Obituary – Alderman Ernest A. O’Bryen 3rd May 1919

ALDERMAN ERNEST A. O’BRYEN.

We regret to record the death of Alderman Ernest A. O’Bryen, Mayor of Hampstead, which took place on Saturday night, at the age of fifty-three years, following on an operation from which he at first seemed to be progressing favourably. Educated at Stonyhurst and Cooper’s Hill, he spent some ten years in the Indian Forest Service in Upper Burmah, shortly after its annexation. He retired from the service in 1897 and married in the following year, Gertrude, daughter of the late Alfred Pursell. In 1913 he was elected Mayor of Hampstead, first Catholic to hold that position, and held it till his death. In 1916 he was President of the Stonyhurst Association and the same year was elected a Vice-President of the London Circle of the Catenian Association. During the war he took a leading part in making arrangements for the feeding and accommodation of Belgian refugees, and he also organised and equipped hospitals for the British Red Cross and St. John Ambulance. In 1915, Alderman O’Bryen was instrumental in raising the 183rd Howitzer Brigade and the 138th and 139th Heavy Batteries of Royal Garrison Artillery.

The funeral took place on Wednesday. The Requiem Mass was celebrated at St. Dominic’s Priory, Haverstock Hill, by Father Bodkin, S. J. Among those present were Mrs. O’Bryen and her five children, Mr. and Mrs. A. J. Winstanley, Captain and Mrs. Parker, Mr. Alfred Pursell, Mrs. Edwardes, Mr. and Mrs. E. J. Bellord, Mr. Frank Pursell, Mr. Alfred O’Bryen, Mrs. Rex O’Bryen, Mrs. Basil O’Bryen, the Deputy Mayor, the Town Clerk, Aldermen and Councillors of the Borough of Hampstead, the Vice-Chairman of the London County Council (Mr. A. T. Taylor, L.C.C.), Alderman Sir William Dunn, Bart., Alderman J. W. Gilbert, L.C.C., Mr. W. Reynolds, L.C.C., Mr. John O’Connor, K.C., Canon Burton, Father Robert Bracey, 0.P., Rev. J. Keating, S.J., Father John Leather, 0.P., Mr. J. G. Bellord, Dr. Ernest Ware, Mr. Synnott, Mr. Lescher, and many others. Father Bodkin also gave the Absolutions, and officiated at the interment at Kensal Green, assisted by Father John Leather. Several communities of nuns were also represented in the church. The children from Bartram’s Orphanage lined the road near the church and the entrance to the avenue at the cemetery.

“The Catholic body in London has suffered a severe loss by the death of Alderman Ernest O’Bryen,” writes one who knew him. “The number of Catholic laymen who take a prominent share in London public life is unfortunately not very large, and the untimely death of one who had achieved such a notable success as to be elected six times in succession Mayor of the borough of Hampstead, in which he lived, must fill with deepest regret all those, interested in Catholic social effort in the Metropolis. Those who had the privilege of knowing Ernest O’Bryen intimately were not surprised that he secured the confidence and the esteem of his fellow workers, both Catholic and non-Catholic. An able administrator, with a sound judgment, a strong resolution, a persuasive manner, and a power of appropriate silence—the last a valuable gift in public life, his two outstanding qualities were perhaps his loyalty and his generosity of service. He was loyal, most loyal, to his religious beliefs and practices, loyal to his country, loyal to his friends, and loyal to those co-operating with him. His fellow Catholics know of his loyalty to his religion : Hampstead marked its appreciation of his loyalty to his country at the beginning of the war by re-electing him as Mayor five times to see the war through ; many like the writer have experienced his loyalty to his friends, which showed itself in times of anxiety and difficulty, not in word service but in practical form ; whilst of his loyalty to those co-operating with him his record in public life and in many Catholic organizations with which he was connected will bear willing witness.” 

His great generosity of service has undoubtedly contributed to his breakdown in health. Few London Mayors have exceeded his standard of effort as first citizen of a London borough throughout the difficult period of the national emergency. His achievements in connection with the Prince of Wales Fund, Red Cross and St. John Ambulance work, Belgian Refugees, recruiting for Kitchener’s Army and the Derby Scheme, the Hampstead Tribunal for exemptions from military service of which he was Chairman, the War Loan Campaign, the Food Economy Campaign and the provision of allotments—all are in the records of Hampstead public life, and it is to be deeply regretted that he has not lived to receive the official recognition of these services, which he so richly merited. The Catholic body in London, certainly, may be proud of the excellent record of public service for the common good which a Catholic layman has achieved.

Of his Catholic work it is unnecessary to write at length. The Catholic Federation, in its early days, the Catenian Society, the Stonyhurst Association, Catholic elementary schools, have by his death lost a good friend. If he had been spared, and, as seemed likely, his scope of public service had been increased, all these associations would have benefited materially from his support. His last visit to the writer was with a view to securing material assistance for a Catholic charitable institution, in the development of which he took great interest. His untimely death certainly creates a void in London Catholic life, which it will be very difficult to fill.

The above text was found on p.28, 3rd May 1919 in “The Tablet: The International Catholic News Weekly.” Reproduced with kind permission of the Publisher. The Tablet can be found at http://www.thetablet.co.uk .

The Annual Dinner of the Benevolent Society for the Relief of the Aged and Infirm Poor. 1904

The Benevolent Society for the Relief of the Aged and Infirm Poor. was the oldest Catholic charity in London  founded in 1761 by Richard Challoner, the Vicar Apostolic of the London District [ the forerunner of the Archbishop of Westminster] between 1758 and 1781. It’s a nice worthy Catholic, and City cause, and it’s nice seeing eight members of the family all there. Having said that, only five were related at the time, another two came from a marriage twenty years later, and the final connection from a marriage fifty two years later.

At least at this one, Lieut.-General Sir William Butler’s speech is rather better than John Roper Parkington’s the following year.

ANNUAL DINNER.

The Annual Dinner in aid of the funds of this excellent charity was held on Monday last, and brought together a large number of the friends and supporters of the society.

Lieut.-General Sir William Butler, K.C.B., presided, and among the company present were the Hon. Charles Russell, Colonel Sir Roper Parkington, Colonel Maguire, Major J. H. White, V.D., Commendatore Hicks, C.C.S.G. ; the Very Revv. Canon Fleming, Canon Keatinge, Canon Murnane, Canon Pycke ; the Very Revv. J. P. Bannin, P.S.M., M. Kelly, O.S.A., D.D., P. J. Murphy, S.M. ; the Revv. Manuel J.Bidwell, D.D., Robert Bracey, 0.P., T. Carey, H. W. Casserly, Alexander Charnley, S.J., W. J. Condon, D. Corkery, G. B. Cox, J. Crowley, E. du Plerny, J. Egan, W. J. Hogan, S. E. Jarvis, I.C., W. Lewis Keatinge, Hugh Kelly, Mark A. Kelly, A. Muller, D.D., J. Musgrave T. F. Norris, J. O’Doherty, M. O’Sullivan, T. J. Ring, P. Riordan, C. A. Shepherd, E. Smith, C. J. Moncrieff Smyth, Francis Stanfield, J. G. Storey, W. 0. Sutcliffe, M.A., J. S. Tasker, E. A. P. Theed, Leo Thomas, S.M., A. E. Whereat, D.D. ; and Messrs. P. M. Albrecht, Frank Beer, Edmund J. Bellord, John G. Bellord, Harry Booth, James Carroll, J. H. Caudell, John Christie, A. K. Connolly, James W. Connolly, John A. Connolly, S. F. Connolly, P. F. Dorte, LL.B., Victor I. Feeny, H. Malins Fisher, A. C. Fowler, W. B. Hallett, Anthony Hasslacher,Charles Hasslacher, Jerome S. Hegarty, J. D. Hodgson, . Skelton Hodgson, S. Taprell Holland (Hon. Treasurer), J. M. Hopewell, John Hurst, John Hussey, R. H. N. Johnson, J. Virtue Kelly, C. Temple Layton, C.C., Charles E. Lewis, Bernard J. McAdam, James P. McAdam (Hon. Secretary), J. M. McGrath, C. A. Mackenzie, Herbert J. T. Measures, E. H. Meyer, A. C. O’Bryen, M.I.E.E., Ernest A. O’Bryen, Wilfrid W. Parker, Louis Perry, Joseph J. Perry, R. J. Phillips, Henry Schiller, J. H. Sherwin, Robert Shield, Eugene Simona, Joseph Simona, Joseph Sperati, James Stone, J. S. R. Towsey, William Towsey, C. H. Walker, Augustine E. White, Basil J. White, C. B. Wildsmith, P. G. Winter, H. Witte, C. J. Woollett, M.D., &c., &c.

THE LOYAL TOASTS.

The Chairman, in proposing the toast “The Pope and the King,” said : Catholics need no explanation of the toast I have now the high honour of proposing. By coupling together the name of Pope and King we reaffirm and maintain and continue that old tradition of Church and State which has existed in all civilised Christian communities for so many hundreds of years. I give you the healths of his Holiness the Pope and of his Majesty the King, and when we drink this toast with all loyalty and all honour, it would be well to remember the words of the old cavalier. Speaking to his son in the days of the Civil War, he said : “Son, if the crown should come so low that thou seest it hanging upon a bush, still stick to it.” (Loud cheers.)

The Chairman : The next toast I have to propose is that of the Queen, the Prince and Princess of Wales, and other members of the Royal Family. This toast meets with an enthusiastic greeting wherever it is proposed, but I venture to think there is no place where it can strike a deeper and truer note of harmony and devotion than when it is proposed at the gathering of a Society which has for its object the relief of the poor and the suffering. (Cheers.) The prerogatives of the Crown and the privileges of Parliament have oftentimes been the cause of civil disturbances in this country, but to-day the prerogative of Royalty is to lessen in every possible way the sufferings of the poor and of those who toil and labour for a livelihood. (Hear, hear.) Into the privileges of Parliament I will not enter, but it is our special privilege to-night to recognise in a special manner all that we owe to the Queen, to the Prince and Princess of Wales, and other members of the Royal Family.

SIR W. BUTLER AND THE SOCIETY.

