Friday, 30 September 2011

Ship records for Henry Townley?

Henry Townley was my Uncle Harry's great grandfather, the father of Emily Townley who married Albert Lee, long-standing landlord of the Vesper Bell Public House on the corner of Blythe and Ledsam Streets in old Ladywood.

Henry was born in Treadworth in Gloucestershire sometime between 1833-1840. He is listed in the 1901 census as a resident at the Vesper Bell, father in law to the publican, a widower aged 61, and working as a timber yard labourer, born Treadworth, Gloucestershire 1840.

He is also listed in the 1911 census, still at the Vesper Bell, this time listed as widower and army pensioner, born in Treadworth, Gloucestershire in 1838.

Uncle Harry had a memory of his great grandfather as being a very tall man whose coffin had to be lifted through a window of the pub because they couldn't get it down stairs at the removal. We also know he served in the navy which is recognised by him being in receipt of a war pension. It seems that Henry Townley was a widower for a few decades as there is a record of him with his family, including Emily (Harry's grandmother) in the 1891 census living at 9 Bertha Buildings, Bradford Road, Birmingham:

Henry Townley, head, widower, timber merchant labourer, aged 51, born Treadworth, Gloucestershire 1840

Mary J Townley, daughter, single, aged 16, domestic servant, born 1865 Birmingham

Harry H Townley, son, single, sawyer aged 23, born Birmingham in 1868

Emily Townley, daughter, single, aged 21, domestic servant, born Birmingham 1870

Ada L Townley, daughter, single, aged 19, pin machine minder, born Birmingham 1872

The same family are recorded in Birmingham in the 1881 and 1871 census records:

1881 census living at 1, back 33 Springfield Street, Ladywood

Henry Townley, aged 41, labourer in timber yard, born in Gloucestershire 1840

Elizabeth Townley, aged 50, born Gloucestershire 1831

Mary Jane Townley, daughter, single, aged 16, warehouse girl (J), born Birmingham 1865

Harry Herbert Townley, son aged 14, warehouse boy (flab), born Birmingham 1867

Emily Townley, daughter, single, aged 11, scholar born Birmingham 1870

In the 1871 census, the same family are living at Edward Street, Court House, Birmingham but with the addition of two older siblings who were both born in Gloucestershire which suggests the move to Birmingham being between 1856 (Julia's birth) and 1864 (Mary's birth):

Henry Townley, head aged 38, born Gloucestershire 1833

Elizabeth Townley, wife, aged 38, born Gloucestershire 1833

Charles Townley, son, aged 17 born in Gloucestershire 1854

Julia Townley, daughter, aged 15 born in Gloucestershire 1856

Mary Townley, daughter aged 7, born in Warwickshire 1864

Herbert Townley, son aged 4, born Warwickshire 1867

Emily Townley, daughter aged 1, born Warwickshire 1870

The above information was previously posted on this website at this link:

I have now come across some merchant naval records for the following person (or 2 people given different birth dates):

I am not convinced that any of these three records appertain to Harry's great grandfather, Henry Townley, though there is never any harm in speculating. All three of the men were born in Gloucestershire, the first in 1828 (a decade before our own HT), the second in 1854 (a long way off HT's estimated birth year though interestingly it is the year in which his son Charles Townley was born) and the third one was born in 1841 so he would have been the right kind of age.

There is no date of voyage on the top record, the middle one was in 1881 and the third one in 1879. We have already seen that HT was registered in the census living in Birmingham, so again it is diffuclt to make an obvious case for him serving in the merchant navy in the late 1870s - early 1880s.

I may be completely wrong in searching for him in Merchant Naval records as he was listed in the census as being an army pensioner. My assumption that he was a sailor is based on the photograph of this gentleman with a group of other veteran sailors elsewhere on this website(see link above).

The search continues.

Saturday, 24 September 2011

Mom and Dad's wedding - 10th May 1958 - St Peter's RC Church, Ladywood, Birmingham

(Left to right): Nanny Mill (Florence Millington nee; Clayton), Grandad Mill (William Millington), Bill Millington jnr (dad's brother & best man), Patricia Lawlor (bridesmaid), Geoffrey Millington (groom), Joan Millington nee. Lawlor (bride), Betty Lawlor (bridesmaid), Grandad Lawlor (James Lawlor) and Nanny Lawlor (Elizabeth Lawlor nee Whelan)

(Left to right) Iris Millington nee Butcher (Bill's wife), Nance Bourne nee. Millington (dad's sister), Kath Robinson nee: Millington (dad's sister), Florence and William Millington (Nan and Grandad), Brian Lawlor (mom's brother) next to Pat, Bill Millington at the back, Geoffrey and Joan, Betty Lawlor, Grandad and nanny Lawlor with Dennis Lawlor (mom's brother)

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Sunday, 18 September 2011

Family Miscellany

Here are another couple of interesting items from the family archive which have a connection to each other. The first document is a very tattered copy of an Adjudicators remarks given to my mom Joan Lawlor at the Junior Groups Drama Festival 1951 run by Birmingham Co-operative Society Ltd. Education Department. 

My mom was aged 12 in 1951. She was representing the Small Heath Pathfinders which I believe was part of the Woodcraft Folk. Her test piece was "The Little Waves of Breffny" for which she received a total of 75 marks.

The Adjudicator remarked;

"The marks earned by this competitor were consistant with a good performance. Well delivered and carefully enunciated verses made this a most delightful recital". 

The next item is a presentation label inside a book which my older sister Susan won at more or less exactly the same competition 18 years later in 1969. Sue won a copy of The Silver Chair by C.S.Lewis in the Birmingham Co-operative Society Elocution Festival representing Harborne Woodrcaft Folk in the 7-8 years age group. 

Somewhere in the house I have a copy of the book I won in the same competition, probably for aged 6 year olds. I think my book was The Voyage of the Dawn Treader also by C.S.Lewis. I'm pretty certain my brother Denis and second sister Kate also won their categories, plus I seem to recall my mom coaching a whole bunch of other local Harborne kids through it too.

So fair play to our mam for learnin' us all to spayke proper English..

More Family Miscellany

Another dip into the Millington family archive, otherwise known as Granny's Family Circle biscuit tin, revealed yet more fascinating gems, starting with my dad's swimming certificate from January 1952, stating that he plunged in and swam one mile.

He would have been aged 15 in 1952 and was attending St Peter's R.C. School in Ladywood, Birmingham. The certificate was signed by the head teacher E.M.Clements.

In 1952 my dad was also awarded a senior Certificate of Merit in Prudence by the Birmingham Accident Prevention Council (image above). I have a feeling these days we might use the term 'road safety' and prudence might mean something slightly different.

What I love most is the more evocative language used in the 1950s, specifically the use of the terms 'plunge' on the swimming certificate and 'prudence' above'. There is almost something Enid Blytonesque in the use of language, these days the child would simply swim the mile, in 1952 it was preceded by this great enthusiastic plunge into the pool. Similarly children didn't simply observe their highway code (though I may be showing my own age with that term) back in 1952, they displayed a whole set of personal character traits described as 'prudence'.

Was the language richer and more descriptive back in 1952 or are these clues to the dominating and increasingly archaic middle class value system of the era? I have to admit I quite like the idea of plunging into pools and venturing over the zebra crossing with a display of cautious prudence.           

The three items above are pages from a Motor Fuel Ration Book. I'm hoping that someone can help with this one as there is no issue date on it or registration of vehicle or owner. An internet search for fuel rationing in the UK seems to indicate that there have been at least three different periods where fuel rationing was introduced, the first period seems fairly obviously during World War 2 when books like this were distributed from 1941. There was another period of fuel rationing in force for five months in Britain following the Suez Crisis of 1956 and another period in 1973. Perhaps there were others?

I don't know at the moment if this was my dad's ration book from the 1970s or perhaps my Uncle Harry's from an earlier period.

The book contains coupons to the value of 42 'N' units and 21 'L' units for a six months period.

And finally, here is a pair of images with a very romantic connection, the first one is the invoice for my mom's wedding flowers including the brides roses costing £1-15-0, 2 posies at £1-10-0, 2 sprays at 6-0 shillings and 11 white carnations and 3 pink carnations at 17-6 shillings.

Total owed £4-8-6 !

The invioce is dated May 9th 1958 and the happy couple married the following day on Saturday 10th May 1958 at midday at St Peter's R.C. church with a reception afterwards at The Golden Eagle, Hill Street.

And there on the photograph my mom Joan is clutching her beautiful £1-15 bouquet whilst Geoff looks very smart with his 17 shilling buttonhole.   

Friday, 16 September 2011

Timothy Stones in the Griffiths Valuation of Ireland

Grffith's Valuation was the first full scale vaulation of property in Ireland. It was overseen by Richard Giffith and published between 1847 and 1864. It is one of the most important surviving 19th century genealogical sources for Ireland.

The valuation can be searched at no cost at the following web page:

My search for Timothy Stones, my wife Theresa's great great grandfather, came up with the following record for a Timothy Stones occupying property and land at Lurgan in the Parish of Kilmananghan, King's County (Offaly):

Timothy Stones owned a house, office and land totalling 59 acres at Lurgan. He was the lessor and his land had the annual rateable value of 30 pounds and 10 shillings. His house had the rateable value of 1 pound and 10 shillings (total for land and house was 32 pounds). 

