Wednesday 18 September 2019

Rosslare relatives mourn death of famous cousin Beatle George's Wexford roots

DAVID TUCKER Staff Reporter

WHILE Beatles fans throughout Ireland and the rest of the world were saddened at the untimely death of George Harrison, it was no more keenly felt than in Rosslare Strand, where members of his extended family have lived for generations.

George Harrison's grandfather was a brother of Rosslare residents' Aidan and Jim Ffrench's grandfather.

Their father James was a first cousin of the former Beatles' mother, Louise Ffrench.

The French family have lived at Rosslare Strand for generations and trace their family tree back to the 1887 evictions in Ferns.

Aidan's cousins, who live in Dublin, were in constant contact with the Harrisons and their 'Auntie Lou', as George's mother was referred to, long before the Beatles were famous.

The cousins met George when he was a youngster visiting Dublin with his family.

According to the website, George Harrison's Irish family tree can be traced right back to the 13th century when Harrison's Norman ancestors settled in County Wexford.

'These invaders, dubbed Ffrench by their peasant subjects, owned all the land they could see from the tower of their Norman castle in County Wexford,' the site declares

'During the reign of Oliver Cromwell, when they refused to renounce their Catholic beliefs, they were stripped of their castle and land.and thrown into poverty and a life of toiling on the land, which continued for 300 years.

'50 years before George began a career; his Irish forebears still lived a humble peasant life on a tiny farm at Corah, County Wexford.

'George's great-grandparents, James Darby Ffrench (b.1825) and Ellen Whelan (b.1831) struggled to produce enough to feed and clothe their five children and meet a rent bill of £1 4s 6d for their two acre farm.

'They died within two months of each other at the end of 1906. James was 81 and his wife 75.

'Their children struggled on with the farm for four more years. before selling the smallholding and divided the proceeds between them.

'George's grandfather, John Ffrench, born in 1870, emigrated to Liverpool where he signed on with the city's police force. He married local girl, Louise Woollam. and they rented a small terraced house, 9 Albert Grove, in Wavertree.

Here George's grandma had seven kids including George's mum, Louise.

Louise Ffrench met her husband-to-be Harold Hargreaves Harrison when she was a teenager working as a grocer's assistant.

'George's parents married in 1930 and moved to a tiny two up two down, 12 Arnold Grove, and George was born there in 1943.

'When George was six his family moved from Wavertree to a spacious, moderm council house, at 25 Upton Green, Speke. George passed a scholarship exam to attend The Liverpool Institute, the city's top grammar school.

'He met Paul McCartney and through him joined a group, called The Quarrymen. John Lennon was already a member and the rest, as they say, is history.'