After these two toasts had been acknowledged with musical honours, the Chairman proposed the toast of the evening, ” The Benevolent Society for the Relief of the Aged and Infirm Poor.” He said : I have now to propose to you a toast which brings very vividly before my mind the fact of my own un-worthiness in being the medium through which this toast is to be offered to the gathering tonight. (No, no.) And when I look back to the names of those who in former years fulfilled this duty, my feelings approach those of absolute dismay, because I find the toast has been submitted by some of the most revered, the most honoured amongst the Catholic body of this country, both clerical and lay. I can only plead for myself and ask you to accept the fact of my unworthiness as an excuse for being unable to do adequate justice to my task. (No, no.) This charity goes back a long way. It suggests many thoughts to even the most superficial amongst us. It has had, I believe, now well-nigh I50 years of existence. (Hear, hear.) The people who founded it were very different to what we are to-day. They had a great deal more of the world’s kicks and a great deal less of the world’s happiness. One hundred and fifty years ago the clouds of the penal laws hung darkly over the country. I will not refer to them further beyond saying that the remembrance of that period should deepen and intensify our desire to do good to the poor, to those whom the abrogation or even the existence of penal laws matters little, and whose social life is set so far below those of happier circumstances. We take a great interest in politics, but how little we would care for the most sensational paragraph in The Daily Mail if we had no breakfast-table to spread it upon, and more, if we had no breakfast to enable us to digest its amazing contents. (Loud laughter.) I see in the newspapers a great deal about free food, the big loaf and the little loaf. I wonder what our poorer brethren think of all these things—the big loaf, the little loaf, and the three acres and a cow. (Hear, hear, and laughter.) I can fancy some of these poor people, who have waited many years for the fulfilment of some of these marvellous promises, exclaiming ” If you cannot give us three acres, give us at least the cow.” (Cheers.) If we cannot give them the cow we can at least put some milk into their tea. (Loud and continued cheers.) They have claims upon us,.these old veterans of the poor. We may ask ourselves who are they ? I think I am right in saying they are the survivors, the few survivors, of a great army. (Hear, hear.) They are the scattered survivors of tens of thousands of a great army of workpeople out of whose sweat we are living. (Hear, hear.) These old veterans become eligible as candidates for this Society only when they have reached the ripe old age of 60 years. Think for a moment how many of their comrades must have fallen on that long road which they have travelled for half a century, or even longer. I look at the list of pensioners and I see their ages reach from 60 to 90. Two facts come home to me when I read the report of the Society. The first is the liberal gifts and benefactions of many of the large merchant princes of this city. (Cheers.) The second fact is that so many who respond to the appeal of the Society are from my own country—Ireland. (Loud cheers.) You remember the story of the boat’s-crew cast adrift on the ocean. Believing their last hour had come they thought they should do something appropriate to the occasion. Unfortunately there was no one amongst them who remembered the prayers of their youth, so they decided upon making a collection. (Loud laughter.) I do not for a moment suppose that any of my brethren who were unfortunate enough to find themselves in a similar position would have to resort to making a contribution to the seals and the seagulls, but I do venture to say that the most prayerful man amongst us could not offer any truer praise to his Creator, or do a more charitable act to his fellow creature than to contribute generously and unstintingly to a Society such as that which we have met to honour this evening. (Cheers.) There are few names come down from the remote past more identified with this great city of London than the name of Martin the apostle, the Roman soldier before he was Roman Bishop. The speaker, after relating the story of Martin dividing his coat to protect a poor beggar from the ravages of the weather, and the vision which he afterwards saw, said London was still, outwardly at least, largely Martin. Perhaps some portion of his mantle, said the speaker in conclusion, has descended upon this great city, still keeping alive his name and the spirit of charity to the poor. (Cheers.)  3rd December 1904, Page 23

The Purssells and the Providence Row Night Shelter.

The Providence (Row) Night Refuge was founded in 1860 by Mgr Daniel Gilbert, and heavily supported by Alfred Purssell [GG grandpa] almost from its foundation.  There is a slight element of “Noblesse oblige” in the family’s behaviour, but also a great deal of old-fashioned philanthropy.

In the winter of 1857, Fr Gilbert, was walking through the East End and came across a woman sheltering in a doorway. He struck up a conversation with her and discovered that she had no money and nowhere to go. He was so moved by her situation that he decided to create a refuge for people like her. Fr Gilbert called on the help of the Sisters of Mercy in Wexford, Ireland, and in September 1858 five of the Sisters arrived in London. Initially they moved to a house on Broad Street but found it too small for their purposes. Fr Gilbert then found a large stable block at the back of 14 Finsbury Square. The property opened on to a narrow street called Providence Row.

After less than a month of hard work and fundraising by a small group of Fr Gilbert’s friends, Providence Row Night Refuge opened on 7th October 1860. It was the first non sectarian shelter in London, open to anyone regardless of their race or religion. The alternative was the workhouse.

Originally it had only 14 beds but quickly expanded to 45 by February 1861. This still didn’t prove big enough to meet the growing demand and the refuge soon moved to a larger site on Crispin Street, near Spitalfields Market. By1862 it had provided 14,785 meals to homeless and destitute people in London. By the time of his death in 1895, Fr Gilbert had become Monsignor Gilbert and had raised over £100,000 (£74,000,000 at present day values) for the refuge, building work, and improving and expanding the services on offer.

It was later supported  by his children, sons-in-law, and other members of the family.  Both Uncle Edmund (Bellord), and Uncle Wilfred (Parker), were chairmen of the committee,  George Bellord [Uncle Edmund and Aunt Agnes’s son] was on the committee in the 1930’s. Uncle Frank (Purssell)  had also been on the committee, and deputised for his father at times, notably shortly before Alfred’s death in 1897.

The following are a series of extracts from “The Tablet” spanning just over forty years with various members of the family taking part.

(1.)  1896 – FUND-RAISING FOR PROVIDENCE ROW.

AP begging letter
Alfred Purssell’s letter, probably from 1896,

 

 

Jamaica Buildings,
St Michael’s Alley,
Cornhill, London
EC

The Honorary Manager of the Providence (Row) Night-Refuge & Home, Mr Alfred Purssell, C.C., presents his respectful compliments to Her Grace The Duchess of Newcastle, and begs once more to plead for this most deserving charity.

During the Winter Months, the Refuge provides every night nearly three hundred night’s lodgings, suppers & breakfasts to homeless wanderers free of cost. From the foundation of the Refuge thirty six years ago by the late Rev. Dr. Gilbert, nearly one million two hundred and fifty thousand night’s lodgings suppers and breakfasts have been provided.

The work of the charity does not end at “feeding the hungry” and “harbouring the harbourless”. It is also the means of enabling many of those, who find shelter within the walls of the Refuge, to begin life afresh, and to obtain again a position for themselves in the world. Those, for example, who through dire necessity, to save their families from starvation or worse, have parted with their tools, are enabled to recover them: sellers of fusees (large matches), flowers, newspapers, bootlaces, and the like, without hope or money, are supplied with a little stock: rent is paid and a small allowance granted to mothers and children, when the breadwinner through sickness is unable to work: the ragged are also clothed and situations obtained for them.

It is specially desired to call the attention of the charitable to some distinguishing marks of the Charity. In the first place it is absolutely non-sectarian. There are no questions as to nationality or creed. Whilst there is accommodation in the Refuge, no bona-fide applicant is refused, the sole passport necessary being genuine poverty and want. Secondly no effort is spared to secure the benefits of the Charity for the really deserving. The imposter, the professional beggar is soon detected. All the inmates are called upon to make a statement as to their last employment, and the cause of their misfortune, which is afterwards inquired into. By this means the benefits are secured for the bona-fide poor. It must be distinctly understood however that the poor applicant is not kept waiting for relief, but is lodged and fed, whilst the investigation is proceeding. Nor are the fallen debarred from participating in them, truth being considered a guarantee of desire to amend.

This winter special help is needed. There are no signs of any diminution in the poverty and distress around us. If the weather is severe, the sufferings of the poor will be materially increased. At times so great do their misery and wretchedness become, that those who are attempting to alleviate the distress are well nigh discouraged. The thought that hundreds of men, women and even children have in the depths of winter no home but the streets is simply appalling. There is a worse aspect to the question than this. How many of our poorer brothers and sisters in this vast metropolis are driven to crime. As degradation, by the want of food and shelter. Men and children become thieves; women and girls, alas! Barter their most valuable possession, their priceless innocence for food and shelter. These unfortunate ones find in the Refuge the means of reforming their lives, and of turning their backs for ever on the sinful past.

Will you kindly help the Committee of the Providence (Row) Night Refuge and Home in their great work amongst the poor? If you could pay a visit to it, one night during the winter months, and see for yourself the good that is being done by it, you would willingly do so.

Hear the opinions of some who have visited it:- Mr James Greenwood, the “Amateur Casual”, writing in the “Ludgate Monthly” has said “Outcasts of all kinds and from all parts find shelter there, and all are sure of something for supper and a bed, and a big roll, and a mug of cocoa ‘as a comforter’, “before they start on their way next morning…. The Managers of the Home have been thus unostentatiously engaged for many years, and the good they have effected is incalculable.”

The late Mr Montague Williams Q.C., in “Later Leaves” says of this Refuge: “There is no more Excellent institution…. The place is beautifully clean…. This institution, which is not nearly so well known as it deserves to be, is in the heart of Spitalfields.”

The “Daily Chronicle” has said: “Christianity is certainly not played out at the corner of Crispin St., and Raven Row, although it may be doubled, whether it ever found more depressing material to work upon.”

As an example of the distress, which exists in our midst may be mentioned that in the Refuge last year, amongst those assisted were an Architect, an Optician, clerks, waiters, valets, woodcarvers, ivory-turners, weavers, painters, a professor of music, a linguist, certificated teachers, dressmakers, domestic servants, etc., etc.

In addition to the Refuge, there are two homes, one for Servants, who partially support themselves by work, the other where women out of engagements can board and lodge at a small cost per week, whilst searching for situations.

An especial appeal for help is made this year, in order that funds may be raised to extend the work, which has now been carried on so effectively for thirty-six years. The Refuge was founded by the late Rev. Dr. Gilbert in 1860 with fourteen beds. It has now accommodation for nearly three hundred. Will you assist in extending the good work?

The smallest donation will be gratefully acknowledged, and the heartfelt prayers of the hungry you help to feed, of the houseless you help to lodge, the naked you help to clothe, the fallen you help to brighter and happier lives will be bound to.

(2.)  1897 – EASTER SUNDAY AT THE PROVIDENCE ROW NIGHT REFUGE AND HOME. – This is seventeen days before Alfred’s death on the 5th May 1897, and about six weeks before Frank Purssell’s wedding  on the 6th June 1897.

