The Miracle of Kathleen-Mary Lucy Byrne – Part 12

The turmoil of the last several months; leaving home, moving barracks, and waiting for news, weighed on the couple. They passed their first winter together at the Sligo barracks up on the northern shores of Ireland. Nestled at the end of a deep bay, Sligo was protected from the worst parts of the stormy Atlantic Ocean. Winter brought biting wet,westerly winds that whipped the water into a frothy fury. However, the relentless rains also caused the surrounding hills to be cloaked with a lush palette of many shades of green which spread as far as the eye could see.

Mary had known, almost right away, that she was with child. Their little one soon showed its personality. It fluttered at first, like a gentle wave rolling over the pebbles on the shore. Then came more decisive movements, bold and demanding. As Mary and Jimmy celebrated their first year of marriage, the child settled into its snug cocoon giving an odd nudge or poke to try to create more space. Mary held her hand on her belly and spoke softly. “Soon, you will have lots of room to stretch, my darling.”

The buds on the trees were swollen and ready to burst. Mary smiled thinking that was just about the way she felt at the moment. When the sun did appear, it stayed longer in the sky, and its force grew stronger. The buds were coaxed open unraveling a unique spectacle of perfectly formed leaves. Those late winter days were marked by the transition of stark, grey skies outlined with leafless trees transforming daily into an ever expanding fuzz of greens.

The day her child signaled it was time to emerge was one of those magical days. It was as if all these signs of spring had called and beckoned the child to come and meet the world.

Dawn broke on March 13, 1880 with a magnificent sunrise. Mary paced then she stopped by her small window to marvel at the beauty of the brilliant, white moon as it slipped lower in the rose-tinged sky. The rising sun must have peaked between the hills to the east, and the cloud-cover to cast such a perfect shade of pink around the horizon. Mary prayed for God to give her strength and courage to face the day. “Lord, bless this little one. Bring this child safely into our world.”

Jimmy alerted their neighbour; Mary’s time had come. The moment she arrived to assist his wife, she promptly escorted him out of the way.

“Make yourself useful, Sergeant. Let’s get a large pot of water on the boil. And fetch me those towels your wife set aside.”

She turned her attention to the job at hand. Mary had attended the births of many of her siblings, so this process was familiar, yet she had never quite imagined this jarring assault. She was grateful for the support of her neighbour. In these last few months, she had bonded with the women living at the Sligo barracks.

“There now, love. That’s a good girl. Won’t be long ‘afore we bring this little thing into the world, then.”

Mary was excited to meet her child and this gave her courage to face the pain of the birth.

As the sun set that evening Mary was tucked into bed with her beautiful baby girl cradled close to her body. Jimmy thrilled at his new family felt tears well up as he sat by his wife. They called her Kathleen Mary. He reached out and cupped her tiny head. “My little Irish rose. You have the pinkest cheeks. But my, oh my, you are so wee.”

Jimmy then turned to his wife. “Mary, what a treasure. You have done so well my darling. Rest now. I’m to go down to report our good news to the lads then.”

Mary knew Jimmy would be lost long into the night celebrating with his mates. Well, she was too tired to argue. Just as well he have his time of glory. The days ahead would be long enough.

baby-sweet-happy-human-64236Mary was exhausted yet filled with a deep sense of contentment. She held Kathleen’s little fingers, bent over and kissed her forehead and thought; I pray that I serve you well, my Kathie. You are so loved.

Living in these barracks meant that Mary was far away from her home at this special time. How she longed for her Ma’s soothing words, and she wanted so much for her to meet this precious little thing. There was an ache at the back of her throat, and she tried to choke back the tears as she thought of Lizzie’s excitement about being an auntie.

“Oh, I wish they could be here with you my sweet little Kathie. You will be welcome news for them.”

Begin Mary’s Story Here – The Prologue

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Promises Kept – Mary Lucy Byrne – Part 11

Friday October 31, 1879

Late October days were unusually pleasant in Dublin. Jimmy relaxed into a companionable banter with his brothers. Mary tried hard to help out his sisters with their daily tasks, but they insisted that Mary, in her pregnant state, should simply rest.

Today the couple planned to walk the few miles to visit St. James’ Church, parish home of Mary’s father and his family. Dublin was a city of churches and cathedrals, and, like his brother Tommy, Jimmy could find his way using the river Liffey and the steeples as his only guide.


St. James’ Roman Catholic Church Dublin, 2017

They traveled east on St. James Street and approached the sturdy stone building. Mary saw the square tower of the center face of the church rise up tall in the sky. The front of  the church had three large arched doors, one at the base of the tower and two on either side. Above the doors, glorious arched windows set into intricately carved stone alcoves seemed as tall as the doors themselves. Mary knew the church she saw before her had been completed in 1852 and that the original blessed stone was laid in 1842 by Daniel O’Connell, famously known as the liberator of Ireland.

