Sunday 8 September 2019

James Tucker ~ a bad husband

I can't believe James Tucker! He was a first cousin of my great-grandfather, Patrick Wynne. All my first cousins are kind, decent people and I expected the same of my 'past' cousins. But, James Tucker, my first cousin, three times removed, doesn't quite fit the bill.

James was born on 21 July 1862, the fourth child and third son of James Tucker and Patrick Wynne's maternal aunt, Catherine Hynes. At the time, the Tuckers and my Wynne family shared a home at 104 Thomas Street, Dublin city. James grew up to be a brushmaker, like his father, like his brothers and like most of the Wynne boys. They were a close-knit family.

James Tucker was a civic-minded man. In 1887, along with his brothers Thomas and Joseph, he joined the Arran Quay branch of the Irish National League, and campaigned for political franchise and self-government in Ireland. He was also an active member of the United Society of Brushmakers, and represented the trade union in their disputes. It was inside closed doors the difficulties arose.

On 12 February 1888, James married Ellen Dorrington, née Bolger, a widowed shopkeeper, with an address at Upper Bridge Street, Dublin. The couple made 22 Upper Bridge Street their home and began a family. They had five surviving children:- Edward was born in 1889, Mary in 1891, Catherine in 1896, Annie in 1898 and Eileen in 1902. 

And, as might have been expected for this period in Irish history, they lost a number of children along the way. Their baby son James died of renal failure in 1894 when he was a year old, their son John died of measles in 1897, aged two years, and in 1900, their seven-month-old daughter Louisa died from convulsions. All in all, life seemed tragically normal for a family of the era.

Except, James Tucker was a bad husband!

Source: Evening Herald, 19 August, 1899 p. 4

Can you believe that? Nasty or what! It's too sad!

I suspect James Tucker may have been an alcoholic, and a mean drunk to boot. Alcoholism was perhaps a disease shared by other members of my Hynes family. There are some indications James' aunt Bridget, my great-great-grandmother, may also have suffered from this condition.

James spent much of the next decade of his life in and out of prison, and not just for assaulting his poor wife. He committed some pretty shameful crimes.

Further incarcerations:
  • In March 1902, for another assault on Ellen Tucker, he spent 14 days in Mountjoy Prison, before being bailed and discharged. 
  • In June 1904, he was committed to Kilmainham Gaol for a month, for 'having carnal knowledge of Lizzie Tracey, a woman aged 18 years.' 
  • In August 1904, he'd only just been released from Kilmainham, when he was charged with a crime of indecent assault, and sentenced to serve six months hard labour, in Mountjoy. 
  • In October 1906, he served seven days in Mountjoy for using 'profane and obscene language'. 
  • In July 1908, he was sentenced to two months in Kilmainham, for again assaulting his wife, but his sentence was commuted to one month. 

    Life must have been tough on the family, without their main breadwinner, during James Tucker's many stints in jail. Perhaps for poor Ellen, his periodic incarceration was a mixed blessing. It might explain why Ellen was working, outside the home, as a brush manufacturer, when the 1911 census was enumerated. It's not clear where James was at this time, although the Dublin electoral rolls place him at their home address in 1910 and 1912. Perhaps he was locked up somewhere.

    Physical description:
    The prison registers do provide a very good physical description of James Tucker. He was marginally over 5 foot, 4 inches tall, and of slim build, averaging between 129 and 140 pounds. He had brown hair, blue-grey eyes, a sharp nose and a fresh complexion, with a cut mark on his forehead.

    James Tucker got cancer of the rectum and died in the Mater Hospital in Dublin, on 8 June 1921. He was buried in Glasnevin Cemetery, Dublin. Ellen survived him by twenty-eight years.

    Sources available.


    1. It's a shock to find stories like this regarding our ancestors. I found a similar one regarding my great great grandfather.
      Ellen sounds like a very strong woman.

    2. Thanks Leslie, I agree Ellen must have been a very determined lady, doing whatever it took to raise their family, and strong enough to call the police and have her dreadful circumstances published in the national newspapers.

    3. Bad husband seems an understatement! Like you I naturally assume my relatives were good people so it's a shock when the truth turns out otherwise.


    I'd love to hear your thoughts on this!