Myall

Essex, London and Belfast

 


Southend-on-Sea is situated near London at the mouth of the River Thames Estuary with a clear view of the Kent coast and these days it’s a popular sea-side town. The name Southend refers to the “South end of Prittlewell”, Prittlewell being the original settlement and gets a mention in the Doomsday Book. Southend only started to become a recognised name in the 18th century, as a “bathing town”

It is at this time and here we can find my earliest direct ancestors from the Myall line. The town is steeped in Maritime history being an important port during the Spanish Armada in 1588, therefore it’s no surprise that the first Myalls we can trace are connected with the sea and are recorded as boat builders, shipwrights, mariners, watermen or boatmen. Other names connected with my English ancestry through marriage include: Baker, Beard, Coltman, Crilly, Little, Lyne, Johnson, Panton, Ramsey, Reed and White.

Edward Myall 1750-1817

Southchurch Prittlewell
Southchurch Prittlewell

Edward was born in c1750 and married Elizabeth b: c1787 and they lived in Southchurch, Essex in England. They had 3 children together.

  1. Edward b: 1784
  2. Elizabeth b: 1785
  3. Joseph (my 3xG Grandfather). b: 1787

Edward Myall junior was a boat builder who had five children of his own. His eldest son George married Elizabeth Coote and they lived in Bradwell-Near-The-Sea where they established a thriving Myall dynasty.

Edward Myall was buried 11 May 1817 at the age 67 and Elizabeth outlived him by 12 years dying at the age of 71. The only evidence available to what Edwards occupation was can be found in his last will and testament when he left “bathing machines” to his wife.

It seems that most of the large Myall population of today’s Southend stems from Edward and Elizabeth as there are no similar names in the Southchurch/Prittlewell parish registers prior to them or their children.

They lived during a great time of transformation in Britain. Economic growth sparked by the industrial revolution was certainly helped by vast improvements in transport in the late 1700’s.

The expansion of the British Empire in India and Canada and a requirement for more overseas travel for trade must have been prosperous time for all occupations connected with the sea.

The last will and testament of Edward Myall (transcribed)

First it is my wish that after my (death) that my body be directly buried at the option of my wife and that my funeral expenses be paid from my effects to my loving wife Elizabeth Myall all and every my household furniture, Estates moveable effects, Bathing Machines, household all other valuable properties of whatsoever description to have and to hold for her sole enjoyment or pleasure during her natural life and at that determination to be disposed of as she thinks best according to the disposition of such of my children as shall then be in existence and further it is my will that she be whole and sole executer of this my last will and testament revoking all former wills and bequests and ??? .

This to be my present will to which I have herewith subscribed my hand this fifth day of May 1817 and witnessed by my good friend John, William Bradley.Edwards Last Will and Testiment

 

Elizabeth Myall – The Dipper

Bathing Attendant - Dipper
Bathing Attendant – Dipper

The bathing machine was a necessary component of sea-side etiquette in the late 18th and 19th century. The use of this device was more strictly enforced for women who had to endure a variety of discomforts which far outweighed any possible compensation of a day at the sea.

The places on the beach for women were set far apart from those reserved for men, to guarantee that the modest woman in her bathing costume would not be seen by the opposite sex. Having left her “valuables” in the hands of the attendant (also known as the dipper) whose office was in a small wooden box, the female bather would closet herself and, in the privacy of the machine, would change into her bathing dress, placing her street garments into a raised compartment where the clothing would remain dry.

Once she disrobed, the bathing machine was lowered to the edge of the water, and generally shaking the occupant violently as it rolled over the pebbles. The bather then entered the water by the front door, descending down a steep step-ladder and if she could not swim, the “dipper” tied the bather’s waist with a strong cord, attaching it to the machine.

A visitor to Southend in 1821 recalls she had serious competition from a Mrs Glasscock and the newly erected “Caroline baths” which provided hot and cold bathing “in a proper and convenient building erected for the purpose”.

