Wednesday, February 14, 2018

'If ever two were one, then surely we': Love & Marriage on my Family Tree

To my dear and loving husband

If ever two were one, then surely we.
If ever man were loved by wife, then thee;
If ever wife was happy in a man,
Compare with me ye women if you can.
I prize thy love more than whole mines of gold,
Or all the riches that the East doth hold.
My love is such that rivers cannot quench,
Nor ought but love from thee give recompense.
Thy love is such I can no way repay;
The heavens reward thee manifold, I pray.
Then while we live, in love let's so persever*,
That when we live no more we may live ever.

                         — Anne Bradstreet, 1612-1672.

While wishing each and every one of you a Happy Valentine's Day, I must beg your forbearance for this repeat of my Valentine post. Since this is a day of love, I believe nothing is more fitting than this list of lovely unions, so again I offer for your perusal, 'Love & Marriage on my Family Tree.

Inspired by the words of Anne Bradstreet's beautiful 17th century poem, which I dedicate to my own belovéd husband Matthew, and in honour of this St. Valentine's Day, here is a celebration of marital unions on both sides of my family tree. It is my hope that all were brought together by love, although I may be idealizing some of these unions.

It is entirely possible the couples in question may have gotten together over such unromantic notions as strengthening the power and social standing of a particular family. Some matches may have been based on the fact that the woman was from a family known for birthing male children. Attachments might have been made quite simply because the families of the betrothed lived in close proximity to one another.


Since this is Valentine's Day, I prefer to think it was all for love.



John and his girl Ally, my maternal fifth great-grandparents got together sometime around 1760, although the definitive proof of a marriage record continues to elude me.

Married or not, on 24 December 1761 they christened their first born child, a son, whom they named William. Although William died young, over the years John and Ally would welcome at least six more children: three daughters, Elizabeth (born 1763), Mary (born 1766), Anne (born 1771), and three sons William (born 1774; my 4th great-grandfather), Peter (born 1776) and Christopher (born 1778).



On 17 February 1773, just three days after the Feast of St. Valentine, James and Catherine were married by Reverend Thomas King in Donabate, County Dublin, Ireland. James and Catherine welcomed at least two children, including their daughter, my 4th great-grandmother Mary, who was born in the winter of 1775.



William, my maternal 4th great-grandfather, son of John Cavenaugh and Ally Howard, promised to be truthful and faithful to his Mary, daughter of James Brien and Catherine Harford, on a snowy December day. I remember it well, for the two became one on 30 December 1798 in Donabate, County Dublin, Ireland.

According to the memoir of their grandson, Andrew J. Kettle, William and Mary were quite an extraordinary couple. The memoir asserts that both were involved in the 1798 Rebellion, with Mary allegedly secretly transporting pikes into North County Dublin, and providing shelter for insurgents after the rising was quashed. Andrew J. also writes that 'Billy' was briefly imprisoned since he was a member of the United Irishmen, and saved from the hangman's noose only because of the wealth and standing of his family. It was perhaps in celebration of their survival that William and Mary wed on the penultimate day of December in the year of the Rebellion.

Together William and Mary shared at least three children, including their second born child Alice, my third great-grandmother, who was christened 'Ally' on 5 March 1800, a namesake for her paternal grandmother, Allice Howard.



Ally, daughter of William and Mary, enjoyed 25 years together with her beloved husband Thomas.  Ally and Thomas welcomed many children — at least six — including my great-great grandmother Maria 'Mary' Kettle and her brother Andrew Joseph Kettle.

Sadly, Ally died 24 September 1855.  Upon his death 22 September 1871, Thomas was interred with his 'beloved' Alice in St. Colmcille's Churchyard, Swords.


