Rediscovering Ginninderra: A database:
Born: 1831; Died: 1914; Married: Mary Logue
The Cavanaghs became synonymous with the Mulligans Flat area, even though they first selected land at One Tree Hill. Patrick’s son, Ernie ‘Dookie’ Cavanagh, farmed a large holding at Mulligans Flat until his death in 1969.
Patrick’s father, Thomas Cavanagh, was an Irish rebel who had been transported to New South Wales on a life sentence in 1832. His mother was Jane Cavanagh (nee Meade). Patrick was their third child and was born in 1831 in Tynagh, Galway. Seventeen years after Thomas was transported to Australia, somehow, Jane managed to join him in the colony with their three (now adult) children on the Panama.
In 1857 at the age of 26, Patrick (known as ‘Pat’) married Mary Logue, the daughter of Irish immigrants, Brian and Margaret Logue (nee McAlroy; post Margaret Crinigan). Patrick and Mary Cavanagh were to have a prosperous marriage with eleven children.
Straight after his marriage, Patrick encountered great tragedy. But through it, we can see his sturdy and loyal character emerge. Samuel Shumack relates the story of his mother’s death and the aftermath in which Patrick played an important role.
One evening in the spring of 1857 … we heard that Mrs Cavanagh had been drowned in the Canberra River. We could see a crowd on the bank and we hurried to the scene and arrived just as her son Patrick took her body from the water. His father, Thomas Cavanagh, was in a state of collapse. My cousin, Peter Shumack, was the last person to see Mrs Cavanagh alive. He spoke to her as she passed him on the way to the river and thought it strange that she did not return his greeting. A sensation was caused when the priest would not allow her to be interred in the Roman Catholic burial ground in Queanbeyan, and after some delay Patrick and a few friends buried her there. The priest had the body removed and buried outside consecrated ground, but Patrick and his friends re-interred the body within the cemetery and mounted an armed guard at the graveside, declaring that they would shoot any person who disturbed it.
Eventually, Patrick and his father forced an agreement with the church authorities to have his mother’s corpse remain at peace in the cemetery and they erected a headstone in her memory.
In the late 1850s, Patrick and Mary worked hard to get ahead. Another interesting anecdote shows what a skilled stockman Patrick was. The Anglican Reverend Pierce Galliard Smith and his employee, Peter Shumack (mentioned above), were struggling to round up a heifer that had strayed into Klensendorlffe’s station. Shumack made the ineffectual Reverend dismount and asked Patrick to take over the job. His cousin, Samuel Shumack says:
Now Pat was a small man, 5 feet 3 inches tall - the parson was a big man, 6 feet 4 inches, and the horse was sixteen hands. Pat took some time to adjust the stirrups and then went to the house for his whip, which was 16 feet in length. He then mounted [Reverend Smith’s] horse and swung the whip, which caused the horse to perform a bit, but Pat was unperturbed and in less than half an hour had yarded the heifer.
Mary at this time was working as a domestic servant for Reverend Smith at his parsonage in Canberra.
After the land reforms of 1861, Patrick’s father selected a small plot at One Tree Hill and the Cavanaghs slowly built up this holding. After some time, Patrick established his own farm in the Mulligans Flat area. Patrick died in 1914 and Mary followed him seven years later.
- Gillespie, L. L., Ginninderra: Forerunner to Canberra, Campbell, 1992
- Mawer, G. A.,. Canberry Tales: an Informal History, North Melbourne, 2012
- Shumack, S. An Autobiography, or, Tales and Legends of Canberra Pioneers (ed. J. E. and S. Shumack), Canberra, 1967
- Smith, L. R., Memories of Hall, Canberra, 1975
- Various editions of the Queanbeyan Age and Goulburn Evening Penny Post