The Rooneys of East Jarrow

contributions from Chris Brennan, Terry Rooney, Wilfred Brennan, Marie Connolly, Celie O'Neill, Patricia Hardy

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gothic tHE STORY BEGINS, not with a Rooney, but with a brief stroll through some eighteenth-century Parish records. My great (x 6) grandparents were Cuthbert Ramshaw and Jane Carr, who married at Whickham Parish Church on 30th October 1720. Cuthbert's date of birth is unknown, but Jane, the daughter of Robert Carr, was christened at Whickham on 1st March 1695. They lived at Fellside, and over the course of the next 14 years they had five children, all of whom were baptised at Whickham - Thomas (1722), Francis (1724), Cuthbert (1728), Robert (1731) and Alice (1734).

Of Cuthbert and Jane's children it is Robert that concerns us particularly. He married Isobel Wheatley of Swalwell on 15th November 1756. Their early married life may have been spent elsewhere, as it is not until 1762 that a child, Thomas, appears in the baptismal records for Whickham. After this date they too lived at Fellside, and had a further three children that we know of - Ann (1765), John (1768) and Mary (1770). Mary in turn married Michael Thompson in Lanchester Parish Church on 17th May 1791. Their first child, Jane, was born at Collierley Dykes later that year. A son, also named Michael, was born to them at Dipton late in 1793, and christened at Lanchester on 5th January 1794. Of his early life nothing is known, other than that he became a stonemason, settled in Newbottle, and was twice married. His first wife was named Ann (maiden name unknown). She bore him two children that we know of - Anthony (1829) and Michael (1831), both of whom died in infancy. Ann herself died in February 1832 at the early age of 33 years. Michael's second wife was born in Brancepeth - Margaret (believed to be the daughter of Richard Hudson, christened at Brancepeth on 7th June 1795). The date and location of their marriage is unknown, but it must have been fairly soon after Ann's demise, as a daughter, was born to them early in 1833. In the parish register of St Michael and All Angels her name is recorded as Margaret, but she was, in fact, called Hannah. On 7th March 1835 a second daughter was born - Elizabeth, my great-great grandmother. She too was christened in St Michael and All Angels, Houghton-le-Spring on 5th July 1835. The 1841 census records the family living in Haswell, South Hetton; in addition to Hannah and Elizabeth there was an elder daughter, Mary, aged 14, who was probably from Margaret's first marriage, and a daughter Margaret, aged 2.

Thompson Family Tree

thompson family tree

At the time of the 1851 Census the young Elizabeth Thompson was in service at the home of Jeremiah Abbs in Fulwell, a quiet little village to the north of Monkwearmouth, and separated from industrial Wearside by open fields. Abbs, whose residence was in Fulwell Lane, was a landowner and farmed 176 acres. (By 1884 much of the farmland had been developed, Fulwell Lane had become Fulwell Road, and Abbs Field in Fulwell Road was the home for two seasons of the newly-formed Sunderland AFC.)

Elizabeth's parents, reportedly aged 57 and 56 respectively, (though they were both 40 in the 1841 census!), were still living in Newbottle with their youngest daughter Margaret, aged 11. Newbottle, which had a total population of 1111, inhabiting 263 houses, contained four other families of Thompsons, some of whom may have been related to Michael, as birthplaces such as Knitsley and Collierley Dykes are cited.

Even now a visitor to the churchyard of St Matthew's, Newbottle can, on a summer's evening, imagine how attractive the area must have been in the middle of the 19th century. The view to the north looked out over the hamlet of Philadelphia towards Painshaw(modern Penshaw), newly-crowned by its famous monument. But the rural idyll would have concealed a grim reality. For far too many folk life was grindingly harsh. Take for example the household of May Renolds, a twenty-eight year old spinster from Ireland who was employed in the local pottery. Her 13 year old nephew Michael Flynn was already working as a coal miner. Or take the case of 78 year old Christian Addy, whose so-called 'occupation' was 'Parish Pauper'.

The 1851 Census was the first to be taken after the ravages of the Great Potato Famine of 1845-51, and the records reveal the extent of Irish immigration that had taken place. In addition to their native residents, almost every village and town of County Durham had its quota of Irish labourers, usually living in poor and appallingly overcrowded accommodation. One of these was a young man by the name of Patrick Rooney.

Patrick's father, Terence, was born in Ireland circa 1800. We do not know which part of Ireland he originally came from, but the name Rooney (Irish - Ó Ruanaidh) is said to have its roots in County Down. Patrick's mother was Julia McEnaney, born circa 1806. Her father was John McEnaney, a farmer from Inniskeen in County Monaghan. Terence and Julia probably married circa 1825, as their first child, John, was born in 1826.

Two John McEnaneys were recorded in Inniskeen Parish in the Griffith Valuation of 1854. One held 6 acres in Dromskeath townland, the other 12 acres in Gorteen and Thornfield townland. The parish register for St Mary's, Inniskeen records that Brigid Roony (sic), daughter of Terence and Judith Roony (nee McNaney) was baptised there on 31st December 1837. The godparents were Bernard Roony and Brigid McNaney. The old church in Inniskeen is now a museum devoted to the poet Patrick Kavanagh, but a plaque on the wall commemorates a possible distant relative - John McEnaney of Gorteen - "The Bard of Gallenberg" - born 4/4/1872, died 17/11/1943.

In 1839, accompanied by five children - John, Patrick (born 1829), James (1831), Mary (1832), Alice (1833), and Bridget (1837), Terence and Julia emigrated to England. It would be interesting to know the circumstances which had prompted this emigration, as it took place well before the Famine years of 1845-51. They settled originally in Newcastle upon Tyne, where a sixth child, Laurence, was born on 10th August 1840. He was baptised at St Andrew's in Pilgrim Street, and his godmother was named Alice McEnaney, which suggests that Julia had a sister or sister-in-law in the city.

