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Mabel Cahill: Lawn Tennis Champion, Writer, Stage Actress

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Mabel Cahill: Lawn Tennis Champion, Writer, Stage Actress

By Mark Ryan

Part I: Ancestors

The surname Cahill is the Anglicised form of the Olde Gaelic surname O’Cathail. The surname was first recorded in Ireland as early as the tenth century, when most of the clan lived in the western county of Galway. Today, the name is most common in the south-west and south of the country, in the counties Clare, Cork, Kerry and Tipperary.

The ‘O’ in the surname ‘O’Cathail’/‘O’Cahill’ refers to a male descendant (‘son of’), but the most common modern variant of the family name does not feature this letter, Cahill now being its most widespread form. (In Ireland, this surname is pronounced ‘Cah-hill’, not ‘Cay-hill’.)

A Michael Richard Cahill was born in 1813 in the electoral division of Ballyconra in the small town of Ballyragget in County Kilkenny in south-east Ireland. He was the son of Edmond Hibbits Cahill, a juror and native of Castelwood, County Laois, one of the midland counties, then known as Queen’s County, and Dorothea ‘Dora’ Cahill (née Delany).

Edmond Hibbits Cahill was the son of John Cahill, a merchant and native of Dublin, and Mary Cahill (née Molloy). John was the son of Edmond O’Cahill (b. circa 1700), who lived at Fossey in County Laois with his wife Rebecca. They had eight children, five boys and three girls. At some point the ‘O’ was dropped from the family surname.

The aforementioned Michael Richard Cahill was the fifth and last child of Edmond and Dorothea Cahill, the others being Grace (the eldest), Julia, Bernard and Edmond, junior. As one of the sons, Michael received a full education, attending Stoneyhurst College in Blackburn in the north-eastern English county of Lancashire, and the prestigious Trinity College, Dublin, where he studied law, eventually qualifying as a barrister-at-law.

In later life Michael Cahill held the office of Justice of the Peace (J.P.) for County Kilkenny and the office of High Sheriff of County Kilkenny as well as being a leading member of the Grand Jury of County Kilkenny. He was also agent to Lord Mountgarret at Ballyconra House, County Kilkenny; the latter was Henry Edmund Butler, 13th Viscount Mountgarrett, whose father, Edmund, had been the last Viscount Mountgarrett to live there. The Cahill family took up residence in Ballyconra House circa 1846 and it is likely that most of Michael Cahill’s children were born in the house.

On 21st August 1843, Michael Cahill married Margaret Magan. She had been born on 15th August 1823 in the town of Ballymore in County Westmeath. Margaret was the second of the three daughters of Francis Magan, also a native of Ballymore, and Margaret Mary Cahill (née Hussey), who was from Dublin.

The Magans had their own coat of arms and consequently the following entry in ‘The General Armory of England, Ireland, Scotland & Wales’ (1884), by Sir Bernard Burke: “Magan (Emoe [the family home], County Westmeath; descended from Richard Magan, Esq., of Emoe, one of the Jacobite officers included in the Articles of Limerick, whose father, Richard Magan, was elder brother of Thomas Magan, ancestor of Magan, of Clonearl, [County Offaly]; Francis Magan, Esq., of Emoe, d. 1841, leaving three daughters, his co-heirs, I. Mary, m. John Francis Lentaigne, Esq., C.B., of Tallaght, County Dublin; II. Margaret, m. Michael Cahill, Esq., of Ballyconra, County Kilkenny; III. Anna Maria, m. Michael Corcoran, Esq., Barrister-at-law). Ar. A chev. betw. three boars, pass. Az. tusked, hoofed, and bristled or. Crest–A boar’s head erased az. Tusked and bristled or. Motto – Virtuteprobitate.”

Francis Magan was the grandson of another Francis Magan (d. 1775) who had married Mary Esmonde (b. 1708). Michael and Margaret Cahill would give at least two of their children, including their second-last daughter, Mabel, the middle name Esmonde, thus helping somewhat in attempts to identify the subject of this biography from existing ancestral records.

Although difficult to identify in many respects, Mary Esmonde has an interesting and distinguished ancestry, which can be traced at least as far back as Laurence Esmond (b. circa 1560; the second ‘e’ had not yet been added to his surname). According to the records of the peerage, “Laurence Esmond, 1st and last Lord Esmond, Baron of Lymbrick was the son of Patrick Esmonde and Katherine Gough. He married, firstly, unknown O'Flaherty. He married, secondly, Elizabeth Butler, daughter of Hon. Walter Butler and Anne MacBrien, before December 1628. He died on 26 May 1645.

“He was Vice-Constable of Blackwater River in 1594. In 1601/2 he served in Connaught and commanded a troop of 150 foot and horse in Queen Elizabeth's service. He was invested as a Knight in 1603. He held the office of Constable of Fort Duncannon, County Wexford, from 1604 to 1605. He held the office of Sheriff of County Waterford in 1607. He held the office of Member of Parliament (M.P.) for County Wicklow between 1613 and 1615. He gained the rank of Major-General in 1622 in the service of the King James I’s forces in Ireland. He was created 1st Lord Esmond, Baron of Lymbrick, Co. Wexford [Ireland], on 20 May 1622. He fought in the English Civil War in 1644, with the Parliamentarians, handing over Duncannon but subsequently being besieged there by forces representing the Confederacy of Kilkenny, to whom he surrendered in March 1644/5.”

Laurence Esmond was thus a great-great-great-great-great-great-grandfather of Mabel Cahill on her mother’s side. Some information also exists on a James Esmonde (with the second ‘e’), who was a great-great-great-great-grandfather of the abovementioned Laurence Esmond on his father’s side, and thus a great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-grandfather (x 10) of Mabel Esmonde Cahill.

Part II: Childhood and Adolescence

Mabel Esmonde Cahill was born on 2nd April 1863 in Ballyragget, County Kilkenny. She was the twelfth child and fifth daughter of Michael and Margaret Cahill. It is likely that Mabel was born in Ballyconra House, where the Cahill family had been living for more than ten years when she was born; home births were the norm at that time.

Mabel was followed by a thirteenth and last child, a girl called Gertrude Mary, who was born in 1866 when her mother, Margaret, would have been 42 or 43. Given that no Irish censuses exist in anything like complete form for the years before 1900, it is virtually impossible to find full biographical information on some members of Mabel Cahill’s family, especially her siblings. However, the following information is quite reliable.

The other eleven children of Michael and Margaret Cahill were Edward Francis (b. 29th April 1844 in Ballyragett–d. 29th December 1916 in San Francisco, USA); Francis Henry Magan (b. 6th July 1847 in Ballyragget–d. June 1887 in Urlingford, County Kilkenny); Michael Richard Hussey (b. February 1849 in Ballyragget); Margaret (b. July 1850 in Ballyragget); John Nugent (b. 1850 in Ballyragget–d. first quarter of 1918 in Urlingford, County Kilkenny); Thomas Esmonde (b. November 1852 in Ballyragget–d. fourth quarter of 1885 in Callan, County Kilkenny); Joseph Bernard (b. January 1857 in Ballyragget–d. in 1945 in Australia); Louisa (b. circa 1859); Louis (b. August 1860–d. 1925 in New York state, USA); Mary Dorothea ‘Dora’ (b. circa 1861 in Ballyragget–d. 29 December 1908 in Dublin); Angela Josephine (b. 1862 in Ballyragget).

Margaret, junior, and John were twins. The thirteenth and last child, the aforementioned Gertrude Mary Cahill, was also born in Ballyragget, but it is not clear when and where she died.

Given that the Cahills were Catholic, each of the children in turn would have been baptised. Religion would play an important role in the life of the seventh child, Joseph, who became a Jesuit priest. As of 1909, he was employed at Saint Patrick’s College, an independent Catholic School in Melbourne, Australia.

Like his father before him, Joseph Cahill would have received a university education, such a path being open only to the male members of families of his class at that time. At least two of Joseph’s siblings, the eldest child, Edward, and Thomas, also attended university. Edward studied law and, again like his father, eventually qualified as a barrister-at-law. Thomas became a medical doctor.

Edward Cahill would also be one of at least four of the thirteen Cahill siblings to die outside of his country of birth. He was also one of the three siblings to marry, the other two being John and Thomas (it is possible that Gertrude, the youngest sibling, also married, but this has not been confirmed). Like Mabel, Thomas was also given the name middle name Esmonde, in memory of their maternal great-great-grandmother Mary Esmonde.

As stated above, it is likely that Mabel Cahill and most of her siblings were born in Ballyconra House in the town of Ballyragget. According to one source, Ballyconra House, which still exists today, “…is a seven-bay, two-storey over basement house with dormer attic, dated 1724, on an L-shaped plan, possibly originally a mill owner's house with two-bay, two-storey side elevations, and single-bay, two-storey, double-pile return to north-west. Now in use as offices. This is a well-appointed substantial house representing an important element of the early 18th century architectural heritage of County Kilkenny.”

For a link to more information on the house in which Mabel Cahill grew up, including a photograph of the dwelling, see Appendix A below. The house was suitably large to accommodate all fifteen Cahills and, no doubt, a certain number of servants. As for the town of Ballyragget itself, it was described in detail in the work ‘A Topographical Dictionary of Ireland’ (1837), by Samuel Lewis, the renowned English editor and publisher of topographical dictionaries and maps of Great Britain and Ireland.