A feeling of belonging and complete peace flowed over Mary as they walked through the door. The vaulted ceiling drew their gaze upward in awe and admiration. At the front of the church a large, wooden crucifix stood that had been a fixture of this parish for more than a century. Mary marveled at the idea that her grandparents had been blessed and baptised in the presence of this symbol. Both Mary and Jimmy dipped their fingers in the Holy Water as they asked for a blessing and walked forward to one of the front pews. Mary pulled her rosary from her bag and began her prayers. She asked the Lord to bless her grandparents, Joseph Byrne and Margaret Tierney, who were in His loving care. Her concentration continued as she prayed for her own parents and siblings and for Jimmy’s family. She concluded with a fervent plea to keep her own family safe. “God Bless my Jimmy and this wee thing. May your blessing fall upon us this day and forever, Amen”

St. James Street Post Office

St. James Street Post Office

As the couple stepped back into the sunlight, Mary noticed the post office across the road. “Let’s send a note to Ma and Pa, Jimmy. We promised to say a prayer in St. James’ parish. They would be pleased to know we have completed our pledge.”

Mary hastily scrawled a few lines.

“Dear Pa and Ma
We are finally arrived in Dublin. Jimmy is well and sends his love. We leave Dublin tomorrow for our posting at Sligo, on the northwest coast. Our prayers have been made in your beautiful church, Pa. I am as well as can be expected.
Your loving, Mary”

Mary had no recollection of her previous time in Dublin. After all, she had been a two year old. Her mother had said they lived with her grandparents on Bow Lane when Lizzie was born in 1862. Now she was curious. She and Jimmy followed St. James Street a few steps to come upon the small road. IMG_2276

On the right was the imposing stone wall encircling the city hospital. On the left side of the lane stood a row of lovely stone cottages. Making their way to #29, Mary gazed over at the pretty little house. She turned her glance towards Jimmy, “Wouldn’t that be a sweet place to raise a brood of little ones?”


29 Bow Lane, Dublin

“It would indeed. Though I’m certain it would get cold in the winter, Mary. We’d best be going now. We said we would meet the others at the Brazen Head pub for our last night in Dublin. They serve up a fine fish supper.” Jimmy reached over to encircle his wife’s waist turning her back towards St. James St. “Our visit is nearly over Mary. ’Tis time to get on with things.”

When the time came to say their goodbyes, Jimmy seemed to be in a different place. John Patrick and Edward walked them over to Dublin Central train station. The visit had been difficult. The house on Smithfield Terrace was bursting at the seams and the struggle to survive was evident all around them. On the one hand, Mary was glad to have met Jimmy’s family, but although they had all been polite, she didn’t really feel she belonged. Even though her father was Irish, her mother was clearly a foreigner and Mary herself had no real claim to Ireland. For those who lived in Dublin, only they were the true Irish.

Mary seemed to understand a little more about her husband’s reluctance to visit. He too, was a bit of a stranger now to his siblings.

Once at the station, the boys gave a hearty goodbye to Jimmy then sweetly kissed Mary on the cheek. With a wink of the eye, they disappeared into the crowd. Jimmy escorted Mary aboard and they found two seats at the window. The train moved out of the station and through Dublin City while Mary felt herself ease into the seat. She silently absorbed the images until the rocking motion of the train lulled her to sleep.

She woke, several hours later, and found they were deep in the countryside. The surrounding views took her breath away. Jimmy looked up and gave her a big grin, “Hello sleepyhead. Good thing you woke up. We are almost there.”





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Alida Vrooman, U.E.L. and Henry Hare, U.E.L.


My mother’s ancestry is woven from many stories of the loyalists who re-settled in British-held territory after The Treaty of Separation of 1783, creating the United States of America, was signed. These loyalists were among the first homesteaders in Ontario. This week, I received my United Empire Loyalist Association of Canada (UELAC), certificates to prove my lineal descent to two more of these ancestors, Alida Vrooman and her husband, Henry Hare. My research has ignited my curiousity and I have already started to build a story line to share a creative non-fiction account of their lives. Stay tuned for future installments. The following tells a little about Alida and Henry’s background.

Alida Vrooman descended from a long line of Dutch immigrants who settled in the Province of New York. Her family was faithful to their Monarch. Her grandfather Henrich Vroman and his brother, Adam, were among the few carpenters contracted to build Fort Hunter in 1711.SCFort_Hunter

In 1710, the Mayor of Albany along with 4 Indian Chiefs, travelled to London, England for an audience with Queen Anne. They pledged their loyalty and offered to help re-settle Palentine immigrants in exchange for protection from the French. Queen Anne ordered construction of a fort and encouraged settlement at the meeting place of the Schoharie Creek and Mohawk River.

The long line of courageous women who came before Alida were resilient pioneers.

I can trace, although not yet prove, her lineal descent from Annectke Van Naerden born in the Netherlands, around 1586. Her daughter, Sara Pierterse Van Naerden, and her father, arrived the Americas, landing at New Amsterdam, in 1624.

Alida Vrooman was born in Schenectady and baptized at the Dutch Reform Church in June 1747.

