North Street, Newry, County Down

North Street, Newry, County Down
North Street, Newry, County Down

Wednesday, 28 December 2016

Thomas Biddulph and the sinking of the ROYAL GEORGE, 1782

 Toll for the brave
The Brave that are no more,
All sunk beneath the wave,
Fast by their native shore.
William Cowper, The Loss of the Royal George, 1782

In 1782 Thomas Biddulph was in an army camp near Gosport overlooking the Solent at Portsmouth. He is believed to be the son of Michael Biddulph and Penelope Dandridge, and was born in 1759 in Hereford.
 “That [Gosport] and Portsmouth are in every respect the basest places in England,’ he wrote in a letter to his uncle,  ‘besides being excessively dirty, and full of sailors, who are always at variance with the Military.’ Of the camp itself he said ‘We are close upon the shore, and have a full view of the Isle of Wight, Spithead etc.’
From this viewpoint he witnessed the sinking of the ROYAL GEORGE. In a letter, now held by the Herefordshire Archive and Records Centre,  he wrote on September 21st 1782. ‘The ROYAL GEORGE sank full before us, and we now see a considerable part of her masts above water. I find it is determined to raise her if possible, for that seems to be a matter of doubt.’
Chillingly, he makes no mention of the hundreds who drowned, but continued. ‘I was on board the VICTORY, and saw every part of her; she is a most noble ship, and seems to be as much the boast of our Navy as the VILLE DE PARIS was of the French.’

He was unaware that another Thomas Biddulph was on board the ill-fated ROYAL GEORGE. This Thomas Biddulph [1761-1782] was the eldest son of Nicholas Biddulph and Elizabeth Dempsey of Glenkeen, also known as Glankeen, near Borrisoleigh, County Tipperary, in Ireland.  Borrisoleigh is a small town in County Tipperary. The town is part of the civil parish of Glenkeen in the historic barony of Kilnamanagh Upper.  Nicholas Biddulph is listed as a distiller in Irish Provincial Directories, 1788, by Richard Lucas.
Thomas was born in Dublin in 1761 and baptized in the Church of Ireland church of Saint Peter and Saint Kevin on the 3rd of April. His family claimed descent, like the family of Thomas of Hereford, from the Norman, Ormus le Guidon.

According to Burke’s Irish Family Records, 1976, Thomas Biddulph of Borrisoleigh was a member of the Royal Navy, a Midshipman, and died in the sinking of the ROYAL GEORGE in Southampton in 1788. This date is inaccurate. The ROYAL GEORGE sank in 1782, not 1788, which was the launch date of the new replacement ship.
In 1782 the ROYAL GEORGE was in Southampton having repair work done. A miscalculation when work was being carried out on her hull is thought to have caused her to capsize. She sank on the 29th August 1782. It is not known exactly how many lost their lives, but they numbered in the hundreds, reports suggest as many as 800. Not only were the ship’s crew on board, but also wives and families, local merchants and tradesmen. Many bodies, unidentified, were buried under the Ryde on the Isle of Wight and a more recent memorial commemorates the tragedy. It seems likely that Thomas Biddulph was buried here, if his body was ever found.

IN MEMORY of the many Officers and men of the Royal Navy & Royal Marines who lost their lives when the ROYAL GEORGE sank at Spithead on the 29th August 1782 and who lie buried  along this seafront
And here by friends
unknown, unmarked
unwept, they rest
31st AUGUST 1965

In1832 29 cannon were recovered from the site of the sinking. These were melted down and used in the construction of Nelson's Column in Trafalgar Square which celebrates the triumph of the ROYAL GEORGE's sister ship HMS VICTORY.

Saturday, 29 October 2016

Poor Andrew

On a cool damp October morning I started my search for the grave of Andrew Kennedy in Deansgrange Cemetery, armed with his date and place of death.  My great grand uncle, he was always known by the family as ‘poor Andrew.’  In the cemetery office I was handed a map, with a location marked on it, which had been found in the burial registry. I spent a difficult half hour climbing over very old graves, some of them caved in, with headstones leaning or fallen This was in an area where there were no paths.  I returned unsuccessful to the office.
‘Is Andrew’s one of the unmarked graves, or one where the headstone has fallen and is now illegible?’ I asked.
There was a grave digger at the office.
 ‘The place marked on your map is wrong,’ he said. ‘I’ll show you where to go.’ He marked the correct spot on the map.
 ‘But,’ he added, ‘the grave contains a more recent burial. The name is Joyce.’
 I wondered who this could be. I knew of no Joyce relatives. I set off down the long grey paths again, and under an old yew tree in a hidden area of the cemetery I found the grave. There was a shiny black marble headstone, a clump of geraniums and a photograph of a little boy.

