The McMullans

The McMullans of Rosnashane

Annie Winifred 1897

Mary Ellen 1888

Daniel 1891

Martha 1893

Lizzie 1898

James 1903

Sarah 1904

Annie of Rosnashane


Annie, my grandmother, was Just four when the 1901 Irish Census was taken. Her father, Daniel, was a farm labourer and at that stage the family consisted of Sarah who was 30 and six children ranging in age from two to twelve. Annie was number five. They were living at The Vow, Rosnashane.

Ten years later at the 1911 census the two older daughters, Mary Ellen and Martha were not listed, Sarah who was born in 1895 had died and another Sarah born 1904 and listed along with two other children James and Ethel totalling six children living in the home at the time of the Census. Annie was then fourteen years old.  The head of the household, Daniel, was recorded as being blind. Grandma, told me that her father had cataracts. The family’s circumstances were indeed dire.

Annie didn’t speak much of her childhood but I remember her saying that she went to grade three at school. She was semi-literate and was grateful when I wrote letters on her behalf to her sister in Ireland. I can’t remember which sister but I do remember the address was 144 Knockahollet Road, Dunloy. Strange things you remember from childhood!


Young Annie McMullan and her friend. Possible early 1920.

I don’t know what life was like for Annie as a young woman but Ireland was a hotbed of political turmoil and the period from 1910 to 1920 is considered the Revolutionary Period in Irish History. There were waves of civil unrest and eventually a War of Independence 1919-1921 culminated in the formation of the Irish Free State partitioned from Northern Ireland.

The McMullans were a Catholic family living in Ulster where the majority were Protestants. The conflict in Ireland was complex and bitter. Very simply, the majority of Catholics wanted a Republic which the majority of Protestants opposed. Things got nasty. People died.

I don’t know how the family viewed the elder son, Daniel, joining the Ulster Volunteer Force which was essentially a Protestant militia and eventually became the Irish Guards when they went to WW1. Was Daniel a loyalist or did he, like so many poor people, join an army to feed and cloth himself? Did joining this group safeguard his family or bring great shame?

These ten years were tumultuous both in the life of Ireland and in Annie’s life too. Her father died some time in this ten year period, her brother went to war and died in 1916 and her sister, Mary Ellen, left her baby girl with the family and went to Australia. Annie developed a close and loving relationship with her niece, Mary Josephine and often spoke of her.

New Beginning

The next official appearance of Annie Winifred McMullan was on the Queensland Electoral Roll of 1925 living in Townsville, at the Hotel Alexandra: her occupation – a laundress.

My question was how and why did Annie travel to Australia?

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Young Annie McMullan 1924

Mystery of Annie coming to Australia

Despite an extensive search of records there was no evidence of an Annie Winnifred McMullan departing the UK or arriving in Australia. There were however two other McMullan women who both arrived in Queensland in the 1920s.

Mary Ellen McMullan departed London aboard the Orontes in February 1920 and arrived in Brisbane in March made her way to Townsville and in April married Matthew Convery. Matthew had arrived in early 1916 aboard the ship, Roscommon and according to the Electoral roll worked as a waterside worker. Their marriage certificate registered the names of Mary Ellen’s parents as Daniel McMullan and Sarah Kearney, that, along with information from the shipping records and the Census data of 1901, confirms that she was most Annie’s sister. Further evidence was to follow.

Curiously, a child, Mary Josephine Convery, was registered in Queensland to Mary Ellen Mc Mullan and Matthew Convery, born in 1916. This mystery intensified when shipping records indicated that Martha McMullan was accompanying her niece, Mary Josephine Convery, eight years old, to Brisbane aboard the Diogenes which left London 24 July 1924.

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On further investigation and the purchasing of the Birth Certificate of Mary Josephine it was revealed that Mary Ellen and Matthew travelled to Brisbane in 1922 to register the birth of their daughter  born on 31 March 1916 in Killans, County Antrim, Northern Ireland.

In 1899 the Queensland Parliament passed the Legitimations Act, An Act to Amend the Law by making Provision for the Legitimation of
children born before Marriage on the subsequent Marriage of their
Parents. This was possibly to give the child identification papers to allow her to travel to Australia with her aunt.

The Brisbane Courier records that Misses McMullan and Convery arrived in Queensland 4 September 1924 aboard the Diogenes. 

While there is no evidence of a Martha McMullan residing in Townsville after that date, there is an Annie Winifred McMullan on the 1925 Electoral Roll living at the Alexandra Hotel.

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This information along with a comment made in the Kiikintilloch Herald in 1973 that Annie left the United Kingdom ‘only a few days after being bridesmaid to her older sister, Mrs Martha McGregor of …Kirkintilloch’ suggests that Martha did not travel to Australia instead her sister Annie, accompanied her niece, Mary Josephine Convery to Australia. 