Among the innumerable cards thrust into your hand take the following which may be worthy of preservation:-Mrs. Myall an established guide of 29 years respectfully solicits the patronage of the nobility and gentry resorting to Southend, who may rely on the strictest care and attention. Machines neat and commodious – with careful guides. Mrs Myall has been favoured with the attendance of Her Royal Highness Princess Charlotte of Wales, and some of the first families”Someone sent me this article from a book - Origin Unknown

The Myall Brickwall

Two Edward Myalls, both born in 1750, both marry a girl named Elizabeth.

I don’t know anybody researching their ancestry who has not hit a brick-wall. We get to point when we can go no further. We have records that might be plausible connections but as amateur genealogists we cannot confirm for sure. My brick-wall goes back to the 1700s and concerns my direct Myall line. Two Edward Myalls, both born in 1750, both marry a girl named Elizabeth. There are strong plausible connections with the facts presented but not without discrepancies. While I can suggest its a possibility, it is unlikely I will ever be able authenticate they are actually the same people.

This article

  1. Describes what I know for certain about my direct Myall line.
  2. States the facts of the plausible connection.
  3. Walks through my thought process on how the two might be connected.

What I know from “Primary Sources”

The earliest primary source of my direct Myall line is the birth of a son to Edward Myall and Elizabeth in 1784 (also called Edward) in the Southchurch/ Prittlewell Parish Records (Essex, England)

  1. They had 2 other children together, Elizabeth (baptised 30 October 1785) and Joseph baptised (25 February 1787). Both where baptised in the same Parish as their older brother
  2. Edward Myall (Senior) was born in c1750 because we know he was buried on 11 May 1817 at the age of 67
  3. Elizabeth his wife was buried 19 December 1829 at the age of 71 therefore we can assume her birth is c1758.
  4. The Southchurch/ Prittlewell Parish Records have been thoroughly researched but no record of marriage between Edward and Elizabeth has surfaced.

The Plausible Lead

  1. On 2nd April 1787 an “Edward Myall age 37 (Parish Saint Mary Rotherhithe) signed a bond of £200 to marry his wife Elizabeth Mather (Parish of St Dunstan, Stepney).
  2. This Elizabeth was born on 14th January 1752 to Issac and Mary Mather (5 years before the calculated birth of my 4xGreat Grandmother)
  3. This Edward and Elizabeths Parishes are 3 miles apart but 40 miles from the Southchurch/Prittlewell Parish (where my direct-line Myall children were born)
  4. This Edward Myall and Elizabeth were married 3 months after my Edward Myall and Elizabeth had their 3rd child
  5. The baptism record of Elizabeth Mather

My Thought Process

  1. In 1752 the British Empire switched from Julian to the Gregorian Calendar. Realistically, this would have made a difference of no more than a few weeks but it did confuse many people.
  2. In 1829 when my Elizabeth Myall died its possible that her age was given/or recorded incorrectly. This would make the lead I have even more plausible. The age discrepancy doesn’t bother me. Ages at burial are notoriously inaccurate during this time when knowing your birth-date wasn’t really important.
  3. That would leave the marriage date as the only discrepancy The fact is that Edward and Elizabeth (in my lead) were married the same year as the Myalls in my direct line’ss 3rd child was born. It’s not inconceivable that any couple would marry after their children were born, and might need to do it away from their home parish (to conceal the fact that they hadn’t been married all along).

In the book Marriage Law for Genealogists the definitive guide by Rebecca Probert (Kenilworth: Takeaway (Publishing), 2009.)she did an analysis of the frequency with which marriages took place in ‘foreign parishes’ and it was neither enormously frequent nor vanishingly rare.

Details of Edward Myalls Marriage Bond

In 1787 Edward Myall (my plausible connection) promised a bond of £200 the equivalent of £13,000 in today’s money as a bond to marry his wife Elizabeth. The sum named on the bond was not the price of the marriage licence. It was the penalty sum, and was set deliberately high to deter irregular marriages. See the transcript of the bond below.

