This blog is a personal take on Listowel, Co. Kerry. I am writing for anyone anywhere with a Listowel connection but especially for sons and daughters of Listowel who find themselves far from home. Contact me at

Tag: Bridget Ryan

All the schoolboys named, Tar Abhaile and painting.

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas in Listowel

Flavins window


Mike Enright took this great photo of a sunrise in Ballybunion, November 2013


Don’t forget to watch TG4 on Sunday night next at 9.30

Julie and Glyn Evans pictured outside the famine graveyard in Listowel in Spring 2013.

Julie’s search for her the truth about her great great grandmother brought her to Teampaill Bán Famine graveyard.


Dan Doyle’s old photo has brought much pleasure and not a few sad memories to many in Listowel and further afield. May the Lord have mercy on the souls of the men no longer with us who in this photo are smiling here as hopeful little boys, To the others who are still with us, thank you to those who have contacted me and a special thanks to Tadhg Moriarty and Aidan Murphy who put their memories to the test  and passed with flying colours.  Below are all the names as supplied to me by the two aforementioned men.

Má tá bréag ann, bíodh.   (If there’s a lie in it let it be).  This was the old storytellers get out phrase.

Front row

Oliver Doyle, Denis McElligot, Ned Lyons, John Burke,
Mark Walsh, Liam Gunn, Christy Walsh,Jimmy Moore, Padraig Walsh, Michael Scannell

Aidan Murphy, Ned Moriarty, Eamonn Hartnett, John
Beechinor , Stephen Coffey. 

Middle row 

Paddy Neville, Timmy Rellihan, Richard Keating, Maurice
Chute, Colm Keane, Paudie Carey , Michael Hannon, Paddy Horgan,
Pat O Donoghue, Tom O Connell,

John Sweeney, Gerry Kiernan, Gerry Murphy, PJ Brown

Tom O Connor.

Back row

Peter O Reilly, Pat Stack, Eamonn O Carroll,

Maurice Carroll, Kevin Woulfe, Raymond O Mahoney, 

Denis O Connor, Nelius Scannell, Tom McElligott, Tadhg
Moriarty, Michael Barry, 

Tim Nolan,  Paddy Duggan, Dan Doyle, Liam O Driscoll.


Fred Chute continues his painting while he chats to Martin Hickey on Church Street last week.


Date for the diary

Tomorrow night Weds, November 27 the committee of the great Ballydonoghue Parish Magazine will be in Conversation with Weeshie on Radio Kerry at 6.00 p.m. The winners of the competitions will be announced. I have entered a few photographs and I have high hopes.

September 1 2013

What is it about Dublin versus Kerry?

The answer is  here


Seamus Heaney R.I.P.

Writers’ Week shared this photo of Seamus Heaney on the occasion of his death on Friday August 30 2013. It shows the poet with Michael Lynch, Máire Logue, Eilís Wren and Joanne Keane-O’Flynn.

One of my favourite Heaney poems is Scaffolding. It is appropriate here for many reasons.


Masons, when they start upon a building,

Are careful to test out the scaffolding;

Make sure that planks won’t slip at busy points,

Secure all ladders, tighten bolted joints.

And yet all this comes down when the job’s done

Showing off walls of sure and solid stone.

So if, my dear, there sometimes seem to be

Old bridges breaking between you and me

Never fear. We may let the scaffolds fall

Confident that we have built our wall.



Maidhc Dainín ÓSé  R.I.P.

When I was a teacher of Gaeilge in Pres. Listowel a high point of the year was always our trip to The Seanchaí during Seachtain na Gaeilge to hear Maidhc Dainín read from his autobiography and to play a few tunes for us. Here is my photo from 2008 of the great man with Mary Moylan, Ciara Dineen, Aoife Kelliher, Angelina Cox, Catherine Lyons and Elaine O’Connell.


Meanwhile down under….

This picture was sent to me by Julie Evans. Some of you will remember Julie, descendant of Famine orphan, Bridget Ryan. That is Julie on the right of Minister Deenihan and her cousin Barbara is second next to her. They were with other descendants in Hyde Park Barracks, Sydney for the Famine commemoration last month, August 2013. I’ll be telling you lots more about Julie and the story of her ancestor and the other Famine girls anon. Meanwhile Kay Moloney has a very succinct account of the Sydney commemoration on her blog


This is a new second hand shop on Church St.

There have been lots of comings and goings since I last posted here. I’ll try to bring you news of some of them over the next few days and I’ll fill you in on where I’ve been as well.

more of Bridget Ryan’s story

## The following information came from Michael Lynch, the Kerry County Archivist, in 2008.

The Listowel Workhouse took in its first admissions on 13 February 1845.  The former building is now a part of the local Listowel District Hospital.There are no admissions registers surviving for the Listowel Workhouse.  However, the records of the governing body (The Board of Guardians of Listowel Poor Law Union) do survive for much of the relevant period.  There is a gap from November 1845 to November 1848, but the Minutes for the 1850s are substantially complete.

