Archive for the ‘Interesting finds’ Category
When it comes to family history research having a black sheep in the family can be a boon. Legal records offer another route to find ancestors who inexplicably manage to avoid the census. The bureaucracy of the legal system gives us access to information that is often lacking in other records. There are usually physical descriptions of prisoners and a myriad of other details such as occupation, marital status and last known address as well as place of birth and age.
In the 19th century Irish men and women living in Britain were three times more likely to find themselves in front of a judge or in jail than the native population. While this was unlucky for them it is very fortunate for those of us in search of ancestors in Britain. The legal system of the time was quite harsh and most crimes were petty offences, small thefts, drunkenness and vagrancy. Sentences in the 19th century varied wildly, the concept of crime was very different to ours: a man beating his wife could get less time than someone stealing a small sum of money. Many sentences were a week to 14 days long. During this period of a prisoner’s sentence the food rations were at their worst. This was to deter the poor from committing petty crimes in the hopes of a short term prison sentences to get access to food and shelter.
Many of the Irish law-breakers can be found in the Admiralty records of the Hulks. Pressure on the traditional town jails and the decline of transportation to America resulted in old naval ships being used as prisons from the late eighteenth century. The conditions on board ship almost defy description. The ships were moored in rivers and along the coast and packed with prisoners. The prisoners formed work-parties during the day and at night were chained below decks. In the dark, damp and gently swaying belly of the ship hundreds of prisoners stayed for years at a time. This image from The Criminal Prisons of London, and Scenes of Prison Life (available on Google Books) gives a real sense of the cramped space and claustrophobic atmosphere below decks, even without showing 500 men crammed into the space. In the dimly lit, airless space diseases like typhus spread rapidly, a single outbreak could kill up to a quarter of those on board.
The prison registers of the Hulks record the prisoner’s age and appearance. It is striking to see how young some of the prisoners are. One young Irishman aged 17, from Dublin, who went by the names William or Edward Bates is noted as being on his third conviction. His physical description includes detail of his tattoos:
Other details include the prisoner’s marital status. Several Irishmen are listed as having wives and children. Denis Donovan, a plasterer aged 30, from Cork city has a wife and eight children in one record, whereas another indicates he has 2 children. He was sentenced to 14 years. His crime was to have taken payment knowing the bank note to have been stolen.
Another intriguing record set is the Criminal Petitions. This series comprises letters sent by family members to plead on behalf of relatives convicted to have their sentence overturned or reduced. One letter in the collection concerns Irishman Owen MacGreal from Leitrim, convicted of fraud and transported, for life to New South Wales, Australia in 1834. The letter, a plea from his wife and friends, describes how the family has been left destitute without a father “the memorialist [person making the petition] has a weak and helpless family of female children without any means of support”. The petitioners ask that Owen be released so as he can earn a living in the colony and support his family back in Ireland.
Records found on findmypast confirm his arrival in New South Wales on-board the ‘Forth’ on 3 February 1835. Further research showed that he was granted a ‘ticket of leave’ in 1843, nine years after his conviction. A ticket of leave would have allowed Owen to work for wages as long as he reported to the local police on a regular basis. It is unknown what became of his family back in Ireland.
These are just some of the stories that can be told using the new Crime, Prisons & Punishments records, search them now, maybe you’ll discover a black sheep you never knew about.
Henry Mayhew, John Binny, The Criminal Prisons of London, and Scenes of Prison Life via Google Books
Roger Swift, Behaving Badly? Irish Migrants and Crime in the Victorian City
Steve Jones, Capital Punishments: Crime and Prison Conditions in Victorian Times
The men in the WWI records left their belongings to their mothers, fathers, sisters and aunts more often than they left them to wives. Very few of the records mention specific bequests, they can have had little to leave behind other than the wages owed to them by the army. These small legacies were not the only mark they made. Taking the wills as our starting point we used our records to re-create something more of the lives of a few of the young men found in the WW1 Wills.
