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Rediscovering Ginninderra:
Thomas Cavanagh

Born: c. 1803; Died: 1871; Married: Jane Susan Meade

The Cavanaghs were a famous Ginninderra family. Their name, eventually, became synonymous with the Mulligans Flat area, even though they first selected land at One Tree Hill.

The first Cavanagh to come to the district was Thomas. He was an Irish rebel known as a 'Whiteboy'. These men were patriots who used violent tactics to defend tenant farmer land rights. They were so-named because of the white farm-worker's smocks they wore. Thomas was convicted of insurrection in Galway in 1832 and transported to Australia on a life sentence.

Thomas had been born c. 1803 at Tynagh in Galway, Ireland. His parents were James Cavanagh and Honora (nee Connor). It was in Tynagh that Thomas had married Jane Susan Meade (3 February 1826). They had three children: Ann (1827 - 1864), Hannah (1829 - 1865) and Patrick Cavanagh (!831 - 1914).

After his trial, Thomas arrived in 1832 on the convict transport, Eliza. He was described as '5 foot 4 3/4 inches, catholic, brown/light grey hair, dark skin, much freckled'. In Ireland, Thomas had been a 'ploughman, reaper and sower' and his skills as an agricultural worker must have put him in good stead in the new country.

According to the 1837 muster, he was allocated to George Thomas Palmer (senior) and worked at his Hunter Valley holdings. At some stage, Thomas came to the Canberra district, presumably to work at his master's Palmerville estate. However, he is first recorded in the district at Duntroon, before leasing land in Canberra after gaining his ticket of leave in 1842, and conditional pardon (recommended by Charles Campbell) in 1847.

Thomas leased land from the Campbell's at Duntroon on the Canberry River.

Somehow, Jane managed to join him in the colony with their three children in 1849 on the Panama: seventeen years after being separated from her husband. Jane was described as a 'laundress'. A granddaughter, Jane White, was born at sea with the father listed as Charles White, deceased. Thomas' family was lucky to have survived in these circumstances. The wife and two children of another 'white boy' transported to Australia with a connection to Ginninderra, John Casey, all died while their rebel father was trying to win his freedom in New South Wales.

Nevertheless, the lives of his wife and daughters in Australia were to be all too short. The two daughters , Ann (White then Langan) and Hannah (Bunn then Flanagan) married and moved away, but both died in their thirties. Jane Cavanagh (born 1809 or 1811) died in 1857 under tragic circumstances. Son Patrick married Mary Logue and remained and farmed in the district.

After the land reforms of 1861, the Cavanaghs selected a small farm at One Tree Hill and slowly built up their holdings. The original farm was later sold to Samuel Southwell and is believed to have formed part of the Fairview property. Thomas bought land on the other side of One Tree Hill, which presumably formed part of Patrick's farm Eastview

Thomas Cavanagh died in 1871, aged 68, and is buried with Jane and other family members in the Queanbeyan Riverside Cemetery.

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