Patrick Ita O'Donnell Burke-Gaffney was born in Kingstown, County Dublin, Ireland, January 15, 1888, the same day his older brother, Edward ("Ned"), was born a year earlier. The date is the feast of St. Ita who died in Kileedy ('church of Ita'), hence Dad's second name. Patrick was the second child and second son of Thomas Edward Burke-Gaffney and Joan O'Donnell. He was named after Joan's father, Patrick O'Donnell. Like his brothers he received his primary and secondary education at the Jesuits' Belvedere College, Dublin, and his professional degrees from the National University of Ireland. His brother Jack noted later that the family had moved in 1903 to 66 Eccles Street which "had the advantage, as well as being roomy and not too expensive, being near 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."
Patrick did well at Belvedere from 1895 to 1905 in studies, music and sports. (His children remember the ornate, tasseled cap he won playing for the Belvedere rugby team; it lay for years on a high shelf in their parents' bedroom, along with his violin and Mother's mandolin which none ever heard her play.) He entered the National University of Ireland in 1905 and received his Bachelor of Arts degree (economics and literature, honors) 1908, Bachelor of Science degree (Mathematics and Geology) 1911, and Bachelor of Engineering degree (1st place, 1st class honors) 1912. In October 1912 he won the position of assistant to the Professor of Engineering, University College, Dublin.
An interesting footnote: in his application to the Association of Professional Engineers of Manitoba, under the heading of Preliminary Practice, he wrote "1905-1912 -- with T. Burke-Gaffney, ISO, Consulting Civil Engineer." The abbreviation ISO represents "Companion of the Imperial Service Order," an honor awarded to his father, Thomas, in 1902 for 50 years of civil service. Both his father and grandfather were professional engineers. Patrick assisted in his father's consulting practice while he attended university, did his graduate studies, and while he served in the college's Engineering Department.
Mary Louise Henebery, early given the odd nickname "Goog," was born in Rathmines, Dublin, in 1887, third child and second daughter of Daniel Henebery and Anastasia Coffey. The father owned a clothing store and the family lived in fairly comfortable circumstances in a home overlooking St. Stephen's Green. Many of the old homes there have become government embassies. Mary Louise was named after a maternal aunt.
She and her older sister Norah Mary ("Dot") were educated by nuns of the Loretto Order, first at a day school in Rathfarnham then, for their advanced grades, at a Loretto boarding school in a beautiful setting overlooking the Irish Sea at Bray Head, north of Dublin. They both took piano and played duets at schools concerts.
After finishing boarding school, each girl in turn took a secretarial course and found work, Norah Mary at the Canadian High Commissioner's office in Dublin, and Mary Louise, about 1909, at Irish Industries, a foundation created by Lady Gregory (Isabella Perse, a noted Irish playwright) to promote interest in the work of country crafts. Mother had fond memories of those days, reminiscing often about the foundation's work and its handsome grey embossed stationery she used.