JOHN HEAGNEY RIDES TO HIS DEATH
JOHN HEAGNEY was well over the limit when he mounted his
horse at Looby's pub, around midnight on Monday 21 December 1863. It was only a short ride from the pub, just east of Newlyn, to the river and from there to the 120 acres they leased in Smeaton. When he didn't
make it home his wife Ellen went looking for him. On 26 December, John Murphy and Michael Fitzpatrick, the latter with whom he'd travelled from
County Clare in 1857, found him floating in Hepburn's lagoon.
Six months later, Ellen married my great uncle, Dinny Cleary.
THE FOLLOWING EXCERPT IS TAKEN FROM MY BOOK:
CLEARY INDEPENDENT - PUBLISHED BY HARPERCOLLINS 1998
Heagney and his lifetime friend, Michael Fitzpatrick, were
children when the famine brought their village in Clare to its
knees. They swore the moment they were old enough they'd be on
the first ship out of the river Shannon. When the James Baines
left squalid Liverpool behind in March 1857, the two 21-year-olds
danced about the deck and wrestled with such enthusiasm the more
circumspect gave them a wide berth. Heagney was known as a lad
whose liking for a fight only rivalled his thirst for a jar of
porter. In the shadow of the Captain's mansion the boy from Clare
lived every moment like it was his last.
James Shippard, the ostler at Looby's Hotel, a small but lively
establishment on the Ballarat road a mile passed Fitzpatrick's
farm, said that Heagney had been drinking but was not drunk when
he headed off towards the creek road that comic, sad night, three
days before Christmas in 1863.
|An artist's version of that fateful night.
'One more for the road Thomas,' Heagney had implored, rapping
on publican Tom Looby's window.
'It's 12 o'clock, John, and you've had enough anyway, I'll not
be taking any more, it's time for bed,' Looby had told his acquaintance
of five years. Under a bright stoical moon, Heagney turned his
horse homeward and took off.
It was a bad night for Ellen Heagney. Her husband always came
home, even if sometimes the smell of drink and the bruising around
the eyes left no doubt as to how the evening had been spent. By
early morning her heart was pounding. An experienced horseman,
Heagney thought nothing of slipping his broken stirrup into the
pocket of his new coat and heading for the creek crossing. When
his horse stumbled at the first attempt the porter and broken
stirrup proved a fatal combination.
As the current increased the distance between himself and
his horse, the Clareman suddenly, albeit momentarily, understood
the finality of it all. In his mind's eye were etched the image
of a wife and the three children whose lives he'd been at pains
to make better than his own. In a few minutes it was all over.
One frantic and hopeless struggle with nature, subsumed within
the tranquillity of a warm Christmas night.
Dinny Cleary and Ellen Heagney (nee Doyle) were married on
2 July 1864 in Creswick. It was hardly an extended period of mourning. Did she love her, somewhat volatile husband? And what kind of man was Heagney? At the inquest it was said he had bruising above an eye as a result of a fight on the day of his drowning. Ellen Doyle was from Tipperary and
gave her age as 25 years (b1839) when she married Dinny Cleary. She had given her age as 27, at the inquest six months earlier. Ellen Heagney's grandson, Vin Dalton, told me that Dinny was working at the farm, having stepped off the Great Australia in January 1864 in the weeks after her husband's death.
The daughter of farmers David Doyle and Brigid Dunne, Ellen had married Heagney at Dowling
Forest in Creswick on 2 July 1858. She was very young bride. The names of the witnesses read something like Jim Keough? and Margaret McKeough?. They had three children, Thomas, Bridget
and Ellen, during their six year marriage.
An Ellen Doyle, aged 18 years, had arrived in Victoria on
the Tornado in March 1858. James Doyle, aged 25, arrived on the
Tornado in August.
Ellen's daughter (Ellen) married Michael Dalton.
Ellen was to die in a house fire at Kingston in 1893 while unsuccessfully
trying to retrieve her daughter, Mary Veronica (6 months). Her
husband was working at the Cleary farm at Mt Prospect at the time.
THOMAS LOOBY had purchased 80 acres on 22/11/64 on the
main road, just south of the Telegraph road only a short distance
from the tiny township of Newlyn. Looby had arrived in Victoria,
unassisted, on the Star of the East in September 1854. At the
Heagney inquest he told how the Clare man had a broken stirrup
when he left the pub.
The jurors at the Smeaton inquest, on 27 December - before William Lees - were Patrick Curtin, Thomas Wolf, William Flanagan, John Goldsburg, Patrick and Daniel Quinlivan, Alexander Tankard, William Bourke, Daniel Moloney, Thomas Price and John ?.