Published a little over 25 years before Mabel Cahill’s birth in 1863, the description of Ballyragget this work contains is very relevant to the town as she would have known it and is therefore worth quoting from in detail: “BALLYRAGGET, or DONOUGHMORE, a post-town and parish, in the barony of FASSADINING, county of KILKENNY, and province of LEINSTER, 8 miles (N. by W.) from Kilkenny, and 53¾ (S. W. by S.) from Dublin; containing 2,609 inhabitants, of which number, 1629 are in the town. This place appears to have derived its origin from a castle belonging to the Butler family, which in 1600 was garrisoned by the forces of Sir George Carew, Lord-President of Munster, when the sons of Lord Mountgarret, to whom it then belonged, were in rebellion against the crown, and had engaged with O’More to arrest the Earl of Ormonde. Previously to this period it had been a favourite residence of the celebrated Lady Margaret Fitzgerald, Countess of Ormonde, who is said to have frequently issued from the castle at the head of her armed retainers, to ravage the property of such of the neighbouring families as she deemed to be her enemies.

“In 1619, James I constituted this place a manor, and granted to its lord, Richard, third Viscount Mountgarret, the privilege of holding two fairs. During the Whiteboy disturbances, the castle was appropriated as a barrack for the use of the military stationed in the district. The town is situated on the road from Kilkenny to Durrow, and on the River Nore, over which is a good stone bridge of 10 arches; it consists of one principal street, with several smaller streets diverging from it, and contains about 300 houses. Fairs are held on Feb. 20th, April 20th, June 22nd, Sept. 4th, Oct. 20th, and Dec. 10th; and additional fairs, recently established, are held on Jan. 11th, March 14th, May 9th, and July 22nd. Here is a station of the constabulary police; a manor court is held occasionally, and petty sessions irregularly. The parish comprises 5,268 statute acres, as applotted under the tithe act; there is a quarry of hard black limestone.

“In the immediate vicinity of the town is Ballyragget Lodge, formerly the seat of the Butlers of Ballyragget, which family became extinct on the demise of the late Rt. Rev. Dr. J. Butler, Roman Catholic Archbishop of Cashel. The mansion is a fine building, and in the demesne are the remains of Ballyragget Castle, in a good state of preservation. The parish is in the diocese of Ossory; the rectory is impropriate in the Marquess of Ormonde, and the vicarage is part of the union of Odogh. The tithes amount to £190, of which £120 is payable to the impropriator, and £70 to the vicar. In the Roman Catholic divisions it is the head of a union or district, which comprises the parishes of Ballyragget, Ballyouskill, Rosconnel, and Attanagh, and parts of those of Durrow, Abbeyleix, Freshford, Burnchurch, and Kilmocar; and contains two chapels, one at Ballyragget and one at Attanagh. There are eight pay schools and a Sunday school in the parish.”

As already stated, the Cahill sons would have had the opportunity to pursue a university education if they so wished. The same was not true for Mabel and her sisters at a time when most girls received a rudimentary education oriented towards a future life as a wife and mother. However, existing records indicate that not only did Mabel and her sisters attend a primary school, they also received a secondary school education at a time when this was quite unusual for girls.

It is possible that Mabel attended one of the eight ‘pay schools’ mentioned in the description of Ballyragget included above. As a relatively wealthy personage, her father would have been able to afford the fees. She and at least two of her sisters definitely attended Roscrea School in the town of that name located in County Tipperary, which borders County Kilkenny in the west. The school in question was very likely the Sacred Heart Convent Secondary School, situated on Convent Road in Roscrea. Built circa 1865, and described as a convent and school complex, the buildings still stand today. (A link to a description and photograph of them can be found in Appendix B below.)

What type of education did Mabel and her sisters receive at the Sacred Heart Convent Secondary School? Another convent, Saint Catherine’s in Ramsgrange, Arthurstown, County Wexford, directly to the east of County Kilkenny, described in ‘The Irish Catholic Directory’ in 1880, probably has a lot of similarities with the Sacred Heart Convent Secondary School in Roscrea. Part of the description in question reads as follows:

“Saint Catherine’s Convent […] This School, conducted by the Sisters of Saint Louis of France, possesses many advantages deserving the attention of parents and guardians. […] the deport and manner of the pupils are scrupulously attended to; no efforts are spared to give the young ladies habits of order and neatness, that they may return to their families not only accomplished but helpful and intelligent in all the duties of the women’s sphere.

“Constant solicitude is given to the health and comfort of the pupils. The course of study comprises religious instruction, the ordinary branches of a solid English education, French, drawing, vocal and instrumental music, and particular care is given to all kinds of plain and fancy needlework.”

The same edition of the ‘The Irish Catholic Directory’ featured the description of another Catholic boarding school, Saint Mary’s Convent, situated in the suburb of Cabra on the north side of Dublin. This description states: “Young ladies are taught in this establishment the usual branches of English education, viz. grammar, history, geography, astronomy, the use of the globes, writing and arithmetic, the French and Italian languages, and every species of plain and ornamental needlework.

“Each young lady, at entrance, is to bring two pair of sheets, two pillow-covers, four towels, four napkins, a knife, silver fork, and teaspoon, which will be returned on her leaving the school.” There were extra charges ‘under masters’ for music, singing, dancing and drawing.

Several similarities are notable in the two descriptions quoted from above. One is the teaching of French – the Sisters of Saint Louis of France originated in that country, as did the Society of the Sacred Heart, which was present in Roscrea in the early 1840s. Another similarity is the teaching of ‘all kinds of plain and fancy needlework’ and ‘every species of plain and ornamental needlework’ so that the girls could become ‘helpful and intelligent in all the duties of the women’s sphere’.

It is clear that when Mabel Cahill left the Sacred Heart Convent Secondary School in Roscrea circa 1880, at the age of 17, she would have acquired not only the aforementioned skills in needlework, but also knowledge of the other subjects, which would have been of equal, if not more use to her subsequently. A talent for writing and a verbal eloquence are evident from her later life and would no doubt have been nurtured during her years at school.

By the time Mabel left the Sacred Heart Convent Secondary School circa 1880, both of her parents were dead. Having given birth to thirteen children in just over twenty years, Margaret Cahill died in 1875 or thereabouts at the age of 52 or so. Following her death, the widowed Michael Cahill remarried, his second wife being the Hon. Elizabeth Gwendoline Theodora Netterville (1835-1903). She was the daughter of James Netterville, 7th Viscount Netterville, and Eliza Netterville (née Kirwan).

The wedding of Michael Cahill and the Hon. Elizabeth Netterville took place in 1876, but the marriage was not successful and Elizabeth left Michael at some point during its early stages. The source for this piece of information is ‘The Last Will and Testament of Michael Richard Cahill’, which includes two codicils, dated 28th July 1877 and 22nd September 1877 respectively. It appears that, seeing the end approaching, and still being married to, but separated from, his second wife, Michael called on the services of his solicitor. He was dead within two months of the second codicil being added, the end coming on 3rd October 1877 in Ballyconra House in Ballyragget.

‘The Last Will and Testament of Michael Richard Cahill’ contains a good deal of information on the Cahill family as it was in middle part of the year 1877 and is therefore worth quoting in full:

“The Last Will and Testament of Michael Richard Cahill

“Case #1020, Probate Register, Book 3, Series I. MICHAEL NETTERVILLE CAHILL, Barrister-at Law, of Ballyconra House, Ballyragget in county of Kilkenny, Ireland. Died there, 3 October 1877. Dated: 19 June 1877; Codicils: 28 July 1877 & 22 Sept. 1877. Probated: Ireland, 12 Dec. 1877; Calif. Prob.: 5 March 1878. Will extracted from “Principal Registry of Her Majesties Court Of Probates, Ireland”.

“Wife: 1st marriage with Margaret Magan
2nd Eliza[beth] Netterville Cahill ‘who has shamefully deserted me’.

“Sons: Edward F. Cahill (oldest son), Barrister, Anaheim, California. Francis Magan Cahill, (2nd son) Anaheim, California. Michael Hussey Cahill (3rd son) Thomas Esmonde Cahill, now residing at Gilroy, California. Joseph Cahill, ‘has joined the Jesuit Order, I will him 40 [pounds] a year for life’. Capt. John Nugent Cahill, now res. with me at Ballyconra, County Kilkenny, Ireland. Louis Cahill, my youngest son, now aged about 17 years.

“Daughters: Mary Cahill, my eldest dau. Louisa Cahill, my 2nd dau., now 18 yrs. old, res. with me. Angela Cahill, my 3rd dau. at Roscrea School. Mabel Cahill, my 4th dau., at Roscrea School. Gertrude Cahill, my 5th dau., at Roscrea.

“Execs: California: Edward F. Cahill, Anaheim, California. Ireland: Capt. John Cahill; and Michael Hussey Cahill.

“Witnesses: Thomas Delany, clerk, Ballyconra, Ireland. Patrick Gorman: (steward at Ballyconra).”

In addition to the information on his second wife having deserted him, Michael Cahill’s Will also proves that Mabel and two of her sisters, Angela and Gertrude, were attending Roscrea School in 1877. The order of their births is wrong as Mabel was the fifth, not the fourth daughter of Michael and Margaret Cahill. (There is no mention of Mary, the actual fourth daughter, who was born after Angela and before Mabel.)

Michael Cahill’s Will also shows that no less than three of the Cahill sons – in fact, the eldest three – were living in California by the summer of 1877. They would not be the last of the thirteen Cahill children to emigrate to the United States. Joseph Cahill, who had joined the Jesuit Order and was willed ‘40 a year’ by his father, might already have been living in Australia at the time of his father’s death.

A short obituary of ‘Michael Cahill, Esq., J.P., Ballyconra, Co. Kilkenny’, appeared in ‘The Irish Times’ newspaper on 5th October 1877. It noted that, “As a considerable landed proprietor himself, and also an extensive agent, Mr Cahill always evinced an anxious desire to give the tenant fair play, while he duly protected the property of the landlord. His charities were extensive, and few demands made upon him failed to elicit a practical response.”

It is not clear how much Michael Cahill’s estate was worth at the time of his death, although he appears to have been quite wealthy. Given that several of his children, including five of his six daughters, had effectively become orphans in their teenage years as a result of his death, it is very likely that there would have been a special provision for each of them in his Will. As the daughters of a gentleman, they would not have been expected to go out and earn their own living, although at least one of them, Mabel, would do so in later life with varying degrees of success.