One intriguing bequest was made by William Ahern who died in Belgium in June 1916 a year after making his will. William was born in Roscommon. His father served with the Royal Irish Constabulary and was born in America. The family moved around a great deal, the census shows that they lived in Clare, Roscommon and Cork. In his will he left £1 13 shillings and 4p “to the widow of Driver H Jenkins of the Central Argentine railway”. William had borrowed the money from Jenkins and felt honour bound to return it to the man’s wife. We went in search of Jenkins in the excellent database of Argentinian railway workers who served and died in the Great War but unfortunately there was no sign of him.
Another entry brought us to two brothers Peter and William Craig. Both served and died with the Dublin Fusiliers. William, the younger brother by 11 years died, aged 20, in France. His brother Peter died aged 30, also in France, just 13 months later. Both left their belongings to their mother at home in Dublin. The brothers can be seen in Ireland’s Memorial Record.
We went in search of William and Peter in our other records. While William couldn’t be found, Peter showed up time and again in the Petty Sessions & prison records. Nothing too serious! He is variously described as residing in Chapelizod, Palmerstown and Ballyfermot, all while living in the same house at St Laurence’s. He was caught a couple of times being “drunk and incapable”, quite normal for a young man but the law against public drinking was more rigidly enforced in the early 20th century, and Peter, unable to pay the fines, found himself jailed for periods of up to a month. On another occasion he was “cutting trees with intent”, it is not clear what he intended to do with the white thorn tree but his neighbour was not pleased. Not being able to pay the 10 shilling fine he spent 7 days in Kilimainham Gaol. Harsh justice for damage valued at 2 shillings.
One young man who did have substantial property to leave was Francis J Collins. He appears to be the only solider leaving a motor car, he also left race-horses and farms to his brother, Michael. We did wonder if perhaps Francis was joking.
Intrigued by this wealthy young private we went in search of Francis. In the 1911 census 38 North King Street, the residence of his brother named in the will, is an unoccupied Confectioner’s Shop. A quick search of Thom’s Directory for 1910 reveals that the confectioner’s shop was owned by the Monks family.
In the 1911 census a 26 year old Francis Joseph Collins can be found living with a George Monks, his cousin. Further research showed that their mothers’ were sisters. In the census Francis describes himself as a stationary [sic] packer. Might he have made his fortune in the intervening years?
These are just a few of the stories that can be told about the young Irishmen who died in WW1. Using historical records we can re-create the lives of these men who otherwise might be forgotten.
We conceive it unreasonable, that such Persons who have faithfully served Us in Our Army, whilst their Health and Strength continued, should, when by Age, Wounds or other Infirmities, they are disabled from serving Us any longer, be discharged without any Care be taken for their future Subsistence
After receiving a Royal Charter from Charles II in 1679 the Royal Hospital, Kilmainham opened its doors to old, wounded and infirm soldiers on 25 March 1684. The hospital was built to house around 300 soldiers, and could accommodate up to 1000 in war-time conditions. Opposite the Phoenix Park on the outskirts of the city the 64 acres contained landscaped gardens and orchards. The building, purpose built as a rest-home, was grand and spacious. It must have been an impressive sight.
Very few of the soldiers recorded in the Kilmainham Pensions wrote memoirs. These men were, for the most part, ordinary privates, and many were illiterate, capable only of making their mark (X) on the discharge documents. One account that does survive is that of John Green, an English born carpet weaver pensioned from Kilmainham in December 1814 at the age of twenty-five. His account of his life in the British Army in the early nineteenth century, The vicissitudes of a soldier’s life (1827), gives us an insight into the system of assessment soldiers seeking to be pensioned out.
Most soldiers, as John Green did, received a pension payment (out-pensioners) rather than staying in the hospital. From John’s account we learn that soldiers hoping for a pension made their way to Dublin and found lodgings where they could. On presenting themselves at Kilmainham they were examined by the surgeon. The soldiers were then called into a room where secretary read out the surgeon’s findings to a panel of officers, and a summary of the soldier’s conduct and the reason for discharge. Each officer then called out an amount of money they felt was appropriate to the case. This could range from 6 pence per day to 1 shilling per day, to be paid in advance, equivalent to 6 months pension. At 9 pence per day this would work out at about ten weeks full pay.
