Saturday, 18 February 2017

Mary Frances (Wynne) Stowell

This week, I’d like to introduce you to another of Granda’s first cousins - Mary Frances Wynne. A while ago, I ‘met’ a lovely lady called Gabriella online and she shared some photographs and much of Frances’ story with me.

Mary Frances was born in Dundalk, Co. Louth on 19 June 1881, the second daughter and third child of John Wynne and Margaret Ward/Armstrong.[1] She worked as a tailoress before her marriage.[2] Then, on 16 January 1908, she married Robert Stowell, a sea captain, six years her senior.[3] Robert’s family believed he could do much better for himself, than marrying a cork-cutter’s daughter, but the marriage went ahead anyway, against their wishes.

Captain Robert Stowell and family, Dundalk, 1916
Robert and Frances Stowell
with Rita and Bernadette, 1916

Robert and Frances had two children, both girls. Margaretta Mary, known as Rita, was born in 1911 and Bernadette Frances followed in 1916. Bernadette was severely mentally disabled. Frances cared for her at home.[4]

Robert’s ‘Identity and Service Certificate’ shows he captained two steamships, the SS Carlingford and the SS Margaret Lockington.  Both were cargo ships owned by the Dundalk coal importers, Samuel Lockington Ltd. In 1921, Robert became the first captain of the SS Margaret Lockington, which at the time was said to have been the fastest collier crossing the Irish Sea.
Captain Robert Stowell, Dundalk
‘RS2 Identity and Service Certificate’, Robert Stowell, c. 1919

And, although Robert served on a minesweeper during World War I, a far more dangerous command, you might think, it was on board the SS Margaret Lockington that he met his unfortunate demise. Tragically, Captain Robert Stowell was found dead in his bunk on 24 December 1922 – Christmas Eve morning – when his ship was docked at Ayr in Scotland. An inquest was held shortly thereafter. The jury concluded his death was accidental, caused by injuries sustained in a fall on deck the previous evening.[5]
Death of Robert Stowell, The Weekly Freeman, 6 Jan. 1923, p. 4

Yet, his grieving widow never accepted the inquest’s verdict. Frances believed Robert had been assaulted. He had recently dismissed a seaman for bad behaviour and Frances suspected he received the head injuries in retaliation. She maintained this belief until her dying day.

Frances remained in Dundalk after Robert’s death, taking care of her young family. She passed away on 18 January 1965, aged 83 years, and was buried in St Patricks Cemetery in Dundalk.[6]

Death of Frances Stowell, Irish Independent, 20 Jan. 1965, p. 21

[1] Copy birth register, Dundalk, 1881, Mary Wynne, General Register Office.
[2] Census of Ireland, Dundalk, 1901, National Archives.
[3] Copy marriage register, Dundalk, 1908, Stowell-Wynne, General Register Office.
[4] Copy birth registers, Dundalk, Margaretta Stowell in 1911, Bernadette Stowell in 1916, General Register Office.
[5] Copy of an extract from the Register of Deaths for Ayr, Robert Francis Stowell, dated 5 October 1923.
[6] Copy death register, Dundalk, 1923, Mary Frances Stowell, General Register Office.

© Black Raven Genealogy

Saturday, 11 February 2017

John Augustine Wynne

The search in Dundalk, Co. Louth has so far failed to unearth our Wynne family’s roots. Instead, I have found out more about my granddad’s first cousins, the children of his Uncle John Wynne. John and his wife Margaret had ten children, many of whom have previously featured on this blog. 

You might remember Philip Camillus, their youngest son, who died so tragically during World War I. Or, Mary Clarissa, their youngest daughter, who travelled to Sydney, Australia before settling in New York with her brothers James and Gerald. Well, this week I learned about their eldest son, John Augustine Wynne, born in Dundalk in June 1877.

Poor John Augustine. He too died young. He caught that dreaded nineteenth-century killer - tuberculosis. His parents nursed him for a year before he finally succumbed to the disease. He was only sixteen years old. But, what’s unusual about John Augustine – well, unusual for our family that is – was his obituary was published in the local newspaper. John Augustine was well-known in Dundalk, and that, coupled with his youth, meant people were interested in his passing. 

You see, John Augustine could sing.

Death of Master John Augustine Wynne 
'The hundreds in Dundalk who frequently listened with rapture to the charming vocalism of Master Wynne will learn with grief and sorrow that the sweet voice which was the source of so much enjoyment to them is forever stilled in death. Master Wynne died on Tuesday, to the inexpressible grief of his father and mother, to whom the sympathy of the people goes spontaneously out. 
The funeral took place on Thursday, the coffin containing the remains being carried to the grave by the schoolfellows of the deceased who attended in hundreds and marched with the funeral in processional order. Rev. Brother J A Yorke and all the members of the Community of Christian Brothers in Dundalk attended. Mr T V Parks was also present as well as great numbers of the townspeople generally. Rev. P Murtagh, C C, officiated at the grave. R.I.P.' 
Death Notice of John Augustine Wynne in the Dundalk Examiner and Louth Advertiser, 1 July 1893, p.2.

Sadly, for a genealogist, it was not a typical obituary. It provides zero information on John Augustine’s family, or their origins, or their ties to the community in Dundalk, concentrating instead on naming the local 'celebrities' who attended. Still, isn’t it nice to learn a little about our young cousin’s life! 