On Easter Sunday at the Providence (Row) Night Refuge and Home, Crispin Street, Spitalfields, E., in accordance with the custom of the late Mgr. Gilbert, a special dinner, consisting of hot soup, meat, potatoes, and bread, was provided for the inmates, who numbered over 300. In the absence of the Hon. Manager, Mr. Alfred Purssell, [Great, great-Grandpa]  through illness, his son, Mr. F. W. Purssell [Uncle Frank – technically GG Uncle] , presided, and was supported by the Rev. M. Fitzpatrick, the Misses Purssell, [ probably just Aunt Agnes (Bellord),Great granny, and Aunt Charlotte (Parker) because Laura had married Max Winstanley in 1883 and Lucy had married Henry Grant Edwardes in 1892 ] Miss B. G. Munk, Mr. and Mrs. Secrett, Mr. J. W. Gilbert (Secretary) &c.

In the men’s refectory, Mr. F. W. Purssell gave a short address. He said that they came there on behalf of the Hon. Manager and the committee to bid the inmates welcome to the refuge. Whilst deeply regretting the misfortune which had forced them to accept its hospitality, he trusted that it might be the means of reinstating them in life. Although it was very hard to be poor, poverty was not necessarily a disgrace. The refuge had been established by the late Mgr. Gilbert to help the deserving poor, and his work was still being continued. There was every prospect this year of a revival in trade owing to the many public celebrations which were to take place, and he (Mr. Purssell) hoped that when Easter came round next year, all the inmates present would have homes of their own. In conclusion, he announced that the Rev. Mother would give each inmate sixpence as an Easter gift on leaving the refuge next morning. Three ringing cheers for the Rev. Mother and the Sisters of Mercy, and for Mr. Purssell were followed by dinner, which was served by the Sisters. The visitors then proceeded to the women’s room and to the servants’ homes, in each of which Mr. Purssell addressed a few kindly words to those present. During the course of the afternoon oranges were distributed, and additional fare was given at the tea in the evening. Altogether the poor people had a very enjoyable day, and the Sisters and visitors must have been gratified at the joy and happiness to which they by their help contributed.

(3.)  1907-THE PROVIDENCE (ROW) NIGHT REFUGE.— Some four hundred poor people, men, women, and children, irrespective of creed, were entertained to a Christmas dinner at the Providence (Row) Night Refuge, Crispin-street, E., which was founded by the late Mgr. Gilbert in 1860. The large refectories were tastefully decorated for the occasion. Mr. E. J. Bellord (Chairman of the Committee) [ Uncle Edmund – well technically GG Uncle ] presided, and was supported by Mr. W. H. Foreman, Mr. J. G. Bellord, [ John Bellord, who is Edmund’s brother]  Mr. J. W. Gilbert (Secretary) [John Gilbert – later Sir John Gilbert was the nephew of Mgr Gilbert who founded the Refuge] , Mr. N. S. B. Kidson, Mr. G. Dutton, Mrs. Bellord [presumably John’s wife] , Mrs. E. J. Bellord,[Aunt Agnes] Mr. E. M. Barry, Mrs. Rolph, Miss Gilbert, Mr. G. R. Dutton, Miss Raynes, Mr. R. O’Bryen [Uncle Rex], Mrs. R. O’Bryen [Aunt Florence], Miss Barry, Mr. A. Bellord [John Bellord’s son], Mr. C. Bellord [ Cuthbert,  Edmund’s son from his first marriage], Miss F. B. Goold, the Misses Bellord [ probably Mildred and Margery, Edmund’s daughters from his first marriage], and others.

In the men’s refectory before dinner, Mr. E. J. Bellord, on behalf of the Committee, wished all the inmates a very happy Christmas. It was a matter of deep regret, he said, to all concerned in the management of the Refuge that they had, night after night during the present severe weather, to send a numbers of applicants for relief through lack of room. He hoped, however, that the severe distress would soon pass away. He asked them all that day to think very gratefully of the founder of the charity, the late Dr. Gilbert, whose work the Committee were carrying on, and he also trusted that they would remember how much they owed to the Sisters of Charity, who devoted their lives to the service of the poor. The dinner, which consisted of soup, beef, potatoes, bread, and plum-pudding, with oranges by way of dessert, was served by the Sisters and visitors. Afterwards each child received a toy, each man a small packet of tobacco and each woman a small packet of tea, all the gifts generous friends of the charity. Later on in the day there was tea with cake, and entertainments were provided both in the men’s and women’s sections by the girls in the boarders’ and servants’ homes and others.

(4.)  1907 – A NEW KNIGHT OF ST. SYLVESTER . MR. J. W. GILBERT’S  INVESTITURE. —On Friday last [4th January] , at the Convent of Mercy, 50, Crispin street, E., the Archbishop of Westminster invested Mr. J. W. Gilbert with the insignia of the knighthood of St. Sylvester, which has recently been conferred upon him by the Holy Father. A large gathering of friends witnessed the ceremony in the guild room of the Convent. The visitors included the Archbishop of Westminster, the Bishop of Southwark, Mgr. Brown, Canon St. John, Canon Murnane, Canon Moncrieff Symth, the Very Rev. Prior Kelly, D.D., 0.S.A., the Revv. T. Ring, D. McCarthy, W. Cooksey, 0. Fitzgerald, A. Walsh, D.D., 0.S.A., P. W. O’Connor, C. Donovan, G. H. Palmer, W. Donovan, H. E. Daly, and B. McFadden, the Rev. Mother and Sisters of the Convent of Mercy, Lady Parker, Messrs. E. J. Bellord [Uncle Edmund] and W. H Foreman, Mr. and Mrs. J. G. Bellord [John Bellord, Edmund’s brother], Mr. and Mrs. W. W. Parker [Uncle Wilfred and Aunt Charlotte], Mr. and Mrs. W. Towsey, Messrs. J. Arthur Walton [ both Ernest and Rex O’Bryen were at his wedding in 1900] , E. A. O’Bryen [Great-grandpa], R. O’Bryen [Uncle Rex], S. P. Jacques, Wm. J. Price, Mr. T. G. King, K.S.G., and Mrs. King, Messrs. V. M. Dunford, K.S.G., C. J. Munich, K.S.G., J. P. McAdam, W. Keane, Mr. and Mrs. W. P. Ryan, Messrs. J. Fox, J. Fentiman, G. E. Anstruther, P. Johnston, Misses Munk, Gilbert, Pattman, Upton, W. Campbell, H. Barton, Fox, Dunn, Feeney, Goss, Keeffe, Ryan, M. Head, M. S. Weale, K. McCathy, V. Edwards, Lenihan, K. Leithan, M. Dwane, P. McCrudden, and others. The Archbishop of Westminster [ Archbishop, later Cardinal Bourne]  who presided, said that he did not think it would be necessary to say many words as to the object of their meeting that afternoon. Mr. Gilbert’s work for the Catholic cause was known not only in London, but throughout the country. It was most fitting that the presentation of the insignia should be made at Crispin-street, where the chief work of Mr. Gilbert’s life—his work amongst the poor in connexion with the Night Refuge—was carried on. They had all had opportunities of witnessing how the charity, since the death of his uncle, Mgr. Gilbert, had under his care not only maintained its position, but had gradually developed. Mr. Gilbert had also done much for the cause of Catholic education. They would remember that upon him had fallen the greater share of the work in connexion with the organisation of the Albert Hall demonstration in 1906 against Mr. Birrell’s Bill, [ The Education Act 1906, which was intended to end state funding of Anglican and Catholic Church schools. It was defeated in the House of Lords. ] the results of which meeting had been so striking. Mr. Gilbert had also rendered particularly valuable service in London in connexion with their efforts to obtain equal treatment for their schools from the local authority, and in their struggle against the other Education Bills of the Government. He made no reference to work in connexion with the Eucharistic Congress, except in passing. They had felt—and he knew that Mr. Gilbert agreed with him—that the unique success of that gathering, and the public thanks of the Holy Father, were sufficient reward for all those who had taken part in its organisation. The knighthood of St. Sylvester was a distinction which was not easily given. It had been granted to only a few in this country, and the Holy See had had this in consideration in conferring this honour on Mr. Gilbert for his exceptional work. He would like to conclude by expressing his own personal gratitude to Mr. Gilbert for the valuable service he had rendered him both whilst Bishop of Southwark and since he had been Archbishop. He thought he could not put it more strongly than by saying that whenever he had called upon Mr. Gilbert for his help, he had never failed him.

The Bishop of Southwark cordially supported everything that the Archbishop had said. He pointed out that although much of Mr. Gilbert’s work lay within the archdiocese of Westminster, he lived in the diocese of Southwark, and therefore was a subject of his diocese. Catholics in Southwark had a good reason to be grateful to Mr. Gilbert for his work in connexion with their schools since the London County Council had become a local education authority, for his efforts on behalf of the Southwark Rescue Society, and for the valuable assistance he had given in connexion with the Catholic Boys’ Brigade. Mgr. Brown, on behalf of the Sisters of Mercy at Crispin-street, spoke of the happy relations that had existed for more than twelve years between them and Mr. Gilbert in all affairs connected with the conduct of the charity which had been founded by his uncle. He also personally wished to express his thanks to Mr. Gilbert for his work for education in Southwark, attributing his own success at two London School Board elections to Mr. Gilbert’s organising capabilities. Mr. E. J. Bellord, on behalf of the Committee of the Providence Row Night Refuge, of which he is Chairman, expressed the thanks of all concerned for the work which Mr. Gilbert had carried on in connexion with the Refuge for the past twelve years. Mr. Gilbert, in reply, expressed his very grateful thanks to the Holy Father for the honour he had conferred upon him. There was no honour more valued by a Catholic than a distinction granted by the Sovereign Pontiff, whom the whole of Christendom regards with the deepest veneration, respect, loyalty, and affection, and who has won universal admiration and devotion by his unique work as priest, Bishop, and Sovereign Pontiff, and by his saintliness and charm of character. Mr. Gilbert also expressed his thanks to his Grace the Archbishop of Westminster, to whom he was indebted, not only for this honour, but for all the marked kindness he had always met with from him, both as Bishop of Southwark and as Archbishop. He attributed any success that might have attended his efforts on behalf of the Catholic cause to the generous encouragement and practical help of the leader of the Catholic Church in this country, who last September was acclaimed by the whole Catholic world as the champion of Catholic liberty, who had not hesitated to join issue with an English Prime Minister, and who came out of the conflict triumphant. He also offered his sincere thanks to the Bishop of Southwark, to Mgr. Brown, to Mr. Bellord, and to the Sisters of Mercy, who were really responsible for the gathering. Mr. Gilbert spoke with the warmest praise of the self-sacrificing zeal and perseverance of the Sisters in their work amongst the poor.