John Green captures the feelings of the soldiers lucky enough to be granted a pension. These men, having survived deprivation, hardship and battle were living in a time when there was little charity, and no social welfare. They could just have easily been expected to support themselves after their discharge. John says their pension made them feel “delighted as though we had gained a comfortable independency, or fallen heirs to some great estates”.
Among the nearly 20,000 records of men pensioned from Royal Hospital, Kilmainham between 1783 and 1822, are those of over 10,000 Irishmen from all 32 counties.
Such a wild, iron-bound coast – with such an ocean-view as I had not yet seen – and such battling of waves with rocks as I had ever imagined
This is how Charlotte Brontë described her visit to Ireland, on her honeymoon, in July of 1854. Her connections with Ireland were twofold. Her husband, Arthur Bell Nicholls and her father, Patrick Brunty (Prunty), were both Irish. A lifelong friend to Charlotte also noted that she “spoke with a strong Irish accent”.
Patrick Brunty was born in Co. Down in March 1777. His father Hugh Brunty had moved from the south of Ireland to Down where he married Eleanor ‘Alice’ McClory in about 1776 and had ten children, Patrick was the eldest. The family stayed within a small geographic area even as their fortunes improved moving from Lisnacreevy to Ballynaskeagh in the late 1790s. Clusters of McClorys and Brontës remained in the area for generations afterwards.
Patrick had shown an early aptitude and thirst for academic learning and was permitted to pursue these interests rather than working on the family farm, culminating in the opening of his own school at the age of 16. The upheaval of the 1798 rebellion appears to have disrupted his ability to keep his school open and he became a private tutor. Here his continued striving for self-improvement did not go unnoticed and he was encouraged to study Latin and Greek to prepare him for the Church. He entered Cambridge in 1802 at the age of 25. He was one of only two or three Irishmen admitted to Cambridge that year, and he was considerably older and poorer than most of his fellow students. It is believed that it was here at Cambridge that he altered the spelling of his name to the now famous Brontë. What is interesting to note is that this variation of the name can also be seen by the mid-nineteenth century among other members of the family, still living in Ireland, and from whom Patrick had deliberately distanced himself. Patrick did not cut ties entirely, he sent copies of Charlotte’s books to his family in Ireland.
Patrick had a difficult relationship with ‘Ireland’ and at turns embraced and distanced himself from his ‘Irishness’. It may be that his objections to Arthur Bell Nicholls as a suitor for his talented and famous daughter were not merely those of a proud father who thinks no one is good enough for his little girl. Arthur Bell Nicholls was close to his family in Ireland holidaying there and eventually returning to live there after Charlotte and her father’s death. Perhaps Patrick feared that Arthur would take Charlotte to Ireland, he could hardly be expected to remain a curate after his marriage. Arthur who was born near Belfast in 1819, arrived to the Haworth Parsonage in 1845 as curate, having studied at Trinity College, Dublin. He spent the next eight years working diligently alongside Patrick, whose eyesight and general health were failing, before working up sufficient courage to ask for Charlotte’s hand in marriage. He was immediately rejected by an incensed Patrick who wrote vitriolic letters to Charlotte about the presumptive ‘man’. However the romantic idea of the young man’s long unrequited love won Charlotte’s heart, where genuine feeling on her part was somewhat lacking. They honeymooned in Ireland where Charlotte was pleasantly surprised by the genteel manners of her new Irish relations
The other cousin was a pretty lady-like girl with gentle English manners….. I must say I like my new relations
Charlotte also greatly appreciated the beauty of the Irish countryside during their four week stay. She spent hours in silent contemplation of the Atlantic coast as her new husband hovered nervously nearby as she walked along the cliff edge. Unfortunately their happiness was not to last and Charlotte died only a few months later during the early stages of a difficult pregnancy. Her husband stayed at Haworth tending to his father-in-law until Patrick’s death in 1861. Arthur then moved back to Ireland, to the family home, where he can be found in the King’s County Directory in 1890. He lived there until 1906, outliving his famous wife by half a century.
