Lá fhéile Pádraig sona duit

Happy St. Patrick’s Day to all my followers and anyone reading this!

Remembering my Irish ancestors, among whom were :

William McDowell my 2nd great grandfather, born in County Down, 1821 died in Tipperary 1901.

George Holmes Phillips my great grandfather, birth place unknown, died in Roscrea 1896.

Elizabeth McDowell Phillips, my great grandmother, born in Alnwick, Northumberland, England in 1855, died in Tipperary in 1896.

Richard Walker Phillips, my grandfather, born in Tipperary, 1890, died St. Rose, Manitoba, Canada in 1964

If you are interested in reading about the life and times of William, who made his fortune working for Lord Stanley you can find it here.

William McDowell c. 1885

William McDowell , Tipperary, Ireland

 

Whither Thou Goest . . .

In 1906 my grandfather, Richard Walker Phillips, was granted a land patent in the tiny hamlet of Magnet, Manitoba, Canada. The town was surrounded by 3 lakes; Lake Dauphin to the west, Lake Winnipegosis to the north and Lake Manitoba to the east, as you will see below.

Magnet, Manitoba Location

When it was first settled in the 1880’s, it was primarily inhabited by Ojibway and Cree people who proved to be of invaluable help to the early settlers. In fact, I have often thought on how the line was blurred between my mother’s upbringing and that of a native child. Of course, a certain social divide was maintained but growing up on the land was something they all had in common. One of my aunts just recently told me that she used to gather seneca root (snakeroot) to sell when she was a child. Seneca was used initially for snake bite but was later used as part of medicinal formulas to treat bronchitis. During the depression it was gathered to provide income for the farmers.

To obtain a land grant you first had to register and meet the requirements of the “Dominion Land Act“. That stipulated that you must clear 10 acres within 3 years or lose the land. Since Richard was working on a farm in Portage la Prairie in 1911, I assume he found time to clear the land in Magnet while he was working there. By 1915, he and my grandmother, Jane Gartshore Smith, were living in Wellwood, Manitoba and were married at the Methodist Church in Neepawa.  By this time, Sophie Phillips, Richard’s sister, had come to the area and married Richard Mason. Now, you had George, Sophie and Richard all living in the same area.

Sophie Phillips Mason and family

Sophie Phillips Mason and family

By 1916, Richard and Jane had come by wagon to the homestead with their new baby, George Holmes, the third. I have seen a picture of the log house they built with laundry hanging on the line outside of it.  Whatever, my grandmother felt about the new life she had signed up for, she apparently was not lowering the standards she had learned in Glasgow. Her house never did fall into that state of country homeliness that I found in so many of my friends homes. Rather, it had a somewhat spartan air about it, comfortable but everything in it’s place. Of course, I only knew her when she was in her 70’s, what her house was like when she had 7 children running around I don’t know. Somehow I don’t see it being too different. Later in life, she acquired some lovely furniture, but kept it all tucked away in her tiny front room. No one could enter unless it was time for Don Messer’s Jubilee or the Tommy Hunter show.

There are a few things to think about here. One is how one makes it in these circumstances, not just physically but mentally. I have moved many times in my life and each time was full of expectation and hope for the future. AND a leaving behind of the problems that got you moving in the first place. So it goes that the hardship in setting up a new place is an adventure and a fresh experience. Leaving a life of service and the grime of an industrial city for the fresh air and freedom of a new land would be a great incentive for Jane. For my grandfather, Richard, the loss of both his parents and a beloved grandfather, would drive him and his siblings overseas.

But first, you had to worry about shelter, heat and water. My grandfather got the shelter built, they would probably have had a wood stove of some kind (with the accompanying threat of fire) and water hauled from the creek . There was still a leg-hold trap under the sink when I visited as a teen-ager which my crawling brother almost got into.  For food, everything was there, if you wanted to go and get it. There was fish in the lakes, deer and moose to be hunted, and berries to be picked in spring.

