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The McGann Family


The McGann family and all their "feeder" families are rooted in Ireland, and the ancestral line that has been verified in the family tree extends back to the early 19th century and for 6 generations....    Little is known of the Irish hometowns of these ancestors - indeed only one specific hometown is known (Tullamore, Co Offaly) and therefore only one family group (the Grogans) has had its Irish antecedents researched in detail......  hopefully our ongoing research will give us some more Irish leads!


The McGanns (and all other branches) have been manual workers since their emigration to England - the Grogans were peasant farmers in Ireland.


"McGann" is an Old Irish surname - the Connacht variant form of the original "Mac Canna", which translates as "the son of Wolf Cub". The earliest known records show that the original clan chiefs were the Lords of Clanbrassil in the 10th Century, a place on the southern shore of Lough Neagh, County Antrim. It appears that they were still holding this title in 1598, when they apparently supported the uprising led by Hugh O'Neill, Earl of Tyrone. O'Neill was successful for nearly nine years, but he was finally defeated at Kinsale in 1602. Most of his supporters were dispossessed and driven from their homelands and this would seem to include the branch of the McCanns, who became the McGanns. The Coat of Arms is a blue field, a silver chevron between three silver boars courant. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Amhlaibh MacCanna, which was dated circa 1155, Lord of Clanbrassil, as recorded in the "Annals of the Four Masters", during the reign of Turlough Mor O'Conor, High King of Ireland, 1119 - 1156. Surnames became necessary when governments introduced personal taxation and, over the years, surnames in every country have continued to "develop" often leading to unusual variants of the original spelling.                          



The known history of our branch of the family is as follows:


Matthew & Catherine McGann (nee Dyer)

Matthew McGann and Catherine Dyer married at St Joseph’s in Leigh on 10th October 1891 – after the birth of 3 of their children! They had 4 children: Michael, Jane, Thomas and Matthew - Michael McGann was born on 2nd October 1886 in Wigan (the family living at Worthington Row, Millgate); Jane was born in Hindley on 2nd October 1888; Thomas was born in Leigh on 26th January 1891; and Matthew was born in Widnes on 26th June 1894 – Matthew died on 7th August 1894, the cause of death being “convulsions”.


Matthew snr was a Labourer, and it may be assumed that he moved around this fairly close geographic area following the work that was available. Little is known of Matthew’s antecedents – he was born in 1856 in Ireland and his father was identified as Michael McGann, a farmer, on his Marriage Certificate. Michael is not identified as deceased on the Certificate, so he might have been alive at that time! On the Marriage Certificate Matthew’s occupation was given as a Road Labourer and he made his Mark whilst Catherine signed the Register.


Catherine Dyer was born on 31st May 1863 in Stalybridge and was baptised in a private ceremony on the same day, suggesting that she may have had a life-threatening illness that she obviously overcame. The baptism is registered at St Peter’s Stalybridge. Catherine was the daughter of Thomas and Ellen Dyer (nee Logan) both of whom were born in Ireland in 1823 and 1829 respectively, although the Dyer family were living in Stalybridge from at least 1848 as Thomas & Ellen were married at St Peter’s Stalybridge on 25th July 1848.


Whilst Catherine may be traced through successive Censuses, I can only be certain that Matthew appears for the first time in the 1891 Census (although he may have been in the Army, stationed at the Tower of London at the time of the 1881 Census!). The Dyer family seemed to remain in the Stalybridge area, and there is no known connection with Wigan, which is where Matthew and Catherine are first seen together in 1886. Whilst Catherine may be traced through successive Censuses, I can only be certain that Matthew appears for the first time in the 1891 Census (although he may have been in the Army, stationed at the Tower of London at the time of the 1881 Census!). The Dyer family seemed to remain in the Stalybridge area, and there is no known connection with Wigan, which is where Matthew and Catherine are first seen together in 1886.


Michael was baptised on 14th October 1886 at St. Mary’s in Wigan – his godparents were Michael Dyer (Catherine’s brother) and Catherine McGrath (unk). Jane and Thomas were both baptised at St Joseph’s in Leigh – Jane on 9th September 1890 (nearly 2 years old) and Thomas on 8th February 1891: Jane’s godparent was Sarah Anne Morgan (unk), Thomas’s godparent was Mary Ann McDermott (unk). Matthew was baptised at St Patrick’s Widnes, his godparents were John Butler and Eliza Dodd (unk).


