Our Family History in Ireland,
compiled from email from
Tom Cunningham- Kilkeel and Belfast,
Tom  has researched the Moune area
for years and is very familiar with it's history, especially the Rebellion of 1798
1798 Flag
                     The Marmion Family of Mourne, Co. Down, Ireland.

The Marmion family in question, together with other related families of the same name, were born and lived in the Roman Catholic parish of Upper Mourne. The parish church is known as St. Colman’s or Massforth. This parish is in Northern Ireland, in south County Down in a region known for close on a thousand years as Mourne.

Mourne is a coastal region approximately 18kin in length and about 8k wide at its broadest point. It is separated from the rest of Northern Ireland by a crescent shaped range of mountains - the Mourne Mountains.

This area is renowned for its scenic beauty. Kilkeel, a small town, is the main centre of population. Its main industry is fishing, although sadly in recent years the fleet has been reduced to less than half.

The Catholic church records - baptisms and marriages - begin around 1840, too late for Arthur's family. The information I have is gleaned from a wide range of sources.

Arthur was a son, I suspect the second, of James and Jane Marmion. I know of seven children but I have no doubt there were others. There may well have been one son older than Arthur. Arthur I believe was called after his maternal grandfather, Arthur Magenis. The first son in those years was normally called after the paternal grandfather whom I believe was either Patrick or Richard; most probably Patrick.

Catherine Shaw ‘alias Murphy’ is as yet an 'unknown quantity'. The most I can say at this stage is that she appears to have been the mother of at least two of Arthur's children. These two,  Henry Murphy and James Roger, were baptised in Clonallon parish. This parish is approximately 15k from Kilkeel. The small town of Warrenpoint is the main centre of population; it is situated on the shores of Carlingford Lough and has port facilities: a beautiful place!

You are correct in saying that Arthur was the proprietor of a pub in Kilkeel in 1819, although he lived in the townland of Lurganconry. Townlands are small divisional land units. After 1819 he disappears only to turn up in the parish of Clonallon in the early 1830s. It appears he and the family travelled to the US around 1835.

The Marmion families in Mourne were concentrated mainly in the two townlands of Lurganconry, sometimes spelt Lurganconary, and the adjoining townland of Lurganreagh; although others did, at various times, live in Ballymagart, Drumcro (Drumcrow), Ballyardle, Grange, Greencastle and the town of Kilkeel

You mentioned Alexander Macdonnell, He married Arthur's sister Mary, they had six children to my knowledge and all appear to have gone to America at different times. I note the claim that one of his grandchildren may have been an ambassador to the court of the Czar. I would be interested in hearing more.

Arthur's father and his uncle Christopher owned a mill, variously involved in bleaching, corn milling, paper making and flax scutching. Its primary concern, certainly in the early years – the second half of the 18th century – was that of bleaching and finishing linen. James and Christopher were known as Linendrapers. A William, relationship unknown, possibly a brother, was also engaged in the trade.

As to Arthur’s possible involvement in smuggling; the Mourne coast was a smuggling haven, an activity which involved some of the most prominent and respectable families in the area. It was a lucrative business. His uncle Christopher was most certainly involved and on one occasion he appeared in court charged with shooting at a revenue officer. You will be happy to hear he was acquitted - no doubt the judge may have been rewarded with brandy.

The officer in charge of the Mourne  Revenue men, a certain Captain Alexander Chesney, who fought on the loyalist side during the American war of Independence and kept a journal of his affairs in America and Ireland, noted in 1792 that he was pursuing a tobacco smuggling charge against the Marmions and the Quins. A note in the same year in the Irish Custom House letter book claims that the board was taking a prosecution against a Marmion for a rescue of tobacco. If true, he appears to have been attempting to retrieve tobacco seized by the local revenue. This was a regular occurrence and on one occasion the noted McNeilly family, whose men folk were renowned for their strength and physique, fought a pitched battle in Kilkeel in an attempt to regain what they believed was rightfully theirs.

Chesney certainly tried to make life difficult for the Marmions. Interestingly he ended his days living a short distance from them in the townland of Ballyardle. If you are interested in reading his journal it was reprinted in 2002. The ‘Journal of Capt. Alexander Chesney’, published by Scotia-Hibernia Press, edited by Bobby Gilmer Moss. Chesney claimed that before his return to Ireland his wife had died and his son had gone to live with relations. His neighbours in Mourne however were of a different opinion and accused him, during the ’98 rebellion, of having ‘deserted them’. Various attempts were made to kill him and one of his revenue men was shot and killed in a case of mistaken identity.

