Sunday, November 1, 2009

A Portrait of my Irish Grandfather – Robert Farrell (1896 – 1965)

It is unfortunate that I don’t remember my grandfather as he died when I was only 3 1/2 years old. It is only while doing my research this past year that I have been able to learn a little about him.

My grandfather, Robert Farrell, was born in Ballyreagh, Brookeborough, Co. Fermanagh in Northern Ireland on December 15, 1896. He was the second oldest of nine children born to William Forbes and Elizabeth Jane (Maze) Farrell. His father and grandfather were both farmers and Robert, too, became a farmer - both in Ireland and later after immigrating to Canada.

In 1912, when Robert was 16 years old, he (along with his father, mother, and oldest brother Joseph) signed the Ulster Declaration in support of His Majesty King George V and against Home Rule in Ireland. He, as well as most Protestants in the Province of Ulster felt that Home Rule would be disastrous to the well being of Ulster as well as the whole of Ireland. His brother, John William, at the age of 14 was too young to sign.

It is my belief that the unrest in Ireland is the reason that Robert and his brothers, Joseph and John William decided to immigrate. John William immigrated to Australia, Joseph went to New Zealand and Robert immigrated to Canada. His next two youngest brothers, Forbes and James would later immigrate to Australia. Robert’s sisters, Lillian Olivia, Margaret, Maude and Kathleen all remained in Ireland.

According to his ship’s passenger list, Robert arrived in St. John, New Brunswick on March 22, 1920 aboard the Minnedosa via Liverpool, England. His final destination was to be Winnipeg, Manitoba with the intended occupation to be a farmer, later making his way to Saskatchewan. It is not known yet when or where he met my grandmother, Helen “Nellie” Devlin (she immigrated to Canada in 1921 from Auchinleck, Ayrshire, Scotland), but I have been told that they were married in Govan, Saskatchewan (I have yet to confirm the exact year and place), where they worked for a farmer for a short time before moving to the Balcarres district in Saskatchewan. While there they farmed for a Will Wright in the Tipperary district. Later they rented land from John and Charlie White and lived on what was called the old Bateman farm.

In 1936, Robert and Nellie moved to the Abernethy district to a farm owned by a Mr. Jim Behrns. They spent a year there and in the spring of 1937 moved back to the Tipperary district and rented a farm called “Stoney-Lonesome.

Robert and Nellie had six children, four surviving to adulthood and two that died in infancy. In the 1950’s, Robert and Nellie moved back to Balcarres and finally purchased their own farm, where they both lived until their deaths.

Robert passed away on March 27, 1965 in Balcarres, Saskatchewan and is buried at Regina Memorial Gardens in Regina, Sask. Nellie was to follow on May 22, 1980 and is laid to rest beside Robert.