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Saturday 29 September 2012


My 4x great uncle Richard Chadwick was murdered in circumstances remarkably similar to those surrounding the death of his cousins Austin Cooper and Francis Wayland twelve years later. Do such things run in families? In a sense yes – all three men were killed in their inherited roles as members of the hated ruling protestant class in Ireland.

Richard worked for his uncle Billy Sadleir as a land agent for the township of Rathcannon in Tipperary (Rathkennan on some of today’s maps), west of Holycross. Billy was a major landowner in the county and a leading Orangeman in Tipperary town, and Richard was according to one account “firm” in his dealings with Billy’s tenants.

Rathcannon, near Holycross, Co Tipperary
scene of rebellious acts in 1827 and 1848 which led directly to at least two murders,  eight hangings, and eight transportations

For “firm” read “ruthless.” Rents at that time were paid in the form of tithes to the protestant Church of Ireland, something which stuck in the craw of Catholic tenants. The Catholic Association was formed in 1823 to agitate for change, and its members did so through non-payment of rent. In 1827, two years into the job, Richard met such tactics by simply evicting tenants; they in turn responded by setting fire to houses and haybarns.

Richard was also the local magistrate; and his next move in the so-called Tithe War was to arrange for the building of a police barrack at Rathcannon. If he hoped that this would deter the Association’s activities or help to monitor them, he had badly misjudged the mood (just as Francis Massy, another cousin did, eleven years later). At noon on 30th June 1827 he oversaw the cutting of the first sod for the new building. On his way from the site to Holycross with his building foreman Philip Mara, his road was blocked by two gunmen. One ordered him to “give yourself up, you rascal,” and the other, favouring actions over words, shot him twice at close range.

“Oh Mara, I’m shot, I am killed,” Richard cried, and died. As Mara ran off, he saw the second gunman searching Chadwick’s clothing, from which he stole promissory money notes and Richard’s gun. He used this to fire a third shot into the lifeless head of his victim.

Paddy Grace was hung on a portable gallows at the site of his crime, the last man in Ireland to be so executed

Mara identified the gunman as Paddy Grace, a popular local activist already known to the authorities as a troublemaker. When Grace was arrested at dawn the following morning, and the stolen notes were found in his possession, his fate was sealed. He was tried and convicted in Clonmel on 17th August before a jury of Orangemen and the sentence of death by hanging was carried out with great haste only three days later.

Of course the gunmen were not acting in isolation. Other men walking with Richard Chadwick as he left the site withdrew before the shooting, leaving him alone with Philip Mara; and after it, no one came running from either Rathcannon or the next village Bohernacrusha, although both were well within earshot. It was as if they all knew what had just happened. Mara himself, as Chadwick’s foreman, may have tipped the assassins off about his boss’s movements, then turned informer on Grace when he realised that he would come under suspicion.

Piery Grace, who had held his dead brother in his arms at the gallows, began to gather a gang of heavyweights to take revenge on Mara (the key witness to Paddy’s act, and now under protective custody) by killing his three brothers. They murdered one, Daniel Mara, in a house at Bohernacrusha, on 1st October 1827; the other two only escaped the vendetta when the authorities spirited them out of the country for their own good. The gang of twelve was eventually caught: six, including Piery, were hanged, and six more transported to Australia.

A cartographical footnote to the story:

The sentencing of Thomas Meagher, Terence McManus and Patrick O’Donohue after the Young Irelander Rebellion of 1848 – death was commuted to life transportation

Twenty years later, when the Dublin-Cork line of the Great Southern and Western Railway was laid through the area, a bridge over it was built on the road (the modern R661) and at the very place where my 4x great uncle was shot. A year later, messrs Meagher, Leyne and O’Donohue, three leaders of another secret society, Young Ireland, were arrested on the bridge after a failed uprising. Meagher and O’Donohue were transported in 1849; and Leyne was eventually hung in 1854. The crossing is known to this day, perhaps surprisingly, not as Grace’s, Meagher’s, Leyne’s or O’Donohue’s but as Chadwick’s Bridge.

Saturday 22 September 2012


They say that Edward Elgar’s Enigma Variations are variations on a theme which itself never appears. Instead, the music dances around an invisible tune; and musical scholars spend a lot of their valuable time trying to identify the absent theme by the shapes the 14 existing variations makes around it.

