Highwood and beyond a meehan family history


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Clacton on Sea, Essex, England
With Research and Help from

MARY KENNEDY Skreen, County Sligo, Ireland

KAREN KENNEDY, Skreen, County Sligo, Ireland

ROBERT PORTER, San Ramon, California, USA

CHUCK WILSON, Chicago, Illinois, USA


With First Cousin Profiles Written

By Close Family Members

7th Edition
Internet Version
January, 2006

  1. FRONTSPIECE, dedications……………………...3


  1. IRELAND : A background history………………..7


  1. AMAZING AMERICA……………………………11

  1. HIGHWOOD AND BEYOND ........a history of the Meehan family……………………………………..12




COUSIN CLUB……………………………………64
The Children of Packy Meehan……………………………65

The Children of James Meehan……………………………67

The Children of William (Bill) Meehan…………………...69

The Children of Joe Meehan……………………………….73

The Children of Brigid Meehan/Mitchell………………….74

The Children of Anna Meehan/Devine…………………...103

The Children of Edward Meehan…………………………106

The Children of Mary Eliza Meehan/Kelly……………….108



“Dedicated to my mother, Kathleen, who taught me much about family; to all the Mitchells, past and present, who showed me more about family; to my beloved husband, Gary, my wonderfu son, Ciaran, and precious daughters, Christine and Elinor, who make me live family.  And to God who made (and keeps) us all one big Meehan family.............

Go raibh mile maith agat.”
Anne Smith, Clacton-on-Sea, 09 May 2005.

A Dedication to the Progeny of Patrick and Mary Meehan


“Highwood and Beyond is the history of the Patrick Meehan Clan.  It represents a snapshot from the year 2005, looking at the preceeding 180 years of family history.  HaB has been primarily written by Anne Foley Smith of the Mitchell Clan.  It is based on the careful research of Anne, her sister Mary Kennedy, and niece Karen Kennedy.  It is gratifying to note that this basic research has been greatly enhanced by the recollections, observations and independent research of a broad spectrum of Meehan clan members, writing about themselves, their siblings, and members of their parents and grandparents generations. 


My portion of the family history was to define the family trees on the family website, and I was surprised to document almost 400 living members of the Clan.  When we add the Australian Meehan descendants of Patrick's brother Michael, and the descendants of their sister Kate Meehan Lavin, the first, second and third cousins are expected to be ~ 800-1000 living members, spread across three continents and over 5+ countries.

This document, and the Meehan Family Reunion festivities in August, 2005, represents an effort to pull together elements of the clan for this generation and to resurrect and cement the ties of family and clan.  We share a common heritage, a common gene pool, and, I believe, the same sense of humour........ God help us!  This reunion will hopefully provide for our children and grandchildren a snapshot view of the clan as it existed in the year 2005, and provide them encouragement to do additional international Meehan family reunions.  We are a vibrant and viable clan.  I feel blessed to have had the time to travel to Ireland in 2004, and now 2005, to meet my kinsfolk, and the time and interest to help record this history of our Clan.

Many blessings.”
Robert Porter, son of Anne Meehan Porter, grandson of William Meehan of Highwood.
California, U.S.A. 09 May 2005

Dedicated To The Memory of Michael Meehan.

b. 18 January 1887 - d. unknown.

 “As the deadline fast approaches for the completion of our Meehan Family History Book, we have still not been able to unearth any information on Michael Meehan.  It's something that, at this stage of our very successful project, I am very saddened by - because there isn't anyone in our great, big, world-wide Meehan family to tell his story. 


For this reason I would like to dedicate this book to the Memory of Michael Meehan, of Highwood, Kilmactranny, Co. Sligo, Ireland and U.S.A.

