Patrick Cain (c.1825-1881) and Elizabeth Skeggs (1838-1894)

(Our great great great grandparents)
This page was researched by Phillip Dwyer unless otherwise indicated.

Patrick Cain was born around 1825 in, according to his marriage registration, Carrickmacross, County Monaghan. He was the (probably) second son of Hugh Cain and Honora Donaghue.

Samuel Lewis described Carrickmacross in 1837, just four years after Patrick and his family left there:

…a market and post-town, and a parish, in the barony of Farney, county of Monaghan, and province of Ulster, 20 miles (S. E. by S.) from Monaghan, and 40 (N. W. by N.) from Dublin; containing 12,610 inhabitants, of which number, 2970 are in the town. This place derives its name from its situation on a rock and from one of its early proprietors, and is the only town in the barony. The barony was granted by Queen Elizabeth to the Earl of Essex, who resided in the castle here...

The town is situated on the mail coach road from Dublin to Londonderry, and consists of one principal street, with some smaller streets or lanes branching from it; and contains about 560 houses, many of which are of respectable appearance. A considerable retail trade is carried on with the surrounding country; and soap, candles, brogues, and coarse hats, are manufactured in the town, in which there are also a tanyard, a brewery (employing 100 men), and a distillery. Distillation was carried on here to a considerable extent before the Union, for 20 years, after which it very much declined; but, in 1823, a large distillery was erected, which makes 200,000 gallons of spirits annually, consuming in the manufacture about 25,000 barrels of grain, including malt, which is made in the town.

The general market is held on Thursday, and one for corn on Wednesday and Saturday: the number of pigs exposed for sale at the market, during the season, is very great; they are principally purchased by dealers from Dundalk, Newry, and Belfast, for exportation. Fairs are held on May 27th, July 10th, Sept. 27th, Nov. 9th, and Dec. 10th; those in May and December, the latter of which is for fat cattle, are the largest. The market-house stands in the centre of the main street, and was built out of the ruins of the castle. Petty sessions are held every alternate week; and here are a constabulary police station and a county bridewell on a small scale, but containing the necessary accommodation for the separation of prisoners.

The parish, which is also called Magheross, contains, according to the Ordnance survey, l6,702 ¼ statute acres, including 299 of water; 15,068 acres are applotted under the tithe act, and there is a great quantity of bog. In the vicinity of the town are several limekilns, and the land has been greatly improved by the extensive use of lime as a manure... Coal exists, but is not worked at present; but good limestone and freestone are quarried for building.
[Lewis, Samuel. A Topographical Dictionary of Ireland (1837) –]


Elizabeth Skeggs was born at Dugdale Hill (near Potter’s Bar), Middlesex on 10 June 1838, the only daughter of Richard Skeggs and Susannah Keep. She was baptized on 8 July 1838 in nearby South Mimms, Middlesex. In the 1841 England Census she and her family were living in Fryern Barnet, Middesex.

Both Patrick and Elizabeth emigrated as children with their families to Van Diemen’s Land. Patrick arrived in 1833 aged around 8 years aboard the Eliza, although by 1837 the family had relocated to the new settlement at Port Phillip. Elizabeth came to Van Diemen’s Land aged 2 years aboard the Orleana in 1841, arriving in Hobart on 4 July 1842 with 276 immigrants on board. Read immigration office report. The family settled in Great Swanport, now the Swansea area of eastern Tasmania. It is not known when, or under what circumstances Elizabeth came to Melbourne. She is not mentioned in the Tasmania Index to Departures 1817-1867.

An obituary for Patrick Cain published in Kilmore in 1881 has some information about his early life in Victoria:

Mr. Patrick Cain…was the first person to drive a flock of sheep to Kilmore. At the time, 1837…Cain…was a new arrival from Tasmania, was only about fourteen years of age. Soon after arrival here, [he] entered into an apprenticeship as builder in Melbourne with Mr. W.H. Budd, now of Wallan Wallan, and during his long career in the colony was remarkable for his steadiness and industry. We are given to understand Mr. Cain was the first white man who came to this portion of the country…
[Kilmore Free Press, Thursday 5 May 1881]


The obituary does not make mention of what may have been a less upright side to the young Patrick Cain’s character.

