EARLS FAMILY CHRONICLES

© Christopher Earls Brennen

CHAPTER EIGHT

THE CHILDREN OF JAMES EARLS AND MARGARET DICK


  1. John Earls (1874-1934), our ancestor, was born in the teacher's residence at Ballymoney, Islandmagee, County Antrim on Dec.23, 1874. Isabella Lewis, presumably the midwife, was present at the birth. As a young man John, along with his brother Robert, attended evening classes at the precursor of the Larne Technical School. These were the Crooks Science and Art classes held in the Model Farm School in Larne. This meant spending the night at the house of their uncle William Earls in Pound Street, Larne, getting up at 5.00am the following morning and crossing on the ferry to Islandmagee and walking to his father's school at Ballymoney in time for classes there. Later he was trained as a teacher (at the Marlborough Street Training College in Dublin) and graduated from the old Royal University in Dublin with a B.A.. He became a teacher in a National School system. In the 1901 Census he is listed as an unmarried 26-year-old National School teacher living at 250 Ormeau Road, Belfast, with his brother Thomas Earls and his sisters Mary and Annie Earls. He served as principal of Ballynafeigh National School at 252 Ormeau Road, Belfast, during the years 1902-1904. In 1904 he was appointed as a Lecturer in Mathematics at the Belfast Municipal College of Technology. On June 26, 1902, in the Ormeau Road Methodist Church, Belfast, he married Mary Arnold (``Minnie'') (see next chapter) with whom he had four children : Arnold, Margaret, Irene and Muriel (mother of CEB). After brief residences at 250 Ormeau Road (next to Ballynafeigh National School), at 36A Orient Gardens and at 111 Fitzroy Ave. (all in Belfast) they spent most of their married life at ``Earlsdale'', 31 Ravenhill Park, Belfast where Muriel was born. In 1904 he was appointed as a Lecturer in Mathematics at the Belfast Municipal College of Technology. In 1907 he moved into the Institute and in the following year was promoted to be Professor of Mathematics. In the 1911 Census he is listed as a 36-year-old Professor of Mathematics at the Belfast Technical Institute living with his wife, his three children and his sister Sarah Annie Earls at 111 Fitzroy Avenue, Belfast. They had been married 7 years and had three children all still living. Their house had 10-12 rooms (10) housing six people and was constructed of brick or similar with slate or similar roof and 6 windows to the front. In 1910 he became chief assistant to the principal of the Belfast College of Technology. When his chief joined the army in 1915 Professor Earls continued as assistant principal and later vice-principal. In 1924 he became head of the College of Technology. He was reputed to be a fine organizer and had a special interest in the mechanical and electrical engineering departments. The munitions work which was carried out at the Institute during the war years was carried out under his guidance. Mary died on Oct.3, 1929, in Gartnavel Hospital, Glasgow where she had gone for treatment of a thyroid condition. She was buried in Knockbreda Parish churchyard, Belfast. In August 1932 in Glasgow John married Mary Stirling (``Maysie'') of 9 Viewfield Terrace, Bishopbriggs, Glasgow, whom he had met the previous summer while on holiday in Germany. Maysie was about 35 years old. John built a new house at 27 Lismoyne Park, Belfast, the back of which overlooked the grounds of Belfast Castle and there he lived with his new wife and his daughters Irene and Muriel until his death. John was a member of the Methodist Church and attended first the Ballynafeigh church and later the Duncairn Gardens Methodist Church where he was associated with the Leader's Board. He was also a member of a Masonic Lodge. In early August 1934 he was admitted to a nursing home for a routine appendectomy from which he appeared to be recovering. However he died suddenly on August 28, 1934. Both he and his first wife are buried at Knockbreda parish churchyard at the end of the Ormeau Road, Belfast. His second wife sold the house and returned to live with her parents and sister at 8 Park Drive, Glasgow C3. She died there without issue.

           
    Left: James and Maggie Earls and family about 1893; children: Thomas, Mary, Jane, Meg, Anne, and Letitia.
    Center: John and Mary Earls about 1905. Right: John Earls (1875-1934).

