Jeffers of Bandon

In our digital age many of us take photographs almost daily of everything including our pets, families, food, holidays etc.  In fact we have so many photos that we fail to appreciate the wonder and value of this technology. Photography was first invented in 1826, the first picture of a human in 1838, the first colour photo in the 1860s and the first digital photograph in 1975. It was probably around the 1870s that it became possible for the ordinary person to access the services of a photographer. However personal photos from the 1800s and early 1900s are scarce.  Many families have albums full of old photos but unfortunately many of them are unidentifiable as nobody took the time to write down who was in the picture.

I was recently shown this wonderful photograph of my husband’s Jeffers family taken around 1909 in Bandon, Co. Cork.  His grandfather, Jonothan Edward Jeffers, known to everyone as Eddie, is the little cross-legged boy seated at the front.  Later in life Eddie wrote names on the back of the photo but the family couldn’t confirm exactly who everyone was. However, by putting his records with the family tree that I’d created alongside we were able to piece the information together and identify everyone in the photo. The photo contains three generations of Jeffers spanning 159 years. Eddie’s grandparents, John Edward & Bessie Jeffers are centre stage and are surrounded by their surviving children, children-in-law and grandchildren.

John Edward Jeffers was one of at least four children born to Edward Jeffers, a farmer and shoemaker, and his wife Anne Wolfe of Lislee near Courtmacsherry, Co. Cork on  29 June 1841.  John moved to the nearby market town of Bandon where he worked in and became manager of Miss Moriarty’s Grocery and Bakery on South Main Street.  In 1868 he married Elizabeth (Bessie) Bright in St. Peter’s Church, Bandon.  Bessie’s father, Jonathan Bright, was a shoemaker from Bridge Street, Bandon.  When Miss Moriarty died in 1883 she left the Grocery to 42 year old John in her will.  John renamed the shop “Jeffers” and continued to work in the Bakery/Grocery Trade.

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Jeffers bakery and grocery, 86 South Main Street, Bandon, Co. Cork.  Early 1900s.

John and Bessie Jeffers lived on Castle Road, not far from his shop and bakery.  Previous generations of Jeffers in Courtmacsherry had belonged to the local Church of Ireland, but John and Bessie were very active members of Bandon Brethren Church. They had a total of eight children though a number of them died young as you will see from their details below.

1. Edward Jeffers (1869-1876) was their eldest child.  When he died aged just 6, he had three older brothers.

1869 Edward Jeffers birth

Birth record of John Jeffers, eldest son of John & Bessie Jeffers, 1869, Bandon.

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2. Jonathan Jeffers (1870-1891) moved to live and work in Barry, South Wales.  He married Elizabeth Guymer and worked as a Custom House Office. He was only 27 when he died of Tuberculosis.  He had at least 1 son, William Jeffers.

1898 Jonathan Jeffers Death Wales

Death record of Jonathan Jeffers, Barry, Cardiff, Wales, 1898.

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3. Unknown Jeffers (1872 -?) There’s a civil birth cert recording an unnamed boy born in 1872.  No sign of any further information on this person other than he had died by the time of the  1911 census.

1872 unknown jeffers birth prob Richard

Birth Record of an unknown child of John and Bessie Jeffers, 1872.

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4. Richard Wolfe Jeffers (1875-1961) was known to his family as Dick. Initially a draper’s assistant in Bandon, in 1899 aged 24 he enlisted in the Royal Artillery Corps (RGA) of the British Army reaching the rank of Sergeant Major by the time he was discharged in 1911. In 1906 he married Mary Anne Cudmore from Leith, near Edinburgh, Scotland and they had five children. Evelyn and Elizabeth, his first two daughters, were born in Leith. Dorothy, his third daughter, was born in Aden (now Yemen) during his army service. Following Dick’s discharge from the army they returned to Bandon where he worked as a bakery manager and where Richard (b.1912) and Gwendoline (b.1914), his youngest two children were born. Some time after 1914 Dick and Mary moved to live near her family in Edinburgh. Mary died there in 1947 aged 56 and Dick lived on to the ripe old age of 88. According to Mary’s death record Dick was a law clerk when he moved to Scotland.