Their stay in Newcastle was brief. The 1841 Census records them living in Millfield Cottages, Bishopwearmouth (modern Sunderland). Living in the same house with them was a Peter McNaney aged 25 - possibly a brother to Julia. Millfield Cottages comprised 114 of the 134 households in this census district, which was located close to the Glass Works. It appears that names had not yet been given to the individual streets, which later became Silksworth Row, Johnson Street, Trimdon Street etc. By 1843 they were living in Johnson Street, Bishopwearmouth, where a daughter was born - Catherine. They then moved to Softley's Buildings on Hylton Road, where a further two children were born - Ann (1846) and Joseph (1848). All three were baptised at St Mary's in Bridge Street. No further children were born, as Terence died from consumption on 23rd July 1850. Fortunately for Julia, by this time her older children were all in employment - John and James at the iron works, Patrick as a labourer, Mary working as a confectioner, Alice as a domestic servant, Bridget as a dressmakers apprentice, and Laurence as an errand boy. Julia herself took in washing.

In 1856 crisis struck the Rooney and Thompson families. To use an old fashioned expression, Patrick had gotten Elizabeth into trouble. Whether it was Patrick himself who was unwilling to marry, or whether Elizabeth's family were opposed to the idea is unknown, but things were left until the last minute. The wedding eventually took place on 25th November 1856 in St Mary's. The circumstantial evidence suggests that the bride and groom took matters into their own hands and married in the face of strong parental disapproval. Prior to the wedding they were resident in adjacent lodging houses at 34 and 36 Trimdon Street, Bishopwearmouth, and the witnesses who signed the marriage book were both male - John McMahon and James Rogers. Patrick was 25 and Elizabeth 21 years old. Some sort of reconciliation seems to have taken place after the wedding, as Elizabeth was able to return to Newbottle for the birth of the child, Margaret Jane, which occurred only 24 days later.

It is not hard to imagine why there might have been opposition to their union. As a future son-in-law Patrick must have appeared to Michael Thompson as a less than ideal prospect. He was a general labourer, illiterate, Irish, and Catholic to boot. In contrast, Elizabeth was Protestant, the daughter of a tradesman, and to judge by her signature in the marriage book she had received a good education.

Nevertheless, married they were, and they now had a dynasty to found. Tracing them over the next few years is not easy. Their next child, Hannah, was born at North Hylton on 16th May 1859, and was registered as Hannah Roney, daughter of Patrick Roney, a farm servant (agricultural labourer). She was baptised as Ann Rooney, at St Mary's Sunderland, on 26th June 1859. Patrick and Elizabeth had no doubt been informed by the priest that there was no Saint Hannah!

This would have been the least of their troubles - Margaret Jane, born almost three years previously, had still not been baptised. Although this practice of leaving long delays between birth and christening was commonplace in the Anglican Church, it was strongly condemned by the Catholic Church, and we can be sure that Patrick and Elizabeth received a stern lecture. Matters were put right, and Margaret received the sacrament on the same day as her sister, and shared the same godparents - Patrick Finnegan and Elizabeth Hogan.

The trail then becomes further complicated by Patrick's decision to change his Christian name - to George. The Census Record of 1861 lists him as George Roney, carter, living with his wife Elizabeth and daughters Margaret and Hannah in Back Murton Street, Sunderland. This is the first indication we have that they had modest means - Back Murton Street, a stone's throw from the present Central Library, consisted of a single outhouse behind a fairly affluent terrace occupied by merchants and shipowners, and wasfar from being the worst address in Sunderland at the time. The house is actually still standing. It was there that Elizabeth gave birth to my great grandfather - registered as John Roney, on 13th May 1862. He was baptised at St Mary's on 26th June - as John Roony. Not to be outdone, his father reverted to Patrick for the baptismal register, but was named George in the civil register!

It seems likely that a simple spelling mistake on the part of a Registrar's Clerk is the explanation for the change of surname - Rooney pronounced in an Irish accent, especially one from the North, sounds much like Roney. It is significant that the church records do not make this mistake. Between 1859 and 1881 the spelling in the civil records regularly switches from one version to the other. After 1881 the Roney version disappears, but Patrick continued to call himself George for the rest of his life, and this is more difficult to understand. Perhaps he found anti-Catholic sentiment so strong in the Sunderland of the time that he decided a good solid English name was the only route to getting on in life. Certainly the restoration of the Catholic Hierarchy in 1851 had resulted in a wave of anti-Catholic and anti-Irish feeling, fuelled initially by establishment figures, and whipped up to fever pitch by a variety of rabble-rousers. The Irish community had responded to verbal and physical attacks upon them, and sectarian riots had taken place in many parts of the country, for example in Sandgate, Newcastle in May 1851. On the other hand he may simply have liked the name George.

Elizabeth's parents had moved to Hetton-le-Hole by 1861, and the census records them living in Easington Lane. Sharing their home was Elizabeth's elder sister Hannah, and a grandson, Michael, aged 1, born in Smedon, Yorkshire. Michael's parents are unknown - could he have been Hannah's illegitimate son?

The 1861 census also reveals that Patrick's mother, Julia, (listed as Julia Rowney) was now living in Consett, together with three of her sons - James, Laurance and Joseph, who were employed at the Iron Works. A daughter, Ann, employed at a paper mill, was also living with them, as was a 6 year-old grandson, John McMahon.

Julia remarried on 22nd August 1863. Her husband was James McMahon, a labourer with the Water Company, who like Julia came originally from County Monaghan. (MacMahons were the Lords of Monaghan prior to the Plantations) James was 60 and Julia 56, though the marriage certificate records her age as only 50. Prior to the wedding, James lived at 32 Cumberland Street and Julia in George Street, but we do not know whether either of these addresses subsequently became the marital home.

Whether Patrick owned his own cart is unknown, but he was still plying his trade as a cartman from Back Murton Street when their next children, twin girls, were born on 15th November 1864 and received the names Elizabeth and Mary Ann. Elizabeth was the elder by five minutes, being born at 6:00 am. The twins were premature, and clearly were not expected to live, as they were baptised on the same day - presumably at home. Patrick's mother Julia acted as godparent for Elizabeth, and Bridget Maddison for Mary Ann. Sadly, Elizabeth died 3 weeks later on 4th December 1864. Mary Ann survived however and became known in later years as Aunt Polly.

