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The Descendants of John Casey


John Casey was born around 1840 and raised during the worst period of the Irish Potato Famine that lasted from 1846-1850. His ancestors and his parents conceivably grew up in Cork (home of a lot of Casey’s) but at an early age his parents moved to Kiltimagh in Co.Mayo. In all probability to escape the worst of the Potato Blight.  The Casey surname was quite rare in this region.

Understanding The Irish Famine 1846-1850



t began with a blight of the potato crop that left acre upon acre of Irish farmland covered with black rot. As harvests across Europe failed, the price of food soared. Subsistence-level Irish farmers found their food stores rotting in their cellars, the crops they relied on to pay the rent to their British and Protestant landlords destroyed.

Peasants who ate the rotten produce sickened and entire villages were consumed with cholera and typhus. Parish priests desperate to provide for their congregations were forced to forsake buying coffins in order to feed starving families, with the dead going unburied or buried only in the clothes they wore when they died.

Landlords evicted hundreds of thousands of peasants, who then crowded into disease-infested workhouses. Other landlords paid for their tenants to emigrate, sending hundreds of thousands of Irish to America, Great Britain and other English-speaking countries. But even emigration was no solution -- ship owners often crowded hundreds of desperate Irish onto rickety vessels labeled "coffin ships." In many cases, these ships reached port only after losing a third of their passengers to disease, hunger and other causes. While Britain provided much relief for Ireland's starving populous, many Irish criticized Britain's delayed response -- and further blamed centuries of British political oppression on the underlying causes of the famine.

The Irish Famine of 1846-50 took as many as one million lives from hunger and disease, and changed the social and cultural structure of Ireland in profound ways. The Famine also spurred new waves of immigration, thus shaping the histories of the United States and Britain as well.

Irish Famine 1846-1850.


n Kiltimagh, Co.Mayo around 1864 John Casey married a beautiful Irish girl from the nearby parish, her name was Mary Mea. They had a least one child, and in all probability a lot more (as yet untraceable) they named their child Thomas Casey, who was born on 27th March 1865, in Kiltimagh, Co.Mayo.

At this point John and Mary Mea had decided to emigrate to England. (Patrick Kerrigan Snr confirmed this personally to myself and wife, sadly Patrick is no longer with us).

He emigrated and settled in Smethwick, W.Midlands.  Where he baptised his son Thomas Casey at the St. Philip Neri R.C. Church in Messenger Road. The Baptism was on 29th September 1865, and witnessed by a Catherine Cunliff being Godmother to Thomas.

An interesting conflict arises here, as there is a strongly held Catholic custom (up to the early 1960’s), of baptizing the child a few days after birth. But the copy of the baptismal certificate shows clearly that the birth was 27th March 1865 and the baptism was on 29th September 1865, almost exactly 6 months later.

Members of the Oratory in Hagley Road founded the St. Philip Neri Roman Catholic Church in Smethwick. Services were held in the school, in Watt Street from 1863. The Church of St Philip Neri, in Messenger Road, was built over a long period, the nave was opened in 1893 but the church was not completed until 1908.

  The registers of the Catholic Church of St Philip Neri, Smethwick, Baptisms 1863-date, Marriages 1867-date, Confirmations 1867-date & Deaths/Burials 1882-date remain with the Incumbent  (current serving priest)  

  Watt Street just off Messenger Road ringed. Thomas Casey was Baptised here 27th September 1865.


  Aerial view of St. Philip Neri Roman Catholic Church in Smethwick


n Smethwick I believe John Casey went into the Iron Works, his son Thomas Casey of course followed him. The next passage is a description of Smethwick just 14 years before John and Mary emigrated.