1875 unknown Jeffers birth to John Edward & Bessie

Birth record of Richard Wolfe Jeffers, 1875, Bandon.  Note, his birth was registered without a christian name.

1961 Richard Wolfe Jeffers Death

Death record of Richard Wolfe Jeffers, 1961, Edinburgh, Scotland.

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5. Jasper Travers Jeffers (1878-1959) followed his father into the grocery and bakery business, eventually taking it over on his father’s retirement.  He married Frances (Fanny) Young from Aughadown, near Skibbereen, in Scariff Methodist Church near Bandon. Frances’ father William Young had been a colporteur with the Methodist Church in West Cork, selling Bibles and Christian literature.  Jasper and Fanny had three children Jonothon Edward (Eddie) Jeffers (1906-87), Ruth Jeffers (Harper) (1909-81) and Travers Vickery Jeffers (1911-2008). Eddie and Travers both worked in the family shop with their father, while Ruth married George Harpur and moved to live in England. During Eddie and Travers lifetime, Ireland’s grocery trade went through a dramatic transformation. The old-style shop where you were served by an assistant from behind a counter were forced out of business in the 1970s by large supermarkets which initially opened in the cities and larger towns. Eddie and Travers Jeffers caused a bit of a stir when they converted their grocery store into Bandon’s first self-serve supermarket.

Both Eddie and Travers Jeffers raised their families in Bandon and their extended families grew up closely together.  Their grandchildren also grew up together and were more like cousins/friends of each other rather than the official title of second cousins.  Like their father and grandfather before them, they belonged to the Brethren Church and would regularly have preached there and led services.

Jasper and Fanny Jeffers are buried in the graveyard at St. Peters, Church of Ireland in Bandon.  Eddie, Travers and their families are buried in the newer Church of Ireland graveyard in Kilbeg just a few miles east of Bandon.

Jeffers supermarket and bakery is long gone.  In the 1980s and 1990s Jasper’s grandsons, Peter and Mervyn, had an electrical shop and a sports shop.  They too have ceased to trade and the current generation now operate Music Shops, selling pianos and church organs. And so the name Jeffers lives on in Bandon today.

1950 Jasper Travers Jeffers Death

Death record of Jasper Travers Jeffers, 1950, Bandon.

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6. James Percy Jeffers (1880-1926) grew up in Bandon and ran a successful auctioneering business in the town. Numerous newspaper advertisements announced the sales of farms, houses, livestock etc. by Percy Jeffers, Auctioneer. In 1907 he married Kathleen Smith in Bandon Methodist Church. He and Kate had two daughters, Ida and Nora. When he was only 45 years old he died quite suddenly from acute nephritis (kidney).

1926 James Percy Jeffers Death

Death Record of James Percy Jeffers, 1926, Bandon.

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7. Anna Charlotte Jeffers (1884-1940) never married and lived with her parents in Bandon. Her father died in 1919 and she continued to live with her mother Bessie who outlived her by four years. Anna died in Lindville Hospital, Cork of Chronic Endocarditis aged just 55.

1940 Charlotte Ann Jeffers death

Death Record of Charlotte Anne Jeffers, 1940, Cork.

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8. Elizabeth Jeffers (1887-?)  Only a birth record for her.  No further information other than she was no longer living by the 1911 census and unlikely that she was alive by the 1901 census.

John & Bessie Jeffers (in centre of pic) had a total of eight children, though by the time of the 1911 census only four were still alive. These are the four that we can see in the back row of this amazing photograph which was taken around 1909.

