The original Michael Gorey in Australia was carried ashore by his parents at Port Phillip on 1 October 1841 when James and Elizabeth Gorey arrived as free settlers from Kilkenny, Ireland.
I’m the fourth-generation Michael Gorey from my family in Australia and my son Michael is the fifth.
The first Michael was born on 24 September 1841, a week before the barque Middlesex docked in Victoria. The first European settlers arrived in Melbourne in 1835 and in 1841 the population was 11,738.
Michael was baptised at St Francis’ Catholic Church in Lonsdale Street on 14 October 1841. That was 10 days after the foundation stone for the current church was laid by the Irish Franciscan priest, Fr Patrick Geoghegan.
A small timber chapel (1839) was located on the site while the present church was being built and that’s where Michael received the sacrament.
As far as we know he never married or had children. He died at Nagambie in Central Victoria on 31 July 1908, aged 66.
Family legend has it that Michael was a colourful character who claimed to be a veteran of the Crimean War. That’s not possible because he was 12 years old in 1853.
James and Elizabeth moved from Heidelberg to Malmsbury in 1855. According to newspaper reports, Michael was actively engaged in local politics from a young age.
In January 1866 he was arrested at a polling booth when he assaulted a constable. A week later, friends of Michael sought reprisals against the arresting officer, Edward Hall, who came to fame for apprehending the bushranger Robert Burke. Hall also had altercations a few years later with Ned Kelly.
One of Michael’s champions was John McAuliffe, husband to his sister Bridget.
On 26 October 1867 the Kyneton Observer reported that Michael Gorey was foiled in his attempt to be registered on the voters’ roll for the Victorian Legislative Assembly. Only landowners were entitled to vote and Michael’s registration was challenged because he was not a freeholder. His name did not appear with his father’s on the rate roll.
The Kyneton Observer reported on 9 November 1867 that William and Robert Gordon were charged with assaulting Michael Gorey, then aged 26.
The prosecutor said it was a political matter; they were all to blame and he did not want to press charges. The incident had occurred in a hotel bar and the prisoners were discharged.
It seems that Michael was no stranger to conflict. In July 1865 he was charged by Mary King with having assaulted her. The case was thrown out because married women were not allowed to sue for damages and her husband was away “up country”.
In April 1868 Michael was back in court, again related to registration on the voters’ roll. Mr G Pleasants objected to Michael being on the roll because he was a leaseholder and not a landowner. The bench found that Michael admitted being falsely enrolled and sentenced him to 14 days in prison.
He returned to court in May when Reginald Green sought repayment of 35 shillings, lent to Michael for travel to Melbourne as a witness. He was ordered to pay within 14 days or go back to prison for another two weeks.
Michael worked on his father’s farm and also contracted to the Malmsbury Borough Council, winning a tender for drainage work in April 1868.
The newspaper trail goes cold after that. Michael is possibly the man referenced in The Argus on 29 December 1870 as appearing in the City (Melbourne) Police Court, charged with impersonating a detective. The case was dismissed.
Similarly, on 11 August 1883 a Michael Gorey appeared in Fitzroy Court charged with wilful damage to property. The prosecutor failed to appear and the case was dismissed. It’s not clear if this is the same Michael Gorey, but it appears likely.
A Michael Gorey was reported as being licensee of the Royal Mint Hotel in Little Lonsdale Street in 1884.
There are no other media references to Michael Gorey after this date. There are no records of him ever marrying or having children. What he did for 40 years between 1868 and 1908 is a mystery.