Museum Donation from Australia

Clare Champion, Friday, December 28, 2001

The indenture given to a Cooraclare man when he became an apprentice carpenter to Michael Enright of Kilrush back in 1876 has been presented to the Clare County Museum, thus completing a round the world return trip which took over 120 years to complete.

The indenture belonged to William Blackhall Browne of Dromelihy, who, according to family tradition, emigrated to America in around 1880 and later travelled on to Australia. He gained employment using his carpentry skills with a coach building firm in Rockhampton, Queensland. He left the trade when he married and took over the Cricketers Arms Hotel, and in his spare time took to building cottages that he would then sell. He expanded his hotel business until the 1890's when economic depression forced him back into carpentry again.

It was at about this time that his first wife died. He later remarried, and further enhanced his reputation as a master craftsman, making the first motor bus body that was put on the streets of Rockhampton. In 1922 he was awarded a special prize and an order of merit for the building of a sulky (carriage) at the Brisbane Exhibition.

When he died in January 1934, he had six children from his second marriage. The youngest of these, Kevin, was the father of Patricia Brady, who was responsible for returning the indenture to Clare.

Mrs. Brady took the indenture, which had been handed down in the family, to a museum in Brisbane where it roused great interest due to its Irish origins and remarkable condition. After much consideration, rather than donate the indenture to the museum in Brisbane it was decided to return it to a museum in its county or origin. She was on holiday with her husband in Ireland recently and took the opportunity to visit Dromelihy to see the area where her grandfather was born. She donated the indenture to Clare Museum saying that it "is appropriate that the indenture should be returned to Clare where it is part of the county's history".

According to the indenture, William Blackhall Browne's mother, Bridget, paid £20 for her son to be trained as a carpenter for four years. The indenture states that he was forbidden to "play at cards or other unlawful games nor haunt nor frequent taverns nor keep unreasonable hours". Any breaches of the agreement would result in a £40 fine to be paid by Browne's mother.

"Considering that this document has travelled across the world twice, it is in remarkable condition, with the exception of a few stains caused by dampness. I understand that parting with this family heirloom has not been easy for Mrs. Brady, as it is of immense sentimental value and a tangible link with her grandfathers heritage", said Museum Curator, John Rattigan. "She can be assured that the indenture has found a good home at Clare Museum, as the document and the human story attached to it provide an important contribution to tell the history of Clare", he added.

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