Sunday 29 October 2023

 A Shared Ancestry

The Knox & Kirkwood 

Family's Forgotten Heritage

Myself David Hicks with Dennis Regan at Rappa Castle Demesne, once home to the Knox family

In 2016, I wrote a lengthy and extensively researched piece on my blog about the Kirkwood family of Bartragh Island found in Killala Bay, Co. Mayo. Little did I know at the time that I would uncover a forgotten story of a forbidden marriage associated with the Island dwelling family and find a long-lost cousin of my own. This month, Dennis Regan and his wife Andrea travelled to Mayo to explore the townlands once associated with the Knox and Kirkwood families. Dennis’s great, great grandmother was Emma Louisa Knox of Rappa Castle, a sister of my great, great grandfather Captain Annesley Arthur Knox.

Rappa Castle, once home to the
Emma Lousia Knox and her brother Captain Annesley Arthur Knox

In September 1864, Charles Knox Kirkwood of Bartragh Island, late of the Royal Artillery and eldest son of Captain Charles Kirkwood, married the third daughter of Annesley Knox of Rappa Castle. The marriage took place at the nearby, but now derelict, Ballysakeery Parish Church found in Mullafarry. Charles had his brother John as best man and the bride was given away by her brother, Annesley Arthur Knox. After the ceremony the whole group left for further celebrations at Rappa Castle located nearby in Ardagh in Crossmolina. The marriage produced a number of children including Norah Blanche Kirkwood who was born on Bartragh Island in 1875 however her mother died two years later in 1877. Emma Louisa is buried near her former home, Rappa Castle near Ardagh, Crossmolina . In later years Norah's father would not countenance her marriage to a local man, William Knox. Norah's father thought William was of a lower station and a Catholic. A marriage of this nature was not socially acceptable at the time, as Norah was a Protestant. William was born in 1871, the son of John Knox and Margaret Cunningham of Cooneal. In the 1890's, Norah disobeyed her father’s wishes, left Bartragh Island, married William and emigrated to New Haven Connecticut never to return to Bartragh.

Norah Blanche ( nee Kirkwood) and William Knox
together with the house on Bartragh Island

Captain Charles Knox Kirkwood died on Bartragh in 1926 and is buried on the island having never seen his daughter again. Norah and William made a happy life in the US where William became a mounted policeman and had a successful career. William died in 1944 and Norah in 1958. Norah kept in touch with her sister Maud in Ireland who visited her in the US in later years. In 2017, because of my blog post Dennis Regan from Connecticut contacted me and told me this amazing story about his great grandmother. Over the years we have exchanged research and during his recent visit to the area, I was delighted to show him buildings and places associated with ancestors which included Moyne Abbey, the Rappa Castle Demesne, the town of Killala and a number of churchyards where Kirkwood ancestors are buried. I was delighted to facilitate Dennis in this regard, who was an enthusiastic explorer joined by his wife Andrea and their friend Tom from Co. Clare. Dennis, who has impaired vision was accompanied by his wonderful guide dog Myles. A memorable day for all, when a shared ancestry helped make friends on either side of the Atlantic.

Please find a link to my 2016 article on Bartragh Island below:

Dennis Regan, his wife wife Andrea and Myles the dog together with myself, David Hicks in Moyne Abbey,
near Killala, Co. Mayo. This Abbey has a long association with the Knox Family and was once
the childhood playground of Norah Blanche Kirkwood

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