Are hereby become bound unto the Right Reverend Father in God Roberts by divine permission Lord Bishop of London in the sum of two hundred pounds of good and lawful money of Great-Britain, to be paid to him the said Right Reverend Father in God, or his lawful Attorney, Executors, successors or assigns: For the good and faithful payment of which sum, we do bind ourselves, and both of us, jointly and severally, for the whole, our heirs, executors and administrators, firmly by these presents, sealed with our seals, dated the second Day of April in the year of our lord 1787.Transcribed from the Actual Bond of which I have a copy

 

What is this bond? and why did Edward Myall need to get it?

Bonds are almost always posted to remove a trust issue. Marriage bonds and allegations only exist for couples who applied to marry by licence. They do not exist for couples who married by banns.

The thing I find interesting is that bonds were used when the people in question were not well-known enough in the community for the legality of the marriage to be “crowd-sourced” to the community at large. This bit of “crowd-sourcing” lives on in our traditional marriage ceremonies today, in that the cleric usually asks “Before we proceed, if anyone here knows any reason why these two should not be married, speak now or forever hold your peace.”, and then pauses waiting for a response from the crowd.

What this implies about Edward Myall and Elizabeth Mather in London is either he and/or the she were not well-known in the area, or that perhaps in a huge city like London nobody could be well-known enough for a bann to be effective.

I guess my question is do I continue to pursuit further research of the Mather family at St Dunstans, and the Myall family at Rotherhithe based on plausible reasoning only?

Joseph Myall 1786-1842

Joseph was born 14th February 1786 in Southchurch and married Hannah Constable at the age of 22 in Prittlewell. The youngest son John was on 11 when Joesph’s wife passed away in 1826 at the age of 43. Joseph (Snr.) also died young at the age of 56 in 1842.

During his life Joseph worked as a shipwright/boat builder and in the 1812 “Spritsail Barge” research he was described as a “Smack Builder”. A “Smack” was a single-masted sailboat usually rigged like a sloop or cutter used in fishing and sailing along the coast.

During this period all of England’s major rivers had their own distinctive commercial craft and the Thames had the spritsail barge. A descendant of the old London River lighters used for unloading ships swinging in the tideway before the docks were built. At that time they were little more than oblong boxes with blunt swim-head bows and sterns. Originally the tide alone moved them, with a little help now and then from a favourable wind. In all probability the distinctive spritsail came over during the reign of Charles II.

Spritsail Barges of the Thames, London
Spritsail Barges of the Thames, London

 

On the Thames there were 2000 spritsail barges, all busy, with their humble cargoes. Some carried hay stacks for London’s horses, while others carried beer, cement, bricks, mud, chalk, pitch, coke, wheat, cattle cake, stones, and coal.

Children of Hannah Constable and Joseph Myall

  1. Joseph Myall b: 21 July 1809 d: 16 October 1825.
  2. James Myall b: 9 October 1810
  3. Thomas Constable Myall b: 1812 (2x Great Grandfather)
  4. Hannah Myall b:on 21 June 1814
  5. John Myall b:21 October 1815

Note: All children were born in Prittlewell, Essex.

 

Thomas “Constable” Myall 1812-1869

Thomas was born in Southend in 1812. He waited until he was 43 (1855) before getting married and when he did it was to Mary Franks from Hart Common in Hawkwell.

Mary’s brothers and father were mainly farm labourers. As a 24 year old bride, Mary was much younger than Thomas. They lived at Mary’s parent’s house at Hawkwell during the first 3 years of marriage then moved to Casho Street in Prittlewell near where Thomas had lived in the early part of his life.

Prittlewell Village
Prittlewell Village

Thomas worked as a Waterman (river boatman) on the Thames estuary.They had 9 children together 2 of them, Arthur and Emma dying before they reached the age of one. Their 9th child James (my Great Grandfather) would never meet his father as he took ill and died of peritonitis and gastritis just before Christmas in 1879 while Mary was 5 months pregnant.

