Page 22 Mum’s family: Gibsons, Hanlons and Other Northern Irish Relatives

Gibsons, Browns and Other Northern Irish Relatives

Mum’s family come, largely, from the South Armagh area of Northern Ireland. For various reasons I cannot trace them back before the mid 19th century and it may be that I never will. Let me say thank you at the start to Robert Williamson in Dundonald, Colin LLoyd in Dublin and Gary Phillips in Chelmsford for their research and assistance on this side of the family. I also must thank Canon Michael Barton for his assistance with church records.

The first documented references are to Cullentra or Cullentrough. That is where a small farmer called George Gibson and his wife Mary  were living in the 1860s. George is included on Griffith’s Valuation Roll book which shows the rent he paid per year and a map shows us where his house was (well, one of three joined together). George paid rent to John Allen for a house and garden. They attended St Mary’s Church of Ireland at Drumbanagher and that is where the family were baptised, married and buried.

Unfortunately I do not know Mary’s maiden surname. George died on 11th November 1896 in Poyntzpass at the age of 85, giving a birth around 1811. Mary had died on 10th January 1892 at Tullynacross. Her year of birth was apparently around 1815. George was described as a labourer on the certificate, which was registered by his son Robert (who could not write). Both died of chronic bronchitis.

The electoral roll for 1885/86 elections lists inhabitants for Poyntzpass and George Gibson was the inhabitant occupier of a house at Tullynacross. George was not a voter as he did not pass the £10 qualification mark.

However, a newspaper account from September 1892 showed that he was now a voter.

The Newry Telegraph of September 10th 1892 contained information about potential voters with a barrister investigating their claims and objections made to them. George Gibson of Tullynacross claimed from one house to another in succession in the same townland. This was approved. Interestingly, the newspaper listed him as a Nationalist rather than a Unionist.

George and Mary had 4 children that I have located. These were John (born 1847 and died 24th March 1938), RobertWilliam and Mary Jane. I know from church records that William married Jane Browne who was a servant at Acton House on 1st August 1877. Unfortunately I can find nothing else on the couple. Perhaps they emigrated. I know that Mary Jane married a George Canning on 5th December 1884 at Acton Church. Again, I have not been able to learn more.

To make things easier for the reader I have used the next column for information on Robert Gibson and his descendants and this column for information on John Gibson and his descendants. I had colour coded individuals within each column as well. UNFORTUNATELY THE NEW WEBSITE DOES NOT SHOW COLOUR.

John Gibson’s family

George and Mary’s son John married Mary Jane Cochran or Cochrane or Coughran on 27th February 1863. The wedding certificate tells us the names of fathers but not mothers. Her father was a labourer named James Coughran from Ballydogherty in Loughgilly Parish. There are many Cochranes buried in the old churchyard there. Mary Jane was described as being of legal age but John as a minor. This is certainly compatible with him being born around 1847.

I was able to find the death certificates for Mary Jane’s parents, so we know that her mother Mary died of chronic bronchitis aged 60 on 31st March 1881 at Mount Norris. The William James Cochrane who registered her death was probably a brother to Mary Jane.

Why was this boy of 16 marrying an only slightly older woman? Perhaps she was pregnant but if so there is no record of a child being born. John was to outlive his wife, with Mary Jane dying in September 1899.  Eight children were recorded as born to them:

1. Sarah Jane Gibson, born 10th January 1864 Cullentrough, Mullaghglass

2. Jemima Gibson, born 1865 Cullentrough, Mullaghglass

3. George Gibson, born 14th August 1867 Cullentrough, Mullaghglass

4. Elizabeth Gibson, born  20th  April 1869 Cullentrough, Mullaghglass

5. Samuel Robert Gibson, born 4th May 1871 Drumbanagher, Poyntzpass (died 1927)

6. John Gibson**, born 17th February 1873 Drumbanagher, Poyntzpass (died 16th December 1946)

7. Mary Violet Gibson, born 16th May 1875 Drumbanagher, Poyntzpass

8. Anna Dora Gibson, born 23rd September 1877 Drumbanagher, Poyntzpass (died 12th September 1974)

John was a coachman, possibly at Drumbanagher House given that Colonel Maxwell Close’s family owned the property. Presumably he worked for Maxwell Close after the family moved house around 1869/71. He supplemented this income or replaced it with a role as sexton of the Church of Ireland. After his first wife died I believe John was left a reasonable sum of money, £175 which equates to £20,000 in 2016 money. I think that he used this money to buy some land; hence he became a farmer.

Drumbanagher House no longer exists, unfortunately.

He also supplemented his income by working as church sexton (this is how he was described when son johnny married in 1896).

John’s death certificate tells us that he died at the ripe old age of 96 on 24th March 1938 of senile decay. His second wife registered his death on 1st April. Presumably this was at his home at Drumbanagher, Poyntzpass. John was recorded as a farmer at this stage, though presumably he was no longer working on his own behalf.

John’s will was proved at Belfast in 1939. The image is not available on PRONI but apparently he left everything to Henry Reside. This amounted to £199. Why Mr Reside received everything I do not know. Perhaps Johnny was in debt to him and this was an attempt at repayment.This is equivalent to  £9364.85 in 2016 money, so it was not a large sum.

John Gibson remarried, his second wife being Sarah Whiteside. She was much younger than him and bore two daughters to him, Marion Susannah (1901-1977) and Florence Mabel (born 1903). Marion married a teacher name William John Hanlon and they in turn had a daughter called Vivienne Florence Hanlon. Florence Mabel Gibson married a Thomas Ayton and later a Joe Dempsey.

I am delighted to learn more about William John Hanlon and his wife. William served in the cavalry in WW1 and later in the Royal Tank Corps. My thanks to John Gallagher in Beverly, Yorkshire who tells me that William and Susannah lived at 27 Ebrington Gardens in Belfast from 1926. The house was built for them. William became principal of the Jaffa School where he was known as “Trooper Dan.”  When he died the house was left to daughter Vivienne and her husband Joseph James Gallagher, who had been a lodger with the family in the 1940s. The couple married in 1956.

Vivienne and Joseph had three children:

1. William James Gallagher, born 1958

2. John Gallagher, born 1963

3. Rory Gallagher, born 1968

Image below of William John Hanlon during WW2, when he served as a lieutenant in the Home Guard’s Anti-Aircraft defences. My thanks to John Gallagher for this.

Vivienne recalled to her sons that her father kept a bren gun under the bed  and he taught her how to strip it iand refit it in the dark! 

Image below of Florence Hanlon at her wedding to Joseph Gallagher. Thanks to John Gallagher for this:


​The Newry Reporter of 2nd March 1907 carried a report of a planning appeal by one of the John Gibsons to build a house on the ground of Robert Whiteside at Drumbanagher, William McEwan at Killybodagh or Thomas Agnew at Killybodagh. He said that he “had no house at present. He had a wife and three children. He wanted a good house.”  John also said he would work for anyone for 7 shillings a week and his food. This implies that he was not the sexton. When the council discussed the issue it seemed that there were actually vacant houses in the area, with John claiming Thomas Agnew would not let him have one [this begs the question of why John wanted to build a house on his land]. John said he would pay 1 shilling a week rent for a house and half acre or 1 shilling sixpence for house and one acre.

​John’s application was rejected.

The two Johns Gibson were paying rates in the 1920s, as shown on the Rate Valuation Books held at PRONI:  VAL/12/B/15/10A (1924 – 1929). One was listed at Drumbanagher, the other at Killybodagh.

John’s second wife Sarah Jane Gibson died in August 1943. The Newsletter carried a death notice for her on 15th August 1941. These were printed on the front page. I wonder if this was to communicate with family members who had dispersed, eg to those now living in Belfast.

