Home Names       Contact Us

KEENAN FAMILY in Australia


Last updated 07/01/2016

This is Page 2 of 4

Page 1   Page 3    Page 4                                             


1873 – 1955


Transcribed by Edward Keenan

of Perenjori, Western Australia, 2003


Scanned and formatted by Peter James Keenan, during 2008-2010 




[NOTE BY EDWARD KEENAN: "James Keenan and his wife Maria (Hastings) remained on the 10 acre Keenan farm of "Glenone", Co. Antrim, after the rest of the family had departed for various parts of the world. The letters themselves are self explanatory regarding the financial affairs of the family and it would appear that money was extremely tight and that the family was having difficulty in making ends meet. This letter from James and Maria to Stewart and Isabella in Western Australia."]


NOTE BY PETER KEENAN: The David Keenan referred to in these letters is the brother of James and Stewart Keenan (and Henry John Keenan). He would have been born in about 1840.  It appears he went to Scotland in about 1875 and then to New Zealand in 1879.


Letter from James and Maria Keenan of Northern Ireland to Stewart and Isabella Keenan of WA on 12/9/1879



Sept 12 1879.


Dear Brother and Sister,


We are now in receipt of your very welcome letter which satisfies us very much to know you are all well as this leaves us now.


There is not so many of us here. Perhaps as you expect David left here for New Zealand. He is sailing about 14 days from this date.


Now in the first place I mean to tell you how affairs is settled with him and I about the place; I hold one half and him the other. Since mothers death David stopt in Scotland for the last 4 years and uncle James Gamble cropt the place for him and still sold off at November. And how them affairs was regulated was between themselves. Now David has taken 15 pounds on his share to take him away. I would got him the money but I got no chance, cousin Johnny Gordon holden it to pay it to him.


As far as I can learn from your letter you have no reason to believe that I am doing well. But I have a family of four children to keep. If I had been away 4 years doing for myself I would had as much as would took me any place without taking money on my share. Uncle James holds something on the place to the amount of 13 pounds again the place that I knew nothing about. Likely it was got about the time you was going out. He now holds it against me and never knew of it being taken on.


Dear brother, I got the letter you sent to David this day, I think from it the ticket will come shortly. I would like you to direct me what to do when it comes as it is no use to me. If it cost you any money perhaps the return of the ticket will draw the amount paid before David left. He told me to write to you to say he was away. Before I had an opportunity of doing so I got yours.


Dear brother and sister, I want to say that your friends are all well. Here it would be tedious to mention them all separate. I would like to know often how you are all doing as I am the only one here now. I hope in future you will not neglect to write as it would be great consolation to me to be answering your letter, I would like one from each of you.


I neglected to say that mothers part of the house is set. At present this is the only information I can give you.


Now in conclusion I send our kindest respects to brother and sister. Believe us, your kind brother and sister James and Maria Keenan. Write soon.


[NOTE BY EDWARD KEENAN: "There follows a fragment of a letter from James Keenan to Stewart: "]

Letter from James Keenan of Northern Ireland to Stewart Keenan of WA (date unknown)


When David left this country he took 15 pounds for his share and he told Uncle James when I would pay that 15 pounds for it to be mine: if I would be here my lifetime and times continue as they are at the present I could never pay it. It is taking strong farmers to hold on. Uncle James has part of the house David held at sixpence per week. He married some time ago and has got an heir for his place.


You may know John Gamble and family is doing well. They got 4 acres more land, their family is able to help in part of the Crawfords. I have no acquaintance with any of them but I will enquire after them and will be able to tell you all about them in my next.


Cousin Peggy Jane came home with 123 pounds and is dead since, and Henry was in America and brought 280 pounds with him. James and Robert is in it now and sends money too.


You spoke of helping me and I assure you a little would be acceptable at the present crisis.


Dear brother and sister I am sorry to hear of brother Aaron not doing so well when he has had the opportunity. If he was here working for 8 as I am at the present time he would look out sharp.


River James sold his place.


You spoke of some seeds. I will send you a newspaper with some seeds in it. I now conclude with all our best regards to you and Mrs, family and brothers. Write soon.


                               James and Maria Keenan.


[NOTE BY EDWARD KEENAN: "The "River James" spoken of above was another branch of the family.  He was called "River James" to distinguish him from numerous other James Keenans."]


Letter from James Keenan of Northern Ireland to Stewart Keenan of WA on 2/11/1882




Co. Derry Ireland.

