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Donated Material: Family Histories

Thomas Thynne/Thyne: from Miltown Malbay to Mt Egerton by Kerryn Taylor

Title: Thomas Thynne/Thyne: from Miltown Malbay to Mt Egerton
Type of Material: Family History
Places: Miltown Malbay; Mt Egerton, Ballarat, Millbrook, Portland - Australia
Dates: 1840s - 1920s
Families: Thynne/Thyne; Collins; Murphy; Hehir; Cahill.
Author/Donator: Kerryn Taylor, Australia

Thomas Thynne was born in Miltown Malbay, Co. Clare Ireland in 1844. He was the eldest son of Michael, a labourer, and Mary (nee Collins). His early beginnings would have been difficult for the newly-formed family, being only two years before the Great Famine of Ireland which hit the County of Clare particularly hard. Thomas’s baptism record shows his surname spelt as ‘Thynne’ but by the time he arrived in Australia it was spelt as ‘Thyne’ or ‘Tyne’. This may well have been as Thomas could not read or write when he arrived but, to his great credit in his later years, he did learn to sign his name - as shown on family records. In the book ‘More Irish Families’ by Edward MacLysaght, under the heading Flood, Thynne it first talks about the floods, then the name O’Thina and then states re the name Thynne:-

‘This Co. Clare name is there pronounced TYNE and was formerly so spelt e.g Dermot O’Tine of Kilshanny (the homeland of this Irish sept) whose outlawry as a jacobite was reversed in 1699. It is O’Teimhin in Irish and has no connection with a similar English name pronounced THIN.’

Thomas had three known brothers and perhaps two sisters; Patrick, John, Matthew, Mary and Catherine. All, except Matthew immigrated to Australia, Patrick settling near to Thomas in a small farming community called Millbrook and John becoming a policeman in Portland. Thomas had an uncle who also emigrated with him and his siblings his name was Bartholomew Thynne (possibly a brother to his father Michael) but sadly Bartholomew who also settled at Woolen Creek died in a freak accident whilst riding his horse home one evening, only a few years after his arrival in the colony in 1870.

Thomas & Margaret Thynne/Thyne
Thomas & Margaret Thynne/Thyne c. 1880s Mt. Egerton (Australia)

Thomas arrived in Australia on the ship ‘The Southern Ocean’ which departed from Liverpool after a short crossing from the Irish Sea in late November 1864. There he and others would enter a government emigration depot. The authorities made efforts to put emigrants with others from their same county and parishes in the same berths. The ship then arrived three months later in Melbourne on the 27th of February 1865. Nothing has been recorded of Thomas’s leaving his family and his homeland. Maybe it was too sorrowful to be ever spoken of. In the book ‘The Great Famine’ by Ciarán Ó Murchadha it tells of what it might have been like for him

‘These quayside partings were very emotional occasions involving as they did the splintering of families and the acute awareness of all present that there was little likelihood of being reunited ever again. Where distances were too long to permit quayside partings relatives traveled some portion of the way to the crossroads to watch them until out of sight..’
(Ciarán Ó Murchadha ‘The Great Famine: Ireland’s Agony 1845-1852’. Continuum, 2011)

Thomas selected land by the Woolen Creek in Mount Egerton, Victoria where the Bungal Dam now lies. European settlement began in Mt Egerton in 1853 with the discovery of gold at All Nations Gully. Mt Egerton developed from the discovery of gold and the subsequent realisation of the richness of the quartz reef that passed through the area. This led to the establishment of deep mining and large mining companies dominating the area. The development of the township waxed and waned with the success and failure of these enterprises. Mt Egerton was also linked to the bushranging activities of Andrew George Scott, alias Captain Moonlite. Moonlite reputedly robbed the Mt Egerton Bank of 1000 pounds in 1869 before skipping town. Today the township remains a quiet backwater in the farming and mining community. Many other people/families from the same area of Clare took up land in the Mt Egerton area some, amongst them Patrick Murphy and Horora Hehir (whose daughter Nora was to marry Thomas’s eldest son Michael) and also a John Cahill. Other surnames in the area were Sheedy and Fitzgerald.

Bungal Dam
Bungal Dam

Thomas met Margaret Gannon who had immigrated also to Australia about the same time as himself. She was the daughter of Michael and Anne (nee Donnellan) from Tuam, Co. Galway. At the time of their marriage Margaret was a servant in the nearby township of Gordon. They were married on the 14th of January 1868 at St. Alipuis Church - the first Catholic Church built in Ballarat. At that time Ballarat was a new (of just over 30 years) prosperous gold mining town & the home of the Eureka Rebellion of 1854 in which many of the men involved were Irish and from Co. Clare.
A story that has been passed down to the family from this union is that Thomas asked the priest how much he wanted to marry them. ‘Well, how much do you have?’ the priest asked, so Thomas pulled out all he had in his pocket which was 6 shillings and the priest took the lot! Thomas’s friend from Miltown, Patrick Murphy and Margaret’s cousin Catherine Donnellan acted as witnesses.

