Heenan family of Pembrokeshire: a brush with the law

Newspapers published in Wales in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries have revealed a number of Heenan family members who had an encounter with the law. Some where the culprits. Others were the victims.

One family in particular seemed to be regular attendees at the petty sessions in Haverford, Pembrokeshire.

David Heenan was a seaman who married Phoebe Owens at Haverfordwest, Pembrokeshire. They continued to live in Haverfordwest, going on to have a further six children, one of whom was born shortly after David’s death in 1901 when he was in his early forties.

Frederick Heenan

By the time Frederick (also known as Freddy) was 13 he was already in trouble with the law, up before Haverfordwest police court charged with theft of apples. He and two other boys were unlucky enough to be spotted by a police constable as they climbed over the hedge from a garden. When ordered to empty their pockets they produced 47 apples. Each of the boys was fined and, according to the report in the  Pembrokeshire Herald and General Advertiser of 15th August 1902,  “were warned as to the serious nature of the offence and of the consequences that would follow a repetition.”

Perhaps he heeded the warning because he seemed to have kept out of trouble until 1916 when he was charged for being absent without leave from the army. He’d volunteered in November 1915 and had even been mentioned in the Haverfordwest and Milford Haven TelegraphBut on a Saturday night in April 1916 he and another man from Haverfordwest absconded from the 23rd Pioneer battalion of the Welsh Regiment. They were found asleep in bed at their family homes in Haverfordwest and taken back to the battalion under military escort. 

A few years later he was again in court, when  his behaviour had apparenly degenerated to the point his mother felt it necessary to take out a summons against him. She told the court in October 1919 that Fred “had been absolutely out of control”, had smashed crockery  said he would murder her. She would give him another chance however because she was his mother. The case was adjourned so whether they were reconciled is unknown but he was back before the court in December for stealing stout from a pub on Christmas Eve when he and a friend were drunk. 

Joseph Stanley Ernest Heenan

Frederick’s younger brother Joseph Heenan was equally no stranger to the court room in Haverfordwest.

theft of potatoesIn November 1906 when he was 14 years old he and a friend were charged with damaging a garden after they were spotted breaking trees and crushing roses. The magistrates warned them they would be birched if they re-offended. 

They never went through with the threat however, even when the boy appeared before them again the following year, this time charged with stealing lead from the roof of an old house Quay Street. In the middle of the hearing, Joseph suffered an epileptic fit, according to the Pembroke County Guardian. His step-father came to his defence declaring that the boys were not responsible for the theft though he couldn’t prove it since he was away working at the time. The magistrates didn’t believe him and adjourned the case. Before they had the boys in front of them again Fred, became giddy while at a pleasure fair and fell out of a swing, wrenching his ankle. By the time he was due back in court in August,  the local Education Authority had been granted an order to remove him to an institution for the blind in Swansea.

Percival (Percy) Heenan

In the summer of 1914, it was the turn of David Heenan’s youngest son Percival (Percy) Heenan to appear before the magistrates. He and two other schoolboys were accused by Pembrokeshire Tennis Club of stealing 24 tennis balls. Initially denying the theft, the boys later admitted they had gone to the courts on two separate occasions , using keys to get into the pavilion. They sold some to a school teacher and hid the rest. They were put on probation for 12 months.

Before the 12 months was up however, Percy was charged with another offence, this time  theft of a looking-glass from a steam barge. Giving evidence, the boy’s probation officer said he had been behaving well and there had been good reports from people for whom Percy had been running errands.

The magistrates ruled however that they were going to try and remove him from his present surroundings and “give him a chance to become an honest man”. Percy was sent to the Kingswood Reformatory in Bristol for three years.

Phoebe Heenan and David Heenan

1888 Heenan David_prison sentenceIt wasn’t just the children of this couple that got into trouble, both David Heenan and his wife Phoebe felt the strong arm of the law.

Before his marriage David Heenan served a one-month prison sentence for assault at Pembroke in 1888.

His wife took out a summons against her bother in law John Heenan in 1894, accusing him of assaulting her in a family squabble in Quay Street, where she was living. He was fined 5 shillings.

She had a narrow escape  in 1904 when she was accused of receiving stolen goods. Her step-son William Arran and two men were charged with breaking into a premises and stealing beer which was later found hidden in the ashpit at Phoebe Heenan’s home. When the case went to court however the presiding magistrate decided the evidence against her was week and the charge was dropped.