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Jeffers family photo taken c. 1909, Bandon, Co. Cork.  Back Row: Richard Wolfe Jeffers, Frances (Young) Jeffers, Jasper Travers Jeffers, Anna Charlotte Jeffers, James Percy Jeffers.  Seated: Mary (Cudmore) Jeffers with baby Elizabeth, John Edward Jeffers, Bessie (Bright) Jeffers, Kathleen (Smith) Jeffers with baby Ida.  Front row: Jonathan Edward Jeffers (son of Jasper) and Evelyn Jeffers (daughter of Richard).

And here’s just one more photo that turned up of the same family though a few years earlier. It must have been taken after Jonothan moved to live in Wales. Perhaps it was taken after his death. Young Anna, who was born in 1884 looks like she couldn’t be any more than around 10/12, so that would make the date c. 1896/7.

John Edward & Bessie Jeffers

John Edward & Bessie Jeffers with four of their children c. 1897

While preparing the Jeffers family tree, discovering names, dates, professions etc was all very interesting, but actually seeing the people I had been researching has made them seem so much more real.

Screen Shot 2018-02-19 at 22.02.403 Generation Descendant Chart of John Edward Jeffers

We Will Remember Them

Colin Davies (1917-1942)

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Colin Davies was born on 11th June 1917 in a small town in the Rhondda Valley in South Wales just a month after his father Jack, a teacher, had enlisted in the R.G.A. (Royal Garrison Artillery) in World War I.  Sadly just a week later on 18th June, his mother Annie died of Puerperal Fever, a complication of childbirth. With his father on his way to  Egypt and Palestine, Colin was taken in and raised by his grandparents Thomas and Ann Davies.

His father, Jack, continued to serve in the Army and didn’t return to Wales until after the war. On his way home he was stationed in Camden Fort Meagher near Crosshaven, County Cork where he met a Cork girl, Mary Stewart.  Jack married Mary on 7th October 1919 in Cork.  Jack and Mary Davies settled into life in Wales with Colin and their daughter Jean (c. 1927).

Colin, the son of a teacher, graduated with a B.A. degree but when War broke out a second time he followed in his father’s footsteps, enlisting with the 74th Field Regiment  of the Royal Artillery (R.A.).  He was despatched as a Gunner to their campaign in the Middle East – Western Division.  The records that I have found so far about Colin are a bit sketchy.  I’m not sure yet when he joined up or exactly where he was stationed.  What I have discovered is that  Colin was captured as a Prisoner of War in June 1942 and sent to Caserta in Italy.  When I found a few of his military records this weekend, I discovered that on 19th November, 1942,  after being held as a P.O.W. for 5 months Colin was shot and died while trying to escape  the camp.  Having witnessed first hand the horrors of the front line, those last 5 months of his life as a prisoner must have been horrendous for him, both physically and emotionally.  Colin was only 25 when he was killed.  He was buried alongside 755 other soldiers in Caserta War Cemetery, Italy.

1942 Death Entry Form Military

Colin’s father Jack, was my great uncle.  Colin himself was my mother’s first cousin.  What a sad ending to a such a short life so full of promise and potential.  Though he had a tough start in life due to the first World War he grew into an educated young man prepared to serve his county and fellow human beings.  When he said farewell to his family and headed off to war, he wasn’t to know, though it must have crossed his mind  that he was making the ultimate sacrifice that would ultimately cost him his life.

Thank you Colin for your service and sacrifice.  Thanks to you and hundreds of thousands like you, we are privileged to live our lives today in a much more peaceful world.

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:

Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.

At the going down of the sun and in the morning,

We will remember them.

