McCartney's Journeys

James McCartney - 1852

James and Mary get Married    They Come to the U. S.
James makes Boots    They have a family
James is Deported Was James an Alcoholic?

Since his father lived outside of Belfast and is not known to have traveled, we had always supposed that James was born in or near Belfast. We have since determined that he was born at Portglenone, Antrim, which is indeed about thirty miles northwest of Belfast.

According to several volumes of the Belfast and Province of Ulster Street Directory (a book similar to current day telephone directories, published each year and having three sections, name, street and occupation) from the late nineteenth century, James was a shoemaker and boot-maker. This occupation is confirmed on his marriage certificate.

James and Mary get Married

He married Mary Leitch on 28 February 1874, West Parish, Greenock, Renfrew, Scotland. He was 21 years old and she was 18. Though they married in Greenock, Mary, also, was born in Portglenone, Ireland.

James and Mary spent the first three years of their marriage in Greenock. Scotland. They moved back to Portglenone, Ireland in 1877. They moved to Belfast sometime between 1881 and 1887. We have not yet determined exactly when they moved.

Though Mary's father is shown as a laborer on her marriage certificate, her family owned a store at some time and sold shoes made by her husband, James. James apparently had a very good reputation and was highly regarded as a shoe maker. We are not sure of the store's location, but it is suspected that it was in Belfast or Portglenone since James and Mary returned there three years after they were married.

According to the street directories mentioned above, some of the addresses where James lived in Belfast are shown in the following table. The sections of the directories are indicated as: Alphabetical Name (A), Street (S) and Occupation (O).

1893:   118 Old Lodge Road (A, S)
1894:   11 Fifth Street (A, S, O)
1895   71 Beverly Street (A, S)
1896:   47 Townsend Street (O)
1901:   38 Carnan Street (A, S)
1902:   38 Glenbank Place (A, S)

All of the addresses are in the Shankill section of Belfast, which, during the recent "Troubles", was one of the most politically volatile and dangerous areas in the city.

They have a Family

According to relatives still in Glasgow, Scotland, James and Mary had fourteen children. We have confirmed twelve, we know about the thirteenth, John, but have not confirmed him yet. The first two children, Ann and Henry, were born in Scotland. The others were born in Ireland.

  • Ann, born 13 November 1874, Middle or New Parish, Greenock, Renfrew
              died 13 November 1874, a few minutes after her birth
  • Henry, born 21 Dec 1875, 72 Ann Street, West Parish, Greenock
                  died 18 July 1937, on Staten Island, NY, USA
  • Mary, born 14 Sep 1877, Glenone, Co. Londonderry
  • James, born 25 Jul 1879, Portglenone, Co. Antrim
  • Rose Ann, born 3 May 1881, Portglenone, Co. Antrim
  • Elizabeth, born 13 Nov 1882, Portglenone, Co. Antrim
  • James, born 9 Oct 1884, Portglenone, Co. Antrim
  • William John Black, born 1 Apr 1887, Belfast, Co. Antrim
  • Margaret (Maggie), born 5 Jul 1889, Ballymena, Co. Antrim.
  • Robert Hugh Alexander, born 22 Feb 1892, Ballymena, Co. Antrim
  • Andrew, born 18 Mar 1894, Belfast, Co. Antrim
  • Thomas Andrew, born 4 May 1896, Belfast, Co. Antrim
  • John, no information found yet
  • Male, name unknown

Mary Leitch McCartney acted as mid-wife at her grandson John's birth in 1897. From the birth certificate we also know that she could not write and probably could not read. She made her mark on the document. Someone else attested to and witnessed that it was her mark. In the ship's manifest when they came to the United States in 1921, Mary could read. She must have learned during the 24 years between John's birth and her emigration.

According to grandson John's birth certificate, Mary Leitch McCartney lived at 87 Bellevue Street. But no McCartney ever appears at that address in the directories my son Michael was able to consult. The birth certificate definitely shows the address as 87 Bellevue Street. We do know that James' son Henry lived at 97 Bellevue Street in 1897. We can't find any evidence that any McCartneys lived at 87. Perhaps the discrepancy was due to a clerical error.

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They come to the U. S.

Photo of the steamship Columbia
The steamship Columbia

Having traveled between Ireland and Scotland several times in his life, James undertook his longest journey at the age of 68, when he sailed with his wife Mary on the "Columbia". They sailed from Glasgow, and arrived in New York on 7 August 1921. Their son-in-law, Thomas Herdman, of the Eureka Building Supply Company, Houston, Texas, paid for their passage. On the ship's manifest they listed their son, Andrew, as the closest relative from where they left.