Arthur grew up next to the townland of Grange which had been leased in the late 1700s by an Arthur Hughes referred to by the head of the Irish Revenue as ‘the greatest smuggler in the kingdom’. I suspect Arthur was also well versed in the business. Smuggling was not deemed by most people to be in any way dishonourable. High taxes on the other hand were seen to be grossly unfair. The trade was mostly with France. It involved fast ships, quick money, battles with revenue cutters and for a young man no end of excitement. Once hooked on this lifestyle it would be difficult to give it up.

The records of baptism in the Catholic Church of Clonallon would seem to imply that Arthur and Catherine were unmarried. Both children are recorded as illegitimate and Catherine is noted in one as ‘Cathe. Shaw alias Murphy’. Catherine would appear to have married a Shaw. Was she a widow? Was Arthur also married? By 1830 he was pushing forty - he may well have been married. In the baptismal register which was kept by the priests of the parish is a Latin inscription which is difficult to read but contains the words 'adultii' and ‘illegitimatus’. This would indicate that one or both were married. Note, this is a parish registration not a civil one.

The Catholic clergy would on occasion enter ‘illegitimate’ in the baptismal entry of a child born to parents who were married in a Protestant church. This occurred where one or other or both parents were Catholic. Occasionally a couple, both Catholic, would marry in the local Protestant church if they were related in the first or second degree. To marry in the Catholic church they would have required a dispensation by the church authorities and these were seldom ever given in the case of such close blood relationships. The Protestant churches did not forbid such marriages.

It was also illegal during the early 1800s for a Catholic priest to marry a Protestant to a Catholic in a Catholic church but it did happen. While the law was not always strictly enforced priests were every now and then brought to court and convicted. Following such convictions there was a reluctance by Catholic clergy to conduct these marriages. Dissenter marriages were also invalid in the eyes of the authorities during the eighteenth and early nineteenth century.

The children of Catholics who were married in a Protestant church were deemed to be illegitimate because such a marriage was in breach of canon or church law however they were not illegitimate in civil law.

Shaw is usually a Protestant name in Ireland but not always. I have searched various Protestant local church records, which in most cases pre-date those for the Catholic Church, looking for the marriage of a Shaw/Murphy but with no luck so far.

Arthur by the way had Magenis cousins who went to St. Louis Missouri. I suspect he had dealings with them; but more about this family later.

The last of Arthur's siblings was Rose who died at home, unmarried, aged 97 in 1898. His father James died 24.02.1843 aged 84 yrs. His mother who was a member of the famous Magenis clan died 05.10.1856, aged 'upwards on 100 years'.

Christopher Marmion McDonnell's mother was Mary Marmion, a sister of Arthur and a daughter of James and Jane. Mary married Alexander Macdonnell. He is reputed to have arrived in Ireland from Scotland with a brother (possibly called Allan) and had a herring import/export business on the quays in Newry. His obituary claims he belonged to the Scottish MacDonnell house of Glengarry. 

He lived in the Newry area for some years but eventually took over the Ballymagart mills which belonged to his father in law James and the latter’s brother, Christopher, (known as Christy). In 1854 the mills and lands attached were sold on foot of a creditor’s petition.. The Macdonnells appear to have reached an accommodation with the purchaser and continued to be involved with the business up to the 1870s.

Arthur's father, James Marmion of Janebrook, and of Lurganconry, was one and the same. He named the house after his wife and it was situated in this townland close to the Whitewater river hence the ‘brook’. In the early 1820s he moved to Bellhill, sometimes called Bellmount, in Ballyardle.

Arthur is beginning to intrigue me. I am also at a loss to know why Catherine gave two of her children false Christian names when entering the names on the ship manifest, or were they false? Richard - Ruben, possibly but Laurence - Samuel, I can't see the link. Arthur may well have left Ireland before Catherine. It was normal for a husband to travel first, find a home, get a job and then bring out the family.

I know Arthur already had relations in America, certainly he had Magenis cousins in St. Louis, Missouri. I also have a Richard Marmion sailing from Newry in 1817. He is accompanied by two Dorans, James and John, who I believe to be brothers. I suspect Richard was a brother of Arthur's, this name was very common in the family. A Doran family were neighbours of the Marmions in Lurganconry. The two families were very close right up into the 1900s. Did Arthur travel out to join a Richard?

