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Rediscovering Ginninderra:
Flourence McAuliffe

Born: 1840; Died: 1886; Married: Mary Ann Flanagan

Flourence was the fifth of six children who arrived in Australia in 1845 with their parents Thomas McAuliffe (Senior) and Mary McAuliffe. The family settled at Springfield, near what is now Murrumbateman. Flourence's younger brother Jeremiah McAuliffe later bought part of the adjoining 'Nanima' property, including its homestead. Jeremiah and his brother Thomas McAuliffe (Junior) were instrumental in establishing the new St Francis Xavier's church in Hall in 1911, replacing St Francis Church for which Flourence had donated the land.

Irish-born Flourence left Jeir in c. 1865 (aged twenty-five) to take over from James Hatch as blacksmith at the Ginninderra Blacksmiths Workshop.

In 1860 Flourence had married Mary Ann Flanagan, with whom he was to have eleven children. Mary suffered during her life from episodic mental illness, particularly in 1869, but Flourence stayed faithful to her and supported her recovery.

By 1870, the McAuliffes owned three small blocks contiguous with the blacksmith's shop In Ginninderra and supplemented their income with farming on the side.

Flourence McAuliffe was a popular man and invested heavily in a local community that, in turn, appreciated his efforts. Nevertheless, his term as the Ginninderra smith was dogged by bad luck. In 1867, fire destroyed his residence. It was only through the desperate efforts of the McAuliffes and his friend, Bobby Hamilton, that the smithy and his means of livelihood was saved. After the conflagration the small Ginninderra community came together to help the McAuliffes by donating goods and helping them rebuild. Flourence bounced back to the extent that he was able to donate land to the new school and, in a way, helped repay his debt to those who had stood by him in his time of need.

McAuliffe was no an ordinary smith. He made items of prize-winning quality such as the plough that won John Southwell a prize and much acclaim at the Queanbeyan Show. Shumack's Autobiography mentions that McAuliffe employed a very skilled off-sider, named John Wilson. This man dislocated both wrists in an accident soon after and never again worked as a smith, but he had shown Flourence some innovative methods from Glasgow.

McAuliffe was also a champion for the free selectors and was elected chair of a public meeting, which led to the formation of the Ginninderra Protection Union.

It is clear that Flourence McAuliffe was a man of great resilience, who stoically bore the loss of his home and all his possessions in 1867. Nevertheless his blacksmithing and farming interests were such that he could employ workers and even donate land to the new school. Despite his skill and his courage, McAuliffe ultimately failed in business. In 1877 he was declared bankrupt. His financial woes and the illness suffered by his wife may well explain the family's decision to leave Ginninderra and move to Cooma in 1877.

It adds to the tragedy of their lives to know that Flourence and Mary Ann died in Cooma within a two year period, she of typhoid fever on 23 Jan 1885 aged forty-four, and he on 24 September 1886 of 'inflammation of the lungs' aged forty-five. When Mary died, according to her death certificate there were eleven children ranging in age from twenty-two to only seven months. All were also listed on Flourence's death certificate the following year.

Mr. Florence J. McAuliffe, blacksmith, died at his residence, at the back of the Royal Hotel, Cooma, at half-past 11 yesterday morning, after a short illness. He leaves a family of ten children totally unprovided for, and was but 45 years of age when he died. During his residence in Cooma, since about the year 1879, Mr. McAuliffe identified himself with the public movement of the day. For a term he was an alderman of Cooma Municipal Council, and he took much interest in the local Pastoral and Agricultural Association. In the affairs of the Roman Catholic Church, he took a very deep interest, and was Warden of St. Patrick's Guild. The funeral starts at 3 o'clock on Sunday afternoon.
[The Manaro Mercury, and Cooma and Bombala Advertiser , Saturday 25 September 1886]

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