Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Catherine Dwyer's Life with John Gildea.

It seems as though things changed rapidly for Catherine after her marriage to ex-convict John Gildea. In 1852 he was actively involved with Melbourne's Police force, which was still in its infancy. His name appeared in the Argus newspaper during 1852 in his capacity as a police constable testifying in a court case.
In 1855, Catherine gave birth to her first child, a daughter named Mary Ann. The child's birth in the Victorian birth index took a little time to track down, but was finally located as 'Mary Ann Gildar, born 1855, Moonee Ponds, daughter of John Gildar and Catherine Dwyra". By this stage, John Gildea had left the police force and was the publican of the 'Young Queen' at Pascoe Vale.

Poor Catherine was not enjoying married life...on February 12, 1856, the Argus published the following article:

" ANOTHER WIFE-BEATING CASE. At the District Court yesterday, William Gildea, the landlord of the Young Queen public-house, at Pascoevale, appeared to answer the information of Catherine Gildea, his wife, charging him with refusing to maintain her. The complainant, a young woman respectably attired, and who had with her an infant in arms, stated that the defendant was constantly in the habit of beating her, and had turned her out of his house, refusing to support her. The Bench gave the defendant the option of taking the complainant back, or paying 30 shillings per week for her maintenance. Gildea chose the latter alternative, and was ordered to find sureties for his compliance with the order of the Bench."

The article incorrectly referred to Catherine Dwyer's husband as 'William' rather than 'John', but there is absolutely no doubt that it is Catherine Dwyer, her husband John Gildea and their baby daughter Mary Ann who are referred to in the report.

The following month, on March 21, 1856, John Gildea's obvious derailment came to a head when he took a shot at a customer, seriously injuring him. There were numerous newspaper reports covering the event:

On Friday night last the residents of Pascoevale were thrown into a state of excitement by the report that a man had been deliberately shot by a person named Gildea, the landlord of the Young Queen public-house at Pascoevale. Gildea, who was formerly an active and intelligent officer of the detective police, and has latterly given himself up to intemperate habits, has been repeatedly before the Police Court. Latterly, in consequence of his violent conduct, his wife was compelled to leave him, and succeeded in obtaining from the District bench an order for a separate maintenance.
Since that period, probably about seven weeks back, we learn that Gildea's habits have been more intemperate, and his conduct more violent than ever. The report that a man had been shot unfortunately proved too true, and from the statement made to us, upon enquiry at the hospital yesterday, relative to the condition of the wounded man, we fear there is too much reason to believe that within a few hours of this report reaching the public, a coroner's jury will be summoned to investigate and pronounce upon the the sad occurrence.
The name of the wounded man is William Macaulay. He has for sometime past held a small farm about two miles distant from the Young Queen. On Friday last he had been to town with his team, and on his return homewards called, as was his usual custom, at the Young Queen, where he form Gildea and several other persons engaged in quoit playing. Macaulay played several matches for something to drink with Gildea, both being perfectly sober at the time, and Macaulay was the victor; but Gildea refused to pay, and went into the house, pretending to be in a state of intoxication. Macaulay followed him in, and a slight altercation took place between them, in the course of which Gildea, without (as it is asserted) having received the slightest provocation, said that Macaulay's wife was a w---e. Upon the offensive expression being made use of, Macaulay struck at Gildea,who, however, bobbed his head and eluded the blow,at the same moment seizing a gun, which was in the bar.
Macaulay then left the house, for the purpose of proceeding homewards with his team. Some slight delay occurred in getting them ready; and after the lapse of several minutes from the period at which the altercation in the bar occurred, Gildea deliberately discharged the piece from a window at Macaulay, who was standing in the road.- the charge, consisting of duckshot, entering a little above the unfortunate man's right hip.
There are rumours afloat of Gildea having made use of some expressions not at all indicative of sorrow at what had happened. The wounded man was conveyed to the hospital, and, upon examination of the wounds, medical men expressed a decided opinion that they would prove fatal, in consequence of which Macaulay, to whom the fact was communicated, was requested to make a dying deposition; but as he declared that he did not believe he was in a dying state, his deposition cannot be viewed in this light; in substance it is what we have already stated. He expressed a belief that Gildea was perfectly sober at the time, and declares that Gildea's mention of Mrs Macaulay was entirely voluntary and unprovoked.
Inspector Smith proceeded to the Young Queen on Saturday and arrested Gildea, who is now in the Swanston street watchhouse, and will probably be brought up for examination at the Police Court today."
- Above: The Courier (Hobart),March 27, 1856.