In the case of the Cavenaughs, it is interesting to note the extent to which their surname 'morphed' on documents over three generations of the family. This speaks to the dominance of oral culture over written. In other words, the person noting family passages in parish registers, whether sacristan or priest, wrote what he heard. Uniformity of surnames did not become the order of the day until the 19th century. By the time her son Andrew J. Kettle was writing his memoirs in the early 20th century, he wrote that O'Kavanagh was his mother Alice's surname.




On the bright morning of 14 September 1857 Maria, called Mary, daughter of Thomas Kettle and Ally O'Kavanagh, took the plunge with her beau Joseph.

Together they had nine children, including my great-grandfather Thomas Fitzpatrick. They had fourteen years together, when sadly, Mary died 23 April 1871.  Her youngest child Teresa was only ten months old at the time. Mary is interred with her mother and father in St. Colmcille's Churchyard, Swords, County Dublin.



Like his parents before him Thomas took his bride in a September wedding. On 20 September 1893, Thomas and Mary were united in marriage by Rev. Father David P. Mulcahy at St. Columba Church in Swords, County Dublin. Tom and Mary faced much hardship during their married life, but together they endured.

Together they left Ireland for Liverpool England, only to return to Ireland some seven years later. Their marriage brought them six children, including my grandmother Maria 'Mary' Angela Fitzpatrick.



FRANCIS BALL pledges his troth to JANE EARLY

Up to this point in my 'roll call of love', I have laid out the family line which resulted in the birth of my grandmother Maria 'Mary' Angela Fitzpatrick. Although I won't include his complete line here, I do want to add the parents of Mary's husband, my grandfather Patrick Joseph Ball.

Francis Ball and Jane Early were joined in marriage at St. Mary's Pro-Cathedral on the 24th day of August 1884. It was an illustrious beginning to a marriage plagued by loss, but I like to imagine it was a happy union which produced the gentle soul who was my grandfather Patrick, the first born son of Francis and Jane's five children.



Although it is alleged that case maker Patrick Joseph Ball may not have been her family's first choice as a perfect match for Maria 'Mary' Angela Fitzpatrick, these two are said to have adored one another. They wed on 1 June 1921, and shared just over fifteen years of marriage.

Together they had eight children, with seven living to adulthood, including my mother Mary. Their baby son Thomas died in 1928, when he was just over 10 months old. Sadly, Mary Fitzpatrick Ball followed him to the grave 18 December 1936, at the age of forty-two; her youngest child John was less than a year old at the time.



The union of these two has always had me somewhat flummoxed. Minimal details of their relationship, as outlined by one of my father's sisters, make it appear as though Anne and John mixed as well as fire and water. I do not know how they met, but have surmised the introduction may have been made by Anne's father, Patrick Magee, perhaps in the hope of reigning in the revolutionary inclinations of his eldest daughter who was a member of Cumann na mBan during the War of Independence. As the manager of the Jameson Distillery, Patrick Magee knew John Geraghty, the son of wealthy 'car' (coaches, carriages, etc.) proprietor Patrick Geraghty who owned the car company favoured by Mr. Jameson. Apparently John and Patrick often interacted, since John was the driver who 'squired' Mr. Jameson to the Smithfield distillery.

No matter how the relationship began, with Anne almost 28 years old, she was on the cusp of the age when 'the bloom is gone off the rose', as they say, and so it would have been important to get her married.  John was significantly older than Anne, eleven years her senior, and just a couple of months shy of his 39th birthday when they wed on 15 February 1928. The marriage produced seven children, including their second born son, my father Michael. The couple had been married for just over twenty-four years when Anne suddenly died. Some of the Geraghty children remarked it was only after their mother's death that they realized their father truly loved her, and was completely lost without her.



My mother and father first laid eyes on one another when she was eighteen and he was twenty.  Mom recalled his beautiful blond hair, the perfect crease of his trousers, and the brilliant polish of his black leather shoes. Dad noted her gorgeous brunette hair falling in waves to her shoulders, and her beautiful eyes, one of them half blue and half hazel. His aunt Mollie wanted him to court one of my mother's sisters, but he only had eyes for Mary Ball.  It was a long courtship, five years, but finally they were married at St. Patrick's Church, Ringsend, Dublin on 2 August 1954, and had been married for just over 45 years when my dad died in March of 2000.