She did however end up with a fine the following year for neglecting to send her children to school regularly. 

Sources: The National Library of Wales, Welsh Newspapers on Line

The Pembrokeshire Herald and General Advertiser

Haverfordwest and Milford Haven Telegraph

The Pembroke County Guardian and Cardigan Reporter

Heenan research goals for 2018

Heenan research goals for 2018

I don’t make New Year resolutions as such but I do like to make a note of things I want to accomplish in the next 12 months.

Heenan One Name Study

Having put my One Name Study into the Heenan surname onto the back burner for the last two years while I dealt with a few health issues, I intend to return to it with new energy this year.   My key areas of focus for 2018 will be:

1. Complete data capture from core records for Wales and England. I’ve downloaded civil registration and census records from the various on line indices and collated these these into some spreadsheets (links are listed below). For 2018 I’ll be working on parish records. I also want to make a start on looking for family groupings.
2. Gather core civil registration records for Ireland and Scotland. I’ve made a start on collecting the civil registration records for Ireland but haven’t yet looked at Scotland. I will upload links to these when they are completed.  
3. Make preliminary evaluation based on 1 and 2 of surname distribution, occupations and migration. Having all the data is only really a means to an end – just having lists of names and dates is meaningless. What I want to do is examine what that data tells me about where people with that surname originated and whether they moved to any particular parts of the UK? Were there particular occupations they tended to pursue?
4. Re-ignite this blog. It has  been sadly neglected this past few years. I’d like to get into more of a regular pattern of posting updates and to include some biographies of the people I come across during my research. As I build some family trees I will also upload these.

My Family History

I had a breakthrough last year when I finally tracked down a marriage of my paternal great great grandparents Patrick Heenan and Ellen O’Brien. Now I know their fathers’ names I’m keen to see if I can I find them in any of the records.  I have a few gaps in the information for each of their children that I want to try and close. On my maternal side, the trail on the Burton line went cold beyond my great great grandfather William Burton – I think a trip to Hereford record office might help overcome the brick wall since it seems that’s where his father was born.

So some specific goals:

  1. Complete all birth, death and marriage records for each of Patrick/Ellen’s children. This will mean delving into Roman Catholic parish records
  2. Track down William Burton‘s father by searching vital records, parish records and census info
  3. Create family trees in Excel and post on this site.

Heenan Surname Data sets  (the links are to Google spreadsheets)

Heenan in Wales census 

Heenan in England census 

Heenan births, marriages, deaths in England and Wales(GRO data)

Heenan footprints in land records

In the absence of census records in Eire for the period between 1821 and 1851, I started to look at some of the records relating to land use and property.

The Tithe Applottment Books available on line at the National Archives of Ireland are a useful source of information though not as comprehensive as census information.  Occupiers of agricultural land above one acre in size were required to pay a tithe to the Church of Ireland (the established church). The applotment books were compiled between 1823 and 1837  to determine the amount of the tithes payable by each occupier in each parish. They record name of the occupier,  the amount of land held and the sums to be paid in tithes.

patrick heenan tithe recordLooking at the books for the parish of Kibeheny in County Limerick (the area where ‘my’ Heenan ancestors seem to have originated, shows some interesting information.

There is a Mickl Heenan recorded as an occupier of a plot of what s described as 15 acres of ‘good mountainside’ in the township of the Carrigeen Mountain. At 15shillings per acre, the total value of the property is £11 and 5 shillings., giving a tithe composition of just over 9pence per acre to be paid to the Reverend John Preston.

Further records show occupiers with the surname of Heenan at Coolatin Glen and also at Blackrock.

Surname First Name Townland Parish County Number of acres value of land Condition
Heenan Patk Coolatin Glen Kilbeheny Limerick  15  £15 Good mountain Tillage
Heenan Marcus Coolatin Glen Kilbeheny Limerick  20  5 shillings  Mountain
Heenan John Coolatin Glen Kilbeheny Limerick  15 £15  Good mountain Tillage
Heenan Dens Coolatin Glen Kilbeheny Limerick  15  £15  Good mountain tillage
Heenan Michl Blackrock Kilbeheny Limerick  20  5 shillings  Mountain

Unfortunately there is no information in these records about other members of the household or where the plots of land are in relation to each other. But it may be possible to cross reference them with Griffiths Valuation records.