The available records tell us that our branch of the Miskella family can be traced with certainty back to about the year 1827 when Patrick Miskella married Catherine Phewer. We can speculate that Patrick was the son of Michael, who married Marie Kelly, and that he had a brother named Edward who was born on the 29th of November 1803. This speculation arises from the fact that three persons named Kelly acted as sponsors for the children of Patrick and Catherine. If we regard the name Miskella as rare or unusual we should feel the same about the name Phewer. These could well be families of an ethnic origin that stayed close to each other in whatever area of Wexford they settled originally.
Patrick and Catherine had at least five children, Richard born in 1828, Bridget born in 1829, James born in 1833, Catherine born in 1836, Aidan born in 1839, and Thomas born in 1841. It is the latter two whose families we can trace with accuracy, working from Church records, the census returns of 1901 and 1911, and the memories of many family members, happily still with us today.
The Miskella story begins in earnest for us with the birth of Aidan in 1839. He would have been given the name Moses or Mogue both of which are synonymous with the name Aidan, especially in Wexford and this name would have stayed with him all his life. In both the 1901 and the 1911 census returns he is named as Moses but on his headstone he is named as Aidan. In 1901 he was described as a labourer and he had a lodger staying with him, thirty five year old Patrick Maddock. In 1911 he was described as a general labourer and was then living alone. The name Aidan can be written in different ways. The Irish for Aidan is Mo-Each-Og meaning my young Hugh and the nicknames have developed from that.
In 1863 Aidan married Catherine O’Sullivan and they lived in Michael Street, New Ross Co. Wexford. Catherine was eight years older than Aidan and she pre-deceased him on the 9th of October 1892 aged 61 years. Their eldest son Patrick was born in 1864. Another son Philip was born on the 12th of April 1867. We have no knowledge of any other children. We will see that during his lifetime Aidan saw seven of his grandchildren dying at a very young age. The headstone that his son Patrick had erected to the memory of his parents and children in New Ross Cemetery Co. Wexford, together with information about Patrick’s family are as follows:-
ERECTED BY PATRICK MISKELLA IN MEMORY OF HIS MOTHER CATHERINE (NEE O’SULLIVAN) WHO DIED ON THE 9TH OF OCTOBER 1892 AGED 61 YEARS.
ALSO HIS DAUGHTERS:
Katie who died on the 29th of December 1906 aged 12 years.
Christina who died on the 28th of May 1908 aged 10 years.
And two children who died young.
THE ABOVE NAMED PATRICK MISKELLA WHO DIED ON THE 9TH OF DECEMBER 1911 AGED 47 YEARS.
HIS FATHER AIDAN MISKELLA WHO DIED ON THE 25TH OF MARCH 1915 AGED 76 YEARS.
The above Patrick Miskella was born in Michael Street New Ross. In the 1901 census he was described as Roman Catholic, could read and write and was aged 36. He was married to Margaret Ryan who was aged 30. He was recorded as being a Poultry Dealer in John Street New Ross. His children were as follows:-
Aidan (9), Kate (7), Margaret (6), Bridget (5), Christina (3)
The 1911 census describes him as a Shopkeeper, married 20 years, 10 children born and 6 living, as follows:-
Aidan (19), Margaret (16), Bridget (14), Joseph (8), Julia (6), Mary (4)
His mother-in-law Johanna Ryan aged 70 lived with them.
So now we turn to Philip Miskella, Aidan’s second son. He was described as a Clerk in the 1901 senses and again on the birth certificate of his son Aidan who was born in 1901. We don’t know what happened to his clerical career because in the 1911 census he was described as a labourer. We know that in his later years he worked in the Shelburne Co-Op. Stores, which was situated near his residence in King Street, and it was there that we, as children on our holidays, saw him weighing the corn sacks as they were brought in from the farms during thrashing time.
Philip was born in Michael Street, New Ross on the 12th of April 1867. In June 1896 he married Anne Wickham who came from the Village of Barntown which is situated on the road from Wexford to New Ross. Anne was 10 years younger than Philip and just 20 years of age when they married. She was the daughter of Martin and Anne Wickham (maiden name Cleere) both of who were born in 1846. Martin and Anne lived to be over 90 years of age and they both died on the same day.
We will now see how the family of Philip and Anne was decimated by the deaths of their three young children. They lived in New Ross for a time after they were married and their first daughter Catherine was born there in June 1897. They then moved to a rented house, number 34 King Street, Wexford where their second daughter Anne was born in May 1898.
King Street is a continuous row of terraced houses, which outwardly look much the same today as they did when they were built at the end of the last century. Many improvements have been made to them internally and extensions built to the rears of them. These houses were built to house the working class people and the rent they paid to the Landlord was one old shilling per week. The houses consisted of two bedrooms upstairs, a kitchen and another room downstairs, which could be another bedroom or a parlour. Outside the back door there was a water tap fixed to the wall and a shore underneath. A small building housed a dry toilet, which consisted of a wooden seat, a bucket underneath it, an ample supply of ashes or lime and a bundle of newspaper pieces cut into twelve inch squares suspended on a piece of twine. They had a small garden, which supplied a reasonable amount of fresh vegetables. Despite the limited facilities that these houses provided, they were a huge improvement on the hovels that people had lived in prior to that.
