‘CASTLE ERKIN’, COUNTY LIMERICK.
The name Walsh (or Breatnach in Irish) originated as a result of the Anglo-Norman invasion of Ireland in 1169-72. In the southeastern part of Ireland the Walsh families are mostly descended from Haylen Brenach, alias Walsh, son of Philip the Welshman. The Mayo Sept are descended from Walynus, a Welshman who came to Ireland with Maurice Fitzgerald during the invasion of 1169-72.
‘Castle Erkin’ is the deceptively grand title for the Townland in which the Walsh dairy farm is situated. It is in the parish of Caherconlish, about 19 kilometres from Limerick on the road to Tipperary, Eire. In the year 1844 eight adult children and nine-year-old Ellen Walsh were still living in Ireland after the death of their parents, Patrick Walsh and Mary (McNamara). Patrick (aged 27), Thomas (24), William (23) and three of their sisters Bridget (21), Mary (20), and Margaret (18), decided to emigrate to New South Wales as bounty immigrants. The New South Wales government was paying shipping agents a bounty for each young Irish man or woman recruited as an immigrant.
In the 1840s Ireland was in a state of rural depression and political upheaval. The rural population had grown rapidly and farms had been subdivided until they could barely support a family. Rents were high and people depended on the potato crop to survive. The Irish patriot (Daniel O’Connell) had been agitating for the repeal of the Union with Great Britain so that Ireland could be independent. Late in 1843, the Prime Minister of Great Britain (Sir Robert Peel), decided to crack down on agitation and initiate extensive programmes of reform in Ireland. O’Connell had been organizing meetings throughout Ireland and in 1843 he arranged the biggest ever meeting at Clontarf. On the evening before the meeting was due, crowds thronged the roads. Peel banned the meeting and brought in armed troops to prevent the gathering. O’Connell was unwilling to risk bloodshed and called off the meeting. O’Connell was arrested and tried and in February, 1844, a notoriously partisan jury found him guilty. He was given one year’s imprisonment and a ₤2,000 fine. In September, 1844, the House of Lords, acknowledging that his trial had been unfair, reversed the decision and freed O’Connell.
Perhaps because of this political unrest, the high rents, the lack of work opportunities, the poverty and hunger, the Walsh family decided to emigrate to New South Wales in April, 1844. The decision was wise as the potato blight appeared in 1845 and the Great Famine began in earnest.
Two uncles of the Walsh family (John and Matthew McNamara) had emigrated with their wives in 1841 on the ship Livingstone and were established on a squatterage at Sawyers Creek, near Bowning, Yass. John was 37 years old when he arrived with his wife, Ellen (Hannisy) aged 23, and Matthew was aged 33 on arrival with his wife Mary (Gleeson) aged 25 and daughter (Sarah) aged 5 years. They encouraged the Walsh family to emigrate and take up land in New South Wales. Also on board the Livingstone were Bridget Curry (nee Walsh) and her husband John. Bridget came from County Limerick and her parents were William (deceased) and Ellen Walsh (Welsh). Bridget was described as a servant aged 24 years who could read. She was a Roman Catholic, her health was good and her good character was verified by John Hartigan.
Another emigrant on the Livingstone was Margaret Walsh aged 18 from Limerick City. Her parents were William and Sally. Her father was dead and she came under the protection of her brother Pat Walsh. This was probably Patrick Walsh from Karrian Leish (Caherconlish ?) Co. Limerick. His parents were William Walsh (deceased) and Sarah. He was a farm labourer aged 20 years. A Roman Catholic, he could read but stuttered.Also on board The Livingstone were Margaret and Honora Gleeson, James, Mary, Owen and Catherine Ryan, Bridget Cahill, JudithWalsh, MaryPurtell and Michael O’Dea who were all connected with the McNamara families of The Gap, Yass.
Another emigrant on board the Livingstone in 1841 was Margaret Curry (Currie) (b. 1824) who travelled under the protection of James Ryan and his wife. Margaret was a native of Kilcoolen, Co. Limerick. She was described as a Roman Catholic, a lady’s maid aged 20 years whose health was good. She could read and write and had no complaints about the voyage. She was the daughter of Nicholas Currie, farmer, and Mary McNamara (deceased). Margaret Curry later married Patrick Walsh from Castle Erkin and lived at Kikiamah, on the old Young-Forbes Road.
The eldest daughter of the Walsh family from Castle Erkin, Sarah, (b.1814), was married to Robert O’Dea and she remained at the Castle Erkin farm, possibly caring for the youngest member of the family (Ellen, b.1835). A third sister (Catherine, b. 1815) who had married Jeremiah Hartigan also remained in Ireland. Patrick, Thomas, William, Bridget, Mary and Margaret sailed from Cork on 1 April, 1844 on the ship St Vincent, knowing that they would probably never return to Castle Erkin. The sadness they felt when leaving their sisters was surely mixed with some excitement in anticipation of the long sea voyage and the opportunities for a better life ahead.
The St Vincent, captained by John Young, left Cork on 17 April, 1844 and sailed directly to Sydney arriving on 31 July, 1844 after a voyage of 105 days. It carried 212 adults and 90 children. There were six deaths on board from diarrhoea or convulsions and three births, while the doctor’s report stated that ‘the single females were very deficient in qualifications for domestic service’. The ship of 628 tons was built in London in 1829 and had been lengthened and thoroughly repaired before the voyage.
On 31 July, 1844, St Vincent anchored at Neutral Bay shortly after 6 pm in exceedingly boisterous weather, with rain beating heavily and incessantly. No boat was allowed alongside before the Health Officer had boarded on the following day, when the weather was cloudy during disembarkment.
