For International Women’s Day 2022, I’ve written up the life of Annie Mahony, one of my great-great grandmothers. Sadly, I don’t have a photograph of her, but she had at least 186 descendants. I’m hoping to share this amongst as many of them living as I can find & perhaps someone will have one that I can add to the blog.
My knowledge of Annie was initially viewed through the prism of her husband, Michael Joyce. Michael was a Member of Parliament and so he loomed large in the family history. I didn’t even know Annie’s birth surname to begin with. However, there was an oral family memory that she came from Scattery Island in Co. Clare. Though I haven’t been any to find any tangible evidence of this, I now know her mother did come from Clare.
Annie Mahony was baptised in November 1853 in St Mary’s church, Limerick city. She was the second child of Patrick Mahony and Mary Mahony – yes, she had the same birth and married surname. Patrick had a previous wife, also called Mary. I’ve found that first marriage in 1829 but not been able to find his second marriage, although it must have been between January 1848 (when his last child was born to the first Mary) and May 1851 when the first child was born to the second Mary. This also allows me to deduce Annie’s father was much older than her mother, and she had a large number of siblings, both half and full.
I know nothing at all about Annie’s early life. Her father was a river pilot on the Shannon as was her older half-brother, Thomas. It seems likely that this is how she met her future husband. Michael Joyce first acquired a Pilot’s Licence in 1878, the same year as they married. Annie was 25 then, so it’s very plausible she worked somewhere before her marriage. If we had the 1861 or 1871 census, this might have shed some light.
Their civil marriage record shows that the couple both lived on Arthur’s Quay in Limerick City. Both fathers were pilots. The record shows they were of ‘full age’ which meant they were 21 or over. I presume the young couple settled down, but it’s surprising that there were no children born for several years. The below table shows their four children – a small number for this time period – but it does seem like Michael’s first and second careers would have meant he was away a lot. Annie’s 1911 census return tallies with this number.
|Mary Joyce (later Dineen, then Lively)||b. 1886||d. 1973|
|Richard Joyce||b. 1890||d. 1958|
|Joseph Joyce||b. 1892||d. 1914|
|Kathleen Joyce (later Guerins)||b. 1896||d. 1968|
While Annie was a young wife, a tragedy befell her family. Her (full) brother Martin Mahony drowned in an accident in the River Shannon in Sept 1883. He was just 20 years old. Their brother Thomas gave evidence at the inquest. It must have brought home how dangerous the family career was.
As you would expect of a late 19th-century woman, there is very little of Annie in records beyond the births and baptisms of her children. During this time, Michael’s career in politics took off, culminating with his 1900 election as an MP for Limerick to the House of Commons in Westminister. He was also the Mayor of Limerick for 2 successive years in 1905 and 1906. Nowadays, the wife of a mayor and MP might well have a public role but there’s no evidence of this in newspapers.
For both the 1901 and 1911 censuses, Michael was away in London so Annie is recorded with the children alone. This means we’re fortunate to get to see her handwriting on the returns.
Annie must have done the lion’s share in raising the children but she would have had some family support. Her brother Thomas and his family also lived nearby on Arthur’s Quay, and her mother Mary on Rutland St until her death in 1907.
In 1905, Annie became a mother-in-law, when eldest daughter Mary married Michael Dineen. This was swiftly followed by a grandson, Cecil. He was the first of 21 grandchildren.
In 1911, Richard Joyce, Annie’s eldest son, emigrated to America. He served in the US Army in WWI, married there and has many descendants in New York today. I don’t know if he ever came back for visits.
In 1914, another tragedy hit the family, when younger son Joe Joyce died of peritonitis following an operation. He was just 22. His death was mourned for many decades. If he had lived, he would no doubt have joined the British Army and fought in WWI.
The nature of his father’s public role meant that this death was remarked upon in newspapers and public condolences were offered by the many organisations with which Michael was involved.
The family was by then living at a house in Verona Villas on O’Connell Avenue, which was known as ‘The Moorings’, surely a reference to Michael’s career.
I have written extensively about Micheal Joyce’s numerous shipwrecks. All but one occurred before he met Annie. He was aboard the RMS Leinster when it was struck by a torpedo in October 1918. Michael survived this disaster and I hope he was able to send a telegram to Annie from Dublin before she even knew about it. After it, Michael retired from parliament but obviously still continued to work, as he was in Liverpool for the English census in 1921.
Annie disappears from the records again during this period although I hope she was able to exercise her vote following the enactment of partial suffrage for women over the age of 30 in 1918.
In 1928, Annie and Michael celebrated their Golden wedding anniversary – 50 years. A note of this appeared in the Irish Times and featured a reprise of Michael’s career but notably fails entirely to mention Annie’s name. This blatant bias is the whole basis for writing this blog piece.
While Annie would be recorded on the censuses of 1926 and 1936, they have not yet been released to the public. Perhaps I can update this piece in due course.
Michael died in December 1940. Multiple obituaries were published in newspapers and a detailed account of his large funeral featured in the Limerick Leader, where Annie was recorded as the Chief Mourner. It’s a marked difference to Annie’s own death which took place just under a year later. For the last year of her life, Annie moved to Dublin and lived with her youngest daughter, Kathleen, and her family. It must have been a strange upheaval after living all her life in Limerick. She was 88 years old – an impressive achievement for a woman born just after the Famine.
Annie’s estate was a substantial £2599 – no doubt because the house in Limerick had been sold the previous year. There were some bequests to her daughters and specific grandchildren, but the bulk was left to her daughter Kathleen. A handwritten note on the will in the National Archives alluded to a court case. It seems Mrs Mary Lively (Annie’s eldest daughter, remarried) contested the will. This was reported in newspapers and finally, finally, there is something about Annie.
This dispute was not remembered in the family and so it seems that the sisters got over it. My own grandmother certainly remembered visiting her Aunt Mary many times in Limerick.
Annie is buried with her husband, son Joe, daughter Mary & several members of her family in Mount St Laurence graveyard in Limerick.
“A most extraordinary woman.”