People of a certain age in Drogheda may still associate the Galbraith name with the very successful bakery that stood on Shop Street in that town for at least 130 years. Researching the history of that family has turned up mystery and tragedy and lots of unexpected twists along the way.
Hugh Galbraith first appears in a deed dated March 1834, when he was already a baker on Shop Street and his business was evidently thriving as he was taking a lease on two further properties on Shop Street and Bessexwell Lane. From his death certificate we can deduce that he was born in about 1800. His first wife was named Anne, born in about 1804, and an old scrap of paper handed down through the family indicates that her surname was Clarendon (perhaps the Anne Clarendon who was baptised in 1805 in St. Peter’s Church of Ireland, Drogheda). The 1834 lease names Mary Anne, Jane and Rebecca as their first, second and third daughters, and although Mary Anne is not heard of again, records mention at least two further children from this marriage. It seems that George, their only son, drowned in 1846 aged just 17, while Anne herself died in 1849 aged 45. This was, of course, a turbulent time in Ireland’s history due to the ravages of the Great Famine; in 2012 local radio station LMFM produced an audio reconstruction of the real-life trial of two people for stealing bread from Galbraith’s Bakery in 1847 (which can be heard here), but Hugh’s name also appears on a petition for clemency for William Smith O’Brien after his shambolic nationalist rebellion of 1848. Although details are sketchy, it appears that daughter Jane Galbraith married Alexander Cormack in 1851 at St. Michan’s Church in Dublin and had children George, Elizabeth and Margaret, while another daughter, Martha Matilda Galbraith, married James Willis in 1861 at St. Peter’s Church and had a daughter named Martha G. Willis. In the graveyard surrounding St. Peter’s is a headstone dedicated to Anne Galbraith which – perhaps significantly – was erected by her daughters Jane and Matilda, rather than by her husband Hugh.
It is Hugh and Anne’s third daughter Rebecca who is of most interest to this site. She (signing her name as ‘Rebekah’) married Daniel Eginton at St. Peter’s in 1851. Born into a farming family in County Westmeath, Daniel was at that time working as a painter in London, but they seem to have spent their married life living around Phibsborough in Dublin. According to more scraps of paper, Rebecca and Daniel Eginton had at least eleven children, but with only four living to adulthood: Hugh Galbraith Eginton, Anne Ebbels Eginton, Rebecca Isabella Eginton and Frances Margaret Eginton. Hugh emigrated to the United States and raised a large family, Rebecca died in 1889, and Frances married Alexander Miller, a County Longford-born draper and outfitter who lived above his shop on Ellis Quay, Dublin. After Alexander’s death in 1912, his widow Frances and her sister Annie Eginton kept the business running and raised Frances’ six young children (including my grandmother Olive Galbraith Miller). Rebecca and Daniel Eginton and nine of their children are all buried in St. George’s Cemetery situated behind the National Council for the Blind (NCBI) building on Whitworth Road, Drumcondra.
Returning to Hugh Galbraith, he remarried in 1853, to Elizabeth ‘Bess’ Knaggs, and a year later they baptised their first son, George. Three years after that, in 1857, they baptised twin sons Samuel and Hugh John. In 1860 Hugh was charged with having his employees work on the Sabbath, but successfully argued that any actual work was carried out before the stroke of midnight. Galbraith’s store was extensively destroyed by a fire in January 1862, causing over £300 worth of damage, but with insurance cover they were able to carry on. The present building at 34 Shop Street was presumably built after this fire, though the National Inventory of Architectural Heritage dates it to about 1880. Meanwhile, right next door, the Augustinian Roman Catholic Church was built between 1860 and 1866, replacing the Chapel of St. Monica which had existed since 1780. Hugh was widowed again in 1866 when Elizabeth died. In 1875 James Fay, Galbraith’s former clerk from 1863 to 1874, prosecuted Hugh Galbraith and Elizabeth’s brother George Knaggs, alleging assault and false imprisonment in a dispute about missing money. When Hugh Galbraith died in 1883, George Knaggs was among the executors of his will (held in the Public Records Office of Northern Ireland and available to read for free by searching here), in which he left £20 for a tombstone for himself and his second wife, a cottage and land to his son George, £150 to his son Samuel, and everything else (including the bakery) jointly to his sons George and Hugh John. The surviving daughters from Hugh’s first marriage are not mentioned in his will.