I cannot be sure if my grandmother’s cooking was the same when she was older as before but we had some pretty plain food. She always gave a farm breakfast, eggs, porridge, toast and tea. But you were likely to get crabapple preserves with cream for lunch, including the stem and all (with a few cloves thrown in for good measure). At night you might have a meal of “mince”, which was basically simmered ground beef thickened with flour.  As a ravenous teen, I did not appreciate my mother carrying on this tradition! Jean would have had to cook for the men during harvest as well. Her later house in Ochre River, only had a tiny root cellar in it where her preserves were stored. At times it would fill with water if the sump pump failed.

Meeting Gramma Jean (I'm the baby)

Meeting Gramma Jean at 4 months

In 1916, Richard and Jane had the brother in law, George living with them. He spent most of the remainder of his life with them; though he had his own farm and when he wasn’t travelling back to Ireland or making trips to Winnipeg. He did meet a girl and marry once, but she wasn’t for that kind of life. The sister, Sophie took up residence on a neighboring farm. She had taken up nursing when she was young and delivered some of her nephews and nieces. When her husband died, she even ended up marrying a man from a neighboring farm. So, by this time they were surrounded by the people they would know for the rest of their lives.

By 1921, Dick and Jean were living on a different section of land with the 3 oldest children. Sometime around this period, a little girl was born who lived to be 4 years old (this told to me by my grandmother). I don’t know how she died and I have no certain record of her. Diphtheria was rife at that time and many families lost children to it.

George, Heather and Sheila Phillips c.1836

George, Heather and Sheila Phillips c.1936

At times like those, the community banded around each other. That is part of how you survived out there. They created there own social times, played hockey (even if a few eyes got knocked out) , had a women’s committee, which my Aunt Sophie belonged to and seasonal dances, played baseball in the summer when they weren’t swimming in the lakes. When my grandfather finally built a house, he had help from the neighbours. When it burned down, taking all my grandmother’s memories and money she was saving for a trip home, they helped him put another one back up. Later on, Dick and George would buy and sell cattle and horses, an activity they would have known something about since some of their Irish relatives did the same. In 1918, Dick belonged to the Orange Lodge in Wellwood.

Lodge-membership-R.W.

 

 

Uncle George St. Rose

George Phillips (dark suit on the right) at a Cattle Auction

In that environment, everything was new. The train line didn’t come into Magnet until 1924 and on that day there would have been great celebration, after all the work it took to clear the land and make way for it. It was 1921 when a pay phone was installed in the local store but it would be 1959 before home phones could be installed and 1996 before private lines were installed. I actually remember living in Dauphin, the nearest main centre in 1968 and finding out that other people were listening into my teen conversations!

Mail was of course delivered by horse and buggy in summer and sleigh in winter. Eventually post-offices were set up in private homes with the owners making bids for the privilege but eventually, in 1970, the mail was moved to the post office in Rorketon a near by town and you had to pick it up there. I remember my grandmother actually getting dressed up to walk down to the post office after she moved to Ochre River, another small town. It was only a block away but it was an outing for her. She was “going into town”. There she would meet and have a small conversation with the post mistress and meet her other neighbours. They always called her “Mrs. Phillips”.

Jane Smith Phillips c.1942

Jane Smith Phillips c.1942

My grandmother’s last pregnancy, with my mom, was a difficult one. She was 46 and the years had taken some toll on her health. My mother was the first child to be born in hospital ( if you want to call it that, it was part of the doctor’s house). My grandmother started to hemorrhage and it was a close call for both of them. I think that is one reason my grand mother called her Sheila JOY Richard Phillips. She was probably so glad to just get through it. Here is a pic of the darling little girl.

Sheila kitten 1942 c.r.

Sheila Phillips c. 1940

The horse below, Jessie, was the horse that my mother and her siblings rode to school. I say rode but Jessie (so named after Gramma’s oldest sister) knew the way back and forth. She would walk home by herself and come and get Mom when school was over. Mom rode her bareback. Mom never was afraid of horses, unlike her daughter!

Jessie and Mae Rev 2014

Jessie and Mae                      Sheila’s School Horses

 

Richard and Sheila c.1943

Richard and Sheila c.1943

Magnet School c.1942

Magnet School c.1942, Sheila top left

Magnet School c. 1945

Magnet School c. 1945   Sheila 3rd back right

By 1957, Dick and Jean had retired to Ochre River, Manitoba. I don’t know why they picked Ochre River, but there seemed to be many families of British extraction there. My grandfather bought half of an airport hotel (re-purposing buildings was a major activity there) and they set up house on a very pretty piece of property which sat on the highway going into Dauphin. There was a small river over to the side of it, called Ochre because the rock under it had that colour. That little river still wreaks havoc in the spring if it gets plugged with ice. In the late 60’s they were still pumping water and using the outhouse.