The family left Sunderland for Tyne Dock shortly after the birth of the twins. The original plans for the deepwater dock and its associated staithes had been drawn up in 1837, but it did not finally open until 1859. It was capable of loading 40 colliers simultaneously, and coal was brought to it by rail from all over County Durham. Anyone raised in Jarrow up to the late 1970's will remember the famous four arches over which the coal trains ran. The opening of the staithes created a large demand for coal trimmers - men who worked long hours in appalling conditions levelling, by hand, the cargoes of coal in the holds of ships. The only attractive feature of the work was the high level of wages. Patrick must have been unafraid of hard physical work, as he obtained employment as a coal trimmer and settled with his family in Dock Street. It was there that a sixth child, another daughter, was born to them on 6th August 1866. She too was give the name Elizabeth.

Tragedy struck them in 1867. Hannah, then only 8 years old, developed cancer in one of her limbs and amputation was necessary. After a period of remission lasting 18 months the cancer was re-diagnosed, and after a second illness of 3 months she died on 29th January 1869. Her place of death was Jarrow Lodge, Westoe. Patrick marked his "X" on the death certificate, which is surprising, as he had managed to sign the register three years earlier for the birth of Elizabeth. Hannah is commemorated on the family grave in Jarrow Cemetery, but is unlikely to be buried there, as the cemetery was not opened until March 9th that same year.

The address above is misleading. At that time Westoe signified the greater part of what we would now regard as the town of South Shields, and included East Jarrow within its boundaries. It was not until 1933 that East Jarrow became a part of the Borough of Jarrow. Jarrow Lodge was, as its name implies, originally the residence of a wealthy family. It was situated on the southern shore of Jarrow Slake, at the point where the road name changes from Swinburn Street to Jarrow Road. Before industrialisation started to blight the area it would have been an attractive and healthy spot - not unlike modern day Budle Bay. In 1823 however salt duty was lifted, prompting the opening of Cooksons Alkali Works (later Jarrow Chemical Works) on the eastern shore of the Slake. Next the Don Alkali Company and Slake Chemical Company opened on the southern shore, a little to the west of Jarrow Lodge, and a further chemical works - the Jarrow Hill Chemical Company was situated roughly where Bede's World currently stands. The main chemical process in operation was the manufacture of soda ash by the LeBlanc method - a primitive and highly polluting process requiring the consumption of large quantities of coal*. Jarrow Lodge started to go down market. By 1861 it had become multiple residency, with four households, the most notable of which was that of Robert Imeary, owner of the Don Alkali Company and with interests in shipping, lampblack manufacture, and a 35 acre farm. By 1871 its decline was complete. Its name had changed to Slake House and it was occupied by eleven separate households, including the Rooneys.

*A new process for soda-ash was invented by Ernest Solvay in 1869 which cut the price of soda-ash by two-thirds and destroyed the economics of the older method. The industry was well established by then however, and other chemical processes replaced soda-ash manufacture.

Two further daughters were born at Jarrow Lodge - Sarah, on 22nd July 1868, and Hannah, on 6th April 1871. Patrick himself signed the register for Sarah's birth - as George Roney.

Meanwhile, Michael and Margaret Thompson had moved from Newbottle to New Town, an offshoot of Houghton-le-Spring, some time during the late 1850's. Michael is recorded as living there in a Poll Book published in 1868. He was elector No. 470 in the Hetton-le-Hole District. The election - for two seats to represent the North Durham Constituency, was fought out between George Elliott of Houghton Hall, Sir Hedworth Williamson Bt. of Whitburn Hall, and Isaac Lowthian Bell of Washington Hall. The system under which the election was fought is interesting - one could either record a full vote, termed a "Plumper" for a single candidate, or a half vote, termed a "Split" for any two candidates. George Elliott, the Tory, romped home with 4143 Plumpers and 516 Splits. Second place went to Sir Hedworth, but it was a close run thing and he beat Isaac Bell into third place by only 189 Splits. Michael, I am ashamed to say, voted for the Tory.

He and Margaret were still living there in 1871, but Michael died two years later at the age of 80 on 24th September 1873. The cause of death was said to be 'natural decay'. His burial service took place in the Parish Church on 28th September, and he is likely to be interred in the Old Cemetery, (now disused), off Sunderland Street.

Industrial relations at Tyne Dock were bad. Several disputes involving railway employees had punctuated the late 1860's. In 1874 the trimmers and teemers mounted a major strike, demanding shorter hours and an end to Sunday working. After 4 months of bitter dispute there was a serious riot, in which a strike-breaker received fatal injuries. This may well have persuaded Patrick to quit this job. By 1875 he had resumed his former trade as a cartman and the family were living at Cliff Cottage, Quay Corner, Jarrow. Their last child, another daughter, was born there on 10th February 1875 and named Theresa. She died just six weeks later, on 21st March. The cause of death was certified as 'Marasmus'. This may indicate another premature baby, or possibly Elizabeth, by then aged 40 and probably worn out by the effort of raising eight children, was unable to feed her properly.

It is interesting to note, when looking though the newspapers of the era, how little some things have changed in the intervening years. Drunkenness, violent crime and vagrancy were just as much an issue in the 1880's as they are in the 1990's. For example, on 29th August 1880 the Shields Gazette reported the arrest of two juvenile pickpockets, James Tighe and James Nesbitt, for robbing May Hall, and Martin and Charles Coyne were remanded in custody for attacking Colman Joyce with a poker. What has changed however is the level of penalties. We can be certain that the above-named did not receive a few hours of community service for their misdemeanours.

1880 was a General Election year, and one of the key issues in Jarrow was the 'Irish Question'. On the 19th March a mid-day meeting was held in the crystallising house at the St. Bede Chemical Works (previously the Don Alkali Company), at which the Liberal candidate, Mr Stevenson, gave a spirited address to an attentive audience. The Chairman, Mr Larkin, closed the meeting with the following words - "They (Irishmen) are going to vote with the Liberals, and one thing they are determined on is that Lord Beaconsfield should go." His wish was to be fulfilled when the Tories were defeated and the political life of Lord Beaconsfield, better known as Benjamin Disraeli, was brought to a close.

