Thursday, September 29, 2016

Mystery woman of County Clare: Honora Boyle 1841 - 1901

Honora Boyle 1841 - 1901

The lady in the photograph is still somewhat of a mystery to me. She is my great-grandmother, Honora Boyle. She's the mother of my Australian grandmother, Alice Grady. I don't know where or when the photo was taken. Probably somewhere in Mudgee or Gulgong, New South Wales where Honora lived after arriving in the colony.

As often happens with family history research, more is known about Honora's later life, because it is still within living memory. My 95-year-old aunt Joan says my grandmother, Alice Grady, was effectively orphaned at the age of 19 when Honora Boyle Grady (the lady in the photograph), died in Gulgong, New South Wales in 1901. Honora originally came from Miltown Malbay in County Clare, Ireland.

Over the last few months I have pieced together some of Honora Boyle's story.

Early Life in County Clare, Ireland

Honora Boyle was born in County Clare and baptised on 4 June 1841 in the parish of Kilmurry Ibricken, Clare, Ireland in the Diocese of Killaloe. Her parents were Peter Boyle and Mary Daly from Seafield, a hamlet on the Clare Atlantic coast. Honora's younger sister, Mary Boyle, was baptised on 27 Mar 1844 at the Kilmurry Ibricken parish

Miltown Malbay was a market town close to the parish of Kilmurry Ibricken where the sisters were baptised. It is about six miles from Seafield where their parents were living when the children were born.

In 1855 Peter Boyle, Honora's father, was listed in Griffith's Valuation as renting a house in Seafield, Clare.

Arrival in the colony of New South Wales in 1864

Sometime in late 1863 or early 1864, Honora Boyle and her younger sister Mary left Ireland and made their way to Plymouth, England to board the Sirocco, bound for New South Wales. Their wooden sailing ship was carrying a large group of "government immigrants" comprising 145 women, 121 men and 48 children. Honora and Mary Boyle were in that group and they arrived in Sydney on 3 October 1864 as sponsored unaccompanied single women. A shipping immigration record from Ancestry places the 20-year-old Honora Boyle and 16-year-old Mary Boyle on the Sirocco (2). Both Honora and Mary are listed as dairy maids, Roman Catholic, not able to read or write and from Miltown, Malbay, Clare, Ireland. Another document says they were servants so it is most likely that they were brought to New South Wales to work as servants, as the colony was short of female workers at that time.

Once in New South Wales Honora found her way to the town of Mudgee in a wheat and wool farming district 200 miles north west of Sydney. I am not sure when she arrived in Mudgee, but do know that the woman who sponsored them, Ellen Egan, went to there too. Two years later, in 1866, gold was discovered in nearby Gulgong and the great Gulgong gold rush began, swelling the town to 20,000 inhabitants by 1872.

Around that time a young man from Ireland, Peter Grady, arrived in Gulgong and applied for a gold lease in 1875. Honora and Peter Grady met and were married in 1879 in the Catholic Church in Mudgee.

Their first child, Mary Grady, was born in 1879 and their second child, my grandmother Alice Grady, in 1882. Tragically, young Mary Grady died of scarlet fever at the age of six in Gulgong in 1885. I remember my Gran telling me about her older sister dying so young: "only the good die young" she used to say. Gran would have been three at the time and she was their only surviving child.

Eventually the gold ran out and the population of Gulgong fell to 1212 by 1881. But Honora and Peter Grady stayed on and farmed at a property at Stoney Creek. Sadly, Peter Grady died of bronchitis in 1890, leaving Honora and her daughter Alice Grady on the Stoney Creek farm.
Honora Grady was accounted for in the 1901 Census living at County Phillip, Mudgee, NSW. But a few months later, in November 1901, Honora died suddenly in her sleep. An announcement appeared in the local newspaper, the Mudgee Guardian and North Western Representative:  she was "a well respected resident of this district, well liked by everyone who knew her". 

Honora is buried with her husband and daughter Mary in the Gulgong Cemetery. Amazingly, there is a photograph of Honora GradyBoyle's grave at Gulgong on the Australian Cemeteries Index site.

Unanswered questions

Many details of Honora's early life in Ireland have eluded me, thus far, such as:

Why did she and her sister leave Ireland alone?

They were sponsored by Ellen Egan. Was she someone from their town? There are quite a few Egans in the same parish and the name Egan keeps popping into the story.

What happened to Honora and Mary's parents in Clare?

The girls would have been small children during the Great Hunger in Ireland from 1845-1852. How did this shape their destiny?

And what happened to Honora and Mary Boyle after they arrived in New South Wales in 1864? 

By 1879, Honora was in Mudgee and the photo, a cabinet photo, appears to date from the 1870s. But what about Honora's sister Mary Boyle? She seems to have disappeared and I can find no record of her death in NSW.

One great source for information on the Boyles of Clare is:

The Family Boyle Website which mentions "our" Boyles and other connections around the world. Some Boyles of Honora's generation from the parish of Kilmurry Ibricken emigrated to USA. 

According to the County Clare Library GenMaps, the name of Boyle in Clare is most common in the parish of Kilmurry Ibricken where Honora and Mary were baptised. See the bright orange spot on the left of this GenMap showing Kilmurry Ibricken as the greatest concentration of Boyles in Clare in the 1901 Census of Ireland.

Boyle name occurrences in Clare 1901 from Clare County Library GenMap

I plan to write another post about the journey of the Sirocco and what I can glean about the arrival and dispersal of the Boyle girls in New South Wales in 1864. Richard Reid's book, Farewell My Children: Irish Assisted Emigration to Australia 1848-1870 is a great resource for this.

I'd be thrilled to hear from other descendants of the Boyles of Clare, who may know more the family fortunes or misfortunes. Just post a comment below.

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