Bridget Mary Walsh was 21 when she arrived in New South Wales in 1844 on the ship ST Vincent and in 1845 she married Edward Neville at Binalong. Edward had arrived as an 18 year old free immigrant in New South Wales with two of his brothers (Patrick and James) on the “Blenheim” on 14 November 1834.[1] All three described themselves as  farmers and as being able to read and write. Edward died in Cowra on 28 January 1852 at the age of 36.


They had four children: Daniel Bernard (b. 1845), Mary (b. 1847), Patrick (b. 1851) and Sarah (b. 1852).


In 1851 Bridget, as Mrs Edward Neville managed the Old Royal Hotel (commonly known as The Green House), one of the first inns at Cowra. Two of her sisters were married in the building. Margaret married Thomas O’Shaughnessy on  24 January 1856; and Ellen married James Markham on 24 May 1858. Both sisters had been living there with Bridget, following her husband’s death in 1852.


 In October 1855, Thomas O’Shaughnessy recorded that Mrs Neville was opening a new public house in Cowra while on 27 April, 1858 she applied for a publican’s licence for the Lachlan Hotel, Cowra. From 1 July 1866 to 30 June 1867 she was licensee of the New Royal Hotel, Cowra, constructed by her brother,Thomas Walsh[2].


J C Ryall who was the first editor owner of the ‘Cowra Free Press’ wrote in later years of Bridget and her husband at his first arrival in Cowra:

  “A Very Genial Welcome:On the occasion of our initial visit to Cowra we left Grenfell by coach under the Jehuship of Joe Poole at an early hour in the morning and after being furnished with a change of horses en route at Kelly’s Creek, I was landed at the Royal Hotel, Cowra, about 2 p.m. Host Challacombe extended to me a very genial welcome and the genial boniface did his utmost to make me feel at home. I found him to be a typical warm hearted Devonman, who was brimming over with geniality and kindness. After saying this much it may be readily understood that Host Challacombe was one of the most popular of townsmen, and in his good wife, a member of the Walsh family, I found on acquaintance, possessed in a marked degree, all the most eminent virtues of the Celtic race. With such a grand couple as host and hostess the comfort of home life was assured. I was struck with the picturesqueness of the little town and its environments.”


Ryall wrote again later in the following terms: 

“The Royal in Kendal St under the control of Mr and Mrs Challacombe, a genial and large hearted couple whose popularity was firmly established. It was the practice of the landlord in this instance to dispense free liquor to all and sundry when the door opened at 6 a.m. daily, Sundays excepted. On these occasions a motley crowd of thirsty souls might be seen well in advance of the hour, eager to avail themselves of the generosity of the host. Mr Challacombe, who hailed from Devonshire was a man of many excellent parts. He had legions of friends and it might truthfully be said he had no implacable enemies. His better half was noted for her generosity and very many kind and charitable acts. A large room at the rear was then the only place in the town where concerts, dramatic representations and other public functions could take place. Cowra’s population in 1878 was between 500-600.”



The Cowra Free Press noted on 5.10.1878 that:

 “Subscriptions taken at the laying of the foundation stone of St Bridget’s Convent Cowra on Sep 15, 1878 include £20 Bridget Challacombe. Bridget’s son Daniel Neville gave £5”



A year later the Cowra Free Press Saturday 19 April 1879 reported that:

“Mr and Mrs Challacombe entertained a large number of friends in their new villa residence, (Ilfracombe) on Monday evening last. Dancing was kept up without intermissions until about four o’clock on the following morning, at which hour this really pleasant little reunion terminated. Mrs Challacombe was indefatigable in attending to the comfort of her guests, and performed the part of hostess in the same hospitable and kind manner which characterises her actions in everyday life.”


Their eldest son Daniel Bernard and his wife, Bridget Mary Fitzgerald, whom he married on 14 March 1877, opened a haberdashery store in Kendal Street, Cowra. They had no children, and Daniel died only two years later at the age of 32. Following his death, the Cowra Free Press published these items on 23 August 1879 and 30 August 1879 respectively:

The late Mr D B Neville. At 10 a.m. Thursday Mr D B Neville, storekeeper of this town, expired at his residence at Kendal Street. The deceased had been a considerable sufferer for  a protracted period from the effects of that dread disease consumption, and death under the circumstances must be looked on in the light of a happy release than otherwise. Poor ’Dan Neville’ as he was familiarly styled was the very essence of good nature and kind heartedness itself.  He had not a single enemy. His death at the early age of 32 is deeply regretted by a very large circle of friends, and much sympathy has been expressed for the bereaved family in this hour of sorrow. We have been informed that the funeral cortege will move from the deceased’s late residence this afternoon at two o’clock.” and on 30 August 1879  “The funeral of the late Mr D B Neville took place on Saturday last, and if anything was needed to prove the esteem and respect entertained by our late fellow townsman and his family by all sections of the community, it was manifested on the occasion referred to, by the number that assembled, some from a considerable distance, to tender their last tribute to a kind hearted citizen. Business of every kind was entirely suspended at the various establishments in town as an additional mark of respect to the deceased. The funeral cortege (nearly half a mile in length, and one of the largest yet witnessed in this district moved from the Catholic Church, where a solemn Requiem Mass for the deceased had been celebrated at 11 a.m. The Rev Fr Ryan of Carcoar officiated at the grave and performed the last sad rites of the Roman Catholic Church, of which the deceased was a member.”


