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Mary Ellen Fairbairn (nee McNamara) 1881-1955 by Ann Rackstraw

James and Bridget McNamara’s children:
   F. Bridget McNamara

F. Bridget McNamara was born on 20 Sep 1888 at Round Hill, New South Wales, five days after the death of her oldest sister, Kate. The midwife was recorded as Mrs Walker; the birth was not registered until 12 October 1888, two days after the funeral of her brother, Laurence (NSW Birth Certificate No 1888/037320). She was baptized on 10 Oct 1888 at Sacred Heart Church, Broken Hill, New South Wales, by Father R. Keilly; the sponsors were P. Casey and Mary Walker (Copy of Baptism Certificate supplied by Judy Smith, by email, 1 Aug 2008).

After the deaths of Kate and Laurence, Bridget's mother, Bridget, suffered a decline in her mental health. The family later returned to Adelaide where James was admitted to Adelaide Hospital on 22 Jun 1890 with Plumbism (lead poisoning), he was discharged on 28 June. It appears that James later returned to Broken Hill to work, leaving Bridget and the children in Adelaide.

After their mother was admitted to the asylum on 10 Oct 1890, Thomas McNamara, brother of James, travelled from Goolwa to Adelaide and bought the children back to live with his family believing it would be a temporary arrangement. At the end of Feb 1891 Thomas appealed to the SA Children's Department for assistance as he could no longer support the children. He advised the authorities that James was in hospital in Broken Hill and Bridget was in Parkside Asylum (Correspondence contained in SA Children's Department, Series GRG27/1, copies supplied by Judy Smith, email dated 25 Nov 2008).

On 13 Mar 1891 all four children were admitted to Magill Industrial School, they had been sentenced to one year as destitute children by Mr T.W. Goode JP. and J.T. Underwood JP (This sentence was to be later extended). On 4 Apr 1891 all four children were placed with Mrs Bridget Davoren/Daverns, Roman Catholic, wife, of Kapunda. Bridget's husband John died on 27 Dec 1891 and on 30 Jan 1892, after nearly nine months with Mrs Daverns, the children were removed from her home by Inspector Honigrave because of reported ill treatment and were returned to Magill. On 22 Feb 1892, Bridget, aged three, and her sister Helena, aged five, were placed with Michael O'Donnell, Roman Catholic, of Gawler. Although there is a gap in the records it appears that Bridget stayed with this family until she was admitted to the Destitute Asylum from the home of Mrs J. O'Donnell, 131 Gilbert St, Adelaide (Information extracted from SA State Archives Series GRG29/9 and provided by Judy Smith, email dated 29 July 2008).

On 20 Feb 1903 an initialed note regarding Bridget reported that she had been subject to fits for several years. She was no better and now frequently has fits. Dr Morris (?) says that nothing can be done for her but she may grow out of them. Mrs O'Donnell is attached to the girl and is willing to keep her with subsidy. On the back of the note is written subsidy ‘of five shilling a week indefinitely’. A further note authorized Bridget to stay with Mrs O'Donnell for 12 months longer (Correspondence contained in SA Children's Department Series GRG27/1, copies supplied by Judy Smith, email dated 26 Nov 2008).

On 6 Apr 1908 the Secretary of the State Children's Department wrote to The Honorable, The Chief Secretary, stating that Bridget McNamara, a State Child, had her sentence extended until nineteen years of age because she was almost helpless on account of epileptic fits. Her maintenance had been paid for by the Department for the same reason until now. It was a question of her being supported by the Department or being sent to the Destitute Asylum. By an unfortunate oversight her name was omitted from the list of extensions recommended to the Honorable Chief Secretary in February and her term expired on the 12 March 1908. A request was made for a formal extension as from 12th March in order to give the Council the right to continue payments and to care for the child. If this could not be done it was feared that she must be at once transferred to the Destitute Asylum and special approval would be required for payments made to the date of her transfer. The omission had only just been discovered and the Secretary hastened to inform the Chief Secretary. It is not known if this request was granted but Bridget was later admitted to the Destitute Asylum and from there to Parkside Asylum (Correspondence contained in SA Children's Department Series GRG27/1, copy supplied by Judy Smith, email dated 26 Nov 2008).

Bridget was transferred from the Destitute Asylum, Adelaide, on 30 Mar 1909 to Parkside Lunatic Asylum, Adelaide, South Australia, by authority of Thomas Henry Atkinson JP.

Her ‘State on Admission’ was described as:
General Health - Not robust - body poorly developed and anemic.
Mental condition - Dementia epileptic - conduct - quiet and well behaved - clean and tidy - takes in food - unable to employ herself, mind very much a blank - cannot give any account of herself - nor answers questions rationally - inclined to be irritable if interfered with.

It was also recorded that Bridget, aged 20, had suffered epilepsy from infancy, she did not know where she was and did not know the day of week or month of year; she was very restless and wandered about aimlessly.

The following information about Bridget's family was recorded - Father dead, Mother Bridget McNamara an inmate of the Parkside Lunatic Asylum. Two sisters Mary aged 27 years and Nellie aged 22 years in Melbourne, one brother John aged 25 years and another unknown (it is not known who supplied the information on Bridget's siblings including ‘another unknown’) (Parkside Lunatic Asylum, Female Casebook 1909-1913, page 325).

The Visitor's books for Parkside are incomplete but a visit in 1909 was recorded for Bridget McNamara visiting Bridget McNamara, address - Asylum, relationship to patient - Mother (Information provided by Judy Smith, email dated 30 July 2008).

There is no information recorded on Bridget's life during the four and a half years in the asylum, until her death in 1913 (Parkside Lunatic Asylum, Female Casebook 1909-1913, page 325).

Bridget died of meningitis and epilepsy on 19 Aug 1913, aged 24, at Parkside Lunatic Asylum, Adelaide, South Australia (The 'South Australian Government Gazette', Vol 1, 1914, page 462, Returns of persons who have died.....whose relatives are unknown and GRG 34/120 Chronological list of deaths, entry 62 for 1913, SA State Records). Extensive enquiries have been conducted but the location of Bridget's grave is unknown (Advice from Adelaide Cemeteries Authority, correspondence dated 28 Nov 2006, SA State Records, correspondence dated 3 Feb 2007 and Glenside Hospital Historical Society, email dated 28 Oct 2007).


Helena Lillian McNamara married
James Alfred Rorke; their children


Catherine McNamara