James Ramsdale (1838-1872) and Mary Meagher (1836-1912)

Our great-great grandparents

James Ramsdale was born in Eccles Lancashire in April 1838, the ninth child and second son of John Ramsdale and Alice Heyes. He was baptised at Eccles on 6 May 1838.

James Ramsdale was living with his parents at Barton Moss railway station in 1851, aged 12. By 1861 he had emigrated to Victoria, although the exact time and circumstances of his voyage there are unknown. He did not accompany his older brother John on the Spray of the Ocean in 1856, when he was 18 years of age, so presumably he arrived some time between 1856 and 1860 when he was in his late teens or early twenties.1

Mary Meagher, according to her marriage record, was born in County Limerick around 1836, the daughter of Michael Meagher and Catherine O’Brien. No baptism or other details of her early life are known.

The timing and circumstances of Mary Meagher’s voyage to Australia are also unknown. Given her documented details – birth year and place, and year of marriage to James Ramsdale – she could have arrived in Australia any time between 1836 and 1860. Among the assisted immigrants to Port Phillip from 1839 to 1861 there is no Mary Meagher (or variant such as Maher) who was from Limerick and of the correct age (+/-3 years).2

There are a number of unassisted immigrant Mary Meaghers of approximately the right age arriving in Port Phillip  between 1853 and 1860 – relevant ships by year are: 1853 – Earl Grey and Bloomer; 1857 – Mindoro; 1858 – John and Lucy; 1859 – Monica; 1860 – Hope. Available documents have not recorded the native place or parents of the immigrants, so it has not been possible to ascertain if any of these were from Limerick.

James and Mary married at St. Mary’s Church in Kyneton Victoria on 1 April 1861. They had six sons:

  1. John (1862-1928) – known as Jack, he married Ellen Boyle at Kyneton in 1893 and they had three children together before Ellen’s death in 1899: James (b.1893), Francis (b.1895) and William John (b.1898). John was caretaker of the market yards at Kyneton, although he lived at Carlsruhe. He died in 1828 and was buried at Kyneton.
  2. Christopher James (1864-1945) – never married. He was for some time caretaker of the Kyneton Showgrounds and lived there during that period.  He died on 27 April 1945 aged 81.
  3. William Charles ( our ancestor - 1865-1941)
  4. Thomas (1866-1867) – died in infancy.
  5. Thomas (1868-1869) – died in infancy.
  6. Francis Meagher (1871-1894) – never married. He died at Carlsruhe on 8 October 1894 aged only 23 and was buried at Kyneton three days later.

James was shown as labourer at the time of his marriage, although his occupation was also shown in other documents as contractor, mill worker and wood carter. The family lived at Carlsruhe, where James had two half acre paddocks granted to him in 1868.

Carlsruhe, on the banks of the Campaspe River about 6½ kilometers southeast of Kyneton, was first settled as a sheep run in 1837. The town was established in the 1850s and the railway arrived there in 1862. A 1935 map of Carlsruhe shows land still owned by a Ramsdale in the north eastern corner of the town.

James Ramsdale died on 23 February 1872 after a fall from his horse two days earlier. A coroner’s inquest into James’ death was held on 24 February, after which he was buried the same day at Kyneton Cemetery (no marker survives). The inquest outlined the sequence of events that led to James’ death:

A little after 2pm on Wednesday 21 February James arrived at a hotel owned by John Clark at Trentham (about 21 kilometers south of Kyneton) where he had two glasses of brandy. Clark said that James left the hotel after 3pm “under the influence of drink but quite capable of taking care of himself”, but when James came back asking for more brandy Clark refused him and James left on horseback. James’ brother-in-law Jeremiah McGrath (husband of Anne Ramsdale), who was with him at Clark’s hotel, said that James “was not sober and I advised him not to go”.

At around 7.30pm James arrived at the hotel of Noah Turner at Tylden (about 11 kilometers south of Kyneton), where he had more brandy and left alone on horseback ten minutes later to return home to Carlsruhe. Turner said that James was sober when he arrived, and still sober when he left.

