Cassidys of Fermanagh and Glasgow

This is my paternal grandfather Joseph Cassidy

The Tree

Cassidy family Crest


Frangas non Flectes - You may break, you shall not bend me.

The Cassidy Family belong to Co.Fermanagh, and for a thousand years were very prominent in the field of Literature, Medicine, and Religion. The Family lived at Ballycassidy, near Enniskillen.

They were physicians to the Chiefains of Fermanagh the Maguires. However, even before the Maguires assumed control of Fermanagh, Giolla Mochuda More O'Caiside was famed throughout Ireland as a Prince of learning (d.1143) his Gaelic poetry is still preserved.

The Cassidys were hereditary managers of the parish of Devenish and they had privileged educational facilities, especially at Devenish Island Monastery, where a number of Cassidy graves can be seen today. There is a long history of Cassidys who were prominent clerics,especially in penal times in the Diocese of Clogher.

After The plantation of Ulster which began in 1611, the Cassidys, like nearly all the leading Gaelic families of the province, sank into obscurity.

We find them only in such records as the presentments relating to priests under the Penal Code, chiefly in counties Fermanagh and Monaghan. Many, of course, were forced to emigrate to the U.S.A and Britain.


My Branch of the

James Cassidy married Mary Maguire in County Fermanagh before 1800.

Children: James Cassidy

James Cassidy born around 1810 married Ann Mooney Enniskillen 1834.

Children: James, Patrick, John, Ann, William, Thomas, Joseph, Andrew, Francis.

James Cassidy born around 1835 married Ellen Rice Glasgow 1856.

Children: Ann, James, Helen, Catherine, Frances Jane, John Thomas, Kate, Joseph

Joseph Cassidy born 1882 married Bessie Finnigan Glasgow 1906.

Children: Julia, Ellen, James, Joseph, Rose, John, Josie, Euphemia and the youngest


(my father)


Married Winifred Loftus Glasgow 1956.

Children: Bridget

Bridget Cassidy born 1961 married Daniel Brennan Glasgow 1986

Children: Claire Siobhan and Una

My grandfather Joseph was born on the 6th of March 1882 in a district of Glasgow called Bridgeton. He was the youngest son of James Cassidy and Ellen Rice. Both his parents were from Ireland and his father James was from County Fermanagh.

Enniskillen Castle 1830 by R. O'C. Newenham (Front cover of The Ordance srvey memoirs of Ireland. Parishes of County Fermanagh 1 Vol 4.)

Fermanagh is a beautiful county situated in the North West of Ireland. James Cassidy and Ann Mooney were married on the 11th of June 1834 in the parish of Enniskillen.

Enniskillen is situated on the north east side of Lough Erne in the diocese of Clogher. It was the stronghold of the Maguire Clan "Lords of Fermanagh". The Maguires built the original castle. The last Lord Maguire was tried for treason and beheaded in the Tower of London in 1644.

The Coles became the next prominent family. William Cole re-built the original Maguire castle. In 1834 Enniskillen was a garrison town and the Fermanagh Milita resided there.

The Ordnance Survey Memoirs of 1834 stated that the people of Enniskillen were "generally speaking rather an intelligent people of sober habits".

James was an agricultural labourer and would have lived with his family in a cottage with a thatched roof made of rough stone. There would have been two apartments used as kitchen and bedroom affording very little in the way of home comforts. Their food was chiefly potatoes, fish, pottage, milk, butter and eggs. As a farm labourer James was earning no more than 10d per day.

Since the standard of living was so low in Ireland it had long been the case that a great many Irish people (mainly from Ulster) would come to Scotland to work at the harvest. Usually they would go to Scotland for the season and when the season finished they would return to Ireland with their earnings.

The Long Walk

James and Ann did just that but they made the decision to remain in Scotland. When they arrived in 1840, they came with their three young children. Their eldest child James was 5 years old he had two younger brothers Patrick and John. Ann was pregnant with her fourth child. The family would never see their home land again.