(5.)  1908 – CHRISTMAS DAY AT THE PROVIDENCE (ROW) NIGHT REFUGE.- On Christmas Day at the Providence (Row) Night Refuge and Home, Crispin-street, E., which was founded by the late Mgr. Gilbert in 1860, a Christmas dinner was given to nearly 400 destitute poor, men, women, and children, irrespective of creed. The large rooms were tastefully decorated with evergreen, Christmas mottoes and the like. The dinner consisted of hot soup, beef, potatoes, bread, plum-pudding, and oranges by way of dessert. Mr. E. J. Bellord[ Uncle Edmund again] presided, and was supported by a large number of visitors including Mr W.H.Foreman, Mr J.W.Gilbert,[ John Gilbert.. see above]  Mr J.G.Bellord, Mrs Bellord, Mr R. O’Bryen, Mrs O’Bryen, [all see above]  Mr E.A.Mackenzie, Mrs George Blount, Miss Sherrington, Miss Gilbert, Mr Austin Bellord [ see above], Mrs Rolph, Mr Cuthbert Bellord, the Misses Bellord,[ see above] Mr L.M.Barry, Mr J.M.Barry, Miss McCarthy-Barry, Miss F.K. Pollock, Mr A. McDonnell. Mr J. McDonnell, &c., &c.

In the men’s refectory before dinner, Mr. E. J. Bellord, speaking on ‘behalf of the Committee, wished all the inmates a very happy ‘Christmas. He was very sorry for their misfortune, and trusted that by the time next Christmas came round, they would all have recovered themselves, and would spend Christmas in their own home. The Committee wanted them that day to remember the great Founder of the Refuge, the late Mgr. Gilbert, to whose zeal and self-sacrifice they owed that institution, and whose wishes they were doing their best to carry out. He also asked them not to forget the great debt of gratitude which they were under to the good Sisters of Mercy, who devoted their lives so generously to the services of the poor, and who provided so well for their comfort and happiness.

The dinner was served by the Sisters and the visitors, the latter Including a number of children, who vied with each other in waiting on the poor guests of the charity. After dinner each man received a present of tobacco, each woman a packet of tea, and each child a toy—all the gift of generous friends of the institution. Later on in the afternoon, tea with cake was provided, after which entertainments were given both in the men’s and women’s sections by the girls of the boarders’ and servants’ homes and others.

(6.)  1909 CHRISTMAS DAY AT THE PROVIDENCE ROW NIGHT REFUGE,CRISPIN STREET E.1. 1909

In 1909, Uncle Edmund (Bellord), Aunt Agnes’ husband, was chairing the committee. The Purssell family attendees on Christmas Day included most of the Bellord family, various cousins from the Winstanley  family [ Aunt Laura and Uncle Max’s children]. Uncle Rex, and Aunt Florence (O’Bryen), not strictly Purssells, but  Uncle Rex is Great-Granny’s brother-in-law, and she’s a Purssell.  J.W. [John, later Sir John] Gilbert the Hon. Secretary was the nephew of Mgr. Gilbert, the founder of the hostel.

On Christmas Day at the Providence (Row) Night Refuge, Crispin-street, E., in accordance with the custom of the Founder, the late Mgr. Gilbert, a special Christmas dinner, consisting of hot soup, beef, potatoes, plum-pudding, bread, and oranges by way of dessert, was given to all the inmates of the Refuge. More than one hundred poor people, for whom there was no room in the Refuge, were admitted to the dinner, the total number of guests, men, women and children, being nearly 400. The two large refectories were gaily decorated for the occasion with holly and evergreen and Christmas mottoes.

Mr. E. J. Bellord (Chairman of the Committee) presided, and was supported by Mrs. E. J. Bellord, Mr. W. H. Foreman, Mr. and Mrs. R. O’Bryen, Mr. and Mrs. J. G. Bellord [Uncle Edmund’s brother], Mr. L. J. Winstanley [Laura and Max’s son], Mr. E. A. McKenzie, Mr. A. Bellord [John Bellord’s son], Mr. C. Bellord [ Cuthbert,  Edmund’s son from his first marriage], Mr. E. Kerwin, the Misses Winstanley [probably Margaret, and Dorothy], Mr. G. McCarthy-Barry, Mr. A. McDonnell, Mr. J. McDonnell, Mr. J. Fentiman, the Misses Bellord [Mildred and Margery, Uncle Edmund’s daughters from his first marriage] Miss Gilbert, Miss McCarthy-Barry, Miss Robinson, Mr. J. W. Gilbert (Secretary), and many others.

In the men’s refectory before dinner, Mr. E. J. Bellord, on behalf of the Committee of the Refuge wished all the inmates a very happy Christmas. He greatly regretted that, owing to the abnormal amount of distress, there was so much poverty and suffering. He hoped, however that, with the New Year, there would be a better chance for them to secure work. They must, however, forget their troubles on this great day and enjoy the fare which was awaiting them. He would ask them to bear in memory the name of Dr. Gilbert, the Founder of the Refuge, who had left it in so good a condition that they were able to continue his work up to the present time, and to whom, therefore, they really owed their good dinner that day: He also wanted them always to remember how much they were indebted to the Sisters of Mercy, who devoted their lives to the service of the poor, and who, by their generous help, made the Refuge the useful institution it was.

Dinner was served by the Sisters and the visitors, who were most generous in their attentions to their poor guests. For more than an hour both refectories presented a busy spectacle. After dinner each man was presented with a packet of tobacco and a cigar, which had been sent for them by two anonymous donors ; each woman received a small packet of tea and each child a toy, both of which were again the gifts of friends of the charity. Later on in the afternoon tea with cake was provided for the inmates, and a concert and entertainment were provided in each section for them.

Moving on twenty years to the 1930’s, the family are still involved but everything has moved on. Aunt Agnes (Bellord) had died in March 1925, followed by Uncle Edmund (Bellord)  in December 1927. Uncle Rex (O’Bryen) had died in January 1928. Uncle Wilfred (Parker) has replaced Uncle Edmund as chairman of the committee, and George Bellord [Uncle Edmund and Aunt Agnes’ son, and one of Alfred Purssell’s grandsons] has joined the committee

(7.)  1930 – ANNUAL FOUNDER’S DAY MEETING OF THE PROVIDENCE ROW REFUGE. – Mrs. Wilfred W. Parker [Aunt Charlotte] , whose effective speech at the Annual Founder’s Day Meeting of the Providence (Row) Night Refuge last week, made a considerable impression, is a daughter of the late Mr. Alfred Purssell [Great, great, Grandpa]  a founder of Westminster Cathedral, who was an intimate friend of the late Monsignor Gilbert, and a co-trustee with him of this well-known charity at the time of his death. Mr. Purssell served for many years as a member of the Court of Common Council for the Ward of Cornhill, of which the present Lord Mayor is Alderman. If memory serves, he was Chairman of the Bridge House Estate Committee when the Tower Bridge was opened. [He wasn’t – he was on the committee, but not the Chairman. The Bridge House Estates is a charitable trust, established in 1282 by the City of London Corporation. It was originally established to maintain London Bridge and, subsequently, other bridges; funded by bridge tolls and charitable donations, the trust acquired an extensive property portfolio which made it more than self-sufficient. It paid for and built Tower Bridge]  Another speaker at Crispin Street last week, Mr. J. S. R. Towsey, is a son of the late Mr. William Towsey, another great friend of Monsignor Gilbert. He joined the Night Refuge Committee at its initiation in 1860, remaining a member until his death in 1925, certainly a record. Last Tuesday was the thirty-fifth anniversary of Monsignor Gilbert’s death.

(8.) 1931 – PRINCESS MARY AT CRISPIN STREET.

Princess Mary c 1930
Princess Mary c 1930

In the course of its seventy years’ history the Providence (Row) Night Refuge has several times had the honour  of welcoming members of the Royal House within its walls. The Prince of Wales visited the Refuge about four years ago; and on Friday last week Princess Mary presided at the annual Founder’s Day celebration, the third princess to accept the performance of that function; her Royal Highness’s predecessors were Princess Alice of Athlone, who presided in 1913; and Princess Marie Louise, in 1924. Founder’s Day at Crispin Street is always an occasion for enlisting the sympathy, by presence, of a distinguished chairman; no fewer than eleven Lord Mayors of London, it may be noted, and five Chairmen of the London County Council, have been among those presiding in past years. This year, the visit of Princess Mary gave added distinction to the occasion, and the present Lord Mayor, Alderman Sir William Phene Neal, attended among those who welcomed Her Royal Highness and expressed their welcome in words. With the Lord Mayor were the Bishop of Cambysopolis, representing His Eminence the Cardinal Archbishop; Viscount FitzAlan, the senior trustee of the charity; Alderman Sir Harold Downer, K.C.S.G.; Sheriff Collins ; the Mayor of Stepney (Mr. M. H. Davis, L.C.C.); Captain W. W. Parker, M.B.E., Chairman of the Committee; Sir John Gilbert, K.C.S.G., K.S.S., Secretary; Adele Countess Cadogan, and others.

Her Royal Highness, attended by Miss Dorothy Yorke as Lady-in-Waiting, took the chair. A bouquet was presented by Bona Leather, of St. Aloysius’ Secondary School, Clarendon Square, N.W. The speeches followed. First of all the Lord Mayor, expressing gratitude to the Princess for the honour of her presence, extolled the work of the Night Refuge and commended as an example the action of market workers in the City who had subscribed fifty pounds to its funds. Lord FitzAlan associated himself with the words of welcome ; and the Bishop, who followed, remarked, as representing the Cardinal, that His Eminence, in whose name he thanked Her Royal Highness for honouring the institution, took a deep interest in that as in all other good works in the Archdiocese. His lordship referred also to the beneficent labours of the Sisters of Mercy at Crispin Street, labours, he said, which included work that in its result often meant more than the value of food and shelter to the poor and needy who sought the Refuge. Monsignor Butt was followed by Sir John Gilbert, who briefly related some salient facts and figures in connection with the work, as, for instance, that since 1860 the Refuge has provided nearly 2,600,000 free nights’ lodgings, and 5,200,000 free meals, upon an organization plan aimed at securing the benefits of the deserving.

Princess Mary and the other guests afterwards paid a visit to the various parts of the Refuge. They found everything in its customary’ order ; the inmates for the night had been admitted as usual at five o’clock, and the only circumstance marking the rejoicing for the visit of Her Royal Highness was a special meal, provided by an anonymous benefactor and more satisfying in its character than any banquet of cakes and ale.