Juliet Barker, The Brontës, (London: Weidenfeld and Nicholson), 1994
Juliet Barker, The Brontës: A Life in Letters (London: Viking), 1997
Yesterday, the 11th of November was the 133rd anniversary of the death of one of Australia’s, if not, the world’s most notorious outlaws, Ned Kelly. This inspired us to do a bit of research in the Irish Prison Registers to find out the fate of Irish convicts who were sent Down Under in prison ships, the good and the bad.
John “Red” Kelly
You don’t have to look too far to figure out where Ned Kelly got his rebellious streak. Ned’s father John, originally from Moyglass in Co. Tipperary, was arrested on the 4th December 1840. Our records show his crime was “stealing two pigs from James Cooney” of Ballysheehan, near Cashel. He subsequently sold the pigs at Cahir market for about £6. You can see his prison record below:
After his conviction he was referred to the Cashel Assizes and subsequently sentenced to transportation for seven years. On the 31st July 1841 he was sent to Van Diemen’s Land, now Tasmania, aboard “The Prince Regent” where he would spend the next six years in hard labour. After his release John moved to Victoria, eventually marrying Ellen Quinn. Their son Edward (Ned) was born in Melbourne and would go on to become one of the most infamous names in Australian history.
Kevin Izod O’Doherty
On the other side of the spectrum we have Dubliner Kevin Izod O’Doherty, who would go on to become a well-respected physician and politician in his adopted country. O’Doherty was a member of the Young Ireland party and founder of the short lived Irish Tribune newspaper. He was sent to Tasmania in 1849 for ten years for “feloniously publishing sedition in a newspaper called The Irish Tribune”. We can see his prison record below:
In 1854 he received a pardon and went to Paris to continue his medical studies. In 1862 he returned to Australia this time to Brisbane and became well known as one of its leading physicians.
He was eventually elected a member of the legislative assembly in 1867 and in 1872 was responsible for a health act being passed, and was also one of the early opponents of the traffic in kanakas. In 1877 he transferred to the legislative council before resigning in 1885. O’Doherty returned to Dublin but was back in Brisbane within a year, deciding that he could not stick the Irish climate anymore!
Do you have any ancestors in your family tree who were sent to Australia on prison ships? We’d love to hear their stories and hopefully compile them into a follow up post, feel free to get in touch via the comments box below.
We recently came across a copy of “The Irish in Britain 1800-1914” by Donald M. Macgraild, part of the Studies in Irish Economic and Social History series, on the office bookshelf and managed to to find some incredibly interesting statistics which should pique the interest of those of you whose ancestors made the journey across the Irish Sea.
Up until the outbreak of the Great Famine in 1845, Britain was the principal receiver of Irish migrants. Although this trend began to shift as the Famine took hold, as more and more migrants boarded ships for Canada and the United States, Britain still managed to account for one quarter of the total migrant population. As late as 1901, there was still nearly twice as many Irish-born in Britain as there was in Canada, Australia, and New Zealand combined.
This enthusiasm for moving across the Irish Sea was not matched by our British cousins and according to Fitzpatrick (1986) by the mid-Victorian period the difference was twelve-fold i.e. for every twelve Irish making the journey to Britain, just one British person emigrated to Ireland.
The vast numbers of Irish travelling to Britain in the pre-famine period worked in the burgeoning industrial centres, particularly textiles, coal-mining and iron foundries. Concentrations of Irish emigrants were also found in port towns such as Liverpool (where in 1851 Irish born made up over 20% of the city’s population) . This was a migration of skilled labourers, meeting local labour demand and built on centuries of mutual trade. It was only during the famine, and post-famine years that waves of unskilled labourers flocked to the urban centres of Britain in search of whatever work might be available.
The table below complied from the censuses of England, Wales and Scotland shows the significant percentage of those living in Britain who worn born in Ireland:
Migrants were often transitory , following work across the country. Those of us searching for our migratory ancestors need to keep this in mind, as family members may not always be found where we ‘know’ they settled. Many can be found living in lodging houses run by fellow-Irish before settling into more permanent homes, moving on to other parts of Britain or the United States, or in some cases, moving back to Ireland.
