Bridget King was born in Headford in county Galway in 1834 to parents Margaret and Edward King. In 1841 Ireland had a population of over eight million people and land ownership was mainly held by landlords who owned vast amounts of land. Most people were living on smaller farms and depended on the potato as their main staple diet. Other food crops such as barley, corn and grain were exported to England. These small farmers grew potatoes and a few seasonal vegetables to feed their families. This led to disastrous effects when in the period between 1847- 1852 a series of potato blight struck. This
became known as An Gorta Mor, the Great Famine and led to the deaths of a million people but also a catalyst for mass emigration. Poverty was widespread and people were desperate. Many people ended up in Workhouses as a direct result of the famine.
Bridget’s father died before 1849 and what we have found out through research with various descendants she had brothers Patrick (born 1820), Michael (born 1822), Thomas (born1823), Denis (born 1826) and John King (born 1824), Margaret (born ?), and Katherine (born 1824). At the time Bridget was selected to go to Australia in 1849, her mother Margaret was also an inmate in Tuam workhouse.
Remembering the Headford Orphan Girls
We are not sure what happened to some of her other siblings yet, but we are researching to see if there are any records of them still living at that time. Tuam Workhouse was formally established in 1839 and erected in 1840 but it was not until 1846 it
received its first inmates. It was to accommodate a capacity of 800 inmates. It covered areas of Abbey, Annaghdown, Cummer, Claretuam, Clonbern, Donaghpatrick, Dunmore, Headford, Kilbannon, Killererin, Liskeevy, Monivea, and Tuam.
Life in the Workhouse
Many of those who were not able to emigrate were forced to enter the workhouses as a last resort. Workhouses were where impoverished people who had no income or home sought refuge. They earned their keep by doing jobs in the workhouse. The workhouses inmates consisted of orphaned children, abandoned children, the physically and mentally sick, the disabled, the elderly and unmarried mothers. People had to be destitute to enter. Life in the workhouse was harsh and cruel. Once families entered the workhouse they were separated; husbands from wives and children from parents. They were not
allowed further contact with one another and punished if caught speaking to each other. The food was poor, there were many rules and punishments were harsh. People were hungry, frustrated, badly treated, bored and mostly without hope. Because of the overcrowding and weakened state of the people disease spread rapidly leading to large numbers dying in the workhouses also. It is believed many preferred prison to the workhouse.
Trip to Australia under the Earl Grey Scheme
Under the Earl Grey Scheme over 4000 young orphan Irish girls were selected from various Workhouses to immigrate to Australia between the years of 1848 and 1850, to work in Australia as servants and also to help populate the colony. I am sure at that time the Board of Guardians was eager to assist the workhouse inmates to emigrate as this would reduce the numbers in the workhouses. Much of the workhouses were over crowded. The Earl Grey scheme lasted for two years 1848 – 1850.
So far we have identified twelve orphan girls from the Headford area in county Galway who were chosen to go to Australia via Tuam Workhouse through the Earl Grey scheme. They emigrated on three different ships. The Lady Kennaway Ship, the Inchinnan Ship and the Panama Ship. We can only imagine that Bridget was willing to avail of the Emigration Scheme, as it offered hope in a time of despair and hunger.
The Inchinnan Ship
The Inchinnan departed from Plymouth in 1848, November 4th and arriving in Sydney in February 13th 1849. There were 173 orphan girls on board, from Dublin, Donegal, Fermanagh, Galway, Offaly, Kildare, Leitrim Mayo, Roscommon and Sligo. The voyage was not without its drama. It would appear there were issues regarding the treatment of some of the girls on the ship. Newspapers recorded the ill treatment of some of the orphan girls on the journey to Australia. We have identified Bridget Mahon aged 16 years, Isabelle Moran aged 16 years, Mary Power aged 18 years, and Biddy Power aged 18 years were
from Headford, in county Galway on this ship.
The Lady Kennaway Ship
Judy Curran aged 19 years and Honoria Prendergast aged 19 years from Headford in county Galway traveled on the Lady Kennaway, which left Plymouth on September 11th 1848 arriving in Port Phillip (Melbourne) on December 6th 1848, Australia on 1848. There were 191 Irish orphan girls on board the Lady Kennaway, from counties Cork, Donegal, Leitrim, Louth, Laois, Sligo and Tipperary
The Panama Ship
The Panama ship left Plymouth on October 6th 1949 and arrived in Sydney, Australia on January 12th 1850, with 157 orphans from Dublin, Carlow, Clare, Cork, Galway, Kilkenny, Mayo, Sligo, Waterford and Wexford. Catherine Tierney aged 17 years, Mary Kyne aged 17 years, Ellen Kyne aged 15 years, Bridget King aged 16 years, Mary Hanrahan aged 17 years, and Mary Hannon aged 16 years were identified from the Headford area in Galway.
