A Winter Wedding

Rain was falling as my great-grandmother Catherine O’Toole woke up on the morning of Saturday 15 July 1865, but this did not dampen her spirits. Catherine was twenty-one years old, and this was her wedding day. It had been raining all week and her family had some distance to go to reach the church, St Mary’s in Mintaro. Catherine must have hoped they would not get bogged on the rough and slippery roads. The local correspondent for the newspaper reported that some very heavy rains had fallen within the last 24 hours, and “it still looks very gloomy with every appearance of more wet.”[1] His prediction of more rain was correct, for a few days later he reported “Since my last communication we have had constant rains with but few hours intermission.”[2]

Catherine was born in Adelaide in 1844. Her parents, grandparents, aunt and uncles arrived in South Australia in 1840. They were Irish immigrants from County Wicklow. By 1865 Catherine was living with her parents and extended family on a farm in the Hundred of Apoinga, a few kilometres south of the big copper mine at Burra. There was no direct road to Mintaro and the O’Toole family would have travelled a circuitous route via Black Springs and Farrell Flat.

I wondered why St Mary’s Church was the location for the wedding as the O’Toole family did not have any connection with Mintaro. The answer could lie in an event which occurred a couple of years earlier. In April 1863, a joint wedding ceremony for Catherine’s sisters Mary and Margaret had taken place at the O’Tooles’ home in Apoinga. Perhaps Catherine thought that when it was her turn to marry, she would like to have a church ceremony. The nearest church was Saint Mary’s which opened on 23 November 1856.[3]

The young man she was to marry on this rainy day, Patrick Hayes, had arrived in South Australia in 1849 as a nine-year old boy with his parents, sister and infant brother. They were immigrants from County Galway. The experience of living through the Famine as a young child must have left memories which could not easily be forgotten and may have been a formative influence on his character.

It was customary for boys to begin working from about the age of fourteen, so Patrick was probably earning his keep from a young age. His father Thomas bought land near Kapunda in 1858, and thereafter Patrick helped his father on the land.[4] As well as helping the family with farming, Patrick wanted to earn his own income. He started working as a bullocky, carting copper between the mine at Burra to the railway terminus at Kapunda. He would have been very young to do this hazardous and dangerous work. Sometimes a load overturned on the rough roads, killing both bullocks and driver.

bullock-tracks-mapPatrick and Catherine may have met at Apoinga, one of the resting stops for the bullock teams.[5] Many of the bullockies were Irish and would have had connections amongst the Irish families living in the area. The bullock teams operated in spring and autumn – the summers were too hot for the animals and in winter muddy road conditions made carting heavy loads impossible. This could be the reason why a date in mid-winter was chosen for the wedding.

On 27 May 1865, seven weeks before the wedding, Patrick took out a lease for one of the sections owned by his father for a term of four years.[6] Patrick now had a place of his own to bring his young bride. He was on the path to independence.

The wedding

Catherine and Patrick were married by the Austrian Jesuit priest, Father Joseph Tappeiner. He was the district’s first parish priest and rode by horseback to Mintaro to say Sunday Mass once a fortnight.[7] The wedding was probably a solemn occasion with only family members present. Patrick and Catherine both signed the marriage certificate with their (x) mark. Patrick was illiterate but Catherine may not have been. She may have signed with her (x) mark as a symbol of solidarity with her husband.[8]

St Mary’s Church, Mintaro (September 2016) Photo:Ramesh Thakur

Given the distance between Kapunda and Mintaro, I can’t be sure who from Patrick’s side of the family may have attended the wedding. Patrick was the eldest and his younger sisters were aged only eight and five. Given the cold and wet weather, I think it unlikely that they all would have travelled the distance, but perhaps his parents were there.

It may have been late in the day when the wedding was over and the weather continued to be intensely cold.[9] I imagine that Patrick and Catherine may have spent the night in one of Mintaro’s two hotels, the Magpie and Stump (1850) or the Devonshire Arms (1856). Perhaps they commenced the long journey to Kapunda after attending Sunday Mass at St Mary’s and receiving the congratulations of the parishioners.

I cannot help but think of my great-grandparents with affection. They were a young couple with hope in their hearts. I wonder about their conversation on the way to Kapunda as they planned their future together. Their 12th and youngest child was my grandfather, William Michael Hayes, born in 1890.

[1] ‘Mintaro’, Adelaide Observer (SA : 1843 – 1904) Saturday 15 July 1865, page 2

[2] Since my last communication we have had constant rains with but few hours intermission. It is at the present moment raining very heavily. It is to be hoped sincerely that the Far North may have had the same benefit conferred on it which we all in some measure feel. ‘Mintaro’, South Australian Register (Adelaide, SA : 1839 – 1900) 21 July 1865, page 4

[3] I have many ancestors buried in the graveyard of this church, but none from the Hayes or O’Toole families.

