This is an unusual blog. Together with an Australian PhD candidate, Margaret Coffey, I am trying to identify all or some of the Killarney families who were FREE emigrants to Van Diemens Land [Tasmania] in 1837. These families were not transported there; a number of the men were tradesmen and they obviously left Kerry in the hope of a better life. Sadly it did not turn out that way for them. We are hoping that our readers might know of or be related to any of the families below.
While they are noted on the ship’s manifest as from ‘Killarney’, we know from our research to date that a number of them may be from outlying parishes – Kilcummin, Glenflesk, Aghadoe etc. One couple may have come from as far afield as Killorglin. Our research is a work in progress, we are also trying to find out who promoted this emigration scheme. We know that it was Government-sponsored and that the majority of the passengers were from County Cork. The Killarney passengers were the only ones from Kerry.
The families sailed on the ship Bussorah Merchant. The ship left Cork 27 August 1837 with 235 free migrants and arrived at Hobart 11 December 1837. Sixty-two people – died on the voyage, most of measles and smallpox. The ship was quarantined until January 1838. The Maritime Museum of Tasmania cites Bussorah Merchant’s voyage from Ireland to Hobart in 1837 as an example of the general condition of emigrant ships – including cramped conditions, the poor general health of migrants, and ignorance of good hygiene.
Two of the Killarney wives – Julia Moynihan (18) and Deborah Leahy (25) died, as well as five of the children – Hanora & Mary Reardon, Daniel Leahy, Michael Leahy and Mary Horgan.
Hi Kay, the link below gives some information and I believe it was the promise of land and free labour and the promise of a new life that might have encouraged them to leave Ireland. Encouragement to Tasmania came after 1820 with land becoming available but only on receipt of letters of recommendations from the secretary of state. The Van Diemen’s Land Company paid for farmers to immigrate but they had to pay their fare by working for the company.
Thank you Anne. The Bussorah Merchant immigrants were not intended for the VDL Company. While no doubt many of them dreamt of one day acquiring land, they were intended to supply the colony’s labour market generally. Some colonists were critical of the range of skills they brought. In any event, as Governor Franklin reported, the market was not up to accommodating them easily in the kinds of employment they sought. For one thing, too many arrived at one time, and for another, the fact that in some cases prospective workers were accompanied by large families meant that they were less attractive to would-be employers. There was good reason that sooner rather than later many of the Killarney group made their way to the Port Phillip District (Melbourne).
To add to the puzzle Kay has described, a follow up departure from Killarney occurred in December 1838, when Denis Sullivan and his wife Hannorah Looney, accompanied by their eight children, sailed on the ship Aliquis for New South Wales, their intention to go to the Port Phillip District (Melbourne). They seem to have been connected to Ballahacommane and later to Curraglass. Denis’ relative Owen Sullivan also travelled with his wife Mary Reidy and children. We are hoping that Kay’s readers might likewise know of or be related to this family.
My Riordans John & his wife Mary Ann (x3 great grandparents) also from Killarney where on that very ship.
No idea if they are related to the Reardons who lost there children
Nathaniel, thank you for your reply. You might check again – there is only one Reardon (Riordan) family on the Bussorah Merchant – James Reardon and his wife Mary, children Julia, Hanora & Mary. See the full list of passengers here. The Reardons are at No. 15.
Have checked they are my 3rd great grandparents.
After coming to van diemans land the family changed their surname from Reardon to Riordan, which is still used.
More kids where born in Tasmania about 10 kids all together.
The family then moved to Tarnagulla Victoria.
Both James & Mary Ann had a long life.
James died in 1890 & Mary in 1886
My x2 great grandfather William was the youngest
Thank you Nathaniel for your interesting information.
May I ask, how do you link your Riordans to the passengers on the Bussorah Merchant? As you know, the name James Reardon was not singular in Tasmania, nor in Victoria.
You may have noted that the James Reardon of the passenger list was described as thirty years old in 1837, some ten years younger than James Riordan.
Of course, ages were not always accurate and could be manipulated. It would be interesting to hear of the documentation and also of stories told over the generations in the family.
We have previously been in touch regarding the Daniel Leahy family. I would just like to note that the records in the Hobart Town Courier 5 Jan 1838 about Daniel’s family says Deborah, 25, wife of do died of dysentry; Michael, and (died of small pox) Timothy children of do. By that I read that it was Timothy who died during the voyage, not Michael. I have found Michael died in Wagga Wagga in 1883 after falling off a balcony. He was a drover.
Hello Angela. You will find that there were diverse misfortunes, as well as successes, among the children of the Bussorah Merchant emigrants. Among the misfortunes was the incidence of TB. I’m not here so much interested in the outcomes of the emigration as in its origins, and particularly the localities/townlands from which the individual ‘Killarney’ passengers emigrated. I hope that your researches are going well.