St Alipuis Church Ballarat c. 1853
St Alipuis Church Ballarat c. 1853

Thomas & Margaret built a two room cottage (probably made from vertical sawn boards with a bark roof kept flat with saplings) beside the Woolen Creek to be near water. Two children were born there, Michael in 1868 and then Patrick in 1871. They purchased a further 50 acres nearby and built a 3 roomed slab cottage with glazed windows and a corrugated iron roof which they added a further five rooms to as the family increased to ten children: Annie in 1872, Mary in 1874, Margaret in 1875, Thomas in 1877, John Steven in 1879, Catherine in 1881, Bartholomew in 1884 and Bridget in 1886. Here is an extract from the book ‘Life in the Australian backblocks’ by E.S Sorenson:

‘[The bushman] sticks up a temporary structure with the hardiest material about him, the principal object aimed at being to make it keep out rain. A married man, with little or no capital, begins with a two roomed hut – intended later for a kitchen – but any sort of jerry-built humpy suits the bachelor.’

The Thynne/Thyne family c. 1900
The Thynne/Thyne family c. 1900

Thomas, who was affectionately known as ‘The Boss’ by the family, milked cows in the morning. Then he rode a horse up to the Mount (Mt Egerton) and worked in one of the mines that was in full swing at that time. After arriving home from the mine in the evening the cows were milked again. He and Margaret made butter from their milk which was sold in both Mt Egerton and Ballarat. They also bred horses which where in great demand and sold for good prices in those times.

One of the first tasks facing Thomas and Margaret was the removal of the trees and undergrowth, done mostly by ‘ring barking’. Once the dead trees were felled they were burned or used for building fences, outbuildings etc.

The following winter rains would have washed the ashes from the stumps into the soil and therefore acted as fertilizer so that the land was ready for ploughing the following spring. It’s ironic that all their hard work now lies at the bottom of Geelong’s water supply – The Bungal Dam! It was a time of settlement, growth and national self-discovery. By the start of the First World War Australia’s population was one third of Irish decent. As many a historian has pointed out, the Irish were a founding people in Australia.

In 1868 Thomas & Margaret were part of a group of early settlers to the area who established the first Catholic Church and school in Mt. Egerton - St Francis Xavier. In this picture of the Church/School Thomas and Margaret’s grandson Tom is pictured. He is the tall boy in the back row, far right.

St Francis Xavier Church, Mt Egerton.
St Francis Xavier Church, Mt Egerton.

In late January 1878 Thomas and Margaret felt the devastating effects of the harsh Australian summers – bushfires. A report in the local newspaper ran:

‘About noon on Thursday a fire broke out in the grass paddock of Mr. Donnelan nearly 3 miles south-west of Egerton. There was none but a few boys about at the time and they, being unable to put it out, called for assistance, but before it arrived the fire had obtained so strong a hold that, despite the energetic efforts of over 30 men who did their very upmost, Mr. Donnelan has lost the greater portion of his fences, besides the valuable grass. Mr Michael Toohey is a much heavier loser in both respects but Mr. Thos. Thyne is far the greatest sufferer, for not only is he the loser in the matter of fencing, but a very large portion of his wheat and oat crop is also destroyed, and in addition to this heavy loss, but a short time since a valuable brood mare of his died in foaling.’

Thomas and Margaret survived three of their children who predeceased them both, Annie at aged 19 years, Kate aged 5 years and their eldest Michael who was killed in an accident with an oncoming train when he was aged 47 years. Here is a newspaper article on Michael’s death.


Michael Thynne's Death
Michael Thynne's Death


This is a song sang by the early Irishmen pioneers to Australia

Traditional Australian : With My Swag on My Shoulder

When first we left old Ireland’s shores, such yarns as we were told,
As how folks in Australia could pick up lumps of gold,
How gold dust lay in all the streets and miner's rights were free
'Hurrah" I said my loving friends, that's just the place for me
And get even with the captain, we scuttled from the ship.

With my swag all on my shoulder, black billy in my hand,
I travelled the bush of Australia like a true-born Irish man.

When first we reached Port Melbourne we were all prepared to slip
And bare the captain and the mate all hands abandon ship
And all the girls of Melbourne town, threw up their arms with joy
Hurrooing and exclaiming 'Here comes my Irish boy!'
We made our way into Geelong then north west to Ballarat
Where some of us grew mighty thin and some grew sleek and fat
Some tried their luck in Bendigo and some at Fiery Creek
I made a fortune in a day and blew it in a week


So round the tucker tracks I tramp, nor leave them out of sight,
My swag's on my left shoulder, and then upon my right,
And then I take it on my back and oft upon it lie,
These are the best of tucker tracks, so I'll stay here till I die.


I travelled the bush of Australia (pause)
Like a true-born Irish man.

A Swagman
‘On a Hungry Track’. A Swagman.

Thomas died peacefully at his home in Egerton on the 29th of April 1923. Margaret passed away the following year. Thomas lived a very full and productive life; he endured hardship and sadness within his family but also had great successes and joy from his life’s work and family. He earned the respect from his peers and fellow neighbours, and made a good contribution to his community. Although the farm that Thomas and Margaret is now owned by the Water Board and is part of the Bungal Dam, their son Michael’s descendants still own farming land nearby.

"EGERTON.-Mr. Thomas Thyne, of Egerton, has died, aged 79 years. He was one of the earliest pioneer graziers of the Egerton district."
from the Melbourne Newspaper 'The Argus' Thursday 3rd of May 1923.

Kerryn Taylor 2011
- as told in part by her grandfather Tom Thyne - Thomas's grandson.

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