Part III: Modest Success at Lawn Tennis

In early July 1877, three months before Michael Cahill’s death, a lawn tennis tournament, modest in nature by today’s standards, had been held on the grounds of what was then the All England Croquet and Lawn Tennis Club, located at that time on Worple Road in the south-west London suburb of Wimbledon. Few, if any people could have predicted the subsequent success of either the sport or the tournament in question. Indeed, lawn tennis was originally considered more of a pastime – a type of hobby – than an actual sport like cricket or rugby. As the term lawn tennis indicates, it was originally played on a lawn and was thus accessible to anyone with a sizeable garden.

Lawn tennis grew in popularity very quickly from the late 1870s onwards and soon tournaments were being held not just in Great Britain and Ireland, but on the European continent and as far afield as Australia and New Zealand. A regular calendar of tournaments was soon established in the British Isles.

Lawn tennis was arguably as popular in Ireland as it was in England. In early June 1879, the first edition of the Irish Lawn Tennis Championships was held in Fitzwilliam Square, near the centre of Dublin. Uniquely, it featured events for women, including a singles event (Wimbledon would not introduce a women’s singles event until 1884). The first winner of the women’s singles title at the inaugural Irish Lawn Tennis Championships was 14-year-old May Langrishe, a native of the town of Knocktopher in County Kilkenny.

Given the proximity of Knocktopher to Ballyragget, it is very likely that the Langrishes knew the Cahills. Certainly May and her siblings, Hercules, Adela and Beatrice, took part in a number of the same lawn tennis tournaments in which Mabel Cahill, sometimes with one or two of her siblings, also took part. In the early 1880s an annual tournament was held at the Kilkenny County and City and Lawn Tennis Club in Archersfield in that county.

It was at the Kilkenny County and City tournament in late June of 1884 that Mabel Cahill made one of her first appearances in tournament play. In those early days most tournaments featured what were known as ‘handicap’ events in which players of different skills and experience could take part on level terms, the better players granting their opponents certain scoring advantages. At the Kilkenny County and City tournament in 1884, Mabel Cahill reached the final of the handicap women’s singles event where she beat May Langrishe, who was ‘owing 30’ to Mabel’s ‘15’, 6-4, 6-4.

Six weeks or so later, at one of the annual tournaments held in County Waterford, on the east coast, the roles were reversed when May Langrishe beat Mabel (‘receiving 15’) in the final of the handicap women’s singles event, 6-3, 6-4. At this tournament that Mabel entered the handicap women’s doubles event with a ‘Miss L. Cahill’ – doubtless her elder sister Louisa. They lost in the first round. Mabel also took part in the mixed doubles event, with an L. Cahill – very likely her brother Louis. They lost at the quarter-final stage.

In mid-June of the following year, 1885, Mabel Cahill again took part in the Kilkenny County and City tournament in Archersfield. This time she was less successful in the handicap women’s singles event, losing in the semi-final to May Langrishe (‘owes 30’), 6-3, 6-4. Mabel appears to have played very little additional tournament lawn tennis during the 1885 season.

In 1886, as if to make up for her relative absence from the lawn tennis scene the previous year, Mabel Cahill took part in at least five lawn tennis tournaments, all of them in Ireland. (Unlike several of her top Irish female and male contemporaries, she never took part in lawn tennis tournaments in Great Britain.)

In late May 1886, for the first and only time, Mabel Cahill took part in the prestigious lawn tennis championships in Fitzwilliam Square, Dublin. Perhaps feeling increased confidence in her lawn tennis skills she entered the open women’s singles event where all of the participants played on level terms. In those days the draws for many events were very small, and only eight players took part in the open women’s singles event in Dublin in 1886. This meant that the first round was in fact the quarter-final and here Mabel Cahill was once again pitted against May Langrishe.

The final score of the quarter-final match between the two players from Kilkenny – 6-0, 6-1 for May Langrishe – says a lot about the difference in the class of play of the two young women. It is not an exaggeration to say that Mabel Cahill was rather out of her depth in the open singles event at the Irish Lawn Tennis Championships, which in those days usually attracted the top players not just from Ireland, but also from England, in other words many of the world’s top lawn tennis players.

For the rest of the lawn tennis season of 1886, Mabel Cahill restricted herself mainly to handicap singles events. In mid-June, she won this event at the Lansdowne Lawn Tennis Club Tournament in Dublin, defeating a Miss Fielding in the final. In late July, at the Kilkenny County and City tournament in Archersfield, she played from ‘scratch’ and beat Adela Langrishe (‘owes half 30’) in the first round and Beatrice Langrishe (‘minus half 30’) in a best-of-five-sets final, 7-5, 6-2, 6-4.

In early August of 1886, in the County Waterford tournament, Mabel Cahill lost in the semi-final of the open women’s singles event to Ann Gallwey, a native of that county, 6-3, 1-6, 6-5 (in those days 6-5 sets were sometimes played). One round later, in the final, Ann Gallwey lost to May Langrishe by the telling score of 6-0, 6-0.

In what was probably her final appearance of the 1886 lawn tennis season Mabel Cahill lost in the third round of the handicap women’s singles event held in the south Dublin suburb of Dundrum. Her opponent was the Dubliner Ida Perry who, having 1 bisque, defeated Mabel, (‘owes 15’), 6-3, 6-1. The Dundrum tournament of 1886 might well have been the last occasion on which Mabel Cahill took part in a lawn tennis tournament in Ireland. Given that she took part in three tournaments in Dublin, it is possible that she was living there during the summer of that year.

Part IV: The USA

Due to the lack of relevant records, it is very difficult to place Mabel Cahill with certainty during the next three years or so. At some point during this time she decided to go and live in the United States of America. In this respect, she did not follow her three eldest brothers, all of whom had gone to California; instead she chose New York. According to several sources, she arrived in the Port of New York aboard the Arizona on 7th October 1889. This ship had sailed via Liverpool, England, and Queenstown, Ireland.

The original passenger list for the journey in question states that ‘Miss M. Cahill’ embarked at the port of Queenstown (now Cobh, pronounced ‘Cove’) in the southernmost county in Ireland, Cork. The passenger in question is described as a ‘lady’, aged 25; her year of birth is given as ‘about 1864’. If this was indeed Mabel Esmonde Cahill – no first names are given –her age is incorrect as she was 26 at the time. Interestingly, she appears to have been travelling alone, or at least with no relatives, an unusual occurrence for a lady in those days.

It is possible that Mabel passed through Castle Clinton, the immigration station located in Battery Park, Manhattan, which predated the more well-known Ellis Island. This is to assume that Mabel was indeed an immigrant and not just in New York on an extended visit.

Mabel Cahill might well have had a relative waiting to greet her whenever she did actually arrive in the port of New York. Her brother Louis, a lawn tennis player himself, arrived in the same city at some point, probably by the same route. He would work, live and, in 1925, die there. Unless they were estranged, it is hard to believe that he and Mabel would not have been in some sort of regular contact while living so far away from home.

During at least the latter part of her stay in New York, Mabel Cahill would live in a house on 3-7 East Sixty-Second Street in the borough of Manhattan. This street runs from the East River to Central Park, bisecting on its way, amongst other thoroughfares, Lexington Avenue and Park Avenue, before finally joining Fifth Avenue, which runs along one side of Central Park. It appears that Mabel had an address in or near this bustling part of the city during all of her time in the rapidly-growing New York City. There can be no doubt that, at least to begin with, she had a private income on which to subsist.

In the early late 1880s and early 1890s, the attractions in Central Park, then as now, included the zoo, concerts in summer and ice skating in winter. Lawn tennis courts also drew visitors to the park – the sport was then growing as fast in the United States as in other countries. Indeed, in New York City alone there were already several lawn tennis clubs, although the word ‘lawn’ tended to be dropped in North America, where clay and concrete vied with grass as a surface.

A brief report in an edition of ‘The New York Times’ from early October 1889 mentions a tournament held during the first week of that month at the New York Tennis Club, then located on 147th Street, close to Broadway, between the Harlem and Hudson rivers. The report notes that in the first round of the mixed doubles event at this tournament, a ‘Miss Cahill’ and her partner, an American player called Theodore Townsend, lost a close three-set match to an American pairing.

The ‘Miss Cahill’ mentioned as taking part in the tournament at the New York Tennis Club might well have been Mabel Cahill. At the same time it could have been a sibling of hers, possibly Louisa, who had taken part in some lawn tennis tournaments in Ireland. The ‘Miss Cahill’ in question could also be no relation whatsoever to Mabel Cahill.

However, seven months later another New York newspaper, ‘The Brooklyn Daily Eagle’ carried the following item on 11th May 1890: “Miss Cahill, the young lady who has made her name famous as a tennis player, is a slight and rather delicate-looking girl, yet the severity of her play is the terror of opponents of her own sex. She was recently elected a member of the New York Tennis Club.”

Here there can be no doubt that the ‘Miss Cahill’ in question is Mabel Cahill, the subject of this short biography. Interestingly, the report quoted from above refers to her as ‘famous’ as a result of her exploits on the lawn tennis court. This implies that she had been taking part in tournaments for some time. Given the lack of indoor lawn tennis courts in those days, Mabel would not have had the opportunity of playing much indoors during the final months of 1889 and the early months of 1890. It is therefore possible that she had been living in New York City for a year or so by the time the aforementioned report appeared in ‘The Brooklyn Daily Eagle’ in May 1890.

As also indicated above, Mabel Cahill was a member of the New York Tennis Club by May 1890. She took part in that club’s tournament when it was held in early June for the first time in 1890. There was no singles event at this tournament in that year, but Mabel reached the final of the both the women’s doubles and mixed doubles with American partners, losing the last match in both events.

