Meagher met Catherine Bennett in Van Diemen's Land. She was barely nineteen years old, the daughter of an Irish free settler, Brian Bennett. She  was governess to the six children of Dr and Mrs Hall, the benefactors of Kevin Izod O'Doherty. O'Meagher began to call regularly on the Halls and was clearly smitten by 'Bennie', as he called her. He wrote, later, that Catherine had awoken in him 'the proud and generous nature that was sinking, coldly and dismally, into a stupid and sensual stagnation ... I am myself again.' The wedding took place at the home of the Halls and was performed by Dr Willson, Catholic bishop of Tasmania. 
    In February 1852 Catherine was delivered of a son at New Norfolk, a boy she named, according to Meagher's instructions, Henry Emmett Fitzgerald Meagher, but by that time her husband was on the high seas bound for America, having escaped captivity. The plan was that she would join him in America as soon as she and the baby were strong enough for the journey. This was not to be, however, for four months old  Henry died on the 8th of June 1852 in the hamlet of Richmond where Catherine was visiting friends to say farewell and to show-off the hero's son. 
    Bennie set out for Ireland in February 1853 on the ship Wellington. On her arrival in London she was met by her father-in-law, Thomas and one of the Miss Quan's who escorted her to Waterford. She was astonished at the welcome she received when thousands of the citizens met them at the railway station. A monster meeting had been arranged at Ballybricken Green and after speeches of welcome had been delivered the party was escorted by the throng to the Meagher home on the Mall. In July Catherine was brought by the elder Meagher to the USA to rejoin her husband. Catherine and Thomas Francis lived at the Metropolitan Hotel, New York, but relations were strained and, after only four months, when Meagher was offered a free passage to San Francisco for a speaking tour he argued that Catherine should return to Ireland with Meagher senior. On the journey home she told Thomas senior that she was pregnant. In Spring 1854, Meagher was informed that Catherine had been delivered of a son, Thomas Francis Meagher II. Catherine had intentions to return to New York but, weakened by the birth Catherine died of typhus in the Meagher home on 9th May 1854.

Copyright 2006 Waterford History