She married Henrich / Henry Hare in 1765, at the Dutch Reform Church in Schoharie, N.Y.

They had seven children, including my 4x Great Grandmother, Mary HARE.

Henry was employed by the Indian Department under Sir John Johnson. He worked along side the Mohawk peoples. In 1775, Henry was one of two people who refused to sign an association compact with the ‘Patriots’ in a place now known as Florida, New York, located just outside Fort Hunter.  Henry joined with Butler’s Rangers and became Lieutenant.

In September 1776, Henry was captured by the Whigs/Patriots, and imprisoned in Hartford, Connecticut. He was held there for seven months. Henry Hare travelled behind enemy lines, and gathered intelligence for the Tories/Loyalists. Stories were published involving Henry’s exploits; he was chased at length and had to destroy important correspondence he carried destined for Sir John Johnson, and Henry was involved in raids alongside Indian warriors where they participated in brutal attacks against Patriot settlements.

An update list from the American Revolution report the family of Henry Hare was kept under arrest in 1778. They family members include one woman, 4 boys and 3 girls. (Taken from “A List of Persons in the hands of Congress belonging to the Corps of Rangers, Royalists & Their Families.”)

In June 1779, Henry returned to his family home in the Mohawk River Valley, to bring birthday gifts to his wife, Alida. She was 32.

He was confronted after he left his family, and arrested along with Sergeant Newbury on June 19, 1779. They were taken to Roof’s Tavern where General Clinton had established a camp. The next morning a trial was held in the tent of Colonel Gansevoort, at Happy Hallow,  and Henry Hare was found guilty. He was sentenced to hang from his neck until his death.

Alida, it was reported, pleaded with the Partriots to spare her husband’s life, remindingGeneral Clinton's Camp Happy Hollow the accusers, he had a wife and seven small children to support. Her attempts fell on unsympathetic ears.

Trial records of Sergeant Newbury confirm Alida’s role in collecting and sharing information about Patriot activity. “Henry Hair’s [sic] Hare’s wife went backwards and forwards every day to gain Intelligence for us.”

Henry Hare hanged on Academy Hill in Canajaharie, New York on June 21 1779. His body was released to friends for burial. General Clinton, it is reported, left the camp at the time of the execution to avoid any recriminations from Hare’s friends.

Alida, like many others, fled with her children to Lower Canada. She petitioned Haldimand for support. He then instructed Sir John Johnston to grant her an annual pension of twenty pounds Sterling, to continue for the duration of her life.

She married First Sergeant, Adam P Empey and together they had four more children. With the assistance of her son-in law, Jacob Weager, Alida petitioned to have her husband, Henry Hare, added to the Executive List of Honour. She wanted his children to benefit from Lord Dorchester’s decree and become eligible, as children of those who joined the Royal Standard before the Treaty of Separation in 1783, to receive land grants. Only four of the Hare children were alive and noted in this petition, John, Barney, Mary and Catherine.

           – Prepared with the support for original research by Tom Raub, U.E.L. 5th Great Grandson who presented the preponderance of evidence to support Alida Vrooman’s loyalty. In 2017, her name was added to the list of proven loyalists managed by United Empire Loyalist Association of Canada.

LINEAL DESCENT: Alida Vrooman and Henry Hare were parents to Mary Hare. She married Captain Jacob Weager, U.E. Their daughter, Anna Maria Weager married Isaac Van Allen, who descended from Jacob Van Allen, U.E. Their daughter, Sarah Van Allen married Daniels Loucks, who descended from Joost Loucks, U.E. Their daughter, Grace Evelyn Loucks married James Austin Beckstead. Their daughter, Marion Henrietta Beckstead was my maternal grandmother.

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Dublin City – Mary Lucy Byrne – Part 10

“There’s Dublin!” someone cried. Mary turned to look and saw the outline of the city. It had been a long while since she had seen a place so vast. Smoke billowed out from the chimney pots. Crowds began to form looking over the railing, pointing and chatting with excitement. For some, this place meant home, a home many had been obliged to abandon in order to survive, but home nonetheless. Jimmy was one of those people. Mary felt her stomach twitch as she pulled her cloak around herself to provide some shelter from the biting wind. What would her new relatives be like? Jimmy did not really talk much about his family. She knew a little about his sisters and three brothers, Thomas, the eldest, John Patrick and Edward, all of whom stayed in Dublin North. His mother, Margaret, had come from the Hickey family in Dublin South. The last few decades in Ireland had witnessed enormous suffering of its people so that Dublin was flooded with those looking for a way to survive. Many died of starvation or were forced to flee to other lands. Others, like Jimmy, and Mary’s own father, joined the British Military for a career and a steady income.

Jimmy anchored himself next to his wife and gazed towards the approaching shore. He would know soon enough if his brother had received his letter. Mary sensed the tension simmering below his well-guarded facade. The afternoon sun danced along the rooftops as the ship docked at Kingstown, located on the south side of Dublin Bay. With any luck they would be settled with some of the family by teatime.