A female travelling alone with the young children was vulnerable. I believe that McConville was travelling with Catherine I have found a gravestone inscription in 'Old Families of Newry & District', - St. Mary' R.C. Cemetery, which reads,
'Erected by Thomas McConville, Grinan, in memory of his daughter Bridget McConville, who died 15th. Aug. 1897 aged 33 years. Also his wife Mary McConville, died 4th March 1898 aged 70 years. The above named Thomas McConville died12th Dec. 1906 aged 78 years. Also his granddaughter Catherine Murphy died 20th May 1916 aged 21 years. And his son-in-law Owen Murphy died 17Sept. 1926 aged 65 years, R.I.P.'

Not a lot to go on you may think but Grinan is a townland between Newry and Warrenpon, these two towns are about 8k apart. Newry lies at the head of Carlingford Lough. It was connected to the lough by a ship canal, now defunct. Ships for America left from both ports. What else have we got? We have a Catherine Murphy, too late for our Catherine but remember the same names in those years occurred in generation after generation.

We also have a McConville, travelling with Catherine. His name appears on the ship’s muster above her name. He is described as a ‘paper maker’. James Marmion in the 1820s had leased the Ballymagart mill to an Emerson who was manufacturing paper. We find in a rental for the Mourne estate (this estate belonged to the Nedhams later Earls of Kilmorey) dated 1813, details of the leasing of a mill in Kilkeel. It reads,
‘Kilmorey Rental 1813.
Kilkeel - Linen mill.
Richard McIlroy and Joh.. and Thos. McConwell. Lease dated 1791 for 41 years or the lives of Arthur Davidson, Jno. and H. McConwell. Rent £115.9.1. Would set at £415.9.1.’ (This means if they had it to let in 1813 it would be worth this amount).

This was a sizable mill. McConwell is the old spelling of McConville and an Arthur Davidson later lived in a former Marmion home in Lurganconry. The Davidson’s old home was burned by the Yeomen during the ’98 Rebellion. Arthur Marmion would have known these people. They were millers, bleachers and close neighbours with similar political views. I am now convinced that Catherine was travelling with this man. Did you manage to decipher the lady's name below the ‘Collins’ (this is also a very common Mourne name).

Not only were the Marmions millers but they would have been experts at mill construction. These skills were vital to the then expanding American economy.

Why did Catherine alter the names of the two boys? She may have been trying to conceal their identity. She was taking children out of the country whose identities she didn't want known. Why? Did she have a husband who might have tried to prevent it or did Marmion have a wife similarly inclined. The only two children that at this stage we can safely say were Catherine’s and Arthur's are James and Henry but we need to bear in mind that another child was called Richard and this was one of the most common Marmion Christian names.

Incidentally, I should have warned you that when trawling for Marmions also trawl under the name Marmon. This is how the name was pronounced in Mourne, never ever Marmion. It was frequently spelt this way too, certainly in the early spellings. The old lease of 1760 +, is in the names of Patrick Marmon and Richard Marmon.

As to the illegitimacy issue, the clergy while not being happy with the situation, especially if there was also adultery involved, would have confined themselves to a slight admonition. They would have been quite prepared to baptise the children into the church. After all whatever wrong doing had occurred was not the fault of the children. We should also remember that both parties may have had some social standing - money, status, reputation etc.

Looking at the use of the word 'alias' in church registers I find there is no consistency in its use. For instance, Catherine is referred to as ‘Cathe. Shaw alias Murphy’ which I take to mean her maiden name was Murphy and in corroboration of this we find she called one of her children 'Henry Murphy', on the other hand I find in the Newry Catholic church marriage register the wedding on ‘27 Nov. 1840 of John Dowdall and Elizabeth Marmion (alias Murphy)’. Now we know Elizabeth’s maiden name was Marmion. So we need to be careful about Catherine, her maiden name may have been Shaw or Murphy, although the child’s name would indicate the latter.

I am delighted you have made some progress with Arthur, although not as full as you expected. It does however raise questions. If Arthur was 80 in 1862 he was born in 1782. This date is too early by our reckoning. James and Jane married in 1790; it is recorded in the Belfast Newsletter and also in Walker's Hibernian Magazine 1775 – 1812. This book carries records of what to-day we would deem to be 'society weddings'. Following the traditional naming pattern I would have expected the first boy to be called after James' father. If Arthur was the first child this tradition was broken. He appears to have been called after his maternal grandfather Arthur Magenis.

We also know that Jane's uncle Roger paid her dowry. Arthur's birth I would imagine occurred around 1791/2. We know Arthur lived in Lurganconry, this is a very small townland occasionally misspelt in official documents. His father James also lived in this townland until the 1820s and we know that the freehold which allowed Arthur to qualify for the vote was in Lurganconry. So we can deduce that while his business was in Kilkeel he was domiciled in Lurganconry.