Their daughter Mary married William Ryan (1840 – 1889) of Ryansvale, Goulburn on 28 April 1870 in Cowra. William was a son of Michael Ryan, one of three brothers who arrived in New South Wales in 1822 and settled on the Goulburn Plains in the early 1830s. .They had three children Michael Edward (1872-1873), Nicholas James Aloysius (1876-1936) and Daniel Bernard (1880-1916). Daniel, who died in WW1 action in Fromelles, France on 19 July 1916, was obviously named after his mother’s older brother, who had died a year earlier. [3]


Mary drowned at Goulburn in February 1885. William died there also four years later of tuberculosis.


As for Patrick, Thomas O’Shaughnessy’s Diary records that on 17 August 1867, John Neville came with a telegram saying that Bridget’s son, who was at Lyndhurst College, Sydney, was ill and not expected to live. Bridget and Nicholas Challacombe started immediately for Bathurst in a buggy but when they arrived in Bathurst they received the sad news that Pat was already dead.[4]


In 1861 when the Cowra Mill was completed by her two brothers Patrick and Thomas, Bridget officiated at the opening. The Bathurst Free Press reported on 18 February 1861:

“Mrs Neville, the excellent sister of the proprietors (Messrs Walsh) then advanced to her allotted station, (as sponsor) carrying the Champagne in her hand, supported on the left by the engineer, on the right by the Architect and Contractor of the building, and followed closely by Mr John Loudon (himself an old engineer) and who had been appointed to give the signal to start. All ready, the word was given and slowly and steadily the huge flywheel began to move, whiz went the other parts and the Engine was in motion. Mrs Neville then struck the laying shaft in connection with the engine’s crank, with the bottle (smashing not the shaft but the bottle, naming at the same time her stalwart child “The Cowra Steam Mill”, round went the cogs, crash went the two pair of stones, steam is up, and the Engine on her speed. Then cheer upon cheer arose, the company joining in the joyous congratulations.”


 On 26 January 1867, according to Thomas O’Shaughnessy’s Diary

 “….Mrs Neville, Maggie Middlemis and Dan Neville went to Blayney where Mrs Neville was to be married to Nicholas Challacombe, overseer of Tom Iceley’s Cudgelo on Darbys Falls Road.


It was recorded in the newspaper “Bell’s Life in Sydney and Sporting Chronicle” that,  prior to her marriage to Nicholas Challacombe,  Bridget was married by the Carcoar Presbyterian minister to local shopowner Henry Carvill in Cowra on 5 June 1861. This is puzzling and is not supported by any other documentation. The attached note examines the matter.


The licence of the Royal Hotel was transferred to Nicholas Challacombe when he married Bridget and he and his wife ran the hotel until he retired in 1879 and built a substantial house, Ilfracombe Cottage, known locally as ‘The Folly’. (Later the medical centre next to the Crest Motel, Kendall Street and then Ilfracombe Restaurant).


Bridget and Nicholas Challacombe had one daughter, Grace (b. 1867), who married Herman Davis, a storekeeper, and they had three children: Nicholas, Doris and Leila.


She died on 2 December, 1881 after suffering from cancer for twelve months. The Cowra Free Press of 9 February 1881 reported Bridget’s death:

 “Death of Mrs Challacombe. On Friday last an old and highly respected resident (Mrs Challacombe) passed over to the great majority after a lingering and painful illness. For months past, the deceased lady had been confined to bed, during which time she endured the most excruciating agony without any apparent cessation. All that the best medical skill could devise to alleviate her sufferings was resorted to without avail. Early on Thursday morning an attack of paralysis supervened, occasioning a total deprivation of all sensation, and from that hour until death came to her relief our late warm-hearted friend never regained consciousness. As a friend, the late Mrs Challacombe was all that is good and true; as a wife and mother she was devoted to the interests of those dependent on her, but as a warm, generous and charitable heart, our departed friend could not be excelled.

