Bill

The Real Heartbreak Corner

DSC_0445 - Version 3Heartbreak Corner is vast, harsh and unforgiving for those who get it wrong. Full credit belongs to those who conquered it and not only made a living but made fortunes of it over the last 150 years.

I googled Heartbreak Corner since we were travelling there to catch up on the past. I came up with a fascinating book with the title Heartbreak Corner by Fleur Lahane. I bought the book and enjoyed the read.

Flear Lahane writes the heroic and sometime tragic story of the Irish immigrant families, the Costellos, Duracks and Tullys who founded the family dynasty of great cattle stations in the South-West corner of Queensland.

3712_HeartbreakCornerOne of her underlying reasons for writing the book was to ’tell the story of the some of the many children who died long ago and whose graves lie out in the far south-west of Queensland.’

She says in the forward ‘Unless one has lived in the country where these graves are to be found, it would be hard to understand just how vast and lonely it can be. The problems encountered by the women of those early days were so great that the worries of the present generation seem petty by comparison.’

As we travelled and reviewed Val’s experiences and those of other woman, I saw how easily life could be lost.

In a year in Tambo, Val had one child who wandered off. She was spotted by some quick thinking by Bert Wight who climbed to the superstructure of the oil rig to get height needed to see her before she wandered too far off.

Another child had an internal injury from a swing and urinated blood.

And none of Val’s children could resist the lure of dicing with death at the water drums which swarmed with bees who were desperate for scarce water.  That year a little boy was stung to death by bees in the region.

When the job near Tambo finished, Bill and Val moved deeper into the grip of drought to the Channel Country.

Thylungra ShedsOn the way to Clifton Station and Windorah, they called at the legendary Thylungra Station for food and fuel. Thylungra Station was established by the very Durack family of the Fleur Lehane’s book.

Return to Heartbreak Corner

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As we approached Roma to stock up some essentials – savoury biscuits, dips, wine and ice – Val contrasted this journey with the last time she travelled this way.  That was a lifetime ago.

After more than half a century, Val and I would return to places that Val had thought about many times over the intervening years and this journey would bring back to her mind people, events and hardships from her long ago.  She would find some answers to oft-mused questions; ‘I wonder what life held for…..’ ‘Is any trace left of…..’’

In 1957, Bill and Val left the electricity, the running water and the paved roads of ‘Joe Doke town’ Maryborough for a tent at an oil exploration rig site by the side of the Tambo-Alpha Road.

Their mission was to take up the employment found to work their way out of the debt from a failed business venture and to support a car they couldn’t afford.  After that job ran out, they went on from this personal Heartbreak Corner to the geographical Heartbreak Corner to Clifton Bore near Windorah in the heart of the Channel Country.

Channel Country Flood Map

A channel country flood map from 1949. Shows the Barcoo where Tambo and the Oil Rig where and Windorah which is near the Cooper Creek.

 

It is rightly called Heartbreak Corner.

And yet, they survived, poorer but richer for the experience.

They saw and experienced the places that inspired Banjo and ‘My Country’ in the late eighteen hundreds.  They saw ‘where the western rivers run’.  They saw ‘where the pelican builds her nest’. They fished for yellowbelly and yabbies in the legendary Cooper Creek.

Alongside that stuff of legend, in the clear skies of that remoteness, they saw the trail of Sputnik which would plummet the modern world further into cold war.

On this return to heartbreak corner, Val did see some traces of yesteryear and she found something of what life held for those she hadn’t heard about for over 50 years.

Madelyn’s Special Bond with the Anzacs Fastest Hog

Bert Wight’s time in the RAAF in WW2 was absolutely energised by his association with Americans.  In his first week at Bachelor Airbase, Leading Aircraftsman Wight struck up a great relationship with his Yankee boss by rendering him a great service.

Bert Wight with his Yankee Boss after getting his car going for him.

The Adjutant was certainly impressed by Bert taming the killer Hog, but Bert made him a real friend by rendering a service by being the brilliant mechanic that he was.  Bert discovered from a discussion that a number of jeeps had been delivered to the base and they just wouldn’t start.

“Let me have a look.  I worked as a mechanic before the war.” he enthused.  Bert was an A grade mechanic.  It was with good reason that he never lacked confidence and relished solving tough problems.

“If you can get this one going,’ his boss stated, ‘it’s mine.’

