Blennerhassett Family Tree
Genealogy one-name study      by Bill Jehan
   Introduction      History      Irvine Blennerhassett
Irvine Rowland Blennerhassett (1863-1919)
of Crickhowell, Breconshire (Powys)
a.k.a. Joseph "Joe" Benson (1912-1913)
a.k.a. Irvine Benson (1916-1919)
a monograph by Maldwyn Powell,
Crickhowell & District History Society
Brecon County Times
Thursday 5-Jun-1913

Irvine Rowland Blennerhassett was son of Edward Blennerhassett M.D., Ph.D., a respected Irish physician and one of a renowned Blennerhassett family medical dynasty from Ballymacprior, Killorglin, Co.Kerry, Ireland.

Dr Edward Blennerhassett was born at Killarney, Co.Kerry, educated at Trinity College Dublin (MD Admitted 1854), MRCS London and MRCPI Dublin. He moved to England, where in 1861 he was Assistant Surgeon at a medical school on Bassett Road, Camborne, Cornwall. Edward married at Trinity Church, Rathmines, Dublin 13-Jan-1862 to Cheretta "Cherry" Greene Rothwell, daughter of Samuel Alleyne Rothwell and Elizabeth Irvine, after whom their son Irvine Blennerhassett was named.

Following their marriage Edward & Cherry moved to London, residing at 10 Shrewsbury Road, Paddington when their son Irvine Blennerhassett was born there 9-Dec-1863. Irvine was baptised 27-Dec-1863, privately at home, from St Stephen's Church (C.o.E.), Paddington. Madeline Gilmer of Bayswater, presumably his godmother, presented him with a silver Christening Cup:


Blennerhassett family crest, above wreath:   a wolf sejant gules

Blennerhassett family motto, on ribbon:
FORTES FORTUNA JUVAT - "Fortune Favours the Bold"
Irvine Blennerhassett, Born in London December 9th 1863
Madeline Gilmer, Bayswater


When their daughter Edwardine Bessie Blennerhassett (Irvine's sister) was born 27-May-1867 the family resided at 64 Norfolk Terrace, Bayswater, London. She was baptised 7-Jun-1867, privately at home, from All Saints Church (C.o.E.), Notting Hill, Kensington.

Irvine's parents with their children Irvine and Edwardine returned to Ireland from London c1870, to reside at Knightstown, Valentia Island, Co.Kerry. Dr Edward Blennerhassett served as Medical Officer for Valentia Island 1870-1874 and there founded Valentia Village Hospital. 
Their youngest son Rev. Edward Townsend Blennerhassett (Irvine Blennerhassett's only brother) was born 14-Feb-1872 at Valentia Island (Registration District: Cahirsiveen, Co.Kerry).
In 1873 Dr Edward Blennerhassett presented a silver christening mug to a godson Edward Blennerhassett Tranfield, the mug engraved "EBT 9 May 1873".

Edward Blennerhassett Tranfield (b.9-May-1873 Valentia Island) was a telegraphist for transatlantic telegraph cables, working with his father, initially at the Valentia Island Cable Station but from 1885 at Waterville (when his father became Superintendant for the Commercial Cable Company at Waterville). His father was Frederick Thomas Tranfield Jr. (1841-1927), one of three original staff of the Atlantic Telegraph Co. at Valentia Island Cable Station, location of the European end of the telegraph cable first laid in 1866 by Brunel's "Great Eastern" between Ireland and Newfoundland.
Dr Edward Blennerhassett died at Knight's Town, Valentia 28-Mar-1874.

His widow Cherry Blennerhassett subsequently removed with her three children to Wales, residing in 1881 at a lodging house in Caradog Place, Llanfair Fechan, Carnarvonshire with her brother-in-law William Blennerhassett (formerly of Laharan, Valentia). In 1891-1893 Cherry lived at 4 Pensallt Street, Bangor, Carnarvonshire; in 1889-1898 at Green Hill (Greenhill), Llangefni, Anglesey, North Wales where Cherry died on 6-May-1898.
She is buried at Llangristiolus Churchyard, Anglesea [Y Clorianydd 12-May-1898 p.4] [Gwalia 17May1898 p.8].


