The McHales of Baurnabarn and Kinnadoohy
I am sure that when people leave their homes for far flung places those left behind often wonder “whatever happened to such and such?”
It would be true of the thousands that left Mayo during the famine times either because of transportation or migration to England, America and Australia. For those who are the descendants of family who moved away there is a curiosity as to how life went on back in the home country left behind. This is the impetus for many doing family history research.
It is with a sad heart that I read all the newspaper articles, books and stories about the horrors of the Great Famine; and leads me to wonder if my ancestor James McHale actually stole the sheep to bring about transportation and perhaps the prospects of a better life in the far flung colonies that were to become Australia; or was he just trying to feed his family of six boys, wife and sister Mary. I imagine it was a bit of both.
James with Michael McHale and William McNamara hit the newspapers in March of 1847 for the theft of sheep and despite there being witnesses were released. James and Michael were indicted once again for the theft of seep on another occasion and James was sentenced to 7 years transportation. Michael was released for his age and some in our family would have it that this Michael was James’s 7 year old son but I wonder if it is the case that the courts would even indict a 7 year old. However, times were tough and who knows.
James then spent the next 18 months on Spike Island before being shipped out to Van Diemen’s Land. He served his sentence and in time was able to buy land in Westbury and by the time of his death at 81 (in 1881) he was a successful farmer with property. He also succeeded in bringing his wife Bridget and his youngest son Michael to Tasmania. At the age of 81 he was surrounded by fat, health grand and great-grandchildren. All in all the story has a happy ending.
But what about his family that he left behind?
Was his sister Mary the same as the Mary McHale that died of starvation during the terrible Delphi Lodge incident? The articles say she was from the Wastlands (Baurnabarn)? What happened to James and Bridget’s other sons John, Richard, Thomas, Walter and Patrick (born c. 1828 onwards)? Even after a trip to Ireland this year I was able to uncover nothing. Did they all eventually die in the famine, did they immigrate to other countries or are they one of the myriad of McHales that stayed, married and lived their lives but because of their names I cannot identify them? They should not be confused with the McHales of Doughmackeon, Pulgloss and Louisburgh who share the same names but are of another McHale family.
James gave very detailed information about his home in Kinnadoohy near the Chapel of Gowlaun and Michael on his shipping records says he was from White Gap (Baurnabarn). However by 1855 there are no McHales in either Kinnadoohy or Baurnabarn. Where did they go?
Part of the puzzle is solved. Unfortunately no one is left who knew James and Bridget McHale of Kinnadoohy and to wonder whatever happed to them but the current generation is still asking what happened to those left behind.