It didn’t take long for Bert to diagnose that the problem was electrical, as there was no spark at the business end of the spark plug leads.

‘Strange’, Bert thought, ‘these are new vehicles with new batteries.’  ‘And the batteries have plenty of charge,’ he reasoned, ‘it must be further back.’    Bert worked out that the problem was as simple as grease in the ignition points.  Grease put there by design to prevent corrosion on the sea voyage from the US to Australia.

Madelyn in front of the American left hand drive WW2 Jeep like the one Bert got going for his Yankee Boss.

Bert now really had a friend in his boss.  And well…. life just got better between Bert and the Americans.

Bert had a killer bike, he had the run of the place and could’t be stopped because of the black armbands.   And he had friends in high places.

Madelyn standing on the running board of an American WW2 truck.

Bert admired Americans throughout his life and even took on aspects of their accent in his speech, which he retained for the rest of his life.  He always pronounced the word ‘new’ as ‘noo’ rather than the Strine pronunciation of ‘nee-u’, much to the amusement of the ‘Children of the Road.’

This all happened in 1943 at Bachelor Air Base in the Northern Territory of Australia.

Far away, in time and place, a baby girl came into the world exactly half a century later and half a world away.  Madelyn became Bert’s Yankee great great granddaughter.  She was born in Chico, California and so Bert had a Yankee Granddaughter.  He would have loved it.

When Madelyn discovered that not only had her great great grandpa done something for the Anzacs but in so doing, had worked for Americans, rode an American Hog and loved Americans, she was mightily impressed.  As an Australian, she loves to identify as an American.

What a bonus that at the Madelyn’s first Anzac dawn service, there were 2 American WW2 vehicles on display.  One of them happened  to be a Jeep just like Bert had managed to get running for his Yankee boss almost 60 years before.

It was absolutely necessary for Madelyn to have a good look at the Jeep with the steering on the left hand side.

By contrast to Bert supercharged Hog, there was a WW2 BSA motorcycle on display.  This was what the Australian Intel riders rode to carry out their duties.  Not as fast by half as Bert’s Hog, but definitely worth a look and a picture.

Madelyn beside a WW2 BSA motorcycle NOT like Bert used to ride.

So, half a world and half a century apart, Bert and his Yankee granddaughter share a special American bond.

Madelyn Honours the ANZAC’s fastest HOG

The day before Anzac Day, 8 year old Madelyn asked a really good question. “What did our family do for the Anzacs?”
My answer, “Your great great grandfather, Bert Wight, rode the Anzac’s fastest Indian.”
“You mean like Cowboys and Indians?” she asked.
“No, like a really big Indian motorcycle ridden really fast.” I replied. As it turns out it was actually Harley Davidson 10/12 rather than an Indian. Luckily Jim Wight picked us up on when he checked the blog before we published it. Madelyn was delighted that our family had done something for the Anzacs and decided that she would like to attend the dawn service this Anzac Day. We were up at 4.45am and made our way to Cleveland RSL. Big attendance!

Madelyn at her first Anzac Dawn Service

There were 1000’s of people and cars were lined up from 1 kilometre away. We made our way through the crowd, couldn’t see much, but we heard the messages, heard the prayers and heard the bugler at dawn. Our decision to stand on the roundabout turned out to be a good one, because we had a great view of the marchers at the end of the service.  Madelyn took the flowers she had bought to honour the great great grandfather she never knew about until the day before Anzac day. She placed it at the memorial in his honour.

Bert Wight in his RAAF uniform at Bachelor NT in 1943

How did Bert become the Anzac’s fastest HOG? First thing was that he joined Australia’s military thereby becoming part of the Anzac tradition and secondly he rode the fastest Harley Davidson.
Bert became an Anzac when he joined the RAAF in 1943. He had spent the earlier part of the war in essential services. He was posted to Bachelor in the Northern Territory. Bachelor was one of the airfields that supported the defence of Northern Australia which was of vital strategic importance to stop the Japanese offensive. It was defended by Australian, British, Dutch and American forces. That turned out to be a real bonus for Bert.

Bert Wight on his killer HOG from side-on in Bachelor NT in 1943

On arrival in Bachelor, Bert reported to the Adjutant and was informed that he was to be an Intell Despatch Rider. “Can you ride a ‘real’ motorcycle?” the Adjutant asked.
“Yes Sir,” Bert said confidently. “I raced a Douglas 500cc Sports motorcycle in speedway before the war.”
“We have a Harley here that nobody will ride because it has killed its last 3 riders.” It was a Harley Davidson 10/12 and was supercharged.

