One of the paintings in the exhibition is by an artist called Mary Swanzy.
When her surname was mentioned, I immediately thought that I had only heard of one other person with that surname – Detective Inspector Oswald Ross Swanzy was believed to have organised the killing of Tomás MacCurtáin on this day, 20th March, in 1920 – his 36th birthday.
Just over a month before, I attended a talk by Vera Ryan, the curator of the ‘Made in Cork’ exhibition . At that exhibition, less than ten paces from where the Mary Swanzy painting now hangs, was a painting of Terence MacSwiney, a friend and successor Lord Mayor to Tomás MacCurtáin – this heightened my curiosity further.
‘Swanzy’ is not a very common name and I wondered as to whether Oswald and Mary were related.
There have been a lot of web-searches over the past two days and I have learned a lot about both.
Oswald Swanzy was killed leaving church in Lisburn, 22nd August, 1920, by Tomas MacCurtáin’s own gun - a gun held by Tomás MacCurtáin’s granddaughter upto when she donated it to Cork Museum recently.
He was stationed in Carlow R.I.C. Barracks and lived 33 Athy Road, Carlow from 1910 to 1916. The rootsweb directory says he was born 15th July 1881 and baptised on 11th December in Castleblaney.
He is buried in Mount Jerome Cemetery in Dublin as is his father, James (7/9/1849 to 26/2/07) and mother (1855 – 1922). The headstone includes the words ‘who gave his life in the service of his country’.
His parents married in Co. Monaghan in 1877. His father was a solicitor.
His brother, Captain Henry Hubert Swanzy, died of plague when serving in India, aged 28 years on 10th April, 1907. He was born 18th August, 1877.
It appears that the Swanzy had family connections in Belfast, Dublin, Antrim and Monaghan.
They are not listed on the 1901 census online.
Her first one woman show was in 1913. She continued to paint until her death, aged 96.
She was one of the first Irish abstract painters. Former art critic with the Irish Times, Brian Fallon, believes her to be the best female Irish painter. Elsewhere, I read that she was one of the best artists of her generation.
I learned that her father was an ophthalmic surgeon; wrote 2 books that are still available; was knighted in 1908; and was President of the Royal College of Surgeons of Ireland from 1906 to 1908.
There is a bust of Sir Henry at the Royal Victoria Eye and Ear Hospital in Adelaide Road in Dublin, where Dr. Kathleen Lynn, of 1916 fame, was the first female Doctor.
But I had to go back to where I started to get confirmation that Oswald Swanzy and Mary Swanzy, born exactly six months apart, were cousins.
That is one curiosity itch scratched.
If you are interested, details of the Swanzy’s listed in the online census returns are below.
23, Merrion Street, North ( 29 year old Mary Swanzy lived with her 67y.o father Henry R, a surgeon and knight. Three domestic servants also lived with them). Both Mary and her father were born in Dublin. In 1901 Census, Henry’s wife, Mary K aged 57, and daughter, Clair F aged 25, lived with Henry R, Mary and 4 servants
9 Athy Road, Carlow ( 29 y.o. Oswald Ross Swanzy, a RIC Inspector, lived with his 51 y.o. mother, Elizabeth and 24y.o sister, Irene, a groom and a domestic servant)
Drummullagh, Louth (37 y.o. Henry Bidall Swanzy and his 33 y.o wife Annie Beatrice, lived with two servants). In 1901, Thomas Biddall Swanzy, then 57 y.o. lived with a housekeeper. He was originally from Co. Monaghan and was a Clerk in Holy Orders
43, St Mary’s Road, North Dock, Dublin – 46 y.o. Mary Swanzy, a widow lived with her two sons (Patrick, 19 and William,6) and two daughters (Bridget 17 and Margaret 12). This family differs from the other Swanzy’s in being Roman Catholic. In 1901, William had not yet been born; Denis who appears to have gone to the Orphanage was resident, not yet 1y.o; Anne was 5; Mary Christine was 12; Grandmother Mary was 70; Head of Family, William was a 48y.o baker, originally from Cavan.
Avalreagh, Clontibret, Monaghan – 65 y.o Kathern Green Swanzy, a single farmer (born in Co. Cork) lived with three staff. In 1901, Kate Green lived with six others as head of household.
Ballyaughian, Hilltown, Co. Down – 75 y.o Anne Swanzy was a boarder with the Lindsay family. In 1901, Ann (not Anne) is listed as a visitor.
Mary Street, Rostrevor, Co. Down – 64y.o Anna Maria Swanzy was a boarder with the Owens family
Drumcashellane, Newry, Co. Down – 77y.o Adelaide lived with her 30y.o daughter Elizabeth Ann and her 31y.o niece, Olive Adelaide, and two servants
St Vincent de Paul Orphanage at Prospect Road, Glasnevin – 11y.o Denis Swanzy, a Roman Catholic born in Dublin City, was resident. In 1901, Denis Francis was living with at 43 St Mary’s Road
54, Limestone Road, Duncairn Ward, Antrim – In 1901 Census, 48 year old Marion was a boarder with the Mellan family. Her occupation is listed as an annuitant.
Mullaghadun, Monaghan – in 1901, 20y.o Annie Swanzy, a Roman Catholic, was servant to the Allison family.
Dunaldron, Monaghan – in 1901, Catherine, a 50y.o farmer’s widow, lived alone. She was Roman Catholic.
Drumaweir, Moville, Co. Donegal – In 1901, Thomas Biddall Swanzy, then 57 y.o. lived with a housekeeper. He was originally from Co. Monaghan
Aghagallon, Camowen, Co. Tyrone – In 1901, 71 y.o William Swanzy, a Church of Ireland agricultural worker and widower lived with his sister-in-law
Adelaide Place, South Dock, Dublin – In 1901, Jane Swanzy, an 87 y.o. of the Irish Church, was a boarder.