Nov 2 1882.


Dear Stewart,


In reply to yours of September 13th I beg to say that Uncle James left 30 pounds against me in his will to be paid a year after his death including the 15 pounds which was got when David went away and 14 pounds that he said was against my mother at her death. I do not know whether it was got or not. At the time uncle married, Johnnie Gordon and him fell out and Johnnie promised him for the money. They never spoke to each other again. Uncle at that time paid him the money and that leaves me to pay the money to his widow as there is no note or writings on the 14 pounds, it is a question of whether it could be lifted or not, but David's 15 pounds must be paid; so you will see that she is managing things herself but is not doing very well and no one of his friends has any coming or going with her.


With regards to myself I would say that I would rather stay where I am. I could not think of moving with a family of small children, 7 of them, the youngest being only 6 months old, 5 boys and two girls.


My sister Lizzie is well. They are still in the old place. There are 2 boys and 2 girls of them and we think that if you could do something for us at once as you now know the circumstances in which we are placed we could stay and hold the place. If not we will have to let it go and as the rent is now due it and the foregoing must be settled about the new year. So we would like to hear from you soon. I may say the executors of my uncle have refused too act or take any part in the execution of his will leaving her full power to do as she likes.


John Gamble and family are well. His eldest daughter has got married to John Dysart, one of his sons is in Scotland and the second girl has gone to America and remainder of them are at home.


Uncle David died since I wrote to you last, the family are all married, some of them are at home and some of them are in America.


Uncle Thomas is well. 2 of his sons are in America, also one of his daughters, leaving a boy and girl at home.


Uncle John Gamble is alive still but is never out of bed, he remains in with James widow.


Our friends the Gordons are well.


John Ball and Margaret are living together their father being dead some 4 or 5 years.


With regards to Johnnie Keenan you asked what put him out of his place. Well I might say it was bad management. You are aware that Johnnie is married to Bessie Clements, a daughter of Hughs. Dan and them are living in the house formerly occupied by Wm. Clements on the hill and Willies family are living in James Keenans place at the river, Wm Boyd having bought both James and Willies places from them.


Before concluding I wish to say there was a very bad crop of potatoes this year, being in some places a complete failure, they are selling at 4\6 per cwt. oats at 6/-, flax at from 3\6 to 7\- per st, pork is paying very it is 58\-

per cwt


We are all well. Hoping that you have the same blessing I remain, Your affectionate brother, James Keenan.


Letter from James Keenan of Northern Ireland to Stewart Keenan of WA on 18/9/1883

[NOTE BY EDWARD KEENAN: "The following letter from James Keenan to his brother Stewart at Margaret River acknowledges lO pounds sent by Stewart as part payment off the debt of 30 pounds owing by Stewart against the farm in Ireland."]


Glenone, Port Glenone Post office


September 18 1883.


My Dear Brother Stewart,


An absent and loving brother now writes to inform you that I rec'd your kind and ever welcome letter in April, also the sum of ten pounds enclosed therein, only you will please pardon my seeming neglect in not answering your letter soon, my reason for not doing so was that I was waiting to get a statement. Only has got one

thus far, as they would say she will not take less than the thirty pounds and she says she will sell the place again November. Only as I wrote to you that I thought fifteen pounds would have held it, so perhaps the law will have to decide it.


Hoping that you and the family enjoys good health. You will please let me know how my brothers gets along as I think often and often about you all.


[NOTE BY EDWARD KEENAN: "The brothers James speaks about were Aaron Keenan at what is now known as Yoongorilup, and Robert Keenan at the Broadwater: see "Keenans of 'Glenone'."]


Would write sometimes to one and all as it is I cant do so myself and I don't care of employing strangers, only let there be no reason for one and all of you to write often.


And now as regards as to how I get along. Thank God we are as yet all in the land of the living and enjoying a comfort share of health which is the greatest share of all temporal blessings. Trusting that one and all of you is keeping up an acquaintance with your Bible and your God and that you are all attending on the means of Grace, and may the lot of us live as we would all wish we had lived when we come to die, and when we all have done with earth may we all meet our loved family in Heaven our sincere wish.


As regards my sister she is well. Her eldest son got married. You speak of me sending you my likeness. Will do so in my next letter.


My wife joins me in kind love to you all, may God Bless us all. So I add not only awaits your answer, please give all particulars when you write and please do so soon, I will answer.