I have a lot of information on some of John Gibson’s children but almost nothing on others.

Jemima moved to Rathdrum Parish in County Wicklow and was working at the vicarage there when she married a Dubliner named William Smith. William was a gardener. They married on 25th October 1887. Jemima must have become pregnant almost immediately (or it may have been a premature birth) as she had a baby girl on 28th July next year. This daughter was named Florence Violet Geraldine Smith.

The vicarage at Rathdrum, own photo:

Their next child was Sylvia Eveline Smith who was born on 27th December 1891. William  described himself as a coachman when he registered the birth. They had a son named Ernest Victor George Louis Smith on 17th August 1897 with William again saying he was a coachman.

By the time of the 1901 census he was a gardener and the family home was of stone or brick with a slate or tile roof. There were 5 rooms and one window at the front. This was house No 7 in Newcastle Upper (Newcastle Lower, Wicklow). The two girls were attending school.

In 1911 they were living at River Terrace, Bray. William was still working as a gardener and the girls were dressmakers. Ernest was at school. All the family could read and write. This house had 4 rooms.

Florence married from Waterside Cottage, Dargle Rd, Bray on 24th April 1916. Her husband was John Clarke Graham, a hardware merchant of Main Street in Roscrea. Sister Sylvia witnessed the marriage. Sylvia was a victim of influenza towards the end of WW1. Florence died of leukaemia on 22nd September 1939 in hospital. She was a widow by this stage, her home address being 80 Leinster Road, Rathmines. 

A population weakened by rationing was susceptible to this virulent illness which was to claim millions of lives. She died on 16th October 1918 at her home address.

Ernest served in the Royal Navy during WW1. He joined the navy on 16th July 1914 and served in the navy until October 1921, working his way up from “boy” to “able bodied seaman.” He seems to have served on a variety of ships but from December 1915 until the end of the war he served on HMS Attentive II. Earlier he had served on HMS Lion from Feb 1915 until until the end of November 1917. 

The description given says he was 5 ft 6 ins tall, had a 34 inch chest, dark brown hair and brown eyes. He had a fresh complexion. Ernest had been working as a clerk before enlistment. Ernest was invalided at Plymouth in September 1921 because of epilepsy. Presumably this is why he was discharged. His service number was J32156. FOLD 3 apparently has papers relating to him for a price. 

Ernest was faced with difficulties on returning to civilian life: Ireland had just come through a bitter civil war and as an ex-serviceman he may have faced some hostility, though he had grown up around Rathdrum which had been home to the moderate Nationalist leader Charles Stewart Parnell. More of an issue, perhaps, was his medical state: Ernest may have struggled to retain his old job or find a new one and although he was likely to have received a pension this would not be enough to sustain him. 

The question became academic, however, as poor Ernest died of TB of the spine on 23rd June 1923 at his parents’ home of 113 Main Street, Bray. His father registered the sad event. 

Mother Jemima seems to have died at Grangegorman Mental Asylum in April 1945.

Son George was doubtless named after his grandfather and was born on 14th August 1867, again at Cullentrough in Mullaghglass. The record number is U/1867/189/1023/2/408. George started Drumbanagher National School on 8th October 1877, a week after his brothers for some reason. He spent 188 days in Class 2, 169 in Class 3 and 175 days in Class 4. I have found no more about him.

Samuel Robert: see bottom right section

Emma Mary Violet Coe moved to England and married Alfred Frederick Coe in Tonbridge, Kent, early in 1925. He was 5 ft 6 ins tall and had brown hair and brown eyes. He served in the navy in 1916 on HMS President II and then seems to have transferred to the RAF on 31st March 1918.

Mary Violet married an older man named Robert Clifford who was a police constable. Robert went on to become a superintendent. Find My Past has some information on his police career. He had joined in December 1880 at the age of 18 and was posted to County Fermanagh. They married in September 1899 in Co Monaghan, probably in the Castleblayney area as that is where they lived on the 1901 and 1911 censuses. Home was the Alms Houses in Connsbury. Robert had 2 children to his first wife Sarah-  William James Clifford (born in 1895) and Mary Ann Elizabeth Clifford (born in 1898); Mary Violet and Robert had a daughter of their own, Violet, who was born in 1900.

I know that Robert held a medal from the Royal Society for the Protection of Life from Fire and that he died in May 1915 at the age of 53.

Below: the Cliffords on the 1911 census.

William Clifford joined the army but I have not been able to find out which branch or regiment. He died aged only 25, on 1st May 1921. This was a very dangerous time for young men in Ireland, including those with connections to the police and army even if they were now in the past. Having been able to view his death certificate (Dec 2017) it shows that his death was not Troubles related after all. William was described as a “chemist and ex-soldier” on the certificate, which said he had died after suffering peritonitis for 9 days.

Anna Dora Gibson attended Drumbanagher National School, which she left in June 1892. She left Ireland and married a man named Robert Fawcett in Clampton in Lancashire. This was on 30th March 1902. The previous year’s census saw her living at 5 Christchurch Rd, Birkenhead. She was a general domestic assistant. Robert was a railway platelayer. The 1911 census and information from Gary Phillips in Chelmsford has given detail to their family.

They were to have many children. Anna’s eldest child was Thomas, who apparently had been born in Co Armagh in 1898. As a woman born in Ireland, Anna was eligible to sign the female form of the Solemn League and Covenant which opposed Home Rule for Ireland. Her name is not found on the record, however.

The picture below, from Gary Phillips, shows Anna Dora in later life.

The picture below shows the Fawcetts on the 1911 census:

Young Tom applied to join the army when WW1 broke out. He was rejected on medical grounds in May 1915 but Gary Phillips has told me that Tom actually then went to a different recruitment office and was accepted into the Royal Field Artillery, where he became a driver (service no 677018). My thanks to Gary for the photo below of him in uniform:

The letter below shows the recommendation to discharge Tom Fawcett on medical grounds (from Ancestry).

Tom was a dairyman in the city of Liverpool before the war and because he was familiar with working with horses he had an aptitude as a driver in the Royal Field Artillery. While on leave during the war Tom met a young woman named Florence who lived near Chelmsford. After the war he married her and settled to work on a farm near Chelmsford. Their descendants still live in the area today.

Anna and her husband remained in Liverpool and were still living at 44 Exley St in Liverpool when WW2 broke out as they are shown there on the 1939 register. This was a register taken in order to help the government plan for the coming war and was used for organising ration books. The information is available on Find My Past but is rather expensive and information on people who would still be under 100 years of age today is redacted unless proof can be given that someone is dead. Nonetheless it is a very useful resource (the Scottish government has no plans to release the Scottish records and the Northern Irish government has none but information is available in response to a Freedom Of Information request. I have tried this and had no response for my mother’s family).

Dora Josephine was born in West Derby, Liverpool on 17th May 1903. Ancestry indicates that she married a man named Hughes and died in February 1996 in Liverpool.This has been confirmed to me by Gary Phillips (verbal, November 2016). She was known as Dot.

Florence was Florence Mary Fawcett, born 24th August 1907 and who died in August 1995 at Wallasey, Merseyside.

Richard John was only 6 months old when the 1911 census was taken. Richard died in 2010.

I am still adding to this page!

In the meantime, if you are related to the Gibsons or Hanlons of Drumbanagher Acton Poyntzpass Demoan Aghantaraghan or the Browns and Smiths of Bessbrook in Co Armagh and the Browns of the Lower Newtownards Road in Belfast or McLoughlins of Mullaghglass please do get in touch!

