County Kilkenny Biographies
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Biography of Michael Gooley / Judith Byrne

Michael & Judith

        On 13 August, 1816, at the parish church in Thomastown, Michael 
Gooley married Judith Byrne. They settled to the south-east of Thomastown 
in the townland of Ruppa and later at Mungmacody, where Michael leased
twelve acres of land from Judith’s brother-in-law John Spruhan.

        Thomastown, as described in 1831, was a market and post-town in 
County Kilkenny, of 3054 inhabitants and 527 “neatly built” houses. It is
situated on the River Nore and surrounded by gentle, lush green hills.
Over the river stands an impressive stone bridge rebuilt in 1792 after
being destroyed by floods four years earlier. The bridge was recently
widened to accommodate greater traffic. The river had made Thomastown a
rich commercial centre though by the 1830s it was choked with sand and
no longer navigable as far as Thomastown. The town was founded in the
13th Century by Thomas FitzAnthony, a Welsh mercenary. Some of the
fortifications built by FitzAnthony can still be seen today.

        An 1845 description of Thomastown called it a “pretty and, on the
whole, neat town”. Not all 19th Century descriptions were so flattering.
A Callan shopkeeper and teacher of Irish described it thus in 1831:
“Thomastown is a small poor town. The dwelling houses are falling
down... There has been no prosperity in Thomastown since Waterford
Bridge was built.”

        The townlands of Ruppa and Mungmacody lie next to each other about
three miles to the east of Thomastown. Ruppa is a district of 267 acres.
Today there is only one house in the whole district, however, in the
first half of the nineteenth century the property was  divided into many
small holdings and leased to individual tenant farmers. There were 11
houses at Ruppa in 1849. Mungmacody is a district of 555 acres and was
also leased to many individual farmers in the nineteenth century, with
17 houses in 1849. Paddy Whitty, a descendent of the Byrne family still
lives and works at Mungmacody today. Ruppa and Mungmacody are part of
the parish of Columbkille which had 779 residents in 1831.

        Michael and Judith Gooley had their first child in 1817. Five others
followed over the next 18 years:

                Patrick         14-8-1817
                Betty            7-1-1822               Ruppa
                Judith          10-6-1825               Ruppa
                Denis            7-4-1829               Ruppa
                Mary            13-6-1832               Ruppa
                Michael         2-10-1835               Ruppa

        The dates are their baptism dates. All these baptisms took place 
in the parish chapel in Thomastown. This is not the one which presently 
stands at the end of Chapel Lane. Construction of the present church was 
begun in 1859 and the church was dedicated in 1867. It was financed by a
lottery at £1 a ticket, a hefty sum. All tickets were sold and most of
the prizemoney donated back to the church. The earlier chapel had been
built in 1770, but by the 1840s it was in a state of disrepair and too
small to hold the much larger population at Sunday Mass. In 1823 a bell
tower was added to the chapel. Pigot’s Directory in 1824 states that
“the handsome Roman Catholic Church possesses a tower and a bell, and is
believed to be the only one in Ireland that has a tower.” In Slater’s
Directory (1846), the Catholic chapel was “...a handsome building... and
at the time it was built said to be the only one in Ireland with a
tower.” The town was so proud of its belfry that when the old chapel was
finally demolished the bell tower was left standing and still stands in
the graveyard. From the example of his children in Australia it would
not be unreasonable to assume that Michael Gooley had a hand in building
this tower.

        In spite of there being this “handsome building”, it was only for
important events such as weddings and baptisms that Mung and Ruppa
residents needed to travel into Thomastown, as they had their own local
chapel nearby at Mungmacody. Built in 1790, it was also reported to be
in poor condition in the 1840s but was not restored until 1890. Today it
remains in very fine condition. 

        Next to the Mung chapel is an old ruined building named as a school on
the ordnance survey map. It was probably built soon after the church was
constructed. In 1831 there were about 60 boys and 50 girls attending two
private schools within the parish of Columbkille. Michael and Judith
were illiterate however their children probably attended the school next
to the Mung church, if only for a limited period, before they were
required to work on the farm. Some were better students than others:
Patrick learnt to read and write, and Mary to read. The others didn’t do
so well.

        They lived in a small two-room wattle-and-daub cottage with a dirt
floor and a thatched roof. At one end of the tiny living area was a
large stone hearth where the cooking was done. Above the one bedroom was
a loft which became a second sleeping area as the family grew. There was
no toilet or running water. The nearest creek was four hundred metres
down the hill. By the time Mary arrived in 1832 there were seven living
in the house. It was time for Patrick at the age of fifteen to move out
and find employment. 

        His search probably led him to a well-known “big house” in the
district, Shamrock Lodge, which was in the townland adjacent to Mung.
Shamrock Lodge appears in the Ordnance Survey of 1823 and had a large
estate of about 500 acres attached to it. The estate would have employed
many local farmers. The estate was part of the townland of Cloghscregg,
which, with the neighbouring townland of Castlegarden, comprised an area
of over 2,000 acres. Both of these townlands were owned by Peter
Connellan, Esq. The resident gentry of Shamrock Lodge in 1849 was Thomas
Synge, Esq., who had a personal leasehold of 130 acres. The Synge family
was later to buy Shamrock Lodge and its land. Shamrock Lodge had quite
an impact on Patrick Gooley. When he moved to Australia and purchased
land near Goulburn, N.S.W., he called the house he built Shamrock Lodge,
which was either a sign of his sentimentality or a symbol of his having
achieved what would not have been possible in Ireland, owning his own
property.

