We don’t know much about our Behan ancestors, at least by comparison with the Bourkes.
Our paternal grandmother was an O’Connor from Swinford, so I started there. I came across a reference to The O’Connors of Swinford County Mayo: a family history, by Patrick O’Connor (1952-) published in 1998. Thanks to the University of Wisconsin interlibrary loan service, I got my hands on a copy of the book from Princeton University. Subsequently my husband tracked down a secondhand copy for sale and gave it to me for Valentine’s Day. He’s a book lover… say no more.
It’s wonderful to see your name in a book. There, on page 144, are Mary Behan and Valerie Behan, children of Michael Behan. The entry reads:
“Michael (Behan) was born on 11 February 1918 and became a Dentist. He married Carmel Bourke who was also a Dentist, on 25 April 1945. They had two daughters, Valerie born on 15 February 1948 and Mary born 24 May 1950.”
I’ve copied some of the information from Patrick O’Connor’s wonderful and thorough family history.
We never got to know our Behan grandparents, Anne and William.
Anne O’Connor (1877 – 1943), was one of twelve children, eight of whom survived. She was the youngest. Their parents were Thomas O’Connor (1814 – 1878) and Mary Mulligan (1837 – 1901). Our grandmother’s siblings were John P. (1856 – 1913), William (1859 – 1885), Thomas (1869 – 1893), Margaret (1874 – 1930), Bridget (1872 – 1953), Mary (1865 – 1919) and Patrick (1875 – 1942).
Our grandmother was educated at the Ursuline Convent in Sligo. She married our grandfather, William Behan on 28 April, 1915 in the Pro-Cathedral in Dublin. William was manager of the Hibernian Bank in Granard, County Mayo. She died “after a short illness” at her residence in Greenhills, Drogheda and is buried in St. Peter’s Cemetary, Drogheda.
The Drogheda Independent of 22 May carried the following obituary:
“We regret to announce the death, which occurred suddenly on Wednesday, of Mrs. Anne Behan, Greenhills, Drogheda. Wife of Mr. William Behan, former Manager of the Hibernian Bank, Drogheda, the late Mrs. Behan was a native of the West of Ireland. A cultured and kindly lady, she devoted not little time and energy to charitable work and was one of the most active members of the Ladies Association of Charity, the NSPCC and kindred organizations; her eldest son is Mr. Michael Behan, the well-known Drogheda Dentist. Other members of the family are Messrs John Behan, BE, now in England; Mr. William Behan, who is in the banking service and Miss Mary Behan.”
William Behan died on 21 July 1949 at Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital, Drogheda. He was a native of Monastrevin, Kildare. He started his banking career in the Hibernian Bank in the Letterkenny Branch and later worked in the Mayo, Granard and Ardee branches before coming to the Drogheda branch where he was manager for a long time. When his health began to fail he retired from the bank in 1938. He was one of the founders of the Gate Club, and was Captain of the Baltray Golf Club. As well as golf, he was interested in Bridge and his main hobby was gardening.
Anne and William had four children: Mary (1916 – 1992), Michael (1918 – 1993), Billy (1919 – 1990) and John (1920 – 1990).
Now we are going to have to try and track down the Behans of Monastrevin, County Kildare and find out more about our grandfather, William. Who were his parents and what did they do for a living? Did he have siblings? Where did he go to school?
Update (May, 2020):
Imelda Behan (daughter of Uncle Johnny, living in Milan, Italy) wrote to say that she visited the Behan family home near Monastrevin, in a place called Ballyfarsoon. Apparently our grandfather had a brother who lived there all his life. He married but had no children.
Ballyfarsoon is Baile an Phearsuin in Gaelic which roughly translates to "Town of the people". Known also as Ballyfarson, it is a townland in the parish of Monastrevin in County Kildare. Ballyfarsoon borders the following other townlands:
- Clonegath to the east
- Gorteenoona to the north
- Kill to the north
- Moore Abbey Demesne to the west
- Stramillian to the south
I searched for William Behan in Ballyfarsoon, County Kildare in the 1901 and 1911 but could not find a match. In the 1911 census for Ballyfarsoon, there's a John Behan aged 42 and his mother Mary Behan aged 80. Could this be William Behan's brother and mother? Mary Behan is in the Ballyfarsoon 1901 census aged 70. She was born ~ 1831. I couldn't find her in the 1851 census. Maybe she had not yet married into the Behans.
I searched the 1911 census for William Behan in Co. Mayo and found our grandfather in Swineford Town! He was aged 38, which means he was born in 1873. So he must have met our grandmother while he was working in the bank in Swinford, married her in 1915, then moved to Granard where we know Michael (our father) was born in 1918.
Grandfather William Behan (1873 - 1949).
In Griffith's Valuation for Ballyfarsoon (1847-1864) there's a Michael Behan listed as a tenant of the Marquis of Drogheda in 1852 with "House, office and land", 3 acres, valued at two pounds, five shillings. Beside his name is another tenant, Mary Dunne with "House, office and land", 11 acres, valued at seven pounds. The two properties abut on the map from that period. Did Michael marry his richer neighbor? Are Michael Behan and Mary Dunne the parents of Grandfather William Behan? When were they born? When did they marry? When did they die?
The two properties are off the R417 south of Monastrevin, 200 meters south of the southern border of Moore's Woods (part of Moore Abbey), past the M7 underpass. There are modern houses on each of these two properties now.