Thomas Byrne and Catherine Dwyer

Thomas Byrne was born in Bulgaden, County Limerick, in about 1816. He was the third son of Richard and Margaret (nee Connolly). He and his sister Mary emigrated to Australia on the “Royal Sovereign”.  The 336-foot barque left London on August 2, 1840, with 180 other emigrants, who arrived in Sydney on December 16, 1840. Thomas was listed as a labourer, who could read and write and who was a Catholic.

On May 3, 1845, Thomas married Catherine Dwyer at Goulburn. Catherine Dwyer was born in Portroe, Tipperary, in about 1825. the daughter of Patrick Edward Dwyer and Sarah Carey. Patrick and Sarah and their children, including a 15-year old Catherine, arrived on the “Alfred” on January 19th 1841 as assisted immigrants.

Patrick Dwyer and Sarah Carey lived in Fish River, in the district of Hartley. Both Patrick and Sarah are buried at Hazelgrove Cemetry near Oberon, NSW.

In 1855 Thomas took up a 30-acre selection at Wiarborough in the Abercrombie district and in the following year he added a further 40 acres at Werong on the opposite side of the Abercrombie River. A portion of this land contained a racecourse built by Thomas Byrne on land known locally as Johnny Byrne’s Flat or Kit Byrne’s Flat. On the historical map below of the Parishes of Werong and Wiarborough the land owned by Thomas Byrne and James Venn is below and to the left of the Mulwaree Shire label, adjacent to the word Goulburn. Three Gully Creek ran through Thomas’ land and this is shown more clearly on the modern map below the historical map.


In October 1855 Thomas’ niece and nephew, Thomas, aged 14, and Margaret, aged 19, emigrated to Australia as assisted immigrants on the “Hilton”. Thomas is believed to have lived with his uncle while Margaret lived with her Aunt, Mary Venn. Margaret married and raised a large family and remained in the Goulburn district all her life, having lived in Australia for 60 years. Thomas also married and is believed to have be aa baker in Goulburn, but both he, and his wife Maria, died in their late thirties and their children were raised in an orphanage, despite having a large number of relatives in the area. A few years later two more nephews, John and Richard, also arrived and raised large families in the district. They appear to have been publicans.

Thomas died of consumption on February 16, 1863. He and Catherine had 8 children, 3 sons and 5 daughters. He is buried in the Stonequarry Cemetry in Tralga, NSW.

Catherine continued to farm the portion of land at Werong after Thomas’ death ad eventually sold it to her brother-in-law, James Venn, the husband of Mary Byrne.  There is rumoured to have been a school on or near the land owned by the Byrne’s. the school’s population, taught by Mr Hewitt, was largely composed of Byrne and Venn children.

Little is known of the family after Thomas’ death in 1863. Their second daughter, Margaret, married Thomas McKeown in 1866 in Hartley, NSW,  and thus it is possible that the family were still in the district at this stage, especially since Catherine’s father Patrick was still alive and also as Catherine had very young children and would have needed family support.

In 1873 Mary Ellen the oldest of Thomas and Catherine’s children married Edward Ryan in Boorowa, NSW. John Byrne married Julia O’Leary in Young, NSW, in 1873, while Sarah married  Jeremiah Field in Goulburn in the same year. In 1876 Ann Byrne married Charles McDonnell in Parkes, NSW. Thus it is likely that the family was living around the Grenfell district in the 1870’s.  Catherine died on July 16th 1892 and is buried in Goolagong, NSW.

At this time Johanna Byrne (O’Reilly was living in Nanami, however in 1916, when her son Bernard enlisted in WW1 her address was listed as “Waterview” at Goolagong. Nanami does not exist as a town but there is a Mount Nanami Sugarloaf close to Goolagong and this could be the Nanami identified as the place of birth of many of Johanna and Thomas’ children. So it seems likely that Catherine was living with Johanna and Thomas. Waterview Road still exists in Goolagong and there is a visible house as shown below. The Lachlan River is shown by the line of trees on the left.