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John Burgess
1876 - 1953


John Burgess was Christopher and Sarah's fifth child and their first son. He was born in 1876 and, following the tradition of the time, he was called after his grandfather. He became a shoemaker like his father.


When it came to courting and marrying he didn't have far to go and married, not quite the girl nexdoor, but Tess Fitzsimons from round the corner. Family lore has it that they actually met in the choir in James's St. (RC) church and the harmony progressed from there. Tess was one of at least three children. The family lived at 5 St. James's Avenue on the Grand Canal Basin. Tess's father, James, was a carpenter and her sister Kate was the local midwife.

They married in January 1909 in the church where they first met and Christopher seems to have set them up in a fairly posh, but reasonably adjacent, house in Old Kilmainham (8 Adelaide Terrace), possibly in anticipation of John taking over the shoemaking business at a later stage. There is a photo in the family of John posing at the door of the family premises in James's St. By the end of that year they had one child (Sadie), by Autumn 1911 a second child (Christy), and by mid 1913 a third child (Maureen).

.. to the war has gone.

This possibly idyllic existence might have continued but for the misfortunes of war. In late 1914, or early 1915, John signed up to go to war. The story has it he was recruited in a pub and the circumstances were such that he could not get out of it. Needless to say his father was not at all happy to lose his heir apparent and it is also likely that Tess was pregnant with Jack at the time. John went off to the Somme and Christopher seems to have pulled the deal on the house as soon as Jack was born.

John became a sergeant-major and was active in the [ Loos area near Lille. The battle of Loos took place in late September 1915, when the town was captured but the attack failed to penetrate further north. In reserve, at this battle, was the 47th Division, including the Civil Service Rifles (CSR), in which my uncle John (father's brother) was serving. The CSR also had the top secret task of transporting poison gas cannisters to the front before the battle. This was the first use of poison gas by the British and was in retaliation for its use by the Germans at Ypres. ]

Post-War Blues

John was [subsequently] invalided out of the army and came home to face possible unemployment and a certain move downmarket to Oxmantown Road on the northside. The couple had a further three children Queenie in 1918, Jim in 1920 and Mattie in 1924 at this address.

The story is that, after his return from the war, John initially got a job with a shoemaker in Capel St., but was only held until his boss's sons were old enough to take over the business. He then appears to have got a clerking job in the Gas Company and later, through the intervention of Cllr. Alfie Byrne , in Dublin Corporation.

The family eventually moved slightly upmarket again to Cowper St. [possibly in the mid/late 1930s]. You can see the houses here.


John died on 10 January 1953 of coronary thrombosis, myocardial degeneration and arteriosclerosis.

Cyber-exhumation and Immortality

Of the seven children, all married except Sadie, the eldest, and Mattie, the youngest. The parents and the two unmarried children are buried in a grave in St. Patrick's section of Prospect Cemetery. The story of how I provoked the cyber exhumation and reinterment of Sadie is recounted on my blog .

Of the five who married, Christy, who married Connie Green, had no children, and the other four had three children each: Maureen, who married Dick Aird; Jack, who married Eileen Harte; Queenie, who married John Duffy; and Jim, who married Máire Murphy.

Of the four couples with children, three lived on the Howth Road in the vicinity of Killester. I have lived in Raheny, whithin a mile of Killester, for the last thirty odd years and knew nothing of the clatter of second cousins living down the road from me.

Starting a family tree, for all its far flung branches, can end up very close to home.

A lot done, lots more to do!
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