March 5th 1946  - Bealaha Church, Doonbeg, Co. Clare.  John Markham & Mary Whelan.


Mary and John Markham 1983

From the earliest times of which authentic history has anything definite to tell us, the ruling people of Thomond were a remarkable race called the Dal gCais or as English speakers call it, the Dalcassians named after their great leader, Cas. Cas had twelve sons among whom Thomond was divided. These became the ancestors of the principal families of Thomond.

According to the late Edward McLysaght in his book ‘The Surnames of Ireland’ the fine Dalcassian name O’Markahan has been widely changed to the English Markham. The Derryguiha Markhams claim origin from Ballymarkahan a townland between Quin and Sixmilebridge in County Clare, which contains a castle bearing the same name. In the upheavals of the seventeenth century; confiscations of land and Acts of Settlement saw the old Dalcassian name change to Markham.

The Markham clan of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries lived in a time that brought them through some of the most trying periods of Irish history – decades marked by a series of hardship and hunger; evictions and emigration; risings and reprisals.

Patrick Markham and his wife Bridget (nee Carrigg) arrived at Derryguiha in 1830 from Ballyvohane, Kildysart, and held two leases of land on the J.W. Wandesforde Butler Estate. Patrick Markham and his wife Bridget are recorded as having the following children, Mary born 19th April 1830; Daniel born 2nd December 1838 and Patrick Junior. The latter was later to take up residence in Labasheeda village and was lessor of the Dispensary to the Board of Guardians of Kildysart Union. Daniel, a son of Patrick, born in 1854 emigrated to Tennessee U.S.A. and made a number of trips to Labasheeda. Nicknamed Yankee Markham, his very final return trip to America was in the ship ‘The Lusitania’ on 14th September 1912.

Mary Markham married James O’Brien of Dereen, Coolmeen. Incidentally this Mary was great great grandmother of Clare footballer Martin Daly.

Elizabeth Markham born in 1885 at Gower Cooraclare; better known as the late Mrs. Crotty and renowned concertina player was of the same lineage as the Markham’s of Derryguiha and Slievedooley.

 In the nineteenth century between 1830 and 1860 the Markham surname was recorded in the following West Clare locations; Derryguiha, Kildysart, Tullycrine, Gower, Slievedooley and Labasheeda Village. By the turn of the century the surname only existed at Slievedooley, Gower and Derryguiha.

Daniel Markham, successor to Patrick at Derryguiha, made a journey to Biddy Early on horse and saddle seeking help from the ‘remarkable woman who possessed extraordinary powers and natural gifts of knowing the unknown’. The purpose of this journey to Feakle was to tell his story of the on- going death of infant twin children since 1864.  Biddy Early put his mind at ease and informed him “they’d have another birth of twins and they’d live”. This trip coincidentally was in early 1874, and Biddy Early’s death occurred in April of the same year. The following year came and twins were born to Daniel and Bridget Markham (nee Hanrahan) on June 24th 1875. Daniel was a low sized man with ginger coloured hair. It is reputed that at the back gates to Thornberry House a man was often seen and when approached would disappear. One winter’s night while Daniel was travelling on horse and saddle he found it difficult to close the half gates’ rather than come off his horse he shouted “if your there now close the gates!” Daniel’s death occurred on October 5th 1915. His wife Bridget lived her final years at Lissycasey and died on 28th March 1932 aged 90 years.

The twins John and Michael were raised at Derryguiha and on Shrove Tuesday February 19th 1901 Michael married Mary O’Connor of Ballinasheena, Lissycasey. Sadly Mary died five months later on July 28th aged 19 years and the cause of death according to the death certificate was Tuberculosis. However, six months later Michael married for the second time in twelve months at the same church. The bride this time was nearby neighbour Mary Coughlan of Ballinasheena, Lissycasey. The couple had a total of nine children Daniel, Michael, Mary, Margaret, Theresa, Kathleen, Martin, Joseph and John. Most of them emigrated to America. Michael lived to the grand old age of 89 years. An eight day clock as a wedding gift to Michael from his mother at Derryguiha is now in the possession of his grandson Timothy Cleary at Ballinasheena.

Meanwhile at Derryguiha John married Catherine Hannon of Ballycurrane, Knock, Co. Clare at St. Mary’s church Kilmurry McMahon on Shrove Tuesday February 12th 1905. Catherine was daughter of Denis Hannon and Catherine Hannon (nee Halpin). John, like his half twin was of athletic build, and he is remembered as being a great fowler, winning many shooting competitions at carnivals. On the evening before his sudden death July 29th 1960, he returned from a shooting trip with two rabbits.

Catherine was a regular visitor to Dublin where her daughter resided, and her final trip was made the very year before she died. Her death occurred on 15th December 1961 at the advanced age of 90 years.

