Newcastle. County Down. Northern Ireland.

Home of James Teer & Patrick Caughey 

 Newcastle lies on the edge of Dundrum bay, on the east coast of Ireland beneath the towering mountains of Mourne in County Down. It was here that both James Teer and Patrick Caughey were brought up in this small fishing town where hardship and tragedy were well known. They live very close to each other and were firm boyhood friends. James was the tall powerful and outgoing youth whilst Patrick the small wiry but strong silent type. How often opposite attract and they got on well together.

James Teer's father was a fisherman, and was fortunate to escape the terrible fate of many of his colleagues when in January 13th 1843 ten boats from Newcastle and six from Annalong set sail in fair weather only for a fierce storm to arrive sinking all but two of the ships. It can only be imagined the terrible consequences of this devastating loss to the community. Seventy Three individuals perished leaving Thirty seven widows and one hundred and eighteen children, and seventy six other dependants.

James was only sixteen at that time but it must have left a lasting impression on him.


Widows Row - Built with donations following the disaster

Although his father escaped the tragedy of 1843, the fishing life was a hazardous one and he too eventually lost his life at sea.

James was brought up from an early age to handle boats and experience the sea in both her calm, serene beauty and it's violent, powerful storms. But he was not destined to be a fisherman, adventure beckoned, and despite his closeness to his sister Margaret, and brother Daniel he had to leave, emigrating in 1845 aged just 18. He did not know it at that time but would never gaze upon their faces again. His destiny lay on the other side of the worldwhere all the adventure he desired and more, awaited him.


 Both James Teer & Patrick Caughey lived close to the site of the Harbour Inn

Patrick's father was a Baker and despite having a secure and comfortable future in the family business he too was restless for adventure and excitement. He yearned to travel and in 1860 he could no longer resist the call, and on an annual trip to Dublin he took a ship to Liverpool where he signed on as a ships Baker on an immigrant ship bound for Australia. The ship was due to dock in Melbourne but because of the high desertion rate of sailors to seek their fortune in the goldfields many ships blocked the harbour and they anchored offshore. Not to be deterred Patrick packed his essential items in a bundle and being a strong swimmer climbed down the anchor chain at night and made shore without incident.

Once ashore he spent his first night in Australia beneath the stars. He was to spend five days and nights wandering until by chance he came across a quarry where he secured work transporting stones from the rock face. After about six weeks he had managed to save enough money to purchase a basic prospecting kit and headed for the goldfields.

This was a hard environment where only the fittest could survive, although life was much easier for those who had a honest and reliable partner. Soon fate would work her magic and a chance meeting would have a significant bearing upon his future

Patrick arrived at the goldfields and went in search of a vacant plot which he eventually found. As he was surveying the site prior to pegging out the claim, the miner in the adjoining plot came over and asked if he was going to peg his claim. He said he was provided the site was vacant., to which the miner replied that it was, and he could have it

Looking at him with piercing eyes the tall stranger asked “ Is your name Caughey ” Patrick replied “Yes Pat Caughey”. “ I know you , do you not know me? ” enquired the stranger. Caughey replied that he did not. “Well you should: we were reared together at the Harbour at Newcastle, my name is James Teer, and we lived on the other side of the street opposite your bakery. Of course that was years ago“.

( The Teer family lived close to the site of the present Harbour House Hotel).

“I wouldn’t have known you“ said Caughey, “You’ve got so big and stout. And that black beard, there wasn’t a sign of it then: but I know you now”.

Naturally they were delighted to see each other and, from that morning they were firm friends and partners who stuck together through thick and thin.

Teer who had emigrated in 1845 aged 18, was a man of fine physique. Though standing six feet two inches tall, his body was so well proportioned that his unusual height was not perceptible. Frank, manly and intelligent, hie honesty was beyond doubt he possessed tremendous courage - attributes that were to stand him in good stead in later tears.

Both Teer and Caughey were frequently lucky in finding gold, and on one occasion they decided to go into town to deposit their gold. On arrival they entred a saloon to have a drink.

A lady served them and, on hearing their accents remarked, “You are both from Northern Ireland”, Teer replied “So are you“ “Yes“ She said I come from Newcastle, Co Down. “ That’s Strange “ commented Caughey “We are from the same place, what was you name back home”?

“Mary Caughey“ she replied. “Good God a sister of mine, I’m Pat Caughey”

“I know you are, I recognised you both when you came in” she smiled.

I turned out that Mary had married a lad called Pat Higgins and they emigrated shortly after.

After that they made the place their home whenever they were in town, although that was not often.

After a few years Teer and Caughey had amassed a fair amount of gold and decided to take a trip home to the old country and help their families.

They planned to return via London where they could purchase items not available in Australia, and shipping them out.

Teer and Caughey hotly deputed which of two ships they should use, and in the end Mary Higgins said that after working for years together they should not travel separately home. The “General Grant” was chosen and so their destiny was sealed.

Raw gold was worth 19/- in Australia and 22/- in London, so they made arrangements for their gold to be secured in boxes. Unfortunately, owing to the fact that they could save 2/6 on every ounce by not insuring it, . they decided against.

Teer however took the precaution of sewing 300 gold sovereigns into a belt which he wore day and night.

To be Continued