Share This:

This is a narrative (in book form) about three Gray families and their new lives in their chosen home of Van Diemen’s Land in the late 1820s. However, their family journey originated centuries before in Ireland during the tumultuous English Civil War when their ancestor Lt Colonel John Grey stepped ashore at Ringsend, Dublin as part of Cromwell’s Army on the 15th August 1649. Ballycurragh to Tasmania 1649 – 1868 The Grey Family and Innes Clan explores these events and consequences for one family and its descendants.

Roscomroe ecclesiastical site

Image above:  ecclesiastical site at Roscomroe in County Offaly

 Manalargenna by ules Dumont d'Urville circa 1840

The first to arrive in VDL were Major William and Ellenor Gray (Kingsley) and his brother Lt James and Mary Gray (Legge) followed shortly afterward by their cousin Humphrey Grey, his wife Anne (Mahony) and their children. They were shipwrecked at St Jago and escaped with only the cloths they were wearing although Humphrey did manage to go ashore with his money belt and 1000 gold sovereigns still safe and sound. The story embraces just about all of our human emotions, through the quest for a better life, not only for themselves but for their children and future generations. In essence, like most emigrants, this was their primary motivation although compelling events such as war, economic and social challenges beyond the individual were also at play.

Image: Manalargenna by ules Dumont d'Urville circa 1840

The family stepped straight into the Black War with the aborigines whose land and lives were lost to the British. Jim Everett is a direct descendent from Manalargenna, a clan leader from the leetermairremener people whose part land was taken and given to the Grays. Jim’s poignant poem and family history are also in the book.

There are two volumes: the first written by Kate Dougharty in the early 1950s and the second more recently by her great nephew Dr Ian Broinowski. The former sees the world through the eyes of the four Grey girls who arrived in 1829. Their preparation for such an adventure to a remote colony 12000 miles from Ireland was to be sent to finishing school in Paris to learn music, dancing and French. Necessary attributes for catching a suitable husband. We are given a unique insight into their ethos, loves and losses while living on their property, Eastbourne, near Avoca. It is both entrancing and revealing. On their way out Margaret is proposed to by the Governor of Rio de Jenerio but realises in time that her future residence would provide all the comforts of a harem. The fifteen year old Catherine is forced to cut off the finger of her groom and falls in love with William Talbot who gives her a Claddagh ring passed down from Queen Elizabeth I.  Elizabeth meets young Frederick Maitland Innes who eventually becomes Premier of the Tasmania and whose family line is also followed.

The second part provides background to the social and economic theatre on which their lives are staged. It explores the causes and effects of the Cromwellian invasion of Ireland and their lives at Roscomroe during the 200 years before moving to Tasmania. Paddy Murray and Paddy Heaney local historians from the area provide us with an insight into the history of Roscomroe never before published.

Image: Catherine's Ring

Each family’s reason for making such a crucial decision is examined and how their disposition and personal circumstances leads them on to a world beyond their imagination.  

The Greys were no different from thousands of other families who chose to travel to Australia and by exploring their lives, experiences and destinies we can learn just a little more about life in early colonial Tasmania.

Editor and writer: Dr Ian Broinowski

Roscomroe  contributors Paddy Murray and Paddy Hearney.

Illustrator: Richard Chuck

Contributions by Jim Everett-puralia meenamatta

Hard copy available from

For a free ebook please write to me

We hope you have found the information we have shared helpful. While you are here, we have a small favour to ask. Ireland Reaching Out is a non-profit organisation that relies on public funding and donations to ensure a completely free family history advisory service to anyone of Irish heritage who needs help connecting with their Irish place of origin. If you would like to support our mission, please click on the donate button and make a contribution. Any amount, big or small, is appreciated and makes a difference. 

Donate Now