Many of the articles which I’ve written for this blog came about as a result of research into one particular ancestor of mine, about whom I have so far not written directly. But today, 22nd September 2012, is the 200th anniversary of his birth; so although in a sense he’s been here all along, here he is at last, my great great grandfather William Augustus Salter.

 Rev William Augustus Salter (1812-1879)
his Bible, two of his chapels, and his grave

I haven’t written more than passing references to him here because I have been trying to write his biography for the last five years. I had of course hoped to complete it in time for his bicentenary; and until its completion I wanted to keep him to myself. But I have written about (amongst others) his father, his uncles William and David, his wife, his father in law, his children William, Louisa, Frank, Anne, Maria and Emily. These are my variations!

Why, amongst all the remarkable adventurers and high achievers among my ancestors, did I choose to write about William Augustus? He was a humble Baptist minister, an unremarkable one in many ways. He had five pastorships in his career, none more than 80 miles from his place of birth in Watford. He published little; he fought no wars; he never travelled.

But he was a Baptist, at a time when Baptists and other non-conformists were shaping the social and spiritual morality of the nation. In particular he was an educationalist at a time when – long before the introduction of state schools – non-conformists were transforming the educational landscape of the country with Sunday schools, so-called British schools, and even a new university.

L-R: British School, Amersham, opened by Rev W.A. Salter in 1842;
Denmark Place Baptist Church and Sunday School, Camberwell (where William met Emma c1833); London University, attended by W.A. Salter 1828-31

William Augustus was actively involved in all these movements. He founded new schools for at least two of his chapels. He met his wife while they both volunteered at one of the Sunday schools founded by his future father-in-law William Brodie Gurney and others. He was in the very first intake at London University, founded by his father and others, the first to offer degrees to students who were not “churchmen” (members of the Church of England).

Joseph Angus, his friend and fellow student at Stepney Baptist College, became a high profile Baptist academic. By contrast William Augustus, a biblical scholar of some note, wrote anonymously the explanatory notes for a groundbreakingly accessible version of the Bible. All these were Baptist initiatives which were subsequently copied by the Church of England, the establishment religion with no initial interest in changing the status quo.

By telling William Augustus’s story I can paint the bigger picture, the theology of liberation through self-improvement which non-conformists offered in the nineteenth century. William Augustus’s life spanned the central two-thirds of that century. Baptists were obsessive recorders of their activities in magazines and minute books, and there are a great many references and details to be found of my ancestor minister’s deeds and thoughts.

“The pastor closed the meeting with prayer.” The last words written by Rev W.A. Salter in the minute book of Clarendon Street Chapel, Leaminton Spa, 18th June 1879. He died 29th July 1879.

Best and most personal of all, some of his sermons were published posthumously by his family, recorded verbatim (in shorthand, by his son) as he preached them – I can almost hear him speak. If you’re listening, William Augustus, Happy Birthday!

Saturday 15 September 2012


I began this blog as a way of preserving my family history research for a time when my young nephews and nieces became interested in it all. But one of the great pleasures of Tall Tales from the Trees has been the new cousins who emerge from the eCloud to follow up on mutual ancestors. Sometimes whole new branches of my tree have come to light, as in the case of two Piper cousins, Billy and Sally, who got in touch recently. From them I have learned of my first cousin four times removed, Hugh Piper.

Hugh was the son of my 4x great aunt Janet Piper and an itinerant farm worker called Abraham Edward who was passing through Ayrshire at harvest time in 1818. Edward, who judging by his name may have been from Wales, may not even have known that he and Janet had produced a child. There is no official record of the birth, and no sign of a father at any point in the boy’s life.

The River Ayr at Woodhead – Woodhead was the Piper home for generations, and Hugh, his mother Janet and grandmother Jean lived nearby in the early decades of the nineteenth century 
(photo © Stuart Brabbs and licensed for reuse)

Instead, like so many dutiful daughters, unmarried Janet and her young son lived with her widowed mother Jean. I’ve written here before about the obligation of nineteenth century maiden aunts to stay at home caring for a parent when often they would rather be off getting married or having a career. So far so normal for Janet and Hugh.