Smethwick 1851


methwick, a large and populous manufacturing hamlet, forms the northern division of Harborne parish, and is distant from three to four miles W by N of Birmingham, near the Dudley road, the Birmingham Canal, and the Stour Valley Railway which has a station here. It includes the southern part of Spon Lane, many extensive iron works, and two large glass works. Messrs Fox, Henderson & Co, were the contractors for building of the Crystal Palace, and nearly all the ironwork used in its construction was manufactured at their extensive Iron Works at Smethwick & Woodside, where they employ from 1000 to 2000 hands. Here are about a dozen other foundries and iron works, for the manufacture of bar. Rod. and sheet iron, steel, cast and wrought iron articles, machinery, etc, and here is the. large foundry, which forms part of James Watt & Co's celebrated steam engine manufactory. Most of the iron works here have been established during the last 20 years. They give employment to many of the inhabitants of the surrounding parishes. Many new streets are now in course of formation, and the bustle created by the iron and glass works, and the extensive traffic on the canal, give Smethwick the air of an important town.

  [From History, Gazetteer and Directory of Staffordshire, William White, Sheffield,


 From this we can reason that John Casey was possibly employed in one of the many extensive Iron Works and possibly the Iron Works at Smethwick & Woodside.  He may have or may not have worked there but his son Thomas later worked in the Shelton Bar Iron Works, from which we may conclude – like father like son – that John joined the Iron works in Smethwick and Thomas followed him as a young man / boy.

 Now Thomas crafted his skills at Smethwick, and was drawn towards Stoke-On-Trent by Shelton New Works.


The Movement from Smethwick to S-O-T during 1900’s was relatively easy using the railway system. (Approx. 40miles)


 Shelton Works: 1870

Painting of Shelton Bar by local artist Alf Wakefield.

"If you watched long enough...a door would open in the mountain side and fire belched out just below the ridge where Shelton Bar nestles between the pitheads. This was the best train of all, wandering into the great black pit with neat little heaps of fire in the trucks along its length. When it got to the blackest end of the ridge, all tipped together and the hot slag poured like a bleeding wound."

From "Tales from the Boothen End - 
the view from my window"
by Paul Smith.

In its heyday the works stretched across Etruria Valley to what is now Festival Park in Hanley. It had a 10,000-strong workforce; five coal mines, steelworks and rolling mills, blast furnaces and a bi-products factory.
In 1964 Shelton was the worlds first steel plant using 100% continuously cast production.   



e worked at Shelton Works as a Puddler.  The puddler’s job was a particularly hot and dangerous one. He stirred the molten iron with a long rod, to bring the slag and impurities to the surface, where they could be skimmed off.  It was a skilled job at which he was very capable. This job had an added bonus - it created thirst which needed to be quenched - by beer - yes, they had a daily allowance of  six pints of beer each day ! 

 Unfortunately Thomas lost a son, John, who was tragically killed at Shelton Works on 26th March 1913 in an accident.

The last family member to work there was Shaun Casey, son of Reginald Casey who left when Shelton Bar, latterly owned by Corus, ended production and an era of steel production.



Typical housing along Etruria Road in 1878

Thomas Casey came to the Potteries with the prospect of a good job in the new steelworks at Shelton Works, later known as Shelton Bar.  In the Potteries he married a local girl (she was a farmer's daughter from Madeley) Mary Jane Barker, (known as 'Polly' to her family). Up to the 1930's Thomas and Mary lived at 81 Mill Street, Hanley. This was along Etruria Road, Hanley. (The exact location can be described as inside Valentino’s car park – recently changed to ‘Creations’). Mill Street in Hanley no longer exists.

In the Potteries Thomas and Mary brought up their eleven children:  

    Thomas Casey b.1865-d.1932  &  Mary Jane b.1872-d.1947 (nee Barker)  

1.     Mary Casey their first child was born around 1892. She married Jack Burke,

Mary and Jack had seven children:

            Madge Burke married Ted Fern--------------------------------------------Fern’s.
            Thomas Burke married Rose­ -------------------------------Burke & Parkinson’s.
            John Burke married Margaret --------------------Burke’s, Wright’s and Clowes.
            Joan Burke married Bill Clarke ---------------------Clarke, Archer’s and Piper’s.
            Terry Burke married Vincent Turnock
            Maureen Burke married Ernest Chadwick---------Chadwick, Nee, and Clegg’s.
            Anthony ‘Tony’ Burke married Pearl --------------------------------------Burke’s.