               Blennerhassett. -- May 6th, at Greenhill, Llangefni,
               Cherry G[reene] Blennerhassett, widow of
               Mr Edward Blennerhassett, M.D., Valentia, County
               Kerry, Ireland.
["Y Clorianydd" 12-May-1898 p.4] ["Gwalia" 17-May-1898 p.8]


In 1881 Irvine was a Classics Teacher, fluent in English & Welsh, living with his widowed mother, siblings and uncle William Blennerhassett at Llanfair Fechan. The family removed to Llangefni (county town of Anglesey) where Irvine worked as bank clerk for the National Provincial Bank of England. At some date before 1885 he transferred to Crickhowell branch of the NPB, from "...which post he resigned in order to accept a vacancy in the office of Mr W. S. Mayrick, estate agent to Sir J. Russell Bailey, Bart., M.P.". Building on this, Irvine set up business as Accountant, Auctioneer, Valuer, Land & Estate Agent & Insurance Agent at Standard Street, Crickhowell, also at 12 Cross Street, Abergavenny (an hotel & public house).

On Friday 27-Apr-1888, no doubt on a visit home to his mother at Llangefni, Irvine participated in an Interesting Entertainment to raise funds for street lighting at Llangefni, he singing two comic songs, "I'm a Timid, Nervous Man(by John William Cherry 1867) and, with Mr N. Butler, "The Patent Fire Extinguisher: Jinks and Blinks" (by an old aquaintance).
Irvine Blennerhassett sings at Llangefni 27-Apr-1888
["North Wales Chronicle" 5-May-1888 p.6]
Irvine Blennerhassett becomes Clerk to the Guardians 18-Mar-1889
["North Wales Chronicle" 23-Mar-1889 p.3]
In 1885 while still a bank clerk with the National Provincial Bank, Irvine resided at Tower Street, Crickhowell.
On 21-Apr-1885 at St Edmund's parish church in Crickhowell he married Sarah Elizabeth Williams, daughter of David Williams, a printer. Prior to the wedding Sarah had lived with her parents at 2 Llanbedr Road, Crickhowell. Following their wedding Irvine & Elizabeth lived at 1 Llanbedr Road, the adjacent end-of-terrace house.

On Monday 18-Mar-1889 Irvine was appointed Clerk to the Crickhowell Rural District Council and Clerk to the Crickhowell Union Board of Guardians at at the "Spike" Workhouse, Llangattock, Crickhowell. He was secretary of the committee that raised funds for the building of Clarence Hall (a public hall for the town, built 1890), a certified Bailiff and Clerk to the Pensions Committee. In 1901-3 he was proprietor of the "Greyhound Hotel" at 4 High Street, Abergavenny. In 1911 he lived at 1 Clarence Villas, Crickhowell, one of a pair of terraced houses adjacent to Clarence Hall. In 1912 he managed the Llangattock Workhouse, residing at Llangattock (the workhouse building is now a popular restaurant and B&B named Ty Croeso).
Prominent in the local community, Irvine was a member of Chrickhowell Agricultural Society, Crickhowell Debating Society and Abergavenny Laundry Society. He played for Crickhowell Rugby Football Club, serving as Secretary 1886-87 and Treasurer from 1887, resigned 1888 but remained a committee member 1888-89. Irvine qualified as Welsh Rugby Union Referee in 1902. He also played cricket & Snooker.
In 1889-90 he applied for the clerkship of Ulverston Union in Cumberland but was unsuccessful.
In 1912 the accounts for the Rural District Council and Board of Guardians were subjected to an unannounced audit by Mr Robert Parr, Local Government Board Auditor, and as a result of this audit Irvine was suspected of financial irregularities. When about to be arrested he resigned all his official positions, leaving his home at Llangattock by car about midnight 20-Mar-1912, heading for Liverpool. The following day he sailed from Liverpool to Canada on Allen Line RMS "Tunisian", using an alias Joseph "Joe" Benson, widower. He arrived at St John, New Brunswick (via Halifax, Nova Scotia) 31-Mar-1912. The ship's manifest records his destination as Kootenay, British Columbia, intended occupation farmer, carrying £240 in cash. NOTE: The Kootenay region of B.C. contains Kootenay Lake, a long narrow lake that forms part of the Kootenay River, on the shoreline of which lake is a small settlement named Kootenay Bay. 
Irvine was traced to the town of Field, British Columbia (not far from the Kootenay region of B.C.) where he had found employment as steward and accountant at the "Mount Stephen Hotel", an hotel adjacent to Field railway station, operated by the Canadian Pacific Railway. Extradited from Canada in 1913, he was returned to the UK, tried at Brecon, convicted and sentenced to three years imprisonment. Following conviction he was moved initially to Cardiff Goal and from there to Parkhurst prison on the Isle of Wight, Hampshire, where he served his sentence.