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Almost fifty years later Annie made the journey back to the United Kingdom to see her sisters. This was six months after her husband, Daniel Tagney, died in Ingham in 1972. Her trip attracted the interest of the local newspaper and they interviewed Annie and her sister Martha and published the human-interest story about her return to her homeland.

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Annie in Ireland at 144 Knockhollet Road Dunloy. Left to right: Annie Tilly McGuckian, Vera and Vera’s sister I think.

Grandma got to visit her sister, Lizzie in Ireland and other nieces and nephews. She also went to Scotland to visit Martha.

When Grandma visited the UK in 1973 I am sure she said that Tom Convery, Mary Ellen’s son was then a member of the London Metropolitan Police and I am sure she said he picked her up at the airport. I am not sure if she met up with Mary Ellen or if she was still alive. Grandma was 76 on this trip.


I believe Annie lived in Hubert Street South Townsville with Mary Ellen and Matthew for a while but as their family grew she found work and her own accommodation. 1927 and the world for the sisters was about to change. Somehow Matthew sustained an injury. Grandma said that he was injured at work, but I don’t know for sure. He developed cellulitis of the arm, followed by septicaemia and finally on the 14th of February Cardiac failure took his life. By this stage Mary Ellen had four children to support. She decided to return to Ireland.

By the middle of the same year Annie found herself pregnant. Life was to take yet another turn.

The Young Mary Ellen

Mary Ellen was born to Daniel and Sarah in May of 1888, their first child. Belfast became a city and the Portrush Golf Club was founded. Parnell was calling for Home Rule and in 1892 the Irish Education Act made schooling compulsory to the age of fourteen, not that everyone would send their children, but Mary Ellen did get to learn to read and write.

In the 1901 Census she was twelve and living with her parents Daniel 38, Sarah 30, Dan 9 and sisters Martha 8, Sarah 5, Annie 4 and Lizzie 4. They lived at house 15 The Vow, Rosnashane in the county of Antrim. Daniel was listed as an agricultural labourer. There was another family living at house 10 with another Daniel McMullan 60 and his four children Maryanne 19, Catherine 17, James 15 and Maggie 13. I wonder if this family was related. A cousin maybe?

Working Life

By 1911 the family had grown. James was born 1903, Sarah in 1904 and Ethel in 1908. Unfortunately, Ethel died young. They were still living at The Vow this time in House 5. Daniel was now fifty years old and blind. Grandma said he had cataracts. The family would have been in dire straits. Both Mary Ellen then 22 and Martha 18 had left home and found work as domestic servants.

Mary Ellen worked for Patrick McGarry and his family. Patrick, 50 his wife Mary Josephine 45 and their eldest daughter Maggie Josephine 21 were all listed as National School Teachers. John 20 an undergraduate, Ella, Timothy 13, Alphonsus 9, Anna 7 and James 4 completed the family. Mary Ellen would have been busy! She is listed on the Census form as being 30 years old, but the head of the house Patrick McGarry signed the form and my have just guessed. The family was living in house 31 in Rasharkin which is where Mary Ellen’s mother was born. There was a school and a hall close by. I believe this family really impressed Mary Ellen. She named her first daughter Mary Josephine and her son Patrick.

Young Love

Some time between 1911 and 1915 Mary Ellen McMullan met Matthew Convery. At the 1911 Census Matthew was living in Maghera with his parents, his brother and three sisters. His father and he were blacksmiths and his brother a farmer. He was 22 years old. It is an hour by bicycle from Maghera to Rosharkin and I don’t know when or how Mary Ellen and Matthew met but they did. At the time Ireland had about three million people and most employed in agriculture. The area around Maghera had a lot of linen production

World War One had begun and poverty and politics would have been the talk of the time with Home Rule being upper most on the minds of many. For reasons I don’t know Matthew decided to immigrate to Australia. According to shipping records he had a cousin living in Townsville and that is where he headed. On the 17th September 1915 he sailed from London aboard the Roscommon. He was twenty-eight years old and listed himself as a general labourer. His ticket number was 22.

Changing Circumstances

I believe they may not have known that Mary Ellen was pregnant with their child when he left. Mary Josephine was born 31 March 1916 and I assume she would have been born at the home of Sarah and Daniel and it would have been a very difficult time for the family as they were exceptionally poor.

Mary Ellen must have written and told Matthew of their news. It must have been very difficult for both of them. Mary Ellen stayed with her family and raised her child for the first few years. My grandmother, Annie had a great deal to do with Mary Josephine and often spoke very lovingly of her. A momentous decision was made and in February 1920, Mary Ellen left her little girl and headed for the antipodes. On the 21st she left Tilbury Docks London aboard the Orontes and arrived in Brisbane at 10:30am at the New Farm docks, where Howard Wharf is now located, on the 9th April.  

