Timothy, Catherine, Margaret SHEA

Timothy Shea                      1815-1900

Catherine Shea                   1823-1892

Margaret Shea                    1864-1866

The baptismal records for Timothy Shea (1815-1900) and three of his nine siblings are held in the Sacred Heart Church, Borrisoleigh, Co Tipperary.  The family resides at Garrengrena Lower, in the low hills to the north, between Borrisoleigh and the Devil’s Bit.  Timothy’s parents were Stephen Shea and Margaret Britt.  In 1832 Stephen was reported to be leasing/farming 16.24 acres on the estate of Lord Portarlington.  In 1851 his residence was still at Lower Garrengrena.  He had a house and land (9 roods, 3 perches and 35 chains) on the property of Samuel Walker Esq.

A slightly different story, about the arrival of the Bacchus Marsh Sheas, to the one above has been handed down through the generations and told by Tim J Shea (born 1900).  It says Timothy (1815-1900) came to Melbourne from Tasmania with Ned Shea, a cousin, and Mick Griffin.  This Timothy, who worked in a wine and spirit store in Tipperary prior to his emigration, and two of his brothers – Patrick (1810-1850) and Stephen (1817-1869) were all in Bacchus Marsh together until Stephen decided to move away.  Ned Shea, the cousin, was the son of Edmond Shea and Mary Maher and had two brothers, Stephen and Martin.  T J Shea continued, ‘Timothy walked from Melbourne to Ballarat, admiring the plentiful game at Bacchus Marsh.  He may have worked for a time in Ballarat, operating a butcher’s cart on the goldfields, but eventually settled in the Deep Creek and Anthony’s Cutting area.  He worked at the Wool Pack Hotel when he first came to Bacchus Marsh.  ‘Timothy had a hut on the river flats near where the Djerriwarrh Creek met the Werribee River.

Story also has it that he met a ship in Melbourne and asked if there was anyone who would marry him.  Catherine Phelan supposedly agreed.  Timothy married Catherine Phelan at Darley presumably at the priest’s residence on 24th August, 1858.  He stated he was a bachelor.  In a letter dated 1864, his brother, John, wrote from Ireland stating that Timothy’s son and namesake was a good boy for his age and that his eight sisters were also well.  John asked Timothy when he was going to send for the two oldest girls as John was finding it difficult to look after two families.  It seems his first wife had died.

Timothy and Catherine settled at the back of the present day Exford Weir after being assisted to get a land grant by Mr Pearce.  You had to have land or be renting land to the value of ten pounds to qualify for a grant.  Mr Pearce wrote out a lease for his shop for twelve months to allow Tim to qualify.  The land was granted and Mr Pearce tore up the lease.

Their eldest son, Stephen Shea married Mary McCullagh.  Stephen and Mary had three children. The eldest, Timothy J, married Jane Vallence and lived on a property at the end of Werribee Vale Road.  That couple reared Bill and Kath who both still live in the town. Bill (William Martin) and Kathleen were two of six children left orphaned when their parents, Martin and Doreen Deveny, of Myrniong died from a severe flu strain within weeks of each other in 1942. Martin was 38 and Doreen was 36.  Their youngest child was only ten months old. It was to be many years before the six children were able to meet as a family in the same place.  Bill married Lynette Love and Kath married Guinness Connell.  Both have children and grandchildren living in the town.

Stephen and Mary’s next two children, Mary, known as Molly, and Jim, were unmarried and lived together on the original property.

Timothy and Catherine’s second son, also called Timothy, married his cousin, Anne Shea (daughter of Stephen Shea and Anne Corbett).  They had four children. Apparently Annie ‘disappeared’ and the children were split up.  Mary and Frank went to Timothy’s brother, Michael, and his wife Margaret.  Stephen Sylvester went to his father’s eldest brother, Stephen and his wife Mary.  He later had a barber’s shop in Bacchus Marsh.  Stephen Sylvester, married Kathleen Dowling who has relatives buried at Hopetoun Cemetery.  The eldest of their four children, Keith, born 1914, played 91 games with Carlton FC.  He played in Carlton’s 1932 premiership team. Towards the end of his career, another Shea cousin, Eddie, brother of Alan, began his two year career with Hawthorn FC.