The valuable link between the Home and the Corporation of the City of London may be noted from an examination of the charity’s list of officers in the annual report. Sir John Knill, treasurer and a trustee, was Lord Mayor of London, 1909-10; Sir Henry T. McAuliffe, a trustee, has served for many years upon the Common Council and is Deputy-Alderman for Bishopsgate; Sir Harold Downer, a member of Committee, was Sheriff in 1924 before his election last year as Alderman for Coleman Street Ward. Similarly, an extensive “second generation” of workers for Monsignor Gilbert’s institution will be recognized. Sir John Knill’s offices were formerly held by his father, the late Sir Stuart Knill, London’s first post-Reformation Catholic Lord Mayor; as mentioned above, Captain W. W. Parker, son of the late Sir Henry Watson Parker, a well-known City lawyer, fills the chair of the Committee, as did his father-in-law, the late Mr. Alfred Purssell, a former member of the Corporation and the great personal friend of the Founder ; Mr. George Bellord has succeeded his father, the late Mr. Edmund Bellord, thirty four years a member of Committee and twenty-six years its chairman ; Mr. Joseph Towsey joined the Committee upon the death of his father, the late Mr. William Towsey, an original member with a record service extending from 1860 to 1926; Mr. J. Arthur Walton is the son of the late Hon. Mr. Justice Walton, a trustee for many years. Finally, Sir John Gilbert, a nephew of the Founder, will this year complete thirty-five years’ work as Secretary.

Princess Mary has had a letter sent to Sir John Gilbert expressing her deep interest in all she saw at the Refuge. Her Royal Highness wishes to show that interest by a grant from Queen Mary’s London Needlework Guild.

(9.)  1932 – CHRISTMAS DAY AT CRISPIN STREET.–In accordance with the practice of its founder, nearly three hundred destitute poor were entertained to dinner at the Providence (Row) Night Refuge and Home on Christmas Day. Captain W. W. Parker,Chairman of the Committee, [ Uncle Wilfred – well technically GG Uncle] presided; and the visitors included the Rev. F. D. Healy, M.A., Alderman Sir Harold Downer, Sir John Gilbert, the Revv. C. Flood, P. J. O’Hickey, O.S.A., C. J. Dullea, O.S.A., P. Geisel, S.J. and G. Eldridge; Mrs. W. Parker [ Aunt Charlotte], Mr. George Bellord [ Uncle Edmund’s son, and one of great, great, Grandpa’s grand-sons] , Mr. J. G. Bellord,[ John Bellord, who is Edmund’s brother] the Misses de Zulueta, Mr. R. Bellord [Robert Bellord, George’s brother, and another grand-son of Alfred Purssell.] Miss Margolis, the Misses Parker[ Uncle Wilfred, and Aunt Charlotte’s daughters, so more of Alfred’s grand-children], and others.  In the women’s refectory, Captain Parker unveiled a clock presented to the Refuge by Princess Mary, Countess of Harewood, [George V’s daughter, and the Queen’s aunt]  who presided at the annual Founder’s Day last April. After dinner, which was served by the Sisters of Mercy and visitors, presents were distributed, the gifts of generous friends of the charity.

(10.)  1935 – FOUNDER’S DAY AT CRISPIN STREET.—The thirty-seventh ” Founder’s Day ” celebration took place on Tuesday last at the Providence (Row) Night Refuge at Crispin Street. The chair was taken by the Lord Mayor, Sir Stephen Killik, who was accompanied by the Lady Mayoress and by the Sheriffs. This was the thirteenth occasion when a Lord Mayor has presided on Founder’s Day.

After Sir Stephen Killik had expressed his pleasure at being present, and had pointed out the great help given by the Refuge to those who, sometimes through no fault of their own, fall by the wayside, he deplored the deaths which had so directly affected the institution since the previous year’s gathering. The Court of Common Council had recently made a grant of £100 to the charity.

Father Bernard Hyde, of Moorfields—who replaced his lordship the Bishop of Cambysopolis, prevented by indisposition from attending—followed with an appeal for continued and increased support, financial and moral, for the great charity inaugurated by one of his predecessors at St. Mary’s, Monsignor Provost Gilbert.

Adele, Countess Cadogan stressed the importance of the work being carried on for so long a period by the Sisters of Mercy, who devoted themselves so wholeheartedly to their task in the truest spirit of charity.

The loss sustained through the death of Cardinal Bourne, [he died on New Year’s Day 1935] a frequent Founder’s Day visitor; of Sir John Knill, [he had died in 1934] who for thirty-six years had occupied the post of treasurer, formerly held by his late father; and of the indefatigable secretary, Sir John Gilbert, nephew of the founder, was emphasized by Capt. W. W. Parker, the chairman of committee, and the newly-appointed secretary, Mr. J. R. Walker. Sir Henry McAuliffe proposed, and Mr. J. S. Towsey seconded the vote of thanks to the Civic Visitors, to which Sir Stephen Killik replied. A tour of the premises followed, and the new Hostel for youths between sixteen and twenty-two formally received the name of the Purssell Hostel, in memory of the late Mr. Alfred Purssell, a co-operator with Monsignor Gilbert in the pioneer days. The annual report mentioned that this hostel, developed in premises in Gun Street, had cost upwards of £1,700, towards which sum much was still required. At Gilbert House, the hostel for business girls, specified improvements had been made; and in the servants’ hostel the laundry had been refitted with electrical plant. Regarding the ordinary routine of the shelter, 40,000 nights’ lodging, and about 90,000 free meals had been dispensed from November to May, bringing the total to 2,800,000 nights’ lodging and about 5,000,000 free meals, during the existence of the refuge, to poor persons irrespective of creed.

Among those present, in addition to the speakers and others already named, were Canon Ring and Canon P. McKenna; the Revv. E. King, S.J., V. Baker, Cong. Orat., and A. Reardon; the Earl of Denbigh; Sir Thomas Molony, Bart; Sir James and Lady Connolly; Mr. G. Bellord; and Mrs. Copland-Griffiths.

Sir Harold Downer, K.C.S.G., has accepted the dual office of Trustee and Treasurer, rendered vacant by the death of Sir John Knill, and his place on the Committee has been filled by Mr. Leonard V. Parker. [Uncle Wilfred and Aunt Charlotte’s son]

(11.)  1937 – PROVIDENCE ROW.  The Founder’s Day Meeting of the Providence (Row) Night Refuge and Home was held at the Refuge, on Tuesday, February 16th. Lord Russell of Killowen [Francis Xavier Joseph Russell [Frank], Adah Russell’s brother-in-law. ] was in the chair, and the two principal speakers were the Archbishop of Westminster and Sir Arthur McNalty, who had come in the place of Sir Kingsley Wood, the Minister of Health, who was unavoidably prevented from attending. The Refuge was founded in 1860, by the late Mgr. Gilbert, whose nephew, the late Sir John Gilbert, also was closely associated with it for forty years. As Lord Russell of Killowen pointed out in his speech, the chief work of the Refuge lay in giving the unemployed a place to which they could return after a day’s fruitless search for work, a place where they could find food and shelter and warmth and kindness. The extent of this work can be seen in the fact that last winter, 36,386 nights’ lodging and more than seventy-three thousand meals were provided for the homeless irrespective of creed or nationality. In addition, the Refuge includes Purssell House, a special Hostel for boys and young men ; Bellord House, a special Hostel for women ; Gilbert House, which gives an inexpensive home to young business girls whose own homes are at a distance ; and a Home of Rest for women, at St. Albans. Truly, as the Archbishop of Westminster said, the Refuge has become a worthy monument to its founder. Sir Arthur McNalty reminded his hearers of the fact that it was not until after the Dissolution of the monasteries that the State had to make any provision for the care of the destitute, and added that it was good to know that the Church continued its tradition of charity, for there were aspects of poverty with which the State could hardly deal successfully, and the work of such places as the Refuge was invaluable. This work could not be carried on but for the labours of the Sisters of Mercy, who have been in charge of the Refuge from its foundation, and the generosity of many benefactors. Notable among these recently have been Rosamond, Lady Trevor, who bore the whole cost of refurnishing the women’s dormitory ; and those who responded to Lord Russell of Killowen’s broadcast appeal and enabled many other improvements to be made.

(1.)  From the University of Nottingham manuscripts and special collections. http://tinyurl.com/h9krov7

(2.)The above text was found on p.36, 24th April 1897 in “The Tablet: The International Catholic News Weekly.” Reproduced with kind permission of the Publisher. The Tablet can be found at http://www.thetablet.co.uk .

(3.) The above text was found on p.23, 5th January 1907 in “The Tablet: The International Catholic News Weekly.” Reproduced with kind permission of the Publisher. The Tablet can be found at http://www.thetablet.co.uk .

(4.)  The above text was also found on p.23, 5th January 1907 in “The Tablet: The International Catholic News Weekly.” Reproduced with kind permission of the Publisher. The Tablet can be found at http://www.thetablet.co.uk .

(5.) The above text was found on p.24, 4th January 1908  in “The Tablet: The International Catholic News Weekly.” Reproduced with kind permission of the Publisher. The Tablet can be found at http://www.thetablet.co.uk .

(6.) The above text was found on p.38, 2nd January 1909 in “The Tablet: The International Catholic News Weekly.” Reproduced with kind permission of the Publisher. The Tablet can be found at http://www.thetablet.co.uk .

(7.) The above text was found on p.22, 22nd February 1930  in “The Tablet: The International Catholic News Weekly.” Reproduced with kind permission of the Publisher. The Tablet can be found at http://www.thetablet.co.uk .

(8.) The above text was found on p.22, 2nd May 1931  in “The Tablet: The International Catholic News Weekly.” Reproduced with kind permission of the Publisher. The Tablet can be found at http://www.thetablet.co.uk .

(9.) The above text was found on p.23, 2nd January 1932  in “The Tablet: The International Catholic News Weekly.” Reproduced with kind permission of the Publisher. The Tablet can be found at http://www.thetablet.co.uk .

(10.) The above text was found on p.25, 23rd February 1935  in “The Tablet: The International Catholic News Weekly.” Reproduced with kind permission of the Publisher. The Tablet can be found at http://www.thetablet.co.uk .

(11.) The above text was found on p.26, 20th February 1937  in “The Tablet: The International Catholic News Weekly.” Reproduced with kind permission of the Publisher. The Tablet can be found at http://www.thetablet.co.uk .

