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Cassidy's Place

The Brennans/Brannans Dynasty

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Young Walter Brennan

This is the family history page of my husband Danny's paternal ancestors.

The story of the Brennan or Brannan dynasty begins with Hugh Brannen who was born in Ireland around 1809 but moved to Carlisle in Cumberland sometime after this. 

He first appears in the 1841 Carlisle census and at the time he was working as a Dyer Foreman at Fergusson Brothers Holme Head Works.  Living with him were his wife Hester, sons John (aged 6), James (aged 3), baby daughter Margaret (aged 1), nephew Lewis (aged 3), sister-in-law Mary McNichol and brother David Brannen.

In December of 1841 the family suffered a terrible blow when Margaret not yet two years old was accidentally burned to death at the family home.  Her screams were heard by Robert Fergusson who immediately tried to rescue her but being so severely burned she died a few hours later of her injuries. 

Hugh and Hester went on to have another daughter in October of 1842 who they also called Margaret.  Sadly within eight months of her birth tragedy struck again when Hugh died of Typhus fever at the age of 34 leaving behind his wife and young family.   This would have been a major blow not only emotionally but also financially as Hester would have been pretty much alone with three very young children. 

English Street, Carlisle 1865

At some point before 1851 she and her children moved to Stubbs Buildings in English Street, Carlisle where she met John Clowney.  She and John had two children together Edward and Mary before he too sadly died.  Hester worked as a dressmaker and by 1865 she had moved on to her third husband widower Nicholas Bell a Millwright from Maryport in Cumberland!

Hester and Hugh's oldest child John was an engine fitter and in 1857 he married a Geordie lass called Mary Bowman from Bedington.  They had ten children together seven of whom where born in Darlington in Durham. Their second child Henry was born in Arbroath, Angus in Scotland where John worked for a while.   

James worked as cotton manufacturer's clerk in Carlisle and in Augst of 1858 he married Catherine Lynch from County Cavan, Ireland in St Mary's and St Joseph's RC Church, Carlisle.  Catherine was the daughter of farmer Peter Lynch and she worked as a cotton spinner probably  in the same factory as her husband.

James and Catherine had at least ten children together.  The couple's first child Mary was born on the 16th May 1859 at Carin Terrace Wetheral, Carlisle.  In August of 1860 Hesse Maria was born at home in Alfred Court, Wilburn Street, Carlisle.  Shortly after this the couple moved to Ireland because their second child Hugh was born on the 20th of April 1862 in Belfast, County Antrim. 

James worked for many years as a powerloom tenter in the local linen mill.  In Britain cotton dominated the textile industry throughout the 19th century but in Ireland the chief fabric was linen.  In Belfast during the mid nineteenth century there was a massive growth in the number of linen mills and along with ship building it became one of the chief employers in the city.  Like the cotton mills in Britain employees endured similar poor working conditions and low wages.  Many earned a penny or even less per hour. 

A powerloom tenter would tend a tenter frame which stretched the fabric in width removing wrinkles and drying the cloth after processes such as dyeing and finishing.  It was also the job of the tenter to maintain the machine used for this process.

Despite working in an industry that demanded long working  hours with very low wages and poor conditions James and Catherine managed to provide for their children and went on to have seven more although two of them died in infancy.

Their eldest son Hugh was a mechanic and in 1886 he married Lizzie Kearns who was working at the time as a vestmaker.  She was the daughter of Patrick Kearns and Sarah Rice both from County Antrim.  Like his grandfather Hugh died quite young.  He and Lizzie had just the one child whom they called Walter. 

Hesse Maria married publican James McDonnell and they had six children, five daughters and one son. 

James and Catherine's fourth child James was also a publican.  He married Margaret Collins in 1889 and they had seven children.

Edward was born in 1870 and he was a carpenter to trade.  He married Elizabeth Gilmore and his younger sister Kathleen married Elizabeth's brother John Gilmore.

James and Catherine's youngest child John Valentine Brennan was an archietect and surveyor who ran his business from the Belfast Bank Buildings at 1,3 North Street.  One of his projects was the Church of Our Lady of Perpetual Succour in Derry:

Extract from The Derry Journal, June 29th, 1928

     'Yesterday, the sacred edifice was crowded to the doors when Solemn High Mass commenced at noon. In the interior of the Church, and particularly within the spacious sanctuary, with its many coloured marbles, there was revealed a spectacle of beauty and chasteness - reflecting in conjunction with the general character of the construction - the greatest credit on the architect, Mr J V Brennan, MRIAI

To download Hugh Brannan's descendent chart please click the link below.

The Brennan Dynasty

The Brennan Family of Belfast