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Family of Matthew Downie in Newcastle
Posted by: Ian Downie (ID *****5507) Date: July 15, 2009 at 09:29:35
  of 2813

I came across the following newspaper cutting recently:

The Brisbane Courier Friday 16 March 1888
http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article3470283

A TERRIBLE TRAMWAY ACCIDENT IN NEWCASTLE.
"A terrible accident (says the Newcastle Call) occurred on Saturday night about half-past 10 o'clock, opposite Shedden's Buildings, Charlton-street, beyond the Cottage Bridge. It appears that when the Lambton tram was returning to the city, the driver (George Mathews) noticed a woman standing about fifty yards ahead of the tram, near the brewery, as if waiting for the tram to pass. A violent concussion was felt by the tram on reaching that spot, which is not a stopping-place, and on examination it was found that a woman named Downie, wife of Matthew Downie, of Wickham, had been knocked down and horribly mutilated, her head being severed from her body. The scene presented a shocking spectacle. The tram was with difficulty removed from over the body, and the remains were gathered up and taken to her residence, only about twenty yards distant. Her husband, on learning the sad fate of his wife, became pitifully distressed. It is only two years ago tho same day since a son was carried away to sea whilst bathing near the rocks, and that loss had left sorrow in the family. Sympathy is expressed by all for the bereaved husband and the sorrowing family. Mr. and Mrs. Downie kept a greengrocery shop in Newcomen-street during many years, and, having accumulated property they had latterly lived on their means. Mrs. Downie was a large woman, about middle aged, and we are informed that she had been talking to Mr. Tyler, painter, with her back toward the approaching tram, and on crossing the rails to her house over the way, the motor knocked her down and decapitated her. A report that she had spilt some fruit on the line, and was picking it up when the tram approached is erroneous.

From the NSW BDM index online, I believe that the unfortunate victim may have been Catherine Brien, who married a Matthew Downie in 1857 in Newcastle, as one of their five children, Robert, died in 1886 aged 14 or 15, matching the information in the cutting. Catherine's parents' first names were Henry and Catherine according to the BDM index. Matthew appears to have died in 1920 in Wickham, and his parents' names are given as Matthew and Rebecca.

That information squares with a couple Robert Downie and Rebecca Goodwin who had at least five children in Scotland, first (probably) in Kilsyth, Stirlingshire, then in Cadder and Springburn, Lanarkshire between about 1837 and 1856. I have seen a forum posting (in the Downie forum) which says that Robert and Rebecca emigrated to Australia in 1857.

Is anyone in Australia researching this family?

Ian


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