Cowra – Th O’Shaughnessy’s Diary 1835-1903

THE DIARY AND THE DIARIST

      Thomas O’Shaughnessy Jr (1835 – 1911) was born in Sydney on 1 January 1835 to Thomas Shaughnessy, later O’Shaughnessy, and Anne Byrne. He was baptised in St Mary’s Cathedral by Father McEncroe on 24 January 1835. He was the third of their seven children.

 

 

The Diary, from which these BMD references have been extracted, records his progression from early childhood on the Lachlan River, N S W. His record of this period was clearly written much later, from memory:

From what I can remember and what I have learnt from others, sometime in 1837  we  left Edmund Markham’s place on Milburn Creek and went down the Lachlan River to farm a place for John Neville. They named the station ‘Tomanbil’.  Father lived there to about the end of 1838. We left “Tomanbil” and came back to Edmund Markham’s, and lived there for a short time. Father went to the  Bald Hills  afterwards owned by Boland. Father intended to take up a station there but the place did not suit him From there to Bungirrilingong – five miles above Goolagong on the Lachlan River and took a run there. He took Cornelius Daly as a partner in the station. This happened sometime in Nov 1839. The first time I remember eating a piece of pumpkin. The blacks brought some with them. They cooked a piece and gave some to me. Father kept a dairy and butter and cheese. Thomas Iceley owned Bangaroo Station on the opposite side of the Lachlan . Every beast of ours that would cross the river, he would impound. We had to leave Bungirrilingong – about 1843. My father took up a run on the west side of the Lachlan River at the junction of Milburn Creek. Cornelius Daly took up the next run below us. I used to walk three miles to school to Spring Vale, Edmund Markham’s place, and back again in the evening except on Friday. I stayed all night for half Saturday school.” (By this time Thomas was eight years old.)

      The Diary goes on to relate the story of his move with his family to South Australia, time on the Bendigo goldfields, droving to Queensland and agricultural, construction and mining activities in the Lachlan region. His 1848 travel to South Australia is particularly interesting. At the age of thirteen, he accompanied his father as a drover. They, another drover and three bullock drivers overlanded 800 head of cattle and twenty horses, in addition to the heavy bullock drawn drays, following the Lachlan, Murrumbidgee and Murray Rivers only a decade or so after Sturt had been the first white explorer to take the same route.

      Thomas married Margaret Walsh (1826 –1885),  in January 1856 in Cowra – the first wedding in that new village, as it then was. Edmund Markham, close friend of Thomas’ father since their transportation together 34 years earlier, and his wife Bridget (Slattery) Markham were the witnesses. Markham’s son James was to marry Margaret Walsh’s sister, Ellen, later. Six months after they were married, Thomas and Margaret returned to his parents’ home in South Australia. They had eight children, some in SA and some in NSW, three of whom died very young. In March 1857 they decided to return to Cowra permanently. Margaret had emigrated with seven siblings, from County Limerick in the 1840s and a return to Cowra would reunite her with all her relatives who had settled in the Cowra, Young, Grenfell, Forbes and Cargo areas.

      The 250,000 word Diary is most useful in noting places, extent of development, owners of properties, and the hopes and frustrations of being an unsuccessful miner. He mined in various areas , notably Broula, Wyalong, Woodstock and Forbes, with little success, and later successfully contracted for road building in and around Cowra, supplementing this activity with much building and house maintenance in Cowra itself. A reader will recognise the  names of very many old Cowra residents, and their activities throughout the Diary. This extraction of Birth, Marriage and Death references is merely the tip of the iceberg.

     What the document fails to do however, is provide an insight into Thomas’ emotions or his personal family relationships. His references to his wife and children are limited to mere fact of what they did or where they went. Even when his wife died, the 1885 Diary provides no more than the fact, – “Mrs Margaret O’Shaughnessy died at 4 o’clock this evening.” And “Buried Mrs Margaret O’Shaughnessy in the Cowra Burial Ground. A very large funeral”. His notation that he “…buried poor little Annie (his 2yo daughter) late evening…..” is the only evidence of emotion appearing in the entire Diary.

     Thomas and Margaret had eight children – James born 1856; Thomas 1858; Sarah 1859; Mary 1861; Ignatius 1864; Anne 1865; Catherine 1868; and Grace 1871. Thomas, Ignatius and Anne died as infants. All except James (SA) and Thomas (Nanima) were born in Cowra.

     When Thomas died in Cowra in 1911, the Cowra Free Press published his Obituary:

“After protracted suffering, Mr Thomas O’Shaughnessy, a very old and well known resident of the district, breathed his last at the residence of his son, Mr James O’Shaughnessy, Liverpool Street, on Tuesday, his death being due to a complaint of long standing. Despite his advanced age (77 years) he up to a few years back followed the avocation of a miner, his perseverance as a prospector for mineral deposits being remarkable. He was of an optimistic temperament, hence when he succeeded in unearthing what appeared in his eyes to be a promising reef or lode he was hopeful of having at length reached the goal of his ambition. Unfortunately none of his discoveries proved remunerative. The late Mr O’Shaughnessy was a native of Sydney, and when he had attained his majority he married at Cowra Miss Margaret Walsh, the sister of the late Mr Thomas Walsh (Cowra), the late Mr P Walsh (Kikiamah) and Mrs James Markham (Darbys Falls). For a few years he and his son were road contractors here, and his vacating the “Green House”, which stood on the site now occupied by Messrs Reid, Smith and Co’s store, he took up a selection at Broula, which now forms part of Mr E S Twigg’s “Mayfield Estate”. Since the death of his wife and the scattering of his children many years ago, he had no settled home, his inclinations leading him to devote the greater portion of his time and energies to prospecting. Of late years he had resided partly with his son at Cowra and partly with his daughter at Grenfell. He was a very bright and intelligent man, and for a lengthy period was a valued contributor to the geological collection at the Technological Museum, Sydney. With the late Mr Adam Potts (another old miner) he explored and opened up the Belubula and Walli caves, from which he obtained many interesting and valuable fossils. Being well versed in geology, his knowledge in that connection being principally based on practical experience, he was regarded by those interested in mining as an authority whose opinions commanded respect. He is survived by one son and four daughters  viz., James  (Cowra), Mrs Hackett (East Maitland), Mrs D McGrath (Grenfell), Mrs T McGrath (Grenfell) and Miss Grace who is now a resident of Victoria. The funeral, which took place on Wednesday, was largely attended. Rev D O’Kennedy officiated at the grave. The mourning family are assured of our deepest sympathy.”

 

      Thomas O’Shaughnessy’s Diary – Click on the dates:

       See also Birth, Marriage, Death  Extracts from the Diary with obituaries etc.

 

[Thomas’ son James (1856-1936) appears to have transcribed all his father’s material into a single book. This was held by his daughter, Alinda Mary (1896-1975), who had passed it to  her friend Mrs Pat Hamilton, who graciously made it available to me to copy and interpret.]