Thomas and Mary Larkin were born in Ireland in 1831 and 1835 respectively. By 1880 Thomas had progressed to a managerial position at the Jarrow Chemical Works, and lived close by in Lake Terrace. They had 5 children - James, Mary Ellen, Kate, John and Theresa . Their family was to become linked with the Rooneys in 1923 when Thomas, a son of James Larkin married Janet, daughter of John Rooney.

On 1st October 1881 Patrick achieved an ambition which must have seemed like an impossible dream when he first arrived in England - he became the tenant of a farm, Lake House Farm in East Jarrow, rented from the St Bede Chemical Company. How he scraped together the wherewithal to take up the lease of £30 per annum is unknown. It may have been as a result of a shipyard accident that occurred to John around this time, and which caused him to lose an eye*. Compensation payments in those days were not generous, but they did exist, and this may have provided the means. Alternatively Elizabeth may have come into an inheritance. We should not, however, rule out the possibility that Patrick simply worked hard, and saved enough of what he earned to be able to take advantage of a golden opportunity when it presented itself. The fact that the Manager of the St Bede Chemical Company was a fellow Irishman may, of course, have given him an edge.

* The Rooneys were careless with their eyes. John's youngest sister Hannah suffered a similar mishap when she fell against a tree stump on the farm.

Tracing the history of Lake House is a fascinating exercise in itself. The following announcement, which appeared in the Newcastle Courant for 19th April 1806, suggests it was built in 1800:

To be SOLD at Auction
By Order of the Executors of the late Mr. Robert Railston, deceased

ALL that small and compact FARM of LAND, containing by Estimation 19 Acres and 6 Perches, or thereabouts, be the same more or less.
Also all that thereon new-built MESSUAGE or DWELLING-HOUSE, consisting of a Kitchen, Parlour, Dining Room and Drawing Room on the Ground Floor, three good Lodging Rooms and Dressing Room above, with all suitable Outbuildings thereto belonging.
And all those two new-built TENEMENTS, SHOP and PREMISES adjoining, or near to Jarrow Causeway, and built upon a part of the said Land; all which said Land and Premises are near to Jarrow, and are called or known by the name of the "Lake House." ......
........The main Buildings are elegantly (built?), and in every Respect suitable for a genteel family: which land and Premises last mentioned, are held by Lease under the Honourable Dean and Chapter of Durham, for a Term of 21 Years, from the 20th day of May, 1800, and are subject to an Annual Out-rent of Seven Shillings and Fourpence, but are free from Hay-Tithe, and the Land-Tax has been redeemed.

The announcement went on to explain that the miscellaneous outbuildings were subject to a similar lease of 21 years at a rent of 20 Shillings. A list of farm livestock to be sold was also given; this included 11 horses of various description, 3 pigs and 4 cows.

In 1826 Lake House Farm was once again on the market, and had grown in size to 22 acres and 7 perches. The seller was a Mr. John Brown, who appears to have remained in occupation of the main house, as his death there at the age of 84 was announced on 26th July 1839.

The 1841 Census has entries for 'Lake House', 'Lake Houses' and 'Jarrow Lake House Farm'. The first two of these were occupied by businessmen associated with the Chemical Industry - Robert Gregory and Robert Imeary. The latter was occupied by an agricultural labourer and his wife, and was probably only an outbuilding. The Census lists one other farm in East Jarrow - Salt Grass Cottage Farm. This was probably the farmhouse shown on the 1837 plans for Tyne Dock - it was situated roughly opposite where the Alkali Hotel stands today. Slater's Directory for 1848 has an entry for The Lake Alkali Works - owner Robert Imeary.

There is no mention of Lake House Farm in the 1851 Census - instead there are three households with the address of 'Lake Houses' . Two are occupied by businessmen (not the same persons as in 1841), and one by an agricultural labourer. There is no mention of Salt Grass Cottage Farm, but Jarrow Lodge Farm (150 acres and 6 labourers) makes an appearance. By 1854 the Lake Alkali Works had become the Lake Chemical Company, owned by Solomon Mease.

In 1861 'Lake House' is identified as being one building housing five families, including that of Thomas Lomas, who is described as a "Chemical Manufacturer (Soda Works in course of erection)". Jarrow Lodge Farm has disappeared.

In 1871 there are entries for Lake Terrace, Lake House Cottages, and 'Lake House Farm House', occupied by David Kent and his family. I believe that the latter is the same building as 'Lake House' in the 1841 record.

In 1881 Lake House Farm House has apparently disappeared. There are entries only for Lake House Cottage and Lake Terrace. However George Roney, farmer, is listed as occupying a house in Lake Terrace. This was probably a mistake on the part of the enumerator, who made two separate entries under the heading of Lake Terrace. Patrick's mother Julia, now aged 74, was also present at the farm on Census night. This is the last record I have been able to uncover for her - there is no death entry for her up to 1900, by which time she would have been 94. It is possible that she returned to Ireland and died there.

Although the 1881 Census records Patrick's occupation as "Farmer", it was not until 1886 that he was listed as eligible to vote in the Burgesses roll for the Borough of South Shields. That same year he also appeared for the first time in Ward's Directory, suggesting that his standing in the community had moved up a notch.

A cautionary note for those who may be tempted to dip into the census records - the indexes held by South Shields Library contain a number of errors, caused by the difficulty of deciphering the 19th-century handwriting. In the 1851 index for example there is an entry for East Crap House. This does not in fact record the first public convenience in Jarrow, but should read Salt Grass House!

The location and outline of the farm house can be clearly discerned onthe 1895 Ordnance Survey map of East Jarrow. It derived substantial income from the nearby chemical works, in particular the Hedworth Barium Works which now occupied the former Slake Chemical Works site. The Rooneys had a contract to transport waste - probably to Tyne Dock, for loading onto ships and disposal at sea.

