The Search for Catherine Marmion otherwise Shaw
otherwise Murphy.


Having found the baptismal entries for two of the children of Arthur Marmion and ‘Catherine Shaw alias Murphy’ in the Clonallon Catholic Church records, accompanied by a Latin phrase which stated that the children were illegitimate and the parents were living in adultery, a search began for the possible marriage of a Catherine Murphy and a Shaw, first name unknown. Since Shaw is most commonly a Protestant name in Ireland the obvious place to begin was with a detailed search of all available Newry, Kilkeel and south Down, Church of Ireland and Presbyterian Church records.

A complete search of all such church records was not possible since some had been lost in the destruction of the Record Office in Dublin during the civil war in 1922. Having searched those available, together with those belonging to Catholic parishes, nothing was found and the search appeared hopeless.

However, suspecting that she had been living somewhere in the Clonallon parish in the early 1830s, it was felt that a search of Land Registry Records pertaining to the Barony of Iveagh Upper, which contains this parish, might just provide a clue as to her identity.

The townland indexes to these records are arranged in alphabetical order and starting with the letter‘A’, opposite the townland name ‘Aughnagon’ appeared a very cramped, closely written entry  which appeared to read ‘Marmion to Newell’. Checking the reference which accompanied the entry produced a memorial of a deed of conveyance registered on the 2nd April 1835 between,

Catherine Marmion otherwise Shaw otherwise Murphy of Newry Co. Down formerly the wife of William Shaw of Sydney New South Wales and
William Newell of Drummond, Co. Down, Gent.

This provided information which had long been sought and frequently despaired of and the fact that it was contained in a legal transaction gave it some validity and authority. We now knew that Catherine was living in Newry, that she had been married to a William Shaw living in New South Wales. Designated as ‘formerly the wife of’ seemed to imply that the marriage was no longer recognised, that somehow she had managed to free herself of her former husband who is stated to be of New South Wales and appears to be still alive. If he had been deceased she would have been referred to as ‘widow of’.

The most important piece of information however was contained in the name ‘Catherine Marmion’. She was now recognised as the wife of Arthur Marmion!


Bear in mind that this was a legal document sworn before witnesses, both legal and civilian, some of whom undoubtedly knew Catherine, her circumstances and background and probably knew her former husband. More importantly William Newell of Drummond, which is just across the Whitewater River from Ballymagart, was well acquainted with the Marmion family with whom he frequently did business.  If his title had not been correctly drawn he would not have signed.

Somehow in the four year period since the baptism of her last child in Clonallon  Catholic Church Catherine had managed to have her marriage dissolved, annulled or ended in a manner deemed to be legal and had married the father of her children, Arthur Marmion.

How did she do it, where did she remarry? We may never know. If her previous husband Shaw was a Protestant, she most probably married in a Church of Ireland. It was illegal, in those years, for a priest to conduct a marriage between a Catholic and a Protestant in a Catholic Church but some risked the wrath of the courts and did so. If she had married a Protestant in a Catholic Church such a marriage could be set aside and dissolved by the civil authorities and she might be free to marry again.

If on the other hand she had married in the Church of Ireland, while this marriage was legal in civil law, in canon law which governed the Catholic Church it would be deemed to be invalid. She might be free to remarry. I should stress that marriage laws can be extremely tricky and it would be foolhardy to jump to conclusions.

According to the deed Catherine sold to Newell a small farm of 5 acres approximately, then in the occupation of an Edward McGovern. It was later discovered that the name entered should have been that of Edward McGivern, a common family name in that area. However that was a minor detail, the important thing was the finding of the elusive Catherine!

The document went on to state that the farm belonged to Catherine and she had full power to sell the same. The amount was not stated but it could not have been very large. Knowing that Catherine with her five children had sailed to New York later that year she was obviously disposing of her assets before leaving.


Searching further through the Registry of Deeds produced a memorial of a Tripartite Indenture (739 412 503748) headed ‘Murphy and others to Murphy’ registered 20th April 1819.

This went on to outline a trust made between
Laurence Murphy the Elder of Newry, merchant and
Laurence Murphy the Younger of Newry, merchant, 2nd son of  the Elder and
Piers Murphy of Lowertown in the Co. of Louth Esq.,

whereby the elder Murphy did grant unto Piers Murphy, his heirs etc. forever, one ‘annuity yearly rent charge’ of £100 issuing from and chargeable on one moiety (half) of the townland of Aughnagon then in the possession of the elder Murphy and containing by estimation 150a 0r 7p Plantation measure (approx 225 statute acres) for the several trusts mentioned in the deed but not specified in the memorial, which is a copy, but not a complete copy of the deed registered. Following the registration of the deed the clerks in the Registry wrote up the ‘memorial’, which contained only the salient features of the deed, in large vellum volumes and the actual deed was placed in the vault.

