Tag Archive for O’Neill

Home Children: Open Secrets (Part 1)

“Could you look up Mary Hogan?” asked my dad’s cousin Aggie. “I think she may have been,” and this added sotto voce, as if, even after so many years, there might yet be something to hide, “a Home Girl.”1

A Home Girl?

At the time, I knew next to nothing about the Home Child movement, the child emigration scheme which saw over 100,000 children sent from Britain to Canada between 1869 and 1930. And yet, I must have already encountered the term somewhere, because the “Home Girl” designation immediately made some sort of sense to me. I imagined an orphan: an orphan from England? (though Hogan is an Irish surname, obviously, and from the description provided by my father and his cousin Aggie, Mary Hogan certainly sounded Irish).2

Well, I had heard of the “Barnado Boys,” of course. Indeed, I had no doubt first encountered the term as a young girl, when I avidly devoured Lucy Maud Montgomery’s series about Canada’s most beloved (though fictional!) orphan girl ever. As a childhood devotee of “Anne with an e,” I had read of Marilla Cuthbert drawing a line in the sand at the thought of a Barnardo Boy, or, in a phrase which captures the casual racism of the time, a “London street Arab.”3

My father and his cousin recalled Mary Hogan from their childhood as a somewhat elderly and somewhat eccentric fixture on the Burke family farm: not quite a blood relation, perhaps, but no mere “hired girl,” either, and “almost family” through affinity and through sheer length of tenure: apparently she had been with the Laheys and the Burkes since forever.

Well, since at least as far back as 1891, at any rate…

  1. Oral interview with Mary Frances Agnes O’Neill, January 2007.
  2. As I was later to learn, there was nothing unusual about “English” Home Children of Irish origin. In fact, Ottawa (more specifically, St. George’s Home on Wellington Street in Ottawa, now Holy Rosary Rectory) was one of the main receiving centres for Catholic children sent to Canada from Great Britain under the auspices of various English Catholic “protection societies,” which apparently set themselves up as Roman Catholic alternatives to the Protestant-centred Barnardo scheme. Many, probably most, of these Catholic children were of Irish background. For more on the Catholic Home Child movement, see  Frederick J. McEvoy, “‘These Treasured Children of God': Catholic Child Immigration to Canada” (CCHA, Historical Studies, 65, 1999, 50-70).
  3. “‘At first Matthew suggested getting a Barnardo boy. But I said “no” flat to that. ‘They may be all right — I’m not saying they’re not, but no London street Arabs for me,’ I said. ‘Give me a native born at least. There’ll be a risk, no matter who we get. But I’ll feel easier in my mind and sleep sounder at nights if we get a born Canadian.'” Lucy Maud Montgomery, Anne of Green Gables, cap. 1

What was her ‘real’ name? (Lillian Doyle)

Nowadays we tend to think of someone as having a ‘real’ name, with nicknames and diminutives as informal variations on that one official and authentic version of the name. A person’s ‘real’ name is what appears on the birth certificate, of course (and also in the baptismal record, if relevant), and in all subsequent official documents (driver’s licenses, marriage certificates, deeds to property, and so on). Nicknames and diminuitives are for casual, informal use only.

It was different in the nineteenth century, however, when people were much more flexible about name variations (and also about surname spellings, which point is admittedly a bit of a hobbyhorse of mine).

Take, for example, Lillian Doyle. And I call her “Lillian Doyle” because that is the name that I remember her by. Not that I ever met her: she died before I was born. But I recall my father and his sister talking about her, and hers is one of those names that has always stuck in my mind. Dominic Stanton. Evelyn Sullivan.  Tommy Burke. Danny O’Neill. Lillian Doyle. A whole cast of colourful characters  whom I only “know” by hearsay, or only posthumously, so to speak, but who have always seemed to play an interesting part in the drama (or perhaps comedy?) of my father’s family history.

Henrietta Godmother

Henrietta Moran (1837-1921)

Henrietta Moran caught my attention when I noticed how often she turned up as a sponsor at her nieces’ and nephews’ baptisms. For the Morans of Huntley (but also for the Laheys of March), she seems to have been on the A-List of potential godparents.

Henrietta was godmother to at least the following children (but there may have been more, which I haven’t yet come across):
  • Thomas Hourigan (1857-1899), son of Thomas Hourigan and Julia Moran, born 8 Mar 1857, baptized 15 Mar 1857 (St. Patrick’s, Ottawa), godfather John Lahey
  • Thomas Alexander Lahey (1864-1945), son of John Lahey and Margaret Jane Killeen, born 7 Jun 1864, baptized June? July?* 1864 (St. Isidore, March township), godfather James Hourigan
  • Francis Charlebois (1862-1924), son of Arsene Charlebois and Margaret Moran, born 19 Mar 1862, baptized 27 Apr 1862 (St. Phillip’s, Richmond), godfather Thomas Moran
  • Mary Moran (1886-1947), daughter of James Moran and Sarah Jane Dooley, born 15 Apr 1886, baptized 23 Apr 1886 (St. Michael’s, Corkery), godfather Thomas Moran
  • James Lambert Charlebois (1895-?), son of James Lacey Charlebois and Bridget Ellen O’Neill, born 7 Nov 1895, baptized 24 Nov 1895 (St. Isidore, March township), godfather Fr. John Andrew Sloan (parish priest at both St. Isidore and St Patrick’s, Fallowfield)
  • James Allan Armstrong (1892-?), son of Thomas Armstrong and Henrietta Charlebois, born 6 Oct 1892, baptized 30 Oct 1892 (St. Isidore, March township), godfather Joseph Newsom**