Your loving brother always, James Keenan.


[NOTE BY EDWARD KEENAN: "It was never ascertained whether or not the 30 pounds was ever honoured, but James remained on the farm and raised a family of ten children. He died in 1906 and his wife Maria in 1937 at the age of 91 years."]




Letter from James Gamble of Northern Ireland to Stewart Keenan of WA (date unknown)


[NOTE BY EDWARD KEENAN: The following is a portion of a letter from John Gamble in Ireland to Stewart Keenan in Australia. It still touches on the 15 pound debt incurred by David's payment of that amount when he departed from Ireland. This letter is not dated.]


You want me to tell you about James Keenan and his wife and family.


It is not in my vows to speak hard of him or his wife or family. He is a hard working man, he does not see his way clear in going out to you ones at this time.


The family is small and helpless. There is 15 pound of money again the place. It wasn't him that took in the debt it was his brother Davit. There was 14 pound of an old debt at that was taken on by his mother that he thinks cannot be lifted but the 15 pounds that Davit got he is bound to pay it now.


James mind of it is to hold the little place if he can. He believes that if he had those 15 pounds paid that he could hold it. He thinks that if you ones could raise him a little money it would relieve him now. He never took on a shilling of this money himself.  It was Davit that took on the 15 pounds and it was his mother that took on the 14 pound, and he was the only one that ever tried to hold it, and if you can do anything for him now is the time for you to do it.


                 John Gamble. Rite soon.





Letter from Lizzie Kyle of Portglenone to Cousin Annie and others on 28/7/1895


[NOTE BY EDWARD KEENAN: "The following letter from Ireland to the family of Stewart and Isabella Keenan.  It is copied in the manner in which it was written."



Port Glenone

Co Antrim


in care of James Glass, Gartfadd. Goodley

July 28 1895


Dear Cusson Anney and all your sisters and brothers i need not name them seprate,


I send my love to you all and I got your letter all rite and was glade to here from it that you were all alive so this leaves us in good helth at present.


My brother Robert is ded 23 yrs David 21 and my father is ded 18 and sister Jane 17 so we were left very lonely. Stewart left us very soon. We are only ourselves now.


My mother is still alive , she has Hary and me to work for her we have a good deal to do for our support. Uncol John Gambel is well and has 4 of a famley at home with him now 2 boys and to girls and for uncol John Crawfords I don't know anything about them, ant Mary Beity was over in uncol John about a year ago, I hop we will can give you a more acount of all these people in our next Itter.


My brother Stewart Kyle is married and in america and had 8 children. He is 8 years in may left us. Old James McGrundle is ded and all the family is in america, he dide in our house. James Glass is liven in your grandfathers place and has a good grocer shop in it, uncal James Keenan is well and has 10 of a family his daughter Lizzie is in america and is maried to yers. Ther are three sons hired and one daughter and one lerning to be a shoemaker and the other 4 is at home with father and mother.


We were glad to here of uncall Robert being well and iff he come over to see us we will be glad to c him especly mother if she be alive to he com to ireland.


We would like to know if you no anything about uncal David Keenan if he is alive or not. We get no word from him. My mother has been talking a great deal about uncol sewart and him since she has took on well. She thinks the have forgot her. She has no friends here, she think the should not have forgotten her she is a llittle betta at present , thank God for his kind mercies to us if we do live to see other here, I hope we will see all our friends in heaven where our frend and Savior Jeseus Christ dweleth at the last of our days.


When you get this letter rite to us once more. My mother would like to here another time from you. We got your letter on the twelth of July. We had a find day and the orangemen assembled in Kilree, that day there were 25 lodges in it and the all parted in frendship, my mother let Henery and me go with the Orangmen that day to Killrea we had a plasant day.


The girl you talk about is my second cusson, I think James Keenan is 23 yers old and Henery is about 21 yers of age, I here no word of him getting married yet, it is James that is for getting married to Lizzie Taylor, Milltown, Bracknamuckley.    


Hope you will send us a letter the letter carier comes past our house every day


Drect your letters to Lizzy Kyle, Bracknamuckley, Port Glenone , Co Antrim, Ireland, in care oŁ James Glass, Gartfadd. Goodley.




[NOTE BY EDWARD KEENAN: "The following is a portion of a letter obviously from a Scottish wife of one of the family members in Ireland. There is no date or signature."