  2. Robert Earls was born in Ballymoney, Islandmagee, on Dec.20, 1876. Isabella Lewis, presumably a midwife, was present. Two serious incidents during his youth clearly had a major effect on Robert's view of life. First, when he was just 16, his mother, Margaret, died in August, 1893 at the age of 41; his aunt Jane also died about the same time. Within a year, his father, James, remarried and moved to Gransha. Robert continued to live in house #24 in Mullaghboy; the 1901 Census lists there as head, aged 25, Methodist, National school teacher, with his sisters, Jane, Letitia and Maggie. His brother John called Robert, "reserved in his manner and also somewhat reckless" and the latter may have played a role in the second major incident. Shortly after his mother died, when he was about 19, Robert was handling a homemade bomb made from a glass bottle when it exploded unexpectedly. He lost his left eye as a result. Despite this major setback, he continued with his training to be a teacher, acquiring his diploma from the Marlborough Street Training College in Dublin. Then, when his father retired as principal of the Ballymoney National School in 1899, Robert succeeded him in that position. His youngest sister Anne, who was a great admirer of Robert's, commented that though he was trained as a teacher, he preferred an outdoor life. This wanderlust clearly came to the fore in 1902 for he gave up his position in the Ballymoney School and headed for South Africa. He left Southampton on Sep.20, 1902, on board the ``Gascon'' (3975 tons) bound for the Cape, South Africa; he listed himself as a single, 26-year-old teacher and travelled steerage. In South Africa, at least for a time he taught in a tent. He wrote letters to Anne which were "beautifully expressed" and she thought he should have been a journalist. He remained in the Transvaal, South Africa, for some years but then had some difficulty with a school inspector over a 6 months leave he had requested. As a result he took his good service gratuity and left teaching. Apparently he then went to South America, intent on profiting from the rubber boom. We know little of what happened to him there, but he lost all his money and returned to his family in Ireland entirely destitute. This sojourn in Ireland was brief for in 1910, he emigrated to Australia. He left Liverpool on Jul.25, 1910, on board the ``Norfolk'' (3558 tons) bound for Sydney, Australia, listing himself as a unmarried farmhand and travelling steerage. In Australia his sad story is laid out in the documents obtained from the Kenmore Mental Hospital in Goulburn, New South Wales. His first 17 months in Australia are undocumented but, in 1912, when he was inventing a previous history in Australia for the staff at the Kenmore Mental Hospital, Robert mentioned living and working in many places. Most of the towns and villages he mentions (Wagga Wagga, Junee, Cootamunda, Young, Murringo, Grenfell and Forbes) lie along or near a 100 mile stretch of highway and railroad in south central NSW, west of Sydney and northwest of Canberra. But he also mentions visiting a "brother" and "nearest relative", William Charles Earle, living at Ashford, Inverell. Inverell is a mining town much further north in New South Wales, almost at the Queensland border. We have documented William Charles Kerr Earls and his family (see Appendix 2E) and he was indeed resident in Inverell. In his invented prior history Clearly Robert knew of William Charles Kerr Earls, and may well have visited him. Perhaps he was given this name and address by a family member before he left Ireland. Moreover, in the family history notes she provided to me, Irene Calvert recorded that Robert had a son in Sydney by the name of William Charles Kerr Earls. Clearly this was incorrect; indeed, William was older than Robert. But how the name came to be in Irene's records is unknown. In February, 1912, while he was rooming in Lea's Coffee Palace in Gurwood Street, Wagga Wagga, Robert suffered a severe psychotic episode and was taken to Wagga Wagga jail. The two doctors who examined him describe him as suffering from delusions, certify that he is insane and "wandering at large" and order him to be transported to Kenmore Mental Hospital for the Insane near Goulburn, New South Wales. Robert was admitted to Kenmore Hospital on Feb.21, 1912, where he was examined both physically and mentally. He claimed to be just 24 years old (he was actually 35), single and a native of New South Wales. He fabricated a family history, said he did not know his parents location in Sydney and that his father used to drink heavily. He names William Charles Earle of Ashford, Inverell, as his nearest relative. Perhaps he was ashamed for, when he left Ireland he had promised not to contact them or return until he had made good. The report includes a list of Robert's valuables retained by the clerk when he was admitted to Kenmore. The sad, complete list is: 1 watch chain (silver), metal medal, silver coin, two shillings cash, finger sp...., pencil, hankerchief. The list of private property is "clothes in wear", 1 Billy can, 1 Jam tin, 1 knife in sheath, 1 canvas bag containing repairing material, portion of a rug, 1 pocket knife, 1 pair scissors, one halfpenny cash. The report on his physical condition states that he is a young man with blue eyes, light brown hair, height 5ft 10 1/2 in and weight 156lbs. The report on his mental state again recounts his delusions and diagnoses him as "dementia praecox (paranoia)". Robert spent the next eight years in Kenmore Mental Hospital. For the first month or so he was relatively well behaved; though cheerful he was inclined to laugh without apparent cause. He thrived physically and his weight increased from a skinny 136 lbs upon admission to 160lbs in September 1913. But his mental state appearred to decline. He frequently used "filthy" language and had to be disciplined. In Feb., 1913, he escaped but was recaptured four days later. Six months later, it is discovered that has been drinking the vinegar stored in the small pantry in his ward. And a couple of months later he struck another patient during a quarrel. In the first few years he seemed to do best working in the garden and at the hospital cricket ground, but about 1918 he was transferred to the kitchen though he continued behave irresponsibly and, sometimes, boisterously. Then on Mar.26, 1920, he made good his escape from the kitchen and from Kenmore Hospital. We do not know what he did for the next 5 months though it seems likely that he wandered the roads and rails. He made his way toward Sydney and in September 1920 was taken into custody for vagrancy; appearing before the court in the Sydney suburb of Liverpool, he was sentenced to 3 months for vagrancy and sent to the penitentiary at Long Bay where he threatened a fellow prisoner with an axe. Perhaps for this reason he was sent to the Reception House in Darlinghurst, Newcastle for mental evaluation. He was then transported back to the Sydney area and admitted to the Gladesville Mental Hospital. There he seems to have comported himself well, eating and sleeping well. Because he exhibited no aggression and seemed to improve in mental health, he was discharged from Gladesville on April 30, 1921, after just a four month stay. He seems to have been able to avoid trouble for the next 10 months but in February 1922 appears before the court in Singleton (about 40 miles inland from Newcastle) where he is "deemed to be insane" and is remanded to the Reception House in Newcastle. Again that institution discharges him, this time after just a months stay. But it is only a brief reprieve for on May 5, 1922, he is taken into custody by the Cootamundra police for "jumping and dancing about on the road, frightening people." Though he protested that "he had done no harm to anyone" he is examined by two doctors who certify that he is insane and sign an order sending him back to Kenmore Mental Hospital. One of those doctors reports that he talks constantly and that his language is "interlaced with filthy expressions; his tone is monotonous and there is no meaning to his talk. On speaking to him, he speaks rationally but without pause and constantly repeats himself and is all the time looking round for somebody or something". Thus on, May 9, 1922, Robert is admitted to Kenmore Mental Hospital for the second time. The report on his physical condition describes a "tall spare man going bald with dark brown hair, mustache and beard going grey. Blue eye; the left eye is lost (a result of an accident). Teeth in front good but deficient in molars." The list of his possesions is almost identical to the list when he was first admitted to Kenmore. This time Robert provides a personal history which is quite accurate. He must have given up any attempt to try to hide his predicament from his family in Ireland for he gives them his brother John's address in Belfast. But his mental condition has clearly not improved. The doctor writes: "Knows where he is and what the place is for but does not think he is mentally affected. Was arrested near Cootamundra. May have been shouting as he walked along. Admits that he uses bad language. Says he is a navvy and picked up the bad language amongst the navvies. Would rather be a navvy than teach in school because he has less worry. He says he goes off like steam and talks to himself. Cant help himself. Does the same when he is in the bush. (Talks about) old people and places that crop up in his memory. Has never heard "voices". Came out here because he thought there was free land out here. Would not take on anything but laboring work as there is no money in the country. He rather meanders along in his replies to questions but his answers are rational." This time the diagnosis is "Melancholia del.". Robert was to spend the next and last four years of his life in Kenmore. He continued to be a difficult patient, noisy and boisterous, sometimes aggressive. He must have finally realized the seriousness of his condition for sometime between August and Novemeber 1922, he wrote to his family in Ireland. And the package of material we finally excavated from Kenmore in the year 2002, contained a a letter written by my grandfather, John Earls to the Kenmore Hospital. A short but inconsequential correspondence followed. Robert passed away on Thursday June 24th 1926, after an acute illness, broncho-pneumonia and pleurisy. He was buried in an unmarked grave in Kenmore Hospital Cemetery,

  3. Jane Earls was born in Ballymoney, Islandmagee, on Jul. 4, 1877; Isabella Lewis was present at the birth. Like her two older brothers she was trained as a teacher at the Marlborough Street Training College in Dublin. When her mother and aunt died she had to give up teaching to look after the house and younger children. In 1901 she was recorded with her brother Robert (head) and sisters Letitia and Maggie, at Mullaghboy, Islandmagee, as born in County Antrim, aged 23, Methodist, keeps grocery. In 1905 Moses Jackson became the principal of Ballymoney National School (thus succeeding Jane's father and brother in that position) and Jane subsequently married him. In 1911 Moses Jackson, aged 34, National School Teacher, Methodist, who could speak both Irish and English, and Jane Jackson, aged 33, National School Teacher, were recorded at #22 Ballymoney, Island Magee, Co Antrim, with their daughter Winfred. They had been married two years and had one child. In 1913 they left Islandmagee when Moses was appointed the principal of Maze National School in Maze near Lisburn, County Down. Jane died on Oct.31, 1923. Moses died on Dec.19, 1956, his address being given as 136 Burnetto Road, Belfast. They had two children:
    1. Winifred Muriel Jackson was born in Dec. 1909 and in the 1911 Census was recorded with her parents in Islandmagee, aged 1. She graduated from Queen's University, Belfast, MB, BCh in 1933 and was registered Jul.7, 1933, in Ireland. She practiced medicine in England and in the 1951 to 1959 Medical Registers her address is given as 153, Boldmere Road, Sutton Coldfield, Warwickshire.
    2. Eric Sydney Earls Jackson was born in Jun. 1912 and joined the Northern Ireland Civil Service.

