JANE CLEMENT (1839-1918)

Barbara Holt, New Zealand

My great-grandmother, born 1 June 1839 in Killaloe, Co. Clare, Jane CLEMENT, was one of my mother’s four grandparents who emigrated from Ireland to New Zealand in the early 1860’s. As I am now aged 80, I find myself thinking about my mother as she aged; and realise that may be why she talked to me then more about Jane, her maternal grandmother, than she did about her own mother, Mary Rebecca ARCHIBALD née ORR who died at 43 years of age.

My mother loved a small framed photo of Jane she owned, printed on glass and taken by a firm in Limerick City. In it, her long black hair was pulled back into a hair-net and her dark brown eyes shone with excitement. Sadly, it no longer exists, probably having broken when it fell off the side-board, where my mother liked to look at it in her old age.

 Model of the Violet in Nelson Museum
Model of the Violet in Nelson Museum

In the 1860’s, Jane was assisted to come to NZ under a NZ Government scheme which brought young women from Co. Clare to teach in the district of Nelson, NZ. Part of the cost of the voyage had to be repaid within 2 years of arrival but single women teachers were able to bring someone with them. So Jane, aged 24, invited her 17-year-old maternal first cousin, Louisa ELLIOTT, to come with her, on a small sailing ship called Violet which brought 78 passengers from England, taking 110 days, from 16 March to 5 July 1864.

There are probably several reasons why these young women decided to emigrate from Ireland. Jane’s father Andrew CLEMENT(S) (born 1802) died at age 43 in 1845 when Jane was 6 years old. An 1846 Directory says he was a shopkeeper / grocer / baker and seller of glassware in Killaloe. When the Great Famine of 1845 began, Andrew’s work may have brought him into contact with people who had the fever prevalent then. It seems likely that was the cause of his death because Jane’s brother, John William CLEMENT(S), born 1840, also died in 1845.

Louisa was the eldest daughter of Jane’s maternal uncle, Henry ELLIOTT and his wife Mary née GIBBONS. Henry was a draper and shop-keeper in the small towns of Ennis and Killaloe, Co. Clare who died at age 39 in 1857 when Louisa was aged 12. Another reason for these cousins deciding to emigrate may be that, according to author James Ryan, a mass movement of people out of County Clare was taking place during the years they were children and adolescents. By 1861, Killaloe had lost a total of 441 families as a result of deaths in the 1845-51 Great Famine and the emigration of other people. As a result, the chances of young women meeting someone they wanted to marry were less then; and perhaps even more so for women from Protestant families, like Jane and Louisa, because the majority of people in Co. Clare were Roman Catholics.

Jane had an older sister named Anne or Anna CLEMENT(S), born 1837, who grew up with her in Killaloe. She married James McCORMACK in Killaloe’s St Flannan’s Cathedral in 1865, about a year after Jane emigrated to NZ. He was the same age as Anna but possibly a first cousin of Elizabeth Elliott, Anna and Jane’s mother, because Elizabeth’s mother’s maiden name was Rebecca McCormack and she had a brother named Alexander. James’s father was named on his marriage certificate as an Alexander McCormack. Finding out her sister Anna planned to marry a cousin of theirs may have been another reason Jane decided to emigrate.

It appears these two sisters did not stay in touch with each other after Jane emigrated, perhaps because it took so long for letters to come by sailing ships. Anne appears to have moved to England from Limerick with her husband and children; and then to America which would have made it difficult for Jane to know what her current address was.

My mother was told by Jane’s daughters that she told them she came to NZ to avoid having to look after her mother’s other children – two step-siblings and four half- siblings named WINDER. John WINDER was captain of a small boat that took people from Killaloe to Limerick City and back. In 1850, he was a widower with two children when he married Jane’s mother, also widowed with two children; and they then had four more children together. Jane told her daughters her mother used to refer to their family when speaking to John WINDER as your children, my children and our children.

What happened to Jane’s cousin Louisa Elliott in New Zealand may have had a big emotional effect on Jane’s life here. On their voyage on the Violet as steerage passengers, there was a cabin passenger named Henry Hastings, from an English county family, injured while serving as an officer in the British army in India. Two weeks after the Violet arrived in Nelson, Henry (27) and Louisa (18) married there. Jane worked as a teacher in Nelson from July to Dec. 1864 after which, records show, she paid back some of the fare money she owed the NZ Government from her earnings. (She and Louisa paid back the rest after they married.)