Jesus called a little child, I read.
 Ciarán Joyce, aged 10 years.
I’m just having a little rest.

Almost tearful by this stage, but whether for Andrew or Ciarán I wasn’t sure, I returned to the office and someone else looked up the register again.
 ‘The grave was sold,’ he said,’ in the 1990s.’
‘Sold?’ I repeated.
 ‘Yes, graves that were never purchased could be sold.’
‘So where’s Andrew?’ I asked. ‘Did he not have a headstone? What happened to his headstone?’
‘Sometimes the new owners were requested to commemorate the original grave on the new headstone.  In the event of there being no head stone; there would be no such commemoration.’
Poor Andrew, I thought, why was his grave never purchased? And did he really have no headstone? There are other family graves in Deansgrange; they have plinths and inscriptions. So what happened to Andrew?
 I thought of the time when he had died, in 1920. After 1916. After the First World War. After the sudden and unexpected death of my grandfather in 1917. In the heart break and turmoil that ensued my widowed grandmother, his niece, had gone to England to rear her two children there. She was accompanied by her parents, her sister and her niece and nephew. Andrew, then in his seventies, had remained in Dublin alone. Was it any wonder his grave had been abandoned?
I was cold by now, chilled by the damp and the experience. There were tearooms opposite the office. They were welcoming, the cakes were homemade.
Poor Andrew, I thought for the second time, as I sat there over a pot of hot coffee, he was 76 when he died and he’s been totally forgotten until today, and poor Ciarán, who while still clearly loved and remembered thirty years later, never grew up.

Tuesday, 19 July 2016

Luke Bray [abt 1765-1801]

Luke Bray was born about 1765, the son of Luke Bray [Abt 1730 – 1774] of Galberstown, Holy Cross, County Tipperary, and his wife Mary Phillips. He had four brothers, John, the eldest, Samuel, Edmond and Robert, and two sisters, Eleanor and Mary Bray.

His father, Luke Bray, bequeathed his interest in Galbertstown Co Tipperary to his Executrix his wife Mary  Phillips in trust for his son John Bray - and to herself £40 p. a. - until her son (John) is 21 yrs of age - and thence to Samuel Edmond Luke and Robert., to each of whom he leaves £200.

Luke Bray married Anstice Cormick about 1795. They had four children.

 Mary and Biddy twins for Luke Bray and Anstice Cormac, sponsors Alice [Bowe], Thomas Cormac and Biddy Cormac. [Catholic Church Records. Thurles. Baptisms. 02489/04. P. 3. 1795. ]

Ellen, Luke Bray and Anstice Cormac, sponsors John Bray and Bridget Gleeson [?]. [Catholic Church Records, Thurles. Baptism 26 December1797. Mf 02489/04. P. 10.]

John, son of Luke Bray and Anstice Cormac, sponsors John and Bridget Cormac. [Catholic Church Records, Thurles. Mf. 02489/04. Baptism 2 September 1800.].

Luke Bray,  died  on the 4th of  June 1801 aged 34. His wife Anstice died three months later.
Their Grave Stones are at Holy Cross Abbey.
.Luke Bray and wife Anstice Cormick. d. June and Sept 1801.
The Bray graves can be found on
What happened to Mary, Biddy, Ellen and John? All four were small children when their parents died.

Monday, 27 June 2016

Holy Trinity Cathedral Waterford and St. John's Waterford City Catholic Church Registers.

