The Murray Family – Chapter One – The Emigrants – Fermanagh 1830s







      On 18 October 1838, the 557-ton Barque Susan[1], set sail from the  port of Londonderry in Northern Ireland, bound for the far-off colony of New South Wales with Captain Horton Payne and Surgeon Superintendant Charles Kennedy.  On board were 261 emigrants – men, women and children.  Among the emigrants embarking on this adventure were Charles Murray and his wife Susan (Shannon) from County Fermanagh.  Travelling with them were their six children  – the eldest son, James (16 years of age), then Phillip (14), Mary (12), Elinor (9), Charles Jr (6) and Margaret (3).

     The decision for Charles and Susan to pack up their sizeable family, leave behind their home and familiar life in Fermanagh would have been a major one; and then to embark on such a long and hazardous sea journey to the other side of the world.  There would be little likelihood of them returning to Ireland. The Great Famine was yet to come, but the late 1830s would see a time of increasing hardship in Ireland.  Even so, it must have been difficult to bid farewell to the ‘Fermanagh landscape with its fertile drumlins, heathery moors and meandering rivers and lakes.’[2]  Charles Murray’s family was one of many leaving at that time for distant shores and an uncertain future.   To appreciate what lay behind their departure, it is necessary look at conditions in Ireland at that time.

A time of emigration.

      The exodus came amid the destruction of the Irish wool and linen industries, following the 1801 Act of Union, which favoured British capitalism over the commercial interests of Ireland.  Crop failures and Ireland’s declining economy had all led to the beginning of vast emigration. Boarding the Susan in October 1838, Charles saved his family before the worst of the potato famine. Between 1841 and 1851 Fermanagh lost 40,434 or 25 per cent of its population due to the famine. By 1846, three-quarters of the potato crop failed and millions were dying of starvation.  The timing was right to leave in 1838.

     The Susan’s shipping list stated Charles Murray was, ‘brought out by Gov’t’, a native of Fermanagh; the son of James, a farmer in same place and Elinor McGoldritch, his wife.  His ‘calling’ was farm labourer, able to read and write, age on embarkation 38, religion Roman Catholic and ‘state of bodily health strength and probable usefulness’ – very good.

     Susan[3] (38 years) gave her native place as Kesh, Fermanagh; daughter of Phillip Shannon, a Blacksmith, and Mary Clarke, his wife. Susan could neither read nor write, and the only details given for the children were their ages on embarkation.  Age was an important criterion for selection by the emigration authorities. The ages Charles and Susan gave are suspect. Although “under 40’’ was a key criterion , age 38 was given in their emigration applications.The ages on their death certificates indicate that they were both born c.1792, which means they would have actually been about 46 years of age in 1838.

Naming traditions

      It can be seen that Charles and Susan followed the ancient Irish naming tradition in naming their children. The eldest son was named for his grandfather James Murray.  The names of the children were, in birthdate order, James 1822, Philip 1824, Mary 1826, Ellen 1830, Charles 1832 and Margaret 1836.

 First son called after the father’s father [James Murray]

Second son called after the mother’s father [Philip Shannon]

Third son called after the father [Charles Murray]

First daughter called after the mother’s mother [Mary Clarke]

Second daughter called after the father’s mother [Ellen McGoldrich]

Third daughter called after the mother. [Susan Murray] ?

For some reason Susan Murray decided to waive the traditional naming pattern by her sixth child .  She named her youngest child (and third daughter)  Margaret.  [Susan’s christian name appears as Susannah in some documents; Susanna being the Gaelic form of the English name Susan].  As it was her turn to choose a name, Margaret may have been the next traditional choice – the fourth daughter usually got the name of the mother’s oldest sister.

Kesh as Native Place

     Irish emigrants, generally, gave as their native place the closest post town rather than the name of the smaller hamlets or townlands adjacent to it. From a study of Griffiths Valuations for that part of County Fermanagh, it would appear that Charles and Susan were living as an extended family with Murrays and Shannons on an estate in the Fermanagh townland[4] of Aghinver.  Thus, Susan  (Shannon) Murray would be inclined to name ‘Kesh’ as her native place, rather than the tiny townland of Aghinver.

     Adjacent to the post town of Kesh and the townland of Aghinver there was another townland called Shalloney, where lived families of  Shannons.  Ballyshannon, just over the border in Donegal, also means the bally or townland of the Shannon clan – Susan Murray’s maiden name[5] ; reasonable evidence that the families of Susan (Shannon) and Charles Murray were native to this area of County Fermanagh.