The 1891 Census shows the McGann family (Matthew, Catherine and children) living at 5 George St, Pennington, Leigh, along with Catherine’s widowed mother Ellen – Matthew was a General Labourer. 


At this stage the McGann family seemed to be a “normal” family, but something catastrophic (I don’t know what!) happened in the mid-1890’s that broke the family up. In September 1896 Jane McGann had been placed in the care of the “Wigan Workhouse” – the minutes of the Board of Governors meeting showing that legal proceedings were being taken against “the persons liable for her maintenance”. On 17th September 1896 Thomas McGann was admitted to the Swinton Industrial School (a type of combined school and orphanage used at the time to house children from the Wigan Workhouse) – the admission records give the reason for his admission as “Deserted by Father and Mother”. Jane McGann was subsequently admitted to the Swinton Industrial School on 2nd August 1897 – there is nothing in the records to indicate why Jane was sent to Swinton nearly a year later than Thomas! There is no record of Michael McGann being admitted to Swinton, so the assumption must be that (whatever the cause) the two younger children were left by Matthew and Catherine, but Michael stayed with one (or both) of them. The fact that the children were in the care of the Wigan Workhouse suggests that the family had returned to live in Wigan before the break-up – perhaps the whole family was living in the Wigan Workhouse and Matthew and Catherine absconded with Michael – we may never know! In June 1898 both Jane and Thomas were transferred from the Swinton Industrial School to the Kirkdale Industrial School (in Liverpool) – they were both recorded as having been “Deserted” by their parents. Both Jane and Thomas were still “Pauper Inmates” at Kirkdale at the time of the 1901 Census. Jane was discharged from Kirkdale, returning to the Wigan Workhouse, in August 1902. Thomas was transferred from Kirkdale to the St Vincents Orphanage School in Fulwood, Preston in June 1903 – I’m still trying to find out what happened to them next! Michael was never admitted to Kirkdale.



                 Swinton Industrial School                                Kirkdale Industrial School              St Vincent’s Orphanage School, Fulwood



The 1901 Census shows the McGann family spread fairly far and wide:

Jane and Thomas were in Kirkdale Industrial School; Michael (age 14) was living as a Boarder at 44 Naylor St South in St Helens – his occupation is as a General Labourer; Matthew was living as a Boarder at 9 Mount St in St Helens – his occupation is as a Bricksetters Labourer; Catherine was (I believe) a Pauper Inmate of the Salford Union Infirmary (at the time the hospital and asylum of the “Salford Workhouse”) suffering from some form of dementure – I’m not yet 100% sure that this is the right Catherine (ie Michael’s mother) but the available evidence points to this being the case (I’m still trying to find conclusive evidence) – but there is also a Katherine McGann in Wigan!!


Matthew McGann died on 20th August 1904 – he was at the time an inmate of the Whiston Workhouse, having been admitted there on 10th August 1904. His address at that time was 2 Oxford St, Widnes, and no next-of-kin was identified. His death certificate identifies him as “a labourer of Widnes” and his cause of death is a “Stricture of the Urethra” along with a haemorrhage and blood poisoning: not a pleasant way to go!  


The 1911 Census shows Michael living as a Boarder at 11 Edward St, St Helens and Thomas living back in Wigan as a Boarder at 28 Alfred St, Pemberton - his occupation being "Colliery Labourer below ground". Nothing is known for certain of Thomas's life after the 1911 Census - there are no "obvious" possibilities of marriage or death entries in the Civil Registration indexes. Of course with the impending catastrophe of WW1 it is probable that Thomas was involved, and maybe was killed in action - although surviving  Service and Pension Records identify a Thomas McGann who enlisted in the Lancashire Fusiliers on 5th Sept 1914 - this Thomas McGann was a Collier, and he enlisted in Wigan. He was medically discharged from the Army in November 1915 due to poor eyesight - on his discharge papers his parents are listed as "not known" and his next-of-kin is given as his sister, Jane McGann, whose address was given as 41 Wallgate, Wigan. Certain details do not fit the facts we have re Thomas (ie his birthplace is given as Wigan, not Leigh; his date of birth is incorrect and his religion is given as CofE) but it can easily be imagined that these are details that Thomas may not have known/chosen to ignore given his "start in life". The records show that Thomas was 5' 5" tall, weighed 109lbs (7st 11lb), had a sallow complexion, grey eyes, brown hair and had a slight physique - almost a midget by today's standards, but able to earn his living as an underground labourer nonetheless! 