Margaret Jane, who had been working as a domestic servant in Newcastle at the time of the 1881 census, was the first of Patrick's children to marry, on 5th January 1886. Her husband, Robert Jarvis, was a master mariner and a widower, his first wife Harriet having died on 30th July 1885, leaving him with five children - John Robert (born 1872), Herbert James (1876), Amelia (1878), Harriet (1881) and Sydney Dix (1885). The youngest child died at the age of 8 months on November 10th 1885, so that Margaret Jane became stepmother to the four survivors. Surprisingly, the marriage took place not in a Catholic Church, but in St Stephen's Parish Church in South Shields. Whether this resulted in any family controversy is not known. If it did, it must have been relatively mild, as it did not prevent John Rooney from attending as best man and Mary Ellen Larkin as bridesmaid. The Jarvis family home was at 20 Salmon Street, South Shields, a relatively prestigious address.

1886 also saw the passing of Margaret Thompson, Elizabeth's mother. She had continued to live at John Street, New Town after the death of her husband, and died there on 2nd December at the ripe old age of 91. Her funeral took place in St Michael's on 6th December. Her death was registered by her grandson Michael, who was also recorded living with her in the 1881 census. In that census his birthplace was recorded as Northallerton, suggesting that the "Smedon" recorded in the 1861 census may have been Great or Little Smeaton, which lie just to the north of Northallerton. Michael had followed his grandfather's trade and become a stonemason.

The Victorian era was a golden age for medical quackery, and one of the purveyors of cure-all remedies was a certain Richard Lonsdale, the inventor of the "Magnetaire" belt. As was the common practice, his advertisements were always accompanied by testimonials from delighted patients who had been cured of a variety of illnesses. It is highly unlikely that these devices possessed any therapeutic value, and one can only conclude that he was the beneficiary of a mass placebo effect among his customers, or the glowing testimonials had been paid for. Whether knowingly or not, Elizabeth Rooney was a participant in this scam, as revealed by an advertisement in the Shields Daily Gazette of 7th January 1887, reproduced below;

Lonsdale Magnetaire

Elizabeth's history up to this point, and subsequent events, do not give the impression of a person suffering from nervous debility!

John RooneyPatrick Rooney died from bronchitis on 20th July 1889 and was buried in Jarrow Cemetery on 23rd July. The earliest existing picture of his son John dates from this time (see opposite). His death announcement in the Shields Gazette of Monday 22nd July was brief and to the point:

ROONEY - At Lake House Farm, East Jarrow on 20th inst. George, beloved
husband of Elizabeth Rooney. Interment on Tuesday at 3pm. Friends please
accept this (the only) intimation.

Patrick's final illness was clearly unexpected, as his last Will and Testament was hastily put together the day before he died. Peter Parkin, who kept a grocer's shop nearby was drafted in as a witness. Patrick left his estate of £593.4s.0d to Elizabeth, who was to enjoy the income thereof. After her death the residue was to go to one or more of his children 'in such shares as my said wife shall appoint'. The significance of this wording was to become apparent much later. If, however, Elizabeth were to re-marry then she was to receive one-third of the estate and the remainder was to go immediately to the children in equal shares. The Will ends with the statement "Signed by the above Patrick Rooney as his last Will, the same having been first read over and explained to him by the undersigned John Alexander Livingstone when he appeared perfectly to understand the same ....." Whether he did understand or not is unknown, but he was unable to write his name, and instead marked his 'X' for the last time.

Rooney gravePatrick's grave in Jarrow Cemetery can still be seen today in remarkably good condition. It is located a short distance to the left of the main gate and the inscription on it is shown opposite.

The coupling of Elizabeth and Theresa's names on the tombstone led to the mistaken belief that they were twins.

Patrick's age as recorded on the gravestone would suggest the year of his birth was 1829. This is consistent with the 1841 Census, in which his age was recorded as 13. His death certificate however has him as only 56 when he died, which would make his birth year 1833, and this is consistent with the 1881 Census. Both the 1861 and 1871 Censuses however indicate his year of birth was 1831, and this is corroborated by his marriage certificate! All we can say therefore is that he was aged between 56 and 60 when he died.

We are equally uncertain as to the date of birth of his father. His death certificate in 1850 records his age as 66, but the 1841 Census has him aged 40, giving a range of 1784 - 1801 for his year of birth. The latter date is probably nearer the truth - otherwise he would have been 22 years older than Patrick's mother.

After Patrick's death the running of the farm was taken over by John. The 1891 Census entry has him listed as an agricultural labourer and his sisters as farm servants. Also present at Lake House Farm on Census night was one Joseph Carter, a 16 year old servant boy from Houghton-le-Spring, and the 9 year old Harriet Jarvis who was visiting her step-grandmother. (She was also listed under her home address of 20 Salmon Street, South Shields and was therefore counted twice).

On 8th February 1893 John Rooney married. His bride was Janet Weddell, a seamstress from 5 Maud Street, Jarrow. The wedding took place at S.S. Peter and Paul School Chapel in Tyne Dock. This would have been the Roman Catholic Mission that was opened on 14th December 1884. The Church proper did not open until 1906. Janet was five years younger than John, having been born on 8th June 1867 at 3 Stowell Street, Newcastle. They set up home at 2, Lake Terrace, a short distance from the farm, and their first children born a year later were twin girls, christened Janet and Elizabeth after their grandmothers. With the move to Lake Terrace John now merited his own entry in Ward's Directory, where he is listed as Farm Foreman. Whether this signified any actual change of status, or remuneration is unknown.

The history of the Weddell family has been dealt with separately.

The Jarvis family suffered a second tragedy on 14th January 1894 when Robert was accidentally killed while at sea. He was 51 years old. His body was interred at Lisbon, but he is commemorated on the tombstone for his first wife Harriet. This can still be seen in the south-east corner of Westoe Cemetery. In his Will, dated 31st October 1893, he left everything to his wife, but it was not a tremendous fortune, being valued at only £60.0s.0d. Margaret Jane, widowed after only 8 years of marriage, proceeded to establish herself as a butcher, a trade to which two of her stepsons had been apprenticed. Her shop was located at 46 Bath Street, not far from their home in Salmon Street. There is evidence to suggest that she lived above the shop, and rented out their former home.

