We briefly met with the Owen’s last week, when I introduced the forthcoming walk for Heritage Week; Cheekpoint’s Industrial Age. This week I wanted to take a closer look at the family.
The Owen’s came to Cheekpoint in 1787 to run the Mail Packet Station. Captain Thomas Owen and his wife Jane arrived from Milford in Wales where they, apparently, originated. They raised their family at Fairymount. The family were Quakers, and obviously they would have been welcomed by a strong community already in place in Waterford. We don’t know very much about their lives but when Elizabeth published a book of poetry, Poetical Recollections, in 1826 it gave hints and insights into what it was to live in this era.
|Entrance to Fairymount
Although Thomas and Jane had ten children in all, only four survived to adulthood. Margaret Owen was born 8/7/1783, Elizabeth 26/6/1787, Samuel 17/3/1792 and finally William, the youngest was born 13/9/1781. No mention is made of schooling, but as the Quakers set up Newtown School in 1798 it is possible, if not probably that Elizabeth and her younger brothers would have attended. Elizabeth had a strong affinity with nature and it appears that it was a central feature to her upbringing. An example:
Review of Childhood
Ah! let me for a while recal those hours,
When I in childhood round the village stray’d,
To gather blackberries or cull sweet flow’rs,
Whose wild profusion deck’d the verdant glad.
Remembrance blest! for ever, ever dear,
Then, who like me so innocent and gay;
Fond mem’ry sheds one silent sorrowing tear,
O’er days so bright, for ever flown away…
Elizabeth seems to have had a relatively happy childhood, there is much mention of travel, although travel can also be negative with friends being away, either for holidays or to study and loneliness does appear frequently in her words. This must have been exacerbated when Jane died at Cheekpoint in 1811.
Written a few days after the
Death of My Beloved Mother
These mournful lines on thee, who used to hear
My gay and lively verses with delight;
These mournful lines on thee, my Mother dear,
Thy sorrowing daughter now attempts to write
When I beheld thee cold, who gave me birth;
The deep, the tortur’d anguish of my heart;
That heart which oft had cheer’d thee by its mirth,
A pen more eloquent could not impart…
Elizabeth’s father died two years later, seemingly after a period of illness while having treatment in London. He had obviously shown a lot of affection and care to his daughter as this excerpt illustrates.
On the death of my Father
London, 9th month* 1813
A Father’s voice no more will reach, with soothing sound, mine ear,
A Father’s hand no more will dry, from BERTHA’s** cheek the tear,
A Father’s heart will morn no more, when sickness dims mine eye;
A Father’s heart no more rejoice, when health’s young blush is high…
All, all, were proud to call him FRIEND, the rich, the poor, the young,
When sickness bound him to his bed, pray’rs rose from ev’ry tongue;
And many a sigh from widow’s heart, the tear from orphan’s eye;
“Ah! who,” they cried, ” when he is gone, will all our wants supply?”…
* in earlier times Quakers avoided using the names of the days or months as they were based on pagan gods and so employed the 1st day of the 1st month, their calendar year started with March
** Bertha is often used by Elizabeth when referring to herself, perhaps a family pet name?
All of Elizabeth’s siblings were disowned from their religion. To be disowned meant that a person had acted contrary to the belief’s of the congregation. In Margaret’s situation she married outside her religion to a man named Williams, and from Elizabeth’s Poetry seems to have resided in Wales.
Both her brothers were similarly disowned, William in 1823, again for marriage to someone of a different faith, but Samuel “absented” himself in 1825. This does not appear to have been a cause for any loss of love or endearment from Elizabeth however. Both her brothers were seamen, and much of her poetry concerns itself with ships, seamen and the perils of the ocean. One such poem is a lament for a sailor who had died aboard ship at Cheekpoint,
Written while viewing the
Funeral of a young Sailor
Who was killed by falling from the mast
With drooping colours, see, the Sailors bear
Their late gay messmate, to an early tomb;
For his sad fate, they dropped the silent tear:
Poor hapless blossom nipp’d in life’s young bloom.
Ev’n I, stranger to his name and birth,
Feel pity’s soft emotion o’er me creep;
Yes, I- who lately smil’d in buoyant mirth,
For thee, ill-fated youth – can also weep.
This sad poem is all the more poignant however, as Elizabeth would live to see her brother Samuel suffer the same fate.
MILFORD, AUGUST 28. – On Tuesday morning last, about four o’clock, Samuel Owen, aged 35, mate of the schooner Economy, of Newport, fell from the top-sail yard of that vessel on deck, and was killed on the spot. The schooner was near the harbour’s mouth, on her voyage for Cork. He was a native of Cheek Point, near Waterford, and son of the late Thomas Owen, Esq. many years agent for the Post Office Packets plying between this port and Milford.
Carmarthen Journal, 29 August 1828
I could not find, as yet, any record for Williams death, but Elizabeth died 13/12/1836. Up to now I have only found a line in a newspaper recording her death as being in Waterford, most probably at the family home in Fairymount. I have yet to confirm the last resting place of the family. Its a quest I would like to fulfill. I’d like to ensure her poem entitled My Grave, is bourn out. Particularly as the wild violet is one of my favorite flowers.
Let Daises grow upon my grave,
Fair emblems of my early bloom;
Let golden Kingcups gently wave,
Upon my unadorned tomb.
And let the Vi’let too be there,
For BERTHA lov’d this modest flow’r,
Whose purple blossoms deck’d her hair,
In reckless childhood’s blissful hour
Please join us on Saturday 22nd August at 5pm at Cheekpoint Quay to explore more of the poetry of Elizabeth Owen and Cheekpoint’s Industrial Age.
We will also provide our regular walks, as part of Heritage week, Cheekpoints Maritime Trail will run on Wednesday 26th and the Faithlegg Heritage Tour will run on Sunday 23rd & 30th. Details on our website at www.russiansidetours.com or via the links above from the Heritage Council website for the week.
I’d like to thank Andy Kelly who originally passed me on the book of poetry
Also like to acknowledge Christopher Moriarty of the Irish Quaker Historical Library who provided many of the details of the family which I used.