Place of migration:
Migrated to/Born in Australia

Additional Information
Date of Birth 1839 VIEW SOURCE
Date of Death 14th Aug 1913 VIEW SOURCE
Associated Building (s) Scariff Workhouse  
Spouse (First Name/s and Maiden/Surname) Richard Clee Husband  


Wikitree Profile Australia VIEW SOURCE


  • Margaret (McNamara) Clee was born in Ireland.


    Margaret (McNamara) Clee was an Irish famine orphan who emigrated to Australia between 1848-1850.

    In 1849, the Earl Grey Scheme offered girls like Margaret a free passage to New South Wales, and the chance of a new beginning. Margaret was one of 2253 orphan girls on this scheme, who were housed temporarily at the Immigration Depot at Hyde Park Barracks, between 1848 and 1852. Margaret McNamara arrived in Australia on the Thomas Arbuthnot in 1850 (along with 80 girls from Clare at the tender age of 15 with both her parents dead. She was housed at the Hyde Park Barracks before been marched south with other girls to find husbands in many country towns. Margaret's name is on the wall of Hyde Park Barracks on The Australian Monument to the Great Irish Famine and was opened by the President of Ireland. This clip describes what life would have been like on arrival

    Margaret married Richard Clee and went on to have 11 children and died in 1913.

    Throughout the 19th century Ireland saw an exodus of people to all corners of the world especially to the colonies and former colonies governed by the British, in particular to Canada, the United States, and Australia. These countries are often referred to now as the "Irish Diaspora".

    The majority of those who left Ireland during that period for Australia, left because of economic circumstances in Ireland and the lure of a better life. The rebellion of 1798 saw many Irish men transported to the penal colony of New South Wales. Minor famines or ‘subsistence crises’ contributed to numbers leaving over the next forty years, but these numbers were small compared to the numbers who left Irish shores during the Great Famine (1845-1850) and its aftermath.

    Post-Famine Irish immigration to Australia was very significant with some writers claiming that over 30,000 single Irish women alone arrived over a fifteen-year period between 1848 and 1863. In a male dominated society, these numbers altered the demographics of Australia in a very significant way. There are also claims that 30% of Australia’s present population have some Irish blood in their veins. If that is the case, then you may be returning to this site many times in the future.

    The Australian Famine Monument is a memorial to the million or so who died during the Famine period. It is a monument to those who survived and, in a very special way, to the 4114 Famine ‘orphans’ who arrived in Australia under the Earl Grey scheme between 1848 and 1850. It is a monument to their success, and recognises their contribution to the building of this great country. The information on the website mainly RIGINS MAP

    The map gives a quick overview of the numbers of women from workhouses and was complied by Dr Trevor McClaughlin and appears in his book, Barefoot and Pregnant? Irish Famine Orphans in Australia, Volume 2, the Genealogical Society of Victoria, Melbourne, p.79.

    BAREFOOT AND PREGNANT? Irish Famine Orphans in Australia

    Margaret's ship the Thomas Arbuthnot sailed from Plymouth 28 October 1849 to Botany Bay, Sydney 3 February 1850 (master was G H Heaton). Surgeon-Superintendent, Charles Edward Strutt, and Sir Arthur Hodgson both kept diaries. Many of the girls, who had been brought to Australia under the Earl Grey scheme for the emigration of female adolescents from Irish workhouses, married and settled at Yass and Gundagai, New South Wales Australia. Her arrival documents are listed below:

    Surname : McNamara

    First Name : Margaret

    Age on arrival : 15

    Native Place : Scarriff, Clare

    Parents : Michael & Mary (both dead)

    Religion : Roman Catholic

    Ship name : Thomas Arbuthnot (Sydney 1850)

    Workhouse : Clare, Scarriff

    The Scariff Poor Law Union was officially declared in 1839. The Workhouse was opened in 1842 at a cost of £7,450. It was built to house a maximum capacity of 600 inmates. The Scariff Workhouse was built to accomodate people from the areas of Feakle, Killaloe, Killuran, Kilnoe, Mountshannon, Orgunnella, and Scariff in Co. Clare, Clonrush and Woodford in Co. Galway.

    Scariff Workhouse was one of the most over crowded in the country. In 1851 there were 4,121 inmates being housed in the Scariff Workhouse.

    The Scariff Workhouse was burned own by Irish forces in the 1920's, and the site is now occupied by an agricultural supplies company.

    Other : shipping: house servant, cannot read or write, no relatives in colony; emply as house servant by E Long, Gundagai, £7-8, 2 years. Im. Cor. 50/747 Yass; married Richard Clay (Clee) Tumut 25 Dec 1860; 11 children; died Aug 1913.


    Margaret is mentioned in this and

    In 1849, County Clare, Ireland, reached the depths of famine-induced misery and helplessness. Statistics printed in "The Illustrated London News" of January 5, 1850, revealed that a great many people were being kept from starvation in workhouses or by food distributed by workhouses. The series of articles in which these figures appeared were illustrated with drawings of the frightful, poverty-stricken state of the people of west Clare, such as the one entitled "searching for potatoes in a stubble field," in the December 22, 1849 edition that was read in the polite drawing rooms of London and Manchester.