Richard, George and Jean Phillips c.1960

Richard, George and Jean Phillips c.1960

In Ochre River, they made many friends and lived out the rest of their lives. Family came and went including myself.  I remember sitting on the floor beside my grandmother as she sat knitting. I knew I would probably never get another chance to ask what it was like. She did not like talking about the past.
She said  ” Londa, the wind blew and the wolves were throwing themselves at the door. Your grandfather was away and I had to go out to see to the animals.”
“What about the kids? I asked her.
Well, there were 6 of them and I left them with the oldest.”
The oldest boy, George who had to help deliver one of her babies.
“But what about the wolves?”
“I just opened up the ” blammed” door and shot at them!”
There were always two guns in the house, one above the door and one standing in the corner.

In 1967, my grandmother was awarded a Pioneer Certificate of Recognition for her contributions to the settler community.

Pioneer Award for Jane Richard had passed away in 1964 at age 74. She joined him in 1975 at age 88. Until then, she lived in the little house by the river. This is one of my favorite photos of her, though poorly taken. It is Jane as I knew her.

Jane in front yard c.r.

This is my grandfather, Richard Phillips as I knew him.

Richard Phillips

They are both buried with old Uncle George in the Magnet Cemetery.

Headstone, Jane Phillips, Magnet, MB 2007

Headstone, Richard Phillips, Magnet, MB. 2007 Headstone, George Phillips, Magnet, MB. 2007

Who Are These People?

Aside

One has to wonder who some of the people that collected census information were. That is the case with many records online and off. As I come nearer to writing about my maternal grandparents lives in Canada, I am once again looking at the various records available for them. Two of the census records for my grandfather are ridiculously incorrect, not to mention the handwriting alone. I mean, how hard is it to add an s onto the end of a name? Were they hard of hearing? Also, the transcribers; one wonders how much effort they actually put into reading a document. When does ” —-ger”  turn into “son”? Thankfully ancestry.ca lets you correct the index supplied with the image ( or rather, add alternative information). It may be a little more difficult with other websites.

But what if you are looking at the actual document? These things can throw you off the trail. My grandfather’s death certificate is a blithering mess! They have his name as Richard Walter instead of Walker. His birth date is wrong. There is no known birthplace in Ireland for both the parents. Thank you very much Uncle George! It’s hard to believe that he would mistake his brother’s second name. So you have a combination of clerical error and the unknown. But Uncle George went back to his home in Ireland he knew where it was. One has to make allowances for trying times.  That is why you need more than one source of information.

So, my grandfather who was a LODGER at a farm became the SON of the farmer and who knew where he came from because it was all blotted out when the writer tried to overwrite his mistake. His birthplace was transcribed as England not Ireland. That was the 1911 Canadian census. In the 1916 Prairie census, George is spelled Gorege, Anglican is spelled Anghica! Those are straight forward mistakes to correct and the fact that they are transcribed on ancestry is a bonus. But if they are wrongly transcribed that is a problem. I have other records which help but many other people might not.

That being said, the census records are wonderful because they tell you so many things which I will not go into here. There is an almost psychological effect created. For example, why did my grandfather say he came over in 1905 on the 1916 and 1921 census when it was 1907 (He says on the passenger list he had not been across before). His older brother George, whom he was very close  to, came in 1905. One wonders if he thought it would be better to say they came over in the same year for some reason. My grandmother says she is the same age as him. She was in fact 3 years older. She says she came over in 1914 one time and 1915 the next. And that’s great because the closest passenger list I have for her is in 1911!

You get to see who their neighbors were. I read the names on the lines above and below and I hear the varying emotions in my mother’s voice as she talked about them, laughter, sarcasm, sadness and wistfulness as she looked back at her girlhood. You could take the girl out of the country but not the country out of the girl.

