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An Irish Orphan Girl

Julia LOFTUS

by Chris Loudon © All rights reserved
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The Irish Famine had a devastating effect on the population of Ireland in the period 1845-1850. Approximately 1.5 million men, women and children died of starvation or disease in this period, and more that 2 million others fled from Ireland to avoid death by starvation.

Of those who departed, there were aproximately 4,000 Orphan Girls given assisted passage to Australia between October 1848 to August 1850, under what was known as the Earl Grey Scheme. This article is about one of these Irish Orphan Girls.


Sydney was hot and sultry in the early hours of the morning on Saturday 12 January 1850, with dark clouds, lightening and heavy rain. At 8:30am the temperature was 64° F (18° C) and by 2:30pm had reached 76° F (24.5° C), the sky clearing in the afternoon with quite pleasant sea breezes.

The Panama, a barque of 458 tons under the command of Captain Thomas, dropped anchor at Sydney Cove on this Saturday having sailed from Plymouth on October 6 1849, and spent 97 days at sea without calling at any other port[1].

The passengers on the Panama consisted of ... nine married couples, two children and 165 Irish Orphan girls.[2] They have been very fortunate during the voyage, not having had a single case of sickness of any contagious description[3] ... They were no doubt looking forward to disembarking after their long sea voyage.

The Panama also carried an interesting mix of cargo, focused on tools for the land, tools for the homes of settlers, their drinking habits being well catered for, and news from London that a cholera epidemic appeared to be waning. 

Francis L.J. MEREWETHER, the agent for immigration at Sydney, in a letter addressed to the Secretary General Earl GREY in London, dated 7 July, 1850 commented that:

...The Panama besides being a vessel of smaller tonnage than it is desirable to employ for the conveyance of Emigrants to this Colony, is, like most North American built ships, ill suited for the service, her tween decks being dank, dark and very imperfectly ventilated. She was a new ship but leaked through the voyage. On examination here, the leak, I understand proved to have been caused by two open boltholes, into which bolts had not been driven.

The tween decks were in a cleanly state on arrival and the arrangement made for the presentation of good order as well as for the health and comfort of the Emigrants, appear to have been satisfactorily carried out.

The Immigrants were in good health on their arrival and when individuals questioned in accordance with the practice of the Board of Inspection here, said they had no complaints to make regarding their treatment in any respect.

The Surgeon Superintendent, Mr. A. Wiseman performed his duties in an efficient manner. He reported that he received all requisite assistance from the Master and the Officers of the ship.

The Matron appeared to have performed her duties satisfactorily. The principal diseases reported by the Surgeon Superintendent were Tympanitis[4] and bowel complaints[5] ...

Great Great Grandmother Julia LOFTUS remained on board the ship at anchorage for a further 6 days after the ship arrived along with numerous other Orphan Girls. She then spent an additional 3 days at the Sydney Orphans Depot.[6]

Julia is recorded on the immigration records as Judith LOFTUS.[7] She was ...a native of Ballynare[8], Castlebar Co. Mayo, parents Edward and Bridget Loftus both dead[9], R.C., neither read or write. State of bodily health, strength or usefulness; Poor. No relations in Colony. No Complaints....

The majority of the girls, who arrived on the Panama as part of the Earl Grey Migration scheme, were orphaned due to the conditions in Ireland during the Potato Famine.[10] Whatever the cause of being in the "Irish Poor Workhouses", it was a massive move for these young girls. There was no doubt a sense of adventure mixed with trepidation in coming to start a new life full of uncertainty.

The Irish Orphan Girls were not always welcomed into the community with open arms, and the colonies were in uproar at the behavior of some of the girls. They were variously sent to indenture in the interior of the colony, some were taken advantage of, others turned to prostitution just to stay alive. The majority kept a low profile and had success in their new country, despite the hue and cry from the press of the day.

The Panama Orphan Girls were dispersed to their respective assignees; 92 girls engaged in Sydney, 67 sent to Wollongong, 11 to Maitland, 10 to Moreton Bay, and 2 to Bathurst.[11]

We know from the records that Julia was one of those who went to the Wollongong Depot, and was engaged as a house servant at a wage of £8 for 12 months with board and lodging by one W. TURKINGTON of Dapto. Julia may have spent the next two years at Dapto, but was in Sydney some time prior to her marriage to John QUINN in May 1852.

Julia LOFTUS married John QUINN, a free settler, at St. John the Evangelist Roman Catholic Church at Campbelltown, NSW , on 17 May 1852.[12] Julia was 21yrs of age and John was 34yrs. Father John Paul ROCHE, the parish priest, celebrated the marriage.

We can only imagine the tears and joy, which Julia would have felt with all of the things happening in her life. Orphaned and probably lucky to be alive herself as a result of the Potato Famine in Ireland, shipped to New South Wales at age 19 to an unknown future, indentured to a farmer as a servant, and now married at age 21 to a man apx. 9 years her senior, all within a time frame of just over two years.

No doubt other influences led to Julia and John being together, one of which would have been their Roman Catholic Irish descendancy. Julia gave birth to their first child, Bridget, on 19 April 1853.

During the next 46 years, Julia experienced a lot more happiness and no doubt considerable pain also. She was to give birth to 13 children between 1852 and 1871, depending on which records are correct.[13]

The death certificates for both Julia and John show that 9 children - Michael, Edward, John, Bridget, Anthony, Ellen, Julia, Thomas Patrick, and James Hugh, survived them, plus 4 males and 3 females deceased (no names shown). This gives us a total of 16 children, and complicates matters somewhat, as we have only 13 recorded births.

Julia QUINN/LOFTUS was no doubt one tough lady. We can only imagine the heartache associated with a harsh life on the land for a woman in the 1850-1870's, not to mention the multiple deaths of infant children.

A lot of questions arise, few if any which we can answer, however it appears that Julia and John made a good go of their life together, remaining together until Julia's death.

On February 17, 1899, the day before Julia QUINN died, a handwritten will was made out for her, apparently by one of her sons, as under:

Jamisontown, 17th Feb 1899. I Julia Quinn of Jamisontown Penrith in the Colony of New South Wales do hereby bequeath all my properties at Jamisontown with cottage furniture and effects to my son Edward Quinn.

Signed this day in the presence of the following witnesses.

T. Quinn. Julia Quinn.
J. Quinn. X. her mark.
A. Quinn. 17th Feb 1899.
Edward Quinn X. his mark.
Executor to the above will.

The three witnesses to the will were her sons, Thomas then 31 years of age, John 40, and Anthony 34, Edward was 42 at the time.

Julia QUINN (nee LOFTUS) passed away at Jamisontown NSW on February 18, 1899 at the age of 68, and an Obituary notice was printed in the Nepean Times soon after. She predeceased her husband by about three years. A similar notice appeared for John QUINN after his death.[14] Julia is buried at Jamisontown Cemetery near Penrith.

Letters of administration of the estate of Julia QUINN were granted to Edward QUINN, the sole beneficiary of the will on July 5, 1900.[15]

This is a little perplexing as John QUINN, Julia's husband, was still living at the time, although 81 years of age. However, this is explained by the cause of death shown on John's death certificate as being senile decay; in all probability he would have been incapable of attending to the administration of Julia's estate.

Edward was married to Elizabeth O'CARROLL in 1895. Edward died at Penrith in 1931 and Elizabeth in 1933 they had no children.

Photo of Julia Loftus with husband John Quinn, ca. 1870 



Photo of John and Julia QUINN taken circa 1870.
(Copy supplied to the author by Pat Curry; original held by Dr. Peter Quinn)

 

As can be seen from the photograph, neither Julia nor John appear to be particularly tall, and that Julia appears to be pregnant, as she would have been almost perpetually over the 20 years 1852 - 1871. 

 

There were a number of sad incidents in Julia & John QUINN's life, all in and around the farming area of Camden, Mulgoie Forest, Penrith and Jamisontown in NSW where Julia and John lived:

1858 - At age 27, two of her children were to die young and within days of each other, Bridget aged 5 years and John aged 22 months, both of "scarlatina" (scarlet fever)

1860-61 - age 29, another of her children died at a very young age, Anthony, aged 6-12 months.

1886 - Julia was to see her son Michael suffer with the loss of his first wife, Hannah (nee STAGGS) died on September 17, 1886, soon after the birth of their daughter Hannah, who also died 3 days later, there were 3 other children still living.

1886 - George and Mary STAGGS (apparently living at Penrith NSW, in 1886), the parents of Michael QUINN's wife Hannah, raised all of Michael's and their daughter Hannah's remaining children; George John (6yrs), Michael James (4yrs) & Mary Jane QUINN (2yrs). Julia and John QUINN may have been unable to care for them, or the perhaps the best solution was for them to go to the STAGGS.

1891 - Julia QUINN nursed her daughter Mary Jane (married to William WILKINSON), after Mary Jane had given birth to son Anthony (b March 7, 1891), only to lose her to ‘Pleural Fever' on March 17, 1891, 11 days after the birth.

1891 - After his mother's death, Anthony WILKINSON was raised by his uncle and aunt, Anthony Joseph QUINN and wife Bridget (nee McMAHON) at their farm and orchard at Kurrajong NSW. Anthony QUINN was Mary Jane WILKINSON's younger brother.

1899 - Julia QUINN was to lose another of her grandchildren through a tragic accidental drowning on February 10, shortly before her own death. This was William James WILKINSON (aged 19 or 20), the son of her daughter Mary Jane and William WILKINSON. William James was living with his brother John and sisters Julia and Mary Jane, all being cared for by Julia Jane and Esdras GIDDY at the time. This tragedy happened on "York Estate" (Penrith), owned by Mr A. JUDGE and was reported in the Nepean Times.

One of the people, who attended the accident scene and lent a hand in recovering the body of William James WILKINSON, was a Mr. E QUINN. This was no doubt Edward QUINN, Julia & John QUINN's son, Mary Jane WILKINSON's brother and an uncle of young William. Edward was obviously nearby, perhaps also staying with his sister Julia Jane and her husband Esdras GIDDY, or with his mother Julia QUINN. Edward was in the area attending to his sick mother Julia QUINN who was to pass away on February 18, 1899, only 8 days after the death of William James WILKINSON. Julia's cause of death was a cerebral haemorrhage, which she had suffered 5 days before, and just 3 days after William's tragic death.

The young girl who made the discovery of William WILKINSON's drowning was Julia WILKINSON (b 1885), his younger sister, and daughter of Mary Jane WILKINSON, she was the granddaughter of Julia QUINN.

Julia QUINN (nee LOFTUS) made the best of her life in Australia, and contributed to the growth of her adopted country. She left the legacy of a large family of descendants all of whom are grateful to her having arrived in 1850.

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Notes & Sources

General Notes

Information contained herein has been sourced from primary and secondary sources, including certificates, as well as through material supplied by numerous descendants of Julia and John, in particular Julia Haggerty who has been generous with details of her research.

Descendant family members with additional information, or corrections, are encouraged to contact the author. In particular we would love to receive copies of any photographs of Julia and John, and their children, to share with the wider family, with permission of course.


Sources

[1]  The Sydney Herald, Saturday, January 12, 1850
See NLA Newspapers site for articles on the arrival of the PANAMA

[2]  SRO NSW Reel 2461 Ref 4/4919 records 157 Female Orphans

[3]  The Sydney Herald, Saturday, January 12, 1850

[4]  Inflammation of the ear drum

[5]  McClaughlin, Trevor - ‘Barefoot and Pregnant' - Irish famine orphans in Australia', Pub. The Genealogical Society of Victoria Inc. Trevor McClaughlin now has a wonderful blog presence (since 2014), go here for Trevo's Irish Famine Orphans

[6] Originally Hyde Park Convict Barracks, now The Barracks Museum, Macquarie Street Sydney NSW - Julia LOFTUS's name can be seen engraved on the (glass) Irish Famine Orphans Memorial Wall at the Barracks Museum . This memorial was part of the Gift to the Nation from the Irish Government to the Australian People in celebration of the Bi-Centennial of Federation. Two of our immediate family members (sisters Elsie and Norma), great granddaughters of Julia's, attended the unveiling of the wall on 2nd September 1998 as guests of the Irish President Mary Mcaleese. There were also other extend family members attending this celebration.

[7]  SRO NSW Reel 2461 Ref No 91 - see also ‘Barefoot and Pregnant' - Register section pp88

[8]  Probably Ballina (or possibly Ballinrobe) Mayo, as we can find no references to Ballynare in Mayo, and given the broad Irish accent it was possibly recorded incorrectly - See detail on the Ballina, Co.Mayo Workhouse here - On the birth certificate of Julia's son James (1871), John Quinn (informant) states that Julia came from Crossmolina, near Ballina in County Mayo.

[9]  Nothing is currently known of the circumstances of their lives or deaths; however the timing would suggest they were victims of the Potato Famine/s - See detail on the Great Famine in Mayo here  

[10]  Source: ‘Barefoot and Pregnant' - For lists of orphan passengers on Panama, and other vessels under the "Earl Grey" scheme. Digitised copies of Immigrant Passenger Lists, for ships between 1838-1896 i.e. Immigrant Passenger Lists, including famine orphan ships, is now available online "Persons on Bounty Ships"  at the State Records office of NSW website. Click here for the "Panama passenger list" , including Female Famine Orphans.  

[11]  SRO NSW ref 4/1149-1, reel no 2461 - Ship Surgeon Generals report on dispersal of the Panama passengers, and other records

[12]  Marriage reference - SRO NSW Reel no 5039 BDM Vol 98 Fol 310 May 17, 1852

[13]  SRO NSW microfiche Records and BDM records (var. refs), show births for 12 children and 3 deaths

[14] The Nepean Times, January 12, 1901 - Now available through the NLA Trove website - See Trove the "Nepean Times" - Copies of the newspaper are available at the Penrith City Library, NSW

[15]  Probate Office of NSW - reference Will No 206 44/4, 5th July 1900 - Administration to Edward QUINN - sole beneficiary

Last Updated on Saturday, 16 April 2016 22:42

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