THOMAS GAFFNEY, OF AGHAFIN (or AUGHAFIN), in the County of Longford, was born some time in the eighteenth century, and lived on into the beginning of the nineteenth. But the dates which enclose his lifespan have not came down to us. Indeed, very little is at present known about Thomas, not even the name of his spouse. Tradition tells us that he owned 'a nice little property' and we know that on it he reared a family of two sons and three daughters. The sons were James and Edward, and the daughters were Margaret, Ann and Catherine. Let us take these five children in order.
James was the heir to his father's 'nice little property' and it is on record that he duly inherited it. But there is as little known about the dates of the most important events in his life as there is about his father. Neither the year of his birth nor of his death have come down to us. Neither do we know that date of his marriage, nor when he fell in for his inheritance, nor how or when he lost it.
It is on record that James married late in life, and that his bride was young, beautiful and delicate. There were four children, one son and three daughters, but in what order these were born we do not know. The mother, it is said, died young, and James did not long survive her, but died leaving his four young children to the care of his two sisters, Margaret and Ann. The chi1drens' names were Thomas, Annie, Margaret and Mary. We know that the mother's name was Fagan, but that is all.
James, we are told, was a victim of the wild garnb1ing craze with which so many young men of that period were afflicted, and it would seem that having inherited his father's property he very quickly ran through it. Again, we can only conjecture, for we have neither facts, figures nor dates. It appears certain, however, that James' younger brother Edward, and his two sisters, Margaret and Ann, had left Aghafin by 1810.
Before leaving James, let us deal with his children, for the only clue we have at all is the date of the birth of his son Thomas. Whether Thomas was the eldest child or the youngest, we do not know, but we do know that he was born in 1843, and that pins down his parents' deaths to within a narrower compass. But the veil of uncertainty has not been lifted very much, and the upbringing of James' children by their maiden aunts remains a closed book to us. One thing is certain, that it can have been no easy task. Whatever the difficulties, however, Thomas studied for the priesthood, and in due course he went to America. There he died in 1906, the well‑loved and respected pastor of Rutland, Vermont. Two of his sisters, Annie and Margaret, also found their way to America. Annie married one William Taffe. Margaret remained unmarried, and finished her days in a home for the aged which had been founded by her brother, Father Tom, and in which a room had been reserved for her after the house had been presented by the founder to the city of Rutland. Mary, the third sister, remained at home, and lived to the end with her two aunts, Margaret and Ann.
We can leave James and his descendants for the moment and return to his brother and sisters, Edward, Margaret, Ann and Catherine. Since Edward will take up most of this story, it will be convenient to deal with the sisters first.
Margaret and Ann seem to have left Aghafin about the year 1828. It appears clear that when they left home, whatever the cause was, they were not well provided for and had to set about earning their own living. There is reason to suppose that they went to live together in Donnybrook, then a village on the outskirts of Dublin, and that Ann was teaching in the school attached to the Catholic Church, while Margaret was dressmaking, a circumstance that lends colour to the story that the ‘nice little property' had already been dissipated. These two sisters remained in Donnybrook for about fifty years and it was there, presumably, that they brought up the children of their brother James.
About the year 1878 the National Board took over the school in Donnybrook and Ann's services were dispensed with. As she was then in her seventieth year, this sten is not a surprising one for an official body to have taken. But it was hard on one who had spent nearly fifty years in the school. Both Ann and her elder sister Margaret left Donnybrook soon afterwards, and went to live in Heytsbury St, (Not at once; they went first to live in Curzon St, off the South Circular Road, as is, also, Heytsbury St),Dublin. Margaret predeceased Ann, but the date of her death is not recorded. Ann died in 1899, at the age of ninety. She was buried in the plot in G1asnevin cemetery reserved for members of the Third Order of Carmel, of Which she was a member. In the year 1908 her niece Marathi youngest daughter of James and the one of his daughters who had remained all her life with her aunts, now died and was buried alongside her aunt, for she too was a member of the Third Order, and indeed a very highly placed one.
Catherine, James' third sister, married a man called Mooney. They had one son called Bernard, who lived in Dublin and who was very good to this aunts. He did not marry and all trace of him is long since lost.
Let us now get back to Edward. Aughafin, where Edward was born in1801, is in the vicinity of Edgeworthstown, in the County of Longford.
It was in Edgeworthstown that Robert Lovell Edgeworth, father of the better-known Maria, lived in their family home. Robert was a remarkable man. A literary man, an inventive genius, an educationalist and an engineer, he had many interests. Two of these interests have much affected the destinies of the Gaffneys. These are his enthusiasm for education and his bent for engineering.
Because of his interest in education, Robert Edgeworth drew up a sketch Plan of a school which it was his ambition to found in Edgeworthstown. It was to be a school for boys of the ‘lower, middle and higher classes, both Protestant and Catholic'. This school was in fact founded on Robert’s plan by his son Lovell in the year 1816, shortly before his father's death.
It is said that it had the approval of the clergy of all denominations. At this school Edward Gaffney was educated, or at any rate completed his education, for he was fifteen years old when the school was opened. The school quickly made a name for itself, and Edward was fortunate in having 80 good a school available at a period when education, more particularly for Catholics, was at a low ebb.
There is evidence that Edward did well at school. In the end he was a monitor. Moreover he seems to have been on good terms with the Edgeworth family, for we are told that he sometimes acted as secretary to Maria.
There were numerous other Edgeworths, for Robert, the father, had married four times, and had families by all his wives. William Lovell was another of his sons, half brother to Lovell and Maria. William became an engineer, learning much of his profession from his father. One of Maria's biographers refers to William as a 'brilliant young engineer' . He carried out surveys and prepared maps of several of the counties or Connaught, maps which may be studied in the National Library of Ireland today. In the preparation of some of these he collaborated with another celebrated surveyor, one Richard Griffith. William Edgeworth's brilliant career was cut short early in his life, for he died at the age of 35 in the year 1829. His collaborator, on the other hand, was later to become the first Commissioner of the 'General Survey and Valuation Office of Ireland' as it was at first called, a post he held tor nearly fifty years.
The conjunction of these events has a significance in the history of the Gaffneys. Edward Gaffney, when he had completed his schooling, studied engineering under William Edgeworth, and it is very probable that he remained as William's assistant until the latter's death in 1829. That Edward still had some association with the Edgeworth family when young man of twenty‑three is evidenced by the inscription on the fly‑leaf of a book still in the family possession. This is an old copy of 'Mr. Dryden's Poems', published in 1770. The inscription reads 'Edward Gaffney, Edgeworthstown School, May 1824'. It is not clear what his connection with the school was at that time. Could it be that while he was studying engineering under William, he was at the same time giving some assistance to Robert at the school? An early example or earning fees to pay for his profession.
Soon after William's death, Edward sought and obtained employment as 'Valuator' in the Unions of Castlerea and of Swineford, in the counties of Roscommon and Mayo respectively. What exactly a valuator was is not known, but it may have been the forerunner of the County Surveyor, an office that was not established until 1833. (Not quite true. County Surveyors were first appointed by competitive examination in 1833. Prior to that they were appointed under the Grand jury System of George 111.) An odd feature of this appointment, too, judged by modern standards, is that Edward held the appointment under two different unions, and those in two different counties, although it must be added that the two unions lay side by side, divided only by the county boundary.
Edward married in 1832, three years after taking un his appointment as Valuator. His wife was Mary O'Brien. There is a romantic story told of the courtship and marriage by Edward of Mary O'Brien, whois said in this tale to have been a niece of Lord Inchiouin. The story, however, is not corroborated by research, and in any case is of little interest, for Mary died giving birth to her first child. The girl, did not survive long, only enough indeed to be christened Mary, after her mother.
In 1835 Edward married again. His second wife was Bridget Burke (whence Burke‑Gaffney). She was the youngest daughter of John Burke, of Bekan in the county of Mayo. This branch of the Burkes was very prolific, Bridget herself was one of six. She had numerous cousins, the children of her uncles Theobald of Woodvi1le Castlebar, Joseph of Greenhills Castlegar, and Francis of West port. The number of nieces and nephews is vast and the relationships complicated, since two of the Burkes of Bridget' s generation married first cousins. Her relations could be found in various professions, both at home and abroad. Two of her kinsmen reached high rank in the Royal Navy, and one became a general in the American Army. Several were doctors, some in Mayo, some in Dublin, and some in various foreign countries.
Bridget seems to have been proud of her descent, and she incorporated the name 'Burke' amongst the baptismal names of all of her children. In due course, but, curiously, not until after her death, most,(but not all) of her children adopted Burke as part or their surname, and thus the hyphenated name 'Burke‑Gaffney' came into existence, and is now used by all descending through the male line .
When Edward and Bridget were first married they lived at Lough Glinn, in the country of Roscommon. This is a small village on the edge of a lake from which it takes its name, and it is not far from Castlerea. It is here that their first children were born. The eldest, a girl, was born in 1837 and was christened Mary. The following year, on January 23rd1838, the eldest son was born. He was christened Thomas, after his paternal grandfather. Then came John, born in 1840, and called after his maternal grandfather. How long Edward and Bridget continued to live in Lough Glinn is not known but at some date probably between 1840 and 1843,the family moved to a place called Doogarry, in the county of Mayo, close to the small town of Kilkelly, the nearest post town being Kiltimagh. Here in 1843 a third boy was born, and called Edward, after his father, and a year later came James, called after his father's elder brother. This James, however, died in infancy.
In January 1845 Edward noted that the Government was contemplating making an alteration in the system of valuation then in vogue in Ireland. He appreciated that this would involve the revaluation of the whole country, and that the services of trained surveyors would be required. He therefore wrote to the Commissioner for Valuation from Doogarry and offered his services. The Commissioner of Valuation, it will be remembered, was Richard Griffith, who had collaborated with William Edgeworth same twenty‑five years before, and who in his present capacity had paid more recent visits to Mayo.