I think that one of the best ways to get on the path of your family is to get the actual birth, marriage and death certificates. That gives you something solid to start on. For the main part, family stories are just that, stories. They alter as they are passed on though there is always a thread of truth in them  What they told the law is another thing. Time to “fess up” as they say!

 

Victorian Workhouse Webinar

Aside

I have just attended a webinar from The National Archives in London entitled “Why Did the Victorians Fear the Workhouse”. The Presenter was Paul Carter the Principal Specialist in modern domestic records. He has a particular interest in poor law records.For this they use software called Blackboard Collaborator. Ear plugs are needed for the audio. You can see film of the presenter on the top left corner and a display board on the right with diagrams etc. On the bottom left there is a message box where you can ask questions. Paul was very approachable and knew his records. You are sent instructions before hand on how to connect to the webinar and it will be reposted on the website at the National Archives.

I wanted to know if Agnes, my great aunt, wife of Alex Fraser, Master of the South Dublin workhouse would have been compelled to be Matron since her husband was Master. It just didn’t seem possible that she could do that and raise a large family. Also, I hadn’t read anything in the memoirs about her actually working there, just some memories of having Christmas teas etc.

The answer was yes with the idea that she might be able to carry on if he died with the help of another man they would hire (This sounded like it was a common scenario). That didn’t happen in Agnes’s case, she apparently had to leave when Alex died. Whether we will ever find out why, I don’t know. BUT again another example of how amazing Agnes was. Matron of the workhouse, mother of 8 children, one of whom was lost in her last pregnancy, adoptive mother to her sister’s 3 children and hostess to an open house for all her family. And she lived to be 104 years old!

The webinar was brief but full of useful information, the diagrams giving us examples of what we might find in the records. This was related to English records but gave me an idea of where I might look in Ireland. The sure answer to my question would be to find the employment registers for the South Dublin Workhouse.

This was an interesting experience! Oh yes, I had to be ready by 8 a.m. because they started at 4 p.m. their time. That took a little figuring.

 

Current Events

Just a little aside to tell you what’s been going on. As in the previous post, I have been attempting to read Michael Prestwich’s, Edward 1. It has been slightly dry and definitely not as reader friendly as Marc Morris’s, A Great and Terrible King. Although I did feel that Marc’s book had a definite sympathetic bent towards Edward. Prestwich’s book is more a confusing reword of the facts of his reign as taken from the financial accounts of the time. This of course, is useful for citing your own research but so far, does little to flesh out the person of Edward himself in the way that Marc does.Again, let me caveat that with the fact that I am only partway into the book.

While there is no doubt that the facts are essential to proving the likelihood of a certain event taking place, it does take talent to bring that to the public. It is rather distracting to have numbers written all over the place when I am reading. Hopefully sometime in the near future they will find better ways to cite sources. That being said , I like it when the writer says that prior thoughts on a subject couldn’t have been correct because ……. and there is the fact.  We can never fully know what the motivations may have been behind someone’s actions unless we were there. History is always incomplete. We are a little more certain of the outcomes of their actions. Let me say this though, it is hard to even begin to imagine the world Edward was thrown into as a young man. The term “living large” would hardly describe it. Some were up to the task , like Edward, and some were not, like his father.” It is a pity that the closest most young men will get to this kind of history is in a video game. I would recommend Marc’s book as a good basic book that can hold your interest. When I am done with Prestwich’s book I will do some comparing. If my mind isn’t boggled by then.

In other news, I had put my Irish research to bed in order to get on with the Scottish side of the family and that is how I got into this thing with Edward. He was the scourge of the Scots and I became curious about all the claims against him. However, things suddenly started to crop up. First, I got an email by an offended second cousin who felt I had portrayed her in a bad light (which I have tried to rectify), then I got an email from a lady who has worked at Garden Hill for 20 years and suddenly came upon my post Life at Garden Hill. That was the home of my great aunt and uncle who ran the South Dublin workhouse. It was converted into offices. She wanted to know if I had more info and has colleagues writing about the St. James hospital which was built over it. The house will be torn down and replaced by a pediatric wing. Then just the other day, I got a long-awaited reply from William Healy, whose great grandfather was acquainted with the Phillips family (my mom’s family). He is trying to help me locate the graves of my great grandparents and is sending information on that. Mystery there is that everyone keeps saying that 3 brothers came to Canada instead of 2. I was told the first one died when he was young but I have not found a death record for him. That leads me onto another chase to see if either of these is true. It is all unexpected but exciting! I hadn’t thought of my posts as being permanently up there for people to read years after I wrote them. Lesson learned.

