Jennifer Rooks, Queensland, Australia

Jennifer Rooks


Bridget was born 1830 in Drumshanbo, County Leitrim to parents John McQueeny and Mary Kelly. With the potato famine looming and a young family to raise John and Mary decided to send their daughters overseas to save them and give them new lives. The eldest two girls, Margaret and Ann migrated to America in 1846 and the next two daughters, Bridget and Mary migrated to Australia as part of the Earl Grey programme. They boarded the “Lady Peel” vessel in Plymouth and left England on 14th March 1849, arriving in Sydney, Colony of New South Wales on 6th July 1849 as Famine Orphans. They made their way to Brisbane in the Colony of Queensland where Bridget worked as a housemaid and Mary worked for a Mr Sheehan for 9 pounds a year. In 1849 Mary married James Cash, a convict who had been sentenced in the Staffordshire Courts for robbery and sentenced to death but was given a reprieve and  transported to the Colony of Queensland, arriving on the “Florentine” in 1830.

Bridget married William Bowden in St Stephen’s Church, Brisbane on 26th December 1849. William was born 1818 to John and Ellen Bowden of Cheshire, England and he arrived in Brisbane about 1849. They settled in the Auburn River area before coming to the Colinton area to work as a carpenter on the original homestead on “Colinton Station”. The first 2 children were born on this station before the family moved to Laidley area and over the next 9 years seven more children were born,including two sons who died in infancy. William was one of the earlier pioneers of the Laidley area and was responsible for the building of several of the original buildings in the township. In his later years he worked a small farm at College View  until he suffered a kick from a horse and died in 1871 as a result of this injury. Seven months after his death his daughter   Bridget was born in Laidley, never knowing her father. In the same year another son died from a cold, he was aged 10 years.  During the 1880’s Bridget and her family moved to a small holding “Rocklea” at Hope Creek, outside Roma in the Western District of Queensland. This was where the family was raised, worked and met their spouses and raised the next generation of the family. Bridget raised a family of 12 children with 86 grandchildren.


Ellen O’Sullivan was born in Skibbereen, County Cork in 1859 to Daniel and Mary Sullivan and was baptised in St Patricks Catholic Cathedral.  Her uncle had migrated to Australia in 1863 and was living in the Roma area in Western Queensland so the decision was made for Ellen and her sister, Norah, to migrate to the Colony of Queensland. Norah joined the Sisters of Mercy after arriving in Brisbane and Ellen moved closer to her family in Western Queensland. Her uncle had previously    married Ellen Mary, daughter of Bridget Bowden (McQueeny) and in 1882 Ellen married Thomas Bowden, son of Bridget Bowden. In the following years three more sisters migrated to the Colony of Queensland leaving the parents alone in County Cork. Thomas and Ellen lived all their lives on “Rocklea” a small holding in the Roma area and they raised a family of 10  children in a harsh and hot countryside.

Bridget and Ellen are buried together in the Roma Cemetery.

In 2005 I decided I needed to go to Ireland and I felt I was “coming home”. This feeling has stayed with me on every visit to Ireland and I will be back again to visit the areas that my mother’s people walked and lived in, visit the family graves and meet the Irish family who always endure my constant pestering for family information and still they make me welcome into their homes. I greatly admire my ancestor’s courage in leaving their family to start a new life in a completely foreign and harsh country knowing they would probably never see any of the family again. This history and stories must be passed onto the future generations - never forget your roots.


Sir Cosmo Haskard who was schooled in England recalls his summer holidays to Ireland by boat.

The Early passenger boats ferrying people from Ireland to England in the 1930s was quite an experience as told by Sir Cosmo Haskard.

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Sheila O’Shea talks of her emigration to England

Sheila O Shea from Cromane in Co. Kerry emigrated to England during the second world war years. She found work there with one of the returned Irish landlord families, the Crosbys. Listen to Sheila tell her story…

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