Sepia Saturday: Mr & Mrs McSherry – Diamond Jubilee 1941

Sepia Sat 252This week’s Sepia Saturday image celebrates the 50th anniversary of Dollinger Steel of Beaumont, Texas. We all know 50th events are important ones, whether they’re wedding or business anniversaries, or just birthdays. It has to be said that 60th anniversaries are even rarer, especially of weddings as it takes a youthful marriage and two to tango to a ripe old age.

diamond jubileeMy great-grandparents, Peter and Mary McSherry, reached this remarkable milestone in 1941, and it was widely reported in various newspapers, boldly captioned “Diamond Jubilee” Thanks to the news stories we know that “The diamond jubilee was celebrated with a luncheon party at the home of Mr. and Mrs. McSherry, Alma-street, when relatives and friends were entertained. Rev. Father D. L. Murtagh (an old friend of the family) presided, and proposed the toast of the jubilarians. Rev. Father D. Keneally added his congratulations and good wishes[i]. Not to be greedy, but it would have been wonderful to know just a little more about the day and who was there, and perhaps if they were given any gifts.  One omission which has only just occurred to me is that Peter’s siblings have not been mentioned, though at least one was certainly still alive. There’s some history of family feuding over the decades, so perhaps that was at the bottom of it.

My McSherry great-grandparents and some of their children, kindly provided to me by a cousin.
My McSherry great-grandparents and some of their children, kindly provided to me by a cousin. My grandfather, James Joseph McSherry is on the left. I have found the caption which was sent with the photo and I’ve added the women’s surnames: left to right standing: Jim, Elizabeth (Lil) Bayliss, Ellen (Ellie) Quinn, John, Mary McSherry, David, Bridget (Bridie) Moran, Peter jnr. Sitting: Annie Jacobson, Margaret McSherry, Peter snr, Agnes Jacobson.

I’ve been fortunate enough to obtain a photo from a cousin of the family gathered on the day. It took me a while to twig that in fact some of them had been “photoshopped” in, probably with earlier photos stuck on to the original. Although all their surviving six daughters and four sons were listed by name, obviously not all had been able to attend. If you look closely you’ll see different flooring on the left, and also quite different dress styles. The gentleman on the left is my grandfather, Peter & Mary’s second eldest child. Standing next to him is, I believe, his sister, Elizabeth Bayliss, wife of Frank Herbert Bayliss.

At a guess I’d say the photo of Grandad may have been taken at a wedding, as to my mind he has his arm positioned as if he’s giving a young woman his arm. It may have been my aunty Mary’s wedding in 1939 or less likely, his sister Mary Ellen’s wedding in 1913. Grandad may also not have had the money to attend the jubilee event, as only a few months later his whole family would move from Townsville to Brisbane and he would commence work at the Ipswich Railway Workshops. His sister Elizabeth may well not have been able to attend either, given she was living “out bush” on Acacia Downs station (property/large farm/ranch). Addendum: see Bev’s comment below, Annie Jacobson seated on the far left was also added into the picture). Although these three were living some distance away, I suspect the real reason for their absence may have been that they were personae non grata within the family.

The newspapers have been very accurate in their reporting of the McSherry couple’s life. Peter McSherry and Mary Callaghan were married on 27 February 1881 at St Michael’s Catholic Church in Gorey Wexford, where I was able to see their entry in the marriage register over a hundred years later, in 1989.

The 'Almora', 2000 ton ship. Commanded in 1883 by Captain Franks. Carried immigrants from Plymouth to ports in Queensland.
The ‘Almora’, 2000 ton ship. Commanded in 1883 by Captain Franks. Carried immigrants from Plymouth to ports in Queensland.

Peter’s parents and siblings all emigrated to Australia in 1883, perhaps drawn by the expansion of the railway in Queensland. However Mary was pregnant at the time so their departure didn’t coincide with the rest of the family’s migration and perhaps they were also waiting on remittances from the rest of the family. When my grandfather, James Joseph, was just an infant, this little family also set forth from Plymouth on 12 March 1884, heading for Queensland. They arrived in Rockhampton a speedy 49 days later.

