Thursday, 7 January 2010

The Lawlor Family of Lee Bank , Birmingham

James Lawlor and Elizabeth Whelan

The Lawlor family are latterly remembered living at their last home at 48 Bexhill Grove in Lee Bank, Birmingham from the late 1960s to the early part of the 1980s . Previous to their Lee Bank address they lived at 57 Summerfield Crescent in the Rotton Park area of Edgbaston ; their rear garden backing onto Edgbaston Reservoir.

James Christopher Lawlor was born in north central Dublin ( district 3 ) , Eire , on 20th January 1913 , his parents were Denis Lawlor ( a labourer ) and Catherine Cushin of 20 North Brunswick Street . A copy of his birth certificate in this record shows that his birth was registered on 31st January 1913 at the office at 191 Pearse Street , Dublin 2 ( Certif. No : N.10. 1624 ) .

His wife , Elizabeth Theresa Whelan , was also born in Dublin on 4th November 1915 . Her parents were John Whelan and Anne McDonnell of 49 Bolton Street , Dublin . She was baptised on 15th November 1915 by Reverend P.Kennedy .

James Christopher Lawlor and Elizabeth Theresa Whelan courted in Dublin and married at the church of St.Michan , Halston Street , Dublin on 22nd July 1938 . They were married by Reverend Father John Scanlon and their witnesses were Patrick Gorman ( Paddy was the brother of Mamie's husband Willie O'Gorman ) of 20 North Brunswick Street and Mary Weldon of 46 Bolton Street ( a relative or friend of Elizabeth ? )

At the time of his wedding , James Lawlor's family were residing at 92 Walsh Road in the Drumcondra area of Dublin.

James Christopher Lawlor died on 17th September 1980 , he was found to be dead on arrival at East Birmingham Hospital , he had died from Eschaemic Heart Disease . His address at the time of death was 48 Bexhill Grove , Birmingham 15 and his occupation was recorded as Despatch Clerk ( retired ) . Elizabeth Theresa died in her sleep at 48 Bexhill Grove on 12th April 1983. The cause of her death was Acute Myocardial Ischaemia and Coronary Atherosclerosis and her occupation is listed as a School Meals Assistant Cook ( retired ) . James and Elizabeth are both buried in the same grave at Lodge Hill cemetery in Weoley Castle.

Extract from the Marriage Register
James Lawlor married Elizabeth Whelan on 22nd July 1939 at St Michan Church, Halston Street, Dublin

A new home in Birmingham

There could be more than one reason why James and Elizabeth Lawlor first came to England. We are told that there was some resistance to their marriage from the Whelans in Dublin, particularly from Elizabeth's mother, Anne Whelan.
But even if Anne Whelan (or great granny Whelan) had initially disapproved of Elizabeth's marriage to James Lawlor, it seems she came around to the idea fairly quickly and even visited Birmingham to help out following the birth of Elizabeth's first baby, Joan Patricia.
Another reason for Jim and Elizabeth's emigration could well have been economic . We know that James was working in England two years before they married in 1938. The 1930s witnessed a widespread economic depression throughout Europe prior to the 2nd world war, unemployment for unskilled labourers in Ireland was at a peak and thousands of young families were coming to the urban cities of England in the hope of at least finding low payed work and a home in the back-to-back court houses of Birmingham , London , Manchester and Liverpool. Birmingham's greatest influx of Irish immigrants took place between the 1930s and 1950s - a much lower number came to Birmingham during the period of the Great Famine ninety years earlier .

In this family record we have copies of James and Elizabeth Lawlor's travel permits ( Nos. 49881 and 21724 ) which were issued in 1939 at the office of the High Commissioner for Ireland. Elizabeth's permit was issued on 14th September 1939 and at the time of issue of Jim's permit on 1st November 1939 their daughter Joan Patricia was already eight months old and is also recorded on the travel permit of her father . We do know that these permits were not the first issued to James and Elizabeth ( after all Joan Patricia was born at Selly Oak Hospital in Birmingham in February 1939). The place of residence recorded on both permits was 16 The Grove , Villa Road , Handsworth , their first home together in England .

