Meggie Cleary

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Meghann Cleary
The Thorn Birds character
Created by Colleen McCullough
Portrayed by

Rachel Ward (in tv miniseries)

Amanda Donohoe (in The Thorn Birds: The Missing Years)
Nickname(s) Meggie, Meg
Gender female

Padraic Cleary(father), Fiona Cleary(mother), Francis (Frank) Cleary(half-brother), Robert Cleary(brother), John Cleary(brother), Hugh Cleary(brother), Stuart Cleary(brother), Harold (Hal) Cleary(brother;deceased),

James Cleary(brother), Patrick Cleary(brother)
Spouse(s) Luke O'Neil
Significant other(s) Father Ralph de Bricassart
Children Justine, Dane
Relatives Mary Carson(aunt)
Religion Roman Catholic
Nationality New Zea land

Meggie Cleary is the main character of The Thorn Birds, a 1977 best selling novel by Australian author Colleen McCullough. The book was turned into a 1983 television mini-series starring Rachel Ward as Meggie.


Meghann Cleary(or Meggie) is the only daughter of Padraic, a ruddy country gentleman with tremendous gusto and a gift for energetic doggerel and Fiona Cleary. She is depicted as a very pretty tomboy at the start of the story who grows up into a mature and beautiful young woman. She is shown to have her father's red hair and her mother's looks, which are equally as handsome as that of her mother's as she grows up. Like her parents and siblings however, she is a proud and hardworking person with a lot of determination, iron will and a loving and affectionate heart.

At the start of the book, Meggie is first seen, at the time, the youngest of her family during their years at New Zealand. Like her brothers, she adhered to the strict rules of her firm but loving father while was never given any sign of love from her busy mother apart from acts like giving Meggie a doll on her fourth birthday. Although she was close to all her brothers when doing chores around the house or playing together, she was closest to Frank, who gave her the love and the affection that she always yearned for, deep inside her heart, while she would reciprocate by confiding in him, obeying him and comforting him when he was in grief. This side of her bond with Frank was especially seen in the book when Frank was forced to return home and Meggie went to him herself and comforted him. From that time, her pride grew as she began attending school with her siblings. Despite the harsh treatment she receives from the nuns there, she never cried although she showed her fear and would pay, unintentionally, her teacher's harshness back with acts like vomiting all over her. Due to the strict teachings of the nuns of her Catholic school, Meggie not only learns to foster her pride and abandon her childhood but grows an aloofness for her religion, only obeying her faith in fear and never finding any solace in it.

Her first friendship with her classmate Teresa Annunzio abruptly ended after her interaction with her caused the whole family to be infected with lice on their heads. Paddy forbade her, henceforth, to avoid contact with people outside her kin so depriving her of friends in the years to come. Yet she forgave her family when they gave her beloved tea set for her fifth birthday hence she forgave them without showing any signs of it to them.

By the time she was nine years old, Meggie grew more responsible in helping her mother looking after home, especially her little brother Harold or "Hal" to whom she lavished her affection upon him. Although she was ignorant about some basic things in life like menstruation, she has developed a great deal of common sense.From this onwards she dreams of having children of her own to give them her love and look after them.

Upon her arrival in Australia, she was welcomed by Father Ralph de Bricassart, who gave her the affection that she wanted. When Frank left Drogheda, he became her confidant and comforter. This was shown to be very strong when Meggie watched her father and Frank argue violently, and only father Ralph listened to her weeping and sadness. From that time on, she looked up to him like she did to Frank, which gradually grew to sincere feelings for him as she grew up.

Her obsessive and intense love for Ralph increased as he left to begin his career in the hierarchy of the Catholic Church, with his kiss to her as memory. While working on Drogheda paddocks, her love begins to deepen, despite being aware of the fact that Ralph's vows can never be broken, a fact that continuously pains her. When he does come back to Drogheda, she tries to seduce him but Ralph rebuffs her.

Meggie is a person who really can not bear other people from leaving her life even though she hides this fact well from her family. When her life without Ralph becomes to painful to her, she married Luke O'Neill, who physically resembled Ralph and was anti-Catholic as she felt dejected by her religion and wanted to get away from it. Although she had her reservations about marrying Luke, her wish for a family of her own quickly over rules her and subsequently goes with him to Northern Queensland where she suffers a bout of homesickness and unbearability towards its climate. Luke's indifference to her, however, makes her unhappy and lonely and badly wanted a family. He puts all her money and earnings in his name hence increasing Meggie's marital difficulties, despite bonding a good friendship with the Muellers in Northern Queensland for whom she worked for courtesy of Luke, yet she kept this from her family out of pride. Although she gets herself pregnant, she was not happy about it, and began wishing that she could bear Ralph's child. During her painful labor when her daughter Justine was being born, she throws her unhappiness at Ralph and blames her loveless life on him. Upon her stay at Matlock Island, she realized how much she loved Ralph and felt that her God had done her great injustice. When Ralph arrives and made love to her, she was able to settle her relationship by finally admitting their feelings for each other. Unknown to Ralph though, she is pregnant with his child. She made the decision to go back to Drogheda. In order to avoid gossip, she sleeps with Luke for the last time and then left him.

By this time, Meggie began to bond well with her mother as she had conceived Frank in the same way. When her son Dane was born, Fee recognized the resemblance and both mother and daughter began to acknowledge each other, although Fee warns her daughter that she will pay for her acts.

Meggie by now, is content with her modern life and accepts things as they are, like Ralph to remain forever a priest of the Church. She loves both her children, although she loved Dane best as he reciprocated her love whereas Justine kept it from her. When Ralph once again arrived to Drogheda, she is miffed that he did not recognize his own son and decides not to let him know about it. When Dane told her of his decision to become a priest, Meggie at first flares up at him, but willingly lets him espouse an order in Rome under Ralph, who was now a well-known cardinal. this was followed by Justine's departure to England which upsets Meggie greatly as she wanted to see her settled in a home of her own. She does not attend Dane's ordination in Rome with her brothers from fear of an aftermath. When Dane dies and his body was buried in Crete, she goes to Cardinal Ralph in Rome to get his help. At first he refused to do anything immediate about it but when Meggie tells him the truth, he changes his mind, only to die in Drogheda in her arms.

Now an old woman, Meggie was bearing her grief bravely, yet she kept pressing on Justine who was cut up with her brother's death, to come back to her for want of sympathy. When Justine's lover Rainer Moerling Hartheim arrives to her home and requested to her that she should make Justine be his, Meggie was at first indignant, as again, she could not bear anyone she cared for to be far from her. But realizing that circumstances like her son and lover's death would not stop her or child from caring about each other, she writes to Justine and convinces her to remain in England and marry Rainer which she does.