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

John and Bridget McNamara’s children:
   4. James McNamara married Bridget Keane

James McNamara
c1850 – 10 Dec 1892

Married 24 Nov 1877

Bridget Keane
c1854 – 18 Jan 1944

James McNamara
Photograph provided by Judy Smith

James McNamara

4. James McNamara was born circa 1850 in Galway, Ireland (Date of birth calculated from age on Marriage Certificate and birthplace recorded on NSW Birth Certificate of daughter, Bridget).

James arrived in Adelaide, South Australia, with his family aboard the Standard on 13 Oct 1853, he is recorded on the passenger list as four years old (The Ships List, website).

He married Bridget Keane, daughter of Laurence/Larry Keane and Catherine/Kate Keane, on 24 Nov 1877 at Mt Barker, South Australia. Their marriage was conducted by Catholic Priest, Father James Quinlan; the witnesses were - Dennis Guerin, Occupation - farmer, Residence - Bull Creek and Katie Keane, Occupation - servant, Residence - Strathalbyn.

The following details were recorded on their Marriage Certificate;
James, age 27, Bachelor, Occupation - farmer, Residence at time of marriage - Paris Creek
Bridget, age 23, Spinster, Occupation - servant, Residence at time of marriage - Macclesfield (SA Marriage certificate from Book 113, page 736).

Laurence, their first son was born in 1878 at Kondoparinga, near Meadows, South Australia and Catherine, their first daughter was born in 1879 at Meadows, South Australia.

A notice of Auction on behalf of Mr James McNamara of Paris Creek was published in the Southern Cross Newspaper, 25 Mar 1880. Extensive research has been undertaken in an attempt to prove that the auction relates to James McNamara, father of Mary Ellen. There are only limited records for Paris Creek, but to date, no other James McNamara has been found living at Paris Creek at that time. Also the Section subject to Auction is adjacent to Section 3339 purchased 1863-1868 by John McNamara, father of James, supporting the belief that this is the correct person. Although the notice states that James McNamara was intending to leave the district, three more children were born at Paris Creek; Mary Ellen in 1881, John in 1884 and Helena Lillian in 1886, and the family did not leave the district for Broken Hill NSW until 1888.

Transcription of Notice of Auction – Acc Mr James McNamara at Paris Creek to be held on Sat April 3 1880, Southern Argus Newspaper, 25 March 1880

On SATURDAY, April 3rd


JOHN CHERITON has received instructions from Mr Jas. McNamara, who is
leaving the district. to sell by auction, as above, the undermentioned, viz.-
(Subject to the consent of the Hon. Commissioner of Crown Lands) the Lease of all that Section of LAND No. 3338, containing 86 Acres of really good Land, situated in the Hundred of Kondoparinga, the Lease of 11 years to run, and rent nominal, £5 15s per annum, splendid water, and a cool and salubrious climate.
This is a rare opportunity for a market gardener or limeburner, as there is any
quantity of white marble on the Land, and vegetables can be grown all the year

HORSES – 1 Mare and Foal.
CATTLE – 2 Cows, 5 Young Stock
PIGS – 1 Sow, 7 Slips
About 40 Fowls and Geese
4 Tons Prime Potatoes (4 varieties)
3 bags Peas, 2 bags Onions
1 Ton Hay in Sheaves
Spring cart and Harness
Lot other Harnesses
Set Swingletrees, Hand Chaffcutter
Wheelbarrow, Iron Plough
Hay Knife, Scythe, Grindstone
Forks, Rakes, Saddle and Bridle
Bars, Picks, Shovels and
Lot other Tools, Revolver (six chambers)
Tables, Sofa, Meat Safe
Large Flour Bin, American Oven
Saucepans, &c, &c.
Remember, Saturday, April 3rd
Sale at 2 o’clock
Terms – Approved Bills over £10

Reproduced courtesy of the State Library of South Australia, permission granted 29 Sep 2008

James, Bridget and their five children moved to NSW around March 1888, where James was employed at the Round Hill mine, about 9km north-east of Broken Hill, the family probably lived near the mine or at the small nearby settlement of Taltingan (Arrival in NSW estimated from information recorded on Death Certificate of son Laurence).

