Extract from the Clare Champion...
STORIES and memories of a Clare family's history back to the early 1800s have been carefully woven together by a man who wants to keep it all in the mind's eye. It's a story typical of many Irish families, a continuous line remaining at the homestead, while other strands extend around the world.
Basil Minihane, now living in Ennis but whose family roots are in Mahonburgh, Inch, has focused much of his research on his maternal ancestry, the O'Tooles from Clare. His father's family hail from Durras in West Cork.
Basil's parents, Elizabeth and Daniel (Frank), left Ireland to find work in England in the late 1930s. They met at Salisbury Hospital, where his dad was a cook and his mother a nurse and married in June 1944.
Though born in London in February 1946, Basil describes himself as a proud Clare man, a Munster man but adds with a smile that it didn't stop him cheering on Leinster when they won the European Heineken Cup.
Basil has lived in Ennis for 16 years and prior to that, for 20 years at Inch but was a regular visitor to the O'Toole household from an early age.
"From childhood, I was returning to Ireland every year, every time to Clare and then to my father's homeplace in County Cork.
"People are asked about their earliest memories and I realised from a photo that for me, I must have been about four-years-old when I said to my uncles, John and Michael, 'Put me up on the horse, put me up on the horse'."
Basil was educated by Salesian priests in Battersea and during school holidays worked in the Royal Hospital and Home for Incurables, first in the laundry and then as a porter.
It was memories of his summer trips to Clare and meeting his grandfather, Timothy O'Toole and uncles on the farm that prompted Basil to build a family tree.
"Timothy (born August 15, 1881) was a retired farmer, having bought, reared and sold cattle, grew crops, saved hay and brought milk to the creamery in Kilmaley. His eldest son, John, took over management of the homestead at Mahonburgh.
"It was the practice at that time to use the rotation system of managing the fields. Potatoes, cabbages and root vegetables would be grown in a different field each year. It was interesting for me to see this, as I had been learning about this farm practice in my geography lessons in London. To see it applied on a farm in the West of Ireland pleased me," he said.
Timothy (Tim) married Mary Liston from the Ballyalla/Templemaley side of Ennis on July 6, 1910 and they had seven children; Basil's mother was the oldest.
Timothy was the youngest child of Susan O'Toole (born 1840), who was twice married. She married James Daffy on July 16, 1864, and they had four children.
The family had a strong affinity with Gaelic games. In the early years of the GAA, Inch Davitts, mentioned in Ollie Byrnes' Against the Wind, was formed in the Daffy/O'Toole household in 1887.
The youngest, James junior, born on October 1, 1870 went to New York where he hurled on the streets of Staten Island with other young men from the Banner County. James, who changed his name to Duffy, became a successful businessman and was president of New York GAA in the 1930s and president of the Claremen's Association in 1938.
Some time after James Daffy senior died, Susan married again to John O'Toole. The couple had five children, the youngest being Basil's granddad.
Susan was a daughter of Terence O'Toole and Anne Galvin, who married on June 22, 1836 and had property at Roslevan. Susan died on April 18, 1918 at the age of 77, six years after her granddaughter, Basil's mother Elizabeth Frances, was born on January 12, 1912. The second girl in the family, Mary Ellen, was born in the same year on December 27.
When the girls enrolled at Inch National School, they were listed as Lilly O'Toole and Mary O'Toole on May 21, 1917 and May 22, 1917 (Courtesy Kilmaley Parish Magazine 1996).
"During my teenage years, I heard my mother say, 'I've had a hard life'. It was many years later that I came to understand why. Her mother passed away on February 16, 1949 and mum's sister, Mary Ellen, died in the Coombe Hospital, Dublin on May 21 that same year, aged just 35. Then a brother, John died in a 'flu epidemic in January 1951, aged 35," Basil recalled.
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