From King's County to "Quinnsland"
By Dr. Jennifer Harrison
Between the years 1862 and 1865, over six and a half thousand Irish people sailed from Queenstown, Co. Cork to Queensland, Australia. Nearly two thousand of these settlers originated from the midland counties being recruited by parish priest, Father Patrick Dunne, operating from Tullamore, King's County. Under the auspices of James Quinn, the first Roman Catholic bishop to this newly-declared colony of Queensland (the last to gain independence from New South Wales), and his recently formed Queensland Immigration Society, these farmers, rural workers and their families were attracted by the promises of land ownership, extensive agricultural areas and a new life far from famine and exploitation by landlords and agents. Although the Society sponsored Irish immigrants from throughout the whole island, why within just three years should so many from a relatively small district choose to relocate to a large sprawling undeveloped antipodean address where climatic and agricultural conditions were quite unlike those within their previous experience?
In 1989 an Australian immigration historian rued: "The fact remains that the demographic history of Australian immigration is decidedly undeveloped and that we possess only a hazy knowledge of who the Australian immigrants were." Relocation from Ireland to Australia, in general, had been established since the beginning of white settlement in 1788 in New South Wales with free and assisted immigration actively encouraged by the authorities since the 1830s although by the time the first migrant vessel ordered directly to Moreton Bay (the sea entrance to Brisbane), arrived in 1848 "there were only 60 Catholic families in Brisbane". The pioneering Artemisia brought few Irish settlers, but with active recruitment during the 1860s, by the 1871 census 20,972 residents were Irish-born out of a Queensland population of 120,104. Therefore the addition of comparatively large numbers, particularly from one area, under the guardianship of the Queensland Immigration Society made an enormous impact on the culture and development of this north-eastern colony.
In many western Irish counties during the early 1860s, a large number of people lurched through uncertain economic reversals. The afflictions experienced during the historically famous years of the Great Famine in the second half of the 1840s did not put an end to the numbers of spoiled harvests, the insidious potato blight or harsh weather conditions. In 1861 excessive rainfall ruined crops and saturated fuel, spoiling two essential commodities. In addition, local agents often acting for distant land owners, evicted families who had farmed small holdings for decades so that land could be utilised in larger lots with improved drainage and planting methods. Changes were taking place in everyday living conditions justifying the assessment that "between the 1850s and the 1920s, Irish agriculture underwent a transformation which can have had few parallels at the time".
One particular area where change was in progress from late 1857 was right in the centre of Ireland, in King's County, in the barony of Geashill, six miles south-east of the town of Tullamore. The local estate had been in the hands of the Digby family since the sixteenth century when the only daughter of Gerald, Lord Offaly (the eldest son of the Earl of Kildare) married Sir Robert Digby of Coleshill in Warwickshire. When Sir Robert died in 1618, his widow laid claim to the barony of Offaly and the estates of her grandfather as his heir general. Although the case was decided against Lettice Digby, James I made her Baroness Offaly for life and her heirs were granted the manor of Geashill and the monastery lands of Killeigh. On 12 May 1856, Edward, the unmarried 2nd Earl & 8th Baron Digby died, at which time the earldom and other titles became extinct, except for the English barony of Digby of Sherborne and the Irish barony of Digby. His distant heir-at-law of the Irish estates, Edward St. Vincent 9th Baron Digby, was descended from the 5th Baron, but as the money and valuable English estate were willed to another branch of the family, the new Lord Digby had to devise methods by which his new inheritance became viable. The tenants in the barony of Geashill had not seen their overlord on many occasions during his long stewardship stretching over sixty years as he rarely visited, permitting long and advantageous leases. Further, because these grants extended longer than his own life-time, Digby was deemed to have exceeded his legal powers so the new owner, with few local loyalties, had no compunction in cancelling and rearranging yearly leases to make the land income-producing.
For this purpose, from the spring of 1857, Digby engaged the services of William Steuart Trench of Essex Castle, Carrickmacross, Co. Monaghan already agent for the Marquis of Bath in that county as well as for the Marquis of Lansdowne who had extensive Co. Kerry estates. Trench quickly installed his eldest son, Thomas Weldon Trench, as co-agent establishing his residence at Geashill Castle where successive agents had lived since its rebuilding in the early part of the nineteenth century. The policies put in place by the Trenches during the first stormy, vindictive five years resulted in claims of wholesale eviction and the illegal retention of compensation funds, rumours of contracts to murder the younger Trench, mysterious burnings in the castle grounds, and legal proceedings by Trench against a policeman deputed for protection duty, all of which culminated with questions in the House of Commons. These activities attracted a great deal of attention 'in press, pulpit and parliament', well in keeping with the opinion that: "Not only were clearances rare after 1853, they were also well publicised." Trench senior was quick to ascribe any tenantry opposition to conspiracy with local rebels and justified his actions as evicting 'a few of the foremost Ribbonmen'. Thomas Trench wrote to his father attributing a fire on the estate to agitators although it was later proven that one of his own staff had started the conflagration. William Trench complained to the highest authorities in the land requesting protection for his son and property but Thomas' actions continued to make dispassionate support difficult. The final straw came when, acting in his capacity as local magistrate, Thomas Trench ordered a poor woman to walk to the county assizes following charges of begging. Her death raised local ire, earning Thomas Trench a rebuke from the Lord Chancellor.
Trench defended his actions during these years: "Several of those whom we well knew to be deeply involved in the conspiracy - though we could bring no proof against them in a court of law - now came forward and expressed an earnest wish to resign their land and emigrate, if they could obtain a few pounds to bear their expenses from Ireland. This was at once given; and in a very short time after the ejectments against the chief of the conspirators had been carried into effect, the country had become perfectly tranquil; industry and peace became general, and have remained so ever since". Among those named were Loughlin Kelly, John Whelahan, Helion, Geraghty and Clibborn as well as "Darby Flanagan of Pigeon House, we have long known to be a daring and influential character" who had £20 collected for the shooting of Trench. Passenger listings of the first QIS ship to Queensland contain named rebel John Whelahan with his wife and three children and while there are entries for Flanagan, Helion and Clibborn, these all refer to widows who may or may not have been related to the activists.