 

Bruce’s Choice

There is a tide in the affairs of men.
Which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune;
Omitted, all the voyage of their life
Is bound in shallows and in miseries . . . 

So wrote Shakespeare in his play Julius Caesar. He may  very well have been talking about Scotland’s heroes William Wallace and Robert Bruce. It is played out in the movie “Braveheart” when Wallace talks before the Battle of Sterling,  “. . .  Fight, and you may die. Run, and you’ll live; at least a while. And dying in your beds, many years from now, would you be willing to trade all the days from this day  till that, for one chance, just one chance, to come back here and tell our enemies that they may take our lives, but they will never take our freedom?”  Wallace was willing to pay the price of freedom but he was not in the position of Robert Bruce, the other lead contender with Balliol for Scotland’s throne.

There was another Scottish leader, the Caledonian, Calgacus who also gave a speech to his army before he fought the Roman general Agricola. It was recorded by Tacitus, Agricola’s son-in-law. Part of it reads, “We have neither fruitful plains, nor mines, nor harbours, for the working of which we may be spared. Valour, too, and high spirit in subjects, are offensive to rulers; besides, remoteness and seclusion, while they give safety, provoke suspicion. Since then you cannot hope for quarter, take courage, I beseech you, whether it be safety or renown that you hold most precious. Under a woman’s leadership the Brigantes were able to burn a colony, to storm a camp, and had not success ended in supineness, might have thrown off the yoke. Let us, then, a fresh and unconquered people, never likely to abuse our freedom, show forthwith at the very first onset what heroes Caledonia has in reserve. ”   Tacitus’s writing makes really interesting reading, allowing for a certain natural bias. Of course, it required translation, being written in Latin. You can find a good copy here.

Whether “the Bruce” was as weak and confused as portrayed in the movie is a matter of conjecture. He was born in July, 1274 to Robert Bruce, 6th Lord of Annandale and Marjorie, Countess of Carrick. The Bruce family (formerly de Brus) were a Norman family that came to Scotland with David 1. His grandfather, Robert was claimant to the throne of Scotland during the Great Cause. The Bruce family were long-time supporters of the English crown. When Edward awarded the crown to John Balliol, Robert joined Wallace in the Scottish revolt. He became a guardian of Scotland along with John Comyn but resigned a few years later because they did not get along. He then submitted to Edward “returning to the king’s peace”. During this time the family supported the English against Wallace and he was captured and executed.

But things started to change when Robert argued with John Comyn at Greyfriars Abbey and stabbed him. This was not a good thing, his father had died and he was in line for the throne. But now he was excommunicated by the Pope, a man more powerful than Kings themselves. The Bishop of Glasgow, Robert Wishart, another key player in this drama, saw the necessity of Bruce getting to the throne and had him absolved. Robert moved quickly and was crowned King of Scotland at Scone on 25 March, 1306.

He met Edward at the Battle of Methven and was defeated. While on the run, at Strathfillian, Bruce was ambushed by the McDougalls (often joined by their relatives, the McDowalls, my ancestors). They had been on his side until he murdered John Comyn who was a relative. He barely escaped and went into hiding in Ireland. The next spring, Edward marched north again and captured his wife, daughters and sisters as well as Isabella MacDuff who had crowned him. His sister Mary and Isabella were hung in cages for four years. His brother, Neill was executed .

Robert returned in 1307, having found his strength in guerilla warfare, and defeated the English at Carrick. He went on to gain control of almost all of Scotland. Then he advanced into northern England burning every stronghold as he went. He had sent his brother Edward to Ireland to gain them as allies, but they only gained support from Ulster and Donal O’Neill. Although Edward was crowned as King of Ireland, he was killed at the Battle of Faughart in Louth. The Irish just couldn’t see where there would be a difference between being ruled by the English or the Scots.

