CHRISTMAS WEEKES (1756-1828)

Julie Retallick, Australia

I’d like to tell you a story about my fourth times great-grandfather Christmas Weekes, Esq. who lived in Clontarf, Dublin, Ireland from 1756 until 1828.

My story begins many years ago with my mother giving me an old black and white photocopy of a document on a man named Christmas Weekes. She wasn’t aware who the man was but she thought he had a very interesting name. It was very hard to decipher the writing on this photocopied document but I kept it anyway. After all he did have a very interesting name!!

Several years ago I decided to do some research on my family tree and visited my parents numerous times to ask questions about past relatives. I joined Ancestry and continued my research online.

One day at my parent’s house my father and I were going through some old papers and boxes and I found an original parchment document. When I looked more closely at it I found it was about a man named Christmas Weekes. It was in fact the original document from which my old black and white photocopy had been made. I was very excited and asked my father where it had come from. He had no idea. I told him if we had an original parchment document originating in Ireland here with us in Australia, dated 27 June 1825 about a man named Christmas Weekes, we could be sure he was a relative of ours!!

I logged onto the Ancestry website and searched for Irish relatives for the time period surrounding 1825. I started by tracing back through relatives on my father’s side. I went back through his mother Edith, and then her mother Mary, and her mother again. Here it became interesting as I found my great-great-grandmother Rose, born in Ireland in 1834 had supposedly eloped with her partner Edward in 1864, coming to Australia by ship. I searched for Rose’s parents and found her mother’s name was Catherine Weekes. This had to be the connection!! I believed Christmas to be her father but I needed to find the link between them to prove this. This was difficult. I kept entering different dates into the Ancestry search engine until I finally got a hit. Voila!!!

I had found Christmas Weekes!!

Now I’ll tell you his story as I know it….

Christmas Weekes was born to parents Anthony and Maria Weekes on 30 December 1756 in Dublin, Ireland. He was christened on 16 January 1757 in St Mary’s Parish Church, Dublin. Christmas had four siblings, John born in 1750, Anthony born in 1751, Maria born in 1752 and Elizabeth born in 1755.

Christmas lived in Clontarf, Dublin, Ireland. He worked at the Water Works Co. in Clontarf. He supplied the shipping at Dublin Harbour, and the inhabitants of Clontarf, including the neighbourhood thereof with fresh water, at a personal cost to himself of Three thousand pounds. An enormous amount of money in those days!!

My research shows Christmas designed an apparatus to supply the township of Clontarf with a constant supply of fresh water. He accomplished this achievement on his own, without any assistance from the Government. Christmas managed to transport a quantity of fresh water across his own land to Clontarf Sheds, where both the local community and the shipping at Dublin Harbour were abundantly supplied with fresh water. Christmas built a water channel about half a mile long starting opposite his own home to the public road. This water channel continued across the road to a large reservoir that had been built on the beach. He used valves to carry off any overflowing of the water. The reservoir had two pumps conveniently placed for the public to use. One pump was constructed similarly to a fountain which had machinery attached which transported the water along the spacious wharf, which extended several hundred feet into the sea. At the end of the wharf were tackle and hooks used to sling water casks, which were used for shipping purposes. A leather tube and brass valve were used to fill them, which worked quickly and easily. By using this method Christmas managed to bring a supply of fresh water across his own land by the construction of a channel that continued to the reservoir on the beach. Christmas accomplished this entire project by himself and at his own personal expense. The reservoir was constructed with valves to release the water, and two pumps, one of which was constructed in a particular manner to enable the water to be transported through the wharf projecting approximately five hundred feet into the sea. The wharf had been originally constructed to accommodate shipping, but there was no fresh water available. Christmas made it possible for fresh water to be available for the filling of all water crafts that entered the Dublin Harbour without any difficulty or delay. From then on all the local residents of Clontarf were also supplied with fresh water, which they had never had before.

I am very proud to say this was all thanks to the sacrifice and generosity of my fourth times great-grandfather Christmas Weekes.

I also found further information on his great patriotism and humanity to the community of Clontarf as follows:

On 9 March 1787 there was a violent hurricane. A ship named Speculation which was carrying passengers and weighing 650 tons was bound for North America. She was moored off Duncleary when she parted from her anchors due to the violence of the hurricane and was driven onto the North Bull. In a very short time she became docked in the sand, rendering her passengers unable to get off her. The crew were eventually saved after great hardship and put onto the wharf. Other ships also foundered in the hurricane. One ship which was laden with fish and potatoes was also driven on the bull where the sea broke over her at mast height and everyone was expected to drown. The crew who had taken to their boat found it was instantly split to pieces. They were luckily rescued from destruction and landed at Christmas Weekes’ Wharf at Clontarf Sheds. It was an amazing feat as the violence of the waves made landing on any part of the coast almost impossible. Christmas Weekes set about helping those poor unfortunate people, who were exhausted and almost lifeless by this stage. He had them carried to his house and put into beds while he did everything within his power to restore them back to life. His huge efforts were successful and he managed to save their lives. Christmas was a very kind and empathetic young man who did everything in his power to help people in distress. For this he was highly respected by people forever grateful for his great generosity of spirit towards them.

