History of the Laydon and Rowan families

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The Laydons

My great-grandfather James Laydon was born circa 1855 in the Arigna valley, which runs from Sligo, through Leitrim and into Roscommon. The family name (Ó Loideaín) is mentioned as landowners there as early as 1617. His exact place of birth is not known, but the family inhabited the townland of Glackaunadarragh. He had an elder brother named Patrick, and his mother, whose name was Ann, was by all accounts a very domineering woman. As is so often the case James married a carbon copy of his mother in the shape of Mary Dowd, and the stage was set for battle. Mary objected to being treated like a skivvy, especially while she was carrying her first child, and shortly after the birth in 1880 she walked out on James and emigrated to Australia with her elder brother (also named Patrick) and some other family members. It was during this voyage that Patrick wrote a poem - "Arigna's Green Vale". James's response to the family break-up was to emigrate to Tyneside, and the 1881 Census records him as a "Chemical Labourer", aged 28, living at 11, Cuthbert Street, Hebburn.

While in Australia Mary was told by a Catholic priest that she had committed a great sin in leaving her husband, and should return to him. This she did, and the Census Return for 1891 records James Leydon, aged 36, his wife Mary (28), and their son Patrick (11) occupying 2 rooms at 23 Lyon Street, Hebburn, near Newcastle-upon-Tyne. James was employed as a General Labourer. All three were recorded as having been born in Ireland.

A daughter, Anne, was born later in 1891, suggesting that Mary's stay in Australia had lasted nearly ten years. At the birth of a second daughter Maria on 13th December 1892 they were living at 13 Lyon Street. James was once again working as a Chemical Labourer, and according to oral tradition he was employed at Tennant's bleach works. Two further daughters were born - Margaret (date unknown) and Catherine (Kitty) on 27th August 1896. Their sixth child was another son - James Joseph, born on 24th March 1899. The family was now living at 19 Lyon Street.

The spelling of their surname changed over the years. In 1881 it was Laydon, but by 1891 it had changed to Leydon. On the birth certificate of James Joseph in 1899 it was Layden. The Laydon spelling reappeared at the birth of twins - Hubert and Agnes in 1901, but in the Census of that same year it was Leydon, and James Leydon appears in Ward's Directory for 1903-4, where he is listed as Grocer, 11 Bewick Street, Hebburn (Ward's Directory persisted with this spelling until 1913). Whether the change in spelling was deliberate or accidental is not known. It has to be acknowledged however that the Irish name Ó Loideaín has been anglicised in many different forms - Lydon, Laden, Laiden, Loyden as well as those above.

The 1901 Census of Ireland records 29 households in Glackaunadarragh, of which 8 were Leydons, including Anne (aged 85) and Patrick (49) who may have been James's mother and brother respectively. Also living in the village were Mary's mother Ann Dowd, (aged 64), her brother John (34), and sisters Margaret (22) and Ann (31 - married to James McNiff).

According to family tradition they opened a lodging house in William Street. This prospered, enabling them to move into the grocery trade sometime between 1899 and 1903. Their rise continued, and in 1911 they purchased for cash a large terraced house (24 Victoria Road) in the better part of the town. (Their daughter Maria, who was then still in her teens, had to carry a bag containing the purchase price of 500 in gold sovereigns to the solicitor) The house remained in the family's possession until circa 1958.

The following group photographs date from the period 1914-1916 and show all of the children with the exception of Agnes who died in infancy.

Laydon family ca 1914
(from left to right) Hubert, Annie (seated), Maria, Patrick, Catherine, Margaret (seated), James

Laydon family ca 1914
(from left to right) front row: Margaret, Catherine, Mary, Anne, Maria standing: Hubert, Patrick, James

James died on 18th September 1914, and is buried in the family grave in Hebburn Cemetery. The grocery business, which moved in circa 1920 to 19 Bewick Street, was run by James' wife Mary until circa 1930 when the youngest daughter Catherine (Kitty) is listed in Ward's. Mary died on 16th November 1935 and is buried in the family grave in Hebburn Cemetery.

A mystery surrounds their dates of birth. Their tombstone gives James's age at death as 56, and Mary's as 75. If however we work from their ages in the 1891 Census they would have been 59 and 72 respectively. It is possible that Mary concealed their true ages in later life to avoid recognition of the fact that she was only 17 (and James was 25) when Patrick was born. (This may have been the cause of the dispute referred to above)

Of their eight children, Patrick became a Catholic Priest and Doctor of Divinity. (He also had a Ph.D.) His ministry was spent mostly in Glasgow where he died in Kinning Park in 1943.