If you happen to be one of the hundreds of thousands of Irish people out there with ancestors divided between both Ireland and Britain it’s never been a better time to start researching your family tree. The census records are just one of the sources which will allow you to search for your Irish ancestors. We’re currently offering a 15% discount on our Britain & Ireland subscription which includes almost 900 million records!
Fitzpatrick, D (1986) “A Peculiar Tramping People”: the Irish in Britain, 1801-70, in W.E. Vaughan A New History of Ireland, vol. 5: Ireland Under the Union part 1
Macgraild, D.M. (2006) “The Irish in Britain 1800-1914″, Studies in Irish Economic and Social History,
The 200,000 records in Byrne’s Irish Times Abstracts 1859-1901 are sure to be a huge benefit to those of you who have ancestors who were based in Dublin city and it’s Southern Suburbs in the later part of the 19th century. The information contained in this index is of such value as records a huge variety of information on virtually every building in Dublin city and the South-side of Dublin including:
- Social activities
- Criminal and civil law cases
As well as property information such as:
- Sanitary conditions
- Names of occupants (both current and previous, historical facts)
The entries, all taken from copies of the Irish Times are also useful for tracking well know members of Dublin society at this time. For example we can track some of the activities of Ireland’s most famous wit Oscar Wilde. We can see here how at the age of 24 he took legal action regarding a contract for a property in Bray:
The second entry takes note of a trip to Brighton for the playwright:
While the third references his trial in 1895:
If an event was recorded in the Irish Times during these year’s it’s here!
The Sun King’s Irish Galley Slaves
We love a list of names here at fmp.ie and although this record set is not one we have on the website we thought you might like to hear about this rare and unusual ‘offline’ source for seventeenth and eighteenth century prisoners in the galley ships of France during the reign of Louis XIV.
In the late seventeenth century thousands of soldiers left Ireland to join continental forces, many served in the Irish regiments of Louis XIV’s French army. While the involvement of Irish troops in the European wars of the late seventeenth and early eighteenth century are well documented their names are largely forgotten.
Some records were transcribed, such as those found in the de La Ponce manuscript housed in the RIA, a two volume history of Irish regiments in France listing the names and pedigrees of officers. This material was drawn on by John Cornelius O’Callaghan for his History of the Irish Brigades in the Service of France, published in 1869. While both of these are, undoubtedly, valuable and underused genealogical resources for the period, they are primarily concerned with officers, gentlemen, people with pedigrees, not ordinary soldiers.
The ratio of ordinary soldiers to officers means that for every officer we might know about there are probably ten (or more) ordinary soldiers whose names are largely unrecorded. Information on these men usually comes through casualty lists or from records of disciplinary actions.
One small but fascinating source relating to the arrest and punishment of Irish soldiers in the French army is a list, compiled by Eoghan Ó hAnnracháin, of 167 Irishmen who were sentenced to serve as galley slaves aboard French ships between 1660 and 1748. The 167 names discovered by Ó hAnnracháin are scattered among those of over 60,000 prisoners recorded in the massive ledgers of the galleys, which are housed in the Service Historique de la Marine in Toulon, France. The dedicated research involved in discovering these names is to be greatly admired as they gives us a unique glimpse into the fate of ordinary Irish soldiers in this pivotal period of European history (those who broke the law anyway!).
Most of those sentenced to serve in the galleys were deserters, although others were charged with a range of offences from stealing to forgery. The deserters were sentenced to serve as rowers in the oar-powered galleys still in use well into the eighteenth century by the French navy to ferry goods between sailing ships. Conditions were harsh and most would die in their chains. Many opted to return to active service rather than face the conditions aboard a galley. Some even volunteered to work in towns as corbeau (lit. raven) affected by outbreaks of plague, removing and burying bodies of plague victims, such was the reputation of the galley ships.
The bulk of the entries in the list date to between 1690 and 1740, with most of them clustered around 1700-1710. The short entries are full of information. As well as the name of the prisoner and the charge for which they were arrested most entries note the prisoner’s county of origin, their age at arrest and physical appearance, their parent’s names are also recorded; and, in most cases, their fate. Occupations are also recorded in a number of the entries, these include wigmaker, tailor and shoemaker. Twenty-three counties are represented although the bulk (47) are from Dublin. The next largest groups are from Limerick (18) and Cork (17).