A neighbour named John Stones also owned a house, office and land at Lurgan totalling 15 acres with a total rateable value of 6 pounds 10 shillings for land and house.

Other neighbours listed at Lurgan included John Henson, James Henson, Robert Low, Patrick Brazill, Michael Fox, Michael Mullins, Patrick McGuire, James Callaghan, Thomas Hankinson and Joseph Gough. Of these Robert Low was the largest land owner with 207 acres, with the 59 acres of Timothy Stones making him the second biggest land owner at lurgan.

Monday, 5 September 2011

A Place In The Sun

Thank you to Michael Lavin, secretary of the National League of the Blind of Ireland Trust for sending me a copy of A Place In The Sun, a fascinating book about the history of the NLBI written by Pat Lyons.

Whilst the book makes no mention of John McDonnell by name and deals on the whole with material within the living memory of the author's contemporaries, so from about 1942 onwards, there are even so some great insights into how and why the NLB was founded in the 1890s and early 20th century, during which period John McDonnell undoubtedly helped to lay down the foundations which later board members built upon:

"The National League of the Blind was founded in Britain as a trade union for blind workers, most of whom were at the time employed in sheltered workshops. This was in 1899, although branches were established both in Dublin and Liverpool in 1898. It is worth noting that some years earlier, an organisation described as "The Union of Blind Basket-makers" was established in Britain and it too had a branch in Dublin. However, this association merged into the League when the latter was founded. The League, as a trade union, affiliated to the British Trade Union Congress in 1902"

"I think it is reasonable to surmise that the League was founded as a result of the appalling conditions which existed in the workshops and various institutions at the time. In 1886, a Royal Commission was established to examine the finances of the various homes or institutions for the blind then existing and their report revealed that for every pound subscribed towards the charitable objects for which such places were run, eighteen shillings and ten pence halfpenny was spent on administration, the balance going to the blind and visually impaired."

"The structure of the National League of the Blind was that branches were established in most major centres of population, particularly where there were places in which blind or visually impaired persons worked. Such places were generally referred to as asylums or institutions, but in keeping with the times, they were really nothing more than sweat-shops. The branches within defined geographical areas then formed themselves into district councils, and so you had the Irish, Scottish, London or Midland District Council. The Irish District Council comprised three branches - Dublin, Belfast and Cork, but the latter branch became defunct in the early 1920s and was not revived until 1944-45. "

Lyons, Pat / A Place In The Sun / Aquavarra Research Limited 1999

According to Lyons, the League was popular with blind people throughout it's early years and it's meetings were always full to capacity because it was the only organisation catering for the 'industrial blind' and the only organisation in which blind people had a direct say in their own affairs.

Amongst the most prominent institutions for blind people in Dublin were the Richmond Institution and St Joseph's Male Blind Asylum. We have already learnt from Frank Callery that John McDonnell attended St Joseph's, though it seems that both institutions ran workshops where blind people made baskets, mats, brushes and mattresses. Conditions were not good in the workshops and as recently as 1942 League members organised a strike at the Richmond "which got rid of a tyranny there being operated by the management".

St Joseph's today

St Joseph's was divided into three sections - the school, the hostel and the outdoor workers. After leaving school, young blind people graduated into the hostel where they served five years' apprenticeship, after which they were entitled to do outdoor work, called 'journey work'.

On page 11 of the book, Pat Lyons writes of Old Tommy Harte, one of the first two 'journeymen' from St Joseph's:

Basket-Making (at the School for the Indigent Blind)
28 May 1853
Engraving from Illustrated London News
"Old Tommy Harte who originally came with the blind from Glasnevin to St Joseph's Drumcondra was the first "Journneyman". He and another person obtained that status in 1898 or 1899 in order that the Institution could qualify for industrial contracts, because the places had to employ some outdoor workers as Trade Union labour. Tommy was an old man when he died suddenly on November 7th 1941."

Ibid. Lyons, Pat

I wonder if John McDonnell was the other Journeyman to whom Pat Lyons referred?

In a recent email, Frank Callery provides more insights into John McDonnell's north Dublin factory:

"John McDonnell was well located beside the fruit and fish markets off Chancery Street and the butchers market (or Ormond Market) then in Ormond Square, adjacent to Chancery Street (the footballer Johnny Giles’ family came from here) so the types of basket used by this market and the fish and fruit and veg dealers who used three-wheeled woven basket cars — similar to the woven gig which he drove — would have been the type of work undertaken. Much of this work would have been undertaken by outworkers. What is certain is that John McDonnell must have been a special person to rise above the general condition of the blind in this period."

