Croan townland fields, where the Gaffeys farmed
The fields in Croan townland, where the Gaffey family farmed.
Mary Torley (1803-1861)

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Line of Descent to Joan Gaffey

Mary Torley
(Great grandmother)

James Gaffey

Thomas Gaffey

Joan Gaffey

1803 [1] ,[2]

Mayobridge, nr Newry, County Down, Ireland 1820-1850s,[3] Bilston, Staffordshire (bef 1857)[4]

1861, Bilston, Staffordshire.

Daniel GAFFEY (17 September, 1825, Newry Catholic church)

Patrick GAFFEY ( c1827-1901)
William GAFFEY (1828 - be. 1841)
Daniel GAFFEY (1835-1916
Mary Ann GAFFEY (1840-1863/64)
William GAFFEY (1841-1913)
James GAFFEY (1844–1917), married Margaret Berryman, 1862, Bundarra
Bernard GAFFEY (1847-1910)

In the 19th century, England's "Black Country" in the West Midlands, near Birmingham, earned that unflattering name through the soot and pollution which covered the area from the heavy industries and coal mines clustered in and around its major towns.

One of those towns, Bilston, has been said to have epitomised the "dirty, uncultured, unloveable Black Country", and part of Bilston earned an appalling reputation as a "hard-hit fever nest". One historian described Quarry street as[5]

"Lying below the level of the High Street, filthy water was regularly washed down (...) made worse by the close confinement of individuals in tightly-packed houses.

" ..... The whole place is a filthy dilapidation, pestilential as the Valley of Death, disgusting as the rotting corpse of a diseased drunkard [in] narrow, noisome courts opening out into alleys, covered ways and little fetid squares [Birmingham Daily Post, 7th June 1866].

And this was the very street, Quarry Street, where our ancestor, Mary Gaffey (nee Torley), lived and died in 1861, migrating there after the death of her husband Daniel in Ireland.

From Mary’s death certificate, we know she was born about 1803  – where is unknown, but she lived most of her adult life in a rural area near Newry, County Down in Ulster. The Torley/Turley name is common in the area around Newry and the parish of Clonallen, but given the paucity of Catholic Church registers of the time, her baptism record unsurprisingly hasn't been located.

Mary and husband Daniel lived the life of poor tenant farmers just two kilometres from the village of Mayobridge, where they raised their family of six boys and one girl (one boy, the first William, appears to have died in the 1830s). The remaining children survived the deprivations of the Potato Famine of the 1840s – but husband Daniel probably died in the 1850s (again, no records have been found so far) - maybe as a victim of the infamous Potato Famine of 1845-1852.

It’s likely Mary was widowed when she was in her late 40/early 50s, as on her eldest son Patrick’s 1857 Australian immigration papers, his father was listed as "Dead, and Mother living at Bellstone [Bilston], Stafford". Mary had by then followed Patrick o England to be with a relative, John Torley,[6] after the death of her husband. She then moved with her younger sons to the Quarry street area, which, as described above, was hardly salubrious.

Mary’s older children, led by Patrick who settled in Australia in 1858, had set about making new lives for themselves in a new world– so Mary decided to join them. Her immigration, and that of 20 year old Daniel and 15 year old Bernard had been sponsored by Patrick who had established himself in the colony. He had earlier brought out his brothers William and James, and also planned to bring out his sister, Mary Ann, but she stayed in England and married there. His mother's character references for immigration were supplied by Pastor James Terry & John Torley, watchmaker, of Oxford street, Bilston, Staffordshire, England.

While Mary, Daniel and Bernard waited to set sail for New South Wales, they lived at 2 Quarry Street, Bilston, where, just before Christmas, in 1861, Mary was struck down by typhoid fever and influenza, dying on December 21st. Her substandard living conditions would have contributed significantly to her ill health - risk  factors for typhoid include limited access to clean drinking water, and poor sanitation. 

[1] NSW Govt. Archives. Index to assisted immigrants arriving Sydney and Newcastle 1844-1859 - however, there was an age limit of 50 for assisted immigrants, so probably Mary's age of 50 at the time of the application was misleading.
[2] Mary’s death certificate at Bilston, in Staffordshire, is hard to read - her age at death in 1861 may have been with 53 or 58.
[3] Clonallan Parish Records (baptisms)
[4] Persons on Bounty Ships (Board's Immigrant List), 1857
[5] Simon Briercliffe,
[6] The 1851 Census gives a listing for John Torley, clockmaker, and his wife Bridget, both aged 55 and born in Ireland, living 32 Oxford Street, Bilston