Irish Immigrants in Neston: the Ryans

by Carl Ashton

In the mid 1800’s, due to the Irish famine, folks were pouring in off the ships from Ireland into Liverpool, and other port towns and cities, often in dreadful states of health, and from what I’ve read a lot didn’t even make it alive.

The Dublin to Parkgate ferries had ceased service by the early 1800’s, so Liverpool or maybe Holyhead would’ve been the main destination in the North West of the UK. Over the years, many Irish immigrants made their way to Neston, but I’d like to tell you about two of them.

Rose Fergus and William Ryan.

Their names were Rose Fergus and William Ryan. They were married in Crossmolina, County Mayo in 1854, Rose came from County Mayo, and William from Wexford. The story in the family is that Rose was the daughter of a wealthy family and William worked for them as a groom, but there I haven’t found any proof of that.

They and their 3 (possibly 4) children arrived in Neston sometime in the 1860s. Two sons were born in County Mayo, Daniel in 1857 and William in 1865,  but living with them in Golden Lion Yard in 1881 were three children born and baptised in Neston; Joseph in 1867, Thomas in 1876 and Bedelia in 1881. Another son, Patrick was born around 1864 and although his place of birth is usually given as Neston it’s possible he was born before they left Ireland.

It was called Golden Lion Yard because it was behind the Golden Lion pub which stood on the High Street, where Concept Interiors is today. By 1881 there were at least 4 families of Irish immigrants in there. There were only 6 or 7 cottages so there was a strong Irish contingent in the yard. There were more Irish families down at Pemberton’s Green; Pemberton’s Green was a small terraced row just off Mill Street. where there were about 7 Irish families, and more were recorded as living on Liverpool Road. The close proximity of those addresses almost forms an ‘Irish’ quarter in the centre of Neston. In the census there were a number of Irish names like Murphy and Cassady, but there were no names I’d recognise as a large Neston Family, that are still around these parts (but I could be wrong).

William Ryan, like many Irish immigrants in the area worked as a farm labourer. I’ve always considered the Irish as quite a lyrical folk, and with the number of Irish in Lion Yard and the surrounding street. I’d like to imagine it as a place where although life was hard, they knew how to enjoy themselves with a drink and a few tunes.

Times must’ve eventually become too difficult for Rose and William. In 1887 they, with their two youngest children, Bedelia and Thomas, were living in the Workhouse at Clatterbridge. In 1889 it was suggested that Bedelia, then aged nine, and Thomas, aged fourteen, might be sent to Canada under a £10 emigration scheme but the proposal was voted down by the Board of Guardians.  In 1891 William, now aged 72,  Rose and Bedelia were still  the Workhouse and Rose died there later that year, aged 58. William remained at the Workhouse until his death in 1906 at the age of 86.