In 1912 Anne, the eldest daughter, met a young Irishman named Sean Lynch whilst on a pilgrimage to Lourdes. The next few years must have been rather traumatic for their relationship as Sean was a committed Irish Republican, and took part in the Easter Rising in Dublin in 1916, being attached to the unit which occupied Jacobs Factory. He was captured and sent first to Richmond Barracks and then to Frongoch internment camp in Wales. He kept in touch with Anne, and they eventually married on 30th June, 1919. During the War of Independence Sean ran a safe house for the Irish Volunteers. Following a Black and Tan raid on the house in 1920 Sean and his brother Willie were arrested and Anne had her engagement ring stolen by one of the British soldiers. Shortly afterwards Anne gave birth to a stillborn daughter. They spent most of their married life at Sutton, near Howth, and had one surviving child, Carmel.

It may have been the fact of Anne living in Ireland that resulted in the family keeping in close touch with relatives there, both in Dublin and in Glackaunadarragh. A few fading photographs survive to testify to this.

Margaret married James Aspinwall of Preston, a fellow schoolteacher who had studied at St Mary's College, Hammersmith during the period 1908-1910. He distinguished himself firstly by winning the Military Medal during WW1 for shooting down a German aircraft, and secondly by being the only member of the family so far to attain the age of 100. James and Margaret lived in Sunderland and had seven children. Anne, Margaret and James Aspinwall were all schoolteachers at St Aloysius' school before the Great War.

st aloysius teachers 1912

St Aloysius teachers in 1912

back row from left: ? ? Matt White
middle row from left: Margaret Laydon, ? Anne Laydon
front row from left: ? Jas Aspinwall, far right John Bryce

Maria is dealt with below.

Catherine (Kitty) did not marry. After the death of her mother she inherited the grocery business. She and Maria, who had by then been widowed, lived at "dear old 24" until the mid-fifties. Maria was by then quite severely restricted in mobility, and they moved to a pair of flats in Tweed Street. Maria and Kitty occupied the ground floor (no. 15), and the upper flat was let to Mrs Tallack. The shop closed at around the same time due to slum clearance in Hebburn which resulted in its compulsory purchase and demolition. After Maria's death Kitty lived alone at 15 Tweed Street. She moved in to live with her brother Hubert in the last months of her life and died in 1967.

James Joseph died aged 19 on 24th November 1918. His illness was short - only 8 days, and the cause of death was influenza which he contracted as a medical student. He is buried in the family grave in Hebburn Cemetery.

John Hubert and Agnes were twins, born on 12th September 1901. Agnes died in infancy but Hubert, as he was known, survived and became a GP, practising in Jarrow. He married Ruth Conway whose family owned an optician's business in Ellison Street. They had three children - Mary, Bernadette and Patrick. Mary became an optician and took over the old Conway practice in Jarrow. Bernadette moved to Bath after marrying Jonathan Key. She died in 1993. Patrick became a Catholic priest in the Hexham and Newcastle Diocese. Hubert and Ruth lived in St John's Terrace, Jarrow until the mid-sixties when it was demolished to make way for a new road. They moved to a large house in Croft Terrace and lived there until 1976, when they moved to nearby Borough Road. Hubert died on 19th November 1979 and Ruth on 14th June 1980. They are buried together in Jarrow Cemetery.

One of my grandmother's cousins, James Dowd, was blinded in an accident while a young man, but thanks to the strength of his character he overcame his disability and became a well-known figure in the Irish community on Tyneside. Some details of his life can be found here.

Another of her cousins, Kevin Patrick O'Dowd, was killed on 14th June 1943 while serving with the RAF. He is commemorated on the website of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission.

The Rowans

The Rowan family also originated from Ireland. Patrick1 Rowan, a farmer, married Margaret Laverty circa 1829, and a son, Thomas, was born to them in 1830. We know nothing of Thomas's early upbringing, other than that he married Sarah Bradley circa 1855. A daughter, Elizabeth, was born to them in 1856, and we know of four further children - Thomas (b. 1858), John (1861), Patrick2 (4th February 1864 at Ahoghill, County Antrim) and Margaret (1871). Thomas junior and John are recorded in the 1881 census, lodging with John McVey at 215 High Street, Dumbarton. Both were employed as shipyard labourers. Thomas junior married prior to 1885, as a daughter, Maria was born to him and his wife in that year. We do not know precisely when the rest of the family moved to Scotland, but Thomas senior died on 25th September 1890 at 3 Poindfauld Terrace, Dumbarton.