Mary watched Jimmy confirm his orders with his commander to meet up with his regiment in four days. Seven companies would proceed by rail to Mullingar. Jimmy’s company would depart for Sligo on the northwestern shore of Ireland. Jimmy and Mary would take the train in a few days to join his company so that the couple would have a full three days in Dublin. He stepped back, saluted, and walked off towards Mary. Beside her stood the small carry bag they would use for the short visit. Their remaining few belongings, destined for the barracks, were stowed with the company’s supplies.

They walked together into the milling pool of travelers. Excited chatter interspersed with the clang of chains and boom of machinery filled the air. “Jimmy, Jimmy, over here!” The call pierced the commotion. As Mary followed Jimmy’s glance she saw a fist waving above the sea of heads.

“There’s Tommy,” Jimmy said. He turned and jumped to stretch his hand high above the crowd. “Here we are.”

Jimmy pushed his way through the throng of travelers and led Mary to a smaller and older version of her husband. The two men embraced then pushed each other apart in a playful joust.

“Oh, a sight you are in your finery Jimmy. And now, just who is this lovely thing, then?”

Mary glanced toward the ground, then raised her eyes as Jimmy said, “Tommy, this is my Mary. She changed my life, this woman.” Jimmy laughed.

“They’ll all do that,” his brother replied.

“Mary, this would be my much older brother, Tommy,” the words coming out with a comfortably mocking tone.

“Ay, older and wiser,” he winked at Mary. “Now let’s be getting home. The gals are very keen on meeting your woman.”

Mary was not quite sure how she felt about the pending introductions. Jimmy held her hand to keep her close as they navigated out of the crowd and worked their way down the pier towards the rail station for the short ride to Dublin City.

The dense, black smoke seeped into the carriages as the train chugged out of Kingstown Station. Mary held a hankie over her nose and mouth to block out the acrid smell, and, before long, the screech of the metal wheels blocked any meaningful conversations as they pulled into Central Station in the heart of Dublin. Tommy led the couple out onto the street guiding them through his familiar territory. Jimmy chatted with his brother as they walked along the streets. Mary kept her eye on the men as they hurried along but was distracted by the scale and number of beautiful buildings. She saw the spire of St. Mary’s Pro Cathedral standing tall in the distance. Tommy pointed to the steeple as he said, “We head that way to get to the bridge over the river. “

Mary remembered her mother talking about the River Liffey and how it ran right


Dublin (c) 1885

through the middle of Dublin. In front of her Mary saw the rise in the road as the bustle of the city moved across the Carlisle bridge over the Liffey to Dublin North.

She looked in awe at the grand structures of the Court House and the Customs House, both built on the north river banks, but it was when they reached Sackville Street (now known as O’Connell St. ) that Mary cried out. “Wait, wait! Let me catch my breath. Oh my! Just look at this place.” As far as she could see in both directions were shops and shoppers.

Mary had never seen anything like it. The street was milling with people rushing along with their baskets in one hand, and children being dragged along like the tail of a kite in the other. Carts of varied shapes and sizes jostled about crisscrossing the street in all directions.

Jimmy chuckled, “Come, now Mary. We still have a little way to go.”

Mary looked at her husband, and reached out to grasp his extended hand. Tommy steered them across the busy intersection and slowly they moved further away; the frantic clamour fading to a quieter thrum.

St. Paul's RC Parish Arran Quay, Dublin

St. Paul’s Roman Catholic Church, Arran Quay, Dublin 2017

Before long, Tommy pointed out a different church landmark. This time he guided their view towards the tall spire of St. Paul’s Roman Catholic Church. One could easily navigate Dublin by the varied architecture of the church towers. “There,” he said pointing. “We are just a short distance from home now.”

Mary smelled the pungent odour of simmering, fermented grain as steam from one of the Jamieson Distilleries billowed into the deep, blue, canvas sky. The light was fading and soon the workers would be pouring out into the street with their daily ration of whiskey tucked under their arm.

The three travelers made the turn onto Smithfield Terrace. Jimmy’s family had lived on this street as long as he could remember. Rows of houses leaned against one another. Each building consisted of three levels, often accommodating multiple families. Tommy pushed open the door at number 53. “Hello, they’re here!” He turned to Jimmy, “Just go in and set yourselves down. I’ll take your bag upstairs and fetch our sisters to make some tea. Then I’ll get us some whiskey to mark the day.”

Mary reached down to pull out the parcel she had tucked into her bag. She slipped her cloak from her shoulders and handed it to Tommy. “Thank you, Tommy. That was kind of you to accompany us here.” Mary turned to see Jimmy’s mouth twisted in an anxious knot. She reached over to take his hand and he looked up at her. She smiled at him for reassurance, squeezed his hand and Jimmy visibly relaxed. “Come now, my love. It is time to meet the others in my family.”

