About Me

My photo
My passion is genealogy and family history. I host a podcast about Australian family history, Genies Down Under. In my day job, I work as a lecturer and a researcher in higher education, teaching pre-service teachers.

Search This Blog

Saturday, 23 April 2022

Exploring my Kilkenny ancestors' homelands with local help: Windgap and Ballyfliugh in County Kilkenny

This blogpost is a few years overdue. Sorry to Joe and Jimmy who were my fantastic guides when I visited Callan, Windgap and Ballyfliugh in County Kilkenny in Ireland back in November 2017. These are the lands of my FLEMING and TORPY ancestors, specifically Patrick FLEMING and Ellen TORPY who left Ireland in 1853.

Windgap, Callan, Ballyfliugh in County Kilkenny (Map: Google Maps)

Sowing the seeds, asking for help

In the first part of my trip to Ireland in 2017, I dropped into the Callan Library to find out as much as I could about the area where my ancestors lived in the 1800s, and possibly before this time. At the Callan Library, I met a very helpful librarian, Patricia. I explained that I was looking for information about my FLEMING and TORPY ancestors who left the area back in the 1850s. Patricia took my name and contact details. Fortunately, Patricia passed my details onto a couple of local historians, Joe Kennedy and Jimmy Hoyne. A few weeks into my trip, I had a phone call from Joe who told me that he was interested in my family history research, as was a friend of his, Jimmy Hoyne. 

An invitation

Joe and, his mate, Jimmy invited me to join them for an afternoon of touring around the town of Windgap and surrounds. Between 1 and 5pm on Sunday 5 November 2017, I was given a fantastic tour of the area where my FLEMING and TORPY ancestors lived in County Kilkenny in Ireland.

 This is a list of the places and people we visited on the afternoon of Sunday 5 November 2017:
  • The towns of Callan and Windgap in County Kilkenny
  • The townland of Ballyfliugh, just outside Windgap
  • Newtown cemetery at Rathculbin
  • Knockroe passage tomb
  • Home of Jimmy Grace and his family
  • Old Fleming homestead in Ballyfliugh
  • Slate quarry near Windgap
  • Hennessy farm near Rathculbin
  • Old Windgap church and cemetery

To put the above places in context of the story of my ancestors, I'll weave some of the photos of our trips to the various places (above) into my ancestors' story (below).

My FLEMING and TORPY ancestors in County Kilkenny

One set of my great-great grandparents were Patrick FLEMING (c.1830-1880) and Eleanor/ Ellen TORPY (c. 1833-1906). They were the parents of my great-grandmother, Margaret FLEMING (1866-1939), who was the mother of my maternal grandfather, John (aka Jack) Joseph WALTERS (1905-1970).

On 3 February 1853 Patrick FLEMING married a girl on a neighbouring farm, Eleanor/ Ellen TORPY, in the Roman Catholic Church in Windgap, St Nicholas, in the Parish/District of Windgap, County Kilkenny. At the time of their marriage, both Patrick and Ellen were listed as living at Boolafluigh (now known as Ballyfliugh). The marriage ceremony was conducted by Father Thomas MOYLAN, the Parish Priest. The witnesses at the wedding were Pat McNAMARA and Ellen FLEMING. 

Excerpt from the 1853 marriages recorded in the Catholic Parish Registers of Ireland, Parish of Callan, Diocese of Ossory, County of Kilkenny
There is nothing much left of the Old St Nicholas Catholic Church in Windgap. Apart from a stone altar, the church building is no longer there. The ground where the church once stood resembles the shape of a cross (pointed out to me by Jimmy Hoyne when I took the photo below in November 2017) and the outer rim of the cross indicates where the walls of the old church used to be.

