Thomas Whelan and Bridget Macnamara b. c1805
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Thomas Whelan was born sometime in the early 1800’s, probably 1805 or 1806, in Ireland.
Around 1830 or 1831 he married Bridget Macnamara, the daughter of Michael Macnamara and Mary McMahon, and they lived together in Toonagh, which is part of the Catholic parish of Clooney in County Clare, where their firstborn child was baptised in 1832.
Over the next ten years Thomas and Bridget Whelan had seven more children, and we can locate baptism records for six of them in the old Clooney church records. Their home place, when recorded, was always shown as Toonagh (or Toona).
Baptismal sponsors for their children are listed as:-
John Whelan – Winny McNamara and John Truman (?)
Mary Whelan – James Markham and Mary Neilon (?)
James Whelan – Ann Halloran
Bridget Whelan – Mary Lynch and Pat Liddy
Patt (Patrick) Whelan – Margaret Mcnamara
Stephen Whelan – Mary Moylan (possibly Waylan).
(Stephen’s record shows the surname as Whealon, and Patt’s as Whalon or Whalan, all the others as Whelan.)
The document ‘Tithe Applotments circa 1820’s or 1830’s ’ under the townland of Toonagh shows that a Thomas Whelan rented 2 acres (equal to 2.0 flat acres), and paid tithes of 2 shillings and 9 pennies at that time.
We do not know for sure how Thomas supported his growing family, however on later shipping records he is recorded as being a farm labourer. Verbal family history relates that the Whelans, together with other Whelan families, were part owners in a flour mill in the area, possibly the one close to Toonagh House.
At the height of the great Potato Famine the entire family left County Clare for Port Philip, Australia, embarking on the sailing ship "Aurora" from Liverpool in late December 1849, arriving there on March 31st 1850, Easter Sunday.
The earliest Victorian electoral records were in 1851, and in them we can locate a Thomas Whelan living in a dwelling house "off Little Lonsdale Street". The next record on the roll is of a William Whelan who owned a freehold house at 31 Little Lonsdale Street, Melbourne.
In 1856 they were living on the goldfield at Golden Point, Chewton, near Castlemaine, and at one time or another all of their children except John joined them on the Victorian Goldfields.
By 1860 Thomas and Bridget had moved closer to the town of Castlemaine, to an area described variously as either Moonlight Flat or Pennyweight Flat. The two areas were adjacent to each other. Two of the children, Bridget and Michael, were married within a month of each other, both happy occasions being held at the Whelan home and carried out by Father Pat Smyth (well known to everyone because of his caring work to diggers at Ballarat and the Eureka stockade).
Thomas paid Five Pounds a year in rates to the Town or Borough of Castlemaine for use of the ground on which his tent was erected. His section of land was registered as number 1491 on Section G1, which covered the part between Moonlight and Pennyweight Flat goldfields. On the next section to them was ‘M. Whelan’, most probably their son Michael, daughter-in-law Honora, and later on their two little boys.
Bridget and her new husband Daniel Gregan also lived on a section very near by, probably in Dirty Dick’s Gully.
Thomas Whelan has been recorded as earning his living in various ways. In 1850 – labourer, 1854 – farmer, 1858 – miner, 1860 – householder. One can assume that he was not a rich man - educating a large family, bringing them from the other side of the world, struggling to do his best for them, supporting his grandchildren and his church.
Thomas died on 29 February 1868, aged 62, at his residence in Moonlight Flat.
Bridget Whelan moved to Melbourne to live with her eldest son John Whelan, his wife and family, and to be close to daughter Mary and son Thomas who also made their home there.became ill and died at the home of her son John in Rathdowne Street, Carlton on 18 April 1877.
Children of Thomas and Bridget were:-
John Whelan b. c1831, married Mary Looney
Mary Whelan b. c1833, became Mary Brody
Michael Whelan b c.1835, married Honora March
James Whelan b. c1836, married Mary Dwyer, then Margaret Roughan
Bridget Whelan b. c1838, became Bridget Gregan
Thomas Whelan b. c1839, married Mary Murphy
Patrick Whelan b. c1841, later known as Henry Whelan
Stephen Whelan b. c1842
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