Immediately following the end of this tournament, Mabel Cahill travelled south to Philadelphia in the state of Pennsylvania to take part in the United States Championships, then held at the Philadelphia Cricket Club in the Wissahickon Heights area of that city. Despite its grandiose title, this particular tournament was in those days very modest in nature and far below the level of the Wimbledon and Irish Lawn Tennis Championships tournaments. Indeed, the American lawn tennis players of this early era were about ‘fifteen’ lower than their counterparts in the British Isles in terms of skill and ability.

In 1890, eight players entered the women’s singles event at the United States Championships – seven Americans and Mabel Cahill. In her first match Mabel beat a Rebecca Lycett, 6-1, 6-1. Due to a slightly injured wrist, the Irish player was unable to complete her next singles match, at the semi-final stage of the tournament. Having won the first set by 6-2, Mabel lost a close second set 5-6. In the third set, hampered by her injury, Mabel retired when 2-3 behind. Her opponent, Ellen Roosevelt, of the famous American family of politicians, kindly allowed Mabel to rest several times, but she was in too much pain to continue.

Ellen Roosevelt went on to win the singles title at this edition of the United States Championships. She and her sister, Grace, also won the women’s doubles title together. In their first match they beat Mabel Cahill and her American partner Lida Vorhees. There was no official mixed doubles event yet at the United States Championships at a time when the men’s events at this and other lawn tennis tournaments were held at different venues and at different times from the women’s events.

In retrospect and just before the 1892 edition of the women’s events at the United States Championships, the edition of ‘The New York Times’ published on 19th June 1892 carried an informative report not only on the state of lawn tennis in the United States at that time, but also on how Mabel Cahill first came to take part in lawn tennis tournaments there and her initial success in them. The following is an excerpt from that report:

“While not nearly up to the standard of the English and Irish women, American girls have, during the last ten years, developed great skill at lawn tennis, and each year’s play brings out new aspirants for honours and improves the play of the more experienced players. That the National Lawn Tennis Association recognizes the growth of interest in the play of the ladies is proved by the fact that, at its last meeting, held at the Hoffman House in February, it was unanimously decided to add a new event to the list of championships of the country – that of mixed doubles. This move has been favourably commended by all tennis players. [...]

“In 1889, Miss Mabel E. Cahill, who had become an expert lawn tennis player at her home in Ireland, became prominent in tennis circles as a possible coming champion. She first began to practise at the Central Park courts with Townsend, Haight, and other Park players, and soon showed such remarkable skill at the game that she was urged to enter some of the large tournaments and test her ability against some of the well-known American players. This she consented to do, and in the fall played in the Annual Invitation Ladies’ Tournament at the Staten Island Cricket Club. Her success there was marked, for she won first prize in the singles without the loss of a set, though opposed by some of the strongest players of her sex that this country can boast of. In the mixed doubles, with the American player Richard Perkins, she also carried off first prize, and in the ladies doubles she played with Mrs Adelaide Badgley and won second prize.

“The following spring Miss Cahill joined the New York Tennis Club and went to Philadelphia to play for the championship. In one of the earlier rounds she met Miss Ellen C. Roosevelt of Poughkeepsie, and a very close match was the result. When in the third set, and the score about even, Miss Cahill was attacked by a cramp in her foot and was forced to stop play. This was so painful that she requested a postponement of the completion of the match, which Miss Roosevelt willingly offered to accede to; but the committee ruled otherwise, and Miss Cahill was forced to default. Miss Roosevelt subsequently won the tournament and defeated Miss Bertha Townsend, the champion.

“There was much feeling caused by this incident, for Miss Cahill’s friends insisted that she should have been allowed some grace, owing to the physical disablement, and they think she would have won that match and the championship. This feeling was greatly increased a little later in the season by Miss Cahill’s joining one of the Hudson River Lawn Tennis Association’s clubs and playing in their championship tournament. Miss Roosevelt held the challenge cup of this association, and her friends declared that it was an attempt on Miss Cahill’s part to get revenge. Miss Roosevelt defaulted in the cup match, refusing to defend her title, and this still further complicated matters, so that at one time there was a veritable ‘tempest in a teapot’ in progress.”

As will be seen, Mabel Cahill returned to Wissahickon Heights in Philadelphia in 1891 to once again take part in the United States Championships, this time with rather a different outcome than the one detailed above. Mabel appears to have begun the 1891 lawn tennis season in early June, by taking part in the Orange Lawn Tennis Club tournament, held in the township of Orange in New Jersey.

One year earlier, in the same month and just after her first appearance at the United States Championships, Mabel had taken part in the New Jersey Championships tournament, also held at the Orange Lawn Tennis Club. On her debut she had won her way through to the All-Comers’ Final, where she defeated the American player Emma Fellowes-Morgan (née Leavitt) in two short sets, 6-3, 6-1. In those days the titleholder often ‘stood out’ while what was known as the All-Comers’ event was being held and had to play only one match, known as the Challenge Round. However, at the New Jersey Championships in 1890 the holder of the women’s single title, the American Gertrude Williams, did not defend her title, so Mabel Cahill’s victory over Emma Fellowes-Morgan meant that she was the new champion. In partnership with Richard Perkins, Mabel also won the mixed doubles at the New Jersey Championships in 1890.

One year on, in the second week of June 1891, Mabel Cahill successfully defended her singles title at the New Jersey Championships by defeating Emma Fellowes-Morgan in the Challenge Round, 7-5, 7-5. According to the ‘The New York Times’ of 13th June 1891: “The most interesting play of the day was the match between Mrs Emma Fellowes-Morgan and Miss Mabel Cahill. In one rally the ball passed the net eighteen times, and great applause greeted a pretty rally of Mrs Fellowes-Morgan. Miss Cahill judged best to play a back-court game against her opponent, and by good all-round work and some excellent placing, finally took both sets by 7-5, 7-5. A large audience saw the play, and tea was served by a committee of ladies in the shelter house on the court.” Together with the American player William Johnson, Mabel also won the mixed doubles title again at the New Jersey Championships in 1891.

Part V: Lawn Tennis Champion of the United States of America

After her victories at the New Jersey Championships tournament in Orange, Mabel Cahill travelled to Philadelphia again to take part in the women’s events at the United States Championships at the Philadelphia Cricket Club. In 1891, there was a draw of nine for the singles event at this tournament, including the holder, Ellen Roosevelt. Once again, Mabel Cahill was the only non-American player taking part. After a difficult match against Annabella Wistar in the first round, Mabel easily beat Lida Vorhees to reach the All-Comers’ Final. Her opponent in this match was Grace Roosevelt, sister of the titleholder. After a competitive match, Mabel emerged the victor, 6-3, 7-5.

Her defeat of Grace Roosevelt meant that Mabel Cahill would be able to take on Ellen Roosevelt in the Challenge Round. If the report, carried in the ‘New York Times’, of their match at the semi-final stage of the same tournament one year earlier is to be believed, this was something of a ‘grudge’ match. (In reality, this seems unlikely given the background of both players, although it appears that Mabel Cahill did have something of a ‘fiery’ temperament.)

The Challenge Round match was held on Friday, June 26th, 1891. At that point in time it was a best-of-five-set match, an unusual but not a unique occurrence in women’s singles matches. The final score –6-4, 6-1, 4-6, 6-3 in favour of the Irishwoman – indicates that Mabel Cahill was in control for much of the match and never likely to lose it.

The following is an excerpt from a report on the match which appeared in ‘The New York Times’ on 27th 1891: “A great crowd witnessed the match, which was splendidly fought from start to finish, and every stroke was liberally applauded. Neither lady cared to volley much, preferring to trust to her staying powers in the back court. The lobbing was beautiful and the side line placing true and swift. Miss Roosevelt’s backhand strokes were always accurate and hard, and every now and then Miss Cahill would get in a forehanded ‘Lawford’ stroke that would have done credit to Clarence Hobart himself. Every point was fought to the end with wonderful tenacity, and at the conclusion of the contest both ladies were cheered and congratulations extended alike to victor and vanquished.”

The reference in this report to the ‘forehanded Lawford stroke’ refers to the feared forehand of Herbert Lawford, a top English lawn tennis player of the 1880s. Clarence Hobart was a contemporary American lawn tennis player.

At the United States Championships in 1891, Mabel Cahill also won the doubles title, with Emma Fellowes-Morgan. In the final they defeated the Roosevelt sisters, 2-6, 8-6, 6-4. At the same tournament Mabel also won a mixed doubles event with the male American player Marion Wright. However, this event did not yet have championship status at the United States Championships.

Later on in the lawn tennis season of 1891, Mabel Cahill took part in the women's doubles and mixed doubles events at the tournament held in mid-September in [????]. She won both events at this tournament with her respective partners.

In 1892, Mabel Cahill appears to have begun the lawn tennis season at the New York Tennis Club on 147th Street and Saint Nicholas Avenue. Here she took part in the mixed doubles event with Clarence Hobart. They won their three matches in straight sets, easily beating the American pairing of Mrs Adelaide Badgley/William Thacher in the final, 6-1, 6-2. (Adelaide Badgley’s maiden name was Lyon.)

In late June of 1892, Mabel Cahill once again made the journey to Philadelphia to take part in the women’s events for the United States Championships. This time she would be taking part as the defending champion in the singles event and would thus have to play only one match, the Challenge Round. (In 1891, Mabel had also won the women’s doubles event, with Emma Fellowes-Morgan, but in 1892 would be taking part in the same event with a different American partner, Adeline McKinley.)