William Steuart Trench had few supporters for his behaviour in Geashill. Two years after the publication of his apologia, another assessment contended: "When leases are to be broken, when independent rights are to be extinguished or contracted away, when an overcrowded estate is to be thinned at the least possible cost to the owner, when a rebellious tenantry are to be subdued, and Ribbonmen are to be banished or hanged, Mr Trench is the man to do the work". More recently, the historian of the Derryveagh evictions has been quite specific about the similarity in underhand methods employed by the agent in Donegal, John George Adair, and William Trench in King's County pointing out that Adair was Trench's nephew and raised in his household.
Among all the charges and counter-allegations, in 1861 the Nation published a listing of 246 people in 49 families who had been evicted over the past three years concluding with the statement that "the remaining tenantry enjoy the advantages of raised rent and the consequent generosity it involves, whilst not forty of them in all that estate of 32,000 acres occupy holdings of 20 acres in extent." This disclosure was to answer statements made on Lord Digby's behalf in the Commons that only three tenants had been evicted and that these owed eleven, fourteen and thirty years' rent respectively.
Perhaps the most evenhanded estimation of events is to be found in the preface of a collection of letters and newspaper cuttings on Geashill. "Bad and indifferent tenants were replaced by better and all who were removed were compensated and apparently had no reason to complain. But such is not the view taken by the smaller occupiers of land in Ireland and there soon were apprehensions of danger to Mr Trench [junior]... Subsequently there became reason to suppose he was imposed on by his own servants and that much of the danger was not real - certain burnings and outrages were believed to be only scumulated in order to alarm him... On the whole he was carrying into effect the improvement at a neglected estate at all times a difficult, and in Ireland, a dangerous process and he was very young. I doubt if many persons in the same circumstances would have done better - I am sure many would have done worse."
According to the Ordnance Survey, the barony of Geashill comprised 30,874 acres which at the time of the 1861 census supported a population of 4562 persons. Of this number 176 were entitled to vote at the election of their local member of parliament while 289 were rated for Poor Relief. The area was "for the most part a vast uneven plain of cold, poor and unkindly land, in places divided by huge turf mosses, and ridged by lines of those low steep hillocks known in parts of England by the name of 'hog's backs". Samuel Lewis in 1847 offered these comments on the parish of Geashill: "The soil is a deep clay with a substratum of limestone-gravel: there is a large extent of bog, with some building stone; agriculture is but little improved." During these years of unrest, Digby "converted the village of Geashill into what it now is, one of the neatest, cleanest, and best kept in Ireland... and for three years he was awareded the gold medal given by the Royal Agricultural Society for improving the greatest number of cottages in the best manner in the Province of Leinster." By combining many holdings, he built up the land and totally reorganised the area using new farming methods so that the land unextended for generations was restored to full productivity. While some retained their jobs and houses, many residents needed to be relocated and even fairly comfortable tenants realised that their leases would not be renewed and in the meantime, heightened expectations of production were impossible to achieve in the short-term.
While the Geashill example is the one most quoted in contemporary literature and subsequently in the Dunne and Quinn obituaries, other landlords in the same district were responding more sympathetically to similar pressures. When reporting the first exit to Queensland, a newspaper story recounted: "Of those who thus left there were two families who with their forefathers had been for generations resident on the estate of John O'Brien, Esq. JP at Rahan. These families amounted to eighteen persons comprising husbands, wives, parents and children and were most liberally and humanely assisted and provided for this adventure by their landlord."
Dunne used the pulpit to lure locals to the land of promise but his exertions were aided significantly by the central siting of Tullamore. Both Geashill and Tullamore were on the route of the Great Southern and Western Railway between Athlone and Portarlington. In turn, Athlone connected with the Midland and Great Western Railway and the Great Northern and Western Railway. The former provided links with Sligo or to Galway by Ballinasloe, Woodlawn, Athenry and Oranmore. Tullamore therefore provided a hub for coordinating western and north-western emigrants before travelling directly south to Queenstown. Furthermore, as many from King's County intermarried with those in neighbouring counties such as Westmeath, Meath and Roscommon so family circles provided channels of communication.
Changes in agricultural policies were explained in journal articles such as that entitled The causes that have led to the decline of villages in Ireland: "It was hoped that by increasing the size of farms and the introduction of capitalists of skill and judgement in agricultural pursuits, that tillage on an improved and extensive scale, combined with breeding and stall feeding cattle in adequate proportions and converting the small classes of farmers into wellpaid and skilled labourers would vastly improve our condition ... but like all other fireside calculations, the realities have come miserably short of those bright and enthusiastic expectations... And instead of the smaller classes of farmers being converted into wellpaid, well fed and well clothed labourers as we were assured they would be, they have gathered their all together and fled our shores, bag and baggage, year after year, to find a home as best they could, leaving behind them those only that had not the means or the strength to go." For many, the time had come to look at their prospects and leave the country of their birth. When the first vessel, the Erin-Go-Bragh, sailed a report stated: "... Father Dunne is leading the party of emigrants whom he induced to fly from the misery and - in many cases - landlord oppression of their own country, to seek positions of comfort, independence, and self-respect elsewhere."
On Wednesday, 24 July 1861 amidst newspaper stories on the Burke and Wills expedition setting out to cross Australia from south to north, the success of the Otago goldfields in New Zealand and inundations of the river Shannon closer to home, the Offaly Chronicle carried the story of a notice to quit served on Catherine Winter of the Geashill estate. In an old tin trunk now housed at the Offaly Historical and Archaeological Society in Tullamore, lie several old deeds recording leases drawn up in the years from 1838 to 1842 between Digby and some of his tenants. Most of these were to extend for one life or 21 years with a few for 3 lives or 31 years with the result that when many expired in the early years of the 1860s Trench did not renew a great many of them, other than on a yearly basis. Surnames on the deeds, such as Conroy, Cooke, Hyland, Tierney, Warren, Byrne, Deering and Colgan, replicate those on shipping lists to Queensland. Equally unsympathetic policies are revealed by a rent book of Trench's close relative, Lord Ashtown's estates in King's County between 1851-79 which details curtailment of possession of many of the tenants in Ballyshane, Bracknagh, Clonbrock, and Clonbulloge, all in the Coolestown barony just to the east of that of Geashill.
