Delaneys Corner sign at Nirranda, Australia

Getting to Australia and the Early Years

The Passengers list of the Cyprus - click for larger image

The Cyprus, a brig of some 258 tons, anchored at Belfast (now Port Fairy) on 15th January 1855, with her cargo and crew, and nine passengers, a Mr. Edward Jarrett and the Delaney family from Ireland, John and Bridget Delaney and their six children. Patrick was 13, Catherine was 12, Margaret was 11, Mary was 9, Ellen was 3, and John was 2.

Their first glimpses of Belfast was of a town with some 2000 people, and verging on becoming a municipality. The jetty was crammed with warehouses, and the town presented a substantial appearance. The Delaney family were most likely housed at Belfast East, an "old boiling down works", then used for new arrivals. The new Immigration Barracks were built that year. However, their stay was very short, as on 20th January 1855, the newspaper "Banner of Belfast "recorded that John Delaney, his wife and six children were aboard the schooner Elizabeth, to continue their journey to Warrnambool. Both The Cyprus and Elizabeth belonged to the chartered fleet of William Rutledge & Co., Merchants of Port Fairy.

Warrnambool would have appeared as very similar to Belfast, as the population was about the same.

Family legend claims that Thomas Delaney had assisted his brother with payment of the family’s passage to Australia. We will never know for sure. Thomas was not a wealthy man, farming was a hard life, and money was not easily accumulated. We do know that William Rutledge was a most vociferous advocate for an immigration scheme from Britain, directly to Port Fairy. Maybe the fare was at a minimum cost, and between the brothers, they managed to pay the fare. It was not unknown for Rutledge to transport Irish immigrants, at his own cost, particularly on his cargo ships, which already paid their way.

The reunion with kinfolk after fifteen years was very comforting. John and Bridget, initially settled near Thomas and his family, on the Merri River at Dennington. The land in this area was solely agricultural: wheat and potatoes. The tenants lived at spots convenient to access the leased allotments, as the farming land was very valuable.

Just a little over a year after the arrival of the John Delaney family, Thomas purchased allotment 15, section 3, of the town lots in the Parish of Wangoom, County of Villiers, Dennington. The land was at the Punt, on the Merri River, near Warrnambool and towards Belfast (Warrnambool Examiner, 14th March 1856).

Thomas was involved in public life, as in July of this year, we find him collecting subscriptions for the Duffy Qualification Fund. Charles Gavan Duffy, an Irishman, was returned as a representative for the County of Villiers and Heytesbury in the Victorian Government in September. In 1862, Duffy served as Minister in charge of the Lands Department. Duffy was instrumental in a new Land Act being passed, enabling settlers to buy good land at a low price.

In 1856, another son, Thomas, was born to John and Bridget. The family witnessed the opening of the first bridge over the Merri River, in June 1857. The ever-increasing heavy traffic used the bridge to bring produce to the Port of Warrnambool.

Both families worked very hard. Warrnambool was barely three miles away, and was the town to where they journeyed, for supplies and entertainment such as hurling, racing and cricket. However, there was no school for the children.

Thomas Delaney’s wife, Ann, suffered indifferent health for many years, and passed away on 26th June 1857. Thomas remarried on 9th September, 1857, to Mary Wilson. Thomas and Mary had two children, Catherine and John Thomas Delaney. Thomas passed away on 21st May 1860.

Shortly after Thomas died, John and Bridget moved their family further north along the Merri River to the “Rosehill” estate, in the Parish of Purnim. John became a tenant farmer of Gilbert Nicol, and stayed for a number of years. The younger children attended attended a school nearby.

In 1864, a very happy event was celebrated, the first family marriage, when Catherine, nearly 20 years old, married James Farrell.

Then, under the Land Act of 1865, the Delaney’s selected three allotments at Nirranda:

  • Lot 76A of 106 acres in the name of the eldest child, Patrick Delaney.
  • Lot 76B of 105 acres, for which John Snr. paid rates until 1877
  • Lot 76C to James Farrell. 1

Rent of one shilling per acre/ per half year commenced in October 1866.

The family were still residing at Purnim, when Patrick married Ellen Kilmartin on 19th Feburary 1867. The family were uprooted yet again, in 1868, when they moved to their land selections at Nirranda. The journey took a week to complete, the family camping under drays and in tents along the way. The Delaney family was amongst the earliest settlers in the Nirranda area.

As the family grew in size, accommodation had to increase. John and Bridget, with the single members of the family; Patrick with his wife Ellen and baby Bridget; Catherine, her husband James and their young children, had to be housed. The Nirranda land was wild and raw, a harsh enviorment which took a family effort to erect dwellings and farms, and gain a living at the same time. The work was long and hard, but by 31st January 1871, a Crown Grant was given, at the cost of One Pound per acre, with improvments being made in accordance with the conditions of the lease. The land was now Freehold, but the family did not rest, as they continued to improve their land for years to come.

Until this time in the story, the family spelt Delany without the second “e”. Thomas, John and his son Patrick, signed official documents without the second “e”. However, in the application for the Crown Grant in 1871, Patrick had added the second “e” to his signature, and so the spelling of the family name reverted to a more Irish form, from this time. The spelling of DELANEY, became the recognised spelling for the family.

In time, the children of John and Bridget grew, married and began their own families. Margaret Delaney married Joseph Toleman on 19th January 1873, and lived in Garvoc, where the Toleman family were well established. Mary married Robert Murphy and went to live in Penhurst.

From 1874 onwards, the Delaneys are recorded as ratepayers of East Riding of the Warrnambool Shire. John is listed as holding a house and 105 acres: Patrick is listed as holding a house and 106 acres, while James Farrell is listed as holding a house and 105 acres.

Family ties were broken, when on 19th May 1876, John Delaney died aged 82, at Nirranda, after an illness of four months. Bridget continued on, helped by her two younger sons, John and Thomas. Bridget lived a busy and productive life, tending to her garden, her many fowls, and caring for her many grandchildren. Ellen never married and lived with her mother, but later, when her sister Mary died, Ellen took over the management of that household.

Johanna Delaney, being just old enough to remember her grandmother, recalls her many geese, and how Grandmother worried about them attacking her brother Martin and herself when they were playing outdoors at her place. As they lived across the road from their Grandmother, the geese may have posed a constant problem.

From the book A Long Way From Tipperary by Mary O'Callaghan (nee Phillips)

1 In fact the title for Lot 76C is signed with an 'X' and noted "Catherine Farrell - her mark" by a clerk.

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