  4. Letitia Earls (1879-1939) was born in Ballymoney, Islandmagee, on Feb.12, 1879, the fourth child of James and Margaret. Mary Jane Arthurs was present at the birth. In the 1901 Census she was recorded with her brother Robert (head) and sisters Jane and Maggie, at Mullaghboy, Islandmagee, as born in County Antrim, aged 23, Methodist. In the 1911 Census she is listed as a 32-year-old shopkeeper living in Mullaghboy, Islandmagee with her 24-year-old sister Margaret and her aunt (or great-aunt?), 74-year-old Eliza Dick. Letitia never married. When her father died in 1922 she inherited the lease on his property at Mullaghboy, Islandmagee, consisting of a two-story house with a shop attached. It had 7-9 rooms (9) inhabited by 3 people and was constructed of brick or similar with a slate or similar roof, and having 6 windows to the front. Outside there was one shed and one store. On Jan.18, 1935, she purchased this property from the Marquis of Donegal. Though she was reserved and rather shy she was highly thought of in the district. She was a great reader, had a ready wit and a keen insight into human nature. She hated the shop and left the running of it to an employee, Molly Orr. Letitia died on Jan.18, 1939. The shop is still operated as Mullaghboy Stores, 32 Mullaghboy Road, Islandmagee, Larne BT40 3TT, though it has passed through many hands since Letitia's time; it is currently owned by Jane and Sen Sengupta (1991).

       
    Left: Meg Earls, Irene and Peter Calvert, Letitia Earls and John Calwell
    in Islandmagee, 1937. Right: Sarah Anne Earls.

  5. Alexander Earls was born on Oct.23, 1880, in Ballymoney, Islandmagee, with Mary Jane Arthurs of Mullaghboy present. He died a few days later on Nov.5, 1880.