And news of his death travelled far and wide. In the following weeks, the newspaper printed a letter addressed to John Augustine’s mother, from P C Clarke in Gibraltar. The Reverend Brother P C Clarke was the Superior of the Christian Brothers School in Gibraltar, but formerly of their school in Dundalk, where John Augustine had no doubt attended. 
Gibraltar, July 8th, 1893
Dear Mrs Wynne – A few moments ago, I received the Dundalk Examiner and was startled and deeply grieved to read the account of poor dear John Augustine’s death. I wondered at not receiving a letter from him, but now I know the reason. Need I say how profoundly I sympathise with you in your deep sorrow, knowing what a terrible blow this must be to so loving a mother for such an endearing, affectionate child. He was a favourite with everyone who came across him – to know him was to love him. 
Yet, ‘God’s holy will be done.’ Our dear Lord, who does everything for the best has called him ‘Home’. That sweet voice of his, which was so lovingly devoted to the praises of God here below, now resounds midst angel choirs in chanting joyous hallelujahs before His heavenly throne. He would not now exchange his happy lot for this cold, cold world again. 
I am sending on the account to Mr Duggan, who I know will be deeply touched to hear–I scarcely know which to call it–the sad, or the happy news; it is such a special privilege and mark of God’s love to be called, whilst this young and innocent, from this deceitful world. 
With kindest regards and heartfelt condolence with dear self, Mr. Wynne and the little ones, I remain, very sincerely yours,
P C Burke
Letter to the mother of the late John Augustine Wynne, published in the Dundalk Examiner and Louth Advertiser, 22 July 1893, p. 3. 

It seems John Augustine was not the only one of my grandfather’s first cousins who could carry a tune. His sisters Maggie and Nora were similarly talented, as was his brother Joseph. And, people actually paid to hear them perform. 

It was after their mother’s death in December 1900 before their names were found in the newspaper. They specialised in Irish songs and ballads, singing at ‘Irish’ concerts, all part of the Gaelic Revival taking place across the country at that time. 

Maggie Wynne was seemingly the most popular.  She regularly performed alongside Mr T. V. Parks, who it transpires was a particularly popular local musician and professor of music. I wonder did Maggie think of her brother when she sang.

© Black Raven Genealogy 

Saturday, 4 February 2017

John Wynne, the Cork Cutter

In the search for what brought my great-granduncle, John Wynne, fifty miles from his home in Dublin city to Dundalk in Co. Louth, it crossed my mind he may have been offered such a great a job he had to take it. Why else had he not become a brush maker in Dublin, like his four younger brothers?

And, if he was offered a job in Dundalk, he must have known someone in the town. So, we may have had family there - I am still looking for our Wynne family origins after all.

Then again, if we were related to the Wynne family from Dowdallshill, like those other online family trees suggest, why did John not become a stone mason like his supposed grandfather? Or, take a job in the building trade with his up-and-coming would-be first cousin, the soon to be famous church builder, James Wynne?

Instead, when John married Margaret Ward in July 1876, he was working as a labourer. He could easily have picked up that kind of work in Dublin. So, from the start, it did not look too promising for my ‘great job’ theory. 

By the time the couple’s first child arrived in June 1877, John had started his career as a cork cutter. You’d be surprised at how many cork cutters there were in nineteenth-century Ireland! Cork came from the bark of a type of oak tree, imported from around the Mediterranean. It was used for a variety of purposes, like in the manufacture of shoes and flotation devises, though even then it was most often used for bottles stops and barrel bungs.

I imagine John might have found work at a factory like the Malcolm Brown Distillery in Jocelyn Street, close to his home in Mary Street. In the 1870s and 1880s, the distillery was a thriving business, famous for its whiskey, and one of Dundalk’s largest employers. They probably had need of a cork cutter, or two.

Malcolm Brown & Co.'s Dundalk Distillery c. 1892

Still, increasing mechanisation likely meant that by the time John joined the industry, cork cutting was no longer considered a skilled trade. He was probably never very well-paid, and by the end of the nineteenth century, he certainly found it hard to make ends meet. The distillery business in Dundalk was also going downhill by then. This would explain his daughter Maggie’s letter to her Aunt Mary in Colorado Springs. In December 1900, Maggie complained: 
‘Times are very hard.  Now here everything is so dear. I’m not very strong at present. My health is gone down. My father is going in for Hall Keeper in the Young Men’s Society rooms. I hope we may get it, free house light & fire & £12 a year. So, think of that and my father’s money besides.’

It doesn’t sound like Uncle John was lured to Dundalk by the promise of rewarding work. If he was, it never came to pass. So, perhaps it was ‘love’ that brought him north. I never could find out much about his wife, Margaret Ward, or where the couple might have met - maybe I’ll give her another try.

Image credit: Wikimedia Commons - Stratten & Stratten, Dublin, Cork and South of Ireland: A Literary, Commercial & Social Review Past and Present; With a Description of Leading Mercantile Houses and Leading Enterprises.

Many thanks to my third cousin, Phyllis, for the copy of Maggie Wynne’s letter.

© Black Raven Genealogy