McSHERRY Jubilee RKY article56085296-3-001This railway family had a busy time living and working through western and northern Queensland: “Mr McSherry Joined the Railway Department Immediately. His work took him to the west, and he lived for some years at Longreach and various western towns. He became lines Inspector in the Townsville division, also at Hughenden, and was appointed chief Inspector at Townsville in 1911. In 1919 be was transferred to Rockhampton as chief inspector and retired in October, 1930, at the age of 69.

Peter and Mary’s sons and daughters are all listed by name and place, showing how they were scattered around Queensland: “The sons are Messrs James (Townsville), David (Rockhampton), John (Morella), and Peter (Emerald). The daughters are Mrs J. H. Moran (Charters Towers), Mrs A. Jacobsen (Townsville), Mrs E. Quinn (Rockhampton), Mrs F. H. Bayliss (Acacia Downs, Aramac), Mrs O C Jacobsen (Ayr) and Miss Margaret McSherry (Rockhampton)”.

McSHERRY Margaret article56809240-3-001The news stories report that the couple had 10 surviving children  of their 13, but in fact Mary had given birth to 15 children, including two sets of twins, one genetic inheritance I’m certainly glad didn’t come down to me! One set of twins died soon after birth in late 1896/early 1897 and presumably these are the two who weren’t counted in the tally. Three others, including one of the other twins also died very young. Imagine how devastating this must have been for them, though perhaps their strong faith helped them through it. Before Peter died, however further tragedy would strike when he accidentally killed their daughter Margaret when leaving for morning Mass.

At the time of their jubilee, the couple had 25 grandchildren, and eight great-grandchildren though at least four more were born afterwards. As far as I know, Peter and Mary McSherry saw none of their great-grandchildren from my branch of the family, and had rarely seen their grandchildren.

Peter McSherry’s death on 25 February 1949 cut short their long marriage just two days before they could celebrate their 68th anniversary…just imagine the shared history.

I wonder how many couples manage such marital longevity? My Kunkel-O’Brien 2xgreat grandparents reached 58 years 6 months and my own parents came within cooee of 60 years, thanks to being married youngish and inheriting those longevity genes.

None of my other ancestors have come close to the McSherry diamond jubilee standard.  How have your ancestors stacked up in the compatibility and longevity stakes?

I wonder how other Sepians celebrated anniversaries or gatherings this week…why not go over and join the party?

This is a map of Queensland, showing the  places mentioned in the McSherry story. See below for some sense of distance.
This is a map of Queensland, showing the places mentioned in the McSherry story. See below for some sense of distance.

Distances and a sense of scale:

Townsville to Rockhampton is 721kms

Longreach to Rockhampton is 687 kms

Hughenden to Townsville is a cruisy 385 kms

Hughenden to Rockhampton is 986 kms

Darwin (where I live) to Rockhampton is 2934 kms and today would be a solid two day drive at the speed limit.


Morning Bulletin (Rockhampton, Qld : 1878 – 1954), Friday 7 March 1941, page 3

Rockhampton Diocese (1941, March 6). The Catholic Press (Sydney, NSW: 1895-1942), page 19.

The Central Queensland Herald (Rockhampton, Qld: 1930 – 1956), Thursday 13 March 1941, page 27

Townsville Daily Bulletin (Qld : 1885 – 1954), Thursday 3 April 1941, page 6.


[i] Rockhampton Diocese (1941, March 6). The Catholic Press (Sydney, NSW: 1895-1942), page 19.

34 thoughts on “Sepia Saturday: Mr & Mrs McSherry – Diamond Jubilee 1941

  1. wow 50 years is a big milestone, 60 is not often achievable. Sadly I think most families seem to have a feud somewhere along the line. You do have to look quite closely at the photo to see the editing. I wish I could do that with some of mine. Longevity runs in my family but usually only one of a couple.


  2. It certainly is a fascinating photograph. I would guess that both the people on the far left have been burnt-in but it is unclear as to whether anyone was burnt-out (so to speak) If not, there must have been a strange arrangement in the original photograph, It all makes for a fascinating post, thanks.


  3. Never thought about people photoshopping back in those days; I think you’re probably right — that it all involved family squabbling (sad how that happens). Good story, Pauline…


    1. I guess without computer technology just adding some other photos meant the whole family could be in the picture. And yes, family squabbling is far from uncommon. Thanks Deb.