The Argus newspaper covered the story comprehensively, and the end result for John Gildea was that he spent most of the year 1856 in gaol. The following was quoted in the Argus of June 25, 1856:

" His Honour then severely admonished the prisoner as to his future conduct, and especially against having recourse to dangerous weapons. Taking into consideration the recommendation of the Jury, the character the prisoner had received, and the length of time he had already been in prison, he should pass a comparatively lenient sentence: six months imprisonment with hard labour."

Perhaps a gaol sentence was the very thing that John Gildea needed at that point of his life...a law-enforced ban on alcohol while behind bars may have straightened him out, because some time after his release Catherine obviously took him back,bearing him five more children between 1860 and 1868.
The family left Melbourne and settled in the Kilmore district, where Catherine would have had the support of her siblings and their families. John and Catherine Gildea had the following children in total:

Mary Ann Gildea born 1855, Moonee Ponds
John Gildea born 1857, Kilmore. Died 1858, Kilmore.

Johanna born 29 May, 1859, Kilmore.

Catherine Gildea born 27 April, 1863, Forbes near Kilmore.
Patrick Gildea, twin of Catherine, born 27 April, 1863, Forbes.

Confusion exists after the birth of the twins, because according to the Australian birth index on Ancestry.com.au., another baby named Johanna was born to John and Catherine in 1868. This birth has not been located on the official Victorian BDM site. There is also no death for the first Johanna born in 1859, and on Catherine Gildea's death certificate in 1880 her daughter Johanna was noted as being 19 years old, meaning she couldn't have been born in 1868.
There was also a son named John Gildea noted on the death certificate, aged 9 years. I cannot find a birth for a child born to the Gildeas after the 1868 Ancestry birth for Johanna, but their son John obviously existed, and he was born c. 1860-61!

I purchased two of the birth certificates of the Gildea children in my attempt to piece together the lives of their parents. Yet again, I was thwarted in discovering a birthplace for a Dwyer sibling...Catherine, who was the informant at all three births, stated merely that she was from County Tipperary, Ireland. The information on the other certificates (technically, there were only two certificates, as in one case the birth was of the twins in 1863, so the information given on them was identical.

First off...the birth certificate of Johanna Gildea in 1859...
May 29, 1859, at Kilmore.
Johanna Gildea, female, not present.
Father: John Gildea, labourer, 35, born in Co. Mayo, Ireland. Married 1852 at Melbourne.
Issue living: 2 girls; deceased: 1 boy.
Mother: Catherine Dwyer, 35, born in Co. Tipperary, Ireland.
Informant: Catherine Gildea, mother of the child, residing at Kilmore.
Nurse: Mrs Coman
Registered: At Kilmore on March 31, 1860.

27 April, 1863, at Forbes near Kilmore
Patrick Gildea, second of twins, not present, male.
Father: John Gildea, labourer, aged 40. Born in Co. Mayo, Ireland.
Married: June 1854 at Melbourne.
Issue: Mary Anne 8; Johanna 4, John dead.
Mother: Catherine Gildea, formerly Dwyer, age 32. Born Co. Tipperary, Ireland.
Informant: Catherine Gildea,mother of the child, residing at Forbes.
Nurse: Mrs Comans.
Registered 24 October, 1863.

Despite being the second twin to arrive, Patrick Gildea was registered the entry before his sister, Catherine. Information on the two certificates is identical.
NOTE: The nurse who delivered the twins and baby Johanna was "Mrs Coman or Comans". Remember...the Dwyer siblings' mother back in Tipperary was Johanna Comans. Could this Kilmore midwife have been related to Catherine Dwyer? I have done a bit of delving into the Comans family of Kilmore, and will add my brief findings after my story of the Gildea family is completed.

These birth certificates are good examples of why we should never treat as the Gospel truth ages as stated on certificates. From John Gildea's convict record, we know that he was 27 years old when he was tried in 1843. This puts his year of birth as c. 1816, so he was a good deal older than Catherine Dwyer whose birth year was c. 1830-31.
Yet on these birth certificates, Catherine herself gave her husband's age as 35 in 1859 and 40 in 1863.This represents birth years of 1824 and 1823. For her own age, she stated that in 1859 she was 35 and in 1863 she was 32, giving estimated birth years of 1824 and 1831 respectively.

