Saturday 26 July 2014

Our cousins in a ‘Curious City Case’

When I first started researching our genealogy, my mother mentioned two surnames that she remembered in relation to her mother’s ancestry: McGrane and Vickers. Mam was not sure what the connection was, but knew that they were family. Recently, I came across an article about a truly bizarre court case that took place in Dublin in January 1917. It mentioned the two families. I’m really not sure what to make of it. What do you think?
Curious City Case
In the Northern Police Court yesterday, before Mr. Macinerney, K.C., Frances Barrett, 24 Lower Jane place; Patrick and Myles Vicars, 24 Lower Oriel street; William A. Macken, 11 Canning place and Thomas McGrane, 14 Lower Jane place, were charged by Constable McGlion (158C) with having on the night of December 1st broken into the licensed premises of Mr. Patrick Doyle, Lower Oriel street, and stolen a quantity of whiskey, tea, sugar, Bovril, biscuits, etc., value £18 11s. 6d.
The only witness called for by the prosecution was Myles Vicars, one of the accused, who it was alleged had made a voluntary statement incriminating the others. He now denied the alleged statement on oath.
Mr. Macinerney said no jury would convict and discharged the accused. 
Mr. James Brady defended.

Freeman’s Journal, 9 January 1917, p.15. 

Bovril poster c1900, Wikimedia Commons
 Original uploader was VAwebteam  
The McGranes: Those following this blog will know that McGrane was the maiden name of my great-great-grandmother, Margaret (McGrane) Byrne. This unusual story relates to her nephew, Thomas McGrane, the son of Margaret’s younger brother Francis. Thomas was born in 1898, according to his birth register.

The Vickers: We are actually related to the Vickers on two fronts. Alice McGrane, Margaret’s younger sister, married James Vickers in 1896, while Margaret’s daughter, Mary Anne Byrne, married William Vickers, James’s younger brother, in 1901.  Today's story involves Alice’s two sons, Patrick Vickers, born in 1898 and Myles Vickers, born in 1900.

Patrick, Myles and Thomas were all first cousins of my great-grandfather, James Byrne, although they were far closer in age to his sons, John, Frank and Jerry. While the Byrne boys lived beside their cousins, they were not mentioned in the article. They must have been tucked up at home drinking their Bovril, at the time!

I'd say this gave the family something to talk about, back in the day!

© 2014 Black Raven Genealogy

Saturday 19 July 2014

Conscription into The Great War – an Irishman’s Story

This is the story of how Dubliner, Frank McGrane, narrowly avoided being conscripted into the British Army during the early years of the First World War. Frank was a nephew of Margaret (McGrane) Byrne, my maternal great-great-grandmother.

World War I recruitment posters, Ireland (Wikimedia Commons)

When the Great War broke out, as in the rest of the British Isles, it received the support of many Irish people, irrespective of their political persuasions.  More than 200,000 Irish men responded to the ‘call to arms’ and enlisted and over 30,000 of them died while serving in the British forces, with another 20,000 of them killed serving with other Allied forces. But, the Irish attitude to the war was complex and even before the Easter Rising in 1916, recruitment rates were falling. 

Prior to April 1916, the majority of Dubliners did not actively support the struggle for Irish Independence.  Mostly, they were too occupied with trying to etch out a half-decent living for themselves and their families and such quixotic endeavours just did not put bread on the table. However, the British response to the Easter Rising in Dublin was to change all that. The execution of fifteen of its leaders then caused widespread public revulsion and left a lasting bitterness in the hearts of Irish men and women.  The 1916 leaders were seen by many at the time as being idealistic young men, who did not deserve to die. For a large number of Dubliners, including members of my great-great-grandmother’s family, while they may have sided with the Allies during the Great War, joining the British Army was a step much too far and compulsory conscription would certainly have been abhorred.

Frank McGrane was a sawyer, employed by Brooks, Thomas and Co., Dublin. In March 1915, he had no work and the Secretary of the Amalgamated Society of Machinists, of which he was a member, gave him nine shillings travelling expenses and sent him to do munitions work in Scotland.  Frank had no choice but to go, or lose his benefits. He worked in Glasgow for nine months and when he came home for Christmas in 1915, Brooks, Thomas and Co. reemployed him in Dublin. He sent for his clothes and did not return to Britain. 

Then, over nine month’s later, on Tuesday morning, 3 October 1916, Frank was arrested at his home in Jane Place, off Oriel Street in Dublin and charged with absenting himself from British military service. The 1916 Military Service Act, introduced in Britain, did not apply in Ireland, so conscription was not in force. You can therefore imagine the shock that Frank’s arrest must have caused in our family, as well as in the wider community! 

The resulting court case, in the Northern Division of the Dublin Police Court, was closely watched in Ireland, not only by Irish politicians like Alfred Byrne, but especially by the trade unions. The unions had sent 10,000 Irish munitions workers to Britain, on the understanding that such workers would not fall under the remit of the Military Service Act. This was a test case. 

The prosecution argued that Frank was ‘ordinarily resident’ in Britain, both on and after the specified date, 15 August 1915. They contended that he had gone there for the purpose of earning his livelihood and not for any ‘special purpose’. They added that a mere sawyer could not be said to be there for a special purpose and therefore the exemptions under the Act could not apply.  The defence argued that Frank McGrane was indeed in Britain for a special purpose - ‘everyone knew that munition work was special work brought about by the war’.  Luckily for Frank, and the 10,000 other Irish workers carrying out munitions work in Britain, the magistrate, Mr. Macinerney, K.C., agreed and the case was dismissed.

Sources: Freeman’s Journal, 4 October 1916, p. 3; The Irish Times, 6 October 1916, p. 3; Weekly Irish Times, 7 October 1916, p. 2.


© 2014 Black Raven Genealogy

Saturday 12 July 2014

A lady named Margaret Fay

Do you remember the post, Uncle Michael married Aunt Kate, where I wondered why a Catherine McGrane shared a grave with my great-great-grandparents, the Devines, and it turned out that she was their married daughter? Well, I think it has happened again. A lady named Margaret Fay, who died on 25 July 1932, aged 43 years, was buried with my great-great-grandparents, Francis and Margaret Byrne of Lower Jane Place, Dublin.1 I've long wondered who she was. Now, it seems that Margaret Fay was Francis and Margaret’s married daughter. She was Granny’s aunt.

In my defence, my great-grandaunt was born Margaret Mary Byrne on 15 November 1879, making her four months short of 53 years old when she died, not 43.2 Also, I had originally tried to prove that she had married a man named Fay, but Margaret Byrne was just too common a name in Dublin and the Irish civil marriage indexes did not reflect spouses’ names. The cost of ordering that many research certificates, in the hopes that one might prove the theory, was too much for my pocket.

In a recent bout of research into my maternal Byrne lineage, I learned that it was Margaret’s younger sister, Jane, that had married a James Fay. Their wedding took place in St Laurence O’Toole’s Church on 25 April 1915.3 So, it would have been more reasonable for Jane Fay to share her parent’s grave, not Margaret. Then I discovered that Jane had died young, on 17 March 1919.4 The burial records for various graves at Glasnevin Cemetery facilitated the creation of this simple timeline of events, from which I noticed something unusual:-




Last Address
Francis Byrne, my gg-grandfather
1 Lower Jane Place, Dublin
Jane Fay
1 Lower Jane Place, Dublin
Margaret Byrne, my gg-grandmother
1 Lower Jane Place, Dublin
Margaret Fay
1 Lower Jane Place, Dublin
James Fay
1 Lower Jane Place, Dublin

James Fay had continued to live in my great-great-grandparent's home, not only after the death of his wife, Jane, but also after the death of his mother-in-law. He died there in 1946.5 He must have remarried a lady named Margaret and continued to live in their home with her and not only that, when she died, he buried her in their grave. Now armed with the newly released ‘Civil Records’ on, where marriages from 1912 are indexed by couple, I searched for the index for this second marriage.  And here it is – just one year after Jane’s death –  James Fay, with his surname transcribed incorrectly as ‘Foy’, married Margaret Byrne in Dublin.6 

On 10 October 1920, Margaret Byrne, then aged 41, must have married her sister’s widower and helped to raise his two little boys, James and Frank. Apparently, this was not at all uncommon and it certainly explains why Margaret Fay was buried with my great-great-grandparents (her parents). 

I'm totally convinced that this was our Margaret, but nevertheless, I've ordered a copy of their marriage register and will let you know if I’m wrong.

1 Burial register, grave DH 193.5, Glasnevin Trust
2 Church records on
Copy marriage register, General Register Office. 
Copy death register, same.
5 Glasnevin Trust. 
Civil records on

© 2014 Black Raven Genealogy

Saturday 5 July 2014

Untangling the roots of Margaret McGrane

As discussed in last week's post, 'Untangling the roots of Frank Byrne', only one 'potential' record for the marriage of my great-great-grandparents, Francis Byrne and Margaret McGrane, has been found. This marriage occurred on 17 September 1871, in St Laurence O’Toole’s church, Seville Place, Dublin, when Margaret Magrane was recorded as having married a Francis ‘Bird’. The post concluded that the groom was probably my great-great-grandfather, Francis Byrne, with his surname incorrectly recorded and as the officiating priest was responsible for reporting the marriage to the civil authorities, the 'Bird' surname was mirrored there too. 

This week, I'm looking at the bride Margaret Magrane, to ensure that she really was my great-great-grandmother. According to baptismal and birth records for my great-grandfather James Byrne and his siblings, their mother was indeed called Margaret McGrane (often spelt Magrane). 

First, the bridesmaid in 1871 was a woman called Catharina Ray, spelt Kate Reigh on the civil register of the marriage. It seems that many people of this era were truly indifferent to the spelling of their surnames. Catharina's relationship to our family is unclear, but a Catharina Rae, presumably the same person, was god-mother to Myles Byrne, the eldest son of Francis Byrne and Margaret McGrane, baptised in 1873. 

More significantly, it is well-remembered in our family that Frank Teeling, a sniper in the Second Battalion, Dublin Brigade of the Old Irish Republican Army, known for his involvement on Bloody Sunday and subsequent escape from Kilmainham Gaol, was a first cousin of my great-grandfather. Margaret Byrne registered Frank's birth in 1899 and recorded his mother as being Sarah Teeling, formerly McGrane, confirming their connection to our family. Baptismal records for Francis and Margaret Byrne's children show that Sarah McGrane was godmother to Francis Byrne in 1876 and in 1879 Margaret Mary Byrne was born at 18 Jane Place Upper, the home of Sarah's first husband, Richard Daly. Sarah (McGrane, Daly) Teeling was undoubtedly my great-great-grandaunt.

Sarah married Richard Daly in St Laurence O’Toole's church in July 1879. Their marriage register confirmed Sarah’s parents as Miles McGrane and Margaret Doyle. The Margaret Magrane who married Francis ‘Bird’ in 1871 was also the daughter of Miles Magrane and Margaret Doyle and thus was undoubtedly Sarah’s sister. Therefore, my great-great-grandmother was undoubtedly the bride in this 1871 marriage, albeit with the groom’s surname incorrectly stated. 

Thus, my great-great-great-grandparents were Miles Magrane and Margaret Doyle. 

Sources: Church records on IrishGenealogy; Copy birth and marriage registers, General Register Office.


© 2014 Black Raven Genealogy