Among others the deed was witnessed by William Shaw of Newry Gent!!

A marriage settlement (740 154 504089) registered on the 4th May 1819 threw additional light on the previous document.

The settlement was agreed between,

Laurence Murphy the Younger of Newry, Co. Down, merchant and
Jeffrey Connell of North Anne Street, Dublin, merchant and Eliza Christiana Connell of the same, spinster and daughter of Jeffrey and
Nicholas Connell of North Anne Street,

whereby after reciting a deed 10th Apr. 1819 in which the elder Murphy transferred to the younger the father’s home on the west side of the Turnpike Road leading from Newry to Banbridge the deed went on to outline the trust above (739 412 503748) which had been set up in anticipation of the proposed marriage between the younger Murphy and Christiana. It went on to say that the bride’s father had paid to her husband a marriage portion of £500 and in return if her husband predeceased her she was to receive £70 each year for the remainder of her life out of the annuity of £100 payable on the lands of Aughnagon.

The above threw some additional light on the Murphy family but nothing compared to the next. This was a ‘deed of appointment’ (818 509 551244) registered 29th Oct. 1826 and made between,

Bridget Murphy of Ballybought Co. Armagh, widow of Laurence Murphy late of that part of Newry which lies in the co. of Down, deceased and,
Catherine Shaw now the wife of William Shaw of Sydney Cove in New Holland and Anne Jane Murphy of Ballybot  Spinster – the daughters of Bridget and the late Laurence and,
Christopher Ross of Newry, Co. Down, Shoemaker and Francis McCann of Newry, Grocer.

The memorial went on to state that Laurence had died possessed of an undivided half of the townland of Aughnagon which he had bequeathed to his wife for the remainder of her life and after to his two daughters in such proportions as Bridget was to decide upon. She was now declaring that the farm of Edward McGivern’s should be Catherine’s but and here’s the rub ‘without the intervention of her then or any subsequent husband’! Ross and McCann were to act as trustees.

If only all wives had such far seeing and wise mothers!!

Bridget is obviously aware that her daughter’s marriage is in trouble. She also knows or suspects that Catherine has her eye on another man or he has his eye on her but where is he? Is he in Ireland or New South Wales? This goes a long way to explain why we couldn’t find Arthur Marmion after he gave up his pub in Kilkeel.



The Murphys are listed in Bradshaw’s 1820 Directory as living in Newry, the elder described as a Gent. living in Market Street and the younger, a Tanner, on the Downshire Road. The elder died in 1820 and Laurence Junior became bankrupt in 1825 (801 541 541076). To add to his troubles he was fined and named in the Newry Commercial Telegraph in March 1828 for allowing his pig to wander in the street.

He died about 1835, his will being probated in 1836. Bernard Coleman a tallow chandler and soap boiler of Boat Street and later Castle Street husband of Laurence’s sister Anne Jane acted as executor. Anne Jane died, aged 44 yrs. in 1827 and her daughter Mary Jane in 1840. Bernard died in 1853 aged 78 yrs.

A Henry Murphy described as a journeyman chandler lived at the Kiln Yard, Catherine named one of her children Henry Murphy. Was this a favourite brother? 

But what of William Shaw, who was he and what became of him? The 1820 Newry directory lists a William Shaw, agent at the mail coach house with his home in William Street. Is he our man? The Belfast Newsletter carried in its edition of 2nd. July 1850 the following death notice,
‘Sept. 9th at his residence, Elizabeth Street, Sydney, New South Wales, Mr. William Shaw formerly of Lisburn aged 60 years’.

The Sydney Morning Herald, November 10, 1849 contained the following,
‘Died. At his residence No. 26, Elizabeth Street South, Mr. William Shaw, aged 60, a native of Lister, in the county of Antrim, Ireland’. Lister is obviously a mistake for Lisburn.

Below in the same column,
‘Funeral. The friends of the late Mr. William Shaw are respectfully requested to attend his Funeral, which will take place this day, at Three o’clock p.m. The procession will move from his late residence, No. 26 Elizabeth- street-South.
  No circulars will be issued,
   Henry Thomas
     Undertaker, Clarence Street.
November 10.’

Was this the former husband of Catherine? A further clue lies in Bradshaw’s 1819 Directory for Lisburn. Thomas Shaw is given as the agent to the mail coach office in Bridge Street.

A Thomas in Lisburn and a William in Newry both working for the stagecoach – these men were most probably related. I think we can safely say that the William who was carried from his home for burial, that afternoon all those years ago in Sydney, was the one time sweetheart and former husband of Catherine Murphy!

Did he remarry, had he a family, more importantly did he have any children to Catheine – they were together long enough for this to have happened - and if he had did she take them home or leave them with their father?
©Tom Cunningham 2006
Murphy Family History, by Tom Cunningham
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