Local newspapers can add a lot of flavour to family tree information. Find My Past has access to the British Newspaper Library resources and I am endebted to it for snippets added on this page. The Newry Reporter is available- for a limited number of years, unfortunately- and adds information about church and school events. Even accounts of funerals are of use to genealogists, eg the funeral reported on 29th February 1908 of Mrs McMurray listed mourners. Among those present were Robert Gibson, Thomas Mooney, Arthur Moody, John Gibson, Robert Gibson junior.

The funeral of Sarah McComb was reported on 28th December 1908. She was a neighbour, presumably, of some of our relatives. What is important to us is that the newspaper gave a list of mourners.

Named are William Hanlon, Edward Hanlon, John Hanlon, John Gibson, John Gibson jun. 

Loughgilly Parish Church, Co Armagh (own photo)

Below: the view south from St Mary’s Church of Ireland at Drumbanagher:

Family of Robert Gibson

George Gibson’s son Robert married Mary Jane Cairns on 2nd April 1868 at Acton Church of Ireland. At the time he was living at Corcrum and she lived at Ballinaleck. He was a weaver.

They had 6 children that I have found using births, deaths and marriages.

1. George Alexander Gibson, born 11 January 1869 at  Rathconville, Newry

2. William John Gibson, born 8th October 1872 at Rathconville, Newry

3. Mary Jane Gibson (Minnie), born February 1878 at Rathconnell, Loughgilly

4. Annie Gibson, born 6th March 1883 in Poyntzpass, Armagh

5. Charles Frederick, born December 1887

6. Robert James Gibson, born around 1876

7. Agnes Gibson, born around 1874

I know that George Alexander died young, on 11th July 1887 at Brannock, Poyntzpass and that William John died in January 1963.

The 1901 census shows the family headed by 52 year old labourer Robert Gibson (who could not read or write) living in Poyntzpass in 1901. His wife was Mary Jane, who was 53 and could read and write. Both were from Co Armagh. Living with them were children Agnes (27, an unmarried lady’s maid), Robert James (25, a postman), daughters Minnie and Annie (19 and 16, both clerks in the Post Office) and son Fredrick Chas (sic) who was a 13 year old schoolboy.

By the time of the next census in 1911 the couple lived alone. I am sure this is the same couple, though there is a discrepancy over the ages on this as they are said to be 68 and 69.

There were 4 rooms in the house, which was a second class dwelling. The walls were stone or brick and the roof of slate or tile.

Their son Robert, however, was still in the village, along with his wife Mary Hanlon and was still the postman. Their marriage had taken place at Drumbanagher on 1st June 1910, so the couple had been married less than a year. Robert’s father, Robert senior, was recorded as sexton at the time of the wedding.

A married Robert Gibson died on the last day of 1943 at Poyntzpass and was buried 2 days later. His occupation was given as postman and he died of “exhaustion due to cancer of the tongue” (Reference D/1944/194/1023/6/369). The informant was his nephew Thomas Gibson of Killybodagh who was present at the death.

The Newsletter of 1st January 1944 carried his death notice, describing him as Robert James Gibson, thus we can confirm that this is Robert James, born 1875, dearly loved husband of Mary. The house was private.

The Newsletter of 31st July 1917 carried the story of a cycling accident involving Mr R Gibson and Mr Joseph Robertson on the Sunday afternoon near Poyntzpass, at the corner of the Newry and Demone roads. 

Below is a photo of the old Post Office at Poyntzpass, with a letter box outside. The PO moved twice after this before closing.

I have not been able to trace Agnes’s wedding through the parish records or  the 1911 census. She may have moved further afield.

Annie Gibson married a man named John Hutton Stevenson on 15th March 1903 in Tandragee. They went on to have 3 sons: Joseph in June 1903, Frederick William in November 1904 and Robert Charles in January 1907. John was a station master in Poyntzpass when they met and they must have seen each other several times a day given how close the Post Office was to the Station House. When the third son was born his birth was registered in Drogheda so presumably John worked there but the boy was born at Laytown.

Frederick Charles is recorded as Charles Frederick at baptism. He was born 6th December 1887 and baptised on 1st April 1888. Annie was born on 6th March 1883 and baptised on 3rd June 1883. There is a Charles Frederick Gibson who married in 1905 in Belfast.

The birth and baptism of a Mary Jane is also recorded. Mary Jane was born in February 1878 and baptised on 7th August 1881. She is absent from the family home on the 1901 census when she would have been 23 years old. She may have been dead, living and working elsewhere or married. There is a burial record of a Mary Gibson on 12th October 1944 at Drumbanagher, aged 66. This would be compatible with Mary Jane but is not conclusive. There is no will record to help us, either.

Mary Jane was known as Minnie. She married a Robert Moody at Acton Parish Church on 21st April 1909 (M1909/Q1/82/2/21). Robert was in the army at this time and his papers are to be found at Ancestry. Robert had joined up aged 18 in Belfast in May 1902. His mother lived at Montclone, Scarva. Robert joined the 10th Royal Kent Fusliers. He received a mounted infantry certificate in 1904. Robert was 5ft 5 and 3/4 inches tall and weighed 115 pounds. His chest measured 32 inches, 34 when expanded. His health was described as good.

He was of fresh complexion, blue eyed and brown haired. Robert had a scar on his right knee. Robert’s regimental number was 7520 in the Royal Irish Fusiliers. In September 1902 he was admitted to hospital in Dublin for 18 days with tonsilitis.

The Newry Reporter of 24th April 1909 carried a report of the wedding. It referred to her role as a relief clerk at the Post Office for many years, “in which position she was highly respected.” She was also said to be an esteemed member of the choir. The choir gave a “beautiful” present but this was not elaborated upon.

This explains her absence from home in 1911, then. Robert and Minnie had emigrated to Canada and in 1911 were boarders at no 18, Cobourg, Northumberland West, Ontario. Both were clerks in a Post Office and they had worked 60 hrs per week with no unemployment in the previous year. Both could read and write, neither had life insurance. The 1916 census informs us that they emigrated in 1910. By now they were living in NE Calgary. It can be hard to make sense of house number, family number, range etc on these census forms and I am stumped by it. With the couple was Robert’s brother. They were now Canadian. Minnie was a housewife and Robert was a clerk in a supply house. Brother Charles was a soldier.

Robert was discharged from the army in Canada in May 1914. I would have thought he would be recalled when the war broke out, especially as he was of very good character. He seems to have rejoined in September 1915, giving his address as 650 9th Avenue, NE Calgary. He was now almost 34 years of age. He was then discharged at Halifax on 17th August 1916. He was said no longer to be physically fit. His character was described as good but then it adds “as far as is known.”

By this time Robert had a tattoo on his right forearm, a red cross with flag. Whether this was in the English or the Irish style is not stated.

On the 1921 census the couple lived at 620 9th NE Calgary. There is a slight discrepancy in that they said they emigrated in 1909 rather than 1910. Robert worked as a warehouseman, earning $880. He had been unemployed on June 1st 1921 and was unemployed for 16 weeks.

The Moodys returned from Canada to Northern Ireland after the war and Robert became a farmer. His will tells us he lived at Loughadian, Co Down and had died on 3rd June 1939. He left effects of £131-15-0 to Minnie (£6975 in 2016 money). She died on 26th February 1966 (D/1966/85/1007/21/460).

George Alexander Gibson was born on 11th January 1869 at Rathconville, Newry (U1869/194/1023/2/340). His death was registered by father Robert who left a mark on the page. He was a weaver at the time. I understand that George died around 1887 but have not seen this myself yet.

William John Gibson married a Marjorie Whiteside at Acton Church. William was a railway guard, though when they married in 1893 he was described as a railway porter. At the time of the 1901 census Marjorie was living with her parents at their home in Lisduff, in the Newry area. She was described as being a dressmaker. In 1911 she was living in Poyntzpass with a boarder. Again, she was a dressmaker.

