Tuesday, November 17, 2009

'When grandma was a lassie...' E V Harburg 1898-1981






Jemima Florence White was born on the 19th of December, 1902 in Brookend, Co Tyrone, Northern Ireland.The second daughter of Hugh Eston and Sarah White (M.S. Thompson) joined her older sister Violet Victoria Maude(1897), brothers William Thomas (1898) and Samuel John Clarke (1901) aged 5, 3 and 1 year. The family was later blessed by the birth of another son, Andrew Hugh Thompson in 1905. Brookend is situated on the west shore of Loch Neagh, just south of Ardboe( Arboe). In the very cold and wet winter month of December, Jemima Florence was born on the family farm ' Carrig-na-gule' in Brookend near the shores of Loch Neagh. December,the month she was born, would have seen the shoreline of the Loch, partially flooded and boggy, despite the waterline of Loch Neagh having gradually receded since 1840. Jemima's father, Hugh Eston White was a flax farmer and the farmland and shore of the Loch became the playground for Jemima and her siblings until 1913, the year that the family left Ireland for Australia.In the summer months the shores of Loch Neagh would have been transformed into a lush grassland where Jemima Florence and her sister and brothers could frolick amongst local plants such as bog cotton, ragged robin, marsh cinquefoil and flowering rush. Each Spring, the children would have awoken to the calls of cuckoos, curlews and warblers, and Brookend would have echoed with the noisy cries of black headed gulls which bred on the islands offshore. When the sun shone, Jemima would surely have delighted in seeing the waters of Loch Neagh shimmer with thousands of dancing dragonflies.


It must have been a beautiful vista, every summer, with the fields of Carrig-na-gule
blanketed with the blue flowers of the flax plant. Since 1952 there has been little flax grown in Northern Ireland, however in the early 1900's about 18,000 acres of land was planted with the flax plant. Carrig-na-gule was part of the thriving Linen Industry in Northern Ireland and for the White family flax provided a very substantial income. The family had domestic servants as well as farm labourers employed to help Sarah in the home and Hugh on the farm. Jemima Florence well may have loved the silky feel of the fine brown flax seed as a child, as she held them and let them run through her fingers. 40% of the flax seed is made up of oil which gives the seeds a soft feel similiar to soap. She may have watched the farm workers use the seed fiddles with a bow at the front which moved back and forth to rotate a dispenser which threw the seed in an arc onto the ploughed fields. The farm would have hummed with the 'singing' of the seed fiddles as the planting took place each spring. If the weather was kind, at Carrig-na-gule, the harvest would have taken place in April, autumn in Ireland. Linen is the oldest woven fibre in the world and the growing of flax from which it is woven is a labour intensive process. The farm on which Jemima Florence grew up would have produced a fine quality linen because the year round damp conditions and moory ground were perfect for producing successful flax crops. Each year, when the blue flax flower appeared, life on the farm became very busy. After the harvest, the flax boles were placed in bogs where the fibres gradually separated beneath the water. The strong stench of the flax bogs would have been a familiar smell to the young Jemima Florence during the months of August to September each year. It was in one of these bogs where the flax lay in heavy layers in the murky waters, that the young Jemima Florence almost drowned after falling in and becoming trapped beneath the flax. She was lucky that a worker on the farm heard the cries of her sister and rescued her from a near death. The flax bogs were a dangerous hazard for children on these farms in Northern Ireland and many children were not so fortunate as

Jemima was.The school that Jemima and her siblings attended would have looked much like the one in the photograph below. 

Image Wikipedia ©©


There would have been no ride to school for these children of a busy farmer and his wife. The children would have walked quite a distance to attend the little school on country lanes that remained damp even in the dry weather. Perhaps when Jemima was very young, the household servant Minnie Coleman or later Lizzie Devlin might have accompanied her to school. In the 1901 Irish census, the family employed Minnie as a domestic servant and a Patrick Brady, as a farm servant. Both were of Roman Catholic faith unlike the family who were regular attenders at the Arboe Church of Ireland. In this same census Hugh is aged 30, Sarah 27, Violet 4, and William 2. Samuel John Clarke was born after the April census that same year.In the census year of 1901 the White family lived at Brookend, in the Electoral Division of Kilkopy, Parish of Ardboe in County Tyrone.