Just as Patrick O'Farrell has shown that very few Famine refugees came to Australia, the same parallel can be made with those evicted from Geashill. Despite the first aim outlined in the prospectus of the Queensland Immigration Society, to assist those suffering in Ireland, not a great many of the very poor made the journey. Of the 49 families named as evicted, as few as eight can be identified as QIS travellers. Furthermore, when these findings are associated with an analysis of those who paid their own fares to Queensland as opposed to those assisted by the Society, it becomes evident that more than half of the passengers were small farmers with some assets rather than all being impoverished rural labourers. The QIS migrants fulfilled a more pressing need for their new country, being to provide it with people with some capital rather than acting as a channel for pauper emigration, so feared by the Queensland Immigration Agent, Henry Jordan.
The northern area of New South Wales had been declared a separate colony on 8 December 1859 when one of the first steps taken by the new administration was to adopt procedures to continue the successful immigration programme to the locality established earlier by the NSW authorities. The need for labour and capital was essential for development so the search in Great Britain concentrated on attracting small capitalists as well as agricultural and domestic workers. The inducement offered was a version of the well-established land order system whereby all who paid fares would be entitled to an £18 land order redeemable on arrival for cash which could be used for purchasing land. After two years in the colony, a further order worth £12 would be issued. Initially the orders were transferable, so shipping companies undertook to transport immigrants or some farmers with capital subsidised or paid fares of those unable to do so in return for land order entitlements.
Quinn & the establishment of QIS
One group observing this loosely formulated government policy in Queensland was the Roman Catholic Church hierarchy. On 29 June 1859 a highly educated school president in Dublin was consecrated as the first bishop in the new colony. He was Dr James Quinn, of St. Lawrence O'Toole's school in Harcourt Street, Dublin. Quinn had been baptised at Rathbawn in Co. Kildare on 17 March 1819, making him a contemporary of his QIS associate, Patrick Dunne. Under the patronage of his uncle, Monsignor Doyle, James and his brother Matthew were sent to a famous classical school in Dublin until at the age of 17, James was admitted as a student in the Irish College at Rome. He graduated with high honours, receiving the degree of Doctor of Divinity and the gold medal from Gregory XVI. When he returned to Ireland in ill-health, his older brother Andrew organised his placement at Blackrock until he regained strength. From here he assisted cholera victims in 1848-9. Under the terms of the will of his uncle, a large legacy was directed to be used for the promotion of catholic education which James used to establish a high school known as St Laurence O'Toole's seminary which opened on 14 November 1850. In addition, James also purchased an estate in Wicklow for the benefit of the archdiocese of Dublin. His brother, Dr Matthew Quinn, rector of the same establishment, was to provide a valuable link for the migration scheme in Ireland.
Bishop Quinn, accompanied by Sisters of Mercy and priests, sailed for Melbourne on the David McIvor in 1861, transferring to Brisbane where they arrived on 10 May of that year. Almost immediately after he took up residence, Quinn was approached by some of the local catholics to lead a support group for those suffering in Ireland. "Hence it was that, early in June , a society was formed for the purpose of transferring at least some fragment of our people to the refuge that a merciful Providence appears to have opened for them here. The few now influential landholders, once hard struggling men in King's County and Tipperary, gladly offered themselves as members. The advice and co-operation of the new Bishop was sought; and in that quarter the project was welcomed, and every help was only too willingly promised."
From 1859, New South Wales residents had responded generously by supporting the Donegal Relief Fund to provide new opportunities to those from the Gweedore district as a result of the Derryveagh evictions and already reports listed collections being made for distressed cotton operatives in Lancashire, of whom many were of Irish origin having migrated once already. Queenslanders were urged to support migration schemes with offers of employment and local networks because: "What had happened in Donegal, in Mayo, in Tipperary, might happen next day in almost every farmstead in the land." The changes in Geashill particularly became relevant to this new Society.
Once the Society had been established, government support was essential. On the day the Erin-go-bragh departed Queenstown, Quinn wrote to the Premier and Colonial Secretary of Queensland, RGW Herbert, advising him of the formation of QIS, submitting a copy of the prospectus and complaining about the attitude of the Queensland government in not sponsoring migrants from Ireland by concentrating on English, Welsh and Scottish settlers. In his tardy reply, Herbert guardedly approved the arrangements to date after pointing out: "It is the opinion of the Government that the Society formed under your auspices for the purpose of promoting emigration to Queensland is essentially of a private character and therefore that it is not desirable that it should receive the official recognition or sanction of the Government." Herbert had no reservations about leaving the issue in private hands, and was prepared to offer free use of the reception buildings to Quinn's immigrants 'whenever they might not be occupied by persons despatched by Mr Jordan, Mr Heussler or the Commissioners'. He also confirmed that any agreements made about repayment of the passage money would be of a private character and not necessarily under the control of the government while totally rejecting the criticism of sectarian bias as 'misinformed'.
Father Patrick Dunne - a King's County man
In 1818-9 in Phillipstown, now Daingean, King's County, Patrick Dunne, the son of Patrick Dunne and his wife Mary Rigney, was born. As a boy he received a classical education at Mr Fitzgerald's school in Tullamore from where he entered Carlow College and from there transferred to Maynooth for part of his theological course. On 8 May 1846 he was ordained in Carlow and became curate in the diocese of Kildare and Leighlin, surrounding the place of his birth. During the Famine years, Dunne ministered at poorhouses and fever and cholera hospitals before being recruited by Father Patrick Geoghegan to join the Melbourne diocese as a missioner. Dunne later wrote to an old friend: "I was just as well off as any other curate in the diocese of equal standing but I could not bear to beg my support from a half-starved people hence I availed myself of the first opportunity of going on some mission and selected that where my humble services were most required."