Following Irvine's imprisonment in 1913 his first wife Sarah Elizabeth Blennerhassett (nee Williams) moved from their home at Crickhowell to 10 Weston Terrace, Brecon Road, Abergavenny, and there she died 10-Aug-1915. She is interred in the churchyard of St Edmund's (C.o.E.), Crickhowell, her headstone under a large beech tree (inscription has 14-Aug-1915, in error) opposite a house that was, until recently, the "Six Bells" public house. Her Will is dated 28-Feb-1906, proved 22-Jan-1916 at Llandff (Cardiff).
Following his release from prison in 1916 Irvine used a different alias, Irvine Benson, and under that name married 2ndly on 15-Feb-1917 at St Peter's Church, Southampton, Hampshire to Mrs Matilda Jane Thomas (nee Webber).

Matilda was b.Jul-Sep 1864 at Abergavenny, daughter of James Webber (schoolmaster, of Clunmore Villas, Weston Road, Abergavenny 1881) & Matilda Sarah Phoenix RogersShe was widow of David Thomas (b.1864 d.16-Sep-1913), draper (of Moreton Villa, Brecon Road, Abergavenny 1891-1901; of Highfield, Abergavenny 1911; and of "Golden Fleece", Abergavenny) by whom she had two children, Gwendolen Thomas (b.1887, living 1911) and Cyril David Thomas (b.17-Oct-1893 Abergavenny, d.1972 Cheltenham, draper's clerk 1911, married Eva Parry).

NOTE: Irvine's first wife Sarah was also living at Brecon Road, Abergavenny when she died in 1915.
In 1919 Irvine & Matilda resided at Whitecliff View, Royal Street, Sandown, Isle of Wight (not far from Parkhurst Prison). 

Irvine died on 10-Aug-1919 of phthisis (pulmonary tuberculosis of the lungs) at Dudley House Nursing Home, Sandown, buried 12-Aug-1919 in an unmarked grave at the churchyard of Christ Church (C.o.E.) Sandown (The Isle of Wight Record Office has a list of headstone inscriptions for Christ Church churchyard but Irvine's name does not appear). At his death his occupation was recorded as Estate Agent but there is no evidence he was employed at either Southampton or Sandown.
Irvine's widow Matilda Jane Benson died in 1959 at Southport, Lancashire, aged 94 years. 
photo: courtesy of Geraldine Pardoe
Irvine Blennerhassett, newspaper advertisement
"Crickhowell Yesterday" by John Addis, vol.2, 1996 [ADDIS]

