Bridget McDonough (Biddy) – Earl Grey Orphan per Panama

Letter to Averil Staunton, Historical Ballinrobe from Gabrielle Mylonas, 2017

Dear Historical Ballinrobe, Averil

I enjoyed visiting the existing remains of Ballinrobe Workhouse recently.

My forebear, Bridget McDonough (Biddy, daughter of Mary and Michael) was one of the few of the Earl Grey Orphan immigrants to Australia on the ship, the Panama in 1850. She emigrated at the age of 16 and would have endured a life of hard, hot work as a drover’s wife in north western New South Wales.

She bore 8 or 9 children. One of her sons is recorded as drowning in the Bulloo River, most likely while driving cattle overland. One of her daughters and granddaughters became licensed publicans (this may have been unusual for a woman in its day) in the furthest settlement of western Queensland (Cunnamulla) at the turn of the century.

Cunnamulla is a small town that lies on the Warrego River in South West Queensland Australia, 206 kilometres south of Charleville and approximately 750 kilometres west of the state capital, Brisbane.

Bridget (Biddy) died in Cunnamulla at the age of 81 (approximately 1915). My beloved late father was born in this pub in 1937. He was the sixth son of Lucy Kerrigan and a fine, self-reliant man. No doubt Biddy had a life of challenges, common occurrence of that era but no doubt an interesting life.

To go from the lush green cold Mayo County to the hot dry interior of Australia, I can only imagine a part of her heart always remained in Mayo County. I believe her father Michael hailed from Connemara. I regret not finding that out earlier as it was only a stone’s throw from where I stayed at Ashford Castle last week.

Gabrielle Mylonas

26 July, 2017


Course: Remembering our Heritage – Ballinrobe Workhouse

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