BEYOND THE TREE | Were they making a terrible mistake?

The free Beyond the Tree exhibition at Liverpool Regional Museum includes a growing community tree and you can add your own family story. Bring in photos of your family moments to be scanned, printed and mounted. It's in conjunction with Liverpool Genealogy Society. Volunteers help with research and family enquiries Tuesdays to Saturdays. The Champion is running a series of family stories tying in with it. Here is the story of the Maguire family.

Ann Maguire, stumbled aimlessly back and forth, weeping softly for the three children they had lost in the previous few weeks. These were her babies, buried in the local churchyard and her husband, Patrick, wanted to take her far away from them. How could he even suggested it? Yet she knew that for the sake of their three remaining children she really didn't have a choice.

The Potato Famine had had a devastating effect on the people of Ireland, although admittedly County Fermanagh was not as badly affected as many other areas. However, only a few short years later, in the early 1850's, typhoid and cholera began claiming more lives and the citizens were scared for their future.

It was now November, 1855 and the Maguire's tiny one-roomed, earthen floored cottage in Augnahoo Glebe had been home for my Great Great grandparents for the past six years. Ann loved it there - the green Rolling hills, the ruined castle, and the Termon River flowing by. It was peaceful and beautiful.

"Why Australia?" she had cried. "We know nothing about it". "Wouldn't it be better to follow my uncle to America?" "My mother is old and needs me here". "Please can't we stay?"

She was distraught as she packed their few remnants of clothing into the small carpet bag that she had hand-stitched from an off-cut piece of carpet from the Rev. Maude's house. The minister was their landlord and he had been very good to them.

Thankfully Patrick had been able to obtain a position as overseer on a property about 100 miles south of Sydney. But she'd heard there were snakes and spiders - and even Aborigines. Oh dear. Were they making a terrible mistake?

The only saving grace she could think of was that three other families from their little townland were to travel with them. They too had gained employment as farmers on Mr. Osborne's property at Marshall Mount, near Wollongong. So at least they would all be together in this frightening venture.

Slowly Ann dried her eyes and finished packing. Soon they would make their way across country to Belfast where they planned on catching a boat to Liverpool, and then via the new "Ben Nevis" which would soon set sail for Australia. She put her head in her hands as she remembered she would never see her parents nor siblings again. Poor Ann, how on earth did she, and others like her, cope with the enormity of their decision?

  • The free Beyond the Tree exhibition is at Liverpool Regional Museum, 462 Hume Highway, 8711 7126. Open Tuesdays to Saturdays, from 10am to 4pm.