By a strange twist of fate, none of Hugh Galbraith’s sons lived to a great age. Eldest son George had married Sarah Jane Moore in 1881 and took over the business in Drogheda. Hugh John married Manx-born Letitia Annie Cain in 1884 in Liverpool and worked as a baker on Stanley Road in that city. In 1885 Hugh John handed over to George his interest in the premises in Shop Street, Bessexwell Lane and Harpur’s Lane, Drogheda. The document was witnessed by their brother Samuel, now a solicitor living in Liverpool. However, Hugh John died in 1890 in Liverpool aged 32, and was buried in Drogheda. He left behind children Elizabeth (‘Bessie’), Hugh and Letitia, who remained in Liverpool with their mother and their grandfather Robert Cain (also a baker). With an address at Coolagh Lodge, Drogheda, Samuel died from acute gastritis in 1893 aged 35, very shortly after he had married Susan Sarah Semple. Their daughter, Georgina Aileen, was born in February of the following year. His widow later married John McSymon McCulloch and had at least four more children. Sarah S. McCulloch and Georgina Aileen Galbraith were living in Donabate in January 1917.
The large but very overgrown memorial to Hugh Galbraith and his second family, closely watched by the famous Golding Cadaver Stone at St. Peter’s Church, Drogheda.
The eldest of the three brothers, George Galbraith died from a ‘malignant disease’ of the stomach in 1897, aged 43 and without children. An obituary quoted a member of Drogheda Corporation calling George “a sterling Independent Irishman” who had supported sending the ceremonial sword and mace of Drogheda to Dublin as a mark of respect to the late Charles Stewart Parnell. In his will, written just one week earlier, George requested that his widow Sarah Jane Galbraith carry on the business, and left between £200 and £300 to his nieces Aileen, Bessie & Letitia and £500 for his nephew Hugh to be properly educated and enter a profession. From this point, Sarah Jane became the matriarch of the company, assisted principally by the Moore extended family. She moved to Clontarf in Dublin (you can see fairly recent photos of her former home here), while her nephew Robert Webster (son of Ellen Moore/Webster) had become manager of the bakery by 1901. ‘Messrs. Galbraith Ltd. Bakers & Confectioners’ became a private limited company in 1903. Webster later opened another outlet of Galbraith’s Bakery on Thomas Street, Dublin, in about 1909 (first at no. 64, later at no. 73). In June 1910 the local MP, on behalf of the bakers’ association, asked questions in the Westminster Parliament about whether Galbraith’s Bakers, suppliers of bread to troops in the district of Drogheda, were complying with trade union regulations on wages and under-age workers, and in September 1911 a bread van belonging to Galbraith’s of Thomas Street was attacked by members of the Dublin Operative Bakers and Confectioners Trade Union during a strike (the parent bakery in Drogheda was also the scene of a dispute, provoking “an enormous labour demonstration” over union recognition in September 1893). The Dublin branch seems to have ceased trading around 1920, with their last site now occupied by an NCBI shop.
In line with the terms of his uncle’s will, Hugh John’s son Hugh Galbraith attended the Campbell College boarding school in Belfast. After serving an apprenticeship in Drogheda, he qualified as a solicitor in 1911 and opened a practice at 5 South Frederick Street, Dublin, living initially with Sarah Jane’s sister Rebecca Moore in Kingstown (Dun Laoghaire). In early 1913 Hugh was kept busy with the legal concerns of his extended family; first representing Galbraith’s Bakery at an inquest into the death of Edward Moran, foreman at the bakery in 64 Thomas Street, who sustained fatal injuries by getting caught in the machinery, and shortly afterwards representing his ‘half-cousin’ Frances Miller upon the death of her husband Alexander, as mentioned above (who at that point were also resident in Kingstown). With the outbreak of World War I Hugh Galbraith joined the Inns of Court O.T.C. (Officer Training Corps) and later the Royal Dublin Fusiliers, serving in France and Belgium. He became a Second Lieutenant and in November 1917, on his company commander being killed, he took charge, for which he was awarded a parchment certificate for “gallant conduct and devotion to duty in the field”. He was severely wounded by a gunshot to the left shoulder in the German offensive of March 1918, and was left seriously ill in a French hospital. After a second parchment certificate for bravery, he was awarded the Military Cross in October 1918 for conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty in leading his company in a withdrawal followed by a counter-attack during which he was wounded. He doesn’t seem to have returned to Dublin following the war, and he is probably the same Hugh Galbraith who was struck off as a solicitor and sentenced to 18 months imprisonment in London in June 1945 for having defrauded a widow and family friend named Mrs. Minn. Though he held shares worth at least £2,000 in a family-owned Irish company, he had tried to avoid selling them and thus revealing his alcoholism and financial troubles to his relatives. “I am as guilty as hell, and I intend to say so. It is a disgraceful thing to have to admit”, he said at the time, and given what we today understand about the long-term consequences of wartime experiences, perhaps we shouldn’t judge him too harshly. He appears to have died in 1957.
Sarah Jane Galbraith died in 1942 at the age of 88. The beneficiaries of her will included her sister Rebecca Moore – a director of the company until her death in 1950, aged 91 – and numerous nieces and nephews from the McIntosh, Lyndon, Webster, Eakins and McCulloch families, many of them also on the board of directors. Also mentioned were her late husband’s nephew Hugh Galbraith (whose existing debts to her were forgiven) and nieces Bessie Street, Letitia Hutchinson and Aileen Georgina Downey (whose eldest son was Sarah Jane’s godson). The bakery continued to be very successful during this period. Galbraith’s won first prize at the International Bakers’ Exhibition in London in 1951, and it was reported in 1955 that their green vans were a familiar site as far afield as Counties Dublin, Meath, Westmeath, Cavan and Monaghan. However, in about 1962 Galbraith’s Bakery was taken over by the Peter Lyons Bakery, formerly one of its principal rivals in Drogheda. It continued production initially, but a 1964 explosion in one of the seven oil-fired ovens in the Bessexwell Lane bake-house completely destroyed the building and injured one of the twelve employees on duty at the time, signalling the final end of the brand name. Today, the Shop Street store-front is home to Dowd Menswear; Galbraith’s Bakery just a faded memory or a footnote in local history journals.
A 1950 Drogheda Independent article dated the bakery’s foundation to 1820, but I have yet to discover any evidence of this or even of auld Mr. Galbraith’s origins. We know that Hugh had a sister named Elizabeth, who married Thomas Shaw (a tobacconist of Francis Street, Dublin) in St. Peter’s Church in 1833 and that they had one daughter before Thomas’ death around 1836. In 1840 Elizabeth married William Ruddell, a linen manufacturer from County Armagh whose brother Samuel – I am reliably informed – later married Elizabeth’s daughter Anne Jane Shaw. On the certificate of Hugh’s second marriage he lists his father as Samuel Galbraith, and while there are some earlier church records of Galbraiths living in Drogheda (for example, Esther and James Galbraith – a weaver and member of the Louth Militia – who had children baptised in 1818 and 1824; Mary Anne or Lilian Galbraith who married James Moore in 1818 (Sarah Jane’s grandparents); Sarah Galbreath who married Thomas Hamilton in 1834; David Galbraith who married Elizabeth Kelly in 1844; and the deaths of a Mr. Galbraith or Galbreath aged 63 in 1834 and of Margaret Galbraith aged 87 in 1844 or 1846), the description of Hugh’s father as a farmer would suggest a background outside of the town.
There are records of a Samuel Galbraith based at Omagh, County Tyrone, in the early nineteenth century, apparently the father of a John and a Samuel (who married in 1823 and had land holdings in both Counties Tyrone & Longford in 1839), and there are records of a Hugh Galbraith senior and junior of County Down in 1832, of a Humphrey Galbraith of County Longford in 1770 and another of Queen’s County (Laois) in 1805 and 1822, of a Morgan Galbraith of County Longford in 1776 and another of County Cavan in 1830, and of the pedigree of a Galbraith family living in Donegal, but none of these can be conclusively tied to Hugh Galbraith of Drogheda. There is also the Kate or Kitty Galbraith who died in 1912 aged 82 and is buried in the same Whitworth Road graveyard as the Eginton family, but without any obvious connection. One promising line of research involved Jane, the young widow of Samuel Galbraith of Old Derrigg or Old Darrock, Queen’s County, who turns up in Drogheda by 1821. She married and then separated from two further husbands, both of whom were awarded shares of her first husband’s legacy, but ultimately the very many documents relating to this family suggest that Samuel and Jane had no children, and that their heirs were the Thomas family, first cousins of them both. Rather than bin this research, it is outlined below. Intriguingly, when Frances Eginton and Alexander Miller moved to a house in Sandycove, they named it ‘Colintraive’ – the name of a small village in Argyll, Scotland. The exact relevance of the name to them is unknown, though both the Miller and ‘Galbreath’ names can be found in the area in 19th century census returns.
Post Script: A new stash of photographs relating to this family have turned up, which may give a better visual representation. Considering how few men in the Galbraith & Miller families reached old age, this whiskered gentleman could well be old Hugh Galbraith himself. As an entrepreneur of Victorian Drogheda, he might have photographed a number of times, so other sources may confirm his identity.
Meanwhile, two photos of men helpfully dressed in their professional outfits would seem very likely to be solicitor Samuel Galbraith and his soldier nephew Hugh Galbraith (who was also a solicitor but it’s clearly not the same man in both photos).
As always, any further information or corrections on the Galbraith family of Drogheda, their bakery, or connections with other families are very welcome. Finally, the photos below most likely show members of the Galbraith/Eginton families, but unfortunately their exact identities have long been forgotten.