James Gaffey (1844-1917)
(parents of Joan Gaffey):
Line of Descent to Joan Gaffey
|Mother||Mary TORLEY (b c1810)|
|Birth||1844, Mayobridge (Clonallan Parish), near Newry, County Down (Ireland)[i],,|
|Baptism||Dec 5 1844 in Clonallon Parish|
|Occupation||Farmer, agricultural labourer|
New South Wales on
|Lived in||near Bundarra west of Armidale (1860-1917)|
Apr 12 1917 in Inverell, NSW of a cerebral
Apr 13 1917 in Bundarra
Margaret BERRYMAN (Jun 8 1868 in Bundarra near Armidale)
Mary Ann GAFFEY (1870-1872)
Margaret GAFFEY (b
Alice GAFFEY (b 1874)
GAFFEY (b 1876)
Emily Jane GAFFEY (b
Elizabeth H GAFFEY (b
Elva GAFFEY (b 1885)
James Daniel Harold
GAFFEY (b 1888)
Ellen GAFFEY (b 1895)
The saga of the Gaffeys in the New England area
of New South Wales starts with the arrival there of Irish immigrants,
Patrick Gaffey and his brothers, with Patrick the first to make the break
from an Ireland just recovering from the blight of the potato famine.
The Gaffey boys had grown up on a small rented acreage in Northern
Ireland, and they took the opportunity to make new lives for themselves in
a new land.
James was the sixth child and fourth son in the family- the register of Clonallon Parish, near Newry in County Down, gives details of his baptism on December 5, 1844 and, given the Catholic tradition of baptism soon after birth, it's more than likely that James was born that year.
James and his brothers and sisters would have received their basic schooling in a small National School attached to the Catholic chapel in Mayobridge, two kilometres distant from their home. However, James may not have gone to school at all – official records 50 years later in Australia show that James signed his name with an “X”, and had to have official documents read to him. 
When James was in his early teens, his father died, and the family started to separate – the eldest, Patrick, the first to go to England, working in Bilston, in Staffordshire, then onto Australia with his second wife, Ann.
In 1860, James set out to follow Patrick south, a
move encouraged by his older brother, who sponsored him and his brother
William on the Fitzjames.
[Their sister, Mary Ann was also supposed to migrate, but stayed on
in England, married and died there].
James' occupation is noted on his immigration papers as 'labourer'.
(The spelling GAFFNEY was used in records of the immigrant ship).
James, William and later Daniel and Bernard all settled near
Patrick in the Bundarra area. According to Post Office directories of the
time, Patrick, James and Daniel all worked as shepherds for a period.
James met, and married in 1868, Margaret Berryman, the Australian-born 19-year-old daughter of an English convict and a free Irish girl (her mother was herself the daughter of an Irish convict). The Marriage certificate was very vague on details, but the ceremony was carried out in Bundarra "according to the Rites of the Church of Rome", probably in a sawn timber building completed in the village in 1862. The pastoral needs of Bundarra's Catholic population were catered for by a travelling priest, Father J Davis, who conducted services and visited homes in the Upper Gwydir area before a resident priest was appointed in 1881. One local history of the area notes that before 1881, Father Davis used to extract teeth for his parishioners, but during his absence, sufferers had to rely on the local blacksmith.
1880s map showing ownership of land south of Bundarra.
James Gaffey’s two selections on the northern side of King
John’s Creek is just to the
left of centre, that of his
brother William further to the east, while his daughter Margaret also had
a smaller selection in her name (a square selection crossing the Creek,
just southwest of James’ holding).
the Gaffey selections, totalling 280 acres, had frontage to King John’s
Creek, a tributary of the Gwydir River, which runs northwards through
James’ first-born child, a girl Mary Ann, born
in May 1870, died just over two years later from "accidental
James and Margaret went on to have another nine children, including
in 1883. James’ children took up many and varied occupations,
including farming, butcher shops and hotels.