Mary I.E.Fetherstonhaugh/Blood (nee O’Bryen)1867-1947- another orphan

mrs-jordan
Dora Jordan

Mary Isabel O’Bryen is another splendid character. Pauline Roche was a definite ace, Mary Isabel, her first cousin is another. Not only is she another orphan, but very  entertainingly her great, great aunt was Mrs Jordan, the mistress of William IV.

Mary Isabel Emily O’Bryen was born in 1867, probably in February,  in Gibraltar, and died in 1947, in the Hall, West Farleigh, Kent  leaving  £15,769. Her executors were Henry Pollock (her son-in-law) and her step-son, Horace Blood. The Hall was her daughter Mary Corinne O’Bryen Margetts’ [nee Fetherstonhaugh] house.

Mary Isabel is Stephen Hewitt O’Bryen’s daughter, and was orphaned in 1872, at the age of five. She is a first cousin to Pauline Roche, Mgr HH O’B, Ernest O’Bryen, et al. She seems to be about seven months older than Rex O’Bryen, who was the youngest of the sixteen children of John Roche O’Bryen. She was also thirty years younger than her eldest cousins, Pauline Roche and Mgr Henry O’Bryen

Stephen Hewitt O’Bryen, (about 1816  -1872) is one of the seven children of Henry Hewitt O’Bryen Senior, and Mary Roche. He was the collector of revenue at Gibraltar. He had married Mary Hewson (1841- died before 1872) in Dublin in 1866. She would have been about 25, and he was about 50,  and Mary Isabel seems to be their only child. It is unclear whether Stephen and Mary died at the same time, but on Stephen’s death on 26th April 1872 in Gibraltar, Mary Isabel’s aunt Fanny became her guardian.

rock_of_gibraltar_1810
Rock of Gibraltar c.1810

“18 July 1874. Administration of the effects of  Stephen Hewitt O’Bryen late of Gibraltar in Spain late Collector of Her Majesty’s Revenue there who died on or about 26 April 1872 at same place granted 6 July 1874 at Dublin under the usual Limitations to Fanny Augusta Fetherstonhaugh [wife of Capt Henry Fetherstonhaugh] of Tullamore Kings County the guardian of Mary Isabella Emily O’Bryen a Minor the Daughter and only Next of Kin. Effects in England under £ 3000.”

Fanny is probably the most obvious, and logical choice as a guardian. She is twenty-three years old when Stephen dies, and Mary Isabel is orphaned, and has been married for just over three years. She has had two daughters, although Mildred died aged eight months in 1871. By 1875, Fanny and Henry have four children, two boys, and two girls.

  • Emily Cecilia Fetherstonhaugh 18 Jan 1870 – died 30 Jul 1938 in Belfast
  • Mildred Elizabeth Fetherstonhaugh 13 Apr 1871- died 5 Dec 1871 aged eight months
  • Laura Hardy Fetherstonhaugh 11 Sept 1872 – died 15 Jan 1938 Belfast
  • Henry Hewson Fetherstonhaugh 10 Jan 1874 – died 1939 London
  • Rupert John Fetherstonhaugh 9 July 1875 – died 20 July 1954 Ireland
  • and Mary Isabel O’Bryen became part of the household.

There was no obvious candidate to be a guardian amongst her O’Bryen uncles and aunts. Indeed, all but two of the seven were dead; Henry Hewitt O’Bryen Junior died eleven months after his brother Stephen in February 1873, leaving only Robert O’Bryen who was fifty eight.

The Hewsons were similarly complicated, there were four sons and five daughters. By 1873, Laura, Robert, and Mary herself were dead, John and Conrad were unmarried. Of the remainder, Dora was married to Richard O’Connor who was serving as the Chief Magistrate in Singapore, so not really a candidate. Cecilia was married to the splendidly named  Xaverius Blake Butler; she was, apparently, a secret drinker, and he had also taken to drink following the death of their three year old son in 1873, so that probably ruled them out. That left only two remaining Hewson uncles and aunts, Francis was recently married, and his wife Jane was expecting their first, and only, child, and then there was Fanny, the logical choice, as the only suitable one of Mary’s sisters, the unfortunate choice, in as far as, she died on the 5th November 1875.

tullamore-gaol
Tullamore Gaol

Henry Fetherstonhaugh (1826-1898) seems to have died in the summer of 1898 aged 72 in Tullamore, co.Offally.  He and Fanny Hewson had married on the 19th January 1869,  in Tullamore, when he was forty-three, and she was twenty. He had been a Captain in the Westmeath Rifles, and then served as the governor of Tullamore gaol, co.Offally, it appears right up to his death.

He and Fanny had four children who lived to adulthood, Emily, Laura, Henry Hewson, and Rupert. Mary Isabel Emily O’Bryen seems to have been part of Henry Fetherstonhaugh’s family, and household until she married  Alfred Joseph Fetherstonhaugh, who is a cousin on her mother’s side, in 1888. It was a relatively short-lived marriage, and Alf died on the 12th February 1894 in Biarritz, aged thirty-one.  They had a daughter Mary Corinne O’Bryen Fetherstonhaugh (1890-1973).who was born on the 21st Dec 1890 in Dublin, and died on the 29th November 1973 at Malling Place, West Malling, Kent.  She married Arthur Pearson Margetts in the summer of 1916 in Dublin.

Mary’s husband Alf is her uncle (and presumed guardian) Henry Fetherstonhaugh (1826-1898)’s first cousin once removed.  Or to put it another way, Henry’s great grandfather,William Fetherstonhaugh (????-1770)  is Alf’s  great, great, grandfather. And to make things even more complicated, Henry’s elder sister Jane is Alf’s aunt, having married his father’s  eldest brother, another William Fetherstonhaugh (1828-1914) . So her uncle’s sister is her husband’s aunt.

Alfred Joseph Fetherstonhaugh was the son of Stephen Radcliffe Fetherstonhaugh (1830 – 1895)  and Jane Boyce who had eleven children.  Jane was the daughter of Joseph Boyce who was a Lord Mayor of Dublin in 1855, and a ship owner

william_iv_crop
William IV

Mary Isabel’s maternal grandfather Frank Hewson was the nephew of  Dorothy Bland, (1761-1816). known as the actress Mrs Jordan. She was the mistress of William, Duke of Clarence (later William IV), who she had five sons and five daughters with; she had previously had a daughter by Richard Daly (1758-1813), an Irish actor and theatrical manager. She was then the mistress of Sir Richard Ford (c.1759-1806), having three more children, two daughters and a son (who died at birth). She died unmarried at 1 Rue d’Angouleme, Saint-Cloud, Paris, 5 July 1816.

Mary Isabel’s second husband was Alexander Findlater Blood, who she married in 1897. They both had children from a previous marriage, he had three, she had one and they then had a daughter, Millicent Alix Blood, born 1898. She married Lt.-Col. Jack Gronow Davis in 1932, and they had three sons. He served in the Indian Army, and retired to Sussex. Both died in Kensington in the mid 1980’s

Alexander Findlater Blood was born in Dublin, on 25 July 1853, the son of John Lloyd Blood and Margaret Findlater. He was a barrister in Dublin, and came from a Dublin brewing family.  The Bloods were distantly related to Colonel Thomas Blood (1618 –1680) best known for his attempt to steal the Crown Jewels from the Tower of London in 1671.

Alexander’s first wife was Rachel Anne Park, the daughter of Lt.-Col. Archibald Park, who he married  on 28 September 1880; and the granddaughter of  Mungo Park (1771 – 1806) who was a Scottish explorer of West Africa. He was the first Westerner known to have travelled to the central portion of the Niger River.  His second wife was Mary Isabel O’Bryen, who he married on 23 April 1897, in Dublin. He died in Dublin, on 13 June 1933 aged 79.

trinity-college-dublin
Trinity College Dublin

Alexander Blood went to Trinity College, Dublin, and was admitted to the Irish Bar in 1877. He then practised as a barrister, and solicitor in New Zealand between 1878 and 1883. On his return to Ireland he was admitted to the Inner Bar in 1899. He was a member of the Senate of Dublin University, a practising Bencher of King’s Inns, Dublin and eventually a King’s Counsel (K.C.)

The Bloods lived in some style in Dublin in the early 1900’s. In 1901, they were at 7 Gardiners Row, in a thirteen room house, with a governess, nurse, cook parlourmaid, and a housemaid. 13 rooms. By 1911, they were in a larger house at 43 Fitzwilliam Place, Dublin; this time with nineteen rooms, and a stable at the back. There were fewer staff, only a cook parlourmaid, and a housemaid, but the children were older so there was no longer a need for the governess, and nurse.

Alex had three children from his first marriage to Rachel Anne Park. Her father served in the 24th Bengal Native Infantry, and 29th Bengal Native Infantry, and his father was Mungo Park (1771 – 1806) the African explorer. Alex and Rachel’s children were

  • Dorothy Margaret Blood (1882-1973).  She was born in New Zealand, married Henry Brodhurst Pollock (1883-1952) They both lived at Castleknock Lodge, Castleknock, County Dublin; and are buried in St Brigid’s  Church of Ireland churchyard in Castleknock.
  • Horace Fitzgerald Blood (1885- unk). He was a doctor, and served as a Captain in the Royal Army Medical Corps in the First War. he seems to have lived in co. Wicklow, having had two sons in 1915, and 1917.
  • Brigadier Jeffrey Armstrong Blood (1893-1966) . he served in the Indian Army, and seems to have settled in London on his retirement. He married Mildred Mary O’Connor, in London, on the 12th  June 1926. Charles O’Connor was the last Master of the Rolls in Ireland, and one of the first judges of the Supreme Court of Ireland. 

In another of those curious twists about quite how close families were inter-linked,  Jeffrey Blood’s  sister-in-law  Evleen O’Connor, married Percy John Vincent MacDermot  (1875- 1955) the son of Rt. Hon. Hugh Hyacinth O’Rorke MacDermot.  Hugh MacDermot was a J.P. , and  Deputy Lieutenant (D.L.) in co. Sligo, and was Solicitor-General [Ireland] in 1886, and then Attorney-General [Ireland] in 1892. He also became a Privy Counsellor (P.C.) that year.

Percy MacDermot, was a Captain in the West Indian Regiment. He lived and died at Drumdoe, co. Roscommon. Percy married twice, they married in 1927,  and his second wife was Amy Mary French. She was the daughter of Charles French and Constance Ellinor Chichester.  Constance Ellinor Chichester, was  Mary Esther Grehan (nee Chichester)’s sister. She is married to Stephen Grehan Junior, who is Ernest O’Bryen’s third cousin.