The six Walshes, together with relations Judith Walsh, Mary Purtell and Michael O’Dea, were maintained at public expense for seven days until 8 August, 1844, when they went with Matthew and John McNamara to Sawyers Creek (The Gap) near Yass. The New South Wales government paid a bounty of ₤18.14.0 to the shipping agent for each member of the Walsh family. None of the Walshes had any complaints about the voyage. Judith Walsh stated that her mother (Ellen) was still alive and that she had two sisters in the colony living near the Gap, Yass. One of these was possibly Bridget Curry (nee Walsh) who arrived on the Livingstone in 1841.
A bounty system was introduced in 1835 by which passage was paid by the New South Wales government only when the immigrant produced on arrival, testimonials of good character and evidence that they were within the age groups eligible for the bounty. The Walsh immigrants required a certificate of birth or baptism from a clergyman, a character reference from two or more householders, a reference from an employer, a health clearance from a physician, approval from a magistrate and a selection agent. The Walshes supplied these certificates which described the Walsh women as farm servants and the men as farm labourers. They were all described as Roman Catholics, all in good health and all could read and write. The Walsh women gave their native place as Cashlakin (Castle Erkin) while the men gave their native place as Caherconlish, the parish in which Castle Erkin is located.
Family stories claimed that Thomas came out with his brothers and sisters but his name does not appear on the shipping list and there are no certificates for him. However, an agent’s dispersal list of single men who left the ship without employment copied by hand by M. Wilkinson in the 1970s showed that Patrick, William and Thomas Walsh went with their uncles McNamara to Yass. This item could not be found by archives assistants in 1989 but it seems most likely that Thomas arrived in 1844 as he was sponsor at his niece’s baptism in Yass in 1847.
Castle Erkin was spelt Cashlakin on the Walsh certificates and this pronounciation was handed down in the family. After much searching of Irish maps for a village called Cashlakin the mystery was solved with the discovery of an old letter written by Sarah O’Dea from Castle Erkin to her brother Thomas in New South Wales in 1878. A second letter had the address, Scart, Kilteely, which was found on a map of County Limerick. The Postmaster of Kilteely passed on a letter requesting news of O’Dea descendants to Mrs Kitty Ryan (nee O’Dea). Mrs Ryan wrote and explained that Castle Erkin was the name of the former Walsh-O’Dea farm. However, she believed that the Walsh family came originally from Abington.
In 1983 the descendants of Walsh and O’Dea families, Mr Denis O’Dea and Mrs Kitty Ryan and family lived on beef cattle farms at Ballyphilip and Miltown, Kilteely, a few kilometres from Castle Erkin. Limerick City and County by Samuel Lewis, 1837, states that ‘Kilteely is a parish partly in the baronies of Clanwilliam and Small County but chiefly in that of Conagh, three miles southwest of Pallas Greine, on the road to Bruff and comprising 1949 statute acres. The land is in general good and chiefly in tillage. There are two national schools erected at the expense of the Rev. E. Walsh, Parish Priest.’
OUTLINE DESCENDANT TREE – THE CASTLE ERKIN FAMILY
….. 1 Patrick WALSH b: Abt. 1780, d: Co Limerick, IRE
….. + Mary McNAMARA b: Abt. 1782, m: Co. Limerick, IRE, d: Co Limerick? IRE
……….. 2 Sarah WALSH b: 1814 in Co Limerick, IRE, d: 1889 in Castle Erkin, Co Limerick, IRE
……….. + Robert O’DEA b: Co Limerick, IRE, m: Castle Erkin, Limerick IRE, d: IRE
……….. 2 Catherine WALSH b: 1815 in Co Limerick, IRE, Arr. Australia: 26 Aug 1850 “Lord Stanley”.
……….. 2 Patrick WALSH b: 1817 in Castle Erkin, Caherconlish. Co Limerick, IRE, Arr. Australia: 31 July 1844 “St Vincent”.
……….. 2 Thomas WALSH b: 1820 in Caherconlish, Co Limerick, IRE, Arr. Australia: 31 July 1844 “St, Vincent’.
……….. 2 William WALSH b: 1821 in Caherconlish, Co Limerick, IRE, Arr. Australia: 31 July 1844 “St. Vincent”.
……….. 2 Bridget Mary WALSH b: 1823 in Castle Erkin, Co Limerick IRE, Arr. Australia: 31 July 1844 “St Vincent”.
……….. 2 Mary WALSH b: 1824 in Castle Erkin, Co Limerick IRE, Arr. Australia: 31 July 1844 “St Vincent”.
……….. 2 Margaret WALSH b: 1826 in Castle Erkin, Co Limerick, IRE, Arr. Australia: 1844 “St Vincent”.
……….. 2 Ellen Mary WALSH b: 1835 in Castle Erkin, Co Limerick, IRE, Arr. Australia: 26 Aug 1850 ‘Lord Stanley’ .
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- Matthew Furlong, Famous Irish Names, Melbourne. The Walshes. ↵
- O’Tuathaigh, Ireland Before the Famine,1798-1848,(London,1972,pp.189-90 .↵
- Veronica MacNamara, Beyond The Early Maps, (Orange, 1971), p.126.↵
- NSW Archives Office Reel No 1332 ‘Livingstone’ 1841.↵
- NSW Archives Office Reel No. 2454↵
- J. Cullinane, Walsh Family Notes↵
- NSW Archives Office Reel No. 2454.↵