In 1896 John Rooney emulated his father in having a son as his third child. The boy was named George, taking on his grandfather's adopted name. In the same year Elizabeth Rooney became the second of the sisters to marry - on 5th August at S.S. Peter and Paul School Chapel. Her husband, four years her junior, was James Watson, a locomotive fireman of 6 Hampden Street, Gateshead. His father, Thomas Watson, was a joiner. Elizabeth and James do not appear to have had any children.

Like his father, John Rooney was destined to have only one son. His next daughter, my grandmother Margaret (Peggy), was born on 29th January 1899 in 2 Lake Terrace.

Hannah, the youngest of the Rooney sisters, married Peter Kelly, a bricklayer from 13 White Street, Felling, on 13th September 1899 in S.S. Peter and Paul School Chapel. Peter was eleven years her senior. His father was Daniel Kelly, foreman in a Chemical Works. The best man and bridesmaid were Hugh, Peter's younger brother, and Sarah Rooney, who were themselves to wed ten years later. Initially Peter and Hannah lived on the farm, and their first child, Elizabeth Isabella, was born there in 1901. The photographs below show the wedding party, and also John Rooney's family, taken on the same day.

Rooney - Kelly wedding

The Wedding of Hannah Rooney and Peter Kelly - 13th September 1899

(sitting) James Watson? : Hugh Kelly : Peter Kelly : Hannah Rooney : Sarah Rooney
(standing) Margaret Jarvis? : Elizabeth Watson? : John Rooney : Elizabeth Rooney : Mary Ann Rooney? : Harriet Jarvis?
(children) Janet Rooney : Elizabeth Rooney : George Rooney

Rooney - Kelly wedding

John Rooney and family - 13th September 1899

The children are Elizabeth, Janet, George and baby Margaret (my grandmother)

These were interesting times. In September 1899 the Dreyfus scandal was in full flight. Captain Dreyfus of the French Army had been falsely accused of spying for Germany and transported to Devil's Island. The anti-semitic attitude of the French establishment played a major part in his conviction. Thanks to an international outcry, spearheaded by Emile Zola with his famous article "J'accuse!", the falseness of the accusations was eventually proven, and the Shields Gazette of 21st September took satisfaction in reporting his release. Exciting stories could also be found closer to home. On 6th September the Gazette reported the case of a 14 year old boy, Robert Milbourne, who was attacked by a fish while swimming near the South Pier. In the words of the reporter " was supposed he had been seized with cramp, but it was soon apparent he had been wrestling with a venomous sea monster" Thomas Hedley, a strong swimmer, got to the boy as he was being dragged under for the second time and brought him ashore. His leg was badly lacerated and it was concluded that he had been attacked by a devil fish - a common visitor in the herring season.

Moving on, in 1901 the Jarvis's butcher's shop at 46 Bath Street passed into the hands of Herbert James, the younger stepson. Margaret Jane opened a grocer's shop close by, at 89 Bath Street. 1901 also saw the birth of Mary Ann, the fifth and last child of John and Janet Rooney.

The Christmas of 1903 was marred by a sad event, which would have dampened the festive spirit for all the family members still living in the close-knit community of East Jarrow. A son had been born in the summer to the wife of Janet Rooney's brother Andrew, a journeyman printer, and he had been christened Newton, after his grandfather. One can imagine how this lightened the last few days of the older man, who was suffering badly from kidney stones and who eventually died from heart failure on 7th October. Sadly the child took ill with pneumonia, and he too died, at Lake Terrace, on Christmas Eve.

Elizabeth, Patrick's widow, died from cancer of the stomach at Lake House Farm on 22nd April 1908. In her Will John was left the sum of £100 and a fifth share in a sum of £470 which had belonged to his father. His sisters on the other hand shared in an estate worth £4833.3s.9d. - a huge sum at the time, and which included a house and shop in Bath Street, South Shields. The story as my grandmother understood it was that some of the sisters had persuaded their mother on her deathbed to cut John out of the bulk of the Estate. Whether this was misunderstanding on her part, or whether this was how John himself told the story is unknown, but it is not strictly correct. The Will excluding John was actually made on 26th April 1898 - ten years before Elizabeth's death, and his eldest sister, Margaret Jane Jarvis also received considerably less than the others. It is said that John threatened legal action and received an out-of-court settlement. We have no way of knowing whether this is true, but what we do know is that the tenancy of Lake House Farm was eventually transferred to him.

We can almost certainly rule out the possibility that this was in retaliation for some offence on the part of John, real or imagined. For if the offence had been so great it hardly seems likely that Elizabeth would have allowed him to remain as Farm Foreman for the next ten years. To my mind the clue to the disposition of Elizabeth's Will lies in her obvious concern that her unmarried daughters should be provided for. These were the days before female equality - or even universal suffrage, and life could be very hard indeed for a single female. It should be noted that the possibility of an unequal distribution of the patrimony had been foreseen in Patrick's Will. I believe that Elizabeth simply looked at the practicalities and concluded that John would take over the lease of the farm, and therefore he and his family were secure. Similarly Margaret Jane, by virtue of her business and property interests in South Shields, did not need to be provided for. She therefore distributed the bulk of her estate to those whom she felt were in greatest need. To us, it may seem that John was treated unfairly, but I am convinced that the approach taken by Elizabeth would have been very well understood by the people of her day.

Shortly after the death of her mother Hannah Kelly gave birth to her second child, Mary, on 12th May 1908. Hannah and Peter had by this time moved to 3 Fox Street, Felling, just off Sunderland Road.

