JJRLYONS, thought to have come from Muingyroggen, Clonmeen

JJRL has finally decided that the most likely family for his great grandfather was John Lyons of Muingyrogge, Clonmeen, who married Johanna Moynihan in Banteer in 1852. Below are the 3 documents he sent me on around 26/12/2014 So, his father would be John Compton Lyons born 188


Our family originates from Ireland, where Lyons is the 80th most common surname, found predominantly in the west of the country.  Its modern form is an attempt by English speakers to capture the sound of the Gaelic original which, in Cork, is Ó Liatháin, pronounced O Lehoin.  During the 19th century our branch of the Lyons family spread from Ireland to Great Britain and the United States of America in the familiar pattern of Irish emigration. 

Uncovering the ancestral line has been particularly difficult because an ancestor left home as a young man to join the army at Cork City in 1883.  He was keen to escape from events in his local district and to limit further contact with his family.  His last direct link with Ireland was an Army posting at Dublin in 1891 after which his regiment was transferred to England.  Eventually contact was lost and his descendants never met his Irish relatives.  The soldier’s own personal life was complicated and he had families by three different women, our line descending from the last of them.  The stories that the soldier told her seem to be a mixture of truth, exaggeration, omission and falsehood, and in any case only reached the present generation at third hand so may have become muddled.  This family tradition is summarised in an Appendix.

The broad outline, including an Irish background, relatives in Florida and his own military service, has been verified by army records and US sources.  But it is clear that throughout his life the soldier falsified his personal details to suit the circumstances, whether to deceive the army about his real age and desertion, or conceal a prior marriage, or obscure the whereabouts of his family in Ireland.  Thus the evidence about his date of birth is inconsistent; there is uncertainty about the names of his siblings; it is implausible that his mother’s maiden name was Avendale since this simply did not exist as a surname; and highly unlikely that he came from Huntingdonshire as he claimed. 

In order to resolve the problem all the unsubstantiated parts of the tradition were set aside and the possibilities examined using only the reliable evidence.  A study has was made of the surviving parish registers for all of Ireland to identify couples who might be the parents of our soldier ancestor - that is called John and Hannah Lyons having children in the 1850s and 1860s, and including all plausible variants of the surname and Christian names.  This highlighted several possibilities mostly in the Barony of Duhallow, County Cork which lies 30 miles North West of Cork City.   One couple in particular stood out: John Lyons and Johanna Moynihan who lived at Muingyroogeen in a remote area of the Boggeragh Mountains between Banteer and Millstreet.  After a thorough scrutiny of all the available evidence, it has been concluded that they were, indeed, the soldier’s parents. 

North West Cork showing Banteer, Kanturk & Millstreet , North West Cork- photo of map deleted

The North Western corner of County Cork, including the Barony of Duhallow, was an impoverished and socially turbulent area.  Murray’s Guidebook of 1896 speaks of “an uninviting country, in which extensive stony uplands, watered by broad open streams, are the general features occasionally diversified by wooded slopes and ravines.  Down to 1823 the Boggeragh Mountains formed a barrier from Mallow to Millstreet between the valleys of the Blackwater and the Lee, and fuel was carried on the backs of small horses, or men and women, from the high grounds to the towns.  To the north, from Charleville to Listowel and from Newmarket to Tralee, the whole district is occupied by this wild and bleak region, with little to attract the tourist”.  There is a more succinct description in “The Grand Irish Tour”, by Peter Somerville-Large, of the most miserable and wet part of Ireland and of a scrawny country that could break a man’s heart.  The land is mostly subject to poor drainage and of limited use and more than 90% of Duhallow is classified by the Department of Agriculture as disadvantaged or severely handicapped. 

The area was badly affected during the Great Famine of 1845-1850 and by late 1846 a private soup kitchen was operating at Kanturk.  At the height of the famine in 1848-1849, 56% of the population in Kanturk Union were receiving relief (the average for 1847-1850 being 47%); there were almost 20,000 persons enrolled on the out-door relief lists in February 1849, far beyond that required by law.  Kanturk Workhouse, seven and a half miles from Muingyroogeen, was one of the most crowded in Co Cork; in November 1847 there were 1,850 inmates in the main workhouse and three auxiliary buildings, which could safely accommodate only 1,000 people.  Kanturk district was split into two in 1850 to create Millstreet Union with its own workhouse. 

There was an average excess mortality of more than one eighth of the population between 1846 and 1850.  There was a 30.5% population change in Kanturk union from 85,321 in 1841 to 59,328 in 1851.  By the end of the 19th century the population of Duhallow had fallen to one half of that before the famine and then halved again by the end of the 20th century.  As a result of the famine there was a reduction in the number of small land holdings and farming in Co Cork in the second half of the 19th century was concentrated on raising cattle and the dairy industry. 

The longstanding tradition of protest and dissent in Duhallow is apparent in James Donnelly’s “The Land and People of Nineteenth Century Cork” and in Peter Hart’s “The IRA and its Enemies: Violence and Community in Cork 1916-1923”.  The Land War of the 1880s saw much violence against persons, livestock and property and cooperation with local and national government broke down entirely during the fight for independence and the bitter civil war that followed the signing of the Anglo-Irish treaty. 

Within this overall area the focus is on the civil parish of Clonmeen, especially the townland of Muingyroogeen and the adjoining townlands of Knockeenatuder and Kilmacurrane, but also involves the adjacent civil parishes of Dromtariff and Kilcorney.  The Catholic parish of Banteer serves both Clonmeen and Kilcorney civil parishes. 

An 1815 survey of Kilcorney parish noted that the people were all employed in agriculture though the methods used were extremely defective.  They were in general healthy; their food was potatoes and milk; and their fuel was turf of which there was a plentiful supply.  The Irish language was invariably used, though they could all speak English, and children were taught to read and write at several schools.  With regard to trade, manufactures and commerce there was nothing of note.  A bridge had been built a few years before across the River Blackwater at Banteer and a road made from there to Kanturk.  The high road from Mallow to Millstreet ran through the district, with bridges over the Blackwater at Rosskeen and over the River Glen at Banteer, but no public road passed through any part whatever of Kilcorney. 

The parish of Clonmeen was described in 1848 as a mountain district of difficult access in which few crops were grown and that was given over to the raising of young stock and grazing of milch cows wherever possible but which produced only limited profit.  Buildings were single storey and the quality of both houses and farm buildings was in the low category 3.

In the early 19th century Banteer Catholic parish had chapels at Banteer (4 miles way) and the closer Kilcorney.  The residents of Muingyroogeen probably used the old Kilcorney chapel at Shankill and the nearby graveyard on the site of the former Church of Ireland church.  But the more convenient Lyre chapel and graveyard was opened two and a half miles away in 1857, close to Lyre National School built in 1844.  The Church of Ireland parish church, graveyard and parochial schoolhouse were more distant at Clonmeen North but, in any case, our family had no denominational attachment to the established state church.  Indeed 99% of the population of Kanturk and Millstreet Poor Law Unions were Catholic with the Protestants a tiny, if influential, minority. 

Lyre Church, Lyre National School and Lyons Bridge -photos deleted



The Lyons Families at Muingyroogeen

The 1766 religious census for Clonmeen, Rosskeen and Kilcorney parishes, which does not give townlands, shows Catholic Lyon families (without the final “s”) in Fermoyle and Gortmore districts; Catholic Lyne families in Clonmeen, Kilavye, Rosskeen, Shanakill and Knockmagoppul districts; and a single Protestant Lyns family in Gortmore district.  None of these can be connected directly with later families. 

The concentration of so many people called Lyons at Muingyroogeen in the 19th century implies the characteristically Irish sub-division of a family holding, at some time in the past, to provide land for the sons creating a mix of both close and distant relatives.  The last of the Muingyroogeen Lyons, who was not very closely related to us, died in 1951. 

It is not possible to establish family relationships with high confidence because of the late start of Banteer Catholic register in 1828 and of full civil registration in 1864.  It is made yet more difficult by the destruction of all 19th century census returns, the absence of burial registers for the majority Catholic population and the unrecorded emigration of large numbers from the district.  There is an occasional bonus of a gravestone, probate or newspaper report.  But essentially the picture has to be created, as far as possible, by matching the land records, as a census substitute, with the church registers and the certificates of birth, marriage and death. 

In Kilcorney civil parish, two and a half miles west of Muingyroogeen, the road to Millstreet crosses the Owenbaun River at Lyons Bridge. 


Muingyroogeen Townland

Muingyroogeen townland is right at the edge of Clonmeen civil parish, Banteer Catholic parish, Cloyne diocese and Kanturk poor law union.  It is pronounced Mwingy-roogeen, with the stress on the final syllable, and means marshy place in Irish.  Unofficial local 19th century spellings such as Meenygrogan and Meenagrogeen also hint at the usual spoken form.  It covered 218 acres with a population of 89 people in 1851 and 86 in 1871.  At least one Lyons family also held property on the other side of the stream that marked the boundary with Carragraigue townland, Dromtariffe civil parish, Dromtariffe Catholic parish, Kerry diocese and Millstreet poor law union. 

Until the late 19th century Muingyroogeen was often recorded as part of the adjacent townland of Knockeenatuder.  Townland names, spellings and boundaries were fixed by Ordnance Survey mapmakers in 1825-1846 after taking advice from local residents but if there was no local consensus then arbitrary decisions were made.  In this instance local residents ignored the official designation for many years and continued to use Knockeenatuder though by the end of the 19th century Muingyroogeen had been accepted.  Thus most entries in Banteer Catholic parish register and the civil registration records show the Lyons families with the address of Knockeenatuder.  The 1825 and 1834 Tithe Applotments do not mention Muingyroogeen and its residents are included in Knockeenatuder.  In the 1841 census most, though not all, of the houses and population of Muingyroogeen were recorded under Knockeenatuder though this was rectified in the 1851 and subsequent censuses (only statistical summaries are available and no 19th century household schedules survive).  However Land Valuation records show no property at all at Knockeenatuder with an occupier called Lyons over the entire period 1852-1921 and all were recorded at Muingyroogeen. 

John Lyons – earliest known ancestor

In the traditional Irish naming pattern, the eldest son would be named after his paternal grandfather.  Applying this to the John Lyons who married Johanna Moynihan at Banteer in 1852 suggests that his own father was also called John (see below for details).  There is however no local baptism to confirm this conjecture, presumably because it occurred before the start of Banteer parish register in 1828

The tithe applotments of 1825 and 1834 record no John Lyons at Knockeenatuder (the name used for the district in which Muingyroogeen fell) but both show a James Lyons who may be relevant.  The recording of names was highly variable because of illiteracy and the difficulty of translating Irish names into English; it is noteworthy that Banteer marriage register records an 1838 bridegroom as James Lyons who was otherwise always known as John. 

It is not known what hardships were experienced by our family at Muingyroogeen during the Great Famine of 1846-1851 but the Barony of Duhallow was among the hardest hit districts of Co Cork.  The 1848 Tenure Book, created at the height of the Great Famine during the preliminary stages of the Primary Land Valuation, establishes that a man called John Lyons was already occupying the tenement at Muingyroogeen subsequently held by our ancestors and, moreover, that the property had been let, either to him or his family, in 1828.  The John Lyons who married in 1852 is unlikely to have been the landholder in 1848, and plainly impossible in 1828, so the most straightforward interpretation is that his father was still in possession in 1848. 

