I am Kiri daughter of Jill, daughter of Nancy, daughter of Kate, daughter of Nancy, daughter of Brigid. In 1850 Brigid Culhane, dairy maid, age 27, single, travelled on the Sir Robert Sale from England to Australia.
One year later she gave birth to a child and one month after that she married Smythe McCook, a protestant from Northern Ireland. She had four children (Mary, Catherine, Nancy and James) and lived to the ripe old age of 80, outliving Smythe by a couple of years. Her parents are not listed on her death certificate, her son was the informant.
We know that Brigid is Irish and it is likely that she came from somewhere near Shanagolden because Culhane is a name specific to that area. There was a Cornelius Culhane on the Sir Robert Sale and our best guess is that he is her brother.Cornelius was born 1 July 1829 and when we went to the church at Kilcolman (south of Shanagolden) we were able to look up the parish records and confirm his parents as Morgan Culhane and Joanna Reily. No other children are listed for Morgan and Joanna but prior to 1827 there are no records at all, if the Sir Robert Sale passenger manifest is correct, Brigid was born in 1823.Prior to 1827 Catholicism was outlawed in Ireland, there are no records of baptisms, marriages or deaths before this date. Father Tim told us stories: young men travelling to France to train as priests, smuggled back into Ireland; mass held in valleys at night, lookouts posted on the hills to keep watch for red coats; the sacred chalice, unscrewed into cup, stem and base, distributed among various families for safe keeping.Brigid is the ancestor Mum feels closest to and walking the land near Dooncaha (south of Shanagolden where Morgan Culhane had a plot of land) we can both feel her walking with us. The swish of long skirts against my legs, taking in the view of the Shannon Estuary, noticing the herbs that line the hedgerows. Her spirit feels strong and expansive, wild. We imagine that her choice of husband might have created a falling out with her family.
Brigid is the ancestor I was most looking forward to meeting, my direct matrilineal ancestor and don’t we all want to be Irish? A bonafide Celt. The lack of detailed information is frustrating. There is just no way to know more.