John Conway was my great great grandfather, my mother’s mother’s mother’s father. The photo shows John’s grandson Edward Thomas Conway in about 1914.
Both John Conway and his father Edward and mother Lucy lived in the town and parish of Avoca (once known as Newbridge) in county Wicklow Ireland. John was born there in about 1822. Avoca in the 18th and 19th centuries was Ireland’s largest source of copper ore. There were three mines in Avoca and both Edward and John worked as miners there. There was a depression in the market for copper throughout the 1840s as Ireland suffered competition from newly opened mines in the USA and Australia. All through the mid and late 40s too the Great Hunger caused widespread suffering and illness throughout Ireland. Yet it seems likely that the two men remained in employment in this period.
On the first of August 1847 John married, a Mary Kenley or Kennedy (her name is given in surviving sources under five variants, but these two are the most commonly used ones). The couple had two children, Lucy, born 06 October 1849, and Edward Michael, born 21 September 1851. It was at this stage, perhaps, that John lost employment. His father Edward died at about this time also. The family must have faced real hardship. Leaving his mother, Lucy Hall, with relatives, John decided to find work on the other side of the world. He took his wife Mary, child Lucy and infant Edward to the port of Plymouth in England, and there embarked in April 1852 for Australia.
John and his family were assisted immigrants and had to satisfy the Immigration Board they were suitable. When the family arrived at Moreton Bay in Queensland 19 July 1852 they declared that they were Roman Catholics, could neither read nor write, and that John was a labourer.
For reasons unknown John and his family travelled south until they found themselves in Newcastle, heart of the Hunter region of NSW’s mid north coast. Although the area is Australia’s centre of coal mining, John is first heard of as a shopkeeper in Newcastle. At the birth of his second daughter Catherine in 1854 and of his third daughter Maria Agnes on 17 September 1855, John describes himself as a dealer in Newcastle.
Some time after this however John became a miner again. He was living in The Glebe in Newcastle and presumably worked in the Glebe colliery. John’s fourth daughter Sarah was born in 1857, and his second son, James, on 19 April 1860. A fifth daughter, Eliza, was born 10 March 1862 and a third son, John, in 1864. In 1872 John was still working as a miner, listed as such in Greville’s Post Office directory for that year, as he was on his daughter Lucy’s marriage certificate. John died 19 March 1893, aged 71, at Wilton Street Merewether, south Newcastle. He was buried, as are many of his family, in Sandgate Cemetery in Newcastle. His wife Mary died 15 August 1909 and is buried beside him.
John was survived by all but one of his family, who married into the Peel, Watt, Douzans, Burke and Clayton families. Many of the children of these marriages lived, married and died in John’s new home of Newcastle.
©2009 Original material copyright Phillip Kay. Images and other material courtesy Creative Commons. Please inform post author of any violation.