An interesting fact came to light when researching the arrival of James and Mary at Ellis Island in the records at the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA). James and Mary were placed on the Record of Aliens Held for Special Enquiry. The codes placed on the list were "Likely to Become a Public Charge" (LPC) and "Physical Handicap" (PH). There were notes that James suffered from arthritis in both hands. That would account for the PH code. But, according to the ship registry, James had £ 26, so the LPC seems unusual.

They were held at Ellis Island for five days, until 11 August, and then were admitted to the U. S. According to the people at NARA they may have been held because the amount of money was insufficient to get them to their final destination and they had to wait for someone to claim them. Unfortunately, the records of their release are not available at this time, so we don't know who claimed them. Their son-in-law Thomas Herdman may have come from Texas or it may have been their son, Henry, who lived on Staten Island. The records only show that they were detained, but do not state the resolution of that detention. We do know, however, that they went to Texas after they were released from detention.

James and Mary lived in Texas with their daughter Rose and her husband Thomas Herdman. They lived in the Houston/Galveston area. The following photo shows Mary and James on the beach in Galveston. The photo is dated May 5, 1923. Careful examination of the photo, however, shows that there was no beach. It was a backdrop used in the photo studio.

Photo of James McCartney and Mary Leitch McCartney on the beach at Galveston
James and Mary in Galveston

James is Deported

Prohibition in the United States existed from 16 January 1920, when the Eighteenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States went into effect, until 26 March 1933 when it was repealed by the Twenty-first Amendment. James apparently liked his drink, because sometime in 1926 he was deported after being caught in a place which sold illegal alcohol known as a speakeasy. Exactly what his involvement with the speakeasy was, proprietor, supplier or just a customer caught in a raid, is unclear at this time, though we suspect he was only a customer. As a result of this raid and his capture James was deported. He traveled on the steamship Transylvania, departing from New York and arriving in Glasgow on 4 July 1926.

Interestingly enough, his wife of approximately 50 years, Mary, did not accompany him. She remained in the United States. We don't know whether she returned with her daughter Rose Ann to Texas or stayed on Staten Island with her son Henry. We do know that she subsequently died before her husband. James died in Glasgow on 26 April 1938. His death certificate states he was a widower.

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James makes Boots

One story I remember about James, and again I must caution you, it is unconfirmed, is that the American western movie star Tom Mix needed of some new boots. Someone recommended James, who was in the vicinity at the same time. James was then supposedly in his late fifties or early sixties. Because he had a severe foot deformity, boots for Mix had to be very carefully fitted. James made a pair of boots that so pleased Mix that he ordered a large quantity, supposedly around twenty pair.

When asked why he wanted so many, Mix is reported to have said: 'My last shoemaker just recently died. You make a boot just as well. Since you're not so young either, I'm not taking any chances.'

Was James an Alcoholic?

From some of the data we have gathered about James, we can make an assumption about his personality. The granddaughters in Scotland that we had contact with told us he was a wonderful and loving grandfather and always treated them very well. However, he seems to have had a problem with alcohol. This can be deducted from the following:

  1. First, a comment was made by one of James’ granddaughters that he loved his drink.
  2. He moved around a lot, sometimes on a yearly basis. Perhaps he had trouble paying the rent, having spent his pay on liquor.
  3. At one point several of his children had been removed from the family atmosphere and sent to Balmoral Industrial School.
  4. His daughter Rose Ann was scheduled to travel to the US, but cancelled the trip. One week later she made the journey. On each trip she gave James as the closest relative in Scotland, but the two addresses for him were different. James had moved again.
  5. While his brother Henry attained the professional level of Master Shoemaker, James remained a Journeyman. Drinking would have affected his work skills.
  6. Rose brought James and Mary to the US when the country was under Prohibition. Did she think that might be a solution to his problem?
  7. Even in a country that was legally dry, James managed to find a place where alcohol was being sold illegally
  8. Then there is the incident of arrest in the speakeasy, followed by deportation to Scotland.
  9. Finally, when James was deported, Mary remained in Texas with Rose. Perhaps she had reached the point where she couldn’t take his problem any longer.

All of the above situations point to a stability problem. Alcoholism would contribute to all of these situations. As we know, alcoholism is a disease; a disease which affects the ability to function properly. In James’ time alcoholism was not considered a disease and there would have been no therapy available.

There are many personality traits among alcoholics. Some can be nasty and belligerent; others simply fall asleep, while some can be very happy inebriates. From his granddaughter’s comment that he was a wonderful grandfather, it would appear that James fit into the last category; a happy, loving personality who was perhaps a little bit tipsy.

As previously said, all of the above situations COULD indicate that James was an alcoholic. We can only surmise. We do not know with any degree of certainty whether he was or not. James could just have been one of those unfortunate people who do not have very much luck in life.

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