Our Origins - the Family Histories of Craig Fullerton and Celine Amoyal
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Timothy Kelleher
(ca. 1770-)
Susanna Wilkinson
(ca. 1770-)

Michael Keleher **
(ca. 1791/1797-1855)


Family Links

1. Mary Sullivan

2. Unknown Unknown
3. Eliza Mohilly **

Michael Keleher **

  • Born: ca. 1791-1797, Mallow, Cork, Munster, Ireland
  • Marriage (1): Mary Sullivan in Ireland
  • Marriage (2): Unknown Unknown
  • Marriage (3): Eliza Mohilly ** about 1820 in Mallow, Cork, Munster, Ireland
  • Buried: 22 Sep 1855, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

bullet  General Notes:

At the time of Thomas' baptism in 1827 their residence is recorded as on Beecher Street, Mallow. That street is still there.

A review of the Catholic Parish registers for Mallow reveal a number of Keleher men with residence recorded as Beecher Street were married or had children around that time. In a couple of cases Michael Keleher was a Sponsor or Witness. At this stage I have assumed they were his brothers.

Note: Most of the material that follows has been sourced from a wonderful book "Quarantined! The 1837 Lady McNaghten Immigrants" by Perry McIntyre & Elizabeth Rushen, Anchor Books, 2007. References to page numbers that follow refer to this book. See Elizabeth Rushen's webpage to order a copy: http://www.rushen.com.au

Michael, Elizabeth and their children emigrated to Australia on the notorious journey of the Lady McNaghten arriving on 26 February 1837. The Lady McNaghten sailed from Cork Harbour in November 1836 with over 400 emigrants from Ireland and a few from England & Scotland. She arrived in Sydney Harbour in February 1837 with disease raging on board and passengers and crew dying from typhoid. 73 passengers and crew died, including Michael and Elizabeth's youngest child, Elizabeth, who died on the 8th February 1837 - just a few weeks before the ship arrived in Australia. The circumstances of the condition of the passengers and crew necessitated the ship being quarantined at Spring Cove at North Head - one of the first uses of Spring Cove as a Quarantine Station.

Most of the immigrants were skilled tradesmen and their families who made a conscious decision to seek a better life in Australia. They were not escaping famine like many Irish immigrants who came after them. At the time there was a shortage of skilled tradesmen in the fledgling colony and this 'cargo' of people was specifically recruited to address that issue. Michael was recorded as a Plasterer, Slater and Shingler. ertainly he practised his trade after arriving in Australia as he is recorded as a Plasterer on most documents associated with him and his family during his life.

The voyage must have been a horrible four month nightmare for everyone. "These distractions could not entirely alleviate the boredom of the voyage. Squabbles and altercations were inevitable amongst so many people. Peter MacSwiney had a falling out with the surgeon and on 15 December Michael Keleher struck the chief officer, Mr Dowers, after an argument over instructions to move beds and bedding from the deck to the berths below. He was charged with a 'gross act of insubordination and violence approaching mutiny' which resulted in an onboard enquiry where six emigrants and three crew members were interviewed. Hawkins afterwards went to see this 'ill disposed and quarrelsome individual' and found him ill in his bunk. A week later Michael Keleher publicly apologised to the chief officer and, according to the surgeon: 'faithfully promised to conduct himself strictly according to the rules of the vessel & propriety during the remainder of the voyage. Mr Dowers very kindly immediately accepted the same in full discharge and release of the said offence in the presence of all...poor Keleher seemed fully conscious of the heinous nature of the crime & I believe thoroughly repented having been urged by an impulse of Passion to commit it.' By 30 September the surgeon reflected his changed view of Michael Keleher who he now described as 'one of our most industrious men'. On 4 January he reported 'Poor Keleher who I noticed before as one of the best behaved most useful men on board is now on the brink of eternity'." pp 32-33 Just 4 weeks later his youngest daughter Elizabeth, aged just 18 months, died. The specific cause of death is not reported.

Upon reaching Sydney "some passengers were considered too ill to be on land, and were returned to the ship - namely James Lynch, William Kellagher (sic) [Michael's son] aged 15 and Margaret Kane aged 11. He [Dr Inches the Medical Superintendent for the quarantine] noted that: 'many were in a state of extreme debility and emaciation, though convalescent from the fever...others from long protracted bowel complaints, especially the children and infants, who almost universally were sickly, haggard, and emaciated, ill clothed, and very dirty. Several of these were evidently in a hopeless state of exhaustion, from which no after treatment could restore them. The adults in general looked healthy and strong.' p. 36

The Quarantined! book contains a specific chapter on Michael and his family (as for all the Immigrants) on pp 119-120 as follows:

"Michael Keleher (Kelleher) aged 40 and Elizabeth (nee Muhilly) 33 left Mallow, County Cork with seven children: David 14, William 13, John 9, Thomas 7, Julia 5, Honora 3 and Elizabeth 1 1/2. Michael and his two eldest children could read and write and John could read only. Elizabeth was not literate and neither were her youngest four children. The family was Roman Catholic and Michael was a plasterer, slater and shingler. Michael Kelleher (sic) was in Berth 23 with his sons David , William, John and Thomas while Elizabeth shared Berth 45 in the women's quarters with her daughters Julia and Honora. The baby Elizabeth, was allotted Berth 104 with Patrick Murphy and Jane Boyle both aged one year.

