Thomas Cleary and Bridget Heffernan

         Bridget’s Baptismal Certificate

Bridget Cleary was the second child and first daughter of Aeneas and Mary (neé McCormick) Heffernan. Bridget was baptised on August 15, 1823, in Ennis, the largest town in County Clare, on the Irish west coast.








Thomas Cleary was born in about 1816, possibly in County Clare. His parents may have been Thomas Cleary and Mary Griffey, or Griffin, and he may have had an older sister named Mary born about 1812 who married Anthony O’Loughlin and immigrated to Australia. Thomas may have leased property in County Clare. A Thomas Cleary is shown as having leases for properties in the parish of Killadysert in Gortnahaha and Crossderry.

The link below shows an interactive map of the Parish of Killadysert, County Clare.!52.67461Z13F1L18L31a5*

Killadysert is located on the northern bank of the Shannon River between Ennis and Kilrush. Killadysert is known for its fishing.

There were, however, many Cleary’s in Killadysert. Thus the property information above may not apply to our Thomas Cleary.


Bridget married Thomas Cleary on September 16, 1847, in Ennis. Less than 4 weeks later Bridget and Thomas were on- board the ‘Lady Peel’ bound for Port Phillip Bay, Victoria.


After 99 days, having travelled 21,000 kilometres, Bridget and Thomas arrived, along with 208 other passengers, on the 16th February 1848.

Australia offered many opportunities to the young newly-weds. Henry Morris, the owner of the Kilmore Inn, sponsored Bridget and Thomas, described on their immigration record as general and domestic servants who could read and write. Mr Morris provided them with employment in his establishment located on Sydney Road in Kilmore, 60 kilometres from Melbourne, on the main route of the Cobb and Co. service.

Kilmore is shown in the image below right, as it looked in the 1850s. The original Kilmore Inn, built in 1841, the first public house in Kilmore, was located at the corner of Foote Street. An imposing stone building with 40 rooms replaced this original building and it was in this building that Bridget and Thomas were employed.

It is likely that the Cleary’s mixed with bushrangers whilst in Kilmore. Ned Kelly was born in 1854, 3 months after his mother, Ellen Quinn was listed as a sponsor at the baptism of Bridget and Thomas’ future son-in-law John Flinn, born in Kilmore in 1854. The Kelly’s would almost certainly have journeyed to the larger market town of Kilmore, from nearby Wallan, for their supplies and to attend St Patrick’s Catholic Church. The Quinn’s and Ned’s father, Red, were also regular visitors to the Kilmore courthouse. The Cleary’s may also have encountered a young, and already wayward, John Gilbert, a contemporary of Ben Hall who worked as a stable hand in Kilmore before moving to NSW.

Bridget gave birth to six children, 4 sons and 2 daughters, all of whom were born in Kilmore: Michael (born 1849), Patrick (1851), Thomas (1854), Bridget (1859), John (1863) and Margaret (1864).

The family remained in Kilmore until 1870, having farmed land and conducted a carrier business in Kilmore. From Kilmore, they moved 270 kilometres north to Jindera, a small village 15 kilometres from Albury.

While the family lived in the Albury district four of the Cleary children were married – Bridget married Patrick Madden (1878), Patrick married Barbara Flinn (1878), Michael married Maria Madden (1880) and Thomas married Elizabeth Walsh (1881). They also appeared to have lived in the Culcairn district for some time as the maps below show.



The opening of the Piney Range Catholic Church 1896, located on the Pinedale property of Bridget and Thomas Cleary.

Front from left: Thomas Cleary, Bridget Cleary (Heffernan), Barbara Flinn (Heavey) with Michael Flinn (grandson), John Flinn and Margaret Flinn (Cleary).

By 1885 Bridget and Thomas had moved to Piney Range, 20 kilometres west of Grenfell. Their arrival in the Grenfell district was a cause for concern among the locals who believed that these new arrivals would be closely followed by a large influx of settlers from Victoria. The influx did not happen. The Cleary’s and their extended family were instead attracted to the area both by its appearance and the opportunity to select larger areas of land than those on offer in the areas they had lived in previously. Bridget and Thomas named their new home Pinedale and it was here that they celebrated two more marriages, Margaret Mary, in 1887, married John Robert Flinn and John married Margaret Hennessey (1889). 

Bridget and Thomas lived out their lives at Piney Range, farming sheep and offering hospitality to visitors. They were surrounded by their extended family, children, many grandchildren, 45 at the time of Thomas’ death, as well as great-grandchildren. Their obituaries both acknowledge their status in the community, with Thomas awarded the honorary title of ‘Patriarch of Piney Range while Bridget was described as having had a long career of usefulness, a person who was noted for her charity, hospitality and her devotion to the Catholic Church. Bridget died on Tuesday 23rd January 1917 at the age of 93 and was pre-deceased by her husband Thomas who died in 1909 at the age of 93. Bridget’s funeral procession started from her daughter’s property, Bellevue, with the horses marking time while they waited, draped in black, for her body to be secured in the carriage. The carriage, followed by her many family members, including my grandmother, made its way across the 32 kilometres of country tracks to her final resting place in Grenfell after a remarkable life.


Jindera 150th Anniversary Reunion Event


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