The children of Thomas and Mary

  1. Thomas Frederick Myall born c 1855 in Hawkwell, Essex. He married Emma Beard, from Frome, Somerset in Prittlewell in 1883.
  2. Sarah Ann Myall born c.1858 in Hawkwell, Essex. She was a servant in Hackney before marring Archibald Coltman who was a chandler.
  3. Arthur Myall was born in 1859. He died and was buried May 28 1860, age 11 months.
  4. Arthur William Myall born in1861 in Prittlewell. He married Elizabeth Ramsey (Lizzie) in 1881 in Prittlewell when they were both 20. They initially lived in lodgings at 5 Park Street, Prittlewell where Arthur worked as a cab driver. They lived at 106 Adelaide Road, Hampstead where he was a coachman/groom but they returned to Southend and he became a boatman and employer and Lizzie was a dressmaker with her own account. There were no children and Arthur died in 1901, age 40.
  5. Emma Myall was born in 1863, in Prittlewell . She died and was buried on 4 March 1863, age 3 weeks.
  6. Emma Maria Myall was born in 1864 and baptised 29 May 1864. She married William Henry Scotney, an ironmonger from Peterborough, in 1890.
  7. Herbert Myall was born in 1866 in Prittlewell, Essex. He married Sarah Ellen Thorogood in 1889 and in the 1901 census they have 5 children He was a waterman on the barges.
  8. Edith Myall was born in 1868 in Prittlewell, Essex.
  9. James Myall was born on 25 March 1870 in Leigh-On-Sea, Essex. ( My Great Grandfather)
  10. Maud Mary Myall was born in 1874 but her father is unknown. She married Sidney Frank Nickels, in London, on 29 March 1902. James Myall was a witness at their wedding. Sidney worked as an ivory and bone driller and James worked as an ivory turner so it is likely they were friends. Maud had worked as a domestic servant to Arthur and Isabella Crees at 11 Thorne Villas, Prittlewell before going to London.

In the 1901 census there is a Lillie Myall living with Sarah Ann Coltman and is recorded as being her sister. The age tallies with Maud’s and she is down as an actress, so did she change her name for the stage?

James Myall 1870-1961

James Myall in 1906
James Myall in 1906

James Myall was born on 25th March 1870 in Leigh-On-Sea, Essex. We can only speculate that his recently widowed mother fell upon hard times (or needed support) and had to move in with some friends or family or maybe they were dependant on a charitable organization because James was not born in Prittlewell like his brothers and sisters. We know Mary did move back to Prittlewell after one year because where it was recorded in the 1871 census she was working as a charwoman (paid to do chores in other peoples houses). Four years after her husband’s death, Mary gave birth to a daughter (Maud Mary) Myall but this is shrouded in mystery as no father’s name is given on the birth certificate.

In 1879 Mary now age 45 took a second husband, William George Court, a bricklayer, originally from Suffolk, who had 4 children of his own. . William, himself a 38 year old widower, married Mary in the church of St Jude, Bethnal Green and they set up home at 19 Park Street in Prittlewell. When James turned 20 years old his mother died age 57.

James never had the influence of his father Thomas, so it comes as no surprise that he did not follow the family tradition with regards to his occupation. There is also evidence to suggest that James had a close relationship with his half sister Maud witnessing her marriage to Sidney Nickels in London in 1902. Sidney worked as an ivory and bone driller along with James, who worked as an ivory turner in Pancras (London), so it is likely they were friends.

One of James Myalls carvings
One of James Myalls carvings

Working with ivory was a highly skilled job that required an apprenticeship. The Victorians had a passion for little knick knacks and decorative pieces, so there was a demand both for small carvings, and the fretted boxes of fancy ivory to put them in. Chess pieces were also made of turned ivory, as were bone bobbins for lace making. Hair brushes had ivory handles, combs were sometimes flat ivory. This work was common in the Soho, Marylobone area of London, handy for the wealthy clients. By 1901 and for reasons unknown, James gave up his trade and became a Tram Conductor on London’s busy network. The ivory pictured right is one of James’s own

One hundred years earlier in the days of Edward and Joseph Myall, the 1801 census recorded nearly one million people lived in London. The city was compact, most people got around on foot, horse or river taxi and business was booming for the Myall Watermen. In the 19th century Watermen gradually lost out to steamboats, bridges and the Thames Embankment, which discouraged access to the river and new innovations in river, railways, and road transport changed Londoners’ lives forever. By 1901 the population had risen to 4.5 million in the city area with another two million living in the growing suburbs on the outskirts.