Bert astride his killer HOG after he had gotten the better of it in 1943

The Harley sat very low to the ground which is why it was so deadly, especially when ridden on unsealed roads.   Unsealed roads was all there was in the Outback.  You had to ride it correctly or it would get you.

Never the shrinking violet Bert stated boldly that he was up for it. The Douglas 500cc he rode in speedway ran on motor spirit, so Bert had plenty of experience with powerful motorcycles and dirt surfaces.

Douglas 500cc sports racing bike like that Bert Wight learned to ride on dirt with before the war.

He couldn’t see why the Harley couldn’t be tamed and looked forward to the challenge.

Bert had the killer machine and now was given a licence to speed and a licence to kill. As an Intell Dispatch rider he was not to be stopped or impeded in any way and was instructed to shoot to kill if anyone tried to stop him.

He wore 2 black armbands to indicate his role. The armbands would signal to those who manned checkpoints that he was not to be stopped.

Bert Wight posing with his Yankee boss on the HOG

Bert regularly carried Intell from Bachelor to Darwin, a distance of some 60 miles. He tamed the Harley and travelled at high speed. He could really make that HOG fly.
Bert in his inimitable way had managed to work his way right into the thick of things. He was assigned to American Command but mainly worked with the Dutch Squadrons which were under the direction of the Americans. He was his own man, he had a licence to ride anywhere unchallenged, a Colt 45 on his hip and a superbike to ride as fast as he liked.

Bert astride his HOG in Bachelor in 1943

And that’s how Madelyn’s great great grandpa came to be the Anzac’s fastest HOG.

Madelyn laying flowers of the Cenataph for Bert Wight

Val’s Day at the National Archives

We have been playing detective for almost 20 years.  The best clues in our Search for WJ have almost always come from visiting archives.   In October, 2011, we were in London and London houses the daddy of all the archives – The National Archive at Kew.  “1,000 years of history in documents” is a great incentive to make the trip to London.  We just could not resist taking a day to go and soak up the experience of seeing and touching the paper that recorded contemporaneously the events that touched their lives of our forebears.

Our archive experience started on a high note right from day 1 in Hobart in 1994.  We didn’t know anything but we blundered our way into finding gold on WJ.  We started digging in the Tasmanian Archive with only the name of my great grandmother and a rough idea of when she was born.  Within hours we we found our very first record.  It was WJ’s ‘Permission to Marry’ record which allowed him as a convict to marry Ann Carey on the 17th April, 1854.

What Val was about to experience in London was special.  She was about to hold the actual paper record of the court martial of WJ.  It was recorded by the court scribe on the 30th March, 1843 in Fredericton, New Brunswick, Canada. It was signed off by Dr AS Kane who said WJ was fit to undertake any punishment from flogging to hard labour.  It was signed off by Captain Richard French who chaired the proceeding and by Captain Evelyn K.G. Packlington who had the role of Deputy Judge Advocate for the hearing.

My Readers Ticket for the National Archive allowed me to order the records online the day before, to cut down our time at the Archive without records. The 5 sets of documents were ready for us in the document reading room lockers when we arrived and seat 6G had been allocated. We were ready to roll.

We brought the archive box to our desk, removed the ribbons and took the lid off.  There was WJ’s Court Martial record right on the top of the box, just as I had left it a year earlier. Nobody had looked in the last year.  When I first found this record in 2010, I placed the court martial records for WJ, Kennedy and Keefe on the top of the box of records.

Opening the National Archive file box

Val opened WJ’s Court Martial record up and made her way through it.  It is definitely easier to read the transcription, but nonetheless a great experience working through the original.  When Val had finished WJ’s trial record, she then read through the trial records of fellow escapees Keefe and Kennedy.

Val looking at WJ's Court Martial

I went through other items in the archive box and found another 2 Court Martial hearings for the 52nd regiment in Fredericton. I couldn’t resist taking copies of them for review to further understand the context of WJ’s trial. The interesting thing about these other desertions is that both of these poor wretches tried to make it to America and were both caught at one the Deserter Posts near Woodstock.  Bob Dalison from the historical society in Fredericton had told us about Deserter Posts and here was the proof.