It is hard to identify William John on the 1901 census- certainly there is no William John Gibson working in the railway service from Co Armagh; there IS a John Gibson, aged 25, boarding at a house in Holywood Co Down who said he was from Co Armagh and an unmarried agricultural labourer. The same man seems to have been a farm servant in Carrowreagh near Dundonald in 1911. In 1911 there was also a William Gibson working as a railway guard living at Garvaghy Rd in Portadown, but he was a Presbyterian and living with him was his wife Ellen.

William was lucky to still be around in any case as he had evaded death in a railway accident, reported on 1st August 1908 in the Newry Reporter. Railway waggons had run away and Guard Gibson had to jump from the guard’s van to safety at the station at  Goraghwood. He was said to be making a good recovery. 

​The Newry Reporter of 11th June 1910 carried a report regarding her late father’s will, which apparently had been lost, with Marjorie agreeing with her brother’s account of the contents.

Marjorie died in December 1919 at her home at 138 Fitzroy Avenue in South Belfast.

Agnes Gibson married a coachman named John Babe or Bebe on 3rd June 1904 in Tandragee, Co Armagh. Both lived there. They had two sons named Ernest and Charles. Ernest was born in Poyntzpass on 16th July 1904. Charles was born on 22 March 1906. They were living at Drumnaleg, Tandragee at the time.

The Sinton Family webpage includes a list of 8 Babe family members buried at Mullavilly Parish Church, Tandragee.  

The couple were living at House 2, Drumnaleg, Tandragee at the time of the 1911 census with their sons. The house had only two rooms with no front facing window, ie, a 3rd class dwelling. However it was made of brick or stone with a roof of slate, tile or iron. Presumably John’s employer was John Mcedoo as this was the landlord of the house.

Agnes died on 8th June 1959, it seems (D/1959/85/1007/6/394). Her address was 132 Donnybrook St off the Lisburn Rd in Belfast. Agnes was a widow and it seems that she had no living descendants as her effects were left to her sister Mary Moody, who was herself a widow. Agnes left £1907-15-0. This equates to £31,000  in 2016 money.

John Gibson’s Family **

I will present the information I have on John Gibson’s family here.

John was born to John Gibson and Mary Jane Coughran in 1873 in Drumbanagher. PRONI holds some information on his schooling at Drumbanagher NS. He started school on 1st October 1877 and left on 11th August 1888. I know from my uncle Desi Gibson that he was known as Johnny. Johnny could write but his signature on the wedding certificate is very large.

Below: birth record of Johnny Gibson in 1873.

Johnny was a labourer and he married at a very young age in February 1893, to Harriet Hanlon. He was a father before the age of 20. Harriet was many years older than him (13 if she were indeed born in January 1860) and already had a daughter named Emily. The match must surely have been subject to considerable discussion among the neighbours.

The picture below from Richard Gibson shows Johnny later in life.

The census for 1901 shows Johnny with his family. With him and Harriet were her daughter Emily, born around 1884 and thus only 12 years younger than Johnny. They had 3 children of their own, John (Jack), Jessie and Violet. I know remarkably little about Johnny, in part because I failed to ask people who may have known him or known of him until it was almost too late. Perhaps someone reading this is descended from one of Johnny’s daughters and can tell me more.

I also have the 1911 census information. It shows that Emily went on to have her own children, Mabel and Bertie.

The picture below shows Harriet Hanlon somewhat later in life. She is sitting at the front, wearing a hat and smiling.

Robert Williamson was able to find ration book information on Johnny from WW2, shown below. It shows that he and Harriet were still living in Demone with Harriet’s daughter and a William Gibson. Note that payment was cancelled from 31st December 1946 when he died and her’s from May 1943.

Johnny and Harriet were typical of most Northern Irish Protestants at that time in that they both signed the Solemn League and Covenant in September 1912 opposing Home Rule for Ireland, their address given as Demone.

Their eldest child was John, known as Jack. Jack was born before the wedding day as his birth date is given as 27th March 1892. He was baptised privately by the rector of Drumbanagher parish on 22nd May 1892. Whether this was to avoid wagging tongues or because of illness we cannot know but the former seems more likely. Finding his birth proved difficult but I was eventually able to locate him under the name Hanlon.

The registration is very useful indeed, showing that he was born at Killybodagh, ie Harriet’s parent’s home. The registration proved much more useful in another way as Harriet did not register it and Johnny didn’t either (nor is he named as the father) – her mother (who could not write) did so.

This is brilliant for us because Harriet’s birth record has not been found despite the efforts of several of us over many years. Thus we can now say for sure that her mother was named Catherine.

Johnny and Harriet’s daughter Jessie was Jessie Georgina. She was born in 1895 and married a man named Fred Wilson, according to Robert Williamson who supplied the picture below. Jessie was mentioned as singing 3 songs at Drumbanagher NS (20th July 1909, Newry Reporter) at a “most enjoyable entertainment” in aid of school repairs.

I know that Violet was Violet Mary Elizabeth Gibson. She married William Magill and lived in Banbridge. Mum had a newspaper cutting in a scrapbook about him and I knew was a WW1 veteran. He was one of those 40% of veterans for whom military files survive relatively intact. Readers of the pages about my Scottish forebears will be familiar with this story of loss of information about my grandfather.

Violet was mentioned in the Newry Reporter for being given a prize for achieving 3rd Standard. Major Close presented the prizes. This was reported on 11th January 1908.

I have a lot of information about William Magill and will add some of it here. If any members of the Magill would like more, please get in touch!

Above: Harriett Hanlon and daughter Jessie Georgina. Thanks to Robert Williamson.

Emily’s Family. Emily was baptised as Marion Emily in September 1883 and attended Drumbanagher NS from July 1890 until April 1895, suggesting the need for her to bring income to the family and possibly that she was not regarded as a scholar. She had several children. Her eldest child was Mabel Daisy Harvey, born in March 1903 and who attended school from July 1907 until June 1918. Then came William Hanlon (known as Bertie), who was born in February 1909 and died in 1988. His address was Corcrum, Poyntzpass at the time. He attended school from May 1914.

The third child was Stanley or Thomas and he was a huntsman. He was born in January 1912 and started school in April 1914. The last child was Gwyneth who was born around 1927. My mother recalled being taken to visit relatives when she was young (if only I had thought to ask questions like, how did you get there, who was living there, what was the house like?) and Gwyneth was there, an unexplained older girl.

June 2021 update. My thanks to Dennis Stinton for invaluable information to clear up the mystery. He has explained that Gwyneth was his mother Muriel’s elder sister, Gwendoline. Gwendoline’s parents were Daisy Mabel Hanlon and her husband George Henry Farley. They had married the year prior to her birth in 1924. When George was posted back to England Gwen did not settle well and was sent back to Poyntzpass to live with granny Emily and Harriet.

How I wish I could tell my mother this! She was a woman (then a girl, obviously) with well developed social skills and despite her youth recognised both that there was a bit of a mystery around this girl and that she was not meant to enquire about her.

Gwen later married a man named Walter Kinnin in the same area. The Poyntzpass and District Local History Society page on Facebook includes a photo of the pupils at Drumbanagher NS in 1836. This includes Gwen, aged 12.

I know that Stanley/Thomas had sons and their relatives still live in the area. My thanks to Robert Williamson who has shown me a picture of Bertie which I hope to be able to post soon.

Emily Hanlon was the daughter of Harriet Jane Hanlon. Emily’s name is mentioned in the Belfast Telegraph of 5th September 1940 on a page listing people who had collected money or contributed money to the Telegraph Spitfire Fund. E Hanlon of Drumbanagher is listed along with Bertie Gibson of Demone who contributed 2 shillings.

