Skip to main content

William Twomey, 1843-1927

  • Author:
  • Updated date:

A librarian, family historian and artist, Jen loves to travel and take photographs

Irish adventurer, soldier, gold fossiker, farmer

My great grandfather, William Twomey had an interesting life and I would like to share it with you. A native of Ireland, William emigrated to America as a young man. Oral family history has him working as a groom on ranches as he was good with horses. William was in America at the time of the civil war. After coming out to Australia, William spent some time fruitlessly prospecting for gold in Western Australia. Eventually William settled down, marrying and raising a family in his old age.

Early life

William was born in County Cork, Ireland. The family home was located in a village called Meenkeragh, which is near Meelin in the parish of Newmarket. His parents were John Twomey and Julia Ryan.

William was baptised in 1843. His sponsors were Cornelius Twomey and Honora Ryan. Williams had three brothers and three sisters, namely, Cornelius, John and Timothy, Margaret, Honora and Mary.

Meenkeragh, County Cork, Ireland

Reverend Con Twomey

We believe William was a relative of Reverend Cornelius Twomey. Cornelius Twomey was the parish priest of the Catholic Church in Tumut when William came to Australia. Cornelius Twomey was the son of John Joseph Twomey also from Meenkeragh. Cornelius studied at the All Hallows College in Dublin and was ordained in 1852. Arriving in Sydney in 1853 Cornelius worked first in Sydney at St Mary's and Balmain, being also the chaplain for the convicts at Cockatoo Island, he then went to Albury and Berrima.

Cornelius moved to the town of Tumut in New South Wales. After the old church at Tumut was found to be too small, he arranged for the building of the a new church in blue trachyte rock. The new building for the Church of the Immaculate Conception was officially opened by the Right Reverend O. Lanigan, Bishop of Goulburn on November 24th, 1878.

Rev. Con Twomey was struck by paralysis while reading the mass in the church at Tumut. He eventually recovered from this affliction and was travelling to the Western Districts of Victoria to visit his brothers in Penshurst. Con Twomey didn't make it to see his family as he died in Melbourne on January 24, 1882. He is buried in a crypt under a chapel in old cemetery in Lygon St. Cemetery in melbourne (probably Carlton) next to the University.

There is a memorial plaque in the wall of the Catholic Church at Tumut in memory of Father Con Twomey.

William's brother Con Twomey

at Penshurst, Victoria

Cornelius Twomey, was the station manager for the Western Districts Twomeys at one of their properties in Penshurst, Victoria. Con was born in 1848 in county Cork, Ireland. He lived in Australia, particularly South Australia and Victoria for 58 years. Managing the station at Minbool Station, Mount Gambier, South Australia for some time. Never marrying, Con passed away in 1931 and is buried at Warrnambool, Victoria.

Letter from Cornelius Twomey to his brother William 1914

Letter from Cornelius Twomey to his brother William 1914

Letter from Cornelius Twomey to his brother William

Penshurst, Victoria ; Nov 6 1914

Dear William

I received your letter a few days ago, I am glad to hear you, Mrs Twomey and the little ones are well. I am well and in good health thank God. I have not heard from home for some time they were all well then. Sister Margaret's daughter got married, got a nice fortune I believe, you get only a small place there for a lot of money, brother John is doing well he has a store in Newmarket and has "Clashroc" let he has two children there was not much particular news. The season here is very bad, no rain, I do not know what will be the result in three months time it will be worst here. The war is bad, you cannot sell any property. I am afraid I will have to go and live on my farm, the lease is nearly up. I am afraid I cannot let it again if things are as bad. I do not like to go to live by myself at this time of life. I have no particular news to tell you. Yours affectionately C Twomey.

I know Mr Radford the engineer, he is a decent man.

The American Civil War

As a young man, Bill immigrated to America where he spent 10 years before coming to Australia. Most of the units that fought in the American Civil War contained at least some Irishmen.

William told his children that he fought in the civil war. He would have been about 17 years of age in 1861. One of his daughters (Julia, who lived to be 103) always said that he fought on the winning side, which would have been the Union. In one obituary it gives details of one battle where he was wounded in the chest by a bullet.

Irish Emigration to America

In search of gold Bill went to California in America.

The story goes that he sent money back to his family in Ireland in preparation of a visit to them. He met a mate in New York who was heading for Australia and decided to go too. He asked his father to send his money back and was told "come and get it".

William almost missed the boat to Australia in New York and had to jump on board as the gangway was being raised he and fell and injured his hip. This injury gave him trouble in later life.

Scroll to Continue

Kalgoorlie Gold


William came to Australia in 1878. Lured by gold, William went to Kalgoorlie in W.A. He, Tim and Martin Mulqueeny walked part of the way there. At an overnight camp William accidentally left his pocket knife behind. Upon discovery of his mistake, he walked back the several miles and retrieved it. He lost a day's journey, but he retrieved it. William came back from Kalgoorlie with a small quantity of gold.