Edward in his letter reminded the Commissioner that he had met him professionally on these occasions, and that therefore he would be aware of the quality of his work. With commendable diplomacy he also took the opportunity of mentioning that he had been employed as a valuator in these parts 'since the death of my friend William Edgeworth, sixteen years ago!
The Commissioner replied personally, stating the terms under which he was prepared to employ Edward. He added that if Edward was prepared to accept these conditions he would probably be employed in the first place in the Munster area. Edward accepted. Towards the end of 1845 he took up employment under the 'General Survey and Valuation Office' then located at 2 Fitzwilliam Place, Dublin. He began at £3 a week, with prospects of an increase according to his ability.
The surveyors and valuers employed under the Valuation Office had on occasion to enter private grounds according to where their work took them. For this purpose they were issued with warrants which authorized them to enter all lands in order to carry out their duty. On one occasion, early in 1848, Edward's work brought him into the demesne of an irascible old man, Lt‑General, the Hon. H. Annesly, to give him his full style and title, who lived in Annsgrove, Mallow, County Cork. General Annesly, observing a stranger in his grounds, accosted him and demanded an explanation of the intrusion. Edward was not in a strong position to defend himself, for unfortunately he had not taken the precaution of carrying his warrant with him. He was therefore forced to withdraw. The General, not content with his territorial victory, did not fail to report this outrage upon his privacy to Dublin. The Commissioner of Valuation, in writing to Edward on the subject in due course, advised 'great discretion in such cases, especially in private demesnes, many of the owners of which are very tenacious (sic) of intrusion into their privacy, and in the present time, ladies are generally frightened of strangers'. The Commissioner added that her as quite aware that General Annesly was ‘a very peculiar person, and exacts great deference being paid to him'.
The interest in this story lies chiefly in what took place some thirty years later, when Edward's eldest son on one occasion also forgot to carry his warrant with him. But it has also an historical interest, for, as can be seen, these were 'nervy' times everywhere. In France, in Italy, in Austria, in Germany revolutions were shaking the established order. Even in England, the Chartist movement, so frightening somewhat earlier in the century, was again stirring. In Ireland the 'Young Irelanders' under Smith‑O'Brien, were moving towards rebellion. It is little wonder that in such times owners of private deceases were a bit jumpy, and that ladies were ‘generally frightened at the intrusion of strangers’.
The encounter with the General apparently did not prejudice Edward's career at the Valuation Office. On the contrary, at the end of that year his salary was increased from £3 per week to £4 Der week, which was quite a considerable increase in those days. Moreover he was at the same time appointed one of the four Sub‑Commissioners, made under a reorganization of office duties. In consequence of this appointment it became necessary for Edward to take up his residence in Dublin. It was probably early in 1850 that he moved with his family to 6 Cottage Park Avenue, Sandymount.
By this time there had been several additions to Edward's family. In the census return for 1851, nine children are recorded as living in Cottage Park Avenue. Helen, James (the second to be so named), Josephine and Walter had been born in the West, in addition to the four already recorded, while Margaret, then the youngest, had been born since the arrival in Dublin. The house in Cottage Park Avenue still exists, one of the several houses which Edward occupied while in Dublin which survive, but because of various alterations which have since taken place in the district it is now '15 Park Avenue'.
The Gaffney family continued to live in Dublin until 1882, but not always in the same place, nor indeed very long at anyone place. After five years in Cottage Park Avenue, Edward moved with his family to 5 Peter's Place, and two years later to 25 Lennox St. where he appears to have spent only one year, before moving again to 6 Wellington Place on the Grand Canal. It was about 1860 that he made his last move, this time to 31 Cullinswood Avenue, Ranelagh, now known as Oakley Road, and he was still living at that address when he retired from the Valuation Office in December, 1861.
It was during this period of years spent in Dublin that the last members of Edward's family were born. Margaret, born in 1850, and Anastatia, in 1852, both in Cottage Park Avenue, were baptised in St. Mary's, Haddington Road, then the Parish Church. Charles (1853), Louie (1857) and Frank (1859), were all christened in the Rathmines Parish Church.
From the meagre information available it would seem that the education of the elder boys were entrusted to tutors, two of whom were a Mr. Gray and a Mr. Mooney. It is also believed that at some time after the move to Dublin, the two eldest, Thomas and John, were attending a school in Sandymount. However, that may be, it is certain that the school education of the eldest son Thomas came to an end in September, 1855, when his father obtained for him an appointment as draughtsman in the Valuation Office, where he himself was employed. It had become important, apparently, that some other member of the family should take a hand at assisting the finances of the household.
In 1861, as has been said, Edward retired from the Valuation Office, and soon afterwards returned to County Mayo. He took his family with him, with the exception of, probably, the three eldest sons, Thomas, now employed at the Valuation Office, John who was studying medicine, and Edward, who although no more than seventeen years old had probably also begun his medical studies.
For the next seventeen years Edward and the younger members of his family lived in County Mayo, at first, it is thought, at Claremorris but later in a place called Port Royal, close go Lough Mask, the dower house of the ruined Port Royal Castle. Edward, during these years of retirement, devoted himself to private work, to the education of his younger children and to farming his property. But once again we are faced by a historical 'black‑out', so far as the family is concerned, for very few details of those seventeen years have seeped through. Yet it must have been a time of very great interest and not a little anxiety for the head of a family, the elder members of which were reaching adult age. Nor was this anxiety likely to have been alleviated by contemporary events, for the country was passing through one of the bleakest periods in the history of Irish agriculture. All we know is that during that period a great dispersal of the family took place.
From certain evidence, it would appear that a financial crisis overtook the family about 1878. This is contained in a letter from Edward to his son Thomas, from which it looks as if Edward had to sell out Port Royal. This property was situated in a very poor farming district, difficult to make pay at the best of times, and these, as we have seen, were the worst of times. At any rate, from whatever cause, Port Royal was sold, and what now remained of the family moved back to Dublin. They went to live in a house which had been taken by Thomas, or for which, at any rate, he payed the rent, No. 2 Georges Villas, Sandymount .
The family now Iiving together in Dublin consisted of Mary, the eldest; Thomas, who spent six months of every year out of town ‘on revision'; Charles, now a medical student; Margaret, Louie and Frank, aged 19. Edward himself was now getting on in years, and about this time we find his wife showing a little anxiety about his health in her letters to her sons overseas. She writes to James in America that his father is growing weakly. Yet it was for the benefit of her health that Mary took a house in Greystones for the month of August, 1881. This was not a successful venture, however, for no sooner had the family arrived in Greystones than it was Edward who fell ill, and spent most of the month in bed, being tended by his wife and Mary. Thus when the family returned to Dublin, Edward was more 'weakly' than before, and Bridget, his wife, for whose benefit the trip had been made was even more broken down in health than ever. Indeed, Bridget never really recovered her strength again, and died in the following year, 1882, on the 20th of February.
Edward did not long survive his wife. He died on June 6th, 1883, less than fourteen months after Bridget. He was buried beside her in Glasnevin Cemetery, in a plot which his son Thomas had purchased for the burial of his mother, and which had now become the family burial ground.
Edward was the last male member of his own generation, and indeed except for his own sons, there was no line through which the name could be continued, for the only other male of the name in the next generation was Father Thomas, Edward's nephew, who was in America. Edward's two pious sisters in their humble home were no doubt well satisfied that they had helped in the upbringing of Father Tom. They were now supported partly by him and partly by their other nephew Bernard Mooney.
Let us now return to Edward’s own descendants, in whom we have a more direct interest.
Mary, the eldest of the family, was born, as we have seen, at Lough Glinn in 1837. There is little information about her childhood or education. Tradition has it that she was delicate, and that in her youth she was sent abroad both for the benefit of her health and for her education. She was 24 years old when her father retired from the Valuation Office, and presumably she accompanied the family back to Mayo. At some point in her life she became engaged to one Redmund Mannion, who managed one of the Rothschild banking houses in France. Mannion's only relatives appear to have been his mother and his sister Marian. In the Spring of the year in which Mary was to have been married (but what year it was is not known) Mannion's mother died. The marriage was put back to the follow1ng November, but before November came Mannion himself was carried off by pneumonia. He left his fortune in equal shares between his sister Marian and his fiancee Mary. When Marian herself died some little time later, she left her portion of the fortune to Mary.
It is unfortunate that there should have survived no dates of the successive steps in this somewhat melancholy romance. That Redmund and his sister were both alive in 1872 and that Marian was still alive in1875 are the only facts for which there is evidence. It seems clear, however, that Mary went to Mayo with the family and remained there until the return to Dublin in 1878.
It is difficult indeed to visualize those seventeen years in the County Mayo, from 1861 to 1878, for we have very little evidence to help us. During all this time Mary was probably 'first assistant' to her mother. There was an ever w1dening gag between her and the 'next youngest'. Her three eldest brothers, Thomas, John and Edward, had remained in Dublin, earning or learning, leaving at first Helen nearest to Mary. But Helen entered Loretto in 1870. James, who came next, went to America in 1871, leaving a gap of ten years between Mary and Josephine, who came next in order. When she left to enter the Presentation Order in1874, the gap widened to thirteen years, because Walter having died in 1867, Margaret was now the nearest in age to Mary at Port Royal.
There is no evidence as to the amount of the fortune that Mary inherited. There is some evidence that at some period prior to 1880 she was engaged in a somewhat prolonged and tiresome 1itigation with the regard to a legacy of £60, for her father wrote to his son James in America that the worry of it to her was not worth it and had injured her health.