Following an Irish sectarian riot in Melbourne on the night of 13-14 July 1846, Hugh Cain and Patrick Cain, among others, were charged with “carrying fire-arms and assembling for unlawful purpose within the town of Melbourne”, having “come out of the house of [Michael McNamara]… armed with guns and shot belts”, although the prosecuting Constable “could not swear that the guns were loaded”. Hugh Cain junior was also charged with being “assembled for an unlawful purpose”.

Given that Hugh senior and Patrick Cain are both known to have been members of the St. Patrick’s Society of Australia Felix, which became increasingly an Irish nationalist organisation, and the fact that they were all together involved in the riot, it is very likely that these were our Hugh and Patrick, with the Hugh junior being Patrick’s (probably) elder brother.

There were also a number of incidents in Melbourne between 1848 and 1867 of violence involving someone called Patrick Cain. The first was in March 1848. This newspaper report is noteworthy for its anti-Irish, arguably racist stereotyping:

Alleged Brutality. – On Tuesday that remarkably nice young man [sarcasm?] Mr. Patrick Cain, was brought before the police bench charged with having created a disturbance between two and three o’clock in the morning, in Little Bourke-street, he had also been detected indulging in the amusement peculiar to his countrymen of kicking and striking a man whilst on the ground. Mr. Cain indignantly repudiated the latter unmanly act, the fact was, he said, he had lately become a householder, and was standing at his own door in a “peaceable” manner as any other “jintleman” might be, when his next door neighbour the keeper of a house of very bad repute, came up and struck him a violent blow in the mouth, and this being an unprovoked attack, Cain immediately returned the compliment by knocking him down. No prosecutor being in attendance Cain was discharged with an intimation that for so un-English an act as kicking or striking a man while down, he might expect no mercy should such ever be proved against him.
[The Melbourne Argus, Friday 24 March 1848, p.2]


In June 1849 another violent incident was reported:

Assault. – Patrick Cain was brought before the police court yesterday, on a warrant charging him with assaulting a man named Edward Hurley on Saturday night last. It appeared that the complainant was a lodger at the “Britannia Hotel”, kept by Mr. Michel, and that an intimacy existed between the female servant and Cain; at a late hour on the above night the defendant went into the kitchen, and seeing Hurley and the female sitting tete a tete, the “green-eyed monster” took possession of him and he attacked his rival with great violence. A scuffle took place, and blood would have been shed, but for the prompt exertions of Mr. Michel, who rescued Hurley and gave Cain into custody. The bench fined Cain 40s. for the assault. Hurley applied for a peace warrant against Cain, but on the latter expressing his contrition, the complainant did not press his application. 
[The Argus, Thursday 28 June 1849, p.2]


In July 1857:

Patrick Cain, Wm. Cain, and John Carroll were charged before the Resident Magistrate with various acts of a disorderly nature: assaulting the police, obscene language, and rescuing prisoners in Bourke-street a little past twelve o’clock on Sunday morning. Wm. Cain and John Carroll were fined £5 each, or one month’s imprisonment, and Patrick Cain was fined £2. 
[The Argus, Tuesday 14 July 1857, p. 5]


In November 1867 during more Irish sectarian rioting:

…A man passing at the time was pointed out as an Orangeman, and a rush was immediately made towards him, some one striking him down. Whilst on the ground he was most brutally assaulted, and it was with difficulty the police succeeded in rescuing him. The mob became so demonstrative that the police found it necessary to procure a cab and convey him to the watch house in safety. As he was stepping in to the cab a man named Patrick Caine came up to him and struck him a violent blow on the eye. Caine was promptly seized by police and locked up for committing a breach of the peace. On the way to the lock up a large party followed the cab, hooting and yelling, and it was with difficulty the prisoner and his victim were got in the police station, the mob attempting to rush the place when the door was opened to admit the police.
[Gippsland Times, Saturday 30 November 1867, p.3]


Cain was “admonished and discharged” the same day.

Whether these four incidents were our Patrick Cain is open to conjecture. For most there is nothing in the reports to prove it either way. In the July 1857 report, however, there is a link with a William Caine who may well have been the son of Hugh and Honora Cain born in 1834.