So Mary Isabel O’Bryen’s step-son’s second wife is the niece of her first cousin’s third cousin by marriage. Do keep up……God, these people make my head hurt at times.

Charles French, Amy’s father was the M.P for co. Roscommon between 1873 and 1880, and in a curious case of inheritance was passed over from inheriting his father’s title. Charles French,(1790-1868) was the 3rd Baron De Freyne, . His [Catholic] marriage to “Catherine Maree, a peasant girl (b. c. 1827; d. 13 Oct 1900)” in 1851 was held to be invalid under the laws of Ireland at the time – as a consequence his eldest son, Charles and his two immediately younger brothers were held to be illegitimate hence incapable of inheriting the title, which accordingly passed on their father’s death to the fourth son.”  [ all from cracroftspeerage.co.uk].  Charles and Catherine had a second [Church of Ireland] marriage in 1854, and the fourth son Arthur (1855-1913) inherited the title.

Dorothy Bell — mistress of the Big House at Fota

Dorothy Bell was the daughter of Arthur Smith-Barry, Lord Barrymore.  So she is a second cousin of Pauline Barry (nee Roche)’s granddaughters Nina, and Emily, who are in turn, Mgr Henry, Corinne, Basil,  Alfred, Philip, Rex, and Ernest O’Bryen‘s third cousins.  Dorothy’s father had owned Fota House, which was inherited by his brother James, and then his nephew Robert. Dorothy Bell bought the estate back from her cousin Robert in 1939, for £ 31,000.  Quite how the family managed to hold onto their land, and money given Lord Barrymore’s behaviour to his tenants in the 1880’s is some mystery, as is the following description of life at Fota House in the 1940’s. Essentially, it wouldn’t have been much different at any time in past hundred and fifty years.

The following description of life at Fota House is largely taken from ‘Through the Green Baize Doors: Fota House, Memories of Patricia Butler’ , and various interpretations of it in the Irish Times, and Irish Independent about five years ago. The subtle distinctions between Irish and English staff, – Two weeks holiday for Irish staff, and a month for English staff, separate dining rooms, and an acceptance of the big house having hot and cold running water while there was none in the village, and  the  “Oh weren’t the gentry lovely” take on things appears to be a perfect example of false consciousness. Over to Patty Butler.

Fota House 2
Fota House

Back in the 1940s, when Dorothy Bell — mistress of the Big House at Fota — arrived home from a day’s hunting, she never did so quietly. She would, recalls former maid Patty Butler, rush through the front door, ringing the bell, and stride through the hall and up the stairs, calling the servants one after the other, “Mary!” “Patty!” “Peggy!”, discarding as she went her picnic basket, jacket, the skirt she wore over her jodhpurs for side-saddle riding, her whip and her hunting hat. As the staff, including the butler, rushed to pick up Dorothy’s belongings, her lady’s maid hurried to run a bath.

Patty was just 23 when she started work as the “in-between maid” at Fota House in 1947, after returning to Cork from England. On the advice of her cousin Peggy, who was working in Fota as the parlour maid, Patty applied for the job.

On the day of the interview, a somewhat awed Patty, who came from the nearby village of separate, was shown into the library by the butler, George Russell. “To me, the inside of Fota House on that day seemed like a palace,” she recalls. “I felt very small but also very excited in the midst of all this grandeur.” She was greeted by the mistress, who was sitting at a desk. The interview was brief. “Patty, have you come to join us?” inquired Dorothy. “The housekeeper will show you your duties. It won’t be all clean work, so you won’t be dressed up as you are now. Mrs Kevin will tell you what to wear.” And with that began a quarter of a century of dedicated service, as Patty became a member of staff in the efficiently run, though sometimes-eccentric, household a few miles outside Cobh. Over the years she was promoted to housemaid, lady’s maid and eventually cook.

fota-staff
The Fota House stafff in c.1920

Before Patty’s arrival, the family — The Honourable Mrs Dorothy Bell, her husband Major William Bertram Bell and their three daughters, Susan, Evelyn and Rosemary — had been looked after by an army of servants.  According to the census return for 1911, 73 people were on site at Fota House on Sunday, April 2nd, 1911. None of them were the Smith-Barry family who had lived in Fota House for generations, as records show they were away on holiday at the time. In the 1930s, an estimated 50 men had worked on the grounds of Fota alone, but by the time Butler took up employment in the Big House in 1947, overall staffing levels had fallen to about 13.

“I began working in Fota House in 1947. I worked there for about 25 years. I was initially employed as an in-between maid but later I worked in almost every capacity, as a housemaid, cook and housekeeper. The cook, Mrs Jones, who came to Fota with Mrs Bell from England, left after 45 years so Peggy Butler, my cousin, and I managed the cooking for Dorothy, her husband, Major Bell, other members of the family and visitors.”

“Mrs Bell had a secretary too, Miss Honor Betson. She had an estate agent and clerical staff who lived in the courtyard. Mr Russell, the butler from Yorkshire in England, supervised the household until he died on January25th, 1966. He died in Fota House.”

fota-4“There was a lovely homely feeling there. It was a very pretty house and Mrs Bell was very into flowers, so it was always lovely and very pretty,” recalls Patty, now 87.

She was given her own comfortable bedroom in the servants quarters. “I had everything I needed: a bed, a wardrobe, a dressing table with a mirror and an armchair near the fireplace. I remember also a beautiful washstand shaped like a heart with three legs. On top of that, there was a jug and basin with a matching soap dish. “There was also a towel rail with a white bath and hand towel. All the servants’ rooms were similar.”

“There was some distinction between the upper (mostly English and Protestant) servants, and the lower (mostly Irish and Catholic) servants. We dined in separate rooms, the upper servants in the housekeeper’s room and the lower servants in the still room. But we were all the best of friends. There was no rivalry or no animosity.”

“We also enjoyed food and board. The food was fabulous in Fota, of course, as fresh fruit and vegetables were produced there all the year round in the market garden and in the fruit garden and orchard. From the farm in Fota came milk, cheese, butter and cream. Rabbit and pigeon were eaten regularly in those days. The servants ate the same as the Anglo-Irish family, more or less.”

The anecdotes are legion — the way the servants occasionally ‘borrowed’ the Major’s Mercedes to go to Sunday Mass when their van didn’t work. How the housekeeper, a kindly soul with a strong Scottish accent, kept a cupboard in her bedroom especially for the pieces of china she broke while dusting Dorothy’s treasured ornaments. The times the servants were all driven to Cork Opera House by the chauffeur — the Bells had a great affection for the theatre and felt their staff should enjoy it too.

And then there was Dorothy’s eccentric habit of cutting the fruit cake in such a way that nobody could take a slice without her knowledge, and, of course, the parties that took place when the Bells were away, travelling the world.

Local lads from the village were invited up to the Big House by their sisters for a bath and a fry-up — there was no running water in many houses until the 1950s, or even the 1960s, says Patty. However, Fota had its own generator for electricity and water was always supplied from a nearby well. “We’d fry them up rashers and sausages and they’d have the bath and use the beautiful big, soft white towels and they’d think they were in heaven. The boys would love the bath — they were in their 20s and wanted to go into Cobh all poshed up!”

One day, however, Dorothy remarked that she had received an anonymous letter claiming that Patty and Peggy were having “parties” in the house while she was away. As Patty stood there, quaking, Dorothy laughed and told her relieved maid that she had thrown the letter in the fire.

Every morning, Mrs Kevin’s bell rang at 7am. Patty rose, dressed in a blue dress with a big white apron and white cap, and set to her housekeeping duties, which included cleaning the Major’s study and hoovering, dusting and polishing the Housekeeper’s Room before having breakfast at 8am. At 8.45am, Patty would bring her assigned guest — Fota nearly always had guests — morning tea on a tray with dainty green teapots with a gold rim and matching teacups. “I’d wake her in the morning with a breakfast tray and a biscuit, open the shutters, pull back the curtains and tidy the room. If there were any shoes that needed to be polished, I would take them down and they would be polished by a man who came in.”

The bed linen was beautiful. Each linen pillowcase had the Smith Barry crest in the corner and frills around the edges. After ironing, Patty remembers, each frill had to be carefully “goofed” or “goffered” by hand until it was perfectly fluted.

fota-house-dining-roomThe gentry came down for breakfast — kippers, kedgeree, rashers, sausages and eggs or boiled eggs, served with toast and fresh fruit from the garden — each day at about 9am. “You always knew they were gone down because their bedroom doors would be open. So you’d go up and make the beds and tidy the room and wash out the bathroom — but you had to be back behind the green baize door by 11am.” In the evenings, she wore a black dress with a small apron and a smaller white cap with a black velvet ribbon. Male servants also wore black.

“There was always lots to do,” she recalls. After the morning household tasks came lunch. “I’d be helping in the pantry and at the lunch. There was a long walk from the kitchen to the dining room — it was three or four minutes, but there were no trollies, so everything was carried by hand.” Lunch — which could be anything from roast beef to pigeon pie, rabbit, fish soufflé or cold meat in aspic jelly with vegetables from the garden, water and a selection of wines — could last from 1pm to 2.30pm.

fota-5Tea was at 5pm in the Gallery in summer and in the library in winter. “Tea, for which there were cucumber and marmite sand-wiches, scones, tea and a cake, could last until 6.30pm,” she says.

At 7pm, the gentry would go up to their bedrooms to change and have a bath before dinner — a lengthy four or five-course affair, which usually included game from Fota Estate. “Each dinner was served with suitable trimmings. Butter and cream were used in food preparations, so the flavours were always delicious,” she says. The kitchen had meat from the cattle and Fota’s home-produced milk, cheese and butter, as well as veg and fruit from the garden.

“There were always visitors, there was always somebody staying. They had the shooting season, the fishing season, the tennis season, the seaside in summer, the hunting — all the seasons brought different activities. You’d know by the season what was happening.”

Christmas was a particularly memorable time, she recalls. A single large Christmas tree was placed in the Front Hall, decorated with streamers, silver balls and other decorations, and on Christmas morning Dorothy gave each of the staff presents. “I remember I got a white apron,” recalls Patty, who says the mistress also distributed gifts to her tenants.

“On Christmas morning, the family went to the library to exchange presents. They loved gifts such as books and music records, ornaments or exquisite boxes of chocolates.” The chocolates, she says, often lasted for weeks, as the family usually ate only one at a time.

