50 years on: Georgina Ellen O'Dea

Georgina Ellen O'Dea (born Bennett), my mother's mother was the only grandparent I knew and today, January 9th, 2015 is the 50th anniversary of her death.

Early years

So far I have been unsuccessful in finding details of her birth, but details from her marriage and death certificates suggest 1890.

At age 17 she was living in Hamley Bridge, South Australia and working as a maid. She was the youngest daughter of George and Bridget Helen Bennett of Gawler and it was there in Ss. Peter and Paul Church that she married Patrick Joseph O'Dea on the 11th September 1907. He was 12 years her senior at 29 years old. (1)  Babies followed soon after marriage with Mary Ellen O'Dea born on the 1st June 1908 and Margaret Monica O'Dea born 4th May 1910.

A new release of Crown Land at Ngallo in County Weeah, Victoria provided the opportunity for this rapidly growing young family to take up settlement on a block of 640 acres. The eight day journey of more than 300 kilometres by horse and buggy on rudimentary roads from Hamley Bridge, must have been exhausting for the young mother and her babies.

Soon after their arrival and the construction of a very basic broom brush hut, my mother Hannah Olive O'Dea was born in the Pinnaroo Hospital on April 17, 1912.
By 1912 Patrick had also taken the position of a councillor in the local area and when he was injured after a horse fall, additional work would have fallen to Georgina.
Councillor P. J. O'Dea, of Ngallo, Victoria, was riding from his home to Murrayville to attend a political meeting, when his horse fell with him. He received a sprained ankle, and his leg was bruised and knocked about. The sufferer was able to crawl on to the horse again, and then rode home suffering much pain during the trip. He is progressing slowly. (2)
Three boys were born in the following years Patrick John O'Dea: 23 Feb 1914, Michael James O'Dea: 29 Feb 1916 and Ronald Patrick O'Dea: 19th Oct 1918.

By 1914 her husband Patrick had taken on the role of president of the Walpeup Shire Council. As well as coping with 6 children under the age of 10 life was very busy for Georgina. There was vegetable gardening to be done, hens to be cared for and eggs to be gathered, cows to tend, cooking and all the household tasks including the making and mending of clothes for the family.

In 1919 tragedy struck when Patrick died from influenza. He had left his hospital bed to attend a peace celebration in his role as Justice of the Peace for the district. Georgina was left with 6 young children. She battled on for some months while probate was settled. A long arduous journey back to Hamley Bridge followed. My mother told the story of the struggle with luggage from the train station to the relatives' house where they were temporarily housed.

In Hamley Bridge

In the years that followed Georgina is mentioned in several papers as being in charge of catering (supper) for a wide variety of events. What we do know is that she worked hard raising her six children and struggled to do the best by them and managed to send the boys to secondary school.

The O'Dea family - Hamley Bridge, SA mid 1920s
Back row: Mary Ellen, Hannah Olive, Georgina and Margaret Monica
Front row: Michael James (Mick), Ronald Patrick (Pat) and Patrick John (Jack)

In Port Lincoln

Georgina Ellen O'Dea at age 50
Photo sent to her daughter Hannah Horgan
Sometime after the marriage of her third daughter Hannah in 1937, she moved to Port Lincoln where she ran a boarding house for years. She also worked as the housekeeper for the Catholic priests of Port Lincoln for many years, she always called them "her boys."
In the 1939 and again in the 1943 electoral rolls she is listed as living at Proper Road, Port Lincoln along with her eldest daughter and son-in-law, Mary and Martin Conley.

Later Life

In later years she stayed with her sons and daughters as she did not have a house of her own. On our farm, she slept in the "sewing room." Thanks to my siblings for the recollections here. One of my sisters recalls:
Grandma had a sense of humour. I had just completed some applique in my dressmaking course when Mum asked me to mend a nightie of hers. Grandma dared me to applique a big red apple over the hole, which I did. We had a great time laughing about it. Mum was not happy at first, I felt sorry for her so unpicked all those tiny stitches!
Another sister relates:
I remember her arriving at 'Pine Creek' (our farm) very early in the morning , having travelled all night on the Birdseye bus from Port Lincoln. 
She was always prepared for any emergency and seemed to always find what was needed in her handbag. 
One night Uncle Joe and grandma were going to play euchre somewhere and it was pouring rain. Grandma grabbed a pair of Dad's rubber boots (gumboots, wellingtons) just in case... Joe laughed at her, but who arrived home in the rubber boots but Grandma ...about 15 mins later. 
On a Sunday afternoon she used to say "Come on you kids, let's look for mushrooms and let your mother have a rest." 
She was always on to Dad to get the gun and get a bunny for a cheap meal.
A family outing
Georgina Ellen O'Dea at the back, my 6 siblings, cousin John Barry and
K.Browne household helper with me the youngest on her knee

Georgina Ellen O'Dea with some of her grandchildren

My memories of her are tinged with sadness as I remember her last visit when she was suffering from advanced cancer. I see her sitting in the farmhouse kitchen near the pantry with a rug around her knees, stoically bearing the pain. She died in 1965 and was buried on Jan 11th at Murray Bridge. (3) 


1. 1907 'Family Notices.', The Advertiser (Adelaide, SA : 1889 - 1931), 24 September, p. 6, viewed 8 January, 2015, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article5094643

2. 1912 'FATALITIES AND ACCIDENTS.', The Advertiser (Adelaide, SA : 1889 - 1931), 12 August, p. 10, viewed 4 January, 2015, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article5322709

3.  Genealogy South Australia http://www.genealogysa.org.au/ Death Registration Certificates Index 1842 - 1972 (Certificate transcriptions to 1967) Book/Page: 985/411


  1. Great to save these memories in your blog.

  2. From maid to matriarch. What an inspiration women like Georgina are


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