Sunday, 14 September 2014

Black Sheep Sunday ~ an obtuse crime

If you were committing a robbery – not that I am suggesting that any of you would – but, if you were, wouldn’t you at least try to be a little bit clever about it?  Put it this way - would you steal something and display the spoils in your front garden, for all the world to see? Well that is exactly what one roguish couple did, in the village of Malahide, Co. Dublin, in December 1912. Sadly, this hapless duo, Ellen and Patrick Mahon, were related to us Malahide Byrnes.
The cause of complaint against Ellen Mahon: ‘Defendant between 9th and 14th day of December 1912, at Beechwood in said district and county [Malahide, Co. Dublin], did unlawfully uproot, steal, take and carry away a quantity of privet shrubs to the number of about 90, value for ten shillings, the property of Mr. Wm. Trumbell of Beechwood. Contrary to the Statute in such case made and provided.’ 

The cause of complaint against Patrick Mahon: ‘Defendant on 14th December 1912, at Carrickhill in said district and county [Malahide, Co. Dublin], had knowingly in his possession & planted in his garden at his dwelling house a quantity of privet shrubs to the number of about 90, value for ten shillings, alleged to have been stolen & the property of Mr. William Trumble [sic] of Beechwood; and defendant is hereby required to satisfy the justices that the aforesaid shrubs were lawfully in his possession.’
Transcribed from the Petty Session Register, Swords Court, 1912 (items 82-83).

Both Patrick and Ellen were found guilty and fined ten shillings each plus costs, or alternatively, they each faced seven days hard labour in Mountjoy Prison.

When I first came across these charges in the Petty Session Register for the courthouse in Swords, Co. Dublin, I saw the defendants’ address was given as Carrickhill, Malahide. Carrickhill was situated nearer Portmarnock, at the opposite end of Malahide to Yellow Walls, the home of our Mahon ancestors.  So, I initially thought that they belonged to the other Mahon family of Malahide, the one whose relationship with our family has not yet been established, but which dates way back into the eighteenth century.  

However, further information about the court case was also reported in the Freeman’s Journal, on 24 December 1912 (Happy Christmas, Patrick and Ellen!).  Apparently, when initially accused of the crime, Patrick Mahon said he had got the shrubs from ‘his father at the Yellow Walls’, making him one of our lot. Here's the article from the newspaper:

1912 court case, Patrick and Ellen Mahon, Malahide.
Freeman’s Journal, 24 December 1912, p. 2.

So, I did some more digging into Patrick’s origins, to see just how closely related we were. The 1911 census found him living in Malahide, with Ellen, his wife of six years, and their two sons, Michael, aged three and Gerald, aged one. Their 1905 marriage register revealed that Patrick was the son of Patrick Mahon senior, a farmer. In 1901, young Patrick was living with his parents, Patrick and Catherine Mahon, in Yellow Walls.

I was already familiar with this household. Patrick junior was a first cousin of my great-grandmother, making him my first cousin, three times removed. Patrick senior and my great-great-grandfather, James Mahon, were brothers. My Dad even remembers young Patrick’s little sister, Teresa Mahon, who was a very respectable National School teacher in Malahide when my Dad was a boy. 

Twenty shillings plus costs was a lot of money for a general labourer, in 1912. Bet they got nothing but the proverbial lump of coal in their Christmas stocking that year!

Still, it’s hard to believe that she dug up the man’s hedge!

Sources: ‘Irish Petty Sessions Court Registers 1828-1912’, Swords court, accessed on; Freeman’s Journal, 24 December 1912, p. 2; 1901 and 1911 Census of Ireland, National Archives of Ireland; Copy marriage register, General Register Office. Black sheep image adapted from one found on The graphics fairy

© 2014 Black Raven Genealogy

Saturday, 13 September 2014

A celebration of the life of Colm Wynne (1944 – 2014)

Colm Wynne (1944-2014)
Some of you may have noticed that my usual weekly post failed to appear on Saturday 30th August. Our family was sadly attending the funeral of my most wonderful uncle, Colm Wynne, who lost his battle with cancer on 28th August 2014. Colm left us that day to help my darling brother Sé (pronounced Shay) celebrate his 35th birthday. No doubt, Uncle Colm drank a glass, or two, of his favourite Hennessy X.O. at the celebrations that ensued. Heaven only knows what Sé’s tipple of choice might have been, but I'm sure it was a truly joyous occasion! 

