52 Ancestors … Week 16.

Theme: “Should be a movie!”

My Irish Great Grandmother Margaret Prendergast led a very full life and at times a very hard one. The story of her life would surely make a wonderful movie, starting with a long ship voyage, her childhood in a remote Australian country town, marriage and city life in Melbourne, widowhood, remarriage to the son of a wealthy country squire, a comfortable outback country living which changed to an impoverished drought-stricken one, running a country hotel, constantly changing house in different small towns, finally settling in the city of Sydney with a large extended family and an occasionally visiting husband …

Born in 1844 in Tuam, Galway, Ireland, she was only ten years old when her family emigrated to Australia on the “Pestonjee Bomanjee”, arriving in Adelaide in 1854. Her father became a shopkeeper in a small country town in south-western NSW, not far from a large pastoral property owned by my Great Great Grandfather Thomas Darchy.

She married in Melbourne in 1866 aged 22, had two children and was widowed nine years later. The boy died aged 24 and the girl went to Scotland to her father’s relatives and stayed there.

Margaret remarried in 1879 when she was 35 and had four more children. This second marriage was to Frank Darchy, Thomas’ son, and was frowned upon by the wealthy Darchy family as she was of the wrong religion, daughter of a shopkeeper, and some years older than her new husband. But the marriage endured.

Initially they lived at “Cuthowarra”, an outback cattle station in the Wilcannia district (far north west NSW). Initially a prosperous area, it suffered greatly from a prolonged drought and rabbit plague, the river which was the lifeblood of the town dried up, and Frank, in partnership with one brother and another man, “…. spent their capital twice over wasting a considerable amount in an unsuccessful search for water…” They were forced to leave “Cuthowarra” and that was the end of a once-comfortable life for Margaret.

Frank took to a droving life and Margaret took over the license of a country hotel, the “Hibernian” in Hay NSW, in 1895-1897. Newspaper reports showed that she had quite a time with unruly visitors who left without paying; she had to appear in the local court several times as a witness to various misdemeanours, and once was issued a summons charging her with “ …detaining, without just cause, certain goods … she was ordered to return them to the complainant once he had paid her the amount owing. (The Riverine Grazier, Hay NSW, 2 July 1895 p.2).

Margaret and Frank moved around several country towns, then eventually to a large house in the city of Sydney in 1909 which was at various times shared with a number of other Prendergast and Darchy family members. The impression is that Margaret was the glue that held them all together – as shown in the photo. Her sons were, like their father, countrymen to the core, and her daughter married but was constantly thwarted in her desire to present Margaret with grandchildren. (But she did eventually end up with several via two of her sons).

Frank must have visited Margaret from time to time but was always very restless in the city and continued droving, particularly during the war years. All the Darchy cousins who enlisted, survived. Margaret died in Sydney in 1915 and Frank in 1925.

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