Margaret Ryan - Roscrea Through The Ages

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Margaret Ryan


Margaret Ryan was born on the 28 th May, 1833 in Roscrea. Her father was William Ryan, a farmer, and her mother Margaret Ryan, formerly Ryan.
Her baptismal document of the 31 st of July 1833, shows two children being baptised – ‘Patt (Patrick) + Margaret of William Ryan & Margaret Ryan’ (were
they twins?). There were also two sets of sponsors, their names squeezed around the parent’s names – Judy Dimlaw (Quinlaw?) and Martin Gready and
Edmond Farmar and Ellen Gafney. I have been unable to find William and Margaret’s marriage in the Roscrea records, or any other children born to this
The potato famine obviously affected the family, for Margaret ended up in the Roscrea workhouse. It is unknown what may have become of her parents and brother - was she an orphan or were all her family incarcerated due to starvation? Margaret must have been in the workhouse for a while as she was one of the few girls selected to go to Australia as part of the Earl Grey Scheme. (Girls were only selected from those who had been in the workhouse for at
least a year). She travelled on the Pemberton, the voyage of which has been admirably written about by Joe Coughlan on this website.
When the Pemberton arrived at Port Phillip on May 14 th 1849, (a voyage of 4 months), the orphans were kept on board for nearly 2 weeks presumably for
administrative reasons. Eventually they were allowed to disembark and were admitted to the depot on the Government Block on May 26, 1849, after
which they were available for hire. Margaret Ryan, aged 16, was hired by an agent of Edward Henty for a period of one year, for £15.
On obtaining employment, Margaret was shipped on the Brig “Raven” with 143 other orphan girls around to Portland on 16 th June 1849, arriving on the
20 th of June.
Margaret’s new employer, Edward Henty (1810 – 1878), was one of the Henty brothers who bought sheep out to Tasmania from England in 1830 and
over to Portland Bay in the early 1830’s, making them the earliest white settlers in the Port Phillip district (as the Victorian area was then known as).
Edward’s property, Muntham Station, is in the Western district of Victoria, near Hamilton and Edward lived there with his wife, Anna Marie Gallie (1820
– 1901). The journey from Portland to remote Muntham would have been on rough, barely made tracks through bushland. Margaret would have seen and
heard strange animals and birds unlike any she would have seen before.
Her duties probably included domestic duties. This would have meant much cleaning and scrubbing, washing and helping with food preparation – all
very labour intensive. She would have lived in the servant’s quarters and her working hours would have been long. There she met a suntanned young
man called David Munro Murray, a 22 year old Scotsman who had only been in Australia for a short time. As one of a small number of females in the area,
Margaret would have been of great interest to all the young men around. Fortunately, David, one of Muntham Stations two Sheep Managers, was lucky
enough to win Margaret’s hand. They married c. 1850 and at this point, Margaret renounced her Catholic upbringing and followed her husband’s
Presbyterian faith.
Muntham Homestead
From the Portland Guardian and Normanby General Advertiser (Vic. : 1842 - 1876), Monday 16 February 1857, page 2
FESTIVITIES IN THE BUSH. - On the evening of Thursday, the 13th instant, a grand ball was given at Muntham in honour of' Mr. David Murray, who has been
for a number of years overseer for Mr. Henty. Mr. Murray has just been appointed Superintendant for Mr. Geo. Robertson, Glenelg, and being very highly
esteemed by the work people at Muntham ; the latter gave him the ball as a tribute of respect. Upwards of forty couples sat down to a sumptuous dejeuner
prepared in Portland, and the German Brass Band which was engaged for the occasion played their choicest melodies”.
We can only imagine the pride the young wife and mother of 4 small children felt about the honour afforded her husband. (Margaret was only 24 years
old at this time).
A little time after this event, David and Margaret must have returned to Muntham, for another 3 children were born there.
The couple had at least 12 children, all of whom reached adulthood, seven of whom were born at Muntham, and 9 of whom married.
In the early 1880’s, when land was opened up for small farmers, the family moved to the Telangatuk area, 25 km from Balmoral and 47 km south west of
Horsham. David became a well-known and successful sheep farmer. Many of David and Margaret’s children took up land around them and they all
worked together and helped each other.
Setting up and clearing land for a farm was one thing, but a house also had to be built. Until it was, the family lived on their cart or in tents.
For Margaret, the work would have never stopped. Apart from rearing the children (who from an early age also had assist with work), she grew
vegetables and fruit trees, carried the water from the nearest source (often quite a distance from the house), split the wood for the fires as well as cook
and clean.
Food was prepared either over a hot open fire, or later on, a wood stove. The kitchens were usually placed in a separate building away from the main
house to prevent the home from being burnt down in case of an accident. In the summer heat, this job would have been horrendous. Clothes were all
washed by hand after again, heating the water over an open fire, then scrubbed on a small wash board out in the open and hung over bushes or a make-
shift line. Ironing required heating 2 very heavy irons over a hot stove and using them alternatively until each was too cool and needed to be placed back
on the stove.
Chickens were tended, maybe a cow or two needed to be milked, the cream churned to make butter, the gardens watered by bucket and weeded, the
clothes made, mended and repaired, extended and reused over again. There was little time for rest. Only on Sunday’s was time made for a period of quiet
and reflection, and once a month they would travel to Balmoral for church.
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There were also the environmental hazards of snakes, droughts, storms and bushfires to face. Also accidents would have been common, with slipping
axes, clothes catching fire in the kitchens and drownings.
At this challenging time of her life, Margaret would have been aged in her early 50’s so it is hoped her daughters and daughter’s-in- law helped with all
these tasks. They however also were having their own children, so their lives were very busy too – maybe Margaret helped with baby-sitting? They were
to travel to Balmoral quite often for all the various marriages and christenings of their ever growing families. I like to think that the pleasure of having
children and grand-children around her gave Margaret some joy in her very hard life.
David passed away suddenly in the February of 1896 (aged about 66 years) from a heart attack while reading the morning paper. Margaret was aged 63
at this time and was cared for by her family.
Margaret died on the 21 st of March 1905 at Telangatuk East aged 71 years, of acute inflammation of the intestines after suffering for 24 hours. She was
obviously much loved and respected, for when her family buried her in the peaceful Balmoral cemetery, they erected beautiful headstones to mark her
and David’s graves.
At her death, Margaret owned several tracts of land, totalling 679 acres on the banks of the Glenelg River near Telangatuk East, which she willed to her
youngest son. Margaret would sign her documents with an ‘X’. ‘The stumps of the house in which the 12 children were reared were still in place in recent
times. There were also signs of the garden.
Her death certificate particularly specifies that she was a farmer and not an old age pensioner!
Margaret’s obituary stated “She was much respected by everyone who knew her, and her kind ways endeared her to all”.

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