Monthly Archives: June 2018

The Last Will and Testament of Richard Burke

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. 



Emily’s loses another brother

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.

Sources Ireland, Select Births and Baptisms, 1620-1911 [database on-line]. Provo, UT: Operations, Inc., 2011. Ireland, Civil Registration Deaths Index, 1864-1958 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2011.
Clonmel Chronical, Tipperary and Waterford advertiser. Saturday Evening, June 30 1888. Page 3.

‘A Strange Malady’

In June 1918 strange and unsettling reports began to filter into the newspapers about a disease that was doing the rounds. In the beginning the stories only took up a few column inches, subtle at first, then getting more sensational. At the time the First World War was still raging and  most of the population were war weary. Reports of a disease was not uncommon disease spread quickly in the trenches. The first victims did not suffer too badly and most recovered within a few days. This fever was not taken too seriously at first, with reports calling anything from a poisoning to ‘strange maladies’, some reports cited it as a plague. The newspaper clipping from the Daily Mirror of June 21 1918, took a lighthearted approach to the disease;

Even if people were collapsing on the street from the virus it was still not taken as seriously as it could have. The report below from the Hull Daily Mail suggested the same, however it did revel how the virus came to England and by ship. The first reported death in the area was that of an Indian seaman, who arrived at Hull a few days previous. The report states that he contracted it after the ship docked. That is how it arrived in Ireland too, by sea when a ship docked at Cork carrying the virus.

Aberdeen Evening Express 26 June 1918
Daily Mirror 21 June 1918
Hull Daily Mail 28 June 1918

Captain Weddall’s Bicycle: part 3

Chain smoking the night away Sean O’Longain could not rest that night. When he eventually fell asleep his dreams were haunted by sea captains and bicycles. About 7.30 the following morning he was woken from his restless slumber by a rap on the door. Thinking that somehow the captain had found out about the mangled bicycle and had come to reprimand the hapless school teacher about it.

It was not the enraged captain Weddal, it was his landlady. What she had to tell him was the last thing he expected.

“Shaun, Shaun,” said my landlady (in an unusual tone of voice), “are you awake?” said she,

“Indeed I am mam,” said I, in  a voice that was not very normal either.

“Isn’t it awful! Isn’t it awful!” said she.

“What’s wrong mam, what’s wrong?” asked I.

“Ochon ochon go deo, poor Captain Weddall was found dead in bed this morning.”

The young teacher could not believe the timing of Captain Weddall’s death.

“Neighbours passing were bewailing the captain’s sudden demise. I joined in their lamentations as best I could under the circumstances. “May God be good to him.” Says I “the poor poor captain was a kind old neigbour.”

“Isn’t he as well off” says old Mrs. O’Toole, “his troubles are over.”

“True for ye,” says I -“and the troubles of other people too.”

Just as he was breathing a sigh of relief, his landlady back back from visiting the new widow, advised that he should go to see Mrs. Weddall, as she would like to see him. He did reluctantly.

“I did so and offered my sincere sympathy to Mrs. Weddall, after which she invited me into the room to see the captain laid out. That was my hardest ordeal. Even though I knew him to be dead I still had a sort of feeling that he might make some move at my presence. I gave the corpse a side glance, made some excuse and took my leave from the room as soon as the opportunity offered. “Guilty conscience makes cowards of us.””

Emily being Emily, a generous soul told the young teacher and Gaelic Leaguer, that he could keep the bike. I would have been more use to him as he needed one to travel around the island. He thanked her accordingly. He had it repaired and kept if for a long time. No doubt he treasured the bike that in its way was hard bought. Emily as well as her husband went to their graves without knowing of the accident. If they did know they probably would have laughed.

Connaught Telegraph 1830-current, 19.05.1956, page 4

The life and death of Rev. William John Burke

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
Thanks to:
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.