In 1892, the player who came through the All-Comers’ event at the United States Championships to play Mabel Cahill was Elisabeth Moore, popularly known as ‘Bessie’, a very talented player from Brookline in Massachusetts. As of June 1892, Bessie Moore was only 16 years and 3 months old. Nevertheless, she displayed great skill and a very cool temperament to reach the Challenge Round on her debut. In this last match, again played over five sets, she tested Mabel Cahill from start to finish, the Irishwoman only narrowly winning by the score of 5-7, 6-3, 6-4, 4-6, 6-2.

According to ‘The New York Times’ of 25th June 1892: “Miss Mabel Esmonde Cahill retains the ladies’ tennis championship of America, and showed this afternoon that she was the best player in the country. But she proved to be only a little better than her opponent, Miss Bessie Moore of the Hobukus Valley Tennis Club. The match was very close and very exciting. Both ladies were cool and skilful, and the rallies were prolonged to a great length. Miss Moore won the first set by skilful lobbing after 5 games-all was called. The second and third sets were won by Miss Cahill, although Miss Moore contested every point to the utmost. The fourth set was a constant exhibition of skilful and experienced tennis strokes, and when Miss Moore won, making the score 2 sets-all, the large audience loudly applauded the little girl from Hobukus. But in the fifth set Miss Cahill was too much for her plucky antagonist, and proved her right to retain the championship by winning the match.”

Together with Adeline McKinley, Mabel Cahill also won the women’s doubles title at the United States Championships in 1892. They won their three matches easily, defeating the American pairing of Helen Harris and Amy Williams in the final, 6-1, 6-3. In 1892, the mixed doubles event at the United States Championships was granted championship for the first time. In this year Mabel took part in this event with Clarence Hobart. Again, Mabel and her partner won three matches very easily to take the title, beating the American pairing of Bessie Moore and Rodmond Beach in the final, 6-1, 6-3.

Her victories in the singles, women’s doubles and mixed doubles events at the United States Championships in 1892 meant Mabel Cahill was the first player, male or female, to win the ‘triple crown’ at one of the major tournaments. Modest as the size of the draws was in those days, and granted that Mabel would not have been nearly as successful at either the Wimbledon or Irish Lawn Tennis Championships tournaments, her achievement is nevertheless impressive.

In late June/early July of 1892, Mabel Cahill returned to the Orange Lawn Tennis Club in New Jersey, this time to defend her singles title at the New Jersey Championships tournament. In the Challenge Round she easily defeated the American player Augusta Schultz, 6-1, 6-1. Mabel also won the mixed doubles title at the same tournament with William Johnson. In the final they beat Augusta Schultz and Clarence Hobart, 6-3, 6-2.

Around this time, the beginning of July 1892, a syndicated, unsigned article on Mabel Cahill was featured in several American newspapers (its original source was ‘The New York World’ newspaper). Entitled ‘Mabel Cahill – The Champion Lady Tennis Player of the United States’, the article features a short ‘interview’ with her and is well worth quoting in full:

“Miss Mabel Cahill, the champion lady tennis player of America, is a petite, attractive brunette, with short black hair, and the brightest of grey eyes, full of life and spirits. Although a champion of America, she is a daughter of Erin, born in Dublin. Her present home is in a pretty little house up-town near the park, New York having been her residence since leaving Dublin about four years ago.

“She has been playing tennis for six or seven years, her first experience having been in as good a school as the Wilton Lawn Tennis Club in Dublin. It was at the Wilton that Mr James Dwight when abroad was defeated by Mr Thomas Griffiths. Miss Cahill also played with the Kilkenny Club, and there won her first match in the handicap singles and the dessert cup in the mixed doubles, playing with Mr Swain.

“‘The most important event in which I contested abroad,’ said Miss Cahill to a ‘World’ reporter, ‘was the international tournament at Fitzwilliam Square, Dublin. Fitzwilliam Square is in the heart of the most fashionable part of the city, surrounded by aristocratic residences, and tournaments held there are always social events under the patronage of the Lady Lieutenant.

“‘In this tournament,’ she added, half regretfully, ‘I was defeated by Miss May Langrishe, the lady champion of England. On coming here I played at first in the park, being a stranger among tennis players generally. On becoming better acquainted, I was asked to join the New York Tennis Club, where I have played ever since. I have improved very much since coming here, which is due largely to playing against men, the advantages of such practice being far superior to playing with even the best lady players.’ Miss Cahill was too modest to admit that she defeats, with few exceptions, her male opponents.

“The principal feature of Miss Cahill’s playing is her activity. On the tennis court she seems to be everywhere at once and her opponents find it difficult to place a ball out of her reach. She has a remarkably powerful backhand stroke, which often carries confusion across the net. Those who have never seen her play can form no idea of the dash and spirit she puts into her game.

“Miss Cahill has only kind things to say of American and Americans. She likes New York so well it will probably be her permanent home. She is enthusiastic in praise of the courtesies and attentions she has received here and thinks Americans make the most delightful of hosts. Miss Cahill is a most accomplished equestrienne and a lover of all outdoors sports, including the great American institution of baseball. She will defend the championship cup at Orange this week she has won the last two years. A victory this year would give her final possession. Miss Cahill thinks it a pity that ladies do not play at Newport as they do in similar tournaments on the other side.”

This fascinating article must have originally appeared between Mabel Cahill’s triple success at the United States Championships tournament in late June of 1892 and her successful defence of the singles title at the New Jersey Championships a week or so later. It contains several factual errors, not the least of which is the statement that May Langrishe was ‘lady champion of England’ (Wimbledon). But it also makes it quite clear that Mabel Cahill had probably been living in New York since around the summer of 1888, ‘since leaving Dublin about four years ago’. It is thus also possible that she been living in Dublin, not in Ballyragget, before deciding to go and live in the United States.

The same article also proves that she had been living in a house in New York since her arrival there (‘a pretty little house up-town near the park’). The park in question is Central Park, where Mabel Cahill initially played some lawn tennis before being encouraged to join the New York Tennis Club.

The article in question is also notable for the description it gives of Mabel Cahill – ‘a petite, attractive brunette, with short black hair, and the brightest of grey eyes, full of life and spirits’. One of the two surviving photographs of Mabel, possibly taken circa 1890, does indeed show a lively-looking young woman with bright, sparkling eyes. (See Appendix C below for links to two photographs of Mabel Cahill, in one of which she is standing on a lawn tennis court with fellow player Emma Fellowes-Morgan.)

Lastly, the syndicated article first featured in ‘The New York World’ newspaper indicates that Mabel Cahill liked the ‘fashionable’ and ‘aristocratic’ aspects of the Irish Lawn Tennis Championships, held in Fitzwilliam Square, in her own words, ‘in the heart of the most fashionable part of the city, surrounded by aristocratic residences,’ where ‘tournaments held there are always social events under the patronage of the Lady Lieutenant’. The latter personage was the wife of the Lord Lieutenant, a personal representative of the Queen in each country of the United Kingdom (this appointment ceased in the twenty-six counties of the Irish Free State when it was founded in 1922).

Mabel Cahill continued to enjoy success on the court during the latter part of the lawn tennis season of 1892. On 27th September 1892, ‘The New York Times’ carried the following report: “Orange, New Jersey, Sept. 26. In the open tournament of the East Orange Lawn Tennis Club, which was finished this afternoon, there was a great surprise for the Irish champion, Manliffe F. Goodbody, was defeated with ease by William V. Johnson of the Orange Lawn Tennis Club. [...] Mr Goodbody and Miss Mabel E. Cahill carried of the honours in the mixed doubles...”

At the end of the lawn tennis season of 1892, Mabel Cahill took part in the tournament held at the Staten Island Cricket Club in Livingston in the north-eastern part of the New York borough in question. Although this nascent tournament usually attracted a number of the top female lawn tennis players from the eastern United States, Mabel did not take part in the singles event in this tournament, which was held at the end of September. Instead she confined herself to the doubles and mixed doubles events.

Mabel Cahill’s partner in the doubles event at the Staten Island Cricket Club tournament was Adeline McKinley, the player with whom she had won the doubles title at the United States Championships a few months earlier. In the Staten Island Cricket Club tournament there was a big shock when Mabel and Adeline McKinley lost in the first round of the doubles event to the American pairing of Annie Burdette and Sallie Homans, 6-4, 2-6, 6-2. There was consolation for Mabel in the mixed doubles event, which she won with her American partner Carroll J. Post.

A report carried in ‘The New York Times’ indicates that Mabel Cahill was somewhat out of form at the end of what had been a long, but very successful season for her on the lawn tennis courts. Indeed, during the year of 1892 she was at the height of her success and fame as a lawn tennis player and would never again reach the same heights in this or any other sphere. If she is remembered at all today, it is for her successes at the United States Championships in this particular year.

In 1893, Mabel Cahill began the lawn tennis season in late June, at the Middle States Championship tournament held at the Orange Lawn Tennis Club. The lawn tennis season of 1893 was well under way by this point in time, the women’s event at the United States Lawn Tennis Championships having been held at Wissahickon Heights in Philadelphia from 20th to 23rd June. But Mabel Cahill had not been present to defend any of the titles she had won there the previous year. Some mystery surrounds the reasons for her absence, although ‘The New York Times’ of 23rd June 1893 paraphrased an unnamed source in its report on the United States Championships as follows: “It was said on the grounds yesterday that Miss Mabel Cahill would not be on hand to defend her title owing to the fact that she was not pleased with the manner in which she was treated last year.”

At the Middle States Championships tournament in late June, Mabel Cahill won four singles for the loss of just twelve games to take the singles title. In the final she defeated the American player Helena Hellwig, a future singles champion of the United States, 6-2, 6-1. At the same tournament Mabel and her American partner, Edwin Fischer, were beaten in the final of the mixed doubles event by the American pairing of Augusta Schutlz and Howard Colby.