Elizabeth died on 8 February 1837 only a few weeks before the Lady McNaghten reached Sydney and David was 'convalescent' on arrival in quarantine. The Murphy baby who shared a berth with Elizabeth Keleher also died and one year old Jane Boyle, in the same berth, was convalescent on arrival in Sydney. The Keleher family stated that they had relatives, Catherine and Mary Keleher already in the colony. These two girls were Michael Keleher's daughters by his first marriage and were employed by Hon Chief Justice Dowling. Catherine Keleher, a laundress stated to be aged 21, and her sister Mary, a nursemaid 17, had emigrated as single women on the Duchess of Northumberland arriving in Sydney in February 1836. It would appear that these girls were not literate as many variations of their names appear in the documentation: Kelliher, Kellaher, Kellahar, Keller, Kaliher, Kelcher, Keleher.

In July 1839 Catherine married Hugh Morgan at St Marys Roman Catholic Church in Sydney. The witnesses were Catherine's father Michael and her fellow Duchess of Northumberland emigrant Ann Mullane. When Ann Mullane married James Watson at St Mary's in 1839, one of the witnesses was Michael Keller (sic) who was quite possibly Catherine's father. ... it appears the Morgan couple had at least six children and Catherine (nee Keleher) died in Sydney in 1869.

Mary's marriage to William Kelly by license at St James Church of England in 1837 resulted in him being found guilty of perjury and bigamy in the Supreme Court of NSW in November 1837. At the time of his marriage, Kelly, a labourer, claimed to be a bachelor, but it became evident during the trial that his wife, Julia Singleton, had remained in Ireland. The case was taken to court by Mary's parents and by Rev Robert Cartwright as she was still under 21 and considered to be a minor. Kelly had signed an oath that he was a bachelor.

In his evidence, Michael Kellaher stated that he had known William Kelly for 25 years, that he was transported about eight years prior to the 1837 trial, was married in the town of Mallow near Cork and had four children. A few days before he left Cork in November 1836, Kelly's wife applied to him to obtain a passage for her to the colony and he stated that he would have done so if it had not been contrary to the regulations of the emigration committee at the time.

Michael and Elizabeth Keleher had six children as follows. Due to the many variations of their surname they have not been followed further in the colony:
1. David born c. 1823 Mallow, Cork.
2. William born c. 1824 Mallow, Cork.
3. John born c. 1824 Mallow, Cork.
4. Thomas born c. 1827 Mallow, Cork.
5. Julia born c. 1832 Mallow, Cork.
6. Honora born c. 1834 Mallow, Cork.
7. Elizabeth born c. 1835 Mallow, Cork; died 8 Feb 1837 on Lady McNaghten

Michael Kelleher died in 1884 in George Street Asylum aged 80 of senile decay. His death was certified by the sub-matron, Ellen Dennis, and he was buried at Rookwood." [NB see below, this is not the correct death record for Michael who was deceased before 1873].

The following excerpt is from Michael Cannon's book Who's Master? Who's Man? Australia in the Victorian Age (Thomas Nelson (Australia) Ltd., 1971. pages 128-129). The book mentions the Lady McNaghten which had brought convicts to the colony in 1835 and, in the following year, was converted for carrying free migrants:

Another John Marshall ship, the Lady McNaghten, sailed from Cork in a deplorable state. This 500-ton vessel, originally designed to carry 300 convicts, was converted in 1836 to take more than 400 emigrants on each voyage from Ireland. Fifty bunks were built in one small area, into which were packed 120 men and young boys. Sodomy, voluntary and forced, was rampant. Conditions on board were filthy, many emigrants being permitted to embark without a single change of clothing. The female compartment consisted of 106 small berths and six 'hospital berths'. These had to accommodate 185 women, described by the Sydney Herald as 'gutter sweepings' and 'prostitutes', and an unknown number of children. Women and children were ordered to their bunks at 5 p.m. each day, being driven below by seamen wielding rattan canes. They were not allowed to emerge until eight o'clock next morning, when many were dragged from the pestilential atmosphere in a fainting condition. No washing was permitted, and 300 tons of cargo consigned to the wealthy Sydney merchant Richard Jones, which had been crammed into every passageway and spare corner of the tiny ship, made it impossible for the decks to be swabbed down. Disease spread rapidly. Soon fifty-six children were dead of measles and whooping-cough, fifty migrants and seamen were dead of typhus, and supplies of food, water and medicine were practically exhausted. Governor Bourke, sailing southwards on his visit to the new settlement at Port Phillip, sighted the Lady McNaghten flying distress signals off Cape Howe and sent his surgeon and medicine chest aboard. When the ship arrived in Sydney after its four-months' voyage, a further eighty people lay dying in their bunks and Captain Hustwick and Surgeon Hawkins were too dangerously ill to be moved.