The first cross-channel steamboat sailed from Glasgow to Belfast in 1818. James and his family would have no doubt travelled to Scotland in one of these vessels. In the 1850's James actually worked as a steamboat stoker for a short while.

When the the new steamboats were introduced the traffic to and from Ireland greatly increased. The boats provided a cheap passage across the Irish Sea and by 1833 even the poorest of individuals could afford the fare.

An advertisement in the Glasgow Herald in July of 1841.

The British census of 1841 listed 125.000 Irish born individuals living in Scotland as a whole. Most, like my family came to Scotland for economic reasons.

At a time when the the British Empire was at its peak making great advances in agriculture and industry, Ireland was desperately poor. It had been left behind and simply used as a source of cheap labour for British industry.


Between the years 1845 and 1848 (the years of the Great Famine) there were as many as 8000 Irish people per week arriving at Scottish ports and again most of those who came hailed from the province of Ulster.

There was a panic that the city of Glasgow would be flooded with hoardes of starving wretches riddled with disease. In fact the cholera epidemic of 1848 was directly attributed to the Irish.

My family had arrived before the famine and luckily escaped much of the misery suffered by so many of their fellow countrymen.

The Cassidys settled in a district of Glasgow called Bridgeton, situated in the east end of the city.

The Main Street in Bridgeton between the Swan Tavern and Ann Street had been divided, by its Irish residents, into two seperate communities known as "Dublin's Land" and "Wee Belfast". The southern Irish, mostly catholic, settling in the former and the Ulster Irish for the most part protestant settling in the latter.

Throughout the nineteenth and for a good part of the twentieth century there were deep feelings of resentment and widespread discrimination against those of Irish origin from their neighbours the native Scots.

Ethnic, linguistic and religious barriers made intergration into Scottish society almost impossible and so, for a very long time, the Irish remained isolated in their own little communities.

Bridgeton at that time had a thriving cotton industry which was a good source of employment for the newly arrived Irish.

Like most of the people living in Bridgeton my family worked in th cotton mills. James Cassidy senior before his death in 1873 had been working as a fireman in one such mill. Some of my other male ancestors and almost all all of my female ancestors worked as yarn harpers, power loom weavers, cotton spinners, piecers and hand loom weavers.

A Bobbin-shifter in the Cotton Mill, painted by Sylvia Pankhurst, c.1910.

The cotton mills were dark dangerous places. Although men were employed in them, the chief workforce were women and children. The work was hard, dirty, monotonous and health damaging. There was little light or ventillation, They were hot and humid buildings where people worked for long hours for poor pay.

For the children of that time working life began early, compulsary education did not arrive in Scotland until 1872 with the introduction of the "Education Act". Before this act was put into operation as little as one quarter of Scotlands children attended school.

Most of them went to work with their parents and older siblings for childrens wages could be a vital component to the family income. Some mills set up school rooms on their premises but often they were over crowded with little or no learning taking place.

The mills depended very heavily on the deft fingers of immigrant children who they exploited shamelessly.

An example from "The Poor Relief Applications" in Glasgow City Parish shows just how badly they were treated by the mill owners.

Bridget O'Rourke, age 14, mill worker with "impaired mind", was destitute because she had injured her right hand in Mr McPhail's mill and was unfit for work. Mr McPhail had given her 5/- and a promise of her job back when she had recovered. Bridget would never recover because her hand was totally useless.

Many of my female ancestors worked as cotton spinners piecers, most likely the same job that had left poor Bridget O'Rourke in a state of destitution. This was a dangerous occupation usually done by very young girls.

It was the piecers job to pick up the loose pieces of thread from the loom. In order to do this she would have to crawl under these large and powerful machines.

Cases such as Bridget's were very common even towards the end of the nineteenth century. Indeed my own grandmother Bessie Finnegan, also a mill worker lost two of the fingers from her left hand while working as a piecer. She was sent to hospital stitched up and sent back to work all in the same day!

Despite the bleak picture I have depicted in Glasgow there were people around who wanted to change the lot of the cotton factory worker, people like David Dale and Robert Owen.

In 1`785 David Dale founded a village called New Lanark 25 miles outside of Glasgow. It was an industrial settlement with cotton mills powered by water from the River Clyde.

Robert Owen, Dale's son-in-law, set about improving the life of his workers. Young children did not work but instead went to school. Free medical care was provided for the villagers and their working hours were reduced.

Unfortunately Dale and Owens enlightened attitudes took a very long time to filter down into the rest of Britain. Only with the birth of the labour movement did real change begin to take place for the working classes.

In Bridgeton, the cotton mills were eventually replaced by Templetons Carpet Factory which became one of the biggest employers in Glasgow's east end towards the end of the 19th century. My grandmother's sister worked there for many years.

A girl weaving chenille cloth at J&G Templeton's carpet factory around 1890.

Housing conditions for the working classes in Glasgow were appalling. According to the 1861 census at least 64% of families lived in one or two bedroomed accomodation 1% with no windows. The "Butt 'n' Ben" was the normal enviroment for most families.

"Old Buildings at Bridgeton Cross" a sketch which appeared in "The Baillie" 6th September 1893 shows just how bad housing conditions were for Glasgow's poor.

This was the kind of environment that my ancestors James and Ann Cassidy lived in with their family.

In 1854 Ann Cassidy gave birth to her seventh son Francis and by August of 1856 Andrew was born. Andrew did not see his first birthday, he lived his short life at 78 Main St Bridgeton. One in five children of that time died in infancy or childhood.

The Scottish infant mortality rate between the years 1855 to 1859 stood at 118 in every 1000 live births and the infant death rate was four to five times higher in working class areas than in more affluent areas such as Kelvinside.

In 1856 James and Ann's eldest son my great grandfather James married Ellen Rice a mill worker and like her husband Ellen was Irish. Her father Patrick Rice was a hawker selling hardware in local markets such as "The Barras" and "Paddys market". Patrick and his wife Catherine (nee McMillan) came to Scotland in 1850 with their two daughters Ellen and her older sister Roseann.

Ellen and James were married in The Church of St Mary of the Assumption Abercromby St. The church first opened its doors in August of 1842. It was built to serve the growing catholic population in the east end of Glasgow. It was only the second Catholic church to be built in the area since the reformation. The couple were married by Father Forbes a very well respected priest who served in the parish for thirty years.

St Marys of the Assumption Abercromby St, Bridgeton, Glasgow

St Marys was the centre for many good works in relation to the catholic poor in Glasgow. It is particularly remembered as the birthplace of Celtic F.C. This football club, which has become internationally famous, was originally the brain child of Brother Walfrid who belonged to the Marist Order. He founded the club in 1888 with the intention of using it as a means of raising funds to feed poor children under the "Penny Dinner Scheme".

James and Ellen had nine children including my grandfather Joseph, their youngest child. James escaped the local mills and managed to acquire a plastering apprenticeship.

Between the years 1863 till 1876 the Cassidys moved around quite a bit. They lived in Selkirk for a while then North Shields and finally Ferryhill, County Durham in England, before moving back home to Bridgeton.

On their return they must have seen great changes in Glasgow, for during their thirteen year absence the City Improvement Trust had been set up to acquire the worst propertys in Glasgow demolish them and provide their former inhabitants with replacement housing.

However, the trust persistantly ran out of money and many of the new tenements had to be built by private builders such as Duncan Fraser so notable he had a street named after him. My grandfather was born in a two roomed tenement house on that very street 14 Fraser St.

My grandfather had two brothers and six sisters. His eldest brother James left Scotland around 1886. He went to England and became an actor. We think he may have changed his name to Jack Rice Cassidy. If this is so then he had some success on the London stage between 1913 till 1919 and died in 1927.