Jemima Florence, along with her brothers and sister were all christened in the Arboe Church of Ireland Church. There are many White Baptisms and marriages in this church and quite a number of these Whites were cousins, aunts and uncles of Jemima Florence White. George R White who owned the farm next to Hugh White was most likely a cousin of Hugh's. George married Mary Eliza Harkness on 4 may, 1898 at the Albany Presbyterian Church, Arboe. One of George's daughters, Annie married John Watters. John and Annie were second cousins, through John's mother Sarah Louisa Watters (m.s.White). Both John Watters and Annie Watters (m.s.White) were known to be cousins of Jemima Florence. White. It is apparent that Hugh Eston White's father William White had relations if not siblings in Co Tyrone. William probably owned land in Co Tyrone which may account for his son Hugh White's move to Brookend in Co Tyone from Co Londonderry, prior to his marriage to Sarah Thompson. Many years later, in the 1970's, Hugh's son William Thomas White returned to Brookend for a visit. A cousin named John A Watters ( a grandson of Sarah Louisa White who married a Watters) who lives in Co Tyrone, has told me that he drove 'Willie' White all around Co Tyrone on that visit. Apparently William had commented on how slowly John drove. He had told John that at 'home' in Australia 'we drive very fast'. Jemima's sister, Violet ( married surname Baxter)returned many times to Brookend over the years to stay with a cousin, Violet Watters who still lives near the land on which Hugh and Sarah White farmed. jemima Florence's daughter, Charmaine also visited Brookend a few years go with her husband, Warren Sheehan and whilst there they visited Violet Watters. She excused herself for a moment, while they sat in her living room, and with true Irish hospitality, rushed into her kitchen to 'whip' up a fresh sponge cake, returning triumphantly with a cream cake to befit royalty!

Hugh Eston White and his wife Sarah (M.S. Thompson) both came from farming families in nearby County Londonderry. The marriage too place in St John's Church of Ireland, in the parish of Desertlyn, Cookstown in County Londonderry, on the 27 th of May, 1896. Hugh's address was given as Brookend, Co Tyrone and Sarah's address as Ballycomlargy, County Londonderry. Witnesses to the marriage were Thomas J Purvis and Margaret A Galway . It is likely that they were family friends or relatives. Above, is a map showing the proximity of the counties of Tyrone and Londonderry( Derry). Hugh was born in Londonderry on the 18 September, to parents William John White and Sarah McIlfatrick. William and Sarah were married in 1867 in the Churchtown Presbyterian Church, Tamlaght O'Crilly in the civil district of Margherafelt, County Londonderry. The couple had three children, Hugh, the eldest in 1868, Robert John born 21 June 1870, and a daughter, Mary Ann born 22 April, 1871, all born in Bellaghy, Ballyscullion, Magherafelt.

The parents of Sarah Thompson were Joseph Shaw Thompson and Sarah Jane Clarke. Joseph, a farmer, married Sarah Jane in 1858 in the Woods Chapel, in the Parish of Artrea, District Margherafelt in County Londonderry. Joseph's father's name is given as Andrew Thompson and Sarah's as Samuel Clarke. Witnesses to the marriage were John Marshall and James Lennox. The children of Joseph and Sarah Thompson were, Andrew, Samuel (birth dates unknown) James Richardson (1865), Martha Jane (1868) and Sarah in 1870. Joseph Shaw Thompson remarried in 1874, four years after the birth of Sarah and as his marriage certificate states he was a widower, it appears that Sarah's mother died somewhere between 1870 and 1874 when Sarah was only four years old. Joseph's second wife was Eliza Winning ( m.s. Hutchison), a widow. She had previously married Samuel Winning and had a son by him also named Samuel. The second marriage also took place in the Woods Chapel Artea, Margherafelt, Londonderry. In the 1911 census of Ireland, Eliza is aged 81 and is living with her son Samuel 44, wife Sarah Ann (m.s. Hutchison) and children, Samuel 7, Robert 3, John 2 and Elizabeth 8 months.