I have in my temporary possession the joint ledger belonging to Paddy Bourke's Noah's Ark Store in Kilmore and his Burramine Store, beginning in the early 1870s. On page 83, he has two entries for "Patrick Dwyer, Old Survey, March 1871", followed by "John Gildea, brother-in-law to P. Dwyer, Survey." This verifies that John Gildea's wife, Catherine Dwyer, was definitely the sister of Patrick Dwyer, his three brothers and four other sisters.

The Kilmore Free Press carried very little news of the Gildea family throughout the seventies, until the appearance of the death notice for John Gildea in 1879.

"On Saturday the remains of John Gildea, a resident for many years, were interred in the Kilmore Cemetery."-October 16, 1879.

Even greater tragedy struck the Gildea family less than 12 months later, when widowed Catherine Dwyer Gildea passed away at the age of fifty, leaving children aged between 23 and 9 years. She had been suffering for sixth months from phthisis pulmonalis, which was a type of tuberculosis,(or the dreaded consumption of the lungs), and after last seeing local doctor, Dr. Brock, on September 20, 1880, Catherine slipped away at 4 a.m on September 26, 1880.

She was buried in the Kilmore Cemetery two days later on September 28, 1880. Catherine's eldest child, daughter Mary Anne Gildea, registered her mother's death at Kilmore on November 1, 1880. Surprisingly, she could not sign her own name....the Kilmore district registrar, Mr. Osborn, had noted "Informant Margaret Gildea, daughter, Kilmore, X her mark". This was a mistake on his behalf, as her name was Mary Anne, not Margaret.
Catherine's death certificate also noted that she had been born in County Tipperary, and had been in Victoria for 40 years; that she had been married at the age of 24 in Melbourne to John Gildea; and that her children were Mary 23; Johanna 19; Catherine 14; Patrick 14 and John 9.

I would love to know what became of Catherine Dwyer's orphaned children. The older girls would most likely have been able to gain employment as house servants or other forms of labour requiring very little or no education. Even the twins at the age of 14 would be of an employable age. But what happened to poor 9 year old John Gildea? Hopefully he was permitted to remain with his family, or at least be absorbed into the family of one of his Dwyer aunts or uncles in the Kilmore district.

As I previously noted, a woman named Mrs Coman or Comans was present at the births of the Gildea twins and of their elder sister, Johanna. By coincidence, on the same page as the births of the twins in 1863 was the birth of the last child of my great-great-great grandparents...Nicholas Bourke, son of Patrick Bourke and Bridget Corbett. Mrs Coman was also the nurse who assisted Bridget at her delivery.

Having a quick look at any Coman/s in Kilmore during this period, it appears that the main family belonged to Cornelius Comans and his wife Bridget Kennedy. Cornelius was born c. 1831 in Tipperary, and he married Bridget Kennedy, the daughter of Matthew Kennedy and Margaret Dwyer, at Kilmore in 1860. Their children were Margaret, Mary, Daniel, Michael, Cornelius and Bridget.
Known as 'Con', Cornelius Comans settled at Bylands. When he died in 1894, the Kilmore Free Press published an obituary that was very helpful in providing details on his life:

We regret this week having to record the death of Mr "Con" Cornelius Comans, farmer, Bylands, by which sad event occurred about 6 o'clock on Sunday evening. Mr Comans was a colonist of about 40 years standing, and, with the exception of a short period after his arrival in the colony on the gold fields, the whole of the time was spent in this district. He came of a good old stock in the county Tipperary, and was himself a sterling, reliable man, well-liked by his neighbours, and very popular.
...Mr. Comans reared a respectable family in our midst, the two eldest daughters being married. He was a shrewd and keen politician, taking much interest in the Irish National subjects as well as in Victorian public questions.
Deceased gentleman was 64 years of age, and his removal from our midst will be felt by many who will miss him for his many kindly characteristics."
-Kilmore Free Press, February 22, 1894.

There was also a wonderful tribute to Con Comans published in the same newspaper on March 1, 1894.

