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FERRY AND GALLAGHER - Part of the Donegal Relief Fund story by Colleen Wright.

The Ferry’s and Gallagher’s came out to Australia from Donegal with the Donegal Relief Fund.  There were hundreds of young people, from 15 to about 25 years of age, who came out on five ships to make a new life in Australia.  The inhabitants of townland Falcarragh, Parish Tullaghobegley and the Catholic district of Gweedore in Donegal all spoke fluent Gaelic, then, as they still do today.

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Hugh Gallagher was 18 years old when he boarded the “Sapphire” on the 3 February 1859 at Liverpool.  The “Sapphire” arrived in Sydney Harbour on the 24 May 1859.  His shipping record shows his parents as Hugh Gallagher and Hannah Boyle, both living in Gweedore.  It is believed he was from the townland of Bunbeg, which is on the coast. He could read and write and his occupation was a labourer.  At this stage I have not found any other Gallagher’s with the same parents on shipping records.

Also on board the “Sapphire” are two Ferry siblings.  Patrick (Paddy) aged 17 and Catherine (Kate) aged 20 from the townland of Falcarragh with parents Patrick Ferry and Anne Mitchell, both living in Falcarragh.  Patrick could read and write and his occupation was shown as a farmer.  Catherine could not read or write and was a house servant.

Sailing from Liverpool on the 7 April 1859 was the ”Lady Elina Bruce."  On board was John Ferry aged 23, his wife Martha aged 24 and two infant's sons, Patrick aged 4 and John aged 2.  John gives his parents names as Patrick and Nancy and living in Falcarragh.  He could read and write and was a labourer.  John states on his records that his brother Patrick and sister Catherine are on board the “Sapphire."  The “Lady Elina Bruce” arrived in Sydney Harbour on the 14 July 1859. 

Upon arrival in Australia they all went to the Maitland area for work.  John and Martha settled here and another eight children were born in Maitland.  Patrick and Catherine were godparents to their next two children born in East Maitland.  John was a labourer and worked at Glenarvon.  He lived at Melbourne Street, East Maitland when he died in 1910.  Some of the addresses of his children were Villa Street, Lawes Street, and Day Street.  They attended St. Joseph’s RC church at East Maitland.  There are many of the family buried in the East Maitland RC cemetery with and without headstones.

Politics drew the Irish catholic family.  Many of John and Martha’s descendants entered local politics and served on the Maitland City Council.  The Ferry name is associated with the Mayor of Dungog, Deputy Mayor of Sydney City Council, Old Morpeth Council and the Kogarah City Council.  One Ferry was known as a speaker in the Sydney Domain.  Walter Ferry was a blind Councillor for Maitland and his sister Emma used to read the Council business sheets to him, which he then transcribed into brail. Many Ferry and Gallagher family members belonged to the Australian Labor Party as the generations grew.

Mary Ferry came out to Australia by herself on the “Nile” leaving Plymouth on the 29 January 1861.  She was 16 years of age and could not read or write and was a nursery maid.  Upon arrival in Sydney on the 4 May 1861 she joined her brothers and sister at Maitland. 

Patrick Ferry moved to Sydney and married in 1867 to Margaret Riley (Kiley).  They had two daughters Mary Ann, Bridget and one son Patrick.  His son Patrick died in 1873 and Margaret his wife died in 1878.  He remarried in 1882 to Joanna Byrnes and they had no issue.  He lived in Arthur Street Surry Hills.  Patrick is buried at Waverley Cemetery with his eldest daughter Mary Ann. They overlook the ocean and one could imagine a similar scene at Falcarragh. Bridget married William Schutema and they lived with Patrick before moving to Randwick where they lived behind Randwick Racecourse.  The family was tied up in the racing industry.  One of Bridget’s sons was a bookmaker at Randwick.

Catherine Ferry, according to family stories, moved to Victoria and was married to a William Leonard.   Records cannot be found of children’s births or even her marriage to a Leonard in NSW, Victoria, and SA.  There was a daughter Mary who married a John Waters in 1896 in Victoria.  Mary gives her birthplace as Adelaide on the Victorian Marriage Index.    Descendants of the Waters have visited the Ferry’s in Maitland, and descendants of Patrick Ferry in Sydney have visited the family in Melbourne. 

