Next in line, was Agnes, second youngest of William and Sarah. We have a bit more detail on her life because of the memoirs, each retelling her story in its own way. Fun for the family but a pain for anyone who is trying to get the facts straight! From the start, we get a sense of the type of character Agnes was. Bright, adventurous, courageous and disciplined. The same character that would get her through the life she would lead with Alex, her husband.
It goes without saying that like any father, William wanted the best for his girls and supported them in their pursuit of happiness. As we have seen earlier, William was an athletic and competitive person himself. He encouraged his daughters to be the same though a few of the girls had more of their mother’s temperament and preferred an early marriage to rambling around the world. Sophie the youngest, went over to Europe with Agnes but wanted to come immediately back apparently homesick.
All the McDowell children were educated by the good Reverend John Holmes at the Presbyterian Manse in Tipperary Town. Some of the children came in the new horseless carriage, but many came in horse and cart. The McDowells rode in a donkey cart the long 5 miles in the warmer seasons and boarded during the winter. Agnes became good friends with Emma Holmes, the Reverend’s daughter whom she later travelled to Europe with.
At that time, women were not allowed to enter university but could obtain a “Certificate of Fitness to Teach”. Agnes wrote the university entrance exam and passed which of course made her father proud. For this, she received an engraved watch with her initials on it from Reverend Holmes and was then sent to finishing school in Dublin where Alex Fraser commenced courting her.
Agnes then took up a position as governess in County Armagh to a widower’s two daughters. She was very well liked by the family and eventually was proposed to by her employer but she wasn’t ready to settle just yet. She asked William to send her to Germany to study the language He set her up with a German employer in Friedrichsdorf. This was an idyllic time for Agnes and she spoke to her children and grandchildren about it often.
Eventually, Agnes decided to become engaged to Alex Fraser who was some 10 years her senior. This decision made, she headed for home where Alex was waiting on the dock for her. By this time, he had won the position of Master of the South Dublin Workhouse, having started out working in the Storehouse. As a young man, Alex became involved in a court case against the supplier of milk to the workhouse who was selling them “adulterated (diluted) milk”. From “The Analyst” dated January 13, 1881.
“In the Southern Divisional Police Court, Dublin, James Grennan has appeared at the suit of the Guardians of the South Dublin Union, who alleged that he sold and delivered milk at the Workhouse which was adulterated with 20% of water. It appeared that the defendant was one of the contractors for the supply of milk to the Workhouse and Alexander Frazer, store-keeper of the Workhouse, demanded one gallon of the forty-five gallons that was being delivered one morning at the Union. This he had analyzed by Dr. Cameron who certified to 20% of added water. For the defense, it was stated that the contract had been from the beginning executed by a dairy keeper named Collins who had failed in getting the contract from the Guardians. Collins received all the money paid by the Guardians. It was also urged that inasmuch as Frazer did not pay for the milk, he had not complied with the act of parliament. The magistrate held that the Act had been complied with and fined the defendant 10£ with 2 guineas court costs and refused to state a case.”
One could certainly take this as an illustration of not only Alex’s character but his determination to rise to a position of some control, perhaps where he could do the most good.
In 1885, Agnes and Alex were married by the Reverend Holmes and commenced life at Garden Hill, the house attached to the grounds of the South Dublin Workhouse. Their life together would begin.