Patrick Dunne arrived in Melbourne on the Digby on 6 September 1850 where he worked locally before being sent to Geelong for seven months. He then transferred to Coburg and started a church building programme; also, Dunne held church services at Brown Hill for six weeks during October and November 1851 when gold was discovered. Soon afterwards he returned to Geelong where over the next few years he established at least twelve schools. It was during this time that his school-teaching niece Alicia sheltered, according to some stories at Father Dunne's house, Eureka rebel Peter Lalor while he was on the run. The escapee and his nurse later married. During 1855 Dunne was joined at Geelong by Fathers Michael McAlroy and Patrick Bermingham, both Carlow graduates, with whom he later was closely associated in the Goulburn diocese. In 1856, Dunne was posted to Belfast (Port Fairy) where he became embroiled in a bitter battle with Bishop Goold over money raised to build a church and which Goold, in serious financial difficulties, wished to use elsewhere. Newspaper reporting of these squabbles which alienated the two even further only abated when Dunne left the colony in May 1857 on the Great Britain to visit Rome and Ireland. Many chose to interpret that his departure was a result of ecclesiastical censure.
Dunne again returned to Melbourne on 30 August 1858 on the John and Lucy as chaplain to 400 migrants but after Goold's vicar-generals, Geoghegan and Fitzpatrick, forbade him to exercise his priestly functions, he once more returned to Tullamore. With the approval of the Bishop of Meath, Dr Cantwell, and practical help of Vicar-General Father McAlroy, a close relative of Australian Michael McAlroy, Dunne now established an academy and minor seminary in the town. The prospectus read: "The institution is designated St Bridget's Classical, Mercantile & Mathematical Seminary and has been established under the sanction of the O'Rafferty Committee to afford the blessings of a liberal education under the guidance of religion to the catholic youth of the surrounding districts of Tullamore and is a monument to the venerated predecessor, the late Dr O'Rafferty. ... Young men having a vocation for the priesthood, and willing to go on the Australian mission, will receive in this institution a gratuitous education to prepare them for the colleges of All Hallows and Carlow, besides imparting a good practical secular education to pupils, the most exact care is taken to form their moral and religious principles."
Whoever was responsible for the concept, prospectus, lobbying or implementation, by early 1862, Dunne's initiatives in Tullamore and the Quinn-sponsored Queensland Immigration Society in Brisbane had joined forces. Dunne, Tullamore shipping agent John Byrne, and to a much lesser extent, Matthew Quinn, rallied the migrants, arranged their departure from Cork and shipped them to Brisbane. Once there, the staff and supporters of the Society met the ships, organised accommodation, facilitated employment and carefully recorded the land order entitlements. Each voyage was intended to provide the money for the following one.
One of the provisions of the QIS prospectus was that priests and/or nuns would accompany each ship and that female passengers would be quite safe when travelling to the new colony. While single, young, female immigrants had been migrating to all Australian ports since convict days, some were reluctant to come to a sparsely populated district without the support of family friends or fellow-villagers until the normal chain migration patterns were established. In addition Quinn was at pains to show that moral safety and freedom from disease were attributes of travelling privately rather than under government auspices. Father Power who accompanied Dunne on the first voyage when both received passenger commendations, drowned at Gayndah on 19 October 1865.
The scheme in operation
The first vessel contracted by Dunne was the Erin-go-bragh which sailed from Queenstown on 6 February 1862. Among the travellers were: "A large number of persons of the small farmer class who lately left their homes in the parishes of Rahan and Geashill in the King's County for Queensland..." The passage proved unsafe, uncomfortable and unhealthy. The journey took an unheralded 196 days instead of the usual 100-120, holes were found which were attributed to protestant treachery, the high incidence of deaths among the children caused by typhus and scarlatina and charges of the withholding of rations caused much grief and grumbling. Several King's County families such as the Quinns, Murrays, Helions, Dunnes and Dempseys suffered bereavement. When the ship was released from quarantine finally permitting the disembarkation of its passengers, the timing coincided with the August arrival of the next two Society ships, the Chatsworth and the Maryborough, as well as three other immigrant carriers so placing undue strain on reception facilities and employment opportunities.
Following the departure of the Erin-Go-Bragh in February with Dunne on board, Dr Matthew Quinn ensured the overflow of passengers already recruited would be boarded on the Chatsworth and Maryborough. Matthew Quinn was a missioner in Hindustan between 1847 and 1853 following which he returned to Dublin as principal of the new school established by his brother James. He wielded influence as director of the only Hibernian-Catholic newspaper in Europe and was chairman of the Irish Papal Brigade Committee although his skills as an organiser have been questioned. The Chatsworth was despatched on 11 April 1862 with the majority of passengers originating in King's County. "A few of them were from the County of Cork and other parts of the south of Ireland, but the greater number came from Tullamore, King's County and the neighbourhood of Dublin, under the direction of the Rev. Dr Quinn, Harcourt-street, Dublin who came down specifically to see that they were properly accommodated and that everything necessary to their comfort was provided for the voyage."
When the Maryborough sailed on 27 May 1862, the newspaper once more confirmed the exodus from the Midlands. "Tullamore has again to record a sweeping contingent to the tide of emigration. On Saturday morning nearly 200 entered the train for Cork, and at ten minutes past eight the shrill blast of the engine's whistle conveyed to many a heart the dismal tidings of separation from friends, home and country. Still all look on it as a necessity, which is the only balm to alleviate the sorrow of those left behind... Nor was the barony of Geashill - that name rendered as famous as Partry or Gweedore - backward in supplying its wonted mite. In the present state of the country no one is so thoughtless as to inquire why this increase. The reason is obvious. But a lasting consolation is derived by surveying in the distance that rising colony of Queensland, so appropriately styled by Father Dunne, the 'land of promise'." The local King's County newspaper took up the story: "Those passing through Tullamore were chiefly of the farming class, who will, I have no doubt, realise the very best expectations of the country of their adoption." During the voyage, two people from Tullamore, Mary Byrne and John Malton were married.