I wanted to make sure that I tried to find new material, since I was at the Archive and it is an awful long way to come to look at material already seen.  I wanted to find how long the 52nd Regiment stayed in Canada after WJ’s expulsion from it.  I went through 6 set of Regimental Muster Rolls and Pay-Lists to find that the regiment stayed on until the Spring of 1847.  It took 2 document requests to order up the documents.  Amazingly it only took 30 minutes for each of those sets of records to be retrieved and delivered to my reader’s box for reading. What a great system! And for free!!!

Box WO 71/350 - WJ's Record on Top

The other thing I wanted to look for was any record of George Luther Hatheway being paid for the capture of WJ and his 2 fellow deserters. And eurika – I did! Voucher No 75 of the Pay List for the period April to June 1843 was for payment to “Mr Hatheway for apprehension of deserters”.  Unfortunately, I couldn’t found the amount. The Pay-List is a summary, so I had to be happy with that find.

I think I could move into the Archive.   But my attention was called back to reality by a text from Lynette letting me know that our taxi to Heathrow had just picked her up from Andrew and Megan’s house and would be picking me up in around 45 minutes. Thud!!  I won’t be moving into the Archive, I will be going back home and really soon.

Val’s Day at the Archive was over – now back home to Australia to transcribe, to interpret and to share.

A Glimpse at Grangegorman Female Depot

In October, 2011, Val, Bill and Lynette travelled around the globe as detectives seeking clues to give us a better picture of where the people who became our forebears came from.  First, there was a whistlestop tour of Fredericton in Canada where William Johnston (WJ) deserted the British army.  Then there was Crosscanonby in Cumbria to the church where WJ was baptised.  Crossing the Irish Sea we discovered Ballymena, the home of Irish-Scottish McClintocks and Fivemiletown where James Carey stole a cow and then Roscommon on the trail of Ann Carey who stole to be with her husband in Tasmania.

We found little in Roscommon to connect with Ann Carey, but we knew that she spent time in the Grangegorman Female Depot in Dublin and that the buildings were still in existence. We were fortunate enough to have a copy of her record page at the prison thanks to some good investigation by Thelma McKay in Hobart.

From Rosscomon to Dublin

So instead of having our customary drink and toast in Roscommon, we made straight for Dublin because we needed to visit Ireland oldest pub and then find Grangegorman Female Depot before darkness overtook us. With a flight already booked, we had to fly back to London the next day and we hadn’t seen enough of Ballymena to get a feel of where the McClintocks came from.

Ann Carey spent 3 months in that dreary prison in 1847, after being convicted of larceny in Omagh in County Tyrone. She was awaiting the SV Waverley, which was to transport her to Van Diemen’s Land on its third voyage to Hobart Town.

Our first stop in Dublin was the Brazen Head which claims to Ireland oldest and pub and that was the appropriate place to drink the health of our little Irish grandmother who was all of 4 foot 11 inches, feisty and quite prepared to tell you to ‘feck off’. In fact, she was charged with doing just that in Hobart Town on 20th January, 1852.   That information comes from her Convict Conduct Record.  Some of the family stories are even more interesting.   One is that she smoked a pipe stoked with the tobacco from cigarette butts off railway workers.  That’s right – my fifth great grandmother smoked a pipe! But as far as I am aware, she did not wear army boots.

The Brazen Head - Ireland Oldest Pub

The Brazen Head was the favourite drinking place for novelist James Joyce and I still remember his depressing descriptions of grey Dublin days. A year before this visit, our son  Andrew and wife Megan had taken us to this pub for the Sunday Singing Session. It was grand!! We listened and joined in with singing sad ballads about life and trouble with a room crowded with morbid melody.  A fitting place to toast Ann Carey. We did so with Guinness, because we knew that it is good for your health and enhances your intelligence.  The ads told us so.

Lack of preparation plagued us in the execution of the quest to find Grangegorman Female Depot. Doesn’t even sound like a prison does it? Well, nobody knew anything about it because it wasn’t a prison any longer. Fortunately, Lynette had brought backup of our home server and I had copied an article on the prison. We pulled up the copy on my PC and found that it was in Stoneybatter, Dublin 7. What did our Irish GPS think about that?

Well that was quite OK for the GPS, we got to Stoneybatter just fine but right on peak hour traffic. But that just wasn’t close to anything that looked for a former prison. If only I had looked at the article more closely, as it had one piece of vital information we needed to find our prison. We didn’t have the name of the street, did we? A suburb name just wasn’t near enough.

