Saturday 11 February 2017

John Augustine Wynne

The search in Dundalk, Co. Louth has so far failed to unearth our Wynne family’s roots. Instead, I have found out more about my granddad’s first cousins, the children of his Uncle John Wynne. John and his wife Margaret had ten children, many of whom have previously featured on this blog. 

You might remember Philip Camillus, their youngest son, who died so tragically during World War I. Or, Mary Clarissa, their youngest daughter, who travelled to Sydney, Australia before settling in New York with her brothers James and Gerald. Well, this week I learned about their eldest son, John Augustine Wynne, born in Dundalk in June 1877.

Poor John Augustine. He too died young. He caught that dreaded nineteenth-century killer - tuberculosis. His parents nursed him for a year before he finally succumbed to the disease. He was only sixteen years old. But, what’s unusual about John Augustine – well, unusual for our family that is – was his obituary was published in the local newspaper. John Augustine was well-known in Dundalk, and that, coupled with his youth, meant people were interested in his passing. 

You see, John Augustine could sing.

Death of Master John Augustine Wynne 
'The hundreds in Dundalk who frequently listened with rapture to the charming vocalism of Master Wynne will learn with grief and sorrow that the sweet voice which was the source of so much enjoyment to them is forever stilled in death. Master Wynne died on Tuesday, to the inexpressible grief of his father and mother, to whom the sympathy of the people goes spontaneously out. 
The funeral took place on Thursday, the coffin containing the remains being carried to the grave by the schoolfellows of the deceased who attended in hundreds and marched with the funeral in processional order. Rev. Brother J A Yorke and all the members of the Community of Christian Brothers in Dundalk attended. Mr T V Parks was also present as well as great numbers of the townspeople generally. Rev. P Murtagh, C C, officiated at the grave. R.I.P.' 
Death Notice of John Augustine Wynne in the Dundalk Examiner and Louth Advertiser, 1 July 1893, p.2.

Sadly, for a genealogist, it was not a typical obituary. It provides zero information on John Augustine’s family, or their origins, or their ties to the community in Dundalk, concentrating instead on naming the local 'celebrities' who attended. Still, isn’t it nice to learn a little about our young cousin’s life! 

And news of his death travelled far and wide. In the following weeks, the newspaper printed a letter addressed to John Augustine’s mother, from P C Clarke in Gibraltar. The Reverend Brother P C Clarke was the Superior of the Christian Brothers School in Gibraltar, but formerly of their school in Dundalk, where John Augustine had no doubt attended. 
Gibraltar, July 8th, 1893
Dear Mrs Wynne – A few moments ago, I received the Dundalk Examiner and was startled and deeply grieved to read the account of poor dear John Augustine’s death. I wondered at not receiving a letter from him, but now I know the reason. Need I say how profoundly I sympathise with you in your deep sorrow, knowing what a terrible blow this must be to so loving a mother for such an endearing, affectionate child. He was a favourite with everyone who came across him – to know him was to love him. 
Yet, ‘God’s holy will be done.’ Our dear Lord, who does everything for the best has called him ‘Home’. That sweet voice of his, which was so lovingly devoted to the praises of God here below, now resounds midst angel choirs in chanting joyous hallelujahs before His heavenly throne. He would not now exchange his happy lot for this cold, cold world again. 
I am sending on the account to Mr Duggan, who I know will be deeply touched to hear–I scarcely know which to call it–the sad, or the happy news; it is such a special privilege and mark of God’s love to be called, whilst this young and innocent, from this deceitful world. 
With kindest regards and heartfelt condolence with dear self, Mr. Wynne and the little ones, I remain, very sincerely yours,
P C Burke
Letter to the mother of the late John Augustine Wynne, published in the Dundalk Examiner and Louth Advertiser, 22 July 1893, p. 3. 

It seems John Augustine was not the only one of my grandfather’s first cousins who could carry a tune. His sisters Maggie and Nora were similarly talented, as was his brother Joseph. And, people actually paid to hear them perform. 

It was after their mother’s death in December 1900 before their names were found in the newspaper. They specialised in Irish songs and ballads, singing at ‘Irish’ concerts, all part of the Gaelic Revival taking place across the country at that time. 

Maggie Wynne was seemingly the most popular.  She regularly performed alongside Mr T. V. Parks, who it transpires was a particularly popular local musician and professor of music. I wonder did Maggie think of her brother when she sang.

© Black Raven Genealogy 


  1. What good times this family must have had singing together.

    1. I'd say there were plenty of great parties in their house, Wendy. Wouldn't it be great to go back and visit them - think of all the questions they could answer - as well as the craic (fun) we would have.

  2. Maybe I'm carrying on a family tradition! πŸŽΌπŸŽ™πŸŽΆπŸŽ΅

    1. You certainly are in good company, Niamh. Lots of Grandda's cousins on his Wynne side took to the stage - Louis Perrody even earned his living playing the banjo!

  3. Even though the obituary wasn't filled with genealogical information, that clipping and the other demonstrate what a great guy young John was. Great finds!

    1. It's always especially sad to see a young life, so full of promise, cut so short.


I'd love to hear your thoughts on this!