The Williamsons of Widnes

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Father Thomas O'Donnell (1843 - 1901)

 

Father Thomas O'Donnell was born, according to his seminary college records, as early as March 1843 at Knockanglass, Co. Tipperary, Ireland to John O'Donnell (1805- ?)and Catherine Barnes (from Ballyglasheen, Kilsheelan). Thomas was the 6th of 10 children. He died 29 July 1901.  This line of O'Donnell's lived on the Knockanglass hillside farm during at least the 18th, 19th and into the 20th centuries,  probably longer.

Among Father Tom's siblings, he and his eldest sister Mary Ann Williamson were very close friends.  We know, from the British 1861 Census, he visited with Mary Ann and her husband Robert in Liverpool and was listed as a scholar, age 16, thus making his birth date earlier than that written on his gravestone.  However, his seminary college records state his age as 18 upon his arrival there in 1861.
 

The O'Donnell pedigree history shows Catherine Barnes's family as intermarrying  with O'Donnell families with at least one marriage to a 1st cousin in the late 18th century (although with some doubt expressed).  Some Barnes family members, including one brother and a nephew were employed by the railway in various capacities during the late19th and early 20th centuries. Catherine's nephew Tom Barnes was the Railway Station Master at Tralee in county Kerry when her great granddaughter  Eileen Williamson           Father Thomas O'Donnell ca 1880                   visited he   and his family around 1906.

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Father Thomas is said to have  studied at St Edward's at Liverpool prior to 1861, and later, for the priesthood, at St Edmund's College (Old Hall) at Ware in Hertfordshire between 1861 and 1867.  He entered the college in 1861 when he was 18 years old and studied philosophy for 2 years and Theology for 4 years. Although it remains to be verified, he was the first Roman Catholic priest to be ordained (July 21, 1867) on the Isle of Man since the Reformation .  After ordination, Father O'Donnell was assigned to St Mary's Wigan to 1868, and then as "officiating priest to public institutions of Liverpool" (residence 26 Hope Street) to 1885, "only after a long and bitter struggle did he obtain a stipend, and it took questions in Parliament, lawyers opinions and letters from Government Boards to secure".  He was assigned to St Sylvester's Liverpool to 1887, resident at St Alban's Liverpool to 1888, changed back to St Sylvester, Liverpool to 1895.  He was parish priest of Golborne, Warrington, Lancashire and buried in a small cemetery attached to St Oswald's Church at Ashton-in-Maherfield, Wigan, Lancashire   Father O'Donnell - the Seminary ca 1867   close tothe grave of his friend Bishop O'Reilly. 
  

Father Thomas was well loved not only by his family, especially his sister Mary Ann, but by his extended       family in the area and in Ireland.  His tombstone was erected by his parishioners and is engraved, "Sweet Jesus have mercy on the soul of the Rev. Thomas O'Donnell, who died July 29, 1901, age 50 years".  Due to the registration records at the St. Edmunds College reviewed in 2010 we believe he was 58 years old.  May he rest in peace!

 

St Oswald's Church and Graveyard - Ashton-in-Maherfield

 

St Oswald's Church - Ashton-in-Maherfield

 

 

                                  

                         Father Thomas O'Donnell's Grave                                   Father Thomas O'Donnell's Epitaph

 

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Published October 2009 ---Revised February 2010