An Old Paradian’s interest in pursuing his late mother’s ancestry has led him to the discovery of kindred connections with the Eureka rebellion 166 years ago.
John Abrahams, having already known the lineage of his father the former Fitzroy footballer Owen Abrahams sen., recently sought to explore the line of his mother Margaret Abrahams (nee Driscoll) who died in August 2017.
“I was specifically interested in Mum’s mother’s side. She was born a Ryan – Mary Ryan who died relatively young - and while Mum had a great interest in family history none of us knew much about the Ryans,” John said.
“Mum’s grandfather Edward Ryan had an older sister Bridget who lived in Kensington Hill. In 1898 Bridget married James Carroll, the grandson of Patrick Carroll, a Geelong-based cartage contractor.”
But that was only half the story. For it was Patrick and his son Michael Carroll, then a boy of 12, who ferried the wounded miners’ leader Peter Lalor from Ballarat to Geelong in a horse and dray through three days and nights after the famous uprising against colonial officers in December 1854.
“The Carrolls lived in Geelong, but had a key role in the events immediately following the Eureka uprising,” John said.
“Patrick, who seemed to be a bit of an entrepreneur, headed to Ballarat in the horse and dray with Michael to rescue Peter Lalor who’d been shot in the arm in the fight between the police and the miners.”
Michael Carroll is pictured below waving the Eureka flag at the 50th anniversary of the miners' rebellion in 1904.
Patrick, who is also pictured here in later life, told a newspaper reporter that on arriving in Ballarat he was asked by the wife of one of the miners if his son could deliver an important letter for a friend who was laid up in a nearby tent.
“She asked me in, and on a stretcher lay Peter Lalor, with a large dish of water by his side, engaged in washing his shoulder,” Patrick said. “He explained that he had been wounded in the riots, and that he wished to get to Geelong. He gave me a letter addressed to Miss Dunn, who was head teacher at St Mary’s school at Geelong … I delivered the letter at Geelong, and then conveyed a reply to Lalor.
“He then asked me to conceal him in my wagon among the merchandise, and convey him to Geelong for safety. I agreed to do so, and although aware of the great risk I ran in harbouring a man for whom the Government had put a price of £500 for his head, dead or alive, I landed him safely in Geelong, and for a week concealed him in my own house in Kirk place, off Little Malop Street.
“But this was found to be rather public, and he was taken away to a quieter locality by Miss Dunn, until the affair blew over and things became quiet once more.”
John acknowledged the assistance of this reporter, an interested family history researcher, in helping him identify the Carroll connection – and with it a story not previously known to him or the Abrahams family.
In recently paying his respects at the 121 year-old grave of Patrick and those of the Ryan ancestors at Geelong’s Eastern Cemetery, John confessed to a bittersweet feeling.
“My mother would have loved to have been there today, as she had a great interest in family history and didn’t know of her family’s connection with the Carrolls,” John said.
“The grave of Patrick Carroll is an old grave with metal reinforcement around it and there is an historical marker acknowledging his involvement with Eureka. Patrick is a significant branch that can now be included on Mum’s side of the family tree.”
There’s a lovely postscript to this story. In researching the Ryan line, John also learned of the existence of an Alice Ryan – a name he conveyed to his nephew Simon whose wife was expecting their first child.
“The conversation went something like ‘Do you like the name Alice? It was your great grandmother’s middle name’ – and the reply was ‘Alice isn’t too bad. I’ll run it by the boss’,” John said.
“Subsequently a little girl was born and the name she was given was Alice Margaret Abrahams.”
images: Old Paradians' Association, ancestry.com.au and Ballarat Heritage Services Picture Collection