Pioneer women – Jane Roche (Mrs Thomas Sinnott)
Jane Roche, the daughter of William Roche and Mary Brennan, was born in County Wexford, Ireland. She married Thomas Sinnott in the early 1830s and they had three children, Bridget, Patrick and Mary born in the county. Patrick was baptised in St Aidan’s cathedral, Enniscorthy in 1836 but no records have yet been found for the daughters, nor Jane and Thomas’s marriage.
The Sinnott family arrived in Port Phillip Bay, Victoria on the Brig, “Vesper” on 14 December, 1840 and settled near Elizabeth Street, Melbourne. Two more sons were born to them: Michael in 1842 at Clifton Hill and William in 1843 at Richmond. Thomas Sinnott was said to have worked as a server during Masses at St Francis’s church.
After four or five years in Melbourne the family moved west to Port Fairy (then known as Belfast) where they lived for about nine years and their two youngest children, John and Jane, were born. The final move was further west to Yambuk where Thomas purchased a farm of 133 acres. Thomas made a successful living from his farm and could always afford ‘home help’. Thomas purchased a town block in the township of Yambuk in 1855 when it was first laid out and also later bought 198 acres of land at St Helens.
Jane and Thomas raised their family of seven children, who all married and had families of their own. Thomas was always a hail and hearty man throughout his long life, but Jane began to suffer from apoplectic fits during her middle years and one such stroke following a trip to Port Fairy in 1868 proved fatal. Jane died on the 24 September, 1868 aged 58 years. An inquest was held to determine the cause of her death.
On the day of her death, Jane had driven a horse and cart from her home in Yambuk to Port Fairy in order to sell some fowls and eggs in town. Jane was accompanied by a lad, James Bartlett, who was in the service of her son, Michael Sinnott. James Bartlett gave evidence that Jane, “drove into town with some fowls and eggs. She left the horse and cart at Mr Gillespies and I stopped there while she went to sell the fowls. We had dinner at Gillespies and soon after left for Yambuk. After awhile she lay down in the bottom of the cart. I thought she was asleep as she began to snore. When we got as far as the stone crushing machine, she said ‘goodbye Bridget I shall not see you anymore’. That was the last word she spoke. She did not fall down, she settled herself in the bottom of the cart on her right side with her head on the front rail.”
Patrick Sinnott, son of Jane, gave evidence that he was outside when the cart returned and going up to it found his mother lying down in the bottom of the cart. Upon touching her he knew she was dead. Further evidence revealed that Jane had on previous occasions complained of severe prickling pain in the upper part of her neck which left her dizzy in the head.
The verdict of the inquest found that Jane Sinnott had died of apoplexy. The Bridget that Jane spoke of prior to her death may have been her granddaughter (daughter of Patrick), since her daughter, Bridget Kelly, had died three years prior.
Jane was buried in the Yambuk cemetery, her grave being marked with a stone that had been brought out from Ireland. Her husband, Thomas, lived to the grand old age of 97 years, but his name was never inscribed on the headstone. By 1998 the headstone was lichen covered, broken off its base and weed covered therefore descendant, Des Sinnott, gathered funds to restore the headstone to its former glory and erected a neighbouring headstone to her husband, Thomas.