What began as an exploration of the life of my great great grandfather James Gammell at Parramatta from the 1840s onwards has expanded to be an investigation of other, related families in the area. One of these families is that of my great great grand aunt Bridget, James’ elder sister. Here are a few brief glimpses of some lives led over 150 years ago.
Bridget was born 5 February 1814 in Bruff county Limerick, Ireland to John Gammell, a weaver, and his wife Catherine Bennett. I know nothing about her life in Ireland, nor when or how she travelled to Australia, as I’ve found no trace in any record under her name. The NSW Archives guide mentions that migrants often travelled under an assumed name: if their application was refused many apparently got back into line and tried again under another name. I suppose that is what Bridget did.
On 2 May 1842 Bridget was married in St Johns Church of England Cathedral in Hunter Street Parramatta to Richard Edwards. Bridget was a Catholic, but perhaps not a strict one. She was 28, Richard almost 20 years older, a convict from England sent out on the Fortune in 1813, and by 1823 resident in Parramatta, where he worked as a tailor from his premises in Ross Street. He later bought additional property in the town, in nearby Sorrell Street. Bridget’s brother James and his wife Margaret Downey had arrived in Australia February 1841, and also bought property in Ross Street, in 1845, from where James and his younger brother John operated a smithy.
Bridget and Richard were to have four children, and it is about these four I want to write something here. Richard died 27 April 1871, Bridget 12 February 1882, and are buried together at St Patricks old cemetery in north Parramatta. As the date for Richard’s death is said to be 1881, I suspect the headstone was erected only at Bridget’s death.
The eldest child of Richard and Bridget was Margaret, born 11 October 1843 at Ross Street, baptised at St Patricks, and a witness was James Gammell, her uncle. Margaret married 7 July 1864 at Parramatta, to William Cock (also known as Cocks or Cox in those days of loosely accurate spelling) another tailor, with a business in Church Street. When James, Margaret’s uncle, died in 1875, William was one of the executors of his estate. William came from a large family, a son of John Cock, an Irishman resident in Parramatta from 1841 and his wife Ellen. John was yet another tailor, and had a business in Phillip Street.
There was more than one John Cock at Parramatta at that time. There was John Cock an Irish soldier, and John Cock a British convict. If this John Cock is the man transported to Australia 1830 for a term of 14 years he was quite a swindler. He was charged with organising two boys who worked for a former employer of his, a general storekeeper, to steal stock from the shop, which he and others sold on the black market. He was also charged with spreading the story to neighbours that the storekeeper had deliberately set fire to his premise, thus halting the insurance claim while the matter was investigated. John Cock settled down, was joined by his wife and family, and when he died, 17 March 1864, left an estate of £1,100. One of his sons, Henry, was an innkeeper at Parramatta; another, John, was yet another tailor; a daughter, Sarah, married George Ellison 24 November 1849 at St Patricks and died 5 July 1916. George, her husband, died 30 June 1900. He worked as a carter in the area, and was very well known. He died suddenly, dropped dead in Thomas Street not long after having a lively conversation with a friend. He was 72.
Margaret and William had a stormy relationship. When they divorced 30 June 1893, after almost 30 years of marriage, this is how Margaret summed up the experience: “soon after marriage the respondent beat petitioner. He threatened to cut her in half, and held a razor over her. He also struck her with a lamp, and otherwise ill-treated her. They separated, and made it up again, but respondent’s ill-treatment was worse than before. In 1888 they went to England together. When they returned respondent was again cruel. She was turned out of doors, and got an attack of asthma in consequence. Four years ago respondent left his wife, and had not supported her since” (so reported the Sydney Morning Herald of 8 March 1893). As William did not contest the suit the divorce went through.
Later that same year Margaret married a second time, to Peter Lowe. She lived in Sydney, but I know nothing about her life there, nor Peter. Margaret died 5 June 1913, and is buried at Rookwood RC cemetery. William was in Melbourne when he died 21 November 1894. He left his estate, several shops in Parramatta and in Redfern, to the Parramatta District Hospital.
Richard and Bridget’s second child was Richard Stanley, born 3 February 1846. Richard Stanley worked at Parramatta Hospital as an attendant. He married Deborah Lawler on 5 December 1871 at St Patricks. Deborah, or Debra, was one of 12 children of John Lawler and Esther Hoey. John had arrived in Australia 1839 from Kildare Ireland, and after marrying Esther 1840 at St Patricks in Sydney had travelled from place to place, including Parramatta, before settling in Wollongong, where, on 4 June 1890, he and Esther celebrated the golden anniversary of their wedding and where, two months later, he died.
