The first Michael Gorey in Australia was my great-grandfather Edward’s eldest brother.
Michael was born at sea on 24 September 1841 aboard the barque Middlesex, a week before arriving in Melbourne with his parents James and Elizabeth Gorey from County Kilkenny in Ireland.
Genealogy is a fascinating hobby and more resources are more easily available today than they were 20 years ago when I started researching.
Back then, it meant visiting libraries to read old newspapers on microfilm with no indexing, and going to the Public Records Office to order files from the archives.
Most historical newspapers are now available online and many documents have been digitised too, like inquests, wills and probate.
Being a pioneer settler, you’d think Michael Gorey would have left an extensive trail like his brother Edward, but that’s not the case.
Michael’s first appearance on the public record occurred on 19 July 1860, when he was 18 years old.
According to a report in the Kyneton Observer, he appeared in the Police Court:
Michael Gorey appeared to answer the charge of committing an assault upon James Gorey, his father.
Mr Boulton, who appeared for defendant, pleaded guilty, under aggravated circumstances. Mr James appeared for complainant, and asked the magistrate to have defendant bound over to keep the peace, the complainant had no objection to be bound over also. The magistrate, after lecturing both of them, bound them over to keep the peace towards each other for 12 months in the sum of 100 pounds each.
Michael’s next appearance in the press was five years later on 4 July 1865, also in the Police Court:
Michael Gorey was charged by Mary King with having assaulted her; damages were laid at £20. Mr Booker, for defendant, submitted that prosecutrix, being a married woman, could not sue for damages, and the case must therefore be dismissed. On being asked, Mrs King said her husband was away up country. Case dismissed without prejudice.
A report on 5 January 1866 is revealing:
We are informed that at the conclusion of the polling at Mia Mia on Saturday last, Constable Hall was made the victim of an unprovoked assault by a number of parties, who sought to revenge themselves upon him for his being the instrument in Michael Gorey, of Boggy Creek, being fined £10 for assault, at the last sitting of the Malmsbury Police Court.
The polling had been over, and the constable had mounted his horse to proceed home, when he was advised by a man named McAuliffe to remain as there might be a row yet. Hall looked about, and fancying there might be occasion for his services, came off his horse when he was assaulted by a man named McGrath.
Hall immediately collared his assailant, when an attempt at a rescue was made by McAuliffe and others, some six or eight assailing the constable at once. Hall called out for assistance, when James Douglas and some others interfered and prevented his being murdered.
During the scuffle Hall never left go his prisoner, and managed to convey him handcuffed to Malmsbury. He and others of Hall’s assailants, who have been summoned, will be tried this morning in the Kyneton Police Court before Mr J. C. Thomson, PM, when no doubt the real facts of the assault will be disclosed.
The McAuliffe mentioned here was Michael’s brother-in-law John, the husband of his sister Bridget.
Constable Hall went on to have a long career in the Police and was notorious for his arrest of Ned Kelly in April 1871 when he allegedly pistol whipped and bashed the young Kelly.
In October 1867, Michael Gorey was struck off the electoral roll for not being a landowner in his own right, wrongly claiming his father’s property as the right to vote.
In April 1868 he was sentenced to 14 days in Kyneton Gaol for obtaining the right to vote under false pretences.
The Kyneton Observer opined: We are informed that Gorey was the “coming man” for the Malmsbury Borough Council at the next municipal election, having already rigorously canvassed the district as a candidate for those municipal honors, but then comes the question, how about his qualification if he must be laboring under some delusion, which, we doubt not will be effectually cured by the incarceration he is now undergoing.
In May 1868, Michael was back in court, facing a summons for not paying a debt of 35 shillings to Reginald Green. He was ordered to pay within 14 days, or in default go to prison for two weeks.
And that’s it. There’s nothing more I can find on the record about Michael Gorey until his death at Nagambie in 1908.
Possibly chastened by his imprisonment, he never contested the Malmsbury Council elections and disappeared from public life. For a man with political aspirations, this seems rather strange.
Maybe he left the district to restart his life somewhere he’d be less conspicuous.
I explored this theory by searching for traces of him across the border in South Australia and New South Wales, without success.
I checked outgoing passenger records but couldn’t find any evidence of him leaving Victoria by ship.
I considered that he might have changed the spelling of his surname, and traced a Michael Gorry in Melbourne, who was a publican of roughly the same age, but they don’t appear to be the same man based on a marriage certificate that I obtained.
Michael Gorey died at Nagambie on 31 July 1908 and the best clues about him come from the inquest into his death, where he was identified as James Gorie. He had changed his name and that opens up new lines of inquiry.
I’m not expecting to find much though, because he was working as a woodcutter when he died, aged 66. He was living in a hut on the grazing property where he worked, supposedly an alcoholic.
Michael’s employer, Nagambie grazier Ebenezer Newnham, was the inquest witness who knew him best. In his statement, Ebenezer said Michael had been working for him “on and off” for the past three years and wood cutting at Mitchellstown for six months, camped in a hut.
“Three weeks ago I saw him there and he informed me he got damp cutting some scrub and his breathing was very tight, but he thought he was getting better,” the statement said.
“I again saw him last Thursday and found that he was laid up. I got him to get up and I drove him into Nagambie.”
The intention was for Michael to go to Mooroopna Hospital near Shepparton the next day, but he wasn’t well enough and he died shortly afterwards “from cardiac failure accelerated by lung congestion”.
Ebenezer shared an anecdote that Michael claimed to be an imperial pensioner for having been a soldier in the British Army, and said he was due a payment of 28 pounds, but Michael had said “it has never done me any good because I always drink it”.
The Nagambie Times reported the inquest on 7 August 1908:
A magisterial inquiry into the death of Michael Gorey, better known as James Gorie, who died on Friday last, was held before Mr John Gordon, J.P., on Saturday.
The deceased, it appears, came from Mitchellstown to Nagambie on the previous day, with the intention of going on to the Mooroopna Hospital, but not feeling well enough to go on went to bed at Beams’s Wine Hall, and on Friday Dr Murphy was sent for, and on going into the room at about half-past six found him dead. The result-of the inquiry showed that death was caused by cardiac failure, accelerated by congestion of the lungs.
The deceased, who was 68 years of age, was born at sea, within sight of Melbourne. He was a man of powerful build, and it was supposed that he was a Crimean veteran, as he-used to give most graphic and thrilling accounts of the battles in which he-imagined he was engaged.
He also used to state that he had won his Victoria Cross, but as he had never been out of Australia the whole story was of course mythical.
My great-grandfather Edward was living 25km from Nagambie at Whroo when news reached him that his brother had died.
An addendum was placed on the inquest report that Edward had provided information to officials after the findings were handed down.
“He informed me the deceased’s correct name was Michael Gorey and that he never was an imperial pensioner or soldier,” the report notes. “He took charge of the funeral arrangements.”
It remains a mystery what the “coming man” did with his life for 40 years between 1868 and 1908?
NB: My grandfather (Edward’s son) was the second Michael Gorey from our family in Australia, 1884-1959. His son (my uncle) was the third, 1919-39. I’m the fourth and my son is the fifth.