In 1852 on the ship “Argyle”, Mary Keleher aged 19 left her native County Clare, Ireland to become one of the first assisted immigrants to arrive directly into Moreton Bay (Brisbane), Qld.1 It was part of a scheme to attract single people to the northern part of the colony to supply labour.2
A year earlier in 1851 a convict called Joseph Dolleur (De Lore) holding a ticket of leave absconded from his designated district of Maitland and was found living in Moreton Bay.3 Dolleur was allowed to remain and eventually had his conditional pardon restored in 1853.4 That same year he married Mary Keleher.
The couple moved with three children to the Williams River and then to the Myall River. After becoming acquainted with John Wright at Bungwahl they travelled to Tuncurry in anticipation of working with him in a timber mill and ship building business. Mary and Joseph had ten children before Joseph passed away in 1879 in the Liverpool Asylum.5 Mary married James Rennie in 1881.6
Mary had the gift of healing and was held in great esteem as she assisted in the births of hundreds of babies. In 1901 the wider Tuncurry community presented her with a purse of sovereigns. “Granny Rennie”, as she was then known, responded by thanking the families through the newspaper listing every mothers’ name and the number of children whose births she had professionally attended.7
Unfortunately in 1908 at her home on Rennie’s Island near Darawank Mary’s clothing caught fire, proving fatal.8 She rests in Forster Cemetery and Rennie Crescent, Tuncurry is named in her honour.9
Authors: Marilyn Boyd and Janine Roberts
1 NSW State Archives & Records, Mary Kelcher [sic], Assisted Immigrants Index 1839-1896. Argyle, 1852, Moreton Bay, Reels 2136, 2463.
2 The Moreton Bay Courier, 17 July 1852, 2.
3 NSW Government Gazette, 16 May 1851 [Issue No.53], 796.
4 Ancestry.com.au, Tickets of Leave, Joseph Doleur [sic], Dec 1849 – Sep1851.
5 NSW BDM, Death Index No. 6349/1879; Dawn McMasters, “Wallis Lake: its rivers and villages”, Tuncurry NSW: Wallamba and District Co-operative Society, 1994.
6 NSW BDM, Marriage Index No. 4628/1881.
7 Manning River Times and Advocate for the Northern Coast Districts of NSW, 21 December 1901, 8.
8 NSW BDM, Death Certificate No. 1908/011497.
9 Manning River Times and Advocate for the Northern Coast Districts of NSW, 20 Sep 1939, 4.