[His daughter Alice and her husband John Twoomey owned several
hotels including Tattersalls Hotel at Hillgrove (east of Armidale), the
Imperial Hotel at Quirindi and the Prince of Wales Hotel in Newcastle (c1923),
another two daughters owned hotels at Inverell
another two daughters owned hotels at Inverell and Hillgrove .
James’ eldest daughter Margaret married into
the Baldwin family. Her
father-in-law, William Baldwin, had earlier achieved some notoriety when,
as the village blacksmith (it’s not known if he was the one who also
doubled as the emergency dentist!) made a special set of horse shoes for a
horse belonging to the outlaw Thunderbolt.
They were made with rivets in the heels, so that
when Thunderbolt wanted to come to town for provisions, an extra section
of iron could be joined in at the back of the shoe, making it a complete
oval. This scheme was devised to confuse the trackers employed by the
police. One of these shoes is
in Smith’s Museum at Tingha.
In 1875, James had acquired, by conditional
purchase, at least 140 acres of land, which he sold 10 years later to a
grazier neighbour for £210.
In 1885, he was also recorded as holding 800 acres at Black Mountain, with
three horses, five cattle, and 460 sheep.
The Gaffey area of northern New South Wales
This village had already suffered one
boom-and-bust before James and his family arrived there around 1900, and
big changes had already taken place to establish a stannite mine employing
150 men. No trace remains
today of Howell, established originally under the name of
Bora Creek, which sprang up to support the mining of silver, lead, copper
and zinc at the Conrad Mine. The
small village grew into a “roisterous little town”.
The stannite mine at
Despite his having owned or occupied parcels of land at Black
Mountain, Bundarra, and Bingara, James became a general labourer at
Howell, and since the main source of employment in the area from 1900
onwards was at the stannite mine, it’s probable James worked at the mine
before going on the old age pension.
One of James’ daughters, Elva, married Raymond
Skippen, the son of a local businessman, Nat Skippen. Nat Skippen owned
Howell’s big two-storey hotel, where Raymond worked as a barman.
Nat Skippen also had an interest in the Conrad Mine, and given the
possibility of some insider knowledge, it’s not too surprising that he
sold the hotel in the year before the mine went into liquidation.
Considering that nothing exists there today
(2000), it’s hard to believe that 100 years earlier, Howell boasted two
general stores, two butchers’ shops, two bakers’ shops, cafés,
barbers, a blacksmith and its own local newspaper.
After the collapse of the mine, the tiny village dwindled, with
most residents (and, in many cases. their weatherboard houses) moving onto
the more resilient town of Tingha, 20 kilometres away. However, James and his family stayed on in Howell.
James suffered a cerebral haemorrhage in April 1917 and died three days later in Inverell hospital.
He had outlived all his brothers: the original pioneer Patrick
dying first in 1901. It appears Bernard had moved to Sydney, where the death of
a Bernard Gaffey is recorded at
The surveyed town of Howell, with cobbled
streets, and houses for 1500 people, can barely be found now
(2002)– only the
occasional garden shrub and fruit tree, pile and brick and rubbish heap
remain as reminders of Inverell’s “Broken Hill”.
(right) The Gaffey family graves at the cemetery at Bundarra in northern New South Wales
There are various conflicting versions of James' birthdate::
Birth certificate for his daughter Margaret gives his age as 36 in
Gravestone inscription (Bundarra cemetery)
James’ death certificate
Shipping records (James' age on arrival in Sydney in 1860 given as
 Information from Mrs. Jean McDonnell of Ettalong, Irish Families in Australia and New Zealand Rev. Vol 2 Eades-Lyttle 1788-1985 ed by Coffey & Morgan. Vol 2, page 55
 Death certificate of James Gaffey.
Parish Baptismal Records, Ireland
James’ death certificate
NSW Govt. Archives. Index to
assisted immigrants arriving Sydney and Newcastle 1844-1859, (1860-1890?)
NSW Marriage Certificate (James & Margaret)
James Gaffey's death certificate
Transfer of Conditional Purchase, Book 341, No 574, 1885, Inverell.
 Claire Scholfield, Bundarra: Stepping Stone of the Gwydir, Schofield, Inverell, 1979
 Mary Ann’s death certificate