In January 1865, Jane moved from Nelson to live in Wellington with Henry and Louisa who were expecting a child. Henry had obtained a job as a newspaper journalist there. Living in Nelson as a single woman teacher must have appealed to Jane far less then than helping her younger cousin get ready to look after a new-born child. Born April 1865, the baby was named Holloway Walrond Elliott HASTINGS, his first two names those of his father’s brother, Governor of a province in India.

Thomas ORR, the man Jane chose to marry in Wellington in 1866, was born in Armagh City in 1835, and trained as a ship’s joiner in Belfast by Harland and Wolff. He and his first wife Sarah née ISDLE and their two very young daughters left London on the ship Tiptree on 26 October 1863 on NZ Govt-assisted passages, arriving near Christchurch, NZ on 20 January 1864 (a journey of 86 days). They knew Sarah had TB, but hoped the NZ climate would cure her of it, I was told by one of Jane’s grandchildren. Although they survived the long journey, the two daughters died, in March and April, 1864 in Lyttleton, near Christchurch.

This ORR couple then moved to Wellington after Feb. 1865, when it was declared the new capital city of New Zealand, because Thomas knew he would have a more profitable career building houses, churches etc there. Their third child, a son, Bob, was born in Wellington on 15 August 1865 but his mother Sarah died 9 weeks later on 23rd October 1865. A story passed down is that Jane CLEMENT first saw Thomas in a Wellington church on his own, holding his baby.

 Jane and Thomas Orr, 1866
Jane and Thomas Orr, 1866

In June 1866, Jane CLEMENT aged 27, married Thomas ORR aged 31, in Wellington’s new St Paul’s Cathedral, their witnesses being Henry and Louisa Hastings. Jane and Thomas ORR then brought up his son Bob with their other children – four girls and two boys born between 1867-1879. Jane’s first child born 1867 was named Elizabeth Susan after Jane’s mother and Thomas’s mother in Ireland, and called Lizzie.

In 1868, Henry Hastings answered a call for volunteers to join a regiment called The Wellington Rangers and was made a Lieutenant in it. Its purpose was to fight for land British immigrants wanted to farm at some distance north-west of Wellington, traditionally occupied by Maori, NZ’s indigenous people. After the regiment had been fighting there some time, Hastings was seriously injured in an unsuccessful attempt to attack the local chief’s stronghold. He told his men to leave him and died there on 7 September 1868.

In February 1869, Louisa and her son returned to Ireland. At age 23, she had received from the NZ Government an allowance for her son until he was 18 and a war widow’s non-means-tested pension which she drew for the next 69 years (because she did not remarry), dying in Dublin in 1937, aged 92. In June 1869, Jane and Thomas’s second child was born and given the names Thomas Henry, after Thomas’s father and Henry Hastings.

Thomas and Jane Orr then both continued learning how to cope with life in New Zealand, after each having lost a family member who came with them from Ireland. In 1872, their second daughter was born and named Anna Louisa, after Jane’s sister and her cousin Louisa. Their third daughter born 1874 named Sarah Jane, (perhaps after Thomas‘s first and second wives) was called Jen.

The fifth child born into this family, in 1877, was Mary Rebecca, named after Jane’s maternal grandmother, Rebecca McCormack, and called Beppie. The sixth and last child of Thomas and Jane Orr was a second son, born in 1879, named John Clement ORR, after Thomas’s older brother John and Jane’s father’s family, and called Jack.

Thomas’s son, Bob ORR died of TB aged 19 in 1884, after completing his building apprenticeship. In 1887, Jane and her eldest daughter Lizzie became active members of Wellington’s newly-built Congregational Church; in Jane’s case by confession of faith, having been a member of the same church in Limerick City. As adults, Jane’s children sang in this Wellington Church’s choir and sent their children to its Sunday School.

In 1892, Jane’s mother, Elizabeth WINDER died in Killaloe. That year Jane and her daughter, Anna Louisa, were among the many NZ women who signed a Petition for Women’s Suffrage. It led to the NZ Government passing legislation giving the right to vote for Members of Parliament to all NZ women aged 21 and over from 1893, earlier than any other country.