In his later life, Michael never spoke about the existence of his brother, although he did talk about his sister. Jane McGann does not appear in the 1911 Census (at least not "obviously!) - neither is there any record of her marriage or her death in the English Civil Registration indexes. Family folklore suggests that she may have lived in Scotland later in life, but there is no evidence of this..... she's just disappeared from the records! 



Michael & Mary Ellen McGann (nee Garvey)

Michael McGann and Ellen Garvey married on 20th August 1915 at Sacred Heart Church in St Helens – the witnesses to the marriage being Thomas Garvey and Catherine Garvey. Michael’s occupation at the time is given as General Labourer and his address is given as 12 Phythian St, St Helens, although by that time he was in the army on active service in France. 


Michael was a successful cross-country runner in his younger days - the St Helens Newspaper carries a number of reports for in the early 20th Century which show that Michael was the Captain of the Sacred Heart Harriers Cross-Country team. This photograph of Michael is assumed to be of him as a Sacred Heart Harrier, but I’ve not been able to identify what Trophy he is pictured with.  


Michael enlisted in the South Lancashire Regiment (1/5th Battalion Territorial Force) on 2nd September 1914 and transferred to France on 13th February 1915. This is believed to be a wedding photograph, and Michael’s uniform sleeve clearly has stripes (are there 2 or 3?) - stripes were awarded for years service abroad, albeit he was promoted to Acting Company Sergeant Major on 24th May 1916.



Michael was wounded in action in the Battle of the Somme in August 1916 at Guillemont and was subsequently awarded the Military Medal on 27th October 1916: the citation reads “His Majesty the King has been graciously pleased to award the Military Medal for bravery in the field…  …... awarded for services rendered on various occasions during the progress of the Campaign ….”, his rank of Acting Company Sergeant Major was later made permanent. Michael is pictured (left) during his convalescence - probably spent in the 4th (Reserve) Battalion SLR - a battalion that was used for training and convalesence. The details of the remainder of Michael's War Service are uncertain, but it seems possible that, following his convalescence his medical condition meant that he continued to serve in the Training Battalion. The Regimental Records show that the 4th Training Reserve Battalion were stationed at Richmond Barracks, Dublin from April 1918 - the Battalion was disbanded in 1919 and personnel absorbed by the 3rd (Special Reserve) Bn and Michael is recorded as having transferred from the 4th Bn to the 3rd Bn on 20th March 1919, joining "C" Company (later changed to "B" Company on 26th April 1919). At this time the 3rd Battalion was posted to Dublin being part of the last British Army involvement in Ireland prior to the establishment of the Irish Free State - stationed at Wellington Barracks. Michael's discharge papers record his medical category as "B1" (unfit for General Service but fit for Garrison Service abroad) and details his place of rejoining in case of emergency as Barrow - the erstwhile home base of the 3rd Battalion.  The 3rd Battalion was disbanded in October 1919 with non-regular soldiers being re-assigned to the 1st Battalion - Michael was demobilized on 16th January 1920 from "HSD 1st Battalion" SLR.    






The 3rd Battalion South Lancs Regiment is pictured above in June 1919 at Wellington Barracks, Dublin. Michael can be spotted towards the centre of the second row in the blown-up section of the picture (right).














Following Michael's demobilization in January 1920 he joined Ellison’s builders in St Helens working as General Foreman for the rest of his working life. He suffered a stroke in 1945 and never recovered his health (pictured here during this period with his daughter Nellie) and he subsequently died on 20th January 1950 and is buried in St Helens Cemetery.




Mary Ellen Garvey was born on 1st September 1891 in St Helens, and was baptised on 2nd September 1891 at Sacred Heart Church, the 7th of 13 children of John and Esther Garvey (nee Grogan), she was the first of the children born in England - her godparents were Thomas Maledy and Eliza Grogan (Eliza being Esther’s sister – the Maledy’s being cousins). She was known throughout her life as Ellen (or Nellie!)


At the time of the 1911 Census, Ellen was employed as a Servant at the Notre Dame Convent, Whalley New Rd, Blackburn. Family folklore also has it that, prior to her marriage, Ellen worked for some time as a housekeeper at a Convent in Oswaldtwistle. The nuns at this Convent were the Sisters of Mercy – the same order as the Convent in Tullamore (the home town of Ellen’s mother), and the records show that the Chaplain to the convent in Oswaldtwistle from 1910 to 1914 was Fr John Geoghan – a Tullamore man, so this may well be the reason why Ellen was sent to a Convent so far from St Helens.  

Ellen was living at 9 Mount St, St Helens at the time of her marriage to Michael. The Absent Voters List for 1914 gives 9 Mount Street as the home address of both Thomas Garvey and Michael McGann – so it may be surmised that the Garvey family were living at 9 Mount Street at this time (coincidentally the same address as Matthew McGann in 1901!).


Michael and Ellen had 10 children, born between 1917 and 1936 – the only child not to survive to adulthood was Matthew b 1934 d 1935.


The family initially lived in Mount Street (at number 9 at the time of the birth of my mum Jane McGann in 1922!). At some time around 1930 the family moved to 63 Eccleston Street and stayed there until the housing in the street was demolished in the 1950s. At this point Ellen moved to live in Thatto Heath (at 1 Howard Street) with 3 of her sons.



                              Mount St circa 1930                                                       An aerial view of the Eccleston Street area 

       The large building on the right hand side of the street                                    prior to the 1960's redevelopment 

     is St Patrick's School (attended by the McGann children)                        Sacred Heart church is in the top left-hand corner   

        No 9 is the house next door to St Patrick's (far end!)                            with the edge of the Greenbank district behind it    




A photograph of the Girl's Junior Class at St Patrick's School in 1928 at a time when both Jane and Mary McGann were pupils. 

It is believed that Jane is pictured on the extreme right of the picture.





  Two views of Eccleston St:                   ^                                                          ^  

     The photo on the left shows the house of Kathleen Clark (nee McGann)

The photo on the right shows the block of houses containing No 63 Eccleston St




Two photographs taken in the back yard of 63 Eccleston St. 


On the left is Jane McGann nursing a young James, showing the industrial landscape in the background. 


On the right is Jane McGann pictured with her brother-in-law Ernie Clark, showing the rear of the 2-bedroom house in which the whole family were raised. The window is that of the “men’s bedroom”.       









These photographs were taken at family weddings in the 1940s


On the left is my mum’s wedding and pictures Ellen and Michael and a young James (along with my paternal granddad (Thomas Parker) in the centre). 


On the right is taken at Kathleen McGann’s wedding to Ernie Clark and features the 4 McGann sisters (Jane, Esther, Mary and Kathleen) flanking Ernie in the front row. Ellen McGann is next to Kathleen and Michael is on the left of the back row – with his son Thomas pictured next to Michael.






A photograph taken at the marriage of Nellie McGann to Bill Peel and picturing the four McGann brothers (l to r) James, John, Thomas and Michael along with their mother Ellen.











Pictured on the left is my mum, Jane McGann, aged 15. 



On the right is Ellen McGann pictured for her passport photo for a trip to Lourdes in the 1950s.           



Ellen McGann died on 19th July 1981 and is buried with Michael in St Helens Cemetery.   






John & Esther Garvey  (nee Grogan)

John Garvey and Esther Grogan were both born in Ireland, John in 1866 (place unknown) and Esther in 1859 in Tullamore, Co Offaly, the daughter of Thomas and Catherine Grogan (nee Delaney) - Esther’s baptismal date being 28th August 1859. John and Esther married at the Church of the Assumption in Tullamore on 12th June 1884 and moved to England in 1890.