But when Jean died in the 1840s, Janet – on her own, without a husband – effectively became the widowed parent herself. Hugh, already about 30 and her only child, a son without a father figure, stepped into the role of maiden aunt. He continued to care for her until her death at the great age (for the time) of 76 in November 1859.

By then he was 41. One senses that a certain amount of frustration may have been building up over the years: within four months of his mother’s death, Hugh had married 23-year old Jane Kay, almost half his age. He then, as my cousin Sally puts it, set about making up for lost time. Over the next fourteen years Hugh and Janet began a family of eight children, the last born when Hugh was 56.

Slaters were indispensable tradesmen when slate roofs protected all goods, livestock and human inhabitants from the wet weather of west-coast Scotland

Hugh blossomed in other ways too. Until his mother’s death he had been confined to the farm they lived on, where she was a washerwoman and he was a simple agricultural labourer. But in later life he branched out and got a skilled trade as a slater. Perhaps he was encouraged in this by his young wife, and by the large family he now had to provide for – then as now a tradesman commanded higher rates of pay than a general labourer.

The lack of a father as role model must have made his own fatherhood problematic, I imagine. Although he carried his mother’s maiden name, and passed that on to his descendents, he was certainly aware of the absent Abraham, and at one point adopted a sort of double barreled surname for himself and his children, who are recorded for a while as the Piper Edward family.

Hugh’s wife brought something to the family too – the twin gene! There have been twins in every generation  of his line since, where as far as I can tell there were none before. Hugh himself lived to watch all his children growing up, including my cousins Billy’s and Sally’s great grandfathers. In 1886 at the ripe old age of 68, he died of pneumonia, perhaps caught slating a roof in the Scottish rain. He was a late starter but a busy and hard-working one.

Saturday 8 September 2012


I’ve written before about Killenure Castle, my ancestral home. Sadly for me (and the rest of the Cooper diaspora) it had to be sold out of the family in 1963, after 217 years of occupation.

The Coopers had already been in Ireland for more than 100 years when, in 1746, my 5x great grandfather William George Cooper leased Killenure in Co Tipperary from the Coppinger family who were using it as a hunting lodge. Before then the Cooper family homes had been the houses of Beamore in Co Meath and Butterhill in Co Wicklow.

William George Cooper (1721-1769)

William’s relocation to a new county was prompted, as all of mine have ever been, by a new job. In 1745 he was appointed to the post of Diocesan Registrar by the new Church of Ireland Archbishop of Cashel, Arthur Price (who himself had only been appointed the previous year). The Registry is the administrative office of any Diocese, the repository of all church papers including title deeds and other Episcopal records.

Cashel is an ancient Christian centre. Very briefly, Ireland was originally divided north and south between the archbishoprics of Armagh and Cashel, jurisdictions established in the year 1111. Henry VIII extended his 1534 Protestant Reformation of the Church of England to Ireland in 1541. The upshot was, from 1567, parallel Protestant and Roman Catholic archbishoprics. The Irish ruling class with its English roots were known as the Protestant Ascendancy and the Anglican Church of Ireland was the official church of state (despite the fact that the majority of the Irish population remained resolutely Catholic).

Cashel’s Anglican Cathedral , Co Tipperary
commissioned by Archbishop Price in 1749 
to replace the ancient cathedral on Cashel Rock 
(which he gutted and unroofed to prevent its re-use)

The Diocesan Registrar played a vital part the financial well-being of the Church of Ireland. Records were important because the C of I was funded in large part by tithes, proportions of income paid by all households regardless of faith – an arrangement unsurprisingly unpopular with the Catholic majority, as a future Cooper and his cousin found out to their cost. William Cooper’s brother John was a Chief Clerk in the Dublin Treasury, and perhaps William too acquired skills there which made him a suitable candidate for the Cashel post. His membership of the Protestant Ascendancy was probably a more crucial factor.

William’s role at Cashel moved him very quickly to the heart of local society. The same year that he acquired Killenure he retired from the Registry to concentrate on his new estate. A year later, in 1747, he married Jane Wayland, my 5x great grandmonther, whose father Henry owned the neighbouring estate of Kilmore to the south of William’s (having, according to the family historian Richard Austin-Cooper, also recently moved to the area with Archbishop Price). The Killenure Coopers had arrived.

