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Thomas Thynne/Thyne: from Miltown Malbay to Mt Egerton by Kerryn Taylor
‘This Co. Clare name is there pronounced TYNE and was formerly so spelt e.g Dermot O’Tine of Kilshanny (the homeland of this Irish sept) whose outlawry as a jacobite was reversed in 1699. It is O’Teimhin in Irish and has no connection with a similar English name pronounced THIN.’
Thomas had three known brothers and perhaps two sisters;
Patrick, John, Matthew, Mary and Catherine. All, except Matthew immigrated
to Australia, Patrick settling near to Thomas in a small farming community
called Millbrook and John becoming a policeman in Portland. Thomas had
an uncle who also emigrated with him and his siblings his name was Bartholomew
Thynne (possibly a brother to his father Michael) but sadly Bartholomew
who also settled at Woolen Creek died in a freak accident whilst riding
his horse home one evening, only a few years after his arrival in the
colony in 1870.
Thomas arrived in Australia on the ship ‘The Southern Ocean’ which departed from Liverpool after a short crossing from the Irish Sea in late November 1864. There he and others would enter a government emigration depot. The authorities made efforts to put emigrants with others from their same county and parishes in the same berths. The ship then arrived three months later in Melbourne on the 27th of February 1865. Nothing has been recorded of Thomas’s leaving his family and his homeland. Maybe it was too sorrowful to be ever spoken of. In the book ‘The Great Famine’ by Ciarán Ó Murchadha it tells of what it might have been like for him
‘These quayside partings were very emotional occasions
involving as they did the splintering of families and the acute awareness
of all present that there was little likelihood of being reunited ever
again. Where distances were too long to permit quayside partings relatives
traveled some portion of the way to the crossroads to watch them until
out of sight..’
Thomas selected land by the Woolen Creek in Mount Egerton,
Victoria where the Bungal Dam now lies. European settlement began in Mt
Egerton in 1853 with the discovery of gold at All Nations Gully. Mt Egerton
developed from the discovery of gold and the subsequent realisation of
the richness of the quartz reef that passed through the area. This led
to the establishment of deep mining and large mining companies dominating
the area. The development of the township waxed and waned with the success
and failure of these enterprises. Mt Egerton was also linked to the bushranging
activities of Andrew George Scott, alias Captain Moonlite. Moonlite reputedly
robbed the Mt Egerton Bank of 1000 pounds in 1869 before skipping town.
Today the township remains a quiet backwater in the farming and mining
community. Many other people/families from the same area of Clare took
up land in the Mt Egerton area some, amongst them Patrick Murphy and Horora
Hehir (whose daughter Nora was to marry Thomas’s eldest son Michael)
and also a John Cahill. Other surnames in the area were Sheedy and Fitzgerald.
Thomas met Margaret Gannon who had immigrated also to
Australia about the same time as himself. She was the daughter of Michael
and Anne (nee Donnellan) from Tuam, Co. Galway. At the time of their marriage
Margaret was a servant in the nearby township of Gordon. They were married
on the 14th of January 1868 at St. Alipuis Church - the first Catholic
Church built in Ballarat. At that time Ballarat was a new (of just over
30 years) prosperous gold mining town & the home of the Eureka Rebellion
of 1854 in which many of the men involved were Irish and from Co. Clare.
Thomas & Margaret built a two room cottage (probably made from vertical sawn boards with a bark roof kept flat with saplings) beside the Woolen Creek to be near water. Two children were born there, Michael in 1868 and then Patrick in 1871. They purchased a further 50 acres nearby and built a 3 roomed slab cottage with glazed windows and a corrugated iron roof which they added a further five rooms to as the family increased to ten children: Annie in 1872, Mary in 1874, Margaret in 1875, Thomas in 1877, John Steven in 1879, Catherine in 1881, Bartholomew in 1884 and Bridget in 1886. Here is an extract from the book ‘Life in the Australian backblocks’ by E.S Sorenson:
‘[The bushman] sticks up a temporary structure
with the hardiest material about him, the principal object aimed at being
to make it keep out rain. A married man, with little or no capital, begins
with a two roomed hut – intended later for a kitchen – but
any sort of jerry-built humpy suits the bachelor.’
Thomas, who was affectionately known as ‘The Boss’ by the family, milked cows in the morning. Then he rode a horse up to the Mount (Mt Egerton) and worked in one of the mines that was in full swing at that time. After arriving home from the mine in the evening the cows were milked again. He and Margaret made butter from their milk which was sold in both Mt Egerton and Ballarat. They also bred horses which where in great demand and sold for good prices in those times.
One of the first tasks facing Thomas and Margaret was the removal of the trees and undergrowth, done mostly by ‘ring barking’. Once the dead trees were felled they were burned or used for building fences, outbuildings etc.
The following winter rains would have washed the ashes from the stumps into the soil and therefore acted as fertilizer so that the land was ready for ploughing the following spring. It’s ironic that all their hard work now lies at the bottom of Geelong’s water supply – The Bungal Dam! It was a time of settlement, growth and national self-discovery. By the start of the First World War Australia’s population was one third of Irish decent. As many a historian has pointed out, the Irish were a founding people in Australia.
In 1868 Thomas & Margaret were part of a group of
early settlers to the area who established the first Catholic Church and
school in Mt. Egerton - St Francis Xavier. In this picture of the Church/School
Thomas and Margaret’s grandson Tom is pictured. He is the tall boy
in the back row, far right.
In late January 1878 Thomas and Margaret felt the devastating effects of the harsh Australian summers – bushfires. A report in the local newspaper ran:
‘About noon on Thursday a fire broke out in the grass paddock of Mr. Donnelan nearly 3 miles south-west of Egerton. There was none but a few boys about at the time and they, being unable to put it out, called for assistance, but before it arrived the fire had obtained so strong a hold that, despite the energetic efforts of over 30 men who did their very upmost, Mr. Donnelan has lost the greater portion of his fences, besides the valuable grass. Mr Michael Toohey is a much heavier loser in both respects but Mr. Thos. Thyne is far the greatest sufferer, for not only is he the loser in the matter of fencing, but a very large portion of his wheat and oat crop is also destroyed, and in addition to this heavy loss, but a short time since a valuable brood mare of his died in foaling.’
Thomas and Margaret survived three of their children who predeceased them both, Annie at aged 19 years, Kate aged 5 years and their eldest Michael who was killed in an accident with an oncoming train when he was aged 47 years. Here is a newspaper article on Michael’s death.
This is a song sang by the early Irishmen pioneers to Australia
Traditional Australian : With My Swag on My Shoulder
When first we left old Ireland’s
shores, such yarns as we were told,
When first we reached Port Melbourne
we were all prepared to slip
So round the tucker tracks I tramp,
nor leave them out of sight,
Thomas died peacefully at his home in Egerton on the 29th of April 1923. Margaret passed away the following year. Thomas lived a very full and productive life; he endured hardship and sadness within his family but also had great successes and joy from his life’s work and family. He earned the respect from his peers and fellow neighbours, and made a good contribution to his community. Although the farm that Thomas and Margaret is now owned by the Water Board and is part of the Bungal Dam, their son Michael’s descendants still own farming land nearby.
Kerryn Taylor 2011