Bridget O'Donnell, Augullies, Templecrone Parish, Co Donegal

c1843 Donegal, Ireland - 1915 Kaikoura, New Zealand

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Life in Donegal

Bridget was born about 1843 in Augullies, a small and desolate grazing land used by the inhabitants of the coastal islands just off Dungloe. Her parents were John O'Donnell, who died before 1857, and Anne Gallagher. Bridget had brothers John (to NZ), James (to NZ) and Daniel (to USA), and a sister Hannah (Donegal)


She married Denis Sweeney, a labourer, probably in Dungloe, about 1860, and began her family, and a very hard life. Labouring in Donegal, for those who could not attain a tenancy (the Irish were barred from land ownership at that time) was difficult at the best of times, and often required travelling, on foot, through most of the County and beyond, to earn enough to feed and shelter a growing family.


Such was Bridget's life - her first three children, Anne (b 1861), Mary (b 1863) and James (b 2 Jan 1866), were all born in Augullies, where they shared her parent's land. By 1867, there was a need to move on to look for work; that was when they must have made the decision that because of the distance they would have to cover and the uncertainty of available work, they would need to leave one of their children behind. Their second born, Mary, was left in Augullies, to be fostered by Bridget's brother John and his new wife, Fanny Gallagher.



Bridget and Denis moved on to a townland called Altnapaste, near Cloghan in Kilteevoge Parish, where on 15 Dec 1867, they had a son John. This was a journey they undertook, on foot, with a pregnant Bridget and two children under 5 years old...............the shortest route being 46 kilometres, taking them 9 hours or more.




It is not known how long they remained in Altnapaste, but by 1 Jun 1869, their next child, Denis, was born in Killendarragh, The Wood, near Lifford. That journey took them even further east from Augullies, another 27 kilometres (more than 5 hours on foot). The Wood was an estate owned by the Stewarts and contained a manor - Nassau House. Bridget, Denis, and the children seem to have settled there for a few years as aside from the birth of son Denis, they also had a son Ambrose there in Dec 1870. They would have been living in labourer's cottages on the estate.






Their next move was completed by 22 Feb 1872, when their son Edward was born in Clady, Co Tyrone, just over the border from Castlefinn. It is also where they sent their eldest daughter, Anne, to school.



It must have been shortly after this that Denis started to become ill as the family returned to Dungloe, to Little Bridge in late 1872 or certainly by early 1873. Little Bridget is where Denis had family, as did Bridget - her mother was no longer in Augullies, but living with Bridget's sister Annie (also called Hannah) and her husband Peter Sweeney. Their daughter Anne was entered into the Dungloe Female National School register on 13 Jan 1873, the only child of a labourer attending school then and in years before and after - it was not usually the labourer's lot to be able to afford to send a child to school, but in this case, perhaps money had been sent from New Zealand by John and Fanny (who was a teacher) to have their daughter educated? It was also in Little Bridge that on 22 Jun 1873, Bridget and Denis' last child, Joseph, was born - his birth was registered by Bridget's sister Annie.




From here follows a terrible time for Bridget - she now has seven children with her, ranging in age from 2 months to 12 years, and her husband is dying. He succumbed on 23 Aug 1873 aged about 34 years old. There was no support for widowed mothers then, except what little their family could do for them, and it would have been beyond their means to feed and house Bridget and 7 children, so Anne left school in Nov 1873 and the little family went into the last place on earth anyone would have wanted to go - the Glenties Workhouse. Bridget was there on 4 Feb 1874, because that was when and where little Edward died, followed 2 months later by Ambrose on 2 Apr 1874.


Some time around the deaths of her two sons, Bridget must have found a way to send a letter to her two brothers, John and James, in Kaikoura, New Zealand - most likely it would have been a local Parish Priest, as not many could write at that time. John and James, now settled on their own land, sent for Bridget and her five children (her daughter Mary had immigrated with John and Fanny in 1869) and having made her way to Plymouth, on the 17th August 1874, she boarded the 'Ocean Mail', bound for Nelson, New Zealand. They arrived in Nelson on 8 Nov 1874, just over a month before Bridget, John and James' mother Anne O'Donnell died in the house of Annie and her husband Peter in Dungloe.


Life in Kaikoura

More to come!!


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Lindel Buckley

1998 Donegal Genealogy Resources