Dromore and more on Mary Ann

An update of research on the family of Mary Ann Clark alias Ray born Dromore, Co Down, Ireland, 1823, transported from Liverpool, England, in 1842, and died at Launceston, Tasmania,1888.

by David Beswick
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I returned to Greystones, near Dublin, last night from an interesting and enjoyable trip to Dromore, Co. Down. The purpose was to check and hopefully expand upon information already obtained on the birth of Mary Ann Clarke on 3 December 1823. She was the mother of my great grandmother Catherine Clarke or Peever who married Thomas Beswick II of Tasmania and lived her last 30 years at "Florence Vale", Derby, that is, on the oldest part of the farm where I grew up. The story of finding Catherine's mother and her identification as Mary Ann Clarke, also known as Mary Ann and Ann Mary Ray, the convict from Liverpool born at Dromore in Ireland is told in the web page "Mary Ann's Tattoo". (See also the convict conduct record of Mary Ann Ray and Catherine's namesake.)An update note dated 3 July 2004 was distributed to family members recently after my first visit to the National Library in Dublin. I discussed there questions posed by her having a Catholic identity as a convict but apparently a Protestant background in Dromore if she was the daughter of Hamilton Clarke and Anne Craig baptised in the Church of Ireland (Anglican) cathedral.

We drove up from Dublin in the afternoon of the day before after making an appointment with the rector Rev Stephen Lowry to see the church registers the following morning. We were pleased to take up Mr Lowry's recommendation of a B & B place "Clanmurray" which turned out to be a beautiful old Georgian house set in extensive gardens, a little dated and quaint in some of its fittings and features, but very comfortable with large rooms, old paintings and a charming attentive hostess who is a member of the cathedral congregation.

First, however, I need to report that I went back to the National Library in Dublin, this time with Hazel to help me make another attempt to decipher the surname in the register of baptisms for the Catholic parish which I had difficulty reading in the microfilm on my previous visit. I had wondered if one entered Mary Anne (daughter) of Patt Calear? or something like that might have had a version of the old Irish (Gaelic) surname O'Clerigh which was later translated to Clarke but also retained in O'Clery and Cleary. The old manuscript is in a bit of a mess with pages out of order and edges sometimes missing, and dates not always complete. The entry of interest was at the bottom of the page and seemed to have some additional letters at end of the name which were faded and partly missing. We worked out that the date was 16 June 1823, not 16 May as I reported before, and by comparing it with three other entries which were clearly written we decided there was little doubt that it was Caleaghan. One very clear entry was Elizabeth of John Caleaghan. That is a very unusual spelling but it appeared several times for different people. Most likely it was a local form of Callaghan, and we thought not of Clarke. So we were about to give up the idea that she could have been baptised at that time in the Catholic Church, however, while that is probably still the implication of the record so far, life is never quite that simple. I had said before that I saw no entries for any Clarke in the Catholic registry when I was looking for Mary Ann and her brother Francis, but looking now more closely we found some in 1823 or 24: e.g. Lucy Margaret of Edward Clarke, and two occasions when a Clarke was named as a sponsor or godparent, one Alexander Clarke and in another case James Clarke. We also saw a Clarke maiden name for the mother of an infant John, in one of the few cases where a mother's name was given, and significantly the place of residence of that couple was given as M'beg, which is Magherabeg, the same place of residence as the "Widow Clarke" buried 25 October 1833 which I mentioned in my previous note.

That place Magherabeg turned out to be same small community within the parish of Dromore where our Mary Anne Clark was born. In the early 1800s the population of the parish of Dromore was greater outside the town than within it and Magherabeg was one of 20 or so townlands, so called, or divisions in its rural parts. It was there, we found later, that the parents of the Mary Anne Clarke who was baptised in the Protestant Church were living in 1823, as were others connected with her, of which more below. So we have reason to believe that even if our Mary Anne was the daughter of a Protestant Hamilton and baptised in the Church of Ireland there were other Clarkes in the same parish and even in same locality within it who were Catholics. We could not make out the locality given for the family of Mary Ann Caleaghan, but it was something like D'dor. She is probably not our Mary Ann, but the question persists of whether there might have been a Catholic or mixed Catholic-Protestant background of some kind for our Mary Anne.