When James was applying his trade as an Ivory Bone Turner he was living with his sister Sarah Ann and her husband Archibald Coltman, there is also evidence suggesting that Maud Mary (his half sister) lived with them. Ada lived next door with her parents William (a Barometer maker) and Clara (nee Woolcott). It is likely that James and Ada met while being neighbours.

James married Ada Maria Frazer on 5 August 1894 in Holy Trinity Church, Haverstock Hill in London. There is not much known about Ada except she was born 12 January 1876 at some stage her occupation was recorded as a fur sewer. We can also trace her mother family the “Woolcotts” back to the early 1700’s giving us details of our earliest direct ancestors making them my Great, great, great, great, great, great, great grandparents.

James and Ada had 9 children together. Arthur (my Grandfather) was born 14 November 1913 in Hammersmith, he was named after his uncle who was a cab driver in London.

By 1911, Ada’s parents William and Clara were living in a public house “The Crown” in West Smithfield, with their other daughter Clara Louise and her husband Alfred Harrison who had given up his job as an Optical stone cutter to become a Publican. Also living with there were 3 of James and Ada’s young children Ada Myall (16), William James Myall (14) and Frederica Edith Myall ( 9 aka Freda).

When James retired in 1930, he and Ada returned to Southend where he ran the Star Tearooms on the London Road Two years later Ada died here at the age 56 from a heart condition. As, James was approaching the age of 70 in the late 1930s, he gave up the Star Tea Rooms and would invite himself to stay with his children for weeks and months at a time, and when he made himself unpopular enough, he would move onto the next one.

James outside his Tearooms (1930s)
James outside his Tearooms (1930s)

 

During the Second World War, James stayed with his daughter Hilda in Poole, Dorset before he moved onto Freda’s. He was there for only a few weeks when the police turned up at the door following up allegations of dealing in black market clothing coupons. We are told the only reason he wasn’t charged for this was because of his age.

The mosiac as described
The mosiac as described

James did not have a good start in life and based on the few artefacts I have seen of his ivory creations, he was a highly talented individual who may have been misguided at times. Despite this he outlived his wife by 28 years and lived until the age of 91. A mosaic he created ( pictured right) in the form of a transport badge in honour of the London Tramways can be seen at St Marks Church, Kensington.

The children of James and Ada Myall

  1. Frederica Edith (Freda) Myall was born on 12 February 1902 in London, (Islington) and died on 21 November 1989 in Devon (Torquay).
  2. Ada Maud Myall was born in 1894 in Essex (Prittlewell).
  3. William James Myall was born in 1896.
  4. Frederick Alfred Myall was born in 1899 in Essex (Prittlewell).
  5. Alfred Myall was born in 1906 in Essex (Prittlewell).
  6. Hilda Myall was born in 1907 in Essex (Prittlewell).
  7. Kathleen (Kit) Myall was born in 1909.
  8. Lily Myall was born in 1910.
  9. Arthur James Myall was born on 14 November 1914 in London (Hammersmith) and died on Christmas Day 1970 in Belfast (Stranmillis).
  10. James Myall was born in 1914 in Hammersmith.

More about Freda

Frederica Edith Myall  was 11 years old when her brother ( my grandfather, Arthur) arrived on the scene. She was born in Islington (London) on 12th February 1902 and lived at the Crown Public House for most of her childhood. Freda got married to John (Jack) Steers when she was 26 years old and had their only child Patricia 4 years later and set up home in East Finchley (London). Her sister Ada never married and lived with Freda and Jack all her life. When Freda and Jack retired they moved to Brixham in Devon in the late 60’s where she died in 1989 at the age of 87, outliving him by six years.

