Category: Ireland

Christ Church Cathedral, Waterford: A Tale of Two Weddings

Christ Church Cathedral in Waterford, Ireland has been the site of many weddings in its 900 years of existence. One of them marked a turning point in early Irish history, another was an important union in my family’s history.

Waterford Cathedral

In 1170, the marriage of Strongbow, a Norman lord from England, and Aoife, daughter of the King of Leinster, was part of a sequence of events that resulted in the Norman conquest of Ireland.1 In 1844, my great-great grandparents were married at the same location, a few years before they immigrated to Canada.

The original church, on the crest of a small hill overlooking the city of Waterford and the River Suir, was built by the Vikings in 1096. The Normans constructed a new cathedral on the same spot in the early 13thcentury, but in the 18th century, city officials persuaded the bishop that the medieval-style cathedral was too old-fashioned and should be replaced. The new building, now Church of Ireland (Anglican) rather than Catholic, as it had been originally, was completed in 1779. It was designed by local architect John Roberts, who also designed much of Georgian-era Waterford as well as the city’s Roman Catholic cathedral.2

Christ Church has not changed a great deal since my ancestors were married there on September 10, 1844.3 Then, as now, it had a tall spire, a simple but elegant exterior and a pastel-coloured ceiling decorated with white stucco floral designs. Today, two magnificent Waterford crystal chandeliers hang from the ceiling. Perhaps the bride (my future great-great-grandmother) paused in the spacious atrium between the front doors and the sanctuary to arrange her wedding veil before entering the church. According to family lore, her daughter Clara wore the same veil, and so did my grandmother Gwen, my mother and several other family brides.  

Interior of Christ Church Cathedral, Waterford

That day, the bride was Martha Bagnall Shearman (1826-1897), daughter of Thomas Shearman (1785-1850) of Waterford and Charlotte Bennett Clarke (dates unknown).4 The Shearman family had originally come from England to Ireland around 1650 and settled in County Kilkenny. Charlotte was the daughter of the late Charles Clarke ( -1830), whose firm made wrought iron, pewter and brass goods in Waterford.5

The groom, Charles Francis Smithers (1822-1887), was the son of London merchant Henry Keene Smithers (1785-1859) and Antigua-born Charlotte Letitia Pittman (c. 1785-1861). According to Slater’s 1846 National Commercial Directory of Ireland, he lived on Bachelor’s Walk in Waterford and worked as a pork butcher.  

It was probably a fairly large wedding. Martha had at least four living brothers and sisters and she had a large extended family on the Shearman side. Perhaps Charles’ parents traveled from London, and his five brothers and sisters may also have attended. 

Smithers family plot, Greenwood Cemetery, Brooklyn NY

The first of the couple’s 11 children was born in 1846 while Charles and Martha were still in Ireland. Their second child was born in London in 1847, the year of Ireland’s terrible potato famine. By the autumn of 1849, they were living in Montreal, and from then on the family moved back and forth between Montreal and New York City.6

Martha was not the only member of her family to leave Ireland. Her brothers Thomas and Henry immigrated to Brooklyn, New York, as did her sister Mary Anne, while her brother Robert Clarke Shearman settled in New Zealand. Martha and Charles no doubt felt they made the right decision to leave Ireland, as economic and political difficulties continued there for many years. And for Charles, North America offered great career opportunities: he served as president of the Bank of Montreal from 1881 until his death in 1887. 

Charles and Martha are buried together in Greenwood Cemetery, Brooklyn..7

See also:

Janice Hamilton, “My Shearman Brick Wall,” Writing Up the Ancestors, February 9, 2014, I have recently learned a great deal about this family’s Irish roots and will write about them over the coming months.

Janice Hamilton, “Henry Keene Smithers, Non-Conformist,” Writing Up the Ancestors, Dec. 1, 2014. This is one of several articles I have written about the Smithers family in England. 