When the family moved back to Dublin in 1878, Mary probably found conditions somewhat different to those in Port Royal. The health of both her father and her mother was fai1ing and she was housekeeper. But her brother Thomas was paying the rent and was now the chief breadwinner, and generally contributing most towards the family finances. His two younger brothers, Charles and Frank, were not vet in a position to make any contribution. Charles was just about to finish his medical studies, while Frank, who was recuperating from a severe illness, was soon to begin his first attachment under Mr. Dowling to a major engineering scheme, the Bantry Railway Extension project.
This was then the household in Dublin in 1878. Mary was keeping house for her ageing parents, her middle‑aged brother Thomas, her younger sisters Margaret and Louie, and her two youngest brothers Charles and Frank. She does not appear to have been considered by her parents a robust woman. At a younger age she had on occasions to be sent to stay with friends in England for the good of her health. And we are told that the unfortunate holiday in Greystones, where Mary took a house in the Autumn of 1881 for the benefit of her mother’s health, had the contrary effect I because of her father's illness, and was also detrimental to her own. Her housekeeping duties came to an end soon after her father's death, for within a few weeks the house in Georges Villas was given up and the family dispersed.
Let us now return to Thomas, the eldest son. Born, as we have seen, in January 1838, Thomas was not yet eight years old when his father first joined the staff of the Valuation Office, and was less than eleven years old when the family moved from Mayo to Dublin. His early education under the tutors, Mr. Gray and Mr. Mooney together with the private tuition of a more technical kind which he received from his father, added to the general education given at the school at Sandymount, gave him not only a good foundation for his professional career, but also developed a latent talent for 1angages, literature and art. Before he had reached his eighteenth birthday, Thomas was employed in his father' s office as a temporary draughtsman at a salary of two shillings a day. He held this appointment from1st September, 1855 until the 31st March, 1856, when his services were dispensed with for 'redundancy'. He was, however, re‑emp1oyed as a clerk within a month, and from the first of May, 1856 until the thirty‑first of March, 1904, when he retired his service with the Valuation Office was continued and unbroken.
Thomas' ambition was, of course to follow in his father's footsteps and become a professional engineer. He therefore set about completing his education in this respect. He began to study under Mr. D.C. Ferguson, an architect and surveyor, whose offices were in Leinster Chambers and Westland Row. In order to complete his general education he attended, after office hours, the night classes of then newly formed Catholic University. Here he continued as a student from1859 to 1864. He took up modern languages and in1860 carried off the first prize in Italian, which he had studied under Professor Marni, professor of Italian in both of the Universities in Dublin at that time. (The prizes awarded on this occasion are still in possession of the family, and consist of works of Vittorio Alfieri and Cesare Cantu. )
When the family returned to the County Mayo after the retirement of his father, Thomas remained in Dublin and went into lodgings. For the first few years however he was not alone, for, as we have seen his two brothers, John and Edward, were both studying medicine. But both of these had left Ireland before many years. It is, of course, very likely that all three brothers lived together while in Dublin, but we have no record of where. We do know, however, that Thomas was living in 2 Leinster Road, Rathrnines, in the year 1869. We can assume then that at the end of the sixties Thomas was living alone in Dublin. In the meantime he had made considerable advance in his profession. In1865 he had been classified as a 'second class surveyor, valuer and draughtsman'. Three years later he was given his warrant authorizing him to enter all lands in the course of his duty, for the purpose of ‘surveying, valuing or inspecting them, in pursuance of the Act. Vic17, etc.’ This warrant was signed by John Ball Green, the new commissioner who had only taken over that year, 1868, from Sir Richard Griffith.
The new Commissioner had taken over at a difficult time. His predecessor, Sir Richard Griffith, had held the post since 1822 and had been responsible for altering the basis of valuation in Ireland from one of townland to that of tenement. The revaluation took some nineteen years to complete. For some reason it did not appear to please everybody, and about the time that Sir Richard retired there was a movement, which appears to have been confined to the county of Roscommon, the purpose of which seems to have been to discredit Sir Richard Griffith, his second in command, John Ball Green, who had now succeeded him, and the whole system of valuation, the Valuation Office in general and all its staff. The prime agitators in this movement were the two members for Roscommon, Colonel French and the O'Connor Don. These two had sufficient influence in the House of Commons to have a special committee formed for the purpose of investigating the whole system of administration, as well as the financial and technical organization of the Office. Their accusation amounted to allegations of inefficiency, gross extravagance, and by inference, almost of dishonesty.
Because of the prominence this matter was given in the press, and the misleading statements and the groundless insinuations made against the late Commissioner and his successor, the Staff of the Valuation Office held a general meeting of all departments (1) to discuss the position, which, they claimed, reflected on themselves. At this meeting Thomas Gaffney was elected Secretary, and also made a member of a sub‑committee to decide what steps should be taken. The minutes of this meeting have been carefully preserved and go to show that the Staff refuted most emphatically the accusations and insinuations, and affirmed their complete loyalty to their late Chief.
Thomas' first recorded assignment took him to Belfast. The system was for a valuer to spend about six months 'in the field' and then to return to Dublin to complete the field work, and no doubt, to make preparations for the following year. Thomas therefore set off for Belfast towards the end of 1869 and obtained rooms at 79 Great Victoria St. , at a cost of 14/‑ per week, including coal and gas. The following year when he returned to Belfast he changed his lodgings, moving to 75 Inkerman Terrace. Here he paid only 12/‑ per week, but there is this time no mention of coal or gas.
Early in 1872, having returned from Belfast, Thomas spent a few days in Dublin before being ordered to the west of Ireland. This now became his permanent 'stamping ground' and for over fifteen years every winter saw him set off for the West, where until summer he was busy surveying, valuing or revising. It was at this period that he began to keep an accurate record of each day's work, noting carefully the area dealt with, the distance travelled, the mode of transport, incidental expenses and any other matters of official interest. Occasionally, but not very often, and then only at week‑ends, there crept in a more personal note. Normally however, these note books were for official items only, except during periods of leave.
While 1iving in Dublin at this time Thomas lodged at 22 Rathmines Road, but in September 1872 he was expecting his mother and two sisters on a visit to town. He therefore required larger accommodation, and took rooms at No. 60 in the same road. When the family, his mother, Mary and Josephine, returned to Mayo, they brought with them Mary's friend, Marian Mannion. When they had departed, Thomas returned to No. 22 once more.
In 1873 Thomas took his holidays on the Continent. Whether this was his first visit to the Continent or not, we do not know. It is probable however that France, which had its own troubles fol1owing its defeat in 1871, was not ready to receive visitors much before 1873. Be that as it may, Thomas set out from his lodgings in Rathmines Road, (he had now moved into No. 23) on the 16th July and sailed from Dublin at 7 p. m.
The itinerary and cost of this holiday make interesting reading. The return fare from Dublin to London was 37/g. A cabin on the boat cost an extra 5/6d. The equivalent cost today (1956) is approximately ú8:10/‑, including berth, or cabin. Thomas arrived in London at Euston Station at 1 p. m. the following day. Today one could better, employing the same means of transport, by no more than eight hours from door to door.
After a day spent in London v1siting friends, including his sister‑in‑law elect, Jessie St. Claire, who was to marry his brother John the following November, he crossed to Dieppe, and travelled to Rouen, where he spent the week‑end. On the following Monday evening he moved to Paris and stayed at a hotel in the Rue de Rivoli at a rate of 3 frs. per day. After ten days in Paris he was on the move again. for a quick tour of other places of interest; a few days in Brussels, then on to Cologne; from there, via the Rhine, to Coblentz, and so on to Wiesbaden; thence through Mayence to Heidelberg; from there to Strassbourg, where in September, 1870 the French Garrison of 17,000 men had laid down their arms; and so back to Paris. He returned to London on the 11th August, where he spent a few days before starting for home, and arrived back in Dublin on the 14th.
By this time Thomas' life had settled into a fairly regular routine. But although his annual journeys to the West brought him to familiar ground, he did not necessarily follow the same path. His work was so varied and so spiced with unexpected interludes that there was little fear of monotony dulling his days. Whether on field work or travelling between districts he frequently covered long distances in the day. His duty took him over hill and bog, through town and village, by lake side and river bank, till in the end there can have been few square yards of Mayo or Sligo that remained unknown to him. As the terrain varied, so did his mode of transport. Between main towns the train was usually available. If not, the post car would connect with the nearest railway station. The most general means of transport was, however, the outside car. To reach the larger islands on the west coast, steamers were available on certain days of the week, but for the smaller islands within reasonable distance ordinary rowing boats were used. For much of his work, however, no means of locomotion other than a strong pair of legs was of any use. Thus we find records of as much as 16 or 20 miles 'on foot' having been done, apparently 'all in the day's work'. Since the period of the year during Which the work of the Valuation Office was carried out in the field including the most wintery months, the discomfort of a long journey on an outside car will be apparent. A forty-mile drive on one of these vehicles in the depth of winter, in rain or snow, has to be experienced to understand the heights to which human discomfort can rise.
It must not be supposed, however, that Thomas' life in the field was one long grind, without let‑up or relaxation. He never travelled without fishing rod or sketch book, and with one or other of these he beguiled the week‑ends. December and January must have been dull months, before the fishing season opened, and when the drab countryside gave least scope to the artist. But a man with a taste for books need never be lonely, and it is clear that Thomas spent much of his spare time reading the French and Italian and German classics. It is the occasional entry in his journal of such private affairs, intruding itself amongst the prosaic records of time and place, that serves to illustrate his character and shed a light on his tastes. Sometimes the official nature of the pages is relieved by such entries as:
188O "7th Feb: first sigs of Spring; first daisy seen; killed first trout. "
"12th Feb: first primrose. "
"3rd April: primroses, lambs, goslings"
"10 April: primroses, lambs, goslings, duck1ings. "
A few human comments that span the season of Spring from promise to fu1fillment, from the daisy to the duckling!
