Thursday, 26 March 2015

Life of Mary Ann Holmes

One of my many family relatives has kindly written about my great great grandmother Mary Ann Holmes( nee Throup) and given me permission to publish it here.
Here is what Margaret Roberts wrote .


Researching and organising the 145th anniversary of the arrival in Australia of my great grandparents, John and Mary Ann Holmes, made me wish they had written the story of their life’s journey, especially Mary Ann.  The laying of a wreath of Australian wildflowers on her gravestone at Allora Cemetery on the 120th anniversary of her death caused me to wonder about her life’s passage.  Her life must have been so harsh and sad at times.  Were there happy times?  I am sure there must have been - laughter following tears; excitement and exhilaration at setting out from Liverpool to cross the world with a husband, two young children and all her worldly possessions to the unknown  town of Allora on the Darling Downs in what was then New South Wales.  I wish Mary Ann had written her story.  No doubt she was too busy rearing 13 children and so in the absence of her autobiography I am prompted to write an account of her life.

Mary Anne Throup was born in Silsden, Yorkshire in 1834 and was christened on 9 February, 1834.  Her father, Jonas Throup and her mother Hannah (nee Jackson) were both 28 years old.  Mary met and fell in love with John Holmes, 16 months her senior.  Mary fell pregnant to John when she was just 18 years of age.  Their wedding followed on 10th May 1852 in the church at Bingley, Yorkshire. 

John and Mary’s first two children were born in Keighley, Yorkshire – Isaac in October, 1852 and Joseph in late 1854. 

The decision was made to travel to live in Australia and the family of four departed Liverpool on the SS “Matoaka” leaving on 21st February, 1855 and arriving Sydney on 17th May, 1855.  The immigration records list that John was a sawyer and could read and write.  Mary could read only.  (Maybe that is why she didn’t write her memoirs.)  They paid five pounds under the Assisted Immigration Act.  I guess that made them “five pound Poms”.  It must have been a sad journey for Mary as Joseph died on the trip being only 18 weeks of age.  They made their home in Sydney.  Castle Hill was their abode when their third child William was born on 18 February, 1856 and christened on 12th June, 1856.  Their fourth child, John was born during 1858 at Pennant Hills, Sydney.  They left Sydney sometime after that and John carried on a business as a sawyer in the Hawkesbury River District.  Was John one of the many “Cedar Cutters” who devastated the east coast of Australia of the cedar trees?  Red cedar was by far the most valuable of the timbers in the brush lands of the coastal districts of N.S.W.  The cedars were magnificent trees, frequently four or five feet or more in diameter, towering over the other trees and entangled in vines which had to be cut away before the trees could be felled.

It is not known how long it took for the family of five to travel overland to Queensland but John went to work as a sawyer at Goomburra Station some 20 kilometres from Warwick, Queensland.  It was his boast that one of the first cedar logs cut in these ranges was floated downstream by him when the Dalrymple Creek was in flood.  It must have been a big flood because it is a pretty scrawny creek.  Mary gave birth to her fifth child, Samuel, in Warwick on 11th April, 1860.  David arrived some two years later on 17th June, 1862.  Tragedy struck about this time.  In 1862 the three sons of John and Mary, Isaac, William and John, attended the school conducted in a tent by Mrs. James Gwynne.  A shilling per week was paid for each child for tuition.  In the lunch hour break on 20th October, 1862, the three boys arrived home from school and as the mid-day meal wasn’t ready Mary gave them each a slice of bread and butter and told them to play until they were called.  The trio went down to the creek.  Johnny, only four and a half, fell in and was struggling when the two others raced home for help.  Assistance came immediately but the body wasn’t found for some time.  The burial was held on the 22nd October in the grounds of the Church of England at the rear of the present rectory in Allora.  The grave was unmarked but on 16 July, 2001, a memorial to John Holmes was placed in the rose garden at St David’s Church, Allora.  This memorial was made possible from generous donations from the members of the Holmes family during the reunion in April 2000 and afterwards.  One of Mary Ann and John’s granddaughters, Thelma Kerr aged 86, was present at the ceremony.

Finally on the 6th May, 1866 after seven sons Mary gave birth to a girl child naming her Mary Ann.  That must have brought so much joy to Mary, but sadly tragedy struck once more for Mary as her only daughter died on 9th February, 1867.  She was only nine months old.  Who did Mary turn to for solace?

Mary went on to bear more sons – Benjamin in 1867 and Thomas in 1870.  Mary’s second eldest son, William, who was only fourteen died in 1870.  It is reported that he was killed by either a stone or cricket ball.  More grieving for poor Mary.

The big family continued to grow however with Jacob arriving in 1872, Esau in 1874 and finally, to Mary’s delight, another girl, Hannah Blanche, was born.  Alas, Mary had only three years of love and joy with Hannah as Mary died in April 1880 and was buried in Allora Cemetery.

Was Mary happy with her life’s passage?  No one will ever know.  Mary had her first child at 18 years of age in Yorkshire and had a child every two or so years until she was forty-three and died when she was forty-six having seen the death of four of her children and leaving her three year old daughter. 

Mary lives on in her many descendants.  When constructing the family tree for the 2000 reunion I was able to trace 1800 descendants from this couple, John and Mary Ann Holmes.  There were many that I missed but what a wonderful effort from our two ancestors who helped in no small way to “grow”Australia.
Margaret Roberts
January 2015