Michael Geraghty and Mary Ball, my dad and mom,
life long sweethearts on their wedding day,
2 August 1954.
May you have much love in your life today and always.

Note: * In Anne Bradstreet's poem, the word 'persevere' appears here exactly as the poet spelled it.

This post originally appeared in 2016.

Friday, January 26, 2018

Into the land of Maria Edgeworth: 'Edgeworthstown', County Longford

Although it has been quite some time since I posted on the pages of this blog, in a break from my history work I recently began to pour over the pages of my copy of the new book Maria Edgeworth's Letters from Ireland. Selected and edited by Valerie Pakenham, and published by The Lilliput Press of Dublin, the letters elicited in me thoughts of my own sojourn into the land of Maria Edgeworth, and the places in which she lived and worked in Ireland, specifically in the town christened for her family name, Edgeworthstown, County Longford.

Edgeworth’s letters, which span a period of sixty years, offer great insight into seminal times in Irish history, including the 1798 Rebellion, the rise of Daniel O’Connell and the fight for Catholic Emancipation, and the Great Famine of 1848-52, as well as earlier periods of widespread food shortages in Ireland that are sometimes forgotten by history.

It rained like mad on the day I made the 110 kilometre (about 70 miles) drive by myself from Ballsbridge, Dublin City to Edgeworthstown, County Longford. At around the 75 kilometre mark I began to wonder if the trip had been a good idea. Nevertheless I plodded on, windscreen wipers at high speed. By the time I arrived in Edgeworthstown, though the rain had abated, parts of the town appeared to be oddly deserted, and for just a moment I felt as though I had travelled back in time.

St. John's Church (COI), Edgeworthstown, County Longford
On 29 August 1935, The Belfast Weekly news printed the following announcement:

"At the request of the local Town Tenants' Association, the name of Edgeworthstown has been changed to Mostrim (in Gaelic, Meathas Truim) by the Longford County Council." 

In fact, this name change of 1935 restored to the town of Mostrim the name by which it was known in 1619, when King James I granted about 600 acres of land near Mostrim to one Francis Edgeworth. Today the town of Mostrim is still widely known as Edgeworthstown, so named for the estate of the Anglo-Irish family of Richard Lovell Edgeworth (1744-1817).

For many people, the name Edgeworthstown immediately evokes that of Richard Lovell Edgeworth's second born child, the writer Maria Edgeworth (1767-1849). Although a prolific writer, Maria is probably best known as the author of Castle Rackrent, a novel thought especially noteworthy because of its realistic depiction of the lives of Irish peasantry. In her day Maria Edgeworth was well respected as a writer. Among the guests welcomed at Edgeworthstown Manor were the Scottish historical novelist Sir Walter Scott and the famed Romantic Period poet William Wordsworth, both of whom greatly admired her writings. Even the acclaimed Jane Austen knew of Edgeworth, and is said to have been inspired by her work.

Maria's father Richard was an interesting character in his own right. He was an educational theorist, writer and inventor. He was married four times — Anna Maria Elers (d. 1773), Honora Sneyd (d. 1779), Elizabeth Sneyd (d. 1798 and Honora’s sister) and Frances Anne Beaufort (d. 1865) — and fathered 22 children, four of whom died in infancy. The eldest child was born in 1764 and the youngest in 1812. Just imagine having a half-sibling who is 48 years your senior.

