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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How times have changed! Teacher’s Post advertised in Corron School, Kilmacabea, Co. Cork in 1868.

Recently I’ve been searching through the archives researching a family of teachers who lived in the West Cork area in the 1800s.  I came across this lovely little newspaper advertisement recruiting a new teacher for the small rural parish school almost 150 years ago.

Bear in mind that this was published not too long after the famine and people were probably very glad to have work and accommodation.  Whatever about not measuring up to the requirements of todays legislation and employment laws I’m not sure how many of today’s prospective teachers would have a wife or sister willing to come and work for one seventh of the salary of their husband/brother.

Out of the Ashes! The Young Family of Letterscanlan in the charred remains of the 1841 Census

William Young

1841-1911

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When I started researching my husband’s family tree, I was told about William Young, his Great, Great, Grandfather, who was a colporter with the Methodist Church in West Cork.  I discovered that a colporter was someone who distributed books and religious tracts.   William was a member of the Methodist Church who had a deep and sincere Christian faith.  While he was distributing Bibles and tracts to the people of West Cork he also took the opportunity to share his faith on a one to one level as well as to preach the Christian Message.

Apparently the Young family came from somewhere near Aughadown (pronounced Affadown) between Ballydehob and Skibbereen in County Cork.

The 1901 census showed William, aged 59, living with his wife Hester and 6 children in Templemartin near Bandon.  He was a Methodist and was born in County Cork.  This led me to his marriage in Bantry Methodist Church to Hester Vickery of Bantry in 1873.  His marriage certificate showed his residence at the time as Letterscanlan (a small townland in Aughadown) and stated that his father James Young was a farmer.

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As it appeared that William was born around 1842, there was no point looking for a Civil Birth Record as the state didn’t start to record births until 1864.  Likewise, the records I found in the Methodist and Church of Ireland records didn’t go back far enough.  Having run out of birth, marriage and death records I checked the land records in Griffiths Valuation which showed that in 1853 a James Young was renting just over 36 acres in Letterscanlan from Henry Becher, the local landlord.

Going back a step further I checked the Tithe Applotment Books (TAB) which showed both a William Young (76 acres) and a Richard Young (17 acres) listed in Aughadown in 1829.  Unfortunatley the information in the TAB was gathered for the purpose of taxing land rather than recording family history so there’s no indication how William and Richard Young may have been related to each other.

At this point I thought I had hit a brick wall with my Young family as I was now in a pre Church and Civil records era.  Then I discovered the 1841 Census records.  Most of the records for County Cork from the 1841 census were destroyed in the fire in the Public Records Office in Dublin in 1922.  A quick search showed records for just 97 people in County Cork in the 1841 census.  Not expecting to find any relevant information I scanned through the names and couldn’t believe my eyes when I found 2 Young’s from Letterscanlan.  Bingo.  I clicked on the link to bring up the Young’s page and this is what appeared…

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… the charred remains of a census record.  Not even one straight edge of a page remained.  But I wasn’t looking for straight edges – I wanted information and this charred,fire damaged remnant provided it.  The head of the family in 1841 was James Young a farmer.

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The next section is not so easy to read as the fire destroyed a some vital information, leaving us with just a few tantalising clues.  The section listing those present on the night of the census is missing.  It appears that no one was absent from the house on census night. The last section was  a “Return of Members of this Family, Servants or Visitors, who have died while residing with this Family  since the 6th June 1831”.

The information that I can make out from this section is that James Young’s mother,  ..ne Young, died aged 65 in 1832 (?).  His father, …liam Young, died aged 80 in 1840.  His uncle, whom I cannot make out his name, died of pleurisy (?) aged 67 in 183?.

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So thanks to this remarkable piece of paper that was filled out in a small farmstead in West Cork in 1841, stored in the Public Records Office in Dublin and just about survived the 1922 fire in the Four Courts I have been able to trace our Young family of Aughadown, Co. Cork back to a William Young who was born c.1760.

The Young line which married into our Jeffers family in 1904 is as follows:

William Young 1760-1840

James Young c.1799 – ?

William Young 1841-1911 married Hester Vickery 1846-1936

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Frances (Fanny) Young 1876-1952

married Jasper Travers Jeffers 1878-1950.  These are my Great, Grandparents-in-law.