On the 28th April 1909, at the age of 40, Sarah Rooney married Hugh Kelly, the younger brother of Peter. Hugh was manager of the Duke of Connaught public house in Coxon Terrace Felling - near Felling Railway Station. (The pub is still standing) The wedding took place at the newly-erected S.S. Peter and Paul Church in Belle Vue Crescent, Tyne Dock. At the time of her marriage Sarah was still living at Lake House Farm. On this occasion John Rooney was not one of the official witnesses, which is hardly surprising in view of the events which had preceded it. Sarah's wedding meant that now only Margaret Jane and Mary Ann remained to occupy the house and shop in South Shields as provided for in their mother's Will, although it does not appear that they ever did so. After leaving the farm until shortly before their deaths they lived at 48 Bath Street, which could not have been "at the corner of James Mather Terrace and Bath Street" as described in Elizabeth's Will.

John Rooney continued to work the farm after his mother's death, but he and his family probably did not move into Lake House until after Sarah's marriage. My grandmother recalled it having 20 cows (John had a milk cart with John Hoare as the roundsman, some goats, and crops of potatoes, turnips, cabbages and corn. These were probably more for consumption by the family and animals than for sale. It still had a waste transportation contract with the local Chemical Industry, of which the dominant company was now the Hedworth Barium Works, manufacturers of Barium Peroxide.


View towards South Shields

Bell Street is the nearest group of houses - Cleveland Place can just be seen over the railway line

George Rooney

George Rooney and 'Bob'- circa 1910

Margaret Rooney

Margaret Rooney at Lake House Farm - circa 1914

Rooney family

John Rooney and family in the stackyard - circa 1916

(back row) Janet : George : Elizabeth (middle row) John : Janet (front row) Mary Ann : Margaret
The Hedworth Barium Works can be seen in the backgound

Janet Rooney  Elizabeth Rooney  May Rooney

Janet, Elizabeth and May Rooney at Lake House Farm - circa 1918

Mary Ann had contracted cancer of the larynx, and as the illness progressed she moved in to the Duke of Connaught, probably early in 1913. It was there that she died, on 19th September 1913. She alone of the sisters had never married. It was said that she had been friendly with a Bob Daley, who also supplied haulage services to the Chemical Works, but that his family were opposed to the marriage. She was buried in Jarrow Cemetery in the same grave as her parents. Her Will, which was valued at £1341.16s.9d, left everything to her sisters, but there was a twist in that Margaret Jane was only to enjoy the income from her share until her death, whereupon the capital was to be divided among the surviving sisters. Mary and Elizabeth Kelly, Hannah's daughters, also received small gifts - a gold locket and chain, and gold watch and chain respectively.

Margaret Jane did not have long to enjoy the income from her share in Mary Ann's Will, as she too died from cancer of the larynx, also at the Duke of Connaught, on 14th November 1914. She was buried in Jarrow Cemetery - a short distance from her parents' grave. Regrettably her grave is in a poor state and is unlikely to be around much longer. Both her death announcement and her tombstone pointedly refer to her as "the eldest daughter of Patrick and Elizabeth Rooney". One wonders what family controversy or argument this may hint at!

Margaret Jane's Will, valued at £671.1s.7d (but only £268.18s.7d. net) was almost a mirror image of her mother's. The bulk of her estate, the main asset of which was the house at 20 Salmon Street, was left to her stepdaughters Amelia and Harriet. Her stepson Herbert James received her gold watch and albert, and Robert John received a legacy of fifty pounds. (The Parish Priest of St Patrick's Felling also received a legacy - of ten pounds)

Some time after the death of Margaret Jane, Hugh and Sarah Kelly moved to another public house, the Blink Bonny Inn. This was also situated in Sunderland Road, Felling - opposite Felling Park at the end of Park View. It was named after the famous racehorse which in 1859 had won both the Oaks and the Derby. It was at the Blink Bonny Inn that Sarah Kelly died, of influenza, on 27th March 1924. She was buried in Jarrow Cemetery in the same grave as her sister, Margaret Jane. The Blink Bonny Inn did not long survive her, being destroyed in a fire during the 1930's)

Sarah Kelly's Will, valued at £1664.16s.4d, followed the now predictable Rooney pattern. Apart from legacies of £50 each to her nieces Marie, Elizabeth and Marion, her husband Hugh was to receive only the income on the residue of her estate. After his death the remaining capital was to be divided between her sisters Elizabeth and Hannah.

The Rooney's link with Lake House Farm came to an end in 1925 when John, now aged 63, decided to give up the tenancy. The lease was taken over by Mrs E.J. Walton and her sons. (The farm buildings were still around in the early sixties, but were then demolished to make way for the Tyne Tunnel approach road)

Lake House

Lake House Farm circa 1955

John and his family moved into 3, Lake Terrace, close to his daughter Margaret and son-in-law Wilfred Brennan who were in No 1, but after a short while both families moved to adjacent houses in Tweed Street, and John Rooney and Wilfred Brennan went into business together as haulage contractors. Shortly after this second move John's wife, Janet, died on 31st January 1926, aged 58. She was buried in Jarrow Cemetery.

The haulage business had a yard near the paper mill in Springwell Road. John's career nearly came to an abrupt end there one day when he fell down a well on the site. Fortunately he was not seriously injured. They were successful in gaining a contract to clear refuse for Jarrow Council, and also to carry tarmac for the laying of the new roads in Primrose. They operated 2 large lorries, a Thorneycroft and a Leyland, and 5 smaller vehicles. Among the drivers employed were George Rooney, John's son, George Shields, his son-in-law, and Bennie, George's brother (and later landlord of the Lord Nelson in Monkton Village). My father can remember accompanying one of the wagons on the North Shields ferry and being made to hide under a sack to avoid paying his fare - was this an early attempt at cost control, or a driver having fun with a small boy?

By far the largest contract secured by the business was for the transport of bacon from ships in the Tyne to the Midlands. Unfortunately this contract landed the business with bad debts which reduced it to insolvency. At the time Jarrow Council were about to embark on a major project replacing outside privies, and Mr Rea, owner of Rea's Cafe and also a haulage contractor, urged Wilfred and John to carry on until this came through. They decided instead however to place the business in receivership.