Catherine died in 1907 at Hamilton Victoria.  Her parents are given as Patrick Ferry and Anne Middle and that she was married in Sydney when 26 years of age (1864). The only Catherine Ferry on the NSW Index is to a William Lenehan on the 4th January 1864 at St. Mary’s Cathedral.  I viewed this film at the Cathedral and it was very easy to read, so one can not presume there was an error, as it was legible. This Catherine gives her parents as Patrick Ferry and Anne Middle on the marriage. 

There was a daughter Bridget born 17 Aug 1864 and then the family totally disappears from the NSW Index’s.   One wonders if this is the same family and they moved to SA, and for whatever reason, changed their name to Leonard.  One presumes that the remainder of Catherine’s children were born in Adelaide. Did they move to the Hamilton area about 1890?  Did some of the children remain in SA?  I have found two more daughters and their families in the Hamilton area.

On the 14 August 1865 Hugh Gallagher and Mary Ferry married at St. John’s church West Maitland.  Mary signed her marriage certificate with a cross.  Mary gives her parents as Patrick Ferry and Anne Mitchell.  Her Death certificate states her parents as Patrick Ferry and Nancy Mitchell.  All the Ferry’s seem to change between Anne and Nancy as their mothers christian name.    Hugh and Mary had a large family of thirteen children.  The first ten children were all born in towns on the rail route in the Blue Mountains.  The last three children were all registered in Sydney.

It was passed down through Alice Gallagher’s family that Hugh wore a top hat to work, and was picked up each morning by a buggy drawn by four horses.  It has also been said that he may have been a surveyor with the railways.  Bridget Gallagher’s family has related that he worked on the Hawkesbury Rail Bridge.  Bridget had said that she had memories, when they were children, of playing in caves near the riverbanks. 

The story goes that he was paid in sovereigns and gold.  It was also stated that he might have found gold when working in the Blue Mountains.  When the banks crashed in the 1890’s he lost a large amount of money.  Mary, his wife, did not want him to use the banks, and luckily not all was banked. 

As the daughters grew up they worked on the railway route in the Blue Mountains.  They supplied meals for railway men and when camp was moved they moved with the workers. 

It is not sure where the Gallagher’s lived when the last three children were born in Sydney.  At this period of time they probably were still moving around. 

Hugh and Mary had settled at 27 Miles Street, Surry Hills when Hugh died on the 19 July 1900.  They had a home here, which was situated behind St. Peter’s Roman Catholic Church in Devonshire Street.  Hugh worked as a night watchman at the time of his death.  He is buried at Rookwood Mortuary I with his baby son Joseph, and Charles, who was re-interned here in January 1904.  There is an impressive headstone.  At this time Patrick Ferry lived nearby in Arthur Street Surry Hills. 

The family moved to 43 Taralga Road Guildford about 1913.  It is not known who bought the property of about 10 acres of land, with a low house and verandahs all around.  It was on a hill and had a view of the surrounding area.  Some say the eldest son Hughie bought the property, but no one is sure.  Hughie, Lizzie, Kittie, Minnie and Alice all lived here with their mother.  Alice the youngest married from here in 1916.  Mary died here on the 2 September 1917 and is buried at Rookwood Mortuary 2.  Her headstone is beautiful and “Our Mother” is inscribed on the headstone.  Son Hugh is also buried with her.  Mary is remembered as a short plump lady who always smiled.

Mary Ferry’s second eldest grandson, Vince Blackburn, was one of the greatest bantamweight boxers Australia has ever produced. Vince won the Bantam Title Championship in 1916, and he held it till defeated in 1920.  He also fought well below the limit in his division, and took the Feather Title Championship.  Vince held the title as Bantam Champion of the Orient in the Philippines.  He also fought in London and America.  He retired from boxing in 1923 and became a successful businessman as a Hotel Publican.  He was a quietly spoken and humble man who was a non-drinker.  He owned several properties and lived out his days at Bondi.

The Gallagher descendants are also in politics and many belong to the Australian Labor Party.