In July 2015 the National Library of Ireland placed the Catholic Church Registers of Ireland on line. These are the original microfilms, and baptisms and marriages are recorded in a variety of handwritings, some in copperplate as clear as the day they were written, others impossible to read, many in Latin, faded, torn, with ink spilled on them, frustrating and exciting at the same time. They shed a clear, if sometimes fragmented, light on times past, on large families and infant mortality, on abandoned children and illegitimacy, on mixed marriages, and, in the 19th century, on the steadily increasing population and the catastrophe that was the Great Famine.
In Waterford City, in the 18th Century, they show a slice of the life that existed for the Catholic population in a busy port at that time.
Unusually, the earliest registers record the profession of the groom or father of the child to be baptised, nauta - sailor, naucleri - ship's master or owner, fabri lignari - wood worker or, in this case can be assumed to be, ship builder,  indicating the importance in which these professions were held at that time., and also mercato - merchant. There is no mention of shopowners, farmers, doctors, teachers or lawyers.
William and Thomas Power were ship builders as noted in the registers for St John's in 1717 and 1718.
Also noted in the registers are the countries of origin of those men, assuredly sailors, who married into Waterford.   Madeira, the Azores, Newfoundland.
Behind all this trade and business there was finance. Bartholomew Rivers of Tramore was a banker, a partner in the banking firm Hayden and Rivers, and married to Mary Blake daughter of Philip Blake, penmaker,  of Dublin. Their children, Thomas 1755, Maria 1758, Bartholomew 1759, Maria 1760, Anna 1763, Mary Ann 1764, Elizabeth 1766, and Joseph 1772, were all baptised in the Cathedral.

Monday, 20 June 2016

Thursday, 5 May 2016

Andrew Jennings [abt. 1793-1869]

Andrew Jennings, Iron Merchant, was born in Newry, County Down, the son of Andrew Jennings and Catherine O’Toole of North Street. On the 10th of October 1825 in Loughinisland  he married Mary Anne Clarke, the second daughter of  the late Edward Clarke. They had six children, Mary Catherine, Edward, Andrew, Charles, Ellen and Elizabeth.
In 1835 Andrew Jennings was listed as a bankrupt in Perry’s Bankrupt Gazette.
In the Belfast Street Directory of 1861 he is listed among the Town Commissioners of Newry... Andrew Jennings. Distributor of Stamps - Andrew Jennings, North St. Traders... Jennings, Andrew, iron merchant, North Street.
Stamp Distributor for Newry District and County Down - The Dundalk Examiner announces the appointment of a successor to the late Mr. Williams, in the person of "Mr. Andrew Jennings, of Newry, who" it was added, "from his fellow townsmen, is well qualified for the situation, and whose appointment would give general satisaction thoughout the town and neighbourhood." We have much pleasure in echoing the sentiments of our contemporary. New Telegraph. (The Belfast News-letter, Friday, Feb., 10, 1860. Issue 13611)
Andrew Jennings died on the 12th of April 1869 aged 76 and is buried in St  Mary's Catholic graveyard, Newry. He left a will, the executor was Mary Anne Jennings his widow.
Letters of administration of the personal estate of Andrew Jennings, late of Newry, county Down, ironmonger, who died 12 April 1869 at same place were granted at the Principal Registry 9 September 1869 to May Anne Jennings of Newry, the widow of said deceased. Effects under eight hundred pounds. (Old Families of Newry and District...edited by R. S. J. Clarke, Belfast, 1998).
There is an inscription on the slate headstone in St. Mary's graveyard, Newry :
Erected by Andrew Jennings of Newry in memory of his daughter Mary Catherine who departed this life on 19th August 1864, also Ellen McDonald who departed this life on the 16th February 1866, Andrew Jennings departed this life on the 12th April 1869 aged 76. Requiescant in pace.
His wife Mary Anne moved to Dublin and lived there with her daughter Elizabeth.
 Death. Jennings, June 7, at 35 Goldsmith-street, Dublin, Mary Anne, relict of Andrew Jennings, Newry. (Freeman's Journal, Thur., June 8, 1876).
She is buried in Glasnevin Cemetery with her son Charles Clarke Jennings who had died in 1870.

Wednesday, 4 May 2016

Sophia Corley [1795-1871]

 Sophia Corley was the eldest daughter of Patrick Corley of Clones, County Monaghan, and Mary Ann Connolly, and one of thirteen children. Her brother, John Corley, was a barrister in the Middle Temple, London. Her sister Anne, who was two years younger than her, married Roger Therry,  Judge of the Supreme Court of New South Wales from 1846 to 1859. Three of her sisters became Poor Clare Nuns.
In 1811 Sophia married Charles Jennings, Merchant, of Newry, County Down. They lived in Monaghan Street, Newry, and  had fifteen children.  Charles Jennings was declared bankrupt in 1851. He died in 1855. Sophia then moved to Dublin with one of her daughters, Kate Sophia.
She died at 8 Cabra Parade, Phibsborough, on the 16th February 1861 and is buried in Glasnevin Cemetery, Dublin.