Although between the years l870 and l880 Thomas' salary had increased considerably, he was not without many calls upon it. His sister Helen had entered Loretto in 1870; Josephine had joined the Presentation Order in 1874; his brother Charles had begun his medical studies at the Ledwich Medical School in l877; and his father's affairs had gone wrong in 1878. All these things meant heavy calls on Thomas' purse. Not indeed that his other brothers did not also help. John sent generous help from India, as did Edward from America, to assist in defraying Helen's entry into religion. James had lent a hand, also from America, towards fees for Charles' medical school. The crisis in Port Royal, in which John' s help from India was again both prompt and generous, must nevertheless have been a great strain on Thomas’ resources. What that crisis was, or how it came about there is not much to show, but it involved a debt that had to be paid off, a move to Dublin and the many expenses involved in such a move. Perhaps all these things explain, in part anyhow, why, between 1875 and l882, Thomas makes no mention of annual 1eave. On the contrary, those periods when he should have been on leave, the record shows, were spent doing work of a semi‑official nature, usually on behalf of some important Government official or Department, for which he received extra pay. Be that as it may, he had no real holiday. In 1874, the year after that interesting holiday on the Continent, he had spent a fortnight in North Wales. In 1875 he spent the holidays with his parents in Claremorris and Port Royal. That was the last holiday until 1882.
The transport a surveyor needed to get about in those days has already been referred to. But now there was coming into use a new means of locomotion. In 1869 the Dublin newspapers were advertising the 'Dublin Velocipede Club', which had been opened for ‘practice’ in August of that year. In due course Thomas provided himself with one of these machines, and on the 27th September, 1877 we find the first record of its use. From that time onwards the ‘bike’ makes increasingly frequent appearances in the record, but at first only in areas not far from Dublin, where, probably, the roads were less unsuitable tor that form of locomotion.
This machine was, of course, that known as the 'Ordinary'. which was displaced by the safety. The ordinary is better known to later generations as the 'penny‑farthing'. No wonder it was displaced by the safety, for the ordinary was by no means safe. In 1878 in Navan, and in 1880 in King's County there are records of a 'heavy fall from the bike', the second of which necessitated a return to Dublin with a contused knee, which kept Thomas out of action for a fortnight.
1878, the year of the first fall from the bike, had another unusual occurrence to be recorded. In February of that year Thomas embarked in the course of his duty, in a steamboat from Westport Quay for Clare Island, which is in Clew Bay, and lies about 18 miles from Westport Quay, although no more than four miles from the nearest point of the Mayo coast. No sooner had Thomas reached the island than a storm blew up, and there he had to remain, stormbound, for the best part of a week. To get back eventually he had to hire a boat and crew to put him ashore at the nearest point of the coast.
In the year 1881 Ireland was passing through one of its periods of political disturbance. These were the days of the Land League, and landlords and police were nervous and jumpy. In August of that year Thomas, having returned from the West as usual in June, was sent off on special duty on revision to County Leitrim, an area in which he was not well known. As usual he spent his day with his instruments and his maps, and he spent his week‑ends with his sketch‑book and his fishing rod. Little did he know that his movements were being 'kept under observation'. One night in October a sergeant of the R. I. C. called at his hotel in the town of Drumshambo, and demanded an explanation of his business. Having given it and got rid of the sergeant, Thomas retired to bed. Soon however he was roused by the suspicious sergeant, who, evidently not satisfied with what he had heard, or egged on to greater efforts by a more suspicious colleague, had returned to the attack. No explanation that could be given was now acceptable. He demanded some official papers of identification. Thomas, alas, like his father before him, had forgotten to bring his Warrant with him. So off to ‘the station’ he had to go with the somewhat over-zealous sergeant. There he had to remain until a telegram from Dublin the following morning accomplished his release. Thomas wrote a long account of the whole affair to the Commissioner of Valuation, and there was, no doubt, a considerable flutter created in the Constabulary dovecotes, within a week an enquiry was held by order of the Inspector of Constabulary, who in due course expressed his regret at the over‑zealousness of the sergeant. Thomas was asked if he wished to have the matter taken farther, but he replied that, having no desire to be vindictive, he was prepared to let it rest.
Before leaving the scene of this curious incident, it is interesting to consider the route by which Thomas elected to travel from Dublin to Manorhamilton, his headquarters in Leitrim. There was in those days no railway running to Leitrim, the nearest railway station being at Enniskillen, a distance of twenty‑five miles. In order to avoid the long car journey that this route involved Thomas elected to go by rail to the town of Sligo, from there a pleasant and comfortable journey by steamboat took him across Lough Gill to the little town of Drumehaire. From that point the car journey to Manorhamilton is only about five miles.
Thomas continued the boundary survey of Leitrim and afterwards of Longford, right up to December that year. Then without returning to Dublin, he moved to Ballina and began his normal valuation duties once more. In February of 1882 he was surveying in the area of Tumgesh, near Swineford, when he received news of the death of his mother. He returned at once to Dublin for the funeral. His mother, Bridget Burke, who married Edward Gaffney in 1835, was buried in Mount Prospect Cemetery, in the plot which Thomas now purchased as the family burial ground in Glasnevin, then on the outskirts of Dublin. His mother's death was the culminating incident in seven years of anxiety and hard work. Thomas was in dire need of a rest and a change. The following August he set off once more for a holiday on the Continent.
On this more extensive tour of the Continent, Thomas was accompanied by his friend Dr. Nixon, of Dublin. Their itinerary took them through some of the scenes of the 1873 tour, but was more elaborate in its scope. Taking ship at Harwich their journey brought them via Anvers to Brussels. From there they journeyed to Cologne and followed the Rhine route much as in 1873, but this time took in Darmstadt and Frankfort before going on to Heidelberg. But now, instead of turning once more towards Paris, they continued on into Switzerland, calling at Baden‑Baden and Strassburg en route. From now on they were to view those lovely scenes which for so many centuries have attracted tourists to Switzerland and Italy.
Arriving in Bale they first set off for Schaffenhausen to visit the falls of the Rhine; then on to Zurich, and from there, by way of Zurich, to Lucerne.
The loveliness of Lucerne captivated Thomas at once. From this picturesque and beautifully situated old walled town he and his companion went by steamer down the lake to Fluelen, situated 21 miles away at the lake's most southerly point. This excursion took them through the most gorgeous scenery, redolent of the romantic history of William Tell. From F1uelen an omnibus took them to Altdorf, two and a half miles away, a pretty little town, traditionally where William Tell was made to demonstrate his skill at archery by shooting an app1e from off his son's head. The back on the steamer to Vitznau, on the eastern side of the lake, where a train took them to Rigi Kulm, c1imbing in the four and a half miles almost 4,500 feet. Kulm is the highest point of the Rigi, a mountain mass which rears itself in the middle of this region of lakes. From here there is unfolded a most wonderful panorama, embracing, as Baedeker says, "the most stupendous range of the snow‑clad Alps", as well as the most beautiful prospect of the girdle of lakes spread out below.
Reluctantly 1eavin,g Lucerne, the journey was continued through the St. Gotthard tunnel, first opened only that very year, on to Como at the southern end of the lake fran which it takes, or to which it gives, its name. But a1though they did not fail to be impressed by the ravishing beauty of Como, they were still under the spell of Lucerne, an enchantment which even the charm of Como failed to dispel. And so on to Milan, a visit, strangely, dulled by rain. Then back to Arona, on the south‑west corner of Lake Maggiore, the 1argest of the Italian lakes, charming away more sophisticated than its neighbours, but even then somewhat exploited, it seems.
From Arona began the journey back to Switzerland, over the Simplon Pass. The travellers set off at midnight from Arona by diligence. The distance to Brieg, at the other end of the pass is 78 miles. The diligence in which they were to accomplish the journey was a tremendously heavy affair and for the first stage of the journey four horses were employed. This stage took them for some twelve miles along the shores of the lake, but when they left the level and began to climb, a further horse was hooked in. From now on they toiled through the night up the long miles of mountain road, through sleeping vil1ages, beneath the dark shadows of tall pine woods, out again into the moonlight to get a glimpse through a gap of the distant peak of a snow‑capped gant of the Alps, past rushing torrents, above frightening1y steep ravines, up beyond the tree line, stopping only to change horses and drivers, until a halt was made at Domo d'Ossole at six in the morning, where breakfast was taken.
Then on again until noon, with one incident to shake the growing drowsiness from their eyes, when they reached a point where several hundred yards of road had been sweet away by a torrent, and they were required to walk across a rough path to where a relief coach was awaiting them on the other side. At noon a halt was made for dinner, and soon afterwards the St. Bernard monastery at this summit was reached. Then came the crazy, nerve‑wracking downward . 1ourney, dropping from 6,600 feet to 2,200 feet in 21 miles between Simplon and Brieg, where they arrived at about five o'clock in the evening after a seventeen-hour journey through the pass. Here they spent the night, chiefly to regain some of their lost sleep.
The next stage of the almost scenery‑saturated travellers was through the Rhone Valley to Lausanne, on the northern shore of Lake Geneva, and from there to Geneva itself, at the southern tip of the Lake. From here the return journey began, into France and via Dijon and Paris to London and home, arriving in Dublin on the fifth of September.
Of the several letters that Thomas wrote home, three to his sister Mary have been preserved. They were written from Bale, Milan and Brieg and contain most excellent descriptions of his travels, particularly a vivid description of the journey through the St. Gotthard Tunnel.
When the year 1883 opened Thomas was already back in County Mayo, little knowing how much that year held in sorrow, how much of joy, how much gain and how much loss, balanced against each other, as these things, in the wisdom of God, always are. This year was, indeed, the ending of one phase of his life and the opening of another.