For many years past, Mrs Neville’s name was a household word on the Lachlan and at a later period when united to Mr N. Challacombe she still retained her character for kindness, geniality and the warmest charitable instincts. To the suffering, a good friend has been lost, and to our town and district a free hearted and noble minded woman. Much sympathy is expressed for the bereaved family and large circle of friends and relatives in their hour of sorrow and trial, by every member of our community. On Sunday afternoon persons from all parts of the district attended to pay the last solemn tribute to the memory of their departed friend. The cortege, comprising about forty-five vehicles and two hundred horsemen, proceeded from Ilfracombe Cottage, down Kendall Street to the Catholic Church where the usual solemn rites were celebrated by the Rev. Father Campion.

At the conclusion of the ceremony the remains were conveyed to the Catholic cemetery where the final obsequies were performed. The funeral cortege, which was the largest yet seen in this district, afforded abundant proof of the esteem and respect entertained by all classes for the deceased lady. May she receive the reward so rightly merited by the charitable is our earnest prayer.”



Bridget’s widower, Nicholas Challacombe died 16 November 1903. Cowra Free Press of 19 November 1903 reported thus:

  “The Late Mr Nicholas Challacombe. After a lengthy and distressing illness which was borne with fortitude, and unmurmuringly, Mr N Challacombe breathed his last at his residence, badger, near Cowra, on Friday night, and our community mourns the loss of one of its oldest, best known, and most popular residents. Although he had not enjoyed robust health for some years, until a few weeks ago our late genial old townsman could not be persuaded to take to his bed and undergo medical treatment, and when he did eventually yield, it was painfully evident that his recovery was hopeless and that his days upon earth were numbered. Upon being apprised of his very critical condition, Mrs H Davis, his only offspring, hastened to his bedside and remained with him to the end, and thus very materially assisted to soothe the last hours upon earth of a thoroughly devoted and most indulgent parent. Although of a retiring and unobtrusive nature our late friend possessed the happy faculty of winning hosts of friends and never raising a single enemy. He was kindness personified, his sympathetic nature ever inclining him to perform charitable and benevolent acts in a most generous yet unostentatious manner. His was one of those natures which in consequence of their rarity never fail to win the admiration  and esteem of their fellow beings of every class who entertain the slightest respect for God’s choicest creations. The late Mr Challacombe first saw the light of day in the parish of Lynton, Devonshire, England, 78 years ago, and he landed in New South Wales in the prime of his youth and vigour in 1849, therefore he was a colonist of 54 years standing at the time of his demise. He took a very keen interest in sheep farming, and being of an observant and active disposition, he soon became an acknowledged expert in everything appertaining to pastoral pursuits, hence his services as a manager were in much request.  Some 48 years have elapsed since he undertook the control of James’ Park Station in this district, which was then owned by Mr West, father of our old townsman, Mr A.R.West, and he subsequently managed Bangaroo Station for Mr Icely. In 1868(sic) he married Mrs Neville, then proprietress of the Royal Hotel, Cowra, and forsook a pastoral life for some years. While associated with his wife in the hotel business, his very many estimable qualities rendered him extremely popular, and, as a result, he acquired sufficient of this world’s wealth to enable him to retire into private life about 22 years back, the erection of “Ilfracombe” his new home, having been completed by then. He was not, however, permitted to enjoy that peacefulness he sought for more than a very brief space, the sudden and wholly unexpected death of the partner of his joys and sorrows, causing him once more to enter upon his active life as manager of Cudgelo for Mr George Campbell, M.L.C. He held this position for several years and only relinquished it when he selected Badgery, a snug and valuable property in the parish of Neila, distant only a few miles from Cowra, where he peacefully ended his days. The remains of our old townsman were conveyed on Sunday afternoon to the Church of England portion of the local cemetery, the Rev R Seymour-Smith officiating at the grave. The funeral cortege was one of the largest and most representative that has been yet witnessed here. The tolling of St Raphael’s bell, as the funeral passed through the town, was a touching tribute of respect on the part of the Roman Catholic communion to the memory of a good and true man which could not fail to be appreciated by the mourners. The late Mr Challacombe’s nearest surviving relatives in Australia, in addition to his daughter Mrs Herman Davis, and her family, are Mr and Mrs P Squire, his nephew and niece respectively.”



These obituaries enable us to understand Bridget’s role in the developing town of Cowra and the high respect in which she was held by the townspeople.