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On the Move – Mary Lucy Byrne – Part 9

The short voyage to Plymouth, was relatively uneventful for the young couple, but this was a big journey as it marked an important step on their independent path. Devonport was a busy dock on the Plymouth Harbour. Many regiments shipped out from this bustling hive of activity, but that was not part of the plan for Jimmy’s battalion. After arriving in Plymouth, the company frequently changed quarters between the Citadel, Millbay and Raglan barracks.[1]

Mary found it difficult to settle into any routine. For the next six months she and Jimmy felt like buoys on the water being battered about as they moved from one barracks to another. India seemed more distant than ever.

In the third week of September 1879, Jimmy’s wing embarked aboard H.M.S. Assistance for passage to Jersey. Mary remained in Plymouth. She had spent the summer months contemplating the expansion of their family. With God’s good grace, the couple would welcome their first child before the end of winter.

H.M.S. Assistance returned to Devonport, on October 18th, where the staff and remaining battalion boarded for passage to Kingstown[2].

At last, after seven months of uncertainty, they were enroute to Ireland. Mary was thrilled they would dock on the south side of Dublin Bay. Once again, she pressed Jimmy to request a short home leave so they might fulfill their promise to pay their respects at the family parishes and meet with Jimmy’s siblings in Dublin City.


Not long after their departure Mary felt the chill from the grey, cold water. The ship followed the shoreline out of Plymouth, around the coast of Cornwall then headed into the Irish Sea. Occasionally the sun would break through the cloud cover and illuminate a patch of water, or if they were close to the shore, flash its glory on the verdant patches of green capping the steep cliffs. Thankfully it would not be a long voyage. Mary enjoyed the ocean swell and the stiff breeze that symbolized fresh beginnings. She held the rail for balance and felt her body rise and fall in tandem with the ship. The crisp, moist air left the salty taste of brine on her lips.

She sensed Jimmy’s apprehension but he finally requested a short leave in Dublin. He had written his brother, Tommy, to announce the visit. The couple would have three days to pay their respects and then Jimmy would have to report for duty.


Courtesy of The Army Children Archive – From the series, Tommy Atkins Married, created in the mid 1880’s depicting typical military life. This caption- Life On Board a Troopship: “Commence Firing” [4]

     Aboard the ship, the sleeping quarters were crowded and filled with loud, jovial men. There were scarcely any women along, just a few wives and some children, permitted as on-the-strength [3] companions, traveling with their husbands. Mary was quite glad their ship would dock within two days. She witnessed her husband interacting with the other men in his regiment and noticed once again the kinship he shared with them. His ebullience in front of them contrasted with his often gentle nature. She mostly had experienced the favour of his deep attention when they were alone together. They exchanged laughs, touched often to bind to each other, and felt comfortable as they huddled close and shared secrets. Aboard ship, Jimmy turned his attention to his mates, and barely acknowledged Mary was there. She assured herself Jimmy needed to share his excitement with his regiment. Mary was now about halfway along with their first child. The relief to be finally on their way left her emotionally fatigued. With both her physical and mental states equally drained she decided it was best for her to find her things and settle in to rest.

Mary thought of the days ahead. She felt excited and anxious about meeting Jimmy’s family. He did not like to talk about those times after his parents had died. Their family had suffered with the loss of income, and his sisters, Mary and Ellen, had gone to live with his elder brother, Tommy. The last Jimmy had heard they still lived around Smithfield Market, just behind St. Paul’s Roman Catholic Church. She hoped his letter advising them of his visit had been received. The din of the men talking, sparked with the occasional burst of laughter, lulled Mary’s weary body into a fitful sleep. Rocked by the movement of the ship as it pushed through the sea, Mary was buffeted between her past and her future.

The smell of meat frying mingled with the pungent odour of coffee, woke Mary. Sunlight danced across her face as the cracks in the decking above her head allowed the filaments of light to jostle with the ship’s movement. It took some time to remember she was on a voyage. Her mouth was dry from the rough night and she propped her head up to look around her. Deep in her belly she felt the grumbling pangs of hunger in response to the aroma of food wafting towards her. Fortunately, she was well past the queasiness she had felt earlier in her pregnancy. Now she just seemed ravenous – all the time. Slowly she stretched herself and rubbed her eyes and face to make herself more alert. She gathered her shawl close to her body as she stood. Jimmy was not there. She wondered if he had rested. Following her nose, Mary stepped out to look for her husband.

She found him chatting with a group from his regiment, mug in hand. He looked refreshed but she had no idea if he had slept much at all.

“Ah, Mary! How did you sleep, my love?”

Mary felt uncomfortable hearing his words of tenderness spoken in such a public manner. “Yes, I slept fine thank you.”

“Well, let’s get something to put some meat on those bones, shall we? You’re eating for two now.” Jimmy took her arm and escorted her over to the table and went off to get her a bowl of steaming porridge with a side of fried pork. As he set the dish in front of her he remarked, “After you have your food, we can go on deck to see our beautiful Ireland. No finer place in the world, there is. And the day is fair. The sun shines today. Such a shame there is no chance to live a prosperous life in that land. Eat up, Mary. The day’s a-wasting!” Jimmy flashed his smile and Mary felt at ease again.