        The potato famine struck in 1846 and continued through to 1848.
Kilkenny was not as severely affected as other counties probably because
there was less reliance on the potato as a staple food and also because
of significant work relief organised by the local landlords. Another
factor which provided employment in the Thomastown vicinity was the
construction of the railway from Kilkenny to Waterford. Work began on
the line in 1846 and employed hundreds of local labourers and tradesmen
through the worst parts of the famine. It seems clear that Patrick must
have maintained his employment through the famine as he had enough money
to leave Ireland when the worst of the famine had passed. Patrick paid
the £2 fare and sailed from Plymouth on 21 December, 1849, aboard the
Elizabeth. He arrived in Australia on 18 April, 1850. It is recorded
that he was a farm labourer, that both parents were living at
Thomastown, and that he had no relatives in Australia.

        The baptism records of Michael and Judith’s children, except for
Patrick’s, state the family’s residence as Ruppa. Patrick’s record does
not name a residence. The Tithe Applotment Books from 1839, which record
the occupiers and value of land, do not mention Michael Gooley at either
Ruppa or Mungmacody probably because he was not the main lessee of the
land he worked. In 1849, Griffith’s Primary Valuation, which records the
lessee of land and the immediate lessor, lists Michael Gooley as the
lessee of 12 acres at Mungmacody. At some time between the birth of his
youngest son in 1835 and 1849, the family moved from Ruppa to
Mungmacody. Mungmacody was owned by Sydenham Davis, Esq. who lived in
one of the principal houses of the Thomastown area, Dangan Lodge, about
2 miles from Mung and described as “a handsome modern house situated in
tastefully disposed grounds”. The land at Mung leased from Davis by
Michael Hassard, Esq. who sublet the land to the tenant farmers. Michael
Gooley’s land (section 23 on the reference map) was leased by Patrick
Spruhan from either Michael Hassard and sublet to Michael Gooley. It
comprised houses, offices and land of 12 acres 3 rods and 22 perches.
The land was valued at £3 in 1849 and subsequently reduced to £2/15 /-
after appeal. The buildings were valued at 15/-.

        An old nineteenth century house, one of the 17 at Mungmacody in 1849,
and unoccupied for the past 50 years, is still standing . It has a
corrugated iron roof replacing the thatched roof, though from the inside
some traces of the original thatching can be seen under the iron. To get
to it one must drive up a narrow track between two fields and walk 100
metres across a turnip field. The house is referred to by Paddy Whitty
as the Gooley-Byrne home, though this is probably in response to
inquiries about it rather than his knowledge of who had lived there.
Despite this it may well have been their home and is certainly the type
of house they would have lived in. 

        The end of 1853 would have been an especially hard and lonely time 
for Michael. At some time in the previous three years Judith had died. At
least three of Michael’s remaining children resolved to leave and were
able to do so with help from their eldest brother. Patrick saved enough
money in Australia to sponsor Judith, Mary and Denis for their journey
to Australia. On 17 August, 1853, Patrick paid a deposit for Denis’ trip
and probably around the same time he paid for the other two. Michael’s
eldest son, now 36 years old, was already gone four years; his wife of
almost forty years had passed away; and now another three of his
children were leaving. He would never see them again. 

        Michael died in Thomastown in 1878 at the age of 88. With his 
passing, the Gooley name left Mungmacody. Margaret Carroll (nee Byrne), 
who was born in about 1900 and was still alive in Thomastown in 1995, is a
descendent of the Mungmacody Byrnes and the aunt of Paddy Whitty. She
has no memory of any Gooleys at Mungmacody and cannot remember her
father ever mentioning the name.

        Judith Byrne’s brother, Patrick, married Mary Muldowny on 10 
February, 1812, at Thomastown. He lived on 77 acres of land at Mungmacody. 
The following inscription comes from a tombstone in the derelict St
Columbkille’s Cemetery, near Mung.:


Erected by Patrick Byrne
of Mung in memory of his daughter
Mary Byrne
who dep. this life in 1844
aged 26 years.
Also his wife
Mary Byrne alias Muldowny
who departed this life
1846 aged .... years

        Another inscription in the same cemetery, which shows the long
association the Byrne family has had with Mungmacody, reads:

Katie Byrne
Mongmacody
Died 21st Oct 1978
Aged 85 yrs

        In 1887, Michael’s son Patrick made the long journey back to his
birthplace having been away 38 years. Patrick O’Farrell in “The Irish in
Australia” states that, “Those few emigrants who returned found they
were permanent outsiders, not accepted back into the world they had
left.” The world Patrick had left in 1849 would have been significantly
different from that of 1887. Whatever the welcome he received, there
would have been no immediate family to greet him, though the extended
family, especially of Byrnes at Mungmacody, probably made him welcome on
his short return visit.

        During the nineteenth century there were many Gooley families in 
the districts around Thomastown, with our Gooleys at Ruppa, and other large
families at Killarney and Rathduff to the north-west of the town, and at
Kilfane and Tullaherin to the north and north-east. There was probably
some relationship between all these families, though records earlier
than 1782 do not exist.

        There are no Gooleys in Thomastown today. The Gooley name passed out 
of existence in the district when Ellen Gooley, of Killarney, married a Mr
Kelly in 1921. Of their large family, many are still living in the area.
Contributed by Michael Gooley

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