As was the story for many a couple in the 1800’s and 1900’s many families experienced children dying at a young age. In the Markham household, according to the death certificates, pneumonia is listed as the cause of death. John and Catherine buried a son Denis Coleman aged five weeks on 28th October 1910, a daughter Kathleen on February 16th 1923 aged seven years and a second daughter Mary on December 8th 1932 aged 21 years.

Fostering of children was very common in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries in Ireland. Usually the eldest son moved to an uncle’s or grandparent’s home. Markhams’ at Derryguiha was no exception as Daniel the eldest son was brought to his grandparents at Ballycurrane at the early age of four years in 1910.  At the age of nine years he was collected by his father one evening to assist the next morning with rounding up cattle for the fair day at Kildysart. The young boy was afraid he was going to be kept so that night when everyone was in bed he stole out the door and ran the six mile road to his grandparents home. On the 24th April 1934 Daniel and another man Paddy Rochford of Knock while fishing off Knock were caught in a sudden gale, swept out the River Shannon. Minus an oar and struggling to keep the curragh type boat emptied from lashing waves, and they were eventually in the dark of the night wedged between cliffs at Tarbert. Reported drowned at the Clare village of Knock they arrived home safely the next day. The late Murt Cunningham of Killimer, who was a good colleague of Daniel, told me that Daniel cycled from Killimer N.S. to Sarsfield Barracks Limerick. He had been attending a Wren Dance in January circa 1940’s. According to Murt he departed at 2am to arrive in Limerick at 5.30am to open certain buildings.

Daniel (1906-1996) was later to become an outstanding athlete, capturing numerous championship medals while attached to the Irish army. He married Nellie Bucke, of Curramore,  Broadford, Co. Limerick and had issue, one son Neil.


John Markham was born on April 13th 1913. His early memories include seeing the Black and Tan lorries pass by Bohyodaun on the Kildysart road in June 1921 as he and his father worked in a garden of potatoes. He got instructions to lay horizontally from the old man until all was clear. The following year in the summer of 1922 he remembers a visit to the family home by the Free State soldiers in search of ammunition and successfully locating same in a secret place in the chimney hob. His worst memory as a child while at Coolmeen N.S. was when Fr. James Carey P.P. arrived one Monday morning and asked ‘who missed Mass yesterday?’ John answered, “I did!” Fr. Carey proceeded to drag him from the bench with the aid of his walking cane around the neck.

John can remember uncles on the maternal side visit the home while he was a young boy. All three uncles held lucrative positions namely; Superintendent James Hannon, D.M.P.,

Sinon Hannon R.I.C. (1874-1936) and Michael Hannon who later emigrated to America on qualifying as a teacher.

John notes that according to an invoice dating back to 1913, Denis Hannon his grandfather at Ballycurrane, Knock purchased 8 gallons of stout at Simon Culligan’s Bar, Knock on September 30th 1913 for the sum of 13 shillings and 4 pennies. This in simple terms meant that one could have 96 pints of stout for 1.

A shopping outing to Kildysart village in 1923 with his mother and the mode of transport being the ass and cart remains vivid with John. He says she had 5 setting out and after buying drapery at Dan Moloney’s consisting of flannelette she proceeded to Thady Kenny’s where she purchased a half sack of flour (10 stone) @ 7/6 and a half sack of meal @ six shillings. She also bought the main groceries and proceeded home that evening with over 1 change in her pocket. John had to walk the return journey as the weight for the donkey was too great while poor road conditions also prevailed.

His first work experience commenced at Sonny Ryan’s, Moyroe House at the age of 15 years in 1928. The weekly pay was six shillings per week. Manual work included gardening, herding, opening of drains, haymaking and turf cutting. The following year John bought a calf from his savings. The cost of the calf was 3-12s-6d, and he kept the calf for three years, giving it priority above his parents stock. In 1932 he walked it to Kildysart fair and offered the now “three year old big bullock” for sale.

That same day Eamon de Valera was about to come to Kildysart on an election canvas and of course politics in those days was a serious matter. Dev’s followers commenced by clearing the cattle to make way for his arrival. Of course the opponents resisted and away with the scuffles. One animal belonging to a Kilmurry McMahon man was frightened and went through the window of Griffin’s public house. Other animals weren’t located for several days. The faction fighting went on all day until the early hours of the next day; and one cattle seller from Lissycasey had his ear severed off as a result of a blackthorn stick swipe. Garda reinforcements were brought to the village. That same day John did get to sell his bullock for a disappointing price 3-7s-6d, five shillings below the initial price he gave three years previously, surely a sign of the times and the approaching Economic War.