The three entries below give a flavour of these mini-biographies. The details are such that you can almost picture the man. Ó hAnnracháin has provided us with a truly fascinating snap-shot of a group of men who would otherwise be wholly unknown to us.
John Armstrong son of Brian and Janette Lennon [Linon]; native of Ballinrobe, Ireland; mason; soldier in O Brien’s company, Lee Irish regiment; aged 18; good build; oval face; chestnut hair; arrived on the Paris chain on 4 December 1716; sentenced by court martial at Douai on 6 July 1716; desertion; life; died or escaped after being loaned [prêté] to the town of Marseille on 24 August 1720 to serve as corbeau [lit. raven] during the plague.
Terence O Brien [Turrance Corien] called Irlandois; son of Daniel and Catherine; native of Cloyne [Cloune] in Ireland, aged 27; tall; oval face; chestnut hair; arrived at Marseille on 4 June 1703 on the Paris chain conducted by sieur Nicolas Moncau – 254 men of whom three died en route, and the chain of criminals from the Metz prisons – 32 men according to the list of St. Didier, Procureur du Roi; sentenced by the provost of the royal camps and armies at Strasbourg on 23 December 1702; complicity in the killing of the provost of a village and for having forcibly secured lodgings and food; life; [not indicated what became of him]
Stephen Sullivan [Sulval or Surval, Etienne]; son of Amhlaoibh [Houel] and Marguerite Maurice; native of Dublin, Ireland; soldier in the colonel’s company, Anguenois regiment; aged 23; good build; long face; chestnut hair; arrived Marseille on 22 April 1701 on the Paris chain – 343 men of whom six died en route; sentenced by court martial at Logoux on 13 January 1701; desertion; life; freed on 23 March 1702 to serve in the Albermarle regiment for the rest of his life; handed over to Lieutenant Kuorville.
The full list of 167 names is available in Ó hAnnracháin, E. (2006) “Galériens: The Irish Galley Slaves of France”, The Irish Sword: The Journal of the Military History Society of Ireland, Vol. XXV, No. 99
Past issues of The Irish Sword are available from their website http://www.mhsi.ie/thesword.htm
References & Further Reading
Chartrand, R., (1988) Louis XIV’s Army, Men at Arms 203, Osprey Publishing
O’Callaghan, J.C. (1869) History of the Irish Brigades in the Service of France available on CD ROM from http://www.eneclann.ie/
Ó hAnnracháin, E. (2006) “Galériens: The Irish Galley Slaves of France”, The Irish Sword: The Journal of the Military History Society of Ireland, Vol. XXV, No. 99
Ó hAnnracháin, E. (2007) “Men of the West in the Galleys of France”, Journal of the Galway Archaeological and Historical Society, Vol 59, pp. 37-45
Ó hAnnracháin, E. (2007) “Dubliners in the Galleys of France”, Dublin Historical Record, Vol. 60, No. 2, pp. 208-217
Not content with having Francis Beaufort, John Joly, John Philip Holland, Robert Perceval in our ranks of famous scientists and inventors we also have Guglielmo Marconi (1874-1937), pioneer of radio communication and inventor of the first practical system of wireless telegraphy.