[1] A History of the Lancashire Fusiliers (Formerly XXth Regiment) Vol. II 1822-1903; Major B. Smyth M.V.O.
[2] A History of the Lancashire Fusiliers (Formerly XXth Regiment) Vol. II 1822-1903; Major B. Smyth M.V.O.
[3] On-the-Strength : A military practice of confirming medical fitness of the companions so they would not become a burden to the military system.

[4] Commence Firing was the command given in the early evening to permit the soldiers to light up their tobacco for the evening smoke.


For images of Kingstown Harbour, visit the National Library of Ireland, Clarke Collection at Clarke Photographs National Library of Ireland

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Tearful Goodbye – Mary Lucy Byrne-Part 8

The official word arrived confirming Mary and Jimmy would depart March 13, 1879, barely three weeks after their marriage. The 20th Regiment, Lancashire Fusiliers, was ordered to Plymouth while they awaited further instruction. Eventually, they would be heading towards the Curragh Camp in Ireland to train in musketry. Troops were being prepared to replenish men in India, a distant part of the Empire.

The regiment would travel by steamer to Devonport in Plymouth. From there they would be transported to the military training grounds. Mary’s father knew the camp’s reputation. “A first class facility,” he uttered. “Its reputation is unquestionable.”

Her mother interjected, “You were just a child when your father trained at the Camp Curragh, Mary. We stayed in Dublin with your grandparents for much of the time. It was where your sister Lizzie, came into the world.”

Since Jimmy came from Dublin, Mary hoped they might spend a few days with his family. Who knows whether he will ever see them again. When we ship out to India, it may be for a very long time.

But Jimmy was inclined to go directly to the camp. “I am a soldier, Mary. I have no time to be visiting.” In truth, Jimmy was reluctant to meet with his family. His father had died about twelve years previously. Then, four years later, in 1872, his mother fell on hard times and died. That was before Jimmy joined the army in Manchester and became a soldier. He really had not been very good about staying in touch with his brothers and sisters since then.

Mary was unwavering in her persuasion. “You owe it to me, Jimmy. I want to meet your family. Don’t you want them to meet me?”

With that thought, Jimmy paused. He was proud to have Mary as his wife. He felt it was a good thing he had done. “Well perhaps you are right after all. We will only stay a day or two, Mary. That will be more than enough.”

Mary’s mother agreed. No matter how many years had passed, Jimmy should take the time to visit. “It would be proper for you to go your parish and pray for your Ma and Pa, Jimmy. And it wouldn’t hurt to see your own brothers and sisters. Mary, you can pray for your Pa’s family too. With your grandparents gone, we are called upon to honour their memory and pray for their souls. There would be no better place than at St. James’ parish where they were faithful members all those years.” The Doran and Byrne family parishes were within a few miles of each other. St. Paul’s Church, parish home of the Doran family, was on the north side of the River Liffey, in the Smithfield district.

Her mother added, “St. James’ parish is only a short walk across the river and down towards the big distillery. I used to walk you and Lizzie down by the river when we stayed on Bow Lane.” Pausing for just a moment, Josephine added, “You ought to take a gift to Jimmy’s family. You might make his sisters a shawl. It can be damp in Ireland and believe me, as we get on in years, a bit of extra warmth is most welcome. Yes, the Curragh Camp will wait for you. ”

Mistress of her own quarters, Mary had passed a glorious few weeks as wife to a man who could easily transform the worst day with the simple act of breaking into a smile. She spent her days arranging their home, heading out to shop, and preparing their dinner. She had devoted hours to knitting the lovely shawls using the yarn her mother found tucked in her knitting basket. “Well, I don’t know what I am saving that bit of wool for,” her mother offered. “You might as well use it.”

Mary deepened her relationship with her mother those last few weeks together. Now reconciled with her daughter’s decision, Josephine was free just to love her daughter and take joy in the girl she had raised. She understood how important their bond would need to be to support Mary in the uncertain and transient years ahead.

When Jimmy brought the news home about their coming departure, Mary initially responded with genuine excitement; India — how exotic! Eager for the adventure, curious about the foreign land, and thrilled to be taking an important step towards true independence, Mary embraced the idea. She glistened with the fresh glow of her grown-up life, and now such a grand adventure before them. Then — it was if a tiny pin had pricked the fragile edge of her bubble. Hardly perceptible at first, the euphoric bliss seeped away, and left Mary with a starker realisation; one part of her, a big part of her, would be left behind.

With the help of her mother, Mary started to collect the things the couple would take with them. The military life had obliged Josephine to pack up and move many times. And she knew about living in a tropical climate. Josephine had been born and raised in the British protectorate, Corfu, one of the Ionian Islands situated between Greece and Turkey. Mary often heard stories about life where her mother was raised and where Mary was born. By an odd coincidence, early in her father’s career and shortly after Mary was born, the Byrne family had been posted to the Curragh Camp. Josephine shook her head, “After we left Corfu it took years for me to feel warm again.”

