Catherine Heatley nee Moran, 1891 – 1918, Spanish flu victim and war widow
Very little was known to the next generations of Catherine and Charles Heatley following the end of the 1st World War and the great flu pandemic of 1918. All that was left of them was a separate photo of each.
Catherine and Charles were married in October 1910. They were both age 19.
After Charles Heatley signed up and went off to war in the autumn of 1914, His young wife and mother to their three children moved from their little one room flat in High St. Dublin. Their new home was in a new flat in the Iveagh Trust buildings in Bride St. They must have been very optimistic for the future as they now had decent living accommodation, a better, though modest secure income, and sure the war would be over by Christmas.
No known grave
Catherine’s husband did not come home by Christmas, in fact the next time the family would be together would be when he got a short leave break after moving from Gallipoli to France for the impending Somme offensive. Charles was killed on the morning of the 1stJuly 1916 . In September 1916, Catherine, or some one, on her behalf, placed a request in the Dublin Evening Herald asking, if anyone had any information on him. Again in January 1917 he was still listed as missing. Eventually the dreaded telegram arrived stating that he was missing believed dead. He has no known grave, but is remembered on the Thiepval memorial.
Catherine succumbed to the Spanish Flu
It was now up to Catherine to move on with life and rear her three little boys, Charlie, age 6, Fred age 4 and Christy age 3. Getting her life together again was helped by qualifying for her war widows pension and the lovely 2 bed room flat in Bride St. She would have been helpfully assisted by her own parents up the street in Nicholas St. and Charles’s family in High St. However fate was to deal the little family with a fateful blow. Catherine succumbed to the Spanish flu in late October 1918. Victims were advised to stay in bed and not go out. Catherine had no choice in this matter, with three little rascals to look after. She eventually took really bad and her parents took her into their home. She succumbed to the flu on the 4th November 1918, age 27. It was said by family members that her three sons were at her bedside when she passed away. This would have to be disputed given the horrible description of the final hours of flu victim’s death. Rather, it would be that the children were in the house but certainly not at her deathbed. Following her death the British army offered to take the boys and educate and rear them in the army college/orphanage in the Phoenix Park Dublin. Both families declined the offer.
Her grave lay unmarked
Catherine was buried in Glasnevin cemetery and her grave lay unmarked until her grandson Fred discovered it in 1998 following his research. Sadly further research revealed that in 1949, the three boys, now men in their late 30’s were at the burial of a relative who helped with their upbringing. As they stood at the grave they were completely unaware that their mother’s unmarked grave was just 20 yards away.
The little home dismantled and the children separated
What effect did the Spanish flu Pandemic have on death of Catherine’s family. The effect must have been devastating to the immediate family, the Heatley and Morans. Three little boys the eldest age 8, especially, must have been just getting over the loss of the father. The little home put together by Catherine now dismantled and the children separated. The following years would see Catherine and her husband fade from the memory. Their grandchildren would never get to know of their grandparents. All that would connect them to the present generation would be 2 photos and a set of medals. However there is the grave in Glasnevin.
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Thank you for this research and heart-breaking family history, Fred. Thinking about your grandparents, Catherine and Charles, today in 2020 during the pandemic. May they Rest In Peace.
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