Monday, 21 March 2016

Easter 1916

What follows is a fictional account of the events of Easter 1916. It is based on the written account of Amy Biddulph. Her name has been changed to Vicky.

At the end of 1915 James and Vicky moved to Delgany with the two girls to a larger house with a garden on a quiet leafy road. The following Easter James was unwell. For days he was unable to leave the house. His inability to join up with the Territorials had left him low and unhappy. He felt himself to be useless and a burden.
“There must be something I can do,” he said when Vicky remonstrated with him. In her heart she knew he was too ill to be of use.  But on Easter Sunday he had taken the train to Dublin. That evening he failed to return and there was no word from him.
The first little whisper that reached them about anything untoward came from a neighbour who often brought them an evening paper. He called at the door about eight in the evening of Monday the 24th of April.
“Sorry I couldn’t get a paper this evening,” he said. “They say the Sinn Feiners have risen and are in Dublin Castle and the Post Office and have the railway line. No trains are coming in and they are shooting everybody.”
Vicky stood transfixed at the door.  No trains, she thought, so that’s why James didn’t return last night. For a moment she felt a surge of relief, believing him to be in hotel somewhere, safe and sound. Then the true enormity of the situation hit her. Now she was worried for his safety.
When the maid returned from an outing with friends she proceeded straight to bed. Vicky called her down again and asked her had she heard any disquieting news.
“Yes, Mrs Abbott,” she answered, her young face pale. “ The Sinn Feiners have taken all Dublin, all railway stations, shot all officers at sight and the Station Master at Westland Row. Is it true?”
What could Vicky answer to ease her anxiety? She knew no more than anyone else. And where on earth was James? Had he been so foolish as to join the Territorials in Dublin in spite of his illness? Why had she let him go? She wrote in her journal in her round firm handwriting.
Did anything this morning as we rose from our beds foretell what this day would bring forth? Did anything whisper of the awful tragedy about to be enacted so near our doors? Nothing. We slept. We rose up. We eat and nothing disturbed our peace of mind except the war news and that was all good.
She spent a restless and anxious night.
On Tuesday morning no letters or papers arrived. There was still no word from James.  In the house in Delgany the occupants were beginning to think there was some truth in the reports.
All true only worse, she wrote in her journal later. Soldiers thrown down their packs and gone over to the enemy.  And where on earth is James? she thought. She knew his ambivalence. Could he possibly have joined the insurgents?
All wires and telephones cut, she added. Twenty-five thousand troops marching up from the country. Blackrock entrenched. Also Kingstown is in the hands of the enemy.
She called on a neighbour – one they had dubbed the Know All because he seemed to know everything that was going on.
“You’ll find it’s not as bad as they say,” was all he could tell her.
She drove then to Greystones to look for the papers. There were none to be had. But the rumours persisted. There is no Mail Boat running. We are cut off from England. Five thousand Canadians have landed at Kingstown. This news was brought by a young officer from the front who had ventured up to Dublin in his motor. Later this was contradicted by the Know All who said it was “All lies.”
There was to be no end to the rumours. Several of the ancient Volunteers from Greystones are missing. All Officers seen in Dublin are shot. Vicky’s heart turned to stone when she heard this, but she could not stop herself listening to the rumours and asking for news.
Martial Law has been proclaimed. The enemy are strongly entrenched in Stephen’s Green and there is a machine gun aimed at the Shelbourne Hotel, Vicky wrote.  Later she heard that this was erected by the military who could not fire as two hundred police were in Stephen’s Green in front of the enemy who also held the Phoenix Park.
That night she heard from a messenger boy who was in Dublin through it all.
“All the shops have been looted,” he said. “I saw women sitting down in Tyler’s shop trying on boots and carrying away aprons full of things. There were Sinn Feiners in windows shooting soldiers. Three officers and seventeen men of the 5th Lancers were shot.” His eyes were wide with horror, but there was no stopping him. “One soldier I saw was surrounded. He was just going to be shot when a girl threw herself in front of him and dragged him into a house and saved his life. The laundry man has been shot.”
“Our laundry man?” asked Vicky.
“Yes,” the boy nodded and turned away.
By Wednesday the rumour mill claimed that Cork, Limerick and Belfast were as bad, and Arklow was in the hands of the insurgents. Five hundred soldiers passed for Arklow. And still there was no James. Vicky was sleepless at night with worry.
By Wednesday afternoon the rumours had increased and multiplied.
10,000 troops landed from England in the night. They have gassed the insurgents in the Post Office and took possession. They have got back all the railway lines. There are still no papers, no letters, no trains. All the Ancient Volunteers were ordered out to guard the line. Missing ones are safe in Beggars Bush Barracks.
Vicky heaved a sigh of relief at this, though she no longer knew what to believe. Perhaps James was there. If so, surely he could have sent a message to her. He must know by now how anxious she would be, how concerned for his safety. Where were the Territorials? Was any of it true?
The insurgents are still in Stephen’s Green and the Castle. The Military have the situation well in hand. All communication with England is still cut off. No mail boats. Boyne Bridge blown up. Last rumour, 1,000 Sinn Feiners are expected to rise in Bray tonight.
Later she heard it was not the Boyne Bridge but the Bridge at Malahide. None of it made any sense. She continued to write in her journal, trying to occupy her mind, documenting the rumours as she heard them
Authentic news? Sir Roger Casement caught with two Germans in Kerry and shot. No, Not shot. Taken to the Tower.
Know All had at last been correct. Two priests, Father Stafford who had been all through the Dardenells and Father Dougherty, a loyal Bray priest, shot dead. Liberty Hall blown up. How could it all be true?
Clearly it wasn’t all true when the ‘dead’ laundry man arrived on Thursday morning with the washing. There was news too, of a sort. A notice had been put up in the Police Barracks.