Altar of the old church. Photo taken Sunday 5 November 2017

Steps to the old church. Photos taken Sunday 5 November 2017

Where the old church used to stand

Memorial/ Headstone to Father Thomas Moylan who married Patrick FLEMING and Ellen TORPY

Transcription of the memorial stone:

This monument is sacred to the memory of the
Rev'd Thomas Moylan PP
Whose remains are here interred
He was Parish Priest of Windgap
During the period of ten years
Everyone loved this good gentle
zealous pastor
He was ever anxious to promote the
spiritual and temporal welfare
of the people
The schools of this parish to which he
gave liberal donations were established
by his exertions
To the poor he was a father
and kind benefactor
He was a great favourite with the
clergy of the diocese to whom he was
endeared by ties of the sincerest friends
He died on the 23rd August MCCCCMVI
in the 61st year of his age
Requiescat in pace

Joe KENNEDY pointed me towards a book that may reveal why Patrick and Ellen left their families to live in Australia. The book is called Callan 800 (1207-2007) History and Heritage, published by Callan Heritage Society 2013. In the year before Patrick and Ellen left Ireland to go to Australia, the FLEMING farm reported some less than ideal crop losses which may have motivated them to look for a place where they could make their living elsewhere. This may have been the reason the newlyweds left Ireland for Australia in 1853, just a few months after their wedding.

The townland of Ballyfliugh

Joe and Jimmy helped me to find the old FLEMING home in Ballyfliugh. Although no one had lived there for many years, it was a fantastic feeling to walk through the house and imagine what it was like to live there. Walking in the steps of my ancestors is one of my favourite pastimes.

Newtown cemetery at Rathculbin

During my tour with Joe and Jimmy, they took me to the Newtown cemetery at Rathculbin where a number of TORPY and FLEMING graves are located.

My FLEMING and TORPY ancestors in Australia

Just a few months after they were married, Patrick and Ellen travelled from their homeland in County Kilkenny to Australia on a ship known as the Caroline and arrived in Moreton Bay, Queensland on 14 November 1853. When they arrived, Patrick was 35 years of age and was listed as a farm labourer. Ellen, noted as Eleanor, was listed as a wife and was 20 years of age. The shipping records showed that they were both from Kilkenny, were Roman Catholic and could read and write.

Excerpt from list of Assisted Immigrants aboard the Caroline, arrived in Moreton Bay in November 1853.

Patrick and Ellen were two of 376 people on the ship, including 268 adults (174 females and 94 males) and 108 children.

Excerpt from list of Assisted Immigrants aboard the Caroline, arrived in Moreton Bay in November 1853.

The ship's arrival was noted on Saturday 19 November in 1853 on page 2 of the Moreton Bay Courier, printed in Brisbane. Since this ship left from Liverpool on 7 July 1853, Patrick and Ellen must have left their home in Ballyfliugh to travel from Ireland to England before 7 July.

Saturday 19 November in 1853 on page 2 of the Moreton Bay Courier

Based on the following newspaper article, it sounds like the ship, Caroline, went through Port Jackson (Sydney) before travelling onto Moreton Bay (Brisbane) where the ship landed on 21 November 1853, noting that the article above recorded the ship arrived in Moreton Bay on 19 November 1853

Another newspaper article also mentioned the ship and the passengers on the Caroline, describing problems with the crew.

Article in the Empire (a Sydney newspaper), Thursday 1 December 1853,  Page 2 

Translation of the above

We have intelligence from Moreton Bay to the 22nd instant.
Sippey, an aboriginal native, who had been confined in Brisbane Gaol on charge of murder, broke loose from prison and intelligence arrived that he had rejoined his tribe.
Twelve seamen of the emigrant ship, Caroline, who combined to refuse duty while in the harbour of Port Jackson, and who still refused during the continued passage to Moreton Bay, were taken before the Water Police Magistrate on their arrival there. They were charged with combining to impede the progress of the ship. At first they agreed to return to their duty, but finally, after making several frivolous charges, which the Water Police Magistrate would not entertain, eleven of them positively refused to go on board, except on the assurance that nothing should be deducted from their wages for the payment of the men who had been hired to do their work. They were remanded to gaol for seven days.
The immigrants by the Caroline were all landed in Brisbane on the 21st ultimo: most of them were being quickly engaged at high rates of wages.

