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.


  1. I love the Irish Town names. They just have a feeling about them. I am guessing your family didn't share immigration stories.
    Love the post.

  2. What a wonderfully rich story about your Grandfather! How lucky you are to know such details of his life. Thanks for sharing his story!

  3. Alana -

    It is always sad to see families separated because of political unrest, lack of opportunities in their home countries, or other reasons outside the family. I wonder if your grandfather ever wished he had immigrated with his brothers.

    Maybe you can seek out your Australian cousins someday.


  4. Lisa,

    Actually, I have found a second cousin once removed in Australia. He is the grandson of my great grandmother, Elizabeth Jane Maze's brother. I found him through a third party and am working on making direct contact. He apparently knows about my three great uncles, John William, Forbes and James who immigrated to Australia.

  5. Wonderful! Maybe someday you can make a visit to Australia - or meet them back near your family's ancestral home in Ireland.


  6. Now wouldn't that be wonderful - 1. Ireland, 2. Scotland, 3. Australia and 4. Greece (just for fun!)

  7. Now isn't that just like a family historian, the first choice for vacation spots ----places that have great old libraries, cemeteries, roads and by ways trod by ancestors. My list is similar, just no Australia --- or that'd be under fun along with Greece.

  8. Hi Alana,

    What a wonderful account of your Grandfather. I have really enjoyed exploring your blog and your anecdotes and research.

    I think your blog is deserving of the Kreativ Blogger Award. Stop by and pick up your award and follow instructions, Congratulations, Karen

  9. So delighted that you know so much detail about your grandfather.
    My own great grandfather, William McCully, born in Ballyhae, County Down, came to the United States with three brothers in 1861. The imminent threat of an American civil war apparently seemed less problem than staying home and dividing the land. Home remained in hands of an elder brother, parents and sisters. They all did well over here.

  10. Sounds like you've done quite a bit of detective work, and put together a great story. I enjoyed reading it.

  11. Wonderful reading! I've enjoyed your posts very much. I keep searching for my ancestors, but they love to play Hide and Seek. So far, my seeking has all been for nought.

    Happy New Year!

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