Ignatius Keogh came from an old and respectable family in Taughmaconnell, County Roscommon where they owned land at a time when only 11% of Ireland was owned by Irish Catholics. He worked for the Government, under the patronage of Lord Castlerea, and claimed (in a letter that his survived) to have had a role in supressing the uprising at the time of the French landing at Killala in 1798. It was probably here that he sustained a fractured skull which was treated by covering it with a silver plate, that he took to his grave (and later enabled identification of his grave when the cemetery was relocated).
Keogh held the position of Barracks Master at Gort for 21 years, the most settled period of his life. He married (1) Celia Keary from Co Galway in c.1800. She died young, leaving one surviving child, Mary. He then became engaged to (2) Frances Arabella French (c1790-1862), daughter of Col Jeremiah French and descendant of the Frenches of French Park, Co Roscommon. She successfully sued Keogh in July 1813 for Breach of Promise and was awarded £2000 damages plus costs. They married in c.1813, perhaps as the only way he could settle his debt to her. They had 7 children together.
The Keoghs fell on particularly hard times after Ignatius suddenly lost his position in Gort in 1824, supposedly for giving overnight refuge in the Barracks to a destitute Irish family. They moved to 45 Henry Street, Dublin and Ignatius unsuccessfully pursued his unfair dismissal, requesting an explanation for the cessation of his salary, and stating that there had been no complaints against him in his 21 years of faithful service. His appeal was referred to the Duke of Wellington who was in charge of Ordnance, but the Duke is said to have annotated the letter with an unsympathetic comment about the “feckless Irish”.
There followed a protracted inheritance court case brought by other family members wanting their share of the family's unprofitable farming land (the tenants were not paying their rents). The legal fees alone crippled him. Keogh was in Marshalsea debtors' prison in Dublin for at least 2 years in the early 1830s, from where he wrote ever more desperate letters appealing for help. In May 1833 he made a widely reported suicide attempt. Soon after this episode, Keogh appears to have found a way to clear his debts and gain his release form Marshalsea debtors' prison.
In the late 1830s, Ignatius and Frances Keogh made the difficult decision to leave Ireland to enable their family to make a fresh start in Australia. They were most likely hoping for better prospects in the new colony for their three youngest sons and for their three unmarried daughters who were unlikely to find a respectable husband in Ireland now that there was the taint of 'insanity' in the family after their father's suicide attempt. Various correspondence has survived, showing that Ignatius was settling his affairs and selling family property, with the help of his oldest son William, who was to stay in Ireland. Migrating across the world to start again was a huge undertaking for a man of nearly 70, but with hindsight a very wise decision. He could not have known that Ireland was soon to plunge into years of famine and widespread destitution.
They sailed from Plymouth 16 October 1840 on the Sir Charles Forbes, a Bounty ship that gave free passage to several of the family. Ignatius age 69, his wife Frances age 52, and the two younger boys, Michael 14 and Edmund 11, did not meet the age requirements for the Bounty System and would have had to pay their own passage at steerage rates. The sponsored immigrants in the family were Mary who was listed as a dressmaker, Margaret who was listed as a cook, and Julia who was listed as a general servant. John, who had a club foot was listed as a gardener, unlike the majority of males on board who were listed as labourers. There is no evidence that any of the female Keoghs ever worked in these occupations, before or after arriving in Australia, so it seems it was merely a means to obtain free passage.
The Keogh family arrived at Port Phillip on 21 January 1841 when Melbourne was still a small settlement, 10 years before the gold rush started. The census of 21 March 1841 shows a population of 4,479 in Melbourne, in 769 houses. Around 12% were Roman Catholics like the Keoghs. Ignatius purchased land in Russell Street, and in February 1842 he purchased 20 acres of land at Merri Creek.
The three unmarried daughters all married well. On 10 June 1841, Margaret married James Mackey Seward, Chief Clerk of the Master in Equity. On 16 January 1843, Mary married Joseph L’Estrange, a wealthy solicitor and local patron of the arts. On 9 October 1848, Julia married businessman Peter MacKillop, uncle to Mary Mackillop (Saint Mary of the Cross). The three sons who came to Australia all became successful businessmen. John served on the Box Hill Council in several capacities.
Ignatius Keogh died on 19 July 1851, age 79, and his wife Frances died on 6 May 1862 age 72 years.
|Date of Birth||1772 (circa)|
|Date of Death||19th Jun 1851||VIEW SOURCE|
|Father (First Name/s and Surname)||Anthony Keogh (c1747-1799)|
|Mother (First Name/s and Maiden)||Margaret French (?-1819), daughter of Ignatius French of Carrarea, Co Galway.|
|Number of Siblings||9|
|Names of Siblings||Ignatius , Colin, Anthony, Honora Elizabeth, Margaret, Anne, Julia, Sabina, Valentine Frances and Maria (all born circa 1772-1786)|
|Spouse (First Name/s and Maiden/Surname)||(1) Celia Keary, married c.1800 (2) Frances Arabella French, married c. 1813|
|Names of Children||Mary Keogh (c.1806-1866) Margaret Honora Keogh (c.1814-1890) Anthony Keogh (c.1815-1861) William Keogh (c.1820-1891?) Julia Elizabeth Keogh (1822-1889) John Valentine Keogh (1824-1891) Michael Keogh (1826-1874) Edmund Keogh (1829-1901)|
|Place of Death||Melbourne, Victoria, Australia||VIEW SOURCE|