Ellen Keane nee Nihill, my 4th great grand aunt, was the daughter of James Nihill and Margaret nee Lane. Her husband Owen Keane, whom she married about 29 May 1791, was from Corbally, Co. Clare. He also had property at Kildimo in Co. Limerick.
On 1 July 1792, a year after their marriage, Owen Kean was thrown from his horse and killed. Ellen died, childless, within a month of the accident, perhaps from complications of childbirth.
Owen Keane’s death was reported in the Ennis Chronicle of 5 July 1792:
Last Sunday Mr Owen Keane of Kildimo in the west of this county was thrown from his horse and unfortunately killed on the spot
Ellen’s death and marriage were mentioned in a 1794 deed between James Nihill and Richard Leake
311694 To the Regr appd by Act of Parliament for Reg of deeds & soforth A Meml of an Indented deed made the first day of Novr one thousand seven hundred and ninety four Between James Nihill of Rockville in the Cof of Limerick Esq of the one part and Richd Leake of Rathkeale Abbey in the Co of Limerick Esq one of the Attornies of the other part. Whereby after sealing that the said James Nihill was seized of the Town and lands of Glasscoone [Glascloune?] situate in the Barony of Ibrickan and Co of Clare Esqr by virtue of a Lease made to him by the Right Honble Geo Earl of Egremont for the life of Ellen Nihill his Mother & Bourke Furnell of Cahirduff in the Co of Limerick Gent and that the said Lands then produced Eighty pounds yearly and afterwards prophet Rent that the said James Nihill on or about the 29th day of May 1791 granted and made over unto Owen Keane of Corbally in the Co of Clare the sd Lands of Glasscoone upon the Intermarrg of him the said Owen Keane with Ellen Nihill Eldest daur to the said James Nihill but on the Express proviso that if the said Ellen shd die without issue that in such case the said James Nihill his Heirs and ssrs shd yearly during the residue of said lain for ??? receive to his own use one annuity or yearly sum of Forty pounds silver to be levied out of said Lands of Glasscoone and after first reciting that the said Ellen Nihill died in the Month of Augt 1792 witht issue then the said James Nihill for and in Consdn of the sum of Two hundred pounds stov to him in hand paid.
Ellen Keane nee Nihill was my 4th great grand aunt.
On 6 December 1840 Julia Hickey, aged 23 arrived at Adelaide, South Australia, on the “Birman” which sailed from Greenock 23 August 1840. She was travelling with her sister Mary, 21, and brother Michael, 28, and Michael’s wife and children. On the passenger list Julia and Mary were described as farm servants from Castleconnel, County Tipperary, Ireland. Michael Hickey was a carpenter from Ennis, County Clare, Ireland and a cousin of a fellow passenger Catherine nee Hogan, a servant from Ennis, County Clare. Michael died on the voyage. His wife and children returned to Ireland.
Travelling on the Birman was William Morris, aged 21, a painter and glazier from Limerick. On 10 February 1841 Julia Hickey and William Morris married in the Roman Catholic Chapel on West Terrace, Adelaide. Between 1841 and 1857 they had eight children:
William George 1843 – 1906
Celia Catherine 1848–1916
Michael Christopher 1850–1897
Julia Mary 1852–1881
Gordon William 1857–1917
In December 1844 William Morris, who had previously been employed as a keeper in the Limerick District Asylum, was appointed Keeper for lunatics at the Adelaide Gaol. Twelve months later twelve lunatics were housed at the gaol. This was deemed unsatisfactory and a public asylum opened the next year in the East Parklands modified for the purpose. Nine lunatics were placed there under the care of the Colonial Surgeon, the Keeper William Morris, a second keeper, and the wives of the two keepers.
A much larger asylum opened in 1852. The new asylum held sixty patients and staff. This building was destroyed in 1938. The East Lodge however still survives. It had been home to the Morris family.
In the article South Australian Lunatics and Their Custodians, 1836–1846 by Marian Quartly published in 1966, Quartly wrote:
. . . the real control of the asylum fell to William Morris, the Head Keeper. Morris appears to have been a kind and honest man who did his best by his charges, but nevertheless Sheriff Newenham’s judgment of his capabilities was probably correct: Morris ” . . . tho a very proper person to superintend the care of lunatics as respects their safekeeping is not in my mind qualified by experience or habits to watch over the mental charges and graduation of insanity so frequent amongst this unfortunate class.” Morris’ “five or six years” of experience with lunatics prior to his Adelaide appointment was all in Ireland, where the emphasis still seems to have been on custody rather than cure. He could not have held a position of any authority in Ireland as he was practically illiterate.
On 13 January 1857 William Morris died aged 43 years. The death notice in the Adelaide Times read:
On Tuesday, the 13th January, Mr William Morris, for many years Head Keeper of the Lunatic Asylum, regretted by a large circle of friends and acquaintances
Julia Morris worked as Matron of the Asylum from 1846 until her death in 1884. In turn she was succeeded by her daughter Celia Morris who was Matron for eight years. The Morris family thus worked in the Asylum for nearly fifty years.
MORRIS. —On the 24th May, at Botanic-road, after a short illness, Julia Morris, the beloved mother of Celia and M. C. Morris, aged 64 years. For 40 years in the Government service.
THE Friends of the late Mrs. JULIA MORRIS are respectfully informed that her REMAINS will be Removed from her late residence Botanic-road To-morrow (Sunday), the 25th inst., at 3 o’clock p.m., for Interment in the West-terrace Cemetery. S. MAYFIELD & SONS.