Both are greatly missed.

At Colm’s funeral mass, my amazing cousin, Aileen Wynne, read this beautiful and moving eulogy that she had written for her father. 

‘Colm, my dad, was a great guy, as is shown by the overwhelming numbers of friends and visitors to the hospital, the hospice, here today, and last evening.  We, as a family, are very grateful for all of this support.

Colm was born in 1944 and lost his father way too young, when he was 16. As a result, he spent his life living with strong women - six sisters, his mother, maiden aunt and a housekeeper. For a quiet life he married my mother, then decided it was too quiet and had four daughters, and of course his beautiful granddaughter whom he cherished and adored.

Dad was a man who gave everything to whatever he was doing at the time. One major passion in his life was ballroom dancing. This is where he met my mother. She was not impressed by the arrogant git who cut in front of the boy she was about to dance with. His persistence paid off and she eventually realised he wasn’t so bad after all. They married in 1970.  Many of the dancers here have known him longer than us.

Colm started work in the Hire Purchase Company of Ireland, later known as AIF and AIB Finance & Leasing. He’s had many events and adventures during his life there. In 1972, his life was changed dramatically, not just by the birth of his eldest daughter, but by a change in job from 'Bank Clerk' to 'Systems Analyst'. This was where he got his love of technology and a great outlet for his inner nerd. He joined the Irish Computer Society and their Fellows’ Luncheon was one of the highlights of his social calendar, even up to this year when he had to attend in his wheelchair. 

Another major highlight was the school reunions for Joeys.

Colm loved photography from the time he first got to play with a box brownie as a child. He particularly loved landscape photography and we have many happy memories of heading off on photographic expeditions with him. Unfortunately, after some ill health when we were kids, later recognised as a massive heart attack, he wasn't able for the hill-walking so he moved to the studio, shooting portrait and glamour instead. He was a stalwart of the AIB Photo club until it ceased.

After he started his heart medication, he was able to take up landscape photography again. This was fantastic as, about six months before I got married, Carmel picked up a camera and started shooting, winning awards and loving it. This meant that since his retirement, she and Dad were able to go to Tymon Park to shoot the wildlife there. I know she got some great shots, though we’ve never seen Colm’s.

1991 was another significant year for Colm - new job, new hobby.  He moved from IT back into the business in AIF and he took up Toastmasters. Toastmasters, for those who don’t know, is an organisation that promotes communication, public speaking and leadership skills. With the skills learnt in Toastmasters, he was able to speak at some international DanceSport congresses and persuade them to adopt many of the rules and regulations of the Irish dance world.

He was also very involved with Concern debates, which he loved to adjudicate.

Colm retired in 2007, after 44 years. In theory, this was to allow him time to do all the things he’d wanted to do for years. He and Carmel had some great photographic holidays in Namibia, Iceland and other places. He was able to spend time working on the politics of ballroom dancing and the constitution of the Irish Dance Sport Federation / DanceSportIreland.  He also completed his Distinguished Toastmaster award.

Colm Wynne (1944-2014)

Unfortunately, he discovered he enjoyed genealogy handed to him, rather than looking in libraries and archives. This meant that Dara, my cousin, and I have our work cut out for us.

Dad also loved music. He discovered how to book tickets on Ticketmaster some years ago, and he did. He’d see a gig coming up that he wanted to go to and he’d book the tickets - then he’d find someone to go with him. He got to see great artists live, the 50th anniversaries of the Dubliners and the Chieftains, Bob Dylan and Leonard Cohen… I believe there are still some of those tickets on the go…

Unfortunately, since he retired, he’s spent a lot of time ‘on the mend’ from serious illnesses. Each of these, on their own, might have killed another person, but not Colm.’
Aileen Wynne, 30 August 2014

© 2014 Black Raven Genealogy

Saturday, 6 September 2014

The McGranes of Fishamble Street, Dublin

My maternal great-great-grandmother, James Byrne’s mother, was born Margaret McGrane. Like the majority of my known ancestors, Margaret was most likely born in Dublin. On an unstated day in November 1851, she was baptised in SS Michael and John church, Lower Exchange Street, on the south side of the River Liffey. Her residential address was not recorded. Her parents were Miles McGrane, a general labourer, and Margaret Doyle.[1] They had married in the same church, on 26 January, ten months before Margaret's baptism.[2] She was the first of their twelve identified children.