(Robert Laurence Binyon)

WE WILL REMEMBER THEM

 

 

Camden Fort Meagher – A match made in Cork

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The imposing entrance to Camden Fort Meagher, Crosshaven, County Cork

 

Two summers ago I first visited Camden Fort Meagher which is an old military fort situated at the Western entrance to Cork Harbour, quite close to the village of Crosshaven. There are records of a fort used to protect Cork Harbour on the site as far back as the 1500s. In 1989 it was taken over by Cork County Council as it was no longer used by the army and in 2010 a group of local enthusiasts set about restoring the fort, creating a museum and opening it to the public.   Camden Fort Meagher is now open to visitors every weekend from May through to September.

http://www.camdenfortmeagher.ie/

My main reason for this  visit was to see the place where I was told that my granduncle was stationed at the end of the Great War. This led me to ponder how Camden has influenced the lives of many Corkonians. It certainly had a huge impact on my family and if it weren’t for Camden, I’m fairly sure I wouldn’t be here today.

 

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Cpl. John Davies, RGA.

Let me introduce you to John (Jack) Davies, born in 1891 in the mining village of Blaenclydach in the Rhondda Valley, South Wales. Jack was primary school teacher and on the 9th March 1916 he married a local woman, Annie Randle. Two months later, on the 19th May 1916, when Great Britain was entrenched in war with Germany, Jack travelled to Cardiff where he enlisted with the Royal Garrison Artillery to serve his country. He was trained by the army in Signalling and Telegraphy and presumably because of his ability to teach, became an instructor in that area.

The following year, on 11 June 1917, Annie gave birth to their son, Collin but sadly Annie died just one week after Collin’s birth. Three weeks after his wife’s death, leaving baby Collin with his grand-parents Jack was despatched with his battalion to serve in Palestine. He boarded a ship in Southampton on 9th July, 1917 and sailing firstly to Le Havre and then from Marseille to Alexandria in Egypt.   Corporal John Davies arrived in Alexandria on the 1st August 1917, on his way to Palestine, where he served in the British Army throughout the reminder of World War I, until he was demobbed and began his journey home in January, 1919.

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RGA uniform on display in Fort Camden

Jack’s military records show all his activity and movements within the army until this point. I had been told by my own mother that he was stationed in Fort Camden after the war and that it was there that he met his Cork wife, Mary Stewart. Fort Camden is not listed as a post on his military records. However his discharge papers show Mary Stewart’s address on Blackrock Road in Cork City as his residence at the time of his retirement from the Army and this gives credence to the family story.

Post-war Crosshaven must have been a very popular place for young ladies to visit with many soldiers from all over the British Isles unexpectedly finding themselves in this small seaside town on the South coast of Ireland while on their way home from war. Jack was one of these young men and I was told that he met his second wife, Mary Stewart, at a dance in Crosshaven. Jack & Mary married later that year, on October 7th 1919, in Mary’s home church, Scots Presbyterian Church in Cork City.

The newlyweds moved back to Wales, where Jack returned to teaching. Collin was reunited with his father and eventually became a big brother to their daughter, Jean.   Collin, like his father before him enlisted in World War II and was killed in action.

Jack’s marriage to Mary Stewart was not the last of Camden’s effect on my family. Following Jack and Mary’s marriage in 1917, Jack’s sister, Eunice Davies, who had been living in Wales met and fell in love with Mary’s brother, David Stewart who was working in The Eagle Printing Company in Cork City. Eunice Davies and David Stewart (my grandparents) were married in Gosen Congregational Church, Blaenclydach, Glamorgan, Wales, on 25th July, 1923.  Following their marriage Eunice moved to Cork where they lived the rest of their lives in Cork City with their daughter Ann.

So Fort Camden, which was originally built to protect Cork Harbour from foreign invaders, actually had quite the opposite effect on my own family.  Thanks to Camden the Davies and Stewart families crossed paths and a Welsh brother and sister married a Cork born sister and brother.

It was fascinating to walk around the fort almost a hundred years later and see where Jack stayed and also to see their uniforms on display in The Royal Garrison Artillery (RGA) exhibition.  If you get a chance to visit Camden, I would wholeheartedly recommend it.  You get to walk around the site which contains many old buildings and features which are all fairly well preserved and contain some fascinating military exhibits.  If that’s not enough, the old Officers’ Quarters have been converted into a Tea Rooms which must have one of the best views in all of County Cork.

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