From there she went to Astor Terrace and stayed overnight at the Lady Musgrave Lodge. This accommodation was specifically for immigrant girls arriving in the colony.

The following day, Saturday 10th April she sailed aboard the Wyandra to Townsville and arrived on Wednesday 14th.

Mary Ellen and Matthew were married just ten days later.

Married Life

Mary Ellen married Matthew at the Roman Catholic Sacred Heart Church, the same church that I was married in fifty-three years later. (Just saying!) From the soft mists of Ireland to the harsh dusty reality of Far North Queensland life in the small city would have been very different. It was fortunate that she arrived in April. The weather would have been cooling down a little and heading towards a tropical winter. The couple may have enjoyed moving pictures at open air theatres, picnics on the beach and strolls along the busy Flinders Street. They lived in Hubert Street and Matthew who was a waterside worker would have been close to his work place.

In 1922 the couple welcomed little Kathleen into the world. They must have decided to bring their other daughter to Australia as they made a journey to Brisbane in November of the same year and registered, Mary Josephine’s birth. Both Matthew and Mary Ellen were literate, and they must have discovered the law called the “Legitimation of illegitimate children on registration after marriage of parents.” This 1899 act allowed “any child born before the marriage of his or her parents (and whether before or after the passing of this Act), whose parents have intermarried, or shall hereafter intermarry, shall be deemed on the registration of such child as hereinafter provided to have been legitimated by such marriage from birth, and shall be entitled to all the rights of a child born in wedlock”. Shipping up and down the coast of Australia was a reliable and frequent means of transport and I imagine that the couple along with their new baby made their way to Brisbane where they registered Josephine’s birth. This would have given them the right to bring their daughter to Australia accompanied by an adult.

I imagine communication between Mary Ellen and her family would have been plentiful and by 1924 it was finally settled that Martha, Mary Ellen’s younger sister by five years would come to Australia. This must have been a momentous decision for Martha as it would be understood that there would be little or no opportunity to return home. Ahh…but grand plans would all change.  


Passage was booked for Mary Josephine Convery, now eight years old and her aunt Martha McMullan a twenty-six-year-old embroideress, on the ship, Diogenes, departing the Port or London on the 19th of July 1924 for the Port of Brisbane. I believe they had purchased a ticket as they were mentioned by name in the Arrivals section of the Brisbane paper. Apparently, there were “83 in other classes” that were also aboard. This was at a time when Australia was bringing immigrants out as ‘Bounty passengers’ where the shipping companies were paid by the Government for the transporting of people to live and work in the colony. It was a one-way ticket.

As they arrived early afternoon, I imagine they stayed the night in Brisbane and headed for Townsville the following day. I have not been able to find which ship they took to Townsville. The rail line from Brisbane to Townsville was available and they may have taken a train. I don’t know if they had agreed for Annie to take her sister Martha’s place or if it was a surprise but I think more likely the former. Martha had found a husband and married John McGregor in Dunbarton, Scotland on the 24th June, and Annie was her bridesmaid.

I image that after the wedding Annie returned to Ireland picked up Mary Josephine and made her way to London to catch the ship to Australia. It would have been a busy couple of weeks.


1924 was also the year that Mary Ellen and Matthew had their son, Thomas Matthew and two years later they had another little girl, Patricia. Their family was complete. They were still living in Hubert Street South Townsville. For a while Annie lived with them too but by 1925, she had found work as a laundress at Alexandra Hotel and was able to live there.

I imagine that the home would have been a very busy place. This would have been a time when families had copper boilers for washing, wooden stoves for cooking, kerosene lamps for lighting, and bicycles for transport or Shank’s Pony – you walked. The grass would have been cut with a push mower and the toilet was an outside ‘dunny’ which was emptied weekly by the ‘nightsoil’ man. Maintaining a home would have been busy.


1927 and the world for Mary Ellen and her family was about to change. Somehow Matthew sustained an injury. Grandma said that he was injured at work, but I don’t know for sure. He developed cellulitis of the arm, followed by septicaemia and finally on the 14th of February Cardiac failure took his life. It must have been devastating for Mary Ellen and her young family.

She must have corresponded with Matthew’s parents and agreed to return to Ireland. In the meantime, Annie had fallen pregnant to Dan Tagney and was married in the June and her baby girl, Mary was born late November. Mary Ellen had to organise her family to leave. On the shipping record it states that she would be returning to Hall St, Maghera, Co Derry. This was the address on the 1911 Census of the Convery family.  I suspect that her parents-in-law provided money for her to bring her family back to Ireland. Mary Ellen left Australia aboard the “Moreton Bay” which left Brisbane on Friday July 1928. The family arrived in Liverpool in September. From there she would have taken her family to Ireland via ferry. The British and Irish Steam Packet Company operated regular ferries and I imagine she would have gone to Droheda and then on to Maghera. It is difficult to know because the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland had been divided by a boarder in 1921. Mary Ellen would have returned to a different land. Unfortunately, her heartache would continue.


