I have previously posted up some fairly extensive research concerning the life and work of my great great grandfather John McDonnell of Dublin.
What we know about John, largely from fascinating family anecdote which came to me via my mother's cousins in Dublin and subsequently through my own online research and correspondance, is that he was a blind person born in Dublin in the 19th century, that he spent many years of his youth and early adulthood living in institutions for blind people in or near Dublin and that on leaving one of these institutions, probably St Joseph's in Drumcondra, he set up his own basket making factory and became a successful entrepreneur.
Not only did John become a successful business man, purchasing property in Dublin and at Cloghran Swords in the countryside, he was also a founding member of the National League of the Blind Ireland and chairman of the Dublin branch of the organisation for over a decade. John also became a Poor Law Guardian in north Dublin and campaigned for a better deal for blind people and poor families both locally and nationally.
John McDonnell married Catherine in 1865 and according to the 1911 census they had an incredible 16 children, only 5 of whom were alive in 1911. These included Catherine Barrett aged 31 in 1911 and John McDonnell, a butcher aged 23 in 1911. Two further children are mentioned in the 1901 census, including my great grandmother Anne McDonnell who married John Whelan in 1903 and Peter McDonnell aged 12 in 1901. According to the Will of John McDonnell, which I shall outline in more detail shortly, there was also a son named Christopher McDonnell, which could therefore account for all five of the 'surviving' children.
John McDonnell's Will was registered at the High Court of Justice (Ireland) King's Bench Division (Probate) in 1916. The Will was ordered by Mrs C Barrett (his daughter) at the cost of £6-0 for 10 folios. It reads as follows:
" I John McDonnell of 49 Bolton Street in the City of Dublin retired Basket Manufacturer hereby declare this to be my last Will and Testament. I hereby give devise and bequeath all the property that I may die possessed of money in Bank shares and house property 48 and 49 Bolton Street and 12 and 13 Henrietta Place in the City of Dublin to my wife Catherine McDonnell for her life and after her death to my Grand daughter Catherine Whelan for her life and after her death to her sister Mary Whelan.
" I hereby appoint my daughter Annie Whelan and John Whelan her husband to be the Executors of this my last Will and Testament. They are to collect the rents of my house property and the divdends on my shares during the lfifetime of my said wife Catherine McDonnell and to support my said wife Catherine McDonnell and my daughter Catherine Barrett and my son John McDonnell as long as they wish to live in the family group and of the proceeds of said rents and dividends.
"In the case of the said Catherine Barrett and my son John McDonnell going away or getting married they are to have no more claim on my assets. My son Christopher McDonnell has already got his share and has no more claim. I also wish that the seventy five Marconi shares which I now hold are not to be sold until they reach four pounds per share unless the ready money in Bank and the rents are not able to pay the head Rents, rates, taxes and repairs of my said house property. In that case the first lot of shares which I bought at £5.5 per share are to be sold as my wife Catherine McDonnell is of feeble intellect my Executors are to collect the rents and dividends during her lifetime and keep a correct account thereof and to see after all her wants.
"My said Executors to take out Probate as soon as possible after my death and they are to keep my funeral expenses as moderate as possible. It is my wish that my daughter Annie Whelan take my wife to mass every Sunday.
"In witness whereof the said John McDonnell hereby affixed his mark this second day of November 1916 - John + (his mark) McDonnell -
Signed by the said John McDonnell affixing his mark hereto he being unable to sign his name through physical devility same having been first read to him by J J Leech when he appeared fully to undertand same and to be of sound mind, memory and understanding in the presence of us, who in his presence and in the presence of each other do hereby sign names as witnesses - J J Leech Sol, 69 Heeylesbury Street, Dublin - Nicholas McCluskey Hair dresser, 47 Bolton Street, Dublin -------------------
In the High Court of Justice in Ireland
Kings Bench Division (Probate), The Principal Registry
Being known that on the 15th day of December 1916 the last Will a copy of which signed by the Registrar is hereunto annexed of John McDonnell late of 49 Bolton Street, Dublin retired Basket Maker deceased who died on or about the 26th day of Noember 1916 at same place was proved and registered in the Principal Registry of the said Division and that the administration of the personal estate of the said deceased was granted by the aforesaid Court to Annie Whelan (wife of John Whelan) daughter of deceased and said John Whelan, Gardener both of 49 Bolton Street aforesaid the Executors named in the said Will they having been first sworn faithfully to administer the same and it is hereby certified that an Affidavit for Inland Revenue has been delivered wherein it is shown that the gross value of the personal estate of the said deceased within the United Kingdom (exclusive of what the deceased may have been possessed of or entitled to as a Trustee and not beneficially) amounts to £414 - 15 - 2 for the purpose of Estate Duty and that the said Affidavit bears a stamp of £2 - 10 - 0.
Jacob T Geoghegan
Extracted by J M McDowell, Solicitor