A change in the way the tenements were recorded in 1873 may be significant.  Previously separate tenements were linked together indicating that they were now all held by one individual though the landholder’s name remained John Lyons. This may mean that, as a result of ill health or death, the land had passed from the older John Lyons, to his son.  There is a death certificate of possible relevance for John Lyons, a 76-year old widower (born 1797) who died of bronchitis at Kanturk Workhouse on 22 May 1873 described as a musician.  The death was notified by the Master of the Workhouse and not by a relative. 

The Lyons rented their land from Viscount Lismore of Shanbally Castle, Co Tipperary whose Cork estates (held from the Earl of Kingston) were mainly in adjoining Clonmeen and Kilshannig parishes.  If Viscount Lismore’s estate papers survive, and none have yet been located, then the sequence of tenants recorded in the rental books could throw more light on the circumstances. 

Adjacent graves at Kilcorney Old Cemetery suggest a connection between the Lyons at Muingyroogeen with those at Crinnaloo in Kilcorney parish (see page 26) - only ~ 1km between these 2 places


Early Life at Muingyroogeen

The John Lyons who married Johanna Moynihan, and so of greatest interest us, would appear to be the son of a John Lyons on the basis of the Christian name given to his eldest son.  It has not been possible to confirm this as he must have been baptised before the start of Banteer parish register in 1828. 

John Lyones and Johanna Moynihan were married in Banteer Catholic parish on 20 November 1852, the witnesses being Judith McAuliffe and Mary McKearing.  The groom’s residence was recorded as Kilmacrane (official spelling Kilmacurrane) which adjoins Muingyroogeen but there is no other evidence of Lyons in this townland, so he may have been working there for the Moynihan family.  The surname was spelled Lyones at the wedding but subsequent baptismal records give seven of their children’s baptisms as Lyons and four as Lyne.  The standard spelling Lyons is used consistently for baptisms from 1864 and for the birth certificates of the children born after civil registration was introduced in 1864.  The name Johanna was often shortened to Hannah. 

The records of all these events during 1854-1873 show the family resident at Knockeenatuder townland though with much variation in spelling - mostly Knucktuder or Knucktudir.  However it is clear from all the evidence that the family lived, more precisely, in Muingyroogeen townland within the broader Knockeenatuder district.  John Lyons, though a farmer, was on a single occasion described by his son as a general grocer, possibly the common Irish practice of combining a farm with a shop or public house.  Judging from census evidence for other residents of the Muingyroogeen district then John and Johanna Lyons may have spoken both English and Irish while their children, if typical of the generation born after the Great Famine, would have known only English. 

John Lyons occupied three properties at Muingyroogeen, rented from Viscount Lismore, whose locations are shown on the accompanying Valuation Map.  Tenement no 6, comprising house offices and 12 acres of land, was already held by a man called John Lyons in 1848, though this might be his father of the same name.  Indeed the tenement had been occupied by the family since 1828 by tenure at will, meaning that the tenant held no lease on the land, could be evicted at any time, and had no recourse in disagreements with the landlord. The tenement lay in the higher, more level southern part of the townland.  It had poor moory soil with pasture for grazing; a house 32 foot long, 14 foot 6 inches broad and 6 foot high; and an outbuilding (described as offices) 18 foot long, 11 foot broad and 6 foot high. 

Tenement no 1, comprising house, offices and 33 acres of land, was transferred from Judith Moynihan to John Lyons in 1860/1861 so providing evidence that the John Lyons involved was the husband of Johanna Moynihan.  Tenement no 14, having no buildings but comprising 1 acre of land, was transferred from John Connell to John Lyons also in 1860/1861.  From 1873 the land valuation entries are linked together but there is no firm evidence to determine whether an elder John Lyons died around this time and the son took over all three properties. 

In February 1880 living conditions in Banteer had deteriorated to such a serious extent that a committee was set up to organise a fund to assist the poor of the parish.  The contemporary newspaper report speaks of “the parish being steeped in the most dire and awful distress at the moment and the distress being made more severe and calamitous to the poor inhabitants because the greater part of the parish was moor and craggy mountain.  Nothing touched the heart of the parish priest (chairman of the committee) more keenly than the sight of his hardy and warm hearted parishioners bowed down and crushed beneath the weight of the terrible calamity with which they were now visited.  It was the duty of every Christian man to give every aid and assistance to help the poor to tide over this appalling visitation and he hoped the landowners of the parish would be foremost in their efforts to save the perishing people and had no doubt that they would because they could reckon in that parish some of the best landlords in Ireland”.  The impact of these conditions on our ancestors is, of course, unknowable. 

Disputes and Violence

By 1880, if not before, John and Johanna Lyons were involved in a dispute over a piece of land with their son-in-law, Michael Murphy.  He occupied adjoining Muingyroogeen tenement no 7, which had been held by his father back to at least 1848.  The original cause of the dispute is not understood though the circumstances of his first wife’s early death may be a factor.  There were three unsuccessful attempts to have him removed from the property, for which Johanna Lyons appears to have been the main driving force.  Relations between them had become very bitter and Michael Murphy responded with great violence as revealed by a succession of cases brought before the Kanturk Petty Sessions.  In the earliest of these, on 24 April 1880, Michael Murphy, described as a farmer, brought two actions.  The first complained that on 7 April 1880 Johanna Lyons had wilfully trespassed on his land, built a hut there and refused to leave when ordered; the court fined her two shillings and sixpence plus costs of two shillings.  The second complained that on the same occasion her son Jeremiah Lyons had assaulted and beaten him with a stone; but this summons was not served.




Occupiers of Muingyroogeen Tenements in 1883

1, 6 & 14 - John Lyons & Julia Moynihan; 4 - John Lyons & Julia Lyons;
8 - Timothy Lyons (also held adjoining Carragraigue tenements at bottom left);
13 - Julia Lyons (holding relinquished before 1883); 7 – Michael Murphy;

Kilmacurrane tenement no 12, at top right, was previously held by Julia Moynihan and no 11 which adjoins it (not shown) by Judith Moynihan

Modern aerial photograph of Muingyroogeen -deleted
Kanturk Courthouse - deleted

Six cases held on 14 July 1883 concerned incidents at Muingyroogeen on 29 June 1883.  Michael Murphy complained that Johanna Lyons had assaulted him by striking him several times on the mouth with her clenched hand but the case was dismissed.  In the second that her son Jeremiah Lyons had committed a like offence; he was fined thirty shillings and the costs of the court.   In the third that John Lyons, farmer, had aided and abetted Timothy Lyons, Jeremiah Lyons and Johanna Lyons in assaulting him; this case was dismissed.  In the fourth that Timothy Lyons (also her son) had assaulted and beat him; he was fined thirty shillings plus costs.  In the fifth and most serious case, the Crown prosecuted Michael Murphy for unlawfully assaulting Timothy Lyons and also discharging a loaded revolver at him; he was fined thirty shillings plus the costs of the court.  In a sixth case William Hetherington, farmer of Muingyroogeen was similarly charged with assaulting Timothy Lyons and was fined the same amount.  A newspaper report adds that the assault on Timothy Lyons took place late in the evening on the lane leading up to his house after he and his brother Jeremiah Lyons had left Horgan’s public house and that both Murphy and Hetherington were water bailiffs.

Finally on 20 September 1883 the Crown again prosecuted Michael Murphy, now described as a water bailiff, because he had on or about 13 September 1883 at Muingyroogeen wrongfully and without legal authority intimidated Johanna Lyons by posting a certain notice directing her to do an act which she had a legal right to abstain from doing, that is to say not to deliver up possession of a certain deed under pain of losing her life; after adjournment for a week the case was dismissed as being not proven on 6 October 1883.  The newspapers reported that Johanna Lyons had gone out of her house at half past ten on the night concerned and saw her son-in-law Murphy standing in the ditch with some papers in his hand, one of which he dropped and it was found to be an intimidating notice threatening death and conspicuously marked with a coffin and a gun.  Together with herhusband and son Jeremiah who had both witnessed the incident, she had gone back into their house, bolted the door and remained up until it was daytime before going to sleep because Murphy had previously assaulted members of the family.  Johanna Lyons said that she was afraid of Murphy with whom her husband had a dispute over some land, and that she had previously brought three ejectments against him that had been dismissed.  Throughout the 1880s there were numerous other cases at Kanturk Petty Sessions involving men called Lyons from Muingyroogeen relating to drunkenness, drinking outside licensing hours, assault or possession of an unlicensed revolver.  But it is unclear which, if any, of the cases concern our immediate family as all the Christian names occur more than once in the townland. 

More seriously, between October 1881 and June 1882, there were attacks on a neighbour, and probable close relative motivated by the nationalist campaign for land reform known as the Land War.  Timothy Lyons (occupier of adjacent Muingyroogeen tenement no 8), his immediate family and property were subjected to violence (see below for more detail).  Three local men (Peter Connors from Banteer, Michael Doherty from Kilmacurrane & Cornelius Murphy from Carragraigue) were convicted for the most serious attack and served two years imprisonment with hard labour.  Their release on 28 July 1883 may have led to retaliation on the whole extended family.  Certainly Peter Connors returned to Muingyroogeen, only to be found guilty, on 5 March 1890, of the further offence of maliciously wounding Denis Sullivan. 

The attitude of John & Johanna Lyons and their children to the attacks on the extended family is unknown.  But it would be understandable if the combined affect of economic hardship, Land War violence and the dispute with Michael Murphy influenced their son John Lyons in his decision to enlist in the army in December 1883 using an assumed name, especially if he had taken an active part in any of the violence. 

In 1889 the elder John Lyons still occupied all three tenements at Muingyroogeen but by 1891 they had been transferred to Denis McKerin of Knockeenatuder. The final record of John Lyons appears to be his purchase of a dog licence on 31 March 1890 (the last in a series of licences stretching back several years). 

If the family tradition is correct then he died in Ireland before his widow emigrated – she is first listed in the New York City Directory in May 1891.  There is no local death registration but, at this period, deaths in rural Ireland often went unreported and no record was kept of Catholic burials.  Moreover no credible death has been identified elsewhere in Ireland, Britain or the United States.  His son (another John Lyons) named a sister in Florida as next of kin in August 1889 implying no close relatives still in the British Isles; the marriage certificate of the same son records his father as being deceased in April 1891. 

No member of John Lyons’ immediate family appeared in the 1901 census for the Muingyroogeen district.  By the time of the 1911 census his daughter Elizabeth Lyons had returned to the area, married Jeremiah Kelleher and was living at Banteer; she later died childless. 

Although there were no Lyons in the district in the early 21st century, there may distant relatives with surnames such as Cashman, Cronin, McAuliffe, McKeering, Moynihan and Murphy with whom the Lyons are known to have intermarried. 

Land at Muingyroogeen held by John & Johanna Lyons - 3 photos deleted

END OF First Document

Emigration to the USA

Johanna Lyons is last explicitly recorded at Muingyroogeen in 1883 though she presumably remained there until the family’s land holdings were relinquished around 1889.  She is first listed in New York City directories as the widow of John Lyons in May 1891 but has not been identified in the records of either passenger departures from British and Irish ports or of arrivals in the US.  Although the date is unknown she almost certainly used the principal emigration route from Queenstown, Co Cork to Castle Garden, New York (Ellis Island was not opened until 1892).  It is also unclear whether she travelled to America with any of her children. THIS JOURNEY strikes me as ODD- , but maybe not if one or more of her children went with her.  