In 1896, Thomas Orr, aged 61, went on a 6- month overseas trip by steamship between March and August. If given the option, Jane probably chose not to go with him because their 6 children were all living at home or single at the time, although Lizzie, the eldest, married shortly after her father left on this trip. It is known that Thomas visited his widowed older sister Susanna and her adult children in England on his trip. .

In Dublin he probably visited Louisa Hastings because in Sept. 1896, her son Holloway arrived in Wellington and wrote a poem in French in a Journal Jane owned. The register of the ship he came on said he was a grocer which surprised me because my mother had told me her Orr aunts said he was a ne’er–do-well. In 1986 I realised they must have accompanied that description with gestures, after my mother told me she thought her aunts meant he was a homosexual. Holloway returned to Ireland via Australia and South Africa and died in the 1920’s in Dublin.

After Thomas’s trip, his daughters, Anna and Jen each went separately as single women on trips to England and Ireland in their mid-20’s in the 1890’s, visiting their Orr cousins in England, Louisa in Dublin, and Killaloe, as well as going to theatres in London etc. The Orr’s son Tom went as a volunteer soldier to the 1901-1902 Boer War in South Africa late in that war and afterwards, married and settled there, with a wife and two children.

 Jane and Thomas Orr, and family 1905
1905 : Thomas and Jane Orr (née Clement)
with their 4 daughters and 2 sons
(Inset: Tom in Sth Africa). Jen and Anna on left , Lizzie on right.

A photo of all Jane’s NZ family except Tom was taken in 1905, probably because Beppie (standing between her mother and brother Jack) was about to leave Wellington to live in Auckland. Her husband Charles ARCHIBALD had obtained a new Public Service job in Auckland after marrying Bep in 1904. The photo shows it was a sad day for the Orr family.

They are: the eldest Lexie Osborne (aged 12); Jean Kathleen (4) and Sheila Betty Archibald (6 months) brought to Wellington from Auckland; and Doris Orr (aged 2) brought from South Africa by her mother.

Jane looks both very fond of the children and very sad that three of them were living so far away from her she would see very little of them. However, Jane’s second daughter Anna Louisa Clendon née Orr had two children in her 40’s: Nancy born 1st Dec. 1911 and Jack born 21 Feb. 1913, who did live in the Wellington area. Jane’s only other grandson Ralph Orr, born in South Africa, was the one Jane never met. Her eighth and final grandchild was Beppie’s youngest child Mollie, born 1913 in New Plymouth whom Jane went up there to meet when a train service was started between it and Wellington that year.

Jane, taken at age 70, with her first four grandchildren

At age 41 in 1916, Jane’s daughter, Jen married a Wellington neighbour, a widower whose child, called Bob, she had looked after while his wife was dying of cancer. In December 1916, Jack Clement Orr, still single, was called up by the NZ Government at age 37, to fight in the First World War in Europe. My mother in 1917, as an 8- year- old, when visiting Jane’s home, entering the sitting room found a number of women sitting with Jane, dressed in black, in the style of an Irish wake. She learnt a message had been received from the Front that Jane’s son Jack had been gassed in France. Later, it was reported he survived his injuries but he did not get home from that war until long after his father had died aged 82 in November 1917 and Jane had died in May 1918 aged 79.

My mother remembered these years of her childhood as having one sorrowful family event after another. After her Orr grandparents’ deaths, their son Thomas Henry Orr, died aged 49 of bladder cancer in South Africa in 1919; her mother Beppie died of pneumonia in June 1920 and her cousin Lexie died of TB in the early 1920’s, after marrying and having 2 sons.

My grandmother Beppie told my mother when she was young that she had wanted to be a teacher. Jane does not seem to have been able to persuade Thomas that any of their children should go to a secondary school. However, she may have helped the 4 of her 6 children who later had children of their own to see that education was of benefit in life. Of her 8 grandchildren, 4 girls and 1 boy graduated from the University of NZ, one of the girls later becoming a Lecturer in Child Studies at a Teachers Training College; and 3 girls also having careers as teachers.

My mother (1909-1998) and her older sister Jean Kathleen (1905 -1986) both thought Jane believed she was of Huguenot descent. Recently, I received some closure on the question of whether Jane’s ancestors were Huguenots, which I have been researching for years. The results from my autosomal DNA test by FTDNA (Texas) suggest I am 94% European, made up of 50% from West and Central Europe and 44% from the British Isles, the other 6% being from the West Middle East and Asia Minor.


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