Thursday, May 29, 2008

The Carrolls of Van Diemen’s Land Part One

On the 26th of September 1839 Thomas Carroll of Russellstown, Athy and his wife Agnes left London on the ‘Thomas Laurie’, a 300 ton British barque travelling to Australia. On the way out the boat stopped at St. Jago, one of the Cape Vende islands in the Atlantic for four days to take on water, arriving at Circular Head, Van Diemen’s Land on 5th March 1840. The town of Stanley would be officially created two years later out of the Circular Head settlement and it was to Stanley that I travelled recently to find the place where the Carrolls settled and where a future Australian Prime Minister, Joseph Aloysius Lyons, was born.

Thomas and Agnes Carroll had with them on that long trip five children; Jane, 12 years old; Denis, 3 years younger; Patrick born in 1832; Thomas, 5 years old and Bridget who was just 6 months old when the ship berthed down under. Another daughter, Agnes, would later be born on 16th July 1842.

Thomas Carroll was 40 years old when he set out from his home town of Athy. The son of Patrick and Bridget Carroll, his brothers were Denis, who was a year older, Patrick and John. Thomas would seem to have been well educated and is believed to have worked on the construction of Stephenson’s first railway line in England. With the Carrolls on the ‘Thomas Laurie’ and also emigrating to Van Diemen’s Land were Joseph and Ellen Dooling, also of Russellstown.

The Carrolls were Catholics and Thomas, who was described as a shepherd and an agricultural worker, is believed to have been sponsored by the Van Diemen’s Land company, a pastoral organisation established by a group of Londoners in 1828 to farm in Van Diemen’s Land. His wife Agnes who was 35 years of age when she left Ireland was described as a dairy maid.

Two years after the Carrolls arrived Denis Carroll, older brother of Thomas, with his wife Ann and three children, Bridget, Thomas and William emigrated to New South Wales. Unfortunately Ann died during the voyage and Denis and his children subsequently made their way to Van Diemen’s Land to join Thomas and his family in the North West corner of the island.

Agnes Carroll died within five years of arriving in Van Diemen’s Land and her husband Thomas re-married within 17 months of her death. His second wife was Mary Ann Goodwin, the daughter of an English convict who was transported to Van Diemen’s Land in 1809. Mary Ann had been married previously and when she died in 1896 she left 14 children from four different marriages.

Thomas Carroll and his brother prospered in Van Diemen’s Land and eight years after arriving the younger of the Athy born brothers had leased an 80 acre farm in Circular Road and was employing five free and five bonded servants. By 1856 when the name Van Dieman’s Land was officially changed to Tasmania, Denis Carroll had purchased his own farm, while his brother Thomas was listed as a juror. This indicated that Thomas had an estate of £500 or more and in the State Electoral Role for the same year he is shown owning a farm and house at Forest Road.

Meanwhile the other Carroll brothers, Patrick and John, had emigrated westwards to America. John sailed to America on 28th December 1848, leaving behind in Athy his wife Catherine who was 34 years of age and their 3 children Letitia, Mary and Ellen. Less than three months later his brother Patrick set sail for America and is believed to have travelled to New Orleans. The Carroll family never heard of him again. In the meantime John Carroll arrived in St. Louis and he wrote to his wife Catherine on 3rd June 1849. The letter addressed to Catherine Carroll of Forest, Athy was the last communication the family ever received from him. In that letter, composed and written by an obviously well educated man, John Carroll wrote:-

‘Tell the Hickeys of Byrth that Mick was all the winter with his brother Thomas and the day before I got there he went to Illinois to his brother Pat. Thomas is alive and is living in Chile and has a thundering pair of horses and a good cow and heifer and a horse and farm of his own.’

He continued:-

‘Remember me to ..... Eleanor and Mrs. Lynch and John Byrne and family, John Whelan and family and your mother and all her sons in law and daughters in law and grandchildren ..... remember me to all the neighbours and friends and George Doyle in particular and poor Miley need not think I forgot him.’

Kate White in her book on Joseph Lyons, the Australian Prime Minister, wrote that John Carroll ‘after much trouble getting work moved to New York. By the time he finally wrote to his wife Catherine in June 1849 he had a job at Clyde in New York State. He sent home money and assurances that once he prospered he would send for her and the children. His letter ended poignantly:- “Adieu, dear wife, adieu. I have nothing more to relate to you but I still remain your ever loving husband ‘til death.” John was killed on the job several months later.’

Denis Carroll by the mid-1850s was prospering in Tasmania and he sponsored his brother’s widow Catherine and her three daughters to travel to Tasmania. They left Forest, Athy in 1857 and sailed on the ‘Sir W.F. Williams’ arriving in Hobart on 18th August of that year. The young girls who had been attending the newly opened convent school in Athy were Letitia aged 17 years, Mary aged 14 years and Ellen aged 11 years. One unsolved mystery surrounds John Carroll, a half brother of the girls who was regarded as the black sheep of the family. He was born in Athy in 1831 or thereabouts and always claimed that he was born ‘on the wrong side of the blanket.’ He married Elizabeth Holland from neighbouring County Laois and had a son Patrick, all of whom emigrated to Tasmania, sailing on the ship ‘Castlemaine’ which arrived in Tasmania on 23rd April 1867. John who was regarded as a carefree and irresponsible individual died in Stanley on 10th September 1902. It is not clear whether he was Catherine’s son or the son of her husband John from a previous relationship.

Three branches of the Carroll family of Forest, Athy settled in the North West of Tasmania in and around the area chosen by the Van Diemen’s Land company as the first European settlement. The town of Stanley is now the centre of the Circular Head region and nearby is Forrest where Denis and Thomas Carroll farmed. They had arrived in the Southern Hemisphere from Forest, Athy and they would give to that part of Tasmania where they eventually settled the name of their Irish townland. Not far from Stanley are two small villages with names which clearly indicate overseas links. Scotstown and Irishtown undoubtedly indicate the early presence of Scottish and Irish emigrants in that part of North West Tasmania not far from where the Carrolls of Forest or Russellstown, Athy settled on land which was once thought to be only fit to receive convicts. I will continue the story of the Carrolls next week.

Next Saturday Athy will be the venue for Tri Athy, the marathon event first run here in 2007 and which has emerged as the most important sporting event ever held in our town. It surpasses in importance and scale of operation even the two All Ireland finals which were held in Geraldine Park. Tri Athy promises to be an exciting event during which the River Barrow and that wonderful public space in the centre of Athy, Emily Square, will be the centre of activity as hundreds of athletes compete in swimming, cycling and running over courses extending 1500 metres, 40 kilometres and 10 kilometres respectively. Last year the event did not appear to receive the full support of the local people who by and large stayed away from viewing what was a great spectacle. With good weather promised for the weekend, hopefully the spectators will come out in their hundreds and share in the excitement of what is a truly national event.

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