A Tale of Two Williams – A Father & Son Who Died within 4 Years of Each Other

With the arrival of the third UK COVID lockdown, 2021 is offering unique opportunities to catch up with outstanding family history blog posts. One that’s been on my to-do list for quite a while is the timeline of my long-lived great-grandfather, William McDowell Jamison, compared with his namesake son William Jamison, who sadly died in 1935 aged just 37. William Senior outlived his son, dying in 1939 at the ripe old age of 94.

Both men died in Dalriada Hospital in Ballycastle, and the record of their deaths lists both as living in Carnside, a townland within Billy parish, just outside the centre of modern Bushmills. See for example https://www.townlands.ie/antrim/cary/billy/carnside/

Carnside bordered Ardihannon, which is mentioned on the 1901 and 1911 census returns as the place of residence of William McDowell Jamison and his young family, so it may be the same address, or possibly they moved a short distance away to Carnside; the recording of addresses within townlands for the period can be somewhat arbitrary.

Interestingly, on our last stay in Bushmills in 2019, we unknowingly rented a cottage that lay on the edge of Carnside townland, just down the road from the Giant’s Causeway Visitor Centre entrance.

Carnisde townland marked on map, courtesy of Townlands.ie https://www.townlands.ie/antrim/cary/billy/carnside/

Listed below are the details provided in the PRONI registrations of death for father and son.

Name: William Jamison, Male
Date of death: 26th September 1935
Marital status of deceased: Married
Age at death: 37
Place of death: Dalriada Hospital
District of death: Ballycastle
Registration number: D/1935/16/1003/16/458
Registration district: Ballycastle

The Tuberculosis Connection

Cause of death for William Jr is noted as “Chronic Spinal Tuberculosis”, which confirms family stories I have heard that William had a disability that required him to wear a back brace; this is further confirmed by William’s occupation being listed as “Disabled Soldier”. Another phrase follows the TB diagnosis but I’m unable to read it; please let me know if you can decipher it? The last word appears to be “certified”, which is repeated on William Senior’s death entry.

Interestingly, William’s elder brother Oswald (born 1895) died in 1912 aged just 17 of “General Tuberculosis” while living at home with his family, including 15 year old “Willie” (as named on the 1911 census return). Did William Junior tragically contract TB from his doomed elder brother?

William Jamison Junior registration of death, 1935. Source: PRONI

Name: William Jamison
Date of death: 8th May 1939
Marital status of deceased: Widowed
Age at death: 94
Place of death: Dalriada Hospital
District of death: Ballycastle
Registration number: D/1939/16/1003/17/311
Registration district: Ballycastle

Cause of death for William Senior is listed as “Senile decay, certified”. Unsure if this referred to actual senility or was a catch-all term for general old age I did some digging. The Roots Chat Family History forum has an interesting discussion on the phrase, the consensus seems to be that it may indicate senile dementia or Alzheimer’s, which is more likely given the word “certified”, in that a doctor either knew of or treated the patient prior to death.

William Senior’s prior occupation (at least I hope it was prior, given that he was 94 when he died) is given as “Ostler”, which is another term for groom, coachman or stable hand. This ties up with his occupation of “coachman” listed in both the 1901 and 1911 census returns, and also with the death certificate of William Jr’s elder brother Oswald, who is recorded as the “son of a groom”.

William Jamison Senior registration of death, 1939. Source: PRONI


The hospital at Dalriada is still there, although the original Ballycastle Union workhouse and fever house erected in 1842 have been largely replaced by the present building, renamed the Dalriada District Hospital in 1923.

With thanks as always to Nevin Taggart of the North Antrim Local Interest List Blog (NALIL) for forwarding on the entries for the deaths of both Williams, and for pointing me in the right direction regarding Carnside.

If any of William Junior’s descendants can add to the information above, please do get in touch!

Looking towards Carnside, Summer 2019

Postscript: Before I knew that my paternal great-grandfather and one of his sons were named William, I felt it would be a fine name for my own son; it’s in the middle of a string of names that make filling out official applications a bit of a chore for William McDowell Jamison’s great, great grandson!

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