Saturday, 18 February 2017

Mary Frances (Wynne) Stowell

This week, I’d like to introduce you to another of Granda’s first cousins - Mary Frances Wynne. A while ago, I ‘met’ a lovely lady called Gabriella online and she shared some photographs and much of Frances’ story with me.

Mary Frances was born in Dundalk, Co. Louth on 19 June 1881, the second daughter and third child of John Wynne and Margaret Ward/Armstrong.[1] She worked as a tailoress before her marriage.[2] Then, on 16 January 1908, she married Robert Stowell, a sea captain, six years her senior.[3] Robert’s family believed he could do much better for himself, than marrying a cork-cutter’s daughter, but the marriage went ahead anyway, against their wishes.

Captain Robert Stowell and family, Dundalk, 1916
Robert and Frances Stowell
with Rita and Bernadette, 1916

Robert and Frances had two children, both girls. Margaretta Mary, known as Rita, was born in 1911 and Bernadette Frances followed in 1916. Bernadette was severely mentally disabled. Frances cared for her at home.[4]

Robert’s ‘Identity and Service Certificate’ shows he captained two steamships, the SS Carlingford and the SS Margaret Lockington.  Both were cargo ships owned by the Dundalk coal importers, Samuel Lockington Ltd. In 1921, Robert became the first captain of the SS Margaret Lockington, which at the time was said to have been the fastest collier crossing the Irish Sea.
Captain Robert Stowell, Dundalk
‘RS2 Identity and Service Certificate’, Robert Stowell, c. 1919

And, although Robert served on a minesweeper during World War I, a far more dangerous command, you might think, it was on board the SS Margaret Lockington that he met his unfortunate demise. Tragically, Captain Robert Stowell was found dead in his bunk on 24 December 1922 – Christmas Eve morning – when his ship was docked at Ayr in Scotland. An inquest was held shortly thereafter. The jury concluded his death was accidental, caused by injuries sustained in a fall on deck the previous evening.[5]
Death of Robert Stowell, The Weekly Freeman, 6 Jan. 1923, p. 4

Yet, his grieving widow never accepted the inquest’s verdict. Frances believed Robert had been assaulted. He had recently dismissed a seaman for bad behaviour and Frances suspected he received the head injuries in retaliation. She maintained this belief until her dying day.

Frances remained in Dundalk after Robert’s death, taking care of her young family. She passed away on 18 January 1965, aged 83 years, and was buried in St Patricks Cemetery in Dundalk.[6]

Death of Frances Stowell, Irish Independent, 20 Jan. 1965, p. 21

[1] Copy birth register, Dundalk, 1881, Mary Wynne, General Register Office.
[2] Census of Ireland, Dundalk, 1901, National Archives.
[3] Copy marriage register, Dundalk, 1908, Stowell-Wynne, General Register Office.
[4] Copy birth registers, Dundalk, Margaretta Stowell in 1911, Bernadette Stowell in 1916, General Register Office.
[5] Copy of an extract from the Register of Deaths for Ayr, Robert Francis Stowell, dated 5 October 1923.
[6] Copy death register, Dundalk, 1923, Mary Frances Stowell, General Register Office.

© Black Raven Genealogy


  1. Poor Frances. It must have been hard living out her days believing her husband was murdered. I have a story like that in my family too in which the family believed a death was murder although it was ruled a suicide. It makes me wonder if anyone listened to them, if they investigated further or just ignored them.

    1. Wendy, I do have a copy of a letter inviting Frances to attend the inquest, in Scotland - I doubt she could attend given she had two young children and one with special needs, but I'd say someone may have attended on her behalf. Probably, they could find no evidence to support the accusation.

  2. How wonderful you have those pictures! A sad ending for this couple, wonder if his widow was right?

    1. It's great to have these photos - funny, I have more pictures of my grandfather's cousins than I do of his siblings. It must have been a terrible time for Frances - I'd say there is certainly a chance she was right, Ellie, but maybe without strong supporting evidence, they had to consider Robert had taken one Christmas drink too many, and hit his head in a fall.

  3. I am researching Daniel Stowell, Merchat Marine, drowned aboard the SS Dundalk in 1918 and wondered if he was buried in Duldalk please?
    Kind regards.

  4. Tom, I understand Daniel's body wasn't recovered when the ship was torpedoed. He was commemorated at the Tower Hill Memorial in London.


I look forward to reading your comments, even more especially if you're related to someone mentioned in this post.

Comments are visible publicly. You may also contact me privately by email - blackraven.genealogy [at] gmail [dot] com.