Round Hill Mine
Round Hill Mine
Photograph provided by Broken Hill Library
Permission to publish granted by email, 4 Nov. 2009

In mid Aug of 1888 the oldest child, Catherine (Kate) became ill, she died after four weeks on 15 Sept 1888, five days later on 20 Sept, Bridget was born, possibly premature, most probably a sickly infant. On the way to or from Broken Hill to register Kate's death, the family was travelling in a horse and jinker, there was an incident, the horse bolted and Laurence was injured. He died on 8 Oct after being ill for two weeks, the cause of death was recorded as inflammation of the lungs (This medical condition is recorded in several medical dictionaries as ‘relating to lung injury in the setting of sepsis and shock’) (Information from Birth and Death Certificates and information provided by descendants of Mary Ellen and Helena Lillian).

After this traumatic period Bridget suffered a decline in her mental health. Later the family moved back to SA, where James was admitted on 22 Jun 1890 to Adelaide Hospital, South Australia, with Plumbism (lead poisoning), he was discharged on 28 Jun 1890. The following information was recorded on the Admissions Register: age 42, born Ireland, been in the colony 36 years, arrived on the Standard, current address Franklin St (Information from the Adelaide Hospital Admissions Register Index, provided by Judy Smith, email dated 11 Aug 2007).

It appears that James later returned to Broken Hill to work leaving Bridget and the children in Adelaide, on 10 Oct 1890 Bridget was admitted to the Adelaide Asylum, around the end of October, a wire (Telegram) was sent to Thomas McNamara, brother of James, at Goolwa, Thomas proceeded to Adelaide and bought the children back to live with his family. On 28 Feb 1891 Thomas wrote to J.B. Whiting Esq. SA Children's Department requesting assistance in the matter of the children, Thomas felt he could no longer support the children as he had four children of his own and he had originally thought that it would be a temporary situation, he reported that his brother 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 the four surviving children, Mary Ellen, John, Helena Lillian and Bridget, were sentenced to one year in the Magill Industrial School, South Australia, as destitute children, by T.W. Goode JP and J.T. Underwood JP, docket #25/91. The one year sentence was extended several times over the years. The children were placed in foster homes, in some cases the placements were reported as unsuitable or ill treatment had been reported and the children were re-admitted to the Industrial School (Information from SA State Records Series GRD29/9, provided by Judy Smith, email 29 Jul 2008).

On 16 Mar 1891 James responded by letter to correspondence received from the SA Children's Department, he advised that he was unable to do anything with his four children until he could go to work. He had been a patient in the Broken Hill Hospital for seven weeks with fever, he was willing to send a doctor's certificate if necessary. On 13 Jul 1891 James again wrote to the Secretary, State Children's Council, he had heard that his children had been removed from Goolwa, he wanted to know where he could find them as he intended, before the end of the month, to take them to Broken Hill (Correspondence contained in SA Children's Department Series GRG27/1, copies supplied by Judy Smith, email dated 25 Nov 2008).

On 24 Jul 1891, J.B. Whiting, Secretary, Children's Department wrote to Mr R. Spence at Broken Hill requesting information on James McNamara, as he had requested that his children be released to him. Mr Whiting requested information about his home and whether in Mr Spence's opinion James was fit to have charge of his children. On 10 Aug 1891, J.B. Whiting wrote to James requesting that, as he was now restored to health, he should at once take steps to make regular payments for maintenance of his children, as he was in arrears. He advised that regular payments were to be paid to Mr Spence. Unless Mr Whiting heard from Mr Spence within 14 days that James had made satisfactory arrangements for payments, Mr Whiting threatened that James would be prosecuted. On 31 Aug 1891 Mr Spence wrote to Mr Whiting advising that he had written to James McNamara, but he had not shown up and Mr Spence had been unable to find where he was stopping. On 30 Nov 1891 another letter from Mr Spence advised that he had still not been able to see James McNamara. On 22 Feb 1892 a telegram from Mr E. Conroy, Argent St South Broken Hill to Mr Whiting, advised that all letters addressed to James McNamara were directed to E. Conroy, Argent St South and his last whereabouts were in the employment of the surveyor (Correspondence contained in SA Children's Department Series GRG27/1, copies supplied by Judy Smith, email dated 25 Nov 2008).