After the collapse of the haulage business John Rooney and his remaining unmarried daughter May took rooms with Mrs Carraher in Palmer Street, before they went to live with his daughter Janet Larkin, firstly in St Paul's Road and later in Langley Terrace, Primrose. For some time he worked as a night watchman at Hall Brothers in South Shields. When Janet later moved back to East Jarrow John accompanied her, and it was there, at 3, Simonside Terrace that he died on 11th November 1935. His funeral was attended by his sisters Hannah Kelly and Elizabeth Watson. He and Janet are buried in Section T, Plot 655 in Jarrow Cemetery, but the grave is unmarked.

Hannah Kelly was still living in Felling - at 2 Park View, Sunderland Road, as late as 1939. She would therefore have had a grandstand view of the fire which destroyed the Blink Bonny, as the pub was only a few yards from her front door. Some time during the 1940's she moved in with her elder daughter Elizabeth and son-in-law John Sutherland at 95 Grange Terrace, Deckham. She was joined there by her sister, Elizabeth Watson, as she became less able to look after herself. Elizabeth Watson eventually died there on 12th August 1944 at the age of 78. Her husband James had died twenty years previously, on 21st July 1921. She is buried together with James in Heaton Cemetery. (John Sutherland is also buried in the same grave). In her Will Elizabeth disposed of the bulk of her property in various legacies, the largest of which by far was £500 for Mass Offerings to the Church of the Annunciation in Gateshead.

Hannah Kelly, the last of her generation, died of a stroke at 95 Grange Terrace, Gateshead on 7th November 1945. She was 74 years old. She is buried on the south side of Heworth Cemetery together with her husband Peter, who died on 22nd December 1929 at the age of 68, and her brother-in-law Hugh, who died on 4th April 1932 aged 62. Her death brings to an end this brief history of the family of Patrick and Elizabeth Rooney. More than a hundred of their descendants are living today. It is my earnest hope that those of them who read this account will derive some small pleasure from this all too sketchy glimpse into the past.

Patrick Brennan

Rowlands Gill - October 1994
Revised January 2000
Further revised February 2001
Further revised January 2005
Further revised September 2005

Loose Ends

One of the characteristics of research of this nature is that one never gets to the end of the story - each mystery solved throws up in turn its own unanswered questions. One has to judge when to stop, otherwise the task could become endless. This is where I have left the trail, for anyone who might be interested in taking it further.

What became of Patrick's brothers and sisters?

James (born 1829-1833) was still working at the iron works - as a 'puddler', and was resident at 18 Whitburn Street, Monkwearmouth when he died of consumption on 15th November 1872.

Alice (born 1834-1836) was working as a domestic servant at the time of the 1851 Census. Her employer was John Stoddart, a coal trimmer of Trimdon Street. On 2nd September 1856 she married William Scaife, a mariner of Lombard Street.

Mary (born 1832-1835) married Patrick McMahon at Sunderland in the December Quarter of 1853. She, presumably, was the mother of John McMahon (born 1855) who was listed as a grandson of Julia in the 1861 census.

Bridget (born 1837-1839) married Richard Crosby, a 23 year old blacksmith at Sunderland Parish Church on 31st August 1856. They moved to Kirkleatham in North Yorkshire, and by the time of the 1881 census Bridget had given birth to at least 10 children. She shared one of her brother Patrick's idiosyncrasies, in that in later life she took to calling herself Jane. One of her daughters, Esther (born 1876) married Albert Joplin in 1898. They lived in Hartlepool, and had a son, Wilfred, (born 1907).

Catherine (born 1843) died in infancy, succumbing to measles on 17th June 1844. At the time the family had moved from Johnson Street and were living at Silksworth Row.

Joseph (born 1848) followed his older brothers John and James into the iron works. At the time, Teesside was a more important centre for steel production than Wearside (one of the forerunners of Middlesbrough Football Club was named Ironopolis F.C.), and Joseph moved to Stockton. Like his brother Patrick he also ran into problems with the spelling of his surname, and it was as Joseph Rowney that he married Catherine McGough* in St Mary's, Stockton on 11th July 1870. A son, Terence, was born to them at 71 Whitburn Street, Monkwearmouth on 4th May 1871. This was the home of Catherine's parents, and curiously she was listed in the census under her maiden name, even though her status was "married". She was still living at 71 Whitburn Street when Terence died a year later on 21st April 1872. His death was registered as Terence Rooney. Joseph himself does not appear in the 1871 or 1881 censuses.

Catherine's surname also appears variously as McGowe, McGaff and McGof.

Who was the elusive Mr Tinkler?

One of my Grandmother's happiest childhood memories was of trips to Marsden to visit her Grandmother Rooney's sister, whose married name, she said, was Tinkler. She also recalled that this Great-Aunt had a daughter who married a Market Gardener in the south of England. I have uncovered the following in relation to this person:

John Rooney's mother (Elizabeth Thompson) had a sister two years older than herself, who was christened Margaret at Houghton-le-Spring on 26th May 1833, although her real name was Hannah, as evidenced by the 1841 census. Why had she been christened as Margaret? The simplest, and most likely explanation is that the curate who performed the baptism wrote up the register sometime afterwards, and had forgotten the child's name. This explanation fits in with the fact that there was another sister named Margaret born circa 1840.

On 7th December 1868 this Hannah married Robert Tinkler at the Register Office in Durham. Her age on the certificate was 35, indicating a d.o.b. of 1833. In 1891 they were living in John Street, Houghton New Town. Hannah's age was recorded as 57 . Her parents had formerly lived at this address, her father having died in 1873 and her mother in 1886. Hannah and Robert had a child, also named Hannah, born at Low Spennymoor, Ferryhill on 19th March 1873. She remained a spinster until late in life, eventually marrying, at the age of 61, a gardener named Ernest Hussey. They lived at Corscombe in Dorset, where she died in 1951 at the age of 78. She would have been a cousin to John Rooney, and to his sister Elizabeth Watson, who left a legacy of £25 to "my cousin Hannah Hussey". I have not been able however to link the Tinklers to Marsden, and it looks as if this part of the story is in error, as Robert and Hannah Tinkler were still living in Houghton-le-Spring in 1901.

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