Another time he was called upon for assistance was on 22 September 1789 when another violent storm broke out. At approximately 2 o’clock a ship named Favourite Nanny was bound for Boudeaux carrying merchants goods and passengers. The ship was driven back and forced on the North Bull. Ladies could be seen on the deck, running backwards and forwards terribly frightened, fearing for their lives. With every swell of the sea it was expected the ship would founder. Monstrous waves convulsed and crashed over them many times at mast height. Christmas Weekes again helped all rescued passengers by having them carried to his house where he did everything within his power to revive them.

Christmas was a humble man, notwithstanding the fact he had expended thousands of his own money in the service of society.

He was voted the Freedom of the Guild of Merchants in 1789 when he was 33 years of age. He was a member of the Dublin Society. He was also a Commissary Officer in the Muster Office at Dublin Castle, and was an occasional attendee at general meetings of the Royal Dublin Society until his death in 1828.

In 1801 Christmas married Jane Monk in Clontarf. He was 44 years of age. Jane was 21. Christmas and Jane had three children. Catherine Sarah, who was my third times great-grandmother, Christmas Edward John who was born in 1810 and Jane Maria who was born in 1811.

In 1825 Christmas and Jane were living at 107 Stephens Green, Dublin when he was presented with the parchment document dated 27 June 1825 by the Grand Jury of the County of Dublin, which was the catalyst of my search for information on this remarkable man, who turned out to be my four times great-grandfather.

In conclusion I’d like to quote a section of the wording from this parchment document presented to Christmas Weekes by the Grand Jury of the County Dublin:

“We the Grand Jury of the County Dublin, at Michaelmas Term, 1786, think we would be much wanting in our attention to the welfare of our county, if we should be this day dissolved, without taking notice of the very expensive works lately erected by Christmas Weekes, Esq. at Clontarf, for supplying the shipping in the Harbour of Dublin, and the inhabitants of said Town of Clontarf, and the neighbourhood thereof, with fresh water, which, till now, there was an entire want of for their immediate relief. We therefore return him our most sincere and grateful thanks for this his spirited and judicious undertaking, not doubting but its utility is so great, that it must be obvious to the whole Kingdom, as well as to the City and County of Dublin; and we rejoice at having so spirited a young gentleman a resident amongst us, who expended so large a sum in the constructing and effecting thereof, at his own private expense, for public advantage. Grand Jury Room, King’s Bench, November 28, 1786.”

The following is Christmas Weekes reply:

“Gentlemen, The very great honour you have been pleased to confer on me, by your approbation of the Works at Clontarf, for supplying the shipping with water, and other uses, impresses my heart with the most fervent gratitude. The exalted and deserved estimation the Grand Jury of the County of Dublin are held in, exceeds every effort of mine to express, nor can I, with sufficient energy, declare, how sensibly I feel the favour of your distinguished notice. Animated and excited by your generous condescension, and actuated by the most heartfelt satisfaction, I shall endeavour, to the utmost of my abilities, to render myself a useful member in society, and of the County I have the happiness to reside in, and not unworthy the opinion you are pleased to entertain of me. I have the honour to be, with the utmost deference and respect, Gentlemen, your most obliged, obedient, and very humble servant, Christmas Weekes, Clontarf, November 30th, 1786.”

I believe the Sheds of Clontarf and the adjoining neighbourhood all benefitted by the supply of fresh water provided to them by the inventiveness, resourcefulness and labours of Christmas Weekes, who resided at Clontarf Sheds.

Records show Christmas lived at 107 Stephens Green, Dublin with his wife Jane until his death in 1828 at age 72.

Christmas was an avid reader who dedicated most of his spare time to his private library, which consisted of the most valuable works to be found in the Republic of Letters, which was an intellectual community in the late 17th and 18th centuries.

His membership with the Royal Dublin Society was deleted in 1829, after his death.

Probate of Christmas’s Will was lodged in London on 7 January 1830. He appointed his wife Jane executrix and testatrix of his Will. He left all his ‘worldly effects’ to her.

Jane continued to live at 107 Stephens Green, Dublin until her death in 1832 at age 52.

I feel very humble and proud to be in a position to share with you the story of a very worthy man, my great-great-great-great-grandfather Christmas Weekes, Esq.

I conclude from my research that Christmas was a highly respected gentleman, who was esteemed by all ranks in Clontarf and Dublin, Ireland.

I believe his story needs to be heard as he definitely contributed to Irish history.

Christmas Weekes, you were truly a great man!

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