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The flag bearer of the McMahon family in Australia was James Clancy McMahon was born around 1843 in Loughill, Limerick, Ireland, being the third eldest of 11 children. He was said to have arrived on the Ariande in 1864 but he may well have arrived in June aboard the Lobelia. This is the boat that his younger brother Thomas was said to have arrived on but no passenger list is available. However, the Brisbane Courier, on 17 June 1865, listed passengers which included a James, 23, Mary and Thomas, 19.

His father appears to have died in Ireland and his mother in 1882 in Covington, Indiana. The family had been split in three by the migrations. The eldest son, Timothy, moved to the USA along with four other siblings. James Clancy, his elder sister Mary, and younger siblings Thomas, Ellen and Elizabeth came to Australia. Ann remained in Ireland.

He fairly quickly moved to Warwick, Queensland, and established Wheatvale. He took out a lease on the Oakpark Estate, at Swan Creek, in 1867. This property covered an area of 69 acres and this was extended by a further 91 acres. He married, at the age of 26, Honara Garvey at the Warwick Catholic Presbytery on 20 May 1868. She was born in 1843 at Kilkee, Newmarket, County Clare. She arrived in Australia on the “David McIvor” on 12 July 1863. He had 9 children by Honora Garvey,often referred to as the ‘first family’, who died in 1882. The Warwick Examiner and Times, reported on her death on 1 February 1882.

“It is with deep feeling of regret that we have to record another sudden death in our community, viz. that of Mrs. McMahon, Oak Park Farm, Reserve. The news of the sad occurrence took everyone with surprise, as deceased had, up to within a few hours of her death, been in her usual good health. Mrs. McMahon had been following her daily routine of household duties on Monday morning last, and had not exhibited the slightest symptoms of her approaching danger till after dinner. She had prepared the mid-day meal as usual, and was in excellent spirits during dinner hour. About two o’clock she was seized with a fit of vomiting and sent a message for her husband, who was pursuing his usual occupation on the farmer. When he arrived, he promptly sent for Dr Phillips who lost no time in repairing to the residence of the deceased. The vomiting ceased and dysentery ensued, and it soon became apparent that there was no hope of her recovery. Dr Phillips prescribed for his patient, but all the assistance and attention which medical skill could devise, and which he gave, were of no avail, for deceased rapidly sank till death relived her of her sufferings about two o’clock yesterday morning. Dr Phillips and Father Horan remained by the bed of the sufferer till life was extinct. Deceased, who was highly respected among the members of the farming community, and also with the business people who had dealings with her, leaves a husband and a large family to mourn their loss. The funeral took place yesterday afternoon, and was largely attended.”

He married Eliza Bray in 1887. Eliza Bray married Patrick Fitzgerald on 28 April 1876. She and her husband arrived on the Zamora on 26 April 1877. They had lost a child, Johanna Zamora, en route to Australia and had a second child, born in Petrie Terrace in April 1879, in Petrie Terrace, Brisbane. She was engaged as a housekeeper after the death of Honara Garvey and the resultant relationship resulted in the birth of their first child, Elizabeth at Swan Creek in March 1884. They were subsequently to marry on 24 June 1887 and had the ‘second family’ of 10 children. It is unclear what happened to her first husband and indeed doubts were raised as to whether Eliza Bray was competent to make a valid contract of marriage with James Clancy. This was presumably because Patrick Fitzgerald was alive and no divorce had taken place.

Eliza Bray, Lilly McMahon standing, Ruby White train bearer, Charles Behm (bridegroom sitting, Timothy McMahon, Hannah McMahon (bride), bridesmaid Behm and probably possibly M. Colclough – Warwick 1912
There were thus 19 McMahon children and two Bray children in the family lineage little Kate forming part of the family, being distinguished from he elder big sister Catherine or big Cate. James Clancy was described as a clever man, who was self taught and was a superb horseman. He named Wheatvale, growing the first wheat in the area. He built the first school in the region in 1896 on his land which he furnished and met the teacher’s salary. It was closed after his death and a new school opened on Bonney Mountain in 1907. The first pupils included Thomas, Lillian and Norman McMahon. He was clearly an influential farmer in the region and his role was reflected from time to time in newspaper reports. For example, the Warwick Examiner and Times reported on 21 October 1893 in the following terms.

The paper reported on a meeting of farmers held at “Ullathorne, Freestone Creek, on Tuesday evening last for the purpose of protesting against the prohibitive railway rates charged on Darling Downs flour to the Brisbane and western markets. It indicated “Mr J. C. McMahon said the present Ministry were always going to help the farmers, but that help had not arrived yet, and he was sadly afraid ti would never reach the framers. He looked upon Sir Thomas McIlwraith as no better than an Irish landlord’s agent. The agriculturalists of the Warwick district simply wanted bare justice meted out to them, but that justice would never be given by the McIlwraith administration. The Government were quick to legislate for the Northern sugar growers, but they could not see their way clear to do a similar duty for the Southern wheat growers. Bur there was a good time coming, and when that time arrived they would be prepared to break a lance with Sir Thomas. The Downs farmers expected better thing from him, but they were disappointed (applause).

James Clancy died on 11 March 1899, aged 55, after falling from his horse, and was buried in the Warwick cemetery on 13 March 1899. He had been in town voting when the publican, of the Western hotel, noticed the return of his riderless horse. He was found on the “flat … In the reserve near Chiverton”, bleeding from his ears. While messengers were despatched to Warwick, he died soon after he was found from a broken neck. James Clancy had been drinking heavily that day. His cortege was reputedly half a mile long.

Warwick Examiner and Times – 15 March 1899

News was brought to town on Saturday night that Mr. J. C. McMahon, of Wheatvale, Toolburra road, had been picked up on the flat near Mrs. Higgin’s Hotel, Sandy Creek, in an unconscious state,- he having sustained a fall from his horse. Dr. Phillips and the police immediately proceeded thither and on examination of the body, which, in the meantime, had been removed to the hotel, life was found to be extinct. The fall had apparently broken Mr. McMahon’s neck and blood was flowing freely from his ears when discovered. The body was afterwards conveyed to deceased’s late resi-dence, and the funeral took place on Monday forenoon. There was a very large attendance of sympathisers. General regret was expressed at the untimely death of one of the foremost agriculturists of the Downs. The late Mr. Mr McMahon for many years was a resident of Swan Creek, and having sold out took up largely of the North Toolburra estate. He was a man of undoubted pluck, and generally his ventures came off on the right side. The deceased was in town on Saturday forenoon. to record his .votes for Warwick and Cunningham, and left for home in the afternoon.
There followed lengthy litigation in the Queensland Supreme Court of McMahon versus McMahon. James Clancy had left a detailed will but it had not been kept up to date losing alignment with his property holdings. While Eliza McMahon nee Bray was ultimately successful, costs were met from a severely depleted estate. It was said that a number of properties had been held for James Clancy in other peoples’ names to get around some restrictions on land holdings. However, they were never able to be brought into the estate as those involved recanted.

George was baptised in Sutton Cum Lound, Nottingham, around 1799, having been born in or close to Reford. He was indicted “for feloniously breaking and entering the dwelling-house of Richard Castle, about four o’clock in the afternoon of the 28th September 1817, in the parish of St. Martin in the Fields (William Barnard being therein) and stealing therin, one tin box, value 2s.; 23 pound 11s in monies numbered; two foreign silver coins,value 8s; one 50 pound, one 5 pound, one 2 pound and four 1 pound bank notes, his property.” This totalled over 84 pounds, a huge sum in those times. He was tried at the Eighth Session of the Old Bailey, at the age of 18, on Wednesday 29 October 1817. He was found not to have broken and entered but convicted of the theft and he received the mandatory death sentence, which was commuted to life imprisonment on 5 December 1817. He continued to have trouble with the law for the rest of his life but nothing this serious. He was transported to Australia aboard the Isaballa.