Below: death notice for Harriet Jane Hanlon, 1874-1955, from the Belfast Telegraph.

Jack and Tina

John Gibson, born in 1892, married Christina Brown who was born in November 1900 at 44 Wolff Street at the bottom of the Newtownards Road. John (Jack) was living in Dunmurry at the time, probably as a boarder. The wedding, however, took place at the lovely Anglican church in Holywood, as that is close to where Christina’s mother was living then.

In fact, they lived with her mother and step-father Samuel James Brown at their two homes until their deaths. This may have reflected John’s income but it is more likely linked to John’s peripatetic life. He was a tractor driver for Grainger Brothers (based in Holywood, I think) and according to mum he was often away from home for long periods of time. 

Jack spent a lot of time away from home working on the roads and presumably socialising with his workmates at night. We may calculate back from the birthdates from the large number of children the couple had periods when he was at home.

Although my father, who met him between around 1949-1953, thought him alright others who grew up around him clearly thought differently. He drank at Paddy Lamb’s pub at Ballyhackamore and even as an old woman my mother would become upset describing his tongue when angry and in drink. Christina, I understand from two of her children, had difficulty making ends meet in part because she had difficulty getting money out of him.

The Troubles of 1919-21 had seen many roads dug up or in a few cases blown up by mines. The new Irish Free State had to engage on an extensive road repairing programme and this is probably why John was away so long. He was a drinker and a smoker and socialised with his workmates regularly. At first the couple lived at a house known as the Ink Bottle, apparently a gate lodge or other building on Richmond Lodge estate outside Holywood. When I started research in the 1990s I was told that the house had long since been knocked down.

The OS map section above shows Richmond Lodge, where Lizzie Brown died in 1927. The lodge may be the house otherwise known as The Ink Bottle where her mother Mary Ann Smith and second husband Samuel Brown lived in the 1920s. 

The photo above, which I spotted at the Ballycairn Local History group, shows a gate lodge in the Belvoir area known as the Ink Pot. Presumably the Ink Bottle at Richmond Lodge was similar in appearance.

Their second child, Uncle John, was sickly and a doctor advised taking him away from the sea air. A new home was found at brand new cottages on the Rocky Road above Gilnahirk. This was where the couple lived until after Jack’s early death following the removal of a leg. 

Mum recalled being sent with younger sister Harriett to the “red rocks” as a girl to look to see if he was coming back for dinner from Paddy Lamb’s pub at Ballyhackamore. This was a year or so before mum married. Dad knew him and both he and mum thought of him as an old man. They were shocked to find that he was only 60 when he died.

Generation IX  Family of John Gibson and Christina Brown:

1. Iris Doreen 1920 -1999

2. John  1922 – 

3. Desmond    

4.  Elizabeth 1930-2008

5. Harriet

6. Eric

7. Victor

7. James 

8. William 

                                         Christina Brown’s Family

Even knowing where my granny was born a few months before the census of 1901and knowing the names of her siblings from my mother it was hard to locate the family on the excellent free website for Irish census information, because I was searching for a common surname but most of the Christian names I entered did not lead to the right people because they were spelt wrongly on the census entry!

Christina was the eldest of five living children born to Mary Ann Smith and a man (or two men) named Brown. Christina may never have known that there had been other children born before her, eg  a Sarah Jane Brown had been born in May 1898 and died a few days before her first birthday. 

I am most fortunate to hold a letter written by Christina Brown to her daughter Betty, ie Mum, written at the time she was returning from Singapore. It is wonderfully practical whilst still conveying the affection between the pair and hinting at Mum’s practical anxieties around the state of the house. Note that gran was now living on the Lower Braniel Road.

The 1901 census shows that they were boarding with a Mrs Carson. It is interesting to see that they were Presbyterian as Christina’s mother Mary Ann’s parents had married at a Church of Ireland church. Christina’s father is named as James Brown and he was a stone polisher from Co Armagh. Mother Mary Ann was working as a linen warper. Note that they both were said to be able to speak Irish. The age given for Mary Ann was 31, ie born around 1870. She was admitting to being 4 years older than her husband but actually it was nearer to 6 as she was really born in 1868.

My mother had told me a strange tale of Mary Ann marrying two men and that she thought Christina was one of the later ones, to her second husband. As seen above this was not true as Christina was the eldest.

The next part of Mum’s tale was that Mary Ann had married two brothers. I thought this could not be true as it was not lawful but actually a legal change in the early 1900s allowed this to happen and the 1911 census shows it very likely that Mary Ann and her children were actually living with her husband AND his brother. This is not definitely his brother but I suspect it to be so.

The third and strangest part of Mum’s story was that both men were named James! Looking at the 1911 census again this shows that the two men of the house were James Robert and Samuel James Brown.

I wish she were alive so that I could show her what I have found and be able to tell her that much of what she said was right. I never appreciated when she was alive the extent of her knowledge.

She also told me that Samuel Brown came from Mullaghglass in South Armagh and that Mary Ann Smyth came from Bessbrook, which amounts to much the same area. Further, she said that Sam was a stone mason.

The 1911 census, below, shows that James and Mary Ann now had all 5 living daughters living at Douglas Street off the Beersbridge Road. Also in the house was a “relative” named Samuel Brown. James said he was a labourer in a foundry. This is very likely to be Mary Ann’s second husband, but not a brother of James.

Belfast historian and writer Joe Baker has written an account (Old Belfast 15) of how 3 young children named Larkin from Douglas Street died in August that year. They were playing in the street when a ship’s distress rocket exploded, causing the whole street to shake and smashing windows. The police constable investigating thought the rocket had been stolen from the deck of a ship named the Calorie, moored at Hamilton Dock during a strike. A witness reported that the children had been bent over the rocket on the pavement trying to open it with a hammer.

James Robert Brown and Mary Ann Smyth did not live at one address for long and James was never listed as the householder as far as I can see. The birth registrations of each girl along with the two census entries help us trace the family journey year by year. 

Generation VIII The Family of James Robert Brown and Mary Ann Smyth:

1. Mary Ann Brown, born 1894

2. Mary Ellen Brown, 1895-1895

3. Sarah Brown, 1897-1897

4. Sarah Jane Brown, 1898-1899

5. Christina Brown, born 1900

6. Elizabeth Brown, born 1903

7. Mary Ann Brown, born 1904

8. Sarah Jane Brown, born 1907

9. Isabella Brown, born 1909

As the table above shows, the couple had 9 children but the first 4 died very young indeed. All 9 were girls. 

6. Elizabeth Brown was known as Lizzie. Lizzie was born at 21 Josephine Street in April 1903. Her full name was Margaret Elizabeth Harkness Brown. She started Bloomfield National School in April 1912 when she was living at 58 Humber Street. Her father was working as an oiler at this time. She was struck off the school register in October 1916 then readmitted a few weeks later until December when she finally left, presumably to start work. Lizzie married a man named Charlie Irvine in 1923 and they lived at 109 Ardgowan Street in East Belfast for many years. I gather that he served in the RAF in WW2. Charlie died at Ardowan Street in 1963. They had sons Frank and Charlie. Lizzie, however, died of TB in 1927 at or close to her mother’s home, at Richmond Cottage near Holywood.

8. Charlie went on to marry Lizzie’s sister Sarah Jane (known as Sadie) in 1929 at St Donard’s Church. Sadie was living at 7 Connswater Street at the time. I’m told that Sadie was of a very religious nature by Aunt Harriet McFarland (nee Gibson). She died in 1987 and is buried with Charlie at Dundonald Cemetery. Sadie’s mother Mary Ann is also buried there. Sadie had been born in 1907 at 17 Bangor Street in Belfast.

