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McLoughlin, Michael (c. 1821–1896)

Michael McLoughlin was a 22-year-old farm labourer from Grangemore, Aghaboe, Queens County, Ireland, one of ten children of Patrick McLoughlin and Bridget Brophy, local tenant farmers. In 1843, the year of his trial, there were six surviving children of whom he was the youngest. On St. Patrick’s Day (17 March) 1843, two men visited Castlefleming Lodge, a property owned by Robert H. Stubber, a prominent local landowner, and stole a gun, a powder horn and a shot pouch. It was also alleged that they ‘threatened the inmates’ of the Lodge. On 17 July, two young men Martin Kirwan and Michael McLoughlin, both without prior convictions, were put on trial for the crime, convicted, and sentenced to 10 years transportation to Van Diemen’s Land (Tasmania). They were transferred from Maryborough Gaol to Kilmainham Gaol, Dublin on 26 July 1843, and on 21 September embarked on the Duke of Richmond for the long voyage to Hobart, arriving there on 2 January 1844. He was described as being 5 feet 6 inches (66 cms) tall, with a fresh complexion, brown hair and blue eyes. He could read and write.

But McLoughlin protested his innocence and on 22 July 1843 while in Maryborough Gaol made a formal appeal to Earl de Grey, Governor of Ireland, against his conviction. Although he had been identified as one of the perpetrators by Jeremiah Dunne, a 14 year old boy, McLoughlin’s defence was an alibi attested to by five witnesses, of ‘the impossibility of his being at or near the place where said offence was committed’. The appeal document was supported by fifteen prominent local citizens including Barker Thacker Esq. JP and William Roe Esq. Their appended statement reads:

‘We certify that we have known the petitioner, Michael McLoughlin for the last ten years, to have been a quiet, inoffensive, remarkably industrious young man. And we beg to state that it is the reputation of the neighbourhood that the prosecutor was mistaken in the identity of the petitioner’.

McLoughlin’s appeal was formally rejected on 14 August 1843. It was conceded that there were indeed discrepancies in the boy’s description and that he ‘may have been mistaken’ but, on the other hand, the local racecourse where McLoughlin claimed to be, was only one mile from Castlefleming Lodge and therefore the prisoner would have had time to leave there, commit the crime and return.

While McLoughlin was still working out his probation in a convict gang at Victoria Valley (near Cygnet, south of Hobart), his mother Bridget lodged an appeal of her own addressed to Queen Victoria. Dated 11 November 1844, she protested her son’s innocence and requested a reduction in his sentence, drawing attention to the attached statements of support by many prominent local gentry and clergy. What was most significant about this appeal document was the appended signature of Robert H. Stubber himself, the owner of the stolen property, who vouched for McLoughlin’s good character in the neighbourhood. This second appeal was also rejected.

On 14 March 1845, Bridget, now aged 71, lodged yet a third appeal. Describing herself as an ‘aged, infirm, broken hearted…distressed widow’ she appealed for her son’s sentence to be reduced to ‘whatever limited term the result of such enquiry may fall in truth and justice…’ Again, the appeal was supported by several prominent local citizens, and again it was supported by Robert H. Stubber. This third appeal also failed and McLoughlin served out his time in Van Diemen’s Land.

After a convict career without offences or extra punishments, McLoughlin was granted a conditional pardon on 2 September 1851 and soon after appears to have gone to Victoria. He married Julia Keating on 4 January 1853. They settled in the Kyneton area where he had earned enough money to buy 21 acres of land at Lauriston in 1855. According to his widow's obituary he made a living as a carter between Melbourne and the Bendigo goldfields. After three children, Julia died in 1861, and Michael married Mary Murphy in April 1862. Together they had a further seven children. By the 1870s however, Michael was experiencing pressures similar to those of other Victorian small selectors. He had acquired two blocks of land at Spring Hill, outside of Kyneton and was having trouble meeting the payments on the required improvements to the property. On the 4 December 1874 he wrote to the Secretary for Land appealing for extra time to meet his payments and avoid forfeiting his land: ‘…I trust that the Board will deal leniently with me and not carry out the forfeiture during the present year, as I am a very poor man and as before stated with a large family struggling to secure a home for them upon heavily timbered land and poor soil’.

A number of McLoughlin's children left Victoria as a result of the 1890s depression and journeyed to Western Australia, where some established families and stayed. Three grandsons served in WWI, but McLoughlin's most famous grandson was Arthur Augustus Calwell, son of Margaret Annie, who had a distinguished career in the Australian Labour Party, and came within one seat of becoming Prime Minister in 1961. In his autobiography, Calwell said that his grandmother (Mary) had told him that Michael had 'deserted his ship in Melbourne in 1847'. He made a thorough search of the records but found no reference to either his desertion nor his immigration.

Michael and Mary retired into Kyneton and Michael died at his home in Mitchell St. in 1896. His death certificate noted that he had died of ‘exhaustion’. Mary moved to Melbourne to live with her daughter Margaret and died at Flemington on 22 July 1926.

Other sources about this convict:
  • Appeal documents: NAI (National Archives of Ireland), CRF 1843/McL 41.
  • Calwell A.A. 1972, Be just and fear not, Lloyd O'Neil Pty. Ltd., Hawthorn, Vic.
  • Kiernan, C. 1978, Calwell: A personal and political biography, Thomas Nelson (Australia) Ltd. West Melbourne Vic.
  • Obituary of Mary McLoughlin: 'The Kyneton Guardian' 29 July 1926.

Citation details

'McLoughlin, Michael (c. 1821–1896)', People Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, https://peopleaustralia.anu.edu.au/biography/mcloughlin-michael-31652/text39130, accessed 25 June 2021.

© Copyright People Australia, 2012

Life Summary [details]

Alternative Names
  • McGloughlin, Michael
  • McLaughlin, Michael
Birth

c. 1821
Aghaboe, Queens, Ireland

Death

26 August 1896
Kyneton, Victoria, Australia

Cause of Death

liver dysfunction

Cultural Heritage
Religious Influence
Passenger Ship
Occupation
Convict Record

Crime: assault and robbery
Sentence: 10 years
Court: Queens (Ireland)
Trial Date: 17 July 1843
(1843)

Pre-transportation

Occupation: farm labourer

Post-transportation

Children: Yes (10)