The Music Hall, Fishamble Street
Music Hall, Fishamble Street
Source: The Musical Times, no. 730, 1 December 1903, p. 799.

Research shows that Margaret spent much of her first ten years living at or near Saul’s Court, also known as Albert Place, a small court once standing off Fishamble Street. Fishamble Street was in the civil parish of St John, an area of about twelve acres within the old city walls. It is one of the oldest streets in Dublin, dating way back to the middle ages. In the year 1356 an order was issued prohibiting the sale of fish anywhere else in Dublin city apart from in the fish ‘shambles’, or markets, and it was from these that Fishamble Street earned its name.[3] In the eighteenth century, the street was home to Dublin’s more prosperous citizens and its music hall even hosted the world’s first recital of Handel’s Messiah. However, by the mid-nineteenth century it had become a poor and deteriorating neighbourhood with many of the houses converted into tenements. In 1851 the parish was home 3,483 people, living in 296 houses.[4]

The family’s address can be gleaned from its sporadic recording in the baptismal and burial records for Margaret’s siblings. Two brothers, John Laurence and Patrick, both died at Fishamble Street, in March 1854 and March 1855, aged six months and six weeks, respectively.[5] In April 1856, when Francis Joseph McGrane was baptised in SS Michael and John's church, the family resided at Saul’s Court, Fishamble Street and when her younger sister Catherine was baptised in October 1858, their address was given as 8 Saul’s Court.[6] Little Catherine died in January 1860, by which time the family had moved to the north side of the River and were living at 17 Aldborough Court, off the North Strand.[7]

Griffith’s Valuation, 1854, Saul's Court
Griffith’s Valuation, 1854, Saul's Court

Saul's Court is no longer in existence. Griffith’s Valuation of 1854 above shows it was once made up of only four houses. The owner was William Burkett, although ‘lodgers’ lived in three of the houses, i.e. they were in tenements. By 1862, Thom’s Directory confirmed all four houses were in tenements.[8]  

Saul’s Court, Fishamble Street,
Source: Watson's Almanack, 1783, courtesy of SWilson.Info*  

According to Gilbert’s History of Dublin, Saul's court was located on the eastern side of Fishamble Street. It was named after Laurence Saul, a wealthy Roman Catholic distiller, who lived there in the early eighteenth century.[9] Based on the listings in Griffith’s Valuation and Thom’s Directory of 1862, Saul’s Court was situated off Fishamble Street, between Castle Street and Copper Alley. It was eight houses up from Castle Street and three houses down from Copper Alley, roughly about where the star is positioned on the map above.  This was right in the path of Lord Edward Street, which opened in the 1880s.

Given there were only four houses in Saul's Court it is unclear exactly how the McGranes lived at number 8, in 1858. Perhaps the four houses were split into 'apartments'. Perhaps number 8 Fishamble Street, leased by John Crotty and others in 1854, but owned by William Burkett, was considered to be part of Saul's Court. William Burkett owned eight houses in or immediately adjacent Saul's Court, so, presumably it was one of these.

* Note, anyone with Irish ancestry should check out the free website, which is quickly becoming an excellent resource for Irish family history research.

[1] Baptism register, SS Michael and John, accessed 
[2] Marriage register, same.
[3] John Gilbert, A history of the city of Dublin, i (Dublin, 1861), p.47.
[4] Census of Ireland for the year 1861, part i: area, population and number of houses, City of Dublin, p. 44-45, accessed
[5] Burial register, Glasnevin Cemetery, Grave NE 85.5.
[6] Baptism register, SS Michael and John.
[7] Burial register, Glasnevin Cemetery, Grave NE 85.5.
[8] Thom's Irish Almanac and Official Directory for the Year 1862, Dublin Street Directory, accessed
[9] Gilbert, A history of the city of Dublin, p. 94.

