John McCarthy and Sons, Funeral Directors

At the Registry of Deeds in Dublin, the following entry is recorded:

A memorial of an Agreement bearing date 7th July 1819, made between Timothy Horgan, victualler, and Patrick McCarthy, shopkeeper, both of Kilfinane, whereby T Horgan for and in consideration of 46 pounds, 23 pounds thereof paid in hand, and 23 pounds payable on 1st August, then next agreed, forever unto said Patrick McCarthy, his heirs and assigns all that and those… the street house to the same with the yard there onto belonging, situate on the south side of the street in Kilfinane aforesaid, then occupied by Margaret Hanrahan. To hold said slated house and premises unto said Patrick McCarthy, his heirs and assigns from the 1st May.’

[The actual Deed confirming this written agreement, was registered five years to the day later, on 7th July 1824. Information courtesy Maureen (McCarthy) Ryan, Kilfinane and Ontario]

With these words, began six generations of McCarthy occupancy of the above premises (full-size image), incorporating a variety of enterprises: grocery, bakery, public house, flour and meal merchant, oil and paint store, and the subject of this article – funeral undertaking. The author is indebted to Henry McCarthy and Richie McCarthy for generously granting access to three volumes of hand-written funeral ledgers, from which the data facilitating this survey is sourced. These records constitute a priceless  repository of local history.

John McCarthy and Sons funeral ledger – front cover

The survey spans January 1907 to December 1981 – thus 75 years inclusive. The very first entry is that of widow Bridget Quinlan, Darranstown who died aged 85 years on 3rd January 1907. The following sample, relating to IRA Volunteer Edmund Crawford and dated 26th March 1921, serves to illustrate the rich level of detail contained in many entries:

Full-size image

Not all entries pertain to the actual funerals of the individuals named – some relate to the provision of carriages to ceremonies – and there are instances where the entry refers to proceedings carried out on behalf of a fellow undertaker. Also there are cases, particularly in relation to the provision of children’s coffins, where the named individual is the contractee rather than the deceased. With these considerations in mind, there follows a statistical overview of the 3,274 funerals supervised by John McCarthy and Sons over the stated span of 75 years –

YearMaleFemaleChildrenN/ATotal
190727358979
190838366585
190920334158
191023246659
191133266671
1912262551
19132327656
19143220153
19153223358
191626395171
191736215163
191841235271
191922391071
19202423552
19212729258
19222738671
19232621350
19242723555
19251322641
19262222650
19273022456
19282024145
19293019453
19302118544
19312713242
1932191332
19331619136
19342414644
19352319244
19362313339
19372426353
19381818339
19391922243
19402518346
19413218555
19422521753
19432521551
19441619540
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Thomas P McCarthy (d1913) who initiated the archive in 1907

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YearMaleFemaleChildrenN/ATotal
19452217241
19462221447
194721168348
194810191434
19492718146
19501718338
19512317141
19522415241
19531911333
19541517335
1955181230
1956121527
19571213126
1958171431
1959211031
1960201535
1961131225
1962121224
1963171532
196419524
1965191534
1966251540
196791221
19682014135
1969171128
197017522
1971171330
1972171027
1973121729
1974171633
19752315139
1976201434
19772217241
1978201737
1979141529
19802015136
19811021132
TOTALS16221420194383274

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The funeral home, 2022

By Decade
1910s624
1920s531
1930s416
1940s461
1950s333
1960s298
1970s321

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Plaque to Tommy McCarthy, proprietor in the 1920s and 30s

Full-size image

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