Death of a Child – John Brawley 1899-1902

John Brawley was the 5th of 13(!) children of Peter Brawley and Catherine Keenan. Peter was my great grandfather’s brother and Catherine was the sister of my great grandmother. They married on 31 December 1890.

John was born on 10 March 1899 in Newmains, Lanarkshire. He was baptised in St Brigid’s Church on 18 March as can be seen from the parish record.

The 1901 census shows John living with his family at 12 New Row in Newmains. This census shows that there was a New Row in both Newmains and nearby Morningside but by the 1911 census only the Morningside one is recorded. Peter was employed as a blast furnaceman while Catherine, who was heavily pregnant at the time, looked after the 5 children. Their daughter, Agnes was born just a week after the census was taken.

So there they were in this tiny house with six children ranging from baby Agnes up to Patrick who was 9. It’s hard for me to imagine their lives and how Catherine coped. This link tells a story that suggests Catherine may not have been the calmest of women.

Around January 1902 John became unwell. The cause was tubercular meningitis. It may be that his parents thought he was suffering from a minor illness as the symptoms can develop slowly. The symptoms include aches and pains and a loss of appetite, severe headaches and sensitivity to light. John died 3 days before his third birthday.

It’s such a tragedy for the family and you can see from the death record that Peter registered John’s passing on the same day. Look too at the other deaths on the page. Three children under the age of 3. Heartbreaking but not unusual for the time. So how did they cope with such loss back then? It would be fair to say that it would be unlikely Peter would have been able to take time off work. If he didn’t work the family would go hungry. Both Peter and Catherine were from big families so possibly they stepped in to help. I’d like to think so. Ultimately they had to get on with their lives and this they did. Their 7th child, Peter, was born in January 1903 followed by another 6 taking us up to 1916.

If you look at the bigger page of the baptismal register below you will see another Brawley, the son of Daniel and Catherine. Hugh Brawley was my grandfather. He was born just two weeks after John. I’m sure they would have been friends.

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