Michael Naughton from County Westmeath


My great grandmother with my mothe, 1915 approx.

Mary Ann Dempsey, nee Naughton with her grand-daughters. My mother, Mary Imelda Dempsey is the baby sitting on her grandmother’s knee. The little girl is her sister, Patricia Dempsey (1915)

 Michael Naughton was the first of my mother’s ancestors to arrive in South Australia. Naughton is an Irish Gaelic surname. Before the Anglo-Norman invasion the Naughtons lived in the plain around Loughrea in Co. Galway. After the invasion they settled in the Fews, Barony of Athlone, Co. Roscommon. The land between Ballinasloe in Galway and Athlone in Roscommon is traditionally known as Naughton country. The surname Naughton has many variants in Ireland: Connaughton, Knockton, McNaghten, Naghton, Naughtan, Naughten, Nochtin, Norton (anglicised version of Naghten), Noughton, etc.

When I was growing up, I remember my mother talking fondly of her grandmother, Grannie Dempsey. When my mother was at boarding school she enjoyed visiting her Dempsey grandparents at their home on Molesworth Street, North Adelaide, where they lived when they retired from farming in the mid-north of South Australia.

124 Molesworth St, North Adelaide

The Dempsey home on Molesworth Street as it is today

Grannie Dempsey’s maiden name was Mary Ann Naughton. She was born on 20 September 1861 near Farrell Flat, South Australia, a farming community about 20km east of Clare. Her parents were Michael Naughton and Bridget O’Loughlin. When I started my ancestral journey, I knew nothing about them.

This project is an attempt to trace the history of my ancestors from Ireland to South Australia. It is impossible to find glimmers of what their hopes and fears in the new land might have been without first trying to understand the circumstances that led them to leave behind all that was familiar and to sever their strong bonds to family and community in Ireland.This blog post is about my attempt to discover the Irish origins of my great great grandfather, Michael Naughton.

I came across An article by Eric Richards on Irish life in colonial South Australia which refered to Sir Montagu Chapman of Co. Westmeath who in 1847 assisted 200 of his tenants to emigrate to South Australia. They sailed on three ships, the Trafalgar (arrived 2 July 1847), the Aboukir (4 September 1847) and the Lady McNaughten (13 October 1847). Michael Naughton, Rose Naughton and Margaret Naughton were all passengers on the Trafalgar.

Westmeath Catholic parish

Catholic Parishes in County Westmeath

 There is a record in the Catholic parish registers for the baptism of Michael Naghten in the Catholic parish of Clonmellon, Co. Westmeath on 7 October 1824. He was the son of Patrick Naghten and Ann Egan. The family’s address was the townland of Cloran. The Sponsors were Patrick Conelon and Margaret Kiernan.

The townland of Cloran (now called Cloran and Corcullentry), just 1.42 square miles in size, is in the Catholic parish of Clonmellon, bordering on County Meath. The nearest village is Clonmellon.  Not surprisingly, a search of those listed as tenants of Sir Montagu in the townland of Cloran and Corcullentry revealed many of the same names as the passengers on the Trafalgar.

Sir Montagu Chapman was a descendant of Benjamin Chapman, a captain in Cromwell’s army. As a reward for serving in the Cromwellian conquest of Ireland, he was granted a 9000-acre estate at Killua, County Westmeath on land which had been confiscated from the Knights Hospitallers of St John. Killua Castle, situated near the village of Clonmellon, was built for the Chapman family in the mid-1780s. It was left as a ruin for many years and is currently undergoing restoration by its new owners.


Killua Castle. By Gavigan 01 at English Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0,

 Sir Montagu succeeded his father as baronet in 1837. He visited Australia in 1841 and on 14 June 1842 was granted title to a large estate in Adelaide, which he leased out as smaller farms. Originally named Montagu’s Farm, the area is now part of the suburb of Gepp’s Cross. He died in 1852 on a sea voyage from Melbourne to Adelaide, when the vessel in which he was sailing disappeared without trace. He had never married and his Irish and Australian estates were inherited by his younger brother Benjamin.

