS from Cashel in Co. Tipperary left a lasting mark on Australian life: he founded a brewery and created Castlemaine XXXX ale.
William HOBSON from Waterford City left his mark on the map. A British naval officer, in 1836 he surveyed Melbourne’s Port Phillip Bay and named Hobson’s Bay in his own honour. (He was later Governor of New Zealand).
William WALLACE, born in Waterford City, was the son of a military bandsman. He opened Sydney’s first school of music in 1836, and became known as ‘the Australian Paganini’. In 1838 he organised the first music festival in New South Wales. It lost so much money that the Australian Paganini fled to South America.
Music was a two-way process. Irish-born George TORRANCE was the University of Melbourne’s first graduate in music. He returned to Ireland to become organist at St Canice’s cathedral in Kilkenny.
Edmund DUGGAN from Lismore in County Waterford was one of Australia’s first Shakespearean actors, although he also played comic Irish roles. He was co-author of a play called ‘The Squatter’s Daughter’ which, in 1910, became one of Australia’s first films. Apprpriately for someone who spent his childhood beside the glorious Blackwater, he was also a member of Melbourne’s Yarra Yarra Rowing Club. Lismore in County Waterford is twinned with its namesake in New South Wales.
Catherine (Kate) BAKER was born in Cappoquin in County Waterford in 1851. Her father, Francis Wilson BAKER, was a heraldic painter, which seems an unlikely way to make a living in Cappoquin in Famine times. It is likely that he was working at nearby Lismore Castle, where the architect A.W.N. Pugin was employed on a major decorative project at about that time. The Baker family emigrated to Victoria when Kate was a child, and she became a schoolteacher in Victoria, but her real passion in life was the work of the writer Joseph Furphy. Furphy is now best remembered for his wry tale of bush life, Such is Life, but when the book was first published it attracted little attention. She campaigned tirelessly to secure recognition for Furphy’s book, delivering lectures about him, sending copies of his books to libraries around the world and even publishing an edition of Such is Life at her own expense. Without Catherine Baker’s devotion, an important part of Australia’s cultural heritage might have been lost.