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The family connection is there, and so is the love of Greystones’ long and winding history.

So, who better to chronicle the many faces, fables and fishing trips of the Kinsella clan than the bould Jago Hayden.

Just, you know, get ready for a brain twister, as all the Jims, Jacks and Marys come marching over the hill, each related to the other, but each, of course, separate, their own person.

Take it away, young Jago…

When it comes to the Kinsellas, an awful lot of them were fishermen, right back into the 19th century, from Dun Laoghaire to Greystones, and to Wicklow and Arklow, and beyond. The trouble in tracing any particular branch of them, though, is that given names, such as James and John, and Michael, William and Thomas recur an awful lot, as do Mary and Elizabeth, and Catherine, Mary Anne and Winifred.

For instance, Blacktop (John Bernard) Kinsella’s grandfather, Michael Kinsella, who was most likely born in the early 1800s and married a Mary Ann Boyd in Bray in 1846, is distinguished both as being from the ‘Graystones’, and as being a fisherman by the certificate of marriage of his daughter Catherine Kinsella, recorded as ‘Spinster’ and ‘servant’, on the 4th September 1873 to James Stokes, a ‘porter’, in the Roman Catholic Chapel in Bray.

At least, that’s what meets the eye as you read the certificate. But, as you continue, that detail is repeated underneath the lines recording the main particulars of the contracting parties, as having taken place “in the Roman Catholic Chapel of” – and the handwritten word Bray has been overwritten by the words ‘Gray Stones’. In other words, in St Kilian’s Church in Blacklion, which in those days was part of the Parish of Bray. Blacklion Roman Catholic ‘chapel’, which was later named St Kilian’s, was built in 1867.

The list of occupiers of the houses in Greystones that benefited in the 1876 piped water scheme, the map of which is reproduced on the inside back cover and last leaf of Gary Paine’s 2018 book, shows M Kinsella as residing in house number 17 on the north beach; and both I and our main family researcher, my brother, Liam (Billy) Hayden, are satisfied that this is the same Michael.

We have no doubt his son, John Kinsella, who was born on the 14th October 1847 and married our great grandmother Catherine FitzPatrick in Kilquade R.C. Chapel on the 9th of January 1871, was also a fisherman, but clearly worked in other jobs. He lost a leg in an accident, we think while working on the railway, although it could just as easily have happened unloading cargoes at the pier, and thereafter worked as a night watchman. It’s quite possible he is the one-legged man standing in the corner of the hayfield talking to the man in his shirt sleeves wielding the scythe in the Eblana Collection photo Gary Paine has reproduced on page 122 of his 2018 book [below, right]. A photograph I would date to the early 1880s.

His eldest son, John Bernard – Blacktop Kinsella – who was born in Killincarrig in 1873, was the oldest of our mother Annie Hayden nee McKenzie’s Kinsella uncles. We never knew our Grandmother Catherine McKenzie, nee Kinsella – she had died in 1923, before our time – but we have vivid memories of the huge man bringing plaice and codling to our mother when we were in Mrs Archer’s cottage in summertime, when we were young. On one occasion, a six pound lobster, which our mother had to cook in a zinc bath, normally used for washing clothes, on top of the range; it was that big.

Blacktop was definitely a fisherman all through his life; but the early death of his father, at the age of 44, ensured he became so much more. The family had to vacate the gate lodge of Coolagad House, where they then lived, and John Bernard, then only 17, had to step up to the mark. The ballad Tennessee, which Ernie Ford had such a hit with c1950, could well have been written about him:

I was born one morning when the sun didn’t shine,
I picked up a shovel and I walked to the mine,
I loaded sixteen tons of number nine coal,
And the straw boss said, well bless’a my soul.

Derek and Gary Paine featured him in many of the books they have published. He was such an iconic local figure it would be difficult not to. Not only did his son Thomas – Jim Kinsella, our mother’s first cousin – become a fisherman and a coalman after him, but also his grandson – my own and Liam’s second cousin – Jimmy Kinsella, who I believe is still fishing. A further grandson, Séan Kinsella, son of Blacktop’s son William, and brother of Jimmy Kinsella, the Skerries golfer who represented Ireland four times in the World Cup, fished the fifty footer Ros Pádraig in the 1950s and 1960s from Skerries.

Let me finish this tranche of Kinsella family history with the list of those enumerated in house 19 in the 1901 census: Catherine, aged 55 and a widow was the head of household; the eldest son, aged 27, is named simply as John (this is Blacktop); Michael was next, aged 20 (he died in the Battle of Paschendale in 1917); William, aged 18, would later marry Margaret Tumpane from Co Tipperary and reared a large family, despite being washed out in the 1929 – 1931 storms; and Winifred aged 16, later married Michael Whiston. Billy and I think this may have been the same house that was numbered 17 in the 1876 piped water scheme, and was then occupied by Blacktop’s grandfather Michael.

A final comment: the enumerator’s summary of the religious persuasion of the occupiers of the first 25 houses in the 1901 census in Greystones (which Liam and I think may have started with the houses on the north beach) tallied 100 Roman Catholics, 50 male and 50 female; a very much smaller figure for members of the Irish Church or Church of Ireland (both designations were accepted); and no Presbyterians were recorded. Irrespective of religious persuasion, the overwhelming majority of those recorded could read and write.

As, indeed can their present day descendants. Wicklow County Council and the owners of the Marina and harbour that is not a harbour, please take note.

You can read Jago Hayden’s essay on the Greystones harbour then and now right here.

3 Comments

  1. John Kinsella says:

    My father Sean fished the Ros Padraig from Skerries up to 1999.

    • Jago Hayden says:

      Thanks for that, John. Sorry for just mentioning he fished the Ros Padraig in the fifties and sixties. They were the decades I was fishing my self, until I went to Tanganyika to take up a job as a Fisheries Officer. Jago

  2. Gemma Kinsella says:

    Just saying… The photo with he 4 children is another side of the Kinsella clan. That’s my aunt Catherine. Milly. Helen and my dad Michael. Lovely to see the photo’s

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