'Deceased took plenty of drink but was seldom the worse for it,' 27-year-old Ellen would tell the inquest. Mounted constable Henry Williamson of Smeaton explained how Mr Curtin had told him on Thursday evening that Heagney was missing. Williamson also recounted how Heagney had received bruising to his eye in a fight on the Sunday and lead an 'intemperate life'. Doctor Roche noted that there was a 'strong smell of alcohol in the stomach' and that Heagney's liver 'was harder than usual'.
Dinny and Ellen had four children, Mary (1866), John ('68), Anne ('75) and Michael ('77) between 1866 and 1877. Why the seven year break between John and Anne, I wonder?
Mary Cleary Arrives
On 3 June 1882 Dinny's half-sister Mary Cleary married Ellen's son, Thomas Heagney, at the Cleary house in Mount Prospect. Dinny's brother John had died there on 8 September 1881. Dr Tremearne's described how a malignant tumour that had existed for nine months, hydatids and a 12-day attack of peritonitis had killed the publican farmer. Mary had been born in 1855 to Michael Cleary and his second wife Mary Leary. Interestingly enough, Mary Cleary was about four of five years older than Heagney, who died in 1914 in his early '50s and is buried on his own in the Eganstown cemetery.
recorded as English, is listed as a passenger on the Garonne from Plymouth that aoppears to have set out on 12 November 1881 and arrived in March 1882. Was it our Mary? It fits the time, if not the nationality. Had she gone to Australia after hearing that her brother John was sick? Many years ago a Cleary relative - Annie Blain or Molly Campbell - told
me that upon her arrival in Blampied Mary had heard a man singing
in the paddock and remarked 'that's my brother'. Maybe she
left Ireland with
a marriage planned. I have a recollection of someone - Vin Dalton - telling me that Dinny wasn't happy about his sister marrying his stepson.
|Mary Cleary - aged 82 years - in a photo sent home to Ireland
Among Mary's children was Lena Heagney, who became a nun. With
Mary in the photo above are her grandchildren, Maureen and Rose McGrath.
Mary's twin brother, Dan Cleary, was prominent in Dublin's republican
movement and lived at 21 Upper Dorset Street. His daughters, Maire
and Nellie, were gaoled by the Free State army in 1923. I met
them in Dublin in December 1973.
|Ellen Dalton, nee Heagney, circa 1890. A fine looking woman
like her mother.
Ellen Cleary's daughter - Ellen Heagney - died in a house fire after trying to save her six month old daughter.
The fire, which occurred around noon on Tuesday 26 April 1893, was reported
in the Creswick Advertiser. Charles Weiland was digging potatoes and on hand with Benjamin Preston when Ellen cried 'Oh my baby' and rushed into the burning house. Why didn't he stop her or retrieve her? He had told the inquest he couldn't open the back door, the same door Ellen managed to open! Ellen had been cutting chaff when the fire started.
|Ellen's husband Michael Dalton and son Vin.
Mick Dalton was to die after a fight during a strike in Deniliquin.
I'm not sure if he was on the right side.
The spirit lives on
Vin Dalton's great great grandson, Danny Stanley, was drafted by Collingwood
in the November 2005 draft. In 2004, 147 years after his great,
great, great grandfather, John Heaney, left Ireland, Danny went
back to play football for the Australian U18 side. His father,
Terry was a premiership vice captain of Xavier and later played with Old Xavs.
|Lena Heagney, as she looked after becoming a nun. I met
her in 1973.
CAN ANYONE HELP?
Phil, I made contact with you a while back, about Thomas Looby.
I have been digging a bit more. Do you know if he was an old man?
I ask this as I have found a mention in an old paper linking him
to Edward and Patrick Looby, in regards to the Bald Hills and
Sulky Gully Grand Junction Gold Mining Company. I also found the
ad for the clearing sale by public auction of the Commercial Hotel
Bald Hills by James Baker by instruction from Thomas Looby Esq.Other
items up for sale, mining shares etc.
It was stated in one paper that he was intending to return to
the homeland upon selling, this is not the case as Thomas opened
another pub, KOH-I-NOOR Hotel, near The Young Sons of Justice
claim, Bald HIlls, in 1861.It is also documented that he was in
a society against the Chinese, I have the copy of this amongst
a heap of stuff I got on Monday, I haven't got to sit down and
go thru it yet. I get the impression that he was an older man,
if this was the case, I think I am descended from him. Lots more
research for me to do. I need to know if Patrick and Edward, were
his sons or brothers. Just thought you might like to know this
For more on the Clearys and their relatives return to the history