In the second week of July 1893, Mabel Cahill was present in the resort town of Saratoga Springs in New York to take part in the New York State Championships tournament, held on the grass courts of the Saragota Athletic Club. In a draw of eight players that included really only one player capable of giving Mabel a close match – Bessie Moore – Mabel dropped only three games in her first two matches to reach the final. In this last match Bessie Moore extended Mabel to 9-7 in the first set before fading in the second set, which the Irishwoman won easily, 6-1. In the mixed doubles event at the same tournament the American pairing of Bessie Moore and Fred Hovey beat Mabel and Clarence Hobart in the final.

The New York State Championships tournament of 1893 appears to mark the last occasion on which Mabel Cahill took part in the open events at a first-class lawn tennis tournament. After July 1893, her name does not appear in the draws for any events at any lawn tennis tournaments anywhere. This is not to say that she did not continue to play lawn tennis socially. In fact, she more than likely did.

In a piece published on 15th June 1893, ‘The Brooklyn Daily Eagle had noted that, “The first of the local clubs to resume playing this season was the Brooklyn Club of Pulaski Street and Throop Avenue. Its early start is due to the rapidity with which its courts were put into condition. […] The abilities as players of some of the members of the Brooklyn Club are well worthy of their grounds. Indeed, among them are experts of much more than local renown. Miss Mabel Cahill, who won the women’s championships of the United States last season, has joined the club. She says she does not intend to be a mere honorary member, but will frequently avail herself of her membership privilege by playing on the Brooklyn’s grounds.”

It is possible that Mabel Cahill had become bored with the lack of opposition in open lawn tennis tournaments in the United States. After all, she had not lost any completed singles match she played on level terms since her arrival in that country. There is evidence that she turned her attention to a different sport, equestrianism, at which she was also accomplished.

The article from ‘The New York World’ reproduced in full above calls Mabel ‘a most accomplished equestrienne and a lover of all outdoors sports’, while the unnamed author or a piece that would appear in the magazine ‘Brooklyn Life’ in June 1896 would declare, “I fancy that Miss Mabel Cahill, who seems to have dropped tennis entirely for equestrianism, could still defeat any representative of her sex in the country.” At some point, probably early in 1896, Mabel became a member of the newly-opened Ocean County Hunt and Country Club in the township of Lakewood, New Jersey. In addition to golf, hunting was a popular ‘sport’ at this exclusive club.

Part VI: Writer

How did Mabel Cahill finance her sporting activities? In an era of strict amateurism, lawn tennis players were not sponsored or paid for their success on the courts. This meant that they had to support themselves, either by having an ‘outside’ profession or through personal wealth, in other words if they had a private income of some sort. Although is likely that Mabel Cahill had some income from her late father’s estate, this would probably only have lasted for a certain number of years before running out. She would then have to support herself by her own means. It is possible that this idea was always at the back of her mind, particularly when she was living in New York.

In June of 1893, an article entitled ‘The Art of Playing Good Tennis’ appeared in the popular American women’s magazine ‘The Ladies’ Home Journal’. Its author, Mabel Esmonde Cahill, was described as ‘Lady Champion of the United States’. One month later, a second article by the same author, now no longer women’s singles champion of the United States, appeared in the same magazine. The title of this second piece was ‘Arranging a Tennis Tournament’. (Links to both of these articles are provided in Appendix D below.)

There is little doubt that Mabel Cahill was paid for both of the aforementioned articles. She appears to have established some connections within the publishing industry in New York because by the summer of 1893 she was not only writing articles on lawn tennis, but was also a published novelist. At some point, probably during the year of 1890, after establishing herself in New York, she began to write fiction and to look for potential publishers. In this respect, she came across the Worthington Company (originally R. Worthington & Co.), a relatively new publisher specialising in low-price popular, standard and juvenile works.

The Worthington Company published Mabel Cahill’s novel in early 1891. Its title was ‘Her Playthings, Men’. Described as ‘a society novel’, it received the following brief, unsigned dismissive review in the ‘Boston Post’ newspaper of 27th April 1891:“The personages with whom Mabel Esmonde Cahill peoples her fictitious microcosm are meant to be English. They are as haughty, every whit, as Ouida’s most tightly belted earls; they are fond of Miss Broughton’s [illegible] the present; and the story moves vaguely in an atmosphere which recalls those queer ante-bellum Southern novels (typified in ‘St. Elmo’) to such a degree as to rouse the suspicion that the writer is an American who knows England chiefly through books.”

The reviewer is correct is surmising that Mabel Cahill knew England chiefly through books, at least at the stage in her life when she was writing the novel. Of course, she would have met several English people in Ireland, not least at the Irish Lawn Tennis Championships in Dublin in 1886, which she mentions in the article from the ‘The New York World’ of June 1892. As previously stated, Mabel appeared to like the ‘fashionable’ and ‘aristocratic’ aspects of the Irish Lawn Tennis Championships and to have been impressed by personages such as the Lady Lieutenant. It is, then, perhaps not surprising that she set her novel among‘well-to-do’ English people. (The novel in question can be read in full via the link provided in Appendix E below.)

It might not be unfair to say that ‘Her Playthings, Men’ was the sort of novel that a writer of a very different kind had in mind when she wrote an article called ‘Silly Novels By Lady Novelists’ in the mid-1850s. The author of this piece was Mary Ann Evans, a 33-year-old Englishwoman, at that time the assistant editor of the left-wing journal ‘The Westminster Review’, which featured articles on subjects such literature, philosophy and politics.

The essay entitled ‘Silly Novels By Lady Novelists’ appeared in ‘The Westminster Review’ in October 1856. In it Mary Ann Evans singles out a particular type of writing by women, usually of the leisured class to which Mabel Cahill belonged, for criticism because it caused all female writers, bad and good, not to be taken seriously. It begins as follows: “Silly novels by Lady Novelists are a genus with many species, determined by the particular quality of silliness that predominates in them – the frothy, the prosy, the pious, or the pedantic. But it is a mixture of all these – a composite order of feminine fatuity, that produces the largest class of such novels, which we shall distinguish as the mind-and-millinery species.

“The heroine is usually an heiress, probably a peeress in her own right, with perhaps a vicious baronet, an amiable duke, and an irresistible younger son of a marquis as lovers in the foreground, a clergyman and a poet sighing for her in the middle distance, and a crowd of undefined adorers dimly indicated beyond. Her eyes and her wit are both dazzling; her nose and her morals are alike free from any tendency to irregularity; she has a superb contralto and a superb intellect; she is perfectly well-dressed and perfectly religious; she dances like a sylph, and reads the Bible in the original tongues.”

At the end of the same essay Mary Ann Evans wonders what it takes to make a good female writer. It is not, she states, a want of intellectual power, but rather, “the want of those moral qualities that contribute to literary excellence – patient diligence, a sense of the responsibility involved in publication, and an appreciation of the sacredness of the writer’s art. In the majority of woman’s books you see that kind of facility which springs from the absence of any high standard; that fertility in imbecile combination or feeble imitation which a little self-criticism would check and reduce to barrenness; just as with a total want of musical ear people will sing out of tune, while a degree more melodic sensibility would suffice to render them silent.

“The foolish vanity of wishing to appear in print, instead of being counterbalanced by any consciousness of the intellectual or moral derogation implied in futile authorship, seems to be encouraged by the extremely false impression that to write at all is a proof of superiority in a woman. On this ground we believe that the average intellect of women is unfairly represented by the mass of feminine literature, and that while the few women who write well are very far above the ordinary intellectual level of their sex, the many women who write ill are very far below it. So that, after all, the severer critics are fulfilling a chivalrous duty in depriving the mere fact of feminine authorship of any false prestige which may give it a delusive attraction, and in recommending women of mediocre faculties – as at least a negative service they can render their sex – to abstain from writing.”

In later years Mary Ann Evans, author of ‘Silly Novels By Lady Novelists’, would achieve fame as a novelist under the pen name George Eliot. Today she is considered one of the world’s great writers. Mabel Cahill’s writings had rather a different fate. The novel ‘Her Playthings, Men’ was followed by several shorter works in the same genre with the revealing titles ‘Carved in Marble’ and ‘Purple Sparkling’, possibly in short story collections also featuring works by other authors. Both of the latter works were published by the Worthington Company in 1892. They appear to have had the same fate as ‘Her Playthings, Men’.

Part VII: A Different Type of Court (1)

The next traceable work from the pen of Mabel Cahill was published seven years later, after she had left the United States. Although it is difficult to say with certainty, she appears to have departed towards the end of 1896. She was definitely still living in New York in April of 1896, when she was the subject of the following article, published in ‘The New York Times’ on 9th April 1896 under the heading, “Miss Cahill, Former Tennis Champion, Complainant Before Mr Roosevelt”.

“Police Commissioner Roosevelt yesterday heard the charges of neglect of duty preferred against Patrolman John J. McGreevy by Miss Mabel E. Cahill, of 3-7 East Sixty-Second Street. Miss Cahill alleges that the officer had been negligent in his duty of protecting her from the insults of small boys. Miss Cahill is a professional rider, but was formerly the lady amateur lawn tennis player. The Commissioner gave orders that she should not be molested in future.

“Miss Cahill told the Commissioner that she had been assaulted and harassed four or five times. On one occasion a man, she said, threw a snowball at her derby hat. When she complained to the sergeant at the East Sixty-Seventh Street station she was told that it was not their affair, but her own business.

“In addition, she claimed that on March 20, while going home from a riding academy, she was attacked near her home. She wore a riding habit and a derby hat. A boy, she averred, threw a potato at her. She caught the boy and was at once thrown down by a crowd of disorderly lads, who tore her clothing. They threw stones at her. After Officer McGreevy refused to protect her, she took refuge in a store on Third Avenue. Witnesses testified to the truth of her assertions.

“Samuel Gombetsky said Miss Cahill always had a crowd of children at her heels because she wore a kind of ‘circus dress’. Miss Cahill said she wore an ordinary riding costume. McGreevy denied the charges. His witnesses said the boys called her a new woman. He added that Miss Cahill had threatened him, and that she wore a striking costume.”