At the end of May of that year he had finished in West port and had made the long journey of 56 miles to Belmu11et by ‘long car’. Belmu1let is in the north west corner of Mayo, on the thin waist of land between Broadhaven and Blacksod Bay, which alone prevents Be1mu11et area from being another island of the Atlantic. Even today no railway connects with Belmu11et, a1though a motor bus service with Bal1ina reduces its outlandishness. It was here, and about as inaccessible as could be that Thomas heard on the 7th June that his father had died on the previous day. He made the long journey back to Dublin.
Let us now consider the position of the fami1v as it was in Georges Villas in Dublin in June 1883, when Thomas returned from Belmul1et to attend the funeral of his father. Thomas it was who paid the rent of this residence, and it was his headquarters in Dublin. He did not live there himself more than six months of the year. Since the death of his mother the previous year his sister Mary had been the housekeeper. His sisters Margaret and Louie both lived at home, the former by this time a woman of 32 and Louie already 26 years old. Frank, the youngest of the family, was employed gaining practical experience at his profession at the Lough Erne drainage scheme. He, also, made his home at Georges Villas. Charles, now qualified, had set up for himself in practice at 56 Harcourt St. , Dublin, where he and his newly married wife, Mary Griffin, were living.
Although Thomas had been the mainstay of the household ever since the family had returned to live in Dublin, he was not, of course, the only contributor to the revenue. His brother John, as has been seen, was always most generous in any crisis, as indeed too were James and Edward when need arose. Their father had paid over to Thomas a certain sum monthly, but that was probably in the nature of repayment. Mary had inherited a little money, as we have already seen, but whether she contributed anything to the common purse is not known. It seems clear however that after their father's death Thomas held a family council, at which he probably intimated that he had now done his share, and that a change in the family mode of life was indicated. Charles at once agreed, and placed his house at the disposal of any of his sisters who would wish to make use of it.
Details of all this are vague and uncertain, but we know that on the 17th July 1883, a little more than a month after his father's death, Thomas gave up possession of No. 2 George Villas and went to lodge once more with Mrs. Hughes, his former landlady, at 23 Rathmines Road, where he had been living fifteen years before.
Family life as Thomas had known it had ended. A new phase of his life had begun. This is, therefore, a convenient place to break off the narrative of his history, and to continue with that of other members of his family. And since this record is made chiefly for the benefit of his children and his children’s children, more detail of his life is given than of those of his brothers and sisters. For this reason, too, their narratives will be completed before returning to that of Thomas.
Mary's history has already been brought up to the time of her father's death. Soon after that event she left Ireland for good and there is little more that can be told about her. Why she left the country so abruptly there is nothing to show. There is a vague story of a tiff about money, so frequently, unfortunately, the cause of families falling out; but no details of this, if it were so, survive. It is believed, however, that from the day she left Ireland she never communicated again with her brother Thomas, nor with her brother James, in America, although before she left home she used to write to him regularly. Whether she had any correspondence with any other members of the family is not known.
Mary eventually found her way to South America. She died in Monte Video in February lS99 at the home of one Madame Fernandes. Her death was made known to Thomas by a firm of solicitors in London Messrs Pearse, Jong and Company, who were dealing with her affairs. She left a small sum which, as she died intestate, was distributed amongst her next of kin.
John, next after Thomas, was born in 1840, and brought up side by side with his brother. They were fast friends and remained close in each others affections until the end. John, as we have seen, took up the study of medicine in Dublin and, doing midwifery at the Coombe Hospital, obtained his L.M1 in l860. He next took the Licentiate of the Apothecary's Hall, Which he obtained in lS6l. He then went to Edinburgh where he qualified in surgery in 1S64. Soon after he qualified he joined the Indian Medical Service and went abroad.
There is very little evidence to show when or in what circumstances John joined the Indian Medical Service. In the family history written by hie brother James it is stated that: 'John sailed to India with his regiment, the 24th Foot'. No date or other detail as to this is given. But this clue, small though it is, is very important and helps to reconstruct, with a considerable measure of probability, the whole story of John’s beginning his profession. Let us take a look at the background.
The Crimea War ended in 1856, and not without much heart‑searching on the part of those responsible for the organization of the army. The medical services, in particular, had had a lurid light shed upon them by that strong-minded lady, Florence Nightingale. Indeed, the medical profession itself had only recently begun to put is house in order, and it was not, in fact, until 1858 that the profession succeeded in having the rights of properly qualified men recognized, by the Medical Act.
It was in this same year of 1858 that the government of India had passed from the East India Company to the Crown. Seven years later the influence of the reorganization of the medical services in the army began to reach India. In 1865 it was made a condition of employment with the Indian Medical Service that the applicants should be registered under the Act. They were also required to pass a competitive examination, and furthermore, they were required on appointment to undergo a course of six months at the newly formed headquarters of the Army Medical Service at home, at Netly Hospital, (the plans for which, incidentally, had been submitted to Florence Nightingale for her remarks before completion), prior to embarkation for India.
No doubt the necessity of employing only qualified men created vacancies, a matter which would not have escaped the notice of a young man just qualified and not possessing any great private means.
At the end ot 1865, a battalion of the 24th Foot, then stationed at Mauritius, was ordered to Rangoon. This was the capital of Southern Burma, which because of 'political and commercial considerations' had been ‘taken over' in 1853. A battalion moving there from a garrison such as Mauritius, would very likely need to be brought up to estab1ishment, or even put on a higher establishment. But in any event it would be necessary to replace time‑expired men before the battalion sailed. Any or all of these considerations would require a large draft to go out, either to join the unit before sailing, or to join it in its new station.
From this background the picture of John' s move to India may be clearly picked out. Having qualified in 1864, we can safely take it that he soon afterwards applied for, and obtained, an appointment in the Indian Medical Service. This service was at the time divided into three establishments, those of Bengal, Madras and Bombay. John was appointed to the Bengal Establishment. The 24th Regiment was moving from Mauritius to Rangoon at the end of 1865. It is likely that John probably having first attended the Net1y course was ordered to accompany a draft of the 24th as their M.O.
In 1873, John returned to England and in November of that year was married to Jessie Alice St. Claire, at the Church of St. Thomas, Fulham, London. He did not return to India until 1875.
For more than twenty‑five years John served in the Central Provinces as Civil Surgeon and Superintendent of Jails. For the last fifteen years of his service he was also a Magistrate. He was stationed in Jubblepore in 1895 and retired in that year after thirty years service, and came to live for a short while in the South ot England. He found that the climate did not suit him and he migrated to Jersey. He returned to Ireland in 1906, but eventually went back again, this time for good, to Jersey. There he died on the 5th March, 1913. He was survived by his widow (died, 5th March 1924) but they had no children.
Little can be told about Edward who comes next. The fourth child and third son, he was born in 1843. We have seen that when the tami1y moved back to Mayo after Edward senior had retired from the Valuation Office, the three eldest sons remained in Dublin. Of these Edward, like John, was engaged in the study of Medicine. It is probable that he, too, took his L. A. H., most likely about the year l868. Soon afterwards he went to America. It is said that he took the trip with some friends by way of a holiday, but he never came back. He set up in New York in medical practice, and opened a drug store. The latter business was the one to which he devoted most of his time, but he did also practice as a doctor. He held in addition the appointment of surgeon to the 9th Regmt of the New York National Guard.
In 1870 Edward married Laura Andrews, and in 1871 she bore him a son, who was christened Edward after his father and grandfather. Edward however, did not long enjoy the responsibilities of parenthood, for he died shortly after the boy’s birth. The child did not long survive him and died within the year. The widow soon married again and so disappears from the family scene.
The next to be born after Edward was another son. He was christened James. The selection of the names of these four sons shows a carefully correct, almost pedantic, attitude on the part of the parents, but also indicates the good feeling that existed between them and all their relations. The eldest son, Thomas, was called after the maternal grandfather; the second, John, after the maternal grandfather, John Burke. Then Edward, called after his own father, and now James, after his father's eldest brother. This James did not live very long; he was a sickly child and died in infancy.
Now came the second girl of the family. She was born in 1845 and christened Helen. This was the name of her mother's favorite sister, Helen Burke, who was the one of the family who complicated family affairs by marrying her own first cousin, Walter Burke RN. Helen turned out to be a bright girl who was artistic and literary. Her early upbringing belongs to that black‑out period to which reference has been made before, so that there are not many details of her early schooling. She spent some time studying in Germany, in the town of Augsburg, in Bavaria. Some time, but how long is not known, after her return from Bavaria she developed a vocation to the religious life, and joined the Loretto Order at Rathfarnham Abbey in 1870. Since at this time her father had retired from the Valuation Office and had still to provide for a large family, the outlay, small though it may have been, required by a young lady about to enter a convent was considerable enough. By this time three of Helen's elder brothers were earning their living. These were Thomas, John and Edward, and all three contributed to her dowery. Thomas, the only one of the three at home, continued to contribute to her upkeep at the convent until she was professed.
In her early days as a nun Helen, who had taken the name of Elizabeth in religion, spent some years in the houses of the order in Ireland. She was in Balbriggan in 1875 and in the convent in Kenilworth, Dublin, in 1885. Later, however, she was sent abroad, and spent most of her life from then on in various houses of the Order in Spain and in Gibraltar. She died in Seville, 28th May, 1934, on the 64th anniversary of her entrance.
After Helen comes James, the second son to be given that name. It is not clear, and James himself was not sure, whether it was his father's desire to perpetuate the name of his eldest brother, or his mother's wish to call him after her little lost baby, that was the dominant factor in his naming; but there is no question as to the reason for his second name, Patrick, for he was born on the 17th March, 1846.
When the family moved back to Mayo from Dublin in the early sixties, James' education was not allowed to suffer. Like his elder brothers he came under the tutorship of Mr. Gray and Mr. Mooney, and when James elected to follow his father's footsteps, as his brother Thomas had done, and become an engineer, he had the advantage of studying his profession under his father's practical tuition.