So, Patrick and Ellen FLEMING may have disembarked in Sydney or in Brisbane. Since they ended up spending most of their lives in Sydney, they may not have travelled onto Brisbane. In Sydney, they brought up 10 children (6 girls and 4 boys) including:

1. Mary (born about 1853-1855)
2. Bridget (born 3 June 1856)
3. Ellen (born 22 July1858)
4. Catherine (born 25 Dec 1859)
5. Richard (born 20 May 1863)
6. Margaret (born 8 February 1866) my great-grandmother

Margaret FLEMING


7. John (born 6 May 1868)
8. Elizabeth (born 17 Mar 1871)
9. Patrick (born 19 Oct 1874)
10. Thomas (born 28 May 1877)

Patrick and Ellen FLEMING lived in the Chippendale area of Sydney. To support his family, Patrick worked as a quarryman in the inner city suburb of Pyrmont for most of his life. Some of the quarries in Pyrmont were known as Hell Hole, Paradise and Purgatory, depending on how difficult the Sydney sandstone was to carve in each location. Patrick died on 12 October 1880 at 76 Little Abercrombie St in Sydney. Ellen FLEMING (nee TORPY) died on 25 July 1906 at 3 Bartley St, Chippendale in Sydney.  She is buried at Rookwood Cemetery but I have not yet been able to locate Patrick's grave.


Ellen FLEMING's grave, Rookwood Cemetery, Sydney

A huge thank you goes to Joe Kennedy and Jimmy Hoyne, for their generosity and local knowledge, and for whizzing me around the countryside in Jimmy's little red go-anywhere car. We fitted a lot into a four hour timeslot. Thanks also goes to Patricia at the Callan Library for putting me in touch with Joe Kennedy in the first place, and to the other people I met that afternoon, Jimmy Grace (a local Ballyfliugh man) and his family, and Pat Hennessy (a possible long-lost TORPY).
    To be able to walk into the home of our FLEMING ancestors in Ballyfliugh was one of the most exciting moments of my family history research since I started this journey in 1990.

    Sunday, 28 February 2021

    I have just come face-to-face with four of my great grandparents


    Some genie friends, Janelle and Hillary, told me yesterday about an amazing new process of animating old family photographs. It's called Deep Nostalgia, an online process offered by My Heritage. This process allows you to upload a photo of a person (e.g., one of your ancestors) and the process animates the person's photo. The end result is a short video of the person's face moving with a few little expressions - eyes blinking, head turning, smiling, etc.

    So, off I went to meet my maternal great-grandparents. I felt like I came face-to-face today with these people who had all died before I was born.

    My mother's mother's parents, Catherine CARRICK and James KINGSBURY

    Introducing Catherine CARRICK ...

    Or access here: https://myhr.tg/1aW0aPrc

    Introducing James KINGSBURY ...

    Or access here: https://myhr.tg/1HAsR0ST

    Introducing Margaret FLEMING ...

    Or access here: https://myhr.tg/17PgwDnN

    And, lastly, introducing John WALTERS ...

    Or access here: https://myhr.tg/1K50sTdE

    They may have passed away many years ago (in 1912, 1945, 1935 and 1939), but it feels like they came to life again, in a way, today.

    Thursday, 7 January 2021

    Finding family history facts in the DARNdest of places

    There are so many sources to find family history information ... old letters, certificates, conversations with relatives, the list goes on. Over the last few days I dug out a very old craft project that I started over 20 years ago - a candlewicking quilt that I began sewing in the 1990s. 

    In an old calico bag, along with a bunch of quilt squares that might one day become a whole quilt, I found my paternal grandmother's old embroidery hoop that had been given to me many years ago as a memory of her.  For those not familiar with the tools of embroidery,  fabric is stretched between two hoops to hold the fabric taut, making it easier for the embroiderer to hold and sew the fabric. The fabric is stretched between two hoops, the outer hoop being slightly larger than the inner hoop.

    My paternal grandmother, Ellen Mary/Maria KENELLEY, became Ellen (Nellie) NORTHCOTE when she married my paternal grandfather in 1930. She was born in in the nineteenth century, in 1893, she died in the twentieth century, in 1985, and is remembered today in the twenty-first century. She used to call embroidery "handiwork". Her embroidery hoops were used by her when she was a young woman, in the early 1900s.

