Peter Paul SHANNON
Eyes dark brown, Hair black, Complexion dark
The Shannon Family from New Ross, Ireland
The search for Peter’s relatives took many years. We found Kate Jackson in Merriwa who although not related in the long run, adopted Peter as their family soldier.
Kate explains her involvement:
“I am not related to Peter, I was contacted by the people who were researching those killed at Fromelles in WWI. It was thought he was related to our family as his last listed address was Merriwa, NSW, where my family come from and his relative was listed as John J Shannon and it was presumed that this was my grandfather John James Shannon.
So I started a family tree on Ancestry in the hope that someone might see it and I could find out a bit more about him; and I started researching to see what I could find. I have come to the conclusion that his brother was John Joseph Shannon and there is nothing that we can prove for certain that he was in Merriwa because there was a family relationship. His occupation was listed as Shearer and Merriwa was a thriving sheep/wheat area in those days, so it could just be a coincidence that he was in Merriwa, and that was listed as his last known address.”
Nevertheless, Kate’s family would stay involved.
What we do know is that Peter’s father John died in 1884 in New Ross, aged 38 years. His mother, Mary Ann, and the five children came to Melbourne in about 1888 where she had two sisters Agnes Ashcroft and Julia Luttich, who had emigrated some years earlier.
Far from being stuck in Melbourne, the adventurous Shannon family can be found working in almost every state of Australia at some stage: mother was a caterer on the WA gold fields and the boys were miners or farm workers from Broken Hill and beyond. In 1902, Peter, then living in Broken Hill, signed up in South Australia for the Boer War. He enlisted in the 8th Australian Commonwealth Horse and served for six months but did not get the chance to leave Australia as the war ended only months after his enlistment.
Sadly, the family lost the two older girls, probably to TB: Anastasia in 1897 in Broken Hill and Kate in Heidelberg Victoria in 1899, both aged 20 at the time. It is possible their other siblings also had the disease as John died in a sanatorium in 1932 and Agnes died in 1929 at Hurstville, New South Wales. Peter was only eight when he arrived in Australia, so perhaps was healthier for this reason. His father had been a coffin maker/ undertaker, so contact with TB may have been common back then. Their mother Mary Ann died aged 59 in 1913 in Redfern. Neither Peter nor his siblings ever married.
Eventually, we tried crowd funding to find any relatives of Peter in Ireland. We received considerable help from people including the Western Front Association in Dublin as President Ian Chambers jumped in and placed a story on Peter in the press.
And then we got a reply!
This reply is from Pat Shannon who eventually was found to be a relative although the paper trail is lost in the more distant generation:
I was born and grew up in New Ross until I went to university in Dublin. For the past number of years, I have been researching my branch of the Shannon family tree, and have also gathered quite a bit of information on other related and probably unrelated Shannons in the region. Unfortunately, there are very few Shannons now living in New Ross (other than my mother and a third cousin of mine called Paddy Shannon). There are a number of clusters of Shannons living within about 10 miles of New Ross - most of these being farmers who have been on the same land since the early to mid-1800s.
I read a posting from you on Ancestry.com from 2014 (the link was passed on to me earlier this week) and I can add a bit to some of the facts you mentioned. I do not believe that Peter Shannon, the soldier, is a close relative of mine, or if so, the links go back to a common ancestor in the 18th century. However, as it is not a very common name there are probably links at around that time.
John Shannon, whose marriage cert to Mary Anne O'Shea you sent, was the son of John Shannon who was listed in the Griffith Valuation of 1854. Both father and son were carpenters, although the younger John (Peter's father) was sometimes listed as a coffin maker. In the Valuation Office, I have managed to trace John (the elder man) occupying a premises in Mary Street until sometime c.1881 when the tenancy changed from John Shannon to 'John Shannon junior'. John (senior) died in August 1882 and his son John Shannon was listed as the informant on his death cert.
Peter Paul Shannon was born in 1880 (birth cert attached) to John Shannon and his wife Mary Anne O'Shea. Peter's siblings were John (born 1876), Anastasia (born 1877) and Catherine (born 1879). However, I can find no record of an Agnes who was mentioned in your posting. The family lived in Mary Street, New Ross and the father (John) was a carpenter (although on Peter's birth cert he is listed as a 'coffin maker' - I guess this is also carpentry). Peter's parents married in New Ross on 8th August 1875.
Going a step further back in history, the Griffith Primary Valuation (a very useful census substitute) lists three Shannons living in Mary Street in New Ross in 1854. These were John Shannon, James Shannon and Michael Shannon. I do not know their relationship to one another (the properties they were renting/occupying were not adjacent to one another) but I guess they could have been either brothers or first cousins. However, my very strong hunch is that John Shannon was the father of John Shannon and grandfather of Peter's. Slater's Royal Nation Commercial Directory in 1870 lists John Shannon as a carpenter in Mary Street, and I believe that this was the same man as in the Griffith Valuation. I suspect that Peter's father would have been too young at this stage to be listed as a carpenter in the Directory although he did go into the same trade (this would have been normal practice). Two later versions of the Directory, in 1881 and in 1894, also list John Shannon of Mary Street as a carpenter and I believe that the latter two may have been Peter's father.
In the 1901 census none of the family appear in the New Ross records and I assume they had emigrated to Australia………
This all led to Private Peter Shannon being identified in 2019.
MESSAGE RECEIVED FROM PAT SHANNON, 2019
To: Kate Jackson; Marg O’Leary Subject: Fromelles Ceremony
Dear Kate, Marg,
I have just returned to Dublin from a fantastic occasion in Fromelles. The headstone rededication ceremony for Peter and his six comrades was one of the most moving, dignified and memorable events I have ever attended. The Australian ambassador to France attended (his father came from Ireland!), together with the top 'brass' from the Australian armed forces, representatives of the French armed forces and the Mayor of Fromelles. There were about 30 relatives representing the families (all apart from my sister and I having travelled from Australia). The hospitality we were shown throughout the entire day from the local community was extraordinary. They provided a lovely lunch (at which I was speaking with Marg's researcher colleague) and a reception at the school after the ceremony. We visited the museum, the place where the soldiers were first buried, the Cobber's Statue on the former German lines, the VC Corner and then finally the ceremony in the new Commonwealth Graves cemetery.
In the most moving and poignant parts of the entire ceremony, each soldier's name was called out in turn, and a schoolchild, carrying two red roses, took a representative of each family by the hand and led us to our soldier's headstone which was covered in a red cloth. When all seven were standing at our headstone, we removed the cloth to show the headstone, now with the name and the inscription, and the family member and the schoolchild each laid a red rose in front of it.
I was delighted to see that our story, and our photograph, made it into the local newspapers. I was also thrilled that Ian Chambers, the Chairman of the Dublin Branch of the Western Front Association, travelled from Ireland to attend the ceremony and laid a wreath at Peter's headstone. Ian is the person who wrote the article in the local New Ross Standard newspaper and which started my involvement in the project.
I also met a lot of the scientists who were involved in the excavation and analysis work, including the archaeologist in charge of the operation, the forensic scientist, and several others. Really great to have the opportunity to talk with them. I also heard that the analysis showed that Peter had a chronic back problem - which fitted in exactly with what would be expected of someone who had been working as a shearer.
I could go on for a long time describing all the experiences but will stop and send this email. The clergyman was born in Ireland and knew a colleague of mine as well as some of my wife's relatives - it's a small world.
I should mention that both my sister and I wore proudly the Fromelles Association lapel pins that Kate sent us in order to represent the Australian family at the ceremony. .
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