This article is interesting for several reasons, not least because it places Mabel Cahill at her New York address on East Sixty-Second Street, close to Central Park, several years after she had stopped taking part in lawn tennis tournaments. The same article refers to her as ‘a professional rider’, indicating that she might have taken part in some equestrian competitions where prize money was on offer to the winners. The assertion that Mabel had threatened the officer who had failed to protect her indicates a certain fieriness of temperament.

As previously indicated, Mabel Cahill probably left New York and the United States towards the end of 1896, or perhaps the beginning of 1897. It is possible that the incidents of harassment described in the article that appeared in ‘The New York Times’ in April 1896 precipitated her move. Her financial situation might also have played a role, the money she received from her late father’s estate and from her writings not being sufficient to maintain the lifestyle she was used to in New York.

Part VIII: England and a New Stage

The impression left by Mabel Cahill in her later years, after she had left the United States, is of someone in increasing financial difficulty whose health also began to decline at some point. These circumstances probably caused her to take decisions someone from her background, who no doubt considered herself a lady, would not normally have taken. There is no evidence that Mabel ever returned to Ireland after leaving there in 1888 or 1889. After leaving New York towards the end of 1896 or the beginning of 1897, she travelled to London instead.

In 1897, London was the capital not just of England, but also of the world’s largest empire. It was also the largest city in the world, the population of inner London alone approaching 4,500,000 in 1897, when Mabel Cahill more than likely arrived there. As Britain’s largest industrial centre, it was also a place of opportunity for both men and women as well as a city of great contrasts, with people of great wealth literally rubbing shoulders with those much less fortunate.

In existing records for London the name Mabel Cahill first appears in the ‘Workhouse Admission and Discharge Records’ for the Liverpool Road Workhouse, located in the inner London borough of Islington. Mabel is recorded as having being admitted to this workhouse on 14th April 1897. Subdivided into several columns, including ‘Name of the Pauper’ and ‘Year when born’, the latter column actually includes the person’s age. Mabel’s is given as ‘32’, but she was in fact 34 years old, having celebrated her birthday just twelve days earlier.

It is possible that, in early April 1897, having only very recently arrived in London from New York, and not feeling well, Mabel Cahill had decided to have herself admitted to the infirmary until she was recovered. Mabel appears to have spent most of her time in the infirmary section of the Liverpool Road Workhouse, an indication that she had gone there for health reasons. By the 1890s, workhouses had separate infirmaries to which non-residents and non-paupers were also admitted; in later years some of these infirmaries and the other buildings that made up a workhouse would be converted into hospitals.

The records show that Mabel Cahill was discharged from Islington Infirmary on 22nd April 1897, having spent eight days there. Although she had not entered the Liverpool Road Workhouse as a pauper, it appears that Mabel was experiencing financial difficulties at this time. In any case, she continued submitting stories to magazines. One such story, entitled ‘Of the Royal Blues’, was published in ‘The Harmsworth Monthly Pictorial Magazine’ during the first half of 1899. Amongst other contributions, this magazine featured stories of adventure and romance (Mabel’s ‘Of the Royal Blues’ was probably a mixture of these, featuring a number of aristocratic characters). As its title indicates, ‘The Harmsworth Monthly Pictorial Magazine’ also contained a large number of graphics and illustrations.

As an alternative source of income to her writing, Mabel Cahill also took to acting. For several years she performed on stage in music halls, mainly in London. In this connection she would sometimes have appeared a ‘chorus girl’, singing popular songs as part of variety entertainment and in burlesque, where serious subjects were treated in very humorous manner. Such roles placed Mabel far beyond her origins as the daughter of a wealthy Irish gentleman more than likely educated by nuns and formerly used to riding to hounds as a member of the Ocean County Hunt and Country Club in Lakewood, New Jersey.

Part IX: A Different Type of Court (II)

The main sources for Mabel Cahill’s stage career are contemporary newspaper reports concerning her second recorded appearance as plaintiff in a court of law. One such report appeared in ‘The Era’, a British weekly newspaper, on 4th February 1899 and is worth reproducing in full. The article in question appeared under the heading ‘Probationers in Pantomimes’.

“Before His Honour Judge Shand, at the Liverpool County Court, on Wednesday afternoon, an action was heard in which Miss Mabel Cahill, described as an authoress and actress, claimed £5 from Mr Sydney Vercker, of the Royal Muncaster Theatre, Bootle, as salary and damages in lieu of notice. Miss Cahill appeared in person, and conducted her own case.

“According to the plaintiff’s story, she was engaged to perform in the defendant’s pantomime of ‘Aladdin’ at the Muncaster Theatre and for three weeks she appeared as a chorus girl. No arrangement was made as to salary at the engagement, but she accepted the position on the understanding that she was going to be paid for her services. Plaintiff considered that she was entitled to at least £1 a week. On the night of January 3rd the manager dismissed her. The manager complained of her face being too highly coloured; but previously Mrs Verecker had complained that it was not coloured enough.

“In cross-examination, plaintiff stated that she had hitherto earned her living by performing at the London music halls, and when she had no engagement on the stage she was employed writing for magazines. She denied the suggestion that she was inexperienced in stage business, but admitted that she had never appeared in pantomime before, although she had been in burlesque. She repudiated the idea that she was engaged as a probationer, who had to give a fortnight’s rehearsal and four weeks’ performance without any salary, and she characterised as untrue the statement that she was under the influence of drink on the night she was dismissed.

“Mr Verecker, the defendant, was called, and stated that there were four unsalaried probationers engaged for the pantomime, the plaintiff being one of them. During the three weeks she was at the theatre plaintiff never presented herself on treasury day nor mentioned anything about salary. It was not until after she had been dismissed that she did so. Three of the probationers had written contracts, but the plaintiff had no contract. That was accounted for by the fact that one of the probationers, originally engaged in London, did not fulfil her contract, and the plaintiff was sent down to take her place.

“Mr Cassidy, the acting manager, Mr J.W. Baxter, the stage manager, and Mrs Verecker were also called for the defence. Their testimony was to the effect that on the night she was dismissed the plaintiff’s make-up was very unsatisfactory. According to one of the witnesses, the plaintiff would one night be like a Red Indian in the face, and another night as pale as a corpse. It was also stated that the plaintiff was all along treated as a probationer learning her business.

“His Honour thought the onus of proving that the plaintiff was engaged without salary rested on the defendant. He thought plaintiff was entitled to £1 a week, and he accordingly gave judgment for the amount claimed and costs.”

Although the report of Mabel Cahill’s second appearance in a court of law featured in ‘The Era’ newspaper does not include her address, it is clear that she was still effectively living in London as of February 1899. It is interesting that, as in the court of law in New York in April 1896, she chose to represent herself – and won. She would thus have saved on the costs of being represented by a solicitor. The reference to Mabel as an ‘authoress and actress’ leaves no doubt that this is the author of ‘Her Playthings, Men’ and the additional aforementioned pieces. Her implied problems with applying the correct amount of make-up suggest that acting, especially in music halls, was not the ideal profession for Mabel who, nevertheless, was clearly a spirited person clearly not afraid of new challenges.

Mabel Cahill appears in the existing records for London one final time. This is in January 1900, when her name is featured in the list of admissions to Saint George’s Workhouse in Mint Street, in the central London borough of Southwark. The admission and discharge records show that Mabel was admitted and discharged on the same day, Wednesday, 17th January, 1900. This indicates that she might have required some basic urgent care or that she was not considered ill enough to stay in the infirmary at the workhouse. In the same record, Mabel’s age is given as 35 (she was, in fact, 36) while the word ‘Journalist’ is written under the heading ‘Calling’. Her religion is given as Roman Catholic and her marital status as ‘single’.

Part X: Southport

Excluding the aforementioned list of admissions to Saint George’s Workhouse in Mint Street, London, no other traceable records appear to mention Mabel Cahill in the years 1900-5, in other words during the last five years of her life. The only exception is her death certificate, which indicates that for a certain amount of time, possibly a number of years, leading up to her death she lived in the English seaside town of Southport in the north-western county of Lancashire.

What could have brought Mabel Cahill to Lancashire? It is possible that a decline in her health caused her to seek somewhere congenial with fresh sea air, away from the hectic nature of life in London. The fact that she did not choose to return to Ireland implies an estrangement with her family. (Travelling in a straight line, Dublin is less than 150 miles across the Irish Sea from Southport.)

It is clear from the report featured in ‘The Era’ newspaper in early February 1899 that Mabel Cahill was somewhat familiar with north-west England. It was at the Royal Muncaster Theatre in Bootle that Mabel made her unsuccessful appearance in the pantomime ‘Aladdin’ which led to her appearance in Liverpool Crown Court. Bootle, a town in the metropolitan county of Merseyside, is situated about 18 miles south of Southport. Perhaps she moved to north-west England partly in the hope of securing more regular work at theatres in towns situated along the coast.