The Memorial Fountain was put up in honour of the late Patrick Hannan. Patrick discovered gold at Kalgoorlie on the 19th June 1893. The original Fountain was located in the foyer of the Kalgoorlie Town Hall until it was re-located to the foyer of the Mining Hall of Fame on 24th October 2001. This replica was erected on 12th February 1983.

Photo courtesy of Kool skat kat flickr



The Twomey family

at Bombowlee, Tumut, NSW

Bill's first job in Australia was with Rev. Fr. Con Twomey, at the Presbytery and then with Rankin Bros, Bombowlee Station. Where he gained a good knowledge about cattle. In 1897 William purchased Mt Pleasant from Dr Mason.

William married Ada Denson (b. 1877 at Adelong) in 1903, daughter of Mr and Mrs William Denson. William put his age as 51 years (not quite correctly) and Ada was aged 26 and living with her mother.

They had seven children. Kate, the eldest daughter, twins John and Julia (both who entered the Catholic Church), followed by Cornelius, another son Timothy, and the youngest twins Daniel and Margaret.

William's wife and children are seen here, with Kate missing from the photo as presumably she would have been the photographer.

Kate, John and Julia were born in the slab house. Ada, their mother, was a homebody who reared her family without luxuries. She cooked in a camp oven (one you bury in the ashes of the fire) until Kate bought her a stove, many years later.

All of the children were educated at the Mundongo Public school. Their teachers were Mr Murray and Mr Nicholls. Kate, Julia and John used to ride horses into Tumut to go to school and were known as the Wynyard Street Cavalry.

Ada passed away in April 1956 aged 79 years.

Bombowlee Lane, Tumut.

Bombowlee Lane, Tumut.

Bombowlee, Tumut

The obituary for William Twomey tells us much about the kind of man that he was.

  • William was a successful grazier having reportedly produced some of the finest cattle in the district.
  • 'A great political force' is one way in which William was described as he was involved in securing the seats of two of the members in Parliament.
  • William was also known as an honorable gentleman whose word was his bond.

Pat and Kate Heffernan (nee Twomey)

Pat and Kate Heffernan (nee Twomey)

Kate Twomey

Kate was the oldest child of William and Ada Twomey. Kate received her school certificate at the Sacred Heart Convent School at Tumut in 1916. Kate was at Monte St Angelo, North Sydney and Hereford House for 12 months. Here first school was Narraborough Sunnymead School at Temora. When Kate left the school, her sister Julia was appointed.

Kate worked as a teacher at the primary school in Culcairn. She boarded with the Thompson famiy. Patrick Heffernan married KateTwomey in 1934.

Kate was the kind of person who could talk to anyone. In 1958, Pam and Dorothy Twomey travelled to Sydney with Stella Clout and stayed at Legion House. Mag and Kate were staying there at the same time. The five used to have lunch at Louisson's restaurant in Castlereagh Street. Kate used to talk to the waitress and it turned out that Mr Louisson, (the propritor) had a daughter-in-law who was the matron of Culcairn hospital. He asked Kate if she would take a doll back to Culcairn for his granddaughter, and she did!

The races were on at Rosehill racecourse, Kate, Mag and Pam went out by train and attended the races. The champion racehorse, Tullock, trained by Tommy Smith, was running in a 5 horse race. Kate backed the other 4 runners to beat Tullock, but Tullock won effortlessly. Tullock was a champion racehorse in his day, so it would be like going to see Black Caviar race. Tullock had 14 wins out of 16 starts as a three year old. Tullock ran 1:52 for the journey and carried 8st 4 pd. George Moore was the Jockey. Kate backed a horse named Cornelius, for one of her brothers and it ran second, a protest was lodged and they had to wait for the protest to be heard.

On 8th April 1971 Kate died in Henty NSW aged 69 and is buried in the Roman Catholic section of Henty Cemetery.

Father John Twomey

Father John Twomey

John Twomey

twin brother of Julia

Like his siblings, John Twomey went to school at Mundongo Public School and then later to the Sacred Heart School at Tumut. He was a good student and studied under Sister Mary Peter Ford. John was the recipient of a State Bursary.

Following matriculation at Goulburn's St Patrick's College he studied to join the priesthood at St Comumba's College in Springwood (Sydney, NSW). John was ordained into the Roman Catholic Church at Goulburn in 1928.

I think it is interesting that both of the twins chose a religious life. Both of them also worked at Yass, following their religious studies.

John was then appointed to Yass. Over his career, John worked at many towns, such as Canberra, Cobargo, Lake Cargelligo, Gunning, Temora, Grenfell, Bega and Michelago. He was made a Domestick Prelate and was given the title of Monsignor by Pope Paul VI. John retired at Bega.

John Twomey passed away in 1982.

Mag and Julia Twomey

Mag and Julia Twomey

Julia Twomey

After attending Mundongo for primary school, Julia went to the Sacred Heart School at Tumut and later won a Diocesan Bursary. Julia matriculated from Mount Carmel College at Yass. Following this, Julia went to the Teachers college in Sydney.

In 1928 she enterd the St Michael's novitiate at Goulburn. Julia took the name of Sr. Brenda when she entered the religious order of the Sisters of Mercy. Sr Brenda then completed a Bachelor of Arts degree at Sydney University.

