Mr. James Gormley, M.L.C. Eighty Today

30 July 1916 The Sun (Sydney)

To-day is known in Ireland as Gorland Sunday, and had it not been for this fact the date of the birth of one of Mr. James Gormley, M.L.C., a picturesque figure in early Australian life, would never, perhaps, have been known.

The records of vital statistics at Elphln, Ireland, do not go so far back as eighty years ago, or, if they do, they have been lost or are hidden away amongst the tomes of an Ireland of other days.

Mr. James Gormley is celebrating his 80th birthday to-day.

The Great Wind

His memory carries him back to the epoch in Irish history known as the Great Wind.

The storm burst over the country on February 6, 1839, and he says he distinctly remembers seeing the devastation next morning, the trees that lined the avenue to his father's house shorn of their branches, the stables and cow-houses unroofed, and the granary partly demolished.

He recalls, too, that in the same year there were only about six miles of railway in Ireland - from Dublin to Kingstown - not Kingston as it is known to-day.

It was in 1839 that Mr. Gormley's parents sailed from Ireland for Australia, and he has a vivid recollection of that part of those 70 miles journey from Elphin to Dublin, which was undertaken in a horse-drawn, punt-like contrivance along a canal.

They went down to Kingstown from Dublin by a trolley car, and thence on board a ship.

It was the Crusader, of 800 tons, which brought out 300 passengers, and eventually reached Sydney Cove on Thursday, January 20, 1840.

The family consisted of his parents, four sisters, two brothers, and himself.

Sydney's Early Days

"We only sighted land once," Mr. Gormley wrote some time ago. "That was the island of Tristan-da-Cunha.

We slowly sailed up close to the small island, and the islanders rowed close to the ship, and brought with them fruit and vegetables, which they ex-changed for goods.

The people on the island also brought to the ship a live sheep and a slaughtered bullock.

The outline of the island is still plainly before me - a sandy shore, a small stretch of level ground, and then a mountain towering up towards the clouds.

I remember, too, that we sighted, shortly after leaving tho island, a ship sailing in the opposite direction. The vessel was the Jane Blane, of Greenock, and was the only ship we communicated with on the voyage.

The Beach at Circular Quay

I have no recollection of entering Sydney harbor, but remember the vessel being (probably at anchor) near the Cove, and seeing boats rowed from the ship to the white sandy beach.

I could see trees on the land and heard talk about the blacks, and I watched the trees carefully with the expectation of seeing the blackfellows up in the branches.

I have no recollection of seeing a wharf or landing place about Sydney cove.

Our family and goods were taken in a boat from the ship to the sandy beach, now known as Circular Quay, We remained on the beach for some time, until men, dressed in red coats, and armed with musket and bayonet came with handcarts and shifted the luggage to our quarters."

That was 76 years ago.

Mr. Gormley, who has lived through those stirring days, recalls events and happenings of 50 and even 70 odd years ago.

He was able to ride a horse and helped to drive his father's stock to the Murrumbidgee in 1844, when he was eight years of age, and in 1846 he assisted to drive stock, across the snow-covered mountains to Gippsland.

In the same year he went on an over-landing trip with cattle to the copper mines in South Australia.

On that journey the blacks on the lower Murray were hostile and the party was kept on the alert for several weeks.

One Hundred Drowned

In 1851, when gold was first discovered, although only 15 years of age, Mr. Gormley, with two older brothers, went in search of gold at Summer Hill, the Turon River, and Tambaroora.

In '52 he was back with his people at Gundagai, in time to witness the great flood in the Murrumbidgee on June 25, which, swept the town away and drowned about one hundred persons, among whom were five of Mr. Gormley's family an elder brother and himself being saved.

They were swept down by the current for nearly a mile when they caught the branches of a tree, into which they climbed.

They remained there through the night and part of next day, when they were rescued.

From '52 until '54 the brothers were on the Victorian goldfields, and in ''58 James Gormley, then 22 years of age, had contracts with the Postal Department for the conveyance of mails on 500 miles of roads in the southern part of New South Wales, employing a large staff and 300 horses.

Those were the days when Morgan, the bushranger, was about, and many are the stories Mr. Gormley tells of this desperado.

Subsequently Mr. Gormley went in for pastoral pursuits and stocked two stations in the western districts of the State.

There he underwent many privations.

In 1882 he was back on the Murrumbidgee and settled in Wagga, where he was elected an alderman.

He was Mayor for two years, and supervised the planting of miles of shade trees in the streets of the town.

In 1885 Mr. Gormley was elected a member of Parliament, and remained there until 1904, when lie resigned his seat in the Legislative Assembly, and was the same day appointed to the Legislative Council.

During his long association with the town of Wagga Mr. Gormley has taken an active part in the affairs of the town, and has been chairman on different occasions of ovary public institution.

For 25 years he was the honorary hardicapper to the Murrumbidgee Turf Club, to which he presented the gold cup valued at 120 guineas, in 1885.