2013 note on Arthur and Catherine’s marriage

It appears that Arthur’s father John did not approve of his son’s marriage to Catherine Anderson.  The sequence of events from John’s diaries and the parish registers is:

  • On the night of 3 June 1881 John stayed at Knockroe, Catherine’s home where she lived with her mother, sisters and cousin James Cowan.  John then went onto Dublin, visiting James Cowan’s land at Enfield before crossing to England and making his way home to Lovington, Somerset.   This is the only reference to Knockroe and Enfield in John’s diaries.  The names Anderson and Cowan never appear. [not found by Carolyn]
  • 16 Sept 1881 John left Lovington for Ireland
  • 5 Oct 1881 John “settled terms with Arthur”
  • 6 Oct 1881 John left Burrishoole for England
  • 11 October 1881 Arthur and Catherine were married at Hollymount Presbyterian Church, witnesses James Cowan and Isabella Anderson, Catherine’s cousin and sister.   At the time 20 year old Alfred was the only one of Arthur’s siblings living in Ireland. We do not know if Alfred, who was working for the Ulster Bank attended the wedding.
  • 27 May 1882 twins Anderson and Jane were born, baptised 28 May 1882.  Their deaths were registered before 30 June 1882.

It is reasonable to assume that Arthur and Catherine were engaged before John visited Knockroe in June. John must have deliberately been absent from their wedding, showing his disapproval by leaving Mayo just five days beforehand.  Why?  If he had been urgently called back to Somerset he would have at least mentioned the wedding in his diary.  John does not.

Arthur was 28 years old and Catherine a year younger, so no concern over them being under-age. On the contrary one would expect Arthur’s parents to be pleased that he was getting married.

If her pregnancy went to full term then Catherine was about 6 weeks pregnant when they got married.  Catherine may not have known that she was definitely pregnant when the wedding was arranged and the banns read. So we can probably rule out the ‘had to get married’ scenario.  In contrast John and Jane were married when Jane was five months pregnant.  Both marriages were witnessed by members of the bride’s family only.

By marrying into the Anderson family Arthur was definitely moving up the social scale, that should have been a point in favour of the marriage.

Why was John so against the match?  Possible reasons are:

  • The Andersons were Presbyterian while John was a ‘low’ Protestant.
  • The Andersons and James Cowan were ‘graziers’, hated by the small tenant farmers. John may have felt that the tracts of good land that they were farming should have been redistributed to the local small holders.
  • Some other action of the Andersons and Cowans that met with John’s disapproval.
  • Arthur had broken his engagement or ‘understanding’ with another woman.
  • Just occasionally there is a hint in the diaries that John and Arthur did not get on well. There may have been animosity during the days leading up to 5 October when John “settled terms with Arthur”.
  • It is clear that John and Jane’s ‘fun loving’ son, James Henry “Jemmy” was their favourite.  Jemmy had attended the agricultural college at Glasnevin near Dublin and his college record shows that he was a natural farmer and agriculturist.  By early 1881 it was so obvious that Jemmy was an alcoholic that he went to Cleveland, Ohio to be with his eldest brother John Samuel.   Maybe at the time that Arthur announced his engagement John was hoping that  Jemmy would be cured, return to Ireland and take over the agency work.  Therefore John would have preferred Arthur to remain single without local Mayo ties.
  • That, with the last reason in mind, John had visited Knockroe on 3-4 June with the intention of persuading James Cowan and the Anderson family to give Arthur a role in their farming and auctioneering enterprises so that he could live near Knockroe and Hollybrook.  John would have been annoyed that any proposal he made on Arthur and Catherine’s behalf had been turned down.

All speculation, but are these reasons sufficient to blatantly snub a son’s marriage ceremony? 


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.