Monday, 17 March 2014

St Patricks Day ~ The Irish in Chesterfield

St Patrick’s Day ……..
Let’s meet up with some of the Irish living in Chesterfield past times .......

1876 map of Chesterfield showing Dog Kennels bottom left
Chesterfield had a large population of Irish immigrants, my ancestor’s included.  Many of the families lived in an area known as the “Dog Kennels”.  This was an area of terraced street's at the back of Low Pavement in the centre of Chesterfield.  The name, although apt for the area of slums was actually taken from its original use - as "subscription dog kennels".  The streets became home for many unsavoury characters, the crime rate was high and so when the poor Irish immigrants found themselves resident in Chesterfield the "dog Kennels" were probably the only houses that they could afford to rent.  Some lucky Irish however were scattered around the town, for example Irish shoemakers congregated on Glumangate at the other side of the town. 

Their homes were often over-crowded and several Irish families from the same area of Ireland would all live under one roof.  In 1851, if we took a walk down Saltergate we may have walked past number 133.  Within this house lived 11 inhabitants;

*James Callaghan and his wife Bridget; both aged 40 years old and born in Co Sligo.  James worked as a general labourer.

*John Dignan a 35 year old miner lodged at the house with his wife Mary both also born in Co Sligo.  They had a 3 year old daughter named Mary; she was born in Co Roscommon. 

*James Kelly a 40 year old hawker and his wife Mary aged 33 years old.  James was from Co Sligo and Mary from Co Kildare.

*Matthew Marrison a 27 year old miner, James King aged 28 years old, Peter Mahan aged 26 years old and Mary Mahan aged 28 years old all also originated from Co Sligo.

The Irish were often in the local newspapers for their rowdy antics; most often for drunkenness and fighting.  The fighting was not unique to the Irish men though; the 2nd November 1861 issue of the Derbyshire Times tells of the trial of Cicely Granger and Winney Varney.  Cicely and Winney had been harbouring ill feelings towards each other for a while.  They were neighbours; Cicely lived in Hollands Yard.  She was aged 44 years old and from Tuam, Co Galway.  Cicely is recorded on the 1861 census as Cecilia; she was married to William Granger.

It appears that on the day in question Cicely had called on Winney and challenged her to a fight.  Winney had on her person a large sand hammer, which she had hidden from Cicely under her apron.  On receiving the challenge to fight she struck Cicely on the head and caused her serious injury.  There were many witnesses to the incident, telling how Winney had been drinking earlier.  In conclusion of the trial the magistrate was left unable to decide which of the two “ladies” was the worst and duly dismissed the case.

This was not the end of the argument however, as family loyalties were high, Mary Granger the daughter of Cicely caught up with Winney a few days later.  This once more resulted in a row, which led to a fight between the two ladies.  Once more the magistrate dismissed the case.

Many of the Irish menfolk worked at the coal mines around the Chesterfield area.  The train taking the miners to work was nick named the “Paddy Mall” and would transport the men to and from the mines for a small fee which was paid on a fortnightly basis.  Often the men were found to have been travelling without a ticket.  Various excuses would be given and promises of better behaviour next time.  The Irish miners were said to have been more likely to spend their hard earned wages on beer and gambling than a train ticket (well this is what I have been told in relation to my 3 x Great Grandfather anyway!). 

In November 1894 the body of an Irish labourer named John Hannan was found drowned in the Chesterfield Canal.  John was last seen when he left his home in Shakespears Yard to board the “mall” which left from “the wooden bridge about 100 yards from the station”.  It went to Staveley Town, where John worked for Messrs. Logan and Hemmingway on the steam navvy.  When John did not come home that evening his brother Patrick went around all the public houses to find him.  He continued his search until 10.30pm on Wednesday night.  On Saturday after hearing nothing from John he returned to the canal and found his body.  A letter was found on John’s person, which was from a relative in Russeltown thanking him for money he has sent them.  He also had a knife, pocket book, beads, cross and a few other small articles in his pockets.