I do wish you could just come in some afternoon and take one of the babies for an hour. You see I am a stranger all the way from Aberdeenshire from a place called Peterhead just right out and out Scotch. Everybody is strange to me here so it means work away the best I can myself.


But never heed, I can manage and they will soon be walking, we intend getting their photos taken if only they are spared to be a year old and I will send you one. Could you send me one of yours; I would be so pleased, and so would Bob. You wanted to know what like Bob was, well he is tall and very dark, rather nice looking.





Letter from John Ballantine of New Zealand to Annie Keenan on 21/1/1896


[NOTE BY EDWARD KEENAN: "This letter was from John Ballantine in answer to one from Anne Keenan who was endeavouring to locate the whereabouts of David Keenan who at appears to have been in New Zealand."]

Linwood Jan 21 1896.

Annie Keenan,

Dear Madam,

I now take the pleasure of writing yous a few lines in answer to a letter I received for Wm. Ballantine. I might let you know Mr. Ballantine has been dead about 12 years and as I am his son I received your letter about the end of November after it had been around N.Z.  So I hope you will excuse me not writing to you sooner as I have been waiting for David address. You mentioned in your letter about having his likeness.  I sent you his likeness. I might say he is a long way from me, it is about 5 years since I saw him, he was looking a little aged then.  I don't think he will answer your letter if you write. I sent his address to you some years ago when I sent his likeness and when I saw him he told me he did not want me to send his address.  So as I have got it I will send it to you. Perhaps he has changed now he don't care about writing. When you write to him you might not tell him where you got his address from as I know he would not care about me sending it.  I have a sister about where he is so I had to write to her to find him for me. He is about 250 miles from me. I live in the South island and David in the North island. I think I have given you all news.

I remain your John Ballantine. If you should want me again address: John Ballantine, East Belt, Linwood. N.Z.

[ADDRESS OF DAVID]  David Keenan, Dry River station Martinborough, Wairarapa. New Zealand.


Letter from Catherine Thompson (friend) of Morrisons Bush on 14/8/1896


[NOTE BY EDWARD KEENAN: "The Keenan family were obviously trying to locate David Keenan who they thought was in New Zealand. The following letter from an unknown person goes into more detail".]


Morrisons Bush, Aug 14 1896.


Dear Friend,


I received your letter about a fortnight ago.  I would of wrote sooner but I have a little baby a fortnight old so I wrote as soon as I could.  


You was wanting to know about Davie your uncle.  I have not seen him for about six months but he is still in Martinborough for we seen his name in the paper tendering for a contract down there.  I don't hear much.  I had my brother working for him about 8 months but he has left this last 6 months and I have not seen Davie since.  If you write to Martinborough c\o Johnson, that the Martinborough hotel, that’s where he boards when he is out of work.  


The last time I saw him he told me he was going to make some money and go home to his brothers.  I suppose he meant your father.


I was telling him he ought to have had his fortune made by this time.  I can remember him when I was a little thing; he always came to mothers when he was doing nothing.  But mother died and father married again and I left home, and I never seen Davie till I was married some time.  And that was in the North Island.  We left the South Island and came to the N I.  He is a good working chap, but I think he is a fool for himself.  Other people gets the benefit of his earnings.  I told him it was near time he had a farm and a wife and not die an old bachelor, he only laughed at me.  


If you write to him you need not say anything what I said.  I don't want to tell tales but I was only telling you a little.  I don't think Davie would thank me for saying anything about him.


You might let me know when you write what relation mother is to Davie.  I think he is her cousin, father comes from Londonderry, I have heard him say, County Antrim.  I think this is all the news.  


Have not heard anything about Davie since my brother left him, I don't hear much of him.  My brother used to come home every Saturday night.  He is my youngest brother 21 years.  I have had him since he was 8 years old.  There is  another little one that mother died with someone, took her when she was very young and I have not seen her since she was a baby.  Mother must be dead about 19 years.  


I have been married 14 years. I have a boy in the six standard and a girl in 4 standard and a boy in 111 standard.  We have 9 of a family.  John and Robert has only one each.  They will let the old name die out if they don't hurry up.  My sister Mary has only one.  Let me know if your father knows anything about John Keenan.  I have heard mother talk about him, her youngest brother.  She used to have his photo.


So I think I have given you all the news I have this time. More next time.

I remain

Your affectionate friend

Catherine Thompson.

Good night, write soon. Please excuse bad writing.


Page 2 of 4

Back to Page 1

Forward to Page 3