Soon after 1932 John took up employment in Swords, Co. Dublin as a Dairy Worker. On his first visit to Clare in three and a half years his father insisted on his taking charge of the family farm. At this stage he became actively involved in Cross Country events his favourite distance being the seven mile plus. Several of his winnings remain on the family dresser.

Reflecting back to 1933 John remembers severe weather condition there was six weeks’ of black frost, the nearby Derryguiha lake had a thick sheet of ice covering it. He and a number of brave local boys cycled on the lake on a number of occasions.


Clonderlaw Wren held a Wren Dance at the Markham homestead in the year circa 1936 this according to John was a memorable night. The musicians played for sets and waltzes, there was a half a barrel of stout for the men and a supper served in the parlour.


In the early 1940’s he took a great interest in drama and together with friends he organized the Clonderlaw Drama Group. They staged a number of plays including ‘The Workhouse Ward’. This was a comedy, the main characters being himself and a life long friend the late Johnnie O’Driscoll.

Another experience by John was the cutting of 21 lorry loads of turf in 23 days accompanied by his brother Michael. They saved it and had it made into a rick by the roadside. The buyer from Limerick City paid 7 a lorry load and this was a great boost to the income during the war years. Pleased with the transaction they again ventured cutting a second supply but smaller in scale and a number of neighbours followed suit. This time the customer was also from Limerick City but ironically no payment followed. John one morning bright and early cycled to Limerick arriving at 8.15am and with the guidance of the postman and fuel man he located the turf dealer and by trial and error secured his payment. The remaining neighbours on hearing the news hired a car the very next day but didn’t have any success. Eventually legal proceedings took place without any reward.

A heading in the Clare Champion dated Saturday April 19th 1941 read as follows:


John married Mary Whelan daughter of Cornelius and Catherine Whelan of Moyasta, Co. Clare on Shrove Tuesday March 5th 1946 and had issue; Christina, Noel, Oliver, Donal, Flannan, Claire, Gerard, Paul. The arrival home or “The Hauling Home” for the newly weds in March ’46 was marked with an all night ceili, supper and dance organized by the neighbours and families of the bride and groom. Among the musicians was Susie McInerney on the concertina. This was the last of the traditional marriages in the Markham family; John and Mary’s marriage derived from matchmaking, the fortune or dowry was passed from the bride’s parents to the groom’s parents. The custom of the girl not returning to her parents home until one month after the wedding was fully observed.

This paragraph would not be complete without a brief reference to Mary’s father, Cornelius Whelan (1897-1985) he was the youngest in a family of 21 and was a talented Seanachai. Many of his stories and songs have been recorded.

John refers to ‘Black ‘47’ “the spring of 1947 turned out to be a disaster, animals died due to a shortage of hay and prolonged bad weather conditions. Hay fetched 2 per cwt and was almost impossible to locate.” He refers to one farmer who removed the straw from his thatched house in order to feed the cows.

John Markham has had the distinction as having of being a strenuous, hard worker, a good reminder of this is proved when he extended his acreage by purchasing a portion of the Dr. McAuliffe estate in 1948. Within twelve months he regained a quarter of the expense by selling of large tree trunks to Blunnys’ of Kilrush and the sale of corn when harvested and the sale of quarry stone to Clare Co. Council.

Since the 1940’s until his retirement from farming in 1978, John has witnessed many changes in rural Ireland for example the purchase of his first motor car a Ford Anglia registration number AIE 495 in 1965. The replacement of the thatched roof with slate in 1953. On a historical note, when the original rafters were removed to make way for the new roof, the wood was discovered to be ‘bog oak’ and had been shaped manually by axe, with dowels inserted, typical of the 1800s’ style. The natural stone perimeter walls measuring over three feet in breadth are again typical of that era.  The installation of electricity in the family home in 1961, hence left the oil lamp to be a souvenir. The purchase of the T.V.O. tractor in 1968, plus its attached farm machinery, the tractor replaced the farm work horse; the farmer’s life long work companion. And now as he looks around the farmyard the scythe, the slean, the hay fork and creamery cans all remain idle and can be looked upon as antiques. Even the horse plough that opened so many potato drills is now but a part of our heritage.

           On a similar note Mary, now in her eightieth year recalls the days when she had to bake five griddle cakes for a growing family of eight, when turkeys, geese and chickens had to be reared, killed, plucked and put in the pot. She also points out the haggard where the cabbage was planted. This cabbage was chopped and fed with meal to the pigs in preparation for killing. Finally Mary is reminiscent of the days when she boiled pots of meal over the fire, made bed sheets from empty flour bags, and milked cows by hand.

John’s Retirement.  John and Mary transferred ownership of the family farm to their second youngest son, Gerard in 1978. He married Joan Bohannon of Drumdigus, Kilmurry McMahon in 1985 and took up residence in a newly constructed house, located on the avenue to the old Markham homestead.  For twenty years 1978 to 1998 John took weekly trips to the Clare capital Ennis.  From 1978 to 1994 he spent an annual holiday in Dublin with his late sister Agnes. Lisdoonvarna was one of John and Mary’s place of relaxation.  It was in 1998 that John discontinued using his Raleigh bicycle for going to Jacko’s pub and collection of his Old Age Pension at Morrisseys’ Post Office.

John and Mary had family celebrations to mark their 25th, 40th, 50th and 55th wedding anniversaries in 1971, 1986, 1996 and 2001 respectively.

Now about to celebrate his 90th Birthday John’s memories are vivid and cheerful.

This year 2003 marks the 30th anniversary of the third eldest son Donal’s arrival in Australia. He first departed Shannon Airport on June 4th 1973. Donal his wife Cheryl and family reside in Brisbane, the sunshine state.

Sport A Part Of The Markham Vocabulary.  Football, athletics and boxing have been some of the pastimes of John’s family. Ollie Markham was Irish Senior Middle Weight boxing champion of Ireland in 1976 and he was also winner of five senior international fights.  His son Trevor has won four All Ireland juvenile and two All Ireland youth titles.

Trevor’s brother Stephen and sister; Olivia are the recipients of three All Ireland Fleadh Cheoil medals.

Noel Markham was a prominent GAA footballer and was the recipient of an All Ireland Interfirm medal in 1974 while representing Stephen Finn & Co.

Donal and Gerry will be best remembered for their contribution to the local Coolmeen GAA club. Gerry captained Kildysart Voc. School to the Munster football final in 1973.

Christina Daly (nee Markham) excelled as a camogie player. In her career she played a major role in establishing two camogie clubs in Co. Clare.

Diane Kelly daughter of Claire is a prominent member of the Clare ladies football team. In 2001 the Clare team were victorious in the Munster Senior Final.

Flan Markham ran a comfortable 1980 Dublin City Marathon in a time of 3 hours 20 minutes.

Brian and Liam Markham are of the sixth generation of the Markham surname at Derryguiha, and at an early age they have captured 23 All Ireland Juvenile Cross Country and Track championship medals.


Remembering John’s brother Michael and sisters Agnes and Florence.

Michael Markham (1909-1978) was an excellent gardener and sew-thatcher and he was a perfectionist when it came to harvest time, insisting, on skill in the meadow.

Agnes Markham (1907-1994) took up residence in Hatch Street, Dublin, where she became wife of John McGarry and had two sons. Michael the eldest died 7/1/1995. He had been a film director with RTE and script writer with Radio Eireann. He produced ‘Kennedy’s Ireland’ for RTE. The second son, Noel, owns his own business in Abbey St. Dublin.

Florence Markham (1912-1988) was wife of the late Patrick McNamara, Clonderlaw, they had ten children in family; Anthony, P.J., Gerard, Marie, Brendan, Joseph, Anne, Bernadette, Oliver, and Phyllis. While attending Coolmeen Primary School this family were quoted by the then Master as being one of ‘the brightest families to enter his classroom’.

The following is an extract from the Clare Champion 2nd February 1935

Cross-Country   Six-Mile Sealed Handicap

Smyth again does fastest time over course

Tim Smyth took the lead and finishing the first round in 9 mins 5 secs was closely followed by Rynne, Cummins, Walshe and Spelman. During the second round, Rynne (who is County Junior Champion) was in difficulties and dropped out when holding second place, there by robbing the contest for individual honours of a good deal of interest, as this young runner has a host of admirers. Smyth came round for a second time in 18 mins 30 secs., followed by Cummins (40 yards away) Walsh, O’Brien, Spelman and Naughton. The third round was completed by Smyth in 28 mins, Cummins in 28 mins 25 secs. Then came O’Brien, Walshe, Spelman, Naughton, Loughrey, Markham, O’Shea, Hassett, Dalton, Barry and Conlan, the latter being two minutes behind the leader. Smyth completed the course in 37 mins. 25 secs.

Seniors Getting into Form For Thurles – 9 Miles

A trial run to select the team for the National Senior Cross-Country Championships at Thurles on the 10th of May 1935 was held on Sunday at Kilkishen

1        J. McNamara               52-15

2        J. Dundas                     52-20

3        J. Geraghty                   52-22

4        P.J. Spelman                52-24

5        P.J. O’Halloran            52-55

6        T. King             52-57

7        D. Walsh                      53-12

8        J. Markham               53-24

9        M. Murray                   53-35

10    P. Moloney                  53-38

11    W. Fahy                       54-07

12    J. Naughton                  55-10

13    D. Dalton                     55-42

14    J. Casey                       55-47

15    M. O’Brien                  56.83   

Enter content here

Enter content here

Enter content here

Enter supporting content here