 You will always be more than a name to us, and our search for you will continue...........”
Your great-grandniece, Karen Kennedy, Co. Sligo, Ireland.
08 May 2005

“Dedicated to Mam, Kathleen (Mitchell) Foley, in remembrance of, and with deep gratitude for, the family values she instilled in me - her love of family, near and far, and tales of yore imparted to us, from the cradle to her death, have led to my total enjoyment in this Meehan Family Book and the planning of the 2005 Worldwide Reunion, a labour of love to her memory.  Wish you were still here, Mam, to be part of it all.  Always in my heartfelt thoughts.”

Mary Kennedy, Co. Sligo, Ireland.
08 May 2005


“I would like to dedicate my portion of the family tree to my grandfather, Edward Meehan.  Although I just knew him three short years, I still recall digging into his pockets for candy which he would bring home from work for my brother and me.  Also, to his wife, my grandmother, Katherine (Nolan) Meehan, as well as my wonderful parents, Anne (Meehan) Wilson and Wally Wilson.  They all truly influenced, inspired and blessed my life.”

Chuck Wilson, Chicago, U.S.A.
09 May 2005

“To Eileen Meehan Doyle whose smile, wit and humour are an inspiration to all who know her.”

Kathy Connors, Florida, U.S.A.
14 May 2005.


  According to “Devenish, its History and Antiquities”, published by the Clogher Historical Society, the Meehan family were originally “herenachs” of Devinish Island, Lough Erne, Co. Fermanagh, Northern Ireland.  “Herenach” is a term used to denote a family with a hereditary title to a church property.  They are usually descendants of the family of the founder of the monastery or church, and caretakers of any relics or artefacts pertaining to the original founder.

  The Meehans originated as the hereditary kinsfolk of St. Laserian, better known as St. Molaise of Devenish.  This Molaise is reputed to be a relative of the legendary St. Columcille and, as his confessor, was instrumental in the latter's choice of Iona as a place of exile from Ireland.  St. Molaise is the patron of Devenish Island, which he founded in the 6th century, and, in 543 A.D., the year of Columcille's exile, he is recorded as an aged hermit.  The relic left to the custodianship of the Meehans is a manuscript, known as the Soiscel Molaise or St. Molaise's Gospels.

  Most countries in the world that have produced the codex-form book have had a few highly valued and special examples, often holy books of saints or royal books of kings.  These prized volumes would have received protective coverings created by skilled craftsmen and decorated with elaborate artwork.  Almost all countries apply this attention to the book itself, the paper and the binding: all save one.  Ireland seems to be the only country to have used book shrines extensively; a few shrines have been found in other countries, mainly of Irish workmanship during the middle ages when these shrines were popular in Ireland, and but a few that pre-date this period and have no Irish connection.  These book shrines were known as “cumdrachs”

  Thus the Meehan family originated as the guardians of the box, or cumdrach, of his manuscript of the gospels.  This cumdrach is one of the greatest treasure of Ireland and the Meehan family were its custodians until the 19th century when the last Meehan of the hereditary line, a Protestant minister named Thomas, donated it to the Royal Academy, which later became the National Museum of Dublin.

  The book shrine of the Soiscel Molaise is the second oldest existing cumdrach and bears an inscription that allows it to be dated within twenty-four years (1001-1025 A.D.)  A description of the box in 1973 noted that”one narrow side is missing and openwork silver plates are riveted to the remaining sides.  That on the front contains a series of small panels forming an equal-armed ringed cross.  Between the arms are four large panels depicting the symbols of the evangelists and around the edge there is a row of narrow panels” (Lucas 1973: 127).

  As herenachs, the family had hereditary rights in perpetuity to land on the island and the monastery supported the family in return for access to the cumdrach of the patron on special feast days such as the Devinish Patron Day on 12th September.  This was a local holiday, lasting all weekend, and endured until the 19th century, when, at the behest of a puritanical official guardian of morality, it was terminated as an occasion of rowdy drunkenness and debauchery.

  The Meehans moved off the island to a domain of their own in Co. Leitrim and this they called Ballymeehan or the Town of the Meehans, a little south-west of Upper Lough Erne.  At some point, a part of this large family moved off into the regions of Sligo and Donegal, where they remain to this day.