Irvine Blennerhassett, advertisement in "Kelly's Directory of Monmouthshire and South Wales, 1895" p.18
Irvine Rowland Blennerhassett
Crickhowell Rugby Football Club Fixture Card, 1886-1887
Irvine Blennerhassett, Honorary Secretary
image: courtesy of Maldwyn Powell 

to Canada...
photo: courtesy of Maldwyn Powell
Royal Mail Ship "Tunisian", on which Irvine Blennerhassett, alias Joseph "Joe" Benson, sailed
from Liverpool on 21-Mar-1912 bound for St.John, New Brunswick, via Halifax, Nova Scotia.
His destination as declared for the passenger list was Kootenay, British Columbia. 
The passenger List for SS "Tunisian" sailing from Liverpool on 21-Mar-1912 bound for St.John, New Brunswick (via Halifax, Nova Scotia) has these entries for Joseph Benson:
Page 2
Port of
Ticket Number
Class (whether
1st, 2nd or 3rd)
Profession or
Port at which contracted to land 
__ Benson 
2nd (Intermediate) 
male (single or
Page 3
No. of S.S. Contract
of cash
Single or
Ever been in Canada before? 
Post Office,
Travelling Inland on 
Benson, Joseph
Kootenay, BC
C. of E. 
View original passenger list (images courtesy of Maldwyn Powell):
Irvine travelled from St.John, New Brunswick, to British Columbia on the Canadian Pacific Railway, on arrival he finding employment at the "Mount Stephen Canadian Pacific Hotel", adjacent to the railway station at Field, BC.
NOTE: The CPR railway line across Canade was completed in 1885 - the equivalent road (Trans-Canada Highway) was not completed until 1962.

Special thanks to:

Maldwyn Powell (Crickhowell & District History Society), whose extensive research into this story is published as his monograph "The Crickhowell Sensation 1912-1913: The Tale of Irvine Blennerhassett" (2nd edition).
The first edition appeared in Crickhowell District Archive Centre "Newsletter No.13, December 2009", reproduced here courtesy of Mal Powell & Crickhowell District Archive Centre. A summary may be found in "The Focus, for Crickhowell, Brecon & The Usk Valley" Issue 19, Nov./Dec. 1015, page 23.

Alan Lawson, who while researching his wife's family history discovered, among other things, Irvine's 2nd marriage & 2nd change of name."bringing history to your mobile"
 "HistoryPoints" plaques, placed at points of historic interest in Wales, communicate the history of a property (or former occupant) to smartphones or tablets in the vicinity that have a HistoryPoints App installed.
A "HistoryPoints" QR code plaque is mounted on the brick gatepost of Irvine Blennerhassett's home at 1 Clarence Villas, Crickhowell. This was installed on 8-Dec-2015 by Maldwyn Powell of Crickhowell and District History Society, assisted by members of the society and by Bill Jehan of the "Blennerhassett Family Tree" website.  See Crickhowell and District History Society Newsletter No.12 - Winter 2015.
"I. Blennerhassett - Crooked clerk's ex-home"
(a more sympathetic title would perhaps have been better - M.P.)
Mal Powell & Bill Jehan at installation
of the plaque 8-Dec-2015



Dr Edward Blennerhassett died at Knight's Town, Valentia 28-Mar-1874. His widow Cherry Blennerhassett subsequently removed with her three children to Wales, residing in 1881 at a lodging house in Caradog Place, Llanfair Fechan, Carnarvonshire with her brother-in-law William Blennerhassett (formerly of Laharan, Valentia). In 1891-1893 Cherry lived at 4 Pensallt Street, Bangor, Carnarvonshire; in 1889-1898 at Green Hill (Greenhill), Llangefni, Anglesey, North Wales where Cherry died on 6-May-1898.
She is buried at Llangristiolus Churchyard, Anglesea [Y Clorianydd 12-May-1898 p.4] [Gwalia 17May1898 p.8].

Dr Williams of Green Hill, Llangefni, Anglesey, North Wales had an only son named Blennerhassett Williams,
who in 1900 joined the Imperial Yeomanry for service in South Africa.

