Liam Mellows and the Irish Revolution

By C. Desmond Greaves | Go to book overview

CHAPTER ONE
FAMILY HISTORY AND CHILDHOOD

LIAM MELLOWS was born at Hartshead military barracks, Ashtonunder-Lyne, Lancashire, on 25th May 1892. His father was of Kilkenny stock, his mother from Wexford. That he was born in England, where his father was temporarily stationed, was an accident which exerted no ascertainable influence on his life or development. But his parenthood expressed two opposing traditions whose interplay must urge forward any intelligent child towards the moment he must consciously choose.

The Mellows family orginated in the county of Nottingham. The name is presumably a variant of Mellor. The first to settle in Ireland was Joseph, a bleacher, born in Bulwell in 1789. He enlisted in the 76th Regiment of Foot at Nottingham during the difficult war-time trade conditions of 1811. After service in Spain, France and Canada his regiment was embarked for Ireland in 1827, being divided between Kilkenny and Clonmel. After a complicated succession of promotions and demotions he attained the rank of sergeant, the pinnacle of success for soldiers of plebeian origin. He was part of a detachment stationed at Callan, and probably for health reasons remained there on staff duties, after the regiment had left for Dublin. In Callan he married Catherine Kelly, who bore him two children, John and Henry, in 1831 and 1834 respectively. These births are not recorded in the Catholic parish records, and if the custom of the day was followed, the boys would be educated as Protestants. Joseph was discharged in January 1835, before completing his full service, on the grounds of chronic rheumatism. He seems to have acquired a small bakery in South Bridge Street, and being brought into closer contact with the local people was received into the Catholic Church in the August of the same year. The ceremony took place in the presence of “Rev. Mr. Harney” (the Protestant incumbent) and was recorded in the Catholic register with bold flourishes as if an extremely important convert had been made.

A further child, Garrett, was born in 1839, but Catherine does not seem to have long survived. Joseph married again in 1844. His second wife was Ellen Bryan, member of a numerous local family, who bore

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