Jane Susan (nee Meade) Cavanagh
Born: c.1809; Died: 1857; Married: Thomas Cavanagh
The story of Jane Cavanagh is a mix of tragedy and triumph. She was born Jane Susan Meade in Galway, Ireland, around 1809. In February 1826 at Tynagh, she married Thomas Cavanagh. They had three children - Ann in November 1826, Honor('Hannah') in March 1828 and Patrick in January 1830.
The following year was one of great tragedy for the family. Her husband, an Irish patriot, was arrested on a charge of insurrection. He had been a 'Whiteboy', i.e. a rebel fighting for the rights of the rural poor and tenant farmers. Thomas received a life sentence and was transported to Australia in 1832.
Jane managed to join him in the colony with their three grown children in 1849 on the Panama, seventeen years after being separated from her husband. Thomas' family was lucky to have survived in these circumstances. The wife and two children of another Whiteboy' 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.
Jane was listed as a 'laundress' and her daughters as 'housemaids' on their emigration papers. A grand-daughter, Jane White (father deceased), was born during the voyage.
Thomas, Jane and family were tenant farmers for Charles Campbell on the Canberry (Molonglo) River.
Nevertheless, life on the Limestone Plains must have been a struggle for the family. Just eight years after arriving in Australia Jane, tragically, drowned. It is assumed that her death was by her own hand, as the priest at Queanbeyan tried to deny her burial on consecrated ground.
Samuel Shumack relates the story of her death in his Autobiography as follows.
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, her brave family forced an agreement with the church authorities to have her corpse remain at peace in the cemetery and they also erected a headstone in her memory.
Their son, Patrick Cavanagh, married Mary Logue of Duntroon and farmed successfully at One Tree Hill and then Eastview,, Mulligans Flat, having twelve children, several of whom continued farming at Mulligans Flat.
However, Jane's two daughters had difficult lives.
Ann's first husband, Charles White, died before she left Ireland, leaving Ann to give birth to daughter, Jane White, on board the Panama. Ann then married Patrick Langan in 1851, a carpenter and joiner of Queanbeyan, but died in 1864 at only 36, after having six children between 1851 and 1861, two of whom died in infancy.
Hannah(Honor) married in 1853 to George Harris Bunn, the son of Anna Maria (Murray) Bunn and nephew of the Murrays of Yarralumla and Woden. They had three children, but one died in infancy. They settled at 'St Omer' via Braidwood, but George died in Braidwood in 1860, due to a fall from a horse, and daughter Georgiana was born in 1861 after his death.
Hannah returned to live with her brother in Canberra until she re-married to Patrick Flanagan of Moruya in 1864. They settled in Dapto, but Patrick was declared dead - lost at sea- in 1865 and Hannah died in August 1865 from fever, at only 37.
The two surviving children went to their grandmother Anna Maria Bunn at 'St Omer", Braidwood, but Clarence passed away soon after, in October 1865, from Typhoid fever.
The only surviving child, Georgiana became the legal ward of her uncle J.W. Bunn and was raised by her grandmother at St Omer. Anna Maria died on 23 September, 1889 and left St Omer to her beloved grand-daughter Georgina, who was only 28 and un-married.
Georgina married Patrick Kain (1865-1955) in 1891 and had six children. Their first child Anna Maria was born at St. Omer in February 1892. However, her uncle J.W. contested the will and took possession of St Omer.
Georgina's other children were then born at Krawarree and Georgina died in 1906 in Braidwood at only 44.
- Gillespie, L. L., Ginninderra: Forerunner to Canberra, Campbell, 1992
- Shumack, S. An Autobiography, or, Tales and Legends of Canberra Pioneers (ed. J. E. and S. Shumack), Canberra, 1967
- Transportation and convict muster records
- Various editions of the Queanbeyan Age and Goulburn Evening Penny Post