Grangegorman Entrance in 1996

We drove up some torturous narrow little streets using the random drive approach and asked some construction workers.  Their directions got us to the current men’s prison. Nope – that’s not it. So we went into a road that led to bus depot with a security gate. An inquiry there got us directions to the Grangegorman Hospital. All this at peak hour!!

While I was summoning up the courage to break back into the traffic to go to the Grangegorman Hospital which was nearly but not quite there, I thought I would have one more look at the internet article item that I had copied. Great day in the morning!  It had the street name further down in the article. Rathdowney Road. That was what we needed. We tapped this into our trusty little GPS and off we went.

After 3 wrong turns we were in the right street. Now all we had to do was drive the street and hope that the prison was going to a big complex that we just couldn’t miss. Well it almost was. We took pictures of a depressing front entrance and didn’t know we had found IT for sure until we arrived back in Oz and found an article on the prison.

Entrance to Grangegorman in 2011

Just like some depressing description out of James Joyce before imbibing at the Brazen Head, it was grey, it was dreary and my heart ached for poor Ann having to endure this sad place with harsh grey stone walls. She so deserved the payoff of eventually finding true love for enduring this place.

I like to think she did find true love with WJ, but that wasn’t until 1854 after a couple of false starts. She had to tell a few to ‘feck off’ and then one, John Hambrook, saw her off and she was sentenced to 6 months hard labour for her trouble and a pregnant with a little girl by the name of Mary Ann Carey.

But for all that, there was a happy ending with WJ and some absolutely grand descendants. She possibly reached a point in her life of thanking Judge Torrens for giving her the transportation sentence that she wanted on the 8th March 1847 in the County Tyrone Quarter Sessions.

The best perspective we could get was the rear of Grangegorman Female Depot from Fitzgerald St. It was high multistorey walls with missing windows that had incarceration written all over it.

Derelict remains of Grangegorman Womans Prison

Traversing the cavernous doors at the front entrance on Rathdowny Rd would make you feel like you had passed out of life into darkness. The steel doors present in a 1969 photo where not there in 2011. But it still looked daunting.

The stone walls of the outer the perimeter from Rathdowny Road looks like they hide another world.

It was easier for Ann than the long term residents.  She was there for 3 months to give her some fundamental training before going to Van Diemen’s Land. The Convict Department in Tasmania were trying to get better outcomes from female convicts who were not hired by settlers because they had no skills. She was actually fortunate to be here, as dreary as it looked.

We managed to see as much as we could of a former prison from the outside and then headed north for the Holiday Inn Express in Antrim for our last night in Ireland.

Not Even a Name to Go By

Val at the Bush Hotel at Carrick-on-Shannon

We headed off from a delightful stay at the historical Bush Hotel in Carrick-on-Shannon to get a ‘feel’ for Roscommon. Country Roscommon was recorded on Ann Carey’s Convict Conduct records as her place of origin. We had driven through Fivemiletown in County Tyrone where she was tried and transported for 7 years to Van Diemen’s Land but her home place was Roscommon.

The only definite name we have for Ann is Ann Carey which was her married name. Her Convict Conduct Record indicated that she was married, was a Roman Catholic and could read a little. She did make an ‘X’ rather than sign the marriage register when she married WJ in 1854. The family stories suggest Ann Tiernan as her name and her death record has Tierney as a middle name. There are a couple of family trees on Ancestry.com.au following Ann Carey back to Tiernan in Ireland, but her age doesn’t reconcile with the Convict Records.

So in one sense we had less to go on for Ann than we did for Andrew McClintock. At least his name was definite and it is very likely that he was Presbyterian. He married in the Presbyterian Church in New Zealand.

We headed for the town of Roscommon in County Roscommon. This area of Ireland was really showing the bite of financial hard times. An issue near to the heart of local was a move to close down the local hospital.  Undoubtedly an austerity measure brought about by the hard times that the ‘to let’ signs on commercial buildings around the town bear testament to.

Ancient origins are immediately apparent on entering the town with preserved old buildings abounding. Notable is the ancient ruins of a Roscommon Castle. Nice to see somebody was obviously wealthy at some time here.

