Denis Leary and Mary Brien - Australia

Hubert Ferns mother Johanna was born in Melbourne to Irish parents Denis and Mary Leary (born Brien). This discussion is about Denis and Mary's arrival and life in Australia.

Irish Origins

The William Metcalfe Passenger Records  of November 1839 provide some information about Denis and Mary's ages:

  • Denis Leary was aged 31 making his birth year about 1808.
  • Mary Brien was aged 27 making her birth year about 1812.
  • Denis and Mary travelled as a married couple so were married in Ireland. They did not bring out any children on their voyage, a possible indication that their marriage was only shortly before their voyage to Australia.

Shipping Record Information

Passenger Details

Denis and Mary migrated to Melbourne, Australia in 1839 aboard the sailing ship William Metcalfe. The passenger list records 'List of Imigrants British Subjects who have been introduced to the Colony of New South Wales on Government bounty by Mr John Marshall of London and who arrived by the Ship William Metcalfe on 15 November 1839.'

The passenger list records all passenger details. At Item No. 12 it has them as a married couple:

  • Dennis Leary aged 31, Agriculturalist from Tipperary, Roman Catholic, amount of bounty 18 pound; and
  • Mary Leary aged 27, Dairy Man of Tipperary, Roman Catholic, amount 18 pound. Bounty per family 36 pound.

A slight inked line was marked against their ability to read or write. The same inked line was used beside most of the first two pages of passenger names before specific markings were made. For those who were marked, there was a fairly even spread of folk who could read and write, or who could do neither.

Other married passengers were:

  • No. 25: William Bryan aged 33, a Farm Labourer of Clonmel, South Tipperary, Roman Catholic who could neither read nor write, amount 18 pounds, total of 36 pounds per family; and
  • Ellen Bryan aged 20, a Kitchen Maid of Clonmel, South Tipperary, Roman Catholic who could neither read nor write, amount 18 pounds.

Unmarried Females include:

  • No 19: Margaret O'Brien aged 23, Dairy Man of Tipperary, Roman Catholic who could neither read nor write, amount 18 pounds.

Under 'Deaths Occurring during the voyage' is listed Mary Bryan, aged 38.

Passenger Disposal

The passengers whose travel was assisted (paid for by Bounty) needed to be disposed of in an orderly way to the benefit of the Colony, by making them available to New South Wales residents who might need labour assistance. Folk needing labourers would go to the Immigration Camp or hostel and state their case to an official. They would determine a suitable person or people and agree a fair rate of pay for a set period of time. The records show the following:

'Disposal list of the Immigrants who arrived by the William Metcalfe from London and Plymouth direct, sent out on Bounty by Mr John Marshall of London. Arrived at Port Philip on the 15 November 1839'. Relevant entries are:

  • No. 19: Denis Leary, personal servant aged 31;
  • No. 20: Mary Leary, girl servant aged 27; and
  • No. 21: Margaret Brien, girl servant aged 24.

They were engaged by Dr Patrick of Melbourne for 70 pounds for a year, for the three, plus rations.

Vessel Information

The William Metcalfe was built as a full-rigged sailing vessel of 447 tons and was less than 100 feet (30 metres) in length.. She made many trips to the colonies of New South Wales and Van Diemans Land from the mid 1830's to the mid 1840's, transporting initially convicts, and then later Bounty immigrants. The vessel was one of the first to carry Bounty immigrants. The vessel was manned by 28 crewmen, including the Captain and a clergyman.  [Wikipedia: Van Diemen's Land]

About the Voyage

The William Metcalfe departed Plymouth on 23 July 1839 and arrived in Port Philip bay, Melbourne on 15 November 1839 after a passage of 116 days. Edward Philipson, the Captain of the William Metcalfe, was accompanied on most voyages by his wife.  In addition to the crew and passengers, the vessel would have carried cows, sheep, pigs and poultry used during the voyage to provide fresh milk, eggs and meat.

Denis and Mary's Family

The Victoria Births, Deaths and Marriages Office lists the following children for Denis and Mary:

1840: Michael Leary

Michael married Mary Day/O'Day in 1858 and they had seven girls, two of whom died young. Girls born in 1861 and 1869 were born at Hotham which is a residential area to the north of the Melbourne CBD.

1843: Twins Judith and Magarite (Incorrectly recorded - actually Johanna and Margaret) Leary.

Johanna married William Ferns in 1875 and they had seven children. Johanna died in Yarraville in 1914. William was born in Birr, County Offaly, Ireland in 1843. He died in 1925 in Yarraville and is buried with Johanna at Footscray Cemetery, Melbourne. Johanna and William Fern's family story continues here.

Margaret married John Keenan in 1860 and they had a daughter Mary Jane in 1865. Margaret died in 1885 and is buried at Box Hill Cemetery, Victoria with John who died in 1903. [MyHeritage - Fox Family Site (23andMe)]

1845: John Leary

1847: Denis Leary

Leary Family location

Using family records as a guide to where Denis and Mary lived in Melbourne, we find:

Michael born in the Parish of St Francis (1840-MI);

Johanna and Margaret born at Stone Quarry (1843-Cert);

John born in Melbourne (1845-MI); and

Denis born at Merri Creek, Melbourne (1847-MI)

Sources: MI means the reference source is Marriage Index information (a vague indication) and 'Cert' means a Certificate record - for which you pay money to get more precise information.

 However, with this relatively minor (cheap) level of research, when Denis and Mary were still employed by Dr Patrick of Melbourne they may have been associated with [St Francis Church] in the Melbourne CBD which had operated since 1839. From 1843 to 1847 it seems that Dennis worked at the Melbourne Stone Quarries.  [Goggle Maps - Merri Creek - Stone Quarries]  [Wikipedia: Merri Creek]

Another thought is that with Margaret and John Keenan buried at Box Hill, that is in the Catholic Parish of St Francis Xavier which is further east of Merri Creek.

Mary died in Melbourne, Australia and was buried on 30 May 1894.

Victoria Public Records Office, Assisted Immigrants Passenger Lists
Parish of Birr Baptismal Register 1760 - 1899
Marriage record William Ferns and Johanna O'Leary, 5 February 1875. St Alipius Church, Ballarat.
Find a Grave - - Melbourne old and new cemeteries