2.     Thomas Casey, born in 1895, he joined the Leicester Regiment when he came of age, and his title was Private Thomas Casey 43337 of the Leicestershire 11th Battalion. Thomas  fought at Ypres, Belgium & died  on 28th May 1918, age 23yrs.  He fought at the 3rd battle of Ypres known as Passchendaele. ( to see his memorial - Click Here)

  The 3rd Battle of Ypres (Passchendaele)


asschendaele cost over half a million lives over its 3 months. The Germans lost about 250,000 lives and the British 300,000 of whom 36,500 were Australian. 90,000 British or Australian bodies were never identified, 42,000 were never recovered; these had been blown to bits or had drowned in the dreadful morass. Many of the drowned were exhausted or wounded men who had slipped or fallen off the duckboards and were unable to escape the filthy, foul-smelling glutinous mud, sinking deeper to their deaths as they struggled.

For 76 years, the name of Passchendaele has been synonymous with all that is loathsome in war; it certainly represents the futility and stupidity of warfare.

Siegfried Sassoon wrote:

"...I died in Hell
(they called it Passchendaele) my wound was slight
and I was hobbling back; and then a shell
burst slick upon the duckboards; so I fell
into the bottomless mud, and lost the light"

3.     John Casey, born around 1896, also met a tragic end.  He died on 26th March 1913, in an accident at Shelton Bar Works. (see reference to Shelton Bar earlier)


4.     Nellie Casey, born 1898 was their fourth child, she married Fred Finney.

Nellie and Fred had one child:

Freda Finney who didn’t marry.

Nellie made and sold Oatcakes – An important note here is that where she made and sold her oatcakes now stands the Company ‑ North Staffs Oatcakes – the biggest local oatcake manufacturer. Is there a connection?

    5.     William Casey, born around 1900 married Rose Richards.

William and Rose had five children:  

Two died at Birth
William Casey married Sally---------------------------------------------Casey’s.
Jean Casey married Eric Plant---------------------------------------------Plant’s.
Barbara Casey married Bill Curley----------------------------Curley & Cooper’s.


    6.     George Patrick Casey their 6th Child, born in 1903. Married Mary Fryer in 1923 at Sacred Heart R.C. church Hanley

George and Mary had Six Children:

Joseph Casey married Ethel Brown--------------------------------------Casey’s.
George Casey married Iris Johnson----------------------------Casey & Mallen’s.
Mary Casey married Albert Austin (deceased)--------Austin’s, Just & Brunetti.
Mary married again to Harry Swain.
Reginald Casey married Marjorie Wemyss------------------Casey’s & Williams.
Sheila Casey married Patrick Kerrigan------------White, Beech, Porter & Jones.
Bernard Casey married Mary McGovern---------Casey’s, McGowan & Shirley.

George Casey as a young man went into the British Army.  He joined the Lancers. (This was when horses were an important and integral part of army life). During a tour of Ireland, his role involved looking after and caring for the horses. Below is an account of how Ireland stood in 1920 when George was just 17 years of age.


artial law was declared in large areas of Ireland in December 1920 it was an attempt to curb the spiral of violence. In the south and west, whole villages and towns had been virtually destroyed by fire as the British army; supported by the Black and Tans, stepped up their campaign to catch IRA gunmen. (NB a lot of records and registers were destroyed over the whole of Ireland). Unfortunately very few census records exist for Ireland prior to 1901 due to the fire at the Four Courts Building in 1921. This fire meant the loss of extremely important genealogical data such as census records, parish registers and some wills.

  The toughest resistance had been in the city and county of Cork; martial law then covered both. It had also been imposed in Kerry where IRA snipers had made it virtually impossible for the security forces to use the main roads. Tipperary and Limerick, too, were under martial law. 

A year later Ireland was given Independence, but with a catch.

British and Irish negotiators finally signed an agreement giving independence to Ireland. Right to the last moment, it was uncertain whether the talks would succeed. At one stage the Prime Minister, David Lloyd George, threatened to put down the Irish "rebellion" by force if the treaty was not signed.

The peace treaty has three main provisions: 

1.    Twenty-six southern counties are to become independent and will be known as the "Irish Free State".

2.     Six of the eight counties, which form historic Ulster, will remain part of the United Kingdom and continue to send MPs to Westminster.

