Born in Londonderry to parents from Stranorlar and Lough Eske, Donegal…
A Birth Notice published in the Derry Journal on 15 Mar 1876 stated; “Elvin – March 12, at the Middle-road, Derry, the wife of Mr. William Elvin of a daughter.” Mary Jane Elvin is my 1st cousin 3x removed, eldest daughter and one of seven; born to Jane Johnston of Ardnableask and William Elvin of Cashelnavean, Donegal. Mary Jane’s mother and my second great grandmother, Catherine Johnston Chambers; were siblings.
Mary was baptized on 25 Apr 1876 in Christ Church Londonderry. The record reveals her father William was a labourer and the family was living in the Lower Road, Londonderry. In finding the 1881 Scottish Census Record it was discovered that Mary was living with her parents and siblings in 49 Close, Old Monkland, Lanarkshire; it would seem her father had moved the family there for work opportunities. Two of her siblings, Isabella and Joseph, were born in Old Monkland. By the birth of her next sibling, Margaret, confirmed by the Baptism Record from St. Columb’s Cathedral; the family had once again returned to Londonderry and was living on Nailor’s Row.
Sadly, Mary’s father, William Elvin; died at the young age of forty two when the family was living at 113 William Street. The 1901 Census finds Mary, working as a “Machinist”; along with her mother and siblings living in 15 Argyle Terrace – this particular Twisted Limb of my family seemed to move often.
On 9 Sept 1901 Mary Jane was moving once again. The Ship’s Manifest for the Moravian from London, England to Sydney, New South Wales discovers Mary traveling to Australia to live with her paternal uncle, Samuel Elvin; and his wife Jemima. The Australian Electoral Rolls in 1908 show Mary, a dressmaker; living on Juliette Street, Coorparoo, Oxley, Queensland.
On 14 Mar 1910 Mary was again making an ocean voyage on board the S.S. Pericles making a trip “back home”. The Pericles had stops in both Sydney and Melbourne enroute to Freemantle; however, it never made it!
“Just after noon on 31 March 1910, five days after leaving Melbourne, the Pericles passed White Topped Rocks, with the coast about five miles to starboard. At 3.32 p.m., in clear weather and with good visibility, the steamer travelling at 14 knots struck an uncharted rock near St Alouarn Islet, 6.5 km south-east of Cape Leeuwin. It passed over the rock, but the damage to the forward plates was so great that within three minutes there were 5 m of water in the forward hold. The chief engineer, W.L. Robertson, and his crew worked waist deep in water attempting to shore up bulkheads and keep the pumps going.
The steamer Strathfillan was steaming southwards to the west of the Pericles at the time but, despite turning his vessel broadside on to the Strathfillan and blowing the whistle and flying distress signals, Captain Simpson could not attract its attention. He therefore ordered the passengers and crew to abandon ship, which was carried out in an orderly manner within 25 minutes.”
Passengers were helped into lifejackets and then into fourteen lifeboats, which were rowed towards the shore where fires had been lit by the Cape Leeuwin lighthouse staff to guide them to the best landing place in Sarge Bay. An officer could not be put in command of each boat, as that would have left none to look after the launching of later boats. Several of the officers who had stayed behind and only boarded the last boat therefore jumped overboard and swam to those boats which were without a responsible person in charge. All passengers and crew were saved, but the one-eyed ship’s cat, Nelson, was drowned. The ship drifted with the swell and south-east wind for a short while before going down by the bow, canting to starboard at the same time. All the boats landed during daylight except the last, that containing the captain, who had stayed behind close to his ship until it had sunk. This boat did not reach shore until 7.00 p.m.
The steamship Monaro took most of the passengers to Fremantle the day after the wrecking, embarking them from the Flinders Bay Jetty during rough weather in what was described as a fine example of seamanship. Some thirty or so passengers elected to make their way overland to Fremantle. (http://museum.wa.gov.au)
On 14 May 1910 the Ship’s Manifest for the Orsova shows Mary arriving in London, England making her way back to Ireland. In the 1911 Census of Ireland she was working as a “Ladies Maid” to Sarah Edith Williams of 1 Derry More, Bessbrook, Co. Armagh. In Feb 1913, and the birth of her son; Mary is working as a dressmaker; and is living in 166 Falkner Street, Liverpool, England. Mary had moved once again.
From the late 1920’s to 1940, and her retirement; Mary was employed as a “Ladies Companion” to Miss Margaret Riddel Duffin of “Ardna Valley House”, Shawsbridge. Mary was obviously not afraid to travel by sea after her experience on the Pericles; the ships manifest for the City of Calcutta revealed that once again Mary was traveling. On 23 Dec 1920, as a companion to Miss Duffin; Mary was enroute to Bombay, Karachi, India. The Manifest recorded that the “Country of Intended Future Permanent Residence” was India. It’s not clear why or when Mary returned to Ireland as I have yet to unearth the Manifest for her return trip.
At the age of seventy nine, on 17 Aug 1955 from “Cerebral Thrombosis”, Mary Elvin an “Old Age Pensioner” of Killybready, Limavady passed away at the Roe Valley Hospital; M.H. Graham was present at her death. Based on oral family history; after her retirement, Mary had been living with her niece Pearl in Limavady.
Mary’s life appeared to have been interesting, one which included much international travel. I still wonder – was it everything she hoped it would be? Mary is another family member who has claimed a little piece of my heart!