(The master version of this biography, which includes images, is maintained at http://dorneyfamilyhistory.net/famtree_web/History_dorney.pdf)
James Dorney was 5'3” tall, with a fair complexion and blue eyes. He was born in Cork City in 1839, and could read and write, so likely attended school. His father died when he was only seven. James probably learnt his bootmaking trade in Cork from a relative. He came out to Australia in 1861 with two brothers. He arrived on the Great Britain, which sailed from Liverpool on 25 October, arriving in Melbourne on 24 December. As a point of trivia, this was the same voyage which brought the English cricket team out to Australia for their’ first tour.
James was living in Warrnambool at least as early as June 1864 as he was mentioned in the newspaper as a contributor to the Fire Brigade Bazaar. He later became a member of the fire brigade. His bootmaking business was first listed in the Postal directory in 1868. On November 14, 1869 he married Elizabeth Love, also a native of County Cork at the Roman Catholic Church, Warrnambool.
Warrnambool was a town of 3,799 people in 1871, growing to 6,582 in 1891. It's service population would have been much larger than that.
Elizabeth was born in about 1845, the daughter of Isaac Love, a labourer and Mary O’Brien. Her marriage certificate states that she was a dressmaker, and later in life she worked as a nurse and a boarding house keeper. Documents indicate that she was illiterate.
Little oral history is known about James and Elizabeth, in the main because their children spoke very little of them. The only memory we have is that of their granddaughter Dorothy (b1906) who recalls that Elizabeth wore her hair tied tightly back.
James ran a shoemaking business in Warrnambool for many years, initially with his younger brother Thomas, but at some stage in the 1870s Thomas left to set up his own business in the nearby town of Allansford. James’ business moved from an initial location in Liebig St to Koroit St in 1871 and then to various sites on Timor St.
He is referred to several times in the newspaper in the late 1860’s and early 1870’s. In October 1869 he was sued by W O’Brien for a missing whip, while in June 1871 he was fined for allowing his chimney to catch fire. In November 1871 he was gaoled for three months for stealing a £10 note from his drinking partner, George Couch. He apparently had a previous conviction in 1865.
In 1885 James tried his hand at running a ‘Temperance Hotel’ in addition to the bootmaking shop, but it does not appear to have been a successful venture and was probably converted to a boarding house by 1894 when ‘Mrs James Dorney’ was the listed proprietor. 'Temperance Hotels' were a common feature of the time, providing a place for people to socialise without the temptation of alcohol. Elizabeth operated the boarding house until 1914, but at some stage the business moved to ‘Otway House’ on Fairy Street. James and Elizabeth lived on the premises at Fairy Street. ‘Otway House’ still exists and is a well-known building in Warrnambool. (Photo taken ca 2000).
Not all was happy in their relationship during this period. ‘Threatening to Kill: James Dorney was bound over to keep the peace for six months and to find two securities of £25, and one for £50, at the Warrnambool Court on Friday, for having threatened to murder his wife. He denied the charge, but a boarder, staying at Dorney’s, stated that he heard a row on the previous day, and then heard the accused remark he would kill his wife that night’ – Terang Express, 20 Nov 1888. James was later jailed in 1889 for three months for “leaving his wife without means of support”.
In 1891 one of their children had a nasty accident and was nearly killed. ‘An accident happened to a youth named Dorney on Sunday last, and he was for some time in a state of insensibility. He was riding a horse down the hill near the cricket ground, when the animal bolted and went at racing speed towards the town. At the corner of Merri and Henna streets the horse stumbled and threw the rider with great violence against the fence. When picked up the lad was insensible, and was carried to his parent’s house in Timor Street. Dr. Scott was called in, and found that the injuries comprised severe bruises and cuts about the face, but fortunately no bones were broken’ – Warrnambool Standard.
James and Elizabeth had eight children in Warrnambool - four sons and four daughters, seven of whom survived into adulthood.
James died on 15th April 1912 aged 72, and Elizabeth died at the age of 68 on 26th June 1917 and they are buried together in the Warrnambool cemetery.
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