The Williamsons of Widnes

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Philip Farrell (1832 Ė 1864) and Margaret Wallace (1830 Ė 1909)

The relationship of the Farrell's to the Williamsons is through Ellen Williamson (nee Farrell) the wife of John Williamson.  We are indebted to Terry Freedman (nee Nolan) for her assistance in helping to prepare and edit this story of the Farrell and Harper families of Widnes.  We welcome any photos and images other related families may offer, of the Farrell and Harper's, to place on this page!

Philip Farrell was born in Ireland in 1832.  Very little is known about his life.  We know of only a sister Catherine, a brother James and nothing of additional siblings.  We believe he was one among the many Irish people who left Ireland during or after the great famine of 1847.  Family stories place him and a friend, who we believe was Nicholas Harper, at Swansea Wales for a short while employed as laborers' for a local engineering firm.   Why and how he and Harper moved to Liverpool is not known, although we suspect it was to be with siblings while seeking more attractive employment.  The 1851 Census shows Philip, his brother James (age 30) and his bride to be Margaret all living on Milk Street in Liverpool (the street no longer exists).  We believe Margaretís parents dwelt there too. There, she and Philip met, fell in love and began their plans for marriage.

Margaret Wallace was born in Wexford County Ireland in 1830.  While we do not know Margaret mother's name at this time, her fatherís name is Nicholas Wallace.  Little else is known of her ancestors or of her siblings at this time.  Family tales place her family home in Wexford town in County Wexford.  We also learn through family anecdotes that she and perhaps a brother or sister moved to Liverpool because of the great famine as well.
Philip and Margaret married at St Maryís RC Church in Liverpool, Lancashire on January 5, 1855.  The witnesses to their wedding are listed as Joseph Augustine and Catherine Farrell (Philips sister). Philip signed the marriage certificate; however Margaret made her mark with an X.  Shortly thereafter they decided to move to nearby Widnes as the town was beginning to grow and prosper through the chemical industry expansion during this period.  Settling down in Carrollís Row, Widnes Dock family life began and they were blest with many children.  The eldest was Mary (later wife of Michael Nolan), 30 November 1855; Nicholas 1857 Ė 1859; Margaret 1859 (later wife of Michael Ford); Ellen 30 April 1861 (later wife of John Williamson); Ann 1863; Catherine 1864.
    Margaret Wallace (1830 -1909)

Philip was, as most of the Irish immigrants in Widnes, a labourer.  Unfortunately, Philip died suddenly on August 20, 1864 from what the attending doctorís death report stated was a fever of 14 days.  As he was just 34 years of age, this left Margaret and the family in a serious situation --- no income and four mouths to feed and care for!  Happily, Philipís best friend Nicholas Harper was single at age , and had admired Margaret for some time.   He came to Margaretís need for help and within three months the two married on December 8, 1864. Their son Nicholas Jr., was born May 12, 1867. They were happy together.  Nicholas Sr. died of throat trouble in 1887.

Nicholas and Margaret lived for some years at 41 Victoria Road in Widnes.  According to family stories, Margaret became somewhat of a good business woman.  She was successful in raising animals such as pigs and chickens, and a healthy vegetable garden which through market sales helped to support her need for income with a growing family.  We are told that Margaret's business acumen and savings helped her children with home and business needs.  One such need was met as Margaret funded her son-in-law John Williamsonís undertaking to start up what became a successful tailoring and clothing business at 74 Victoria Road in Widnes.  Nicholas prospered as well in his undertakings, in what we understand as owner of a pawn shop.

The Harper's son Nicholas Jr,  a school teacher, who taught members of the Nolan family at St. Marie's school,  married a Linda Doyle around 1895 (a widow).  Their daughter Sheila, born in 1904, was a great friend of the Widnes Nolan family.  Linda' birth family, the Jamieson's, according to a family story, owned a Widnes hotel.  Linda had a marvelous singing voice and was approached by Madam Patee of D'Oyley Carte opera fame, who offered Linda the opportunity to study and learn voice skills in London. As far as we know Linda did not take up the offer.

The 1881 British Census shows Nicholas and Margaret living at 39 Victoria Street in Widnes.  Resident in the house is son Nicholas age 13, daughter Ellen Farrell age 19 (a school mistress assistant), James Farrell age 27 (assumed to be a nephew of Margaret) and Patrick Harper age 28 (assumed to be a nephew of Nicholas) and two boarders.

In Margaretís old age she settled in her daughter Maryís home at 8 Major Cross Road in Widnes, where she lived until her death in 1909.  Margaret was much loved and respected by her extended family and friends, some of whom had moved to other areas including Canada in Alberta (Philip Ford) and British Columbia (Ellen Williamson)  in Canada.  She died June 17, 1909 and is buried alongside other family members in the Widnes Cemetery.