I cannot be 100% sure he was James and Jane's son but I am 99.9%, besides the name 'Roger' which he gave to James is an unusual name in Mourne but his mother Jane had three immediate relations so called. So if you were to ask me “are you happy with Arthur's ID”, I would say “yes, definitely”. He also acted as best man at some of his sisters’ marriages.

Your query regarding the use of 'Esquire, abbreviated Esq. This is a courtesy title and was usually applied to a person of some standing in the community. It is occasionally used to-day, when addressing letters (males only!!).

Lurganconry is pronounced Lur-gan- con-rie.

Alfred's letter I have had for some time. It is so long since I looked at it I had forgotten its contents. I came across a reference to it, about two years ago in 'Hayes Mss. for the Study of Irish History'. I contacted the Genealogical Office in Dublin and they kindly forwarded a copy. There is a note on the top of my mine to say a reply was sent off dated 26.07.33. I know nothing about a Stephen.

James and Christopher married two sisters, Jane as you know, and Charity - known as Mary. Christopher and Mary married sometime after her uncle Roger’s death. To my knowledge they had no children. She died on the 25.04.1856 aged 94 years. Long livers! Why did Roger pay the dowry? I know that Roger was married but he may have had no children, the bulk of his property was left to his brother Arthur's family. By 1790 Arthur had died as had Jane.

If you search the Newsletter index you will find a reference to her death, from memory, 'The death of the wife of Arthur Magenis of Ballymacilreaney, at Wicklow etc.' You will also find references to Arthur, hunts, horses, linen business etc., They appear to have enjoyed themselves. No wonder they always seem to have been 'strapped' for cash.

A 'society wedding' is one involving a couple who came from prominent, well known, and notable families - the old class system. Your ancestors belonged to 'old and venerable' families!! They were no where near as wealthy as they once had been but they still reckoned with the best of 'society' - a terrible word!

Confiscations and penal laws directed against landed Catholic families had left them in very reduced circumstances. I see you have found the Dowdalls in Ballyardle - the fate of this family is well worth telling.

Arthur Magenis' wife was Jane Savage. Jane’s sister Margaret also married into the Savage family.

James Marmion was older than Christopher. James was born around 1759 and died 1843 aged 84 years. Remember his wife Jane died in her 100th year. Christopher was born around 1765, he died on the 14th April, 1850 aged 85 years. You have also found the 'Newsletter' reference to the letting of Ballymagart mill You are racing away ahead of me!!

Do I know who their parents were? I believe I do but cannot, and may never be able to, prove it conclusively. I have the will of Bishop Garvey of the Dromore Catholic Diocese who died 1766. He settled money on the two boys of 'Patrick and Mary Marmon of Morne'. Patrick and Mary I believe were James and Christopher's parents. Remember the first Marmion holders of the Ballymagart mill lease, Patrick and Richard! Bishop Garvey also had a brother called Christopher. My instincts tell me that these two families are linked.

The Garveys came from Aghnagon, parish of Clonallon. Some of this family emigrated to Europe and went into the wine business.

Mary Macdonnells comment is something of a puzzle. Is she referring to the Marmions or the Magennis'. Can you locate the entire letter? I cannot say if all Mary's Marmion uncles died young, they may well have, she was in the best position to know. I know her youngest uncle John Marmion died at home on the 30th August 1834.

James and Christopher did not escape from Newry jail. They were released it would appear, when certain influential people intervened - well connected!

I think it is now time to introduce you to your Magenis cousins in St.Louis. Go on to the 'Earl Fischer Database of St. Louisans' at www.stlgs.org/efdt/d345.htm-14k ‘. You should find Bartholomew Teeling Magenis and his children; Arthur L. Magenis and his wife and children, and Eliza Magennis. You will also find a Roger Magenis of Balleyely, now known as Ballella, I have not yet worked out where he comes in the family but I have no doubt he is related. The old Magenis home was in Ballella, Co. Down.

Arthur's wife Mary E. McRae, daughter of Colonel William McRae of the US army, died 26.07.1841 and is buried in the Historic Congressional Cemetery. Where did I find this? As usual I didn't take a note but with your computer skills you should be able to find it.

Go into 'http- -ftp.rootsweb.com-p...' and you will find an Arthur J. Marmion died New Orleans 10.22.1862. I also sometime back found a Marmon Milling Company somewhere, I believe in the 'deep south', but I have as usual lost the note I made. Perhaps you might find them - name spelt 'Marmon'. The Marmion family appear to have specialised in milling. The elusive Arthur may have been travelling around designing and building mills!
©Tom Cunningham 2006
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