In July 1908 Emily crossed the Irish Sea to England. She had been widowed just a month when she made the journey from Rosslare by the Great Western Railway Company’s Express Mail Boat. She may have been going to England to visit her in laws or sort out business matters relating to her late husband. As there is no way of telling why Emily made the journey, but because it was soon after her husband’s death it may have been related to that.
A day before he died Richard McArthur Burke made his will. He was so weak that he had to get his friend, Richard Bradley to write it out for him.
At the age of 23 he hadn’t accumulated very much, books, a bicycle and some sporting equipment and perhaps his most personal possession, his watch and chain, which he left to his older sister Miriam, the sibling he was the closest to in age. His sport equipment went to the children of his friend, Richard Bradley. After his debts were paid and the £100 borrowed from his sister Miriam was returned, the remainder of his money was left to his younger, brother John Jasper. Emily was only named as a beneficiary if John Jasper should die before he could inherit (reach the age of 21, he was only about 17 at the time). In the case of John Jasper not reaching his 21st birthday his share was to be divided between Miriam and Emily. John Jasper did live see 21, but did not survive long beyond his 23rd, just like his brother Richard.
At the end of June 1888 it became apparent that Emily’s brother Richard would loose his battle with Bright’s Disease. Known nowadays Nephritis at the time there was no cure. Their mother had died of the same disease just a few year before but she was in her fifties with most of her life behind her. Richard had a promising future as a banker and enjoyed a full life as as any young man in his position at the time. Like his half brother William Henry he was a sports man, playing tennis and canoeing, until disease consumed him.
The Clonmel and Waterford Chronicle and Advertiser of the morning of 27th June 1888 contained the following Death Notice:
Burke June 26th at Queen St., Clonmel. Richard M’Arthur Burke, son of the late Rev. William J Burke, Incumbent of Castle Jordon, aged 23 Years. “Asleep in Jesus”. Funeral will leave for Marlfield at 8 o’clock on Thursday Morning.
Ancestry.com. Ireland, Select Births and Baptisms, 1620-1911 [database on-line]. Provo, UT: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2011.
Ancestry.com. Ireland, Civil Registration Deaths Index, 1864-1958 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2011.
Clonmel Chronical, Tipperary and Waterford advertiser. Saturday Evening, June 30 1888. Page 3.
On this day 1883 Emily’s father Rev. William John Burke died in Ballinasloe, Co. Galway. He was 78. His death certificate stated Bronchial Pneumonia lasting ten days as the cause of death. His eldest daughter, Miriam was with him. There was no mention of his wife Emily.
He was buried a few miles down the road at Clontuskert Churchyard. His death and burial belying the way he lived. His passing is only recorded in the church and civil records, unlike his life after changing religion, forty years since.
There was no obituary in the papers or dedication in any church, in spite of his work as a missionary and Evangelist for much of the nineteenth century. Scarcely a week went by without his name appearing in either the Irish or British newspapers, reporting his triumphs or tragedies. His life was by and large controversial as a convert priest of his times could be. Even if he didn’t change religion he would certainly have gained notoriety in the Catholic Church, as he had become disenchanted with the church authorities and being outspoken as he was it was perhaps only a matter of time till he could hold his tongue no longer.
In his time he would have been remembered for controversial reasons and perhaps not so much his oration skills and talent as a preacher.
Clontuskert Heritage Group., and Joe Molloy. The Parish of Clontuskert: Glimpses Into Its Past. Ballinasloe, Co. Galway: Clontuskert Heritage Group, 2009. P 115
Joe Molloy, editor of our 2009 publication, “The Parish of Clontuskert – Glimpses into its Past” for kindly providing me with the information of Rev and Mrs Burke’s grave and the photographs of St. Matthew’s Church
Jill Cooke who kindly provided me with the Burke’s burial records.
Off went Sean O’Longain down the road, with Captain Weddall looking after him, as if making sure that he was fit to cycle such fine bike. The wind was in his favour, blowing him all the way to Achill Sound, 10 Km away to catch the train, except when he got there the train had already gone.
Fazed less than he should have been, perhaps because of the captain’s shiny bicycle, at the prospect of cycling the 40 or so kilometres to Westport, where he reached before nightfall. He was greeted by his friend who told him that he was invited to give a talk at a branch of the Gaelic League at Irishtown, a further 50 km from Westport. They left the next morning arriving in time for the Gaelic League concert, which lasted into the early hours. Sean O’Longain bit farewell to his friends and set off the long and arduous journey home.
He had the company of one of his friends to Westport, which he welcomed as the night was dark and misty. All went well until a turn in the road where the two bicycles collided and the young teacher hit the stone wall. Luckily he was not injured but the captain’s bike was buckled and a peddle missing.
What a sudden change of scene and mind came upon me would be better imagined than described, I thought of the beautiful silvery, neat and glittering bike which I got from the Russian [he was English] captain two days previous and the strict obligations and conditions which he imposed upon me regarding its care and use. What a contrast! It was a different article, bent, broken and covered by the slush of the road.
He didn’t know what he was going to tell the captain. He and his companion managed to transport the wreck of a bike between somehow dragging and pulling the it along the road until they reached the train station at Claremorris. At Westport he bid farewell to his friend and made the rest of the journey to Achill alone with his thoughts. When he reached Achill Sound the last stop on the line:
On arriving at Achill Sound I took the disabled bike off the train and waited in the little village until nightfall, as I didn’t wish that anybody would notice the state of my machine. I had over ten miles to wald to my destination. I trudged along in downcast depression that weary journey, deeply absorbed in gloomy thoughts of foreboding trouble.
When he eventually arrived at his lodgings well after midnight, he slowly slunk into bed. He fell into a dreamless sleep meditating on how he would face the formidable captain having to explain the bike wreckage the next day…