One newspaper report is definitely our Patrick Cain, since it identifies him by occupation:

Charge of Cruelty to a Dog. – Patrick Cain, a fireman of the City Brigade, was brought up on this charge. Sergeant Pewtress proved that on Sunday, when at the watchhouse, he had a pointer dog with him. The animal strayed round into the corporation yard of the Town-hall, where he heard it shortly after howling with pain. Its leg had been broken by a stone thrown at it, and prisoner admitted having thrown it. The Bench considered that, as it appeared from defendant’s statement that he had thrown the stone merely with the intention of driving the dog away, the charge of cruelty would not hold, and prosecutor was referred to seek his remedy by action for damages. 
[The Argus, Tuesday 20 December 1864, p.6]


Patrick Cain married a Rose McCarthy in Melbourne in 1851, and they had two children, Mary Anne and Jane. Rose died in 1862, and both of the children of the marriage had also died by the time Patrick re-married in 1864.

Patrick married Elizabeth Skeggs on 7 June 1864 at the United Presbyterian church in Napier Street, Fitzroy. Patrick was aged around 38 years, and Elizabeth was aged 25 years. They had five children together:

Although his obituary mentions being apprenticed to a builder, at the time of his marriage to Elizabeth Skeggs Patrick Cain’s occupation was shown as tinsmith. A few months after that he was a fireman. His obituary says that he was “one of the oldest members of the Melbourne Fire Brigade”, and it was clearly a dangerous occupation:

A commotion was caused in Collins-street, on 7th inst., shortly after noon, by the discovery that the roof of the dining-room of the Criterion hotel was on fire. The City Brigade, under Superintendent Hoad, were soon in attendance…Soon after another fireman, Patrick Cain, narrowly escaped destruction; he was playing the water through a window, when a wall fell, he saving himself by jumping through the window into the room. On his reappearance covered with mud and dust he was greeted by great cheering by the crowd, the only damage he had sustained being the loss of his helmet. 
[The Mercury (Hobart), Friday 11 June 1869, p.4]


Interestingly, his son William’s marriage details from 1887 show Patrick’s occupation as tinsmith, suggesting that he may have continued that trade as well. His probate papers in fact refer to his trade as firemen with “and tinsmith” pencilled in.

Elizabeth Skeggs’ occupation at the time of her marriage was “domestic servant”. One researcher of the Skeggs family believes that Elizabeth had a millinery shop at 248 Coventry Street, South Melbourne (see below). This is likely correct, since Ada (Cain) Skeggs (she married her first cousin - see photos above) was living at that address in 1903, although her occupation is shown as “home duties”. The millinery business may have been sold or otherwise ceased before or soon after Elizabeth’s death.

Elizabeth Cain's shop in MelbourneElizabeth Cain's memorial cardElizabeth Cain

The photos and funeral card above were sent to us by a descendent of Thomas Skeggs, one of Elizabeth's brothers. All of them were provided to him by members of his extended family and he does not doubt their authenticity at all. Elizabeth had a Millinery shop at 248 Coventry Street, South Melbourne (pictured above left). It has since been demolished. He believes the photo above on the right is of Elizabeth.

Patrick and Elizabeth's gravePatrick and Elizabeth's grave
Patrick's grave. We believe the inscription on the gravestone reads "CAIN Erected by Elizabeth Cain In memory of her husband Patrick Cain died 17 Apr 1881 age 56 yrs also Hugh Thomas their eldest son died 29 May 1865 age 10 mths also Rosena his first wife age 26 yrs" (from records at the Melbourne general cemetery)

Photos by Phillip Dwyer March 2014.


Patrick Cain died aged 56 in his home at 201 Bourke Street west, Melbourne, on 27 April 1881. The cause given as “Organic disease of heart, liver and lungs”. He was buried at Melbourne General Cemetery two days later. His will dated 14 January 1881 leaves his estate valued at around £1,080 to his wife Elizabeth, on her death to de distributed equally to his surviving children.

Elizabeth (Skeggs) Cain died aged 55, also at 201 Bourke Street west, on  26 January 1894.

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