William Henry Emeris Burke was Emily’s eldest brother from her father’s first marriage. His parents Rev Burke and his wife Catherine traveled from Achill, where they had recently taken refuge at the Priest’s Protection Society on the Island to Dublin for Mrs Burke to give birth to what would be their only surviving child. Mrs Burke had a baby the previous year, which did not survive. As she was now older and suffered complications with her last child it was wise to be close to the best medical care that she could get in the capital city. Not only that but the drama that ensued the birth was not worth the risk the second time around.
The couple’s second child was born on 19th October 1845, survived and thrived unlike it’s sibling. a month later he was christened William Henry Emeris Burke in the Church of St. Audeons, where his father Rev. Burke conducted ceremonies from time to time.
Soon after the birth the couple returned to Achill with their child. Rev. Burke continued his mission work. The Burkes may have stayed on at the Mission in Dugort for another year or so until Rev Burke was transferred to Ballycroy, where he was made curate.
Much of William Henry’s formative years were spent on living at the Mission Stations that were spring up and down the West coast particularly in Counties Mayo and Galway. His father Rev. Burke, a convert himself was a great speaker, and was committed to preaching the Gospel to anyone who would listen to him. To his credit he was responsible for the conversion of many form Catholicism to Protestantism. Six of his seven half-siblings converted along with their mother and stepfather and at least one become a church minister too. His brother Rev. H M Kennedy would play a pivotal role in saving his life years later.