Mary Morrissey (Courbarron) 1867-1927 Pt 1

Mary Morrissey was born in Co. Kerry, Ireland, in 1867. Her father Edmond was a native of Kerry and her mother Honora (nee Leane) was from Limerick. They lived, according to family information, ‘five miles from Blarney Castle’ however it has been established that the family were living at Brosna in Kerry prior to their departure from Ireland and this is almost 100 miles from Blarney in Cork. It is not known what her father’s occupation was but on the ship’s passenger list his occupation was listed as ‘labourer’. The family emigrated to Australia under the Assisted Immigrant Scheme and departed Plymouth in May 1881 on board the ship HMS Peterborough arriving in Sydney on Sunday, July 17th.

Mary (13 on arrival ) was the eldest child in a family of ten children whose names and ages were (as listed on arrival in Sydney): Edmond 4, Denis 3, Ellen & Julia (twins) 6, John 9, Kate 12, Margaret 1, Micheal 11, Honora (infant) and parents Edmond, 33 and Honora, 38. Baby Honora was born during the voyage to Australia and she was listed on arrival as ‘infant’.  The family for a time in the dockyards area of Woolloomooloo in Sydney before moving on to settle at Jamberoo in rural NSW. A tenth child, Johanna, was born at Kiama in 1882 which suggests the family moved around.

Within the next few years Mary met Captain Augustus ‘James’ Hamilton Courbarron. We will never know exactly how the couple first met but seeing as Mary’s family lived near the shipyards in Sydney and James was a ship’s captain we are left to assume that their paths somehow crossed that way.

In 1889 the couple’s first child, a daughter Mildred Gertrude, was born at Waverley; there had previously been some doubt cast by some family members about whether Courbarron really was Mildred’s father due to the lack of evidence of a birth certificate. This was resolved when after some research I discovered her birth was registered under the incomplete surname ‘Barron’ instead of ‘Courbarron’ due to a clerical error made at the time of registration. Her birth certificate clearly states A.J. Courbarron as her father, which also substantiates my long-held belief that Mildred’s strong resemblance to her paternal grandmother, Mary Hamilton, was no mere coincidence. According to the family Mary and James set up house in Waverley prior to their marriage – very unusual for the time – this is where Mary lived whilst James was at sea.

In 1891 a second child, James, was born. In 1893 the couple married at St Stephan’s Uniting Church which, at that time, was located in Phillip Street Sydney. Mary was Catholic and James was Protestant so obviously some understanding was reached as their children were eventually christened and raised as Catholics.

After the birth of James it was not until 1898 until their next child, Mary-Helen (known as Molly) was born on February 6th at their home, 61 The Grove Underwood Street Paddington. In 1900 their fourth and last child, Frederick, was born at Birrell Street Bondi.

Spending such long periods of time at home without her husband proved to be a strain on Mary and at various times in his letters to his Aunt Helen de Veer, James refers to Mary’s bouts of ‘extreme tiredness’ and of her ‘feeling poorly’. Just prior to Molly’s birth the couple employed an Irish maid/servant named Biddy to assist with the house and children. She remained with the couple until James’ death.

Mary Morrissey (Courbarron) Pt.2

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