Janice Hamilton, “The Elmes of Antigua,” Writing Up the Ancestors, Nov. 17, 2014,  

Janice Hamilton, “Clara’s Wedding Veil,” Writing Up the Ancestors, April 27, 2014,

Photo credits: Harold Rosenberg, Janice Hamilton, Janice Hamilton

Notes and Footnotes

  1. In 1166, 100 years after the Norman conquest of England, Dermot MacMurrough, the deposed King of Leinster, Ireland, asked for help from the Normans to recover his kingdom. Strongbow, the nickname of English-Norman lord Richard fitz Gilbert de Clare, agreed to send a fighting force to help. In return, MacMurrough pledged the hand of his daughter Aoife. The promised troops attacked Waterford in 1170 and Strongbow and Aoife were married in the Viking church overlooking the city’s ruins.  Across the Irish Sea, King Henry II of England worried that Strongbow was too successful and might eventually conquer all of Ireland, so in 1171, Henry sailed into Waterford harbour and from there marched to Dublin, where all the provincial Irish kings submitted to him as Lord of Ireland.  Over the following centuries, the Normans sealed their power in Ireland by building well-fortified castles. Meanwhile, many of the Normans who settled there slowly adopted Irish customs and language.  The descendants of Strongbow and Aoife were members of English, Scottish and Welsh nobility. As far as I know, I have no ancestors among them.
  2. Christ Church Cathedral Waterford, June 6, 2016).
  3. The wedding date is mentioned in the privately published family history Smithers Family Book, compiled by Elizabeth Marston Smithers and printed in 1985. I confirmed the date several years ago with Church of Ireland Registers obtained from the Waterford Heritage genealogy center.
  4. The following announcement, with spelling errors, appeared in the Clare Journal and Ennis Advertiser, September 23, 1844: “Charles F. Smither, Esq. to Martha Baynell, daughter of Thomas Shearman, Esq., of Waterford.” (, accessed April 11, 2016)
  5. My information about the Shearmans comes from notes forwarded to me by a distant cousin whose Shearman ancestor immigrated to New Zealand. Those notes come from a genealogy prepared in 1853 by John Francis Shearman and stored at the archives of Maynooth University, Republic of Ireland. I will be writing about the Shearman family in more detail in the coming months.
  6. The sources of the information in this paragraph come mainly from Canadian and U.S. federal census records. I will write in more detail about Martha and Charles and their family shortly.
  7. According to their gravestone in Greenwood Cemetery, Martha was born Oct. 19, 1826 and died Dec. 20, 1897, while Charles was born Nov. 25 1922 and died May 20, 1887. I have found no other documentation other than the gravestone for either of their birth dates. I confirmed Martha’s date of death with several other sources, including the New York, New York Death Index, 1862-1948 on Charles’ death date is confirmed in the record of his funeral service at Emmanuel Congregational Church in Montreal, which can be found in the Drouin Collection on

Henry Mulholland, Montreal Hardware Merchant

With one of the largest St. Patrick’s Day parades in the world, Montreal has long celebrated its Irish heritage. Waves of Irish immigrants came to Canada in the 19th century, peaking in 1815 and 1831, and a surge of immigrants arrived during the famine in Ireland, between 1847 and 1849.

Many Irish Catholic immigrants settled in Montreal, while the majority of Protestants moved on to the United States or Upper Canada, but my great-great-grandfather Henry Mulholland (1809-1887), an Irish-born Protestant, put down deep roots in Montreal. 

Henry Mulholland

I do not know where he was born or who his parents were, but the name Mulholland is most common in Ulster (now Northern Ireland). Nor do I know when, why or with whom, if anyone, he came to Canada. The first record I have found is his 1834 marriage to Ann Workman at Montreal’s Anglican Christ Church. 

Mulholland may have known the Workman family in Ireland. They immigrated from Ballymacash, near Belfast, in the 1820s. Ann Workman’s six brothers established themselves in Montreal, Toronto and Ottawa in the fields of publishing, business, medicine and politics. Her brothers William and Thomas were partners in Frothingham and Workman, the largest hardware importing, wholesale and manufacturing company in Canada. 

Mulholland also went into the hardware business. Perhaps he started his career with his brother-in-law’s company, or perhaps he worked his way up in Benjamin Brewster’s hardware firm. In 1842, the first year Lovell published its annual Montreal city directory, there was a listing for “Brewster, B. and Company (H. Mulholland and John Evans), wholesale and retail hardware.” Lovell’s 1851 directory of Canadian businesses listed “Brewster & Mulholland, importers of shelf and heavy hardware of every description, 177 and 179 Saint Paul Street.”