We understand through contact with descendants that Bridget could read and write, found herself on board the 458-ton barque, “Panama”, bound for N.S.W. Australia with 156 other “Irish Orphans”. The Panama ship left Plymouth on October 6th 1949 and arrived in Sydney, Australia on January 12th 1850, with orphans from Dublin, Carlow, Clare, Cork, Galway, Kilkenny, Mayo, Sligo, Waterford and Wexford. The chosen workhouse girls to go to Australia had to fit a criteria; they had to be aged between 14 and 20 years of age and healthy.
It is nice to think that she had company of other girls from her locality, as I am sure it probably was a long and lonely journey, leaving what was left of her family and friends behind. I would imagine after surviving the famine, death of family, the horrors of the workhouse, a long sea voyage, and arriving in a new country, they had hope and anticipation of a better life.
Life in Australia – As described by Bridget’s great gran daughter Colette.
“These girls were among 4012, all between ages of 14 and 20 years, who took part in the Earl Grey Scheme. Each girl was given a medical clearance and a sea chest of clothes and items necessary for life in Australia. They were cared for and highly regulated. The said Lord Earl envisaged that his scheme would help solve several problems such as a better life for the participants, domestic service which was lacking in Australia and the need for marriageable women. Unfortunately, they were not received well locally at first. However most of them settled down and became “the little Irish Mothers” raising families. On arrival in Port Jackson the girls were housed in Hyde Park Barracks from where employers were found for them. They had the right to return to the Barracks if any problems arose. I believe that Bridget was employed by someone in George Street but have not yet followed this up. I have also been told the feisty ones were sent to Morton Bay. Bridget is noted in a Passenger List of the steamer “Eagle’ that she was one of the girls delivered to Morton Bay in September 1851. The next thing I know about her is that she married William Fitzgerald in Ipswich Church of England on 25th February, 1853. He is described as a
hawker in their marriage certificate and that probably accounts for the fact that their eleven children were born in many different outback Queensland towns. However I feel that hawker then probably described an occupation more like what we call now a Stock Station Agent as he bought quite a lot of land and also had an Agent whose address Bridget used later in an advertisement in the newspaper; (Sydney NSW 1850-1875) dated Wed, 17th March, 1858 when she advertised for her brothers Denis & John to contact her if they read the message. This led me to look for information about them.
I discovered that when she agreed in Ireland to join the Lord Earl Scheme, she would have known that her two brothers had been convicted and sentenced to seven years transportation for stealing two sheep (it was in the middle of the famine). They arrived in Tasmania as convicts on board the “London” on 19th March 1851. Bridget probably had no idea that they had been sent to Hobart not Sydney and that Tasmania is so far away from North Queensland. It appears that she never did meet up with her brothers who were given their Ticket of Leave in 1852 and Pardon in 1853.”
According to the Irish Famine Memorial website, it states Bridget was employed by T Lucas, Philip St., Sydney, £6-8, 3 years.
I guess Bridget never knew going to Australia that Tasmania is an island state of Australia, located long
way from where she was going to live in Australia. One can only imagine when she decided to immigrate
to Australia; it must have been on her mind that she would meet her two brothers over there. It’s sad to
think despite her best efforts to try and connect with them, she never saw them again. The brothers
arrived into Tasmania as convicts, on board the London ship arriving on March 19th 1851. They were
convicted for sheep stealing in Co Mayo trial dated June 13th 1849.
They were transported with two other men Roger and John Keane. From the marriage records found for
Denis King it appears that Roger Keane was a witness.
Bridget marries and has family.
Bridget KING was married in New South Wales, Australia, in 1853 to William Fitzgerald, when she was 19
years old. Children born to Bridget and William were:
• William Fitzgerald born 1855, died 1875
• Thomas Fitzgerald born 1858 and died 1858
• Maria Fitzgerald born 1860. Died 1944
• Thomas Fitzgerald born 1862. Died 1899 born in Dalby, Queensland
• Margaret Fitzgerald born 1865
• Anne Fitzgerald born Feb 5th 1867 in Drayton Queensland. Died 1891
• Rebecca born Sept 14th 1869 Queensland
• William born august 30th 1876. Died 1967
• Bridget born Jan 14 1880 in Blackall, Queensland. Died 1924
Regarding Bridget’s children, eight survived infancy. One of the children Thomas who was born in Dalby on 5-6-1862. He grew up and married Mary Babington who was also an Irish girl in 1891. By that time the family had settled in Winton, formerly known as Pelican Waters, where they took up land as Settlers and ran a Dairy called Erin-go-Bragh. The one teacher school in Winton opened in 1885 and Bridget’s youngest, son William and daughter Bridget are listed as attending in1888.
Bridget died on July 16, 1893, in Winton, Queensland, Australia, at the age of 59, and was buried there.
Thanks to Collette for providing information on her great gran mother.
|Date of Birth||1st Jan 1834|
|Date of Death||16th Jul 1893|