The People

Sheet ‘A' of the census forms tell us about the occupants.

The 1901 census record shows William, Margaret and the six children at home.
1901 census return

On 31st March 1901, the house had eight occupants. William (55), Margaret (40), William (18), Joseph (16), Mary Ann (10), Harriet E. (9), Maude (7) and Henrietta (4). Where the children's ages are more or less consistent with the 1911 census, William and Margaret's ages are not and vary by several years – see below. In the 1901 census, Maude's name is spelled with a ‘e' at the end but it is not anywhere else. This is probably down to the person who completed the form, the handwriting is different. The older members of the family could read and write but Harriet, Maude and Henrietta could not yet read.

Ten years later, three children have left home - William and Joseph went to Scotland and Harriet to Belfast.
1911 census return

On 11th April 1911 there were five people living in the house and the census report has a little more information - William (head, farmer, aged 67), Margaret (wife, dressmaker, aged 56), Mary Ann ‘Molly' (daughter, Irish lace maker, aged 21), Maud (daughter, Irish lace maker, aged 17) and Henrietta (daughter, scholar, aged 13). Their religion is give as ‘Church of Ireland'. All could read and write but none could speak the Irish language, only English. According to the census return completed and signed by William, he and Margaret had been married for 31 years by 1911. More precisely, they were married in 16th January 1882, which would have been 29 years not 31. Astonishingly, he also reports that they had had a total of twelve children by this time. With their youngest child, Henrietta, being born in 1898, that would have meant 12 children within 16 years. Only six survived! Even though the potato famine would have been behind them by the time of their marriage, this high mortality rate for babies was not uncommon in rural Ireland at the time. There are baptismal and burial records for only two of these children so it is assumed that the four others sadly died at birth.

With the mother being described as a dressmaker, it is interesting that two of the daughters worked with lace. Clones was a renowned centre for lace making in the post famine, late 1800s and almost every family had members who stitched Irish lace.

Clones Lace is based upon Venetian designs but knotted with crochet hooks into a mesh fabric.
Clones Lace

By 1910, Clones was the most important centre of crochet lace making in Ireland, the products being exported all over the World and highly prized by the royalty and gentry. Around 1920, lace making machines were introduced eliminating much of the delicate hand work yet there is still an active hand-stitching community in and around Clones today.

William and Margaret's marriage record dated 16th January 1862.
William and Margaret's marriage

On William and Margaret's 1882 marriage record, his occupation is given as ‘flax miller' and his address as Roslea. A tale passed down by one of his sisters tells of the flax mill being burned to the ground as a result of 'the demon drink'. How true this is, I don't know. William moved to Shanmullagh South and became a farmer some time before 1901. Roslea is the nearest town to Shanmullagh (about 3-4 miles) and the birth records for William, their first son, and for two other children who didn't survive, show their address as Tattinbarr, which is just directly to the south of Roslea town. The ordinance survey map shows a flax mill next to a corn mill both served by a mill race (stream to power the mill wheel) at Tattinbarr, so that must have been the place. There is no evidence of the existence of either building today but the mill stream is still there.

The flax mill at Tattinbarr

William Henry Gillespie (our grandfather, then age 28), Joseph (26) and Harriet (18) had all left the family home by the time of the 1911 census – which is not surprising given the cramped living space.

William Henry emigrated to Scotland sometime between 1901 and 1907. At the age of 22, he married Rose Anne Stewart in 1907 in Kirkintilloch. On his marriage records, his occupation is given as ‘chemical work labourer' but he is also known to have worked as a coal miner. From the little we know about him, William was a keen fisherman, an activity that was popular within the family. On 13th July 1913, aged only 29, he died of actinomyosis, a bacterial infection of the neck and throat manifesting itself as a large lump. William and Annie had four children of which two died early. My father Joseph (born 1909) and his sister Margaret ‘Peggy' (born 1913) lived to 1886 and 1983 respectively.

Joseph Stewart Gillespie (Uncle Joe, baptised 26/3/1885) had also moved to Scotland by the time of the census and married Agnes McGregor on 14th July 1911, also in Kirkintilloch. They emigrated to New York in 1923 but returned to Ireland in 1935 giving their address as 19 Adam Street, Belfast. I know this to have been the home of his sister Harriet.

As children, we would go to live with Uncle Joe and Auntie Agnes in Maguiresbridge during summer holidays. He had a garage business and lived in an adjoining, whitewashed house with a small front garden. I remember we all slept in a big brass bed in the front room. Uncle Joe talked a lot and had a dry, sardonic wit. He would spend most evenings in the town bar and I remember how he would stagger home up the hill at closing time for yet another whip lashing from Agnes's tongue. My father told of how he had ‘drunk a small fortune' and with that experience, rarely took alcohol himself. Joe and Agnes moved to Larne, to be near us in their old age passing away in 1965 and 1960 respectively.

According to records, there were two Harriets. The first, Harriet Elizabeth, died in 1891 aged two. One of the six children who died at an early age. The only other named child was Charles George who died in 9/3/1888 aged 5 months. As there were six children recorded as living in 1911 and Harriet is not there, she too must have already left the fold aged 18. She married George McCullough, a boiler maker, in 1920 and had two children, Margaret and Alice. I knew them all in my teens as they would often drop-in unannounced on Sunday afternoons on outings to the Antrim Coast Road. Later, when I went to art college in Belfast in the mid-late ‘60s, I sometimes had an hour to kill waiting for the next train to Larne and would drop-in to see Harriet, who lived just five minutes walk from York Road train station. She was always very kind and interested in my studies. She lived in a little red brick terraced house in a side street off Duncairn Gardens and I was always aware of a strong smell of gas as soon as the front door was opened. We never had gas in Larne so the smell seemed quite overpowering to me. By a strange coincidence, Harriet's pre marriage address in Belfast in 1920 was 116 Malone Avenue – exactly the same street where I was born in 1945.

I don't think I ever met the other three sisters, Mary Ann (Molly), Maud and Henrietta (Hettie) though I would often hear Uncle Joe speak of them. They eventually married and didn't move too far away from their home in Shanmullagh South.

Molly married a neighbour, William Donaldson and they lived in Legnakelly on the road between Stonebridge and Clones. They had seven children and have a headstone at Clogh Church.

Maud married twice and had at least twelve children by two husbands, called McKeown and Presho. Sandy Presho came from Bullogbean which is a short distance along the road towards Monaghan from Stonebridge.

Hettie married Robert (Bob) Dickson, had two children, David and Ernest, and lived in or near the town of Clones. Dave Dickson was a well known musician and band leader who died performing on stage in 1985.

William (great grandfather) lived to the age of 74. He was buried at Clogh Church on 10th April 1922. This is the same church where he had been both baptised and married. His wife, Margaret, was buried at Clogh six years earlier on 1st February 1916, age 66.