Miriam Sophia Betts Life Down Under

Life in the Colonies


The Australia of the 1880’s was a far cry from what it is today, a relatively rich land, a tropical climate and good employment opportunities, not quite what Miriam would have found on arrival. The cities may have been modern for the time but the outback would have been harsh and tough on an Irish constitution better adapted to cool more temperate weather. Somehow she adapted well and lived out her days there till she died in 1941 at the age of 78. Miriam would never return to Ireland.

What happened after she arrived in Australia is unclear, however her youngest brother John Jasper joined her there at some stage. He seems to have remained in Victoria, where she traveled to New South Wales. It was there that six years later she married Henry Samuel Marsden Betts, a member of a prominent family in Vale Head, Moolong.

Vale Head Estate

Part of Molong Run, John & Mary Betts property. In 1832 Mary Betts (nee Marsden) received 1280 acres as a grant at Molong. By 1952 it had increased its acreage to 1711 when it was offerred for sale by the Estate of the late R S Black. Molong’s original cemetery was located on Vale Head where the current Bowling Club is located.

Henry Samuel Marsden Betts was 54 years old when he wed his third wife Miriam Burke, she was 31, 23 years his junior. Miriam had two children, John Ulick in 1895 and Enid Cecily Patrica came along in 1898.

Theirs was a short but happy marriage, it said so in his obituary, less than 5 years later. “The consummation of this happy union was one son (John Ulick DeBurgo) and one daughter (Enid Cecily Patricia)”.

Miriam married into a ready-made family, she was stepmother to Henry Betts children from his second marriage. His first wife and baby died in childbirth. His second bore him eight of which six survived. Miriam and her new husband lived in relative comfort for the few years they had together, as Henry Betts was a good provider. A former Returning Officer for Parliamentary elections he also held the officer of Coroner. He was a Justice of the Peace in Queensland and when he settled in Moolong he was appointed to the Bench of Magistrates until his death in 1899.

Ní Dheirg, Íosold. Emily M. Weddall: Bunaitheoir Scoil Acla. Beann Éadair, Baile Átha Cliath: Coiscéim, 2010.
Molong Historical Society
‘Betts, Henry Samuel Marsden (1839–1899)’, Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://oa.anu.edu.au/obituary/betts-henry-samuel-marsden-1163/text1158, accessed 23 January 2016.