Editor’s Note: Paula Kennedy is among locals in Galway working on the Mountbellew Workhouse Project to trace the descendants of the Irish emigrants who traveled to Australia in 1853 on board the Palestine ship. On board were 33 Mountbellew workhouse orphan girls. The project is trying to connect with as many of the orphan workhouse girls' descendants in Australia with the hope of telling their stories, establishing where in Galway they came from and, hopefully, linking them up with their Irish cousins. Also some of the orphan girls' siblings went to the USA.

Their project wants to ensure these orphan workhouse girls are not forgotten. some of the orphan girls siblings went to the USA.

Read more about their project here.

Mary Dooley was born in County Galway in 1826, the daughter of Edward Dooley.

Edward had been born between 1780 and 1800 and worked as a whitesmith. Mary's mother’s name is unknown.

Mary was orphaned and ended up in the workhouse, in Mountbellew, in 1852. Records indicate that Mary’s last place of residence was Clonbrock, near the Fohenagh/Caltra area. rumor has it, Mary had nine brothers whom had immigrated to the United States or Canada prior to 1852.

Her father had a brother, Lawrence Dooley who was born in 1796, whose wife’s maiden name was Margaret Larkin. Lawrence’s recorded occupation was a cattle dealer from Galway.

Mary immigrated to Australia in 1853 on an Irish-bride ship called the Palestine. It was well known that these bride-ships carried destitute girls from orphanages and poorhouses and who left Ireland thanks to a sponsored fare during the Great Famine. Many of the girls on board the Palestine were also from Galway.

Among the girls chosen to make that fateful journey to Van Diemen's Land, was Mary Dooley. Mary and three other girls replaced several girls deemed medically unfit to make the long journey to Australia.

The girls that set sail on the Palestine were:

Pat O`Brien, Biddy, O Brien, Mick O Brien, Catho O Brien, Mary O Brien, Catho Cunningham, Mary Geraghty, Mary Flanagan, Mary Flynn, Ms Staunton, Mary Taylor, Ms Egan, Biddy Fitzgerald, Ellen Hansberry, Mary Kilroy, Biddy Tully, Mary Cunningham, Biddy Bodkin, Mary Butler, Mary Neary, Mary Flynn, Biddy Concannon, Henry Noone, Ms Nilfagle, Cathie Hughes, Georgia Ne, Marie Lorre, Maria Egan, Celia Coldman, Catho Glynn, Mary Cathe, Mary Mannion, Mary Dooley, Esther Tully, Ms Carberry, Mary Carberry, Eliza Trasta, Catho Coleman, Ms Atkins.

Read more: Could you ancestors have been an orphan workhouse girl who emigrated in 1853?

Mary and the other girls arrived in Western Australia on April 28, 1853 after five long, and probably terrifying, months at sea. On arrival it is believed that Mary found employment as a servant with a local hotel proprietor at the ‘Ship Hotel.’ Several months later, on January 28, 1854, Mary married Mr John Dawson, who was 26 years her senior.

One can only imagine the horrors that Mary managed to survive during the Famine years. It is not known how much easier her life was after her arrival in Australia. Provisions were often late and in short supply, women even scarcer, the heat would have been unbearable for the young immigrant girls in their long gowns and heavy petticoats and the bush flies and snakes plentiful.

Mary and John’s first child, Mary Jane (possibly named after her mother as was custom in those days), was born on November 13, 1854 in Newtown, Western Australia. Mary had seven more children after Mary Jane.

After all of her eight children were born, Mary became one of the first midwives in the south west along with another three Irish girls. These four Irish women saw into the world almost an entire generation of West Australians born into the South West region. It is presumed that Mary went on to have a happy and fulfilling life.

Her youngest son Edward later told the story that Mary’s relatives had earlier emigrated to America, but Mary preferred to go to Australia, as she would one day "return with her apron full of gold." Afterwards she was to say that she "had her apron full of gold, in her many children."

Mary’s husband was John Dawson who was born in County Antrim between 1805 and 1810. He had arrived on the Egyptian on February 13, 1830. The couple settled in the Augusta and Busselton areas.

Mary died on August 27, 1902 at Forest Grove (Nuralingup). John Dawson died on November 18, 1887 in Newtown, Western Australia.

What we know of Mary’s children is as follows:

Mary Jane Dawson: Born in 1854, in Waterloo, Western Australia. Married William Glindon Curtis. Died September 12, 1916.

Catherine Dawson: Born in 1857, in Basse, Western Australia.

Elizabeth Magdalene Dawson: Born in 1859, in Busselton, Western Australia. Married Thomas Higgins.

John Joseph Dawson: Born in 1862 in Broadwater, Western Australia. Died 1934 in Sussex, Western Australia.

Susan Dawson: Born in 1866 in Sussex, Western Australia. Married James Rodger.

Rose Ann Dawson: Born in 1868, in Busselton, Western Australia. Died March 13, 1930. Married Frederick Charles Seymour.

Edward Dawson: Born in 1870, in Vassse, Western Australia. Married Belle Vidgen. Died December 29, 1960. Had three children, Edward Grodon, Bessie Edith, and John B Sawson.

The four Irish midwives in the district at the time were Mary Ann Adams, née Smith, later Scott, then Bryan; Mary Dawson née Dooley (Galway); Mary Ann Abbey née Minion; and Mary Seymour née Scanlon (Limerick).

Of course there was no midwife registration in those days. It was rumored that Dooley was cousins to several Irish Scanlon girls that arrived in the south west after 1852. Several of these rumored cousins were:

1. Mary Scanlon: Born in 1838, in Limerick. Daughter of Patrick Scanlon and Anne Fitzgerald. Married Frederick Hutchins, in 1861.

2. Mary Scanlon: Born in c.1836, in Castle Glinsk, Limerick (daughter of Patrick Scanlon and Mary Gohagan). Married William Frederick Seymour in August 22, 1855. She arrived on the Clara in September 1853. She stayed with her cousin Catherine Scanlon until her marriage.

3. Catherine Scanlon: Married Ebenezer Harris 24 Apr 1855.

4. Johanna Scanlon: Sister of Catherine. Married David Abbey Dec 10, 1863. Both were daughters of John Scanlon and Johanna Moore.

If you have any information on those mentioned in this story please contact the Mountbellew Workhouse Project visit their Facebook page here.

Could you be related to one of the 33 orphan brides who left Mountbellew in 1853?