‘The Viceroy wished it to be widely known, the military have the situation well in hand. 10.000 troops have landed with ambulances, engineers and so on. We have retaken the Post Office.’

She later heard that it was no such thing; the insurgents were still in the Post Office but had been gassed out of Stephens Green and were still in all houses down to Booterstown but the Castle had been retaken. The story now is that a German ship has sunk off Kerry trying to land, and all are rescued including Roger Casement. Other ships have been driven off. There are guns on Kingsbridge. Also Trinity College.
The rumour spread like wildfire that Enniscorthy was in the hands of the enemy. Also Galway. The Cable has been cut by a German submarine off Kerry.
Somehow there was a copy of the Daily Mail going the round of Greystones which she managed to read. There was very little in it about the war in Ireland. Still there were no letters. Still there was no news from James. The latest rumour says that Father Stafford has been shot.
On Friday the sound of gunfire woke Vicky at daybreak. She went again to Greystones in search of news. The village was quiet in the morning sunshine. Nothing was reported at the Police Barracks. Rumour is the DBC has been blown up and half Sackville Street is in a blaze. The Welsh Fusiliers have suffered badly.
In the afternoon she called on a Mrs Thompson who had received a letter by hand from her mother saying she was alive but that there was firing going on over her house all the time. She was anxious as to what was happening in Delgany and Greystones.
“I’ve heard it ‘on good authority,’ “  said Mrs Thompson with certainty to Vicky. “That the Countess Markievicz has shot two officers and was there and then riddled with bullets by the soldiers.” She had also heard that all provisions were running out so had laid in a store.
Apparently hundreds of motorcars have passed the glen for nights before carrying arms and men to Dublin. A Mr. Walker has not been heard of but a man who was with him has been shot dead. All Ireland is under martial law.
A neighbour coming home met a doubtful looking girl with a parcel who said she had escaped from Dublin. Nice Sinn Feiner said she had met a priest who had come over from England and that London is in flames and the people are going mad. The neighbour was sorry he did not mention the matter to police but his legs were tired.
Young Dobbs says Enniscorthy is very bad and the doctor and a District Inspector have been shot.  He added that we had asked for soldiers down the line but that they had not arrived yet. An officer and a soldier were fired on here. Mrs Walker’s aunt, an old lady of 75, has been turned out of her house in the night in her nightdress and taken in by some neighbours. There is a man missing, and also the milk boy.
Vicky could feel panic rising in her throat and tasting bitter in her mouth. Why didn’t James contact her? Surely it was not impossible to get a message through somehow, or even come home himself?
At 9 pm the maid brought news. “An officer is just down from Dublin, saying all is going well,” she said reassuringly.” and Dublin will be clear in 24 hours.”
Saturday the 29th of April was a glorious day.
An old soldier arrived and reported all starving in Bray. Arrangements are being made to charter McCormack’s boat to go to England for food. He also reported that five hundred Sinn Feiners are dead in Stephen’s Green and a hospital has been burnt down. One of the G.R.  men who has escaped from Dublin arrived at a Mrs Laws. He said the streets of Dublin were running with blood. He got away by hiding his armlet and walking all the way.
Vicky heard later that Carlisle Bridge had been half blown away and half Sackville Street was down.