  There are a number of legends associated with the Molasie cumdrach and various Meehans down the centuries.  One such relates how the shrine was lost, and later found by a humble parish priest, who was given a vision of angels descending and opening the well of Molaise on the island, in the wall of which was hidden the box.  He brought it to church, before the assembled members of two feuding factions, and made each swear peace on it under pain of insanity.  It is reported that not a few left the church as raving lunatics!

  Such was the hold of this tale on the imagination of succeeding generations, it is related  by a local judge of the19th century, that the cumdrach was often hired by the courts to swear in a Roman Catholic miscreant, who otherwise might have no trouble perjuring himself on the English King James' version of the Bible.  In the 13th century there was a dispute between three Meehans - the abbot of Devenish, the bishop of the diocese of Devenish, and the local parish priest.  The priest had the box in his possession but the other two were claiming priority to the precious object by way of status.  The story highlights the differences between the traditional rule of the abbey versus the diocesan authority of the Irish church.  Abhorring the scandal of two princes of the church engaged in public conflagration, the priest burnt the contents of the box to protect the tender consciences of his flock!  The tale may be told as a guise to cover the reality of a manuscript that has been lost.

  The box of the bookshrine is a classical house-shaped box.  Made of yew, the original of which was covered in gold and silver, with a Celtic cross on the front, it is inscribed with the evangelists' symbols and a prayer request for the abbot who instigated its application in the 11th or 12th century.  A side panel contains a small figure of an ecclesiastic with forked beard and holding a holy water sprinkler in his hand.  Its lid is missing but would have been roof-shaped.  Some side panels are also missing.  One is reported as having been prised off by a current custodian and sold to a watchmaker in Sligo.

  There is a coat of arms for the Meehans: a shield divided by a chevron and three bucks.  It was granted to a Meehan by King James for his part in the Battle of the Boyne.  The newly ennobled Meehan then fled to France to enjoy his new status and, as a consequence, there are probably French Meehans to add to the clans' world-wide dispersion.

  Meehan, along with its variant Meighan, comes from the Irish O'Miadhachain and is a derivative of the word “miadhach” -  meaning “honourable”.  Alternatively, it may derive from O'Maoithain and comes from the Gaelic word “maoth” which means “tender”.   While the name is prolific in east Connaught, Donegal and Fermanagh areas, it appears that a separate family adopted the name in the late Clare and Galway times.  In Monaghan, and there alone, it has been anglicized to Meegan.

Compiled by Anne Smith.

Resourced from the following sites:
Surname: Meighan by Pat Traynor <tray@jps.net
Meehan Surname History by Aidan Meehan
<http://home.earthlink.net/~anderson207/Meehan Hist.html
Cumdrachs and Polaires - Medieval Irish Book Shrines and Book Satchels by Harry Miller at http://www.eskimo.com/~hmiller/cumdrachs.html

III) IRELAND : A background history.

  Following the battle of Kinsale in 1601 and the subsequent Flight of the Earls in 1607, the old Gaelic order of Ireland was ended.  During the period 1608 -1691 successive transfers of land from the predominantly Catholic population to the Protestant immigrants from Scotland and England pushed around 85% of the population into poverty.  The Plantations system can be likened to “ethnic cleansing”: Catholic land was confiscated and the population evicted and resettled.  Effectively the Plantations ( Ulster 1609, Cromwellian 1652 and the Williamite 1693) deprived the dissident Irish aristocracy of their source of power.  Many of the Irish peasants were retained as farm labourers or tenant farmers and were paid low wages and charged high rents.  Many of the major landowners were absentees, whose interest was purely financial.  Tenants had little security of tenure and were often at the mercy of the agents who managed the estates.  As the population grew, farms were subdivided and making a living became increasingly difficult.  Evictions were common and the small farmers, who also had to pay tithes to the Established Church, became increasingly aggrieved.  The agrarian unrest of the 18th century developed into major political movements in the 19th century, with the Tithe War and the efforts of the Land League bringing major change in the relationship between landlord and tenant.