At the time of the 1891 Census Sarah and her family were still living at 3 Poindfauld Terrace, with Thomas junior and family next door at 1 Poindfauld Terrace. Thomas junior and Patrick2 were employed as boiler makers, and John as an industrial assurance agent. Lodging with them was another young boiler maker of Irish origin - one James Marron. Patrick2 evidently had connections with Tyneside, possibly through having worked in the shipyards there, for on 17th July 1893 he married Sarah Scullion at St Aloysius' in Hebburn. Sarah's parents were John Scullion, a chemical factory labourer, and Mary Scullion (nee Finnegan). They lived at 49, St Rollox Street. Patrick and Sarah's first child was named Patrick3 Thomas - born at 2 Levenford Terrace, Dumbarton on 4th July 1894.

At the time of the 1901 census they were resident at 73, Kilbowie Gardens, Clydebank. The family now comprised three children - Patrick Thomas, Sarah J. (b. 1897) and Mary W. (b 1899). They had one other child that we know of for certain - Cissie, before Sarah's untimely death from a stroke at at 74 Livingstone Street, Clydebank on 15th May 1901. She was only 30 years old.

Six years later, on 27th December 1907 Patrick2 remarried. His new wife was Annie McLafferty, a widow with two young sons, Hugh and Murdo. Annie's maiden name was McDonald, and she was described on the marriage certificate as a laundress. At the time of the wedding Patrick2 was living at 18 Barns Street, and Annie at 4 Gordon Street (both Clydebank). A daughter was born to them at 19 Barns Street on 22nd August 1908, and was named Jessie Ann, after her mother and maternal grandmother.

Patrick3 followed his father into the shipyards and served his time as a boilermaker. The family evidently kept in touch with their Scullion relatives on Tyneside, and is possibly through that connection that Patrick3 met Marie Laydon (born Maria Leydon). They married in St Aloysius, Hebburn on 21st June 1921. The best man and bridesmaid were James Patrick Rowan (a cousin?) and Catherine Laydon, and the marriage was celebrated by Father Patrick Laydon, Marie's brother. It was a double wedding, as Marie's sister Margaret was married on the same day to James Aspinwall. The official wedding photograph (below) shows both couples.

Rowan-Laydon wedding 1921
(back row left to right) ?, Mary Laydon, Marie Clifford, Patrick Laydon, Catherine Laydon, ?, Annie Lynch (nee Laydon)
(front row)
Sean Lynch, Margaret Laydon, James Aspinwall, Patrick Rowan, Maria Laydon, James Rowan

At the time of the marriage Patrick3 was living at 37, Victoria Terrace, Wallsend and Marie at 24, Victoria Road, Hebburn. They had three children - Maureen, Kathleen Frances and James.

Patrick3 was an accomplished musician, being both a piano teacher and an accompanist. He was forced by the Depression to travel to the United States to find work, sailing from Liverpool on the S.S. Adriatic on 21st September 1929. His stay was a brief one. He returned, suffering from cancer, on the S.S. Cedric on 12th August 1930, and died on 24th January 1931 at the age of 36. At the funeral his father is said to have attempted to console Marie, saying that no-one would think ill of her if she were to marry again (as he had done himself) Apparently Marie was offended by this. A rift that already existed between the families now became a chasm that was not healed by Patrick2's own death at 600, Dumbarton Road, Glasgow on 22nd January 1942. His death was reported by his stepson Murdo, who had evidently adopted the surname Rowan. Cissie, Patrick3's sister, married a Mr McKenna. Her son, Thomas, became a Catholic Missionary, and it was through him that a tenuous link was maintained between the families in Glasgow and on Tyneside.

Patrick Rowan
Patrick Rowan, with stepmother (left)? and sister (right)?

Marie continued to live in 24 Victoria Road, and at one time part of the shop in Bewick Street was given over to a drapery business which she ran. The shop window facing Bewick Street was labelled LAYDON, and that facing William Street was labelled ROWAN.

In her sixties Marie developed mobility problems which became quite severe, and circa 1958 she and Kitty sold 24 Victoria Road and moved to a ground floor flat at 15 Tweed Street. As she became progressively more chair-bound she was a prodigious knitter, and could complete a pair of socks for her cousin, Father Michael Clifford (a Catholic Missionary), in a single day. She was a kindly person, but I saw another side of her one day when the Jehovah's Witnesses came to call. Marie had been expecting the Legion of Mary, and shouted down the hallway for them to come in. When "The Watchtower" was produced she screamed at them "Get out of here you devils out of hell!", and despite her disability chased them out of the house with a saucepan. She used to make the best gingerbread I have ever tasted, and wonderful home-made lemonade which was even better after having fermented for a few days. She died in Harton Hospital on 21st February 1963 at the age of 70. Patrick and Marie are buried together in the Laydon family grave in Hebburn Cemetery. Kitty died on 23rd April 1967 - also at the age of 70. She is buried in the family grave but there is no inscription to her.

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