In chapter five of A Place In The Sun, Pat Lyons included an extract from Services for the Blind in Ireland, a research report by Senator Brendan Ryan, December 1977. Ryan describes the politicisation of the blind people who formed the NLB in both Great Britain and Ireland:

"By the late eighteen-hundreds, there was a large network of blind workshops throughout the United Kingdom and questions involving conditions and salaries of blind workers began to arise. The employees of these workshops worked over forty-eight hours a week and spent up to three years acquiring skills to become craft workers, yet since their economic remuneration was so low, they still had to beg on the streets. As a result of these deplorable conditions and salaries, the National League became affiliated to the Trade Union Movement of Britain in 1902".

Ryan suggests that an early success of the League was its lobbying effort to push through parliament the Blind Persons Bill of 1902.

Saturday, 3 September 2011

An email regarding Mary O'Hagan at the Royal Oak

I received this interesting email from a gentleman name Mike Cooke regarding a hotel / dwelling called the Royal Oak at Bettws Y Coed in Caernarvon, Wales. In one of my posts I refer to the Royal Oak in the 1881 census where a lady named Mary O'Hagan was working as a cook.

Mary O'Hagan was the name of my great great grandmother Alice Millington nee. O'Hagan's older sister, a spinster who lived in Lee Bank in Birmingham and whom I know worked as a cook in domestic service. I do not know for certain that the lady recorded at the Royal Oak was my great great gandmother's sister, but there are no other people of that name, age and profession listed in the 1881 census in the whole of Great Britain.

Unfortunately Mike is not offering information about Mary O'Hagan but has some interesting comments about others recorded in the 1881 census at the Royal Oak.

Hello Pete,

I have just come across your book about the Millington Family and noted your interest in Mary O’Hagan and the fact that she was at The Royal Oak in 1881.

I am sorry to tell you that I know nothing about her at all, but I am related to Robert Ackrill who was a guest at the hotel.

Robert was born in Worcester and moved to Leeds about 1846. He was a printer. He later moved his business to Harrogate where he eventually became a newspaper proprietor.

Also in Harrogate was Edward Pullan. He owned the Crown Hotel there. Edward bought the Royal Oak between 1871 and 1881.

Robert’s son, John (Jack) William Ackrill, married Edwards daughter, Amy, in 1876.

If you ever go to The Royal Oak make yourself known to the owner, He will be able to show you some interesting items kept in a cabinet dating back to the time when Edward Pullen was the owner.

Best wishes,

Mike Cooke

On the trail of blind John McDonnell

Following my email to the National League of the Blind Ireland (NLBI) earlier this week I did not have to wait long for a response and within 24 hours had received a reply from Michael Lavin who is Secretary to the Board of Trustees in Dublin. Michael is very kindly sending me a book about the history of NLBI called "A Place in the Sun", written by one of their former members, Mr Pat Lyons, now deceased. Michael also gave me contact details for a gentleman named Frank Callery of the National Council for the Blind who is currently writing a history of the blind in Ireland.

I would wish to thank straight away Frank Callery for his most informative emails this past few days. This includes some quite specific information relating to John McDonnell himself and also some more general information about the League of the Blind.

The League of the Blind was an organisation formed by blind people across Britain and Ireland which had local branches and published a newsletter called The Blind Advocate in the late 1890s and early 1900s. The League was very actively involved in the cut and thrust of the politics of blind services at the time. John McDonnell was chair of the Dublin branch of the League in the early 1900s and was therefore very involved in a campaign for benefits and support services from the government at Westminster to help blind people to acquire skills to become employed and to live independently, rather than scraping by in institutions or begging on the streets of Victorian and Edwardian Ireland.

There is evidence that John McDonnell, the basket manufacturer of Dublin and one-time chair of the local body of the NLB, had a national reputation in Ireland for his writing published in the Dublin press which raised questions appertaining to the employment of blind people.

John’s example was highlighted nationally to other branches of the NLB such as in Cork and Belfast with blind activists in other parts of Ireland being encouraged to follow the example of the Dublin branch in asking questions of their local politicians, especially around election times, for example prior to Irish Local Government Board Elections.

There was even a national meeting of Irish blind people chaired by John McDonnell and it is known that he entered into correspondence with John E. Redmond, a leading Irish nationalist MP and leader of the Irish Parliamentary Party from 1900 to 1918, in which Redmond pledged the keen sympathy and active support of his entire party to the objects of Mr McDonnell's Irish members.

Just these briefest glimpses of John McDonnell’s involvement with the NLBI confirm the impression that our great great grandfather was indeed a man who played an active and influential role in promoting fairer conditions for blind people both locally in Dublin and across Ireland.

Frank Callery also provided the following information about John McDonnell, his close family and his wider activities:

"I do know a little about John McDonnell (1841 - ?). Poor Law Guardian, Chairman and long-time spokesman for the Dublin Branch of the NLBGB+I who attended St. Joseph’s Male Blind Asylum, Prospect Monastery, Glasnevin and Drumcondra Castle, Drumcondra, Dublin. They did not speak too highly of him because he was a thorn in their side. He was elected to the Poor Law Union in 1899 ( I think) and topped the poll and he also ran the North City Basket Factory at 78 Chancery Street with his possible relations John and Philip McDonnell also of 26 Chancery Street Dublin".

Frank sent me copies of the records of John McDonnell and his family living at 78 Chancery Street in the 1901 census and at Bolton Street in 1911. I have previously posted these records on this website from my own research, though what I haven't seen before are the records appertaining to another family of McDonnells at 23.6 Chancery Street in the 1911 Census (see above image from the 1911 Census courtesy of Frank Callery).

The family listed in this record are as follows:

McDonnell Mary
Head of Family
Roman Catholic
Born County Meath -
Cannot read write
- Widow -

McDonnell John
Roman Catholic
Born Dublin City
Basket Maker
Write read -
Not Married -

McDonnell Philip
30 Male
Roman Catholic
Born Dublin City
Basket Maker
Read write
- Not Married -

McDonnell James
Roman Catholic
Born Dublin City
Basket Maker
Read / write -
Not Married - 

If this family is related to John McDonnell my guess is that the head of the family, Mary McDonnell, a widow aged 80 in 1911 (John was aged 70 in the same census at Bolton Street), might have been his sister-in-law (note she was born in County Meath whereas John was born in Dublin City). In which case her sons John, Philip and James would therefore have been blind John McDonnell's nephews. We would need more evidence to make a definite certain link but the fact they were close neighbours in Chancery Street and were all basket makers makes a strong case for a family connection.    

Frank continues:

" Note the two addresses in Chancery Street, Dublin, where my own people the Callerys were living; it was a poor area of the city. Note also the Bolton Street address where I think John died — I seem to recall an obituary for him connected with this address. Many blind brush-makers and basket-makers lived in this area of the city and were either connected with the Richmond National Institute for the Industrious Blind, 41 (Sackville) Upper O’Connell Street; Michael O’Connor’s basket workshops in Stafford Street and Capel Street; McDonnell’s in Chancery Street; the Varian Brush works in Talbot Street or had a connection with St. Joseph’s Asylum and workshops for the blind, then at Drumcondra Castle".

"His son John McDonnell was a butcher and was connected with my mother’s family the Richardsons who owned many of the slaughterhouses (the lime yard) around Moore Street, Dublin. I think he or his son were involved in the founding of the Workers Union of Ireland along with the son of the famous labour leader, James Larkin. Also, going on defective memory these people may have ended up (not a pejorative term) in Blessington Street, Dublin. This information regarding the Workers Union of Ireland is anecdotal and was given to me by an old neighbour; I do know for a fact that Larkin got £300 to restart his Workers Union of Ireland from the butchers of Dublin of whom among their number were: Frank Cluskey, Dick Union and Ned and Gerald Richardson, as to John McDonnell or Paddy McDonnell being actually involved, I have not yet seen this written in stone; but given the Old John McDonnell involvement in the trade union movement in Dublin I am inclined to believe it".

"With regard to where you might search further; we are unfortunate in this country in that record keeping has not been our ace and you will find that the records for the NLB are very sparse. I have trawled through what remained of old minutes books and this was very poor and mostly lists of names and pro forma entries. However, your g g grandfather is mentioned in reports of meetings in the mansion house and The OddFellows Hall (10 Abbey Street) these are in the Freeman’s Journal and the Irish TImes, both of these are on line ( the monthly subscription seems to be the best value) "

Frank has also supplied me with other contact details which I won't publish online, appertaining to friends who used to look after the archives of the Workers Union of Ireland now called SIPTU He suggests that this contact may be able to establish the veracity of the McDonnell link with the butcher’s section of WUI.

Once again I would wish to thank Frank Callery most sincerely for all of this fascinating information which provides us with a wonderful insight into the character and works of our great great grandfather John McDonnell.

Frank Callery is the author of two historical articles about another Dublin based organisation called National Council for the Blind of Ireland (NCBI) posted on their website at the following links: