Bridget Cassidy born 1961 married Daniel Brennan
Children: Claire Siobhan and Una
My grandfather Joseph was born on the 6th
of March 1882 in a district of Glasgow called Bridgeton. He was the youngest son of James Cassidy and Ellen Rice. Both his
parents were from Ireland. His mother Ellen was the daughter of Patrick Rice and Catherine McMullan from Loughinisland,
County Down and his father James was from County Fermanagh.
Enniskillen Castle 1830 by R. O'C. Newenham
(Front cover of The Ordance srvey memoirs of Ireland. Parishes of County Fermanagh 1 Vol 4.)
Fermanagh is a beautiful county situated in
the North West of Ireland. Joseph's grandparents James Cassidy and Ann Mooney were from the parish of Rossory just outside
Fermanagh was the stronghold of the Maguire
Clan "Lords of Fermanagh". The Maguires built the original castle. The last Lord Maguire was tried for treason and beheaded
in the Tower of London in 1644.
The Coles became the next prominent family.
William Cole re-built the original Maguire castle. In 1834 Enniskillen was a garrison town and the Fermanagh Milita resided
The Ordnance Survey Memoirs of 1834 stated
that the people of Enniskillen were "generally speaking rather an intelligent people of sober habits".
James Cassidy was born in the early 1800's son of James Cassidy and Mary Maguire.
According to the tithe applotment book for 1826 the Mooneys, Cassidys, Maguires and Davis families were living in close proximity
to one another in the townland of Windmill Hill. There is records of Cassidy and Davis families living in Rossory dating
back to 1749.
They would have been tenant farmers and would have lived with in cottages made of rough stone and thatched roofs.
There would have been two apartments used as kitchen and bedroom affording very little in the way of home comforts. Their
food was chiefly potatoes, fish, pottage, milk, butter and eggs. As a farm labourer James was earning no more than 10d per
James Cassidy and Ann Mooney were married
on the 11th of June 1834 in the parish of Enniskillen which is
situated on the north east side of Lough Erne in the diocese of Clogher. Ann was the daughter of Thomas Mooney and
Their first three children (including Joseph's
father James junior) were born there.
The standard of living at this particular
time in Ireland was so low that it had long been the
case that a great many Irish people (mainly from Ulster) would come to Scotland to work at the harvest. Usually they would
go to Scotland for the season and when the season finished they would return to Ireland with their earnings.
It is probable that my ancestors did that on a regular basis but at some point
around 1839/40 James and Ann made the decision to remain in Scotland.
They came with their three young children. Their eldest child James was 5 years old he had two younger brothers Patrick and John.
Ann was pregnant with her fourth child. The family would never see their home land again.
The first cross-channel steamboat
sailed from Glasgow to Belfast in 1818. James and his family would have no doubt travelled to Scotland in one of these vessels.
In the 1850's James actually worked as a steamboat stoker for a short while.
When the the new steamboats were introduced
the traffic to and from Ireland greatly increased. The boats provided a cheap passage across the Irish Sea and by 1833 even
the poorest of individuals could afford the fare.
An advertisement in the Glasgow Herald in
July of 1841.
The British census of 1841 listed 125.000
Irish born individuals living in Scotland as a whole. Most, like my family came to Scotland for economic reasons.
At a time when the the British Empire was
at its peak making great advances in agriculture and industry, Ireland was desperately poor. It had been left behind and simply
used as a source of cheap labour for British industry.
There were as many as 8000 Irish people per
week arriving at Scottish ports and again most of those who came hailed from the province of Ulster.
There was a panic that the city of Glasgow
would be flooded with hoardes of starving wretches riddled with disease. In fact the cholera epidemic of 1848 was directly
attributed to the Irish.
My family had arrived before the famine and
luckily escaped much of the misery suffered by so many of their fellow countrymen.
The Cassidys settled in a district of Glasgow
called Bridgeton, situated in the east end of the city.
The Main Street in Bridgeton between the Swan
Tavern and Ann Street had been divided, by its Irish residents, into two seperate communities known as "Dublin's Land" and
"Wee Belfast". The southern Irish, mostly catholic, settling in the former and the Ulster Irish for the most part protestant
settling in the latter.
Throughout the nineteenth and for a good part
of the twentieth century there were deep feelings of resentment and widespread discrimination against those of Irish origin
from their neighbours the native Scots.
Ethnic, linguistic and religious barriers
made intergration into Scottish society almost impossible and so, for a very long time, the Irish remained isolated in their
own little communities.
Bridgeton at that time had a thriving cotton
industry which was a good source of employment for the newly arrived Irish.
Like most of the people living in Bridgeton
my family worked in th cotton mills. James Cassidy senior before his death in 1873 had been working as a fireman in one such
mill. Some of my other male ancestors and almost all all of my female ancestors worked as yarn harpers, power loom weavers, cotton spinners, piecers and hand loom weavers.
A Bobbin-shifter in the Cotton Mill, painted
by Sylvia Pankhurst, c.1910.
The cotton mills were dark dangerous places.
Although men were employed in them, the chief workforce were women and children. The work was hard, dirty, monotonous and
health damaging. There was little light or ventillation, They were hot and humid buildings where people worked for long hours
for poor pay.
For the children of that time working life
began early, compulsary education did not arrive in Scotland until 1872 with the introduction of the "Education Act". Before
this act was put into operation as little as one quarter of Scotlands children attended school.
Most of them went to work with their parents
and older siblings for childrens wages could be a vital component to the family income. Some mills set up school rooms on
their premises but often they were over crowded with little or no learning taking place.
The mills depended very heavily on the deft
fingers of immigrant children who they exploited shamelessly.
An example from "The Poor Relief Applications"
in Glasgow City Parish shows just how badly they were treated by the mill owners.
Bridget O'Rourke, age 14, mill worker
with "impaired mind", was destitute because she had injured her right hand in Mr McPhail's mill and was unfit for work. Mr
McPhail had given her 5/- and a promise of her job back when she had recovered. Bridget would never recover because her hand
was totally useless.
Many of my female ancestors worked as cotton
spinners piecers, most likely the same job that had left poor Bridget O'Rourke in a state of destitution. This was a dangerous
occupation usually done by very young girls.
It was the piecers job to pick up the loose
pieces of thread from the loom. In order to do this she would have to crawl under these large and powerful machines.
Cases such as Bridget's were very common even
towards the end of the nineteenth century. Indeed my own grandmother Bessie Finnegan, also a mill worker lost two of the fingers
from her left hand while working as a piecer. She was sent to hospital stitched up and sent back to work all in the same day!
Despite the bleak picture I have depicted
in Glasgow there were people around who wanted to change the lot of the cotton factory worker, people like David Dale and
In 1785 David Dale founded a village called
New Lanark 25 miles outside of Glasgow. It was an industrial settlement
with cotton mills powered by water from the River Clyde.
Robert Owen, Dale's son-in-law, set about
improving the life of his workers. Young children did not work but instead went to school. Free medical care was provided
for the villagers and their working hours were reduced.
Unfortunately Dale and Owens enlightened attitudes
took a very long time to filter down into the rest of Britain. Only with the birth of the labour movement did real change
begin to take place for the working classes.
In Bridgeton, the cotton mills were eventually
replaced by Templetons Carpet Factory which became one of the biggest employers in Glasgow's east end towards the end of the
19th century. My grandmother's sister worked there for many years.
A girl weaving chenille cloth at J&G
Templeton's carpet factory around 1890.
Housing conditions for the working classes
in Glasgow were appalling. According to the 1861 census at least 64% of families lived in one or two bedroomed accomodation
1% with no windows. The "Butt 'n' Ben" was the normal enviroment for most families.
"Old Buildings at Bridgeton Cross" a sketch
which appeared in "The Baillie" 6th September 1893 shows just how bad housing conditions were for Glasgow's poor.
This was the kind of environment that my ancestors
James and Ann Cassidy lived in with their family.
In 1854 Ann Cassidy gave birth to her seventh
son Francis and by August of 1856 Andrew was born. Andrew did not see his first birthday, he lived his short life at 78 Main
St Bridgeton. One in five children of that time died in infancy or childhood.
The Scottish infant mortality rate between
the years 1855 to 1859 stood at 118 in every 1000 live births and the infant death rate was four to five times higher in working
class areas than in more affluent areas such as Kelvinside.
In 1856 James and Ann's eldest son my great
grandfather James married Ellen Rice a mill worker and like her husband Ellen was Irish. Her father Patrick Rice was a hawker
selling hardware in local markets such as "The Barras" and "Paddys market". Patrick and his wife Catherine (nee McMullen)
came to Scotland around 1850 with their two daughters Ellen and her older sister Roseann.
Ellen and James were married in The Church
of St Mary of the Assumption Abercromby St. The church first opened its doors in August of 1842. It was built to serve the
growing catholic population in the east end of Glasgow. It was only the second Catholic church to be built in the area since
the reformation. The couple were married by Father Forbes a very well respected priest who served in the parish for thirty
St Marys of the Assumption Abercromby St,
St Marys was the centre for many good
works in relation to the catholic poor in Glasgow. It is particularly remembered as the birthplace of Celtic F.C. This football club,
which has become internationally famous, was originally the brain child of Brother Walfrid who belonged to the Marist Order.
He founded the club in 1888 with the intention of using it as a means of raising funds to feed poor children under the "Penny
James and Ellen had nine children including
my grandfather Joseph, their youngest child. James escaped the local mills and managed to acquire a plastering apprenticeship.
Between the years 1863 till 1876 the Cassidys
moved around quite a bit. They lived in Selkirk for a while then North Shields and finally Ferryhill, County Durham in England,
before moving back home to Bridgeton.
On their return they must have seen
great changes in Glasgow, for during their thirteen year absence the City Improvement Trust had been set up to acquire the
worst properties in Glasgow demolish them and provide their former inhabitants with replacement housing.
However, the trust persistantly ran out of
money and many of the new tenements had to be built by private builders such as Duncan Fraser so notable he had a street named
after him. My grandfather was born in a two roomed tenement house on that very street 14 Fraser St.
My grandfather had two brothers and six sisters.
His eldest brother James left Scotland around 1886. He went to England and became an actor. He incorporated his
mother's maiden name and became James Rice Cassidy. He had some considerable success so much so that I have not only dedicated a page to him on this webiste but he
now has a website all of his own J Rice Cassidy & Co. Presents He died in London in 1927.
Two of my grandfathers sisters died
in infancy. The other four sisters married and remained in Glasgow.
Annie Kelly nee Cassidy was my grandfather Joseph's
eldest sister. At the time of her marriage to John Kelly she was working as a power loom weaver in a cotton factory. He was
an Iron forge labourer. They had five children together. Annie's is a very tragic tale.
Her son Patrick died as a result of extensive
burns sustained in an explosion in a paint factory. He had been attending to prepartions of varnish containing
napthea when the wind blew the shed door open causing a nearby lamp to come into contact with the napthea resulting in an
explosion which caused his clothes to catch fire. He died in Glasgow Royal Infirmary as a result of extensive burns
to his face, legs body and arms. He was only twenty years old. Annie died just a year after her son.
His sister Frances Jane married John Monaghan.
The remained in the east end of Glasgow but and at least three of their children also emigrated to the U.S.A and Canada with
their respective families. Frances died in 1948.
His sister Helen married John Brannen but died shortly after giving birth to
her second child who was later adopted by the Devlin family.
Kate the youngest of the sisters married James Morton and lived in Rutherglen.
She and James had seven children together.