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 Waterford Star 26 June 1897

Alleged Proselytism in County Waterford

Mr Moloney (instructed by Mr J.F. Williams) applied on the part of Frederick Spanner, a coastguard, living at Bonmahon…for a conditional order for a writ of habeas corpus directed to the Rev. Francis H. Burkett, Rector of Stradbally, and William Claxton, farmer, of the same place, to compel them to produce Alice Cunningham, aged 15 years. Consul relied on an affidavit made by Spanner, in which he stated that Alice Cunningham was his stepdaughter, that she was about 3 years old at the time he married her mother in Dundee in 1885. Her mother was a Roman Catholic, and the child had been brought up in the same religion. He had himself been a Protestant but became a Roman Catholic. In 1892 the child’s mother died, and deponent married again. About three months ago the Rev Mr Burkett asked him to allow Alice…to go to the Rectory for a short time to help in the household work, as his cook was away. He allowed the girl to go, and he heard no more about her until he heard from his mother, a Protestant, who resides in the Isle of Wight, that she was glad to learn that Alice was not then a Catholic. This was the first time he had got any inclination that the religion of the child was being tampered with…he asked that she be sent home…as she did not return…he went to the house [Rectory]. He was told by the servant that the child would be down in a few minutes, but she did not make her appearance…Rev. Burkett said Alice should give a month’s notice before she could leave. Deponent replied that no contract had been entered into, and that there was no necessity to give notice…the girl had been sent out by a back way to the house to William Claxton, about two miles away. He followed her there, but as it was late at night and raining heavily, and she said she was not fit to travel, he consented to let her remain that night, but said she must be sent for next day. He did so, but she was not forthcoming, and he had not seen her since. The court granted the conditional order’.  

We don’t know what happened to Alice. The Spanner family are included in the 1901 census as living in the coastguard station in Bonmahon. Frederick’s second wife that he refers to above was a widow, Elizabeth O’Flaherty who had three children from her first marriage – James aged 14, Silvester aged 9 and Ann Eliza aged 11. Frederick had two sons listed in the census, John aged 3 and Frederick aged 2.  Frederick Spanner Senior was later transferred to Kilmore Quay in Wexford. Alice Cunningham is not listed on the census.


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