Edgeworthstown House

The original Edgeworthstown manor house was built in 1725 by Richard Edgeworth, possibly incorporating an earlier house. Between 1770 and 1787, it was enlarged in a sprawling and rather unattractive manner by Richard Lovell Edgeworth, in order to house his ever increasing family. Since 1939 it has served as a nursing home. Sadly, all of the landscaping and green space that once enhanced the manor — as seen in the image below — has long been paved over, giving way to a car park for the nursing home.1
Edgeworthstown House, circa 1894.
One of the additions to the manor house,
noteworthy because it bears the family coat of arms.
Atop the addition, a figure of the Virgin Mary and the Edgeworth Family Coat of Arms.
Close-up view of the Edgeworth Family Coat of Arms.
Their motto 'Constans Contraria Spernit' basically translates to
'The resolute man despises difficulties'.

Just yards from the principal manor house is this pretty little gate lodge, built around 1880
and believed to incorporate another gate lodge that was built circa 1725.


You may also be familiar with Edgeworthstown because of its sad association with the family of Oscar Wilde. On 23 February 1867, Wilde's beloved sister Isola Francesca Emily, then aged just over 10 years, died while staying at Edgeworthstown Rectory, which was then the home of her aunt and uncle, Margaret and the Reverend William Noble. Isola is buried in the cemetery of St. John's Church, the same cemetery in which are interred Maria Edgeworth and some members of her family.

Previous residents of the rectory have an interesting history, one that played out long before members of the Noble family were denizens of the house.

It is said the rectory was originally built as a dower house for Edgeworth widows; however, in 1745 when Henry Essex Edgeworth was born here, it was a rectory and Henry's father Robert (first cousin of Richard Lovell Edgeworth) was the Protestant Rector.

Only four years after the birth of his son Henry, in 1749 Robert Edgeworth, citing a 'crisis of conscience', converted to Roman Catholicism. Given the oppressive nature of penal laws then in force in Ireland, he shortly thereafter moved his family to Toulouse, France.

In 1769, Henry Essex Edgeworth moved to Paris, taking the vows of the priesthood and eventually becoming L'Abbe Edgeworth De Firmont.2 Henry served as vicar-general of the Diocese of Paris at the height of the French Revolution, heard the final confession of King Louis XVI, and attended Louis on the scaffold as the deposed king was executed by guillotine. Rather shocking for a boy born in the sleepy little village of Edgeworthstown.

Edgeworthstown Rectory: built circa 1730: birthplace of Henry Essex Edgeworth, 1745;
Home of Reverend William Noble and his wife Margaret in the mid-19th century.
Their niece, Oscar Wilde's sister, Isola Francesca Wilde died here 23 February, 1867.
The rectory from an eastern perspective. The single story addition dates to 1830.
To this day, the house is still occupied.
A closer view of St. John's Church and the churchyard,
burial ground for some Edgeworth family members and for Isola Francesca Wilde.
The gates of the churchyard are kept locked, and unfortunately on the day of my visit,
the caretaker was not to be found at home.
On the way out of Edgeworthstown, I stopped at the train station, built in 1855.
Just over the stone wall from the train station is this lovely fellow, who obliged me by standing still for a photograph.


1. The image of Edgeworthstown house is from The Life and Letters of Maria Edgeworth, Volume 2. It is in the public domain, and there is no known copyright.

2. 'De Firmont' means 'of Firmont': Henry was accorded this addition to his title as a nod to his ancestral estate at Firmount — also known as Fairymount — County Roscommon. Fairymount is approximately 46 kilometres southwest of Edgeworthstown, County Longford.

3. Henry Essex Edgeworth's original account of the execution of Louis XVI, which is written in French, is held by the British Museum, London, England.

References for further reading:

Butler, Harold Edgeworth and Harriet Jessie Butler. The Black Book of Edgeworthstown, and other Edgeworth Memoirs, 1587-1817, London: Faber & Gwyer, 1927. Print.
Lawless, Emily. Maria Edgeworth, New York & London: The Macmillan Company, 1905. Print.
Pakenham, Valerie, editor. Maria Edgeworth's Letters from Ireland, Dublin: The Lilliput Press, Ltd., 2018. Print.
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