Arthur Myall 1913-1970

In the early 20th century, Southend had by now established itself as a premier day tripper/ weekend retreat for London’s hard-working East-enders. In the 1930’s, my young grandfather worked with his father in the Star Tea Rooms on the London Road. He was only 19 when his mother Ada died in 1932. When the Star Rooms closed in the mid-1930’s and for reasons not completely known to me, Arthur decided to move to Belfast in Northern Ireland.

Arthur Myall
Arthur Myall

On his arrival in Belfast unemployment had reached 28%, however he did find work initially as a navvy then as a door to door salesman, before he met and married my grandmother (Annie “Marion” Campbell Smith) early in 1939.

The world changed forever with the start of the Second World War and the scarcity of money resulted in Arthur and Marion having to share the small Smith family home at Egmont Street in Sandy Row. A small terrace house with two bedrooms with very basic amenities wash sink, cooker and an outside toilet, probably made smaller by the fact it was shared by 6 adults and 3 children, The house was a treasure trove of unusual trinkets not to mention clocks, all collected by my Great Grandfather Robert Smith. The fireplace was extraordinary for a working class house, made of ornate Italian marble with the mentioned trinkets housed in a beautiful black ebony cabinet. Two ornate swords (prizes from the Great War) brought home by Tom (Marion’s eldest brother) adorned one wall.

When World War 2 broke out Arthur joined the RAF and served in Iraq as a Motor Transport (MT) Driver. During May 1941 the Germans dropped 95,000 incendiaries on Belfast killing over 1,000 and making a quarter of the city’s population homeless. At some point Marion (pregnant with her second child) temporarily moved out of the city to the relative safety of Portadown in County Armagh. It was here that my father was born.

After completing his tour of Iraq Arthur was posted to Ballykelly and remained as a corporal in the RAF until 1949 in Belfast where he was employed as the personal driver for Air Commodore Reynolds.

Much had happened in six years, marriage, 2 children and war, it cannot be surprising that Arthur and Marion did not have time to settle as a family and with the continuation strict food and clothes rationing and little money to go around it would also be no surprise that it was back to Egmont Street, back to the Smiths.

When Arthur left the RAF he worked for Belfast Corporation as a bus driver which he stuck with for the rest of his life. The family eventually moved to Stranmillis where Arthur died on Christmas night in 1970 at the young age of 57. He was a smart, resourceful man, who became Northern Ireland delegate to the TUC in London. Further testimony to his character, can be found from one of his colleagues, George Loughrey in an article printed in the Belfast Telegraph newspaper.

Arthur and Marions children (Freda, Jim & Malcolm)
Arthur and Marions children (Freda, Jim & Malcolm)

 

When Arthur left the RAF he worked for Belfast Corporation as a bus driver which he stuck with for the rest of his life. The family eventually moved to Stranmillis where Arthur died on Christmas night in 1970 at the young age of 57. He was a smart, resourceful man, who became Northern Ireland delegate to the TUC in London. Further testimony to his character, can be found from one of his colleagues, George Loughrey in an article printed in the Belfast Telegraph newspaper.

In 1969 at the height of the first street disturbances of the troubles in Northern Ireland, paramilitaries had banned buses from both the Falls and Shankhill Roads. With no bus service for over two months, a call went out for volunteers to re-open the routes. George recalls “many of the boys were naturally afraid but knew there were a lot of workers on these roads with no other means of getting to their jobs. Six drivers volunteered and a driver called Arthur Myall took his bus up the the road first to show we were back in business. Conductor Gerry Jackson and I (George Loughrey) followed about 10 minutes later and we were first to pick up passengers. We got a great welcome and the people were delighted to see us again.”Belfast Telegraph Transcribed from George Loughreys full article

The Northern Ireland “Troubles”

I would be misguided if I did not mention (without prejudice) the well documented Troubles of Northern Ireland as they started just as I was born and lasted for over 35 years, resulting with the deaths of over 3,500 people. The Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association launched a campaign in 1967, which borrowed the language and symbolism of the Civil Rights Movement of Martin Luther King in America. Its members who were predominately catholic were seeking to redress disproportionate voting powers that existed between Protestants and Catholics and end the unfair allocation of jobs and housing. On 5 October 1968, a Civil Rights march was banned by the government, which activists defied, leading to three days of rioting with the police. A few months later another march was attacked by loyalists armed with iron bars, bricks and bottles. The police reportedly did little to protect this march and activists subsequently, made barricades for their protection.