James died of Pneumonia on 10 Dec 1892, aged 42, at Broken Hill Hospital, New South Wales, he had been ill for 14 days. His death certificate records his occupation as miner and that he had been in NSW for 4 years but contains no information about his parents, wife or children. He was buried on 11 Dec 1892 in the Catholic Old Section, Row 10, Grave No 34, Broken Hill, New South Wales. Roman Catholic Priest, the Rev. E. Kearney officiated at the funeral (NSW Death Certificate No 1892/003793 and Broken Hill City Council, Cemetery Search, website).

In the SA Police Gazette dated Dec 14, 1892, page 201, it was recorded that a Warrant had been issued for James McNamara, age 40 years, height 5 feet, 8 inches, fair complexion, full light brown whiskers, &c. thin nose and thin features, for deserting his four children at Adelaide, the 9th inst. Offender is supposed employed at one of the Iron Blowers at Broken Hill.-(C.1832.) In the SA Police Gazette dated Dec 28, 1892, page 209, it was recorded Re James McNamara, for deserting his children- Offender having died at Broken Hill, the warrant has been withdrawn.-(C1832) (Information provided by Judy Smith, email dated 4 Aug 2008, copy of pages 201 and 209 from SA Police Gazette 1892 supplied by GSV).

Bridget McNamara (nee Keane)

Bridget Keane. Her married name was McNamara. Bridget's name was also recorded as Bridget Rosina/Rosana CANE/KAIN/KANE/KEAN. She was born circa 1854 in County Clare, Ireland (Date of birth calculated from age on Marriage Certificate and birthplace recorded on NSW Birth Certificate of daughter, Bridget).

Bridget left Plymouth on 4 Feb 1876 on board Arundel Castle, a sailing ship of 1042 tons, built in 1864, and arrived in Adelaide on 19 Apr 1876. Bridget is recorded on the passenger list as aged 20, Single, Irish, Domestic Servant, classification "UK Free", Application #92, of good conduct during voyage. The ship carried 361 emigrants, including 107 children and infants; the Surgeon was F.E. Corbet Singleton. During the voyage three children under four died and five babies were born (Information on the ship from the Australian National Maritime Museum Library, website, information extracted from SA Archive Series GRG35/48, List No 76/9, provided by Judy Smith, email dated 19 Nov 2008, and information on the voyage from CD, Bound for South Australia: Births and Deaths on Government-Assisted Immigrant ships 1848-1885).

After her arrival in South Australia, Bridget first lived at Crystal Brook, South Australia, (Information provided by her grand-daughters, Margaret Rackstraw and Thelma McKinna).

Bridget suffered a decline in her mental health after the death of her two oldest children and the birth of her last child in NSW between 15 Sept and 8 Oct 1888. The family later returned to SA and is known to have been in Adelaide in Jun 1890 when James was admitted to Adelaide hospital, there is a record in the SA Police Gazette dated 26 Mar 1890; ‘Bridget McNamara, apprehended by L.C. Rose, as a lunatic, at Adelaide; discharged’, (there is insufficient information in the record to positively identify this person as the wife of James). There is a further report for the week ending Oct 8 1890; ‘Bridget McNamara, apprehended by F.C. McAvey, as a lunatic, at Adelaide; sent to asylum’. This entry corresponds with the date of 2 Oct 1890 on the Adelaide Asylum Admission Form (The SA Police Gazette 1890, Mar 26, page 52 and Oct 8, page 163).

