Wednesday, 19 May 2010

From Henrietta McIlhagga

On 8th May I wrote about Nathaniel Owens McIlhagga, his wife Henrietta and their twelve children. We know all their dates of birth from a letter which Henrietta wrote to 'Joe', their youngest child when, like two of his siblings, he had emigrated to Canada. It appears from the letter that he had asked his mother to provide 'on oath' some fact about himself, presumably his date of birth. This she promised to do, and clearly took the opportunity to put on record all the births, and indeed also the marriages and deaths of the family. Interestingly she says all these records are to be found in her Bible at Parkview, presumably the name of the house she occupied as a widow. She adds 'Your father and me were married in Hyde Park Methodist Church beside Hyde Park Works'. This must have been the name that the church was popularly known by. Its title on their marriage record is Mallusk Methodist Church. There was a famous Linen Works at Hyde Park, Mallusk, to which Henrietta may have been referring. We can presume that the Methodist Church was Henrietta's Church, for most subsequent documents record the family as Presbyterians, Nathaniel's tradition.

The marriage records are interesting for they add to my knowledge. She gives us a date (13th Dec 1916) for the marriage of their son Nathaniel Owens. Sadly she doesn't give spouses names for any of their children. Nathaniel would have been 38 when he married. We know that in 1911 when he was 32 he was single and living at home with his widowed mother and his two brothers George and Joseph. Now, we know from Irish records that a Nathaniel McIlhagga, Manager Linen Merchant, married Sarah Ann Craig, daughter of Hugh Craig, on 11th December 1916 in May Street Presbyterian Church, Belfast. We must presume that Henrietta had the date out by two days! She also gives us a date (20th Aug 1919) for the marriage of George in Canada. I do not have a record of George's marriage though his wife may have been Mary Jane, mentioned in an 'Admon' (Will administration) of a George McIlhagga. This must have been the George McIlhagga who died aged 70 in Nanaimo, British Columbia on 16/17 June 1959. He was a Carpenter. Henrietta does not include Joseph, to whom she is writing, in her list of marriages, so it may have been some documentation relating to his forthcoming marriage which caused him to ask his mother for his birth date 'on oath'. In this case the letter was probably written early in 1927 as Joseph married on 28th June that year. In her marriage list she also includes John Hutchison, in Canada, February 1910 and Archie Duncan, in Canada, June 1912.
In her list of deaths, which is illustrated above, she heads it with that of her husband, 6th August 1905. She then details five of their twelve children before she adds 'John Hutchison, Killed at Pachendaile (sic) France 26th October 1917'. The five children who died young are five of their first six children! William, their eldest, lived for only 6 months. Henrietta lived for only 6 months. Henry lived until he was eighteen. Robert Wilson lived for 16 months, and Margaret until she was eleven years old. One can only try to empathise with a young couple trying to create and continue a family and having five of their first six children die so young, though none actually at birth. They did, however, end up with six children living until after the first world war, with two of them, James Wilson and Nathaniel Owens, continuing in the local Irish business world, James, following his father, as an Oil Merchant and Nathaniel in Irish Linen. And from Henrietta we have a final touch, no doubt in accord with the mores of the time, she signs the letter to young Joe, 'Your loving Mother - H. McIlhagga'.

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