Another man cycled out from Dublin at his own risk. He said firing had been going on all night. The battle at Elgin Road has been awful lasting two days and two nights. He had been at a funeral of three officers, friends of his own. Nineteen officers were killed altogether they thought. Sinn Feiners are being taken out of the houses as the soldiers got in, put up against the wall and shot in batches of four or five. The hunger in the City is awful.
There was still no news of Mr Walker, or of James. Vicky was by now terrified. He must be dead, she thought. There could be no other explanation for his absence... She no longer knew how to answer Ellen’s constant demands as to the whereabouts of James.
The last report of the day came at 8.30 that evening. There was great excitement.
The German fleet has been beaten. And thirty ships sunk. Also a rumour of peace in Dublin. The latest rumour from Enniscorthy was of all police killed. In Wexford the ‘National Volunteers’, drove all Sinn Feiners out of the City.
The next day, Sunday, was the seventh day of battle. Vicky, though reluctant, took herself and Ellen to church where they heard the announcement that all Sinn Feiners in Dublin had surrendered unconditionally. They also heard afterwards that 24,000 Germans trying to land were now at the bottom of the seas. There had been a great naval battle. 37 German ships had been sunk and 14 of the British. Great rejoicing, though Vicky warned her daughter not to believe everything she heard.
And so she was not surprised when she heard at 9 pm that night that there was fighting once more in Dublin. It wasn’t over after all. Somehow she managed to get a loan of a copy of Lloyd’s Weekly which continued a good account of Dublin’s battle up to Friday. So much of what they had heard had been true. But there was no more about the naval battle and the 24,000 Germans.
When the news came that James’ body lay in a Dublin hospital Vicky was not totally unprepared. The silence from him had gone on too long. She knew something untoward must have happened. He had been identified by the pass in his breast pocket which allowed him to cross the City during the fighting, a pass that she did not know he had obtained from the local police station. He had been hit in the chest by a stray bullet.. How long he had been dead, and why she had not been notified sooner she could not ascertain. Something in the story did not hold up, but she knew she would never find out.
His funeral took place on a calm spring day. After the ceremony in the little church the funeral cortege wound its way up the hill to Redford Cemetery in Greystones. Vicky followed with Arthur and Rose and a little girl with a white and tearstained face. She never spoke. She did not grieve. Indeed she felt after fifteen years of marriage that she hardly knew this man she buried.
The grave was dug at the farthest end of the cemetery, the freshly turned earth ready for its occupant, the wreaths of flowers laid aside. Soon the flowers would lie on top of the grave and James would be gone forever.  His sisters stood side by side at the graveside while the clergyman intoned a prayer. Ellen Abbott had assured Vicky that she would see that her namesake would be provided for.  For this small comfort Vicky had to be grateful.
From here she could see out over the wide panorama of the Irish Sea. And it was here that she made up her mind. All week she had agonised about what she should do next.  Now, seeing the clear blue sea in front of her, she knew.
One week later she stood on the deck of the Leinster as it left the Port of Dublin and turning, revealed the whole of Dublin Bay from Bray head and the Sugar Loaf to Howth, Ireland’s Eye and Lambay Island. Beneath her she could feel the engines vibrating the decks. Little white caps topped the waves. Dalkey Island and Bray Head stood out clear in the sunshine. Young Ellen held her hand as, both of them dressed in deepest black, Ellen with black ribbons in her long straight hair, they watched the Dublin Mountains drift away and vanish over the horizon.