John and Esther had 13 children although only 7 of the 13 survived into adulthood. They had 6 children in Tullamore prior to emigrating to England (3 of whom survived into adulthood) – Ellen was the first child born in St Helens (in 1891) but the next child Catherine (Katie) was born in Tullamore in 1894 – it’s not known why Esther returned to Tullamore for this birth – their remaining children were born in St Helens. A family recollection is that Elizabeth (Lizzie) was one of triplets – the records show that she had a twin sister (Esther) who was born and died in 1898: it is always possible that a third sibling was still-born and therefore the birth wasn’t registered.


The Church of the Assumption parish register entries for the Garvey children baptisms show that the family lived at both Barrack St and Tea Lane in the 1880s. These photographs were taken at a later time, but show the locations where they lived.  




Barrack St, Tullamore



Tea Lane, Tullamore











The 1891 Census shows the Garvey family living at 5 Bold St, St Helens – John’s occupation given as General Labourer. The 1901 Census shows the Garvey family living at 30 Bold St, St Helens – with John and his son John both being described as Chemical Labourers, and with Mary Ellen’s christian name being given as Helen. The 1911 Census shows the widowed Esther living at Back 13 Liverpool St with 4 of her children. The Garvey family later lived at a number of addresses in Mount St, Esther living there until her death. 




The photograph on the left is of Thomas Garvey (who served with the Machine Gun Corps in WW1) and that on the right is of William Garvey and Catherine Martin (his sister-in-law).  




The area of St Helens where the Garvey family lived was known as Greenbank (the “Irish Quarter”) and contained the Greenbank Chemical Works – it can be surmised that this is where John worked. The following descriptions are taken from a local history website, and give a feeling for what life must have been like in those days: The chemical industry was well established in the 19th Century and the acidic fumes from the factories making alkalis for the glass industry turned brasses green and blue, and killed trees and hedgerows…..     One of the Streets said to be so filthy, unpaved and undrained was Greenbank, which had open cesspools which filled the streets with a horrible stench, and where many fever cases were reported. The over crowding was horrendous, the rapid expansion of what had been little more than a hamlet, was made even worse by the influx of thousands of Irish families fleeing from the Potato Famine in the 1840's”. It may be that the latter comment related to a time before the Garvey’s lived there, but it hardly sounds like an ideal place to live!




                       A map of the Greenbank area circa 1850.                               Photo of Greenbank circa 1900  



Pictured here is Esther Garvey – the photograph taken in the mid-1930’s and picturing Esther flanked by Lillian Brownbill and “Auntie Katie” – with a young Michael McGann sneaking in at the side! 





John Garvey died in 1907 (age 39) in the St Helens Hospital, the cause of death being Acute Pnuemonia and Heart Failure – Esther registered the death, making her mark. Esther remained unable to write throughout her life. Esther Garvey died in 1943 (age 83, not 76 as was recorded on her death registration).




Ancestors of Esther Grogan

Thomas Grogan and Catherine Delaney married at the Church of the Assumption in Tullamore on 28th May 1853 and had 5 children baptised at this church in the period 1855 – 1869.


Valuation records for the mid-19th century show that the Grogan family lived at Barrack St, Tullamore (parish register entries for the 1880s indicate that the family was still living in Barrack St at that time).


Catherine Delaney was born in Tullamore in 1830, one of 12 children of Michael and Ellen Delaney (nee Quinn). Michael and Ellen were married in the Church of the Assumption in Tullamore on 23rd February 1830 and had 12 children baptised in the church in the period 1830 – 1853, Catherine’s baptismal date being 1st March 1830 (note less than a week after her parents married!). A number of the children must have died at an early age given that some of the Christian names are repeated (ie 3 x Henry’s, 2 x Michael’s, 2 x James), but the parish registers do not contain death/burial entries.

I can’t be absolutely certain about Thomas Grogan’s parentage (due to missing/illegible parish records) but it is highly probable that Thomas’s parents were Michael and Ann Grogan (nee Hensey) who married at the Church of the Assumption in Tullamore on 19th February 1822. Michael and Ann had 10 children baptised at this church in the period 1827 – 1850: I haven’t yet found the baptismal record for Thomas Grogan (missing baptismal registers) but there are strong links via godparent and marriage witness names that make it likely that this is Thomas’s family.  