….. 1 Bridget Mary WALSH b: 1823 in Castle Erkin, Co Limerick IRE, Arr. Australia: 31 Jul 1844 “St

Vincent”, d: 02 Dec 1881 in Cowra NSW

….. + Edward NEVILLE b: Abt. 1814 in Co Limerick, IRE, Arr. Australia: 1834 “Blenheim”, m: 04 Nov

1845 in Dunderaligo nr Yass NSW, d: 28 Jan 1852 in Cowra NSW

……….. 2 Daniel Bernard NEVILLE b: 1845 in Kelso, Bathurst NSW, d: 21 Aug 1879 in Cowra NSW

……….. + Bridget Mary FITZGERALD b: Abt. 1845, m: 14 Mar 1877 in Cowra NSW

……….. 2 Mary NEVILLE b: 1847 in Lachlan River, NSW, d: 04 Feb 1885 in Goulburn, NSW

……….. + William RYAN b: 01 Oct 1840 in Ryansvale, Goulburn NSW, m: 28 Apr 1870 in Cowra NSW,

d: 04 Oct 1889 in Goulburn NSW

…………….. 3 Michael Edward RYAN b: 29 Dec 1872 in Cowra NSW, d: 06 Feb 1873 in Cowra NSW

…………….. 3 Nicholas James Aloysius RYAN b: 11 Aug 1876 in Cowra NSW, d: 16 Jan 1936 in

Kenmore, Goulburn NSW

…………….. + Allison Gordon NEWLAND b: Abt. 1885 in Sydney, NSW, m: 27 Dec 1906 in St Leonards,

North Sydney NSW, d: 27 Apr 1946 in Mosman, NSW

………………….. 4 Enone Selina Clare RYAN b: 1908 in Goulburn NSW, d: 26 Jan 1983 in Euchareena


………………….. + Raymond Edward PARKER m: Jan 1937 in Brisbane QLD

………………….. 4 Adrian Neville Francis RYAN b: 28 Apr 1909 in Burwood NSW, d: 10 Oct 1974 in

Darlinghurst, NSW

………………….. + Jean Grace MARSHALL b: 1917 in Lucas Heights, NSW, m: 03 Jun 1939 in Glebe,


………………….. 4 Allison Stella Mary RYAN b: 1911 in Ryde NSW, d: 24 Dec 1984 in Concord NSW

………………….. + Lionel Keith TAYLOR m: 1934 in Manly, NSW

………………….. 4 Leslie Daniel Gordon RYAN b: 05 May 1913 in Kogarah NSW, d: 17 Jun 1983 in

Guilford, NSW

………………….. + Joan Carrington ASPREY m: 1947 in Sydney NSW

………………….. 4 John William RYAN b: 1913 in Kogarah NSW, d: 29 Sep 1983 in Connell’s Point,


………………….. + Annie May SHAW m: 1942 in Ashfield NSW

………………….. 4 Harold Norman George RYAN b: 1917 in St Leonards NSW, d: 21 Jan 1965 in

Revesby, NSW

………………….. + Kathleen Daisy Ellen FEENEY b: Abt. 1921 in Auburn, NSW, m: 12 Sep 1942 in

Manly, NSW

………………….. + Patricia Elenor DE BOMFORD m: 1947 in North Sydney, NSW

………………….. 4 Alice RYAN b: 05 Jan 1919 in Manly, NSW, d: 05 Jan 1919 in Manly, NSW

…………….. 3 Daniel Bernard RYAN b: 25 Dec 1880 in Cowra NSW, d: 20 Jul 1916 in KIA WW1

Fromelles, France

……….. 2 Patrick NEVILLE b: 07 May 1851 in Bathurst NSW, d: 17 Aug 1867 in Lyndhurst College,

Glebe, Sydney NSW

……….. 2 Sarah NEVILLE b: 26 Jul 1852 in Kelso, Bathurst NSW, d: 15 Jan 1862 in Cowra NSW

….. + Nicholas CHALLACOMBE b: 1825 in Lynton, Devonshire, England, Arr. Australia: 1849, m: 27

Jan 1867 in King’s Plains, NSW, d: 13 Nov 1903 in Badgery, Nr Cowra, NSW

……….. 2 Grace CHALLACOMBE b: 1867, d: 07 Jan 1905 in Manly NSW

……….. + Herman Austin DAVIS b: 1860, m: Feb 1887 in Cowra NSW

…………….. 3 Nicholas Challacombe DAVIS b: 1888 in Cowra NSW, d: 1953 in Burwood, NSW

…………….. 3 Doris F C DAVIS b: 1890 in Parkes NSW

…………….. 3 Leila DAVIS b: 1896 in Cowra NSW




To return to INDEX page, click here.
To go to Chapter NINE, click here.

1. P. Watmore and A. Robertson, Pioneer Family Roots, Cowra

2. Thomas O’Shaughnessy Diary.
Footnotes    (↵ returns to text)

  1. The extensive Neville Family is well covered in “West Limerick Families Abroad” by Kate Press and Valerie Thompson 2001; as well as in “One Patrick Too Many” by Evelyn Keen 2010
  2.  P. Watmore and A. Robertson, Pioneer Family Roots, Cowra.
  3.  See ‘Ryansvale’ by Philippa Garnsey, published 2011,  for the story of Ryansvale and the Ryan families.
  4.  Thomas O’Shaughnessy Diary 17.8.1867.