  6. Thomas Earls was born on March 12, 1882, in Co. Antrim. In the 1901 Census he is listed as an unmarried 19-year-old Apprentice Druggist living with his older brother John at 250 Ormeau Road, Belfast. Later he joined the army and fought in the Boer War after which he chose to stay in South Africa. Initially he worked in the Civil Service in Pilgrim's Rest, East Transvaal. From there he moved to a town or area called Derby in West Transvaal where he tried his hand at maize farming. Three years of locusts brought that venture to an end. He then joined the mines and spent the rest of his working life as a reduction officer in the mines in the Barberton area of East Transvaal [now Mpumalanga province]. Some of the oldest rocks on earth are to be found in the Barberton area and these ancient greenstones and metamorphosed granites form the Crocodile River Mountains in the south-east of the province. In 1912 Tom married Rubina May Coxon. Ruby was born on Jul.19, 1888, in Victoria, Australia and became a dedicated nurse and a pioneer of nursing homes. She set up one nursing home in Nelspruit (Nelspruit was founded in 1905 by three brothers of the Nel family who grazed their cattle around the site of Nelspruit during the winter months. Today it is a key manufacturing and agricultural hub for northeastern South Africa, lying 60km west of the Mozambique border and 330km east of Johannesburg) during the difficult years of the malaria and blackwater fever outbreaks and later one in Witwatersrand after which she went to Durban and bought a clinic for the treatment of varicose veins. During the early years of marriage she was a district nurse and ventured out to the remotest parts of South Africa, nursing under the most difficult conditions. Tom and Ruby had very full and interesting lives, though desperately hard financially. Ruby died in Munster, Natal, on Jun.23, 1963. Late in life (1969) Thomas lived at 15 Lancaster Road, Parkdene, Boksburg, South Africa. Boksburg is about 15 miles east of Johannesburg. Tom died in Boksburg on Nov.24, 1970. Tom and Ruby had two daughters:
    1. Muriel Maud Earls was born on Jul.28, 1914, in Johannesburg. She married Denis Christian Orford in Pretoria in 1935. Denis was born in England on Feb.6, 1910. Denis emigrated to South Africa with his father who had already lost one other son to tuberculosis. His father was a doctor and was afraid that Denis might also fall victim to the disease. Denis first met Ruby Earls while he was patient in the Nelspruit Nursing Home. When Muriel returned home from boarding school she met Denis and the romance began. Denis and Muriel had three children listed below. As an investment Denis purchased citrus-growing land on an estate known as Prudential Citrus with the thought that this would provide a suitable outdoor life for Denis. Unfortunately, it transpired that the property consisted of rocky hilltops. However the estate was simultaneously purchased by a man called Ivan Solomon who, hearing of the plight of the Orfords, offered Denis a position. The name of the estate was changed to Crocodile Valley Citrus Estate and within five years Denis had become the general manager, a position he held until his death. Today the estate is the second largest citrus estate in South Africa. Denis died of a heart attack in Nelspruit on Feb.3, 1943, at the age of 32. Years later, about 1956, Muriel was married for the second time to Jan Janse van Rensburg. They lived in Letaba, N.Transvaal, South Africa, close to Kruger National Park. Muriel died on Oct.17, 1984, in Tzaneen, South Africa; Jan died about 1990.
      1. Patrick Christian Orford was born in Nigel, South Africa, in 1937 and died four days later.
      2. Colleen Christian Orford was born in Nelspruit, not far from Kruger National Park, on Jul.26, 1938. In 1959 she married Graham Charles Thompson, a mining engineer from Witwatersrand University who also has an MBL from Unisa, the South African online University. Colleen is a nurse in Johannesburg General Hospital. They have three children:
        1. Beverley Dale Thompson was born about 1961 and became a physiotherapist. She married Kevan Hawley and they have two children, Justin born about 1986 and Kaitlin born about 1988.
        2. Guy Bradley Thompson was born about 1963 and became a mining engineer. He married Cheryl Geddes and they have three children, Shane born about 1984, Storm born about 1986 and Darrel born about 1988.
        3. Vanessa Gail Thompson was born about 1963 and became a secretary. She married Adrian Smith and they have two children, Tyron born about 1988 and Ashleigh Kirstin Smith born on Dec.20, 1992.
      3. Denis Christian Orford was born in Nelspruit on Oct.10, 1942, and married Trixie van der Merwe on Feb.4, 1967. Denis died of a heart attack on Dec.11, 1987. They had one child:
        1. Candice Orford was born on Feb.15, 1968. She has a daughter, Davena Orford, born Apr.21, 1987.
    2. Colleen Margaret Earls was born on Apr.27, 1919, in Pretoria, South Africa. She married Donald Burrow who had a chemist shop at 274 Commissioner Street in Boksburg. In 1992 they were still living at 15 Lancaster Road, Parkdene, Boksburg though the preferred address is P.O.Box 199, Boksburg, Transvaal 1460. They had two children:
      1. Alan Barrie Burrow was born in Nigel, South Africa, on Dec.8, 1946. He visited Ulster about 1969. Alan became an optometrist with a very successful business in Boksburg and married Glenis Doreen Huntley on Nov.1, 1975. About 1986, they decided to emigrate for political and social reasons. First they went to Tasmania to join another South African in a partnership. This did not work out well and so, with few resources left, they moved again, this time to Coffs Harbour, New South Wales. Alan struggled to create a new business from nothing and they are now established in this town on the northern coast of New South Wales. Their address (in 1992) was P.O.Box 1374, Coffs Harbour 2450, New South Wales. Alan and Glenis have had four children:
        1. Alan Burrow was born on Jan.5, 1979, and died the same day.
        2. Caryn Anne Burrow was born on Mar.11, 1980.
        3. Wayne Alan and Grant Barrie Burrow, twins, were born on Oct.14, 1981.
      2. Joan Burrow married Derrick Veljoin and they lived in Boksburg. They had two sons:
        1. Gregory Veljoin, born about 1975.
        2. Bradley Veljoin, born about 1979.