3.    A boundary commission will draw the dividing line between the north and south with a Council of Ireland to discuss the eventual reunification of the country.



George also worked down the pit for a short while (apparently, a very short while) but he didn’t like it.



e worked at the Theatre Royal as a stagehand. In fact he was very interested in the theatre and loved meeting and impersonating the stars of the day. He met Arthur Askey at the theatre and loved mimicking him to everyone’s amusement. This love of the theatre and acting in particular lasted throughout his life and he used to produce, direct and star in plays written by Miss Morgan (a very well known teacher at Birches Head R.C. School). His Children obviously inherited a lot of his ‘showbiz’ qualities.


The cast of the pantomime Dick Whittington staged by Birches Head RC Youth Club In 1949


hen Birches Head RC Youth Club staged the pantomime Dick Whittington in the autumn of 1949, the production was only loosely linked with the traditional panto story.

Lawrence Thomas  took the part of a sea captain, and he recalled "It went down a treat and the Catholic Hall at Birches Head was packed each night," he says. "We had some good singers, including the two girls in the principal roles, Joan Lane and Jean Fairbanks.

"But the star of the show was George Casey as Widow Twankey. There were, five members of the Casey family in it: George Casey (Widow Twankey), George Jnr, Reginald, Mary, and Sheila.

Canon Power was the resident Priest, and he obviously loved the performances created by George. "It must have been a good show because afterwards we were asked to take it to St Edward's Hospital at Cheddleton." Says Lawrence Thomas, now 77, who helped to form the youth club at St George and St Martin's Church.

He recalls that it led to many marriages among fellow members, including about 75 per cent of the cast of Dick Whittington.


 His final employment was as an Electrical Storekeeper at Blackburn and Starlings ‑ (Electrical and Steeplejacks).  Here he arranged for his son George ‘Jnr’ to take on an electrical apprenticeship.


eorge and Mary lived at 6 Bucknall New Road, Hanley, near to The Hollybush pub with The Three Tuns across the road. Here they ran a 2nd hand goods shop, trading from the front room of a two up two down terraced town house.

In 1937 Bernard, their youngest child was born, and there was a need to move to a larger house.  They moved to 20 Campbell Terrace, Birches Head, Hanley.  This was a 3 bed roomed house with and inside bathroom.


                                                                                                  Two of George and Mary’s children pictured enjoying a cherished moment at Millstream along Peter Jackson Lane. During a time when summers seemed to last forever.


Mary and Reginald.

  7.     Catherine ‘Kate’ Casey was their 7th child.  She was born around 1905. Catherine never married, but wasn’t short of admirers.  She worked for the ‘Ministry of food and catering’ during the 2nd World War.

  8.     Annie Casey was the 8th child, born 27th December 1907.  She also lived life as a spinster, and worked as a Munitions Worker at Swynerton’s – this was a dangerous job because Swynerton’s was a ‘loading factory’ which basically meant that rounds of ammunition produced at Radway were transferred there and ‘loaded’ with explosives. Kate and Annie lived together, and for a short while they took in George and Iris Casey when they were married.


 9.     Gertie Casey was the 9th child, and 5th girl, born 19th September 1910.  She married Joe Harrall. 

Gertie and Joe had two children:

Eileen Harrall married Achmed Ja’afar---------------------------------Ja’afar’s.
Pauline Harrall married Peter Hamnet---------------------------------Hamnet.

The Ja’afar family currently live in Stone, Staffs, America and Kuwait.

10. Francis ‘Frank’ Casey was their 10th child. He was born on 7th May 1913.  His life was full and interesting, and through him I was inspired to develop this family Journal.


nfortunately, Frank was born with a speech impediment and by the age of  7 years he could hardly make himself understood.  His parents Thomas and Mary decided it best to send him (after an offer from Christian Brothers) to St.Mary’s College.  Bitterne Park, Southampton.  To be brought up by a French Order of Christian Brother’s.  He passed through the stages of becoming a Christian Brother and was given the name Brother Gregory

  St.Mary’s College.  Bitterne Park, Southampton


Uncle Frank taught mathematics and was known as Brother Gregory to his students.


