John & Ann Sheehan

Whilst researching the life of my paternal Grandfather, I found that my Great Great Great Grandparents were Irish ex-convicts, John Sheehan and Ann Toomey. However, they were just names that I'd obtained through the NSW Department of Births, Deaths and Marriages until I read the book,  The Kingwill Family of Adjunbilly. The Kingwills, Cassidys and our own family can all trace their ancestry back to John and Ann Sheehan. The author, Ruth Polson, kindly permitted me to use information from her book.

John Sheehan was born about 1798 at Doneraile, Cork in Ireland. He was transported to Australia for his part in attacking the Palatines (German Methodists) and the English Barracks at Glennasheen, near Doneraile in April 1823. At the time of the trial John Sheehan’s home was at Russagh, a property outside of Doneraile on the main Limerick to Cork road. At a trial before Sir Lefroy, which was reported in The Limerick Chronicle on Friday, 19th March 1824 as being one of the most important cases that ever had attracted public attention. The ringleaders, Michael Donovan and Bartholomew Russell, were found guilty and sentenced to death. On Tuesday 23rd March 1824 it was reported that John Sheehan and nine other cohorts all withdrew their pleas of Not Guilty and pleaded Guilty. All were sentenced to transportation for life.

Following his sentence of transportation to Australia for life on 23rd March 1824 in Limerick, John arrived in Australia on 2nd January 1825. He was transported on the ship Ann & Amelia and records show that he was 26 years of age at the time, was 5 feet 6 inches tall, and had blue eyes and a brown complexion. His occupation was that of a ploughman.

Ann Toomey was born in Ireland in 1814. She was tried in Cork City on 16th August 1833 for stealing clothes, and had a prior conviction of three months. Ann was given seven years transportation to Australia, arriving on the 17th September 1834 on the ship "Andromeda II" when only 19 years of age. Her occupation was listed as nurserymaid. She was 4 feet 11 inches tall, with a ruddy complexion, brown hair, hazel eyes and a small mole on her left cheek.

The "Andromeda II" was built in Sunderland in 1819 and weighed 408 ton. It sailed from Cork, Ireland on 25th May 1834 and the voyage to New South Wales took 115 days arriving on 17th September 1834. It is recorded that the ship embarked with 176 females aboard and on arrival in Sydney there were 173 females aboard with 1 female re-landed and 2 female deaths. The ship was under the care of Master Ben Gales and Surgeon Henry Kelsall.

On arrival in Australia Ann was sent to the Parramatta Work Factory for women. It was usual that female convicts were sent directly to the Female Factory. Some did not live in the Factory, but were housed nearby and went to the Factory every day for work. Many only remained a day or so before they were assigned to settlers to work as domestic servants.

John Sheehan, of Yass Plains, and Ann Toomey, of Parramatta, were married on 12th March 1836 within the Rites of the Roman Catholic Church at St. Patrick's, Parramatta NSW by Father William Matthews.

Ann Toomey received her "Certificate of Freedom" at Yass NSW on 5th December 1841 following completion of her seven years term. John Sheehan, was issued a "Ticket of Leave" as he was given "Life" so was never entitled to a "Certificate of Freedom". His Ticket of Leave number was TL 33/732 and was granted at Goulburn in 1830. A Ticket of Leave was evidence that a convict was allowed to work outside the "assignment" system. Conditions applied - the convict was confined to a named area, had to report regularly to authorities, and was supposed to attend divine worship each Sunday.

After they were married they lived for a couple of years in the Burrowa District, and then squatted on land at Nanangroe in the district of Adjungbilly where they lived until John's death in 1858. This property was to become one of the biggest cattle stations in the south of NSW.

They had eight children: Denis, Bridget, John, Johanna, Jeremiah, Thomas, Catherine, and Timothy.

John was buried at Jugiong. There is no death registration to verify John's date of death however the inscription on his headstone says 29th November 1858. From the transcription of his will, No. 4565, it says he died on 29th November 1859. No confirmation of either date has been able to be obtained.

Ann died on 27th December 1906 aged 92 years and was buried near her husband at Jugiong. She had been in New South Wales for 75 years and had outlived her husband, two of her five sons and all of her daughters.

The following obituary was published in the "Gundagai Independent" on 2 January 1907:-

"One more of the sturdy stock of pioneers has gone, Mrs. John Sheehan (or "Granny" Sheehan as she was familiarly termed) of Jugiong, having answered the Great Call on Thursday last. Deceased was a native of Cork, Ireland and as Miss Ann Toomey was one of the county belles in the days when the Irish race were being rack-rented and evicted wholesale. When but 19 years of age, deceased made a lengthy voyage to Australia on a sailing vessel, and shortly after landing in Sydney, she met the late John Sheehan, and at Parramatta over 80 years ago, she became his bride.

Coming up country Mr. and Mrs. Sheehan took a fancy to the Burrowa district, and there they stayed for a few years, their eldest child, the late Mr. Dennis Sheehan, being born there. About 52 years ago the then young couple "squatted" on the Nanangroe Run, and it became one of the biggest cattle stations in the south.

When Mr. Sheehan died at Nanangroe his widow secured a holding at Nimbo, Brungle, and stayed there about 20 years. This property the late Mrs. Sheehan sold to Mr. McGruer, and for the remainder of her years she lived with her children. Deceased exact age seems to be doubtful; it is given as well up in the "nineties", but one of her grandchildren reckons the correct age to be 103.

Three sons survive - Mr. John Sheehan of Brawlin; Mr. Jeremiah Sheehan of Galong; Mr Thos Sheehan of Narrabri. Deceased daughters predeceased her, the last to go being Mrs. W Cassidy, who passed away at Gundagai on Boxing Day, 25 hours prior to her mother. Other daughters who "paid the last penalty" were Mrs. A. Frost, and Mrs. Sexton of Adjunbilly. Deceased
's grandchildren, great grandchildren and great great grandchildren number over 100. The funeral took place at Jugiong on Saturday, the Reverend Father Donovan officiating at the grave."

Children of John & Ann:

Denis (1836-1904)
Bridget (1837-1906)
John (1841-1909)
Johanna (1843-1887)
Jeremiah (1845-1937)
Thomas (1847-?)
Catherine (Kate) (1850-1904)
Timothy (1851-1903)