In April 1871 James followed his brother Edward to the United States. It was only a few months after his arrival that Edward's son was born, and James was asked to be the child's Godfather. But, as we have seen, both Edward and his small son died within twelve months of the child's birth. Edward's widow married again and James soon lost touch with her. Meanwhile James had taken up employment with the Victoria Railway, Lindsay, Ontario, Canada, where he remained for some years before returning to the States. In 1878 he became resident engineer to the George Creek and Cumberland Railroad, and went to Cumberland, Maryland, to live. Two years later he married Agnes Coulehan, a daughter of Judge Coulehan, and thereafter made his home in Cumberland, where he reared his family. Of the eleven children born to them they had the misfortune to lose six before they reached maturity, only one of the five boys and four of six girls reaching adult age.
In 1906, after nearly thirty years, James gave up his appointment with the George Creek and Cumberland Railroad, and accepted appointment as resident engineer with another railroad company, the Norfolk and Southern Railroad. This proved to be a most unfortunate change, for the following year a financial panic swept over the United States and many companies went to the wall. The Norfolk and Southern failed to weather the storm, and in 1908 it went bankrupt. James returned to Cumberland and set up in private practice as a consulting engineer.
It was a difficult time of life for this misfortune to have overtaken James. He was sixty‑two years old. He had six surviving children, none of whom was yet in a position to add to the family revenue, and most of whom were of school age or under. These were, Clare, who had recently taken up the study of professional nursing, and was with the Sisters of Charity, Baltimore; Josephine, Gerald, Monica and Richard, all still at school; and finally Kathleen, as yet not of school age. With such responsibilities, it would have unnerved many a strong man to have to face the problem of having to set up on his own. But James, a deeply religious man, never failed in his faith that God would provide. He had the great advantage of being well known and respected in Cumberland, and so in due course began slowly to build up a private practice. It was a hard struggle, and so it came as a great relief when in 1912 he was appointed City Engineer to the city of Cumberland.
Although now back on a salaried job all was not vet well with James. For although his professional qualifications were unimpeachable, he was the possessor of one characteristic which, in view of some of the city fathers of those days, was not only an unnecessary, but even an undesirable characteristic. This was the characteristic of integrity. Shortly before he had been appointed, the City Council had voted a half a million bond issue for the construction of a new water supply for the city. They had employed an 'eminent' New York engineer to have entire charge of the engineering and construction work. This eminent man employed inexperienced men on the job, and failed to supervise the work as he should have done. When James inspected progress on the work and afterwards reported his dissatisfaction with it to the City Council, he was told that it was none of his business.
But his charter as City Engineer made him responsible for approving the monthly estimates before payment. James had the last say and would not pass them until he was satisfied. The discovery of an error of five thousand dollars, previously passed as correct by a predecessor, which James insisted on having deducted from the next estimate, opened the eyes of the Council, so that James' exposure of graft and the stand he had made was made an issue at the next election for City Commissioners. Fortunately James' friends were returned to office and he was re‑elected city engineer for another two years. He left the employment of the City in 1916. James died in Cumberland in 1917. Only five of his children survived him to comfort his wife Agnes in her loss, for to the great grief of those devoted parents, their son Gerald had died in 1910, in his sixteenth year. Agnes survived her husband for another sixteen years and died in 1933.
Next after James came Josephine, who like her elder sister Helen elected to enter a convent. She came to this decision while the family was living in Mayo. In Tuam, in the neigbouring county of Galway, was Mother House of the Presentation Order. It was to this Order that Josephine came as a novice in 1874, and here she remained for over thirty years. In 1907 the Archbishop of Tuam asked her to open a house in Headford, County Galway. This she did with conspicuous success. She remained in Headford as Superior until failing health forced her to seek a more peaceful occupation. She was restored to her beloved Tuam, and there she died on the 14th December, 1923. She was known in religion as Mother Columba.
Josephine was followed by another boy. He was called Walter, after his uncle, Walter Burke. Like two of his elder brothers, he took up medicine. While still a student, however, Walter contracted typhoid fever, and died at the age of eighteen.
Then came Margaret, born in 1850. She was the first to be born after the return of the family to Dublin, and she was therefore born in Cottage Park Avenue, Sandymount. She grew up in the family and remained with it until it dispersed after her father's death in 1883. Margaret had a taste for art and languages. She had made a study of German and German History, but she had had little opportunity of developing her tastes. Soon after her father's death her eldest brother Thomas gave her the opportunity of spending a year in Germany, which she gratefully accepted. She went, towards the end of 1884, to the' Institut St. Maria’ in Aschaffenburg‑am-Main, in Bavaria. At some period after this, but the date is not precisely known, her brother John invited her to ,join him in India. Annie, her youngest sister, who had spent some years with John and his wife, had recently been married, and they would welcome another one of the family. Margaret went out, but the visit was not a success. The reason for its failure is not known, but the ‘gossip’ of the day, which has come down, would indicate that there was a difference of opinion as to the accept1b111ty of a certain suitor.
Between whom the difference occurred, and who took what view of this delicate matter, has not transpired, but Margaret returned to Europe and now, for this first time in her life, set about earning her own living. For this task, like all those brought up in the Victorian Tradition, she was singularly unfitted. She adopted the only calling open to her. She became a governess on the Continent.
After some years in various countries, Margaret at length settled down in Spain, perhaps to be near her sister Helen, who by this time was in one or other of the Loretto Convents in the Iberian Peninsula. Margaret had many good friends in Spain. She remained there for the rest of her working life teaching, in the end, children whose parents she had also taught. She came back to live in England for a little while after she had given up teaching, but she had been away too long to settle down, and returned once more to Spain. She died in Bilbao, 10th Ju1v, 1929. Margaret was followed by Anastatia, who was born in 1852. Both she and Margaret were christened at St. Mary's, Haddington Road. This church was at that time the parish church of Donnybrook, a parish which included Sandymount within its extensive boundaries.
Little is known of Anastatia's youth, but, as we have seen, she went out to India to join her brother John and his wife, soon after they were married. The actual date of her departure is not known, but she must have been quite young, for she was already there in 187S.
While in India Anastatia met and fell in love with a young subaltern of the Leistershire Regiment, who was at that time doing an attachment to the 24th Assam Light Infantry, one Alfred G. Bulkley. They were married in 1885.
Anastatia and her husband now went through the usual experiences that married life in the army entails, with its constant moving from station to station, both at home and abroad, the absence of a settled home and the difficulties that such a life puts in the way of rearing children. But soon after the turn of the century Bulkley, now a captain and stationed at home, decided that he had had enough of soldiering, and resigned his commission, and went to live with his family of six children at Falmouth. The family consisted of four sons and two daughters, Edmund, the eldest, followed by Alfred, better known by his second name Frank, Eileen, Phyllis, Howard and Leonard. In 1908 the two daughters were sent to school at Rathfarnham, Dublin, to the Loretto Abbey, out of compliment, no doubt, to their aunt, who had entered there nearly forty years before. Soon afterwards the whole family came to live in Ireland, but before very long they returned to England and took up residence in Southsea. Two of the sons were lost during the first world war, Edmund dying in India while on active service in the North West Province, and Howell being killed in action in East Africa, while serving with the Indian Army. Anastatia died in 1939, having survived her husband by about ten years.
Next after Anastatia came Charles, born in lS53, probably at No.5 Peter's Place, Dublin, a house long since demolished. Charles was the first of the boys to be born in Dublin, where, therefore, he must have received his early education. But again, we are hampered by lack of any details as regards this. In due course he became the fourth of the boys to choose the medical profession as a career. He was enabled to do this through the bounty of his brothers Thomas and James, Thomas being of course the chief contributor. Charles showed his appreciation by applying himself diligently to his studies. He certainly wasted no time in qualifying.
In those days there were several 'private' medical schools in Dublin, one of which was the Ledwich. It was to this school that Charles became attached as a student. He did brilliantly in his examinations and was soon in a position to help out with his own education by taking students for instruction at night. He became LRCSI in l879, LRCPI and 1M in l88l, and in l889 was made FROSI. In the meantime he had been lecturer in anatomy at the Ledwich and later at the Carmichael Schools of Medicine. He had been resident surgeon at Mercers Hospital, Dublin, and visiting surgeon at St. Vincent's Hospital.
In lS83 Charles married Mary Griffin, and taking a house, No. 56 Harcourt St., he set up in private practice. He continued to take private students and made a name for himself as a successful teacher, and was beginning to build up for himself a considerable private practice as well, when he accepted an invitation to go to Australia. He left Ireland with his family in September l889. In 1890 he opened a practice in Bendigo, and there he remained for all his professional life, until failing health compelled him to retire a little while before his death. He died in 1918.
During the quarter of a century that he spent in Australia, Charles made for himself a considerable reputation both in his profession and in public affairs, the latter being recognized by his appointment as a Justice of the Peace. He had four children, two boys and two girls, all of whom were born before he left Ireland. One of the girls had died in infancy, and was buried in Glasnevin Cemetery. The other three, Florence and Aylmer, the two sons, both of whom like their father became doctors and Eileen, the surviving daughter, all survived their father. His wife bad predeceased him by some years.
A gulf developed between Charles and his family and the other members of his family dating from about the time that Charles left Ireland. But such is the reticence on the subject that has been observed by his brothers and sisters that it is impossible to say what was the cause of the gulf. The impression that has been formed from such small evidence as has succeeded in penetrating the curtain of reticence is that the cause, whatever it was, was so small as to form the very smallest storm in a very small teacup. It is a pity that such a thing should have cut off the I Australians' from the rest of their family for so long. For Charles never wrote to his brothers Thomas, John or James from the day he left Ireland. The feud was not carried on into the next generation however, for Charles' children have met certain of their cousins on most friendly terms.