Johanna Lyons settled in New York City and was still there in early 1896.  The federal census returns for 1890 are unfortunately lost.  Directories of New York City show Johanna, widow of John Lyons, in the South Bronx at 485 East 148th Street in 1891-1892; and in the Lower East Side of Manhattan at 193 First Avenue in 1894 and at 445 East 13th Street in 1895. 

Latterly Johanna spent the winters in Florida but two months before her death she moved permanently to live with her daughter Annie in Jacksonville.  She died at Pablo Beach, later renamed Jacksonville Beach, on 12 June 1896 aged 75 or 76, her name being recorded as Hannah Lyons.  The cause of death was remittent fever, better known as malaria.  After a service at the Immaculate Conception church she was buried in an unmarked grave in the Catholic St Mary's cemetery, Jacksonville (Lot 90, Grave 6, Section 4, Block 3).  Her obituary appeared in the local newspaper, “The Florida Times-Union”.   

Her age at death can not be independently confirmed but she may have been younger as it is questionable whether a woman born about 1821 would have had her last child in 1873.  A plausible baptism at Banteer, Co Cork on 8 November 1832 is discussed later in the section on the Moynihan family. 

4 photos deleted

Above: Queenstown, Co. Cork  -  Below: Castle Garden, New York

Evergreen Cemetery, Jacksonville

The unmarked grave of Hannah Lyons lies on the right of the picture

Pablo Avenue (previously Putnam Avenue), Pablo Beach

Children of John and Johanna Lyons . 11 here, 2 dying in infancy

Michael Murphy and Julia Lyons had two children, neither of whom was living with their father at the time of the 1901 or 1911 censuses and about whom nothing else is known:

Our unsubstantiated family tradition includes some items that may yet turn out to contain an element of truth:

Annie Kate Lyons- JJRL thinks she is the Kate Lyons 1855

According to some US documentation Annie Kate Lyons was born in Ireland in March 1860.  She is the sibling who appears in greatest detail in our family history and her brother John Lyons not only named her as next of kin in 1889 but also visited her in Florida.  She is identified as the Kate Lyons baptised 28 April 1855 Banteer and, although it was presumably her personal choice to be known usually as Annie Lyons, it is significant that she chose to call her herself Annie Kate Lyons at her wedding.  The discrepancy about birth date is unsatisfactory but nonetheless it is evident that Irish people of this generation were often ignorant of their true age and birthday, or gave false details for reasons of their own or were simply unconcerned about accuracy.  On the evidence of the 1900 US census she entered the United States in 1871 and it is likely that her next few years were spent in the New York area.  However she has not been identified in the US immigration records or in the 1880 US census.  

According to statements made in the 1900 US census, Annie married John Dutton in 1885 though no wedding has yet been traced for that year.  Her husband was born in England in September 1848, emigrated to the US in 1874 and had become a naturalised US citizen by 1900.  No other details are known about his early life in England and America or the date and circumstances under which he met Annie Lyons.  Since John Dutton and Annie Lyons went through a marriage ceremony in Florida as late as 1898, it is probable that one of them was not free to marry until that time and seems most likely that he had a prior marriage as she married using her maiden surname. 

The earliest identification for John Dutton is in the local directory for Jacksonville, Florida in 1884 where he had a laundry business at 23 Ocean but lived at Monroe above Clay in the district of La Villa.  He does not appear in the 1885 Florida State census.  In 1886 he was listed as a steward at 80 West Bay, though resident at 135 East Adams.  Webbs’ Directory for 1887 still shows him as a steward at 80 West Bay.  Richard’s Directory for 1887 lists John Dutton as a meat market and grocer in Putnam Avenue, Pablo Beach (Putnam Avenue was renamed Pablo Avenue in 1903). 

Curiously Richard’s 1887 Directory shows a John Lyons, a carpenter also boarding at 80 West Bay, about whom nothing else is known.  Apart from the coincidence of the address, appears to be no connection with our family; Annie’s father was in Ireland at this date and her brother of the same name serving in the British Army. The appearance of a grocer's business is interesting given that Annie's father was on one occasion said to have had the same occupation. 

The directory for 1892 shows John Dutton selling liquor at 8 & 10 East Bay and also at Pablo Beach.  He was in partnership with August Blum in 1893 as the firm of Dutton & Blum, wholesale and retail dealers in wines, liquors and cigars, which traded at both these addresses and also at W Church N Myrtle Avenue in La Villa district of Jacksonville.  In 1894 John Dutton was still in business at 8 and 10 East Bay with a home at Pablo Beach.  Mary Dutton, the only child of John and Annie, was born in Florida on 16 February 1895 presumably at Jacksonville (the daughter’s conception in 1894 is the earliest certain link between the couple).  Her baptism took place on 18 August 1895 at the Roman Catholic Church of the Immaculate Conception, Jacksonville with James Murphy and his wife as sponsors.  In 1897 John Dutton was in business with James E Coslow, as Coslow & Dutton, running a restaurant at 303 West Bay.  He was resident at the nearby Acme Hotel at 307 West Bay.  On 14 January 1898, three years after their daughter’s birth, John and Annie Dutton went through a marriage ceremony before the Justice of the Peace of the 5th Justice District, Pablo Beach.  It seems possible, therefore, that they had never been officially married until then.  The witnesses were William Wilkinson and Mary D Shane, the latter probably a relative of the Justice of the Peace. 

The next sighting of the family is back in the north.  In June 1900 John and Annie Dutton, together with their daughter, appear in the census returns at Smithtown, Long Island, New York State, in a house that they owned.  John Dutton was again described as a steward.  The “Brooklyn Daily Eagle” newspaper reported in December 1901 that John and Annie Dutton of Smithtown had pleaded guilty to the charge of selling liquor on a Sunday and were fined $50 at Suffolk County Court. 

Within three years the family was back in Florida.  The Jacksonville directory for 1904 shows John and Annie Dutton running a lodging house at 726 West Bay which was also their own home.  However in November 1904 John Dutton became chef of the newly opened Rathskeller Café at 117 West Forsyth, Jacksonville.  On 25 December 1904, Christmas Day, he was suddenly taken ill with an acute attack of Bright’s Disease, affecting the kidneys, and died the same evening at his rooms at the Narraganeete House on the corner of Bridge (since renamed Broad) and Adams Streets.  He was buried on 28 December 1904 in Woodlawn cemetery, later renamed Evergreen cemetery (Lot 37, Section KW).  The funeral was conducted by the rector of St Stephen's Episcopal Church, located on West Monroe Street where the Riverside and downtown districts meet.  The cemetery records erroneously report the date of John Dutton’s death as 27 December.  Annie Dutton lived at 1118 West Duval Street in 1907-1908 being recorded in the city directories as a cook in the former year and a widow in the latter.  Her whereabouts at the time of the 1910 census have not been firmly established though her daughter was in a Jacksonville orphanage.

However the 1910 census reveals a close match with Annie Rhodes, wife of John W Rhodes (born 1860 North Carolina), a carpenter, rooming at Riverside Avenue, Jacksonville - it being the second marriage for both parties.  This lady was born in Ireland about 1865, the daughter of Irish-born parents, and the mother of one child who was still living.  Although the duration of this second marriage is recorded as fifteen years, this is inconsistent with the evidence of the 1900 census where John W Rhodes is living at Pasadena Precinct, Pasco County, Florida with a previous wife.  If this is indeed the former Annie Dutton then the relationship may not have been legalised, no wedding having been found, and nor may it have lasted.  It is consistent with this identification, however, that John W Rhodes was a widower at Ortega township, Duval County, Florida in 1920 after Annie Dutton’s death. 

Notwithstanding, she is probably the Anna Dutton, widow of John, listed in the 1912 Jacksonville directory at McDuff, near Lincoln (curiously the adjacent property sub-division, opened in 1921, is called Avondale).  Annie Dutton died of valvular heart trouble on 6 May 1915 at 422 Oak, in the Riverside district of Jacksonville.  The next day her funeral was held at the Church of the Immaculate Conception, followed by burial in an unmarked grave in the St Mary's portion of Evergreen Cemetery (Lot 97, Grave 6, Section 4, Block 3).  This provides additional evidence of a Catholic background to the Lyons family - in contrast with her husband's Protestant burial.  Neither John nor Annie left wills in Duval County, Florida.  However it is possible there were probates in New York State where they had held property on Long Island; so far it has been impractical to check this.

Annie Kate Dutton had one child:

3 photos deleted                

Advertisement in the 1893 Jacksonville City Directory

Jacksonville: the river front and Bay Street

Mobility of the Family in the USA

In order to understand the movements of our family it is helpful to consider the opportunities for immigrants in the Greater New York region, the development of North Florida as a holiday area and the opening up of the mineral deposits of Montana.

In the last half of the 19th century roughly one third of all Irish-born persons resided outside Ireland and 80% of these were in the USA drawn there by economic opportunity, already established friends and family and the fact of it being outside the British Empire.  The great majority of those that left travelled without organised assistance, being dependent for passage money and outfitting on their own resources and especially on those of their relatives.  Emigrants travelled by steamer in safety, if not comfort, taking under a fortnight for the journey.   Most were young unmarried adults and when a whole family emigrated it was most likely to be singly in stages as the money for the fare was saved up rather than travelling together as a group.  Even young children went in this way being cared for on the journey by relatives or friends. 

Most immigrants entered the USA through New York City and, though many went to the adjoining areas, most settled in the borough of Manhattan as did Johanna Lyons.  When Brooklyn was incorporated into New York in 1898, most of Long Island remained outside the city but the North Shore attracted wealthy landowners seeking calm away from the city and it was here at Smithtown that John and Annie Dutton had a house.  Although our family tradition mentions Connecticut, which overlooks Long Island Sound, no connection has been found with this state. 

Florida was the key holiday destination for affluent northerners in the late 19th century before being overtaken by California.  For a time Jacksonville was the most important resort, its rise stimulated by the arrival of the railway and declining when the lines were extended further south to an even more congenial climate.  Jacksonville's prominence lasted roughly from 1869 to 1888 and at its height tens of thousands of visitors were attracted by its elegant hotels and shops and excursions on the St Johns River.  The modest resort of Pablo Beach on the Atlantic coast, some 14 miles to the east of the city, was developed slightly later achieving its first hotel and access by rail in 1884.  Our family seem to have arrived in Jacksonville around 1884 and remained there until at least 1920 thus being in the region during its time of greatest prosperity. 

Montana's population grew greatly in the 1880's when Irish labourers and other immigrant groups moved to work in the huge silver and copper mines in the west of the state especially at Butte and Anaconda.  Gradually ranching became established in eastern Montana and acted as further magnet to large numbers of Irish and others up to the 1930's.  Great Falls, named after the cascade on the Missouri river now tamed by hydroelectric dams, was a medium sized industrial city but otherwise unremarkable. 


Families at Muingyroogeen

The Clonmeen tithe applotments of 1825 and 1834 reveal Timothy Lyons senior, Timothy Lyons junior and James Lyons at Knockeenatuder (there being no separate listing for Muingyroogeen). The two men called Timothy Lyons may have been related since John Lyons & Johanna Moynihan had a son with the same name. 