The Irish Family Connection
Guglielmo Marconi was born in Bologna on 25 April, 1874, the son of Giuseppe Marconi and his Irish wife Annie Jameson. Annie was one of “the Jamesons”. Her grandfather John Jameson founded the whiskey distillers Jameson & Sons in Dublin in the 1780s. Annie’s father, John Jameson’s son, Andrew was a famous distiller in his own right. He founded a Jameson distillery in Ennicorthy, Co. Wexford, and settled with his wife Margaret Millar in Daphne Castle, on the outskirts of Wexford. It is believed that Guglielmo, along with his mother and older brother Alfonso, often visited the castle during his boyhood summers. Unfortunately little now remains of the distillery or Daphne Castle. Below we can a record from Griffith’s Valuation of Andrew Jameson in Fairfield Enniscorthy in 1853:
There’s also an entry in Slater’s Directory 1846 which lists Mr Jameson as a member of the “Nobility, Gentry & Clergy” of Enniscorthy:
The Irish family connections don’t end there though. On March 16 March 1905, Marconi married the Hon. Beatrice O’Brien (1882-1976), a daughter of Edward Donough O’Brien, 14th Baron Inchiquin and High Sheriff of Clare. Beatrice grew up in Dromoland, Co. Clare but moved to London with her mother in 1900 after the death of her father. It was here that she met Marconi who immediately broke off his engagement to an American woman to pursue her. After initially declining his offer of marriage, due to his burgeoning celebrity status, she eventually agreed and they married in St. George’s Church in Hanover Square, London. They honeymooned in Dromoland. As large landowners there are many entries for the Barons of Inchiquin in our records, with over 800 in Griffith’s Valuation alone. Below we can see the entry for Edward Donough O’Brien where he is listed as a “Representative Peer Elected For Ireland Since The Union” in Thom’s Irish Almanac 1880:
Although the marriage was ill-fated, resulting in an annulment and both remarrying, Guglielmo’s Irish connection continued via his business interests. Ballycastle, Co. Antrim was the site of the world’s first commercial wireless telegraph transmission, performed by Marconi’s employees, on 6 July 1898. His company had established a wireless transmitting station at Marconi House, at Rosslare Strand, Co. Wexford and begun a regular transatlantic radio-telegraph service between Clifden, Co. Galway and Glace Bay in Nova Scotia, Canada.
Marconi was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1909 and died in 1937 aged 63 following a series of heart attacks. His ex-wife Beatrice visited him as he lay in state.
After our article on Irish brewing proved so popular over St. Patrick’s weekend we’ve decided to give it some space of its on on our blog.
In the 1700’s the population of Dublin stood at just under 70,000. They were served by more than 1,500 taverns and hundreds of small breweries producing every manner of beer. In 1696 King Charles II incorporated the Brewers of Dublin by saying: “There are in or about our city of Dublin and the suburbs, liberties and two miles of the same, very many persons of the trade or mystery of brewers who might might be better ordered and governed, and ale and beer to sell may be better and wholesomer boiled and brewed, if the said persons of the said trade or mystery of brewing were incorporated.”
However Kilkenny would be the home to Ireland’s first large commercial brewery which was founded by John Smithwick in 1710. The brewery was situated on the site of a Franciscan abbey which had brewed ale since the 14th century. John’s son Edmund (1800-1876) rebuilt and enlarged the brewery in 1827 and by the time of his death the company had built up a large export business. We can see a record taken from Slater’s Directory where Edmund is listed as one of two brewers in the town:
In Dublin there were twelve breweries along the River Liffey by the end of the 18th century. The two largest being Guinness’s which had been founded in 1759 by Arthur Guinness in a disused warehouse and the Anchor Brewery, founded in 1740. We can see Arthur Guinness’s entry as a Freeman of Dublin in 1790 in the entry below:
The brewing boom continued with the opening of Beamish & Crawford brewery in Cork City in 1792. Daniel O’Connell even got in on the act helping his son Daniel junior to purchase the Phoenix Brewery in Dublin in 1831. They produced a popular brand known as “O’Connell’s Ale” until O’Connell junior decided to leave the brewing business to pursue a career in politics. A second Cork brewery would also open in 1856, Murphy’s Brewery.
The twentieth century would see a prolonged period of consolidation in the Irish brewing industry with Guinness going on to revolutionise the brewing and distribution of beer in Ireland. In turn they would roll over the competition of smaller brewers and buy out most of those based in Dublin, including O’Connell’s Phoenix brewery.
However the late 1990s witnessed a renaissance in micro-brewing in Ireland, which had been all but wiped out by the dominant Guinness and Murphy’s breweries, with the establishment of Biddy Early’s brewpub in Co. Clare in 1995 and the Dublin Brewing Company in Smithfield, Dublin in 1996. This was followed by another 11 brewpubs and micro-breweries which have opened around the country in the last decade ensuring the continued health of Ireland’s brewing history.