© 2014 Black Raven Genealogy

Saturday, 23 August 2014

Irish Army Census, 1922 and my Granduncle John Byrne

I love finding ancestors in census records, probably because so few Irish censuses have survived intact. An Army Census was taken at midnight on 12 November 1922, during the first year of the Irish Free State. It records more than 33,000 members of the newly formed National Army, including quite a few of my relatives. The Military Archives of Ireland has now created a digital index to this census and made it freely available online, together with copy images of the original returns.

My maternal granduncle, John Byrne, the eldest son of James Byrne and Christina Devine, served as a lieutenant in Ireland’s National Army (also known as the Free State Army) and is recorded in this Army Census. Then aged twenty-four years and single, he was a member of the Engineers Corps and, at the time of the census, was stationed at ‘Headquarters Block, The Curragh, Co. Kildare'. His home address was given as 3 Lower Jane Place, off Seville Place, Dublin, the same address as his father, who was listed as his next of kin. 

Lieutenant John Byrne, Irish Army Census, 1922.
Lieutenant John Byrne, Irish Army Census, 1922 (click on image to enlarge)

Family lore recollects another story about my granduncle John that occurred in this period in Irish history. John was said to have been granted the honour of first raising the Irish Tricolour, in place of the Union Flag, at Dublin Castle, after the British command handed it over to the Irish Free State Government.  What a privilege this must have been for him!

Celebrations were short-lived, however. Many in Ireland rejected the Anglo-Irish agreement and Civil War soon broke out. The National Army was initially made up of units of volunteers from the Irish Republican Army, although it expanded rapidly in the early months of the Free State.  The Civil War saw men, like my granduncle John, sadly forced to fight the Anti-Treaty forces, those same men that had just previously been their comrades in the fight for Irish independence.

The 1922 army census can be searched on the Military Archives of Ireland web-site.

© 2014 Black Raven Genealogy

Saturday, 16 August 2014

Benjamin Byrne, an update

I now have an answer to the question posed in my post ‘Was Granny’s Uncle Bennie a sailor?’, where I had found a Benjamin Byrne who married Annie Florence Porter in Seaforth, England, in 1918. I wondered if he was my great-granduncle, of the same name, who had left no trace in Dublin since 1913. Well the short answer is, most certainly, ‘yes’.

Last month, I received a Facebook message from a reader, Claire, who had found my post while searching for her grandfather on Google. Her grandfather, Benjamin Porter Byrne, was the second son born to Benjamin and Florence. Although Claire remembers her grandfather speaking about his frequent childhood trips to Dublin visiting his maternal grandparents, sadly, he had never mentioned his father's family.   

This got me thinking and I began searching for the Porter family in Dublin. Porter is not an Irish name, but lo and behold, there they were in Seville Place, within spitting distance of where my Byrne ancestors lived. In 1911, a fourteen year old Florence Porter was living with her family at Coburg Place. They had resided in the nearby 1st Avenue Cottages in 1901.  Annie Florence Porter, of 9 Seville Place, was baptised at the local St Barnabas church, on 2 August 1896. Uncle Bennie and Annie Florence Porter must have known each other for their entire lives. Who would have guessed? This was just too much of a coincidence! 

Benjamin Byrne & Annie Florence Porter, Marriage, Seaforth, 1918

My great-granduncle Benjamin Byrne had run off to England with Annie Florence Porter and married her there. One possible reason for their apparent elopement soon became clear. St Barnabas church served the Protestants of the area.  Florence’s father was from Co. Tyrone and her mother from Co. Fermanagh. Their religion was confirmed as being Church of Ireland in the 1911 census. The Byrne family, on the other hand, were Roman Catholic. Although both congregations lived together in harmony in Dublin at the start of the twentieth century, intermarriage may not have been readily condoned, most especially if the children were not brought up as Catholics. Benjamin and Florence married in the Church of England and their children were also baptised as Protestants. This was more than feasibly the cause of the rumoured rift between Benjamin and his brother, my great-grandfather, James. 

Yet, despite all the family complications, Benjamin had gone ahead and married his sweetheart. Fair play to you, Uncle Bennie!

Sources: 1901 and 1911 Census, National Archives Ireland; Baptismal register, St Barnabas church, Dublin.

© 2014 Black Raven Genealogy