The Board met weekly, and discussed the administration of the Poor Law area more so than individual cases. These records are held in Tralee in the Archives Department of the County Library. 

There are (5) references from Listowel BG Records relevant for Bridget Ryan:

1. Ref: BG/112/A/2, 11 September 1849:  “Lieut. Henry (Local Poor Law Inspector?)this day examined the several orphan girls in the Workhouse and selected the following for emigration to Australia”.

The appended list of 19 names included Catherine Ryan (Tarbert), Mary Ryan (Listowel) and Biddy(sic)Ryan (Listowel).

Also on this date: “Ordered that the requisite outfits etc. for the girls be at once provided”.

2. Ref: BG/112/A/3 (p.20), 29 September 1849: “Ralph Brown’s proposal – he was declared contractor for the supply of 38 pairs of shoes for the orphan girls about being sent to Australia.  Prices – 2s. 10d. per pair for shoes and 1s. 3d. for pumps”

3. Ref: BG/112/A/3 (p.36), 11 October 1849: “Letter 64829 (10 October) The Workhouse orphan girls emigrating to Australia to be in Dublin before the 20th Instant”.

4. Ref: BG/112/A3 (p.37), 11 October 1849 “Ordered that a cheque be drawn in favour of Daniel Griffin for twenty pounds to defray the expenses of Emigrants to Dublin”.

5. Ref: BG/112/A/3 (p.56), 25 October 1849: “Letter from Lieut. Henry 20th October informing Guardians of the arrangements made for the maintenance of one of the Emigrant girls taken ill of fever in Dublin”.

This is as much as exists in the Minute Books, but at least it confirms that Bridget (Biddy) was among those sent at that time.

Bridget arrived in Sydney, Australia on 3 February 1850.According to the Thomas Arbuthnot passenger list from New South Wales State Records we know the following details:

Ryan, Bridget

Age16(Comment from Julie Evans: Bridget’s age is given as 16 but if we accept that her family knew her age at time of death then we accept her birth year of 1835, meaning that she would have been barely 15 when she arrived in Australia.)


Native Place and County:Bruff, Limerick

Parents names and if alive their residence:Anthony and Johanna, Father living in Sydney

Religion:Church of Rome

Read and write:Both

Relations in Colony:Father in Sydney

State of health, strength and probable usefulness:Poor

Any complaints respecting treatment on board the ship:None

Remarks by Immigration Board:From Listowel UnionSee below ##

It is interesting to note that despite being described officially as “orphans”, one third of the girls on the Thomas Arbuthnot did not fit the modern definition of that word.  In many cases their parents were unable to look after them and, according to research in the book A decent set of girls: the Irish famine orphans of the Thomas Arbuthnot 1849-1850  by Richard Reid and Cheryl Mongan, the girls who came out on the Thomas Arbuthnot had a higher than average percentage of living parents. Bridget was one of these girls though we have no record of any family reunion between Bridget and her father, Anthony, said to be in the army in Australia when Bridget left Ireland.

On their arrival in Sydney, Bridget and the other girls were housed in Hyde Park Barracks ( Bridget remained there for only ten days before going to work for D MacKellar. There was only one D MacKellar living in Balmain, a suburb of Sydney, at this time and it was Captain Duncan MacKellar who was renting a home called Waterview House. Captain MacKellar was a Master Mariner and was originally from Elgin in Scotland.

It is not clear how Bridget met James Murray. He had arrived in 1848 from Scotland, part of a large family and another long story! Some family lore suggests he was working in Sydney at the time though his brothers were farming in the Manning River area of New South Wales. Family records say they were married in Sydney in December 1850 though I cannot locate a copy of their marriage certificate. By December 1851 James and Bridget had had the first of their thirteen children (one did not survive infancy). They were living north of Sydney on the Manning River.

What a great story! 

Now for something completely different

A small snippet of Listowel Church Choir at the recent funeral mass for Mons. Leahy R.I.P.


From The Workhouse in Listowel To Australia at the age of 15

Today I have a great story from a lovely lady, Julie Evans.  She is pictured below with her huband, Glyn on a recent trip to Turkey.

First I have to make a few minor announcements;

1.  Thanks a million to everyone who has sent me material. I am really grateful to people who are helping me write this. Without your help I would have to rely on the own meagre resources and we would have more stories culled from the newspapers and less of the real meat like today’s post. I will get round to using all the stuff eventually so please be patient with me. And do keep it coming!

