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