There was limited information recorded on the Admission Form dated 2 Oct 1890, but over the years the old Admission Books were replaced and an undated revised Admission Book records that the ‘Supposed cause of insanity was not known, began in Puerperal Stage (connected with childbirth), that Bridget was epileptic, her condition was chronic, and the first attack was at 33 years of age’ (this is the estimated age of Bridget in 1888) (Undated revised Admission Book, supplied by Judy Smith, email dated 4 Jan 2009).

Bridget was admitted on 2 Oct 1890 to Adelaide Asylum, South Australia, by authority of T.K. Pater S.M. There is very little detail on the admission record e.g. her age was unknown, also no information was known about relatives or her previous medical history.
Her ‘State on Admission’ was described as:
General health - Good, body well nourished.

Mental Health - Mania - thinks that a plot has been got up against her. Talks in an indignant tone of the treatment she has received, refuses to employ herself, although able to do so (Adelaide Lunatic Asylum, Female Casebook 1887-1893, page 196).

She was transferred on 13 Dec 1890 to Parkside Lunatic Asylum, South Australia.
Her ‘State on Admission’ was described as:
General health - Good, body well nourished.
Mental condition - Mania - very reticent but thinks that her husband is about the place and that she hears him. Inclined to be impetuous and has very little control over herself. Cleanly in her habits, industrious at sewing. It is recorded that Bridget was employed in the laundry and then later at sewing (Parkside Lunatic Asylum, Female Casebook, 1856-1903, page 320).

Parkside Lunatic Asylum, Adelaide
Parkside Lunatic Asylum, Adelaide, c.1880
Image courtesy of the State Library of South Australia
(SLSA: B 62414/1/67 –)

The visitor's books for Parkside are incomplete but there is a record in the late 1890s of Mrs P. Casey (sister in law) visiting Bridget. The earliest proper records are for 1916 and 1917, but there were no visitors recorded for Bridget in that period. In 1909 a visit was recorded for Bridget McNamara visiting Bridget McNamara, address Asylum, relationship to patient - Mother (Information provided by Judy Smith, email dated 30 July 2008) (although Bridget's original admission record contains no details of her children, by the time her daughter, Bridget, was admitted her record indicates that her mother was also a patient at the same asylum).

Although there are many gaps, the following notes are contained in the Casebook;
• 15 Oct 1921 Bridget was diagnosed with Heart disease,
• 7 Jan 1934 she suffered a fractured right femur,
• 21 Mar she was still in bed with her leg between sandbags,
• 20 Aug she was able to walk,
• 28 Jul 1939 Bridget collapsed with a very weak heart and pulse,
• Dec 1943 she had developed bed sores,
• 11 Jan 1944 she was suffering from congested lungs,
• 13 Jan her temperature was 101.8,
• 17 Jan her temperature was 102.4 and she was diagnosed as suffering Hypostatic pneumonia and was in a dying condition.
Bridget died on 18 Jan 1944 at 3.30am, she had been in the asylum for over 53 years (her age at death is estimated to be 90) (Parkside Lunatic Asylum, Female Casebook, 1856-1903, page 320).

Bridget's death at Parkside Mental Hospital, South Australia, was reported in the SA Government Gazette (The 'South Australian Government Gazette', Vol 2 1944, page 168, Returns of persons who have died ..... whose relatives are unknown). She was buried in a common grave in the Catholic old area, grid D10, site 63, West Terrace Cemetery, Adelaide, South Australia (Correspondence from the Records Officer, Adelaide Cemeteries Authority dated 28 Nov 2006).

After Bridget was admitted to Parkside Asylum her children were told that she had died in the Asylum. This was a common practice in the 19th and early 20th centuries, in the belief that the children were saved from further trauma as they would eventually recover from the news of their mother's death, rather than live with the forlorn hope that they would be reunited sometime in the future, as most people admitted to institutions in those days were never released.

Mary Ellen, John and Helena did not find out that their mother had been alive until 1944, until after her death. They were very distressed and angry in the knowledge that she had been alive while they were growing up, and while they were raising their own children (Information provided by Bridget's grandchildren, the children of all three surviving children).


Thomas McNamara
married Mary Agnes Hooben; their children


James & Bridget McNamara’s
children: Laurence & Catherine