In 1859, Mulholland joined with a new partner, Joel C. Baker, to form Mulholland and Baker, hardware merchants and ironmongers. A lawyer, Baker was married to Louise Workman, daughter of William Workman. 

Lovell’s 1876 edition advertised Mullholland and Baker as “Importers of hardware, iron, steel, tin, Canada plates, window glass; manufacturers of cut nails, and also of the new chisel pointed cut nail.”  Their customers included small shopkeepers, merchants and blacksmiths in southern and central Quebec. The company opened a branch in Guelph, Ontario and began importing raw materials and manufacturing nails.   

During this period of Montreal’s history, industries and railways were being built, utilities developed and banks established. Like many of his business colleagues, Mulholland was involved with several of these enterprises. Many of these men also knew each other through their memberships in the Mechanics’ Institute of Montreal, an organization founded to provide education to working men and youth for a modest fee. 

Mulholland was a director of the New City Gas Company, founded in 1847 to compete with the Montreal Gas Light Company. New City Gas burned coal to produce gas that was used to light the homes and streets of Montreal. Some years later, when the Sun Mutual Life Insurance Company of Montreal was founded in 1871, Henry Mulholland was a member of its first board of directors.

Henry Mulholland’s house was near the corner of Sherbrooke Street and Drummond. This photo appeared in a book called The Saga of Sherbrooke Street, Yesterday and Today, by Arthur Kittson

He was also one of 15 managing directors of the Montreal City and District Savings Bank. Most of Montreal’s banks were set up to serve commercial interests, but the City and District was founded in 1846 by the Bishop of Montreal and a group of businessmen to help ordinary workers save their money. In 1866, the year Mulholland was serving as president of the City and District, a group of Irish-Americans known as the Fenians raided the Canadian border.

Many customers were afraid the crisis would cause the bank to fail and demanded their deposits back, but Mulholland and two other bank directors formed a committee to deal with the situation and prevented the bank’s failure.  

Mulholland did not succeed, however, in preventing the bankruptcy of his own hardware company. It went out of business in 1879, a situation that appears to have been fallout from the bankruptcy of an individual whose mortgage Mulholland had guaranteed. 

Mulholland had to sell his family’s home to cover his debts, and he and his wife moved to a smaller house nearby. For the next few years, court battles and appeals took up much of his time. After his wife died in 1882, he moved in with his daughter Ann, her husband, Dr. George Wilkins, and their children. Henry Mulholland died in 1887.   

Photo Credit:

“H. Mulholland, Montreal, QC, 1886”, II-79921.1, Wm. Notman & Son, McCord Museum,


Several of the organizations Mulholland helped establish are still in operation today. The Montreal City and District Bank is now the Laurentian Bank and the Sun Life evolved into Sun Life Financial. The Mechanics’ Institute of Montreal is now known as the Atwater Library and Computer Centre.

Several years ago, archaeologists from the Pointe-à-Callière museum explored the site of Mulholland and Baker’s tool sharpening service. See “Pointe-à-Callière Archaeological Field School: The Mulholland and Baker Years”,  

“Old Montreal, Mulholland and Baker in 1873”, briefly describes the history of Mulholland and Baker.

The Dictionary of Canadian Biography,, has biographies of many of Mulholland’s business associates, including William Workman, Thomas Workman and John Fotheringham. Mulholland also knew entrepreneur and politician Luther Holton. See Henry C. Klassen. Luther H. Holton, A Founding Canadian Entrepreneur. Calgary: University of Calgary Press, 2001.

For an account of the City and District’s early days, see the “Origins and Early History of the Montreal City and District Savings Bank 1846-1871” by John Irwin Cooper,

“New City Gas and Mechanic’s Institute”, outlines the early history of gas lighting in Montreal. The site publishes articles focused on people and events associated with the Mechanics’ Institute.

Highlights of the history of the Sun Life Assurance Company of Canada can be found on the website La Mémoire du Québec (in French only.)  

To search issues of the Lovell Directories for Montreal from 1842 to 2010, go to

Henry and Ann Mulholland had seven children, five of whom grew to adulthood: Benjamin, Joseph, Ann, Jane and Henry. I will write about the family in another post.