    To record her ownership of these hoops, she recorded her name and address on them. On the outer rim of the large hoop and on the inner rim of the small hoop, my grandmother had written her full name and the address of her childhood home:

    Ellen Mary Margaret Kenelley, Killea, Renwick St, Drummoyne


    Killea was the name her parents gave to the house where she lived much of her early life: 26 Renwick St, Drummoyne. This house was named after the town of Killea (near Templemore) in County Tipperary, Ireland, where her father, William Joseph Kenelley, was born in 1860. He had travelled to Australia in 1888. He met his wife-to-be, Margaret Anne BUTLER, in Sydney and they married at St Augustus Catholic Church in Balmain in 1890. Margaret was from Doolough (near the town of Kilmihil) in County Clare and she had arrived in Australia in 1880. After they married, William and Margaret Kenelley made their home in Drummoyne and owned a number of houses in Renwick St, Drummoyne. One of these homes was 26 Renwick St, Drummoyne, also known as "Killea". 

    26 Renwick St, Drummoyne
    (Photo taken by Maria Northcote, 22 February 2020)

    Although I had previously found out this information a few years before about the name of her childhood home in Renwick St, Drummoyne, it was still nice to see it recorded in such a quirky location. Thanks, Grandma, for speaking to me through your handiwork tool, down through the ages.

    I think the sweetest thing of all about this discovery is the little shamrock she has drawn at the beginning of her name and at the end of her address. It shows how connected she felt to her parents' home country.

    Ellen KENELLEY, around 1910

    As my grandmother's embroidery hoops show, family history facts can be found in the darndest of places.

    ๐Ÿ€      ๐Ÿ€      ๐Ÿ€      ๐Ÿ€      ๐Ÿ€

    Friday, 24 April 2020

    Tribute to Squadron no. 22 (City of Sydney) and Carew Joseph Trevor NORTHCOTE

    To commemorate Anzac Day in 2020, I would like to make a tribute to my father, Carew Joseph Trevor NORTHCOTE, and the No. 22 (City of Sydney) Squadron of the Citizen Air Force in Australia, which was formed on 20 April 1936. My Dad belonged to Squadron no. 22 when he was in the Citizen Air Force in the 1950s.

    In 2019 I visited the memorial plaque of Squadron no. 22 at the Australian War Memorial in Canberra, with friends Dot and Cathy.

    No. 22 (City of Sydney) Squadron plaque

    The plaque was made in the same year that my Dad died, 2002, and it was dedicated on 16 March 2003 at a ceremony held at the Australian War Memorial.

    For more information about the no. 22 Squadron, go to:
    No. 22 (City of Sydney) Squadron - Plaque details and location
    No. 22 Squadron - History 
    No. 22 Squadron (RAAF), 77 Strike Wing, 1st Tactical Air Force - SW Pacific, Virtual War Memorial Australia 
    No. 22 Squadron, Australian War Memorial
    No. 22 Squadron (RAF),  Australian War Memorial
    No. 22 Squadron RAAF, Wikipedia 

    Dad often spoke of his time in the airforce. He especially enjoyed the friendship with his mates, the travel between airforce bases as well as working on the planes. Dad's specialty was working on the electrical instruments and meters that were used in to fly the planes. His time in the airforce left him with a lifelong love of planes, flying and airports.

    Dad at Daley Waters Airport, 1955

    Darwin airbase, 1955

    Dad at Pearce Airbase, Perth, with machine gun bullets for a Vampire plane

    Refuelling with portable pump at Woomera, en route to Darwin, 1955

    Earlier this year, I purchased a replica of a patch from Dad's Airforce squadron - Squadron 22.

    Rest in peace, Dad.

    Friday, 10 April 2020

    My Dad, one of Lorraine Dawson's Dancing Darlings

    A rainy afternoon in isolation came in handy for scanning in some old framed photos that emerged from Mum's garage a few months ago … this was one of them ...

    Dad was dressed as Little Lord Fauntleroy in the photo above. He looks about 6 or 7 in this photo, so it was probably taken about 1938 or 1939. 

    Dad's father was a tailor and often created amazing costumes for him to wear as a young child. apparently he loved dressing up in these costumes and attending fancy dress events. Dad was a member of Lorraine Dawson's Dancing Darlings.

    Source of public domain image: https://www.awm.gov.au/collection/C397589

    In a pile of old documents, we found an old program for one of the events he entered. He is listed as item no. 4, "Dream House", in the second part of the show.

    By 1949 when he was a teenager, Dad was still performing. This is a photo of Dad playing a devil (in the red costume on the left) in a concert, on 19 December 1949.