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KEENAN FAMILY in Australia


Last updated 25/4/2010

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1873 Ė 1955


Transcribed by Edward Keenan

of Perenjori, Western Australia, 2003


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





NOTE BY EDWARD KEENAN: "Mary Houston was the oldest daughter of Henry and Ann Keenan and a sister of Grace Catherall.  Mary was married to John Houston who was engaged in mining pursuits. They lived in Jumbunna in S.E. Victoria. It would appear from her letter and one of those of Grace Catherall that Mary's life was far from being a happy one."
NOTE BY PETER KEENAN:  Because Mary and Grace were sisters and this letter is addressed by Mary to her "cousin", it appears that Edward Keenan's assumption that the letter is to Grace is wrong.  Added to this is the fact that Grace was living in South Africa in June 1900 (see Grace's letter of 29/6/1900). The letter is probably to cousins in Western Australia.


Letter from Mary Houston (nee Keenan) to a cousin on 30/7/1900


Jumbunna, 30/7/1900.

Dearest Cousin,

It seems an age since I received your last letter and I hope you will forgive me for not answering before but I have been so very busy. I have a little son since last I wrote , He was a month old last Saturday so dear cousin you will understand I have had plenty to do as you

like to have everything nice and clean and everything in its place at such a time.  And I had been sewing for other people up till the very last to try to get a few extra shillings to get a little more.  So you will understand I have been very busy and since I have not been very strong and I have seemed to put off letter writing till the last.  I wrote 3 last night and then I thought I must write to my poor old cousin tonight.


I am getting quite a family round me am I not?  Jessie was 2 years and 4 months 10 days after baby was born.  I have plenty now.  I hope I shall never have any more as it is hard enough to make ends meet as it is.  


Dear cousin sometimes as you say things are not as bad and I suppose as things were when I wrote you I felt it more.  I always do at such a time, but it is anything but a happy life when you never know whether your husband is coming in drunk or sober and whether you will receive half the money you are so badly in need of.  And to see it thrown away when you would give the world to have it seems hard.  Then he never seems to think he should stop at home at night.  Perhaps he does not do so once in three weeks and it is not that he is made miserable if he does, so I never start to grumble or make things disagreeable.  I try to show how pleased I am and encourage him to do so again, but it is all of no use.  It seems he cannot be without company so we only come second.


But still you say he must have good qualities.  He has of course, and sometimes I feel contented in a fashion.  But out there is really no true happiness.  Oh, my dear, if I had only known how different my life would have been, for I had I believe a dozen other chances and some really good ones among them.  But poor foolish girl, I had no sense.  I despised good men who would have given me a comfortable home and true love.  But I really think there is a fate for us all and we cannot escape it.  Well dear old girls; my dear little baby is a fine little fellow.  I am pleased to have a boy.  His father is pleased about it too but it has not made much difference in him.  We do not know what to call him as yet but think it would be Donald Jarvey or simply Donald.  I will let you know next time I write.  How are you all getting on?  And are dear aunt and uncle well.  It must be miserable for you to have two homes.  As you say it would be much nicer for you all to live together.


I suppose you are always riding about there.  That one of the things I miss here as I used to love a good old ride, but we have no horses and would not dream of one here as we have only a yard about a hundred yards long and it is not our own, as we pay 4/- a week for it and a 3 roomed house.  We buy all our wood, give 6/- for a small dray load. So it seems paying money for nothing, so if I wanted a horse I would have to give 5/- for its hire for the day and it is rather more than I can afford for a ride for pleasure.  I suppose it will seem so strange to you who have all these things to hand, but you soon get used to them and they say use is second nature.


Dear cousins, I would like to write you a real good letter but really I don't know what I am doing half my time as our minute baby cries here there are the other two rushing around like mad.  They are bothering me to put them to bed just now, so goodbye dear and write to me soon. With best love to you all, I remain, Your loving cousin, Mary Houston.




NOTE BY EDWARD KEENAN: "John Keenan was the third son of Henry and Ann and was chiefly concerned in the carpentry trade. The following letter deals mainly with concern over Grace Catheral upon whose life we have already touched."


Letter from John (Jack) Keenan of Bombowlee (near Tumut, NSW) on 21 November 1900



November 21 1900.

Dear Cousin,

You will think that I have forgotten you altogether. I admit I forgot all about your letter for months, but always intended to answer it, and kept putting it off. I am all most ashamed to write to write to you now after leaving it so long. It is a little over twelve months since you wrote tome and I couldn't credit it, I was asking my wife this evening how long it was and she said your letter was written in November of last year, I thought it was about four months.


You wanted to know about Grace but I suppose you have heard all about her from Mary before this. I haven't had a letter from her now for two years but the others get a letter from her now and again. About two years ago I got a letter from her, and shortly after I got a photo and that is the last I received from her. I wrote three letters to her since then, she said in one letter she wrote to mother that she never got a letter from me since she went to Africa and lately she said she hasnít got any word from home at all for a long time. I will send you her address so you can write to her if you like, I suppose the more of us writing the better chance she will have of getting some of our letters.