Killenure Castle, Co Tipperary
my 5x great grandparents’ home, former stronghold of the O’Dwyer Clan until Oliver Cromwell dispossessed them of it in the 1650s

Archbishop Price remained in office until his death in 1752. He was the son of the vicar of Kildrought near Dublin, and before he took holy orders Arthur Price ran the town’s brewery. His production manager there was a certain Richard Guinness, and the two men became great friends and business partners, to the extent that Guinness may even have named his son after Price, who became the boy’s godfather.

When the archbishop died, he left £100 to Richard’s son, whose name was Arthur Guinness, to fund the expansion of the brewery which Arthur was by now running with his brother. Arthur soon struck out on his own and in 1759 bought a small brewery at St James’s Gate in Dublin. The rest is history.

Arthur Guinness (1724-1803)

Saturday 1 September 2012


I haven’t read Parade’s End, the quartet of novels written 1924-1928 by Ford Madox Ford currently being serialised on TV in an HBO/BBC co-production. But I settled down to watch the first episode last night and was reminded of a strong family connection with the author.

Vincent Macmaster as played by Stephen Graham
in the 2012 BBC/HBO series Parade’s End

It was the character of Vincent Macmaster, played by Stephen Graham, that made me sit up. It’s 1911, and Macmaster, friend of the central figure Christopher Tietjens, is a government statistician involved in the passage of a Bill introducing Britain’s National Insurance scheme. Macmaster, we learn, is also an amateur critic and aspiring writer.

Ford, I am certain, based the character loosely on his old friend Charlie Masterman, my second cousin twice removed. Masterman is more usually cited as the model not for Macmaster but for Macmaster’s political boss Woodhouse; and it’s true that Masterman was himself a liberal politician like Woodhouse, not a civil servant like Macmaster.

Charles Frederick Gurney Masterman (1873-1927)
author, statistician, politician

In 1911, Charles Masterman was indeed responsible for the passage through parliament of the National Insurance Act, a pioneering piece of social legislation which provided ordinary citizens with medical and unemployment benefits. The practicality of such a Bill depended on the sort of statistical analysis which the fictional Macmaster is credited with providing; and Masterman certainly possessed such ability, having two years earlier worked with Winston Churchill and Lloyd George on the radical redistribution of wealth embodied in the People’s Budget of 1909. He continued to serve in the Treasury until 1914.

Of course the names are similar too; and Masterman, like Macmaster, had literary aspirations. While Macmaster writes poetry Masterman published widely on social issues, his journalism coloured with a distinctly impressionistic style which reflected his desire to be taken seriously as an author.

Macmaster’s amateur literary criticism is an echo of Masterman’s role at The English Review, a literary magazine founded by Ford Madox Ford and which Ford and Masterman co-edited for the first year of its life, 1908-09. Given that Ford and Masterman were the same age, their connection may go back even earlier, perhaps to the 1890s when Masterman had edited the literary review Granta while at Cambridge University.

Ford Madox Ford (1873-1939)
author, soldier

Masterman’s friendship with Ford continued for the rest of his life. When war broke out in 1914 and Masterman was asked to head the new War Propoganda Bureau (which I’ve written about here before), Ford was one of the writers he recruited to the cause. In 1915 Ford wrote two propaganda books for Masterman, namely When Blood is Their Argument: An Analysis of Prussian Culture and Between St. Dennis and St. George: A Sketch of Three Civilizations.

Ford then enlisted, at the age of 41, in the Welch Regiment, the unit in which at least two of Masterman’s brothers had served in the Boer War. One, Harry, had died there; the other, Walter, re-enlisted and served with distinction in the Great War. I’ve written before about Walter’s less distinguished actions immediately after the war. When Walter was released from prison in 1925, it was with Ford Madox Ford that he first stayed.

Walter Sydney Masterman (1876-1946)
soldier, author

Presumably they discussed their wartime experiences; and that year Ford published the second part of Parade’s End, which moves the action from England to the trenches, to tremendous acclaim. The following year Walter Masterman published his first pulp fiction novel, The Wrong Letter.

Perhaps Charlie was jealous of Walter; he must certainly have been envious of Ford’s success. A year later, in 1927, he died an unhappy man, his political and literary ambitions disappointed. I confess I’m curious to see what fate Ford has in store for my cousin’s fictional counterpart over the next four episodes.
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