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John William Washington Nason  A short life

Lots of question marks here as I know virtually nothing about this man - a Dearman great-grandfather.


First question - where was he born?  I am guessing somewhere in County Cork.  He was the son, I think the first-born, of William Henry Nason a recently graduated (1841) clergyman and his wife (and cousin), Catherine Elisabeth Gaggin.  Truth to tell I do not know when the other children were born, and since one of them is called William Henry you would have expected this child to be the firstborn.  Also it has to be said, that his parents were married in 1840, so either, the estimated birthdate of 1847 for John William is completely wrong, or the couple waited a very long time to have a child - unlikely, but possible.  There were three daughters too, so maybe they were born first - John William Washington, was, after all, the heir to the family estates, so one would have thought this would have meant he was the oldest son.  



Landed Estates Database

An excellent site with details of the estates of the landed gentry of Ireland - this is a link to the Nason page.

?, Rathcormac, County Cork, Dun Laoghaire, Dublin 1847-1876

John’s father William was the heir to an estate called Newtown House, which was located at Ballynoe in the Cork countryside. At least I think that this is the estate in question. The Landed Estates  database, lists all the Nason houses, and this would seem to be the right one.  Apparently it was the Nason home until 1906, but is now just a few ruined walls.  The countryside around here is gentle rolling hills, and the Nasons had been here for many generations.   However, whether William Henry was still living here or was elsewhere with his new wife I do not know.  Suffice to say that County Cork is the Nason stronghold, and sometime around 1847 John William Washington Nason was born.  I suppose it is also possible that he was born in Dublin - his father initially graduated from Trinity College, Dublin in 1838, two years before his marriage.  Initially I also became confused because John William has a cousin of roughly the same age, and with exactly the same distinctive name.  Fortunately our John’s marriage certificate, clears up the parentage problem.

In 1853, (John would have been about six years old), his father was appointed Vicar of the church in Rathcormac - another village in the county, and another Nason stronghold.  The church, of course, was the Church of Ireland.  The pictures further up the page are of the two Rathcormac churches - the older one, now abandoned, but I am unclear as to which was the Catholic and which the Protestant, or indeed, whether they have swapped denominations over the years.  The family home was The Glebe (another word for Vicarage I believe), and was probably substantial in size.  I remember the vicarage of my own childhood in an ‘ordinary’ London suburb as being one of the grander houses in the place.  And indeed I think the house above is the right house.  A lovely place in which to grow up.  And William Henry was independently wealthy too.  So John grew up, the vicar’s son, together with his three brothers and three sisters, probably roaming the countryside - the footbridge above right is near Rathcormac - playing with each other and the more acceptable of the village children - the doctor’s family perhaps.  He would have been educated from an early age though - whether in a local school or possibly at a boarding school, or maybe even by a private tutor.  Maybe he looked a little like the boy in the portrait by the American artist, George Yewell at the top of the page - (there is a definite Dearman look about him) - serious, privileged, a touch neglected.  All total supposition of course and pertaining only to what the the Yewell portrait conveys to me.  For all we know he may have been the complete opposite - a happy-go-lucky charmer.

Then whilst still a teenager, his mother died.  I am guessing she died around 1860 or maybe a little before, as there were seven children from the marriage which began in 1840 and his father remarried in 1864.  I wonder how this affected John and his siblings.  I do not think there were any children from this second marriage, and anyway, John would, by now have been well on the way to an independent life.  He may, indeed have left home for Trinity College.

The next thing I know for sure about John William is that he graduated with a B.A. and M.B. and M.Ch in 1869 from Trinity College Dublin.  I found this in A Catalogue of Graduates of the University of Dublin.  I think that his brothers may well have been there almost at the same time, with William Henry graduating in 1871, Charles Richard in 1878 and George Bruce in 1879.  The fact that they graduated after him, does indeed seem to confirm that he was the oldest brother.  As does his daughter’s comment that he was “heir to a big property in County Cork with which Cromwell had rewarded ‘his beloved follower and fellow soldier, John Nason’”  The heir, after all, is generally the oldest son.


Trinity College is, of course, a very well-respected university, so it would have been quite prestigious to graduate from there.  I think the M.Ch is a masters in surgery, but John William was not content with this and went on to obtain an M.A and an M.D in 1872.  By then he was also a published researcher, with an article On Haemoptysis (haemorrhaging blood from the lung), in the Dublin Journal of Medical Science.  It could have been his thesis I guess. 

And then, as young men do, whilst still studying for his masters, he fell in love with and married Sarah Frances Bateman on Thursday, August 3 1871 in the Monkstown Parish Church, Dublin.  His father, by now living in Dublin too, performed the ceremony.  I have not been able to find out much about Sarah’s family, suffice to say that her father gave no profession on the marriage certificate, and simply described himself as Esquire.  So no doubt wealthy too.  The young couple took up residence in York Road, KIngstown (now known as Dun Laoghaire), a seaside part of Dublin.  I do not know what kind of doctor John was.  The fact that he had a surgery qualification implies hospitals to me, but maybe all it means is that you know how to perform basic surgery.  So far I have not been able to find any entries in a medical directory, but I live in hope.  

The young couple’s efforts at reproducing did not start well - their first child - an unnamed daughter - was born and died in 1872, but in spite of this tragedy they persevered and had Ethel in 1873 and Kate in 1875.  They were on their way to being a happy family - no doubt boys would follow, but it was not to be because sometime in 1876 at the age of 29, Kate being a mere six months old, John William Washington died of meningitis.  But he was not forgotten - his daughter Kate writes: "I naturally cannot remember him at all in the personal sense, but I have heard enough of his qualities to make me hope I have inherited some of them.”  She would not have been able to write these words were it not for people speaking of him frequently and well, though it is more likely to have been her grandparents who spoke of him than her mother, for she too, died when Kate was still a child.  


So a very brief life, and a promising one at that, cut off tragically in his prime.  One day I may find out more - about his childhood at least.

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