Thursday, August 22, 1996

Diary of Thomas Henry Cross 1

Some weeks ago I wrote of Mark Cross who in 1872 was involved in the building of houses at Connolly's Lane and Janeville Lane, Athy. Initially I believed that he had built those houses but further research confirming his occupation as a Surveyor leads me to believe that he possibly prepared the housing plans which were recently presented by his great grand-nephew to Athy Museum. Following that article I received in the post from Dr. George Cross of Christ Church, Dorset photocopies of a Diary commenced by Thomas Henry Cross, a brother of Mark Cross of Athy in February 1852. Both were sons of Mark Cross, a former Chairman of Athy Town Commissioners, who lived in Market Square (now Emily Square). Described in Slaters Directory of 1846 as a Civil Engineer and Builder Mark Cross died in 1866. Thomas Cross who was born in 1834 obtained an appointment in the Census Commission Office in Dublin in April 1852 following which he became tenant of a small cottage at 14 Dalymount Terrace, Phibsboro. On the 26th of April of the same year he started his studies in Trinity College and in his Diary noted "It occurs to me that I may appropriately here record the earlier portions of my educational and collegiate career." What follows is an extremely interesting account of his early schooling in Athy from which the following extracts have been taken.

"The first school I ever went to was Mrs. Whites in Barrack Street, Athy, she was a most kind old woman and I always was her especial favourite. Edmund Butler, Abraham Fitzpatrick, Thomas Guest and Thomas Bailey were my chief playmates, my time with her extending from the year 1838 to 1842. I then went to a Mr. MacCrone who lived in the house next Mr. Connollys opposite the Court House. The education I received here was bad both as regarded quantity and quality he being an extremely dissipated character his whole time was spent either asleep or in the Public House. I remained only about six months with him as his school was broken up owing to his Landlord old Henry Handstock distraining for rent. I then went in the early part of 1843 to a Mr. Hill who lived in John Duncans house at the foot of the bridge now occupied by Eliza Graham." (Note: This I believe to be the father of Alexander Duncan subsequently of Fortbarrington House who later had a thriving draper business in what is now Shaws) "This was a great improvement on the previous one but unfortunately the discipline and subordination was very bad amounting very often to beating or otherwise maltreating by the Master. I myself was unfortunately borne down with the current as I remember getting a sound thrashing from him for having sent him to a nameless place. John and William O'Melia Philip Owen and Thomas Waters were here my school fellows as also George & John Judge and Joe Carrol. We fancied ourselves the aristocratic school and so treated contemptuously another school kept by a Mr. Forde in Stanhope Street." (Note: This is believed to have been the Athy Poor School carried on in rooms at the corner of Stanhope Place before the Sisters of Mercy came to Athy). "So high used the party spirit run that often on leaving the respective schools we used to range ourselves on opposite banks of the river we in a plot of ground now attached to the Police Barrack but then merely enclosed by a low wall and they on the bank of the river at Garter Lane behind Michael Lawless Stores." (Note: The Police Barracks was located in Whites Castle. It would therefore suggest that in the years prior to the Great Famine the Mill Race still separated Whites Castle from the premises adjoining Garter Lane). "Many an hour we spent "pelting stones" at each other and on one occasion I had to be carried off the field "severely wounded". I left this school about October 1843 owing to Hills having made a demand on my father for money for firing for the winter which however my father considered degrading his school to the level of a "hedge seminary". I then had a Mr. Jackson attending me in the evenings for a short time when I had William Plewman learning with me, and on alternate evenings I used to go to his house and after school played a game "of hide and seek". His three sisters were then quite little girls though they are since married, one to Henry Hannon another to a Wesleyan Methodist Clergyman of the name of Kernahan and the third to a man named Whelan". (Note: Henry Hannon, son of the Mill owner John Hannon of Prumplestown House married Deborah Plewman and it was their son John Alexander Duncan who lived in Ardreigh House. Comfort Plewman married Rev. James Kernaghan and their son Coulson Kernaghan was a well known writer and renowned as a brilliant orator. The third Plewman daughter Hannah eloped with Myles Whelan and they had a large family the youngest of whom Myles married Jessie Anderson and lived in Fortbarrington House). "In the close of this year 1843 a Mr. Flynne a Bachelor of Arts at Trinity College, Dublin who had been previously Tutor at Mr. Evan's of Farmhill issued prospectuses of an Academy of a description and on a scale far superior to any hitherto known in the town. This school opened on the 2nd January 1844 and from that day I may date the commencement of my education. There was a system in his school that did more to educate his pupils than all the drilling in Classics or Science could do, there was regularity everywhere and in everything. Soon there became developed here those faculties which now profit me so much. I became head of the first class which place I held until I left school in July, 1847. My school fellows here were as best I can remember Edmund Butler, Ben Lefroy, (now a Midshipman Royal Navy) Richard Lefroy (now in United States) Robert Lefroy , George Judge (now in America) John, Tom and Sam Judge, John William and Fred O'Melia Richard Hampden and Eyre Evans (now in Australia) Jo George and Edwin Ennis, Edward Waters and George Archdale (now in America). The school was very select. I remember that I was particularly good in Euclid Greek and Latin and English Grammar but I could never master either History or Geography. We had halfyearly examinations at the first of these held on Monday, December 23rd 1844 I was examined by George Bagot (now a Captain) and obtained first premiums in Sallust Virgil Lucian and Euclid. Fred O'Melia on that occasion getting first in History. At the next examination on 7 July 1845 I obtained first in Virgil and Sallust and English Grammar and second for Recitation. Fred Kynsey obtaining first on this occasion. George Gatot and W.B. Clayton and Capt. Gaisford were my examiners. In the December of that year I obtained four prizes in books and on the 10th July 1846 Captain Groves being my examiner I obtained firsts for Lucian and Horace besides three book prizes. In August Mr. Flynne being involved in pecuniary difficulties absconded leaving debts to a considerable amount unpaid in the town. With his departure was my education at School ended".

No comments: