This week’s Sepia Saturday image celebrates the 50th anniversary of Dollinger Steel of Beaumont, Texas. We all know 50th events are important ones, whether they’re wedding or business anniversaries, or just birthdays. It has to be said that 60th anniversaries are even rarer, especially of weddings as it takes a youthful marriage and two to tango to a ripe old age.
My great-grandparents, Peter and Mary McSherry, reached this remarkable milestone in 1941, and it was widely reported in various newspapers, boldly captioned “Diamond Jubilee” Thanks to the news stories we know that “The diamond jubilee was celebrated with a luncheon party at the home of Mr. and Mrs. McSherry, Alma-street, when relatives and friends were entertained. Rev. Father D. L. Murtagh (an old friend of the family) presided, and proposed the toast of the jubilarians. Rev. Father D. Keneally added his congratulations and good wishes”[i]. Not to be greedy, but it would have been wonderful to know just a little more about the day and who was there, and perhaps if they were given any gifts. One omission which has only just occurred to me is that Peter’s siblings have not been mentioned, though at least one was certainly still alive. There’s some history of family feuding over the decades, so perhaps that was at the bottom of it.
My McSherry great-grandparents and some of their children, kindly provided to me by a cousin. My grandfather, James Joseph McSherry is on the left. I have found the caption which was sent with the photo and I’ve added the women’s surnames: left to right standing: Jim, Elizabeth (Lil) Bayliss, Ellen (Ellie) Quinn, John, Mary McSherry, David, Bridget (Bridie) Moran, Peter jnr. Sitting: Annie Jacobson, Margaret McSherry, Peter snr, Agnes Jacobson.
I’ve been fortunate enough to obtain a photo from a cousin of the family gathered on the day. It took me a while to twig that in fact some of them had been “photoshopped” in, probably with earlier photos stuck on to the original. Although all their surviving six daughters and four sons were listed by name, obviously not all had been able to attend. If you look closely you’ll see different flooring on the left, and also quite different dress styles. The gentleman on the left is my grandfather, Peter & Mary’s second eldest child. Standing next to him is, I believe, his sister, Elizabeth Bayliss, wife of Frank Herbert Bayliss.
At a guess I’d say the photo of Grandad may have been taken at a wedding, as to my mind he has his arm positioned as if he’s giving a young woman his arm. It may have been my aunty Mary’s wedding in 1939 or less likely, his sister Mary Ellen’s wedding in 1913. Grandad may also not have had the money to attend the jubilee event, as only a few months later his whole family would move from Townsville to Brisbane and he would commence work at the Ipswich Railway Workshops. His sister Elizabeth may well not have been able to attend either, given she was living “out bush” on Acacia Downs station (property/large farm/ranch). Addendum: see Bev’s comment below, Annie Jacobson seated on the far left was also added into the picture). Although these three were living some distance away, I suspect the real reason for their absence may have been that they were personae non grata within the family.
The newspapers have been very accurate in their reporting of the McSherry couple’s life. Peter McSherry and Mary Callaghan were married on 27 February 1881 at St Michael’s Catholic Church in Gorey Wexford, where I was able to see their entry in the marriage register over a hundred years later, in 1989.
The ‘Almora’, 2000 ton ship. Commanded in 1883 by Captain Franks. Carried immigrants from Plymouth to ports in Queensland. oai:bishop.slq.qld.gov.au:78321
Peter’s parents and siblings all emigrated to Australia in 1883, perhaps drawn by the expansion of the railway in Queensland. However Mary was pregnant at the time so their departure didn’t coincide with the rest of the family’s migration and perhaps they were also waiting on remittances from the rest of the family. When my grandfather, James Joseph, was just an infant, this little family also set forth from Plymouth on 12 March 1884, heading for Queensland. They arrived in Rockhampton a speedy 49 days later.
This railway family had a busy time living and working through western and northern Queensland: “Mr McSherry Joined the Railway Department Immediately. His work took him to the west, and he lived for some years at Longreach and various western towns. He became lines Inspector in the Townsville division, also at Hughenden, and was appointed chief Inspector at Townsville in 1911. In 1919 be was transferred to Rockhampton as chief inspector and retired in October, 1930, at the age of 69”.
Peter and Mary’s sons and daughters are all listed by name and place, showing how they were scattered around Queensland: “The sons are Messrs James (Townsville), David (Rockhampton), John (Morella), and Peter (Emerald). The daughters are Mrs J. H. Moran (Charters Towers), Mrs A. Jacobsen (Townsville), Mrs E. Quinn (Rockhampton), Mrs F. H. Bayliss (Acacia Downs, Aramac), Mrs O C Jacobsen (Ayr) and Miss Margaret McSherry (Rockhampton)”.
The news stories report that the couple had 10 surviving children of their 13, but in fact Mary had given birth to 15 children, including two sets of twins, one genetic inheritance I’m certainly glad didn’t come down to me! One set of twins died soon after birth in late 1896/early 1897 and presumably these are the two who weren’t counted in the tally. Three others, including one of the other twins also died very young. Imagine how devastating this must have been for them, though perhaps their strong faith helped them through it. Before Peter died, however further tragedy would strike when he accidentally killed their daughter Margaret when leaving for morning Mass.
At the time of their jubilee, the couple had 25 grandchildren, and eight great-grandchildren though at least four more were born afterwards. As far as I know, Peter and Mary McSherry saw none of their great-grandchildren from my branch of the family, and had rarely seen their grandchildren.
Peter McSherry’s death on 25 February 1949 cut short their long marriage just two days before they could celebrate their 68th anniversary…just imagine the shared history.
I wonder how many couples manage such marital longevity? My Kunkel-O’Brien 2xgreat grandparents reached 58 years 6 months and my own parents came within cooee of 60 years, thanks to being married youngish and inheriting those longevity genes.
None of my other ancestors have come close to the McSherry diamond jubilee standard. How have your ancestors stacked up in the compatibility and longevity stakes?
I wonder how other Sepians celebrated anniversaries or gatherings this week…why not go over and join the party?
This is a map of Queensland, showing the places mentioned in the McSherry story. See below for some sense of distance.
Distances and a sense of scale:
Townsville to Rockhampton is 721kms
Longreach to Rockhampton is 687 kms
Hughenden to Townsville is a cruisy 385 kms
Hughenden to Rockhampton is 986 kms
Darwin (where I live) to Rockhampton is 2934 kms and today would be a solid two day drive at the speed limit.
Morning Bulletin (Rockhampton, Qld : 1878 – 1954), Friday 7 March 1941, page 3 http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article56085296
Rockhampton Diocese (1941, March 6). The Catholic Press (Sydney, NSW: 1895-1942), page 19. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article106424907.
The Central Queensland Herald (Rockhampton, Qld: 1930 – 1956), Thursday 13 March 1941, page 27 http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article76252039
Townsville Daily Bulletin (Qld : 1885 – 1954), Thursday 3 April 1941, page 6. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article61488169
[i] Rockhampton Diocese (1941, March 6). The Catholic Press (Sydney, NSW: 1895-1942), page 19. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article106424907.