Chapter 5: 1879 – 1911: The Early Days in Australia – Crystal Street, Balmain

The original Coyle home in Balmain/Rozelle as it was in approx 1905 – 1907 (Teresa Coyle pictured with ‘Jackie Mac’ (Probably John MacFadden TBC)

old homestead - 18 crystal

Hugh Connaghan married the eldest daughter of Hugh & Margery Coyle, of Ards Beg in Donegal in 1878. Hugh, of the Connaghan Family of Meenlaragh, sailed for Sydney in late 1879.  There is still information to be gained on his passage to Australia and the exact timing. He would have travelled via Derry in Ireland and Portsmouth in England for a 6-8 week voyage to his new chosen home.

The Australian Immigration Deposit Journal records that in Sydney in late 1879 Hugh Connaghan sponsored his wife Hannah (nee Coyle), her brother Denis Coyle and her infant son, also called Denis.  In June-July of 1880 they sailed together on the SS Peterborough, presumably via the same ocean route.

Our Great Grandfather Denis is listed in that ship’s records as ‘Denis Coil’. He was also listed in the Immigration Journal as surname ‘Corl’. As was the case with so many of the Irish Immigrants, Denis Coyle is listed as a labourer who could neither read nor write.

Also arriving in August of 1880 on-board the Peterborough was a Mary Curran – (presumed at the moment) as either the sister or cousin to Bridget Curran. She is recorded as being the sponsor to Bridget Curran who then subsequently arrived in Sydney aboard the Star of India in 1883. Mary Curran had been sponsored herself by an Edward Curran and further information will be obtained on this.

The Currans all hail from a village to the north of Gortahork called Killult. Bridget was the daughter of James Curran and Sarah Brogan, who we believe had, at least, another 5 children and went on to make up a large part of our known relatives still living in that region in the Falcarragh (Tullaghobegly Parish) area.

There is little to verify where or how our Great-Grandparents were able to settle in Sydney at the time. There are indications that the area around Crystal Street may have contained a small-scale enclave of north Donegal folk. We think that Denis & Bridget Curran met sometime soon after Bridget’s arrival in 1883.

Denis Coyle and Bridget Curran were married in St. John’s Church at Balmain in 1886. Also listed as the witness at the wedding was Bridget’s sister, Hannah who must have arrived in Sydney sometime before this, from Killult. The other witness was listed as Peter(?) Conahan. (We presume he is one of our broader ‘kin’, being part of the Conaghan Clan but have yet to pin him down).

Hugh & Hannah Connaghan, and infant Denis, had settled into Crystal Street, Balmain at a very early stage. Hugh had designs on getting ahead and took an interest in land across the road for the purposes of a dairy business. As early as 1883, he arranged to purchase three  lots from a Mr W.H. Paling (of the Paling Brothers Music stores). This land and Hugh’s business, the Rozelle Dairy, remained in the Conaghan family (renamed in Australia) until sold in 1962.

Hugh Connaghan's family business & residence at 33 Crystal St, Balmain

Hugh Connaghan’s family business & residence at 33 Crystal St, Balmain

Mention is made also of a Police fine Hugh received for “having allowed cattle to stray in public thoroughfares”. The cows were grazed on one side of Victoria Road and milked in Crystal Street. Hugh’s business thrived as did his family, growing to over 10 children born in that street.

Hugh is also noted as having made a return visit to Meenlaragh in 1924 at the grand age of 70. He and his wife died within a year of each other in 1928-1929. His sons and daughters continued the name & the esteemed reputation of the Conaghans, and will be covered in a separate chapter/post.

We can only assume that the newly married Coyles went straight away to reside in 18 Crystal St, Balmain. The first of the Coyle children arrived not very long after – with Hugh Anthony being the first son – born in 1887.  He was followed by some unfortunate souls that did not live long. James Patrick was born in 1888 (8 months) and Margery in 1990 (14 months). Mary Coyle (1891) was born healthy and lived to marry Frederick Beckhaus in 1915. She was also followed by another sister Sarah Isabel in 1894, who went on to marry Alfred Herbert Day in 1915. Sadly both sisters did not live much longer – Sarah passing in 1917 and Mary in 1919.