Timothy and Catherine’s next child, Margaret, died as a two year old.

Their next son, Michael, married Margaret Kerwin. This marriage produced eight children:

  • Catherine married Edmund Ryan – children – Ellen and Margaret
  • Michael died at a young age from TB. He had attended St Patrick’s College, Ballarat and was studying medicine
  • John married Mary Gaynor – children – Michael, Margaret, Peter and Monica
  • Ellen married Stanley Wilson – children – Margaret, Helen, Stuart and Kathleen
  • Stephen [Joe] married Queenie Tregellis – children – Michael, James, Doreen and Pamela
  • Margaret
  • Timothy (Frank) married Hazel Neate – children – William, Geoff, Gavan, Carmel, Pat and Terry
  • William married Roma Hagan – children – Hagan, Amanda, Kerwin, Majella and Damien

The obituary of Michael (who is buried at Maddingley Cemetery) in 1956 noted ‘It is with great regret that we record the passing of a grand old Marshonian in the person of Mr Michael Shea JP in his 90th year.  In many respects he was a remarkable man, both physically and mentally.  He was born at Djerriwarrh Creek, and spent his long life as a dairy farmer within a mile of his birthplace. His stock answer to the oft-occurring questioner, misled by his rich Irish brogue, and asking him what part of the emerald isle he hailed from, was: ‘I was born a mile from where you see me now.’ His wealth of knowledge, far transcending his State School education, was acquired by wide reading, and his alert brain was abreast of current affairs until the end. Indeed he was looking forward to attending the Olympic Games (Melbourne 1956), and regretted having to forego this year’s Royal Show.  It was his good fortune to enjoy unimpaired health during his long and active life.  From his irrigation farm at the foot of Anthony’s Cutting, he drove his milk cart into Bacchus Marsh for 60 years, in all weathers, rarely delegating the task to one of his sons.  A fluent and witty public speaker, the late Mr Shea was an able spokesman for irrigation and farming interests in times of stress, whenever protest meetings and deputations were held. He quite frequently occupied the chair at political and other public gatherings. He was the last survivor of the original board of directors of the Bacchus Marsh Dairymen’s Co-operative Association Ltd.  The late Mr Shea was also one of the directors of Sulphates Ltd, holding that position with the company for 35 years.  An honorary justice, he served many times on the local Bench.  He was a staunch churchman and a valued parishioner of St Bernard’s.  Part of his church work was trimming up the old cemetery at Hopetoun in his spare time.  He was one of a family of three boys and two girls, of whom the only one now surviving is Mrs Griffith of Djerriwarrh Creek……’

Their youngest daughter, Catherine Shea was born in 1869.  She married William Griffith. Veronica Fitzgerald nee Griffith provided Catherine’s information.

Catherine and Timothy were a pioneering family in the Djerriwarrh Creek farming community along with many others including Margaret and Richard Griffith.

Catherine Shea attended the Djerriwarrh school alongside other children from the area, including William Griffith, whom she would eventually marry.  She grew up to be a strong, capable and intelligent woman with many and varied skills. She spent her early years helping her parents around the home and the farm.

Catherine married William Griffith in 1898 and they lived the rest of their lives on the Griffith farm, ‘Rose Glen’, bringing up their four children, Richard, William, John and Catherine and working the land. (for more information on the children see the Griffith family notes). Catherine seemed to be capable at whatever she turned her hand to. She was an organised housekeeper, and an excellent cook, jam-maker, seamstress, knitter and embroiderer, and all the homely pursuits expected of women of that era.  She taught the two older children, Richard and Bill, to knit socks to send to soldiers serving in the first world war.  She even upholstered a bench seat for her children to sit on at the dinner table. All four children were taught by their mother, from an early age, the skills necessary to cook, clean and to complete their household chores as they became old enough.  Bill in particular was her assistant jam maker and from the age of twelve, once his mother had the jam making under way, had the responsibility of stirring the jam as it cooked.  This task paid off well …. in later years Bill was known far and wide for his excellent apricot jam and quince jelly!  The garden was a real source of enjoyment and interest for Catherine, and despite the dry and gravelly soil around the house, she managed to grow roses and other plants, and created a lovely fernery with her home-made dripper system to keep plants cool and moist in summer. She also kept hens and ducks for eggs and meat.

