I now have an answer to the question posed in my post ‘Was Granny’s Uncle Bennie a sailor?’, where I had found a Benjamin Byrne who married Annie Florence Porter in Seaforth, England, in 1918. I wondered if he was my great-granduncle, of the same name, who had left no trace in Dublin since 1913. Well the short answer is, most certainly, ‘yes’.
Last month, I received a Facebook message from a reader, Claire, who had found my post while searching for her grandfather on Google. Her grandfather, Benjamin Porter Byrne, was the second son born to Benjamin and Florence. Although Claire remembers her grandfather speaking about his frequent childhood trips to Dublin visiting his maternal grandparents, sadly, he had never mentioned his father's family.
This got me thinking and I began searching for the Porter family in Dublin. Porter is not an Irish name, but lo and behold, there they were in Seville Place, within spitting distance of where my Byrne ancestors lived. In 1911, a fourteen year old Florence Porter was living with her family at Coburg Place. They had resided in the nearby 1st Avenue Cottages in 1901. Annie Florence Porter, of 9 Seville Place, was baptised at the local St Barnabas church, on 2 August 1896. Uncle Bennie and Annie Florence Porter must have known each other for their entire lives. Who would have guessed? This was just too much of a coincidence!
Benjamin Byrne & Annie Florence Porter, Marriage, Seaforth, 1918
My great-granduncle Benjamin Byrne had run off to England with Annie Florence Porter and married her there. One possible reason for their apparent elopement soon became clear. St Barnabas church served the Protestants of the area. Florence’s father was from Co. Tyrone and her mother from Co. Fermanagh. Their religion was confirmed as being Church of Ireland in the 1911 census. The Byrne family, on the other hand, were Roman Catholic. Although both congregations lived together in harmony in Dublin at the start of the twentieth century, intermarriage may not have been readily condoned, most especially if the children were not brought up as Catholics. Benjamin and Florence married in the Church of England and their children were also baptised as Protestants. This was more than feasibly the cause of the rumoured rift between Benjamin and his brother, my great-grandfather, James.
Sources: 1901 and 1911 Census, National Archives Ireland; Baptismal register, St Barnabas church, Dublin.
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