“Something About Mary”!

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!

About CJ Murdoch

Looking For "Dead People"! My Journey Back In Time - Tracing my ancestors and researching the counties, cities and towns where they resided. Taking a “Glimpse” into their lives and stories and the times in which they lived; all in an effort to learn about their “Dash”! “I read of a man who stood to speak at the funeral of his friend. He referred to the dates on her tombstone from the beginning – to the end. He noted that first came the date of her birth and spoke of the second with tears, but he said that what mattered most of all was the dash between those years.” I have always been interested in researching my family tree and “hanging out” in cemeteries. Like most of us... I didn't ask enough questions when elderly family were still living. Oh, what I would give for 24 hours and a camera with my ancestors… just to sit and listen! I'm researching many family lines, including: Murdoch, Wilson, Berry, Love, Scott, Beattie/Beatty, Hendren, Sweeney, Robinson and Elvin; just to name a few. My families are predominantly from counties Antrim, Donegal and Londonderry. However, it seems that many of them, both maternal and paternal lines, originally hailed from Co. Donegal. I was born and raised in Northern Ireland and now live in Ottawa, Canada, making frequent trips back home to visit with my family. Of course those visits also include treks to the many burial grounds of my ancestors. My most recent trip back home was during the summer of 2019! Looking forward to August of 2020 when I will return. If you are interested in help tracing your ancestors I’d love to hear from you!
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11 Responses to “Something About Mary”!

  1. Su Leslie says:

    Very well travelled! I’m always amazed by relatives of that time (and earlier) who made those long sea voyages. Especially the women! I’m not a good sailor at the best of times, and the thought of weeks at sea would alone be enough to put me off; never mind the possibility of having to abandon ship wearing a long dress. Mary definitely sounds like the sort of family tree member about whom it would be great to know more.

    Liked by 1 person

    • CJ Murdoch says:

      So true Su; she seemed to be a lady who just did not give up. I can’t imagine the trauma of being involved in a shipwreck. Like you I wouldn’t be interested in being on a ship for weeks on end; especially back then. Hope you are well! Colleen


      • Su Leslie says:

        Hi Colleen. She certainly appears to have had incredible courage. I wonder sometimes how our ancestors would react to our admiration of them. My guess is they’d just see themselves as ordinary people getting on with life. We are all well here; patiently waiting for some warmer spring weather to arrive. I hope all is well with you too. Cheers, Su.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Amy says:

    She does sound like an adventurous soul and very independent. It sounds like good material for a novel.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. davy louden says:

    i really enjoy reading your family history and the stories that come with it ,keep up the good work.
    davy louden

    Liked by 1 person

    • CJ Murdoch says:

      Hi Davy, thank you for taking the time to read. It’s really great to know that some one who knew/knows my parents are reading my blog. I’ll have to write more about my Ballymoney Murdoch’s. 🙂 Hope all is well. Colleen


  4. Carmen Berthelette says:

    It’s true, isn’t it? Some family members from way back do steal a little bit of our heart and remain in our soul.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Rachelle says:

    Mary certainly was an adventurous woman for her time. I can see why she is in your favorite ancestor club!

    Liked by 1 person

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