    Among the inmates of Clare's workhouses and those of Galway and Kerry, were a small number of females who were offered new clothes and and opportunity to escape from a seemingly hopeless future. Some of these "orphans" had been placed in the workhouses by one or both parents who were no longer able to feed them but who hoped to reclaim them when they were able. As you are aware, a great many families died of starvation and disease in Ireland during this so-called famine. Shamefully, while the potato crop which made up nearly 100% of the diet of the poor was obliterated overnight by fungus, at the same time great exports of foodstuffs continued to be exported from Ireland to England and the Irish poor were unable to purchase the very food that could have saved them!

    In 1849, the British Land and Emigration Commissioners' scheme to relocate pauper females to Australia had been extended to workhouses. In late October, 1849, 81 girls between the ages of 15 and 18 set out from workhouses in Ennis, Scarriff and Ennistymon for Plymouth, England. There they joined 113 other girls, virtually all of them from workhouses in Galway and Kerry, for a three-month voyage to New South Wales on the "Thomas Arbuthnot." During the long voyage they were looked after by a humane and decent man, Englishman Charles Edward Strutt whose diary has survived all these years, a typewritten copy of which is in the La Trobe Library, Melbourne.

    At least three of these orphans, Eliza Roughan of Ennis, Clare, Mary Dowd of Dingle, Kerry, and Harriet Spence of Gort, Galway, has her own genealogical record page in the Yass Heritage Project's publication, "A Decent Set of Girls - The Irish Famine orphans of the Thomas Arbuthnot, 1849-50." (Perhaps copies can still be obtained from the YHP, POB 471, Yass, NSW, Australia 2582).

    On February 3, 1850 the ship came to anchor off Garden Island, Sydney, and on February 8th, the workhouse girls of Clare, Kerry and Galway walked the few hundred yards from Circular Quay to the Female Immigrant Depot at Hyde Park. From the Depot on Monday the 18th, 105 girls from the ship set off for the small country settlement of Yass, approximately 300 kilometres southwest of Sydney. Here they were helped to find employment and successfully settled into such places as Tumut, Boorowa, Jugiong, Gundagai and Binalong, and their descendants, and those of approximately 4,000 other orphan girls sent to Australian colonies bewteen 1848 and 1850, now number in the many thousands.

    In 1996, to commemorate the arrival of the Famine immigrants in Yass on the 2nd of March 1850, the Yass Heritage Project decided to publish portions of Strutt's diary which relate to the voyage of the "Thomas Arbuthnot" and the bringing of the girls to Yass under his care. A recreation of the arrival was also undertaken, and 70 young ladies from modern Yass and district, dressed in period clothing, landed at Circular Quay, walked with their sea chests to the Female Immigrant Depot, spent a night there, marched at the head of Sydney's 1996 St. Patrick's Day Parade. On week later, they entered the town of Yass on horse-drawn drays, watched by the citizenry and Ireland's Ambassador to Australia, His Excellency Mr. Richard O'Brien, Mrs. O'Brien, Mrs. E. Glover and Mr. John Glover, Mayor of the Shire of Yass, NSW.

    Black 1847, the Great Potato Famine and the dreadful disease and emigrant stories associated with it, are painful to recall, but through the humanity of Englishman Charles Edward Strutt, Surgeon General of the "Thomas Arbuthnot," (given that post when he arrived on the 23 October, 1849 at the Colonial Land Emigration Commissioner's Emigrant Depot, Baltic Wharf, Plymouth and who made sure the girls were given hot baths, haircuts and new clothes before the voyage) the orphans' lives were surely improved. It is rare, indeed, that a diary from this time period has survived.(Australian authors, Richard Reid and Cheryl Mongan)

    Richard Reid's following book is also good reading

    During the 19th century Ireland became a land of emigrants, many of them leaving for Britain’s Australian colonies. To reach that distant ‘new world’ most took advantage of a government assisted passage which by the standards of the time was a well organised journey in ships supervised by Surgeon-Superintendents, Matrons, Sub-Matrons, Schoolmasters and Water Closet Constables.

    Farewell my Children tells the story of these emigrants as they left their Irish homes between 1848 and 1870 to sail to Sydney, a journey mirrored by those who left for Melbourne, Adelaide, Hobart or Moreton Bay (Brisbane). Who were these emigrants, what propelled them out of Ireland and what were their first experiences of Australia.

    Famine Orphan Girl Database During the Great Irish Famine (An gorta mor) over 4,000 young Irish women were sent to Australia under Earl Grey’s Famine Orphan Scheme. The women came from the workhouses all over Ireland, most had lost at least one parent and all were destitute. The majority of the women were aged between 14 and 20 years. Some of the girls’ names have been inscribed on the Irish Famine memorial in Sydney and the names are also available to search on the Famine Orphan Girl database. The information can include name, age on arrival and parents’ names and invaluably for those researching Irish ancestors, the place where they came from is often recorded. The Great Irish Famine Commemoration Committee is looking to compile stories of these women and sometimes there is further information included which has been given by descendants of the women. The database also gives information about the ships and dates the women came over. It is free to search.

    Follow in Margarets Footpath on her arrival at Sydney Cove

    Buried RC Old Cemetry



    Mike Anderson

    Saturday 2nd January 2021, 04:00AM

Communities Associated with this Ancestor

Buildings Associated with this Ancestor