2.   I’m thrilled to see that I have a few new “followers” BUT, be warned, you won’t get email alerts unless you put your email address into the little feedburner box underneath the followers pics. I have no access to the email addresses of followers unless you email me at

3. Don’t forget tonight in The Family Centre. Bring whatever details you have and we’ll see what we can achieve.

4.  Keep plugging away at the quiz. This could be won on a small score, I feel.

5.  If you have any ideas for NKRO, email them to me or to

Now, as promised, the story of Bridget Ryan

This is Bridget as an old lady. We have no photo of her from her time in Ireland.

Bridget Ryan’s Story (by Julie Evans)

(I am so proud of my grt-grt grandmother, Bridget. She crossed the world as

little more than a child, left all that was known and familiar, made a newlife in a very different country, became the mother of 12 children who tooktheir places as well established Australians and was loved and respected byher community – what more could one seek? )

Bridget was born in County Limerick. Her obituary says “native of Limerick, Ireland”. Her obituary also says she died (10 November 1909) just before her 74th birthday which would have fallen on Christmas Day 1909. From this I assume she was born 25 December 1835.

Bridget’s New South Wales Death Certificate gives her father as Anthony Ryan, soldier and her mother as Johanna Hynes.

Re Johanna:Records in Bruff show that Johanna was the daughter of Timothy Haynes and Anne Hogan. Her baptism was 29 December 1808. Only marriage record for her parents is possibly one found for Timothy Hynes and Ellen Hogan on 25 October 1795.

Re Anthony and Johanna:A Limerick researcher found a marriage record giving the groom’s name as Lanty and then crossed out and replaced as Lancelot. The bride was Johanna Hynes and marriage took place 2 July 1831 in the Roman Catholic Church of Bruff. Witnesses were James Gavin and Anne Power. After Lancelot’s name were the words miles keeper. Miles is Latin for soldier but not sure of meaning of keeper in this context.

I assume that Johanna died before Bridget left for Australia (there is a record of a death in County Limerick in 1833 but I do not know if it is the correct record).

According to family lore, Bridget claimed to have been educated by French Nuns. It is interesting to note that The Faithful Companions of Jesus(founded in Amiens n France in 1820 by Marie Madelaine de Bonnault d’Houet)came to Ireland in 1842 and, as the original site at Oughterarde was too remote, they moved their school to Limerick in 1844 and opened a school on the Laurel Hill property in 1845. Could this have been where Bridget received her schooling? The Sisters also opened a school in Bruff in 1856 but this was after Bridget left Ireland for Australia.

According to NSW State Records, Bridget left Plymouth 28 October 1849 on the vessel Thomas Arbuthnot and arrived in Sydney, Australia on 3 February 1850. Her departure papers say that she came from Listowel Union ##see below. The Thomas Arbuthnot was carrying a number of girls as part of the Earl Grey Scheme. She must have been on one of the last vessels as the Scheme was suspended in May 1850. Below is some information about the Scheme.

The Great Famine in Ireland in the 1840s was a time of great change for the people of Ireland. The population of Ireland reduced significantly during this time with many people making the voyage to Australia.

Among those making the journey were approximately 4000 Irish female orphans under the Earl Grey Scheme. The immigration scheme was the brain-child of Earl Grey. He was the Secretary of State for the Colonies, and designed the program to meet an Australian demand for domestic servants and marriageable young women. It would also serve to reduce overcrowding in Irish workhouses.

In the late 1840s many ships came to Australia bringing young girls travelling alone. Ships carrying orphan girls included the William Stewart in May 1848 with 51 aboard, followed by the Mahomed Shah in July 1848 with 12 orphan girls. The largest number of orphans arrived on the Pemberton in May 1849 as part of the Earl Grey Scheme. 305 orphans disembarked from this ship after a voyage of 113 days.

The orphans arrived in Sydney, Adelaide, Hobart and Port Phillip and from these ports were spread across eastern Australia. Many suffered at the hands of their employers and husbands with beatings and violence. Others found their experience in Australia to be prosperous. Many married successful gold miners, landowners, farmers and shop keepers and led happy and fulfilling lives in Australia.

The scheme was relatively short-lived and only lasted two years as many ‘anti’ groups saw Australia being flooded with Irish immigrants. These young women were condemned in local newspapers as being unskilled, untrained and useless, and a financial strain on Australia. The Earl Grey scheme, although the brain-child of the Irish Secretary of State for the Colonies, was funded by the Australian people. In May 1850 the scheme was suspended. With the beginning of the gold rush, discussions surrounding assisted immigration passages were dropped as many migrants were now willing to pay for their own journey in the hope of making it big on the gold fields of Australia.

As you can see Julie has done some very thorough and painstaking research on her ancestor’s story. Tomorrow I will post more of Bridget’s story, including some material provided to Julie by Michael Lynch, archivist in The Kerry County Library. 

This story is very interesting, in the light of what is happening today with so many of our young people emigrating to Australia. What was once the largest prison in the world is now the resort of choice for so many.

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