Soon after John Francis (1895) and Hannah Teresa (1897 & called Teresa by all) were born healthy and vibrant, but sadly later events would take Teresa as well. After that poor Joseph was born and died within the same year in 1899 – then tragically Bridget herself lost her life in complications from the childbirth of twins in 1900. Bridget’s death is recorded in August in 1900 and soon after the first twin Catherine Bridget passed away at only 12 weeks of age.

It is assumed from remaining picture evidence that Hannah Curran (Bridget’s sister from Ireland) stayed with the family to care for the young ones*. When Bridget passed away Hugh was only 13 and was urged, to good effect, to concentrate on his schooling**.

At the time that their mother died; Mary would have been 9, Sarah 6, John 5 and Teresa only 3. The other twin born in 1900, Denis Francis, lived on for seven and a half months, before also leaving his family and namesake father heart-broken in passing. The tragedy of this little family that there had been a total of five babies that had been taken to heaven too early.

Coyle family rescanned

Our first Australian forebear Denis Coyle died in 1911, leaving Hugh Anthony, at the age of 25, at the head of the family. For a short while Hugh, Mary, Sarah, John and Teresa remained living at the Crystal Street home.

Their father was listed was listed on his death certificate as being a Wood and Coal Merchant. There is no photo or evident trace of a merchant outlet (more to be found later). Living close to the lumber mills and the coal mine of Balmain at the time, may have been a large foundation of that opportunity for him.

The Australian Coyles had lived all their life in Balmain in the shadow of industry by-products, waste incineration, chemical processing & soap manufacture – which may have been the unfortunate contributor to this families poor health.

Memorial Headstaone for Bridget Coyle, Denis Coyle & Sarah Day at Rookwood Cemetery, Sydney

Memorial Headstone for Bridget Coyle, Denis Coyle (misspelled again) & Sarah Day at Rookwood Cemetery, Sydney

The tall and imposing headstone for our Great Grandfather and Great Grandmother still stands at Rookwood cemetery in a restored garden setting at the far end of the Catholic Section. The inscription proudly states that they were both born as “Natives of County Donegal”.

We are the descendants from both their families in Ireland and we honour their struggles and sacrifices made to allow us to grow and florish in Australia.

Continued in Chapter 6…


* There is no direct evidence as to whether Hannah Curren stayed in Australia or returned to Ireland after 1901-1902. More information will be contributed when it comes to hand. Obviously we hold a great debt of gratitude to this woman who cared for & reared the very young Coyle children at the time of Bridget’s ill health and subsequent death.

** Hugh Anthony Coyle’s achievements in his academic & legal/governmental career have been noted and will be covered in a chapter on his life.

The original Coyle home in Balmain/Rozelle as it still stands today

The original Coyle home in Balmain/Rozelle as it still stands today


2 thoughts on “Chapter 5: 1879 – 1911: The Early Days in Australia – Crystal Street, Balmain

  1. James Monro says:

    I write sitting on a “rock” on the edge of King George Park in Rozelle. Despite walking past the rock for many years, sitting down led me to read the plaque attached.
    It has been moved here from its original position about 50 metres away.
    It is dedicated to Hugh Conaghan. The rock was a trough for the cows.

    I mainly wanted to let you know the story from Myra Tolhurst at Willie Retreat in the Macquarie Marshes.
    Myra grew up near the end of Iron Cove Bridge (the old one) between the wars. Each morning she had to hurry off to school early to beat the cows crossing Victoria Road – or end up late.
    Hard to imagine now but this would have been before the West Balmain Post Office was demolished to widen Victoria Road.

    • jockok says:

      Thanks so much for that, James – I still have not visited the trough/rock plaque – despite a recommendation from a Conaghan Family member.
      Myra’s experience may have been common, as Hugh is mentioned, in Trove, as having been fined for ‘traffic obstruction’ by his herds.

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