Mary was subdued on the morning of their departure. Jimmy was busy organizing the men in his unit. The few bags they were permitted to bring with them, stuffed to capacity, were standing by the door like a row of disciplined soldiers. Along with Mary’s everyday dresses, Josephine had insisted Mary have a more formal outfit for social calling. Some personal items: her brushes, combs and, of course, her bible and some writing implements were considered essential. It was unclear how long they would be in Ireland before being shipped out to India. Some warm clothes must be included. Tucked into one of the last remaining pockets, Mary had placed the shawls she made for Jimmy’s sisters, Mary and Ellen.

Portmouth Harbour (Phil Evans)

Image Credit: Phil Evans

Her family went with them to the dock to say their goodbyes. Even Lizzie had managed to get home for a few days. Mary knew her sister was saddened about their looming separation. Jessie and Maud had each other and they did not fully understand. Josephine held tightly to little Millie, as if she might also lose her if she loosened her grip. Mary had teased her little sisters, “You girls pay attention and mind your Ma.” She wrapped each of them in an affectionate hug. She then turned to her best friend and sister, Lizzie. “How am I ever going to manage without you?” Mary spoke collapsing into her sister’s arms. They embraced each other and struggled to keep their tears from welling.

“We will be together again, one day, Mary. I am certain of this.” Lizzie stepped back. She had dreaded this day since Mary came home flushed, excited and betrothed. She grabbed each of the younger girls by the hand and gathered energy from their youthful excitement.

They watched as Mary received an unusually long hug from their Pa. “ I am very proud of you. Please stop by St. James’ parish when you get to Dublin and say a prayer for your grandparents. Will you do that Mary?”

She nodded, “I will miss you Pa. I will be sure to write once we get settled.”

Finally, Mary turned to her mother. She saw her face bent towards little Millie. It was no use — tears rolled down her mother’s face though she tried so hard to hide them as she nestled her cheek into the baby’s bonnet. Lizzie stepped up to take Millie and then mother and daughter came together. “Oh Mary! God keep you safe, my dear girl. Make your devotions every day and send me word of your safe arrival.”

Mary contained her emotions as best she could but her mother’s grief set off her own dismay. She could no longer stop the tears. “I will, Ma. I promise.”

Josephine brushed her daughter’s cheeks. “Now we all have to be strong. You are off on a great adventure and we will carry on. We must follow with courage the path The Lord gives us.”

Jimmy, free from his work on the steamer, came down to meet his wife. “Don’t worry, Mrs. Byrne. Mary’s in good hands.” He circled his arm around her waist, “Mary, come on now, it’s time to go aboard,” and escorted his wife up the ramp.

From the deck, Mary looked down on the crowds seeing her family huddled together. They seemed so distant already. She was glad Jimmy stayed by her side to prop up her strength. The family smiled and waved as the blast from the ship’s horn gave a bellow to signal their departure. She blew them all kisses as she recalled another voyage long ago.

Mary was ten years old when the family first departed North America bound for England. She distinctly remembered standing with Lizzie at the ship’s rail, hands clutched in their father’s grip. They were so excited to be on another adventure and they watched the town of Levis grow smaller and smaller until their home disappeared entirely. Her mother refused to watch. She had tucked herself safely below deck and was focused on her two youngest children, Michael Joseph, then a busy two-year old, and the infant, Paul Frederick. It was the first time Mary sensed loss mingled with excitement. She often wondered whether her mother could not bear to say goodbye, particularly to her little sister, Josephine Brigitte, who slept forever with the angels in a little corner of the cemetery at Paroisse St. Joseph.

Mary watched a different scene unfold on the day they left the Verne Citadel. She and Jimmy stood together to face their future, and at once she completely understood the pain her mother felt as she watched those she loved so dearly fade from her sight, leaving Mary with a sense of deep anguish.


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The Wedding – Mary Lucy Byrne – Part 7

February 15, 1879

The sleet pelted down, driving in a steep diagonal line, on that cold winter’s morning. Not surprising really, for a February day on the southwest coast of England. Storms are common and often fierce, but this wasn’t quite what Mary hoped for her wedding day. Her excitement and nervous apprehension accompanied her as she prepared. Mary’s dreams of marriage, a family of her own and new adventure were now within her grasp.

She walked into the family sitting room dressed in her Sunday outfit. The neatly tailored grey dress tucked in at the waist, accentuated her fine figure. The dress had been a gift when she turned eighteen last summer. Made from fine grey wool, the tight weave would wear well and keep her warm during the winter months. The skirt fell to the floor with a double row of fabric, stitched above the hemline, to enhance the graceful movement of the outfit. Over the winter months Mary had skillfully stitched a lace collar in a matching colour. The elegant addition managed to lengthen the appearance of her neck and made the outfit special for this day. Her father turned first and a smile beamed from his face.

“My word, what a beauty.”

At that moment, Josephine handed the baby over to their neighbour who had agreed to look after all the little ones while the family went down to the church. She stared for a long while at her daughter and tears formed in her eyes. “Where is my little girl?” she sighed, shaking her head from side to side.