Whatever was the cause of the unfortunate estrangement between the brothers, its origin can only have been shortly before the departure of Charles for Australia. Normal friendly relations had existed between him and the members of his family as recently as l886. When the house in Sandymount Avenue had been broken up in l883, Charles had thrown open his house in Harcourt St. as a second home to his sisters Margaret and Louie and his brother Frank. Moreover, when in lS85 his brother Thomas had announced his intention of getting married, Charles at once wrote him the friendliest of letters, saying how willing he was to accept responsibility for their sister Louie, (who although living with him had been financed by Thomas up to this), adding how well he appreciated that Thomas had already done his share.
Louie was still living with him in 1886, and Frank made Harcourt St. a pied‑a‑terre in Dublin almost up to the time that Charles went abroad. Again, in l886, when Thomas's young bride, because of a sudden illness soon after their marriage, was unable to accompany her husband to the country, she was accommodated and looked after by Charles and his wife in Harcourt St. until she was fit enough to rejoin Thomas in Ballina. All of which shows that the rift was sudden and unexpected, and makes it seem all the more unnecessary and unfortunate.
Louisa, born in 1857, probably in Wellington place, Dublin, (since demolished), is the last of the girls of the family. She was not yet five years old when the family returned to Mayo, and so she spent her childhood and formative years in the county. Those years were torn by political conflict and controversy. The condition of the peasants, (more so in Mayo than elsewhere) was deplorable. Passions were easily roused; agrarianism was rife; and by the time that Louisa returned to Dublin with her family, now a girl in her early twenties, the Land League was at its height. This was the atmosphere in which she had grown up and in it she developed an independence of thought and outlook which at times astonished her parents, even to the extent of warranting a comment by her father in a letter to his son James in the United States: 'She is rather too ardent in her political views; she is a close student of the Irish language and who dare say a word against such pursuits?'’ Withal, she was bright and vivacious, quick of repartee, and a match for most who had the hardihood to try verbal conclusions with her.
When the family broke up in 1883, as we have seen, Louisa went to live with her brother Charles at his house in Harcourt St. But her independence of spirit urged her to earn her own living and she took up professional nursing. Soon after she qualified she became attached to the Cork District Fever Hospital, and she remained on the staff of that hospital for the rest of her life.
Louisa was a member of all the most ardent national societies. She was an early member of the Gaelic League; and when 'Sinn Fein' was not a political party, but a patriotic society devoted to the development of all things Irish, industrial, economic and cultural, a society that wanted to see Ireland standing on its own feet, providing goods and services of Irish origin for Irish people, Louisa naturally became a member of that society too. She put her principles into practice by using as far as possible articles of Irish manufacture only, and was not afraid to demonstrate this by wearing constantly traditional Irish clothing, such as the C1adach Cloak, commonly worn by the women of Galway. She was a queer contradiction, for together with her political intolerance (which caused her to estrange herself even from members of her own family who failed to live up to her nationalist ideals), and an ardently burning desire for the betterment of the down‑trodden peasants of Ireland, she combined a queer strain of near‑snobbery. But all these characteristics, splendidly patriotic, or slightly eccentric, according to the point of view, became submerged when necessary by the overflowing tenderness of her heart.
For over twenty years Louisa held the position of night superintendent of the hospital to which she had given so many years of her life, and there she died in February, 1915.
Frank, the youngest of this family of fourteen children, was born like his sister Louisa, in Wellington Place, Dublin, in 1859. From an early age he showed that his tastes 1eant towards the engineering profession. Thus when his brother James went to America in 1871, Frank accepted as some consolation for the parting the key of his brother's workshop, which James had fitted up in their home. It was not long before their father took Frank under his wing and began to instruct him in the rudiments of his profession.
Towards the later part of the seventies Frank was struck down by a serious illness. What was the precise nature of the illness we do not know, but in 1878 his mother was able to write that he had now fully recovered, but that he was 'very nearly going'. Perhaps it was because of this illness that there was at the time talk of getting Frank an appointment in one of the banks instead of risking the rigours which a young engineer could be subject to. But the idea does not appear to have got much beyond the talk stage, for a few years later we hear of him working as assistant engineer to Mr. Dowling on the construction of the Bantry Railway extension. When this work finished, as it did in 1882, Frank obtained an appointment under the Board of Works, and worked under Mr. Price on the scheme for the drainage of Lower Lough Erne. In 1888 Frank was elected an associate member of the Institution of Civil Engineers. Soon afterwards he went to Greece on behalf of an English company, to report on a proposed water works, to be constructed in the area of Argos, in Corinth, for which English capital was sought.
In 1890 Frank went to the Straits Settlements to take up an appointment as Assistant Superintendent of Works and Survey in Province Wellesley. After two years he was promoted to be Superintendent at Malacca, and in 1897 he was transferred to Singapore. Later for some time he was acting as Deputy Colonial Engineer and Surveyor General, and in 1902 he was confirmed in this appointment. Soon after this his chief left Singapore on leave, and Frank became Acting Colonial Engineer and was sworn in as a member of the Legislative Council. Frank came home on leave in 1898, but he did not send his leave idling about. Instead he took a job on railway construction in Sierra Leone on the Gold Coast. While there he contracted malaria and soon afterwards returned home again to comp1ete his holiday and to recuperate from his illness. It was then that he met with and tell in love with Gertrude Haggerty, the youngest daughter of Mr. J. J. Haggertv t of Woodvi1le Dunkett1e, Co. Cork. They were married in Cork in 1898. Soon afterwards Frank returned to Singapore, with a charming bride. In 1904 Frank at the height of his career and now the proud father or a young son (christened Edward after his grandfather), was suddenly struck down by a severe illness and died after a few days. Thus of all the large family that survived their parents, Mary, the eldest, who died in 1899, was the first to go, and Frank, the youngest, was the next.
We interrupted Thomas' story, it will be remembered, at the stage where he had just given up possession of the house in Georges Villas and gone to live once more in Rathmines.
Little has been said or the social side of Thomas' life in Dublin, because little is known of it. Year after year he spent half of his days away from the city, so that continuity in any social organization would have been out of the question. As a government official, he was outside politics at a time when politics of a most bitter nature were occupying the minds of many people in Ireland. He had lived as a boy through the worst famine in Irish history, and that boyhood had been spent in County Mayo, the county most affected by the famine, probably, in all Ireland. Each year for fifteen years of its most troubled history he had spent six months in Mayo. Yet no word of all these troubled times is entered in hie diaries, and the only repercussion of them is his arrest in Drumshambo, which has been recounted above.
It seems obvious that Thomas had little taste for politics and much more for cultured pursuits. It was naturally amongst men of similar tastes to his own that he made his friends. One such, one of his most intimate, and one whose culture was as marked and as developed as his own, was one Denis MacSheahan, a fellow civil servant, employed in the Local Government Board.
MacSheahan was a graduate of Trinity Col1ege and while a student had lodged in Upper Mount St. with a young medical student with whom he had become friendly. This young man came from Limerick, and his name was O'Donnell. In due course MacSheahan met and became engaged to O'Donnell's sister Delia. The marriage was arranged for November 1883, and MacSheahan asked two of his friends, Thomas Gaffney and one Headley, to accompany him to Limerick to attend the wedding. Headley was to be best man, and Thomas was there as a guest.
The O'Donnells had two places in County Limerick at that time, one at Carass, near Croom, and the other at Kileedy. At the time of Delia's wedding they were living at Carass, and it was at Carass that Thomas first saw Joan O'Donnell, Delia's younger sister.
It would seem that Thomas fell in love with Joan at once. Certainly he was sufficiently impressed to send the family the following Christmas a card prepared by himself. This was a water‑colour sketch of Carass, probably done from memory, and typical of his work. This sketch, fortunately preserved, only came to light by chance recently, being found with a heap or discarded papers in a hay loft in Fort William.
The year 1884 was little different to the previous ten years of Thomas' life. He began the year as usual in Ballina, and spent six months revising in Mayo, returning to Dublin in June. From July until October he was engaged on the boundary survey of Wicklow, and the month of November he spent on leave. On this occasion, however, there is nothing to show how he spent his leave, for the pages of his diary for that period remain blank. But we can fairly conjecture that he had found other calls for his purse which left little margin for an expensive holiday. The expenses in connection with his father's death of the previous year had necessitated the raising ot a loan and this was, with the help of his brother John, paid off at the end of 1884. And moreover, it was this year that he had arranged to pay for his sister Maggie's visit to Asschaffensburg, which entailed providing for her for twelve months at the Institut Maria. In 1885, when it looked as if the financial strain was soon to be relieved, the Munster Bank, where Thomas kept his account, suspended payment.
Better days, however, were ahead. Although there is no single indication, between November 1883 and August l885, that Thomas had ever given a second thought to the young lady whom he had met at MacSheahan’s wedding, it is certain that she had not passed from his mind. He was soon to be given an opportunity of renewing that acquaintanceship. In August l885 Joan O'Donnell was invited to Dublin for Horse Show Week by her sister, now Delia MacSheahan. Thomas was amongst the friends who were asked to ,join them in the various festivities of the week. He was to meet them at the Show on the 26th and, greatly daring, he sent to Joan a bouquet of roses. Joan, who was only 21 and quite unsophisticated, and probably quite innocent of the impression she had made on a man so much her senior, was charmed nevertheless with the roses, and set about arranging them in her sister 's drawing room. As they prepared to leave for the Show, Delia asked her young sister did she not intend to wear one of the flowers, and Joan, all innocence, asked ‘Should I?’ Being advised by her elder sister, surely a woman of sagacity, that at least it would be a polite thing to do, Joan did.