[4] 3 December 1858. Land Grant to Thomas Hayes for Sections 242 and 243, Hundred of Belvidere, County Light. Register Book 3, Folio 36. South Australian Integrated Land Information System (SAILIS) Historical Name Index Search 1858-1863, page 30. https://www.sailis.sa.gov.au/home/auth/login

[5] Apoinga Lagoon was an unexpected spread of fresh water in a dry region.

[6] The agreement was that £16 would be paid on 27 May each year. The section contained 72 acres. Memorial 141, Book 237. Old System Records, General Registry Office, Netley, Adelaide.

[7] Father Joseph Tappeiner arrived in South Australia from Austria in 1852. He was much beloved by his Irish parishioners. “At that period Mintaro and district contained a strong Irish element fresh from the ‘old land’, which is ever noted for the wonderful love of the Soggarth Aroon, (Gaelic for ‘dear priest’) but even in that country it would have been impossible to equal the bonds of affection which existed between the Irish settlers and the Austrian Jesuits.” Gerald A. Lally, A Landmark of Faith, Church of the Immaculate Conception Mintaro and its Parishioners 1856 – 2006, Clare South Australia 2006, p 10

[8] Catherine’s father John O’Toole witnessed the document with his (x) mark, but Margaret Larkin signed her name. If her younger sister Margaret could sign her name, it would seem to be highly likely that Catherine could also.

[9] ‘Kapunda’, Adelaide Observer (SA : 1843 – 1904) 15 July 1865, page 1

Is this it? Searching for Derrygoolin

My quest to discover my Irish ancestors began with my paternal ancestors, the Hayes family.  I learnt about the challenges of Irish family history research by studying my Hayes ancestors. The beginning was easy, looking at ship arrivals in South Australia. I soon discovered that they arrived in South Australia on 23 August 1849 on the ship Eliza. The passenger list recorded that they were from County Galway: Thomas and Honora Hayes, aged 38 and 34, and their three children, Mary aged 10, Patrick aged 9 and Thomas who was an infant.

Where had they come from in County Galway? This next step in my research was much harder. It took me the best part of a year to learn that they were from the townland of Derrygoolin, in the far south-eastern corner of County Galway, bordering on County Clare and Lough Derg. One day, I thought, I will go to this townland to see it for myself.

On a warm summer’s day in June this year, that day finally arrived. It was with a great sense of anticipation that we set off from Ennis and drove across the pleasant but unremarkable countryside of eastern County Clare, so different from the rugged and dramatic Atlantic coastline. From Scarriff we turned northwards to follow the shoreline of Lough Derg, a long narrow lake and the third largest in Ireland. We stopped along the way to get a closer look at the Holy Island of Inishcaltra and its ancient monastic site and Round Tower.

Soon after we crossed the Clare/Galway border, we turned on to a local road in what we hoped was the right direction. We knew that Derrygoolin was well off the beaten track and we wouldn’t find it near any main roads. We climbed slowly up the hills on the narrow road, through a spare and barren landscape, with no sign of any human habitation. There were a few cows resting in a rocky field and a clear view down to Lough Derg. We stopped, took a few photographs, and began to wonder “Could this be it? Was this Derrygoolin?”

Loch Derg
Cows grazing on the hillside, Derrygoolin townland, Co. Galway. Co. Tipperary is on the other side of Lough Derg


The GPS kept telling us we were nearly there. As we came down the hill, it guided us into a left turn on to what looked like a dead-end road. Sure enough, the road petered out into the entrance gate of an obvious farmhouse 50 metres away when the GPS told us: “After 80 metres on the left, you have arrived at your destination.” My husband and I looked at each other with a mixture of bafflement, consternation and merriment. Had our drive been in vain? All we could see was a secluded house, hidden behind a high stone wall, with a formidable large gate. It was the only house visible for miles around. It seemed worthwhile to try asking the owners if this was Derrygoolin.

As I approached the gate two dogs came running down the long driveway, barking ferociously. I stood wondering what to do and was about to leave when the figure of a woman appeared in the distance. She must have decided that I wasn’t a threat and began to walk hesitantly down the drive. By this time the dogs had decided that they liked me and were wagging their tails happily. When I explained my reason for stopping by, she confirmed that “Yes, this is Derrygoolin”.

We then proceeded into the village of Woodford about 5km away. With hindsight now I regret not stopping longer in Derrygoolin, to look around me, and reflect that it was on this land that my ancestors lived. It is difficult to imagine the family’s poor living conditions, let alone how they survived the Famine on this stony bare hillside.

Loch Derg
Derrygoolin townland, Co. Galway

This was the land where my great grandfather Patrick Hayes spent his first nine years.  What an exciting time it must have been for a young boy when the family made their way down to Cobh harbour to take a boat across to Plymouth, where they boarded the big ship, the Eliza on 11 May 1849, for their journey to the other side of the world. They travelled without family or friends, for there were only 22 Irish on board and 305 English passengers.

The main street, Woodford village, Co. Galway

Woodford was a delight, charming and picturesque. The ladies in the public library on the main street were interested and friendly. The waitress in the café across the street was married to a Hayes. We found the graves of many deceased Hayes in the Catholic cemetery a short stroll up the hill. I felt that I was in Hayes territory.


A stroll through Woodford village, as neat as a pin


The East Galway Family History Society had been very helpful to me in the early days of my research, and I wanted to see the Woodford Heritage Centre where it is located. The building itself is of historical interest as it was formerly a National School built in 1834. We were there on a Saturday and I expected the Centre to be closed, but to my surprise, the door was open. The people inside looked astonished when I stepped through the door, but in typical Irish fashion they were generous with their time and eager to help.

Woodford Heritage Centre – the door is open!

It was another instance of the serendipitous events which occurred during my visit to Ireland where I felt the spirits of my ancestors were watching over me and helping me on my journey.

Stopping to say hello to the horses outside Woodford. Derrygoolin and Lough Derg in the distance.
Co. Galway Ireland

The Kelly Family from County Clare

After the arrival of my O’Toole ancestors in South Australia in 1840, there was a gap of six years before my next ancestors arrived. The gap was due to the fact that assisted emigration ceased for several years when the colony came close to bankruptcy. The economic fortunes of South Australia began to improve with the discovery of major copper deposits at Kapunda in 1842. Mines were opened at Kapunda in 1844 and at Burra in 1846. In 1845 assisted immigration resumed. In 1846 approximately 150 ships arrived in Adelaide. The population of the colony at the census in February 1846 was 22,390.

My great great grandparents Michael Kelly and Winifred Diviny and their six children arrived in Adelaide on Saturday 24 October 1846 on the ship Hooghly.  The Hooghly sailed from Plymouth on 3 July.  The Kelly family probably left Ireland from the port of Cobh, the harbour near Cork and sailed over to Plymouth to join the ship. Over 2.5 million Irish emigrants departed from Cobh (renamed Queenstown in 1849 following a visit from Queen Victoria. It was changed back to Cobh in 1921). It was the single most important port of emigration in Ireland.

October is a lovely time of year in Adelaide. I hope it was a beautiful spring day when they arrived, about to begin a new life in a land of opportunity, far away from the catastrophe of the Great Famine taking place in Ireland.

The Hooghly was described in an advertisement at the time as a ‘fine fast-sailing full-poop ship’ of 466 tons. It carried 240 passengers. The official passenger list from this ship has been lost so it is unknown how many of the passengers were Irish or English. The passenger list published in The Register newspaper is the principal source of information about the ship. Some of the immigrants were from Cornwall, brought out by the English Mining Company to work as labourers on the copper mine at Kapunda.


The ship Hooghly, approx. 1840.

This picture is from the Ship Collection, State Library of South Australia. No known copyright restrictions.

Four ships arrived on the same day and according to The Register (28 October 1846), there was much excitement in Adelaide on the day the ships arrived. “Only once before has the colony been greeted by the arrival of four English ships in a day; but it was a memorable occurrence…..the prospective arrivals will be but as drops in the bucket compared with the almost unlimited demand for labour in town and county.”

What the family did immediately after their arrival is unknown, but land records show they settled in the Adelaide Hills. Michael Kelly bought land in the Hundred of Kanmantoo, County of Sturt. The area where he farmed is close to the township of Nairne, not far from Mount Barker.

Winifred had five more children, one of whom was my great grandmother, Margaret Helena Kelly, who was born in 1853. Winifred died in 1858 at the age of 42. My great grandmother was five years old when her mother died. Michael married again. He and his second wife, Margaret Cronon, had four children.

Michael Kelly was a hard working farmer and died at the age of 62 in 1874 after a lingering illness. He made a lengthy Will a few months before he died and left an estate of £900.

Michael, Winifred and some of their children are buried in the Mount Barker Catholic Cemetery in a picturesque and peaceful setting.

Upper Skilly Rd Watervale

Evening light through the trees, Adelaide Hills

© Ramesh Thakur, September 2016