Edward I died on the trip north to defeat the Scots in 1307.  In 1314, his son Edward II, moved north to break the siege at Stirling Castle in Edinburgh. His army was considerably larger than Bruce’s. Again, opportunity presented itself which Bruce was quick to use. The geography of the land was such that it would allow him to bring the English army into a vise-like situation, in short they would have no room to manouevre. Potholes were dug into the road which would force the army to bunch up into this position. It took two days for Robert Bruce to win the Battle of Bannockburn.  Edward was actually undone by his own wife Isabella who along with her lover, Roger Mortimer, invaded England from France and  forced him to give up the throne of England to his son, Edward III. In 1328, Edward  finally recognized the right of Bruce to the throne of Scotland and recognized Scotland’s independence.

 

Fighting Without and Within

When the Romans left Scotland in the early 400’s, they left behind the remains of forts along Hadrian’s Wall, a system of roads and a series of buffer states they hoped would keep order in Britain. They had more pressing issues in Europe that would eventually lead to the decline and fall of a mighty empire.

The tale of Argyll on the west coast of Scotland, being invaded by Gaelic tribes from Ireland who then absorbed the Picts, has recently been challenged by archaeologists. There is no evidence on the ground of a struggle or of a different way of life than the one already there. It is now believed that Dal Riata (Dalriada), as the area was known, had a native population who spoke the same language (Gaelic) as their neighbors across the sea in Northern Ireland (some 12 miles away). The Romans used the term “Scotti” or “pirates”  to describe the Gaels in a derogatory way. They were known for harassing the Roman merchant ships along the coast. Around 563 A.D.,  the Irish monk, Columba followed and began to convert the Picts to Christianity.

Kingdom of Dal Riata  580-600 AD

Kingdom of Dal Riata 580-600 AD

During the Viking raids, in 839, the king of Dal Riata was slain and Kenneth Mac Alpin began his fight for the throne which he won in 847. Under Kenneth, the kingdoms of the Scots and Picts would unite and become known as Alba. During the late 900’s, many violent struggles for the throne began. One of these struggles was between Duncan I and Macbeth, one of his generals, familiar to us in Shakespeare’s play Macbeth.  In 1057, Macbeth was killed by Duncan’s son, Malcolm III. Malcolm allowed people in England who opposed the rule of William the Conqueror, the Norman king, to settle in Scotland. This he did under a system of feudalism whereby land was granted in exchange for things such as military service. After Malcolm’s death in 1093, the Scots continued to fight England for their freedom often becoming allies with France.

During the reign of Malcolm’s successor, Alexander III (1249-1286), there was a time of piece and prosperity for Scotland. He married Margaret, daughter of Henry III of England but refused to recognize Henry as overlord of Scotland. He then went to war against the Norwegian king Haaken to regain control of the Western Isles. Haaken died and the Treaty of Perth was signed with his successor, Magnus which granted him the Orkney and Shetland Islands. Scotland retained the Western Isles and the Isle of Man .  An agreement was also made with the MacDonald Clan who had fought with the Norwegians. They were able to keep their lands in the isles by recognizing Alexander as their overlord. From this they greatly profited and soon became “Lords of the Isles”, strong enough to remain independent of the monarchy to a great degree.

Alexander’s wife Margaret died along with the three children he had by her and this left him with only his granddaughter Margaret as heir. She was being raised in Norway with her paternal family. Alexander remarried in 1285 to Yolande de Dreux who belonged to a powerful French family. Tragically, on his way to meet her in Fife, he met with an accident which killed him. Yolande, apparently pregnant at the time, had a child who was stillborn. This left the throne to Margaret, the granddaughter. Tensions rose when many of the Scottish nobles, including Robert Bruce I, protested rule under a Norwegian queen.

Alexander III

     Alexander III

The Norwegians applied to Edward I for help in gaining the throne. Edward agreed to do this with the condition that Margaret would marry his son. To this the Scots would not agree.The problem was solved when the child Margaret died on her way from Norway to Scotland.

During this time period, we know two things about my family although further research would without doubt uncover more. One, the family of my great great grandfather, William McDowell, had its origins in Galloway, home of the Lords of Galloway. And two, that John Gartshore, ancestor of my maternal grandmother, was granted land by exgambion by Alexander II, father of the above, for land in Kirkintilloch, Scotland between the years 1211 and 1231.