On Christmas Day, the servants had Christmas dinner in the middle of the day in the Servants’ Hall, while the family helped themselves to a cold lunch in the dining room. “This was the only day of the year that they waited upon themselves so that we could enjoy our Christmas dinner,” Patty recalls. That evening, the servants lined up in the Hall to watch the family, in full fancy-dress — these clothes were stored in a special chest in the attic — parade into the dining room.

“We had to bow to them as they passed by. I remember one year in particular when I could scarcely stop myself from laughing. Mrs Kevin, the housekeeper, carried a bell behind her back and as she bowed to each individual, the bell rang out!” After the fancy-dress parade, the family enjoyed a traditional Christmas dinner followed by plum pudding. They later drank to each other’s health from a silver ‘loving cup’, which was passed around. The men played billiards and the women talked and drank coffee in the library until late in the evening.

There were plenty of famous guests at Fota: Lord Dunraven of Adare, Co Limerick, Lord Powerscourt from Wicklow, the Duke and Duchess of Westminster and, according to the Visitors Book of Names, “eight international dendrologists with illegible signatures”.

The Bells enjoyed life, Patty recalls. “They had a lovely life; they were into everything. They went to the Dublin Horse Show and to the summer show in Cork. In his study, the Major had pictures of the bulls and cows with their first-prize rosettes. “They had a very privileged life and they enjoyed it,” she continues. There always seemed to be plenty of money. Mrs Bell had her own money, while the Major was, says Patty, “supposed to be a wizard on the stock exchange. They also had the farm and they owned a lot of houses and property in Cobh and Tipperary”.

In the evenings, Patty recalls, it was her job to go back upstairs, remove bedspreads, turn down beds and prepare hot-water bottles. “Some guests brought their own beautifully covered bottles, otherwise, stone jars were used. Most ladies brought their own pillows covered with satin pillowcases because they believed satin did not crease the face. “They had pink satin nightdress cases covered with lace and tied with ribbons.”

Fota House, Patty remembers, was a home from home. “It was a very happy place. Mrs Bell was excitable and eccentric. She was very athletic and quick. It was a very happy time, all of it.  In every household little things will happen to ruffle your feathers but, overall, it was a fabulous place to work, and it was the people who made it.”

“There were lovely people at Fota,” she continues. “They were extraordinary. There were men who were extraordinary craftsmen — there was a blacksmith, for instance and a shepherd and a stone mason. They’d usually have a young apprentice that they would be training up.”

By the 1960s, however, most of the servants had left. “There was only me and Peggy running the house. Pat Shea was the last butler. Little by little, the staff dwindled away: the cook left, the ladies’ maid left.” When George Russell died in 1966 — he had been butler at Fota for 45 years and came with the Bells from England — it was the end of an era, she recalls. “Mr Russell told me he would love to write a book about Fota. He was going to call it, ‘What the Butler Saw’.”

The household slowly began to change. A series of nurses were employed to nurse Major Bell in his declining years until he died. Dorothy moved to the Gardener’s House, which was situated in the orchard at Fota, and lived there until she died a few years after her husband, in 1975.

The estate today comprises 47 hectares of land, including the parkland, gardens and arboretum. In December 2007, the Irish Heritage Trust took over responsibility for Fota House, Arboretum & Gardens.

‘Through the Green Baize Doors: Fota House, Memories of Patricia Butler’ — a revised edition of ‘Treasured Times’ transcribed and arranged by Eileen Cronin

Christmas Day at the Providence (Row) Night Refuge, Crispin Street, E.1. 1909

ProvidenceRow
Providence Row

The Providence (Row) Night Refuge was founded in 1860, and heavily supported by Alfred Purssell, and his children, and sons-in-law almost from its foundation. In 1909, Edmund Bellord (Agnes Purssell’s husband) was chairing the committee. The family attendees on Christmas Day, included most of the Bellord family, Agnes Bellord’s nephew, and nieces from the Winstanley family. Rex and Florence O’Bryen, who are also there, are Agnes Bellord’s sister’s [ Gertrude O’Bryen (nee Purssell)’s] brother-in-law, and his wife. J.W. (John) Gilbert the Hon. Secretary was the nephew of Mgr. Gilbert, the founder.

Wilfrid Parker, Alfred Purssell’s  son in law, was chairman of the committee in 1931, Wilfrid’s nephew George Bellord was also on the committee that year. George’s father, Edmund Bellord (Agnes Purssell’s husband) had also chaired the committee. Frank Purssell had also been on the committee, and deputised for his father at times.

On Christmas Day at the Providence (Row) Night Refuge, Crispin-street, E., in accordance with the custom of the Founder, the late Mgr. Gilbert, a special Christmas dinner, consisting of hot soup, beef, potatoes, plum-pudding, bread, and oranges by way of dessert, was given to all the inmates of the Refuge. More than one hundred poor people, for whom there was no room in the Refuge, were admitted to the dinner, the total number of guests, men, women and children, being nearly 400. The two large refectories were gaily decorated for the occasion with holly and evergreen and Christmas mottoes.

Mr. E. J. Bellord (Chairman of the Committee) presided, and was supported by Mrs. E. J. Bellord, Mr. W. H. Foreman, Mr. and Mrs. R. O’Bryen, Mr. and Mrs. J. G. Bellord, Mr. L. J. Winstanley, Mr. E. A. McKenzie, Mr. A. Bellord, Mr. C. Bellord, Mr. E. Kerwin, the Misses Winstanley, Mr. G. McCarthy-Barry, Mr. A. McDonnell, Mr. J. McDonnell, Mr. J. Fentiman, the Misses Bellord, Miss Gilbert, Miss McCarthy-Barry, Miss Robinson, Mr. J. W. Gilbert (Secretary), and many others.

In the men’s refectory before dinner, Mr. E. J. Bellord, on behalf of the Committee of the Refuge wished all the inmates a very happy Christmas. He greatly regretted that, owing to the abnormal amount of distress, there was so much poverty and suffering. He hoped, however that, with the New Year, there would be a better chance for them to secure work. They must, however, forget their troubles on this great day and enjoy the fare which was awaiting them. He would ask them to bear in memory the name of Dr. Gilbert, the Founder of the Refuge, who had left it in so good a condition that they were able to continue his work up to the present time, and to whom, therefore, they really owed their good dinner that day: He also wanted them always to remember how much they were indebted to the Sisters of Mercy, who devoted their lives to the service of the poor, and who, by their generous help, made the Refuge the useful institution it was.

Dinner was served by the Sisters and the visitors, who were most generous in their attentions to their poor guests. For more than an hour both refectories presented a busy spectacle. After dinner each man was presented with a packet of tobacco and a cigar, which had been sent for them by two anonymous donors ; each woman received a small packet of tea and each child a toy, both of which were again the gifts of friends of the charity. Later on in the afternoon tea with cake was provided for the inmates, and a concert and entertainment were provided in each section for them.

The above text was found on p.38, 2nd January 1909 in “The Tablet: The International Catholic News Weekly.” Reproduced with kind permission of the Publisher. The Tablet can be found at http://www.thetablet.co.uk .

Fr Philip O’Bryen 1861 – 1913

Philip O’Bryen is one of Ernest O’Bryen‘s older brothers. To be precise, he is four years older.

Philip, Celia, and Alfred OBryen
Philip, Celia, and Alfred OBryen

He was born 25th Jun 1861 in South Kensington, and died 7th Nov 1913. He is the third son of John Roche O’Bryen and Celia Grehan, one of their six children. He is a half brother of Mgr Henry O’Bryen, and Corinne and Basil O’Bryen by his father’s marriage to Eliza Henderson.

His obituary from the Tablet gives some clues.

The Tablet 15th November 1913

THE REV. PHILIP AUGUSTUS O’BRYEN.

We regret to record the death of the Rev. Philip Augustus O’Bryen, rector of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, Princes Park, Liverpool which occurred on Friday afternoon, November 7, with startling suddenness. His morning had been spent in active work in the parish. After saying an early Mass at 6.45, he heard confessions and took Holy Communion to eight sick people. Between breakfast and noon he visited the sick in the Consumption Hospital, and returned home about midday. Feeling unwell and in considerable pain, he took to his bed. A little before three he was visited by one of his curates; at three he was found dead, having succumbed to heart failure, arising from rheumatism, to which he had, been subject since an attack of rheumatic fever in his student days at Ushaw.

Father O’Bryen, who was a cousin of Archbishop Bagshawe, was born in Westminster in 1861. He received his early education under the Christian Brothers, at Clapham, and went in 1872 to Ushaw, where he remained eighteen years, four of which were occupied in teaching. He was a B.A. of London University. Ordained at the English Martyrs’, Preston, in 1889, by Bishop O’Reilly, he was immediately appointed Professor of Mathematics and Science at St. Edward’s College, Liverpool, where he remained until his appointment as assistant priest at the important mission of the Sacred Heart, Liverpool, in 1895. Towards the end of the following year he was placed over the Mission of St. Joseph, Skerton, near Lancaster. On his arrival he found only a school chapel, but through the generosity of the late Miss Margaret Coulston he was able to build the present magnificent church and presbytery. In 1902 he succeeded the Rev. Father Pyke, now of the English Martyrs’, Preston, at Mount Carmel, Liverpool, and applied the funds raised by his predecessor in connection with the silver jubilee of the mission to erect a roodscreen and effect other improvements. His first important work in his new sphere was the division of his parish, and he superintended the building of St. Malachy’s Church, the foundation stone of which was laid some ten years ago by Cardinal Logue.

Requiem Masses for the soul of the deceased priest were said in several Liverpool churches. On Sunday evening the remains were taken to the church, where a crowded congregation had assembled. A solemn dirge was recited on Monday evening. The funeral took place on Tuesday, when a High Mass of Requiem was sung at the Church of Our Lady of Mount Carmel by the Archbishop of Liverpool, the deacon being Father Newton (Eccles), and the subdeacon Father J. Fitzgerald. Dean Goethals and Father J. Broadhead (vice-president of Ushaw) were deacons at the throne, and Father H. Blanchard was master of ceremonies. The music of the Mass was sung by the clergy diocesan choir, under the direction of Father A. Walmsley (Great Crosby.) The relatives present were Mr. and Mrs. Alfred O’Bryen, Mr. R. O’Bryen and Mr. B. Smith. The clergy present included Canons Kennedy and Hennelly (Birkenhead), Prior Burge, 0.S.B., Dom Wilson, 0.S.B., and Dean O’Donoghue (Wigan). The sermon was preached by the Rev. Father J. Hughes, who spoke highly of the character and work of the deceased.

The remains were taken to London, and the interment took place at Fulham Catholic Cemetery on Wednesday.—R.I.P.