Harriot Sampson appears to have been of Huguenot descent. Her father was Pierre Sampson, baptised in London on 8 August 1758, son of Guillame and Elizabeth Sampson. She was born around 1796. She married James Sleigh at the Greyfriar’s Church in Newgate in January 1812. From this marriage were born James Edward (January 1812) and Edward (1813). She was arrested on 20 December 1816 for stealing 15 yards of poplin; tried at the Old Bailey in January 1817 and sentenced on 8 March 1817. “172. HARRIETT SLEA was indicted for stealing, on the 20th of December, fifteen yards of poplin, value 2l. 10s., the goods of Thomas Flint and John Ray , in their dwelling-house . ROBERT SAMPSON . I am shopman to Thomas Hunt and John Ray, haberdashers , Grafton-street . On the 20th of December the prisoner was at my masters’ shop, there were several persons in the shop at the time; I was serving some ladies. One of the shopwomen was near me; she had occasion to go away, and as she passed me she gave me our watch-word, which was a signal for me to look to the goods on the counter. I saw a piece of poplin taken off the counter by a woman in a black veil, who was standing behind some ladies; thinking it was taken to look at, I waited some time, it not being returned, I looked up and saw the prisoner, who had a black veil on, going to the door; I went after her, and took hold of her as she was opening the door; I held her with one hand, and put my other hand to her side to prevent the poplin from falling, which she had under her arm. I took her into the counting-house and took it from her. It was the piece I had seen taken off the counter; it is worth 50s. cost price.”

She embarked on the “Maria”, with “child”, on 22 March 1818. The Maria was a 427 ton convict leaving Deal on 15 May 1818 arriving in Sydney on 17th Sep 1818. George led a fairly troubled life culminating in his manslaughter in Newcastle in 1832. Harriot also died relatively young in Windsor in 1848.

They had 7 children between them. One of their daughters, Ellen Kenniwell, married the convict Richard Pickering in 1845. Richard was born around 1805 in England. He married Hannah Wright, in the Parish of Dodsworth, 15 May 1825 and she had died before 1838.

He and his brothers John and Matthew were apprehended in Wakefield on 17 August 1826 and convicted in the York Assizes on 24 March 1827 of housebreaking, involving the theft of money and clothing. John did not deny having sold the clothing but claimed that they were found and that he had been framed. It is interesting that he was said to have indicated when selling the garments that the cheap prices came about because they were castoffs of the wives of his brothers and himself. They were transported on the convict vessel “Prince Regent”. The Prince Regent arrived in Sydney 27th September 1827 – it had left Deal on 11th June 1827 under its master William Richards.

The pattern of his family movements strongly suggests that they spent around twenty years searching for gold, going from strike to strike. Ellen Kenniwell was a mid-wife which may have been a necessary skill in the remote areas where they travelled. They finally settled in Cowra. Richard died at the age of 86 in 1891 and Ellen died in 1903 aged 78

They had 11 children between them. Ellen Pickering birth was registered in Binalong on 18 September 1857. However, the place of birth was said to be Five Mile Creek which does not flow into Binalong but it does cross the Hume Highway, suggesting that she was born on the banks of Five Mile Creek and registration took place in the closest town. This was highly suggestive of the nomadic lifestyle they had. Ellen married James Joseph Daley on 18 November 1875 at Young.

James was the son of John Daley and Ellen Downey. John Daley appears to have arrived in Australia around 1840 as a free settler. Ellen migrated to Australia with her family as a child in 1838. The Daleys lived in the Weddin Mountains and were in the epicentre of bushranging in NSW. The Arramagong property, on which they all lived, was well known to other bushrangers including Ben Hall who lived on a nearby property, the Wheogo, Frank Gardiner and John Gilbert. John and Ellen are buried in Grenfell after their deaths in 1876 and 1868 respectively. James Joseph Daley was brother of the bushranger Patsy Daley and cousin to bushranger John O’Malley.

Ellen Pickering moved to Queensland with the younger members of her family, including Eileen, after the death of James in Forbes in 1898 and her re-marriage to “Bunny” Wakefield in 1901. They stayed for a time in Cobar before moving to north Queensland.

Ellen Pickering and daughter Mary May Swingle. Ellen was the daughter of convict Richard Pickering and the grand daughter of convicts George Kenniwell and Harriot Sampson.

Common grave site at the Balmoral Cemetery, Brisbane.


Eileen Magadaline Daley and policeman Peter Gerald McMahon on their wedding day in Mackay in 26 July 1911.


Cir 1926. Eileen (nee Daley), Peter Gerald McMahon with James, Vincent, Norman, Phyllis, Peggy and Kevin.

McMahons and Vigors married in the following generation.