The Finnigans

My grandmother Bessie Cassidy nee Finnigan was born on the 21st of June 1884, in a place called Dennistoun in Glasgow. Her mother registered her as Betsy but she was always known as Bessie. She was the fourth child of John Finnigan and Julia Hickey.

John was born in Seagoe near the town of Portadown, County Armagh around 1840. He was the son of a cattle dealer Michael John Finngan and Elizabeth Lynch. By the age of 18 he had made his way to Glasgow and on the 20th of March 1858 he joined the 7th Dragoon Guards often referred to by the famous soubriquet "The Black Horse".

For a young Irish immigrant newly arrived in Scotland with little prospect of finding gainful employment the army must have seemed for him the perfect solution. So he set off with the other recruits to Cantebury for his basic training with the depot troop of the 7th Dragoon Guards.

He was soon sent to India where he remained for 21 years. During that time he served in three different regiments, 7th Dragoon Guards, 5th Irish Lancers and finally the 15th Hussars. They were all cavelry regiments.

John was five feet eight inches tall and around ten stone in weight with brown hair and blue eyes. For the most part he was blessed with good health.

He met and married his wife Julia Hickey in India. Julia was the daughter of John Hickey and Catherine Leech. She was born in the Coombe in Dublin on the 1st of January 1855 and baptized in St Nicholas Church Francis St three days later.

Julia travelled to India with her parents and younger sister Marianne when she was three years old. At that time an arduous journey for an adult never mind a child.

John Hickey joined the 5th Irish Lancers in his home town of Dublin on the 8th of May 1858. He served in India for eleven years until his discharge in 1876, due to ill health. He returned to Dublin after his discharge and died four years later, at home in Holles Row, not far from the Coombe where he had grown up.

Julia married John Finnigan on the 22nd of October 1868. I was horrified to discover that my great grandmother had married at the tender age of 13. However, it appears that it was not uncommon in the nineteenth century for girls to be married this young. They were married in St Pauls Church Dilkusha, Lucknow, India by Father Francis.

John and Julia's first child Henry, was born in Sealkote, now part of modern Pakistan, on the 28th of September 1873. He was followed by Mary Ann born in Meerut a town in Northern India near Delhi. Mary Ann was born in 1875.

At this point John had been transferred to the 15th Hussars as the Irish Lancers had returned to Britain. That same year the 15th Hussars were the Viceroys escort to Delhi and in 1876 they lined the streets of Delhi for the arrival of the Prince of Wales. In 1877 John would have been present at the imperial assemblage where Queen Victoria was formally proclaimed Empress of India.

In 1878 the 2nd Afganistan war began as a result of Anglo-Russian rivalry in the area. The Afganistan conflict has never really been resolved and to this day it remains as one of the many trouble spots in the middle east.

On the 15th of October 1878 John Finnigan left his young wife and family at the barracks in Meerut. With his regiment he went by train to Multan. The regiment then marched all 156 miles to the Afganistan frontier in freezing cold conditions. John saw action near Suif-U-Din and the evacuation of Kandshar took place in January of 1879. John was awarded the Afghanistan medal for his part in the war. On his discharge from the army he was also in possession of long service and good conduct medals.

He left the army on the 23rd of December 1879 with a pension and after his discharge he returned with his family to Scotland and settled down to life there with Julia. They had three more daughters together including my grandmother Bessie. Julia died in 1889 and John remarried. His new wife was Euphemia McDonald and they had two daughters together Euphemia and Marion. John died in 1901.

Links

If you are tracing British European family history in India, a marvellous site to visit is Family History in India which contains pages on starting out, church records, cemetery records and a mailing list.

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