Tuesday, 19 January 2010

More Whelan and McDonnell family history

Gaye's caption reads: "You can see your granny Lawlor sitting in the middle with Kitty just in front of her. In front of Kitty is their brother Patrick. To the right of Kitty is her brother Richard my mother’s twin. I don’t recognise the others but the lady front right might be Molly".

Thanks to Gaye Muhollland and Phylis Devlin for photos

Once again I would like to thank my mom's cousin, Gaye Muholland (nee Younge) for sending me a couple of really delightful emails recently containing some gems of information and anecdote about my maternal grandmother's family in Dublin, primarily the Whelans and McDonnell's who are my direct ancestors, but also other families by marriage such as the Younges and the Leonards. I would also like to thank Phylis (I believe Whelan), for providing many lovely old photos (scanned via Gaye).

I have previously mentioned John McDonnell, the brother of my great grandmother Anne Whelen, nee. McDonnell who was blind. My mom Joan is of the belief that John lost his sight in an industrial accident at the Dunlop factory in Dublin but did not receive compensation. What is interesting though is that we have learnt from Gaye that John's father (my great great grandfather - also John McDonnell) was also blind. You will read below in this blog that John McDonnell senior was a successful basket weaving entrepreneur and property investor whose farm house was allegedly burnt down by another of his sons.

Gaye expresses surprise to learn that John McDonnell junior had a son himself - evidenced by an obituary cut from a newspaper which my mom had inherited from nanny Lawlor. Gaye writes:

"I was not aware that the blind John McDonnell was ever married. I was surprised to read that in your blog and that we had a relative (his son) living in Belvedere Place up to 1979. You mention that in his obituary he had at some point lived in 48 Bolton Street and I wouldn’t be surprised if that was one of the properties that John McDonnell snr. owned. I remember when living in 49 Bolton Street that we had strong connections with some of the families living in that house, namely the Donnellys (the mother of whom was completely blind) and a Bridie Melodie whose sister Florie was married to Patrick (Pat) Whelan one of your Nanny Lawler’s brothers.

"I don’t recall number 40 Bolton Street or any McDonnells being there and I lived in 49 Bolton Street up to the summer of 1964 but I was only aged 8 on leaving. I lived there from 1957 to 1964. I recall at that time the shop on the ground floor being either an electrical or bicycle shop and it was run by a Mr Flannigan. The shop of 48 Bolton Street was still Morgan’s but was more a grocery and sweet shop and I remember you could get 3 caramels for 1 old penny there. I remember Mr Morgan, his wife and two sons. At that time Paddy and Mary Leonard (nee Whelan) lived on one floor of I think 56 Bolton street with their only child Ann so this may have also been on of John McDonnell’s properties".

Gaye's caption "2nd from left Paddy Leonard, the bride in the middle of course is his daughter Anne with I presume her husband on her left, behind Anne is Grace Leonard and to the right of Grace is her husband Brendan Doyle. Mollie Whelan (nee Leonard, wife of John Whelan) and s on the far left in the checked white coat and hat. I would imagine that the photo was probably taken by her husband John who was very handy with the camera and he was still alive at that time"

"All the houses on Bolton Street had two stories above ground level and a cellar. Whilst I lived in 49 Bolton Street my family lived on the top floor. The living arrangements were as follows, my mother Margaret Younge (nee Whelan) and my Dad Denis and I all slept in a large room at the front of the house. The room next to that one was the kitchen / livingroom and there was a small room off that which was used for storage. On the floor below us my Granny, Anne Whelan (nee McDonnell) lived with her daughter Kitty. They both shared the large room to the front of the house as their bedroom but this room was so large it could also accommodate Granny’s very grand dining room suite in very heavy mahogany which consisted of a large dinning room table (the one Roger Casement placed his hat on) and chairs, a sideboard full of antiques and a writing bureau with glass cabinet on top which was also full of antiques.

"In the room next to that was an old fashioned kitchen with range and again a small room off it where my brother Denny slept. As mentioned the ground floor was a shop and there was no access to it from the house so to all intents and purposes the ground floor of the house was just a hallway. There was a cellar which was totally windowless and I believe it had just a dirt floor but I was told that when your granny Lawlor lived there with all her brothers and sisters this cellar was turned into a gym by her brothers. The entrance to the cellar was at the back of the hall under the stairs and facing it was the door to the back yard which was long and narrow. It was completely concrete under foot but my Dad grew plants in barrels and boxes to the right of the back door. On the left hand side was just a high wall dividing this yard from the one next door but on the left was the cottage where Lally’s bedroom was on the upstairs. The cottage had only one story and the ground floor.

"When I lived at 49, the two rooms on the ground floor of the cottage were unoccupied and seemed to be used as general storage space, very dusty and ramshackle but once you went upstairs it was like a lovely oasis of calm. Lally’s room had white walls and was very peaceful, tidy and almost minimalist. The other room on that floor was used as a bedroom for my sisters Cara and Marjory. My sister Marjory died in the mid 1990s from cancer. There was nothing else in the yard apart from an outside toilet at the very end of it and an outside tap. There was probably access from the yard to the laneway at the back of Bolton Street. 49 Bolton Street, like all the other houses on the street, had no inside plumbing. My father had to carry buckets of water up to the both floors in the main house and to Lally’s room every morning and every night. As Lally was bed-ridden and granny was by this time old you can imagine that he also had to empty buckets of waste matter every morning and night as well. He did it without complaining but he use to joke “If ever we get out of this place I’m going to kick those buckets down every flight of stairs”. He was sorry afterwards that he didn’t do that when we eventually left."

Patrick Leonard (Paddy) with his daughter Anne on her wedding day. This is the person who as a girl sent a photo of herself on her confirmation day to granny Lawlor (Aunt Lily).

Photo thanks to Gaye Mulholland and Phylis Devlin

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