Flora MacKillop (1816 – 1886) mother of Mary MacKillop
Those who knew Mrs. Flora MacKillop well speak of her as a sweet, amiable, good-natured creature, charitable in thought, word, and deed, intensely devoted to her religion, and withal a truly lovable woman, who ruled her life by the strictest principles of virtue, self sacrifice, and integrity. Flora MacKillop was killed in a ship wreck south of Eden NSW in 1886.
Mary MacKillop wrote hundreds of letters all of which give great insight into the life of this extraordinary Australian woman.
Among these letters, now kept at the archives of the Sisters of St Joseph in North Sydney, are many written between mother and daughter. Born in Melbourne on 15 January 1842, Mary was the first-born child of Flora MacDonald and Alexander MacKillop, both recent arrivals from Scotland.
On many occasions Mary pointed out to her mother the formative influence she had been in her life. Mary had learnt from her grandparents and parents that “God will take care of us all”. This deep trust in God’s loving care was foundational in the faith life of the whole family.
Mary wrote to her mother in 1867:
Dearest mamma, you ever taught me to look up to and depend on Divine Providence in every trouble and when you saw me dull or unhappy you always had the same sweet reminder for me. Ah do not now forget what you were the first to teach me.
The SS Ly-ee-Moon tragedy
On Saturday 29 May 1886 at about noon, the SS Ly-ee-Moon left Melbourne bound for Sydney. Aboard were 55 passengers as well as 41 crew. Captain Webber was the skipper. The cargo of the ship included hats, benzine, tobacco, stationery, pepper, oatmeal, vegetables, potatoes, bran, tea, soap, chaff, hap, guano, wine, flour and 250 cases of whisky.
On 30th May, at about 9 pm the Captain returned to the bridge and found that the Ly-ee-Moon was heading straight for the rocks on Green Cape. As he ordered the engines to be reversed, the ship hit the rocks under the lighthouse. It was too late and within 10 minutes the ship was broken into two sections. The stern was on the outer reef and the bow floated towards the shore.
There were about 20 people on the stern section and they could be heard during the night but by morning, they were all dead and the stern washed into the sea.
On Wednesday 3 June 1886 the ship was reported to be totally broken up and bodies were seen floating off the point. The next day the Captain Cook collected several bodies, including one of an elderly lady. This was Mrs Flora Hannah MacKillop of St Kilda, Melbourne. Mrs MacKillop was an “elderly lady, mother of the Mother Superior of St Joseph’s Provident Institution”. The Mother Superior was Mother Mary MacKillop. Mrs MacKillop, one of the Saloon passengers, was on her way to Sydney to see her two daughters, Mary and another who was also a nun.
Mrs MacKillop’s funeral was held on 7 June 1886 at St Michael’s Church, Lower Fort Street, The Rocks (Sydney). The Reverend Father Murphy, SM, conducted the mass and the church was said to be filled to overflowing. Mother MacKillop attended of course as did many of her nuns. Mrs MacKillop was buried at St Charles Cemetery at Ryde but later the body was moved to the North Ryde Cemetery where it now rests.
The Sydney Freeman’s Journal, June 5 1886 reported.
The wreck of the Ly-ee-Moon has brought sorrow and woe into many a home in Sydney. The loss of life is simply appalling, and the death by drowning of Mrs. MacKillop, the mother of the amiable and saintly head of one of our city convents, is a peculiarly sad feature of the deplorable disaster. Mrs. Flora Hannah MacKillop (one of the drowned saloon passengers), whose maiden name was McDonald, was a native of Invernesshire, Scotland, and arrived in Victoria in 1839, and married the late Mr. Alexander MacKillop.
. . . . .
Those who knew Mrs. Flora MacKillop well speak of her as a sweet, amiable, good-natured creature, charitable in thought, word, and deed, intensely devoted to her religion, and withal a truly lovable woman, who ruled her life by the strictest principles of virtue, self sacrifice, and integrity.
The Green Cape Lighthouse : http://www.lighthouse.net.au/lights/nsw/Green%20Cape/Green%20Cape.htm
Mary MacKillop – daughter of Flora MacKillop : http://atributetoaustralianchristians.wordpress.com/2010/10/22/mary-mackillop/
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