Criticism and complications
After a break of two and a half months, the stream of migration continued with QIS sponsored passengers leaving nearly every month. The Prince Consort followed leaving Queenstown on 2 August 1862 while the Duke of Newcastle set sail six weeks later on 16 September. The Wanata left on 12 November to be followed by the Golden City on 13 December 1862, the Queen of the Colonies on 5 January 1863, the Golden Dream on 12 February, and the Beejapore on 23 March. But with these sailings, much had changed. Although QIS was nominally involved with all these departures, by now Henry Jordan, the Queensland Emigration Agent, had taken control. Although Herbert had given guarded approval to Quinn's operation in his letter dated 7 May 1862, perhaps Jordan had not been informed although by now the Emigration Agent was concentrating on promotion in Ireland. On 23 July 1862 Henry Jordan, writing from Cork where he was lecturing, advised the Colonial Secretary that the provisions under which Quinn's emigrants were travelling to Queensland were not in accordance with regulations. By the time the Prince Consort sailed on 2 August 1862, it "was the twelfth ship despatched under the immediate inspection of Mr Jordan who is commissioned by the Colonial Government to direct the extensive emigration now taking place from the United Kingdom to Queensland and who visited the ship on Saturday to inspect the general arrangements on board." As Jordan had not started his Irish campaign until May of that year, it is remarkable how quickly the authorities became convinced of Hibernian settler suitability. Whereas local Irish newspapers initially promoted and reported the Society's work, after the sailing of the Prince Consort, which coincided with strong criticism in Queensland, most of the later sailings were not reported or barely rated a couple of lines.
From the time of the August arrival of the Erin-go-bragh and the Chatsworth, the newspapers contained long and detailed accounts of charges and counter-charges on the activities of the Society. Accusations of sectarian abuse, bad selection and usage of immigrants, a desire to grasp political power through malpractice involving the land orders and the cash they generated were made and denied depending on whose side the editor stood. A Select Committee convened in 1863 could not substantiate charges of wrongful or dishonest behaviour although by that time the Society was almost a spent force. At the same time an independent committee under the chairmanship of the Anglican Bishop, Dr. Tufnell, investigated complaints made by immigrants. One of these, William O'Carroll, a Chatsworth passenger who had lost a young child on board, remained bitter towards Quinn, and was capable of creating embarrassment for the Bishop following O'Carroll's appointment as editor of the Courier. By September 1862, Jordan had the land order regulations altered ensuring that only emigrants selected by him would be eligible and in addition, the form required a signed statement that the land order would not be transferred to another person. In time, Jordan's arrangements with the Black Ball line and Baines in particular, replicated many of the dealings implemented by the QIS.
The financial arrangements, in which Herbert had shown so little interest, aroused much criticism. Careful study of the land order registers reveal many ambiguities among the several options applied by C B Lyons and other agents of the Society. Some passengers paid their own fares while others were sponsored for the full amount. Several gave money for the passages of poorer travellers sometimes being rewarded with the associated land orders whereas many could scrape up only a deposit with promises to reimburse thereby surrendering their claim to the orders. On occasions, these down-payments were construed as donations with a full fare requiring repayment whereas, on the other hand, a fair number signed over either their first or second land order or even both to church authorities. The situation became even more confusing because the complicated system was not always explained to the immigrants and several simply did not understand it or know that claims should be made almost immediately. Finally as the government constantly changed conditions such as age limits and the permitted number of children, few could keep pace with current rules.
Quinn remained a distant aloof administrator of his whole diocese removing himself from involvement with schemes which attracted criticism and disassociating himself from those who implemented them. He was attracted to the migration scheme not only on humanitarian grounds but also for its money making propensities. But he was a pragmatist; when one avenue soured, there was always another and from this time the education issue absorbed much of his interest.
In order to determine the number of people brought out by the Society and also an assessment of the land orders claimed by QIS, surviving records have been scrutinised.
SHIP PASSENGER NOS. QIS SPONSORED
Erin-go-bragh 400 233
Table 1: QIS ships: Passenger & Land Order numbers
The information gleaned from this investigation supports the figure that over six and a half thousand passengers sailed on vessels associated with the Society although less than half were sponsored immigrants. The information available in sources does not permit identification of QIS recruited farepayers as opposed to those from other sources as it cannot be assumed that all who boarded at Queenstown had Society affiliations even on the early ships. Also it is possible that some who joined the ships in Liverpool or London were responding to publicity instigated by Dunne or Quinn.
It is difficult to estimate with any accuracy the number from King's County brought to Queensland by Dunne. The passenger lists do not indicate county of origin, merely Irish nationality. Dunne claimed he "devoted four of the best years of my life to assist and encourage hundreds, I might say thousands, of a most useful and deserving class of immigrants to the new and prosperous colony of Queensland." He later added: "I was the means of sending the first ship with a large contingent of Irish immigrants to Rockhampton. I paid the ship owner in London for the ship outfit for many on board without anything except the clothes they wore." Not all from Tullamore environs were included on the ships predominantly associated with the scheme nor on the ones on which Father Patrick Dunne travelled. Andrew Dillon and John McElgan from Tullamore were selected for the Light of the Age in 1865 while Lucy Grubb, another Tullamore native paid a deposit for the Sultana. For example, at the time of the sailing of the Prince Consort, when describing the 350 who joined the ship at the Cove of Cork, the correspondent wrote: "The latter were chiefly in connection with what is known in Ireland as 'Dr Quinn's involvement'." Similarly, after leaving Liverpool, the Duke of Newcastle called at Queenstown "for the remainder of her passengers coming to Queensland under the auspices of the Queensland Emigration Society". By the time of these departures, every county of Ireland was involved.