  This was the worst famine to occur in Europe during the 19th century.  The population of Ireland had increased by three million since the turn of the century and the price of grain had escalated following the wars between Britain and France.  Traditionally the population of Ireland (8,400,000 in 1844) had relied heavily on potatoes to make up a large part of their diet.  Those living in secluded, rural areas - what amounted to almost half of the total population of the country - and particularly those on low incomes, used potatoes almost exclusively to feed themselves and their families.  Because potatoes yielded more per acre than grain crops, the farmers only needed to use a small piece of land to feed their families.

  In 1845, when a North American potato virus (the phytophthora fungus) blighted most of their crops, a huge section of the Irish population was therefore at risk from famine.  The potato blight had first been recognized in Canada and America, but in September 1845 it was observed in Wexford and Waterford from where it rapidly spread through the whole of the country.  To add to their difficulties, the weather in 1845 was unusually moist and cool - perfect conditions for the virus to thrive.  During the next three years the crisis continued and each year the potato crop was insufficient to feed the population.  Sir Robert Peel (prime minister 1845-46) provided a degree of relief to those affected by the blight, watching their potato crops lying rotting in the fields.  Peel set up a scientific commission to carry out research into the virus; little was of use because nobody knew enough about the blight and how or why it managed to spread so quickly.  He appointed Charles Trevelyan, the assistant secretary to the Treasury, as administrator in charge of famine-relief measures in Ireland.

  When Peel's parliament fell, Lord John Russell, the Whig prime minister who came to power in 1846, maintained that the poorer section of the Irish population should become the financial burden of their own landlords, not the government, and established a policy of non-intervention.  This policy proved impossible to execute as the peasants were unable to pay the landlords their rent and soon the landowners began to run out of money themselves (or were often absent).  Help was summoned from Britain and America, who provided cornmeal, opened soup kitchens and provided employment on building sites and road works.  By 1847 three million Irish people were being fed at Quaker-run soup kitchens throughout the country and eating the imported cornmeal from America as an alternative to potatoes.  Relief funds were raised and the British government spent £8 million on famine relief.  Some of the Irish population were still able to export grain and meat, but the poorer section did not have sufficient funds to be able to buy them for their own use.  It is estimated that over one million people died as a direct result of the famine,either from starvation or from other famine-related illnesses such as typhus and dysentery.

  The blight did not recur in 1847, but by then few potatoes had been planted and the crop yield was very poor.  In June 1847 the Poor Law Extension Act ordered landlords to increase the Poor Rate and this money was used to support local workhouses.  The blight did, however, strike again in 1848.  By 1851 the total population of Ireland had fallen by 1,800,000 to 6,600,000, either as a result of death or due to emigration from the country.   There was a considerable decline in the number of people employed as agricultural workers and those owning smallholdings, particularly in the counties situated to the west and south-west of the country.  It is estimated that 1.5 million Irish people emigrated to Britain and North America in order to escape the situation in Ireland.  Although there had been a tendency towards emigration in previous years, particularly to America, demand was so high for the regular departures from Liverpool that direct voyages from Ireland were organised to cope with the huge numbers fleeing their country.  The famine destroyed the Irish economy and reversed the population increase.  A problem that had always prevailed between tenants and their landlords escalated after the famine because poorer families felt unable to forgive landlords for their heartless behaviour.    It also brought about the social changes associated with emigration.  Families were separated and many did not marry until much later in life.  As it was obvious that only one child could inherit the family's farm on the death of their parents, this meant that the siblings often remained unmarried because they had no land of their own to farm,or they left the country altogether and emigrated to America or Britain.  The Irish nationalists also felt resentment towards the British government for their handling of the famine.

