Now that the dark days of November are upon us, and with Armistice Day fast approaching on the 11th of the month, I’m conscious that I’ve written about my great-uncles, Privates Sam and Jack (John) Mallaghan, and their tragic deaths at Gallipoli, many times over recent years. Both left Newry, the town which publicises itself as the ‘gateway to the Kingdom of Mourne’ to enlist in the Royal Dublin Fusiliers (two other brothers enlisted in the Royal Irish Fusiliers) and both died on V Beach in May, 1915, during WW1. Thus, this year, as an act of remembrance, I thought I’d approach their story in a different way, writing a little more about the history of their (and of course, my) family and how undertaking genealogical research often contradicts long-held beliefs about a family’s story and throws up interesting historical details with which you were previously unfamiliar.
So I turn to the boys’ parents, John and Annie Mallaghan. Family history has it that Annie died of a broken heart, following news of Sam and Jack’s deaths at Gallipoli. John lived on after her, pursuing his occupation as a gardener, moving eventually from Newry to work in the nearby picturesque village of Rostrevor. Searching newly available records has turned up a copy of Annie’s death certificate and this has revealed that all was not as previously thought. It seems Annie sadly died on the 15th April, 1915, just a few days before the Gallipoli Landings commenced. Aged just forty-four she would not have known that one of her sons was to die at V Beach ten days later, and the other the following week. She may well have died of sorrow … after all, four of her sons had enlisted in the British army to fight on foreign shores … one son, Herbert, had been only fifteen when he’d gone to war. However, it seems that at least Annie was spared the harrowing news of her sons’ deaths. Her death certificate, signed by her son William, shows she died from cardiac disease from which she’d suffered for three years, and shows he was present at her deathbed in Newry General Hospital. As for John … it is difficult to imagine the effect this must have had on him. To lose your wife and two sons in the space of a month must have been devastating, both for him and his remaining four children.
This is where John and Annie’s tale takes a bit of a twist. For not only did I uncover a copy of my great-grandmother’s death certificate, but also a copy of her marriage certificate, when, as Annie Williamson, she married John Mallaghan in 1888. My family has always maintained that the couple married at Tandragee Castle, since that is where both were employed at the time, listed as ‘servants’ on their marriage certificate. It’s more than likely that John was employed as a gardener … and again, that’s the family line … and Annie as a maid of some description. However, contrary to family belief, their marriage certificate clearly shows is that Annie and John were married in Ballymore Parish Church, in Tandragee, by a certain Reverend William McEndoo. Ballymore Church is just along the way from Tandragee Castle, one of the seats of the Manchester family.
By the first Home Rule bill in 1886 Tandragee had became a staunch Conservative and Unionist heartland, with strong representation within the first ever mass Ulster Loyalist movement, the Ulster Defence Union. Within its six hundred man ruling central assembly nominated in 1886, the southern section had eight local representatives, one of whom was the same Rev. W. McEndoo who married John and Annie. He may have been involved with the Unionist Club movement, organised militarily in the area. This formed in 1893 to oppose the second Home Rule Bill and the Tandragee Club drilled under the eyes of Lord Manchester himself.
The eighth Duke died at Tandragee Castle and was buried in the neighbouring churchyard … the same Ballymore Church … but it is claimed that during his lifetime the Duchess of Manchester did not have a happy time. It is alleged she was treated badly by her husband, a womaniser with a penchant for ‘lower class’ women who reminded him of the nannies and maids of his childhood. More often than not Consuela was left alone at Tandragee Castle with her three children. It is to the lives of two of these children, her daughters … Lady Jacqueline Mary ‘May’ Alva Montagu and Lady Alice Eleanor ‘Nell’ Louise Montague … that my story now turns.
The Montague twins were born on 27th November, 1879. They were described by a contemporary, Sir Shane Leslie, thus …
“The Manchester twins were the two most beautiful and delicate girls imaginable.”
… a statement borne out by their portrait.
I have been unable to establish what age Lady Mary and Lady Alice were when this sketch was completed. However, I do know that in 1888, the year of John and Annie’s wedding, the twins would have been just nine years old. Thus I was very surprised on examining my great-grandparents wedding certificate to discover that these nine year-olds had been listed as two of the three witnesses to the wedding, along with one John Ross whom I have been unable to identify. The certificate is of course a copy but I can see no reason to doubt that both girls were indeed present at the wedding, one recorded as Mary Montagu, and the other as Alice Montagu.
Was it the custom for the young Montagus to attend weddings of castle servants in this manner? Can their name be found on any other wedding certificates of the period, when staff from the castle were married? Was it actually legal for them to act as witnesses at this age? Or was it simply because they were members of the aristocracy that they were permitted to behave as such?
I do not have the answers to these questions though further research in Tandragee may uncover some of the answers. What my research so far suggests is that Consuela was hardly a stereotypical British lady and it may have been that some of her nonconformity rubbed off on her daughters. It appears the Duke's family had been far from thrilled about the match between him and Consuelo, with her in-laws considering her to be beneath their eldest son and heir. In fact, the Duke’s father is recorded as wondering whether his son had married a ‘red Indian woman’, for her behavior didn't conform to the ideal of a proper young English lady. She sang country songs to the tune of the banjo, smoked cigars, and generally behaved in a casual way as she would have done in the Mississippi of her youth.
Regardless of the whys and wherefores of the story, it did not end well for either Lady Alice or Lady Jacqueline, for the latter died in 1895 from consumption, followed by Alice, who died of the same disease, in 1900. It is believed that Alice began to show symptoms of the disease shortly after the death of her sister. As Sir Shane Leslie is again quoted as saying:
“They both died before the world of men or worry could add a line of sorrow to their angel faces.”
Lady Alice, who was a renowned beauty, was buried beside her sister at Kimbolton. A memorial window, commissioned by their mother, was erected at St Andrew’s Church, Kimbolton Castle.
It’s highly likely that my great-grandparents would have been aware of the deaths of their two aristocratic witnesses. But I can only wonder how John and Annie felt about the nature of their demise, and the depth of feeling that they may have had for these two who died so young. And, of course, it would only be a matter of time before my great-grandfather would find himself grieving for the untimely deaths of two of his own sons … Privates Jack and Sam Mallaghan, aged just nineteen and twenty-one, both killed in the bloody apocalypse that was Gallipoli. Social class, it seems, was no discriminator when it came to death …
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