Leaving Cloran

An assisted passage was not a free passage. Emigrants from Ireland were expected to meet their own travel costs to Plymouth. They also had to meet the strict requirements for the essential clothing needed for the voyage. Emigrants were subject to pre-embarkation checks at the Depot in Plymouth before they could board their vessel for departure. The Chairman of the Board of the Colonial Land and Emigration Commissioners, came down from London

expressly to inspect the emigrants about to sail for Adelaide in the splendid ship Trafalgar…. Shortly after his arrival, Mr Elliott examined those among the people not then embarked, inquiring into all their circumstances, prospects, &c. He then went on board the Trafalgar, and minutely examined all the arrangements, as well as the emigrants on board….

On the following day Mr Elliott again visited the ship, the whole of the emigrants being then embarked. A minute inspection then took place, after which the emigrants were mustered on the quarter-deck, and addressed by Mr Elliott in a most kind and feeling manner. After alluding to the painful emotions which many of them were probably experiencing at the separation from friends, he encouraged them to look forward hopefully to the prospect before them, and the improved circumstances which would assuredly attend their honest and industrious exertions — that in the fine colony to which they were about to proceed labour was abundant and food plentiful, and it therefore depended on themselves to realise comforts which at home they could never aspire to. He then gave them some excellent advice for the regulation of their conduct on board, insisting strongly on the paramount necessity of cleanly habits to ensure health, and goodwill and brotherly kindness towards each other, to make the passage happy and agreeable…. The whole address was marked by deep and earnest feeling, and the utmost solicitude for the welfare of the people; it was listened to with profound attention, and at its conclusion the kind-hearted speaker was greeted with a most enthusiastic round of cheering.

The tenants from the Chapman estate were probably in no position to pay for their passage to Plymouth or for the personal effects required for the voyage. It was reported in the Westmeath Guardian that Sir Montagu fitted out the tenants from his estate at his own expense with all their needs for the voyage.

It is hard to imagine the sorrow of the parents who were left behind as these young people left their homes at the height of the Famine and set off for the long journey to South Australia. After the death of Michael Naughton in 1891, a heartfelt and admiring obituary for him was published in the local newspapers which says in part:

The late Mr Naughton was one of the old stock of faithful and virtuous Catholic Irishmen, whom the providence of God directed to Australian shores in the days when Ireland’s stalwart sons were forced, through unjust laws and tyrannical Government, to seek a home and a livelihood in a foreign land…. At the age of about twenty-one he left his native land, just as the harrowing scenes of the great Irish famine were being witnessed.

It is clear that the memory of the Famine lingered on amongst the Catholic Irish in South Australia for many years afterwards.

Rose and Margaret Naughton

Margaret Naughton married William Munday on 14 January 1850 at Saint Patrick’s Church, Adelaide. Rose Naughton died in Adelaide on 26 May 1850 aged 28. Michael Naughton’s eldest daughter was named Rose and a younger daughter was named Margaret. Although the evidence is not conclusive, I am inclined to think that the Rose and Margaret Naughton who travelled on the Trafalgar were Michael’s sisters.

Rose and Mary Ann Naughton
Rose Naughton (standing) and Mary Ann Naughton (my great grandmother). This photograph was taken in 1877. Rose was aged 20 and Mary Ann was 16. Rose Naughton joined the Sisters of Saint Joseph


This blog post is about Michael Naughton’s place of origin in Ireland, not about his life in South Australia. Briefly however, I can say that on 5 November 1856 at the Catholic Church in Sevenhills, Michael Naughton married Bridget O’Loughlin, a young woman of twenty from County Meath. They must have had high hopes as they began their married life together in the colony of South Australia. They became successful farmers, raised a family of eight children, and died as much loved and highly respected members of their community. They are buried side by side in the Peterborough Cemetery.

Michael & Bridget Naughton graves


3 thoughts on “Michael Naughton from County Westmeath”

  1. I love reading these accounts of the family history. The speech from the Chairman of the Board is touching and in contrast to what happens now when migrants are often feared.


  2. Bernadette, unfortunately we didn’t get to meet when you were in Ireland. Did you get the chance to visit Cloran? I am working on an eviction that occurred in 1843 in Paristown and dervotstown -next townlands to cloran – In the tithe books a James Naughton lived in Paristown and is listed next to a Terence Reilly who was evicted. It seems he was an undertenant of Reilly who was evicted.
    I don’t know why e-mails are not getting through.
    Regards EugeneSheridan


  3. Just came across your article whilst researching my family tree. Michael Naughton is my Great Great Great Grandfather. I’m a descendent of Patrick, his son, who moved to Yorkrakine, WA to farm. Thanks for the great article.


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