Another account of their actual journey is this one:

Governor Bourke sent naval surgeons to England to assist in the selection of immigrants in particular to meet the shortage of skilled labour such as carpenters, bricklayers, masons and agricultural labourers. Obviously young skilled workers, possibly with young families, would be ideal. Some additional females for domestic service would also be needed. Through unexpected misadventure the surgeon arrived at Cork, Ireland, after the local Selection Committee had chosen 68 familes and 30 females as the immigrants to travel on the Lady MacNaghton (aka Lady McNaghten).

The emigrants were not skilled, nor in good health seemingly suffering from malnutrition, nor did they have adequate clothing for the trip. The ship's doctor, J A Hawkins, later made the comment that he may have supposed from the emanciated appearance of many that they were taking the voyage to recover their lost health.

The four month voyage without landfall was via the Cape of Good Hope. Sickness was rife - especially typhus fever and scarlet fever. On arrival in Sydney, on 26th February 1837, at least 90 on board were infected witth typhus so the Lady MacNaghton was directed to Spring Cove. Ten adults & 44 children had died en route. More deaths occurred, a cemetery was established, & the colonial giovernment had to meet the huge cost of tents, tarpaulins, bedding, clothing, food etc. This was the catalyst for the formation of a lazaret - a permanent quarantine station at Spring Cove, North Head.
Source: 'In Quarantine: A History of Sydney's Quarantine Station 1828 - 1984' by Jean Duncan Foley, published by Kangaroo Press.

Newspaper reporting of the Bigamy trial involving Michael's daughter, Mary, in 1837 provides a wealth of information about his family. At the trial he stated he was 46 years of age which would put his birth year at 1791. This is slightly older than his age on his Immigration and shipping records. He also revealed the dates of his children's birth by his first wife, named as Mary Sullivan. His son by Mary is not named but is believed to be Michael Keller who emigrated to Australia in 1844, aged 29. Michael was a Plasterer from Mallow who's parents names were recorded as Michael and Elizabeth. He married Margaret Hart and had three children.

Michael and his wife Elizabeth appear to have been witnesses at his son David's wedding in 1841 in Australia and Michael with daughter Julia was a witness at Thomas' wedding in 1849.

Whilst I can find records of David and Thomas' death I have so far been unsuccessful in finding records for any of the other children in NSW. Given their ages and the time it's possible they ended up interstate, or even in the USA, chasing gold during the gold rushes.

On the 15 October 1873 a Death Notice appeared in The Sydney Morning Herald for Michael's son, Thomas. In that Notice Thomas is referred to as "the youngest son of the late Michael Keller". So Michael was deceased by 1873. There is only one record for the death of a Michael Keller (and variants) before this time which is a burial record for Michael Keller who died in 1855. This record records his age as 86 but this is believed to be a transcription error - an age of 66 would be about right for our Michael.

The names KELLEHER and KELIHER are commonly found in Mallow historical records. Interestingly the name MALOH is also represented in Mallow so this may have been Elizabeth's family name (but she is clearly recorded as MOHILLY on Thomas' baptism record). There were also some SULLIVANs here. Michael's first wife was Mary SULLIVAN and in one document son David's middle name is recorded as SULLIVAN.


bullet  Noted events in his life were:

He resided at the time of Thomas' baptism on 6 Jan 1827 in Beecher St, Mallow, Cork, Munster, Ireland.

He emigrated to Australia on the Lady McNaghten on 26 Feb 1837.

He resided at at the time of daughter Honora's death on 14 Jun 1839 in Pitt St, Sydney, , New South Wales, Australia.

He resided at according to the electoral roll from 1842 to 1843 in Pitt St, Sydney, , New South Wales, Australia.

He resided at the time of his burial on 22 Sep 1855 in Williams St, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia.

He worked as a Plasterer according to Son, David's Death Certificate.

He worked as a Plasterer according his son Thomas' Death Certificate.


Michael married Mary Sullivan about 1820 in Mallow, Cork, Munster, Ireland. (Mary Sullivan died in Mallow, Cork, Munster, Ireland.)

bullet  Marriage Notes:

The priest was Father Jones.


Michael next married Unknown Unknown about 1820 in Mallow, Cork, Munster, Ireland.

bullet  Marriage Notes:

The priest was Father Jones.


Michael next married Eliza Mohilly **, daughter of John Mohilly and Susanna O'Brien, about 1820 in Mallow, Cork, Munster, Ireland. (Eliza Mohilly ** was born circa 1805 in Mallow, Cork, Munster, Ireland and died after 1841.)

bullet  Marriage Notes:

The priest was Father Jones.

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