There was a small bush beside the black pot naming those in the grave. Over time that bush has become very large and has caused me difficulty recognising the spot in more recent times.

Charlie and Sadie had children of their own, John, Samuel James, Robert and Ruth.

7. Mary Ann Brown was known as May. She was born at 27 Saunders St off the Newtownards Rd in Belfast. The next door neighbour registered her birth. I have no other information about her.

9. Isabella was born at 39 Imperial Street. She was known as Bella. Bella married a man Uncle Dei always called the Maltese, named Arthur Caines in May 1933. I have found that he was indeed born in Malta as his father was in the army out there. Caines was in the army during WW2. Bella died in 1968. I understand that the marriage had not been entirely successful from several relatives. This is borne out by a newspaper article in the Londonderry Sentinel of 14th January 1958. The headline read, “Belfast Man Told Wife, ‘Next Time I’ll Send You to the Morgue.’” This probably tells all that is needed of his assault on Bella, drunkenness and irresponsibility with money. Caines was sent to jail for 2 months. Caines died at an address in Knocknagoney in 1981 and is buried separately from his wife. They had children. 

Unravelling quite who James Robert Brown was took many years, hindered by the belief that he and Samuel James Brown were both sons of John Brown and Eliza Jane McLoughlin.

In fact, Presbyterian records at Bessbrook, birth records, a death certificate and a burial record combine together to demonstrate exactly who James Robert’s actual family were.

James Robert Brown was born in 1871. He was recorded as Robert James Brown. His parents were living at Derramore (also known as Derrymore) where there was a quarry, between Bessbrook and Newry. This is probably where James learned his trade. 

The birth certificate shows that his parents were named William Brown and Sarah Campbell. James was born on 22nd May 1871.

William Brown and Sarah Campbell married at Tullylish Parish in Banbridge on 14th September 1860. William was 22, she was 19. Her father was John Campbell, a weaver. His was a labourer named William. 

Robert James Brown was baptised on 29th May 1871. He was the second child to the couple as elder sister Christina was born on 27th April 1869 and died in 1870. She was born in Bessbrook. Father William could not read or write.

Another Christina was born on 1st June 1874 at Bessbrook and baptised on 30th May. Her birth was registered by a Jane Campbell. This Christina survived, married and had a family.

The last birth I have found was a Samuel born on 23rd September 1878 at Quarry Row. This was the Samuel who reported his brother’s death. Perhaps mum confused reference to this Uncle Samuel with her grandmother’s second husband? He was born at Derramore on 23rd September 1878.

Towards the end of the 19th century the family moved to industrialised East Belfast. Wolff St is directly below the “St.”

They were living at   28 Flora Street  at the time of the 1901 census. James, of course, was living at Wolff Street with Mary Ann and his daughter, also named Christina. That his sister and his dead sister bore this name suggests that thus was a revered family name. The census shows that the family spoke Irish, as Mrs Carson in Wolff Street said of James and Mary Ann. 

William was working at the Belfast quays as a labourer, Samuel was a labourer and Christina was a mill worker. Christina married a man named Thomas Cosby on the 12th July that summer. Thomas was a widower who worked as a mechanic. His home was at 3 Mayflower Street. He had three daughters needing cared for.

The 1911 census showed Thomas and Christina with his children. The girls were working in a cotton mill. Thomas’s father lived on the same street. 

Here is Flora Street, courtesy of Google Streetview:

Within a few years young Samuel was to find himself alone as he reported the death of both his parents- on the same day, 5th February 1904! They both died at their home at 69 Grove Street East. William, presumably, died first as his name comes first. William had suffered from chronic bronchitis for 2 months, with his hear failing in the end. Sarah died of TB, having endured the wasting illness for 9 months. For all that the census above says Samuel could read and write he was unable to sign his name. 

The couple were buried in Belfast’s City Cemetery off the Falls Road. I have not been able to find the grave yet. Their grave is C198. Son Samuel moved a few doors away to Number 77. He is shown there on Belfast Street Directories from 1912 through to the 1950s, and on the 1911 census as well.

Number 77 Grove Street East, just as it was a century ago. From Google Streetview.

Samuel Brown married Elizabeth Carlisle at St Anne’s in Belfast on the last day of 1910, so they had only been married a few months when the census occurred.

The same couple on the 1911 census. Presumably Samuel had forgotten whatever Irish he had learned by now.

I have not found any children born to Christina Cosby or Bessie Brown but believe Bessie and Samuel had a son named Samuel. Samuel Brown died on 19th January 1955, still living at 77 Grove Street East. He is buried at Roselawn Cemetery in plot D1720. His wife Elizabeth died on 20th May 1974 at the age of 89. Also buried with them is another Samuel Brown who died on 27th February 1989 aged 67. A fourth occupant is Sarah Windrim, aged 83, who died on 20th February 1970. That would place her birth around 1887. Was she a sister of Bessie?

The death certificate of James Robert Brown, who died of Spanish Flu on 14th November 1918 at 99 Grove Street East. His brother Samuel registered the death. He lived close by, at number 77. 

After coronavirus and all that I was able to visit the Belfast City Cemetery to see the grave of my great grandfather at last. Staff were very helpful and I was asked if the family had money as the grave, apparently, was in the more prestigious part of the cemetery (only just, I think). This surprised me rather. It is unmarked and has no surrounding, below.

Interestingly, though, there is another Brown grave close by. I was unable to find a connection to James Robert, however.

Unresolved Mysteries

The wedding of James Robert Brown to Mary Ann Smyth. When was it? Where was it?

When did Samuel James Brown marry Mary Ann Smyth (now Brown) his sister in law?

If there are any Browns out there who can shine light on these issues I’d be grateful.

August 2020

I took a look at the 1901 and 1911 census entries again, questioning my assumptions to see if that helped. It didn’t but I set off on another tack (after establishing yet again from both GRONI and the Irish records site that there is no record of a Smith-Brown or similar marriage, specifically looking first around 1893-94 because the 1911 census claimed they were married 17 years).

I had noticed that they said they had had 9 children, of whom 5 were still alive. Well, I had already added one little girl in 1898 who died very young. So I started looking for more. This is no easy matter with surnames like Smith and Brown in a city. I also looked at Newry as registration area. Part of my reasoning was that if I could find early births I would know where they first got together or married and maybe an inkling as to when.

I uncovered another girl, another Sarah. She was born on 1st April 1897 at 9 Malcolm Street in Belfast, her father being a marble polisher named James.  This seems extremely likely to be one of the missing three children. Little Sarah died of “debility from birth” on 11th April. That means that the Sarah who was my mum’s aunt was actually the third Sarah in the family.

Searching further I was interested to find a Mary Ellen Brown recorded as being born at 46 Parker Street (East Belfast) on 22nd April 1895. Her mother was recorded as Mary Ann Smith, a ropemaker. There was no father recorded, yet she had come up when I searched under the names Brown and Mary. The record is 9761541 on the free Irish site. 

This poor girl also died, “debility from birth” after 24 days, on 15th May 1895. Her mother registered the death with her mark. I am fairly confident that this is our Mary Ann Smith, and this is her 3rd dead child. Why no father name? It implies that he had refused to acknowledge the child as his own and was refusing to marry her still. Yet, she came up under a search for Mary Brown. The other implication is that 14 years before James said they had been married 17 years, they were still unmarried as she was using her maiden name.

Then we come to another possible child. This was a Mary Ann Smith, born in the workhouse to Mary Ann Smith on 4th January 1894. It must have been a terrible time for the poor woman, giving birth in the workhouse as a single mother, and if I am right that it is our Mary Ann she had no family to support her as her parents and grandfather were dead. 