Catherine was equally capable outside the house, frequently milking the cows by hand, and simultaneously minding young children including a baby in a pram.  The children were taught, when old enough, to help with the milking.  In fact her son, Bill, remembered independently milking a cow at the age of five.  It was often necessary to carry out such farming tasks as William (snr) would often be working at other jobs such as ploughing, cropping and wood-cutting elsewhere on the property in order to bring in more income.  It has been said that Catherine carried a pocket knife in her apron pocket, especially in the springtime in case she saw a cow bloated from eating too much lucerne …. the usual treatment was to give the affected cow a small jab with a sharp knife (in the right place) to relieve the pressure and allow the gas to escape.  Apparently she was a dab hand at this and was always successful.  She could handle a .22 rifle as well as any man, dispatching crows, snakes, rabbits and any vermin needing attention.

Catherine was a very generous woman and always tried to cook a little more than was needed for the evening meal, ‘just in case a hungry person comes this way’.  The swaggies were always well fed and they left a stone on the gate to indicate this was a place to get a good meal.   She was well-regarded for this generosity in the local community; she was a regular visitor to neighbouring families, in times of both happiness and sadness, and was called on by many to help with tending to the dying and preparing the deceased for burial. She and William (snr) attended their wakes and supported the families as best they could.

After a long and productive life, Catherine Griffith died on November 10th 1959, aged 90, twenty years after her husband’s death.  She was the last surviving member of her family, having spent her whole life in the local area.  She was farewelled at her funeral at St Bernard’s Church, and according to an article in the Catholic newspaper, The Tribune, the Requiem Mass was celebrated by Frs Curran, Casey, Richards, McDonald and Long.  The coffin bearers were her sons, William and John, son-in-law George Vallence and grandson Kieran Griffith.  Pall bearers included her grandson William Griffith and five nephews.  She was buried with her husband in the Maddingley Cemetery.

Timothy Shea and Catherine Phelan have many Shea and Griffith ancestors still residing in the town – close to where they were born which would please Michael Shea.  Timothy died in 1900 and his wife, Catherine, died in 1915.  The ‘Bacchus Marsh Express’ of Sat July 31, 1915 read:  ‘Another very old resident of the district died on Wednesday, in the person of Mrs Catherine Shea, widow of the late Timothy Shea, of Deep Creek.  The old lady was 93 years of age, and unfortunately broke her thigh recently in a fall, from which she never recovered.  The funeral took place on Thursday to the Hopetoun Cemetery, at which the Rev Father Gleeson officiated.’         – From Kerrie Shea

During research, the first edition of the Express published on 7th July 1866, carried an interesting report about an altercation between a Michael Shea and a Phillip Connelly while they were working at the cutting on the main road, Pentland Hills. Phillip Connelly was badly injured but fortunately recovered.  Michael Shea took off across the fields.  He was captured later that evening at the lower end of Bacchus Marsh.  The police were told he had provided himself with firearms and as he was known to be rather a desperate character they took precautions to ensure his capture.  So who was this Michael Shea?  It is known that there was a relationship between Ararat Sheas and Bacchus Marsh Sheas but an older Shea family member (now deceased) did not wish to elaborate on that connection. That same person alluded to a ‘skeleton in the cupboard’ to a family member.  A Michael Oshea[sic] died at Ararat on 7th August 1921.  He was 86.  His death certificate states he was married but no other personal details were known.  The informant was a police constable.  His age would make it possible for him to have been working in Bacchus Marsh in 1866.

Another interesting Michael O’Shea death occurred on 28th June 1916 at Cosgrove, Shire of Shepparton.  He was 79 when he died and his parents were given as John O’Shea and Hannah O’Shea formerly Kearns (see family below).  He was a farmer and had married Ellen Doolan at Ballarat when he was 34 (about 1871).  He was born in Ireland about 1837 and had been in Victoria 68 years.  He would have arrived in Australia about 1848.  Did he join his brother and cousins in Bacchus Marsh?  He may have and could have been working in the town in 1866. Can the mystery be solved?