Seamas MacAnnaidh (general editor;2001): New Illustrated Irish History. The Foundry Creative Media Co. Ltd., London


                                         There are many, many legends

                                               about St. Patrick's Day,
                                                About the shamrock
                                                  and the blarney
                                         and the leprechauns at play.
                                         And the most delightful story            
                                       that God blessed the Emerald Isle
                                        with the beauty of His goodness
                                           and the sunshine of His smile,
                                         And how a dear, beloved Saint
                                              taught the Irish about God
                                         just by showing them a shamrock
                                            that was grown on Erin's sod.
                                             He told them of the Trinity
                                                  the living three in one,
                                            the Holy Ghost....the Father,
                                                  and His beloved Son....
                                            And all these lovely legends
                                            of the well-loved Irish race
                                             have given every Irishman
                                                  a very special place.
                                                Not only just in history
                                               but in everybody's heart.

                                           For of this old earth's laughter,

                                                 the dearest, finest part,
                                            is made of “smiling Irish eyes”
                                             and mirth-filled Irish jokes -
                                                  And what a dull world
                                                       this would be
                                             without God's Irish folk.

                                                         by Helen Steiner Rice.

Dear Ancestor
Your tombstone stands among the rest,
Neglected and alone

The name and date are chiselled out

On polished marbled stone.
It reaches out to all who care;
It is too late to mourn.
You did not know  that I exist;
You died and I was born.
Yet each of us are cells of you,
In flesh, in blood, in bone;
 Our heart contracts and beats a pulse
 Entirely not our own.

Dear Ancestor, the place you filled

One hundred years ago
Spreads out among the ones you left

Who would have loved you so.

I wonder if you lived and loved,

I wonder if you knew

That someday I would find this spot
And come to visit you.



The year is 1904..........
One hundred years ago........
What a difference a century makes!

Here are some of the statistics for 1904:


The average life expectancy in the US was 47 years.

Only 14% of the homes in the US had a bathtub.

Only 8% of homes had a telephone.

A three-minute call from Denver to New York City cost $11.

There were only 8,000 cars in the US and only 144 miles of paved roads.

The maximum speed limit in most cities was 10 m.p.h.

Alabama, Mississippi, Iowa and Tennessee were more heavily populated than California.  With a mere 1.4 million residents, California was only the 21st most populous state in the Union.

The tallest structure in the world was Eiffel Tower.

The average wage in the US was 22 cents an hour.

The average US worker made between $200 and $400 per year.

A competent accountant could expect to earn $2,000 per year and a dentist $2,500.

A veterinarian between $1,500 and $4,000 per year.

A mechanical engineer about $5,000 per year.

More than 95% of all births in the US took place at home.

90% of all US physicians had no college education.  Instead, they attended medical schools, many of which were condemned in the press and by the government as sub-standard.

Sugar cost 4 cents a pound.  Eggs were 14 cents a dozen.

Coffee was 15 cents a pound.

Most women only washed their hair once a month - and used borax or egg yolks for shampoo.

Canada passed a law prohibiting poor people from entering the country for any reason.

The five leading causes of death in the US were:

1) Pneumonia and influenza
2) Tuberculosis
3) Diarrhoea
4) Heart disease
5) Stroke

The American flag had 45 stars : Arizona, Oklahoma, New Mexico, Hawaii and Alaska hadn't been admitted to the Union yet.

The population of Las Vegas, Nevada, was 30!

Crossword puzzles, canned beer and iced tea hadn't been invented.

There was no Mother's Day or Father's Day.

Two out of every  ten US adults couldn't read or write.  Only 6% of all Americans had graduated High School.

Marijuana, heroin and morphine were all available over the counter at corner drugstores.  According to one pharmacist, “Heroin clears the complexion, gives buoyancy to the mind, regulates the stomach and bowels, and is, in fact, a perfect guardian of health”.  (Shocking!)

Eighteen percent of households in the US had at least one full-time servant or domestic.

There were only about 230 reported murders in the entire US.

 - extract from an e-mail from Jim and Kathy Connors.


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