One item that we missed in going through the town was the Famine Memorial. (Note to self – always look at Wiki or the Lonely Planet before going anywhere). It is a memorial to the thousands of people in Roscommon who perished in the Potato Famine years from 1845 to 1852. This workhouse designed for 700 paupers and dealt with over 1600 during those years. In January, 1847 a sign was placed outside to turn people away from the workhouse. Ann Carey is likely to have left the area looking for opportunities to the north.

The Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Roscommon is simply magnificent and its spire dominates as the high point of the town. We looked for a construction date to see if this was a place Ann Carey might have worshipped and found that it was constructed in the early 1900’s.

At the end of the day, not a glimpse of Ann Carey, so a ‘feel’ of Roscommon was the outcome. The farming land looked rockier and less green than the north, there were more run-down buildings, so if an area in the Emerald Isle was going to tough it out in a famine, we understand that it was going to be Roscommon.

We knew that the real touchpoint with Ann Carey was going to be in Dublin.  The result of her desperate actions in Fivemiletown was transportation to Van Dieman’s Land.  She was sent to Grangeforman Female Prison for 3 months while she awaited the Waverley which was take her to Van Dieman’s Land and her new life of servitude for seven years.  Ann chose uncertainty on the other side of the world for love.

5 Miles from Somewhere Else

Welcome to Fivemiletown

A quick session at the Northern Ireland Family History Society office quickly disavowed us of any idea that we were going to find records in Ireland that we couldn’t find in Australia. We thought this would be the case and so we did have a second string option.  Get the feel of where some of our ancestors came from!

We had some feel for where the McClintocks came from, but because we didn’t know whether they were farmers or not, it was a limited touch of their lives and their world. That’s the problem of trying to track down law-abiding people. No police record, no trial, no jail report!  There was just so little to go on, especially when the Irish Birth, Deaths and Marriages records are limited before the mid-1860’s.  Lynette Wight (nee McClintock) comes from good law abiding folk who farmed and weren’t naughty enough to attract the wrong sort of attention.

But the next 2 people we wanted to follow up left plenty behind for us to go on.   They blazed a veritible paper trial of court appearances, petitions, convict conduct records, more court appearances, swearing at authorities, sentences in Female Factories, surgeon reports and more.  James Carey was a stonecutter who was transported to Van Diemen’s Land for 10 years.  His wife, Ann Carey was a housemaid who was transported to Van Diemen’s Land for 7 years. How do we know? Convict conduct and court records of course! And the records point us to Fivemiletown in County Tyrone as the place of the first crime.  Stealing a cow – Bill Wight comes from good convict stock.  But at least the convicts have records – literally!!

Fivemiletown is named for the 3 towns that it is seven miles away from – Clogher, Brokeborough and Tempo. You are quite entitled ask why it might be called Fivemiletown if it is seven miles away from these 3 towns.  Such a relevant question deserves an informed answer. It’s because 7 miles is 5 mile when you’re Irish. An Irish mile is 1.27 English miles. Thus our 3 nearby centres which are 7 English miles away,  are actually 5 Irish miles away. And, after all, it is an Irish town and the Irish are quite entitled to use Irish miles to name it if they so wish.

The first crime we had record of was committed against a merchant by the name of Matthew Binney, when James Carey stole his cow in 1846. James was tried in nearby Omagh and sentenced to transportation for a term of 10 years. We don’t what happened to Matthew Binney’s cow, but we do know that Matthew must not have been too angry about it.  He petitioned the judge on James’s behalf in order to persuade his honor to commute James’s sentence of transportation to VDL to servitude in Ireland.  Presumably Matthew Binney was approached by James’s newly acquired wife.

When this petition failed to get the desired result, there were then another 2 crimes committed.  These were perpetrated by Ann Carey who may well have been forced on James as a wife.  On her second conviction when Ann stole a watch, she managed to get herself transported to Van Diemen’s Land in the hope of being with her husband.  As far as managing to get transported to Tasmania – mission accomplished.  As for the rest – another story.

We arrived in Fivemiletown to find a small town visibly in the grip of recession with numerous ‘To Let’ signs around. On our entrance to the town we saw the Catholic Church which might have been the relevant one for James and Ann’s marriage.  They were both Roman Catholics according to Convict Conduct Records.  The family story has it that there were forced to marry by the priest because there were “too long absent” from a Church picnic.  The mind boggles!  But the church proved not to have been built until the 1880’s, so certainly was not around in the 1840’s. While impressive to be sure,  it didn’t touch our family interest.