James seems to have also stopped at Cain’s Hotel, about 1½ kilometers from Tylden where he had another drink. Only about one hundred yards from Cain’s Hotel James fell or was thrown from his horse and lay where he fell all night.

James was found early on the following morning, Thursday 22 February, by an unknown passer-by who went to the nearby house of Benjamin Blight and sought his assistance before going to catch a train “in a great hurry”. Blight reported that James was lying on his back with a wound on his forehead, and that he could not understand what James said. Having sought further assistance, Blight and others removed James to Cain’s Hotel.

Meanwhile Jeremiah McGrath had left Trentham on that Thursday morning and found James’ saddled but riderless horse two miles along the road. McGrath caught the horse and went on to the Turner Hotel at Tylden where he heard that James had been there the previous night. He then called in at the Cain’s Hotel where he found James “lying on the floor in the taproom quite insensible” and left alone, Cain being in the adjoining bar. James was taken to Kyneton hospital in a spring cart owned by his business partner, Thomas Waters, arriving there at about 1.30pm.

Dr. William Langford reported to the inquest:
The deceased was admitted…suffering from a contused wound on the forehead and symptoms of concussion. Towards evening he became better but next morning symptoms of paraplegia came on, the breathing being laboured & slow. Then convulsions came on and he died about 4pm…Judging from the symptoms I should say there was effusion of blood going on at the base of the brain probably accompanied by fracture at the base of the skull.

The Kyneton Observer published the hearing of the inquest.

The finding of the inquest was that:

…he died in Kyneton Hospital on the twenty third day of February 1872 from fracture of the base of the skull caused by an accidental fall from his horse but that there is not insufficient evidence to show whether he was intoxicated at the time.

The death was reported in the Kyneton Observer of 24 February 1872, although some of the details vary from the evidence presented later the same day at the inquest:

JAMES RAMSDALE on Thursday morning was found cold and insensible on the Trentham road. He was engaged on contract near Lavers Saw-Mill. He left the mill at 8pm and joined some friends who all drank together.

The deceased resolved to return to Kyneton though requested not to do so. Mounted his horse and drove away considerably the worse for drink. On the following morning he was found as described and his horse was not with him. He was conveyed to Kyneton Hospital, and after a time recovered consciousness. His skull was fractured and he was otherwise injured. He was later seized with convulsions and died yesterday between 3 and 4pm.

The inquest will be held today.

The deceased leaves a wife and four children unprovided for.

Just under a year later, on 21 January 1873, the widowed Mary married James Liston (1836-1888), a neighbouring Carlsruhe farmer, at Kyneton. Liston was a native of Glasgow and himself a widower with no children. Mary and Liston had one daughter together at Carlsruhe, Sarah Anne (1873-1937). James Liston died at Carlsruhe in 1888.

In 1891 Sarah Liston married a David Glascott at Kyneton, and they had one child, James, born at Kyneton in 1895. After James Glascott’s birth, the couple relocated to southern New South Wales, where they lived at The Rock, Berrigan and Lockhart. David seems to have been at Berrigan by 1901, when a D. Glascott was recorded there in the NSW census. Sarah’s half-brother William James (“Jim”) Ramsdale is reported by his niece, Ethel Ramsdale, to have lived with the Glascotts.

In her final years, Mary Meagher (Liston) also went to New South Wales to live with the Glascott family and died at Lockhart in 1912, aged 76.


1 There is an unassisted migrant named James Ramsay, aged 23 (so out by two years), who arrived in Melbourne in August 1859 aboard the Vater Smidt that might be a possibility if the surname was incorrectly recorded or transcribed. This is a bit of a stretch though.

2 There are two assisted immigrants named “Mary Maher” of about the right age and from County Limerick who arrived in Sydney, but in both cases the parents’ names are listed and do not match.


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