Bridget Kennedy Comans, Con's wife, died on November 25, 1926, on her farm at Bylands. Her death notice in the Kilmore Free Press stated:

"DEATH-COMANS. On the 18th November, at her residence, Bylands, Bridget, relict of the late Cornelius Comans, and mother of Margaret (Mrs Hourigan, Maffra), Mary (Mrs Kelly, Euroa), Daniel (Bylands), Michael (Northcote), Cornelius and Bridget (Bylands). Aged 94."
- Kilmore Free Press, November 25, 1926.

"OBITUARY. The death of Mrs Comans took place at her residence, Bylands -where she reared a most respectable family- on Thursday last, at the fine old age of 94. Relict of the late Mr. Cornelius Comans.
Throughout her long illness she was blest with the devoted attention of her daughter, Miss Bridget, who also, in a most self-sacrificing and heroic manner, spent most of her young life in the watchful and zealous care of her brother (Mr Cornelius) who has been an invalid for a lengthy period through spinal injury accidentally received..."
- Kilmore Free Press, November 25, 1926.

I had thought that this Bridget Kennedy Comans was the only contender for the midwife who delivered Nicholas Bourke and the Gildea babies, but Johanna Gildea was born in 1859 when Bridget Comans was still Bridget Kennedy, she not having married Con Comans until 1860.

More poking around revealed that there was an older "Mrs. Comans" who was present in the Kilmore district, but I am finding it very difficult to find more details about her. Her name was Honora Comans, and she was born in Tipperary c. 1798, the daughter of Patrick English and Mary Honors. According to her death certificate, Honora was married in Tipperary c. 1834 at the age of about 36, to John Comans. Her issue was noted as being Margaret, 47 (therefore born c. 1834) and John, 36 (therefore born c. 1845). Confusingly, the informant was given as 'Roger Dwyer, son, of Kilmore'...why was his name 'Dwyer', and why was he not named as one of Honora's children?

Above: The marriage of Honora English and John Comman took place at Clonoulty, Tipperary, on October 30, 1831. in the presence of William English, Edward Common and Betty Fitzgerald.

  The baptisms of two children have been located thus far:
Honoria Commons baptised January 4, 1842. daughter of John Commons and Norry English. Sponsor" Cath Bermingham. Place: Borrisoleigh.
John Comans baptised July 9, 1843, son of John Commons and Honora English. Sponsor Mary Corcoran. Place: Upperchurch & Drombane, Tipperary.

In my initial searching I have not located Honora Coman's shipping record, or that of her children Margaret and John (that is, of course, assuming that the children came to Australia) I can also find no record at all of a Roger Dwyer or O'Dwyer in Victoria.
There is a possible match for Roger Dwyer and John Coman on board the British Trident arriving in Sydney in January of 1861. They were both sponsored to Australia by John English (Honora Coman's maiden name was English):
Roger Dwyer/ 34 years/ farm labourer/native of Carhue, Dundrum, Tipperary/ reference provided by Father Mullally, P.P Donohill, Tipperary.
John Coman/ 16/ farm labourer/ born Carhue, Dundrum, Tipperary/reference provided by Mr Patrick Dwyer,Carhue, Tipperary.

Another passenger list also gives the details that both were Roman Catholic, and whilst John Coman could read, Roger Dwyer could neither read nor write. This list also states that the two were from Clonoulty/Clonalty, Tipperary.

This John Coman is the correct age to be Honora Comans' son, and it seems almost too coincidental that not only a man named English should sponsor them out, but that both Roger Dwyer and John Coman should be sponsored together and arrive together.

I would love to take the challenge of finding out more about Honora and her family, but I am already off on a big enough tangent tracking down the God parents of my Bourke babies without running all over the countryside chasing the family of the woman who delivered the babies of those Godparents!!!!

1 comment:

Rob Collins said...

Mary Ann Gildea born 1855 Moonee Ponds, Victoria died 1930 Northcote, Victoria married James William Beresford (1857-1910) in 1883 Victoria. They had 4 Children. William Patrick 1883, Catherine Ann 1885, Florence Kate 1887 and John Ernest 1889. John Ernest Beresford married Mary Ann Lilian Machell (1888-1958) who is my grandmother's sister.
Loved your research on the Gildea's, thank you so much.
Let me know if you would like to share info.
Rob Collins