Their third daughter, Mary Elizabeth, was born on the 9th of December 1899. We will relate more about her later on. Their first son Aidan, called after his grandfather, was born on the 13th of April 1901. Their second son Philip Francis, was born on the 23rd of February 1903, at the very time that their eldest daughter Catherine died aged just 6 years. Tragedy struck the family again when their eldest son Aidan died in March 1904 at just three years of age.
Joy returned to the family once more when another baby daughter was born on the 15th of March 1905. To maintain the family tradition they again christened this child Catherine. However her chance of survival in the cruel world of that time was cut horribly short when she also died in May 1910 aged 5 years.
So now Philip and Anne had seen their family halved by the rampant diseases that prevailed in those times. Consumption, later known as Tuberculosis, Diphtheria and Scarlet Fever were deadly in the true sense of the word and in the case of this family it is remarkable that their other three children survived at all. Medicines to tackle these killer diseases were not fully available until the mid 20th century. So serious was the problem for families, that when a member of a household died from say Consumption, all their belongings and their bed clothes would have to be destroyed by burning them.
People coped remarkably well in those days with the loss of their children and Anne Miskella was no exception. It was an accepted part of life, as it was happening all around them, to their neighbours and their friends. But for all that it was still a very traumatic experience to bring three young children and place them in the graves of their grandparents or great grandparents, as was the custom in those days.
Philip and Anne’s daughter Mary married Garda John Brennan in 1927 when he was stationed in Donard Co. Wicklow, where they were living in the home of the Leniston family.
In October 1927 John was transferred to Blessington and Mary returned to her mother’s home for the birth of her first child, a son born on or about the 22nd of November 1928 and christened Seán Philip after both his grandfathers. There is no knowledge at all as to what happened to cause the death of this child at the tender age of 7 weeks on the 10th of January 1929. He was the fourth child to die in this house and was taken for burial to Barntown Cemetary and placed in a grave that probably contained the remains of his two little aunties and uncle.
Despite this early set back for John and Mary they proceeded to have another baby very quickly with the birth of a girl, Mary Philomena, who was born in Blessington Co. Wicklow, where John was now stationed, on the 9th of December 1929. Despite all that happened in 34 King Street, Mary returned there for the births of her next two children, Patrick Joseph on the 12th of March 1931 and Philip James on the 22nd of July 1933. Their youngest son John Pious was born in Blessington on the 15th of March 1939.
Philip Francis Miskella, the youngest son of Philip and Anne, grew up in King Street and went from school to join the teaching order of the De La Salle Brothers. He was based in Waterford and Kilkenny and also Edinburgh in Scotland before deciding to leave the order altogether and follow in the footsteps of his brother-in-law John Brennan by joining the new and exciting Irish police force known as An Garda Siochana, on the 7th of May 1926. To date he is the only Miskella ever to join the force.
His first station was in Rossport Co. Mayo and he was transferred to Belmullet also in Co. Mayo on the 17th of March 1927. There he met his future wife, May Dempsey, and they were married on June 26th 1929. By a strange coincidence, her grandfather John Dempsey came from Wexford and lived quite near to the Miskella’s, before he immigrated to Co. Mayo where he was a building contractor based in Belmullet. After their marriage Philip was transferred to Claremorris and subsequent to that he served in Oughterard, Naas, Drumshambo, Glasslough and Daingean Co. Offaly, where he retired on the 22nd of February 1966, after nearly 40 years in the force. He was promoted to Sergeant while stationed in Daingean on the 6th of July1949.
Philip and May had five children, Mary (1930), Philip (1932), Joseph (1934), Anne (1935) and Denis (1939) giving an assurance that the Miskella name from this branch of the family will live long into the future. Philip died on the 28th of September 1970 and is buried in Tyrellspass Cemetery with his wife May who died on the 1st of June in the same year.
Anne Miskella, the eldest daughter of Philip and Anne, never married and as far as we know never worked anywhere, certainly not in the years that we knew her. She was ever present with her parents in King Street and despite the upset it must have caused in such a small house, she always gave a great welcome to her sister Mary and her children when they arrived annually for a long summer vacation. She would meet the bus at White’s Hotel and have a man with a handcart to transport the entire luggage to King Street, as she wheeled the pram. She arranged special little treats, such as trips to the seaside at Rosslare. These always depended on the weather and the suitability of the day was determined by the direction the clothes were blowing on the line.
Another of her treats was exercised on a Sunday afternoon when she played a selection of what was known as 78 record featuring songs by John McCormack and others. These were played on His Masters Voice Gramaphone, which has survived the time and the hour and still exists.
She also arranged trips to visit the other Granny out in Ballyboggan, Castlebridge, usually in Jimmy Kavanagh’s Hackney Cab, or on a fine day all would travel in Henry Keyes’s Pony and Trap. Henry lived next door to the Miskella’s.