ncle Frank taught at three different ‘sister’ colleges.  All of which he invited his family to visit.  I’m sure he enjoyed the family companionship as much as we enjoyed visiting these Wonderful Estates

1.                             St.Mary’s College : Reginald and Madge Casey with 9 children were invited down and enjoyed their first full family holiday from 27th July to 3rd August 1968.  They subsequently went back for a holiday the year after for two weeks. (In those days the journey to Southampton took up to 12 hours) 

2.                             Pallwall : at Market Drayton was familiar with older family members, here he invited his nephews and nieces and families to visit during the summer months.  This of course was a wonderful break for all family members from the Potteries, and I’m sure ‘Uncle Frank’ really enjoyed watching his family enjoying themselves. (As a sad afterthought to Pallwall, it seemed such a shame that after a preservation order was put on the property due to historic architecture, it was destroyed by fire. In its place there stands a housing estate). 

3.                             Cheswoodyne : Another family favourite visited by the majority of the older and middle generation family.  It had a lake in its grounds and there was an incident when Reginald Casey was taking Martin Kerrigan on a canoe ride.  Unfortunately the canoe sprung a leak and began to sink! Reg. ‑ keeping very cool and obviously not wanting to frighten Martin ‑ said to him “Right I think we’ll go for a swim” and Reg knew the child couldn’t swim. So he gently got into the water and supported the child – a.k.a. Lifesaving – and swam in the direction of a raft he had spotted in the middle of the lake. Talking to Martin all the way, keeping him calm.  On the way to the raft he got bit by a Pike, which almost crippled him, but he kept it to himself and saved the boy. All I can say is ‑ “What a Hero”.

Uncle Frank’s speech impediment was still noticeable throughout his life, but it didn’t stop him speaking fluent French, and guiding pilgrims of all nationalities around Lourdes.

He kept in touch with all his brothers, sisters, nephews, nieces and families.  I think one of his favourite siblings was ‘Aunt Annie’ from whom he kept up to date with how the family was progressing and expanding (Of course, being a Brother, he was out of touch with his family for a lot of time). 

Uncle Frank taught mathematics as a brother, he was very adept and modern in his approach.  He loved computers, (which basically are maths machines), to an extent that in his latter years when Laptop Computers were available, he always carried one with him.  Uncle Frank loved all his nephew’s, nieces and their children.  We can all remember vividly the special Black Bag that seemed to be full of sweets whenever he visited.

 Of all in the Family, I think “Uncle Frank”, who came from such a humble start, when he couldn’t string two words together at an age of seven, had actually achieved a lot more than most. He also kept the large family together through his visits and I know we all appreciated him, and I’m sure he is smiling down upon us all right now!

One Last note about Uncle Frank: I’m not sure how many of his family knew this but he had a ‘Prayer List’.  He would look at this list each day and it would remind him of which family he was going to pray for on that day.  He offered up these prayers for all of us, working through each family, then starting again.

Remember Uncle Frank in your Prayers.


11.            Madge Casey, born around 1915, was number eleven and the last child of Thomas and Mary.  She married Clement McNulty.

  Madge and Clement had three children:

Kevin McNulty married Doreen----------------------McNulty’s & Scarratt’s.
Patrick McNulty married Julia
Carmel McNulty married David Jones------------------------------------Jones.


Finally I think our Ancestors would be very proud of their offspring. Looking back to when John Casey and Mary Mea were courting in the mid 1800’s they could not have imagined what their marriage was going to produce.

They brought together over 285 people as a family through marriage and their children. The interesting thing is that John Casey probably had brothers and sisters, he may have also had more than one child, so as you can see the family tree may be far greater than anyone imagined.


The research for this family history is biased towards my own immediate family. There is a lot of information missing and no doubt some details wrong. If you feel you can add to, or correct any details such as stories, professions, anecdotes, photos and detailed family facts: birth dates, marriage dates, and deaths etc. then please pass on the information to Bryan Casey preferably via e-mail at:

Any information can be sent to my home address.  Or sent via e-mail to Or passed onto Reg. and Madge Casey from where I will pick them up. A return address should be included with all documents.



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