After finding nothing that could connect us to Ann and James, we thought we would find a pub, drink their health and have a pit stop all in one efficient operation. We found Scott’s Bar in the middle of town. We went into the bar and found the barman and 2 customers. We fielded a couple of cautious enquiries about what we ‘might be looking for’. We said we were passing through, but that the town had some family historical significance.

These gents were most interesting to talk to and all had been to Australia, knew of someone living in Australia, or had relations in Australia. We really struggled to understand them and I guess it had to be mutual. They recognised Carey as possibly a local name and were kind enough to point out that the town was possibly not named Fivemiletown in the mid-1840’s. I resisted disagreeing with our new friends, but I had a petition from Matthew Binney dated 1846 stating the cow was stolen at Fivemiletown where he was a merchant, so I was quite sure it was Fivemiletown at the time.

It became quite amusing when one gent had to graciously disagree with my Wikipedia informed view that Ann might have moved away from Roscommon, because it was the county hit hardest by the Potato Famine of 1845 to 1852. He had to politely disagree because neighbouring Monaghan was the hardest hit. I accepted his point graciously and did not let it get in the road of a really pleasant dialogue.  My new friend expressed his disappointment the Australia, New Zealand and Canada had all dumped Great Britain after the mother country supported them through 2 world wars.  I had no doubt that my new friend was one of the many who proudly touted British flags outside their homes in Northern Ireland.  And on the matter of us ditching British, I had the Antipodean view that we had become involved in 2 wars that weren’t ours.   And I thought we had aligning with the ‘new world’ we lived in.  I refrained from enightening him of my thoughts.  In so saying, I have to admit to a great deal of admiration for the Brits.

As we were getting ready to leave our new friends kindly bought to our attention that the Court of Petty Sessions established in 1832 was just over the road from the bar. James and Ann however were both tried at a higher level court in Omagh, some 17 miles to the north.  But I did have to wonder what a ‘petty crime’ was when you got 10 years for stealing a cow and 7 years for stealing a watch.  But I also recognise to ‘existing and being born’ because of these ‘crimes’.

We loved the countryside as we made our way towards Roscommon and caught it at 100km per hour on our express touch-tour of Ireland. We were running out of light, when we drove into a charming place by the name of Carrick-on-Shannon. After a couple of inquiries we found a bargain room at the Bush Hotel where we spend lovely night with some real highlights like 5 different ways to have potato. I really felt at home.

Yep – I’m Irish.  Lynette was told by a skin specialist that she has the ‘black irish’ skin.  Irish carries through the several generations.

The Home Town of WJ

After the christening of William Oscar at St John the Evangelist Church at Crosscanonby we took the coastal route alongside Solway Firth into the sleepy little town of Maryport. The original town was based around a Roman fort which was intended to prevent invaders from the north avoiding Hadrian’s Wall by using Solway Firth.

In the 1800’s Maryport developed as an industrial centre with a busy port. In WJ’s day, this industrial development would have kept the Turners busy with their High St whitesmith shop.

Maryport Harbour

In the early 1900’s Maryport became a ghost with the development of a port elsewhere, coal strikes and a failure to compete with other centres. It now has a population of around 11,000 and is still sleepy. But you can buy Thai, Chinese and Pizza and more importantly, there are plenty of English pubs and these are absolutely my favourite place to go to.

Maryport has had a couple of notable residents including Fletcher Christian of Mutiny on the Bounty fame and it now has an annual blues festival that has been attended by some notables like Chuck Berry and Jethro Tull. There is great coverage of Maryport in Wikipedia.

Andrew and Megan had resisted the attractions of Maryport a few years earlier whilst travelling the UK.  They didn’t know that it was the home town of ancestor William Lighfoot Johnston who became Andrew’s 4th great-grandfather.   But on this occasion, we were on a mission, so they were prepared to have a look around while we waited for the church service to start. We had a lovely tea, some shortbread and Irish butter at a café down at the Maryport Marina.

Megan, Will and Bill having tea and fine biscuits at marina at Maryport

This low area of the town was where WJ’s dad, John Johnston and other seaman would have moored there boats, carried out repairs and sail services, lived and had their entertainment.

The port of Maryport

We had a short walk up the High St to get the feel for where a whitesmith shop might have been 160 years ago, been but there wasn’t a clue to be had. We did have one clue, however, which we used to deduce reasonably close to where it might have been. There was an incident which resulted in a death of William Brown at the hands of George Turner in 1830.

Looking down John St Maryport from High St

We know that occurred outside of Sarah Turner’s house in John St Maryport. Her house was around the corner from High St.

Corner of High and John St Maryport

We think the Thirlwell Turners whitesmith shop was close to the John St intersection with High St but we just don’t know whether it was up High St or down High St. The death of William Smith incident will be covered in a future blog, A Bad Days’ Work.

View up High St Maryport

From High St we could see out into Solway Firth. A notable feature is the banks of wind-generators in the sea. They stand in rows. We saw them from the air when we flew from Liverpool to Belfast. There were lots of them.

Looking out to the Irish Sea from High St Maryport

One thing that came home to me, whilst looking back east from Carnlough in Ireland was just how close Scotland comes to Ireland. The land that we could see across Solway Firth from High St Maryport was Scotland and that the land we were seeing from Ireland was the end of the land bounding Solway Firth from the Scottish side. No surprise that John Johnston came from Ireland and that the McClintocks from County Antrim in Ireland think they have Scottish ancestry.

The entrance to the marina area in Maryport is a little more sophisticated that what John Johnston would have sailed into and out in his coastal barque. I found it interesting that the boats had flat bottoms and at low tide simply rest on the mud and float again at high tide. Getting that tide right really matters!

The sea entrance to Maryport

After a delightful Sunday Lunch at one of the pubs that could have been Bowell’s Public House in 1830, we headed back to Bowness-on-Windamere to explore Beatrix Potter country.

Record Hunting in Northern Ireland

We drove from Bowness-on-Windamere to Liverpool’s John Lennon Airport, after topping up on Beatrix Potter magic.  Having seen the Lakes area and looking at the Beatrix Potter sites, I have to say I am even more impressed with the movie Miss Potter.  Poo hoo to the critics who think Renee Zellwegger made her too eccentric!

We had an occasional sighting of the Irish Sea on the flight from Liverpool to Belfast with glimpses of the wind generators we had seen off Maryport and ships sailing between England and Ireland.

Wind Turbines in the Sea

We had several objectives in travelling to Ireland; see if we could find birth, death or marriage records for the McClintocks; see if we could locate Penny Plain, Ballymena; see if we could evidence one McClintock brother going to New Zealand and the other to America; work out what the family did in Ireland; get an understanding of what made the family Members seek new lives over the sea; see if could understand the McClintock Scottish connection.

We knew we were in for a tough assignment and were very likely to have to be satisfied with a ‘feel’ for what the world of Andrew McClintock might have been like in 1881.

Andrew McClintock left Belfast in 1881 bound for Littleton in New Zealand aboard the Coptic, which was one of the fleet of seagoing steamers operated by the White Star Line of Titanic fame.  Fortunately for us, he made it to New Zealand and his new life.

After arriving at Belfast International airport, we headed for the Holiday Inn Express in the town of Antrim just to the north, without the aid of our GPS which would not cooperate because we set the country for Ireland instead of the UK.  It worked pretty well after that except for not being able to locate Belfast International airports as a POI, which we wanted to catch our plane to London.

We came to Ireland with a solid record of failure in trying to find birth death or marriage records for Andrew, his father James and his mother Jane Mills despite subscribing to the best Irish Family History site at paying 8 Euro a pop to try.

North of Ireland Family History Society

You never know – we could have our share of the luck of the Irish actually being in Ireland.  Well, as it happens, we did.

Lynette was busily uploading MYOB for the office in Brisbane and Bill went downstairs to get access to Wi-Fi for the I Pad and came up with the website of the Northern of Ireland Family History Society.  They were open for 2 hours a week and they were open RIGHT NOW.  We threw everything into our cases and beat a hasty retreat from our hotel.

Armed with an address and a GPS now set for the UK we made it to NIRHS base in Belfast and came across some really friendly and helpful people.  Unfortunately, they found as much as we did in terms of birth, death and marriage records for the McClintocks.  None – they just don’t exist before the mid-1860’s.  Andrew McClintock was born in 1859 – just too early.  But we did get some tips, we now have a contact who we have met and we will join the Society as associate members.  We also know the Society has a branch in Ballymena, where the McClintocks came from.

Having confirmed that our skills in tracking down records wasn’t too bad since the locals couldn’t find the McClintocks either, we decided to retrace our steps back up through Antrim and have  look at Ballymena.

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