Easter Sunday ‘78
Copies of these three Pedigrees are with John Skehan (farmer) of Clonbrogan, Fethard, Co. Tipp. (Father Walter’s brother), with the Diocesan Archives, Archbishop’s House, Thurles, with the Irish Genealogical Office, Dublin. They contain hundreds and hundreds of names. You can imagine this when you reflect that my great-grandfather had eight children (2 sons, 6 daughters) and they had 82 children. Imagine their descendants! So, you may see how impossible it is for me to send you these charts to inspect. You can understand how I would not let them out of me possession for a moment. I compiled excerpts for you and a table which shows your own direct descent from James O’Donnell (1757-1810) and as far as your grandchildren. If any of the other members of the O’Donnell clan in the USA are interested, what I am sending you will be sufficient for you to compile a genealogy for them.
I have a notebook which my father kept in which he entered the dates of his own parents’ deaths, of the date of birth of his own sixteen children living and dead, of the dates of your father’s and your uncles’ Joe and Ned going to business in Dublin and the dates of their departure for the USA, of their marriages and deaths. I cannot lay my hands on the notebook at the moment. The last time I saw it was about 3 months ago but I put it away so carefully that I cannot find it now. But I will find it some day. Your sister Kitty is now a grandmother. Her grandchildren would also be seventh generation. I want the name of the wife of your some Thomas, the Christian name of Gracie’s husband and their dates of birth of your children and grandchildren, and any other information about the family that you can.
If there is anything you want explained or something you do not understand in the lists I have sent you, ask me.
I am enjoying good health at 81, thank God. I have no duties to perform so I read a great deal. I loved my stay in Ireland last year. They seem to be all well there. Your Aunt Cis is getting on for 86 and keeps good health. She has lost the sight of one eye - a glaucoma; still she does quite a lost (sic) of crochet work and goes frequently to Dublin, Cork etc. and for Sunday drives with the girls. Give all my love and every blessing to Grace and all the family.
Your devoted Uncle,
As Michael died in 1897 these two boys (my first cousins) would be older than I. They or their families must be somewhere in this state of Queensland but so far I have not traced them. Somewhere in North Queensland, I should think, in the sugar industry.
Thomas O’Donnell and his wife Johanna opened a drapery business at Fethard in 1880 and combined it with some farming activity. They had sixteen children most of whom died in infancy. Seven of those children lived. I was born in 1897. I was the youngest of the sixteen.. I am now 81. My father died in 1924. My mother died in 1932. She was, I think, a year or two older than my father. She was about 78 when she died. My father is buried at Rathcool with his O’Donnell ancestors; my mother is buried with the Sheehans in Thurles. The surviving children of Thomas and Johanna were:
John (Jack) your father (1882-1937) married in USA Bridget Murtagh. They had children Thomas (dec’d), Kitty, Mary E. and Jack. All married. All have children and some have grandchildren.
Thomas Joseph (Joe) (1884-1932) married Elizabeth O’Malley in USA. Surviving children are Mary Elizabeth, Eileen married M. Akin. They have children, possibly grandchildren, Alice married Walter Shea.
Edward (Ned) married Hannah Cahill in USA. Died in 1932. One surviving son, Thomas who is married with a family.
Sarah (Cis) born 1892 married Charles Carri (now deceased) and lives at Clonmel. Has a son Charles who is married with children and two single daughters, Mary and Teresa.
Patrick Mary born 2 Feb 1897. Studied for the priesthood at Mungret College (Jesuit) 1912-1918. Studied Theology at the Urban College and the University of Propaganda Fide, Rome 1918-1922. Ordained a priest on 15 April 1922 by Cardinal Pompili (the Pope’s Vicar General). Went to the Diocese of Sale in Victoria, Australia, 1922. Became Vicar-General of that Diocese and Domestic Prelate to the Pope with the title of Monsignor. Was consecrated Coadjutor-Archbishop of Brisbane with the right of succession to the See on 17th March 1949. Became Archbishop of Brisbane on 10 April 1965. Retired because of advanced age on 5th March 1973.
So far for the O’Donnells. My mother’s maiden name was Johanna Sheehan. The Sheehans were and old clan near Thurles and are now extinct. Sheehan in the Irish language means Peace and if you look at my Episcopal Coat of Arms above you will see that it is composed of the O’Donnell shield (the hand holding the cross) and the Sheehan shield (the dove of peace). My motto is Sub Cruce Pax (Peace under the Cross). My mother’s mother was Sally (Sarah) Fanning who married John Sheehan. She was a direct descendant of William Fanning and his wife Sarah Ryan. William was born in 1731 at Lisaroon, a prosperous farm near Thurles. It is still in possession of a direct descendant of William but of a different name. The Fannings were a numerous family. They were mostly farmers but some went into business or the professions. Three Fanning brothers who were my mother’s second-cousins went into the Vintner business in Dublin. They were Patrick, Michael and Joseph. Each had his own business. Your father, Jack, learned the business from Patrick and became his foreman. Your uncles Joe and Ned learned the business at Michael’s. Michael became a Senator in the Irish Parliament. He married his cousin, a Miss Ryan of Thurles. She was a direct descendant of the above William Fanning. Your uncle Joe married her sister Cis; it was his second marriage and her third. Several descendants of William Fanning (b 1731) intermarried. My mother, Johanna Sheehan had three sisters, Sarah died young, Ellen who married Tom Fanning and Mary who married Patrick Hogan. Mary’s daughters Josephine and Minnie married respectively Ned Fanning and John Fanning. Ned, Tom, John, Michael, Patrick and Joe Fanning were brothers. The old O’Donnell farm at Knockinglass is still owned by a direct descendant of the first James O’Donnell. He is Michael O’Sullivan whose mother was an O’Donnell. Michael lives on a nearby farm as the old Knockinglass homestead is now a ruin. The house where your father and all of Thomas’s family were born still stands in the centre of Main St. Fethard. It is a three storey building and is now the business premises and family home of a chemist. One year, when I was on vacation in Ireland, I met an elderly relative Tess Fitzgerald. She remembers my grandfather James II. She told me that on the night he died the Banshee was heard keening round his farms at Rathduff and Coolenure. I told her I never heard of a Banshee keening for any member of our family. She said it was because James II was the seventh generation of the O’Donnells at Knockinglass. Whatever about the Banshee it is clear that there was a tradition amongst the neighbours that James II was the seventh generation. These people kept their oral traditions and genealogies very carefully. If this be true there would have been about five O’Donnells in Knockinglass prior to James I who married Catherine Crean. So far for tradition but it would be difficult now to establish documentary evidence. Up to about 1950 Fr. Skehan had traced upwards of seventy direct descendants of James I who were in religion (some thirty priests and the rest brothers and nuns). Some amongst the clergy were myself; Monsignor Nolan, Pastor of Tipperary and Vicar-General; his brother Fr. Tom Nolan; Father Tom O’Donnell first Catholic priest in the Isle of Wight since the Reformation; Father Walter Skehan; Monsignor Skehan of Liverpool; Fr. Paul Skehan of USA who became Procurator-General (second in command) of the Dominican Order; his brother who was a professor of Civil Law at Rhode Island College; Fr. O’Connell; Fr. Fitzgerald; several Fathers Hanrahan etc. etc.