 The children were as follows -

HUGH   Born 1867  registered Penrith.
“HUGHIE” Died 31 July 1945 registered Burwood.

PATRICK Born 1868 registered Hartley.
  Died 1869 registered Hartley.


HANNAH Born 1869 Sodwalls registered Hartley.     
“JESSE” Married Henry Gleeson on the 27 December 1910 at
  St. Mary’s Cathedral Sydney.
  One child Alice.
  Died 2 January 1953 Linden Street Sutherland, buried

ELIZABETH Born 1870 registered Hartley.
“LIZZIE” Died 16 December 1943 at 43 Taralga Road, Guildford.

MARGARET Born 3 October 1872 at Macquarie Plains.
 Registered Bathurst.
”MAGGIE” Married Arthur Samuel Blackburn on 24 January 1893 at
  Waterloo, Sydney.
Children were Harold (Lal), Vincent (the boxer), Agnes, Dorothy, Margaret (Madge), Julia (Julie), Charles (Dad), Janet Irene (Eileen).
  Died 23 August 1918 at Penrith.

ANN  Born 1874 registered Bathurst.
“ANNIE” Married William Young 1 January 1901 Balmain.
  Children were May, William, Thomas.
  Died 21 April 1958 Sydney.

AGNES Born 1875 registered Bathurst.
“AGGIE” Married James Mepstead 1 June 1912 Surry Hills.
  One child Charles John.
  Died 14 December 1919 Sydney.

KATE  Born 1877 registered Orange.
“KITTIE” Died 4 August 1962 Brisbane.

MARY  Born 1878 registered Orange.
“MINNIE” Died 6 October 1957 at 43 Taralga Road, Guildford.

BRIDGET Born 1880 Tamworth.  Birth not registered.
“LIL”  Married Cornelius Wallace 24 April 1912 Surry Hills.
  Children were Molly, Con, John.
  Died 19 August 1953 at 7 Clement Street, Guildford.

JOSEPH Born 7 July 1882 registered Sydney.
  Died 19 July 1882 Sydney.

JOHN CHARLES Born 1883 registered Petersham.
“CHARLES”  Died 11 November 1903 Bathampton near Bathurst.
   Reinterned 16 January 1904 Rookwood.

ALICE   Born 1885 registered Ryde.
   Married Alexander Joseph McKenzie 18 March 1916
   at Guildford.
   One child Nancy Joan.
   Died 17 May 1961 Earlwood.

Hughie the eldest was a very clever man.  He read a great deal and had a very large collection of books.  He apparently used to stand in front of homes and quote Shakespeare.  Also he drank a fair bit and after his evenings at the local his horse used to bring him home.  He was heavily involved with the union movement. 

Lizzie ran a boarding house at Valley Heights at the foot of the Blue Mountains for railway workers.  The years she was here are not sure but it could have been around 1890 to 1920.  Maggie and Bridget’s children spent many school holidays with Lizzie at Valley Heights. 

Maggie was the first to marry when she eloped in 1893 to marry Arthur Samuel Blackburn at the registry office at Waterloo.  There were 8 children all born at Balmain.  Maggie contracted, in 1918, the flu that the soldiers brought back from WWI.    Arthur sent her to Lizzie at Valley Heights to be nursed back to health.  Unfortunately Maggie did not recover and died at the Nepean Cottage Hospital at Penrith.  The children remembered saying goodbye to their mother at Central Railway Station. 

Annie was the next to marry.  She married William Young on the 1 January 1901 at the Presbyterian Manse at Balmain.  William was a gardener and apparently his workmanship in gardens was always very beautiful.  They had three children.  May was born in 1901 and died in 1928 with appendicitis.  William was born in 1903 and had a deformed back.  His grandmother Mary reared him in his early years until her death in 1917.  William died in 1942.  Thomas John the third child was born in 1904 and it is not sure if he married.  William Snr. owned a second hand furniture business at Rose Bay.

Jesse married Henry Gleeson on the 18 December 1910 at St. Mary’s Cathedral.  Alice was born in 1913 at Helensburgh.  They lived at Bargo for many years and worked on the railways.  Jesse was an avid Labor supporter. 

