Friday, 22 January 2010

The Brummie soldier and the gun in the cellar

Gaye writes "That is John Whelan senior at the wheel of the car with his wife Anne (granny Whelan nee McDonell) in the backseat foreground. I don’t know who the woman sitting next to her in the middle is but I think the woman sitting on the far side of the car is their daughter Mary. The boy standing to the rear of the car is probably one of their sons either James or Pat. Not sure who the rest are though that may be Paddy Leonard in the hat standing behind the car. I don’t recall ever hearing that there was a car in the family. It would have been very unusual to have a car in Ireland back then. I would imagine it was borrowed for the journey down the country or might have belonged to the relatives they were visiting. They all look dressed up so maybe for a wedding or something. Paddy Leonard was a sales man for Taylor-Keith a soft drinks company. I know he at one time drove a horse and dray. Maybe he progressed to a car and was using it for the family journey."

Thanks Gaye Mulholland for this great story from Whelan family history:

"I note in your section entitled “Anne Whelan nee McDonnell” that your Mum states “...I never knew Grandfather, I have no memory of him whatsoever...”. I was only talking to my sister Cara recently and we both commented on the odd fact that neither of us had ever heard our Mother or granny Whelan or any other relative ever mentioning anything about grandad John Whelan himself.

"There is one story only about him and it tells us more about granny than anyone else. As a Brummie you might find it particularly interesting. Then again maybe you already heard it. Anyway, just in case you haven’t, it goes like this. At some point after the Easter Rising here in Ireland the British soldiers were ordered to make a search of all the houses in an effort to establish who had sympathies with the rebels or might be hiding them and to collect any weapons they came across during the searches.

"When they came to search 49 Bolton Street they went through the whole house and when they went down to the cellar they found the butt of a rusty gun or rifle half buried in the dirt floor of the cellar. According to my mother, who would have been about 3 or 4 at the time, the gun part had obviously been there a very long time and was very rusted and when or how ever it got there it could not have been used in the trouble going on at the time. Nevertheless, the sergeant ordered his men to get grandad John Whelan and bring him down to the cellar. Grandad Whelan told the sergeant he knew nothing about it but the sergeant didn’t believe him and started getting agitated. He ordered his men to place grandad Whelan against the wall. Whether this was an attempt to just scare him or not we don’t know but one of grandad’s children ran to get granny Whelan.

"She very cleverly, she got all her children brought them down to the cellar and placed them and herself around grandad. The sergeant ordered his men to take them away and while doing so one of the soldiers piped up in a broad Brummie accent “Blimey sarge, we can’t shoot him. Look at all these children. We’d be creating an orphanage”. The men laughed and it diffused the situation. They started reasoning that the gun piece could have been there longer than grandad himself had been alive. My Dad always said that none of the Whelans or McDonnells were the type to have been part of the IRA or any rebel causes and that anyway there were so many families living in the house at different times who could say which of them had hidden anything or anyone in the cellar".

"Starting from the left standing that is Patrick Whelan, Kitty Whelan, granny Anne Whelan (nee McDonnell), possibly John Whelan junior, then your granny Lawlor, is that her husband beside her? Not sure who is next, could be Mollie Whelan (John jnrs wife), next to her is Mary Leonard (nee Whelan) with possibly her husband Paddy Leonard beside her though I am not sure about that. Sitting in the chair is John Whelan snr. (husband of granny Whelan) and crouching down next to her is my father Denis Younge with my mother Margaret Younge (nee Whelan) sitting on his knee. The photo was taken in the yard of 49 Bolton Street. The window on the right is part of the cottage previously mentioned."

My thanks to Phylis Devlin and Gaye Muholland for photos

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