Along with teaching at St Joseph's College, Albury and Our Lady of Mercy College at Goulburn. Sr Brenda taught maths at Mount Carmel College at Yass and was Principal of the school. After many years of community work, Sr Brenda was awarded a British Empire Medal in 1978 by Her Majesty the Queen for her community service.

I attended Sr Brenda's 100th birthday party, where she received congratulatory letters, cards and certificates from many notables, including the Prime Minister and the Queen. The one she most wanted to find out about was the one from the Pope.

Tim and Con Twomey

Tim and Con Twomey

Cornelius Twomey

Con, was the second son of William and Ada Twomey of "Mt Pleasant", Bombowlee. After Con's early education at Mundongo Public School he used to ride into Tumut to study at the Convent School. Con was a good student and won a Diocesan Bursary but didn't take it up as the family had not enough money to support Con's continued studies.

After leaving school, Con did some labouring work on the railways and then returned to work on the family farm. Following the death of their father in 1927, in 1928 Con started working with his brother Tim and their mother, until her death in 1956. Con and Tim continued dairying drought struck the region in 1968.

Con married Ennis Sullivan on 11th February 1953 at the Church of the Immaculate Conception in Tumut. The celebrant of this ceremony was Monsegnor John Twomey, brother of Con. Ennis and Con lived in Tumut for a time and later raised 4 children on their property "The Glen".

A dedicated farmer, Con loved the land and the life it provided for him and his family. Con frequented the cattle sales and was actively involved in farming and grazing all of his life.

Timothy Daniel Twomey

Timothy Daniel Twomey, along with his other brothers and sisters, started his education at the Mundongo Public Shool.

Rev. Sharkey performed the nupital mass to celebrate the marriage of Timothy Twomey to Doreen Beattie (known as Amy) with assistance from Father John Twomey, brother of the bridegroom. Amy was attended by the bridegroom's sister Mag.

Ada left the livestock which she owned to Tim and his brother Con. She also made an allowance in her will for Tim to have the right to buy the two milking machines and the engine on the property at Bombowlee. The rest of her estate was to be divided equally between her children.

Tim and Amy Twomey continued to live at Bombowlee, raising their own family, until their deaths, in old age, many years later.

  • Timothy Twomey - marriage 1935
    A report in the Catholic Press in august 1935, describes the wedding of Timothy Twomey, third son of William and Ada to Doreen (Amy) Beattie.
Tim and Dan Twomey at Bombowlee

Tim and Dan Twomey at Bombowlee

Daniel Edward Twomey

Daniel Edward and Mag Twomey were the youngest twins of the family.

When Dan was born, William was 65 years old. In an interview with Dan, he remembers his father walked with a walking stick (which he made himself). Of his childhood, he remembers enough food but not many clothes.

Daniel married Dorothy Isabella Margaret French when he was 26 years old. His elder brother John was the celebrant. Dan's best man was his brother Con and Mag attended Dorothy as a bridesmaid.

Dan and Dorothy lived in Tumut all of their lives and raised 4 children. Dan was left 500 pounds by his uncle, Con Twomey in 1935 and he used this to build their house. The house was on one block of land, the chookyard on another block behind it and an orchard a further block behind that.

Dan worked in the butter factory at the end of Capper Street in Tumut. Dorothy and Dan were join secretaries of a fund raising for the Catholic Church in the 1930s. Dan was secretary of the Catholic School Auxillary for many years.

In the 1950s, Dan was joint secretary of the Catholic ball with his great friend Tom Davy. Just Days before the ball was to be held, the river flooded and the showground pavilion, which was the venue for the ball was flooded. The Ball was then held at the Oddfellows Hall.

A quiet man, Dan was a keen gardener. In addition to his own large garden, Dan looked after the garden and part of the lawns at Blakeney lodge, the retirement hostel. He moved the lawns at the convent for more than 20 years. In later years he worked under the Governments Red scheme.

Dan passed away in August 1986, aged 76.

Mag, Dan, Julia and Tim Twomey

Mag, Dan, Julia and Tim Twomey

Mag Twomey

Margaret Josephine Twomey, was the twin sister of Dan. Known all her life as Mag, she married Maurice Quilty and they raised four children.

© 2010 Jen Wood

New Guestbook Comments

Tim Twomey on November 01, 2015:

Hi, we are Twomeys from (and living in) Ballingeary Co Cork. 70KM away from Meenkeragh. I stumbled over this on the web.

The Twomey Family Bombowlee Tumut NSW picture shows a young man front, left who is remarkably similar to my late father at that age. Names in our family are very similar:

My dad, William (Liam), My Grandad Tadhg (Tim), My Great Grand Parents John and Margaret. Any evidence of a link down here?

Best Regards

Tim Twomey

Peter from Australia on October 30, 2015:

Great read of a family history:) I am wondering if your family is related to the great VFL footballer Bill Twomey who played for Collingwood around the 1920s ?

Ibidii on August 04, 2013:

Very nice FH lens. I love the photos! :D

Related Articles