Two of his sisters died in infancy. The other four sisters married and two of them may have emigrated to the U.S.A., with their respective families. His other brother John Thomas married Catherine McGuire in 1898 and in 1912 they emigrated to the U.S.A. they settled in Chicago, Illinois. They had ten children in all. John Thomas like his father before him was a plasterer to trade.

Joseph suffered from epilepsy. He could become quite debiliated at times with the seizures and often found it hard to find work because of them. There was also the stigma attached to the condition coupled with peoples ignorance and fear of it.

James Cassidy died in 1898 and Joseph's siblings had all left home. Left alone with his mother Joseph became the sole breadwinner in the household. Despite his disability my grandfather managed to survive.

He married my grandmother Bessie Finnigan also a cotton mill worker, in 1906. Bessie was the daughter of John Finnigan from County Armagh. John was an army pensioner who served in India for over twenty years. Her mother was Julia Hickey from Dublin. John and Julia met in India where Julia's father was also a soldier with the 5th Irish Lancers. Their first two children were born in India. Bessie was born in Glasgow.

My grandmother Bessie Cassidy nee Finnigan

Joseph and Bessie were married in St Annes Church Dennistoun. They had nine children together. Joseph owned a coal haulage business for a while before the depression.

A very politically minded man, he was an ardent supporter of and campaigner for Campbell Stephens of the Independent Labour Party in Glasgow.   Campbell Stephen's first campaign was to contest the seat for Ayr Burghs in 1918, on that occasion he was
unsuccessful and for two and half years he taught maths and science. In 1922 he won the Camlachie seat. Camlachie is in the east end of Glasgow and covers Dennistoun where my father was born.
He was MP for Camlachie from 1922 till 1931 and from 1935 onwards.
Stephens was still an MP in 1944. My grandfather died in 1942.


A History of Bridgeton & Dalmarnock by George Adams.

The Hidden History of Glasgow's Women (The Thenew Factor) by Elspeth King.

Who Belongs to Glasgow? 200 years of Migration by Mary Edward.

Ordance Survey Memoirs of Ireland Volume 4, Parishes of County Fermanagh 1 1834-35 Enniskillen and Upper Lough Erne



Grateful aknowledgemet is made to Angelique Day and Patrick McWilliams editiors of "The Ordanance Survey Memoirs of Ireland Parishes of County Fermanagh 1 Volume 4" for permission to use images and text from the afore mentioned book.


Links and useful addresses for those with Irish and Scottish ancestry

Ancestral Trail

This link leads to the Cassidy Clan website page Ancestral Trails which contains information on tracing your Irish roots, clan contibutions and genealogical information such as Cassidy baptisms in Ireland and New York.

Heritage World Website

Heritage World in Dungannon County Tyrone has a database with 7 million records covering the whole of Ireland. They also sell Irish arts, crafts and memorabilia.

The Genealogy Centre , Marriage Suites, 22 Park Circus, Glasgow

The Genealogy Centre is run by Glasgow District Council and for a standard charge you can spend the day in their facility with access to civil records dating back to 1855. You can also look at Church of Scotland parish registers and census returns dating back to 1821.

The Mitchell Library, North Street,Glasgow,G4.

Click on picture to go to their website

Tel: + + 44 141 305 2999

The Mitchell Library in the the heart of the city centre is a marvellous repository. The Glasgow Room situated on the 5th floor contains census records as well as an extensive library of local newspapers and many other records pertinent to family history.

The library is also the home of the City Archives where you can view the poor law records, a great source of information for anyone of Irish origin whose ancestors may have settled in the West of Scotland.

Scots Origins

The Official Governmental source of genealogical data for Scotland. It is an online pay per view database of indexes from the genealogical records of the General Registrars Office for Scotland.

To Bridget's Place