As to what happened to little Mary Ann I cannot say. I could not find her death recorded (as I expected to) under either surname, though I stopped looking in 1901 reasoning that she was not with the family on the 1901 census therefore she must be dead. Another possibility is that the child was given up for adoption, willingly or otherwise.

The map here shows George Gibson’s holding (from Griffith’s valuation). His house and garden were at 17a in the lower left area.

A map of the Drumbanagher area from around 1860 which may be around the time the Gibsons came to the area as the name cannot be found before then in the church records.

                                Smiths and Hunters

Christina’s mother Mary Ann Brown had been born as Mary Ann Smith in July 1868 in the Bessbrook area. I had difficulty finding this out because when she died in January 1945 her age was given as 65, ie born around 1880. When I spoke to an aunt lately she cast doubt on this age, thinking she was 75. I used a Freedom of Information request to PRONI to see the details of who was at House 9, Rocky Road, Gilnahirk in September 1939. Most of the names and dates of birth were redacted  as they related to people born less than 100 years ago (I could apply to see several of these by sending photos of the gravestones, it seems) but the key one was Mary Ann. as it showed me her true birthdate.

Having found her birth in 1868 I went on to find her parents’ wedding the year before in the Bessbrook area. Her father was Robert Smith and her mother Sarah Jane Hunter (my mother had told me the family came from Bessbrook and that the name Hunter featured in the family). I have not found other children born to them in that area.

My thanks to Marie Houston for providing long-protected newspaper snippets and other information on various relatives. Looking at a couple of prescription slips it seems that Mary Ann may have been treated for convulsions in the last year or two of her life.

Mary Ann Smyth was the child of Robert Smith and Sarah Jane Hunter. As shown above, they married in 1868 and Robert died within a short time. Sarah Jane’s father was shown as a carpenter named William Hunter according to the marriage certificate. As she was apparently born in the 1840s there was no state birth certificate, though it is possible that a church wedding record survives. 

Poor Mary Ann Smyth was an orphan by the age of 13 as her mother, Sarah Jane, died on 16th January 1881. At the time she had been a millworker in Bessbrook, described rightly as a widow. The informant was a William Hunter, though whether this was her father or brother is not known. 

What I have found (August 2020) is that there is a death register for William Hunter, carpenter of Bessbrook. This was on 3rd June 1888. He was a widower, so we cannot find the name of his wife. However, the informant was his son William, so hopefully there are Hunter relatives out there to make contact with. William was estimated to be 74, born around 1814, but as we have seen with Mary Ann Smyth such ages are not always reliable. 

Who was her mother? When did she die? These are issues unresolved as yet.

Using Irish BMD free online I engaged on a trawl through for other Hunters in Bessbrook likely to be related to William Hunter the carpenter. The name Hunter is, or was, fairly common in the Newry registration area so I had a fair number to trawl through but found some more likely relatives. Sarah Jane was one of several brothers and sisters. With birth registration starting in 1864 and William apparently born in the 1810s I did not expect to find births- I was searching for marriages.

With the father name William Hunter, location Bessbrook and his occupation as carpenter I located several likely siblings.

Family of William Hunter:

1. Nancy Hunter, married Bernard Hughes, labourer. Both were living at Rathfriland, Drumgarth. This was on 22nd October 1851. His father was Patrick Hughes. Nancy made a mark on the register.

2. Marianne Hunter, married Samuel Fry on 15th September 1856 at Newry Parish Church. Samuel was a labourer.  Marianne was said to be aged 20.

3. Sarah Jane Hunter, married Robert Smith 1867.

4. William Hunter who reported his father’s death. 

5. George Hunter, married 13/12/1868 aged 27 to Ann Jane Parker aged 20 of Ballykeel (?), Rathfriland, daughter of James Parker, farmer. This wedding took place at Newry. George was a tradesman living in Queen Street, Newry. His bride’s father must have been quite wealthy as there was a newspaper notice of the wedding, describing him as the second son of Mr William Hunter. She was second daughter to James Parker, esquire. 

6. Louisa Hunter, married 25/4/1873 at Camlough to John Adamson. Brother George Hunter was a witness. Their ages were not given. John Adamson was a mechanic of Bessbrook. 

As for their mother, she might have been named Rachel. There is a death registered at Newry of a Rachel Hunter on 25th October 1894, aged approx 81. Rachel was said to be the widow of a carpenter. She died of old age, influenza and acute bronchitis. A Mary Anne McCullough was present and reported the death. Perhaps this was another relative?

Mary Ann Smyth’s Parents

Mary Ann Smyth was the child of Robert Smith and Sarah Jane Hunter. They married in 1868 and Robert died within a short time. Sarah Jane’s father was shown as a carpenter named William Hunter according to the marriage certificate. As she was apparently born in the 1840s there was no state birth certificate, though it is possible that a church wedding record survives. 

The marriage certificate shows that they married at the end of July 1867. Fate determined that they would be together little more than a year. Both lived at Derraghmore, where there was a quarry. This might be where Robert laboured. The certificate also suggests that Robert had been born around 1843, Sarah Jane 1845. His father David was a lath maker.

Death certificate of Robert Smith, showing that he was an oiler and had suffered consumption for 17 weeks. Robert died in November 1868, only months after the birth of Mary Ann. 

Poor Mary Ann Smyth was an orphan by the age of 13 as her mother, Sarah Jane, died on 16th January 1881. At the time she had been a millworker in Bessbrook, described rightly as a widow. The informant was a William Hunter, though whether this was her father or brother is not known. 

What I have found (August 2020) is that there is a death register for William Hunter, carpenter of Bessbrook. This was on 3rd June 1888. He was a widower, so we cannot find the name of his wife. However, the informant was his son William, so hopefully there are Hunter relatives out there to make contact with. William was estimated to be 74, born around 1814, but as we have seen with Mary Ann Smyth such ages are not always reliable. 

Who was her mother? When did she die? These are issues unresolved as yet.

Using Irish BMD free online I engaged on a trawl through for other Hunters in Bessbrook likely to be related to William Hunter the carpenter. The name Hunter is, or was, fairly common in the Newry registration area so I had a fair number to trawl through but found some more likely relatives. Sarah Jane was one of several brothers and sisters. With birth registration starting in 1864 and William apparently born in the 1810s I did not expect to find births- I was searching for marriages.

With the father name William Hunter, location Bessbrook and his occupation as carpenter I located several likely siblings.

Family of William Hunter:

1. Nancy Hunter, married Bernard Hughes, labourer. Both were living at Rathfriland, Drumgarth. This was on 22nd October 1851. His father was Patrick Hughes. Nancy made a mark on the register.

2. Marianne Hunter, married Samuel Fry on 15th September 1856 at Newry Parish Church. Samuel was a labourer.  Marianne was said to be aged 20.

3. Sarah Jane Hunter, married Robert Smith 1867.

4. William Hunter who reported his father’s death. 

5. George Hunter, married 13/12/1868 aged 27 to Ann Jane Parker aged 20 of Ballykeel (?), Rathfriland, daughter of James Parker, farmer. This wedding took place at Newry. George was a tradesman living in Queen Street, Newry. His bride’s father must have been quite wealthy as there was a newspaper notice of the wedding, describing him as the second son of Mr William Hunter. She was second daughter to James Parker, esquire. 

6. Louisa Hunter, married 25/4/1873 at Camlough to John Adamson. Brother George Hunter was a witness. Their ages were not given. John Adamson was a mechanic of Bessbrook. 