Elizabeth Lawlor's Travel Permit (front)

Elizabeth Lawlor's Travel Permit (inside pages)

As previously mentioned , we also know that James came to England on his own and without Elizabeth some years previous to this particular permit , possibly looking for employment and lodgings . Stories told by Jim to both Geoff and Denis Millington tell of a young James Lawlor sleeping on park benches because he couldn't get lodgings due to anti-Irish signs in boarding houses .A National Health and Pensions Contribution Card dated second half of 1936 registers Jim's full address as 5 Edinburgh Road , Chatham ( Chatham is very close to Gillingham on the Kent coast ). Later Insurance and National Registration cards from the early 1940s register James at 14 The Grove, Villa Road , Birmingham and then at 1 Berkeley Square , Birmingham 10 . We also have a Grade Card issued by the Medical Board of the Office of the Ministry of Labour and National Service which registers James for possible recruitment to the armed forces on 5th April 1945 ; his address is given as 1 Berkeley Square and his description is said to be 5 ft 4.5 ins in height , with blue eyes and black hair .

James' occupation on his travel permit was stated as labourer and Elizabeth was a housewife . Stamps on the passes indicate various trips to and from Ireland via Holyhead and Liverpool over the next few years , especially at Christmas time , including the following journeys ;

14 September 1939 Elizabeth's' permit issued

1 November 1939 James' permit issued

29 November 1939 Elizabeth receives permit from Liverpool to travel to Eire

1 December 1939 James also receives permit to travel to Eire

24 December 1939 Elizabeth and James ( & Joan ? ) embark at Holyhead

1st January 1940 Elizabeth and James return to England through Holyhead

23 December 1940 Elizabeth and James ( with Joan & Kevin ? ) travel to Eire via Liverpool

27 December 1940 Elizabeth and James travel back through Holyhead

29 July 1941 James obtains permit from London to travel to Eire

2 August 1941 James embarks at Holyhead and arrives at Dun Laoghaire

21 August 1941 James returns from Eire via Holyhead

14 September 1942 Elizabeth's permit renewed

16 March 1942 Elizabeth travels to Eire

31 March 1942 Elizabeth travels back through Holyhead

2 February 1945 James renews permit

9 March 1947 James travels through Holyhead

13 March 1947 James renews his travel permit in Dublin

14 March 1947 James returns from Eire via Holyhead

As mentioned previously , James and Elizabeth's first home in England was at 16 The Grove , Villa Road , Handsworth . Electoral roll records first record James Christopher and Elizabeth Theresa Lawlor at this address in 1939-1940 ( Polling District KZ 312 , Soho Ward ) and they appear to be sharing number 16 with Joseph Francis and Florence Kate Lewis . In the earlier part of the 1930s number 16 was not actually recorded at all on the electoral records and records were not kept during the years of the 2nd World War .

Between their first home in Villa Road and their next recorded home on Coventry Road the Lawlors and their first baby Joan may have lived in a flat above a shop on Iknield Street and also on Holyhead Road , Handsworth .

The Lawlors had six children in England ; Joan Patricia was born on 23rd February 1939 , Kevin Patrick was born on 22nd May 1940 , Patricia Ann and Elizabeth Ann ( Betty ) - the twins - were born on 16th January 1944 , Brian Anthony was born on 30th April 1945 and finally Dennis was born on 16th December 1947.

Joan's ' Infant Weight Card ' ( No 81.39 ) , birth dated 23rd February 1939 , shows that at 3 weeks old ( on 14th March 1939 ) she was still only a tiny dot at 5lbs 14oz . The family address on the card was 16 The Grove , Villa Road , Handsworth . Her weight at around 3 months old was still only around 10 - 11lbs mark .

The Lawlor family in Electoral records:

Electoral records for 1950-1951 show James and Elizabeth Lawlor registered to vote at 1 Berkeley Square , Coventry Road ( Small Heath Ward , Polling District ZW 699 ) . Their neighbours at number two included Mr & Mrs Rowley , Michael Sweeney , James Sharpe, John Doyle , Brendan Byrne and Richard Gorman.
Mr and Mrs Rowley were an Italian couple who rented their house out to Irish lodgers . They had five children and many years later Mrs Rowley apparently re-married one of the aforementioned lodgers , Michael Sweeney . Joan also recalls a lodger not recorded on the electoral roll named Mr Molatov.

According to Electoral Roll records in Birmingham Library the Lawlors were living at 1 back of 26 Sherborne Street , Ladywood between 1956 and 1958 ( Polling District 475 ) . Their neighbours at the back of number 26 were Jack and Joyce Pierpoint and other neighbours included the Austin family at number 28a and the Adkins at number 24 .
By 1964 , records show that the Lawlors were living at 57 Summerfield Crescent , Rotton Park, with eldest son Kevin Patrick now on the electoral register and ten years later , in 1974 , the family were at 48 Bexhill Grove with Brian Anthony and Dennis on the register to vote .

For more family history about the Lawlor family in Birmingham, read Joan's Journey from the following link onwards:

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