Map of Co. Fermanagh, Northern Ireland.


Kesh and Magheraculmoney Parish

Kesh town is in the county of Fermanagh, the Barony of Lurg and the Civil Parish of Magtheraculmoney.  It is 4 miles from Pattigo, 4 from Irvinstown, 2 from Ederney and within ¼ mile from the lakeshore.  Until

1812, when a post office was opened in Irvinestown, Kesh was the only post town between the major towns of Enniskillen and Ballyshannon in the west of Fermanagh.[6]  In 1834, four years before the Murrays decided to emigrate, Kesh contained a population of about 120 souls.[7]


Aghinver – a townland of Kesh

In the   attached maps  of  the wider region as well as of Aghinver from the 1862 Griffiths Valuations, and the Griffiths census of the Townland, it can be seen that Aghinver was very small, but the signposts above indicate that it was very close to the post town[8] of Kesh (Susan Murray’s native place) in the parish of Magheraculmoney.[9]  Another townland close to Aghinver and Kesh was Ardess.

St Mary’s Church in Magheraculmoney Parish is located in the townland of Ardess; it was known as Templemahery on old maps, and the church has been known as being dedicated to St. Mary over a long period. There has been a church on this site since the 14th century, with historical references dating back to 1622. The pre-plantation graveyard served both Protestant and Catholic families in the district for almost three hundred years until 1903. The oldest of the 433 marked graves bears the date 1679.

Kesh and Aghinver Signpost.

There are several Murrays buried in this graveyard, as well as various spellings of Magee, Shannon and Magolrick.[10] Maybe Susan’s third daughter was named after ‘Margaret Shanan’ buried there. As for Magee, Charles Murray later [in 1855] sponsored his sister Dorinda (Murray) McGee’s children toNew South Wales. Of which, more later.

Some notes on Magheraculmoney Parish

     The size and boundaries of Magheraculmoney Parish changed extensively over the years.  Magheraculmoney Parish[11] was originally part of the diocese of Clogher, which dates back to the 12th Century.  Its territory stretched from the Counties Fermanagh and Monaghan, a sizeable part of County Tyrone and a tiny fraction of County Donegal from the Atlantic Ocean in the west to the to the Irish Sea in the east.

A Fermanagh statistical return of October 1834, [again, only four years before the Murrays emigrated in 1838] describes the boundaries of the Parish of Magheraculmoney as it was by then:

“It is situated in the barony of Lurg and north east extremity of the county of Fermanagh.  It is bounded on the north by the parishes of Drumkeeran and Longfield West, on the east by the parish of Dromore, on the south by the parish of Derryvullan and on the west by Lough Erne …”[12]

The changes in parish and county boundaries make it difficult when searching for Murray births, deaths and marriages in the 1700s in that part of Ireland;   so far, not much success with proven connections.

Murray family folklore, persisting through several Australian branches, has it that Charles Murray’s ancestors originally came from Scotland to Ireland.  It is probable, then, that they were among the thousands of  ’Plantation’ Scots, who settled in Ulster in Northern Ireland between 1610 and 1630.  [See Appendix C for more on the Scottish (including Murray) Planters in Ulster].

The Plantation of Ulster

Ulster Province

     The Province of Ulster contains Counties Fermanagh, Antrim, Armagh, Down, Londonderry (also known as Derry), Tyrone, Cavan, Donegal and Monaghan. The ‘Plantation of Ulster’ began in the 17th century when English and Scottish Protestants settled on land confiscated from the Gaelic Irish. Gaelic Ireland was a patchwork of independent kingdoms each ruled by a chieftain and bound by a common set of legal, social and religious traditions. King James I believed that colonising Ulster would quell rebellion and win over the ‘rude and barbarous Irish’ to ‘civility’ and Protestantism. Irish resentment at the loss of their lands was a constant factor in the Plantation of Ulster and a frequent worry in its early stages.

     There were occasional Catholic rebellions following thePlantation, which were put down by Oliver Cromwell, once he had won the Civil War inEngland.

     Irishmen of every class and origin took part in these wars, some fighting for religion, some for land, some for Charles I or James II, some for the old Gaelic traditional life-mode, some for an independent native parliament, some against this minor grievance, some against that.[13]

     The Insurrection of 1641 and the Jacobite Wars came to a close with theBattle of  the Boyne (1690) and the Siege of Limerick (1691). The bitter fruits of defeat were the Penal Laws.