Many regard these events as the beginning of the Troubles, but what is often overlooked is the formation of the Ulster Volunteer Force UVF (one month before I was born in 1966) in response to an IRA revival at the time of the 50th anniversary of the Easter Rising. The UVF statement on the 21st May 1966, “From this day, we declare war against the IRA and its splinter groups. Known IRA men will be executed mercilessly and without hesitation……” was designed to intimidate and during the summer of 1966 they implemented their threat by killing many suspected IRA members with some innocents losing their lives in the mayhem including a 77 year protestant widow on the Shankhill Road. By 1969 the situation got worse and Catholics believed the police had aided, or at least not acted against, loyalists in the riots. The IRA had been widely criticised by its own supporters for failing to defend the Catholic community resulting in a split in the group which led to the birth of the Provisional IRA and the government deploying soldiers on to the streets, and the rest. as they say is history. …

Malcolm Myall

It was also around 1969 when my father first took me to Dublin and while I don’t remember too much detail of the trip, I do know it left a lasting impression that would lead me to live there some 30 years later and call it home. He had some business with his brother Colm (who lived in Clontarf) and decided to take me along for the ride. With no motorways in those days, the journey seemed like an eternity.

It would be years later when I would discover why Colm had moved to Dublin. Like his father, Colm was principled and strong willed by nature and he engaged in politics at the age of 15 as a member of the Campaign for Nuclear Disanment (CND) before joining the Labour Party Young Socialists well known for their militant activities. Colm became a leading light in these organisations and when the Young Socialist Alliance evolved from these organisations, which had a large student membership he found himself deeply involved in the Civil Rights Movement. The Young Socialist were ate the forefront of every demonstration and you don’t have to look to hard to see him in the early television footage.

These demonstrations led to the formation of the Peoples’ Democracy movement of which Colm was a founding committee member. His recollections of how this came about differ somewhat from those accounts which can be read in the many books of this period of Irish history.

At the time of the outbreak of the troubles Colm shared a house in the Stranmillis area (Belfast) with Cyril Toman, Tommy McCourt, Vinnnie and Inez McCormac and was a close associate of Michael Farrell and Eamonn McCann. The house was used as a central communications centre at the outbreak of rioting in Derry, where a call would go out throughout Northern Ireland for people to mobilise on the streets in Belfast to relieve the pressure on Derry. At this time there was concern about the possibility of internment being introduced. My grandfather knocked tho the door one night to advise Colm of rumours he had heard heard that the house was to be firebombed which subsequently lead to evacuation. Colm and Tommy McCourt moved to Derry to assist with the organization of resistance before they left for Dublin.

Most of the people he associated with before going to Dublin moved to ‘safe areas’ or left Belfast and although he kept in touch he also kept a low profile to protect the family as we were the only Myall’s in Ireland. Colm features in many books and publications documenting this period of history and you will find many spellings of his name as he was never keen to point out the correct spelling. People who knew him well would deliberately misspell it, at his request, like Bernadette Devlin (the same mispelling can be found in Eamonn McCann’s book).

Coleman Healey & Partners, where Colm worked as a junior Quantity surveyor in Dublin released him when he took too much time off work during his father’s long illness. When he returned to Belfast he found it very difficult to get work and discovered that he was blacklisted. He did eventually get on a 6 month government training scheme in a car dealer ship. He was offered a job at the end of the scheme, but felt prudent to leave when his colleague, a young catholic salesman was found shot dead in his car.

His move to England was very much a spur of the moment decision when visiting an old school friend who lived there. This friend insisted that Colm should call about a job in the local newspaper. An interview was arranged within a few days and he got the job He made the permanent move to England in 1974 and with this move he left the past behind.


In some corner of your life, you know more about something than anyone else on earth. The true measure of your education is not what you know, but how you share what you know with others.Ken Nerburn

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