In 1760 a 15 year old boy left his parents house at Shanraheen, just outside Athy, and walked the main road to the capital city of Dublin. John Crosthwaite was destined to become one of Ireland’s foremost clock and watchmakers and is included in William Stuart’s ‘Watch and Clockmakers of Ireland’ where he is noted as ‘an important maker.’ His grandfather John Crosthwaite who was baptised at Keswick in Cumberland England in 1666 was of farming background and had settled in Ireland, exactly when it is not now known. Was he perhaps part of the Williamite Army which defeated King James’s Army at the Battle of the Boyne?
Shortly before his arrival in Ireland the population of Athy numbered 565, of which 83 were English born and 482 were native Irish. Incidentally the comparative figures for Carlow were 560 and Naas 303. The Protestant settlers of the time were undoubtedly alarmed at the Catholic resurgence under Charles II and their fears were further increased with the accession of James II in 1685 and the appointment of a number of high ranking Catholics to positions of power in the Irish administration. The Williamite Wars which resulted in the Treaty of Limerick and the Battle of the Boyne gave way to a period of relative prosperity and calm in the country. English settlers who in the years immediately following the Cromwellian Wars arrived and departed with apparent regularity, now settled in the developing urban community of Athy or the surrounding farmland which were described by Thomas Monk in 1682 as ‘level and plain areable, and there very fertile, plentifully yielding all sorts of grain; with considerable increase which encouridges the painefull husbandman to turne all under the plow.’ Little wonder then that the likes of John Crosthwaite would settle in the south Kildare area at the turn of the 18th century.
Crosthwaite married Mary Crawley and they had a number of children, only two of which I have so far been able to identify. They were Philip, born 1715 who in 1740 married Gertrude Ringwood and their son John, born on 29th September 1745 was to become one of Ireland’s greatest watch and clockmakers. The other identified son of John and Mary Crosthwaite was Joseph who lived in and inherited the family farm at Killart, while his brother Philip farmed at nearby Shanraheen.
John, the future clockmaker, arrived in Dublin in October 1760, after walking the entire journey and he reportedly used to say that on his arrival he heard ‘the city bells tolling for King George II’s funeral.’ The entries relating to Crosthwaite in William Stuart’s reference book show that he was apprenticed in 1716 in Christchurch Yard. For three years from 1772 approximately he worked at Dame Street and for the following 20 years at the Sign of Kings Arms at 27 Grafton Street in Dublin. In 1796 he had his own business at No. 26 Grafton Street where he operated under the style of ‘John Crosthwaite & Son’, later as ‘Crosthwaite & Co.’ and later still as ‘Crosthwaite & Hodges’. He died on 30th January 1829.
A few years ago Julian Cosby, whose family own Cosby Hall in Stradbally but who himself lives in England, paid me a visit when in Athy to do some maintenance work on the Town Hall clock. Cosby, who is one of the world’s leading horologists, told me of Crosthwaite and his importance as a clockmaker. Some of Crosthwaite’s unique clocks are to be found in various locations throughout Ireland. St. Columba’s College Rathfarnham has a Crosthwaite double dial wall clock, while the Church of Ireland in Delgany has perhaps his most famous clock, still in existence in the Church tower. The Customs House in Dublin had a Crosthwaite clock, which unfortunately cannot now be traced. There are a number of Crosthwaite drawings which were published at the latter end of the 19th century, held in either the National Library or Marsh’s Library in Dublin. A friend of mine sent me some years ago a copy photograph of the covers of two journals kept by Crosthwaite. The earliest is dated 14th May 1761 and the other has embossed in leather on the cover ‘John Crosthwaite Watchmaker 1773’.
Another noteworthy Crosthwaite was Philip Crosthwaite, born in Athy in 1825. He was another descendant of the English settler John Crosthwaite, his parents being Edward and Rachael Crosthwaite who emigrated to America some years before his birth. They had returned to Ireland to visit their own home when their son Philip was born and he was left in the care of his grandparents in Athy when they returned to America. It was highly unusual for anyone who had left Ireland for America in the decades before the Great Famine to return to this country, especially for a visit and the indications are that the Crosthwaite family were well off. With his parents having returned to America Philip lived with his grandparents until he was 16 years of age when he left for America to visit his mother, returning to Ireland in 1842 to enter Trinity College, Dublin. His grandmother died in the first year of the Famine in 1845, following which Philip journeyed again to America where he was to remain for the rest of his life. Without intending to do so he ended up in San Diego and it was there that he was to spend the rest of his life, dying in 1903 at the age of 77 years. In an article dealing with his life in the ‘Journal of San Diego History’ Pamela Tamplain described Crosthwaite’s involvement in the American Mexican War. He married in 1848 and held a number of local government positions in San Diego county during his lifetime. He was the first County Treasurer for San Diego and was also a member of the City Council, a School Commissioner, a Justice of the Peace and a Deputy Sheriff. In addition to his civic and political career Crosthwaite also played an active part in the city’s Masonic Lodge, becoming the Lodge’s first Master after it received its Charter. Rather strangely for a man who on his death was survived by 7 sons and 3 daughters, his grave was an unmarked plot in the Masonic Lodge of the local cemetery until the members of the Lodge placed a memorial over it 65 years later. He played an important and an active part in the early life of San Diego city and is remembered today in that city as the Irish man who was born in Athy 183 years ago.
Some time ago I got an email from a grandson of Patrick Keogh who was a member of Athy Urban District Council from 1920 to 1925. He lived at 28 Woodstock Street from 1919, having previously lived in Offaly Street. Born in Dunlavin in 1875 Patrick Keogh at two or three years of age was brought to America with his family and he was educated there before taking up an apprenticeship as a cabinet maker in Steinways, the piano makers. I don’t know when he returned to Ireland but I am told that when he did he worked for Doyles Brothers and also for Rigneys where he made coffins. He married Mary Tomlinson, whose father John Tomlinson farmed at Foxhill. Patrick and his bride in the early years of their marriage lived in St. John’s Lane, later still in Offaly Street and Woodstock Street. Elected to the Urban District Council following the January 1920 local elections which were the first elections held under the proportional representation system, Keogh held office until the 1925 elections. Interestingly his fellow Council members, of which there were 15, represented the Sinn Fein Party, the Labour Party, the Unionist Party and Nationalists interest. I don’t have any further information on Patrick Keogh and would welcome hearing from anyone who can help me in that regard. At St. Michael’s Cemetery there is a memorial to a Patrick Keogh who died on 8th July 1956 and his wife Mary who died on 3rd March 1944 and their daughter Phil who died in 1932 aged 8 years. I wonder was this Councillor Patrick Keogh and his wife Mary who lived in Woodstock Street?