Grandma often told me what an angel Mary Josephine was. She would get very emotional and told me that she died when she was just twelve years old as a result of contracting polio. I have not confirmed this, but I did find the gravestone of Matthew’s family and there at the bottom is the inscription that Mary Josephine died, aged 12 in January 1928.  I think it would have been 1929. I cannot imagine Mary Ellen’s heartbreak.

I don’t know what happened to Mary Ellen after this. In 1973 Grandma returned to the UK to visit her family. I do remember she said that she was picked up at the airport in London by her nephew, Matthew Thomas Convery who was then a London Bobby. I have not confirmed this. She also told me that she met up with her niece Kathleen in London. I can only hope that life was kinder to Mary Ellen and that she lived a long life surrounded by those she loved.  

Daniel McMullan the younger

DANIEL MCMULLAN 4 June 1891 to 29 Sept 1916

Daniel was the elder son of Daniel and Sarah McMullan, of Killans, about five miles south of Ballmoney. There were two boys and seven girls in the family. Unfortunately, two of the girls, Sara and Ethel, died young, both of them having contracted Scarletina otherwise known as Scarlet Fever. Daniel, as a young boy, attended St. Columba’s school at the Killans and later when he had left school, he worked as a farm labourer wherever work could be had. He enlisted in Belfast into the Irish Guards and was eventually placed in the newly formed 2nd battalion.

St Columba’s School

The 2nd battalion was formed at Warley Barracks on 18th July 1915, and landed at Le Havre on the 17th August of that year. These were men who were surplus to requirements of the 1st battalion and who had already gone through much of their training programme. On the 16th of August they left Brentwood station and that evening at Southampton were packed into two ships, the ‘Anglo-Canadian’ and the ‘Viper’. After they arrived in France, they immediately set out to meet up with the 2nd Guards Division and boarded their train at Lumbres on the 18th. Next day they marched to billets at Acquin a small village close to St. Omer. Their first experience of action was to be the Battle of Loos. They were taken to a position just to the north of Loos, known as Chalk Pit Wood and it was here that they first went into battle. They were to be in the region around Vermelles for almost a month. They were then taken back for a rest and moved a few miles north to the area around Neuve Chapelle and Laventie in November and December. In March of 1916 they were moved into the Salient to the north of Ypres and the fighting around St. Jean and then in July, when the fighting at the Somme was devouring men by the thousand, they were moved south to play a large part in that battle. On the 15th of September the 2nd battalion attacked Lesboeufs, a small French village.

Much bitter fighting took place here and casualties were high. Over the next few days the battalio;n were in and out of the line but on the 25th  of September a major attack was to take place at Guillemont and Ginchy, just to the south of Lesboeufs.

We don’t know the date on which Daniel was injured but it was the result of an accident while Daniel was making the tea. He had lit a fire and was waiting for the water to boil when the fire exploded. It is thought that the heat of the fire must have set off an unexploded shell, and Daniel, who was nearest to the fire took the worst of it. He was rushed immediately to the nearest dressing station and then despatched to the hospital.

Daniel was take to hospital at Etaples, with the intention of having him transferred to hospital in England, but by the time a ship was available he was too ill to be moved and he died at Etaples on the 29th September.

By this time the battalion were resting in bivouacs in Trones Wood, near Lesboeufs just to the North-east of Ginchy. Daniel is buried in the huge cemetery beside where the hospital was at Etaples.

The Irish Guards – known affectionately throughout the Army as ‘The Micks’ – is an Irish Regiment which has proven its loyalty and grit on many tough operations. It’s soldiers have the privilege of guarding the Royal Family. They recruit from the island of Ireland, United Kingdom and beyond.

Martha McMullan McGregor

Martha was the third child born to Daniel and Sarah in 1893. I think she worked as a domestic servant in 1911 for the Dempsey family. This pure conjecture. She would need to work and as her parents were from Rosnashane they may have encouraged her to work for the family.

In 1924 she was in Scotland and married John McGregor, a plumber. He was forty and she was thirty-one. They lived in Lenzie which is half way between Glasgow and Kirkintiloch. Annie, my grandmother was bridesmaid at the wedding.

They had at least one child, J McGregor, who in 1964 at the time of his father’s death was living at 11 Burns Park, East Kilbride. On the death certificate it states John was living at 53 Monkland Avenue Kirkintilloch. I wonder if this was the address where Grandma visited Martha in 1973.

Martha died in 1975 in Kirkintiloch. She was eighty-two years old.