seamus dubhghaill

Promoting Irish Culture and History from Little Rock, Arkansas, USA


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Birth of Josephine Bracken, Common-law wife of José Rizal

Marie Josephine Leopoldine Bracken, the common-law wife of Philippine national hero José Rizal, is born in Victoria Barracks in Victoria, British Hong Kong, on August 9, 1876.

Bracken is born to Irish parents James Bracken, a corporal in the British Army, and Elizabeth Jane McBride, of Belfast. After her mother dies shortly after childbirth, her father gives her up for adoption. She is taken in by her godfather, the American George Taufer, a blind, and fairly well-to-do engineer of the pumping plant of the Hong Kong Fire Department, and his late Portuguese wife. He later remarries another Portuguese woman from Macau, Francesca Spencer, with whom he has another daughter.

After the second Mrs. Taufer dies in 1891, Taufer decides to remarry again but the new wife turns out to be difficult to deal with for Bracken. She spends two months in the Convent of the Canossian Sisters, where she previously attended early years of school. She decides to go back only after Taufer calls at the convent’s door pleading with her to come back home as his third wife turned out to be a bad housekeeper. A few months later she has trouble again with the third Mrs. Taufer and haunts her out of the house.

Bracken later recommends that her blind adoptive father see José Rizal, who is a respected ophthalmologist who had practiced at Rednaxela Terrace in Hong Kong. By this time, he is a political exile in Dapitan, Zamboanga del Norte in southern Philippines. The family sails to the Philippines and arrives in Manila on February 5, 1895, and later that month Bracken and Taufer sail to Dapitan.

Taufer’s double cataract is beyond Rizal’s help, but he falls in love with Bracken. Taufer vehemently opposes the union, but finally listens to reason. She accompanies Taufer to Manila on his way back to Hong Kong, together with Rizal’s sister, Narcisa, on March 14, 1895. Rizal applies for marriage but because of his writings and political stance, the local priest Father Obach, will only agree to the ceremony if Rizal obtains permission from the Bishop of Cebu. Either the Bishop does not write him back or Rizal is not able to mail the letter because of Taufer’s sudden departure.

Before heading back to Dapitan to live with Rizal, Bracken introduces herself to members of his family in Manila. His mother suggests a civil marriage, which she believes to be a lesser “sacrament” but free from hypocrisy — and thus less a burden to Rizal’s conscience — than making any sort of political retraction. Nevertheless, Bracken and Rizal live together as husband and wife in Barangay Talisay, Dapitan, beginning in July 1895. The couple has a son, Francísco Rizal y Bracken, who is born prematurely and dies within a few hours of birth.

On the evening before his execution on December 30, 1896 on charges of treason, rebellion and sedition by the Spanish colonial government, the Catholic Church claims that Rizal returned to the faith and is married to Bracken in a religious ceremony officiated by Father Vicente Balaguer, S.J. sometime between 5:00 AM and 6:00 AM, an hour before his scheduled execution at 7:00 AM. Despite claims by Father Balaguer and Bracken herself, some sectors, including members of Rizal’s family, dispute that the wedding had occurred because no records are found attesting to the union.

Following Rizal’s death, Bracken joins revolutionary forces in Cavite province, where she takes care of sick and wounded soldiers, boosting their morale, and helping operate reloading jigs for Mauser cartridges at the Imus Arsenal under revolutionary general Pantaleón García. Imus is under threat of recapture, so Bracken, making her way through the thicket and mud, moves with the operation to the Cavite mountain redoubt of Maragondon. She witnesses the Tejeros Convention on March 22, 1897 before returning to Manila, and is later summoned by the Spanish Governor-General, who threatens her with torture and imprisonment if she does not leave the colony. Owing however to her adoptive father’s American citizenship, she cannot be forcibly deported, but she voluntarily returns to Hong Kong upon the advice of the American consul in Manila.

Upon returning to Hong Kong, Bracken once more lives in her father’s house. After his death, she marries Vicente Abad, a Cebuano mestizo, who represents his father’s tabacalera company in the British territory. A daughter, Dolores Abad y Braken, is born to the couple on April 17, 1900. A later testimony of Abad affirms that her mother “was already suffering from tuberculosis of the larynx” at the time of the wedding.

Bracken dies of tuberculosis on March 15, 1902, in Hong Kong and is interred at the Happy Valley Cemetery.


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Death of Philanthropist Thomas John Barnardo

Thomas John Barnardo, philanthropist and founder and director of homes for poor children, dies in London on September 19, 1905. From the foundation of the first Barnardo’s home in 1867 to the date of his death, nearly 60,000 children are taken in.

Barnardo is born in Dublin on July 4, 1845. He is the fourth of five children of John Michaelis Barnardo, a furrier who is of Sephardic Jewish descent, and his second wife, Abigail, an Englishwoman and member of the Plymouth Brethren. In the early 1840s, John emigrates from Hamburg to Dublin, where he establishes a business. Barnardo moves to London in 1866. At that time he is interested in becoming a missionary.

Barnardo establishes “Hope Place” ragged school in the East End of London in 1868, his first attempt at aiding the estimated 30,000 ‘destitute’ children in Victorian London. Many of these children are not only impoverished, but orphaned, as the result of a recent cholera outbreak. For those unable to afford private education, the school offers education which, although Christian-based in nature, is not exclusively religion-focused, and works to provide tutelage on various common trades of that time.

In 1870, Barnardo is prompted to form a boys’ orphanage at 18 Stepney Causeway after inspecting the conditions within which London’s orphaned population sleep. This is the first of 122 such establishments, caring for over 8,500 children, founded before his death in 1905. Significant provisions are available to occupants. Infants and younger children are sent to rural districts in attempt to protect them from industrial pollution. Teenagers are trained in skills such as carpentry and metalworking, to provide them a form of basic financial stability.

In June 1873, Barnardo marries Sara Louise Elmslie, known as Syrie, the daughter of an underwriter for Lloyd’s of London. She shares her husband’s interests in evangelism and social work. The couple settles at Mossford Lodge, Essex, where they have seven children, three of whom die in early childhood.

Barnardo’s homes do not just accommodate boys. In 1876 the “Girls’ Village Home” is established and by 1905 accommodates 1,300 girls, who are trained for “domestic occupation.” Another establishment, the “rescue home for girls in serious danger,” aims to protect girls from the growing tide of child prostitution.

Barnardo’s work is carried on by his many supporters under the name Dr. Barnardo’s Homes. Following societal changes in the mid-20th century, the charity changes its focus from the direct care of children to fostering and adoption, renaming itself Dr. Barnardo’s. Following the closure of its last traditional orphanage in 1989, it takes the still simpler name of Barnardo’s.

Barnardo dies of angina pectoris in London on September 19, 1905, and is buried in front of Cairn’s House, Barkingside, Essex. The house is now the head office of the children’s charity he founded, Barnardo’s. A memorial stands outside Cairn’s House.

After Barnardo’s death, a national memorial is instituted to form a fund of £250,000 to relieve the various institutions of all financial liability and to place the entire work on a permanent basis. At the time of his death, his charity is caring for over 8,500 children in 96 homes.

At the time of the Whitechapel murders, due to the supposed medical expertise of the Ripper, various doctors in the area are suspected. Barnardo is named a possible suspect long after his death. Ripperologist Gary Rowlands theorises that due to Barnardo’s lonely childhood he had anger which may have led him to murder prostitutes. However, there is no evidence whatsoever that he committed the murders. Critics have also pointed out that his age and appearance do not match any of the descriptions of the Ripper.