John Barret McGann and Cecilia (née Webb) McGann

Published in Issue 6 (November/December 2016), Letters, Volume 24

Sir,—Your readers may be able to assist in my search for information. I am a published deaf author of two historical books: Deaf heritage in Canada: a distinctive, diverse, and enduring culture (1996) and Samuel Thomas Greene: a legend in the nine-teenth century deaf community (2005). During the course of my research I became interested in Irish-born John Barrett McGann (b. 25 Dec. 1810 in Kilkenny; d. 22 Jan. 1880 in Belleville, Ontario, Canada). He left Ireland with his motherless chil-dren—Euphemia (b. 1840), Cecilia (b. 1843), Edward (b. 1845), Harriet (b. 1846) and Martha (b. 1851)—in December 1854, and settled in Canada in 1855. His name has been memorialised here in many ways: in a burial monument (with his surname carved in fingerspelling), a school portrait, a street name and a historical plaque erected by the Ontario Heritage Foundation. McGann was a pioneer in the estab-lishment of our province’s first school for deaf children in 1858, ini-tially located in Toronto and later in Hamilton. As a result of his efforts, the Ontario Institution for the Education and Instruction of the Deaf and Dumb (now the Sir James Whitney School for the Deaf) opened permanently in Belleville in 1870. Despite all this, not a single book can be found about him, his accomplish-ments and his family. For this reason, I am researching a book tentatively entitled Passing along the tradition: the John Barrett McGann families in deaf education. I am enlisting assistance from your readers in locating any information about John Barrett McGann and Miss Cecilia Webb. They were married in 1839 in Rathfarnham, Co. Dublin, at ‘The Priory’ on Grange Road. Here is an excerpt from his 1880 obituary in the Belleville newspaper:

‘He was first married in 1839 to Cecilia Webb, and he often alluded with pleasure to the fact that the marriage took place at the resi-dence of John Philpot Curran, the eminent Irish barrister, who was a second cousin of Miss Webb.’

Any leads or help at all will be greatly appreciated and will also be acknowledged in the book.—Yours etc.,
7–2224 Upper Middle Road Burlington
Ontario L7P 2Z9 CANADA


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