Before waste disposal problems became such an issue, the Miskellas and others like them had dealt with the situation themselves. In a small compound at the bottom of the garden they kept a lone pig and this was reared from a small Bonham to full grown size on household scraps and pig meal and then disposed of to the local bacon factory.
A major problem arose from time to time for the families living in King Street. It was flooding caused by a combination of high tides and heavy rain which caused The Horse River, as it was known, to burst its banks and water would rise to a depth of 4 feet in all the houses in the street. This caused devastation and the families had to be rescued through the top windows and taken to The Talbot Hotel and remain there until the water subsided and then return to a mess that on one occasion had resulted in the death of the pig, and the teapot turning up month’s later having disappeared up the chimney. This problem existed even long after the Miskella’s had gone out of King Street and a greater tragedy happened when a motorist caught in the flood actually drowned in the Street as the residents watched helplessly from their windows. The problem was eventually settled when the river was piped under ground.
Turning to Aidan’s youngest brother Thomas who was born in 1841, we trace the parallel development of his family with that of Aidan. Whereas Aidan went to live in the town of New Ross, Thomas began, or perhaps continued, the Miskella dynasty of Mullinderry where at least four generations of the family have lived on the same site. Today his great granddaughter Joan (Mrs. Byrne) lives with her husband and family in a modern house built on or near the spot where one or more family homes existed in the past. Thomas was married to a woman named Ellen and they had at least two children. Patrick was born in 1864 and Richard was born in 1866. Patrick married Bridget Whitty and their children were as follows:
Thomas (1896), Mary (1897), James (1899), Patrick (1906), Margaret (1908) and John (1912)
Three children, Helen, Richard and Robert, all died young. In 2002 John was still hale and hearty and aged ninety years. He lives in Mulrankin Co. Wexford with his wife Rosie and their children are as follows:-
Patrick, Aidan, Thomas, Eamon, Bridget, Eileen, Patricia, Mary and Collette
Thomas, the eldest son of Patrick and Bridget, married Catherine Doyle. They had 15 children and here again we see the certainty that prevailed of naming the eldest son after the paternal grandfather and the eldest daughter after the grandmother. Their children were:-
Patrick, Bridget, James, Mary Ann (who died young), Thomas, Seán, and then twins Robert and Mary, Richard, Catherine, Aidan, Teresa, Michael, Joan and Philomena.
Two of the sons joined the priesthood: Aidan was a Mill Hill Missionary priest and worked on the Missions in Nairobi, Kenya. Sadly he died while home here in Ireland on the 25th of October 1996. He is buried in the Cemetery adjoining the Parish Church in Clongeen Co. Wexford. His brother Richard (Dick) was also a Mill Hill priest and later transferred to the Jesuit Order and is now a Chaplain in California. Other members of the family and their children are to be found in the home County of Wexford, in other parts of Ireland, across the water in the UK and as far away as Australia.
We are happy to have confirmation of our relationship to this family and looking at the names and ages of the various generations it confirms that we are related at the third cousin level. We also have another reason to be assured of the connection. This family had a visit, many years ago, from a Garda Sergeant who was enquiring about his relatives. We have established that it had to be our uncle Sergeant Philip Miskella as he was the only Miskella ever in the Garda Siochana. We have also got assurance from Philip’s daughter Mary that he knew this family were his cousins.
The fact that research turns up the good and the bad are to be found in the following story. The name Miskella was submitted to The National Archives as a query and the search results produced just two observations:
(1) Philip Miskella, age 20, was tried at Wexford Court for burglary on the 9th of July 1850 and was sentenced to transportation for 10 years.
(2) Thomas Miskella, age 15, was tried at Wexford Court for burglary on the 23rd of October 1851 and was sentenced to transportation for 7 years.
As it turned out Mountjoy Prison was opened at that time, so neither of them had to make the journey to Australia. Philip was transferred to Spike Island in 1854 and was discharged on the 19th of June 1856. Thomas was transferred to Spike Island in August 1855 and was discharged on the 12th of November 1855. That these two were brothers is beyond doubt as the descriptions given for both of them were almost identical. Height 5ft-5ins, hazel eyes, black hair, fresh complexion and both were described as labourers.
We will end the story on a lighter note by telling a yarn that Father Dick Miskella told us about how the Miskella story really began. He says he has it on good authority that the first Miskella came ashore in Banna Bay Co. Wexford, holding on to the tail of a Buffalo, after being shipwrecked off the coast. If we are unable to give credence to that story then we are no wiser as to how they came ashore to the fair and fertile land of County Wexford. But come they did and from where we know not with any degree of certainty except to say that the suggestion that their origin was Slovakian or Hungarian has been discounted by The Embassy’s of these Countries in saying that a name with a double L would not have originated there. That leaves us with the legend that the name was Hugenot and of French origin and they like many other families were ousted from their homeland during the days of persecution in that country. The name Miskella is regarded as unusual and is comparatively scarce throughout Ireland and any family bearing the name, or those descended from it, will always trace their origins back to County Wexford. As we have shown from the research undertaken, the first trace of the name was found in 1803. It goes back much further than that because several branches of the family were seen to be in existence throughout the 1800’s, perhaps more even than we find today.