The Irish Italians

Not all of the first selectors at New Italy were Italian. John Flatley was born in County Galway, on the west coast of Ireland in 1835. Like millions of his fellow countrymen he sought escape from the famines of the 1840s and 50s and the severe British oppression. He arrived in Sydney and began farming in the Richmond area west of Sydney. Here he met Ann McGee whom he married in Darlinghurst in 1869.

During the 1870s much land was being “opened up” in rural NSW and the Flatleys decided to try their luck in the north of the state. The opportunity arose to join the settlement at New Italy where John and the two eldest sons (James and Michael) selected land. Presumably, the common bond of Catholicism was able to somewhat overcome the inevitable language barrier. With the demise of the settlement at New Italy, John and family moved to Swan Bay to dairy farm on the richer river-flat land. The couple produced eleven children: Michael (1870-1938) married Maryanne Flett, James (1871-1952), Sarah Ann (1872-?) married Giovanni Mellare, Mary Jane (1874-1958), Elizabeth (1876-1953), Ellen (1878-1962) married George Flett, John (1881-1952), Martin Joseph (1882-1962), William (1885-1909), Susan Justina (1886-1963), Catherine (1886-1949).

In 1916, John Flatley died at the age of 81 and is buried in the Coraki cemetery. His wife, Ann, died in 1930 and is buried beside him. Many of his descendents remain living on the North Coast today.

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