Deborah was born 16 October 1844 in Redfern. She and Richard Stanley had seven children together, who all lived and died in the Parramatta region. Richard Stanley died 24 May 1914, and was buried in his parents plot at St Patricks cemetery north Parramatta, while Deborah was buried next to her sister in law Margaret at Rookwood RC cemetery when she died 9 October 1927.
The third child of Richard and Bridget was William, born 1848 in Ross Street. William was a bootmaker, with his business in Ross Street. Another of my great great grandfathers, Robert Knowles Waters from Limerick and a close friend (“cousin”) of James Gammell, was a bootmaker working in Parramatta from 1867, in Isabella Street, and the two men would have known each other. Robert’s daughter Susannah married James’ son James, and he had close links with the Gammell family.
When Carson McBrien, who was a labourer residing at Church Street, died on 5 July 1869, the informant mentioned on his death certificate was William Edwards. Carson, born in Fermanagh 1 July 1810, had a large family in Parramatta, before dying, of dropsy, on 5 July 1869. William describes himself as Carson’s “nephew”, which probably means nephew by marriage. William married Jane McBrien in 1870, but must have been living with her before the marriage, hence the relationship he mentioned. Jane was probably from Fermanagh, but I have not been able to find her immigration papers, so her marriage to William is the first trace I have of her. The relationship of “nephew” mentioned on Carson’s death certificate I suppose means that Jane’s father was a brother of Carson and she a niece, William a nephew by marriage.
William and Jane seem to have had two surviving children at least, Blanche Ethel and Muriel. Both girls were talented musicians, and the local paper mentions musical prizes they won and concerts they held at Parramatta, one at least with music supplied by “Mr Edwards”, presumably William, the girls’ father. This is an indication that William himself may have had musical talent.
In 1882 William was a witness and informant at the death of his mother Bridget. A curious fact about the information supplied is that nothing was known of Bridget’s immigration, nor of her marriage and children. Bridget died suddenly, and an inquest was held on her death; perhaps the information supplied to the coroner did not include the information normally supplied to the undertaker who usually registered the death.
William died in 1927 at Granville. I am not sure of his wife’s death, but a Jane Edwards died at Granville in 1899 who may have been William’s wife. If so her parent’s names were given as Stephen and Martha.
The fourth child of Richard and Bridget was Anna Maria Gertrude, born 9 August 1851. The Anna Maria was her registered name; but she called herself Annie Gertrude. Annie married Aborn Poulter on 11 July 1871 in Sydney. The witnesses were William and Jane Edwards, Annie’s brother and sister in law. Aborn (the name was an old family name) was a draper in Parramatta. His father James was a butcher from Middlesex who had migrated to Australia with Charlotte his wife and five children. Sometime in the 70s Aborn took up the profession of bootmaker in Parramatta. On 20 October 1884, aged 35, he died, the cause given was general paralysis of the insane. Annie had been married 13 years.
Two years later, 16 June 1886, in Bathurst, Annie married again, to Joseph Edmund Waters. Joseph was the second son of Robert Knowles Waters, the friend of James Gammell working as a bootmaker in Isabella Street. Joseph was briefly in Parramatta in 1886, where he met the recently bereaved Annie. But more bad luck was in store for Annie.
On 30 June 1886 Joseph became the licensee of the Club House Hotel in Glebe. That appeared to mark the beginning of the end to the marriage. When Annie sued for divorce on 17 November 1892 she alleged: “after they had been married for three months her husband gave way to drink, and he was continually drunk. When drunk he used to strike and beat her. She got a protection order against her husband in February, 1889, and six weeks afterwards he sold the hotel, transferred the license, and left her in the afternoon. He had not supported her since”. Joseph actually passed on the license earlier, 30 May 1888, but the other facts of the case appear to be true. He simply vanishes after May 1888, and I haven’t found a trace of him.
Annie survived. She left an estate when she died 3 October 1904 in Sydney, so must have had some compensation from Joseph. An Annie Waters was licensee of the City Arms Hotel in Woolloomooloo 1889 to 1892; perhaps this was Annie Gertrude. Annie was buried at St Patricks cemetery north Parramatta with her parents. On the headstone she is listed under the name of her first marriage, Poulter: Joseph has been wiped from the record.
Four children, two sisters unlucky in love and marriage, two brothers with more stable marriages leaving families behind. Such was the chance outcome of the union of an Irish girl fleeing the famine in her own country and an English n’eer do well who made a new start in his new country. They mostly stayed close to Parramatta and saw it change from Sydney’s market garden of 1840 to a thriving small town at the turn of the century.
I don’t know what any of these people looked like, how they expressed themselves, or what they thought of the events of their lifetimes. Like many who investigate their family history, I wonder how accurate the picture I have of these people is. I wouldn’t myself want to be remembered by my tax returns and census forms. There’s plenty to wonder about these lives.
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