Banteer register contains a single possibly relevant entry.  Timothy Lyons & Mary McCarthy had a daughter Honora Lyons baptised on 10 July 1830 though no address is given.  However Honora Lyne of Knucktudir married John Cashman at Banteer on 11 February 1851 with Timothy Lyne as one of the witnesses.  From 1852 John Cashman occupied Muingyroogeen tenement no 3, comprising house, offices and 13 acres of land, and transferred to his widow by 1895 (he probably died 1887 Kanturk district aged 64); Norah Cashman, aged 70, was living there with her son in the 1901 census (not recorded as an Irish speaker) and died 1909 Kanturk district as Hanorah Cashman, aged 78 (so born about 1831 consistent with the baptism of Honora Lyons in 1830). 

There were no Lyons recorded at Carragraigue in the Dromtariffe tithe applotment of 1827. 

The picture at Muingyroogeen becomes clearer in the years after the Primary Land Valuation of 1852 when, as well as John Lyons & Johanna Moynihan, landholders were Julia Lyons, Jeremiah Lyons, a second John Lyons and Timothy Lyons senior.  The “Land War” Timothy Lyons junior held land on both sides of the boundary between Muingyroogeen and Carragraigue.  Patrick Lyons occupied tenements exclusively at Carragraigue.  As this generation died out the lands were often transferred to their children, though because of the popularity of common Christian names, it is sometimes difficult to interpret the later changes. 

1.  Timothy Lyons senior

Timothy Lyons senior held Muingyroogeen Tenement no 8, comprising house, offices and 20 acres of land.  This was held by him or his family since 1826 and certainly by him personally from 1852 to 1874, when it was transferred to Timothy Lyons junior (probably his son, shown in the next paragraph).   No death registration has been identified.   

2.  Timothy Lyons junior (involved in the Land War violence)

Judging by his age at death, Timothy Lyons was born about 1828.  He was married on 21 February 1854 at Dromtariffe to Mary Cronin, his residence being given as Glaundalach - probably Loughgloun, otherwise Lackloun, in nearby Coolroe More townland.  The witnesses were Thomas Cronin and John Lyne.  On the evidence of the land valuation records they spent their married life at Muingyroogeen (even though as typical for local residents they gave their address as Knockeenatuder). 

At Muingyroogeen he occupied tenement no 4, comprising house and 26 acres of land, from 1848 to 1868/74; though it had been held by his family since 1820.  He also held tenement no 5, comprising house and 28 acres of land, from 1848 to 1852; and tenement no 8, with house, offices, and 20 acres of land, from 1874 to 1912/15.  He, or perhaps Timothy Lyons senior, also held land at Carragraigue: tenement no 21, comprising house, offices and 11 acres of land, from 1852 to1878/85; and tenement no 22, with 5 acres of land, from 1852 to 1878/85.  Following the reorganisation of Carragraigue tenements in 1876 (when his land holdings were increased and consolidated into a single unit) he held tenement no 18, with house and 50 acres of land; after his death it was transferred to his daughter Hannah Lyons who held it until at least 1910/28. 

Timothy Lyons, his family and property were subjected to violence by Nationalists during the Land War.  On 16 October 1881, an attack was made on his house, the cause being that he would not give his sub-tenant Mrs Mahony her farm at the valuation of 25 shillings, the rent being £4, and she had been evicted.  Timothy Lyons, a middleman under Sir James Cotter, Baronet, had said he would give Mrs Mahony the same 25% reduction that he had got from the head landlord.  Three policemen were subsequently stationed in the house but were withdrawn about May 1882 and replaced by two soldiers from the Midlothian Regiment.  At 2’o’clock in the morning of 5 June 1882 there was a further attack on the house by an armed party but there were no injuries despite an exchange of fire.  Among those present in the house were two sons of Timothy Lyons and his daughter Mary Lyons.  On 16 October 1882 two young men were brought before the magistrates at Kanturk charged with shooting at Catherine Lyons, daughter of Timothy Lyons. 

These disturbances and the resulting three court cases were reported in the national press.  There was a sensation at the first trial in January 1882 when one of the police sub-constables stationed on Timothy Lyons’ property gave evidence for the defence alleging that members of the Lyons family had lied in their evidence though this was countered by accusations that the sub-constable had been bribed; nevertheless three men were found guilty and the sub-constable later dismissed from the force.   In July 1882, at the end of the trial for the second attack, a man was acquitted but the jury disagreed about the guilt of a woman.  The third case in October 1882 was adjourned, it being established that the girl probably over-reacted when two respectable gentlemen were out shooting.   

Notwithstanding the local ill feeling, Timothy Lyons was still at Muingyroogeen for the 1901 census, shown as a 70 year old farmer, born in Co Cork and a speaker of both Irish and English; his wife Mary, aged 60, spoke only English.  He died on 23 April 1908 in Kanturk district.  On 10 November 1910 administration of his estate, with effects of £92, was granted to his daughter Hannah Lyons.  At the time of the 1911 census his widow, now shown as Mary Lyons aged 80, was living at Muingyroogeen with her married daughter Kate Sheehan.  She died at Muingyroogeen on 4 March 1917 at the reported age of 88. 

Timothy Lyons may have been buried at Kilcorney Old Cemetery where there is an undated gravestone with the inscription “In memory of Timothy Lyons of Meenacrogeen, Banteer”.  The appearance of the grave suggests it could be earlier and it is probably significant that it stands beside a gravestone inscribed “Erected by the sons of John Lyons of Corindalliu in memory of their father who died Jan 27, 1833, aged 54 years”.  This suggests a traditional burial plot to which family members were brought for interment long after they had moved away from their original location which, in this case, could be either Muingyroogeen or Crinnaloo. 



Graves of Timothy Lyons (top) & John Lyons (bottom) in Kilcorney Old Cemetery


3 photos deleted

Timothy Lyons’ Farm - Muingyroogeen Tenement 8

Timothy’s children were: 

3.  Julia Lyons (otherwise Judith Lyons)

Muingyroogeen tenement no 13 (renumbered from 5 in the Primary Valuation of 1852), comprising house, office and 10 acres of land was occupied by Julia Lyons 1848-1882/1886 and had been in the occupation of her family since1820.  Her name was recorded as Judith Lyons in the Field Book of 1848 but elsewhere always as Julia (these names were treated as equivalent ways of expressing the Irish-language name Sheila).  She died at Knockeenatuder on 24 July 1870, described as 97 year old widow of an unnamed farmer, and her death was registered by Honora Heddrington.  Muingyroogeen tenement no 13 had been transferred to William Heddrington by 1886. 

4.  Jeremiah Lyons & Mary Reardon

Muingyroogeen tenement no 4, comprising house and 26 acres of land, was occupied jointly by Timothy Lyons junior & Jeremiah Lyons in 1860/1861; and tenement no 5, comprising 28 acres of land, by Jeremiah Lyons alone in 1860/1861.  This man is assumed to be the husband of Mary Reardon, whose marriage has not been found.  The couple were at Knockeenatuder 1841-1852 according to Banteer baptismal register.  It is unclear what became of the couple and their children. 

5.  John Lyons and Julia (otherwise Judith) Lyons

Muingyroogeen tenement no 4, comprising house and 26 acres of land, was occupied by John Lyons & Jeremiah Coleman between 1860/1861 and 1868/1874; John Lyons & John Coleman in 1886; then Patrick Lyons & John Coleman 1901/1909 to 1912/1915.  It is doubtful whether this John Lyons in our supposed ancestor because, while occupation of tenements 1, 6 and 14 are linked, tenement no 4 is always treated separately.  It is more likely that he was the husband of Julia, otherwise Judith, whose maiden and married surnames were both Lyons.  Their wedding took place at Banteer on 17 February 1838 (with the groom’s forename recorded as James).  This couple had children baptised at Banteer between 1838 and 1862 with an address of Knockeenatuder.  John Lyons, described as a farmer aged 80, died at Muingyroogeen on 15 December 1899 and Julia Lyons, aged 89, died at Muingyroogeen on 15 July 1900; both deaths were registered by their daughter Mary Lyons. 

Lane/Leane Family at Knockeenatuder

Patrick Leane, otherwise Lane, appears at Knockeenatuder with a 15 acre holding in 1825 and 1834.  In 1848 Patt Leane had left and his house now belonged to John Leane who also held 7 acres of land.  In 1852 John Lane held a house and 15 acres of land, presumably the same man occupying the same land as before, now identified as Tenement No 4 which was subsequently held by Johanna Moynihan until 1860/1861.  As both Leane and Lane are alternative ways of anglicising the surname more commonly recorded as Lyons, this family may well include the Arthur Moynihan and his wife Johanna Lyons discussed later in the Moynihan section. 

Families at Carragraigue

Patrick Lyons (born about 1816 the son of Timothy Lyons, a farmer) lived at Carragraigue, one mile west of Muingyroogeen.  He was married firstly at Dromtariffe on 13 February 1836 to Catherine Callaghan (born 1816).  His first wife died at Carragraigue on 23 December 1866, aged 50, and was buried in Dromtariffe cemetery where there is a gravestone.  On her death certificate her husband was described as a wood ranger.  Patrick Lyons was married secondly at Coolclough in Dromtariffe parish on 6 February 1869 to a 45 year old widow Ellen Hanin; he was described as a widower, aged 44, a caretaker from Carragraigue and son of Timothy Lyons, a farmer. 

Patrick Lyons had several land holdings at Carragraigue: tenement no 23a in 1852, comprising a house and 5 acres of land; tenement no 14d from 1860/1 to 1869/75, comprising a house and small garden; and tenement no 24 from 1852 to 1878/85, consisting of 1 acre of land.  After the official renumbering of landholdings in 1876 he was occupier from 1876 to 1885/92 of tenement no 12a (located beside Carragraigue Bridge and broadly corresponding with old tenement number 14).  This consisted of a house, offices and 11 acres of land; parts of which, comprising a house and a public house, were sub-let to John Lyons (probably his son). 

Patrick Lyons died in Millstreet district in 1887, aged 76.  Ellen Lyons' date of death is unknown though there are several plausible death registrations in Millstreet district 1885 aged 70; 1890 age 75; 1903 aged 94; and 1907 age 88.  His children, all from the first marriage were:

Susan Condon was a widow when she married John Lyons in 1877.  Although remarried under her maiden surname, she had first been married to James Callaghan at Jersey City, New Jersey on 15 September 1867.  There was a daughter Ellen Callaghan (born about 1872 America) who had become the wife of yet another, apparently unrelated, John Lyons, a carpenter (baptised at Kanturk on 26 June 1862, son of Eugene Lyons and Bridget Guinea).  This younger couple had been married 22 years at the time of the 1911 census but the wedding, about 1889, has not been found.   They had eighteen children and lived in Cork City from about 1891, residing at 6 Devonshire Street (North) 1900-1935.  The dates of death of this younger John Lyons and his wife Ellen are unknown. 

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Public house & general grocer occupied by John & Susan Lyons at Carragraigue

Elsewhere in the District

The last of the Muingyroogeen Lyons died in 1951 and by the early 21st century the closest residents with this surname were at Crinnaloo.  At somewhat greater distance, but still within Banteer Catholic parish, there were Lyons families at Coolroe More and Glen South (Clonmeen civil parish) and Crinnaloo North (Kilcorney civil parish).  There were others in Esk North, Esk South, Monanveel and Ballynoe in Glantane Catholic parish (Kilshannig civil parish). 

