Tuesday, 3 May 2011

Belgium - twice in two days!

In writing this blog it is continuously gratifying to have people get in touch about our clan history, and the first two days of May have been no exception. The second e-mail came from the grandson of Isabella Emily Marrs McIlhagga of Courtrai, Belgium. I didn't know she had married (a Samuel Bowden). Interestingly my correspondent spells her surname with two 'g's, though to the best of my knowledge this branch of the clan, even to today, spells it with one 'g'. So have we here an indication that a 'two-g' family changed to being a 'one-g' family? Maybe, and this may be so for a further reason. Isabella's parents were Samuel McIlhaga and Grace Marrs. Samuel was a flax-buyer and lived and worked for a number of years in Courtrai, Belgium. I have never known who Samuel's father was. My correspondent tells me that Samuel and Grace had living with them in Belgium until 1912 William John McIlhagga who, he assumes, was Samuel's father. Now Samuel and Grace had a son whom they called William John Marrs, surely after his paternal grandfather, and according to the Celtic naming pattern. He thinks, probably correctly, that William John in his turn was the son of Eliza Ann McIlhagga of Slatt, County Antrim. All this adds to my knowledge of this family and I hope that Isabella's grandson and I can continue to correspond and discover more. I certainly have more to tell him, and I have sent him some comments and questions which might help us forward.

My first e-mail was even more gratifying because it came from my own fifteen-year-old grandson. When he first went to Secondary School his history teacher set the class a project to find out whether any of their ancestors had taken part in the World Wars of the twentieth century. I was then able to send him photos of my father in France in the First World War and told him of over a dozen McIlhaggas who had served, some of whom paid the ultimate sacrifice. Recently he must have been on a school visit to a Commonwealth Cemetery where on his own initiative he photographed a document with the name McIlhagga, Private H.... 46th Battalion, Canadian Infantry... died 26th October, 1917, and the reference to his grave. I was able to e-mail him back and tell him about 'H's family. He was in fact John Hutcheson McIlhagga, one of 12 children, four brothers of whom had served in the First World War, and all of whom had emigrated to Canada. 'H' - he must have been known as 'Hutch' - was in the Saskatchewan Regiment of the Canadian Infantry, though he was born and brought up in Belfast, Ireland. He fought at Passchendale and is buried at Tyne Cot Cemetery in Belgium. My grandson had simply sent me a message to say 'This may be of interest'. It was - he had sent me some documentary evidence that was new to me, and he had made me realise that 'J.H.' must have been know as 'Hutch'. And even more gratifyingly he had remembered his Year 1 Project and my interest in our clan genealogy.

1 comment:

  1. I have Bowden connection and could well throw light on the roots of Samuel Bowden above. Would love to be able to get in touch if possible with your correspondent.