Mary Ann Hanrahan
(1828-1907)

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Mary-Ann Hanrahan was born at South Creek (near the current suburb of Mt Druitt in Sydney) in the winter of 1828. Her parents, Patrick Hanrahan and Catherine Burke (nee Hogan) already had a son, Phillip, who was three years old when Mary-Ann was born. Both of her parents had children from previous marriages. Her mother's first husband, John Burke, had died leaving Catherine a son named Michael. Mary-Ann's father had five sons from his earlier marriage to Euphemia Young. Patrick and Catherine had four more daughters after Mary-Ann. The extended family, then, consisted of Patrick's five sons from his first marriage, Catherine's son Michael Burke and a further son and five daughters together: a total of 12 children.

Mary-Ann's father was an Irish convict who had been emancipated in 1815 after helping to build the first road over the Blue Mountains. Her mother was the daughter of another Irish convict, Phillip Hogan and his wife Mary McMahon.

By the time Mary-Ann was born, her parents had property in the Bathurst District as well as at South Creek. They established their home at Mt Pleasant, in the Bathurst District, and lived there for the rest of their lives. Mary-Ann, also, lived out her life in the Bathurst District.

Mary-Ann's childhood at Mt Pleasant would have been full of incident. Her oldest half-brothers were grown men when she was born and would have been heavily involved with her father in his farming and animal husbandry pursuits. The family raised crops, cattle and horses. Mary-Ann was twelve when the oldest half-brother (William Henry) married Margaret Leake just before Christmas in 1840. Over the next four years, the next three step-brothers were also married and the first of Mary-Ann's nieces and nephews came along.

By the time her own brother, Phillip, was married a few years later in February 1849, Mary-Ann was of marriageable age herself. She had to wait, however, until two of her younger sisters were married before her own time came. At the age of 29, she married John Kessey (8 years her junior) on 27 August 1857 at Bathurst.

Her father was not keen on her husband-to-be because his family had a history of dishonesty. Patrick Hanrahan had it in mind to give Mary-Ann a gift of land as a wedding gift, as he had done with her sisters. But he wanted to be sure that the land would always be available as a resource for Mary-Ann and her children. He cannily insisted that John Kessey agree to a pre-nuptial agreement that prevented him gaining control of the land.

John and Mary-Ann produced their first child on 18 June 1858 and named him James. Only five months later, Mary-Ann's father died and was buried in the Old Cemetery at Black Springs.

The couple's second son, Phillip Joseph was born in 1860 and was followed five years later by John Michael and Thomas. Mary Ann's mother, Catherine, died in September of the same year.

In 1864 two of her husband's brothers were arrested and charged with highway robbery. They were both found guilty and sentenced to ten years hard labour which they served out in Darlinghurst gaol and Cockatoo Island.

In 1867, John and Mary-Ann had their first daughter, Elizabeth. A second daughter was born on 14 August 1870, but by then her father was serving a three year sentence in Bathurst gaol for cattle stealing. Mary-Ann was left with six children to rear, the eldest being twelve-year-old James. It must have been a very difficult three years because Mary-Ann's large family were battlers as well and could not spare much to help.

Her husband was released from gaol in 1873 and the family struggled back onto its feet only to face further troubles. Five-year-old Emily died in 1876. Their last child, Ethel, was born in 1877.

Mary-Ann's sons supported her through her troubles. Phillip was 28 when he married Elizabeth Marie O'Neill in 1888. That marriage was followed quickly by two more. Elizabeth, aged 21, married James Pender the following year and her eldest, James, was 32 when he married Mary Jane Press in 1890.

Mary-Ann had to endure two more periods while her husband was imprisoned for theft: 9 months in 1894 for stealing pigs and 1 year and 8 months for cattle stealing (again) in 1899. She was, by now, in her seventies while he was in his sixties with grey hair and beard and was quite deaf. Her husband contracted cholera and died on 9 March 1902 aged 65. Mary Ann lived another five years before her death on 16 August 1907 in Oberon. Both Mary-Ann and John Kessey are buried in the old Black Springs cemetery.