The Penal laws

     The Treaty of Limerick in 1691, following the defeat of the Catholic James II of England at the Battleof the Boyne resulted in ‘the Penal Laws’ under which all Catholic Bishops had to leave.[14]  These laws were aimed at the destruction of the Irish Catholics as a human breed.  Only existing parish priests could stay and no new priests could be ordained.  Catholics were in dire poverty with no churches and masses said in the open air. Catholics could not vote until 1793 and were barred from University, teaching and educating their children abroad.

       Charles Murray’s eldest son, James, may have benefited from the ‘national schools’ system, which commenced with the establishment of a National Education Board in 1831.  In later years in New South Wales, talking about his early life, he reminisced that when he was a boy in Fermanagh he had ‘obtained what learning he could at the local [Fermanagh] schools’.[15]


Ulster in the 1830s

        As economic conditions worsened in the 1830s, it would become much harder to make a living. Land was split into smaller and smaller plots because of rent disputes with land agents who ruled the Irish (usually Catholic) tenants on behalf of Protestant landlords. By this time, the poorer Protestants were emigrating along with Catholics. During the eighteenth century in Ulster, the two-tiered society of Protestant landed gentry and oppressed Catholic peasant eventually began to merge and intermarriages were becoming more common. At any rate, when Charles and Susan Murray and their children left Fermanagh for  Australia, their religion was Roman Catholic.

       An 1834 report on the Parish of Magheraculmoney included comments on emigration from the parish at that time.

 “Emigration prevails to a very great extent among the poor, particularly those of the yeomanry or better class.  They emigrate during the spring and summer to Canada mostly, a few to the United States.  Rare instances occur of their returning.  Scarcely any of the poor go periodically to England or other parts of the kingdom for harvest or other work.  If any do, they leave behind them their families who in many cases close their cabins and beg for the season, returning only for the purpose of getting in their crop of potatoes, which the owner of almost every cabin looks forward to as the means of his winter support.”[16]

      A few years later, prospective emigrant families were also starting to contemplate the longer sea voyage to far-off New South Wales.  Promising reports of conditions there were starting to filter back to Ireland.  It was soon apparent that New South Wales was becoming more than a prison colony.    The Kerry Evening Post, in a July 1839 article encouraging young Irish men and women to emigrate, described New South Wales as ‘the finest country on the face of the earth.’

To go to Chapter Two, click here.

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Footnotes    (↵ returns to text)

  1.  The Susan had already made several voyages to Sydney (as a convict ship) in record time.
  2.  ‘From the banks of Erne to Botany Bay’ in Familia: Ulster Genealogical Review, Vol2 No3,1987, p.74.
  3.  Also called Susannah.
  4. A townland is the smallest administrative unit of land and varies in size from 10 acres to several thousand acres.  It is the basic address used by rural Irish people.  Each civil parish is made up of a number of townlands.
  5.  It is recorded on her death certificate that she and Charles were married at Kesh, County Fermanagh.
  6.  BAILLIE, Rev. F.A. Mugheraculmoney Parish.1984.
  7. Ordnance Survey Memoirs of Ireland, Parish of Magheraculmoney, County Fermanagh, Statistical return by Lieutenant Robert Boteler, October, 1834, p.105.
  8.  A post town contained a post office; a market town – a market, etc.
  9.  The Ulster Historical Foundation agrees  ‘that it seems a probability that this was their home’ in a letter dated 12.11.86 (Ref. UHF4/86/198).  Roman Catholic Church records in the area date from only 1837.
  10.  BAILLIE, Rev. F.A.  Mugheraculmoney Parish, 1984.
  11.  A Parish is an area of land and may include several hamlets, villages or towns.  Parishes kept christening, marriage and burial records.
  12.  Ordnance Survey memoirs of Ireland, Fermanagh.  p.103-109 .
  13.  O’FAOLAIN, Sean. The story of the Irish people, New York:Avenel Books, 1949 (p.105).
  14.  DEVLIN, Bernadette.  The price of my soul, p.54.
  15.  MAXWELL, C.F. Men of Mark, 1888. Vol 2.
  16.  Ordnance Survey memoirs of Ireland,, Fermanagh, p.103-109.