MARY McKILLOP - THE SAINTLY PORT PHILLIP PIONEER


[Mary McKillop]

Our Mary, many Australians are calling Mary McKillop - but we Port Phillip Pioneer members have two reasons to honestly call her "Our Mary," as indeed, she was a true Port Phillip Pioneer, by her birth in the Port Phillip District. More about Mary shortly, but for now, we move back to her parents, also our Pioneers. Mary's parents lived in Scotland in the Lochaber area of Inverness in the Highlands. Alexander McKillop who was born on 21 January 1812, had been studying for the priesthood, firstly in Scotland and then Rome. As fate would have it, his health forced him to return home and surrender his vocation. To avoid the embarrassment, disappointment and possible disgrace following such a decision Alexander decided to travel to Australia for a fresh start in life. It has been stated that, "His parents left the Catholic Highlands in 1835 and took Alexander with them to find a new life in Australia, arriving on the "Brilliant" in 1838." However a quick look at the shipping records has an Archibald McKillop, correctly aged 26, an unmarried schoolteacher and travelling with him was a Donald McKillop, aged 30, a farm servant. There is no mention of Alexander's parents.

The "Brilliant" arrived in Sydney on 24 January 1838. Another two McKillops to arrive about the same time were Donald McKillop, aged 34, aboard the "Boyne" on 2 January 1839 and John Mckillop aged 56 on the "British King" which arrived on 28 February 1839.

Alexander, or should that be "Archibald," maintained his spirituality by attending prayer services in Melbourne's first Catholic chapel in Peter Bodecin's home, which was situated in Collins Street West, while the Catholic community waited their first Catholic priest in the new town.

Mary's mother, Flora Hannah McDonald was born at Glen Roy in Scotland on 11 June 1816 and arrived in the Port Phillip District on the "Glen Huntly" on 17 April 1840. There were three other McDonalds travelling with Flora, namely Alexander, Catherine and Donald, but were they related, presumably or maybe?

Flora and Alexander quickly caught up with each other after her arrival in Melbourne Town as they were married on the 14th July 1840, the registration No. was 35192 of 1840, barely three months after her arrival. The wedding, conducted at St. Francis Church in Lonsdale Street was in the original temporary structure as the foundation stone of St. Francis was laid on 4 October 1841. It was celebrated by Father Patrick Bonaventure Geoghegan O.F.M., the first Catholic priest to arrive in the Port Phillip District, who was an orphan at the age of 8 years. A Franciscan priest placed him in an orphanage and Patrick finally was ordained a Franciscan priest on 21 February 1830, at Coimbra, Portugal.

The first child of Alexander and Flora was Mary, born 15 January 1842. There are two registrations for her birth, Numbers 94 and 36287. Mary was born in Brunswick Street, Fitzroy, only a few hundred yards from St. Patrick's Cathedral. There is a plaque on the footpath to denote this event. Mary was baptised as "Maria Ellen" on 28 February 1842 but was always called Mary.

Her parents had a further seven children, as follows:-
- Margarite McKillop ( born 25 May 1843; died 13 December 1872 )
- John McKillop ( born 27 February 1845; died 16 December 1867 )
- Alexander McKillop ( born 7 November 1846; died 7 October 1847 )
- Annie McKillop ( born 5 September 1848; died 14 January 1929 )
- Lexie McKillop ( born 17 September 1850; died 30 December 1882 )
- Donald McKillop ( born 27 April 1853; died 2 February 1925 )
- Peter McKillop ( born 26 October 1857; died 23 July 1878 )

Initially the older children wouild have been schooled by their father and instructed in religion as well. He had very prosperous times until he was called upon as a guarantor of a failed business venture. This reduced the family to poverty and great hardship, often changing of their address, which created much instability.

Mary first worked as a governess as she had all those siblings the the experience. After a while Mary gained a position with the stationery firm Sands and Kenny who are now known as Sands and McDougall.

In 1860, when aged 18 years, Mary travelled to Penola in South Australia. She worked as a governess, before starting her saintly life as a nun in 1866. Mary died on 8 August 1909, aged 67 years, in North Sydney, New South Wales.

Contributed by Michael Grogan (PPPG Member No. 1332)


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