Mary Morrissey (Courbarron) 1867-1927 Pt 2

Mary and the children were not always left behind in Sydney while James was at sea, at times he took them along on voyages. One particular event that made an impression on Mary was when James took her back to Ireland to visit his mother’s family at the family seat of ‘Brownhall’ in County Donegal.

Mary was greatly impressed at the welcome given to them on their arrival at the large imposing house. She wrote how “all the servants were lined up outside and tugged their forelocks as we were introduced, the maids curtsied”. A grand dinner was held in their honour and the family, ever mindful of the fact that Mary was a Catholic in a Protestant house, refrained from discussing religion but the topic of politics was freely raised.

One one voyage, when Mary-Helen was a baby, she crawled too close the edge of the deck and was saved just in time from falling overboard by a sailor.

In 1903, James retired from the Union Steamship Company and in October the family relocated to the NSW country town of Richmond where James and Mary took over the lease of the Royal Hotel. They spent almost nine months managing this establishment before returning to Bondi in June 1904 and residing at 72 Anglesea Street. James’s ill health was no doubt behind this decision as he died not long after in September. Soon after their return to Bondi, Mary held an auction of all the household goods of their previous home The Grove in Paddington. This notice appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald July 1904.

Mary was widowed at the age of 37 when James died at their home at 72 Anglesea Street Bondi. What followed in her life became the source of much family speculation. Shortly after Jame’s death his Hamilton relations at Brownhall sold the private family residence of St Ernans. The then-owner of the estate, James Hamilton, arranged for a collection of items including some valuable silver pieces to be sent to Mary and the children so that they would have some security after her husbands death. What happened to these valuable items has never been clear; it is thought that Mary sold off the items and ‘dissipated’ the money after she had become involved with a rather shady character of a man named Casey.

Mary and her children travelled to the northern NSW town of Kempsey where some of her siblings had settled. During her time there, in 1907, Mary gave birth to a girl she named Kathleen, the child was given the surname Courbarron. It is thought that she was fathered by Casey, who had met Mary shortly after James’ death. It is also acknowledged that this man was involved in Mary’s decision to sell her husband’s valuable family heirlooms. Eldest daughter, Mildred, married Patrick Hopkins at Bellingen in 1907.

However, not ALL his family heirlooms were sold by Mary. I shall write about those in another post.

Mary lived at a property named ‘Moorelands’ in Moree until 1917 when her sons James and Fredrick enlisted in the AIF, she then resided at Chatswood with her daughter Mildred Hopkins at Brown Street in 1918. Reading her correspondence during the time of her sons’ war service in France is interesting – she initially signed her letters as ‘ Mrs Mary Casey’ and later reverted to using the name ‘Courbarron’. She died in 1927. Mary is buried beside her husband James at Waverley Cemetery in Sydney.

Mary Morrissey (Courbarron) Pt 1.

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