Thomas Malcolm Waddell & Mary Best – from Clare to Gympie, and a emigration mystery…

Thomas Malcolm Waddell was born in 1838 in the village of Clare, in County Armagh, Northern Ireland. His father Thomas Waddell b1800 was a carpenter who married Jane Greer b1803 in 1832. They had 7 children all together, and their 2nd child was my great great grandfather Thomas Malcolm Waddell, born on 7th February 1838.

The Waddell apparently had a “land grant from Cromwell” and the rent was “one red rose in June”. My Dads cousin, Jean Adams, elaborates in a letter [7] that the

“The Waddell lands in Ireland were held direct from the Crown. The fee was a rose on the 1st of June, for services rendered”

Jean Adams, granddaughter of George Waddell and daughter of Dorothy “Dorrie” Waddell (later Seddon), 2007 [7]

By 1860, Thomas M Waddell was working as a carpenter like this father, and on the 1st September 1860 he married Mary Best b1843, at Bainbridge, Northern Ireland. Mary Best is listed as a dress maker, and both are living at Tandragee, Northern Ireland, and her father Francis Best was a shoemaker. The witnesses are Thomas’ sister Sarah (aka Sally Ann?) Waddell.

Marriage record of Thomas M Waddell to Mary Best, Banbridge, Northern Ireland 1860.

There is one photo of Mary Waddell nee Best, shared via my cousin Vikki. In it she has the most magnificent ruffled dress sleeves, which fits with being a dressmaker. The top of the sleeves are ruffled and slightly “puffed” in style compared to the slim arm sleeves. This sort of style became fashionable in the mid 1880s [2]. The closely pulled back hairstyle, and contrasting white (lace?) trim at the neck and wrist also came into fashion in the 1880s [2]. She appears to be holding something in her hand, although I cant quite make it out….

Mary Waddell, nee Best. Based on slightly puffed sleeve style this photo is about 1880s

By 1862 the first child of Thomas and Mary Waddell was born – George Waddell b1862 was my great grandfather. The Waddell house in Tangradee still exists to this day (and will be in a future post!)

An emigration mystery…

A little over a year after the birth of George, Thomas boarded the David McIver ship in Liverpool and emigrated to Queensland arriving in July 1863. Only Thomas Waddell is mentioned on the ships passenger log [3, 4] – neither Mary nor George are listed as passengers. There are a few possible reasons for this. Firstly, other more complete lists of passenger on the David McIver may not have survived [4]. Or perhaps Mary and George followed later on, as Georges obituary states that he “came with his parents when only 6 years of age“. These dates dont quite match either, as his younger brother Malcolm was born in Gympie in 1867, and there are no records for a Mary Waddell or a young boy George Waddell in any of the Queensland immigration lists before 1867.

Sketch of the David McIver, BlackBall immigrant ship, which Thomas Waddell is believed to have emigrated to Queensland on. [1]

In 1995 I visited my Great Aunty Dorrie (Dorothy May Seddon, nee Waddell, granddaughter of Thomas Waddell and Mary Best) when I lived in Melbourne for my 1st job. I had the foresight to write down the story and she said:

My grandfather (Thomas Waddell) had a builders shop in Amargh Ireland. He was brought out to manage a timber mill. My grandmother (Mary Best) followed with my father (George Waddell) years later. Malcolm (Dorrie’s uncle) was born out here.

– Great Aunty Dorrie Seddon, nee Waddell, as told to Karen Hapgood c1995.

To add to the uncertainty of how many Waddell family members were on the “David McIver”, descendants of Thomas Waddell’s sister Margaret Waddell (who married Malcolm McKay) believe that Thomas and Margaret and another sister all emigrated together with Thomas [5]. They had an uncle (Samuel Greer, brother of their mother Jane Greer [6]) who was living in Ipswich . Margaret married Malcolm McKay in Oct 1864, in Maryborough – young George Waddell would have been 2 not 6 in 1864. Its all a bit confusing and the records are poor… Perhaps the only way to reconcile it all is that Thomas came out in 1863 on the David McIver, and that Mary and George followed but the gap was shorter, maybe only a year or two… ?

Thomas Waddell initially ran a sawmill in the Bunya Mountains in Queensland [6] which probably fits with working with his uncle Samuel Greer in Ipswich (Ipswich and Balby are not close by, but are in the same general area relative to Brisbane city).

and a family story about why….

There is however a famous family story about why the Waddells allegedly emigrated to Australia, told to me by my father many times, and also by my great Aunty Dorrie when I visited her in Melbourne in the mid 1990s, but there are two slightly different versions:

The Waddell family had a land grant from Cromwell, and that the rent was “one red rose in June”. They were living near Clare, County Aramgh, but a family member accidentally shot a catholic, so the whole family emigrated so that they wouldn’t end up as convicts.

– Jim Hapgood (grandson of George Waddell and my father)

A slightly different version of the story comes from Great Aunty Dorrie, who I used to visit in the mid 1990s. A version of the same story was in a letter written by her daughter Jean Adams to another relative asking about the Waddell family.

My Aunt writes that “one of the boys accidentally killed another lad in a friendly fight in a farm”. He fled to America. Others came to Australia.

– Jean Adams in a letter to another person asking about Waddell family history, 2007. Jean was the daughter of Dorothy May Seddon nee Waddell

I wish we knew more of this story, and if it was friendly fire, and whether it was a catholic victim, or not. Hopefully one day I will find a newspaper report of the incident. Its not clear to me who “fled to America” – so far I havent found any Waddell siblings who went to America…. If you know more information or have heard a different version, please get in touch to share it!


[1] From (free records) and specifically the weddding of Thomas Waddell and Mary Best is at:

[2] Shrimpton Jayne, “Family Photographs and how to date them”, Countryside books, 2008.

[3] Queensland Assisted Immigration 1848-1912 register.

[4] Judith A Grimes and Kay F Gassan, “Tall Ships on the River: David McIver 1863 and the Montmorency”, Heritage research Publishing Co, 1993. (The Maryborough Family History Society has also access to copies of this book.)

[5] Judith A Grimes and Kay F Gassan, “Tall Ships on the River: Prince Consort 1864 and other voyages”, Wise Owl Research Publishers, 1994. (The Maryborough Family History Society still has copies of this book for sale.)

[6] Information that the uncle in Ipswich referred to in reference from Christine Contin, descendant of Margaret Waddell and Malcolm Kay, 2019.

[7] Jean Adams in a letter to another person asking about Waddell family history, 2007. Jean was the daughter of Dorothy May Seddon nee Waddell, and shared a copy of the letter with me in 2019.

[8] David McIver ship image from:


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