Saturday, 19 October 2013

Little Orphan James Gunne

In 1901, my great grandmother Elizabeth (Bessie) Byrne was living in Yellow Walls Malahide, with her husband Michael Byrne, her father James Mahon and her four children, James, John, Maggie and Michael. Bessie had also given a home to two orphan children, Lizzie Hanlon and an infant, James Gunne. This struck a chord with me as my sister also fosters children in need today.
NAI, 1901 Census, Byrne household, Yellow Walls, Malahide.

I then came across a transcript of James Gunne’s baptism, in the records of St Sylvester’s church in Malahide, and recognised his name. Here, his date of birth was given as 11 August 1900, although this could be his baptism date. He was christened James Francis Gunne. His mother was named as Anne Gunne, but no father’s name was recorded. Elizabeth Byrne and James Byrne were his baptism sponsors, or Godparents.  It seems feasible that these Godparents were actually my great grandmother, Bessie, and her son, my grandfather, James.  James Byrne only turned seven years old in July 1900, but this would not be the first time I have come across Godparents aged only seven years. Maybe James Francis was even named for my grandfather.

Bessie must have been a very kind and generous lady, like my sister today, looking after children whose parents were unwilling or unable to care of them. She had already a son, less than one year old, when she took James Gunne into her home.  There was no sign of James’s mother Anne in the 1901 census.

I wonder what happened to little Lizzie Hanlon and baby James Gunne.

Bessie died of tuberculosis, just two years later, on 25 March 1903. She was only thirty-four years old. 

Sources available on request.

© 2013 Black Raven Genealogy

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