Lil married Cornelius Wallace on the 24 April 1912 at St. Peters Surry Hills.  Cornelius was a Federal member for West Sydney in the WWI years.  He died at 40 years of age in 1921.  They had 3 children Mary Elizabeth (Molly) born in 1913, Cornelius Carr (Con) born in 1916, and John Mitchell born in 1918.  Con was a City Councilor with the Sydney City Council and his name is on the Domain Bar.  Bridget’s (Lil) birth was not registered but she thought she was born in Tamworth in 1880. 

Aggie married James Mepstead on the 1 June 1912 at St. Peters Surry Hills.  Aunty Madge remembers attending this wedding.  Agnes Blackburn was flower girl.  James Mepstead was arrested on his wedding night and spent about three years in Jail.  He died in suspicious circumstances in August 1916.  It was thought he might have been pushed from the building site where he was working.  When he was released from jail Annie and William obtained a home at Rose Bay for their residence.  Charles was born here in 1915.  After James death Aggie lived in Riley Street Surry Hills.  Here in December 1919 she had an accident knocking over a kerosene lamp.  She received severe burns and neighbours rescued Charlie.  Aggie never recovered.  His aunts reared Charlie at Guildford.           

Charlie Mepstead was taught to drive by Albert Reid, Madges husband.  While learning to drive he stayed at Rockdale with the Reids and Blackburns.  The Gallagher’s bought a car and Alb escorted Charlie back to Guildford with the car.  This was before the war.  Charlie went away with the Air Force during WWII.  During his absence Lizzie died in 1943 and Hughie in 1945.  Real estate sharks were after the Guildford land and it appears wrong decisions were made, and bits were sold off and payment was never received.   Kittie and Minnie were the only ones left living at Guildford.  Charlie Mepstead married in Brisbane and lived in Sydney for a few years, then settled in Brisbane. 

Alice was the only other child to marry.  She married at St. Patrick’s Guildford on the 18 March 1916.  Her husband, Alexander Joseph McKenzie was a Presbyterian.  He changed his religion too catholic and his family disowned him.  Alice and Alexander had one daughter, Nancy Joan, born in 1916 at Granville.  Nancy was born with a heart problem.  Alice’s husband died in 1931.  Nancy married Francis Bede O’Connor in 1943.  Alice lived with Nancy and Frank until her death in 1961.  Nancy and Frank adopted a son Paul and he died in 1992.  Alice had a block of land at Granville on the main road to Parramatta.  She did not pay the rates and the council repossessed the land after she died.  Nancy worked at the races after the war.  During this time they were unable to obtain a telephone connection.  She ran into John Lang the Labour Party leader in NSW and spoke to him about the telephone problem and within days the telephone was connected.  Nancy died in 1964 and Frank remarried. 

The Gallagher’s at Guildford appeared to live like recluses.  They were apparently very strict with the rearing of Charlie Mepstead.  He grew into a fine young man and they were proud of him.  Minnie worked in the Herald Office.  Kittie worked at Sargent’s and she also went to work in a hotel at Maitland.  The hotel was supposed to belong to a Ferry or some person
connected to the family.  This still has to be researched.

Charles Gallagher worked at a property at Bathmapton and was thrown from a horse on the 11 November 1903 and was killed.  He was buried at Bathurst but on the 16 January 1904 he was reinterned at Rookwood Mortuary I to be with his father and baby brother Joseph. 

When the Gallagher’s died there were no wills, and there were problems with the estate.  After Minnie died in 1957 and Kittie in 1962, solicitors managed to eat away at the estate.  It was eventually given to the Public Trust to sort out.  Descendants of the original children received a share.  After Minnie died Charlie Mepstead brought Kittie to Brisbane to live with his family. 

Patrick and Joseph died as infants.  All the family is buried at Rookwood except for Patrick at Hartley, Hannah at Thirlmere and Kittie in Brisbane.  


Colleen Wright is  the granddaughter of Margaret Gallagher (Maggie), (Hugh Gallagher and Mary Ferry’s 5th child) and Arthur Samuel Blackburn.

 See also Australia_Donegal_relief_fund and Australia_Donegal_A_Return_Journey