Saturday, 25 December 2010

Edward Fitzhenry - Monamolin to South Africa ... and backagain.

To continue from the last post:
Edward Fitzhenry was one of six siblings from Monamolin, Templeudigan. His eldest brother James was a Roman Catholic priest who went to do missionary work in South Africa and as far as I can see, never came back to Ireland and died in Grahamstown in 1919.
Patrick, Margaret, Michael and Walter stayed on the family farm at Monamolin.

Edward also emigrated to South Africa and was there by 1881 when his kinsman John O'Gorman wrote to him about the political situation in Ireland.

He was still there in 1893 and unmarried, when his cousin-in-law Edward Prendergast wrote to him.

We know a little more of him from the biography of his son Walter (1904-1961) - his wife was Mary J Coughlan, a South African born woman, and they came back to Monamolin at some time after 1911 as they do not appear on the 1911 census. Edward and Mary did not feature on the St Mullins gravestones.

So fortunately I came across Edward and Mary in the passenger list of the SS Garth Castle when they were making that trip back from Cape Town, South Africa in April 1912. This gave more details about the rest of the family:
Mr E Fitzhenry (farmer) aged 41
Mrs M
Fitzhenry (wife) aged 37
Master James
Fitzhenry aged 15
Master Edward
Fitzhenry aged 12
Miss Margaret
Fitzhenry aged 10
Master Walter
Fitzhenry aged 8
Master Patrick
Fitzhenry aged 5
Miss Francis
Fitzhenry aged 1

The family
travelled 3rd class and embarked at Southampton

While undoubtably this is the correct Edward and Mary, the age given for this Edward is too young - he would have been born in 1871, and he was already an established farm worker in South Africa in 1881. The rest of his siblings were born between 1846 and 1857.

The Irish GRO indexes give an Edward Fitzhenry who died in the last quarter of 1923 in Weford, born 1858. I think this is our man, with the age on the ship's manifest a mistake.

So what made this family return home to Ireland when so many Irish mationals were going the other way? Did they come back to inherit the family farm? How did the South African born Mary Coughlan and the older Fitzhenry children cope with this new land when they had been used to year round sunshine?
If there are any descendants of this family who would like to tell their story, please get in touch.

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