Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Mary Ann

I missed my 300th post yesterday, but in looking back this arvo, found I'd left this post in draft. It is only of real interest to the family, so scroll down for the knitting content.
A SHORT HISTORY OF MARY ANN JORDAN (NEE MCELROY) 1833 - 1923, my great, great, great grandmother.

In early 1848 with the intention of keeping a supply of labour, the British Government set up a scheme whereby free passages to New South Wales would be provided to female Irish orphans between the ages of 14 and 18 years. An Orphan Immigration Committee and a Board of Guardians were set up to care for their welfare and the first group of orphans arrived at Port Phillip during December 1848.

Two girls, daughters of Hugh McElroy, a Church of England parson (or a stonemason depending on which document you believe), and his wife Anne (nee Clarke) of Innerskillen, County Fermanagh arrived in company with 313 other female orphan passengers on board the Pemberton at Melbourne on the 14th of May 1849.

These young girls Mary Ann, a 16 year old house servant and her sister, Ellen, a 14 year old needle-woman, were immediately taken into service by Mr Mashan of Bourke Street Melbourne at annual salaries of 7 pounds and 5 pounds respectively. It was noted on their arrival that they were members of the Church of England and could read and write.

At the age of 19 and with the consent of her legal guardian, Mary Ann married William Jordan at St. Peters Anglican Church, Eastern Hill Melbourne on the 31st of August 1852. William, who was born at Aughton Common, Shropshire, England about 1822, marked the wedding register with a cross. Mary Ann signed her name.

William Jordan (who had the alias Middleton) had arrived on board the Anna Maria at Geelong on the 23rd of June 1848. He was a Pentonville convict who had been sentenced to seven years exile after an unsuccessful career as a shop breaker. Prior to being sentenced at the Central Criminal Court, London, in May 1846 he had been a printer. Before being transported he was trained as a carpenter.

William and Mary took up the Government's intention of providing labour with apparent enthusiasm having 13 children during their 43 year marriage. When William died of cancer on the 9th of August 1895 only five of those children survived him. One of them was Elizabeth Jane (Jinnie), born 29 May 1857, who married John Phillip Cockerill and became my g-g grandmother.

Mary Ann died of senile decay in her 90th year on the 31st of August 1923 . She was survived by 41 grandchildren, 59 great grandchildren and 5 great, great grandchildren. Mary Ann is buried with her husband at Creswick Cemetery, Victoria.

Her sister Ellen, who had arrived with Mary, married William Surridge and it is thought they had six children. She died on the 12th of October 1923 aged 87 years.

Mary Ann was described as a deeply religious person who had a dislike of Catholics and spoke of her early childhood in Ireland as one of continually digging peat in the bogs.

In her last years, Mary Ann would walk along fence lines remonstrating with the posts which she thought were Catholics and attacking them with her walking stick. Another contemporary report says that she was always talkative and even as an old woman quite capable of forthright criticisms. One of her granddaughters told a story that whilst she was discussing that favourite subject of the aged, the rising generation, she was heard to say "the trouble with young women these days is that they like the pleasures of the bed, but they don't want the children".

Apart from many offspring, Mary Ann left very little in the way of material goods. We have the wooden trunk which she was issued by the British Government for her personal possessions when she left Ireland. My grandfather got it from a Caddy cousin who'd been using it to breed ferrets in. It is this that speaks to me the most about Mary Ann's legacy - practicality, thrift, forthrightness and fortitude.

A moving memorial to the Irish Famine Orphans is at Hyde Park Barracks in Sydney.

In November, an ABC film crew interviewed Dad and me about Mary Ann for a Christmas special on the Irish in Australia. As a part of the interview I was filmed knitting and walking up Mount Taylor in 30C deg + heat . That bit of footage did not go to air.

At the time of the interview, we were invited to be part of a Christmas Day Mass in Sydney at the Hyde Park Barracks to celebrate the Irish in Australia, particularly the famine orphans. I was immediately siezed with the desire to knit a garment to wear; partly because the only summer frock I own is sleeveless and I didn't want to attend Mass with my arms uncovered and partly because I wanted to commemorate Mary Ann in my own way.

What was called for was something that was loose, light but covering and that would go with my grey and black frock. In stash was16 x 50g balls of black Panda Coral 8ply cotton/acrylic blend (51/49%) purchased at St VdeP for $10 in March '06. More than enough for a shawl of some description, I reckoned. Could I find a pattern I liked and which matched my yardage, tension and size requirements? Could I, feck! The only thing for it was to concoct something myself.

I give you the the Mary Ann wrap, which celebrates Mary Ann McElroy's qualities of thrift, practicality and fortitude. It's also rather pretty and is enveloping and comforting.


The Shopping Sherpa said...

Wonderful story and wonderful tribute :-)

Knit1 Blog1 said...

Hi Unravelled,

Thanks so much for your beautiful contribution to Knit1 Blog1 - I'm sorry I wasn't there to meet you. An image will be on the knit1blog1 site soon as well as opening details. Cheers

Georgie said...

A fabulous story and a fitting way to commemorate Mary Ann. The stitch pattern is really lovely.

Thanks for sharing a part of your history Taph.

Georgie said...

And congrats on your 300th post!!

Olivia said...

Your wrap is gorgous. Are you thinking of submitting the pattern somewhere? I love a pattern with a good story behind it.

Donna Lee said...

What a lovely wrap. I am not as a rule, a wearer of wraps or shawls, I am more of a sweater woman, but that looks so beautiful. I love the stitch pattern and the story is wonderful. I found it very interesting (even if I'm not family) because I am woefully ignorant about Australian history. Thank you for sharing it.

Sue H said...

I thoroughly enjoyed reading your story. My husband and his family, whose grandfather came from England with his mother to reunite with their father in 1877. We too have a great story of their early life here in Australia, and some of the family is still on the original land near Kerang in north west Victoria.
I love that wrap, will you be sharing the pattern.

Sometimes Unwilling Guru said...

What a wonderful piece of history,on my trip home to see my Grandmother i was able to find out some bits of her family but the arrival of other members hindered getting the stories in more detail but Ive started putting the bits together for my boys should they ever be interested.In that I was surprised to learn i am one of the few to hear these stories,not even my own Mum was told!!!

Janette said...

What a wonderful story and how fabulous to have access to family history.

The shawl is beautiful, but made even more so with a history story to travel through time with now.

So very special - keep them together always.

Jejune said...

That's a great story Taph - Mary Ann sounds like quite a character - loved the whacking 'Catholic' fence posts bit, goodness! A woman to be reckoned with. I enjoyed seeing that episode of Compass, too, I was proud of you :)

And a lovely lace wrap, too, of course!

amanda j said...

Oh, I wish I had seen that episode. I have serious Irish heritage and convicts too. Your wrap is gorgeous and you should submit the pattern or write it up for the rest of us.

Lovely story.

Lara said...

How wonderful that you know so much about your family, and what a fitting tribute!

Anonymous said...


I was surfing the web looking for genealogy information about my g-g-grandfather William Jordan, when I saw your story. It's lovely that you dedicated the shawl in her name, I'm sure she would be tickled pink at the honour.

Please get intouch with me if possible regarding our mutual family history information?

My email addy is: polarisd2000@hotmail.com.

Cheery regards,