Dromore is a pleasant enough town today and it's surrounding area, much reduced in population, consists of good looking though still fairly small farms on rolling hillsides with many hedges and other trees. While it is a town which has seen better days, Dromore is in some respects like much of Ireland both north and south these days in being quite prosperous. There is some new housing and quite a few signs of growth but towns nearby have grown faster and have drawn business away from it. Belfast is not far away. The next town on the road to Belfast is Hillsborough where the Queen stays when she comes to Northern Ireland and which has more facilities attractive to tourists - we had an excellent dinner there the night we arrived at a pub called "the Pough". In England Dromore would be seen as somewhere between a village and a market town. In terms of size and its function as a residential and minor commercial centre in a farming district Tasmanians might compare it with Scottsdale, but in regard to its 1500 years of history and for centuries being the home of an earl with a castle and a bishop who was also a Lord one could hardly find a greater contrast. There are one or two attractive winding streets near the centre although some of the shops are closed up and the market square, which once had the ancient stone Cross of Dromore, more than 1000 years old, has been spoiled by inappropriate development, and the famous Celtic cross poorly repaired after its being thrown down by Cromwell's men in 1649 and otherwise abused and broken was set up again near the cathedral in 1887. The cathedral, though it functions mainly as a parish church, remains the most distinctive feature of the town, and it has a good sized congregation.

Our hostess took us personally to meet the minister of the church, who is both Rector of the parish and Dean of the cathedral. The Diocese of Dromore is now combined with the Down, and the Bishop of Down and Dromore lives in Belfast. The cathedral is on the site where the first church was founded in 510 A.D. by St Colman who began an abbey and became the first bishop. It has been a place of worship ever since. Since the Reformation it is relevant to our story that it has been the scene of riots and rebellions on several occasions and for many years the church lay in ruins until the present Cathedral was built, at least in part, in the late 1600s. When I asked about the possibility that Catholic/Protestant distinctions might not have been as sharp around 1820 as they have been at other times the minister and a local historian who was with him, Mr Tom Gribben, said that things had not changed very much even today, so that it is unlikely that a person from a Catholic family would have been baptised in the Church of Ireland even though the local Catholic Church only dates from about the time that our Mary Ann was born. There had been another Catholic church for some years earlier and Tom told us of one occasion when the Land Agent of the Earl of Clanwilliam who then lived in what is now the rectory prevented a mob from hanging the Catholic priest. That was in the early 1800s. They all agreed that the name Hamilton Clark indicated a Protestant family. That is in addition to the fact that the baptism was in the Protestant Church. Hamilton is a well known surname in the area and was probably taken as a Christian name due to some family association. On the other hand, the name of our Mary Ann's brother Francis is usually thought of as being typical of a Catholic family.

Tom Gribben took us to see the old Registers and we soon found the baptism we knew about from indexes, the full record being: No. 1260 Mary Ann daughter of Hamilton Clarke and Ann Craig his wife, of Marabeg, born December 3, 1823, baptised January 11 1824. It was explained that the place of abode Marabeg referred to a district or townland named Magherabeg. As noted above it is a small community where I had previously found in Dublin that other people named Clarke who were Catholics had been living at the time that Mary Ann was born. Next we looked up the baptism of John Ray who also later lived in Liverpool and with whom 'our' Mary Ann as Mary Ann Ray was associated and whose name she had tattooed on her arm. The record is: No. 2865 John son of John Rae of Magherabeg and Eliz. Watson his wife, born May 10, and baptised May 17 1807, thus confirming our previous information and significantly naming the same locality Magherabeg. So not only did Mary Ann Clark and John Ray come from the same parish but from the same small community within it.

We were able also to find the baptism of her father: Hamilton son of Bartly and Rebecca Clerk of Magherabeg baptised January 4 1784. His father's name is unusual too: Tom said it must have been a family surname and that he had not seen it before. Again the same locality Magherabeg was mentioned. It was the first entry in the oldest surviving Baptismal Register book. Earlier registers did not survive the fire during the Civil War in Dublin in 1922 after the old registers had been sent there for deposit by government decree.

We searched for the brother Francis that Mary Ann Ray/Clark said she had living in England when she arrived in Tasmania in 1842. No baptism for a Francis Clark was found in the period from September 1816 to May 1830. Tom Gribben offered to search more widely for siblings but it is a concern that we have not found her brother to make a firm link with the same family. Yet the name Francis does link the convict record of Mary Ann "Ray" with the later children of Mary Ann "Clark" from her marriage with John Anderson, for they named their son who only lived a short time Francis. So in addition to all the other reasons for identifying Mary Ann Ray with Mary Ann Clark the use of the name Francis is significant and it would be nice to find his birth. In fact we found no siblings at all. It is thought possible that other children of Hamilton and Ann Clark could have been baptised in a neighbouring Parish but unfortunately the Parish that borders the Parish of Dromore on the Magherabeg side, St John Kilwarlin, is one for which none of the records have survived. And if they were baptised in the Catholic Church that is little help because their baptismal records begin only in 1823.