    1. I think they just didn’t look happy. Other say they were quite happy people but my grandfather certainly wasn’t …in fact I can’t recall any specifically happy memories with him and he lived until I was 20. Sad really. I’ve adopted jubilarians too 🙂


  4. I enjoyed your whole post but I have this business of a composite photo on my mind.. I just hope that I never pass on a photo without it clearly being labelled if it is a composite It is trying to re-write history otherwise. You were very clever to pick that up. I don’t know that I would have noticed it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I have to give credit to my other half for that 😉 I was still bemused by seeing my grandfather in a formal suit. I have one where we added our daughter who was overseas to the photo but as it’s stuck on, there’s no ambiguity.


  5. The pieced-together photo perhaps explains why the woman seated on the far left has such a lovely smile on her face while everyone else looks rather grim. Too bad big smiles weren’t recommended in those early days of photography. A 60th wedding anniversary should be full of smiles!


    1. Yes she does have a nice smile doesn’t she…a later comment tells it came from one of her with daughter and granddaughter. It really wasn’t so early in time that smiles wouldn’t have been possible. I just don’t think they were smiling.


  6. At 56 years and counting down to a diamond jubilee my wife and I would find it impossible to come up with any photos approaching yours. Photoshopping people in or out seems to distort family history to me. I’d rather see the separate photos.


    1. Congratulations on the 56 years Bob and Mrs….great achievement. I agree that photoshopping does distort family history but it’s when they’re adapted in the modern era that changes it. I agree with you overall but I can also see why it might have been done though I’d be curious to know if it was done by a sibling or the parents.


  7. Hi Pauline, thanks for posting this as it makes it easier for me to forward the information and images to the rest of my family.
    My grandmother, Annie JACOBSON nee McSherry, is seated 2nd from the left. She’s the only one in the shot smiling, probably because she was also ‘inserted’ after the event. I have a copy of the original photo that this was edited from where she is with her daughter Margaret and granddaughter Bernice. If you remove the 3 on the left of the group photo you have a perfectly balanced photograph of the original group at the celebration.
    Two of the McSherry girls married two of the Jacobson boys. (Actually JACOBSON not Jacobsen). Annie married Edward James Jacobson and Agnes Philomena married his brother, O’Caral (Carl) Jacobson.
    I suggest as Edward was not alive at the time of the 60th anniversary, Annie is listed as Mrs A and not Mrs E Jacobson. Was that political correct for the time?
    Pauline, I have 16 births registered, including the 2 sets of twins. There are also true Irish twins or perhaps Irish triplets in this family. John Joseph born 02 Jan 1896 and the unnamed twins, (assumed still born) born the same year on 20 Dec 1896.
    Interestingly my parents also have 25 grandchildren and the 8th great grandchild is due next March. I suspect as these are all from just one of my siblings there may be well more than 8 in total, eventually.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for commenting Bev..much appreciated and good to have it all in one place. That is a coincidence of numbers in your family!

      Yes I think that’s right that women took their own initial after the husband’s death…at least that’s what I’ve always known.

      I’d never heard of Irish twins (or triplets) before. What a strong constitution Mary must have had..makes me tired just thinking about it.

      I really need to do more on the McSherry family- I’d neglected them for a long time. Aunty Mary told me the Jacobsons were different families (for the men) so useful to know the truth – could have found that by tracing their deaths..

      Great to know where the photo of Annie came from and I’d been coming to the realisation that the photo balanced without her as well as the other two….both in positioning and clothes. As you know I met your grandmother a couple of times in Townsville as she lived not far from one of mum’s friends…I remember her as being lovely.

      We still have an divergence on the number of children…I can’t find the 16th you mention in the BDMs and suspect it was Catherine aka Kate who died. But who is Daisy mentioned above – I’ve added the caption that came to me with the photo.


  8. I do enjoy these detailed accounts of family history, especially when the photographs also prove to be a talking a point. How sad to lose so many children, but how terrible to be the instrument of your own child’s death at such an advanced age. As for marriage longevity, my own parents manged to celebrate their 70th in July 2012 before my father passed away in the December.


    1. It’s interesting how much conversation this post has generated, and I’ve been late responding as I’ve been focused on writing a paper mainly.

      A 70th anniversary is a remarkable achievement. I do hope you got lots of family photos at it, and that the family was there for the grand event.


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