< Back to Quilts

Momma’s Quilt’

  • Owner:
    Patricia Sheahan
  • Location:
  • Maker:
    Julia Keane
  • Pattern:
  • Dimensions:
    Height: 200
    Width: 184


Made by Julia Keane on board the ship from Ireland to Australia about 1884. She married Matthew Healy in Melbourne Victoria in 1888. The quilt then passed to Maggie O'Neill (born Healy) and it is now owned by Maggie's daughter Patricia Sheahan. Maggie O'Neill called it 'Momma's quilt', the family called it 'the old red quilt'. "The quilt has not really been used as a quilt for at least sixty years. It is very heavy. My mother used it as a layer between the wire mattress of the double bed and the old kapok mattress so that as a child I saw it when the mattress was being turned. Julia Keane was the fifth child, the fifth daughter in fact, of Jeremiah Keane who had married Margaret O'Brien in St Mary's Catholic Church in Clogheen, Tipperary. They actually lived in nearby Clonmel which was a British military town. But there were to be no marriages to English protestant soldiers. Mostly the girls migrated. Brigid sailed off to Boston, USA, and married, as did Mary a little later. Catherine joined them in Boston but returned after fourteen years, still single. While visiting her parents on a holiday to Ireland, Catherine 'was persuaded to marry Pat Conway'. Thus Catherine was an experienced traveller when she decided to go to Australia after the death of their third child. Pat and Catherine took an eight year old daughter, Margaret, known as Maggie, a younger son, Daniel, and Julia Keane to Brisbane QLD. Julia, sailing with them, intended to marry W Russell of Brisbane. In preparation for that marriage, she had brought with her a hand woven blanket and some red material which to quilt on the trip. That was about 1884 when Julia was 24. However, also on the ship was a blacksmith, Matthew Healy, heading for Melbourne VIC from Tipperary. When the ship reached Adelaide, Julia borrowed her girlfriend's hat and went ashore. Matt popped the question and W Russell was forgotten. When the ship brought Pat Conway's family to the Brisbane wharf, poor W Russell found Julia had changed her intentions. Naturally, she brought her quilt and her blanket with her when she and Matt left the ship in Melbourne. She also had a metal cylinder for carrying her documents. Julia went into service in the home of a solicitor, Mr and Mrs Hill, in Richmond VIC. Four years later, Matt and Julia were married in 1888. I suspect Mr Russell had paid Julia's fare and that she wanted to pay him back before marrying. Much of this information comes from Margaret, the eldest daughter of Pat and Catherine Conway, and, except for the marriage, is unverified though I have no reason for doubts. Julia's second daughter, my mother, referred to the quilt itself as 'Momma's' and said it was made on board ship. She told us about Julia going into service also. The family still has some of a tea set that was the wedding gift from the Hill family, a travelling trunk with Julia's name on it, the metal cylinder, a hand woven blanket and of course, the red quilt."
[ Patricia Sheahan 1999]


Wholecloth quilt of [cotton], red on one side and browny fawn on the other. Each side is made from three large strips of material sewn together. Quilted in red thread, with intricate patterns of squares, circles, spirals etc. Centre quilting motif is a spoked or segmented circle. Closely quilted. Padding is thin.
2000 x 1840mm

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *