Born in County of Down, Ireland, Hugh McNeilly was most likely baptised in Killinchy on 24 August 1826. His immigration document indicates his parents were John and Jane Davis (an assumption is made that Davis is Jane’s maiden name and not another unusual family circumstance). If this information is correct he likely had the following siblings: Robert b 1822; John b1823; Thomas b1827; John b1829; Robert b1832; and Eliza Jane b1834. The immigration document indicates he was born in Killala county Down however Killala is located in the county Mayo. Errors often occur in early documents due to the information being provided verbally. At the moment, I tend to think his birth location was actually Killyleagh.
Hugh married Ann Perry in Newtownards, Ireland on 8 December 1849. The spelling of his surname on that record was McNeely, while the immigration document records it as McNiel. Despite this inconsistency, Hugh was recorded as being able to both read and write, while Ann was able to read. Ann was born about 1827 in Bangor, County Down to Jane & Hugh Perry.
The couples first child was named William and was born in Ireland shortly after their marriage. It must have been such a bitter-sweet time for the young family, as this was right in the middle of what we know as the Irish Potato Famine and I would imagine this was a contributing factor in their decision to emigrate to Australia. Their immigration documents show they had no family in Australia, so their leaving was possibly preceded by an Australian version of the American Wake. This was the party held before their departure when they all knew there was little chance they would ever see their family and friends again. The journey in 1852 aboard the Irene started with great hope but became a journey filled with tragedy. During the voyage thirty four people died, mainly due to an outbreak of measles, with one of the deaths being the couple’s two year old son William. Ann was expecting the couple’s second child when they left Ireland, and, when their son was born on the voyage they named him William.
Hugh found work with on Chatsbury, a property owned by Sir Charles Cowper who became the second premier of New South Wales. Hugh eventually went on to lease his own farm on Macarthurs’ Richlands Estate, also in the Taralga area. Hugh and Ann had the following children:
- William b1849 d1852 Died on board the Irene and was most likely buried at sea.
- William b1852 Born during the voyage and mentioned as deceased in his mother’s obituary in 1916.
- Alice J b1854 married Hugh White and mentioned as deceased in her mother’s obituary in 1916.
- Mary b1855 married John Ross and had two daughters and a son; Cloudy, Jennie & John. I am not sure of their birth dates or real names. Mary died 20 February 1940.
- Hugh b1857 married Sarah Jane Cree and had four children: Mary Alice b1885; William Cree b 1887; Annie Maude b1889; and Katherine I b1892. Hugh died 10 July 1925.
- Alexander b1859 and died in 1940
- Annie b1861 married James Cameron and had five children: Arthur J S b1888; Donald Victor b1890; Arthur James b1891; Marion E b1894; and Annie Elizabeth b1899. Annie died in 1938.
- Robert b1894 He was still alive at the time of his mother’s death in 1916.
- Elizabeth b1868 married Alexander McKenzie and had five children: Lillian EA b1890; Alice Pearl b1893; John H b1894; George A b1896; and Florence May b1905.
Hugh died 22 December 1900 after a long illness. He was described as “..a most upright and straightforward man,…greatly respected throughout the district.” Ann (nee Perry) died at her daughter’s home on 3 July 1916.