“I was on my way to relatives in Victoria when I was shipwrecked off Bunbury, so I stayed there…” Bridget Mulqueen…
When her children began asking questions about her origins, Bridget Mulqueen gave the above account.
Bridget Mulqueen was baptised on June 20, 1834 at Askeaton, in County Limerick, Ireland. Her parents, John and Catherine (nee Sommers) had at least five other children. Their first recorded child, Bridget, was baptised in February, 1834, and presumed to have died as their second child, the subject of this history, was also baptised Bridget. James Mulqueen was baptised in 1842; Honora 1848; John 1850 and Anne in 1853. The family lived at Aghalacka, in the parish of Askeaton. It is not known where Bridget was living at the time she travelled to Australia, but she was responsible for her travel arrangements to Cork or Dublin, and possibly to Plymouth. Also, she had to have the £2 deposit for her assisted passage to the colonies, (out of which bedding and mess utensils for the voyage would be provided), and a minimum set of clothing consisting of six shifts, two flannel petticoats, six pairs of stockings, two pairs of shoes and two gowns, along with sheets, towels and soap. The larger the outfit of clothing the better as the emigrants had to allow for hot and cold weather.
Leaving Ireland, Bridget sailed to Plymouth, often said to be the worst part of the journey to Australia. On her arrival in Plymouth, she would have been received into the government Emigration Depot and undergone another interview to, ensure she was who she said she was, qualified for assisted passage and had her kit examined; any irregularity would result in refusal. British authorities had imposed a standard of rules on its emigration depots; only those people selected by the Colonial Land and Emigration Commission were eligible to stay at the government controlled institutions. Here, the emigrants had some protection, guaranteed accommodation and food. The CLEC wanted the emigrants to arrive in the colonies in good health and spirits.
Shortly after her arrival at the Depot, Bridget was informed that she would join the ship Travencore. She would be one of a contingent of 115 single young women bound for The Swan River Colony (Western Australia). The Travencore sailed from Plymouth on October 1, 1852. Bridget is recorded on the passenger list as Biddy Mulqueen, aged 19 years. In his report on the journey, Immigration Agent F D Wittenoom wrote:
…Owing to light and contrary winds, the voyage from Plymouth occupied 105 days. The number of emigrants embarked was 221; five died during the voyage, four were born, landing 220 passengers… some of the married people have preferred complaints of the indifferent quality of the provisions, and it is I believe true that occasionally the meat was bad and the tea musty... (and) the third mate caused much dissatisfaction in serving out the stores... this officer's gratuity has been withheld. The very healthy appearance however of all the emigrants is evidence that though they may sometimes have had reason to complain and experienced some of the annoyances incident to a sea voyage - this general treatment has not been such as to justify withholding the usual certificates entitling the owners to the balance of passage money....
The Perth Gazette reported that the Travencore arrived at Fremantle late in the evening on January 13, 1853, in the full heat of summer. Of the 220 emigrants, 115 were single women on assisted passage, who were soon taken by boat up the Swan River in groups of 40 or 50, to the William Street jetty at Perth. A large crowd of settlers were there to greet them, eager to engage servants. Most of the women wore simple gowns and they were soon dubbed 'bog Irish'. The mainly Protestant population of the colony were adverse to taking Irish Roman Catholic women into their homes, but the Irish women were healthy, good natured and willing to work on distant farms. Religious tolerance grew and the acceptance of the Travencore women paved the way for another 300 or so, mostly Irish women emigrants during 1853.
It is doubtful that Bridget obtained a position in Perth. More likely, after living at the Servants Home for a few weeks, she was one of a party of 16 women to travel to Bunbury aboard the Typo under the charge of Sergeant Allen, an Enrolled Pensioner Guard. In Bunbury, the women lodged with Mrs Allen. It is fortunate that the reputation of the Travencore women did not rest with those sent to Bunbury; they took exception to their employment opportunities. She probably met ticket-of-leave Edinburgh man James John Henry Hislop, the local Schoolmaster, soon after her arrival in the town and began a courtship that soon led to their marriage. James became the first ex-convict in Western Australia to be appointed a teacher.
James Hislop was sentenced to seven years transportation. He arrived in Western Australia on board the Pyrenees in 1851. A ticket of leave was a document of parole issued to convicts who had shown they could now be trusted with some freedoms. The conditions of ticket-of-leave changed from time to time but those under that obligation were always closely monitored. In 1851, a ticket-of-leave man had to report to the Resident Magistrate within seven days of arrival in a district, and then twice yearly. He also had to report every time he changed employment or address, and could not change districts without permission in writing from the Comptroller-General of Convicts. He could not be absent from his home district without a pass; had to satisfy the Resident Magistrate that he was honestly supporting himself at all times; could not be employed on board a whaling or other vessel and could not obtain a license to be a Publican or sell liquor. If found drunk or disorderly, he could forfeit his ticket-of-leave and be returned to prison. Other conditions applied and ensured that a ticket-of-leave man was well supervised.
Many settlers in the Bunbury area supported James by sending their children to his school. Among them were the Resident Magistrate George Eliot, and William Forrest, whose elder sons attended before being sent to school in Perth. Two Forrest sons became prominent Western Australians. After being celebrated an explorer, Sir John Forrest became the first Premier of Western Australia; on federation a Federal Minister, and in 1918 became Lord Forrest, Baron of Bunbury while his brother Alexander also an explorer, became Lord Mayor of Perth. In 1859, young John Forrest won a prize at the Bunbury School. Fifty years later, Sir John Forrest wrote a telegram regretting that he could not pay his last respects to his old Schoolmaster who he regarded as one of his truest friends, as he was in Melbourne.
James and Bridget married in a civil ceremony at Picton on October 6, 1853. A few weeks later, on October 23, James and Bridget repeated their vows in a Catholic ceremony. The reason for the double ceremony can be explained by the social conditions of the time concerning what was then called a mixed marriage, that is, a marriage between people of different religions.
After their marriage, James and Bridget remained at Picton. Their first child, Maria Esther was born there on April 17, 1854, but they had moved to Bunbury before the birth of their second child, James John Henry Jnr, on May 12, 1856. They went on to have 11 children.
James and Bridget went on to be very successful business owners in Bunbury and in Lorna Cross’s book ‘I’m an Edinburgh Man’, about James and Bridget, she goes into much detail of their life in business and in Bunbury. The book will be available for sale at the Bunbury Commemoration. We are indebted to Lorna for her research and this story contains extracts from her book.