Blennerhassett Family Tree
Genealogy one-name study      by Bill Jehan
Arthur Blennerhassett of Skahanagh, Tralee, Co.Kerry
inscription at Livingstone, Zambia
(Northern Rhodesia)
photo: courtesy of John O'Connor
DIED 1943
R. I. P.
Arthur Blennerhassett was born 24-Feb-1876 at Skahanagh, near Tralee, Co.Kerry, Ireland (Baptised 26-Feb-1876 at St.John’s RC church, Tralee), son of Joseph Blennerhassett & his wife Ellen Scanlan of Skahanagh, where they farmed the adjoining townlands of Skahanagh and Clahane.
As a young man Arthur worked as a draper in Dublin until in 1902 he decided to leave Ireland for Cape Colony (from 1910 called Cape Province) in South Africa, hoping to make his fortune in the diamond fields.  Sailing from Southampton 23-Aug-1902 on SS "German", on arriving at Capetown he travelled to the diamond mines, these dominated then as now by  “de Beers Consolidated Mines Ltd”, a company formed in 1888 by Cecil Rhodes and Charles Rudd when they purchased and merged the two original mines, “de Beers Mining Company” and the “Kimberley Mine”, located in what were then three separate but adjoining townships of Kimberley, Belgravia and Beaconsfield.
At Kimberley Arthur met fellow Kerryman William Hugh O’Connor (known as "WH") from Scartaglin near Castleisland, who had been in South Africa since 1899, they becoming friends.  Arthur became a miner, WH was employed by de Beers as mechanical engineer ay Kimberley/Beaconsfield, initially installing pumping engines and associated equipment in one of the deep mines.  This may have been the “de Beers Mine” at Belgravia, where WH lived, but from his descriptions was probably the "Kimberley Mine", an enormous man-made pit in the centre of Kimberley, 215m deep and for good reason known as "The Big Hole”.  This mine closed in 1914 but is still to be seen, a local landmark and tourist attraction.
Arthur's father Joseph Blennerhassett was by 1902 a widower, working the farm at Skahanagh/Clahane assisted by his son Tom and Tom's new wife Kate Shanahan.  Joseph had been heartbroken when Arthur, a favourite son, left Ireland.  Having promised to write home regularly he did so for a while, but when letters stopped the family for some time feared he had died, although it later transpired he had been ill in hospital and it was illness that precluded regular correspondence.  At this time his father in Kerry also became ill, Joseph dying of pnemonia on 28-Apr-1903 before the next letter from Arthur reached him.
Julia Blennerhassett, Arthur's youngest sister, in the years since leaving school had stayed with the family of her elder sister Nonie Nagle at The Mall, Tralee, going home to Skahanagh only at weekends, thus Julia was away during most of her father's illness but was present when he died.  At the time she blamed her brother Tom and his wife for their father's death, saying to Tom that Joseph had been neglected (the cause of death on his death certificate is: "Pneumonia 10 days, no medical attention").  They had a row and she left home permanently, travelling to her brother Arthur in South Africa.  At the time of her arrival Arthur was unable or unfit to travel to Capetown, Julia being met off the ship by his friend W.H. O'Connor who then accompanied her to Kimberley.   This was how she met her future husband - they married on 2-Mar-1905 at St.Augustine's RC Church, Beaconsfield (that church since rebuilt on the same site).
Arthur Blennerhassett was in England 1912/13, returning to South Africa on Union Castle Line SS "Walmer Castle", departing Southampton 1-Feb-1913 for Capetown.  During WWI 1914-18 he joined the army in South Africa, saw active service in France (awarded medal) and was "for a short while in England 1918-1919".  Returning to South Africa, he travelled to the British protectorate of Northern Rhodesia (later to be renamed Zambia on achieving independance from Britain in 1964) where he was a miner in the Rhodesian copper belt.
Arthur married c1919 in Africa, probably Northern Rhodesia, to a lady <name unknown> b.c1872 in England of Irish parents, her mother from Fermoy, Co.Cork.  She was RC and this was her 2nd marriage.  By her 1st marriage in England to <name unknown> she had two daughters and one son, two of these born in England, one in Africa.
When Arthur's health failed he and his wife settled at Livingstone, Northern Rhodesia, living on a small pension from the Mining Board.  Arthur died at the "end of July/start of August" 1944 at Livingstone Hospital,  Livingstone (sometimes called Maramba*, see NOTE).  Following a funeral at St Theresa's RC Church (established in 1931 by the Irish Capuchins) he was buried in Livingstone Cemetery, plot No.304.  Apart from this plot number his grave remained unmarked until 1982, when the headstone illustrated here was erected by his nephew Sean O’Connor of Castleisland, son of W.H., during a visit to his own son John O'Connor, then teaching at Livingstone.  The headstone inscription has Arthur d.1943.
In 1946 his widow was still residing at Livingstone, her children married and living at Benoni*, near Johannesburg, South Africa, the daughters already widows.
The name Maramba is presently used for a number of places and features in and around Livingstone and has been proposed as a new or alternative name for the city as a whole, but this has not been implemented.
The township of Benoni, now a suburb of Johannesburg, was established in 1906, the early inhabitants mostly British miners working in the gold fields.

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