As for their mother, she might have been named Rachel. There is a death registered at Newry of a Rachel Hunter on 25th October 1894, aged approx 81. Rachel was said to be the widow of a carpenter. She died of old age, influenza and acute bronchitis. A Mary Anne McCullough was present and reported the death. Perhaps this was another relative?

Samuel Robert Gibson married Emma Higginbotham in June 1893. They had 8 children. These were Henry John Gibson, born in her home county of Tipperary in 1894, Anna Dora (1896-1922), Emma Mary Violet who was born in 1899 and Charles Victor, born around 1901. Catherine Florence was born in 1904 and Samuel Vandeloir Gibson, followed in 1906, though the spelling of this varies. In 1912 George Disney Higginbotham Gibson was born and last came Lydia in 1916. I would love someone to explain the origin of the middle names Victor, Vandeloir and Disney.

Catherine Florence emigrated to New Zealand in the late 1920s, travelling as a children’s nurse, according to a document on Ancestry. My snipping tool is not working so I cannot show it here. She was known as Florence rather than Catherine. She married a Polish man named John Shutkowski and they continued to live in New Zealand according to electoral rolls and information from Irene Payne and Barry Megennis.

Samuel Robert was a coachman for many years. His son Henry moved with the times and was a mechanic at the time of the 1911 census. Henry was known as Harry, according to Irene Payne. Henry was born in County Tiperary, which is where his mothre lived before marrying, on 10th January 1894. On 18th May 1915 he married Florence (Flo) Shiels (1894-1968) and Harry died on 3rd Feb 1963. Again, my thanks to Irene Payne for this. 

I know that both parents died in 1927. Robert died on 28th January that year and Emma died of disease on 14th March.

Samuel Robert’s death occurred in the midst of a gale battering Northern Ireland. He was now caretaker at the Armagh Dispensary, having been caretaker at the Imperial Hotel for some 12 years. His death occurred as he sawed branches from a tree damaged earlier. Around 1pm Samuel was engaged in this when a gust blew a corrugated iron roof from a shed which hit him and pinned him down. 

Help came immediately but it was clear as soon as the roof was lifted that he was already dead. He also sustained a broken arm. Samuel’s body was taken to the dispensary. Several newspapers carried accounts of his death. At the end of March the Armagh Board of Guardians agreed to give his son Samuel the caretaker’s job.

The image below, from the Belfast Newsletter, shows the very roof.

The 1901 census extract below shows that Emma’s mother was visiting at the time. The family were living in a house at The Mall, Armagh City. Charles Victor may not have been born yet.

The census for 1911 is below. It shows that relatives of Emma had come to visit.

Image from Ancestry. My thanks to Colin Lloyd in Dublin for this.        

Henry John Gibson was known as Harry. He moved to Canada and worked as a Rolls Royce mechanic. His wife Flo had been born in England. Harry and Flo had children Laura (known as Lauretta) and Walter, born during WW1. 

Not long after the war the two young children visited their grandfather Shiels in Ireland, a long journey for two very young children. Neither parent travelled back with them and as a document on Ancestry says they were returning to live with their mother it is likely that neither parent was with them. Home address seems to be 1839 Chanterfriend Avenue, Toronto.

Charles Victor Gibson joined the army and served in the Royal Marines band. After WW1 he joined the RIC. Some of his service record is available at Find My Past. He had a good record in the army but his police record was more mixed. This may reflect the very difficult circumstances the police found themselves in, with officers boycotted by many and in danger of assassination. A lot of police officers quit the force under these pressures whilst others responded by acting unprofessionally against suspects or by taking to drink. This latter seems to have been Charles’s course as his police record showed one demerit for being absent from parade and two for being drunk.

He served in the police for less than two years. The general feeling of the RIC men was that they did not want to be a part of the new police force to be set up in the new Irish Free State and they were pensioned off. According to a recent history of the RIC many were encouraged to join the Palestine Gendarmerie and Charles appears to be one of these.

Whether he ever made it to Palestine I’m not sure. Perhaps documents will become available to make this more clear. I know that he married and then he and his wife and infant daughter emigrated from London to Australia. The picture below shows Charles Victor Gibson’s son of the same name, born in Australia in 1932 (from Ancestry, my thanks to  JT178 ). Barry Megennis tells me he was known as Victor and suffered from epilepsy.

Irenee Payne in County Kildare has informed me that Charles Gibson was known  as Charlie and that he married Eleanor McAteer on 23rd November 1923. Eleanor came from Killylea in Co Armagh. Charlie died on 3rd January 1955 and Eleanor in Sept 1988. 

She says that Charlie worked as a farmer at first in the Wellington area of New Zealand and later found work at the docks. 

Daughter Doreen was born in 1924 and died in 2019. She had children, Denise and Terence.

Eleanor and Charlie had 4 other children. Phyllis was born around 1926 and died in 2005. She had 3 daughters named Eleanor, Sharon and Lorraine. 

Son Victor was one of twins born around 1928, one of whom died at or shortly after birth. Victor suffered from epilepsy all his life and was cared for in an institution until his death around 1986. 

Eleanor and Charlie’s final child was Margaret, born in 1930. She died in July 1984 and had 6 children, including my source, Barry Megennis. Barry’s 5 brothers and sisters are William Charles, Alan David, Robert Andrew, Patricia Elaine and Jane Theresa. 

My thanks to Barryfor the photos below. The first one shows Charles Victor Gibson and his daughter Doreen. He is wearing military uniform and it was taken after an ANZAC parade.

The next image, from the same source, shows Charles Victor Gibson with his wife Eleanor, sister Florence, Florence’s husband and daughter Doreen on the far right:

The picture below, from Barry Megennis, shows Margaret and Doreen Gibson with Charles Victor Gibson.

I know that George Disney Higginbotham Gibson married a woman named Ellen Violet Byrne in Dublin. He was a plumber. I have not found his death in either Northern Ireland or the Republic of Ireland and have not located any descendants yet. George and sister Lydia were living at Hume Street, just across from St Stephen’s Green.

I understand that he died in Dublin in March 1997 and that Violet had died in May 1993. My thanks to Colin Lloyd for the photo of the couple on their wedding day, taken from Ancestry.

Here is the birth registration for Lydia. It shows that the family were now living at Mall View in Armagh and that father was working as a caretaker rather than a coachman now.

Lydia married a John Joseph Cahill in Dublin in March 1937. We can be sure that this is the right Lydia because the address is that of her brother when he married! The wedding was at a Roman Catholic church; this was a time when mixed religion marriages were frowned upon.

Barry Megennis in Australia and Irene Payne in Ireland have provided a wealth of information and pictures on descendants of Robert Samuel Gibson and Emma Higginbotham. Brian Gibson in Canada has provided material on the family of Samuel James Vandeloir Gibson. Collating and organising it has taken some time and I apologise to them all for the delay.

Here is Lydia Gibson with her brother George, courtesy of Irene Payne:

Returning to Emma Higginbotham and Robert Gibson’s son Samuel Vandeleur or Vandeloir Gibson, he left Ireland at some stage and moved to Canada. Samuel married Marie Cecile Agathe Pierotte in Toronto on 9th October 1937. Both were listed as Anglican members, though her name is distinctly French and she had been born at St Alexis des Monts in Quebec province. According to the marriage certificate her father was Italian. Samuel was working as a salesman and living at College Street, Toronto. Samuel gave James as his middle name but there can be no doubt that it is the same person as both parents were named- so much better than Northern Irish certificates!

Brian Gibson in Canada has contacted me (2020) and explained that there are members of this branch of the family in 5 Canadian provinces now! This includes a sister, Doreen Agathe Head, in Calgary. He adds that the family lived in Toronto until Brian was 5, ie around 1949, when they moved to Winnipeg.  Brian graduated as a civil engineer in 1967.