From the subsequent history of the matter, this would appear to have been a highly important decision, tor Thomas is alleged to have confided in her afterwards that he would not have proposed if she had not worn a rose that day. The day is marked by a simple entry in Thomas' diary. It is in red ink. It is in Italian, which he reserved as the only appropriate language for entries of so tender a nature. It reads:‑ "Giorno della Rosa."
Thomas wasted no more time. He proposed to Joan on 29th August. A month later he paid a formal visit to Carass to obtain her parents' consent. On the 17th November Thomas and Joan were married by her brother Father Michael O'Donnell at the parish church of Ashford, which was the parish church for Kil1eedy.
For eight more years Thomas spent six months of the year out of Dublin, but now he was accompanied by his young wife. In 1887 he did not move out of Dublin as early as usual, going down to Ba11ina only in February. No doubt this was because his wife was not fit to travel until that date, for in that year she had presented Thomas with a son and heir, born on the 15th of the month and christened Edward after his grandfather. A similar convenient arrangement seems to have been made the following year, and for a similar reason. Again on January 15th, another son was born. This one was called Patrick, after his maternal grandfather. The next year, 1889, opened once more in Ballina, but it was the last to do so. In February of that year Thomas was put on the Munster circuit. He was in Limerick in March, when his first daughter was born, on her mother's own birthday, 6th March. This child was christened Helen. It was also in Limerick that, a year later, on 20th March, the next child was born, and christened John, after Thomas' favorite brother. On 31st December, 1891 a second girl was born, and christened Ita. This event took place in Cork, and it was there, too, that on the 21st December the following year, 1892, a third daughter was born and christened Christina, after her mother's favorite sister.
Soon after Christina's birth Thomas was appointed Chief Valuer of the Valuation Office. This meant living in Dublin permanently. In July of that year he moved to Dublin from Cork and took up residence in his first permanent home, 9 Rathdown Terrace, North Circular Road. In this house the remainder of his eleven children were born, and all were boys. They were: Noel, born 26th December, 1893; James, born 27th December, 1894; Walter, born 17th December, 1896; Francis Xavier, born 24th February, 1899; Henry, born 2nd April, 1901. Francis Xavier died‑ in infancy, when only five months old.
In 1902 Thomas was appointed to a Companionship of the newly created Imperial Service Order, which was that year established as a means of rewarding long and distinguished service under the Crown. Two years later, on March 31st, 1904, Thomas retired from the Valuation Office, after over fifty years service.
When Thomas retired, ten of his eleven children were still liv1ng, the infant Francis's death having been the only one in the family. But in 1904 not one of them was yet qualified to earn a living. Edward, the eldest, was just about to leave school, while Henry, the youngest, would not be old enough for school for another five years. Thus, Thomas, when he retired on pension, had still the education, clothing and feeding of a family of ten children on his hands, which must have seemed to him a pretty terrifying proposition. He was himself, however, still active and well equipped by training and experience to carry out private work, and this he set about doing.
It so happened that about this time many landowners were taking advantage of the terms of the Wyndaham Act to dispose of their property to their tenants, and many of them were glad to avail themselves of the experience and advice, which Thomas' long service with the Valuation Office made invaluable. In a little while he was doing quite a remunerative private practice. Nevertheless in spite of this, Thomas and his wife Joan were not able to give to their children the education and upbringing they desired without a great struggle, which involved considerable sacrifice and self‑denial. They constantly deprived themselves of the ordinary comforts of life, not to mention luxuries, which by now they had both so well earned.
In 1903 Thomas had moved from Rathdown Terrace, the size of his family having outgrown the size of the house, and a transfer had been made to 66 Eccles Street. This was a large Georgian house in a once fashionable district, which like many other Georgian areas in Dublin, was beginning to show signs of deterioration. It had the advantage, as well as being roomy and not too expensive, of being near to Belvedere College, where the boys of the family went to school, although still some distance from the girls' school, the Convent of the Sacred Heart, Leeson Street. It was in this house, on August 26th, 1908, that Thomas and Joan met with their second bereavement, when James, the fifth son and eighth child, died after a few weeks illness, when only fourteen years of age. He was buried in the family plot in Glasnevin Cemetery, beside his little brother Frank. This was a heavy blow to such devoted parents. But it may be that the very heaviness of the cross made it easier to bear the many separations that were soon to follow. How indeed can we tell in what manner the design of God will fallout? The years that followed afterwards saw the dispersal of the large family that had gathered ‘round the parents up till then, until by 1924 all but one had gone.
The first to go was Helen (Nelly) who, having obtained a secondary school teacher's diploma at St. Charles' Training College, London, now entered the novitiate of the Sacred Heart. She joined at Roehampton in 1910. In 1912 Ita left home to take up an appointment with a French family in Lllle.
The next to go was Noel, who feeling the call to a religious lire, entered the Jesuit novitiate at St. Stanislaus, Tullamore, on the 17th February, 1913. A few months later, Patrick, having qualified as an engineer at the National University of Ireland, set off for Canada, where he obtained an appointment with the Canadian Pacific Railway.
Patrick had obtained his degree in 1912. Edward, the eldest or the family, had already graduated in 1911 at the same University, also as Bachelor of Engineering, and after a period assisting his father in the field, had taken up an appointment under the Dublin Corporation. But in 1913 he was given more congenial employment in the Valuation Office, thus continuing into the third generation the association that had been begun by his grandfather and namesake nearly seventy years before.
The house in Eccles Street was now too large for the gradually reducing family, and a move was made to 23 Waterloo Road, Ballsbridge. This was to be Thomas' last residence, and here he lived through the Great War and the 1916 Rebellion. Towards the end of 1914 Patrick had already achieved one of the principal objects of his emigration to Canada. He had established himself sufficiently to warrant his sending home for his young fiancee to come out to him. And so on the 25th of August of that year, Mary Louise Henebery, the young fiancee in question, sailed from Bristol on board the 'King Edward' for Canada. She reached Montreal on 4th September, where Patrick met her, and they were married the same day in St. Patrick's Church in that city.
By this time the War was affecting everybody's life. John, the third son, who had been in the National Bank since 1909, now left it and joined the Royal Irish Regiment. A little later Edward gave up his appointment in the Valuation Office and in due course obtained his Commission in the Royal Engineers. Ita, back from France, was putting her knowledge of French to good use in the Belgian Refugee Organization in Dublin. Christina had taken employment in a government office and so released a man of military age. Before the war was over Walter had qualified, in 1917, again in the National University, as a Bachelor of Engineering, making the third of the boys to follow in the footsteps of their father and grandfather. He was employed at once, under the War Office, in the construction of an aerodrome at Collinstown, a place that has since developed into the Dublin Airport.
But now the rate of exodus was accelerating. In November, 1919, Noel, now a Jesuit scholastic, sailed in obedience to order for Australia. Edward, now demobilized from the Army, had obtained an appointment under the Colonial Office and had at the same time announced his engagement to Phyllis Gwendolin Boulton. In January 1920 he had set sail for Penang and was already en route before Noel had reached his destination. Less than a month after Edward had arrived in Singapore, Walter set off to join his brother Patrick in Canada.
The difficulties Thomas and Joan must have been having at this time in keeping abreast of the changing conditions in the lives of their now scattered family were not yet over. For in October of this significant year of 1920 Walter announced from Canada that he had resigned from the position Patrick had obtained for him and had entered the Jesuit novitiate in Guelph. A month later Edward's fiancee Phyllis joined him in Malaya and they were married on 20th November, in the Cathedral, Singapore.
The next to leave home was Ita, who having become engaged to Gerald MacGinty was married to him in St. Mary's, Haddington Road (where her father had been confirmed and made his first communion) on 20th October 1921. In September the following year, Helen, who had been severely ill for a long time, died in the Convent of the Sacred Heart, Roscrea, on the 11th of the month, just twelve days after Ita had given her parents their fourth grandchild. Patrick had already provided them with three, all boys. Ita now provided the first granddaughter. This was naturally a great joy to them, and some little compensation to them for the loss of their own eldest daughter. Once more God had balanced the scales.
Henry, the youngest member of the family, was meanwhile studying medicine at Trinity College, Dublin, and in 1924 he qualified. It must have been with a grateful heart that Thomas, now 86 years old attended that conferring of degrees on 28th March, and realized that he had been spared to see the last of his long family qualified in his profession. His personal sacrifices and those of his wife Joan, sitting beside him, had not been made in vain.
The following year Henry accepted an appointment under the Colonial Office and in August 1925 he sailed for Tanganyika, in East Africa. The exodus was complete. There now remained at home, of all the children who had gathered around their parents at the turn of the century, only one, Christina, the youngest daughter. Nor henceforth did she ever leave their side.
There were growing comforts to compensate for the absence of sons and daughters. Mails from abroad brought news of an ever increasing number of grandchildren, while at home the presence of the small members of Ita's growing family was a source of constant joy to both grandparents. By this time too Noel, though not at home, was no longer abroad, for he had returned to Dublin in 1923, and was now at Milltown Park, preparing for his ordination. On the 31st July, 1926, Thomas and Joan experienced what must have been their greatest joy, for on that day their son Noel was ordained a priest of God. The ceremony was carried out at Milltown Park by his Grace, the Archbishop of Dublin, the Most Reverend Edward Byrne. Thomas, now in his eighty‑ninth year, was not strong enough to attend the ceremony, but no sooner was it completed than Father Noel made his way down to Waterloo road to give his blessing to his aged parent. Moreover, he obtained special permission to offer up his second Mass in his father's home.
And thus, as Thomas' days drew to a close he might well have been consoled by the knowledge that he had struggled on successfully to the end. Thomas died on the 1st April, 1927, in his ninetieth year, after a life of endeavour and, surely, of fulfillment. He was buried in the family plot in Glasnevin Cemetery, which he himself had purchased to bury his mother forty‑five years before.