SHIPS KING'S COUNTY PASSENGERS
Erin-go-bragh Most of the 380
passengers who boarded in Queenstown
Dunne's role extended
Meanwhile, following his arrival in Brisbane in August 1862, Dunne once again approached Melbourne diocesan officials proposing his return to that area. Father Fitzpatrick, now Bishop Goold's secretary, responded quite unambiguously on 12 September 1862: "His Lordship wishes me to say in reply that he protests against your returning to Melbourne until you have obtained the sanction of the Cardinal Prefect of Propaganda for doing so. His Lordship believes that your not returning to Melbourne will be the best proof that you can give of the sincerity of your request to repair the scandal that you so foolishly caused in Melbourne and that no other proof is necessary or desirable."
After ascertaining that his services were not required in the southern diocese, Dunne reverted to the scheme at hand determining to recruit more settlers for Queensland. Accordingly, he returned to Tullamore early in 1863 where the need to relocate large numbers was even more pressing. The Galway Vindicator reported in its State of the Country column on Saturday 17 January 1863: "There was a double calamity last year - a famine in food and a famine in fuel." Other columns on the same day detailed a destructive disease in sheep and deplored that circulation of money had declined affecting town and village shopkeepers as well as starving rural labourers. Destinations other than the United States of America were recommended to avoid immediate secondment of able-bodied young men into the army to fight in the American Civil War.
Dunne had no trouble filling another ship, the Fiery Star, which sailed from Queenstown on the same day that the Battle of Gettysburg was reported, 19 August 1863. "The calling here of the Fiery Star is the temporary revival of a system which has already worked well for the people who were able to avail themselves of it... Unfortunately, this system was for a time stopped, the colonial government having come to the conclusion that the Irish contingent had been filled up. It has now been resumed but for what length of time it is difficult to say... The Catholic portion of the passengers, about one-half of the entire, have the advantages of being accompanied by two clergymen. One of those is the Rev Mr Dunne who ... in the spiritual department will be ably seconded by the Rev P. Golding, late of Birkenhead."
Dunne's presence on this voyage led to later confusion when the Fiery Star sailed again for Queensland in 1864 arriving in Brisbane on precisely the same day as the previous journey. On the homeward voyage in 1865 fire broke out in the forecastle. The smell from burning wool strongly impregnated with arsenic became insufferable so eighty-four persons including the captain and a cleric, Rev. Rikey [Riley?], left the ship in boats to be lost at sea. The chief officer, William Claud Sargant, with sixteen others, remained on board attempting to extinguish the slow-burning outbreak when they were rescued by an American ship, the Dauntless, and landed in New Zealand. Over the years, but certainly not in the lifetime of either of the Quinns or Dunne, the story was altered to place Father Patrick Dunne as the combatant of the flames. While this confirms the resolute and stubborn aspect of Dunne's character, at this time he was on board the Sunda bringing still more migrants from Kings County to Queensland.
During the winter months of 1864-5 Henry Jordan noted: "I found that the Rev. Mr Dunne was proceeding to the colony, and many persons from his own locality, including the agent who had acted for me there, [Mr J P Byrne], were desirous of joining him. Arrangements were therefore made, with my sanction, and under my own direction, for accepting a considerable number from Ireland at that time. These sailed in the ships Maryborough and Sunda, the former leaving Liverpool on the 9 February and the latter Queenstown on 23 February." Only the Sunda had QIS connections. Once more the intrepid Father Patrick Dunne was on board when it sailed from Queenstown after previously taking on board several people in London. After berthing in Moreton Bay on 23 May 1865, the following report appeared in the local newspaper: "The Sunda brings 512 souls, exclusive of the crew and officers; of these 111 embarked at London and 401 at Queenstown under the vigilant care of Father Dunne who deserves some public recognition for the signal services he has rendered to Queensland." Dunne still was saddled with debts. On 12 July 1865 a motion was brought before the Legislative Assembly by Mr Fitzimmons requesting some form of remuneration as "Mr. Dunne had rendered much quiet and humble service... No such application as this would have been made to the House had it not been that Mr Dunne was in embarrassed circumstances."
Aftermaths, epilogues and endings
It was obvious by now that there was little that could be achieved by the QIS. All migration was being handled through government channels with money-making advantages no longer available. In addition, Dr Matthew Quinn had been consecrated as Bishop of Bathurst in 1865 with the result that he could no longer devote time and energy to promoting the immigration programme. The twelve months following his consecration he spent in providing for the continuance of the St Lawrence O'Toole school and in collecting staff for his new diocese. Eventually the high school was passed over to the charge of the newly formed Catholic university, the Senate of which undertook to furnish staff and administration before the new bishop sailed for Sydney in 1866. The role of this assistant director appears to have been quite subsidiary in application. Matthew attended luncheons before sailings and at the instigation of his brother, James, introduced Henry Jordan to valuable contacts within Ireland at the outset of the colony's interest in attracting settlers from that region but on the whole his performance was rather desultory.
Dunne's migration organisation days were over. From this time onwards his career was devoted to establishing schools and raising money for Catholic causes. Early in 1866, Dunne tried unsuccessfully to sell Brighton to the Redemptorists; then by October that year was in Sydney to welcome Matthew Quinn as Bishop of Bathurst and Quinn's cousin, James Murray, as Bishop of Maitland. He then proceeded to Melbourne where he attempted to sell lottery tickets for which the prizes were blocks of land in the Brighton estate.
In 1867 Patrick Dunne tried disposing of the property to the Marists and in March once more wrote to Goold in Melbourne requesting reinstatement either for parish work or to collect for St Patrick's Cathedral. This time, he won an appointment. By July he was installed at Bacchus Marsh as administrator to Fr Eugene O'Connell. Although Dunne later claimed he served there for eighteen months, after nine months he transferred to Goulburn diocese to work with Bishop Lanigan and Fr McAlroy. Over the next several years he was employed as an administrator in the parish, he developed schools, churches and St Patrick's College of which he became the first president and was pastor at Gundagai.
On 16 March 1880, Dunne returned to Ireland with Bishop Lanigan on the Garonne. At this time he was intending to stay in his native land if the climate agreed with him. However by 1881 he was back at pastoral duties at Corowa, Urana and Jerilderie in the Goulburn diocese moving on to Wagga Wagga the next year. In 1889 he retired to a cottage near St John's Orphanage at Thurgoona, now Newtown, near Albury where for the rest of his life he worked for these children. In 1898 while seeking to provide a permanent supply of milk and butter for the orphanage as well as the deed of land for the Mother Superior of the Sisters of Mercy, Dunne wrote several letters soliciting support from among the immigrants he brought to Queensland. When they were slow to respond, he did not forebear chastising them: "I must say I have been somewhat disappointed with the coldness and indifference with which my appeal has been treated by those who have profited most by my labour and pecuniary sacrifices in the cause of charity and religion." He went on to remind them of the great impetus his migration scheme gave to the Catholic church in Queensland as well as support afforded by Goulburn diocese to Dr Cani when the Queenslander was collecting for the building of St Stephen's cathedral. He further detailed the care and attention given by Mother Ignatius of the orphanage to Dr Cani following an accident in Goulburn when it was feared that the priest would lose his leg. Dunne pulled no punches when asserting that: "The late Bishop O'Quinn or his brother, the late Bishop of Bathurst, would never have even thought of embarking in the risky speculation of bringing out Irish immigrants to Queensland on the chance of getting land orders for those whose passages they paid till I cleared the way by bringing out the old pioneer ship, the Erin-go-bragh." In his initial appeal, Dunne reminded his readers: "The Governor, Sir George F. Bowen complimented me on the fine body of young men and women and married couples I brought out by the Erin-go-bragh and the late Bishop O'Quinn often told me I helped in a great measure to make Brisbane a great and prosperous diocese."
Dunne died on 21 July 1900 at Albury, New South Wales. To the end he was "a sledge-hammer force in controversy", most often using newspaper columns to make his point. "Whatever his views were, he was absolutely fearless in the expression of them and it was no uncommon thing for him to be engaged simultaneously in press controversies in New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland." His vim and vitality for 'his' projects was enthusiastically impetuous even if his control of money was not as developed as other attributes. For the most part, he lived frugally and was constantly repaying debts. His memory for details never limited a good story. There is no doubt that Dunne wished to achieve miracles with his migration plans but it is also true that some of his actions contributed to the Society's downfall.
Dunne always could count on the sympathetic support of the Brisbane Catholic paper, The Age, as its editor and founder William Crofton, was an immigrant on the Fiery Star in 1863. The responses to this appeal and subsequent reminiscences brought forward details of other travellers on the 1863 voyage of the Fiery Star and the 1865 Sunda journey. John Luke Ward wrote in 1903, thirty years after the arrival of the Fiery Star: "We met in August 1863 as strangers, there were over 500 on board, and we parted on 23 November as the best of friends and remain so still... Thomas Plunkett, MLA for the Albert constituency; Michael Yore, Tambourine; John Moran, Veresdale; Thomas Strachan, Jimboomba; Eugene Doyle, Beaudesert; Patrick McAlroy, Enoggera and many others. In Sandgate there are four; at Albion, two; and in Brisbane, many. Captain W.C. Sargeant (late of Potts, Paul & Sargeant), G.W.C. Wilson, Robert Payne, and last, though not least, Herbert Hunter... who has since become one of the directors of the Royal Bank of Queensland."
Another scribe, who in an essay remembering the celebration of mass on the Sunda as a young man "in the first of my teens", thirty-five years later finished his account with: "His own initials are mine also - PD". He can be identified as Patrick Dempsey. Dempsey recalled: "My father, harrassed by two landlords of opposing political opinions (when open voting was the rule in Ireland) and being at their mercy in the matter of the yearly acreage rental - gave mortal offence to one by voting for the candidate supported by the other. Matters were made hot for him by a sudden rise in the rental thermometer and as he was burdened (or blessed) with a family of nine young children, for whom he could see no reasonable prospect of comfort in Ireland, he decided to emigrate." He also gives information on another Dunne immigrant: "Amongst the passengers on board was one who has since his arrival in the colony proved himself at first as a teacher in the Catholic schools and since was an ordained priest, a model of industry in the school and a kindly counsellor in the church. I allude to the Reverend Father J.B. Breen whose unselfish and self-sacrificing disposition was fittingly exhibited by his undertaking of conducting a school on board our ship."
While it would be satisfying to be able to identify transference of family or village groups to specific regions in Queensland, the availability of employment or land accessible for purchase under the land order option determined that many groups separated on arrival in the colony. However there were some signs of cluster settlement. "Many of the Erin-go-bragh passengers settled down on the Logan and Albert rivers, and south thereof, as pioneers in the farming industry, and their sons and daughters are still there, pursuing their careers as industrious settlers and worthy colonists. Only a short time ago, Anthony Flannigan passed over to the majority at eighty odd years. Henry Dunne, still living at Veresdale, is even farther advanced in years. Nearer home [Brisbane] can be seen another worthy specimen of an Irishman who frequently takes his seat beside the stipendiary magistrates in Brisbane, honourable and independently differing in opinion from them occasionally. This is Mr William Tracey, a native of the King's County, and one of the passengers by the Erin-go-bragh in 1862."
In a newspaper article during 1863, readers were cautioned about emigration to the United States with the pontification that "the Irish peasant rarely becomes a proprietor of land in America; he prefers the ready money, wages to send to relatives at home and though generous he seldom accumulates anything for his own rainy day. He toiled hard, lived fast and generally died long before his time - a destitute pauper... If our farmers drank less and wasted their time less and were a little more careful and thrifty, the land of Ireland would give them a healthier and more comfortable living than they can gain in America." Most editors railed against the large numbers leaving while ruefully admitting that little remained for them at home. Was the situation any better for those who came to Queensland? A letter to those at home in King's County to advise of his safe arrival was sent by Erin-go-bragh migrant Michael Synan formerly master of the national school at Raheen. "Dr Quinn has provided well for me. I am to be engaged as a teacher either here or in Ipswich... The system of education here is identically the same as in Ireland. They use the same books, maps etc... Only for the kind interest Dr Quinn took in me, I should have gone two or three hundred miles into the bush. You will, no doubt, laugh at this, and say, 'What on earth does Michael know about the management of land or sheep?' I answer, 'Nothing' and so much the better, because this is the antipodes of Ireland and everything regarding the management of land, cattle, sheep etc, is quite different from the way in which such matters are managed at home. The less a man knows of farming at home, the less he will have to unlearn and the faster will he acquire a knowledge of the Colonial system of managing land... Any person who has energy, perseverance, honesty and sobriety, who is humble, anxious to learn and divested of home pride and nonsense is sure to get on well..." Michael Synan did flourish for thirty-three years in the colony; his school inspection reports contained delightful personality insights such as 'wordy explanations' and 'naturally noisy but he is very attentive to his duties'. Five months after his arrival in Brisbane, Michael married a fellow passenger, Mary Agnes daughter of William and Mary Agnes O'Dwyer. One of his six surviving children, William, also became a teacher.
Henry Jordan always qualified his enthusiasm in attracting residents with warnings of hard work, vagaries of weather and the need for persistence and energy, even in bountiful Queensland. As a Co. Kerry newspaper reported: "No one has lamented more than we have done and do the continuous drain of the bone and sinew of our land through the medium of emigration. No one too believes more firmly than we do that, with a better ordered state of things, there is land enough in Ireland to feed and to employ five times its present population... They [Bishop and Dr Quinn] do not, nor does Mr Jordan, importune our people to emigrate. Mr Jordan has plainly told our people, everywhere he has gone, that those who can get on at home should stop at home, adding, however, that, if they will emigrate, Queensland holds out peculiar advantages, which he has detailed with fulness and vigour." Many who made the journey continued to reiterate the need for the right type of migrant. Francis and Peter Dunne arrived on the Prince Consort in August 1862. When Francis wrote home to his uncle in March 1863 he confirmed: "It requires real bone and sinew at the strong work here, no shirking at all and, to an old bush hand, nothing disgusts more than to hear the new chums harmonising their hard fate as some fellows think nothing of 300 or 400 miles through a wild country with their swag, which consists of a blue blanket, tin pot and flour..."
How did these new chums fare? Within a year, the Queensland government, battling a dreadful economic depression, was on the verge of bankruptcy with a rumoured 1/7d in the Treasury. All immigration not currently underway was immediately cancelled. For many Irish, employment conditions were as bad as those left behind and several did not cope well or if they weathered this hurdle subsequent disasters such as droughts floods and the economic depression of the 1890s, all these hardships wreaked their toll. "There is a theme that runs throughout the literature on the Irish diaspora, namely that during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries the Irish-born were disproportionately represented in criminal statistics...One can make all sorts of qualifications, ones which properly reduce somewhat the apparent magnitude of the phenomenon, but like crime rates, mental ill-health rates among the Irish immigrants were not mere illusions. They indicated real pain." Certainly Irish names were distinctive in Queensland bankruptcy, inquest and crime records but surely most who had taken the step to relocate suffered displacement. As Patrick O'Farrell noted: "To emigrate was to grab the world by the tail, to reverse the sequence" One of the saddest cases concerned John McGuinness, an Erin-go-bragh arrival, who on 8 April 1863, was hanged for murdering a German because he had jeered at the Irish. In his last hours McGuinness was tended by Sisters of Mercy and Bishop Quinn was present during his final minutes.
The claims of distortion in the religious basis of the colony always proved ill-founded. "With one-quarter of the total in 1861, it [Catholicism] had risen slightly to 26½% in 1868 ... through the efforts of Quinn ... Thus for the Catholic, as it was in the beginning, so it was in the end; their strength hardly waxed or waned." But increasingly their influence lay in the actual numbers. In 1863 when writing home from Ipswich, a Prince Consort voyager commented on the local elections: "The Irish, as far as I can learn, was not able to return one Catholic member through the colony. They are worse than at home." According to the 1861 census, Catholics accounted for 7676 Queenslanders of whom 5537 were Irish born, by 1868 the figure was 26484 with 20382 of Irish origin. A few had come from other colonies, more under government schemes and a significant percentage by the efforts of the Queensland Immigration Society. In the seven years since his arrival, Bishop Quinn's congregation had increased by over 19,000 worshippers, nearly three times the number with which he had started. Furthermore, the stimulation provided by the Queensland Immigration Society successfully convinced colonial officials that migrants from Ireland should be included in their passenger lists.
Quinn's Queensland Immigration Society's prospectus had listed just three priorities. The principal object was to alleviate misery in Ireland by affording the sufferers an opportunity of emigrating to this colony; in achieving that end, 2808 men, women and children with limited Irish prospects were sponsored to Queensland. Single female emigrants had been assured protection while their guardians, the clergymen and nuns accompanying each shipload, continued their stewardship to the benefit of the colony. The third intention had been to develop Queensland resources by introducing people from every part of Europe who understood cotton, vine, olive and other agricultural production. The early dissolution of the Society had prevented achievement of that aim but the importation of a significant number of settlers who had not only paid their own fares but also, in many cases, had brought capital and skills, laid a substantial foundation which was strong enough to attract continued Irish migration, including more from King's County, in the later decades of the nineteenth century.
This study of the flow of people from a small district on one side of the world to another thousands of miles distant in a brief, defined timespan details merely one mechanism at work in the peopling of Queensland in the nineteenth century. The value of the King's County contribution lies in its very definitions. It occurred at a time of dislocation in the Irish midlands highlighting particular effects of climate, social unrest and rural reorganisation on one group of residents. Queensland, at this time, was 'finding its feet' as it sought to establish essential priorities, with its mainly migrant officials casting off old shackles while seeking new and workable directions. This scenario gave many organisations the opportunity to exert influence, some with more success than others. Such assessments also provide timely recognition and measuring of individual performances. While domestic factors in both localities influenced its progress, many elements proved consistent with similar studies. By continuing research in specific Irish county immigration to the Australian colonies, "...useable generalisations may be derived from an absorbing array of particular experiences."
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