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Murtagh, Matthew

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Fast Facts
Type of person Individual
Date of birth c. 1815
Place of birth Country Clare, Ireland
Date of arrival 1866
Principal occupation Laborer
Date of death 1892
Place of decease Parkside Lunatic Asylum, Adelaide

Matthew Murtagh (c.1814/15-1892) was born in Country Clare, Ireland in about 1814-15. There are at least five alternative spellings for this surname – Murtagh, Murtough, Muchtagh, Murtha and Murtaghe.

Matthew Murtagh married Bridget Fitzpatrick (1825-1911), who also came from County Clare and she was the daughter of Thomas Fitzpatrick. Matthew and Bridget were Catholics. They had five daughters:

Honora (1856-1886) m. Michael Lahiffe in 29 Aug 1880 at Kapunda, d. aged 30 years at Gawler, buried in the Willaston General Cemetery

Mary (1859- ) m. William Healy at Adelaide on 8 Dec 1887

Bridget (1860-1917) m. Thomas Joseph Clark (1858-1892) at Willunga on 4 June 1884

Johanna Anastasia (1863-1934) m. Thomas George Cole (1856-1925) at St. Joseph’s Church, Willunga on 29 Dec 1889

Catherine “Kate” (1865-1939) m. David Bruce Robb (1866-1845) at Norwood on 20 June 1889

Matthew was resident in County Clare until about 1865 and, aged 50 years, he arrived in South Australia as a single emigrant aboard Hougomont in 1866 from Plymouth. He was resident at Willunga from 1867 until his death in 1892 (25 years) and he worked as a laborer. In 1872 Matthew was charged with assault and he was bound over to keep the peace on a £20 bond.

In 1875 his wife Bridget (37) with their five daughters Honora (18), Mary (16), Bridget (14), Johanna (12) and Kate (10) arrived aboard Earl Dalhousie on 23 Feb 1875 from London. They were all described as domestic servants and they joined Matthew in Willunga. Matthew Murtagh had a cottage at 26 St Peter’s Terrace where he paid rates (from 1876 to 1882) on part of the land that was owned by Michael Lahiffe (Lots 11, 12 and 21). This was located next to Samuel McCullagh’s cottage and it is illustrated in Maud Aldam’s Sketchbook. Murtagh purchased the property from Lahiffe in 1878, then it passed to his widow Bridget on his death in 1892 and she lived there until her death in 1911.

According to the South Australian Register in October 1878 Matthew attempted to commit suicide “by cutting his throat with a razor. He made two ugly gashes, but they were only skin deep”. Michael (sic) Murtagh, laborer, is listed as resident in Willunga in the 1886 Directory and he worked as a casual laborer splitting stones and building roads for the District Council of Willunga from 1878 until about 1890. In 1887 a fire destroyed a haystack and sheds valued at £20 on Matthew Murtagh’s property. The subsequent inquest held at the Willunga Courthouse found that “it was maliciously set on fire by person or persons unknown” and the Coroner censured neighbor John Norton, with whom the Murtagh’s had been on bad terms for more than 2 years, for “not rendering any assistance at the fire so soon after it started”

In March 1892 Mounted Constable Tuohy apprehended Matthew Murtagh as a lunatic and he was sent to the Asylum. Matthew, aged 77 years, died on 28 April 1892 at the Parkside Lunatic Asylum and he is buried in the St. Joseph’s Catholic Cemetery in Willunga

Sources

  • Passengers in History Database – South Australian Maritime Museum
  • South Australian Births – Index of Registrations 1842-1906
  • South Australian Marriages – Index of Registrations 1842-1937
  • South Australian Deaths – Index of Registrations 1842-1972
  • Ratepayer List Willunga & Aldinga Councils 1850-1888
  • Statton J. (ed) 1986. Biographical Index of South Australians 1836-1885. Volume 3
  • South Australian Register 23 April 1870:7
  • Adelaide Observer 18 May 1872:7
  • The Express and Telegraph 3 Sept 1875:2
  • Adelaide Observer 5 Feb 1887:36
  • South Australian Police Gazette 18 March 1892:43
  • Chronicle 25 March 1911:34



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