The 1858-9 Griffith's Valuation (land) shows Joseph and Andrew Thompson as occupiers of land in the Poor Law Union of Margherafelt,Barony:Loughinisland and the Parish of Artrea,Townland: Derrygarve in Co Londonderry. Andrew Thompson, Jemima Florence's maternal great grandfather died 8 february, 1876 in Largy, Co Londonderry. Both William White and Samuel Clarke are listed in the Poor Law Union of Margherafelt, Parish of Desertlyn and Townland of Ballycomlargy. The death of Samuel Clarke is recorded on 11 February, 1859 at Portstewart, Co Londonderry. Looking further back into history, in the Defenders of Londonderry list of 1689 the surnames of White, Thompson and Clarke appear, so it is very possible that these families were a part of the early plantation of Ulster

The probable origin of the surnames Thompson and Shaw was in Scotland while the White and Clarke families would have moved from England to Ireland. Only a few Mcilfatrick families appear to have been living in Ireland in the Tamlaght O'Crilly area in County Londonderry and this surname appears to also be of Scottish origin.

The 1911 census of Ireland shows Sarah White living at No. 9 Brookend aged 36, with daughter Violet Victoria,14, and sons William Thomas 12,and Hugh Thompson aged 5 years. Also at this residence on the night of the census was an uncle, John Clarke aged 75, a retired farmer and servants, David Guess, 36 and Elizabeth Devlin 24(both Roman Catholic). It is very likely that this domestic servant, Elizabeth Devlin is the same person who accompanied the family to Australia. She was always known as Lizzie by the family. Hugh was absent from the farm on that census night but can be found staying at 15 Victoria Terrace, Portstewart, Co Londonderry as a visitor of one Matilda Junk. Hugh aged 43 is accompanied by daughter Jemima Florence 8, and John Clarke 10. We can only surmise as to why Hugh and two of his children were visiting in Portstewart on that Sunday night. Perhaps one of the children needed to see a specialist doctor or perhaps they were simply visiting relatives in the area. It might be assumed that Matilda Junk may well have been an aunt on the Clarke side of the family and might have been the same Matilda Clarke who married John Campbell Junk in 1880 in Sandhills Presbyterian Church, Desertcreat, Cookstown.

In 1912 among the many signatures on the Ulster Covenant in protest against Home Rule in Ireland were those of Hugh and Sarah White. In the act of signing this petition, Hugh and Sarah demonstrated the strong feelings they had for their homeland. We can only guess as to how difficult it must have been for them to uproot their family and to undertake the long journey to Australia to make a new home for themselves.

Hugh White suffered ill health as a result of the damp Irish climate. On his doctor's advice he reluctantly agreed to immigrate. Hugh's first choice was Canada, where it is believed he had a brother. Canada was deemed as unsuitable a cold climate for Hugh's chest complaint as Ireland was and Hugh's next choice was New Zealand. Hugh's doctor made it quickly apparent that New Zealand was also not a climate in which Hugh could thrive. Sarah's siblings had all emigrated to New Zealand in the 1890's but in 1907, her eldest brother, Andrew had moved to Australia and established himself as a sheep farmer there. He had been allotted a property in a land ballot at Kaimkillenbun near Dalby on the Darling Downs in Queensland and had established himself there as a well respected part of the farming community. In 1913, Andrew Thompson sponsored Hugh and Sarah White and their children to emigrate to Australia.


This is brief account of the early years of Jemima Florence White's life in Brookend, County Tyrone, Northern Ireland as well as her Irish ancestry as far back as her great grandparents both maternal and paternal. Irish family history is not easy to trace from the distant shores of Australia. The Irish have been fairly slow to allow internet access to genealogical records and many valuable records were sadly lost in a fire in the record office in Belfast. In the future, I hope to add to this Irish family tree as more Parish records become more freely available and perhaps I may even visit the Emerald Isle myself to see where my grandmother, Jemima Florence White was born.

Hugh Eston White, his wife Sarah and children Violet, William, John, Jemima and Andrew left Ireland on board the ship 'The Aryshire'. They arrived in Brisbane, Queensland in Australia in June of 1913. In the next Chapter I hope to cover, 'A New Start' ,'The ship' 'Life on the Darling Downs', Seventeen Mile Rocks' and more.



Sources: Ancestry.com

Emerald Ancestors

Ancestry Ireland.com

The Ulster Historical Foundation PRONI ( Public Record Office of Northern Ireland)

To John A Watters who lives in Co Tyrone Northern Ireland and who has kindly looked up the Arboe C. O. I parish records for me and been a constant source of inspiration via email, Thankyou.

To my partner in the search for our White ancestry, and whose birthday I share, my aunt, Charmaine Sheehan (m.s. MacDade), my love and thanks for the support, information and photographs you have given me.














































































































































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