TIME TRAVEL: Anne and Bridget Scanlon at the grave of Maryann McSweeney, which Bridget travelled halfway across the world to visit.
TIME TRAVEL: Anne and Bridget Scanlon at the grave of Maryann McSweeney, which Bridget travelled halfway across the world to visit. Scott Kovacevic

84-year-old crosses globe for aunt who died in 1887

BURIED without a marker in a public grave at six months old, Maryann McSweeney lay unknown in Gympie Cemetery for 130 years.

One phone call to Bridget Scanlon's home in England changed all that, and today the 84-year-old stood defiant in the searing heat, flowers and new plaque laid by her and her daughter Anne were the last pieces of a journey which had taken her halfway around the world.

"I'm just so happy to be here, and see it and be able to go home," said Bridget, who had been planning on visiting Gympie - where her father Timothy grew up - for years.


Maryann McSweeney's grave where she is buried with more than seven other children.
Maryann McSweeney's grave at the Gympie Cemetery, where she was buried with more than seven other children in 1887. Scott Kovacevic

Aware of her family's historical roots in Australia, learning where her aunt had been laid to rest had lit a fire Bridget would not let gutter.

And Anne, who had moved to Perth 22 years ago, was the prefect person to help.

"Mum rang me quite excited about finding this out and how far is Gympie from Perth," Anne said.

"I said 'I have no idea, I'm going to have to look this up'."

Maryann McSweeney was only six weeks old when her parents Thomas and Bridget (Bridget's grandparents) sailed with her and her brother to Australia on the Dorunda in 1887, brought by the gold rush.

Dying only months after their arrival, Anne said they did not know Maryann's cause of death, but given the length and conditions of the trip, and how young she was when she made it, any number of causes were possible.

"It wouldn't have been a nice journey, would it?

"It would have been horrible," Anne said.

Maryann's funeral service was held in St Patrick's Church, and Bridget's father Timothy was baptised there when he was born three years later.


Bridget and Anne Scanlon at Gympie Cemetery where Bridget's aunt was buried in 1887.
Bridget and Anne Scanlon. Scott Kovacevic

He lived on Victoria Rd at One Mile before moving back to Ireland at age 22, but his home was the only prominent part of his life they had not been able to track down.

"Victoria Rd no longer exists," Anne said.

"Weirdly enough we went into the Brown Jug... and all the tables are covered in newspaper articles from way, way back and glass over the top and I was reading and Victoria Rd was mentioned in it but I don't know where that is.

"Everything has been renamed."

While they knew the cemetery Maryann was buried in and had a photo of her grave, finding it proved another challenge.

Not to be denied, they identified its location from a house visible in the background. A new plaque with Maryann's name was welded into place, and Anne said it was wonderful for it to have happened 130 years after she'd died.

"(It's) a wonderful thing that she's been acknowledged."

She said it was also an amazing part of her family's history, too.

"I think it's a wonderful a thing that mum can do this at her age. I think a lot of people don't get the chance.

"To walk on the ground her father was born was pretty special."