19 January 2013

The Merrick family of Sligo

I've been contacted by a Merrick relative - my third cousin once removed - so I've been delving into the Merricks back in Ireland again.

William Merrick was my great great great grandfather. William was married to Jane, and they had at least seven children: James (1845-1911, my great great grandfather), Samuel (1849-1913), Anne Jane (1862-?), John Thomas (1864-1959), Mary Ellen (1867-?), William (dates unknown, but apparently died as a child), and Esther (dates unknown). Considering the early children were born around the time of the Irish potato famine, I can't imagine life would have been easy for the Merricks in those early years of their family.

I don't know when William Merrick was born or died, or even who his parents were, but he certainly lived in Sligo, County Sligo, Ireland during his life. The first address I have the Merricks living at was in 1845, recorded on son James' baptism record, in Ramseys Row, with William noted as a shoemaker. On the baptism of son Samuel, in 1849, and in 1862, at the baptism of daughter Anne Jane, the family was in Williams St, and William was again noted as a shoemaker. In 1858 William Merrick was noted in the Griffiths Land Valuations as occupying a house, office and garden of 17 perches on the south side of Georges St, Town of Sligo. There is also another record, the same year, for a William Merrick occupying land (no buildings) of just over one acre in Derrydarragh or Oakfield, Parish of St Johns, but I'm not sure that this is him. Again in 1867 the family was living in Georges St, at the time of daughter Mary Ellen's baptism. In 1870 William was listed in the Slaters Directory as a shoemaker, and also as the keeper of the Fire Engine Station, in John St, Sligo. William was also the village sexton at the time they lived in John St, apparently in the Sexton's House. I have found reference to the fire engine being kept on the premises next door to the sexton's house in John St, as the vestry was responsible for the repair and upkeep of the engine, being a public service. This certainly fits with William being both the keeper of the engine and the village sexton.

James and Samuel followed their father into shoemaking and emigrated to Australia. John Thomas was a carpenter and also emigrated to Australia. Both Anne Jane and Mary Ellen married. Esther also married but has also gone down in a corner of literary history. Apparently the Merricks were neighbours of the Yeats family. In his childhood the famous poet William Butler Yeats was taught spelling by Esther Merrick and she also took it upon herself to read poetry to him. Yeats' father later said it was Esther Merrick who made a poet out of young William, though he was kind enough not to credit her with his son's appalling spelling!

And that is about all that is known for certain of my Merrick family in Sligo. There were plenty of other Merricks in Sligo. My Merricks were Protestant though there were some in Sligo who were Catholic. Interestingly, a Samuel Merrick was the sexton in Colry (Calry) parish, Co. Sligo in 1860 - possibly a relation. I'm sure there were lots of Merrick relations in Co. Sligo, I just haven't been able to straighten out all the relationships!


  1. You've dound some great information on the Merricks. I thought the correlation between the fire engine and the sexton was fascinating, and logical when you think about it. Those repeating names are a challenge aren't they?!

    1. Yes, entirely logical but not something you'd ever necessarily expect! Those repeating names: I have found James and Samuel Merricks here in Australia who are completely unrelated to my Merricks, but they are also shoemakers. Nearly sent me round the twist sorting all that out!