Casement and the Bells of Belfast

Published in Issue 3 (Autumn 1999), Letters, Letters, Volume 7

Sir,—I am researching certain aspects of political, personal andcultural life in Edwardian Belfast relating to Roger Casement and havecome across a family that plays a mysterious part in his activities ofthat era, but whose details I cannot trace beyond the publiclyavailable records of censuses, wills, and street directories.
The family consisted of the father, William Bell, a commercialtraveller, who lived at Breda House, Willowbrook on the Cregagh Roadaccording to the 1904 Belfast street directory, and for a number ofyears after that. He died on 15 February 1922 at the age ofseventy-three by which time his address was ‘Laurelbank’ on theKnockbreda Road, Belfast. He left a widow, unnamed unmarried daughters,and two sons—a third had predeceased his father.
These two sons were executors of their father’s will. One, alsoWilliam, described as an auditor, lived at 4 Stranmillis Gardens, whilethe other, Hugh, a cashier, lived at 38 Jocelyn Street in Belfast.William, in letters dated 1912 and 1913 to Casement, in the NationalLibrary in Dublin, gives the impression of being a radical orsocialist, and a recently converted Home Ruler. Their brother variouslyJohn, Jock, Jack and Johnny—was unexpectedly and tragically reported byCasement as dead in August 1911, although there are hints that he mighthave died abroad, perhaps in Brazil, even a year or more earlier. Thereis certainly no certificated record of him dying in Belfast in 1911.
If any of your readers could provide facts and information whichmight amplify the role of these Bells, and especially fill in thecareer and explain the early death of young John Bell, that assistancewould be greatly appreciated. Another character I am interested in is aJohn McGonigal who, in and around 1910, might have been the son ofeither James McGonigal of 45 Park Road, or R.J. McGonigal of 72 MyLady’s Road, or R. McGonigal (probably the same person as R.J.) who waslisted in 1911 as living at 294 Ardenlee Avenue. Any background detailon this John would also be most welcome.—Yours etc.,
56 Mount Prospect Park
Belfast BT9 7BG
tel/fax: (01232) 664111


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