A 1997 view of Bundarra. In the second half of the 19th century, the large Berryman family lived around the village of Bundarra in the New England tablelands. More than 100 years later, Berryman descendants still live in the area.
Her father’s background as a convict (and his peripheral involvement in the Myall Creek Massacre of 1838) was probably well hidden by the time of Margaret’s birth more than 10 years later. One of the eldest of Tom and Catherine Berryman’s 10 children, Margaret would have carried heavy responsibilities for most of her life.
Growing up in the then isolated New England area of New South Wales, Margaret was virtually uneducated, and in later years could not sign her name. Schools were few and far between for the children of pioneer settlers.
In time, a sort of prosperity came the family’s way, with the former thief and convict Tom Berryman moving from work as a stockman to owning land near the village of Bundarra, west of Armidale, by the late 1850s.
In the New England, Margaret met an Irish immigrant, James Gaffey, who had come to Australia in 1860, and settled in the Bundarra area, along with his brothers. When she was 19 years old, Margaret and James married.
For Margaret, marriage brought more hard work, in the form of 10 children – as well as tragedy, with the death of her first-born, Mary, in a fire in the family’s farmhouse when she was just two years old. More children were born to the family – the family’s youngest, Ellen, when Margaret was 46