Thursday, January 01, 2009

Tales from the past No 2 - Cornelius Delaney

One of my paternal great great grandmothers, Mary Vaughan, sticks out like a sore thumb on the English census returns, because she was born in Gibraltar. She was married to Thomas Vaughan, born in Ireland about 1827. When I obtained a copy of her Irish marriage certificate, I discovered that she was the daughter of Cornelius Delaney, who was described as a pensioner.

I posted a message to the Delaney message board and to my surprise, got an immediate response from two Australian ladies. Cornelius had gone to Australia in 1850 and I had suddenly acquired lots of Australian relatives.

Cornelius had gone to Tasmania in 1850 as an Enrolled Pensioner Guard on the convict ship Rodney. He was listed as being late of the 94th Regiment of Foot. With this vital piece of information, I engaged a researcher to look for his Army records at Kew.

He had enlisted in 1824 at Borris-in-Ossery, in what was known as Queens County. He was born about 1800 in Aghaboe, which is near Borris. When I visited there in 2005 I found a ruined abbey, a church and 3 houses. The researcher found his record of service and in 1825, the year Mary Vaughan was born, he was in Gibraltar. Searching the parish registers of the only Roman Catholic church in Gibraltar in 1825 (courtesy of the LDS) I found that Mary was the child of Cornelius and Sarah Delaney.

Baptismal entry for Mary Delaney (click to enlarge)

I know nothing else of Sarah and do not know if Delaney was in fact her maiden name. They had a son two years later, but no further trace of him was found. What I know of Army wives at that time is based on reading the Richard Sharpe novels by Bernard Cornwell. I understand that a battalion was allowed a limited number of “official” wives on foreign service, but there was usually a number of “unofficial” wives. So Cornelus might, or might not, have been married to Sarah.

However, by 1832 he was in Malta and married to Margaret Horan. In 1835, they had a daughter Catherine, born on board ship, offshore Malta. At that time they were on their way to India. Cornelius only served in India for just over a year and in 1836 he was probably back in Ireland. He was in India long enough to get busted from Sgt to Private for being drunk on a bathing parade. Don’t ask.

In 1840 he was discharged on a pension of 6 pence a day because of ill health. He had scurvy and was suffering from arthritis. I don’t know what he did then but the British government maintained Army units of reservists and pensioners to maintain civil order, this was the time of the Irish famine.

In 1850 he sailed to Tasmania on a convict ship. On arriving in Hobart he was appointed as a police constable. This was not unusual for guards. He was granted some land, about 7 acres. After less than a year, he resigned from the police and in 1857 the whole family, plus a new ex-convict son-in-law, sailed to Victoria.

When he arrived in Hobart he had his wife Margaret with him and several daughters. Cornelius and Margaret seem to have had 4 daughters after Mary Vaughan, but I only know of two survivors, Margaret and Catherine. These two ladies produced over 20 children between them, most of them survived and so I have lots of Australian cousins.

Catherine Delaney in Sidney about 1913.

Cornelius lived a long life, dying in 1895 in Hesket, Victoria. When he died he was missing a leg and one eye. Family legend had it that he had been injured in the Crimean War, but he was in Tasmania at the time!

[I gained much information from Cornelius' Australian Death Certificate. He HAD married Sarah in 1819 but the informant didn't know her surname. He married again in about 1823. The certificate listed 5 children, 3 of them alive, one of them my gggmthr in England. The Australian branch obviously knew of her]

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