There were more in Dromtariffe Catholic parish at Rathcool and Dromahoe (Dromtariffe civil parish).  Here too the Land War had made an impact when in December 1887 there was violence against Philip Cremen who had taken on a farm at Rathcool from which a John Lyons had been evicted.  This John Lyons, who can not have been a close relative of the families at Muingyroogeen and Carragraigue, married Julia Sheehan at Banteer on 9 February 1869 and, by the time of a Special Commission of Enquiry in December 1888, had gone to America. 

Although there were families in the general area called Lehane, a surname that shares common origins with Lyons, none lived in Muingyroogeen or any townland of proven relevance to our ancestry.  Both surnames occurred at Coolroe More, two miles from Muingyroogeen, though Lyons seems to have disappeared by 1865.  

End of Document 2



Alias George Henry Penrose, John Compton Lyons & Richard Avendale Herbert


Character of John Archibald Lyons

The difficulty in tracing our family history was largely due to this man.  The basic facts of an Irish background, emigration to the United States and few, if any, immediate relatives left in the British Isles are problem enough.  But matters are further complicated by his use of aliases and more than one birth date and also by what seems to have been a deliberate attempt to distance himself from his home and family.  The following account tries to rationalise the documentary evidence and the family tradition (which is summarised in an Appendix) bearing in mind that the latter may have become muddled in the telling. 

He had an evidently complex personality and could be charming or difficult by turns.  His unenviable track record of deception and of abandoning dependants may perhaps be offset by circumstances or provocation about which we know little.  It was characteristic of his impulsive nature that, towards the end of his life, he destroyed all the photographs of himself. 

Early Life of John Archibald Lyons

As far as can be established he was baptised as John Lyons on 28 August 1861 at the Catholic parish of Banteer, Co Cork, the son of John Lyons and Johanna Moynihan of Muingyroogeen. 

In later life he claimed to have been born at Fenton in the parish of Pidley-cum-Fenton, Huntingdonshire and this appears in the family story, his surviving Army papers and the 1901 census while the 1911 census simply gives Huntingdon.  But no birth certificate or baptism has been found to corroborate this and there is no evidence that his parents were ever in the area.  During the 19th century migratory Irish workers sometimes undertook seasonal work on fenland farms, returning to their families Ireland after the harvest, so it is just plausible that men in the family could have visited Huntingdonshire in this way.  On the other hand, he became acquainted with a young woman from Fenton around 1887 and, when subsequently rejoining the army, seems to have chosen this as a false birthplace to conceal his earlier desertion. 

Similarly the information he gave in later life about his date of birth is confusing.  The enlistment papers for his earliest period of Army service have not survived.  Those for his second enlistment give an age that implies birth in December 1866 and this date is maintained through the rest of his service including the 1901 census.  However he himself seems to have subsequently written the date 26 September 1863 in a birthday book still in the possession of his descendants; this same date was obtained from the regimental records of the 4th Dragoon Guards; and he gave his age as 47 in the 1911 census consistent with the 1863 birth.  The key point may be that he understated his age when joining the 4th Dragoon Guards in 1889 so that he appeared to be within the normal age band for recruits of 19 to 25.  

Although his religion was recorded as the Church of England on enlistment to the 4th Dragoon Guards in 1889, there is anecdotal evidence that he was a lapsed Catholic.  He probably professed no strong religious allegiance so the recruiter arbitrarily put him down as C of E.  In any case he is only known to have attended a church once in his later years for a memorial service to Lord Kitchener in 1916. 

At several periods of his life he used false names.  On first enlistment, when he seems to have wanted to conceal his age and background, he called himself George Henry Penrose.  But he apparently told the mother of the child born at this time that his true name was John Compton Lyons.  On reenlistment he simply called himself John Lyons.  The middle name Archibald only appeared in 1901, probably adopted as a personal whim, though the 19th century Irish often ignored middle names on official records.  He used the name Richard Avendale Herbert in 1905-1912, apparently to conceal his whereabouts, but then reverted to John Archibald Lyons.  He appears simply as John Lyons on his death certificate.  Significantly, the Army and all of his three wives were aware of his use of other names but accepted John Lyons as the true one.  In any case, the US documentation establishes that his sister Annie's maiden surname and the married surname of his mother were Lyons. 

It is striking that he chose a variety of Christian names and surnames for his aliases though it is not clear whether any of them have real significance.  Herbert is especially intriguing since, when giving it as a second Christian name to his son Wilfred Lyons, he remarked that it was one of his family names.  There are a very few contemporary cases of Lyons being used together with the names Archibald, Compton, Herbert or Penrose though there is nothing to connect any of them with our family.  The family tradition suggests that Avendale was his mother’s maiden surname but this is discredited by the lack of evidence for it as a bona fide surname; and there are no instances, outside our family, of Avendale being coupled with Lyons. 

Deleted his Arny sign- as John Lyons, b. Fenton - up 1889 into the 4th Dragoon Guards and his 1891 m.c. - as John Lyons - to Jane Daunt

Deleted photos of

Cork City and Barracks (above) and Portobello Barracks, Dublin (below)

Service with the 5th Royal Irish Lancers and the alias George Henry Penrose

On 13 December 1883 he enlisted at Cork into the 5th Royal Irish Lancers using the assumed name George Henry Penrose.  The tradition speaks of him running away to join the Army against the wishes of his family.  But, given the turbulent circumstances in which his parents found themselves, it is unsurprising that he should seek to escape his home background. 

Although the original enlistment papers have been lost, his career can be traced from the surviving regimental pay lists and the medal rolls.  He served as a Private with the regimental number 2565 and, immediately after his enlistment on 13 December 1883, was posted to Dublin, moving in late 1884 to Dundalk, Co Louth.  He was in one of the two squadrons of 5th Lancers assigned to the campaign in the Eastern Sudan against Osman Digna after the forces of the Mahdi had killed General Gordon at Khartoum in January 1885.  His regiment marched from Islandbridge Barracks, Dublin to Kingstown where they embarked aboard the hired transport “Lydian Monarch” on 20 February 1885.  After a rough passage across the Bay of Biscay the voyage was calmer through the Mediterranean and the Suez Canal and they reached the Red Sea port of Suakin on 13 March 1885.  

Deleted photo of 5th Royal Irish Lancers

He saw active service from 17 March 1885 taking part in a number of operations.  These included a reconnoitre in force to Hasheen on 19 March during which there was exchange of fire with the enemy and, notably, the battle at Hasheen on 20 March 1885 when the 5th Lancers charged the enemy in flank, going right through them and then, wheeling about, riding them down a second time.  The lance was effective in frustrating the enemy tactic of lying on the ground in the prone position so as to hamstring the horses from below.  His squadron was not involved in the fighting at Tofrek on 22 March 1885 but instead undertook an exploratory sortie towards Tamai during which they almost charged a drove of bullocks, sheep and goats that had been mistaken for the enemy.  On 2 April 1885 the 5th Lancers took part in the reconnoitre in force to Tamai but without engaging the enemy.

The campaign was over by 16 May 1885.  The regiment embarked from Suakin on 20 May 1885, again sailing on the “SS Lydian Monarch”, reached Portsmouth on 12 June 1885 and joined the regimental headquarters at Preston Barracks, Brighton.  However he may have been part of the squadron which disembarked mid-voyage at Suez to take care of horses and followed a fortnight later on the “SS Oregon” from Alexandria reaching Portsmouth on 27 June 1885 before going on to Brighton.  There is a photograph of the 5th Lancers on their return; it is not known if our ancestor is included, but as no individual picture of him has survived, this is of particular interest.

He received the Sudan Medal with a clasp for Suakin 1885 and the Khedive's Egyptian Star.  While the Suakin campaign of 1885 is usually seen as an unnecessary and expensive failure to conquer the Sudan, from the perspective of the soldiers taking part there was much glamour and heroism, the fighting was of the bloodiest kind and the enemy one of the fiercest and formidable that the British Army had ever encountered.  

Deleted photos of Charge of the 5th Royal Irish Lancer at Suakin on 20 March 1885 and 5th Royal Irish Lancers on their return from Egypt

While the regiment was stationed at Brighton, he was posted to the 15 Co Commissariat & Transport Corps, at an unknown location, 19 September 1885 – 1 November 1885 and then returned to Brighton.  He was posted to Woolwich 7 December 1886 – 2 March 1887, then again returned to Brighton until moving on 14 April 1887 to the South Cavalry Barracks, Aldershot. 

On 18 November 1887 he deserted while at Aldershot and was struck off the following day.  The official record gives no reason for this desertion but does note that he left a balance of five shillings owing to the Army.  He himself later claimed that he had bought himself out of the Army after receiving a legacy from his aunt but no such will has yet been discovered.  Unfortunately his desertion did not appear in the Police Gazette where personal details of deserters were generally published. 

According to his own account he then travelled abroad, perhaps visiting India and certainly the United States where he stayed with his sister Annie Dutton in Florida but he quarrelled with his family and returned to the UK when his legacy was spent.  The only plausible passenger arrival at New York during this period is for John Lyons, age 25, single, a workman, from England, aboard the “Edam” on 27 August 1888.

Connection with Betsy Newman from Fenton, Huntingdonshire

However the real reason for the desertion may be that he had made a young woman pregnant.  Some seven months later on 17 June 1888 Betsy Lyons formerly Newman, describing herself as the wife of John Compton Lyons, a coal pit stoker, gave birth to a son George Henry Penrose Lyons at 1 Fountain Street, Aberdare, Glamorgan (in modern day Mountain Ash).  Surprisingly the birth was registered only after she had returned to her home in Fenton, Hunts.  This combination of circumstances provides overwhelming evidence that our John Lyons was the father, namely the dates, boy's Christian names and the connection with Fenton, notwithstanding the unexplained use of Compton as a second forename.   No authentic John Compton Lyons has been traced (a bride at Glasgow in 1902 erroneously gave this as her father’s name though he is everywhere else called John Joseph Lyons).

Betsy Newman was born at Fenton in 1859 the daughter of William Newman, an agricultural labourer, and Lucy Newman, formerly Bolton.  Betsy was their eldest child and still residing with them in 1881 being employed as a domestic servant.   How John and Betsy came to meet is unresolved but it is likely that either she was working near the barracks in Aldershot or that there was after all a prior connection between the Lyons family and Huntingdonshire.  No wedding has been found for the couple under any of the possible names or aliases (including Elizabeth as an alternative to Betsy).  It is not clear if the couple ever lived together though it is possible they were both at Aberdare in 1887-1888.  Part of the family tradition is that John Lyons could speak Welsh and this would fit with a period spent in South Wales.  The occupation of coal pit stoker also suggests a period of employment in the coalfields.  There is no explanation for choosing South Wales for Betsy’s confinement as neither the Lyons nor Newman families have any known link with the area.  Moreover the occupiers of 1 Fountain Street at the time of the censuses of 1881 and 1891 appear unrelated: Mary Jenkins a 70 year old widow from Cardiff and her 34 year old bachelor son Daniel Jenkins in the former year; and John H Gibson, a 36 year old joiner from Truro, Cornwall with his wife and children in the latter.  

