Saturday, 14 March 2015

Of times past ~ Maurice Carroll


The very earliest written record found, relating to my great-great-grandfather, Maurice Carroll, was apparently dated 1857. In this transcript, he was named as the father of David Carroll, a child born on 26 December, at Bow Bridge, and baptised in the parish of St James, in Dublin city. David’s mother was named as Mary Anne Frayer.[1]

Little David would surely have been a welcome Christmas addition in any family, except, in this case, his birth may have been a mixed blessing. In 1857, his parents were not married. It was thirteen months later, on 9 February 1859, when Maurice Carroll married Mary Anne Frazer. Maurice’s parents, my third-great-grandparents, were recorded in the register as David Carroll and Catherine Cummins. So, the baby boy was seemingly named after his paternal grandfather.[1]

The deferral of Maurice and Mary Anne’s marriage is curious, not that pre-marital conception was rare in Catholic Ireland, but couples were normally compelled to marry prior to their child’s birth, if they were going to marry at all. Public condemnation by the priest, the families and the community at large generally saw to that. The reason for the delay is therefore intriguing, but, the exact circumstances of Maurice and Mary Anne’s courtship are probably now lost forever.

By the time their second son Robert was born in July 1860, Maurice and Mary Anne had moved out of the city, and set up home in Balheary, a rural district near Swords, in north county Dublin.[2]  Neither Maurice nor Mary Anne had any apparent ties to the area. Maurice was supposedly born in county Tipperary.[3] According to their 1859 marriage register, his parents had an address in Limerick and Mary Anne’s parents hailed from Clonmel in county Tipperary. So, Maurice probably only moved to Balheary for work. He was seemingly employed by the Baker family at Balheary House, initially as a domestic servant and later as their coachman.

Balheary House was then owned by Henry and Belinda Baker. Although it no longer survives today, at that time, the house and demesne had probably changed little since 1837, when it was described as: 
‘a large square structure with several apartments of ample dimensions; in the saloon and dining-rooms are some fine pieces of tapestry, formerly the property of the Earl of Ormonde: the surrounding demesne, through which flow the small rivers of Fieldstown and Knocksedan, is well laid out, and commands a fine view of Howth and the Dublin mountains, with the town and environs of Swords, which, with its church, round tower, ruins of the monastery, and other interesting objects, presents a varied and picturesque scene in the foreground. [Swords,  Samuel Lewis, A Topographical Dictionary of Ireland, 1837]

Swords, from Robert Walsh, Fingal and its Churches, Dublin, 1888

It sounds like the family lived in beautiful surroundings. Their subsequent children were baptised in the parish of Donabate, close to Balheary: Catherine Carroll in May 1862; Thomas Carroll in December 1863 and James Carroll in November 1865.[2]

Then, in March 1868, tragedy struck the young family and Mary Anne died of phthisis (tuberculosis), leaving Maurice a widower. James was only two years of age.[4]

Old Mr. Baker died on 31 December 1876, a widower, with no surviving children. His estate went to his nephew in England and Maurice’s sixteen-year employment at Balheary came to an abrupt end.  By this time, he had married Anne Radcliffe, my great-great-grandmother and my great-grandaunts, Mary and Annie Carroll were born.[5]

Throughout the following decade, Maurice and Anne appeared to have moved all over Dublin, in search of work.  In 1878, when their son John Carroll was born, Maurice worked as a coachman in Ballybrack. Ballybrack is situated to the very south of county Dublin. In 1882, he was still a coachman, but back living in north county Dublin, at the Baskin, in Cloghran, near Swords, and their son Maurice Carroll was born there. They were  living nearby at Middleton, in Cloghran, in 1884, when their son Peter Carroll came along. By 1888, when my great-grandmother, Teresa Carroll, was born, the family had moved back to Dublin city.[2] [4]

In the mid-1890s, Maurice and Anne were thought to have purchased, or at least acted as the (slum) landlord for, a property at 20 North Gloucester Place, Mountjoy. Here, they both saw out their days. The house was in 'tenements' in 1901, when the Carrolls shared it with two other families, and they were the 'rated occupiers' there in 1909.[6][7]  The majority of my ancestors did not own their homes at the end of the nineteenth century, so, it would be interesting to find out the truth of this. There is probably more information available in the Valuation Office in Dublin – a mission for another day.
[1] Church registers on 
[2] Church registers on
[3] Household Return (Form A), 1901 Census, National Archives of Ireland.
[4] Copy BMD registers, General Register Office.
[5] Will and Grant of Henry Baker, 1887, Ms. T1612, National Archives of Ireland.
[6] House and Building Return (Form B), 1901 Census.
[7] Dublin City Electoral List 1909,

© 2015 Black Raven Genealogy


  1. Interesting story. It's also interesting that the couple waited a year to marry. Were they just too young? Did Mary Ann live at home with her parents? Did they hide "the horrible truth"? Is this why the couple moved away once they married? I guess you've had these same questions.

    1. I don't think they were too young, Wendy. It seems Mary Anne was in her early thirties, though available evidence suggests Maurice may have been about ten years younger - maybe this was the reason? guess we'll never know.

  2. Interesting story. I've 3d great grandparents in Germany who married after. It seems that there you had to get the permission of the local lord and pay a sizeable marriage fee and they just didn't have it together in time. Anything like that in Ireland?

    1. Nothing like that here, Jo, at least nothing I've heard of. How interesting!

  3. Dara, another interesting history, and another connection of sorts between your family and mine, in addition to those in Swords, Donabate and Malahide. Although they lived there at a much later date — the late 19th & early 20th century — my paternal great-grandfather and his family lived at 6.5 Bow Bridge, and all of their children were baptised in the parish of St. James.

  4. The parallels are amazing, Jennifer. Maybe some day we'll find a connection. ;)

  5. Dara, I wonder if there were any difficulties in arranging the Baptism of the child born before the couple's marriage. The church usually has strong guidelines about that.

  6. I don't think so, Colleen. For Catholics here, the threat of dying with the stain of 'original sin' was so horrific, I cannot imagine any delays in arranging the baptism, although, the mother was undoubtedly treated unkindly and the ugly word 'illegitimate' was often recorded in the baptism register.