To fully understand Emily’s background and maybe even her character it is necessary to travel back two generations on both sides of her family. Under what would be considered normal circumstances of their times, her parents would never have met, and certainly not married.
Her mother, Emily McArthur was born in 1827 to Richard Mcarthur a bookseller, who had moved to Dublin, from Co. Down, and his wife Mary Graisberry. Mary was a member of the Graisberry family who were the official printers of Trinity College for several generations. Emily, was born in Co Down, but the family moved back to Rathmines, Dublin When she was about a year old.
Emily’s paternal grandfather, John Burke was a farmer, from the Kinvarra area of County Galway. He owned quite a bit of land in the surrounding area, and employed labourers. A man of substantial means, he had the ability to educate his children. His second son William John, Emily’s father, was a promising student, coming out of school with top marks. He was readily accepted in to St Patrick’s seminary, Maynooth, to train as a priest. In 1822 at the age of seventeen, he began his training for the priesthood. In 1831 he was ordained, and sent to his first parish in Clare. For the next thirteen years he served in several different parishes in the West of Ireland.
In 1843, in Kilfenora, Co Clare his course of destiny changed. He left the Catholic priesthood, to become a Protestant minister. This change of heart can be attributed to a few different factors, that will be the subject of later posts.
Had he stuck to his original plan, he would not have met and married Emily’s mother nor would she have been born. An unusual set of circumstances brought William John Burke and Emily McArthur together, had events not unfolded the way they did it would have been highly unlikely that their paths would ever crossed.
Ní Dheirg, Íosold. Emily M. Weddall: Bunaitheoir Scoil Acla. Baile Atha Cliath: Coisceim, 1995.
Limerick Reporter 11 June 1844. P 3