CWGC Grave of Patrick Tighe

Patrick Tighe the son of Irish immigrants Thomas and Ellen Tighe served with the Notts and Derbyshire Regiment during WW1.  He was a Sergeant number 241290 and then served with the Labour Corps number 403169.  Patrick lost his life on 14th July 1919 aged 32 years old; he is buried in Spital Cemetery.  He was awarded the British and Victory Medals for his sacrifice. Patrick was born in Chesterfield but his parents were from Ireland; Ellen born Glenamaddy, Co Galway.  Patrick worked as a railway platelayer prior to WW1.  Patrick had an elder brother named Lawrence, he died on 30th April 1916 at home in Chesterfield.  Lawrence was also serving with the Notts and Derbyshire Regiment.  He was awarded the Victory, British and 15 Star for his sacrifice. He to is buried in Spital Cemetery.

As for Patrick and Lawrence Tighe;  the Roman Catholic Irish who took their final breaths in Chesterfield Town would probably have been laid to rest in Spital Cemetery.  A large area of the graveyard is allocated to those of the Roman Catholic faith.  The grave plots vary from a few elaborate tombstones to numerous simple patches of grass with no indication of who may lay underneath.  These unmarked graves were known as common graves, I have found up to five persons sharing the same grave plot.  Each burial was dug at differing depths, a body buried, the grave covered.  The adjacent plot would then receive the next body.  Once the area had been fully utilised then the process would start again, digging a shallower grave over an already occupied grave plot. 

Plot 1210 was used for three burials –

*Bridget Callaghan aged 70 years old who was buried on 3rd August 1864

*Ann Hannan aged 54 years old who was buried on 20th July 1899

*Arthur Frederick Forse aged 67 years old who was buried on 13th December 1937.

Murphy family grave, Spital Cemetery, Chesterfield

One of the few elaborate tombs in this section belongs to the Murphy family.  This Irish family had rose to the higher levels of society in Chesterfield.  There are four members of the Murphy family mentioned on the memorial; Peter Murphy died 23rd August 1911 at Bundoran, County Donegal, Ireland, Katherine his daughter died 23rd February 1906, Thomas died St Patrick’s Day 1924 and William J.P died 9th September 1922.

Looking at the census returns I found that Peter Murphy was the father of Katherine, Thomas and William.  All three children were born in Chesterfield, but Peter was born in County Down, Ireland around 1828.

Derbyshire Times - 27th September 1873

Peter Murphy and his family lived at Gladstone House on Gladstone Road in Chesterfield.  Peter ran a very successful business in Chesterfield as a draper having a retail outlet at The Old Beehive, Burlington Street.  In May 1874 Peter must have set tongues wagging when he tried to sue the Rev W G Minor, curate of Chesterfield Parish Church.  Peter claimed that the Rev owed him 12s for the purchase of a new vest and repairs to a coat he had carried out.

The Rev Minor argued that the vest was so poorly made it required being taken apart and reassembling by another tailor, which had cost a further 4s.  Rev Minor asked for an adjournment of the case to summon his witness, which was granted by the magistrate.  It is not known whether Peter ever got his money from the Rev, but I would guess not.  What would Peter Murphy a Roman Catholic's opinion have been on the Church Of England Curate I wonder?

Peter married Miss Charlotte Irwin at the Roman Catholic Church on 14th November 1869.  On his death he bequeathed £8,208 0s 10d to his two draper sons William and Thomas Murphy.

Epitaph - William & Thomas Murphy
Thomas Murphy had retired to the Woodleigh Tower Hotel, Bournemouth.  He died there on 17th March 1924; St Patricks Day aged 60 years old.  His will show’s that Thomas had accrued a remarkable sum of money; £102, 952 16s 2d.  Not forgetting his home town of Chesterfield, Thomas bequeathed the grand sum of £10,000 to Chesterfield Royal Hospital in his will.  The money was to be spent on a new ward to be named “Murphy Ward”.  The ward was to have “all necessary provision for staff and other accommodation”. 

Murphy Ward still exists at Chesterfield Royal Hospital; to which we can thank Irish immigration into Chesterfield.   On this St Patricks Day we should remember our Irish ancestors and the hardships they endured to make a life for themselves all around the world, if they hadn’t then I for one would not be here to tell their story.