One possible explanation for Mary Ann Clark adopting the name Ray is that she might have married John Ray although she was recorded as being single in the convict records. We searched the Marriage Register from 1835 to 1841 and found no record of such a marriage.

We later went to the area of interest which is a mile or so north of Dromore on Magherabeg Road. It is quite hilly country giving some beautiful views of farmland with the Mountains of Mourne in the distance to the south-east. We found a local hall with the Union Jack flying on a flagstaff nearby and a name which read, Magherabeg Orange Hall 1901.(This was a few days after the parades of 12 July when the Orange Order men still celebrate the victory of the Protestant King William II over the Catholic King James II at the Battle of the Boyne in 1690. We saw flags, bunting and ceremonial arches with slogans and portraits of the Queen and paintings of "King Billy" on horseback in both Dromore and Hillsborough. The Loyal Orange Lodge is still very strong and there were detailed reports on TV of marches with hundreds of lodge groups and bands.) Across the road nearby we found several old stone cottages. One was intact although not currently used as a dwelling and two or three others behind it were in ruins. They appeared to be at least 200 years old and had formed a hamlet of small houses grouped together by stone walls now falling down, overgrown and somewhat below the present road elevation. The name Magherabeg would have applied to quite a number of farms and possibly other small clusters of houses as well. Many wooden buildings have disappeared. However it was a small and seemingly close living community. If Mary Ann Clark and John Ray had been there at the same time they would have seen each other frequently.

It was a most interesting visit to Dromore which tended to confirm the conclusions we had reached previously concerning the identity of our Mary Ann, mother of Catherine Clark or Peever, while it still leaves a puzzle in regard to her being listed as "RC" on the convict records for Mary Ann or Ann Mary Ray/Rea, mentioning a brother named Francis, then having Catherine baptised in a Catholic Church. On the other hand, we do know that while Catherine was baptised as the daughter of "Marianne Ray" and "Henry Pevor" she was married with her mother's surname of Clarke and that Clarke was given as her maiden name at the registration 12 of the14 children of Catherine and Thomas. So Mary Ann used both Clarke and Ray in Tasmania in ways which related her to our great grandmother Catherine. That the same person who as Mary Ann Ray acknowledged only her brother Francis as her surviving family, and later, after marrying as Mary Ann Clark, gave the name Francis to her only son also provided continuity in spite of her name changes. It remains possible that she was a different Mary Ann Clark in Ireland from the one whose baptism we have found, but that is increasingly unlikely when we find that the remote probability of her being in the same parish as John Ray is made even more unlikely to be a chance event when we find them both in the same small community within the parish.

We still need to explain the Catholic Protestant difference. Tom suggested that she might have been converted when in prison in Liverpool and that we should look for the records of a catholic parish of which the priest was a chaplain to the prison. We agreed that it was unlikely to have been in connection with a marriage at least as far as the name Ray is concerned, because even if she did marry John Ray he also came from a Protestant family. Indeed Ray/Rae or Wray is a Scottish name which we associate with the Presbyterian settlement in the north east of Ireland from the 1600s. We should still consider the possibility that the local historian, the minister and the genealogy specialist in the National Library were all wrong in saying that with a name like Hamilton Clark her father could not have been Catholic, and note that prior to 1830 in some rare cases children from Catholic families with property were sometimes baptised in the Established Church in order to protect their inheritance. Some even had "Catholic" written in the Church of Ireland register. We do not know whether this Clark family had property or whether they were related to the other Clarkes in their neighbourhood who were definitely Catholic. Further help from Tom Gribben might help to resolve this dilemma.

Before returning to Dublin later the same day, we went on in the afternoon to the town of Lisburn to see the Museum of the Linen Industry which is an important part of the history of that region. Relevant to the circumstances of our family is the observation that the cottage industry of spinning and weaving linen yarn was replaced during the1830's by factory production of yarn which resulted in the movement of many people from home to factory or to places abroad. It is was a time of social disruption when families might be separated and migration from northern Ireland to Liverpool was strong. It appears that Mary Ann moved there then, perhaps with John Ray, perhaps with her brother and/or other family, or perhaps she met up with them there. There is much more still to be learned if we can find adequate sources, but the links with Dromore are strong.

DB 17 July 2004.

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