  7. Mary McCloy Earls (1884-1952) was born on Jan.13, 1884. In the 1901 Census she is listed as an unmarried 17-year-old living with her older brother John at 250 Ormeau Road, Belfast together with her brother Thomas and her sister Anne. She developed symptoms of insanity during puberty and was certified as insane. She spent most of her life in Holywell Hospital, Antrim where her sisters Margaret and Anne would visit her and where she died on June 30, 1952. At that time, sadly, it was commonplace for people to be committed to institutions on grounds, such as learning difficulties, which we would now regard as inappropriate or trivial.

  8. James Earls was born on Oct.22, 1885 and died at three years of age on April 26, 1889.

  9. Margaret Earls (1887-1973) who was known as Meg, was born on March 20, 1887. In the 1901 Census she was recorded with her brother Robert (head) and sisters Jane and Letitia, at Mullaghboy, Islandmagee, as born in County Antrim, aged 14, Methodist, scholar. She was trained as a teacher at the Marlborough Street Training College in Dublin and taught for a time in Donaghadee, County Down. In the 1911 Census she is listed as a 24-year-old unemployed National School Teacher living in the family home in Mullaghboy, Islandmagee with her older sister, Letitia. On Aug.31, 1920, in Islandmagee Methodist Church, Islandmagee, Larne, Margaret married Captain James Kerr, the eldest son of Captain John and Mrs. Kerr of Mullaghboy, Islandmagee, County Antrim. (John Kerr is listed in the 1901 census at Mullaghboy as grocer and retired sea captain, Presbyterian, with his wife Martha and several children, but no James.) They lived in Islandmagee until about 1937 when they moved to Serpentine Road, Belfast, overlooking the shipping lanes in Belfast Lough. They had no children. Peter Calvert used regularly to visit her when he was in Belfast and learnt a great deal about the Earls family connections from her. During World War I, James was a sniper in the Royal Irish Rifles and was taken prisoner by the Germans near Ypres. He escaped just a few days before the armistice was signed. The story I heard as a child was that he and a fellow escapee hid in a wood. After a week or so, driven by desperation and hunger, they emerged from the wood and presented themselves to a German unit only to be totally ignored because, unbeknownst to them, the armistice had been signed. After he was demobbed James joined the Merchant Navy and worked for his various ``tickets'', becoming an Extra-Master. He was employed by John Kelly Ltd., coal importers, as a ship's captain, a dangerous occupation during the Second World War with the ever present risk of U-Boat attack. He happened to be travelling home to Belfast from Stranraer, Scotland On the night of the great storm of Jan.31, 1953, Captain James Kerr was a passenger on the car ferry "Princess Victoria" from Stranraer to Larne when the rear doors of the ship were stove in by the force of the waves. Water flooded into the ship and as the cargo shifted, the ferry, one of the first of the roll on- roll off design, rolled onto her side, her engine-room flooded and within four hours she sank. Tugs and lifeboats were unable to get to the scene in time because the ship had been driven so far to the West that its radio operator, who stayed at his post till she sank, was unaware of her true position. Only four of the ship's lifeboats could be launched because the ship was listing heavily. The first, containing women and children, was smashed against the side of the ship. James jumped into the second lifeboat and took charge, getting out a sea anchor and keeping it clear of the steamer and so preventing a repetition of the disaster of the first. A third managed to get away with about 20 on board and picked up one or two survivors from the sea; one other was subsequently found alive. A total of 67 bodies were recovered from the sea after the "Princess Victoria" sank. Only 44 of the 177 people who set out on the crossing are known to have survived. The captain went down with his ship. Among the 130 passengers who perished were the Northern Ireland Finance Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Major J.M. Sinclair, and Sir Walter Smiles, the Ulster Unionist MP for North Down. Most of the survivors, all men, were in the second lifeboat. The newspapers the next morning depicted James as a hero but when he came to give his account to the official inquiry he was characteristically modest and never received any official recognition. An eyewitness account of the sinking was given to The Scotsman by James Kerr, captain of another vessel, who was travelling on the "Princess Victoria" to his Belfast home. He stated that he was awoken by the noise of the storm and that shortly afterwards he heard a "roar". "I thought a quantity of cargo must have shifted and the ship took a decided list to starboard. Some time later, the captain announced over the loudspeaker that the ship was going through a severe crisis. He told the passengers not to panic, but to assemble with lifejackets on the top deck heavy seas pounded against the side of the vessel. She was lying on her beam end and her mast and funnel came down gradually to water level. She stayed that way for some moments before quickly sinking to the bottom." Kerr also recounted how he observed only two lifeboats managing to get away from the stricken ship. A third was launched but he witnessed it being crashed onto the ship's hull and capsized. He saw no survivors from that boat. In the cold winter waters north of the Irish Sea, the majority of survivors who failed to get into a lifeboat would not have lived long. One of the grimmest statistics was that not one woman or child survived the daytime sinking (http://heritage.scotsman.com/diagrams.cfm?cid=7&id=456852006).

  10. Sarah Anne Earls (1888-1975) was born on Oct.20, 1888. In the 1901 Census she is listed as an unmarried 12-year-old living with her older brother John at 250 Ormeau Road, Belfast. Like so many of her brothers and sisters she was trained as a teacher at the Marlborough Street Training College in Dublin and taught elementary school in Carrickfergus, County Antrim and at the Agnes Street National school in Belfast. In the 1911 Census she is listed as an unmarried 22-year-old National School Teacher living at the home of her brother John at 111 Fitzroy Avenue, Belfast. One of her pupils in the Agnes Street School was the famous Ulster poet, John Hewitt, who, in a poem entitled "My Teachers" wrote:

    "And Annie Earls, with large and flashing teeth,
    long-legged and tall, spray-spitting when distraught,
    her glasses glinting, scolding, often kind....."

    Anne qualified as an infant school teacher, obtaining the Froebel certificate and the higher Froebel certificate. She was a ``born'' teacher. She also had a first-class brain and in her seventies could read German fluently, even novels by Kafka. She never married though during and after World war II she became quite fond of a refugee German doctor who tutored her in German. When Muriel Maud Earls's father died she lived with Anne for a while. Doreen Brennen knew her and stayed with her for a weekend while she was a student at Queen's University and Dana was on the way. Anne went to live with Wilfred and Muriel Brennen in Magherafelt when she could no longer manage for herself; later she lived in an old people's home in nearby Moneymore, County Derry where she died on Oct.17, 1975, three days short of her 87th birthday.

Last updated 7/30/11.


Christopher E. Brennen