In its edition of 1905 covering the county of Lancashire, the annual publication ‘Kelly’s Post Office Directory’ notes that Southport is…“a popular watering place and municipal borough, on the west coast of Lancashire, between the rivers Mersey and Ribble, in latitude 53° 38' 40” north and longitude 28° 59' 45” west, with stations on the Lancashire and Yorkshire, Cheshire Lines, and West Lancashire railways, and is 9 miles north-west from Ormskirk, 18½ north from Liverpool […]

“Lord Street, the chief thoroughfare, which runs parallel with the shore in a straight line, is more than one mile in length and 80 yards in breadth, containing on the side nearest the sea a number of fine shops; a great portion of it is planted with trees, forming pleasant boulevards; at its western end are the Municipal Gardens, in which are situate the Town Hall, Cambridge Hall and the Free Library; a band stand has also been erected in these gardens, in which the Corporation band plays dally; in the evening the trees in the gardens are lighted with over 6,000 electric lamps, producing a fine effect […]

“The most attractive places to visitors and residents are the promenade, marine drive and pier, the marine pleasure grounds next the lake, the Kew and botanic and winter gardens, Hesketh Park and other recreation grounds, and the sand hill ranges. The great Waterloo and the South Lancashire coursing meetings, and the Lancashire Rifle Association contests are held near here annually. The Aintree racecourse is about 15 miles distant by rail. […]

“The Opera House and Winter Gardens, laid out and erected under the direction of Messrs. Maxwell and Tuke, of Bury, architects, and opened 16th September 1874, by a joint stock company, are situated in the centre of the town, with a sea frontage, and bounded on the north side by Coronation walk and in the east by Lord Street. The buildings include a band pavilion, capable of seating 2,000 people; a promenade 170 feet long and 44 feet broad, with verandas; and terraces running the entire length outside and galleries inside, and a large skating rink, together with a fine conservatory or winter garden.

“In the gardens is also an opera house with a stage and accessories, and seating 2,000 persons. Performances are given here every evening. Between the pavilion and the greenhouses is a large lake on which fetes and water shows, as well as swimming contests, are held. The lake is also used for skating in winter, and when drained the asphalted bed is available for roller skating or dancing.”

Clearly, Southport had a great deal to offer both visitors and residents alike. It would also have been a cheaper option than London for Mabel Cahill, whose financial situation more than likely steadily became worse during her final years. It is clear from the death certificate that Mabel’s health also began to fail at some point, possibly around her fortieth birthday in early April 1903. Despite her success on the lawn tennis court, her skill at horse riding and her enthusiasm for sport in general, it appears that Mabel’s physical health was never what could be called robust. This fact and her increasing financial worries would only have made the situation worse, especially for someone with her excitable nature.

Part XI: Ormskirk

Mabel Cahill’s final place of residence, if such it can be called, was the Union Workhouse in the small Lancashire market town of Ormskirk, which is located about 11 miles south-east of Southport. It is very likely that Mabel was admitted to the Union Workhouse around the end of 1904 or the beginning of 1905, when her health was in serious decline. The final cause of her death was ‘phthisis laryngeal’ or tuberculosis of the larynx (or ‘voice box’).

Despite advances in medicine, tuberculosis (TB) was still the cause of more deaths in industrialised countries than any other disease at the turn of the nineteenth century. The TB bacteria can be spread in several ways, including by coughing, sneezing and even talking. It was sometimes called a ‘poor man’s disease’ or ‘disease of poverty’ because poorer people were exposed to it more due to crowded living and working conditions and inadequate sanitation.

Although it can attack most parts of the body, TB usually attacks the lungs. According to the work ‘A Manual of Pathology’, by Joseph Coats and Lewis K. Sutherland, first published in 1900: “Tuberculosis of the larynx is usually secondary to pulmonary phthisis, the mucous membrane being infected by the sputum from the lungs; it occurs in about 30 per cent of the cases of tuberculosis of the lung. It is occasionally primary. Even when the laryngeal tuberculosis is secondary to that of the lung, it may seriously aggravate the latter by the infective material from the ulcerated surfaces being carried into the lung by insufflation.[…]

“By coalescence larger ulcers form out of the smaller ones, and there is a continual tendency to spreading. As a rule there are many ulcers, and between them is thickened mucous membrane, which at the borders of the ulcers sometimes presents irregular projections like papillary outgrowths. The ulcers are at first superficial, but as the disease progresses considerable destruction of tissue may result. The vocal cords are not infrequently destroyed, and so there is loss of voice, but the voice may be lost from the rigidity of the structures caused by thickening from chronic inflammation.”

The ulceration of her larynx would have been extremely painful for Mabel Cahill, making it almost impossible for her to swallow or speak. It is possible that she was administered morphine or a similar narcotic to relieve the pain. Fortunately, it is likely that Mabel was surrounded by a dedicated team during her final days, in the Union Workhouse in Ormskirk. Taken on the night of 31st March, the 1901 Census of England and Wales provides a good deal of information on the ‘inmates’ (as they were then called) as well as the staff employed in the Union Workhouse, a number of whom would certainly have still been working there nearly four years later when Mabel Cahill was a patient in the infirmary.

On the night in question a total of 347 people were present in the Union Workhouse, 18 members of staff and 329 inmates. These included Philip Cain, the Workhouse Master; his wife Sarah Anne Cain, the Matron; Robert Menzies, the Labour Master; Jeremiah Poole, the ‘Male Lunatic Attendant’ (a number of those listed as ‘lunatics’ were not necessarily insane, but would have suffered from mental or other illnesses incorrectly classified at the time);Alice Frances Meagher, a Nursery Assistant; and five female hospital nurses, ranging in age from 20 to 40.

The Union Workhouse itself, situated in the ecclesiastical parish of Saint Peter and Saint Paul in the civil parish of Ormskirk, was made up of the ‘imbecile wards’, vagrants’ ward, children’s wards, the hospital (or infirmary) and the main building. There were separate wards for men and women. The Union Workhouse in Ormskirk had been built in the years 1851-53 and was located on Wigan Road in the town. (For a link to more information on the Union Workhouse, including some photographs taken circa 1900, not long before before Mabel Cahill would have been admitted, see Appendix F below.)

Part XII: Death and Burial

Mabel Cahill’s death certificate records that she died on Thursday, 2nd February 1905 in the Union Workhouse in Ormskirk. The same document states that Mabel was 40 years of age at the time of her death, but she was in fact 41. It lists her occupation as ‘Journalist, of Southport’ and states that the cause of death was ‘Phthisis laryngeal’. This was certified by Doctor William Anderton, who had probably been attending Mabel during her final days. He was a native of the village of Lathom, located about three miles north-east of Ormskirk, and was living in Ormskirk itself when the 1901 Census of England and Wales was taken.

Philip Cain, Master of the Union Workhouse, is listed as the informant on Mabel Cahill’s death certificate. He was a native of Douglas in the Isle of Man and had previously worked as a schoolteacher. His wife, Anne Cain (née Cupples), Matron of the workhouse, was originally from Belfast in the north of Ireland.

Mabel Cahill’s death was officially registered on 3rd February 1905, one day after it had occurred. She was buried three days later, on Monday, 6th February 1905, in the graveyard of the Church of Saint Peter and Saint Paul in Ormskirk. This Anglican church is renowned for being one of only three churches in the whole of England to have both a western tower and a central spire, and the only one to have them both at the same end of the church.

According to ‘Kelly’s Post Office Directory’ of 1905, “The church of SS. Peter and Paul is a spacious edifice of stone in various styles, chiefly Perpendicular, consisting of chancel, nave, three aisles, south porch, several mortuary chapels, and a massive embattled tower at the west end of the nave, 33 feet square and 84 feet in height, with 8 small pinnacles, and containing a clock and 8 bells, and a low octagonal tower, rising from a square lower storey, at the west end of the south aisle, with a spire reaching a height of about 25 feet above the summit of the other tower, an arrangement which is unique; the chancel retains an Early Norman window…”

The same post office directory notes that “The living is a vicarage, net yearly value £300, including 9 acres of glebe, with residence, in the gift of the Earl of Derby K.G., G.C.B., P.C., and held since 1884 by the Reverend John Edwin Woodrow, of St. Aidan’s, surrogate, and chaplain to Ormskirk Union.”

The abovementioned Reverend John Edwin Woodrow, a native of the village of Langham in the East Midlands, was living at The Vicarage, 141 Church Street, Ormskirk, when Mabel Cahill died. However, it was his curate, Ernest Daniel Jordan, who performed Mabel’s burial ceremony. Born in 1861, Ernest Jordan was originally from the town of Dudley in Worcestershire. Himself the son of a vicar, he studied at Oxford University before taking holy orders and initially being employed as a classics teacher.

A Roman Catholic church, Saint Anne’s, was situated on Prescot Road in Ormskirk at the time of Mabel Cahill’s death (it is still there today). However, it appears that religion was of little importance in Mabel’s life, at least in her final years, so her burial in an Anglican graveyard by a Church of England curate does not indicate a change of religion on her part. The service carried out by Ernest Jordan would have been short and few, if any, mourners would have been present. Given the likelihood that she had died in poverty, Mabel would have been given a pauper’s burial whose expenses were covered by the state. She would probably have been buried in either an unmarked or a communal grave, with no headstone.


A. Ballyconra House

Lord Belmont in Northern Ireland: Ballyconra House

B. Sacred Heart Convent Secondary School, Convent Road, Roscrea

Sacred Heart Convent Secondary School, Convent Road, Roscrea, Tipperary North: Buildings of Ireland: National Inventory of Architectural Heritage

C. Two photos of Mabel Cahill

Mabel Cahill - Wikipedia

D. Mabel Cahill’s ‘Ladies Home Journal’ articles

‘The Art of Playing Good Tennis’ (June 1893)

The Ladies' home journal. v.10 1892-1893. - Full View | HathiTrust Digital Library | HathiTrust Digital Library

‘Arranging a Tennis Tournament’ (July 1893)

The Ladies' home journal. v.10 1892-1893. - Full View | HathiTrust Digital Library | HathiTrust Digital Library

E. “Her Playthings, Men”, a novel by Mabel Esmonde Cahill, 1891, Worthington & Co., New York

Her playthings, men : a novel : Cahill, Mabel Esmonde : Free Download, Borrow, and Streaming : Internet Archive

F. The Union Workhouse, Wigan Road, Ormskirk, Lancashire; circa 1900

The Workhouse in Ormskirk, Lancashire

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Thanks for pointing that out. It was probably due to the format-related changes made to this website a few years ago. But the second half of the piece looks legible now.


Why is most of the second half of the article struck through?
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