We do know is that the environment in Ireland in the mid 1800’s for Catholic Irish was intolerable. I am no historian but I will  quote from Wikipedia for those of you who are not familiar with the Irish Potato Famine:

“The Great Famine was a period of starvation, disease and mass emigration between 1845 and 1852 during which the population of Ireland was reduced by 20 to 25 percent. Approximately one million of the population died and a million more emigrated from Ireland's shores. The proximate cause of famine was a potato disease commonly known as late blight.  Although blight ravaged potato crops throughout Europe during the 1840s, the impact and human cost in Ireland—where a third of the population was entirely dependent on the potato for food—was exacerbated by a host of political, social and economic factors which remain the subject of historical debate.

The famine was a watershed in the history of Ireland.  Its effects permanently changed the island's demographic, political and cultural landscape. For both the native Irish and those in the resulting diaspora, the famine entered folk memory and became a rallying point for various nationalist movements. Modern historians regard it as a dividing line in the Irish historical narrative, referring to the preceding period of Irish history as "pre-Famine."

Ireland is a land of poets, writers, dancers, singers and all.  In the 16th and 17th centuries the old Gaelic order was gradually exterminated.  Between 1580 and 1650 the British were intent on making Ireland British.  And Ireland lost it’s Gaelic heritage until it was resurrected in the second half of the 20th century.  That was after our ancestors had left that green land for the southern seas.

Bridget Brown's (Coughlan) Journey to Australia with the six Coughlan Children

Travel in the mid 1800’s was horrendous and  usually took on average between 100 and 130 days and if you made it in less, then you had an exceptional run.  While I am have not yet uncovered the name of the ship the Coughlans travelled to Australia on, (and it looks like I never will), we do know, from the numerous diaries that were written by other immigrants, how awful a trip out to the Southern Seas was.

Those were the days of sailing ships.   Once they pulled out of port, the passengers knew that it was unlikely that they would ever return to their native land.  These folks must have experienced an overwhelming sense of loss. Most said goodbye forever to loved ones and familiar places. I think that was at least the feelings of the mothers and fathers embarking on the journey.  I think, at least at the outset, the younger crowd must have felt excited and anxious to get away.  That is, until the realities of the voyage set in.  

How bad the voyage actually was depended some on whether you were a cabin passenger, in which case you could walk onto the poop deck, which was not available to the steerage passengers. If the sea was calm and you were not in the doldrums of the tropics life on board was tolerable, except for the continual noise.  There was always the thumping of the pump drawing the sea water for washing the decks and other continual noise that one had to get used to.

Steerage passengers obviously had the more uncomfortable voyage.  Their living quarters were directly below deck which means that they constantly had to deal with bedding getting wet.  Some ships had long trestle like tables to eat off, surrounded by the bunks where the passengers slept.  Some type of screen separated the married folks, females and males. Personal washing was done by taking a basin, soap and towel on deck.  Can you imagine the stinking stench of having so many bodies in one small space?   The ceiling of necessity was low and there was little air to circulate in the relative small area.

The food was abysmal.   Preserved meat, rice, salt beef, soup and preserved potatoes, much of which was hardly editable, were the staples of what was presented.  Some intuitive passengers would bring some food on board for themselves, especially sugar, cheese, potted meat, or other condiments which might make the fare a little more appetizing.

There was some relief to the monotony of shipboard life.  The passengers would participate in concerts, sometimes aided by the crew and on Sundays, there were always church services.   These services may or may not be segregated between the cabin passengers and the steerage passengers.

As anyone who has had experience of sailing ships can say, the constant rolling of the ship and the lists to and fro during stormy weather contributed to much sea sickness among the passengers.  But worse than that was the risk to the children if measles, typhoid or other maladies should break out on board.  Living in this environment left a child wide open to contracting any one of these dreaded diseases.  There were many a shipboard funeral held. In some cases, the ship was quarantined until the infection passed.  Babies were born on these voyages as well and most ships carried a surgeon.

These conditions are well documented in the various shipboard diaries available for readers on the internet and the diaries make for quite interesting reading.   Bridget Brown’s children were quite young when she made the voyage out to Australia and it surely must have been a challenge to get them all to their destination in good health.

At some point during the late 1850’s or early 1860’s Bridget boarded another sailing ship and travelled from Australia to New Zealand; settled in Kakahu and then Temuka.   Her two sons preceded her and went to the gold mines, later to reside in Kakahu.   Simon (1.1) established his farm in Kerrytown.  

When Eire first rose from the dark-swelling flood,

God blessed the green island and saw that it was good;

The emerald of Europe, it sparkled and shone,

In the ring of the world, the most precious stone.

...William Drennan (1754-1820)

The Coughlans came from County Offaly, formerly Kings County, specifically Bridget was born in the townland of Crinkle, Parish of Birr. John also came from a farming family in Birr also.