Together, Mary’s parents walked over to the bride. “This is a happy day for you, Mary,” her father announced. “And a special one for our family. Your life as a grown woman truly begins today.”

Josephine looked directly at her eldest daughter. “Your course is set, my dear. I pray you find the same happiness I have known.” She slipped her hand into her pocket. “This is a little something that belonged to my mother,” she said and extracted the worn silk bag. She reached out and took hold of her daughter’s hands and placed the gift there with a loving squeeze. Instinctively, Mary knew exactly what it was. Her hands reached into the bag and she felt the familiar piece. Two gold bars ran across an inverted horseshoe with a delicate clasp on the back. Her mother often wore this brooch. She had received it on her own wedding day in 1859. “I want you to have it,” her mother said. “It will remind you of the family that brought you this far. I hope it will bring you good fortune.”

Mary pulled out the amulet, “Ma, this means the world to me. I will treasure it as you have all these years.” Josephine took the brooch and worked the clasp open. She slipped one hand under Mary’s lace collar and carefully attached the pin at her neckline. Discreet gems embedded in the piece reflected light as the clasp was fastened. Mary touched her fingers to her new treasure and embraced her Ma. The soft fragrance of lavender soothed Mary as she inhaled the essence of her mother’s love.

“It is time to go now,” her father said.

Maud and Jessie milled around the room aware something was different. Particularly attentive this morning they executed every instruction from their father to the letter. He was rarely at home during the day. Of course, her brothers were away at school and were not terribly interested in wedding events. Lizzie, on the other hand, was desperate to be with Mary, but was some distance away and unable to be at her sister’s side. She was taking a course of studies, and the spinster headmistress would not allow her time away for what she clearly considered frivolities. Lizzie poured her heart out to Mary in her most recent letter. I tried, Mary, really I did, but that headmistress would have nothing to do with my plea. Lizzie ridiculed the conversation she had with the head of the school. Her indignation seeped through in her letter as she shared the biting words from the headmistress. It is such a short ceremony, Elizabeth, and there is no need for you to jeopardize your studies. Unfortunately for the girls, their parents had agreed with the school.

Mary missed her lifelong companion, especially at her marriage, an event that was bound to thrust them further apart. The older girls were especially close. The boys, Michael and Paul, who were close in age, now attended boarding school. Fourteen years fell between Mary and her sister, Maud. There was an even greater age gap with Jessie and Millie, who were naturally bonded by play.

olsa_door BYRNE Chapel 1879

Our Lady and St. Andrew, Isle of Portland

The Byrne family, bundled under layers of clothing and two broad umbrellas, headed down Grove Road towards Our Lady and St. Andrew, the small Roman Catholic chapel for the Verne Citadel. The effort to stave off the weather was futile as the soggy party arrived at its destination. Droplets of water cascaded off their capes as they shook themselves free from the drenched clothing. Mary patted her face with her hankie and stroked her hand along her hairline to smooth the curls back in place. Standing in the vestibule, waiting for the group to arrive, was Mary’s good friend, Julia Cooper. She was grateful Julia could stand in for Lizzie to act as her witness today.

“What a day! You should be overflowing with luck with all this rain,” Julia bubbled.

With a wink and a nod, Mary said, “Typical, isn’t it? What a nuisance. I trust God is blessing our union then.” She looked up, relieved to see Jimmy. He was deep in conversation with Father Wincott and John Cameron, the groom’s witness. Distracted by the noise at the back of the chapel, Jimmy turned to see Mary. He met her gaze and smiled like an excited schoolboy about to be released for end-of-term holidays. He excused himself, and walked down to meet his sweetheart. He gave a slight bow to the ladies, Julia and Josephine, saluted Sergeant Byrne and then reached for both of Mary’s hands to hold her out in front of him. “Why Mary, you are a vision!” he exclaimed.

She blushed and cast her look down. “Oh, Jimmy, don’t talk such foolishness.”

Josephine touched her daughter’s arm and walked towards Father Wincott to sit at the front of the Chapel. Julia followed behind to take her place by John Cameron.

Michael put one hand on Jimmy’s shoulder, glanced at his pocket watch, and said, “Time to get started.” He joined his wife in the front pew.

Jimmy took Mary’s arm, looped it protectively through his, and maintained his hand over hers. They faced the group and took the first steps towards their life together.

The rhythmic tones of the Latin service were solemn and meaningful. Once consent had been acknowledged, the priest intoned, “Ego conjungo vos in matrimonium in nomine Patris et Filii et Spiritus Sancti. Amen”1

The priest opened his hand and offered the blessed ring to Jimmy who placed it on Mary’s ring finger. Then, the ritual was repeated as Mary eased a ring onto her husband’s finger. Once this ceremony was done, the priest led the group in the Nuptial Mass. Just before the words of the benediction were uttered, the couple rose to face those assembled in the chapel. Father Wincott delivered the last sacred words and the solemnization of their marriage was complete.


1. Translation: I unite you in wedlock in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.

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