Mary was over here this time last year, she has three of a family now and I have two boys, I will send you their photos when I get them taken.  I am thinking about leaving here in a few months.  I hope you will not be vexed with me for not writing before.  It was thoughtlessness on my part to leave it so long but I will be a little more thoughtful next time. We are all well over here at present and hoping to find you all the same.  I will now conclude this scrawl.        I still remain,

Your true cousin Jack Keenan, Bombowlee Creek, Tumut, N.S.W.


NOTE BY EDWARD KEENAN: "Jack Keenan moved on since his last letter and this one is sent from Victoria, from the same locality as Mary Houston. It was sent to his uncle, Stewart Keenan, Margaret River, WA."


Letter from John (Jack) Keenan (of Jumbunna, Vic) to Stewart Keenan (of WA) on 13/5/1905


Jumbunna, May 13th 1905.

Dear Uncle,

No doubt you will be surprised to get a letter from me after so long an interval since last we corresponded. But the fact is that I want to know something about Western Australia as I am thinking of going for a trip, of course I want to try and better myself if possible. But I would leave the family here as I have a comfortable enough home for them. You might let me know what the place is like for building work, I have been in the building trade here those three years. I would like a change for a while if I though I could do any good. When you heard from me last I was in New South Wales, I have done better here since I came here. I worked for about three months in the coal mines and then went at the carpentering, I did not like the pit. I have written to Africa to Grace to see if they could get me a billet, I would not go to Africa unless I had a job to go to. I hear any amount of good reports from Westralia but a person cant take much notice of reports.


I would like if you could give me some information as regards land available for selection and the quality of it. I have a friend here is thinking about going to the west to take up land and he asked me to enquire.


My sister Mary is here yet but her husband is in Newcastle, N.S.Wales, he is not doing very well, the late strike done this place a fearful lot of damage. I would like to get into some small rising town to start a small business in the building line and joinery. I believe Jack Catheral has and is at present making a lot of money in Africa.  Catheral's Address: 134A President Street, Johannesburg. S.A.


Please write soon, we all send our love and best wishes.

 Your affectionate nephew, Jack Keenan.

NOTE BY EDWARD KEENAN: "No further correspondence from Jack Keenan is available and it appears he never ventured to either W.A. or South Africa. "
NOTE BY PETER KEENAN: John/Jack Keenan moved back from Victoria to N.S.W. and settled in the area now known as Engadine. He has many descendants living in that area.




NOTE BY EDWARD KEENAN: "Eliza Keenan (Of Western Australia) married James Armstrong in January 1886 and died in tragic circumstances on June 7 1900.  She left a family of five children.  The following letter was from Jim Armstrong's sister, Jessie Butcher, to Minnie Keenan shortly after Eliza's death."


Letter from Jessie M Butcher (of Serpentine, W.A.) to Eliza Keenan (of W.A.) on 25/6/1900

Serpentine, June 25 1900.

Dear Miss Keenan,

I received your very sad letter by last mail and I had only ten days before sent a letter to Jim to try and cheer him up and to ask him if there was anything he wished any of us up here to do, for I quite understood the terrible position he is left in.  The trouble is us being all so far from them that is almost impossible for any of us to help him be us ever so willing, but I am hoping he will reconcile himself to allow you, her sisters, to do what you can for the dear children, tell him I say that he must and now your poor dear sister is gone I think it is your place and duty to do all you can for her little motherless ones left, but don't reproach yourselves not for not doing more for her while she was here, for I daresay you had not the same thoughts, not knowing she was ill, by her letters I should think she was one who worked very hard and was the best of wives and mothers and I daresay she outdid her strength. Just about the time she took ill perhaps had no strength to go through it.


Dear Miss Keenan, I must not dwell on this painful subject but must think for the best things to be done now. I would like you to let me know how things are and what Jim will decide to do and I will let them all up here know as you write me. I expect Jim has got my letter by now and will see of poor brother George's wife's death, and very strange it should happen at the same time as poor Lizzie.  She was buried on the same day, she died of chronic indigestion but thank God her children are not very young and there only three of them.  One is 15, one is 11 and the baby of 7 years, so they are out of hand almost.  I have written to my sister to see if she will do anything towards taking any of the children if Jim agrees to anything and I am going to see if any of them will go down and see Jim as it is impossible for me to go as I have only just got up from a sickness and I am not strong at any time where my sister has no children and I should think she would just like to help him if he would agree to separate them.  The eldest girl would be so much use in helping to look after the younger ones in a year or two that I expect it would be a hard thing to ask him for her.  If my health was only good I would be only to glad to take any of them but it would be wrong as I am as often in bed sick that my own little ones get a little neglected as their father is too busy to do everything, although they could not be more thought of and cared for.  


I am expecting to go over to Victoria for a little while in October for the good of my health if I can possibly get together enough money by then, which we expect to.  The Dr. says my health will never be good until I go on a sea trip and get well seasick.  Well I think I must close this hoping to hear from you soon.  I don't know your address but I expect you will get it alright.


I remain your sincerely. Jessie M. Butcher. 


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