John Ireland grew up as one of five children, his parents Alexander and Annie living in the wealthy Cheshire village of Bowdon. As shown in the 1871 census, Alexander was at that point married to Annie Nicholson, and his household included this second wife, young daughters Lucy (age 4) and Alice (age 3) and son Walter Alleyne (age 2 months). There were five servants, several of whom were from Annie’s home county of Cumberland:
- Louisa Scott (43)
- Mary Amos (32)
- Margaret Quin (26)
- Sarah Clarke (18)
- Sarah Cooper (18)
By 1881 the household had expanded still further to include the youngest two children, Ethel and John.
However, Alexander also had a previous life and a different family, as shown by the very different 1861 census record. A widower, he was already in Bowdon, living in Stamford Road with two children: his daughter Mary (b.c. 1841 age 20) and son Alexander (b.c. 1843, age 18), with a household of six servants, none of whom were retained ten years later:
- Mary Malins (43)
- Ruth Ratcliff (15)
- Christian Dunlop (46)
- Mary Whittaker (45)
- Elizabeth Berwick (21)
- Elizabeth Lee (16)
Even earlier sources (the Post Office annual directory and calendar 1841–2) record Alexander Ireland as living in Buccleuch Place, Edinburgh in 1841, at this point working as a linen merchant. Clearly this was a family business, with father Thomas Ireland (b. c. 1785) at its helm, and living in Blacket Place with his wife Mary and younger son, another Thomas, who had also joined the family business. Our Alexander was now married to Eliza Blyth, and their first child Mary (named, presumably, after his mother) was then 7 months old. His wife died after their second child was born.
By 1851 Alexander is much harder to trace. No longer working in Scotland, he had changed his trade from linen to print. He appears to be living as a lodger in Bury New Road, Broughton, Lancashire (what is now the A56 running north through Salford), recorded as a printer/publisher of newspapers employing 48 persons – and we know that he became the manager of the Manchester Examiner in around 1846. But where are the children at this point? There is no record of Mary’s whereabouts, but the little boy Alexander is living with his grandparents, Frederick and Elizabeth Blyth, in Edgbaston, Birmingham. By 1861 the family were back together, but to date I have been unable to track forward this earlier Ireland family after this point.
1851 census Class: HO107; Piece: 2222; Folio: 134; Page: 13.
1861 census Class: RG 9; Piece: 2590; Folio: 73; Page: 10; GSU roll: 542995.
1871 census Class: RG10; Piece: 3684; Folio: 43; Page: 30; GSU roll: 841873.