Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Mulling Over Dates and Details

Think about it: a man—married and with a young child at home—suddenly flees the country for a distant land. Barely a year later, he is shot and dies. Meanwhile, his brother-in-law is captured and tried for his crimes, with the verdict being transportation—that ignoble one-way ticket to Oz.

Wouldn’t you be wondering if there were something going on in that family?

The family I’m referring to is that of Stephen Maloy—or Mulloy, depending on which document his name is extracted from—and his wife Anne Flanagan Maloy, whose brother, William Flanagan, might have benefited from the kind of quick-thinking action Stephen Maloy took.

Granted, the Great Famine in Ireland was still extracting its severe toll on the population, but one does not flee from hardships—even devastating ones such as this—with quite the same urgency and secrecy. To have not even told his wife of his intentions until there was no turning back gives us a clue as to Stephen Maloy's need to escape.

But—escape from what?

Seeing the date of his letter to Anne was early in the year 1849, I had wondered about the possibility of Stephen’s involvement in any of the political grumblings of the era. There were, after all, many reasons the Irish were not satisfied with the British ruling class at that time.

I wondered just where Stephen and William stood, in the matter of liberation from British rule. Could either of them have been involved in these political rumblings? After all, the Young Irelanders’ inspiration—Thomas Davis—was born in Mallow, County Cork, not far from where Stephen, Anne and baby Catherine had been living before his abrupt departure in February, 1849. Besides, there was a faction of Young Irelanders active in the city of Cork, the main “urban” area closest to the Maloy residence.

Over the years, I’ve tried to uncover any links between either of our two family members and the political rumblings of the time without much success. I ran across a biography of William Smith O’Brien, one of the leaders of the Young Irelanders movement, which was edifying in a general way, but unsatisfactory in allowing me to reach any conclusion about the lowly two ancestors holding my particular interest.

I exchanged correspondence with a member of the Cork Genealogical Society quite a while ago, benefitting, in a general way, from suggestions she provided of websites for further research. As to the specific possibility of involvement in the midst of action—or at least planning or perpetrating what followed—I am still lacking any more details providing names of the commoner sort. Whether Stephen Maloy escaped capture for participation in such sedition, or whether William Flanagan got his just deserts in the judgment that sent him packing to an entirely different kind of New World, I still can’t say.

The only thing I know for sure: the hasty—and secretive—departure for Boston made by a young husband and father must have had a much different impetus than that of mere survival in the midst of famine.


  1. While what constituted capital crimes were numerous back then, from what I have read, even petty crimes, like taking an apple from a tree of your neighbor could get you "transported" back then, especially if it were a repeat offense... is quite a read...

    1. Thanks for sharing that link, and for your comment on this situation of Transportation, Iggy. I have been told that from others, too.

      If I have the right William Flanagan identified in court records, it appears he was sent to Australia for the offense of stealing a pair of trousers. Now, one may wonder what sort of trousers it was that he stole, and that may tell the bigger story, but even so, it appears the "criminals" who were consigned to Australia were often desperate and impoverished people, nothing more.


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