Betsy returned to Fenton before registering the birth on 10 September 1888, so that it was necessary to employ the unusual procedure of a signed declaration, and when the boy was christened at Pidley church on 17 February 1889 his parents' address was also given as Fenton.  In both instances the record is ambiguous about the whereabouts of John Lyons himself and it is not known whether he ever went to Fenton.  There is no doubt, however, that in the end he abandoned Betsy as he re-enlisted in the Army at Warrington in August 1889.  Betsy later told her son that his father had died while in the Army in 1893 and the absence of a corresponding death registration, together with the independent mention of the Army, reinforce the identification as our ancestor.  There is no evidence that John Lyons ever made contact with Betsy after their lives diverged.  She spent the rest of her life in Huntingdonshire using the surname Lyons in the 1891 census and again in 1899, when she married a local man, but was recorded as Lucy Newman when her son started school in 1895 even though he was shown as Lyons.  See the later section for details of Betsy after 1889 including her son, new husband and later children. 

It remains a possibility that during months leading up to his reenlistment he did in fact make the trip to Florida as he later claimed.  It is an intriguing coincidence that the recruiting station should be so close to Liverpool which was the obvious point of disembarkation for travellers arriving from the US. 

Service with the 4th Royal Irish Dragoon Guards and Marriage with Jane Margaret Daunt

On 31 August 1889 he enlisted at Warrington, Lancashire into the 4th Royal Irish Dragoon Guards as Private 3444 John Lyons for short service (7 years with the colours and 5 years in the Reserve).  On his enlistment papers he is described as a labourer, his religion as Church of England, his birthplace as Fenton near Huntingdon and his age as 22 years 8 months (implying birth in December 1866).  He did not, however, mention his time with the 5th Lancers.  It is certain that these details refer to the right man because his regimental number appears on a brush still in the possession of his descendants. 

The physical description reveals he was 5 feet 8 inches tall, weighed 150 lb with a 36-inch chest, and had black hair, grey eyes and a fresh complexion.  He had tattoos of a spear, anchor and gun on his left forearm and of an anchor on his right forearm.  All soldiers were required to wear a moustache at this period.  No photographs have survived but his son, Wilfred, is thought to resemble him and a small drawing of a soldier in the birthday book of Florence Mary Lyons may bear a likeness.  He joined his regiment in Ireland at The Curragh, near Newbridge, Kildare on 3 September 1889.  However he was stationed at the Portobello Barracks in Dublin when he was appointed Lance Corporal some eighteen months later on 16 April 1891.  For promotion to this rank he had gained the necessary Army third class certificate of education that required the candidate to read aloud and to write from dictation passages from an easy narrative, and to work examples in the four compound rules of arithmetic and the reduction of money.  It may have been around this time that his regiment was on duty at Dublin Castle. 

On 28 April 1891 he married Jane Margaret Daunt at the Registrar's Office, Dublin South district (located at 23 Wellington Quay).  The witnesses were the apparently unrelated Edward Giles and Sophia Louisa Young.  Jane Daunt was born on 16 March 1865 at Aglish near Killarney in Co Kerry where her father Benjamin Daunt had farmed 88 acres in the townland of Sheans East, leased from Henry A Herbert, before moving to Dublin.  At the time of the wedding Jane was living at 2 Harcourt Terrace, only a short distance from Portobello Barracks.  

Soon after his wedding the 4th Dragoon Guards moved to Aldershot where the regiment was established by July 1891.  John Lyons never returned to Ireland so this posting ended our ancestral connection with that country.  On 7 January 1893 he was promoted to Corporal and on 10 July of the same year his eldest daughter, Stella Gertrude Lyons, was born at 152 Queens Road, Aldershot.  Her christening by the Anglican chaplain confirms the family's membership of the Church of England at this period. 

In July 1894 the 4th Dragoon Guards moved to Shorncliffe Barracks at Folkestone.  John Lyons was placed on the married establishment on 21 July 1894 entitling him to live with his family in married quarters.  When the regiment left for India in September 1894 he was posted to the regimental depot at Canterbury.  His second daughter, Florence Hilda Lyons, was born at 6A Block, the Barracks, Northgate, Canterbury on 3 December 1894 and was also given an Anglican baptism.  He had received good conduct pay for the first time on 31 August 1891 and did so again on 31 August 1895, the anniversaries of his enlistment.  By virtue of his dwelling house at the cavalry barracks, he qualified for inclusion in the register of voters for Canterbury in 1896.  He may have reached the unsubstantiated rank of lance-sergeant as he was later described as sergeant on the marriage certificates of his daughters.  

But his marriage to Jane Daunt was now in trouble.  On 22 April 1896, following a quarrel, his wife ordered him out of the house at the married quarters saying she would not live with him.  He was taken away by the guard and placed under Army arrest.  As a result of his wife’s accusations, he was charged with stealing and receiving a comrade’s property but was acquitted at a court martial held at Canterbury on 2 May 1896.  He subsequently confessed to having enlisted irregularly after desertion from the 5th Lancers, but was exempted from trial.  However, with only three months of his seven years service left to run, he was transferred with his consent to the 1st Class Army Reserve on 7 May 1896.  The next day, 8 May 1896, he left Canterbury and went to London.  He was unemployed and still living by himself in London a few weeks later when he was summoned to appear at Canterbury Police Court on 29 May 1896 and ordered to pay 8 shillings a week towards the maintenance of his wife and children.  Despite all the upset, it seems that he stayed with his family at 15 Cobden Place, Canterbury during 1897 – 1898 but his whereabouts for the next three years are otherwise unknown.  

One puzzling aspect of the family tradition is that he served on the North West Frontier of India mentioned, for example, in his obituary.  However the service records reveal no time spent in India and his medal ribbons, still held by his descendants, do not include an award for duty in the subcontinent.  However the 4th Dragoon Guards were based in Rawalpindi for eight years from 1892 and saw active service on the North West Frontier in 1897.  It is just possible that he might have visited or worked in a civilian capacity with the regiment during this period.

Deleted photos of Left: 4th Royal Irish Dragoon Guards (helmet plume should be all-white) Right: Royal Scots Greys (2nd Dragoons)

Service with the Royal Scots Greys

The early stages of the Boer War were disastrous for the British so the Government called up the Reservists.  Thus John Lyons was recalled to Army Service on 20 December 1899, presumably at the Canterbury cavalry depot.  He was posted to the 2nd Dragoons (Royal Scots Greys) as a Corporal on 28 January 1900 retaining his former number of 3444.  He went on active service to South Africa from 9 February 1900 to 5 February 1901 for which he received the Queens South Africa Medal with clasps for the Cape Colony and the Orange Free State.  For a time the regiment was employed in patrol work and in protecting the lines of communication between the Orange and Modder rivers.  Then it was put into the 1st Cavalry Brigade under Brigadier-General Porter and took part in the relief of Kimberley on 15 February 1900, the fighting on the way to Bloemfontein and the advance to Pretoria.  Thus he probably took part in the cavalry charge at Klip Drift on 15 February 1900; the action at Dronfield on 16 February 1900; the siege and battle at Paardeburg 18-27 February 1900; the action at Poplar Grove on 7 March 1900; the action at Driefontein on 10 March 1900; and the assault by C-squadron on a Boer position west of Bloemfontein on 12 March 1900. 

In the beginning of July the brigade was temporarily split up and the Greys were ordered to occupy and hold passes in the Megaliesburg.  John Lyons was assigned to C-squadron at Zilikat’s Nek (also called Uitval Nek or Nitral Nek), 18 miles west of Pretoria where the road crosses the Crocodile River.   Five companies of the Lincolnshire Regiment and two guns of the Royal Horse Artillery made up the rest of the British garrison.  The Boers attacked at dawn on 11 July 1900 and, seizing the hills which commanded the Nek, brought heavy converging fire to bear on the British.  As a result of the defective dispositions of the officer in command, the Greys and the gun crews were marooned on a rocky outcrop in the centre of the pass which dominated the road but was itself overlooked by the shoulders of the mountain range on either side.  Fighting lasted most of the day but the garrison was surrounded.  The ammunition ran out before reinforcements could arrive and the British surrendered shortly after sunset. 

The casualties amounted to 80 killed and wounded and almost 200 soldiers taken prisoner, of whom John Lyons was one.  He was among the men reported missing after the battle and his family probably feared that he was dead.  The Boers took the captured troops to their prisoner of war camp at Nooitgedacht, 15 miles north-west of Johannesburg, where they spent a miserable few weeks during the South African winter until released on 3 September 1900 by advancing British forces.  Many of the men were sick and weak, badly clothed and half starved.  John Lyons was among the troops whose arrival at Lorenzo Marques, Mozambique and imminent transfer to Durban was reported by the British Consul-General on 7 September 1900. 

Deleted photo of British soldiers at a Boer Prisoner of War Camp in the Transvaal

His circumstances during the next few months are unclear but he returned to the United Kingdom in February 1901.  As he was living at 114 Canterbury Road, Folkestone on census night 1 April 1901, he was presumably based at Shorncliffe Barracks so he may have received medical treatment at Shorncliffe Military Hospital or the Beach Rocks convalescent home on Sandgate seafront. Following a claim submitted to the Chelsea Board, he was declared medically unfit for further military service on 15 June 1901 because of rheumatism and debility caused by exposure and want during his 53 days imprisonment by the Boers.  On 29 June 1901 he was discharged to pension at Edinburgh.  Although he largely recovered his health he often walked with a stick afterwards.  At some point during his Army service he was also injured when a horse fell on top of him (this may have been at Zilikat’s Nek where some of the horses were shot). 

Photos deleted of Army Insignia and Medal Ribbons of John Archibald Lyons & 4th Dragoon Guards; Middle: Royal Scots Greys (2nd Dragoons) & Egyptian Medal & Khedive’s Egyptian Star, Queens South Africa Medal & Kings South Africa Medal (to which he was not entitled)

For the next two years he lived with his family in Folkestone, at 114 Canterbury Road in 1901-1902 and at 40 Garden Road in 1903.  The 1901 census shows they had taken in a boarder - Edith Davy, aged 20, packer and sorter in a laundry.  However John left the marital home permanently in 1903 and all contact with his wife and daughters seems to have ceased.  He may have learned that Jane had remarried bigamously (as a result of Florence Mary Lyons’ later visit to his former address in Folkestone) but otherwise he probably never knew what became of Jane and the girls or they of him.  See the later section for details of the subsequent history of Jane and her daughters.

John Lyons' life with Florence Mary Bedingfield and the alias Richard Avendale Herbert

From 1903, when he left his wife, until his death, John Archibald Lyons lived with Florence Mary Bedingfield.  She came from Hawkinge, the first village outside Folkestone on the Canterbury road, where she had been born on 3 May 1876 and was now helping her widowed mother to run the post office and village shop.  They first met on 24 December 1902, when she saw him leading a horse somewhere in the Folkestone area, but he did not tell her that he was already married. 

They went through what she believed to be a valid wedding ceremony on 25 June 1903 at an unidentified register office somewhere in London.  She was surprised they were not given a copy of the marriage certificate there and then, as was usual for church weddings, and was assured that it would be sent on later - though it never was.  But the marriage was not registered officially and it later transpired that he had fraudulently contrived the whole business with the assistance of an old Army colleague.  It is unclear how or when Florence found out the truth. 

However the couple moved away from Folkestone more or less immediately and lived as Mr and Mrs Richard Avendale Herbert until about 1912 (the disappearance and reappearance of John Archibald Lyons exactly coincides with the existence of Richard Avendale Herbert and the 1911 census data for Richard Herbert are consistent apart from his name).  The motivation for the change of name was presumably to conceal their whereabouts from his wife, the Army or others. 

It is improbable that he would have contrived a deception, complete with false name, from the very first moment he met Florence.  But the simple explanation, that Florence knew from the outset that he had a wife still living, is hard to reconcile with the story of an invalid wedding.  It is impossible to determine which name he used at this ceremony though John Lyons is most likely.  So it appears that Florence became suspicious soon afterwards, was given a partial explanation and agreed to the change of name with the full story only coming out several years later.  A valid wedding would have been possible after the death of his legal wife in 1917 but it is unlikely that they ever knew of Jane's decease.  It is a credit to the strength of their relationship that John and Florence remained together until his death. 

During the next thirteen years the couple had more than a dozen addresses reflecting John’s difficulty in settling to civilian life.  There were also economic pressures as John chose not to draw his army pension in the first few years (presumably for fear that to do so would enable his wife to discover his whereabouts) so the family had to rely on the income from his casual jobs supplemented by Florence’s earnings as a dressmaker.   Their homes were generally in urban working class districts, although they spent a year in the country when there was concern about possible German invasion in 1916.  As the years passed their moves became more frequent and to progressively poorer areas, with the suspicion of moonlight flits to avoid unpaid bills. 

They had their first home at 29 St James Park, Tunbridge Wells, also known as 2 Belle Villas, in 1905-1906.  He worked as a carman and drayman.  Florence was a dressmaker and it may be at this period that she ran a baby linen shop as the entries in the local directory are mostly in her name rather than his.  They were still listed at this address in the local directory for 1907.  Two children were born during their time in Tunbridge Wells and given the surname Herbert: Ivy Beatrice Herbert in 1905 and Archibald Avendale Herbert in 1906. 

The family then returned to East Kent being at River Row, Willesborough in 1908 and later that same year at 10 Godinton Road in the nearby town of Ashford.  In 1909 they were back at Willesborough at 42 Church Road (shown under its old name of Church Lane in one record).  During this time he worked variously as a gardener and a labourer.  A further child, Percy Avendale Herbert, was born in 1908 but died when only a year old. 

He soon moved on again, living in 1910 at 71 South Road, Dover, at which address he completed the householder’s schedule for the census on 2 April 1911 in his identity of Richard Herbert, and was still listed in the directory of 1912.  He was employed on building the extension to Dover docks but, as the outer harbour had been completed in October 1909, this was presumably the widening of the Admiralty Pier that was still in progress during 1911-1913.  Florence continued to work as a dressmaker as shown by their entry in the local directory.  The final child to be given the surname Herbert, John Avendale Herbert, was born at Dover in 1910 but lived only a few days.  The elder children may have attended St Bartholomew’s School, Charlton.

About 1905 Florence's widowed mother, Lucy Bedingfield, left the Post Office at Hawkinge and lived with them until she entered hospital permanently in 1914. 

John Archibald Lyons' Last Years

By 1913 he had reverted to the name John Archibald Lyons.  The story goes that he met some old soldiers who persuaded him to start drawing his Army Pension again which he had to do under the name he had used in the Army.  It could also be that this was the point when Florence first realised about his prior marriage and they both learned about Jane's bigamy (revealed when Florence visited the house in Folkestone where he had lived with his wife).  However he clearly felt there was no further risk in using his real name and he is always described as an Army Pensioner from this date.  Florence and the two surviving children also adopted the surname Lyons at this time.  However, although the daughter was known as Ivy Lyons in 1915-1917 she subsequently returned to her birth surname Herbert (possibly because she lived away from home after 1917).  Their son was known as Archibald Avendale Lyons until at least 1920 but, not liking his Christian names, became known as John Archibald Lyons some time between then and 1929; his new name was not formalised by deed poll until 1960.  The three subsequent children were registered with the surname Lyons at the outset. 

The surname change seems to coincide with the family’s move to Hastings – the children were told they were going on a train journey and would have a new name when they reached their destination.  They probably arrived in 1912, in time to be included in the Hastings directory for 1913, but a date as early as 1911 can not be ruled out.  It seems that initially they lived near Florence’s maternal relatives, the Carey’s, in the basement of Whitehall Mansions, 15 Warrior Square, St Leonards on Sea where John Lyons was caretaker for a short period (Mrs Baker had taken over as caretaker by 1913).  In 1913 they were living at 31 Stonefield Road, Hastings and then 23 Brook Street, Hastings.  They were at 8 Hornty Road, St Leonards on Sea in 1914-1915 and at 4 Hollington Old Lane, St
Leonards on Sea in 1915-1916.  The two eldest children attended unidentified schools (possibly St Mary Magdalene, St Leonards on Sea and St Andrew’s, Hastings) and then St Paul’s School, Bohemia, St Leonards on Sea.  They transferred to the Silverhill Council Schools, St Leonards on Sea on 19 July 1915 where their last day of attendance was 4 February 1916 when the family moved to Wittersham (although still listed at Hollington Old Lane in the 1917 Hastings directory).  Two further children were born during this time: Wilfred Herbert Lyons at Hastings in 1913 and Reginald Bedingfield Lyons at St Leonards on Sea in 1915.    

Deleted 4 photos: Birthday Book of Florence M Lyons with the birthdate of John Archibald Lyons entered by himself, notes on his final illness and a sketch said to resemble him

For most of 1916 they lived at Wittersham, Kent in a house whose exact address is unknown though John Lyons, himself, called it Anzac House to commemorate the courage of Australian and New Zealand troops at Gallipoli the year before.  The rural location is a marked contrast with their usual urban lifestyle and the motivation is unclear.  While it could be work-related, it is not known what John Lyons did at this time or indeed whether he ever held a regular job after starting draw to his army pension again (it was widely recognised that old soldiers found difficulty in obtaining permanent employment as they were disadvantaged by their age and lack of skills).  The logbook of Wittersham National School records that Mrs Lyons called to enrol her boy and girl on 10 February 1916.  But things did not go smoothly as shown by the headmaster’s later entries in the logbook.  “20 October 1916: Ivy Lyons, a child recently imported from Hastings, has stolen children’s dinners.  I spoke to her very seriously on the matter.  3 November 1916: Ivy Lyons again steals dinners.  I must write to the father.  6 November 1916: Mr Lyons walks in school unannounced and uninvited during afternoon to speak to Ivy Lyons, and is insulting when I ask him to withdraw.  He has a lighted cigar.”

For a short period during the following few weeks the family lived at Hollingbourne, Kent.  Despite the briefness of their stay, whose cause is unknown, their son Archibald Lyons attended the village school though, curiously, their daughter did not.  The period from late 1916 to early 1917 is the obvious gap in the family when Florence could have had her twins, a boy and a girl stillborn at six months when the couple already had some children and were preparing to move house; but as no exact date is known it might have been any time in the previous decade. 

They next moved to Maidstone in 1917 where Archibald Lyons was admitted to Union Street Council Street on 29 January 1917.  At this date, and again when Ivy Lyons was admitted on 27 February 1917, the family were living at 37 Water Lane.  This address is puzzling since directories of the period show no house number greater than 25 so it may be that they lived in the adjoining, and far from salubrious, Bonny’s Yard which had houses numbered up to 40.  However their stay must have been brief as they were at 30 Astley Street later in 1917 and had moved across the road to 11 Astley Street by 1918.   During the First World War Florence worked at Maidstone General Post Office and also for the Maidstone Food Committee. 

The couple were considering moving completely out of the area and going to Torquay in Devon when, at the end of 1918, John Lyons fell victim to the worldwide influenza epidemic.  After a short illness, he died in Mercer Ward, West Kent General Hospital, Marsham Street on 4 November at the reported age of 55.  Although Florence was also ill with influenza and unable to attend, a funeral with military honours was organised through her determined efforts.  It took place on 13 November 1918 and the procession included their eldest son to represent the family, a military band, a firing party and two soldiers sent from the Royal Scots Greys.  He was buried at Maidstone Cemetery in unmarked grave space 509 in section P1.  The youngest child, Sheila Olive Lucy Lyons, was born posthumously in 1919. 

Florence remained in the same house in Astley Street, Maidstone for the next 22 years (in stark contrast to the constant moves in John’s lifetime).  She worked as a dressmaker for several different firms in the town (Hepworth & Co Ltd at 41 Week Street; J C White at 38 King Street; Herbert Stewardson at 7 King Street; C Heddle at 3 Ashford Road; Gordon Higgins at 71 King Street; probably E J Sharp, outfitter at 91 & 93 Week Street; and one other in Mill Street) as well as for private clients.  She regularly attended Holy Trinity church (she favoured the high church Anglo-Catholic form of worship) and voluntarily mended cassocks there.  For many years she also let the sitting room to lodgers as a bed-sit; the electoral registers record: Mark Neaves 1920, Harry and Ethel Regious 1921-1922, Jane Brock 1923-1928 and William Frank Baker 1933.  Florence did not remarry although Mr Foord, a plumber from King Street, expressed an interest.

The move to Walton-on-Thames

On 15 June 1940, shortly before the Battle of Britain began in the skies over Kent and when Nazi invasion seemed imminent, Florence and her daughter, Sheila, moved to 35 Cottimore Crescent, Walton on Thames to support her son Wilfred’s wife as he was expected to be away in the Navy.  On 24 July 1941 Florence and Sheila moved to nearby 17 Fairfax Close but on 3 September 1941, after the breakdown of Wilfred’s marriage, returned to live with him at 35 Cottimore Crescent.  Florence took over the tenancy at 35 Cottimore Crescent on 28 February 1941 and then Sheila bought the property in 1949. 

Florence’s eyesight failed towards the end of her life and by April 1963 she was a registered blind person.  She entered Ellesmere Hospital, Queens Road, Walton on Thames on 11 March 1965 and died there on 21 November 1966 aged 90.  She was buried at Burvale Cemetery on 25 November after a funeral service at St Mary’s church, Walton on Thames.  The grave, at space number 640, section 4, is marked by a headstone.

Deleted 4 photos: Florence Lyons at Maidstone and Walton-on-Thames. Graves of John Lyons in Maidstone Cemetery (unmarked beneath tree) and of Florence Lyons in Burvale Cemetery


The Source

John Archibald Lyons (JAL) told Florence Mary Lyons (FML) various things about his family and background – not all of which were necessarily true.  She in turn related some, but possibly not all, of these to her children whose recollections from 1970-2005 form the basis of this summary.  However it must be remembered that these reminiscences are at best third hand since the children were too young at JAL’s death to have many independent memories.  The main sources are Reginald Bedingfield Lyons (RBL) and Sheila Olive Lucy Lyons (SOLL) with some additional material from Ivy Beatrice Herbert (IBH), John Archibald Lyons the younger (JAL junior) and Wilfred Herbert Lyons (WHL).  The obituary in the Kent Messenger, covering JAL’s military career and funeral, derives directly from information provided by FML.  The following information has been recorded as it was told regardless of whether it has been corroborated independently.

Description of JAL

JAL was six feet tall, the shortest of four brothers, with black hair and violet eyes.  It is not known whether JAL had a moustache or was clean-shaven.  RBL recalled him sitting in a chair smoking a pipe.  One of RBL’s school friends remembered JAL walking with a stick.  FML said that WHL resembled his father and, although the other surviving children take after their mother, a particular (but unidentified) photograph of RBL had captured a characteristic facial expression of his father. 

Parents of JAL and his own Early Life

JAL was born on 26 September 1863 at Home Farm, Fenton near Warboys, Huntingdonshire.  There is an entry in FML’s birthday book where JAL himself wrote his name, J A Lyons, against the date 26th September; the year 1863 has been added in a different handwriting.  His father’s name was John Lyons (possibly Archibald John Lyons) and FML commented at the birth of her grandson, John Reginald Lyons, that the Christian name John was traditional in the family.  His mother’s name was Annie Avendale (possibly Avondale).  The father was one of the largest farmers in Huntingdonshire.  However the family origins were in the West of Ireland. 

JAL was one of thirteen children.  There were at least four sons - Alfred, Gerald, Patrick and JAL himself; and two daughters - Annie and a younger girl drowned in an accident at stepping-stones.  JAL’s parents came home on day in a pony and trap with one or both of them the worse for drink but fortunately the horse knew the way (this hints at a rural location).  There was at least one child younger than JAL, a boy, who was unexpected.  The mother was given medicine for dropsy, to treat her swollen stomach, before it was realised she was pregnant so that the boy was always weak and in poor health. 

JAL attended a grammar school (which his children assumed was near Huntingdon).  According to SOLL, JAL spent part of his childhood in Ireland on his aunt’s farm where in a fit of temper he stamped on a box of eggs that were ready for market.  RBL recalls the story but with the difference that the eggs were displayed outside a shop.  At some period of his life, JAL lived in a house in Ireland for a week before discovering that it also accommodated a pig.  As a boy, JAL was on his way to school when he found a bag of gold that had been dropped by a man travelling on a cart.  He ran a mile to catch up with the cart to return the gold but the man did not even thank him.  Consequently he arrived late at school and was beaten by the teacher who did not bother to ask why he was late and he was beaten also by his father when he got home.  JAL said he wasn’t sure whether he would be honest in future.  Indeed when he was sent to the butcher’s shop and given the wrong change, getting back more money than he had tendered, he failed to point out the mistake. 

In later life, JAL made a point of giving WHL the middle name Herbert because it was one of his “family names”.  How this squares up with his immediately prior use of Herbert as a surname is unknown. 

Army Service

JAL wanted to join the Navy but his father would not give permission so he ran away from home to enlist in the Army saying he was 19 although he was really only 15.  He served successively in the 5th Lancers, 4th Dragoon Guards and Royal Scots Greys.  He became an NCO and reached the rank of sergeant.  At various times he was stationed at Dublin Castle, Preston Barracks at Brighton and Shorncliffe Barracks at Folkestone.  He was boxing champion of his regiment and fenced before royalty. 

He saw active service in the Sudan, on the North West Frontier of India and in South Africa during the Boer War.  He received medals for all these campaigns and also the Khedive’s Star.  He was three times posted missing, so reading of his own death three times, and his family went into mourning for him twice.  In one of these events he was on board a ship that was feared lost and nobody was allowed on deck for three days.  In another he was left for dead on the battlefield and received help from a man with only one good leg (or possibly only one arm).  While in South Africa he was injured in an incident involving falling horses, one or more of which fell across his legs; afterwards he often walked with a stick.  JAL suffered from malaria at one time. 

JAL spoke fast and clipped, perhaps a result of being in the army, but without any pronounced regional accent.  FML remarked on his unusual pronunciation of the word “committee” where he put the stress on the first syllable.  JAL spoke some Welsh and Hindustani; when asked how he came to know them FML said that the Army taught them languages.  Towards the end of his life JAL met a man who boasted about being Welsh but when JAL spoke to him in that language he was unable to understand.  Despite an Irish background there is no tradition that he was able to speak the Irish language. 

JAL was very tidy and had a place for everything – barrack room style. 

JAL was assumed to belong to the Church of England, though he was only known to have attended church on a single occasion – at a memorial service for Lord Kitchener.  At some stage JAL insisted that the children changed schools because he was dissatisfied with their current church school where the children spent so much time learning prayers. 

JAL left few personal effects after his death.  There are no photographs, for which he seemed to have a particular dislike and FML said that he had destroyed them all.  However his descendants have the following:

  1. Army brush marked with the regimental number 3444.
  2. Buttons and cap badges of the 4th Dragoon Guards and Royal Scots Greys.
  3. Ribbons for the Sudan Medal, Khedive’s Star, Queen’s South Africa Medal and King’s South Africa Medal.  The actual medals have disappeared.  NB There is no medal for India and the King’s South Africa Medal is puzzling since it was only awarded for service after JAL had returned home. 
  4. A lead bullet which was recovered from his forehead when he was shot during the Sudan campaign.  Apparently he could feel it but was unable to pull it out himself.
  5. A seal (for impressing hot wax) showing an heraldic lion in a shield surmounted by a moor’s head with the motto “Vincit Veritas” (truth conquers).

Relatives of JAL in the USA and Australia

After his father’s death JAL’s mother and several of her other children went to the USA.  She spent the winters in Florida but moved north in the summers because she disliked the climate.  This was in Connecticut (according to RBL) or in New York (according to SOLL).  The family owned or ran a number of hotels in the USA.  JAL’s sister Annie Lyons was married to a Mr Dutton and lived at Jacksonville, Florida.  JAL’s brother Gerald Lyons went to Great Falls, Montana – though when FML wrote to him there after JAL had died the letter was returned by the local postmaster who had been unable to locate him.  Three of JAL’s brothers lived in New York and yet another brother, Alfred Lyons, went to Australia. 

While still in the Army, JAL received a legacy from an aunt.  He used this to buy himself out (discharge by purchase) and then travelled round the world.  This may have included India.  JAL certainly visited his family in Florida where he picked up seashells from the beach and these were kept in the house at Maidstone even after his death.  However while in the USA he quarrelled with his family and returned to the United Kingdom when his legacy had been spent. 

On one occasion JAL asked his brother Gerald Lyons for a loan, but Gerald said he would never lend him anything because it was never repaid – JAL took offence at this and withdrew the request.  On what may have been a different occasion, JAL asked Gerald for £5 which Gerald sent with the comment “You can’t pull the wool over my eyes like you can your mother” – JAL was again offended and returned the money.

Assessment of Family Tradition

The broad outline of the stories told by John Archibald Lyons about himself and his family appears to be correct including army service, origins in Ireland, relatives in the USA and an association with Fenton, Huntingdonshire.  However discrepancies with the documentary evidence cast serious doubts on the accuracy of some of the details.  It appears that JAL deliberately misled the Army and his wives in obscuring his origins in Ireland in order to distance himself from the difficult circumstances that engulfed his family at Muingyroogeen. 

  1. Recruitment as a private soldier was overwhelmingly confined to young men in economically desperate circumstances who were often also in with trouble with their family or the law.  The working class generally considered it a disgrace when a son went off to be a soldier.  
  1. There is no evidence for the Lyons family spending time in Huntingdonshire during the 1860s or for any other connection before 1887 when JAL met Betsy Newman from Fenton.  Specifically there is nothing to support the impression that his father had been a farmer in Huntingdonshire. 
  1. This oral tradition gives family origins in the West of Ireland.  The earliest incontrovertible documented evidence concerning JAL is his enlistment at Cork City in 1883 and US records establish that both his parents and his sister were Irish born.  It is far more plausible therefore that his father was a farmer in Ireland and that JAL was also born there.  On his marriage certificate in 1891, JAL uniquely gave his father’s occupation as general grocer but it was not unusual in Ireland for a farmer to combine his main occupation with running a shop or public house. 
  1. There is no evidence to show that his mother’s maiden surname was Avendale or Avondale.  Indeed this name is so exceptionally rare anywhere in the British Isles that its independent existence is suspect.  Many of the few known examples have proved to be a corruption of Ovendale while others were adopted by deed poll or used as a stage name.  The parish called Avondale in Lanarkshire probably explains pre-19th century examples in Scotland. 
  1. At various period of his life he used the names Archibald and Compton to supplement the basic John Lyons or the aliases George Henry Penrose and Richard Avendale Herbert to replace it entirely.  Any of these names might have been chosen because of existing family associations and he certainly said that Herbert came into this category.  It may be significant that the surnames Herbert and Penrose both occur in south-west Ireland.  
  1. Research into connections between the surname Lyons and the names Avendale/Avondale, Compton or Penrose, either as a surname or a Christian name, has revealed very few instances none of which seem linked to our family. 
  1. His mother and sister Annie Kate Lyons were both Roman Catholic and the family tradition suggests that JAL himself was a lapsed Catholic.  There is no evidence that the family were Protestant or that his parents belonged to different denominations – mixed marriages being very unusual in Ireland. 
  1. There is no evidence for JAL using the middle name Archibald before 1901 and it may have been adopted by him around that date for unknown personal reasons.  Both as a forename or surname it is particularly associated with Scotland and Protestant Ulster, at odds with JAL’s known background.  No other coupling of the surname Lyons with the name Archibald, whether as surname or Christian name, seems to be connected with our family (apart from JAL’s own son). 
  1. JAL achieved only the basic, undemanding, educational requirements for the army with neat but unexceptional Victorian handwriting.  This contrasts with the belief that he had attended a grammar school and wrote in a copperplate script. 
  1. The name John Lyons (sometimes with a middle name) was accepted as correct by the army and by his three wives, although all of them knew that he had used an alias, and there is independent evidence that his mother and sister had the same surname.  There is good reason, therefore to accept that this was his birth name. 
  1. JAL belatedly revealed to FML that he was already married to Jane Margaret Daunt and FML was aware of his adopted alias Richard Avendale Herbert used during the first few years of their life together.  But he did not mention an even earlier relationship with Betsy Newman, by whom he had a son, nor that his first period of army service with the 5th Lancers was under another alias, George Henry Penrose, and had ended in desertion rather than the discharge by purchase that he claimed.   

JAL is known to have used two birthdates, 1863 and 1867, neither of which would have made him under age at his 1883 enlistment.  The 1867 was probably invented to make it seem he was within the recruitment age band at his 1889 enlistment when, in fact, he was too old.  His true birthdate appears to be 1861 though he may not have known this or have used 1863 as a further step to conceal his true origins. 

  1. There are eleven children - recorded as baptised! - in the family at Muingyroogeen compared with thirteen in the tradition.  Some of their names give a rough match - Kate for Annie Kate and Jeremiah for Gerald - while the youngest, Cornelius, fits the tradition of the final boy being born sometime later than the others.  His siblings have been identified in Jacksonville, Florida; in Great Falls, Montana; and in New York City.  While the fact that residents of the townland adjoining Muingyroogeen are known to have emigrated to Australia makes it entirely plausible that JAL had a brother who also went there. 
  1. The Christian name Gerald was uncommon in Britain and Ireland in the 19th century and no example of its use in combination with the surname Lyons seems linked to our family. 

To summarise, the circumstances of John Lyons and Johanna Moynihan at Muingyroogeen, the details of their children and the crisis occurring in the autumn of 1883, when taken together, provide a convincing match for JAL’s parents.

Stephen Lyons 1827