Life for the Grogan and related families cannot have been easy in Tullamore in the mid-19th Century. The following is an extract from a contemporary record:  “Excursions Through Ireland in 1844 & 1845”, by Asenath Nicholson of New York: 


On visiting Tullamore…….


"The next morning, the twin daughters of eleven years accompanied me into a lane to see the poor. Here I found these lovely girls had long been acquainted, for they inquired of a poor old man about the growth of a pig, and kindly patted the well known pets of donkeys, goats, and dogs, calling them all by name, while the mistress went into the garden to pluck a bouquet for the fine girls, who, she assured me, were the smartest in the parish. I had always heard the Irish were celebrated for giving the pig an eminent birth in their cabins, and was a little disappointed to find that though it was really so, yet there was some nicety of arrangement in all this; for in two cabins I found a pig in a corner snugly cribbed, with a lattice-work around him, a bed of clean straw under him, and a pot of food standing near the door of his house, to which he might go out and in at option. And in both these huts, though the floors were nothing but the ground, yet these were well swept; a peat fire was smouldering on clean hearths, and the delf was tastefully arranged upon the rude shelves. An old cobbler sat with his lap-stone, and said he could make one and six and one and ten pence a day, and he took care of the bit of ground at the rere of his cabin for the rent of it. " My wife, praise be to God, is dead, but I can get a comfortable bit for my children." An old blind man of seventy- two, sitting at the door of his cabin, thanked God that he had no right to complain, though he had seen better days ; for he had " two kind girls, who, when they had done all in and out of the cabin, got little jobs now and then, which kept the bread in all their mouths." On looking into the cabin, nothing could be cleaner. Here, too, the family pig was snoring snugly in his crib in one corner of the room; and here, in all justice, 1 must say that these pigs were well disciplined, for when one of them attempted to thrust his nose into a vessel not belonging to him, he was called a dirty pig, and commanded to go to his own kettle, which he did as tamely as a child or a dog would have done.

Another cabin attracted us by the tidy white aprons upon two little girls who were standing at the door, and their nicely attired mother, with clean cap and handkerchief, who welcomed me heartily to Ireland. On my commending her for her cleanliness, she said, “Plase God, poor folks should be a little tidy who have nothing else to set 'em off. Would ye walk into the garden ? May be ye'd like a rose or two." We willingly complied, and found an acre of kitchen garden well cultivated, with a few flowers interspersed, which they rented for nine pounds, and sold the avails for the support of the family. She plucked her fairest roses and ripest gooseberries, and bade me God speed, long life, and a safe return to my own country.

I returned from this lane much gratified by the cleanliness, simplicity, and comfort of this humble people; for I had ever associated a mud wall, a thatched roof, and a pig as an inmate, with all that was wretched in the extreme; and I had, so far as this lane could speak, abundant evidence that a very little will make the Irish content, and even happy."

There is no certainty that the Grogans and Delaneys lived like this, but it can be assumed that it is not far off the mark!



Ancestors of Catherine Dyer

Thomas Dyer married Ellen Logan at St Peter’s in Stalybridge on 25th July 1848 and had 7 children – all the baptismal records I have found have been at St Peter’s Stalybridge. The St Peter’s marriage register identifies Thomas Dyer’s parents as John and Jane Dyer (nee McDonnough) and Ellen Logan’s parents as David and Helen Logan (nee Burke) – this is the only information I have found regarding these earlier generations.


The 1861 Census shows the Dyer family living in Stalybridge with 5 children, all of whom were born in Stalybridge. Thomas Dyer was a Cotton Stripper and Ellen Dyer was a housekeeper. 


The 1881 Census shows the Dyer family living in Ashton-under-Lyne, Catherine (age 17) was unmarried and employed as a “Cotton Operative”.


Thomas Dyer died in 1881 (age 57) and Ellen Dyer died in 1894 (age 64) – both these deaths were registered in Ashton under Lyne (the Registration District for Stalybridge). Ellen Dyer was buried at St Peter’s, Stalybridge – the burial register for St Peter’s for 1881 is missing and therefore it is not known whether Thomas and Ellen are buried together.