Is there a connection between these two families?
[North Wales Chronicle 13-Jan-1900]




Their youngest son Rev. Edward Townsend Blennerhassett (Irvine Blennerhassett's only brother) was born 14-Feb-1872 at Valentia.
In 1881 Edward Townsend Blennerhassett was at school, living with his mother in a lodging house at Caradog Place, Llanfair Fechan, Carnarvonshire, Wales.
Educated at University College Durham, a "Student of Philosophy" 1891-1893 (Lic.Th. 1893).
When not at Durham he lived with his mother at 4 Pensallt Street, Bangor, Carnarvonshire. 

Anglican clergyman:
    - Deacon, ordained 11-Mar-1895 at Llandaff Cathedral, Cardiff.
      [Evening Express 11-Mar-1895 p.3] [The South Wales Daily Post 11-Mar-1895 p.4].
    - Priest, ordained 1896 at Llandaff Cathedral [Y Llan 6-Mar-1896 p.5]
    - Curate of St Andrew, Cardiff, Wales 11-Mar-1895 to 13-May-1896 [Evening Express 13-May-1896 p.2]
      resided at 119 Crwys Road, Cardiff 1895;
      on his leaving St Andrew he was presented with "...a pocket communion service , in silver, of handsome design".
    - Curate of Maindee, Newport, Monmouthshire from 2-Dec-1897 [Weekly Mail 4-Dec-1897 p.5] [Evening Express 2-Dec-1897 p.4]
      NOTE: Rev. Edward Townsend Blennerhassett is mentioned at St Fagan's parish, Cardiff in a directory of 1897
                (not Crockfords - what directory was this?) but the Cardiff "Evening Express" of 11-Jul-1896 has on p.3
                a report titled "Murder at Fairwater" in which he is described "the Rev. Blennerhassett formerly of Cardiff..."
                The 1897 directory mention may refer to a brief, temporary, placement at St Fagan's.

    - Curate of All Saints, Weston, near Bath, Somerset 1897-1899.
      Rev. Edward is listed in "Crockford's Clerical Directory" for 1902 as having been curate of Weston, Bath in 1899; but, as it also
      indicates no completed return received from him for the 1902 directory, it is possible 1899 may have been last year at Weston.

[Crockford's Clerical Directory, 1902 p.132]

      Perhaps identical with a Rev. Blennerhassett (born c1869) who sailed 16-Feb-1899 from Southampton, England
      to Mossel Bay, South Africa (half way between Cape Town & Port Elizabeth).

      Perhaps identical with Edward Blennerhassett, schoolmaster (b.1872) of Hackney, London who on 12-Dec-1899 was
      admitted to the infirmary of Hackney Union Workhouse, London - his religion was recorded at the infirmary as
      "Roman Catholic", but that perhaps an error.
      Served in Royal Army Medical Corps 1907-1911 at Alexandra Military Hospital, Cosham, Hampshire.
                                                                                         (discharged 29-Dec-1911, time expired)
      During WWI he rejoined R.A.M.C. as a Private, Regimental Service No. 1642,
      enlisting for four years as male nurse with R.A.M.C. Special Reserve (signed up 10-Aug-1914, entered service 27-Aug-1914),
      For his WWI service he was awarded [medal card WO372/2]:
                                                            Victory Medal        (Medal Roll R.A.M.C. /101 B94 p.7251)
                                                            British War Medal  (Medal Roll R.A.M.C. /101 B94 p.7251)
                                                            1914 Star             (Medal Roll R.A.M.C. /18         p.8)
      His WWI army service records [NA WO 363] give his birth county incorrectly, as Montgomeryshire.

      He died 8-May-1922 at Rowton House, Bond Street, Vauxhall, London, his occupation "trained nurse".
      The informant at his death was Belle Riddell, the "Occupier" at Rowton House.

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